The Giants picked Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday.
Despite playing what’s widely viewed as one of the riskiest positions to draft, college and NFL evaluators have been smitten with Barkley for a long time. He’s one of the most exciting picks of the draft and could be a star for years to come.
Here’s the basic overview of the player one NFL assistant coach said he’d “punch myself in the nuts many, many, many times” to be able to draft.
Why did the Giants pick Barkley?
Barkley is a football magician who can do some incredible things with the ball in his hands. He also tests off the charts as an athlete. He’s also an ideal fit for a league that’s increasingly spreading out offenses and asking running backs to do more things. He has the best highlight reel of any player in the draft, filled with outrageous moments.
And this too!
Hurdles are a thing Barkley does regularly. You’ll see at least a handful of NFL defenders fly underneath him over the next few seasons. It’s always fun.
But can he start right away?
Yes. Barkley can instantly be one of the best running backs in the NFL. He has the physical tools and football savvy to be a Pro Bowler in his rookie season. There might not be a player in the draft more suited to immediate success at his position than Barkley, who can turn any team into a contender.
What’s the risk?
The risk is the same as with all running backs. A team that takes a running back this early in the draft does it with the intention of giving him gobs and gobs of touches over the next five years. Barkley will put a lot of mileage on his body, running, cutting, and taking hit after hit. He may not have a long peak, because no running back is guaranteed a long peak. (No player is guaranteed that at any position, but it’s true that RBs are more vulnerable than most.)
There’s also the matter of how much good an elite running back can do in the first place. Even the league’s best backs are heavily reliant on good offensive line play and the threat of the pass to open up running lanes. Barkley was awesome at Penn State, but his numbers sometimes lagged, in part because he played behind mediocre lines. He’ll directly control much of his success as a pro, but not all of it.
Was this a good pick?
Yes. Despite the risks, Barkley is a special talent. He’s a triple threat: a powerful rusher, a skilled receiver, and an explosive returner. He is absolutely worth a top-five pick.