Meet Colts’ secret weapon at virtual 2020 NFL Draft
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Two decades removed from a tiny football oasis on the outskirts of Texas, the locked-in stares of straight-shooting Texans haven’t changed.
At the top of the Colts personnel department, Assistant General Manager Ed Dodds sits shotgun to General Manager Chris Ballard, just as he did during their college coaching days at Texas A&M University Kingsville.
Dodds, a native of Kingsville, served as a Javelinas graduate assistant while Ballard wrapped up seven seasons on the sidelines and coached essentially everything under the sun: wide receivers, secondary and defense.
Their current NFL offices are the result of years on the road, the forgotten foundation of this time of year around the most highly anticipated draft in sports, the scouting department.
“We all get excited,” Dodds said of the final days leading up to the NFL Draft. “We want to see the fruits of our labor and then you just get anxious…. You just want see what is going to happen.”
Dodds made a name for himself in NFL circles first with Oakland and later in Seattle, helping the Seahawks build the deepest talent pool of any team in the NFL and culminating with the franchise’s lone Super Bowl victory in February 2014.
Ballard’s path to Indianapolis opened after a dozen seasons with Chicago, 11 as the team’s southwest area scout, followed by an impressive run alongside John Dorsey in Kansas City’s front office.
Together, both men now lead Indianapolis on draft weekend; for Ballard, his fourth go-around as the Colts final decision maker.
During separate conversations at the NFL Combine in February, the pair shared a glimpse into the hectic life of a Colts scout.
“One of the most underappreciated jobs in the league is an area scout,” Ballard said. “They spend 150 to 180 days (annually) by themselves, on the road, evaluating prospects”
“They are just trying to get one or two (players) drafted that are going to help the organization win. I did it for 11 years. I understand their plight,” Ballard added.
When the clock starts to tick during the 2020 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday night, the one person in the room Ballard can count on to be locked in from start to finish is the former graduate assistant at Texas A&M Kingsville.
“You just state your case,” Dodds said of speaking up for a draft prospect. “I don’t call it being a salesman. You have to deal in facts. Chris (Ballard) is one (General Manager), he doesn’t micromanage you. He lets you do your job and lets you figure it out on your own.”
The audible this April? Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the entire Colts coaching staff can’t convene in person. Since mid-March, essentially all of the Colts in-house discussions regarding draft prospects have come via video conferencing.
As of now, starting Friday night with Round 2, the Colts seven draft picks must come together despite everyone being stuck at home.
Who is in charge of key details behind the scenes?
“I have a couple of guys that are as anal-retentive – Ed Dodds does not leave a freaking detail,” Ballard said. “There’s nothing that doesn’t go checked here between him, Mike Bluem (Colts director of football adminisration) and all our scouts. They make sure that we’re going to be covered on that end.”
For Dodds, when the work is almost done, the real games begin. Over the next four days, under these circumstances, the Colts need his organization and expertise more than ever.