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Why Colts should call Cardinals about No. 3 pick — and the QB who makes sense for Indy
National Football League

Why Colts should call Cardinals about No. 3 pick — and the QB who makes sense for Indy

Updated Apr. 11, 2023 3:05 p.m. ET

The Colts, in desperate need of a franchise quarterback, have remained idle with their positioning in the draft later this month — at No. 4 overall — as their former head coach, Frank Reich, and the Panthers struck a deal with the Bears for the No. 1 selection. 

What Carolina gave up was no small haul — picks nine and 61 this year, a 2024 first-rounder, a 2025 second-rounder, standout receiver DJ Moore — but the team pulled the trigger, certainly, because of a conviction at the top of its board. 

Indianapolis didn't feel the same way. 

"History just kind of tells you that when you do that, you better know what you're getting," Colts GM Chris Ballard told The Indianapolis Star at the owners meetings last month. "We weren't quite ready to do that at that time. We feel like there's enough depth in this draft that if we do end up taking [a quarterback], and finding one, that we're going to be OK."


For the Colts, that doesn't rule out a trade up … one spot. 

The Cardinals, of course, hold the No. 3 overall pick. For quarterback-needy teams, that's a spot to keep eyes on, with Arizona already having a franchise quarterback in Kyler Murray, and the two teams ahead of them — Carolina and Houston, respectively — expected to take signal-callers. It's a position of leverage for the Cardinals, who've reportedly had at least six teams inquire about the pick. 

The Colts should be one of the teams calling. They can't afford not to be. In search of a franchise quarterback, looking to end the years-long veteran carousel in the wake of Andrew Luck's shocking retirement in 2019, Indianapolis must leave no stones unturned. It's why the team hasn't ruled out a pursuit of Ravens star Lamar Jackson (while other teams have). 

Undoubtedly in the Colts' calculus: another quarterback-hungry team swooping in ahead of them at No. 3, leaving them with the fourth choice of the top quarterbacks. 

But Indianapolis should only attempt a trade with Arizona for the third pick if it has a clear-cut top three on its board at quarterback — not out of fear of what other teams might do. 

And just because the Colts may take the fourth quarterback on the board doesn't mean he will be the fourth-best pro. Justin Herbert was the third quarterback taken in 2019. Jackson was the fourth taken the year prior, after Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen. Mitchell Trubisky was taken before Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in 2017. 

Joel Klatt's top 50 players in 2023 NFL Draft

Joel Klatt ranks his top 50 players in the 2023 NFL Draft.

In the later rounds, the Patriots grabbed Tom Brady in the sixth round. The Seahawks drafted Russell Wilson in the third round. The Eagles took Jalen Hurts in the second round. The 49ers took Brock Purdy with the last pick of last year's draft. 

All the Colts have to lean on is their evaluation. 

"If there's a perfect method to the quarterback and picking the right one, everybody would have really good quarterbacks," new coach Shane Steichen said at the owners meetings.

Which quarterback is the best fit for the Colts? 

Assuming Ohio State's C.J. Stroud and Alabama's Bryce Young go one and two as expected, Florida's Anthony Richardson makes a lot of sense for the Colts at No. 4 (or in a possible trade up to three). 

On the surface, both Richardson and Kentucky's Will Levis — widely considered to be the third and fourth-best quarterbacks in the draft — are high-upside prospects with NFL-ready frames and an ability to make all the throws, with concerns about their accuracy and decision-making. Also, neither won at a high level in the SEC (After a 10-win 2021 season at Kentucky, Levis won seven last season; Richardson in 2022 won six in his lone season as a starter). 

In Richardson's favor: He's nearly three years younger — he'll be 21 in Week 1, compared to 24 for Levis — and far and away the better athlete, maybe the best we've ever seen for the position entering the NFL. 

With a Cam Newton-like frame at 6-4 and 244 pounds, Richardson set NFL Combine records for quarterbacks in the vertical jump (40.5 inches) and broad jump (10'9"), and his 4.43-second 40-yard dash was the fourth-fastest time by a quarterback at the event since 2000. The three signal-callers to run faster — Robert Griffin III, Reggie McNeal, Michael Vick — were all at least 20 pounds lighter than Richardson. 

Anthony Richardson's record-breaking NFL Combine performance

Joel Klatt discusses players who helped their draft stock at the 2023 NFL Combine, especially Florida QB Anthony Richardson.

If the Colts view Richardson and Levis as similar football talents right now, the former's youth and raw athleticism give him a clear advantage. 

Also to be kept in mind: Indianapolis won't enter 2023 with a predetermined offensive philosophy. With Steichen, the goal is to cater the offense to the strengths of whomever the quarterback is. It's a strategy the Colts feel confident in, considering Steichen's work with Herbert, Hurts and the retired Philip Rivers — quarterbacks of different sizes and skill sets.

With Richardson, though, the Colts could deploy the kind of option-heavy attack that Steichen found success with in Philadelphia with Hurts, also a dual-threat quarterback. In 24 career games with the Gators, Richardson rushed 161 times for 1,116 yards (6.9 yards per carry) for 12 touchdowns. 

Steichen said that having a mobile quarterback is not the end all be all, but acknowledged that it's an advantage at the position. Ballard and Colts owner Jim Irsay have expressed similar sentiments this offseason. 

"I've always believed that when you have an athlete that can move, it puts more pressure on a defense," Ballard said. "The ability to create a play when a play's not there with your feet is vital. I don't think my thinking on that has ever changed. Eventually, defenses are so good, [mobile quarterbacks are] going to have to be able to complete passes from the pocket."

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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