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Colts hoping to find new franchise quarterback in NFL draft

Kentucky's Will Levis prepares to throw a pass during the NCAA college football team's NFL Pro Day in Lexington, Ky., Friday, March 24, 2023. (AP Photo/James Crisp)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Shane Steichen understands his first draft as an NFL head coach could define his entire tenure.

If he and general manager Chris Ballard can find the best young quarterback to build around with the No. 4 overall pick, they just might get the Indianapolis Colts’ postseason plans back on track.

Getting it wrong means the long, arduous search for a new franchise quarterback will continue — perhaps with some new faces making selections.

Those are the stakes in next week’s NFL draft and Steichen and Ballard are leaving nothing to chance.

“You want to find out as much information as you can on all these prospects and go through that process. If that means calling as many people as you can to find out that information, that’s what you’ve got to do,” Steichen said recently. “Then, going back and watching the tape over and over again because again, there’s not a crystal ball to like, ‘Hey, this guy is a guarantee, right?”

Many believe Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud are as close to sure bets in this year’s draft.

But both are expected to be gone by the team the Colts pick at No. 4. That would mean choosing between the strong-armed gambler, Will Levis of Kentucky, or the rapidly rising but largely untested Anthony Richardson of Florida.

If the selections go as expected, the Colts may be tempted to make a trade with Arizona just to get the next-best guy on their board.

Who’s the best fit?

It could be anyone. Steichen spent the past two seasons in Philadelphia helping Jalen Hurts shed the label of struggling rookie and emerge with last season’s NFC champs. In 2020, with a different style, he helped Justin Herbert become the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

And now, Steichen is being asked to do it all over again — presuming the Colts convince themselves they can find the right guy.

“You guys heard me talk about the accuracy, the decision-making, ability to create and then all the intangibles like the character piece,” Steichen said. “I just think that’s critical. How does the guy carry himself day in and day out? Is he going to hold himself accountable? All those different things. There’s little nuances to everything, but again, the character piece is big to me.”


There had been speculation the Colts might be interested in quarterback Lamar Jackson, the 2019 league MVP. But signing him would cost Indy two first-round picks and team owner Jim Irsay tried to tamp down reports about the 26-year-old Jackson.

Then last week Steichen said: “We’re focused on the draft and I’m going to focus on the guys that are in the building right now.”


One big reason for the Colts failures of last season was the sudden decline of what had been one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. The problem: Indy spent most of the season trying to find solutions at left tackle and right guard. Rookie Bernhard Raimann finished the season at left tackle and if the Colts believe Raimann is the answer there, they could use their second-round pick, No. 34 overall, on one of the draft’s top guards.


Andrew Luck’s unexpected retirement before the 2019 season and six straight seasons of opening day starters finally caught up with the Colts, forcing them to find a long-term solution at the game’s most important position.


Quarterback, offensive line, tight end and receivers.


Defensive tackle, running back and kicker.