I know what they say about running backs in the NFL Draft. I know they say that running backs have been devalued in the pass-happy, modern-day game, that you don’t use a No. 3 overall pick to grab a running back, that those kinds of players are always available later in the draft. New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara: a third-round pick. Kansas City’s Kareem Hunt: a third round pick.
And I would say that if everything is equal, if both running back Saquon Barkley and edge rusher Bradley Chubb impress the Colts and do well in this week’s NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts should grab Chubb and find a running back later in the Draft. History tells us, you don’t often find top pass rushers well beyond the first round, but running backs can be unearthed almost anywhere and anytime.
I don’t want things to be equal.
I want to fall in love, and I want the Colts to fall in love, with Barkley.
As badly as the Colts need a pass rusher – they finished with just 25 sacks last year, next to last in the league -- I’m thoroughly intrigued by how a three-down stud back like Barkley could play the same role to Andrew Luck that Edgerrin James did to Peyton Manning. It’s difficult to drown out the noise: Almost everybody who watches tape for a living seems to think Barkley is the best player in this draft, or at least among the top two.
In fact, during a conference call Monday, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock favorably compared Barkley to Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley, three of the top backs in the league.
“Barkley is a transformational back who I’d put in the same category (as Elliott, Fournette and Gurley), who immediately made their teams better," Mayock said.
Mayock also brought up a third option – Barkley and Chubb being the top two options – and that’s trading down from the third spot and walking away with additional draft assets. On the face of it, that’s not a terrible idea given the Colts’ dearth of game-changing talent, and clearly, general manager Chris Ballard will listen long and hard to offers from teams who are focused on grabbing their franchise quarterback.
I say this about the prospect of trading down:
Don’t move down, don’t get cute, don’t work your way out of an opportunity to grab one of the best non-quarterbacks in the Draft – notably Chubb, Barkley, guard Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame and Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Give me one player with the potential to be great over two players who have a chance to be good to very good. Give me what our friend Rick Venturi calls “Ambien players," guys who keep coordinators awake deep into the night.
Again, all things being equal, Chubb makes the most sense, notably because running backs can be found later in the Draft. There’s Derrius Guice of LSU. Ronald Jones II of USC. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb of Georgia. Those players will likely be there when the Colts pick beyond the first round.
I just don’t think you allow history to dictate your approach when you have a chance at a transformational, game-altering player, and Barkley appears to have that ability, or at least that potential. That’s especially true for the Colts, who desperately need a three-down back who will take some of the load off of Andrew Luck’s shoulders – one of which has been surgically repaired. (Well, we think it’s been repaired, anyway).
I hear what you’re saying: If they don’t improve along the offensive line, it won’t matter if Jim Brown, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders are back there. And that’s true. It’s reasonable to assume, though, that Ballard will put on emphasis on finding offensive linemen in free agency. They’ve got to be better than they’ve been the past six years… I mean, right?
You think about Manning, Edge and Marvin Harrison.
How about Luck, Barkley and T.Y. Hilton?
Nobody is comparing the latter trio to two Hall of Famers and one who is close to the Hall of Fame, but looking down the road, the possibilities are limitless.
I want the Colts to fall in love with Saquon Barkley. Do that, and the fans will soon follow suit.