Colts chart new QB path with 1st-round pick Richardson
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts faced a crossroads in their approach to the quarterback position during this year’s NFL draft.
The franchise long led by conventional pocket passers, including Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, moved in a new direction by selecting Anthony Richardson of Florida with the fourth overall pick.
Richardson represents a very different style of quarterback.
And that, owner Jim Irsay said, is why the Colts were so happy to get him. With stars such as Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen and Jalen Hurts dominating the NFL, Irsay wanted a dynamic, mobile quarterback.
“This game is going more to the athletic quarterback,” Irsay said. “The days of (Tom) Brady and Peyton, I don’t know if they’re ever going to return.
“Mobility is reasonably essential. I always felt Richardson was going to be the guy we went with, as I learned more and more. He is a superhero. No quarterback has brought those skills in athletic testing.”
Though his powerful right arm is electrifying, the 6-foot-4, 244-pound Richardson is also dangerous with his legs. He had five touchdown runs of at least 45 yards at Florida.
“Anthony fit us, what (coach) Shane (Steichen) wants to do on offense, the best,” general manager Chris Ballard said.
Ballard focused on other areas of need by choosing Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents in the second round and North Carolina wide receiver Josh Downs in the third.
Irsay knows, however, that the story of the Colts’ 2023 draft depends on their new 20-year-old quarterback. Despite the offseason signing of Gardner Minshew, who’s made 32 NFL starts, Irsay said it was important for Richardson to see plenty of playing time as a rookie.
“One of the reasons to start him is he gets better by playing,” Irsay said. “Fans have to have patience because it’s hard being a rookie quarterback. But it’s the way to go.”
TAKING A SWING
In searching for offensive line help, Ballard appeared to prefer a swing tackle over a player limited to one side. Fourth-round choice Blake Freeland started 41 games at BYU, 26 at left tackle and 15 at right tackle.
“I feel good playing both,” said Freeland, a 6-8, 302-pounder who played quarterback in high school before bulking up to play the line.
“Toward the end of high school, it was a lot of 2,000-calorie protein shakes. Always eating. As I got heavier, it was easier to keep weight on.”
SPEED ON DEFENSE
Ballard added to his defense Saturday with later-round choices possessing physical traits more commonly found near the top of the draft board.
Fourth-round pick Adetomiwa Adebawore, who had only five sacks for Northwestern in 2022, caught the Colts’ attention by running a 4.49-second 40-yard dash as a 6-2, 282-pound lineman.
Fifth-rounder Darius Rush, who moved from wide receiver to cornerback during his second year at South Carolina, showed his speed at the combine with a 40-yard dash time of 4.36 seconds. Like Brents, Rush provides Indy’s zone-happy defense with a bigger corner at 6-2, 198 pounds.
FAMILIAR LOCAL NAME
Fifth-round pick Will Mallory, a Miami tight end, is the grandson of the late Indiana coach Bill Mallory, who led the Hoosiers to six bowl games.
“I think we take Will Levis,” Irsay said when asked what the Colts would have done with the fourth pick if Richardson were not available. Levis, the Kentucky quarterback who fell to the second round, was drafted by division rival Tennessee.
Another AFC South team, Houston, drafted quarterback C.J. Stroud second overall.
“It’s kind of cool, isn’t it?” Ballard said of the division’s run on quarterbacks.
The Colts made a total of nine picks on the third day. They rounded out their draft class with California safety Daniel Scott and Northwestern running back Evan Hull in the fifth round, Wagner defensive end Titus Leo in the sixth, and Texas A&M cornerback Jaylon Jones and Northern Michigan offensive lineman Jake Witt in the final round.