Winners and losers from Colts’ 2023 draft
The Indianapolis Colts got through the biggest weekend of the offseason with 12 selections in the 2023 NFL draft—the most of Chris Ballard’s tenure.
The decisions made during draft weekend will have both direct and indirect impacts on the roster. Some players have extra competition to fight through in order to earn a role. Others didn’t see any competition added to their positions and may have easier paths to claiming a role in 2023.
And while we call some of these players “winners” and “losers,” the latter term is meant more in the outlook of their stock or the standing of their team.
But without further ado, here are the winners and losers from the Colts’ 2023 draft:
Winner: G Will Fries
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
The Colts had 12 picks in the entire draft and didn’t use one of them on an interior offensive lineman. That’s great news for Fries, who is likely the projected starter going into the offseason workouts. He showed some promise down the stretch toward the end of the 2022 season, and he’ll be competing with Danny Pinter and potentially undrafted rookie Emil Ekiyor. But the Colts could have easily drafted a starting-caliber prospect during the draft.
Loser: WR Isaiah McKenzie
AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes
After seeing Parris Campbell sign with the New York Giants, the Colts quickly signed McKenzie as a potential stop-gap at the slot receiver position. Then, they drafted the uber-talented Josh Downs in the third round. Downs is a quick separator with sticky hands and the ability to high-point the football with consistency. He should be projected as the starting slot receiver, which means McKenzie is likely battling for a roster spot in training camp.
Winner: QB Anthony Richardson
AP Photo/Wade Payne
Richardson was already a winner because he was the No. 4 overall pick. The fully-guaranteed contract (and potential money down the road) can set up his family for generations. On the field, Richardson’s best landing spot was always the Colts. Head coach Shane Steichen has proven he can get the most out of a player like Richardson. On top of that, the team added reliable quick-passing targets in wide receiver Josh Downs and running back Evan Hull. Considering Richardson’s biggest knock as a thrower came in the short game, he will be aided greatly by two reliable receivers in that area of the field.
Loser: TE Mo Alie-Cox
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Alie-Cox has a fantastic story. He is well-liked in the locker room and still can be a solid tight end. But it would not be a surprise if the Colts wanted to move on from him and his contract when roster cuts roll around. It’s more likely he would be traded rather than outright cut, but he didn’t live up to his contract in 2022 as the Jack Doyle replacement.
The addition of fifth-rounder Will Mallory doesn’t immediately impact his role considering the Miami product is more of a move tight end, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Colts wanted to move forward with Jelani Woods as the starting Y with Kylen Granson and Mallory serving as the move options. There’s still time for Alie-Cox to prove himself, but it’s something to watch over the next few months.
Winner: LT Bernhard Raimann
AP Photo/David J. Phillip
It seems pretty clear the Colts are moving forward with Raimann as the starting left tackle. He showed a lot of promise during the second half of the season, and he’s a nice fit in Steichen’s new offense. The addition of fourth-rounder Blake Freeland is better in a swing tackle role even if he has upside with more development. For 2023, though, it seems Raimann will be the starting left tackle.
Loser: QB Sam Ehlinger
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This should come as a shock to no one. Ehlinger was already on the roster fringe considering the likelihood of the Colts drafting a quarterback at No. 4 overall. Though they may keep three quarterbacks, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Chris Ballard wanted to add depth elsewhere with that extra spot. Ehlinger’s mobility could serve the Colts well, though, if he stays on the practice squad. But the addition of Richardson lessens the chances of him staying on the roster if both quarterbacks ahead of him are healthy.
Winner: GM Chris Ballard
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There may not be a bigger winner in this draft for the Colts than Ballard himself. Though his job was perceived as safe going into the draft, it’s very likely that his job is directly tied to the development of this class. The selection of Richardson could be what saves Ballard’s tenure. On top of that, he drafted extremely well. He made smart moves, added players with value and upside, and got back to showing us why he’s considered one of the best drafting general managers in the league. This class still has development ahead of them, but we should be impressed with the haul Ballard put together.