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Scouting the 2018 NFL Draft - Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

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PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Here at GGN we’ve already sifted through many of the top throwers in this year’s draft, but today we’re going to shift gears and take a look at the consensus top runner in this year’s draft, Bronx native Saquon Barkley. Is he great enough to be worth a top five, or maybe even top two pick?

Personal/Physical

Height: 5’11

Weight: 229

Hometown: Bronx, NY

Born: February 7, 1997 (age 21 on draft day)

Career Stats

2015: 182 attempts, 1076 yards (5.9 Y/A), 7 touchdowns, 20 receptions, 161 yards (8.1 Y/R), 1 touchdown, 2 fumbles

2016: 272 attempts, 1496 yards (5.5 Y/A), 18 touchdowns, 28 receptions, 402 yards (14.4 Y/R), 4 touchdowns, 2 fumbles

2017: 217 attempts, 1271 yards (5.9 Y/A), 18 touchdowns, 54 receptions, 632 yards, 3 touchdowns, 15 kick returns, 28.4 yards per return, 2 touchdowns

I watched the following games from Barkley’s 2017 season: Washington, Iowa, Rutgers

Positives

  • Only 4 career fumbles, including none in his junior year
  • Physically built for dominance, a big, powerful back with very impressive speed for that size
  • Unbelievable athleticism, elite speed and leaping ability
  • Great acceleration, turns on the jets to hit top speed in a flash
  • Nose for the first down marker/end zone
  • Always looking for the edge, and has the speed to beat anyone there
  • Change of direction and cutting ability is absurd
  • Showcased high level return game potential in junior year
  • Tremendous balance
  • Leg strength/lower body strength is top notch, allows him to make those amazing cuts, leaps and sideline plays
  • Big time potential in the passing game
  • Solid career durability

Negatives

  • Might be a futile concern, but a lot of mileage already under his belt
  • Needs to finish with power more often
  • Vision is good, but not elite in my view
  • Not a dominant tackle-breaker or as much of a consistent power force as he should be
  • Blocking is spotty, can be much more aggressive with it

Film

In terms of speed, quickness, and change of direction, Barkley has generational tools and showed he knows how to use them effectively.

Just sit back and enjoy the two cuts he makes on this play. It’s like watching an Allen Iverson crossover on a football field.

This next play is even better. Not only does he use the same cutting ability to evade the defense, but he somehow has the lower body strength and balance to handle all of this contact right along the sideline without going down.

He’s not just a cutter. Barkley (listed at 229 pounds) has gamebreaking speed as well.

The hole on this play is huge, but not every back has the speed to beat a secondary 92 yards to the house.

Not just breakaway speed, but speed to the edge as well. Here he makes a quick burst to beat the defense to the sideline where he again uses his tremendous balance to stick the ball in for a touchdown.

Barkley showcased elite return ability in his final season as well. As noted in the stats section, he averaged over 28 yards per kick return in 2017 while taking a pair of them the distance. Here’s one of them, to open up the game against Ohio State.

I would like to Barkley improve his blocking. With his frame and power, he could add a lot more value if he became more consistent in this area.

On these two plays you see a not so great attempt at a cut block and then he just gets bulldozed by the edge rusher. These are fine efforts and neither play ended up costly because of his loss, but at other times Barkley was a little bit lackadaisical with his blocking attempts.

Saquon will immediately be one of the strongest players pound-for-pound in the NFL once he enters the league. I think he needs to be more aggressive in the power game. To me, he needs to immediately burst this ball upfield. Patience is great, but here he gets swallowed up for a loss when he might have had a chance at something up the middle.

To finish, here are a couple of hurdles for you to enjoy.

Other GGN Views:

Smackdad - “Big no to Saquon at 6.”

“He has moves that are special and can’t be taught. He has great speed. But I feel like some of the hype is based on the fact that he moves like that at 230 pounds. That is amazing. But how is he different than a guy with the same moves at 205 pounds? Barkley goes down at first contact with alarming regularity.”

“To me he runs like a scatback. A very talented scatback, to be sure, but still a scatback. If he were 205 pounds would anyone be talking about him as the best player in the draft and a top 5 pick? I doubt it. Seems to me he’s gettin the hype based on a theoretical construct of a power back running like a scatback, but in fact he isn’t really a power back at all.”

Matt (GangGreenMag) - “Barkley’s talent and big play ability jump out right away. Whatever team drafts him is going to have a very dangerous weapon.”

“With that said, I can see him having a hard time in the NFL. I think a typical game for him will be a lot of 2-3 yard runs for most of a game, and then explode for a big gain here and there. Some team will probably draft him high, but I wouldn’t.”

“With the guys we already have, we either need a bell cow or a short yardage master. All of those types of backs will be available throughout the draft.”

John B - “I don’t think Saquon’s a bad prospect, but I think he’s kinda overhyped. I feel like he plays smaller than his frame. Bounces too much outside and doesn’t run with enough authority.”

“I think he’s worth an early pick, but when I compare him to the other backs in the class I just don’t see why I’d use a top ten pick on him when I can get another high ceiling back on day two.”

David Wyatt - “I’m not a huge fan of Barkley either. I think paper tiger just about sums it up. I think the hype he’s getting is completely OTT based on his tape.”

Draft Grade: Lower Half of Top Ten

I like Saquon Barkley a lot. Some of his athletic traits are all-time kind of special. However, I’m not sure I’m buying the top five buzz or especially some of the hype that a team like the Giants could scoop him up at #2. To compare to recent top backs, I don’t think Barkley is as versatile as Ezekiel Elliott and I don’t think he balanced his special power and speed as well as Leonard Fournette.

In Barkley I see a lot of LeSean McCoy. That’s not a bad comparison at all. Shady is an all-time back who is still carrying an offense late into his career. However, Barkley has the tools to be a lot more. With his size and immense strength, he can be a forceful blocker and a freight train in the power game. He showed the ability to do both of those, but wasn’t as consistent with those elements as he was with his outside game. He looked a bit too much like an east-west cutting scatback when he can absolutely be an all-around terminator. His top-ten hype is based more on the projection that he can use his size to become that kind of player than it is based on him actually showing it.

Do I believe running backs are worth top ten picks unless a team has a huge hole? No. Running back is one of the easiest positions to find late round talent. Just look at 2017’s draft, and this class looks to have similar deep potential at the position. However, while there are a number of other ways I’d go first, I can live with the Jets adding a talent like Barkley to their offense at #6 if quarterback were already figured out. He has unbelievable tools and a very high ceiling. Still, I think there are some parts of his game that need sharpening, holding me back from viewing him as a guaranteed-to-succeed “can’t miss” running back prospect that’s worth taking high over another back later on.

Poll

Quarterback is solved, the Jets are on the clock at #6 and Saquon Barkley is available. What are you doing?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Picking him without hesitation
    (289 votes)
  • 19%
    He’d be my #2 choice
    (122 votes)
  • 15%
    He’d be my #3 choice
    (93 votes)
  • 18%
    Wouldn’t consider at all
    (113 votes)
617 votes total Vote Now