INDIANAPOLIS – Another NFL Combine is in the books for the city of Indianapolis.
This year’s Combine brought the first one for Shane Steichen as Colts head coach and the 7th for Chris Ballard as Colts general manager.
Next up on the NFL calendar is free agency starting a week from Wednesday, with the draft at the end of April.
Here are 10 things learned from the 2023 Combine:
1. QB Measurement Watch
While Anthony Richardson was the talk exiting the Combine for his sheer size (244 pounds) and athleticism (4.43 40-yard dash and 40.5 vertical jump), Bryce Young also checked a needed box for some.
That would be Young weighing in at 204 pounds. Young’s height (5-10 1/8) and weight (204 pounds) is very similar to Kyler Murray (5-10 1/8 and 207 pounds).
One thing that was quite obvious from hearing the quarterbacks meet the media on Friday is they all exude quite a bit of confidence, especially Richardson, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis.
It’s going to be fascinating to see how teams value the very accomplished Young and Stroud vs. the enticing traits of Levis and Richardson.
2. Not Yet Ready To Trade Up
Chris Ballard’s media session at the Combine was centered around the quarterbacks and the dilemma of trading up or not.
Ballard said at the Combine he has not yet found a prospect worthy of trading up to No. 1 overall for.
This is to be expected, for many reasons.
For one, this week was the first time Ballard and Shane Steichen could sit down and meet these quarterback prospects face-to-face—and get them on a whiteboard to talk Xs and Os and/or gauge the type of leader they’d be drafting.
And it’s that aspect to the QB prospect which helps complete their draft profile, and could very well be the separator in how the Colts ultimately stack these quarterbacks.
It’s totally understandable Ballard has yet to be blown away by any prospect to make such a major trade. We are still in the early stages of the draft process of getting more and more in-person interaction with these QBs, and making sure the fit is what the Colts are looking for at the most important position in sports.
Remember, Ballard wasn’t fully sold on Quenton Nelson with the No. 6 overall pick until he saw the All-American guard work out at his March pro day in 2018.
3. Modern, Modern, Modern
When Shane Steichen talks, you aren’t going to get minutes and minutes of fluff.
Steichen is a direct, concise communicator who is all about football.
But Colts fans have to love hearing Steichen talk about his offensive philosophy.
It’s going to be a system focused and catered around the strengths of the quarterback, with an emphasis on “throwing to score.” This is the modern, open-minded approach you need to create the ideal environment for your offense to have a high-level of success, and for your young quarterback to be comfortable, and thrive, at this level.
4. How Much Roster Turnover Coming?
Next up is free agency on the NFL calendar with the new league year beginning next Wednesday (March 15).
We’ve ranked our free agency tiers for the Colts, with about a handful of starters potentially hitting the open market. It’s hard to see anyone as a slam dunk to return to Indy.
One thing to keep an eye on, and Chris Ballard acknowledged some decisions are needed on this last week, how many veteran roster cuts do we see from the Colts?
This has not been something the Colts have explored, really at all, under Ballard.
But they would be wise to try and create cap space by cutting Matt Ryan and Nick Foles. And then you have murky futures with Ryan Kelly (Age 29, under contract through 2024) and Kenny Moore (Age 27, under contract through 2023).
5. “Special Play Caller”
Nick Sirianni was very complimentary of the Shane Steichen hire by the Colts.
Sirianni joined Kevin & Query this past week and expanded more on the hire of Steichen.
The Eagles head coach called Steichen a “special play caller” this week.
Sirianni appreciated the “calm nature” of Steichen on game day in handling the play-calling duties, also pointing out Steichen’s preparation, accountability and ability to connect with players.
On the Colts front, Sirianni said he said nothing but complimentary things about the Colts to share with Steichen during the head coaching search (despite Sirianni disagreeing on the firing of great friend Frank Reich).
6. Variance In Staff Choices For Shane Steichen
As Shane Steichen began to finalize his first coaching staff this past week, a contrast was developing from one side of the ball to the other.
The defensive staff, with Gus Bradley being retained, is littered with experience.
