Top QB’s Connection to Peyton Manning Connection Could Sway Colts’ 1st-Round Decision

Peyton Manning

Getty One of the top quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL draft has a Peyton Manning connection that could be a factor for the Indianapolis Colts.

There are now merely days until the Indianapolis Colts will have to finalize their decision of what to do with their No. 4 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft. What happens with the first three selections could obviously have a huge impact, but apparently so could the team’s former franchise quarterback Peyton Manning.

If that is indeed the case, Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer proposed that Kentucky’s Will Levis will have an edge in Indianapolis’ draft evaluation process over the other rookie signal callers.

“Four days out, few believe the Colts will look anywhere else at No. 4,” wrote Breer. “Which QB they’ll take is murkier. Levis has had a rough pre-draft process, but I’ve heard his name linked to the Colts over and over from other teams last week.

“And I heard he made a very positive impression with the Manning brothers at their passing academy last summer, and, obviously, owner Jim Irsay still listens to Peyton on these things.”

Other Rumblings Connecting Colts to QB Will Levis

Breer isn’t the only insider this week who leaning towards Levis landing with the Colts.

“The Colts want Levis,” an AFC scout told ESPN’s Matt Miller. “The question is do they love him more than Stroud? I think they do, but that’s a bold move.”

That question appeared to be a moot point for most of this spring. Mock draft experts have been projecting C.J. Stroud to the Houston Texans at No. 2 overall for most of the offseason.

But rumors have begun heating up that the Texans are going to pass on all the quarterbacks and instead select a defensive player. If that happens, the Colts could see Stroud and Levis both be available at No. 4.

Stroud posted the superior statistics in college and has generally been regarded this spring as the more pro-ready quarterback. In 2022, Stroud registered a 66.3% completion percentage while averaging 9.5 yards per attempt. He threw for 3,688 yards with 41 touchdowns and 6 interceptions.

He also had 4,435 passing yards and 44 touchdowns in 2021.

Levis recorded 2,406 passing yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. He averaged 8.5 yards per attempt while completing 65.4% of his passes.

Could the Colts Still Trade Up?

When speaking to reporters on April 21, general manager Chris Ballard suggested just about anything was on the table for the Colts at No. 4. That included trading up to No. 2.

In the same conversation, Ballard also said everybody lies publicly about their draft strategy. It’s possible that Ballard’s claim included himself.

But if the Colts buy the reports that the Texans are targeting a defensive player instead of a quarterback, then there’s less urgency for Indianapolis to work out a trade with either Houston or the Arizona Cardinals.

The Cardinals don’t need a quarterback either. So the Colts could have every signal caller except Bryce Young available to them at No. 4. Obviously, that’s the exact same situation if they traded up to No. 2 (assuming Young goes to the Panthers at No. 1).

So staying at No. 4 might not mean the Colts aren’t in love with one of the quarterbacks. It could simply mean the Colts are betting on at least Levis or Stroud (or both) will still be on the board at No. 4.

If there’s a choice between the two, Stroud has the superior stats. But Levis appears to have the endorsement from Manning.

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