As the NFL Draft draws nearer, the volume on who could end up where gets turned up to 10. The New York Football Giants hold the No. 2 overall selection on April 26 and the chatter about them not passing on Penn State RB Saquon Barkley is getting louder.
Many NFL wise men are warning the Giants to no pass on a quarterback, especially if USC’s Sam Darnold is sitting there, as teams rarely get a chance to land a franchise QB of his caliber. But the Giants are in a bit a pickle when it comes to the quarterback position and selecting Darnold may lead to a convoluted situation.
Eli Manning is under contract for two more seasons. His performance has tailed off the past few seasons but many experts believe the offensive scheme and the poor play of the offensive line had much to do with that. Improve the line and put him in a more vertical passing offense and he’ll be fine, they say.
Then, there’s the questions about his understudy, Davis Webb, who was taken in the third round of last year’s draft and has yet to take a live snap in an NFL game. The Giants, by taking a third QB this high in the draft, may be wasting the pick. Well, not wasting it, but missing out on another player at another position that could help the team long before the rookie QB would. If they take Darnold, he may not play until 2020. That’s three years from now – an eternity in NFL years.
That is why the rumors about Barkley have been gaining strength. We have known all along that GM Dave Gettleman favors taking a “gold jacket” player at No. 2. Barkley is one of three players that teams envision as possible Hall of Fame talents along with NC State DE Bradley Chubb and OL Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame. With new head coach Pat Shurmur holding a lot of stock in running back play and the Giants currently devoid of talent at the position, Barkley is looking more and more like the favorite to be taken second overall by the Giants.
That is, if he’s there. Cleveland has the top pick, and although they are said to be considering a QB with the top pick (Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma), they may not be able to pass on Barkley, either. The Browns also have the fourth pick in their pocket, so they might grab Barkley first and take the best available QB with their second pick.
A national NFL scout who knows Gettleman for years revealed last week that Barkley is high on the Giants’ hit list, perhaps at the very top.
“I thought all along this is the guy Dave wants…and he might get him, if Cleveland is dumb enough not to take him at No. 1. I don’t think Dave will take a quarterback. I don’t see it. I could see Chubb putting on that gold jacket. I could see Nelson putting on that gold jacket. Barkley, no question….If you have a crystal ball and say, ‘This guy is gonna be an annual All-Pro and make it to the Hall of Fame,’ Barkley would be the No. 1 guy.”
If the Giants land Barkley, they’ll be getting a monster of a player. A player they really need, too. Their running game has sucked the past few seasons to put it bluntly. They saw Ezekiel Elliott put the Cowboys back on the map a few years ago and how Alvin Kamara rejuvenated the New Orleans Saints’ offense last year. Barkley is a better receiver than Elliott and a more effective rusher than Kamara. He sizes up very well to the Rams’ Todd Gurley, who probably should have been the league’s MVP last season. Adding Barkley gives them a home-run hitter who defenses will have to pack a lunch to defend. He will take the pressure off the passing game, which has been their only source of offense – for what that’s worth – the past two seasons.
“I’m not going to lie. He’s a tremendous talent,” Gettleman said at his presser last week. “You put the film on of a defensive guy and if they’re playing Penn State, then I’m watching Saquon. He’s one of those guys that my mother could have scouted. She could have figured that one out…I think that the devaluing of the running back is really a myth. If you have a great running back, he immediately makes your quarterback better, your offensive line better and your passing game. So I don’t believe in it. It’s how you evaluate the players, how we value them, how we rate them and then you go on from there.”
Barkley comes with accolades and all the trimmings a player gets when he dominates at the collegiate level. He is being compared to Barry Sanders. Yes, that Barry Sanders.
NFL.com has placed a 7.45 grade on Barkley, meaning he projects as a perennial Pro Bowl player. He is compact at 6’0″, 230, runs a 4.4 40-yd dash, ran the 20-yd shuttle in 4.24 seconds, benched 200 pounds 26 times and has a 4-inch vertical leap. Then there is his football acumen. He knows the game and those skills become more pronounced when he gets a football in his hands.
From Lance Zierlein of NFL.com: “Every-down running back with the ability to alter the course of an offense and become a face of the franchise-type player. Barkley has the rare ability to create additional yardage through elusiveness, speed, vision and feel for space in the open field. While he has been tasked with carrying a heavy load at Penn State, their decision to limit his carries somewhat this season could help Barkley headed into his rookie season. Barkley is a buffet runner who thrives with the more plates you give him and he has a chance to become an early All-Pro no matter which team takes him.”
Tony Pauline, DraftAnalyst.com: “After two tremendous seasons at Penn State, Barkley heads towards the draft as the top prospect in the event. He’s a complete back who can make defenders miss on the inside, beat them around the corner then run to daylight and make big plays as a pass catcher. He’s instinctive and athletic and has a graceful style to his game. Barkley has the ability to be used in multiple running schemes and should quickly break into a starting lineup at the next level.”
Charlie Campbell, Walter Football: “From the very beginning of his collegiate career, Barkley illustrated that he has stud potential for the NFL. In his debut season, he averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,076 yards with seven touchdowns. The freshman also caught 20 passes for 161 yards and a score. Barkley was even better as a sophomore, averaging 5.5 yards per carry on the year for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also took 28 catches for 402 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver. Barkley dominated many opponents in 2017 and every defense he went against sold out to stop him. On the year, Barkley averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,271 yards with 18 touchdowns. He had 54 receptions for 632 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver. Barkley also contributed as a kick returner and provided a ton of huge plays for his team.”
“You don’t screw up the special ones when you are a talent evaluator. This guy is special. Any concerns you file on him just feels like nitpicking to fill out the report.” — NFL general manager