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Would Saquon Barkley be the best value for the Giants at No. 2?

Penn State star’s Pro Day is Tuesday — let’s try to have a reasonable discussion of his potential value

NFL: Combine
Saquon Barkley
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State will hold its Pro Day on Tuesday. That means it is time for the latest episode of the Saquon Barkley Show. And, of course, the latest installment of the “Should the Giants draft Barkley No. 2 if the Cleveland Browns don’t draft him at No. 1?” debate.

If you have been following along during the buildup to the 2018 NFL Draft, you know where I stand. I believe the Giants either have to take the player they think can be their quarterback for the next decade or trade out of the two-hole for a cache of draft picks they can use to re-stock a 3-13 roster that has a lot of holes.

Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m not. There are solid reasons to believe in any of the three paths the Giants could take.

Barkley is expected to be a terrific player, and it isn’t surprising fans get excited about the prospect of putting a game-breaking player like this in the backfield behind Eli Manning. It is an exciting idea. It might be the path the Giants choose to take. We’ll see.

Scott Wright of Draft Countdown, an under-rated draft analyst whose work I have long had respect for, puts Barkley behind Leonard Fournette but ahead of both Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley when it comes to recent running back prospects.

It certainly gives you pause when, in his ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ column, Peter King writes something like this:

I think the Giants will go quarterback at two, but as one NFL GM told me Saturday: Just imagine the Giants taking Saquon Barkley. They’d have Odell Beckham, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley. Wow! Respectively, they’d be 25, 23 and 21 years old.

Wow, is right. That’s an amazing array of play-makers. It’s not as glamorous, but guard Quenton Nelson is the Barkley of offensive linemen in this class. Some consider him the best guard prospect in decades. Snagging the best Hog Molly in the class wouldn’t be awful, either.

After crushing the Combine, Barkley is going to crush the Penn State Pro Day. That will give even more ammo to those who want the Giants to take Barkley second overall. Nelson is going to do the same later this week during the Notre Dame Pro Day

The Giants looking at those two players and deciding that they had to have one of them. Both would make the Giants better in 2018. Both, if they meet expectations, will have long and distinguished NFL careers.

Most talented might not mean most valuable

Barkley and Nelson are, by most accounts, the best players in this draft class.

The idea, though, is to get the best value for the long-term good of the franchise. Barkley might be the best player, but is he the best value?

Reality is, the quarterback position is more important — it has a higher value to a football team — than the running back position.

No matter how good the Giants think Barkley is, if they believe there is a 10-year quarterback available at No. 2 overall who can lead them to Super Bowl titles that has more value than any running back. If, of course, the Giants are right about the quarterback they choose.

Maybe Davis Webb is already that guy. We don’t know. I don’t, you don’t, Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman don’t. There are exceptions, but the reality is that teams have a better chance of finding a franchise quarterback early in the first round than in the middle of the third. Are the Giants willing to gamble on Webb being one of those exceptions? They have a shot here at one of the top guys. There is tremendous value in that — if they get it right.

By the way, this video of Charlie Casserly is a few days old (the Justin Pugh reference gives that away). Watch Casserly at the end, though, as he simply shakes his head when Kim Jones of NFL Network reminds him not to forget that Webb could be the Giants’ quarterback of the future.

More value in trading down?

The other often-discussed scenario is trading down from No. 2. As good as Barkley, and Nelson, are expected to be are they good enough — yes, valuable enough — to justify passing on some of the absolutely obscene hauls teams have recently gotten in return for trading down from a pick like this?

The New York Jets actually got off pretty lightly in moving up three spots with the Indianapolis Colts, giving up three second-round picks — two this year and one next.

The Rams gave up an extra first-round pick, two second-round picks and two third-round picks to move from No. 15 to No. 1 to select Jared Goff. That is pretty instructive when it comes to what it might cost the Buffalo Bills to move from No. 12 to the Giants’ pick at No. 2.

The Eagles gave up a first-round pick, as well as picks in the second, third and fourth rounds to move from No. 8 to No. 2 in that same draft to select Carson Wentz.

Here is another nugget from King that underscores the value that could be gained from accumulating all of those assets:

I think the Justin Pugh signing in Arizona makes the core that GM Jerry Reese left for Dave Gettleman with the Giants even worse. Pugh’s defection means that only one of Reese’s 45 picks in the six drafts from 2008 to 2013 is still on the team. (If you guessed Jason Pierre-Paul, you win.) Amazing: The number is 0-for-22 in the last three of those drafts—2011, 2012, 2013. Gettleman’s got a very tough road replenishing a thin roster.

Whatever reason or reasons you want to attach to it, the Giants finished 3-13 last season and Gettleman has been left with a thin roster to supplement. Multiple extra picks in the first three rounds of the draft — the majority of whom should become starters and impact-type players if the Giants draft well — offer more value than any single non-quarterback. No matter how talented.

Final thoughts

The view that Barkley is the best player, and you take the best player, isn’t wrong. If the Giants choose him, he should help them immensely and we could have several years of watching him do the kinds of things as a running back that Beckham and only a handful of others do at wide receiver. And yes, those things will help the Giants win some games. The other options we have discussed, though, with the No. 2 pick hold the potential of bringing more long-term value.

The Giants have long-term uncertainty at quarterback, and a roster that needs much more than one extremely talented player to be a team with a chance to consistently be among the league’s best.

Take one extremely talented player who should help immediately? Choose a quarterback you likely won’t get production from for at least a year, but might help you compete for titles for a decade? Trade the pick for a multitude of picks that should help you replenish a depleted roster?

It’s a choice without an absolute right or wrong answer. To be honest, I’m glad it’s not my decision to make. I don’t envy Gettleman and the position he is in here at all.