So here it is: I think I know exactly what is going to happen in this upcoming draft based on my own theories formed by connecting the dots with what has happened so far...
Setting the stage:
Irsay mentions Edgarrin James earlier in the year when talking about Andrew Luck and the need to pair him up with a guy similar to James who can set up a strong tandem. This made headlines everywhere and most people assumed that this meant heavy interest in a guy like Barkley, considered a generational talent at the RB position who can truly do it all and might perform similar/more than some stellar RBs drafted in recent years.
Ballard in a few conversations about the draft pick has talked about how high it is, it being extremely rare to be in a position like this, not trying to be in a position like this again, lots of talents players found in the top 5 that a franchise might never have a chance at, etc. All this points towards him talking about a guy or two that he feels is extremely worth the 3rd overall pick which is what we have.
Now moving on to the draft and the prospects, here are the teams at the top and their general needs:
Browns: 1st, 4th overall. Needs at QB, RB and reports suggest that they would ideally want to come out of those top two picks with a stellar tandem of RB and QB.
Giants: 2nd overall. Needs at QB cause of uncertainties with Manning and the future. A new coach, guy like Shurmer, knows that they won't have a chance to pick this high again so they probably will want a guy out of Rosen, Darnold, Allen.
Colts: 3rd overall. Assuming Luck is healthy and coming back (and at this moment all things point towards this). Needs at RB, Pass-Rush, OL, etc.
What I think is happening here is that Ballard + Irsay are creating the notion that the Colts are extremely interested in a guy like Barkley and want to pair him up with Luck for the next 5-10 years. This scares the Browns because they pick just before us. The Browns, knowing that they can't draft Rosen cause he doesn't want to play for them, are stuck between Allen and Darnold. If they feel that there is not much difference between the two and that neither one is worth the #1 pick, they might just go ahead and select Barkley to make sure that they get him and that we don't mess up their plans with our 3rd overall pick. Then the giants select Rosen, and then all of a sudden there is a huge market for the the 3rd overall picks and we can drop down to 5 or 6 and still get Chubb who I would think would be a great fit in a 4-3 defense (Ballard has mentioned that the draft is a good place to draft players for schematic changes).
Ballard might be trying to force Cleveland into thinking that at the very least we are interested in Barkley and at the very max that we love the guy and thus making them strongly consider drafting Barkley #1 overall.
Bottom line is that Cleveland drafting Barkley #1 overall is the best thing that can happen to us and I believe that that is exactly what will happen. And knowing Ballard, he already has an idea of what the minimum trade offers would be for a team like Denver so they can jump past the Browns and get their pick of Darnold or Allen.