Saquon Barkley would be 'bell cow' Colts want for Frank Reich at No. 3

INDIANAPOLIS -- Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is the 5-foot-11, 229-pound shiny prize that could be sitting there at No. 3 when the Indianapolis Colts pick in next month's draft.

Barkley is fast, strong, can block and catch the ball out of the backfield. He also could cause a dilemma for the Colts when their pick rolls around.


Barkley checks all the boxes that fill a need for the Colts. He would be an every-down running back on a team that doesn’t have a locked in starter on the roster after it decided it won’t re-sign veteran Frank Gore.

But ...

The Colts also need a pass-rusher more than a starting running back, and Bradley Chubb, who some are saying is the best overall player in the draft, could be sitting there at No. 3, too. The Colts are starving for a pass-rusher after recording just 25 sacks last season. Chubb had 25 sacks and 54.5 tackles for a loss over the past three seasons at NC State.

So there could be a tough decision to make when the clock starts on the Colts for their pick on draft night on April 26, especially because many scouts and front-office officials believe this is a very deep draft for running backs.

“Look, I learned early, if you think a guy has got a chance to be a difference-maker at any position, it doesn’t matter, you take him,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said when asked about taking running backs high in the first round. “You take him.”

The Colts have been searching for a consistent running game since selecting Andrew Luck with the No. 1 overall pick in 2012. Luck and Gore played only 22 games together in their three seasons as teammates.

Barkley would figure to be a difference-maker for the Colts, who have had only one player rush for at least 1,000 yards since 2007. Barkley rushed for 3,843 yards and 43 touchdowns on 671 carries in three seasons at Penn State.

“(The Colts are) another good fit I feel like,” Barkley said. “Andrew Luck is a great quarterback. Obviously he didn’t play last year because of injuries, but if you look at the seasons before his success speaks for itself.”

Philadelphia had running backs by committee last season when new Colts coach Frank Reich was the offensive coordinator. That may not be the case in Indianapolis going forward. The Colts have Robert Turbin, Matt Jones, Marlon Mack, George Winn and Josh Ferguson under contract for next season.

“I do think that you can have a bell cow,” Reich said. “Obviously in Philadelphia, we did it by committee. At some level, I think there’s always a little bit of by committee, but in varying degrees. But I think with some of what we’re going to do with our up-tempo, no-huddle stuff -- not that it’s going to be all that -- but there will be strong elements of that. You do need players that can play all three downs.”

Two things Barkley will have to do in order to be three-down back is catch the ball out of the backfield and block. He had 102 receptions for 1,195 yards and eight touchdowns while at Penn State, and he said his pass-blocking has continued to get better.

“From my freshman year to my junior year, I’ve increased my receptions every year,” Barkley said. “That’s a challenge that was taken on. That’s where the game is going. You break down the tape of the top five backs, all those guys can catch the ball out the backfield. They’re special with the ball in hand. Something I strive to be. I want to be one of the best.”