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Giants’ Saquon Barkley named 7th-most explosive runner in 2022

Explosiveness measured by NFL Next Gen Stats

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Saquon Barkley
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants had two of football’s most explosive runners of 2022, including one in the top 10.

NFL Next Gen Stats ranked running back Saquon Barkley as the seventh-most explosive runner of last season. Here were the metrics provided:

  • Explosive Score: 85
  • 10+ yard (“explosive”) plays: 32
  • 10+ percentage: 10.8%
  • 15+ mph runs: 48
  • 15+ mph percentage: 16.3%

The only players ahead of Barkley were Nick Chubb, Tony Pollard, Lamar Jackson, Travis Etienne, Kenneth Walker III, and Justin Fields. That makes him the fifth-most explosive running back in the league.

NFL.coms Nick Shook explained that Barkley ranked second in 10-plus-yard gains over expected with 17, which means that he is excellent at generating explosive plays when they’re not necessarily perfectly blocked up. This certainly enabled Barkley to be successful in 2022 despite several below-average run-blockers (Ben Bredeson, Jon Feliciano, and Evan Neal all posted PFF run-blocking grades that were below average for their positions).

Barkley also had six runs of 20-plus mph, which dovetails with his eighth-ranked 34.2% breakaway yardage rate (the rate of his yardage that came from runs of 15-plus yards). He has always been a bit boom-or-bust, as he has ranked in the top 10 in this category in three of his four full seasons in the league. His booms tend to be big booms, though, letting him get up to that full speed.

The Giants added some other big-play weapons in the offseason, including Darren Waller and Jalin Hyatt. Still, Barkley is the straw that stirs the drink for their offense. NFL Next Gen Stats just provided added context for that.

Interestingly, another Giants player nearly made this list: quarterback Daniel Jones. He was mentioned in the “just missed the cut” section. Jones had 31 rushes of 10-plus yards, which was actually a higher total (26) and rate (26% to 21%) than Josh Allen, who ranked ninth on the list.

The combination of Barkley and Jones gives the Giants a two-pronged rushing threat on each play. A deeper, more talented, and more diverse group of pass-catchers could open even more holes in 2023 as defenses are forced into lighter boxes. That is a potentially scary prospect for opponents and is one of the reasons to hope for continued offensive improvement from the Giants.