NFL Draft 2023: Colts can land franchise quarterback after Ryan and Wentz flops

Tom Collins

26 April 2023

Dreams will become reality for 259 collegiate American football stars this week as the 2023 NFL Draft takes place at a sold-out Union Station in Kansas City.

Ever since the college season finished in early January, players with the quality and aspirations to make it to the big-time have been working hard to impress scouts and NFL coaches. The Combine offered the perfect platform to impress - or fail to impress - on the big stage, while subsequent team visits and press conferences will have supplemented their on-field tape. Now it’s a waiting game.

That applies to everyone except former Alabama star quarterback Bryce Young, who is widely touted to be drafted first overall by the Carolina Panthers. The diminutive 5’8 signal-caller excelled for Nick Saban’s franchise over the last three years and won numerous awards that included the 2021 Heisman Trophy, which is given to the best collegiate player each season.

Young is currently available at 1/9 to be chosen first overall, despite the fact this year’s draft class contains four bona fide stars at the quarterback position. NFL insiders have been pretty clear in their statements regarding the Panthers’ intent so, unless you like punting at extremely short odds, I would advise looking elsewhere for winning opportunities.

The other QBs likely to come off the board early in this year’s draft are Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis. And there is a possibility that we could see an early blockbuster trade from an NFL team further down the order who believes this is the year to find their future star.

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Richardson, who is extremely athletic and has a monster arm, could be the guy to instigate such a move. The sophomore doesn’t have much experience compared to his counterparts, but perhaps his ceiling is higher than theirs. If he maxes out his potential, the 20-year-old could excel in the NFL - think Lamar Jackson’s speed and agility with Josh Allen’s arm. Frightening, huh?

However, there have been a number of dual-threat quarterbacks who have failed to make their mark in recent years and there is significant risk involved in taking him. Although every player carries some sort of ‘boom-or-bust’ risk, the bust is inflated with Richardson and he won’t be every organisation's cup of tea. With that in mind, he could go second overall to the Texans, third overall via a trade, or fall to the middle of the first round.

Wagering on who will select Richardson is fraught with danger, but the implications of him being selected early could result in good value elsewhere. Take the fourth overall pick, for example. 

The selection is owned by the Indianapolis Colts, who are desperate for a new quarterback. Hall Of Famer Peyton Manning carried the team from 1998 to 2010 and he was swiftly followed by Andrew Luck, who was drafted first overall in 2012. Luck prematurely retired in 2019 due to a cycle of recurring injuries and rehabilitation, which created issues off the field. Since then, the Colts have searched for their new leader without success.

Veterans Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan and Nick Foles have all failed to make their mark. While rookie Sam Ehlinger struggled in three starts last year. Now it’s time for a change - a big one if Indianapolis are to refind their success of a bygone era. 

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Given we know they are going to pick a quarterback, the betting market for the fourth overall pick is a pretty tasty commodity. The current favourite is Will Levis (1.91), but I have serious reservations about whether the Colts will select him. This is a franchise that needs a guy who can compete at the top for decades to come - their fanbase has waited a fair few years for their new guy and further failure would not be a welcomed sight. 

Although Levis has significant arm strength and the pocket presence of a peak Ben Roethlisberger, he’s entering the league at the age of 24 (old amongst rookies) and could be susceptible to injuries given his style of play. Escapability isn’t in his resume and, given his profile is exceptionally similar to the aforementioned Carson Wentz, it doesn’t feel like the modern move for this changing franchise.

I much prefer the price available on Ohio State’s highly talented CJ Stroud, who was predicted to challenge Young for the first overall pick before his subsequent slip down the draftboard. Nevertheless, his ability to create and extend plays is far superior to Levis and, although his mobile style of play differs from recent Colts quarterbacks, I believe this is the direction they want to go in now. Key members from Indy’s hierarchy visited Stroud on April 14 before visiting Levis.

Although I’m slightly worried that the Texans take Stroud second overall, I’m hopeful that he will fall to Indianapolis and allow them to pick up their new franchise quarterback. 

NFL Draft 2023 Tips

Fourth Overall Pick: CJ Stroud @ 2.8

Tom Collins

26 April 2023

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