National Football League
Irsay: Colts would have 'probably' taken Richardson first overall, also liked Levis
National Football League

Irsay: Colts would have 'probably' taken Richardson first overall, also liked Levis

Published Apr. 29, 2023 5:19 p.m. ET

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay insisted that Anthony Richardson was the top quarterback on the Colts' draft board for months, but confirmed the rumors that the team also liked Will Levis during Irsay's first media availability since the Colts took Richardson No. 4 overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Irsay told reporters that Richardson would have likely been the Colts' pick even if they had the first overall selection, and the Colts zeroed in on the Florida quarterback months ago.

[Colts take biggest but best risk of draft selecting Anthony Richardson at No. 4]

"I always kind of felt like Richardson was gonna be the guy. … even early in the process, back in February," Irsay said, via The Athletic.


Richardson was one of two quarterbacks in the draft whose relative lack of success in college weighed against his impressive physical attributes made him a hotly debated prospect throughout the process. The other, Levis, was also heavily connected to the Colts in the weeks leading up to the draft — and after the Kentucky quarterback fell out of the first round, Irsay posted a tweet before the draft resumed on Friday asking fans if the Colts could take Levis near the beginning of the second round and have him compete with Richardson to be the team's next franchise quarterback.

But while that scenario did not play out — the Tennessee Titans traded up to two spots ahead of the Colts to take Levis at No. 33 overall, and the Colts themselves subsequently traded down from the 35th pick — Irsay confirmed Saturday that the team's interest in Levis was very real, saying the Colts would have likely taken him fourth overall if a team had traded up to the third overall pick and taken Richardson.

There was a moment in the draft where the Colts thought that may happen, per Irsay, when the Houston Texans surprised many outside observers by taking Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud at No. 2 overall after the Carolina Panthers took Bryce Young as expected at No. 1. That selection came after numerous reports had surfaced indicating that Houston would opt to take a top defensive prospect like Alabama's Will Anderson instead.

The Colts, like many around the league, expected the Arizona Cardinals to then trade out of the third pick, which they did — to the Texans, who moved back up from No. 12 overall to take Anderson.

That paved the way for the Colts to take Richardson, who Irsay revealed he had called three hours before the draft and to tell the quarterback there was a "good chance" he would head to Indianapolis.

Florida QB Anthony Richardson Highlights | 2023 NFL Draft

Richardson is seen as a developmental prospect who might not be fully ready to start in the NFL by Week 1. But while Irsay said the decision on when to play Richardson will be up to rookie head coach Shane Steichen, it sounds like both Irsay and Steichen are leaning towards putting Richardson into NFL action sooner rather than later.

"You get better by playing," Irsay said Saturday.

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