On the flip side, the new offensive staff has a lot of inexperience.
Of the 5 offensive position coaches at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive line, that quintet has combined to be a full-time position coach for just 5 NFL seasons: QB coach Cam Turner: 2 years; RB coach DeAndre Smith: 1 year; WR coach Reggie Wayne: 1 year; TE coach Tom Manning: 1 year; OL coach Tony Sparano Jr.: 0 years.
There’s no question the Colts offensive staff needed an injection of innovation and creativity, and Steichen will rely on some youth in trying to find some of that.
Sparano Jr. might have the most attention on him given the importance of the Colts offensive line getting back to an acceptable level of play in 2023.
7. Impressive (Former) Colts Staff
It hit me this week the Colts coaching tree under Frank Reich has been picked for several NFL teams.
The 2018-20 Colts had a staff with 4 guys now as head coaches in the NFL, and none of them are the head man in Indianapolis.
The 4 would be: Frank Reich in Carolina, Matt Eberflus in Chicago, Nick Sirianni in Philadelphia, Jonathan Gannon in Arizona.
In Reich’s first three seasons as Colts head coach, his staff had Eberflus as defensive coordinator, Sirianni as offensive coordinator and Gannon as defensive backs coach. All 3 left after the 2020 season.
During those 3 seasons all 4 of them were together, the Colts went 28-20 with 2 playoff appearances and 1 playoff win.
8. Bears Not Picking No. 1?
Those in Vegas no longer have the Bears as the “favorite” to make the No. 1 overall selection next month.
That new order goes Texans (+240), Colts (+275) and Raiders (+400).
Bears GM Ryan Poles said they’ve had “starter conversations” with other teams about trading the No. 1 pick. He also mentioned that if the trade were to involve getting players in return, it would make sense to get that done before free agency starts (March 15), so the rest of the offseason could be mapped out better.
Remember, Poles and Chris Ballard worked together in Kansas City. And, obviously, Ballard has a strong relationship with Matt Eberflus, with the GM hiring Flus for Josh McDaniels’ original staff in Indy.
Of course, while those relationships are nice, the Colts can’t compete with what the Texans can offer with all their draft capital, including the No. 2 and No. 12 overall picks.
9. Jalen Carter Colts Impact
Easily the biggest prospect news of the week was Georgia DL-Jalen Carter’s involvement in a car accident that tragically killed one of his college teammates and a team staffer.
Upon this news coming out, Carter left the Combine mid-week to surrender his arrest before returning to Indy after posting bail.
Carter, along with Alabama’s Will Anderson, are the most frequent (only?) non-quarterbacks mentioned as top-4 picks.
So this news could really impact the Colts draft standing.
If this Carter situation lessens his draft stock at all, maybe the Bears and/or Cardinals are more willing to trade back with perspective teams, thinking he’s no longer worthy of such a high pick.
A domino effect of that could mean even more quarterbacks going in the top-4 of the draft.
Or perhaps they’ll view Anderson in even higher regard, wanting to make sure they come away with the definite top defensive guy in this draft, so being hesitant about trading out of their No. 1 or No. 3 spots.
This bears monitoring.
10. Watching Derek Carr
Colts fans, understandably, had some freak out when they heard Derek Carr was in Indianapolis this week.
Well, reports are Carr was simply meeting with “a handful” teams to see where he’s going to play in 2023. Those teams included the Jets and Panthers.
If/when Carr finds a home it’s going to have some impact on the quarterback market for the rest of the offseason.
Colts fans should be wanting Carr to find a home of a QB-needy team drafting in the top-10 next month, which would, theoretically, take that team out of potentially trading up.
If you look at the draft order, you have several quarterback-needy teams right behind the Colts (5-Seahawks, 6-Lions, 7-Raiders, 8-Falcons, 9-Panthers). And the Seahawks and Lions each have 2 picks in the top-20, which could be key for trade packages.
I do not expect the Colts to seriously entertain the idea of signing Carr and/or forgoing the opportunity to draft at QB in Round 1 of the draft.
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