There are two big questions hanging over the Colts heading into the NFL Draft: Which quarterback should they pick? And should they trade for it?
Indianapolis has the No. 4 pick and is set to end its quarterback carousel in the April draft, but chances are Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio’s CJ Stroud State — ranked as the top two signal callers in this year’s class — won’t. be on the board if the team stays put.
The Texans will likely draft a quarterback at No. 2, and QB-needy teams like the Raiders (No. 7) and Panthers (No. 9) could try to trade with the Bears at No. 1 — unless let the Colts act first. . In my first mock draft, I traded Indianapolis’ No. 4 and 35 picks this year, a fifth-round pick, and next year’s first-round pick to clinch the No. 1 pick, which the team used to select Young.
Some think that’s too much to give up for the 5-foot-10 Young, who would join Kyler Murray as the second quarterback under six feet to be the No. 1 pick. However, the draft analyst from NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah predicted an arguably higher price tag for the No. 1 pick based on years of draft study. In his projected trade, the Colts would trade the No. 4 and No. 35 picks, and a 2024 first- and second-rounder for the Bears’ No. 1 pick and a 2024 fourth-rounder.
“I wouldn’t sleep well at night if I was just going to sit and stand at #4,” Jeremiah added during a Zoom media availability on Friday.
If Indianapolis were to stay put and miss out on Young and Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson are the next two QB options, with the latter considered the biggest draft with perhaps the highest ceiling. For this piece, however, I focused on Levis, whose comparisons have been drawn to Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
Levis is 6-foot-4 and weighs 230 pounds, while Allen is 6-foot-5 and weighs 237 pounds. Levis, like Allen, is mobile and has a cannon arm, which should appeal to Colts general manager Chris Ballard and his longtime affinity for impressive physical traits. Both quarterbacks were also latecomers to college, went through coaching changes after establishing themselves, and dealt with injuries in their final college seasons. But I still feel like Levis becoming Allen 2.0 in the NFL is a long-term, best-case scenario and maybe not the most realistic.
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With that in mind, I asked Jeremiah and three members of Athleticism college football staff: Nick Baumgardner, Seth Emerson and Chris Vannini – who have watched Levis a lot more than I have – these two questions:
1. What is your overall assessment of Lévis?
2. Besides Allen, which current NFL quarterback would you compare Levis to?
Here’s what they said with the NFL Scouting Combine starting Tuesday:
Jeremy’s assessment: “You start with the bags and the turnovers. I mean, that’s the cause for concern. It’s the flag. So you have to navigate that, and you have to dig that if you’re a team and talk to him and sit down and watch the tape and go through it and see if you can learn some things. All that stuff won’t be on him. When you look at some of the turnovers, there are a fair number of angled throws. When you look at the sacks, the offensive line wasn’t very good in front of him this year, and there’s some blown protection. I would sit there and go through all the sacks and turnovers when you sit down with him because that’s a big number and it needs to be explained. I don’t think it’s all about him.
“Injury is another. I mean, I don’t want to go through that and try to excuse some issues, but when I watched him, I didn’t like when he was working on the left side of the pitch. I thought it was closed. I thought he was throwing against (his body). Then I found out after watching the tape that he had a messy toe, he had a messy shoulder, and I think that impacted that to some degree. But the things you can’t refute, he’s got a strong arm. He is a very good athlete. Especially the year before when he is healthy. You can see it as a runner. You can use it on design quarterback running stuff as well as him to shake things up organically.
” He is hard. He clings and pulls. There are times when I wish he felt things better at the back. Every time he gets hit, it’s a surprise party. I wish he felt a little better about getting up and walking away from some of that stuff. But hardness is not a problem at all. He can do all the types of throws you want. It’s about digging into some of the issues to understand what the deal is with him and why some of these things are happening in terms of turnovers and layoffs.
Jeremiah’s NFL QB Comparison: “As an athlete, I think there’s some comparison to Ryan Tannehill when he was coming out. I think you look at his frame, Dak Prescott is one. I think that’s fair compensation for him. Same lecture, same build, same tenacity. The stuff about Dak, when you talk to the coaches there – hardworking, smart, tough, winning. You’ll hear the exact same things said about Levis. They rave about him. Come to think of it, that might end up being the best comparison.
Baumgardner’s assessment: “Levis’ arm is as good as it gets in this class, maybe the best. He can rip it from just about any angle, which often gets him in trouble, but can also get him out of trouble. His inconsistency as a setter mostly stems from inconsistent footwork and overreliance on his arm howitzer. Footwork can be trained, perfected and improved. Levis’ inconsistencies take some of his mistakes last season. But Kentucky’s offense was also a mess from the year before, and Levis was a bit battered. There is a risk, but the reward is obvious when you see him throw.
Baumgardner’s NFL QB Comparison: “Athletically, I think he’ll end up testing somewhere near what Geno Smith recorded when he came out about 10 years ago. Levis is in the 6-foot-2/6-foot-3, 220-230 range. He has good foot speed and quickness at his height and is a capable runner, although he has to remember that he is better out of a pocket.
“Smith is probably faster in the 40, but Levis is probably taller and won’t have a lot of athletic holes in his game (either agility or explosion). He needs to be more disciplined with his feet though. .In and out of pocket.
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Emerson’s assessment: “I saw Levis against Georgia twice. The first time in 2021, he made no impression, positive or negative. In fact, I had to look back to make sure he was Kentucky’s QB in that game. (He was attempting 42 passes but only for 192 yards.) But given all the hype surrounding Levis, I was well aware of his coming into last year’s game and expected to dismiss him. And yet, while his stats weren’t mind-blowing (206 yards, one touchdown, one interception), I was actually somewhat impressed. In a swirling wind, Lévis had some good throws. Now, was I impressed enough to think he should be the #1 pick? Shit no. Even a first-round pick seems like a reach. But he seems a decent prospect, even if he’s overrated by scouts.
Emerson’s NFL QB Comparison: “Mitch Trubisky is the one that comes to mind, not so much in the measurable parameters, but in the situation. Trubisky was the No. 2 pick the year after playing Georgia, and I found that disconcerting as well. I understand it’s not a science, that evaluating and projecting quarterbacks is tough, especially guys like Levis who haven’t had a lot of talent around them and played in multiple different systems. But as a jaded college football writer, I look at a lot of those perspectives and say, “Wait, shouldn’t the way they perform in college mean something, especially when it’s at most high level of the university?
Vannini’s assessment: “It’s really crazy to look back at the start of Levis’ college career, when he was basically just used as a battering ram, quarterback at Penn State. The coaches never let him open things up, so he went to Kentucky and finally got to do it. While he was pretty good and certainly showed some raw tools, he was never a quarterback who put a team on his back to win a Huge game. If you asked me about his outstanding performance in college, I couldn’t tell you. He only threw 250+ yards once against a Power 5 team. Accuracy was an issue, and he was touched a lot.
Vannini’s NFL QB comparison (unsure but not Allen): “It’s easy to see the comparisons to Allen, who only threw 300 yards once against an FBS team. But Allen was a much less accurate quarterback in college than Levis (56.2 percent to 64.9 percent), and Allen had horrible performances against the few Power 5 teams he faced. Levis, while lacking in outstanding performances, put in many solid to good performances on teams that were generally far less talented than the opponent. But the thing to remember about Allen is that he really was a unicorn. College quarterbacks never get more accurate when they enter the NFL. Allen’s improvement in the NFL was basically unprecedented, and I wouldn’t make a top-10 draft pick thinking you can find the same kind of luck.
(Photo: Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)