Mock Draft Projects Colts Trade Up for ‘Risky Pick’

Chris Ballard

Getty Colts general manager Chris Ballard currently holds the No. 4 overall pick in the draft.

Mock drafts are becoming more common as the offseason continues for the Indianapolis Colts.

On January 26, Pro Football Focus writer Marcus Mosher released a mock draft projecting the Colts to trade with the Chicago Bears to acquire the No. 1 pick. With that selection, Mosher predicts Indianapolis, who is in “desperate need of a franchise quarterback,” to select Kentucky signal caller Will Levis.

While Mosher did not include any details related to potential compensation, the Bears would move back to No. 4 as a result of the deal.

Trading up to acquire Levis would be somewhat of a surprise, especially since former Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young is rated the top quarterback prospect by The Athletic’s Dane Brugler and Rob Rang of Fox Sports. PFF’s Big Board for the upcoming draft also ranks Young as the No. 1 player from the 2023 class.

Over the past month, other mock drafts have projected the Colts to select Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and trade up to No. 1 for Young. While it’s uncertain that the Colts are set on drafting a rookie quarterback, that could become a reality — especially since Indianapolis has started a different veteran quarterback each of the past three seasons.

Mosher’s Reasoning Behind the Colts Trading Up

Colts general manager Chris Ballard has made it known that size and athleticism, among other traits, is what stands out to him when evaluating prospects.

In addition to his intangible measurables at 6-foot-3, 232 pounds, Levis possesses attributes Ballard desires in a quarterback: strength, accuracy and mobility.

For those reasons, Mosher believes Ballard will keep an eye on Levis.

Bryce Young is the more polished (and probably better) quarterback, but general manager Chris Ballard loves traits, and that’s what Levis has going for him,” Mosher wrote.

Kevin Bowen from 107.5 The Fan also wrote that Ballard’s stance on talent evaluation is important to consider as the draft approaches.

“Remember, Ballard is a super ‘traits-y guy’ when it comes to selecting players at other spots,” Bowen wrote. “He’s obsessed with height/weight measurables and athletic testing. Young, who might not even be 5-foot-11, is a major outlier at the quarterback position.”

Despite Young being touted as a top quarterback prospect by multiple analysts, there is still no guarantee as to which signal caller will be selected first. It all comes down to team needs and how general managers view each of the top three quarterback prospects.

Mosher wrote that if Ballard does indeed rate Levis highly, trading up for the Kentucky quarterback would be a “risky pick.” But after years of instability behind center, selecting a rookie quarterback could be a risk Ballard is willing to take.

“It’s a risky pick, but the Colts must swing for the fences to compete in the AFC South moving forward,” Mosher said.

Levis’ Senior Season at Kentucky

Levis dealt with foot and shoulder issues throughout 2022 but still managed to start in 11 games, throwing 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Those numbers were a decrease from 2021, but could be attributed to different variables.

The 23-year-old was unable to run at a high level in 2022, finishing with -107 yards on 72 carries. In 2021, Levis ran for 387 yards on 92 attempts.

Levis also took 37 sacks in 2022 — an astounding number compared to just 16 the previous season.

“He (Levis) got pounded — he had no help from that offensive line,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said during a mock draft show. “This kid is tough, and to get back out there and play, the offensive line being as bad as it was, he didn’t get any support at all and he still hung in there.”

Another potential factor in Levis’ decrease in production is playing without 2021 top target Wan’Dale Robinson, who was drafted by the New York Giants in the second round last offseason. In 2021, Robinson caught over 100 passes for 1,334 yards and seven touchdowns. Levis’ leading receiver in 2022 was Barion Brown, who notched 50 catches for 628 yards and four touchdowns.

There was also a coaching change at the end of the regular season. After Kentucky wasn’t able to score more than 27 points in its final eight regular season games, Wildcats offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello was fired in November.

“Adapting to different offensive coordinators, different players around him, there’s a lot to love about Will Levis in terms of the top five, top six of the draft,” Kiper Jr. said.

Even with reasons to explain Levis’ drop in numbers, turnovers remain one of his biggest concerns. In his two seasons as a Wildcat, Levis threw 23 interceptions and lost three fumbles.

It’s important, however, to remember that Levis could be ahead of other prospects in terms of pro-style offense knowledge, as Scangarello implemented a West Coast offense with Kentucky in 2022. With that advantage as well as his other intangible characteristics, Levis could be in demand in the upcoming draft.

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