The New York Giants may not have given Saquon Barkley the financial respect he coveted, but his peers around the NFL certainly did. In the latest unveiling of the ‘NFL Top 100’ list, Barkley was ranked as the No. 31 player in the NFL, as voted by the players. After falling off the list entirely for the last two years, Barkley reprised his 2020 ranking for his bounce-back 2022 season.
Barkley called the list “one of my favorite things to look at every year” and said that making it “matters more than anything else, your appearance to the people that you’re going against.” He expressed that it would be “so special” to rejoin the elite group.
Barkley had previously made the list in 2019-20, ranking 16th in 2019 after his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign and 31st in 2020. He earned the 2023 honor after posting 1,312 rushing yards and scoring 10 total touchdowns in 2022, making it back to the Pro Bowl for the first time since his rookie season.
“Any time you play him, the coaching point is you need multiple hats to the ball,” commented Jaguars linebacker Foyesade Oluokun. “You’ve really got to get him early and bottle him up because he’ll juke around the whole defensive line and find that little hole.” Added Panthers edge rusher Brian Burns, “Saquon will test all the gaps. He’ll make a jump cut from the A-gap all the way to the C.”
Barkley also commands anxiety from his divisional opponents. Commanders receiver Jahan Dotson called Barkley a “home run” and a threat to score each time he touches the ball. Cowboys edge rusher Micah Parsons paid the running back the ultimate compliment, saying that he hates having to face Barkley twice every year rather than twice in a career. Parsons also remarked that he expected Saquon to be Saquon and to dominate the league as a top-five running back.
Former teammate Evan Engram also praised Barkley, saying, “He’s been on a mission this year. He’s probably one of the top two or three best football players I’ve ever seen. When he gets in the flow and when he gets in the zone, there’s nobody like him.”
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While Barkley had a strong season, his ranking may be a bit high. He is ahead of first-team All-Pros Quinnen Williams, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Matt Milano, and Talanoa Hufanga, as well as second-team All-Pros CeeDee Lamb, Chris Lindstrom, Haason Reddick, Jeffery Simmons, C.J. Mosley, Bobby Wagner, Demario Davis, and Justin Simmons. If going based on the last few seasons rather than just 2022, players like Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, Cooper Kupp, Deebo Samuel, and Justin Herbert are also arguably better players but ranked behind Barkley.
The No. 31 ranking is a testament to what the players think of Barkley. While ranking players regardless of position is an inexact venture, to begin with, NFL players are often not the best judges of their peers. They are easily influenced by perception and name rather than quantitative performance. They can also be swayed toward players whom they’ve faced more often (or more recently).
Still, if respect among his peers is critically important to Barkley, he certainly got his wish. Now, the Giants will need Barkley to play like a top-100 player once more in 2023.