The NFL Combine is in full swing and the Indianapolis Colts are learning more about the quarterback prospects that could be available to them in the upcoming draft.
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker revealed that Colts legendary signal caller Peyton Manning has been one of his mentors throughout his playing career, per The Herald Bulletin’s George Bremer. Manning attended Tennessee from 1994-1997, throwing 11,201 yards and 89 touchdowns.
Bremer added that Hooker said he will “never be higher than the third-best Tennessee quarterback behind Manning and Tee Martin.”
Hooker was considered to be a Heisman Trophy candidate for the first several games of the 2022 season. He notably suffered a season-ending ACL tear last November 20, making him unable to participate in the team’s bowl game against No. 7 Clemson (which the Volunteers won).
Hooker said he’ll be cleared to throw standing up within a week, adding that he anticipates being fully healthy for training camp activities this July.
Hooker’s Status Entering Draft
Hooker led Tennessee to a 9-2 record as a starter last year. Some of his biggest wins came against No. 24 Florida, No. 3 Alabama and No. 19 Kentucky.
What’s ironic about those wins is that they happened against teams led by fellow top quarterback draft prospects Anthony Richardson, Bryce Young and Will Levis, respectively. Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud is the lone top QB prospect Hooker did not defeat as a senior.
Before his knee injury, Hooker lit up college football with his playmaking ability and eye-popping stats. He threw for 3,135 yards, 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions while averaging 4.1 yards per carry on the ground with five rushing TDs.
If he played a full season, Hooker could have shown more to prove himself worthy to be a first-round selection. Instead, The Athletic’s Zak Keefer wrote that Hooker is expected to be selected on Day 2 of the draft.
“With respect to Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, who’s coming off a torn ACL and is expected to be a mid-round pick, those four quarterbacks — Young, Stroud, Levis and Richardson — feel like the pool the Colts will be choosing from come April when the organization does what it hasn’t in 11 long years: draft a quarterback in the first round,” Keefer wrote on March 3.
On February 28, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah appeared on the Pat McAfee Show and said Hooker could have had a better draft projection without injury.
“I don’t feel like there has been enough talk about Hendon Hooker.. To me, his tape is really good. He’s accurate, he’s big, he can move around. We’ll see where he ends up going. But to me, if he didn’t get hurt, I think we’d be talking about him as a first-round pick.”
Top QBs Speak at Combine
Hooker, along with Young, Levis, Richardson and Stroud, participated in an NFL Combine presser on March 3.
Stroud, Levis and Richardson will each take part in quarterback drills during the Combine on March 4. Young chose to sit out the combine but will, however, throw during his Alabama pro day session.
The Colts could be in a position to trade up from their current No. 4 spot. Regardless of what happens, Keefer believes that the team is locking in on two QB prospects.
“Young and Stroud appear the likeliest of options,” Keefer wrote. “They’re not simply the most accomplished QBs at the top of the draft, they also fit what the Colts want and need at the moment.”
Young is listed at 5-foot-11 but Keefer believes he still may have the intangibles that allow Colts general manager Chris Ballard to make an “exception.” Keefer thinks Stroud, on the other hand, is intelligent, has attributes Ballard covets and possesses good leadership qualities.
No matter who the Colts end up with at quarterback, it appears it will at least be a rookie from the 2023 draft class.