Colts and Will Levis: Can Josh Allen Comparisons Convince Indy to Draft QB?

There are two big questions looming over the Colts as the NFL Draft approaches: Which quarterback should they select? And should they trade up to get him?

Indianapolis has the No. 4 pick and is poised to finally end the quarterback carousel in April’s draft, but there’s a good chance Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud — ranked as the top two signal callers in this year’s class — won’t be on the board if the team stays put.

The Texans will likely draft a quarterback at No. 2, and QB-needy teams like the Raiders (No. 7) and Panthers (No. 9) could try to trade up to the Bears at No. 1 — unless the Colts trade first. In my first mock draft, I had Indianapolis trade this year’s No. 4 and 35 picks, a fifth-round pick and next year’s first-round pick to land the No. 1 selection, which the team used to select Young .

Some believe that’s too much to give up for the 5-foot-10 Young, who would join Kyler Murray as only the second quarterback under six feet to be the No. 1 pick. However, NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah projected an arguably steeper price for the No. 1 pick based on years of studying the draft. In his projected trade, the Colts would trade the No. 4 and No. 35 picks, and a 2024 first- and second-rounder for the No. 1 pick and a 2024 fourth-rounder from the Bears.

“I wouldn’t sleep well at night if I was just going to be stuck there at No. 4,” Jeremiah added during a Zoom media availability Friday.

If Indianapolis were to stay and miss out on Young and Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson are the next two QB options, with the latter seen as the biggest project with perhaps the highest ceiling. For this piece, however, I focused on Levis, who drew comparisons to Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

Levis is 6-foot-4 and weighs 230 pounds, while Allen is 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds. Levis, like Allen, is mobile and has a cannon arm, which should appeal to Colts general manager Chris Ballard and his longtime affinity for impressive physicality. Both quarterbacks were also late bloomers in college, going through coaching changes after establishing themselves and dealing with injuries during their final college seasons. But it still feels to me that Levis becoming Allen 2.0 in the NFL is a long-term, best-case scenario and perhaps not the most realistic.


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With that in mind, I asked Jeremiah and three members of Athletics College football staff: Nick Baumgardner, Seth Emerson and Chris Vannini – who have seen Levis a lot more than I have – these two questions:

1. What is your overall assessment of Levis?
2. Besides Allen, which current NFL quarterback would you compare Levis to?

Here’s what they said at Tuesday’s NFL Scouting Combine:

Jeremiah’s assessment: “You start with the sacks and the turnovers. I mean, that’s the cause for concern. It’s the flag. So, you’ve got to navigate it and you’ve got to dig into it if you’re a team and talk to him and sit down and watch the tape and go through it and see if you can learn some things. Not all those things are going to be on him. When you look at some of the turnovers, there are quite a few tipped throws. When you look at the sacks, the offensive line wasn’t very good in front of him this year, and that’s some protection. I’d like to sit there and go over all the sacks and turnovers when you sit down with him because it’s a big number and it needs to be explained. I don’t think it’s all up to him.

– The damage case is different. I mean, I don’t want to go through and try to excuse any problems, but when I watched him, I didn’t like when he was working on the left side of the field. I thought he was closed. I thought he threw against (his body). Then I find out after I watch the tape that he had a messed up toe, he had a messed up shoulder and I think that affected it to some extent. But the things you can’t disprove, he has a strong arm. He is a really good athlete. Especially the year before when he is healthy. You can see him as a runner. You can use him on some design quarterback runs, plus he just organically makes things happen.

“He is tough. He hangs in there and takes shots. There are times when I wish he would feel things better on the backside. Every time he gets hit, it’s a surprise party. I wish he had just a little better sense to get up and get away from some of these things. But toughness is not a problem at all. He can make any type of throw you want. It’s digging into some of the issues to find out what the deal is with him and why some of these things are happening in terms of turnovers and sacks.”

Jeremiah’s NFL QB Comparison: “As an athlete, I think there’s some comparison to Ryan Tannehill when he came out. I think you look at his frame, Dak Prescott is one. I think it’s a good comp for him. Same conference, same build, same toughness. The stuff at Dak, when you talk to the coaches there — hardworking, intelligent, tough, winning. You’ll hear the exact same things said about Levis. They rave about him. When I think about it, that might end up being the best comparison.”

Baumgardner’s assessment: “Levis’ arm is as good as it gets in this class, maybe the best. He can rip it from pretty much any angle, which often gets him in trouble – but can also get him out of trouble. His inconsistency passing stems mostly from inconsistent footwork and far too much reliance on his howitzer. Footwork can be trained and honed and improved. Levis’ inconsistencies take ownership for some of his mistakes last season. But Kentucky’s offense was also a mess compared to the year before, and Levis was a little confused. There is risk, but the reward is obvious when you watch him throw.”

Baumgardner’s NFL QB Comparison: “Athletically, I think he’ll end up testing somewhere close to what Geno Smith registered when he came out about 10 years ago. Levis is in the 6-foot-2/6-foot-3 range, 220- 230 lb. He has good speed and foot quickness for his size and is a capable runner, though he has to remember that he is better from the pocket.

“Smith is probably faster in the 40s, but Levis is probably bigger and won’t have many athletic holes in his game (be it agility or explosion). He needs to be more disciplined with his feet though. In and out of the pocket.”


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Emerson’s assessment: “I saw Levis against Georgia twice. The first time in 2021 he made zero impression, positive or negative. I actually had to look back to make sure he was Kentucky’s QB in that game. (He did, and attempted 42 passes, but only 192 yards.) But given all the hype about Levis, I was well aware of him going into last year’s game, expecting to reject him. And yet, while his stats weren’t eye-popping (206 yards, one TD, one interception), I was actually kind of impressed. In a swirling wind, Levis made some good throws. Now, was I impressed enough to think he should be the #1 pick? Heck no. Even a first-round pick seems like a reach. But he seems like a decent prospect, even if he’s overrated by the scouts.”

Emerson’s NFL QB Comparison: “Mitch Trubisky is the one that jumps to mind, not even so much in measurables, but the situation. Trubisky was the No. 2 pick the year after he played Georgia, and I also found that confusing. I understand that this is not a science, that it is hard to evaluate and project quarterbacks, especially guys like Levis who haven’t had a lot of talent around them and have played in several different systems. But as a jaded college football writer, I look at a lot of these prospects and say, ‘Wait, shouldn’t they does college performance matter, especially when it’s at the highest level in college?'”

Vannini’s rating: “It’s really wild to look back at the start of Levis’ college career, when he was basically used as a battering ram, run-only quarterback at Penn State. The coaches never let him open things up, so he went to Kentucky and eventually got it done. While he was pretty good and certainly showed raw tools, he was never a quarterback who put a team on his back to win a big game. If you asked me about his outstanding performance in college, I couldn’t tell you. He threw for more than 250 yards just once against a Power 5 team. Accuracy was an issue and he got hit a lot.”

Vannini’s NFL QB comparison (unsure, but not Allen): “It’s easy to see the comparisons to Allen, who only once threw for 300 yards against an FBS team. But Allen was a far less accurate quarterback in college than Levis was (56.2 percent to 64.9 percent), and Allen had terrible performances against the few Power 5 teams he faced. Levis, while lacking standout performances, had many solid to good performances on teams that were usually much less talented than the opposition. But the thing to remember about Allen is that he really was a unicorn. College quarterbacks never get more accurate when they enter the NFL. Allen’s improvement in the NFL was basically unprecedented, and I wouldn’t take a top-10 draft pick thinking you can find the same kind of luck.”

(Photo: Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)

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