It might not help him in his negotiations for a long-term contract, but Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants has been ranked the No. 4 running back in the NFL by an ESPN panel of more than 80 executives, coaches, scouts and players.
Barkley realized the enormous potential that the league long saw for him in 2022.
The former No. 2 overall pick was ESPN’s top back in the 2020 ratings but fell out of the top 10 two years later because of injuries and bad production, with just 627 yards on 3.5 yards per carry from 2020 to ‘21. Evaluators knocked his hesitant running style.
Until this year.
“He came with a running back mentality,” a veteran NFL offensive coach said. “He was physical, wasn’t dancing as much, and when he got to the second level, he was dangerous.”
Barkley’s presence impacts his teammates. Just look at quarterback Daniel Jones, who has 44 touchdown passes to 17 interceptions in his 34 starts with Barkley in his backfield. In 19 starts without Barkley, those numbers drop to 16 and 17. Barkley ranked second in explosive rushes (18) behind Chubb.
“He still has the ability to break the game open at any point,” an NFC exec said.
The praise for Barkley having a “running back mentality” is significant just a year after Barkley bristled over criticism of his running style, including the idea expressed by some that he really didn’t know how to be a running back.
With that out of the way, we now return to the Barkley contract watch as we wait to see how much the Giants are willing to pay him for his considerable skills.