INDIANAPOLIS – It started with getting a ‘wow’ text from trusted scout Morocco Brown during a Florida practice in August.
But Chris Ballard’s full conviction in believing Anthony Richardson was the guy for the Colts at No. 4 was not complete until a month ago—following a day-long trip to Gainesville to work the new QB out and then an in-person visit from him to the team’s complex in Indy.
And while the Colts had some talks with Arizona about moving up to the No. 3 pick on Thursday night, Ballard’s staple of patience was on display again.
In the end though, Ballard finally took a swing, one to the fences, at the quarterback position.
“We like his talent,” Ballard said of Richardson on Thursday night “We like what he can be. We drafted him for what we think he can really be. He’s a very smart young man. He works. We think it’s all in front of him.”
The Colts are betting on the potential of Richardson, who turns 21 years old next month, while acknowledging development is needed.
Richardson started just 13 games at Florida (6-7 record), an extremely small number for top quarterback draft picks.
He completed just 54.7 percent of his passes, tossing 24 TDs and 15 INTs.
Currently, Richardson’s best on-field trait is his running ability, with 161 attempts for 1,116 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The run threat of Richardson was certainly attractive to Steichen.
“It definitely helps,” Steichen says of Richardson’s 4.4 40-yard dash time. “I mean, when a guy can run an adds that elements to your offense, it’s a big plus, puts stress on defenses and obviously he has that capability.
“But I just don’t want to sleep on his throwing ability either. When that ball comes out right now, he can spin it. Got a huge arm. Makes some huge plays in the pass game.”
More so than the physical traits of the quarterbacks in this 2023 draft class, the Colts were bullish on how a player was wired as a huge separator.
“Just (Richardson’s) character, the vetting process that we did calling around people like know him that have been around him, that’s a big part of this thing,” Steichen said. “And there’s a lot of guys that I know that I trust that I talked to about him, and everything was right at the top of the list as far as that concern.
“Then just going through having him here getting to know him as a person, talking football with him, I think he’s got a chance to be a really good player.”
As you’d expect, the Colts brass was very non-committal when asked about possible rookie playing time for Richardson. For what it’s worth, Richardson and Gardner Minshew did spend some time working out together earlier this offseason.
Steichen does believe those invaluable game reps are a huge part in accelerating whatever development is necessary though.
Despite one of the smallest number of game resumes of any drafted QB, Richardson’s presence while handling pressure is something Ballard liked to see.
“He’s very poised,” Ballard said of Richardson. “You see it when he plays. He’s a very poised young man even though he hasn’t had a lot of starts.
“I kept going back and watched all his pressures and you really saw this poise come to light….He’s got some growing to do, like all of us do, but we will help him. We’ll bring him along and he’ll be a good player for us.”
Ballard was asked about the very low completion percentage number for Richardson (54.7 percent) and if there’s context around that.
“I think the one thing we are seeing in the league now with guys is you can work on them and get them more accurate, footwork, fundamentals,” Ballard, understanding the reason for the question, said.
“There’s certain things we can do, and I think you’ve seen guys jump in our league (with completion percentage). I think you’ll see him jump.”
It’s comments like that serving as a reminder the Colts are betting on this pick ascending to a level where they tap into those physical traits you just can’t teach.
And in today’s AFC—loaded with young, dynamic quarterback talent—such a thought makes a lot of sense.
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