Chris Ballard loves his draft picks, and he loves trading back in the draft to get more of them. It’s something he did twice (2018 and 2019) and he also traded another two first for different players (2020 for Buckner and 2022 for Wentz).
This time it is certainly different though, as Ballard is under a lot of pressure to finally nail that franchise quarterback pick, and with 4 prospects that could easily go in the Top 5 he will have his options there. Thing is, neither of the 4 options are particularly enticing. Prospects are never bullet-proof, but several analysts have pointed out that this is not a particularly solid quarterback class, and that the flaws this quarterback group has are just too worrisome. Bryce Young does not have the size or build to have a long lasting career in the NFL, so it is a reason of concern how he will deal with the hits of NFL linemen. C.J. Stroud seemed like the safest choice, but he just scored an absurdly low percent on a cognitive test that reportedly no above-average NFL quarterback has ever scored in those levels before. Anthony Richardson completed just 54% of his mere 393 passing attempts in college (for the sake of comparison Young has over 900, Stroud over 800, and Levis over 700). Will Levis struggled a lot last season and the game film he produced is somewhat pedestrian.
Not only is this class a bit sketchy, but there are also two generational prospects coming right up next year in USC’s Caleb Williams and UNC’s Drake Maye, both of whom are probably going to go at #1 and #2 in any order.
With all those facts in mind, what if the Colts are playing everyone for fools and actually plan on trading back, offloading some other veterans, and trying to tank for either Williams or Maye? Of course every team in the NFL wants to compete, but under a new head coach, without a proper quarterback, and with several key departures, there is no reason to believe at first that the Colts will field a much better team in 2023 than they did in 2022.
It is worth taking into account that this is not Madden and Irsay probably knows that most of the fanbase will erupt if the Colts trade back and not take a quarterback to lead the team, but after striking gold with Manning and then Luck, it just sucks that the Colts will miss out on two much more polished prospects by a year, which is why Ballard has to considered the notion at least to trade back. The other problem and probably a big reason why this idea will not happen, is the leverage. The only two teams desperate for a quarterback I see trading up are either the Falcons or the Raiders, and if the Colts want to trade back it sends the message that they are not sold on any quarterback prospect, so both the Raiders and the Falcons could just wait them out and end up getting their guy.
Stranger things have happened on Draft Night, and I have no idea what to expect. I have been running scenarios over my head for a week now, and never before entertained the idea of not taking a quarterback, so perhaps the unexpected strikes once again.
The only scenarios I see in which the Colts end up trading back is that either the Falcons or the Raiders trade up with the Cardinals after two quarterbacks go #1 and #2. Then whatever team traded up takes another quarterback leaving the Colts with just one option at the position. Perhaps not sold on the guy left, the Colts trade back with a team either looking to get that quarterback or with a different one that wants Will Anderson Jr. The Colts should at least try and get more ammo next year to trade up and guarantee a shot at either Maye or Williams, but there are just too many variables beyond their own control to realistically try and plan for that.
In conclusion, I don’t think there is a realistic chance the Colts end up trading back, and I would be stupefied if that happens, but at least Colts’ twitter will be really entertaining.