Why Saquon Barkley is a top five running back

Why Giants Saquon Barkley is very elite

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes 

Introduction

The New York Giants questionably drafted Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second draft pick of the 2018 NFL draft. The Giants’ front office, likely influenced by their ownership, chose to try and extend the career of Eli Manning instead of selecting a future quarterback (the options were Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, John Rosen, and Lamar Jackson). Selecting a running back in the first round does not typically yield great results for a team, but Barkley made a tremendous impact during his first season. Saquon was the focal point of the Giants’ offense and even claimed the offensive rookie of the year award over quarterback Baker Mayfield. Though Saquon Barkley has battled injuries during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, the sky’s the limit for Barkley this season.

Unique Athleticism 

When Saquon Barkley came into the pros during the 2018 draft cycle, he was a generational talent. When talking about his college tape, Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman said “Saquon is a 9. I have never given out a perfect nine as a scout.” Simply put, Saquon was the greatest player to grace the gridiron in the eyes of the Giants’ staff. 

Barkley lit the combine on fire. His 4.40 forty at 233 pounds is in the 97th percentile in terms of raw score and 99th percentile when adjusted for weight. As an athlete, Saquon is one-of-one. Barkley’s athleticism is always on full display when he suits up, whether it be stiff-arming a defender onto the ground or running past an entire defense.

Unparalleled rookie production 

Saquon came into his rookie season with high expectations. After years of poorly executed running back by committee, the Giants were ready to utilize a bell cow. 

During his rookie year, Saquon broke fantasy football with his production. Though Barkley typically went in the first round of fantasy drafts, no one expected him to finish as the overall running back one. Saquon rushed for 1,307 yards and added 721 yards through the air during his 2018 campaign. Barkley totaled 15 touchdowns during his rookie season too. Adjusting to the NFL is not as easy as Saquon Barkley made it look. Recent first-round picks like Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Josh Jacobs did not post eye-popping numbers despite their massive volume. 

A weapon as a receiver

Over the past decade, the running back position has become devalued due to a plethora of studies that demonstrated the issues that come with paying top dollar (in draft capital or salary) to a running back. Most running backs deteriorate after their rookie contracts expire. However, capturing running backs that can stay productive into their second contracts is still valuable. 

The running backs that rely on breaking tackles and running between the tackles do not fare well in their late 20s. Even backs like Leonard Fournette are just backup caliber players in their fourth year in the league. However, backs like Giovanni Bernard can play meaningful snaps well into their 30s. Saquon had an almost unheard-of 20 percent target share as a rookie. Barkley can line up out of the backfield or in the slot and separate like a receiver. When Saquon Barkley is healthy, he is a menace whenever the ball is in his hands.

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