The 2017 season for the Indianapolis Colts has been fairly predictable. Andrew Luck was not going to play a snap this season, and that decision was made official shortly after their record fell to 2-6. It would not be surprising if general manager Chris Ballard made the decision to sit Luck for the year before he was even hired. Ballard knows the future of the Indianapolis Colts is in Luck’s hands, and Ballard has to make the right moves to protect the number one pick of the 2012 NFL Draft. Shutting his franchise quarterback down for the season was another great move by the first-year general manager.

Opposite of Luck

Chris Ballard began his tenure making excellent free agent acquisitions. Outside linebackers Jabaal Sheard and John Simon were signed to defend the edges. Sheard and Simon have been special, showing their versatility defending the run and rushing the passer. Johnathan Hankins, a 25 year old defensive tackle, was a nice steal from the New York Giants for the Colts. 6’4″ 330 pound nose tackle Al Woods is having his best season stuffing the run and Barkevious Mingo has stepped in for the injured Simon recently. Mingo is a first round selection from the Cleveland Browns and is making first round talent plays with his new team. These five free agent signings are all wins for Ballard.

In the 2017 NFL Draft, Ballard focused on defense, making six of eight selections on that side of the ball. Ballard might have found three starters for the secondary in Malik HookerQuincy Wilson, and Nate Hairston. Hooker luckily fell to the Colts at the 15th pick. His season came to an early end after a knee injury, but he had three interceptions before that. His ball hawking skills will be handy, and making sure he comes back completely healthy is important. Wilson has shown strong coverage skills in limited time and Hairston has been one of the best rookie cornerbacks this year. His play at the starting slot spot has earned him more playing time each week.

Through half of a season of production, it looks like Ballard has added a handful of defensive starters. Ballard has also enjoyed watching Rashaan Melvin, the number ten graded cornerback by Pro Football Focus, have a career year in his second season with the Colts. Andrew Luck can only directly impact the offense, so Ballard had to work on the opposite side of the ball first. The defense could be ready to compete against playoff teams as soon as next season.

Why Luck is in Storage

It is hard to not sound like a plagiarist when a widely known broadcaster like Colin Cowherd makes a smart prediction. Earlier this season, Cowherd predicted that Luck would not play for the Colts this year. The prediction did come true and Luck was put on the injured reserve list after the Colts week nine loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. This season was meant to be a rebuilding year for the Colts, both for the roster and Luck’s health.

Ballard started his tenure taking care of the defense. He didn’t target a wide receiver in the draft or free agency and that shows more evidence that he wasn’t planning on putting Luck on the field. The Colts expressed confidence in backup quarterback Scott Tolzien for the whole off-season, but that plan was clearly going to be a disaster. With Tolzien at the helm, the Colts likely wouldn’t have win this season. Fortunately, the Colts caught a stroke of luck in a trade with the New England Patriots.

The Patriots had two young, promising backup quarterbacks waiting for their chance behind the legendary Tom Brady. With no end in sight of Brady’s reign, the Patriots sent their third string quarterback, Jacoby Brissett to the Colts for wide receiver Philip Dorsett. The Colts had been shopping Dorsett and this was by far the best offer they had received for him. Brissett has exceeded expectations.

The Colts will receive better offers for Brissett than they did Dorsett. Brissett has steadily improved during his few games with the Colts. Smart teams looking for a franchise quarterback will be hitting the Colts with offers for both Luck or Brissett, because either one could be handed the reigns. Luck is still one of the best passers the NFL has ever seen, and Brissett isn’t on that level, nor ever will be. However, Brissett has impressive accuracy and a strong arm.

The velocity in his throws screams at teams that sorely need a real quarterback. His poise and mentality are excellent since he is technically in his rookie year. In eight games, he has grown to make quicker, smarter decisions. From the start he had the respect of his teammates from his charisma and shining leadership qualities. Over half of a season, the 23 year old has thrown for 1,950 yards, seven touchdowns and only four interceptions.

Going back to the real franchise quarterback of the Colts, Andrew Luck has to be in a better spot mentally. Although it is disappointing to miss an entire season, he knows it is the best decision for himself and the team. A new head coach is likely on his way after this season. The defense is improved, the Colts will receive a good value in draft picks for Brissett, and they will be sitting pretty with a top five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The upcoming draft has highly touted prospects at the most important position in the NFL: quarterback. That increases the value of the Colts pick, which they can use as trade bait, or pick one of the best non-quarterback prospects available. Although the Colts are losing games, they are winning this season. They have gotten very lucky, and with more smart moves from Ballard, they will have an impressive bounce back season in 2018.

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