Lets get two things straight: First, Saquon Barkley doesn’t know if he’s going to enter the draft or not. Second, when he does, he’s going to be an impact player from his first NFL snap.
Barkley burst onto the scene in late 2015, exploding for 194 rushing yards in a blowout loss to Ohio State. He finished his first season with six outings of over 100 yards rushing, and would carry that momentum into a phenomenal sophomore season.
In 2016, when Penn State launched back into the national conversation, it was largely due to Barkley. He finished two yards shy of 1,900 all-purpose yards last season, and rushed for 194 against USC in the Rose Bowl.
Barkley is up to 2,070 all-purpose yards in 2017, and set a Penn State single season record for receptions by a running back (46). His usage was off the charts, but several teams, including Indiana and Rutgers, held Barkley to less than three yards per carry. Barkley finished fourth in Heisman voting, over 1,000 points short of Stanford RB Bryce Love.
Earlier in the season, Albert Breer called Barkley “The Future of The NFL.” Not only would Barkley enter the declare as the draft’s best running back, he’s entering at a time when teams are starting to reverse the passing trends that have dominated the NFL in recent years.
For a long time in the NFL, running backs reigned supreme. But after a batch of bad running back drafts, teams drifted away from the position, and were taking backs later and later in favor of franchise quarterbacks and flashy wide receivers.
In 2017, running backs are back in style. Recent backs drafted in the first picks: Todd Gurley, Zeke Elliot, and more recently Leonard Fournette have made a massive impact on your team. It turns out, there’s nothing better for developing a young quarterback than an elite running game.
When you take Barkley, that’s exactly what youre getting. He’s quick, breaks tackles, has great vision, and has hands out of the backfield. He’s got hands like Bell and legs like Zeke. In his most recent Top 32, ESPN analyst Todd McShay has Barkley ranked as the number two prospect behind UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.
It’s pretty obvious that Barkley is going to produce wherever he goes. So it’s not a matter of how much a team can get out of Barkley, but rather how far a team can go, or what they can develop, by adding Barkley. The Panthers clearly didn’t need to draft Christian McCaffrey last year, but it’s what he uniquely brings to the Panthers offense that makes them a playoff contender.
If Barkley were to go to Cleveland, it’s possible he makes them a fringe playoff team. Like Fournette, having an elite back can take the pressure off of any quarterback. But if he were to go to the Giants at two, he might turn the Giants into a championship contender in Eli’s final season.
Or, if you’re like me, you want the Giants to draft Barkley, then convince Kirk Cousins to sign on the cheap. Cousins, Beckham and Barkley for the next five years…I think I’ll wish for that as the ball drops.