Since the retirement of Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts have not found their signal caller to last more than a year. Players such as Jacoby Brissett (2019), Philip Rivers (2020), Carson Wentz (2021), and Matt Ryan (2022) have met with mostly failure. In sum, the Colts have gone 31-34-1 with the aging quarterbacks. It's probably no secret that Indianapolis will draft a young quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft, but the question is, who will they draft?
Reviewing the mock drafts, we can see four quarterbacks in play. Those are CJ Stroud (Ohio State), Bryce Young (Alabama), Will Levis (Kentucky), and Anthony Richardson (Florida). Also, Indianapolis will have to wait for three other teams to pick in front of them, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, and Arizona Cardinals.
Surprisingly, the Panthers moved up in a trade with the Chicago Bears to gain the first overall pick. The Panthers' offense will be led by new head coach Frank Reich. Their offense is like the Colts, especially considering that Reich was just terminated last season from Indianapolis. More than likely, the Panthers will select a quarterback.
Two options look to fit, Stroud and Richardson. Stroud has looked impressive in his pro-day, and Richardson needs to grow. The Panthers chose Stroud.
With Stroud, Carolina will have an intelligent signal caller with an excellent feel for the game. He has great instincts and is a natural leader. He will get the ball out quickly and put his pass catchers in a position to gain yards after the catch. Also, Stroud makes excellent decisions and has the timing and zip on his passes the NFL will require.
The Houston Texans own the second pick and are also looking into getting a quarterback. They do have Davis Mills, but he has demonstrated to be a solid backup rather than a starter. With Stroud off the board, the Texans would most likely choose Young.
With Young, they will get a quarterback with a calm presence and is very confident with reasonable accuracy. He has 4.4 speed with mobility to evade defenders in the open field. There is extraordinary accuracy at all field levels. Even though Young has a small frame, his running abilities are perfect for the new-age NFL.
The Arizona Cardinals choose third. Now, here is what makes the Colts' situation interesting. Do they trade up and secure either Levis or Richardson, or stay at four and hope another team doesn't jump them and get the quarterback they are sold on.
For simplicity, Arizona remains at three and draft Will Anderson to assist their defensive line. Anderson will give them a difference-maker as a pass rusher and someone who can catch the runner from the backside.
Now for the Colts. With Stroud and Young gone, they can choose either Richardson or Levis. They can go outside that and draft a different position or trade down, but that would be outside the scope of this article.
As for Richardson, he would offer the Colts' impressive athletic skills with speed and flexibility to pick up first downs as a runner. According to PFF, he broke 39 tackles on 97 carries for 713 yards. Richardson made the Bruce Feldman Freak List as the 50th athletic freak. Also, he is a good thrower on the run. There is solid placement in the short and intermediate ranges.
With Levis, Indianapolis would have the size and height for a prototypical passer and could have the strongest arm in the draft. He has a quick release, accuracy, and placement on his intermediate and long throws. He has improved his overall game each season, from being a nobody and a backup at Penn State to first-round consideration in the 2023 NFL Draft. When under pressure, he can make things happen with his legs. All the tools are there for Levis.
Richardson compares to Jalen Hurts in the run game. Hurts was coached by the Colts' new head coach Shane Steichen. However, he doesn't need a comp for his system to work. Steichan's system uses pre-snap reads and quick passes to exploit the defense.
"It's going to look differently each week," Steichen said, "but my philosophy is we're gonna throw to score points in this league and run to win."
Steichen understands he may have to adapt to win. That a system is made by the players and not by the coach.
"Obviously, the offense is going to be dictated on who's playing quarterback," Steichen said. "That's how you build the system — what he does well, what are his strengths. But not only just the quarterback, it's the players, too — what does (Michael) Pittman (Jr.) run well receiver-wise? Tight ends, the backs, Jonathan Taylor, the offensive line, what do they do well? We want to do a hell of a job putting our guys in position to make plays."
Looking at the Colts' roster, they did bring in Gardner Minshew, who has starting experience and played under Steichen in Philadelphia. Minshew could go a season while Richardson develops. However, I don't expect Levis to start week one of the NFL regular season unless he completely barnstorms the OTA's and pre-season.
Both players have similar trajectories but offer a huge plus over one another. Richardson has the legs, while Levis has the gun. That said, the Colts don't have the burners at wide receiver. They are built for short to intermediate game.
With the short to the intermediate system in place, Minshew's experience in the offense, and Steichan's willingness to adapt to make the offense hum, the best option for the Colts is Richardson.