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With Anthony Richardson on board, Colts will look beyond quarterback in NFL draft

Colts GM Ballard on NFL draft

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — For Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, this was a different kind of offseason.

Instead of searching for a new starting quarterback or deciphering how free agents might conform to a new coach’s offensive philosophy, he remained focused on improving the supporting cast around second-year quarterback Anthony Richardson.

Ballard re-signed receiver Michael Pittman Jr., defensive backs Kenny Moore II and Julian Blackmon and defensive tackle Grover Stewart. He gave contract extensions to Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and linebacker Zaire Franklin. And, yes, Ballard added some insurance with the addition of veteran quarterback Joe Flacco to back up Richardson.

So now, for the first time since Andrew Luck’s surprise retirement in August 2019, the Colts are out of the NFL’s annual draft quarterback derby.

“It’s good, like I said the draft’s exciting and we’ll see where it goes,” coach Shane Steichen said Tuesday. “We’ll see how it plays out, you never know how it’s going to play out.”

A year ago, the Colts knew exactly what they intended to do with the fourth overall pick — select Richardson as the franchise’s new face.

Richardson played just four games and finished only one last season before a season-ending shoulder injury to his throwing shoulder, which required surgery. The 21-year-old has resumed throwing but will be deployed cautiously in offseason workouts even as Pittman predicted Richardson would play all 17 games — and more — this upcoming season.

“He’s really in a good spot,” Steichen said. “The shoulder is feeling good, should be good to go for practice. He’ll be out there throwing, but we’ll obviously monitor it, make sure we’re smart with that, but he’s in a really good place.”

This year’s big question is more open-ended: Where do the Colts turn next?

They enter the draft with one pick in each of the seven rounds, the first coming at No. 15 overall. And while Ballard has a demonstrated penchant for moving around throughout the three days of draft weekend, those around the franchise seem to be making the case for just about any position.

Over the past few years, team owner Jim Irsay has made no secret of his desire to find a game-changing tight end. Steichen was asked Tuesday about the traits he likes in a receiver, a not-so-subtle reference to the possibility Indy could use one of the deepest positions in this draft class to give Richardson another offensive threat.

Ballard, meanwhile, routinely talks about building from the inside out on the offensive and defensive lines even today as draft analysts suggest Indy’s most pressing needs appear to be finding a pass rusher or a starting cornerback.

For a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2020, it seems there is no wrong answer.

“Whatever gives us the best chance to win,” Steichen said when asked about balancing needs with the top players still available. “Even though I’m an offensive guy, I do believe if you take a really good player, it doesn’t matter offense or defense. You take a player who’s going to help you get better.”


Outside Indy, the most glaring need appears to be at cornerback. Indy’s pass defense struggled most of last season and nobody emerged as a true No. 1 cover guy.

But the Colts played three rookies and remain optimistic about the development of second-round pick JuJu Brents and seventh-round pick Jaylon Jones. Re-signing Moore helps, too, and the combination gives Indy more flexibility about who to target next week.


With Richardson, Flacco and Sam Ehlinger on the roster, Indy looks pretty settled at quarterback and the offensive line’s rebound season has made finding another starter a non-priority. The Colts also appear pretty satisfied at defensive tackle where they now have five veterans in a rotation led by Buckner.


Indy will bounce between 14 and 17 throughout draft weekend after going 9-8 last season.