Will Levis unexpectedly fell out of the first round during the 2023 NFL draft. But sometimes, there isn’t much of a difference between being a top five pick and a player who lasts until Day 2.
Thanks to the honesty of Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, fans can consider former Kentucky quarterback the latest example of that fact.
Irsay told the media on April 29 that the team always planned to target Anthony Richardson in the 2023 NFL draft. The Colts owner was so confident that the team would land him that he called the Florida signal caller three hours prior to the draft to tell him to be ready to come to Indianapolis.
But if something went awry and Richardson was off the board before the Colts picked at No. 4, Irsay said they likely would have taken Levis.
“We were going to take Levis or trade down,” Irsay told the media. “I think we’d take Will Levis. … We liked him.”
With Richardson, the Colts drafted a quarterback in the top five for the first time since Andrew Luck went No. 1 in 2012.
Colts Ranked QB Anthony Richardson Top Player in 2023 Class?
Assuming Irsay was being totally truthful, he not only revealed that Levis was the team’s contingency plan at No. 4 but also said that Richardson was the team’s top target.
“If we had the first pick in the draft, we’d probably take Anthony,” Irsay said. “That’s how much we liked him.”
The Colts weren’t aggressive like the Carolina Panthers, who traded up to land their top quarterback target. But Irsay and company were apparently confident Richardson would still be available at No. 4.
But whether at No. 1 or 4, Richardson was Indianapolis’ choice.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared Richardson to former MVP quarterback Cam Newton while ESPN’s Louis Riddick said on April 27 that the Florida signal caller reminded him of ex-Philadelphia Eagles six-time Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb.
“He has elite, and I’m talking about, elite mobility inside the pocket and outside the pocket,” Riddick said on the ESPN broadcast. “He can throw on the run, he can go ahead and break your arm … he has 4-4 speed.
“Donovan [McNabb] could do the same things when he was at Syracuse. He could do the same things when he was at Philadelphia.”
Houston Texans Helped Colts Land Top QB Preference
The Colts weren’t aggressive in the draft, choosing to stay at No. 4. But the Houston Texans were uber-aggressive and inadvertently helped the Colts, a division rival, land their quarterback preference.
Quarterbacks went off the board at No. 1 and 2, giving the Colts little margin for error to grab Richardson at No. 4. The Arizona Cardinals held the No. 3 pick, but they traded out of the pick as some mock draft experts predicted.
Arizona’s selection, though, went to the Texans, who had just taken quarterback C.J. Stroud at No. 2 and weren’t going to grab another signal caller. Instead, they drafted Alabama defensive end Will Anderson at No. 3.
But until the Texans trade up became official, there were some tense moments in the Colts draft room.
“We thought that third pick was going to be traded, and then, when two [quarterbacks] go like that, it certainly concerns you,” Irsay told the media. “I really felt confident. I just had a good feeling that Anthony [Richardson] would be there.”
“When the [Texans-Cardinals] trade happened, obviously, we all smiled in relief.”