INDIANAPOLIS – Anyone who’s paid attention to the revolving door that’s been affixed to the quarterbacks room the past four seasons and stunted the growth of the Indianapolis Colts realized the significance of Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
The latest meet-and-greet sessions involved one, two, three, possibly four prospects capable of ending the annual veteran quarterback madness and providing long-term stability to every team’s most influential position.
Take your pick. There are strengths and weaknesses, regardless your quarterback of preference.
There are reasons to believe Young’s leadership, decision-making, playmaking and overall QB pedigree are more than enough to overlook the undeniable fact he’s vertically challenged by NFL standards; or Stroud indeed possesses the desired athleticism to go along with his NFL-ready arm, that it just wasn’t used much at Ohio State; or Levis’ cannon arm can be harnessed and his proclivity for uncorking interceptions at Kentucky corrected; or Richardson’s rare skills and high ceiling are worth the wait on the return.
The Colts are No. 4 in the pecking order in the April draft and could be enticed to pry the No. 1 overall pick away from the Chicago Bears . . . if general manager Chris Ballard is convinced someone merits what it will cost to shimmy up.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,’’ he said. “I think everybody’s going to see each guy, see the strengths and weaknesses of what they see and how they fit their team.
“They’re going to come in different shapes, different sizes, some tall, some short, some athletes.’’
That blanket covered the four quarterbacks who commanded the attention Friday. The attention will increase Saturday when QBs go through on-field drills.
Young won’t throw until his Pro Day. Levis can’t wait.
“I got a cannon and I want to show it off,’’ he said.
Here’s a snippet what the top four QBs had to offer.
Of note: QBs won’t be measured until Saturday. Young said he’s in the 200-pound range, but it’s anyone’s guess how tall he’ll measure at the Combine. Alabama listed him at 6-foot, but few expect him to hit that mark.
“I’ve been this size, respectfully, my whole life,’’ Young said with a smile. “Everyone can speculate and ask when the questions are necessary. I’m going to control what I can control. I’m confident in myself. I know what I can do.’’
Pedigree: Young won the 2021 Heisman Trophy and led Alabama to the national championship. He’s the only quarterback in school history to pass for at least 3,000 yards in two seasons and finished second all-time with 8,356 yards and 80 touchdowns. The last two seasons, Young was 23-4 as a starter.
“My job isn’t to necessarily prove anything,’’ he said. “For me, it’s to try to explain all the things that I see to all the coaches, all the decision-makers.
“I really pride myself in my leadership. I know that’s something I have to earn at the next level. I’m really excited to get into a locker room, whatever team does take me, and try to earn that trust and respect from the locker room. I get that it’s not something I’m entitled to.’’
Worthy of being No. 1 pick?: “I don’t know what’s going to happen. Obviously I don’t get to choose,’’ he said. “I’m just happy to be here, honestly. It’s an honor for me to be able to be selected by whatever team it is that takes a chance on me.’’
Of note: He looks the part of difference-making QB. He’s 6-3, 215 pounds.
Recognized Buckeye: Stroud was a two-time Heisman finalist and two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
He doesn’t lack confidence. Stroud is convinced a loss to Michigan in 2021 and closing losses last season to the Wolverines and No. 1-ranked Georgia in a national championship semifinal game cost him individually.
“I feel like I could have won Heismans back-to-back,’’ he said.
Prolific Buckeye: Stroud was 21-4 as a starter the past two seasons. He finished with 8,123 passing yards with 85 TDs and 12 interceptions. The lingering question: can he expand his game in the NFL and do damage with his legs? Last season, he rushed 47 times for 108 yards, but flashed his potential by getting loose for 71 yards against Georgia.
“I didn’t do it a lot in college,’’ Stroud said, “and I feel like I should have. It’s something I do regret. I feel like I could have done it a lot more . . . there were times I didn’t run the ball when maybe I should have.
“It’s about stepping back up to the plate and working hard and fixing those problems. That’s something I plan to fix, and I’ll show them my athleticism.’’
No issue with the arm: Stroud completed 69.3% of his passes and can make all the throws.
“I think I’m a playmaker,’’ he said. “I think I’ve very creative. I think I’m a ball-placement specialist. I like to be very accurate. I don’t want my receivers to really have to do anything but catch the ball.
“When dudes are open, you feed your guys the ball or they look at you like you’re crazy when you walk back to the sidelines. If you’re open, you’re going to get the ball. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but I throw guys open.’’
About that confidence: “I think I’ve been the best player in college football two years in a row,’’ he said. “Honestly, I haven’t even touched my potential yet.’’
Of note: After transferring from Penn State, Levis passed for 5,233 yards and 43 touchdowns the past two seasons at Kentucky. Hand and shoulder injuries, coupled with a depleted supporting cast, hampered him last season.
“Season didn’t go as well as we would have wanted it to,’’ Levis said. “But I learned a lot from it. Learned how to kind of battle through adversity and dealt with a lot of things physically. Situationally, that was tough. But I became a better player because of it.’’
Nice comparison: Analysts compare the 6-3, 232-pound Levis to Buffalo’s Josh Allen.
“People make the Josh comparison,’’ he said. “I can definitely see it, but we’re two different types of guys.’’
Ultra-confident: Maybe that’s the “it’’ factor Ballard and Colts’ first-year head coach Shane Steichen are seeking. Levis was asked if he believes he’s a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback.
“Yeah, my goal is to win more than anybody,’’ he said. “I want to be the greatest of all time. I think you’re crazy if you don’t think that way.
“I think right now I can bring (the team that selects him) a championship team. That’s the confidence I have.’’
And then there was this.
“Physically, I just have my arm talent,’’ Levis said. “I think I’ve got one of the stronger arms to come out of any draft class in recent memory.’’
Of note: Richardson is 6-4, 232 and might be the most tantalizing offensive talent in the draft. But most analysts believe he’ll require more development than the other top QBs.
He bristled a bit when asked if he was a “project.’’
“I don’t even know what that means, ‘project label,’’’ Richardson said. “I will be willing to bring anything and everything that they need from me. I’m going to work hard. I’m going to dedicate myself to my craft.’’
Someone suggested he has a high ceiling.
“I guess it’s a good thing,’’ Richardson said. “You know, I just try to be the best version of myself that I can be.’’
What does he bring? Again, Richardson’s body of work is smaller than most. He was Florida’s full-time starter for the first time last season and passed for 2,549 yards with 17 TDs and nine interceptions. He completed just 53.8% of his passes but was a dual threat by rushing for 654 yards and nine TDs.
He likens his style to Cam Newton.
“I’m able to do everything on the field,’’ Richardson said. “Run over people, jump over people, run past people, throw the ball pretty well. Just tying it all together, I feel like that just helps me become a better quarterback.’’
Lofty goals: “I want to be a legend,’’ he said. “I want to be like Patrick Mahomes. I want to be like Tom Brady. I want to be one of the greats because I’m willing to work that hard and get to that point.’’
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