Colts GM on trading up to No. 1 pick: ‘There’s got to be a guy worthy of it’

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Ben Arthur

AFC South Reporter

Colts general manager Chris Ballard on Wednesday appeared to temper speculation that Indianapolis will attempt to trade up to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. 

At the annual NFL Scouting Combine, Ballard said he doesn’t know if it’s “the right course of business” to trade up to the top pick to get th pick right. To make an aggressive move like that, he said, a player has to be “worthy of it.” A conviction must be present among top decision makers that there’s “no freaking doubt” he’s the one to be the face of a franchise for a decade-plus, he added. 

The Colts, who hold the No. 4 pick, have been one of the teams most linked to the Bears, who hold the top overall selection, to grab a quarterback. It would allow Indianapolis to jump a spot ahead of the AFC South rival Texans. 

Chicago is reportedly open to trading the No. 1 pick. 

“Everybody has just automatically stamped that you gotta move up to (No.) 1 to get it right,” Ballard said. “I don’t know if I agree with that. I don’t. But that’s going to be the narrative. And that’s ok. You have to write something. You have to keep the news flowing. 

“When we meet as a staff and we say, ‘OK, this is what we need to do, this is the guy for the next 10-15 years and we think he’s the right guy,’ sure, we’ll do it,” he continued. “But who’s to say we won’t get one at 4?” 

In the past, Ballard has been stringent about physical measurables at the quarterback position, like size. In his six seasons as general manager, the Colts’ primary signal caller each year has been at least 6 foot 4 — Andrew Luck (6-4, 240 lbs), Jacoby Brissett (6-4, 235), Phillip Rivers (6-5, 228), Carson Wentz (6-5, 237) and Matt Ryan (6-4, 217). And while those measurables are still held in high regard, Ballard said there’s an “exception” for guys who might not be as big but have elite accuracy and make plays when the game is on the line. Signal callers these days, he explained, come in all different shapes and sizes. 

The prospects in this year’s draft class are across the board: Alabama’s Bryce Young (listed at 6-0 and 194 lbs by his school), Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud (6-3, 218) Florida’s Anthony Richardson (6-4, 232) and Kentucky’s Will Levis (6-3, 232). 

Top QB in the draft?

Top QB in the draft?

RJ Young and Rob Rang agree that Alabama’s Bryce Young is better than Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud.

“We’ve had guys that have been under six foot be successful,” Ballard said of the NFL. “Some guys can be too tall, and now we’re going to say they’re too short. I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder — who you believe in, who you believe you can build an offense around. And I do know this: you don’t fit the offense to the quarterback. You fit the offense to what the quarterback does well. I think that’s what (new coach Shane Steichen) and the staff will do.

“You’re getting a lot more athletes playing the position,” he added. “The ability to move, navigate the pocket, escape from the pocket, make plays with your feet. All those are things that we’re seeing in our league. Not that we haven’t seen it before, but it’s become even more prevalent.”

Steichen agreed with Ballard’s sentiment about looking at accuracy as a premium. 

“When it’s third-and-8 and you’ve got to have it, you have to be able to stand in the pocket and deliver a strike with the guy coming down your chest,” he said. “I think that says a lot about a guy’s toughness. I look for that on tape. Obviously the vetting process of it.” 

What’s also clear from Steichen’s comments? The ex-Eagles offensive coordinator values perfectionism and the ‘it’ factor in the position.

He pointed to his former signal caller, the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, the 2022 MVP runner-up to Patrick Mahomes, as an example. 

“A lot of these guys are going to be talented,” Steichen said. “They’re going to be able to throw it. They’re going to be able to run. They’re going to be able to make plays. But what’s that edge? What’s that edge that separates them?”

“Part of it, I think it’s the obsession,” he continued. “You’ve got to love it. You’ve got to be obsessed with it. You’ve got to be the first one and last one to leave. These guys in Philly know. I mean, Jalen was in there at freaking 6 o’clock (in the morning). He’d be in there until 9:30 (p.m.). That’s what it looks like. You want to play in this league a long time and be successful, you’ve got to have that mindset every single day that I’m going to give it everything I’ve got and be the best I can.” 

Ben Arthur is the AFC South reporter for FOX Sports. He previously worked for The Tennessean/USA TODAY Network, where he was the Titans beat writer for a year and a half. He covered the Seattle Seahawks for for three seasons (2018-20) prior to moving to Tennessee. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @benyarthur.

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