The Indianapolis Colts might finally be cured of their Andrew Luck hangover.
When Luck retired, the Colts started on a path of acquiring second-chance veterans at the end of their careers, hoping to get something out of them and then move on to the next one. The bottom fell out last season with Matt Ryan struggling badly, and the Colts found themselves with the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. It was time to finally fix the quarterback position.
Say this about the Colts' choice: They didn't play it safe.
Anthony Richardson's range of outcomes is as wide as pretty much any quarterback ... maybe ever. If Richardson turned his all-world physical gifts into an MVP season or two, would it really surprise anyone? Or, would it be a big shock if Richardson, with all of 13 college starts and a lot of questions about his NFL readiness, doesn't develop those impressive skills and washes out of the league quickly?
Anything seems possible with this pairing. That's what makes it fun. If you're going to invest in a quarterback, you might as well do it with one who has a truly elite ceiling. There's no question Richardson has that.
The moment Richardson was drafted, he became arguably the NFL's most physically impressive quarterback. He had perhaps the best combine workout a quarterback has ever had. He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4, 244 pounds. He set a combine record with a 40 1/2-inch vertical jump and tied the combine record with a 10-foot-9 broad jump. He has an elite arm and rushed for 1,116 yards and 12 touchdowns on 161 attempts in college. Physically, there are no questions about Richardson. Colts GM Chris Ballard said the team decided a month ago that he was their target. It's not hard to figure out why.
"He can spin it," new Colts coach Shane Steichen told the media after the pick. "He has a huge arm."
If being a physical specimen was all there was to playing quarterback, the Colts would be set for a while. But that's not the entire story. Richardson has issues with his mechanics that led to inaccuracy. Most inaccurate college quarterbacks don't make huge leaps in that area in the NFL, but Josh Allen did and now that will be the new template for wishcasting teams.
"I think the one thing we’re seeing in the league now is, guys, you can work on and get them more accurate," Ballard said. "Footwork, fundamentals, and there's certain things I think you can do. I think you’ve seen guys jump in this league. I think you'll see him jump."
Richardson might not have much time to sit and develop. The Colts have Gardner Minshew II on the roster as a bridge QB, and Ballard tried to preach some patience with the raw rookie — "Let's not expect him to be Superman from day one," Ballard said, while pointing out that some quarterbacks take a season or more to develop — but there won't be much patience among the fans. Fourth overall picks don't sit for a full season very often. It will be hard to resist putting him in the lineup when he shows off his talent in practice and preseason games. The Colts have more talent than most teams that draft in the top five, and if they start slowly with Minshew this season, it will be hard to be patient.
Richardson is the rare top-five pick at quarterback who should sit a full season. The test for the Colts will be how long they can wait before making him the starter.
"He's going to have growing to do, like all of them do," Ballard said. "But we'll help him. We'll bring him along and he'll be a good player."
It's a franchise-changing pick for the Colts. One way or another.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from the first round of the NFL Draft:
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles were the best team in the 2022 NFL regular season, and they came very close to winning a Super Bowl. On Thursday, they might have gotten the best player in the draft.
The Eagles moved up one spot from No. 10 to No. 9 to draft Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. The Eagles had that 10th overall pick due to a trade with the New Orleans Saints in last year's draft. Carter had off-field issues — he pled no contest in a reckless driving and racing case after a car crash led to the deaths of Georgia offensive lineman Devin Willock and recruiting staffer Chandler LeCroy — and a horrible pro day workout. Some teams shied away from him. He slipped a bit and the Eagles pounced.
The Eagles added to the front seven after that by taking Nolan Smith, an athletic edge defender from Georgia, with the 30th overall pick.
But Carter can make or break Philadelphia's draft class. At times last season, Carter was touted as the best player in this year's draft class. He is a massive tackle who can have dominant stretches. There are more questions about him now, but the Eagles could afford to gamble on his upside. He fits a need for them on the interior of the defensive line. It could end up being a huge move for Philadelphia.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals' night didn't start well. Before the draft started, news broke that they had illegally tampered with Jonathan Gannon when they were talking to him to be their next head coach, and they had to work out a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to settle the matter.
