The Indianapolis Colts entered the offseason determined to land a franchise-caliber quarterback. After years of quarterback purgatory following the retirement of Andrew Luck, owner Jim Irsay made it clear what he wanted to accomplish this spring.
Holding the fourth pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Indianapolis was in a relatively favorable position to land its franchise passer. The Houston Texans will take a quarterback at No. 2 overall, but the Chicago Bears were committed to Justin Fields and entertaining offers for the top pick.
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While Indianapolis engaged in trade talks with Chicago, the Carolina Panthers ultimately won the bidding war. Now, the Panthers and Texans are expected to select C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young, leaving Indianapolis in a more challenging spot.
With the Arizona Cardinals now entertaining trade offers for the third overall selection, there’s a chance Indianapolis loses out on the three best quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft. Despite the risks, the franchise seems confident it made the right decision.
Speaking to reporters in Arizona, Colts’ general manager Chris Ballard explained why the franchise didn’t acquire the first overall pick from the Chicago Bears.
“History kind of tells you when you do that, you better know what you’re getting … we weren’t quite ready to do that. And we feel like there was enough depth in in the draft that we were gonna be OK.”Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard on not trading up for the No. 1 pick
Ballard’s comments come just two months after he said he failed to address the quarterback position as general manager and that he would do “whatever it takes” to draft a franchise signal-caller.
However, his rationale for not meeting Chicago’s asking price requires context. In the recent history of the NFL Draft, many of the No. 1 overall picks proved to be worthy of the selection. Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence have all proven to be franchise-caliber talents.
While the Colts might not have known which of the top quarterback prospects they wanted with the No. 1 pick, trading up meant securing the right to choose. By staying put, Indianapolis is now in jeopardy of choosing the lone remaining quarterback projected to be taken in the first round.
There’s an additional consequence for Indianapolis. Of the two quarterbacks projected to be available – Will Levis and Anthony Richardson – neither is viewed as an NFL-ready starter and both carry a high risk of not developing.
While it’s a risk Ballard and the Colts’ organization was willing to take, the downside is evident. If Indianapolis doesn’t land the quarterback it wants or the team doesn’t meet expectations in 2023, Ballard could be on the hot seat.