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Mel Kiper Jr. Projects Colts to Select Kentucky QB Will Levis, Alabama DB Brian Branch in NFL Mock Draft

The Colts select a quarterback and surprisingly take a safety in this latest mainstream mock draft.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 19 Georgia at Kentucky Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts are projected to select Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and Alabama defensive back Brian Branch in his most recent 2023 NFL Mock Draft:

4. Indianapolis Colts

Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

I’m sticking with Levis to Indianapolis here. General manager Chris Ballard could get lucky with my second-ranked quarterback still on the board. Why do I like Levis over Stroud and Richardson? Because of his ability both in and out of the pocket. In 2021, when Levis was really on, he made “wow” throws to every part of the field and also ran for nine scores. Last season, while dealing with injuries and after losing a lot of talent around him, he forced too many throws and was inconsistent. I think Levis’ floor is high, and he’ll be able to start immediately for the Colts.

By the way, if you’re wondering how often quarterbacks have been taken with the first four picks in a single draft, well, I can tell you this would be the first time ever. Passers have gone with the first three picks three other times — 2021, 1999 and 1971 — but this would be history.

35. Indianapolis Colts

Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

Nick Saban used Branch primarily as a slot corner, but Branch is my top-ranked safety in this class. The versatility to play in the nickel or as a center fielder sets him apart. His 4.58-second 40-yard dash at the combine was below average, but I didn’t see him get beat often on tape; I’m not worried about his timed speed. Branch would have the chance to be an instant starter in the Colts’ secondary.

It’s worth noting that Kiper Jr. has the Colts’ AFC South rivals, the Tennessee Titans, trading up to the #3 overall pick and selecting Florida’s Anthony Richardson just ahead of Indianapolis—which likely would be to the dismay of a lot of Colts faithful.

Regarding Levis, the 6’4”, 229 pound senior quarterback completed 185 of 283 passes (65.4%) for 2,406 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns, and 10 interceptions during 11 starts for the Wildcats in 2022—earning Football Academic All-America of the Year honors.

Levis features ideal size, a quick release, and a cannon for an arm—with impressive athleticism as a pretty mobile quarterback. He’s a natural fit in an offensive system that utilizes the RPO game, play-action, and a vertical passing attack. However, he needs to improve upon his internal processing, accuracy, and decision-making at times.

He’s currently projected to be a Top 10 NFL pick, it’s quite possible he could be selected within the first five picks of the NFL Draft all together—maybe even to the Colts at #4.

Meanwhile, Branch is a 6’0”, 190 pound (with 30 3/4” arms) junior defensive back who recorded 90 tackles (58 solo), 14 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 7 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions during 13 starts this past season for the Crimson Tide—as he was awarded First-Team All-American honors.

He has the versatility to play as either a single-high or split safety and is projected as the top safety prospect in this year’s draft class. He looks to either be a first or early second round pick.

Still, having just selected Nick Cross in the 3rd round last year (and rookie Rodney Thomas II’s emergence), it would be surprising to see the Colts look again at safety so early on.