6 best QB options for Colts, ranked from Bryce Young to Aaron Rodgers
The Colts have experienced a quarterback carousel like no other since Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement in August 2019.
Since Luck’s retirement, the Colts have had four different Week 1 starters: Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. They’ll surely have a fifth in 2023 after Ryan struggled in his only season at Indianapolis.
How will the Colts replace Ryan? You will have many options. They’re armed with the #4 pick in the 2023 NFL draft, so they’ll be able to land top quarterback talent there if they so desire.
But could Indianapolis be chasing another veteran? It remains a possibility, although it’s not a foregone conclusion like it has been in previous offseasons.
Below is a breakdown of the Colts’ most likely quarterback options, starting with the players they could land in the 2023 NFL Draft.
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Colt’s QB options for 2023, ranking
1. Draft Bryce Young or CJ Stroud
The Colts are looking to pick a quarterback with their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. They have the No. 4 overall pick, their highest since they had the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL draft and picked Andrew Luck, and should be able to land one of the top two passers in this year’s draft.
It’s just a matter of which Indianapolis you like better.
At the moment, Young would appear to be the leader of the clubhouse. Owner Jim Irsay mentioned him casually when introducing the team’s new head coach, Shane Steichen.
“The guy from Alabama isn’t bad-looking, I can tell you that,” Irsay said.
Of course, Young could go to the Texans at number 2. So if the Colts don’t trade, they might be willing to pick big-armed CJ Stroud instead. Stroud was a stud in Ohio State’s college football playoff loss to Georgia and did much to improve his draft record despite a solid season for the Buckeyes.
BETTING ODDS: Will Bryce Young or CJ Stroud be the No. 1 pick of the 2023 NFL Draft?
Both Young and Stroud would offer the Colts a talented young passer with star potential. That’s what the team has been missing since Luck’s retirement.
2. Draft by Will Levis
It’s likely the Colts will be able to land either Young or Stroud, but there remains a chance a team could trade with Chicago for the No. 1 pick. If that happens — and it’s not the Colts going up — then both top quarterbacks could be off the board if Indianapolis selects.
The Colts could turn their attention to Levis in this scenario. The Kentucky product doesn’t have the same track record of high-end performance as Young and Stroud, but he has a big arm, a good 6-3 height, 222 pounds and could develop well at the NFL level.
Levis completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,406 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in his senior season with the Wildcats. He played with an injured shoulder so if he can recover he should fit well into Steichen’s offense.
3. Draft by Anthony Richardson
Do you notice a topic here? Yes, all of the Colts’ top quarterback options are players they could win in the draft. They must focus on adding a young passer to the roster after unsuccessfully settling for experienced alternatives in five straight off-seasons.
That said, the Colts are unlikely to end up picking Richardson. He’s a first-round pick in the mix, but seems more of a mid-round option or a player who could sneak towards the bottom of the top 10.
The Florida Passer has a cannon arm combined with large size (6-4, 231 pounds) and mobility. However, he struggled with accuracy with the Gators, completing just 53.8 percent of his passes in his final season. He needs to refine his approach to the next level, although his mechanics don’t seem to be broken beyond repair.
NFL MOCK DRAFT: Where Anthony Richardson falls in the first round pecking order
So why aren’t the Colts likely going after Richardson? That’s because they’ll almost certainly have a shot at landing a top three quarterback in this year’s class. Unless they like Richardson better than Levis, they don’t have to go after Richardson, who would likely be the fourth quarterback on their big board.
But hey, maybe Chris Ballard and Steichen will fall in love with his skills and swing into the top five.
4. Sign Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo, or Jacoby Brissett
You can put any longtime NFL starter or backup in this section, and they would likely rank similarly. No one questions whether any of these players would be an upgrade for the Colts; The question is whether the Colts want to return to a veteran approach at quarterback after the past few offseasons have backfired.
In back-to-back offseasons, the Colts have traded for Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan. Neither quarterback performed, with Ryan’s stint being particularly disastrous as a starter.
Obviously, the Colts wouldn’t have to trade against the likes of Carr, Garoppolo, or Brissett. You would just have to give them a competitive offer and a chance to launch. But would they want to do that instead of targeting one of the draft’s best quarterbacks? That seems unlikely.
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However, the Colts could do so in addition to a talented rookie. If so, Brissett would be the most likely of the group to sign as a potential bridge to this young passerby.
Therefore, the Colts cannot be eliminated from the mid-tier quarterbacks sweepstakes. Finally, Chris Ballard has a penchant for acquiring experienced quarterbacks.
But surely this should not be the first choice for the Colts. They need to retool their roster, and it’s going to be harder to do that with a big quarterback on board.
5. Sign Gardner Minshew and draw a Day 2 quarterback
Would this be the most exciting plan for Colts fans? NO; by far not. But if they don’t love the top quarterbacks in this year’s class, would it be a good option for the team? Secure.
Minshew spent the last two seasons with the Eagles, so he’s familiar with Steichen’s system. He could be a good bridge quarterback for the team if they focused on rebuilding the rest of their roster before finding the quarterback they need to complete it.
It’s also worth noting that there are some intriguing quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL draft who aren’t in the first round. Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker and Stanford’s Tanner McKee stand out as two quarterbacks who have the tools to thrive in the NFL. They come with some issues — Hooker tore his ACL his senior year in Tennessee, while McKee only had a 28-to-15 TD-to-INT ratio at Stanford — but each was once considered a potential first-round pick.
If the Colts like either Hooker or McKee enough, they could target them early in Round 2, or trade at the end of Round 1 for a fifth-year option on either passer. Then they could develop her behind Minshew or have her compete directly with Minshew for the starting job.
Is this approach sexy? No, but it’s still something the Colts might consider if their high-end options dry up quicker than expected.
6. Trade for Aaron Rodgers
This seems like the most unlikely path for the Colts. Perhaps Chris Ballard would consider trading for Rodgers at the right price, but it’s not like his acquisition will make Indianapolis a safe contender.
In each of the past offseasons, a case has been made that the Colts could be a playoff contender with an upgraded quarterback. However, the team has been regressing in recent seasons, losing depth and talent thanks to the resources it has repeatedly expended at quarterback.
Trading for the 39-year-old Rodgers would only continue that trend. It would cost the Colts prime real estate and would do little to open their window to strife. In fact, winning their own division might not even make them favorites given how good the Jaguars looked in Year 1 under Doug Pederson.
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As such, the Colts are likely better off sitting out the Rodgers sweepstakes and focusing on developing their quarterback of the future. Finding a cheap, talented passer for a rookie deal would do a lot more to put Indianapolis on the right course than a trade for Rodgers.