Colts’ draft options include standing pat at No. 3, or being ‘open for business’

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Bradley Chubb? Saquon Barkley?

Or what’s behind Door #3?

That figures to the overriding debate as Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard and his personnel staff prepare for the April 26-28 NFL Draft. Additional and significant evidence will be inserted into the discussion in the coming weeks, beginning with this week’s NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

In essence, will the Colts, who have issues at virtually every position, be better served by staying put with the third overall pick in the draft, or finding a team eager to move up to select a quarterback?

Stay put and add N.C. State’s Chubb, without question the draft’s premier pass-rush threat who would address a glaring need, or Penn State’s Barkley, considered a special running back and a player who would give Andrew Luck a homerun threat out of the backfield?

Or opt for Door #3? That would entail trading back – but not too far – with a team in desperate need of a QB.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock believes there are five difference-makers, who also possess zero off-field baggage, in this year’s draft: Chubb, Barkley, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick and Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.

Chubb, Mayock said, “is definitely worth’’ being the third overall pick. He described Barkley as a “transformational back.

“I would put him in the category as (Leonard) Fournette, (Todd) Gurley and Zeke Elliott, all of whom have been top-10 picks and made their teams better immediately.’’

As much as Chubb or Barkley would represent serious impact additions to the Colts’ roster and undoubtedly appease the fan base, Mayock offered words of caution.

Don’t forget Door #3.

“I think (Ballard) has to be open for business,’’ he said during a Tuesday conference call. “They’ve got a variety of needs. I think the NFL is all about filling needs in free agency and the draft. They’ve got a bunch of them.

“So I think the day before the draft or even the day of the draft you’re hoping they’re getting an awful lot of people that want to come up ahead of Cleveland at 4, ahead of Denver at 5, and get a quarterback. And depending on who has the draft capital to move up, I think you have to listen.

“You have to be open for business, and I think that’s the best of all worlds.’’

Most draft analysts expect at least four QBs to be selected in the first round: USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma Heisman Trophy-winner Baker Mayfield.

At this point, no one knows whether Cleveland and the New York Giants, sitting ahead of the Colts in the picking order, will address their quarterback issues at 1 and 2. Perhaps the Browns opt for Barkley with the first overall pick and look for their QB of the future with the fourth overall selection. Maybe Cleveland uses the first pick on a QB and the Giants throw everyone a curve and snatch Barkley or Chubb at No. 2.

However it plays out at 1 and 2, the Colts’ third overall pick very likely will be the first action pick of the draft. Depending on how free agency plays out, Denver (No. 5) and the New York Jets (No. 6) could be in the market to move up and find their QB. The same goes for the Miami Dolphins (No. 11) and Arizona Cardinals (No. 15), the latter which has zero QBs under contract for 2018.

We prefer standing pat and increasing the likelihood of adding a true difference-maker to a team that has only two: Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton.

However, Ballard must listen to any and all offers. He believes the draft is the surest way to build a championship roster, and while trading back would undoubtedly cost him Chubb or Barkley, it would afford him several additional picks.

Consider three recent trades at the top of the draft that involved teams desperate to move up for a QB:

  • In 2017: The Chicago Bears moved up one spot – from 3 to 2 – in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers to grab Mitch Trubisky. The cost: 4 draft picks. The 49ers received the Bears’ first-, third- and fourth-round picks in ’17 along with a 2018 third-rounder.
  • In 2016: The Tennessee Titans sent the first overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams, who coveted quarterback Jared Goff. The Titans packaged their top pick, a fourth-rounder and a sixth-rounder to the Rams for their first-round pick (15th overall), two second-rounders (Nos. 43 and 45) and a third-round pick (No. 76) in the ’16 draft, along with the Rams’ first- and third-round picks in the ’17 draft.
  • In 2012: the Rams traded their second overall pick to Washington (at No. 6 overall), which selected quarterback Robert Griffin III after the Colts used the first overall pick on Luck. The cost to Washington: three first-round picks (2012, ’13 and ’14) and its ’12 second-rounder.

“You’re listening to what’s being offered and you have to weigh that against Barkley, Chubb or Quenton Nelson, and that’s really, really good football players,’’ Mayock said. “So it’s kind of like (do) you want one really good football player who has a chance to be an All-Pro quickly, or do you want to try to satisfy three or four needs with a trade down? I don’t think you can have that answer until you know what’s in front of you on the day of the draft.’’

Mayock would prefer to stay in the top-10 in a trade-back situation, but even that came with a caveat.

“If you were able to get multiple 1s and 2s and all of that,’’ he said, “that’s a whole different conversation.’’