Colts Reportedly Looking at Dalton and Kaepernick

Quarterback prospects Andy Dalton (left) and Colin Kaepernick. Both photos courtesy of ESPN.

According to reports, the Indianapolis Colts have scheduled pre-draft workouts for a pair of quarterback prospects. Fox Sports is reporting that the team will look at TCU signal-caller Andy Dalton, and Stampede Blue cited a tweet from Sirius NFL Radio’s Adam Schein that said Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick has a workout scheduled with the team.

In years past, the Colts have drafted quarterbacks near the bottom of the draft to backup Peyton Manning, who is now 35. The team selected Jim Sorgi in the sixth round in 2004, and drafted current backup Curtis Painter in the sixth round in 2009.

What makes the cases of Dalton and Kaepernick different is that both are projected to be drafted much earlier than Sorgi and Painter.

The Fox Sports report says that sources believe Dalton could be a top-40 selection, and the Stampede Blue post speculates that Kaepernick could be a first round pick. CBSSports.com also projects the pair to go within the first three rounds, predicting Dalton will be a second round pick, and saying Kaepernick will be taken in the second or third round.

With this analysis in mind, it begs the question: would the Colts draft a quarterback in the first three rounds of this year’s draft? If so, should they?

Before going forward, it should be noted that organizing a pre-draft workout does not necessarily mean a team is heavily interested in drafting the player, and could just be the organization doing its due diligence.

Still, the question of whether the Colts should take Kaepernick or Dalton early on should they be available is an interesting one nevertheless.

On the one hand, an argument could be made that it is in the team’s best interests to use a high draft choice on a quarterback. First of all, the team lacks a reliable backup to Manning, and in the event he is injured, many would be wary of Painter taking the reins of the offense, in light of his performance at the end of 2009 (in fairness to Painter, it is understandable for rookie quarterbacks to struggle under any circumstances, and especially so against a strong Jets defense and a Buffalo snow storm). Even if Painter is given the benefit of the doubt for 2009, however, the Colts backup quarterback situation could stand to improve, and bringing in a talented prospect like Kaepernick or Dalton would help in this area.

There is also the issue of finding Manning’s successor. In light of how teams have historically struggled to replace Hall of Fame quarterbacks, the model used by Green Bay, who drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and had him backup Brett Favre for a number of seasons before letting him start, could be an attractive blueprint for other teams to follow. While Manning’s retirement is not imminent, it is something the team will presumably have to address within the next five years or so. Drafting a Dalton or Kaepernick, and letting him get acquainted with the NFL and learn the game from Manning for a few years before letting him start could be an option.

On the other hand, pursuing this option would present a number of risks, even aside from the gamble that the player will be a successful pro (which, after all, is an inherent risk with virtually every early quarterback selection).

The Colts only have a limited number of seasons left with arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play. One could make a strong case that the organization should do whatever it takes to win another championship before this window closes, and using an early draft choice on a quarterback of the future would not fit this approach. This mentality would instead have the team draft a player that could come in and help the team win immediately.

Sacrificing a pick in the third or even fourth round for Dalton or Kaepernick, let alone one in the first two rounds, could deprive the team of a player that can contribute now. Recent third-round picks such as Jerraud Powers (2009) and fourth-rounders like Clint Session (2007), Jacob Tamme (2008), and Austin Collie (2009) have proven to be important members of the team.

It stands to reason that the Colts have a better chance to win a Super Bowl with Manning surrounded by as much talent as possible, than with Dalton or Kaepernick in the future.

However events on draft day unfold, this debate is an interesting one for the Colts, and as Manning ages, it is one that will almost definitely continue to surface.

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