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2018 NFL Draft prospect profile: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

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Is Barkley really the best player in the draft?

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Penn State vs Washington Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

With the second pick in the 2018 draft, the New York Giants have drafted the player who might be the single best player in the draft.

For most of 2018, there has been little argument over who the best player in the draft is. Independent of positional value, it generally comes down to Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.

And, as well as several quarterbacks, each of those players has been in in the conversation for the Giants with that second overall pick. Of the three, Barkley has been the most heavily linked to the Giants, which includes statements made by the team’s own general manager.

It’s about time we took a closer look at the running back from Penn State.

Measurables

Pros

  • Incredible, freakish, athlete. Barkley’s blend of size, power, speed, and agility is legitimately rare.
  • Very well regarded young man. Lauded for his off-field character and work ethic.
  • Combines good vision with impressive start/stop acceleration.
  • Has the power to break arm tackles.
  • Legitimate home-run threat any time he touches the ball.
  • Polished pass protector, as stout as some offensive linemen.
  • Good receiver from the backfield and as a wide receiver.
  • Dangerous return man.
  • Incredibly productive: 3,801 yards (2,767 rushing, 1,034 receiving) and 43 touchdowns (36 rushing, 7 receiving) on offense combined the last two seasons, as well as 426 yards and 2 touchdown as a kick returner in 2017.

Cons

  • Tries too hard to make something out of nothing.
  • Could stand to run with more power and determination between the tackles in short-yardage situations.

Prospect video

What they’re saying

Sources Tell Us

”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

- via NFL.com

Does he fit the Giants?

It is hard to not lapse into hyperbole when talking about Saquon Barkley. His size, power, and athleticism are the kinds of things that make scouts wax poetic.

Make no mistake, there certainly are holes in Barkley’s game. The most notable is his penchant for trying to refuse to pick up the tough yards while attempting to make something out of nothing. Part of that is due to his mentality as a home-run hitter, and part of it is due to a very poor Penn State offensive line. However, he will need to learn that there are times when he will have to simply take what the defense gives him.

There are also those who look at the eight games in which Barkley failed to get 100 yards on the ground and three games in which he averaged less than three yards per carry. Viewed solely as a running back, Barkley’s athletic ability is on a differently level from almost anyone else in this class, but on-field production as a runner is almost ordinary.

But it is a mistake to view Barkley as just a running back. He is more aptly thought of as an offensive weapon that happens to spend most of his time lining up in the backfield. He is frequently called the “best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson,” but his game is much more reminiscent of Marshall Faulk or LaDainian Tomlinson as a player who is not only a dangerous running back, but also a major factor as a receiver.

He isn’t just a running back who can turn daylight into a big play, but a player who can make game-breaking plays contribute as a receiver, help the quarterback as a pass protector, and generate “hidden yardage” as a returner.

Barkley should be a fit in any modern NFL offense, and given how often Pat Shurmur uses his backs as pass catchers -- and Barkley’s ability in a zone running scheme, which Shurmur ran more than any other team in the NFL last year -- he is a natural fit. Barkley is rumored to be in very strong consideration for the Giants with the second pick in the draft, and Dave Gettleman has gushed about him repeatedly.

The question of whether or not passing on a quarterback for Barkley -- if that is indeed what the Giants do -- is the right choice can’t be answered for years. However, the addition of Barkley to Odell Beckham Jr., Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard certainly would give the Giants a fearsome array of weapons.