INDIANAPOLIS – And the Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback of the future: Anthony Richardson.
Now the prevailing question: What’s a realistic timeline for a 20-year-old out of Florida who’s long on potential and pizzazz but short on actual playing experience assuming that daunting role as the quarterback capable of leading a wavering franchise back to relevancy?
Remember, Richardson is following in the footsteps of a pair of former No. 1 overall picks by the Colts. That would be Peyton Manning in 1998 and Andrew Luck in 2012.
“Great QBs. Legends right there,’’ Richardson said Thursday evening after Ballard held his ground with the No. 4 pick and selected him. “For me to be as high as I was, it lets me know that Colts Nation believes in me.
“So I’m definitely going to put the work in, make sure I’m up there with those guys. Honestly, I’m going to try and be ready as fast as I can. You know, try to be ready before preseason, try to be ready before the first game.
“I mean, they picked me this high for a reason. I am going to bring energy. I am going to bring hard work. God willing, I’m going to bring a Super Bowl.”
There’s no question the Colts got their man.
Ballard admitted he circled Richardson’s name as Priority 1 “about a month ago’’ after putting him through a private workout and spending the day with him in Gainesville. A follow-up meeting in Indy only reinforced the Colts’ conviction.
“We think he’s a good fit for us,’’ he said.
Owner Jim Irsay was beaming as he posted a tweet Thursday evening.
“He was our target, man,’’ he said on a video from the team’s war room. “He is special, really incredible young man.’’
First-year head coach Shane Steichen made it unanimous.
“Just his playmaking ability,’’ he said. “His physical skillset is impressive. There are certain things that he brings to the table that we’re so excited about as a football player in the future of this organization.’’
It’s intriguing to consider Steichen, a proven quarterback whisperer (Philip Rivers, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts), getting his hands on the lump of clay that is Anthony Richardson. The 6-4, 232-pound Gator turned in arguably the best athletic performance by a quarterback in the history of the NFL Scouting Combine, and that’s after showing off that diverse skillset during his 13 career starts at Florida.
As much as Ballard and the Colts are ecstatic with Richardson’s acquisition, they realize there’s so much work to be done.
Will he be ready for the season opener in September? Or will veteran Gardner Minshew II have the distinction of being the seventh straight different opening-day starter for the Colts? Indy hasn’t had the same opening-day starter since Luck in 2015-16.
As much as possible after selecting a quarterback with a top-4 pick, Ballard attempted to ease the pressure Richardson undoubtedly will face as the face of the franchise.
“Let’s not crown him, yet,’’ he said. “He’s a young player. He’s got work to do. But we like him. We like his talents. We like what he can be.’’
Then came Ballard’s money quote.
“We drafted him for what we think he can really be in the future,’’ he said. “He’s a very smart young man, good kid, he works. We think it’s all in front of him.’’
No one is writing off 2023 and focusing on ’24.
It was veteran defensive tackle DeForest Buckner who insisted he hated the term “rebuild.’’
But selecting an ultra-talented quarterback with 13 career starts – he was 6-7 as a starter – certainly indicates the Colts are looking through a long-range lens.
“He’s got to come in and earn his way like every player,’’ Ballard said. “But don’t expect him to be Superman from day 1. And I think history shows that there’s not many of them that are Superman from day 1.
“With some of them it takes 2-3 years to become a really good player. We’ve got to let these guys develop and play.’’
The most valuable commodity for Richardson moving forward? Repetitions.
“Practice reps, game reps,’’ Steichen said. “That’s how you develop.’’
Richardson had a pretty good idea he was prominent on the Colts’ radar.
“I was extremely emotional’’ he said of his reaction when Ballard called Thursday night. “They called me before the draft and kind of let me know if things worked in favor in their way they were going to pick me up.
“Once I saw the fourth pick was up I kind of had that feeling that they were going to give me a call. They gave me the call and I celebrated with my family and just tears started rolling down.”
Ballard admitted there were tense moments as the top of the draft unfolded. As expected, Carolina opted for Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. Then Houston selected Houston Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud at No. 2.
The Colts’ situation cleared – in the best possible manner – when the Texans moved up from No. 12 to No. 3 in a trade with Arizona and went with Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr.
“Anytime you’re sitting there and you kind of targeted a guy and you always worry (about) somebody jumpin’ up and getting him,’’ Ballard said. “You always wonder if somebody’s laying in the weeds. Good for us they weren’t.’’
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.