INDIANAPOLIS – We’re less than five weeks from what figures to be a flashpoint for the Indianapolis Colts.
In 34 days, we’ll find out whether Chris Ballard and his personnel staff are convinced the April 27 draft possesses a quarterback capable of leading them out of the darkness and into the future – and will be available when they’re on the clock with a top-4 pick – or the franchise once again will lean on a discarded veteran until someone better comes along.
The latter scenario undoubtedly would further rile up an impatient fan base.
Everyone has an opinion on the best course of action, which means the best quarterback option. Just check out your preferred mock draft.
Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud appear headed to Carolina and Houston which hold the top two picks. The order is anybody’s guess. Everybody but the Panthers’ receptionist attended Stroud’s Pro Day in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, then flocked to Tuscaloosa, Ala. the next day for Young’s audition.
That leaves Anthony Richardson and Will Levis as possible Colts’ targets with the No. 4 pick, unless Ballard truly covets one and feels compelled to acquire the No. 3 pick from the Arizona Cardinals.
And to cover all bases, we shouldn’t rule out the Colts shrugging off Richardson and Levis and looking for their quarterback of the future a bit later. Perhaps that’s Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker. He tore his left ACL in November, but there’s a chance he’ll be ready for the start of his rookie season.
Speculation will intensify as the draft nears because of the magnitude of the decision. Ballard and his staff must get this one right, and they know it.
The quarterback carousel in Indy must end. The Colts will have a different starter for a seventh straight season opener regardless how they handle the draft – Gardner Minshew II, perhaps the rookie – but there must be a definitive plan moving forward with the most consequential position.
“You got to be right. We got to be right,’’ Ballard said in January. “We understand the magnitude of where we’re at in the draft. And we understand the importance of the position.
“To get one that actually you can win with and to be right is the most important thing, not if we take one or not. It’s being right.’’
Carolina controls the draft after its mega-deal with the Chicago Bears. It’s anyone’s guess whether Ballard had serious interest in offering a comparable package.
He didn’t tip his hand at the NFL Scouting Combine last month, but made it clear the Colts will come away with a blue-chip player . . . even if they stand pat at No. 4.
“I think we’ll get the best player in the draft, to be quite honest with you,’’ he said. “Why? Because we’re at 4. I mean, that’s a great position to be in.
“I like being at 4. I think we’re in great position.’’
Here’s how a few of the more established mock drafts expect the Colts to handle their top-4 pick:
DANIEL JEREMIAH, NFL.com/NFL Network
The selection: QB Anthony Richardson, Florida.
The comment: “Will Levis could easily be the pick here, but Richardson’s unbelievable athleticism would be a fun fit in Shane Steichen’s offense.’’
TODD McSHAY, ESPN
The selection: Richardson.
The comment: “It’s time for a long-term solution at QB for the Colts, considering no team scored fewer points than Indianapolis (15.8 per game) last season, the team’s (sixth) straight season with a new week 1 starter under center. And the Richardson hype train is just hitting full steam . . . Looking at the Combine results since 2006, he posted the best quarterback vertical (40.5 inches) and broad jump (10-foot-9) and then rolled out a scorching 4.43-second 40, which tied for the fourth-fastest time at the position over that span. His physical traits are exciting and if coach Shane Steichen can work with him on his footwork and accuracy the sky’s the ceiling.”
MEL KIPER Jr., ESPN
Notable: Kiper projects a trade with Arizona for the No. 3 pick. When Chicago moved from No. 3 to No. 2 in the 2017 draft in a trade with San Francisco to select Mitchell Trubisky, the cost was flipping first-round picks, No. 67 and No. 111 in the ’17 draft and a 2018 third-rounder.
“If Las Vegas or Seattle gets involved, Arizona could get much more,’’ Kiper said.
The selection: QB Will Levis, Kentucky.
The comment: “Is it possible Ballard likes either Levis or Anthony Richardson as his top passer in this class? Yes, absolutely. In that case, this could be a win-win deal for both teams. The bottom line is the Colts have a solid roster, but they’re not going to win without better quarterback play. Barring a dramatic trade for Lamar Jackson – which would cost two first-round picks – they should move up to ensure they get Levis . . . a 6-foot-4 QB with a huge arm who played in a pro-style offense at Kentucky, had an inconsistent 2022 season. He didn’t play with elite talent, though, and he forced too many throws at times. Indianapolis has the playmakers to help him out as a rookie. New coach Shane Steichen helped Jalen Hurts take a massive leap for the Eagles and he should be excited to coach up another high-ceiling player.”
The selection: Richardson.
The comment: “Richardson oozes upside, but his athleticism and playmaking ability might be offset by a limited run as a starting quarterback. His 24 career touchdown passes would be the fewest by a QB drafted in the top 10 since Michael Vick, who had 21 when he was the first pick in 2001. But for a franchise that has missed on quarterbacks on the decline at the end of their career, this is the exciting opposite – a home-run swing whether it clears the fences or not. The franchise has sorely missed that in the post-Andrew Luck era.”
The selection: Richardson.
The comment: “New offensive-minded coach Shane Steichen has hinted he’s looking for a dynamic dual threat he could mold into a franchise QB, fresh off working with Jalen Hurts (6-1, 223 pounds) in Philadelphia. Richardson’s off-the-charts athleticism and natural monster arm should do nicely. Assuming they don’t trade for Lamar Jackson, this move can help the Colts break free from their cycle of recycled veteran pocket passers.”
The selection: Levis.
The comment: “The Colts need to find a permanent solution at quarterback rather than play musical chairs at the position. In (the) previous scenario, the Colts were trading up with the Bears to leapfrog the division rival Texans to obtain the quarterback they want in this class. Now, they have to hope that the team that moves up to No. 3 doesn’t take the signal-caller they like. Perhaps they’ll make the move themselves.’’
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