Saquon Barkley’s NFL Draft Outlook

On February 19, 2018, in Sporting News, by Bud Thornton

saquon barkley 2017Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is being hailed as the best running back of this NFL draft class and a strong candidate to be a top-three selection overall.

He’s also considered one of the best running backs prospects at the position in a long time and is even being compared to Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson.

Barkley’s a three-down running back who will be able to contribute right away. He has great size at 5’11” and 229 pounds but also possesses a rock-solid speed of 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash as clocked during the winter workouts.

Barkley’s as close as it gets to a can’t-miss prospect as he’s showed that he can handle a big workload totaling 17 touches for Penn State in 11 of 13 games in 2017.

When a team takes a running back early in the first round he’s most likely to end in a workhorse role and Barkley has already proven that he’s qualified to handle that role and should adapt to the NFL quite smoothly.

When a running back is built to handle a massive workload and has breakaway speed he has a huge potential to turn into something special. On top of that Saquon has soft hands, can help block in pass plays and racked up 33 receiving yards in nine of 13 games in 2017.

He was widely used in Penn State’s passing game as his receiving yards increased in each of his seasons (from 151 in 2015 to 402 in 2016 and 632 in 2017) while with Penn State. In fact, in 2017 he peaked as he averaged 48.6 yards per game. These numbers should put NFL teams at ease and he will be probably be taken in the first round.

Barkley’s talent in the passing game and his capability to handle a heavy workload will help many teams that are looking for not only a talented running back, but a dynamic player that can catch short passes from the quarterback to escape pass pressure situations.

His lateral quickness is something to admire even though he does dance behind the line of scrimmage a little bit too much, just like another extraordinary running back named Barry Sanders used to do.

Because of that, just like Sanders, he may occasionally take big losses, but that is something that NFL teams are used to leaving with in order to enjoy the explosive plays and huge output in yards that players like him provide. Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy are clear examples of highly successful backs currently doing that in the NFL.

Although that may be his only true weakness, his upside and potential are too much to pass him up. In any case, although highly unlikely to happen, it would be better for him if he’s taken by a team with a solid offensive line in place to help limit those losses.

Even if he doesn’t land behind a great offensive line, Barkley can break long runs at any time as he had five plays of 50-plus rushing yards in 2017 alone.

Teams that could draft him in the first round: Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Ideal landing spot: Indianapolis Colts, because Andrew Luck is likely to come back from injury and he likes to use his running backs in the passing game.

 

 

 

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