The Indianapolis Colts realize they need a franchise quarterback, and it seems like their front office might have a favorite in mind.
Seizing the opportunity during Tuesday’s press conference to introduce new coach Shane Steichen, Colts owner Jim Irsay said “the Alabama guy doesn’t look bad, I’ll tell ya,” when referring to Alabama quarterback Bryce Young.
“Shane had a lot of that offense magic, which is hard to find in this league,” Irsay added. “Offense, in my mind, can be a little more complex and takes a little bit more time to develop, so knowing we’re gonna have to find a young quarterback to develop, that’s a key factor.”
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The Colts have had an unstable quarterback situation since the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck during training camp in 2019. Since Luck retired, they have tried Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan at the position with mixed, at best, results.
The series of veterans kept the team from total collapse for a time, but they also didn’t put the Colts in contention for the Super Bowl. The collapse came this season, when things fell apart to the tune of a 4-12-1 finish.
So it makes a lot of sense that the Colts would take a hard look at the top passers in the upcoming draft, and The 33rd Team’s scouting department has predicted they will take one in every mock draft thus far. The question is which one?
Keep in mind the Colts have the fourth overall pick in the draft, and it’s likely that at least one of the teams ahead of them is considering drafting a quarterback as well. Irsay’s comments are curious, but not completely unexpected. Was the owner playing the draft smokescreen game, or are the Colts locking onto Young more than two months before the draft?
Whether the Colts stay put or try to move up in the draft, there should be a highly rated quarterback available. Kentucky’s Will Levis, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, and Florida’s Anthony Richardson are other possibilities. The 33rd Team analyst Rick Spielman, a longtime NFL general manager, expects that not only will the Colts try to trade up, but it’s possible all four quarterbacks will be top-10 picks.
“Everyone’s talking about the Chicago Bears, and I do believe Justin Fields is their guy. Where it gets interesting is do they trade out of that No. 1 spot?” Spielman said. “If you look at the two quarterback-needy teams in the top five, you’re going to go right to Houston and you’re going to Indianapolis. Then you hear (Colts GM) Chris Ballard talk about we have to do whatever it takes to go get a quarterback and get our top guy.
“As we go through this draft process, what will be interesting is to see how Houston and Indy eventually see these quarterbacks. If Indy knowing that Houston is going to take a quarterback at No. 2, do they try to make a trade with Chicago?
“Indy and Houston both have to do something about their quarterback issues, and I don’t think Indy is going to go the veteran route.”
Young is The 33rd Team’s scouting department’s seventh-overall player and second-ranked quarterback on its most recent Big Board. Levis is the top-rated quarterback and fourth overall player. Stroud is ninth overall and the No. 3 quarterback, while Richardson slots as the Big Board’s No. 4 QB, is rated 14th overall.
Former NFL MVP quarterback Rich Gannon, an analyst for The 33rd Team, said Steichen’s most important task is finding a quarterback of the future.
“They don’t have a quarterback currently on the roster that is suitable to be an NFL starter,” Gannon said. “Then, you have to get into the evaluation of the quarterback position. Who do we currently have on our roster and where do we go out and find a starting quarterback? Is it free agency? Is it the draft? I can tell you this — if Shane Steichen can’t find a quarterback the Colts will be looking for a new head coach in a couple of years.”
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Young finished the 2022 season with 3,328 passing yards, 32 passing touchdowns and just five interceptions. In 2021, Young led the Crimson Tide to the College Football Playoff Final by throwing for 4,872 yards and 47 touchdowns, earning the Heisman Trophy in the process.
It sounds as if Steichen, who previously was offensive coordinator for the Los Angeles Chargers, already has an idea of what his ideal quarterback would look like.
“I think accuracy, decision making and ability to create are the three things that I look at in a quarterback,” Steichen said. “I think all three of those things are very important, but obviously, above the neck, the players I’ve been around — Rivers, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert — they all have one thing in common — they’re obsessed with their craft.”
Steichen is credited with helping develop Hurts — a former Alabama quarterback who transferred to Oklahoma for his final season — during his two years with the Philadelphia Eagles. Hurts transformed from a highly doubted 2020 second-round pick into a 2022 second-team All-Pro. Hurts’ passing yards (3,144 to 3,701), touchdowns (16 to 22) and yards per attempt (7.1 to 8.4) increased from 2021 to 2022, while his interceptions dropped from nine to six.
If Irsay is to be believed, Steichen might get another chance to develop a former Alabama signal caller.