Their night got better.
The Cardinals made a smart, potentially game-changing trade with the Houston Texans, who were obviously anxious to move up to the third overall pick for Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. The trade return the Cardinals got included a first-round pick in 2024, which could be very good if the Texans don't make a big jump this season. Any draft value chart had the Cardinals winning that trade decisively. They're going to enjoy that extra first (which was the Texans' pick, not the one acquired from the Cleveland Browns in the Deshaun Watson trade), which could realistically be as high as the first overall pick if Houston struggles again.
Then the Cardinals moved back up to No. 6 and got Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr., a tackle they'd been linked to in the days leading up to the draft. The Cardinals need a lot of talent and new general manager Monti Ossenfort is in charge of rebuilding the roster. The first round of his first draft went well.
Jackson got a deal that made him the highest-paid player in NFL history. The Ravens got their franchise quarterback back. Baltimore could go into the draft with a clear head about the direction the franchise is going instead of wondering how it might all play out. They had full clarity when they took Boston College receiver Zay Flowers with the 22nd overall pick. That’s a good pick to go with recent addition Odell Beckham Jr., and Jackson tweeted his excitement about the Flowers pick right before it was announced.
I’m smelling More good news🤭😅 dropping soon👀👀👀👀👀 pic.twitter.com/OmTSyPNGCn
— Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) April 28, 2023
It was a good day for Jackson and the Ravens before the draft even kicked off.
Will Levis: We remember the quarterbacks who have to wait awhile to be selected. Levis’ draft fall was a big one and we’ll recall it for a long time.
Levis was getting some (mostly unwarranted) buzz as the first or second pick of the draft earlier this week. Then he fell. Teams with a need at quarterback passed on him. Teams that could have used a developmental QB behind their veteran starter, like the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions, passed multiple times.
Levis has his flaws, but it was surprising to see him fall as far as he did.
Running back deniers: Anytime someone on social media suggests drafting a running back in the first round, the same arguments are made about positional value. Two teams ignored that outcry in the first 12 picks.
Bijan Robinson going No. 8 to the Atlanta Falcons had been speculated for a while, and it was no surprise when the Falcons picked him. That pick was questioned because the Falcons got a good rookie season out of fifth-round pick Tyler Allgeier last year and have a lot of other needs. Robinson is a good prospect but it was a debatable pick.
The Jahmyr Gibbs pick to the Detroit Lions at No. 12 was a shock. The Lions just signed David Montgomery and have D'Andre Swift. The Lions need to fix the defense and traded down from No. 6 when they could have taken a defensive player like Jalen Carter or Tyree Wilson. With the No. 12 pick they acquired, they took a 199-pound running back when that's not a weakness on the roster. Gibbs is a fun playmaker but it was a surprising pick.
Both picks will get a lot of criticism. But at least running backs are fighting back on the notion they've been completely devalued in the modern NFL.
Wide receivers, for a while, and tight ends: For the weeks leading up to the draft, it was said a few times that this year's receiver draft class was nowhere near as good as the past few. It was said the tight end class was good.
It took a while on Thursday before a pass-catcher went off the board.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba of Ohio State was the consensus WR1 in the class, but he went later than most mock drafts projected. Some teams that could use a receiver passed on him. He had an injury-filled 2022 and maybe that's a reason he lasted until the 20th pick, where the Seattle Seahawks took him. That started a run. TCU receiver Quentin Johnston went with the next pick to the Los Angeles Chargers. Boston College receiver Zay Flowers went 22nd to the Ravens. USC's Jordan Addison went 23rd to the Minnesota Vikings. So the receivers rallied starting with the 20th pick.
It wasn't the worst night for receivers and tight ends. But it wasn't the boon we've seen in the past few years.