INDIANAPOLIS — Colts general manager Chris Ballard said he’s heard the noise that his team is predestined to trade up to the first pick of the 2023 NFL Draft and select a quarterback.
On Wednesday, Ballard tried his best to pour some cold water on the trade-up possibility.
“I know everybody … has just automatically stamped that you’ve got to move up to No. 1 to get it right,” Ballard said at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine. “I don’t know if I agree with that. I don’t. But that’s gonna be the narrative.”
It’s the narrative because the Colts need a quarterback, and they’re almost as well-positioned as any QB-needy team to land one in Round 1 this April. Indianapolis selects fourth overall, and it has been a popular mock-draft maneuver to project a trade from that spot to No. 1 overall, which is held by the Chicago Bears.
With the Bears seemingly backing QB Justin Fields as their starter, Chicago might be open for business. The Colts might be itching to land their next franchise QB — they haven’t had one since Andrew Luck — but Ballard suggested that there might not be the caliber of passer in this draft class needed to execute a costly trade.
“To move up,” Ballard said, “there’s got to be a guy worthy of it.”
For years, trading up for a quarterback high in Round 1 was a popular tactic used by various teams to ensure they get their man. However, in the past four NFL drafts, 10 of the 13 first-round quarterbacks taken were selected by teams that did not execute a pre-draft trade.
Ballard made it sound Wednesday like he’s aware of this recent trend.
“I don’t necessarily know if (trading up is) the right course of business,” said Ballard. “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 to 15 years,’ and we think he’s the right guy, sure, we’ll do it. But who’s to say we won’t get one at No. 4?”
Ballard was asked about the quarterback traits that matter most to him.
“One that wins,” he said. “Look, you want a guy that’s got a fast mind (and) who’s accurate. We get caught up in arm strength, but (we want) guys (who are) accurate, and then make plays when the game’s on the line.”
But what about, say, smaller quarterbacks? Ever since Colts owner Jim Irsay let it slip earlier this offseason that “the Alabama kid looks pretty good” — a thinly veiled reference to Bama QB Bryce Young — the team has been connected with Young as a possible pairing.
Young, after all, is regarded as having a fast mind and is considered very accurate, all things considered. However, he’s a complete outlier in the size department — expected to measure somewhere around 5-foot-10 and under 200 pounds at the combine. No quarterback with dimensions close to those has been drafted in the first round in decades.
Ballard, who has tended to favor bigger quarterbacks in his tenure with the Colts, appears to be open to one who is on the smaller side.
“I think we’re seeing today (that quarterbacks) come in all different shapes and sizes,” said Ballard, anticipating the Young question before it was asked. “We’ve seen that at the quarterback position here in the past. We’ve had guys that have been under six-foot be successful.
“So I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Who do you believe in? Who do you believe you can build an offense around?”
New Colts head coach Shane Steichen appeared to be on the same page as Ballard regarding what matters most at quarterback, especially in terms of accuracy and size thresholds.
“The physical traits, yeah. You have to be able to throw it and cut it through the wind and those sorts of things,” Steichen said. “But accuracy is one of the biggest things.
“Guys come in different shapes and sizes. We’ve seen Hall of Famers that are 6-0. We’ve seen Hall of Famers that are 6-5. Again, it’s the ‘it’ factor.”