According to ESPN’s Matt Miller (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts could still trade up to the Arizona Cardinals draft slot from #4 to #3 respectively, depending on how the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft’s top draft board plays out on Thursday night:
“With the Colts backed into a corner, quarterback has to be the play in Round 1,” writes Miller. “One league source with knowledge of the Colts’ thinking said they might ultimately flip picks with the Cardinals but that would be an ‘on-the-clock’ move and not one that happens pre-draft.”
Even though, the Colts have not made such a move with Arizona yet, it does not mean that a one pick jump is out of the question quite yet. However, Colts general manager Chris Ballard has stated that “we feel comfortable where we’re at” regarding the 4th overall pick.
While Miller reported earlier that he’s heard buzz that the Colts prefer Kentucky’s Will Levis to Florida’s Anthony Richardson, in his final mock draft, it’s irrelevant. Namely, he has the Colts selecting sliding Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud with the 4th overall pick, in such a surprising draft day scenario:
4. Indianapolis Colts
C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
The latest buzz around the NFL continues to focus on the Colts preferring Kentucky’s Will Levis over Florida’s Anthony Richardson due to his NFL-readiness and background in a pro-style offense, but none of that matters with Stroud surprisingly still on the board. After being schooled in Ohio State’s timing-based system, Stroud has the arm strength, toughness and mobility to fit the Shane Steichen offense. He isn’t Jalen Hurts, whom Steichen worked with in Philly, but he is a solid mover in and out of the pocket and has the arm talent to make every throw.
Regarding Stroud, the 6’3”, 218 pound junior quarterback completed 258 of 389 pass attempts (66.3%) for 3,688 passing yards, 41 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions during 13 starts for the Buckeyes in 2022.
He was a second-team All-American selection, won First-Team All-Big Ten honors (for a consecutive season) and was the recipient of both the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year and Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year Trophy.
Stroud has been highly regarded for his accuracy, ball placement, and ability to make layered throws all over the field.
While he’s been considered more of a traditional pocket passer, he showed more mobility and improvisation ability in the College Football Playoff against Georgia than he had previously been asked to do much at Ohio State. Showcasing more of that dynamic skill-set could be the difference between Stroud making the jump from pretty good to elite pro starting quarterback at the next level.
Although Bryce Young has been widely projected to go #1 overall to the Carolina Panthers recently, the Colts have been well connected to the remaining top three quarterbacks as of late: Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson, and Kentucky’s Will Levis.
It’s a fair question of which one they’ll ultimately select—and whether they’ll even need a trade up to #3 overall as the Arizona Cardinals’ clock starts to safely secure their guy.