The worst case draft scenario for the Indianapolis Colts came to fruition on March 10.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the Chicago Bears dealt the No. 1 pick to Carolina Panthers for four draft picks and wide receiver D.J. Moore. The Carolina picks heading to Chicago include two first-rounders, including the No. 9 pick this year, and two second-round selections.
It was a small king’s ransom for the Panthers to pay, but what it means is there are now two teams in need of a quarterback ahead of the Colts. In all likelihood, general manager Chris Ballard’s choices behind center will be either Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson.
Adding insult to injury, the top signal caller of the class will be with former Colts head coach Frank Reich in Indianapolis.
Colts Pass Up Guarantee in Landing Top QB in 2023 Draft
It’s hard to completely find fault in Ballard staying pat at No. 4, at least with still six weeks remaining until the NFL draft.
Fans and the media aren’t privy to Ballard’s full line of logic. Perhaps he and his scouting staff are in love with three quarterbacks in the 2023 draft class. Or he could love none of them and will be passing on whichever signal callers are still sitting there at No. 4.
But the fact remains that the Colts need a quarterback. Carolina’s trade up signals the Panthers will be taking one. In all likelihood, the Houston Texans at No. 2 will as well.
That probably means the consensus top two signal callers in the class — Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud — will be gone by the time Indianapolis has a chance to select a player in 2023.
To have an opportunity to draft Levis or Richardson, Indianapolis now must hope no other quarterback-needy team makes a trade with the Arizona Cardinals for the No. 3 pick.
Recent NFL Draft History Favors Indianapolis
It had to be disappointing for Colts fans to see Carolina be aggressive about trading up and not their own general manager. But if recent NFL draft history counts for anything, not all is lost for the Colts.
From 2017-22, Deshaun Watson, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert were all the third quarterbacks chosen in their draft class. Watson and Allen have experienced more success than the signal callers who went first in their classes (Mitch Trubisky and Baker Mayfield).
Herbert was in Joe Burrow’s draft class, but Herbert has played better than Tua Tagovailoa, who went one spot ahead of Herbert in 2020.
The Colts can land a great prospect and then develop him into a franchise quarterback even if he’s the third guy behind center chosen in this year’s class.
Furthermore, there’s no guarantee the Panthers will remain ahead of the Colts in the draft order.
The Athletic’s Joe Person reported on March 10 that Reich and Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer “have conviction” on more than one of the quarterbacks in the 2023 class and could possibly trade back out of the No. 1 spot.
Should that happen, one would think the Panthers won’t want to move too far down the board from No. 1. They will also have to receive compensation similar to what they sent to Chicago for the top pick.
Maybe the Colts moving up to No. 1 isn’t completely out of the question.
But one thing is clear after March 10 — the Panthers are ready to be aggressive to solve their issues behind center. Are the Colts?