By Elijah Silas-Tafelsky
It’s something we hear a lot more than is necessary in sports. Many players who are labeled game changers don’t pan out to be that good. I’m here to tell you why we have a guaranteed game changer in the 2018 NFL Draft.
His name is Saquon Barkley.
At 6 ft 0 and 233 pounds Barkley not only looks the part of a star running back he has the plays from college to back it up. Watch some of his highlights and you will fall in love with his ability on the football field. He’s a nightmare for linebackers because of his strength and agility, while secondaries fear for their lives when he gets into second gear and blows by them down the field. His 79-yard touchdown run vs. USC in the 2017 Rose Bowl was one of best and most memorable touchdown runs in college footbal history. Barkley then had a 92-yard run against the University of Washington in the last year’s Fiesta Bowl where he set the school record for the longest rushing touchdown in Penn State history.
At times he could not be tackled in college and made opposing defenses look like Junior Varsity high school players. Yes, Barkley looked human during the season but all it took was one mistake by a defense and he was gone in blink of an eye for a touchdown. Take a look at Barkley’s career numbers at Penn State.
His freshman season on 182 attempts carrying the ball he ran for 1,076 yards and 8 touchdowns. Not too many freshman accomplish that. Then in his sophomore season Barkley 1496 yards on 272 carries while adding 18 touchdowns. To go along with this dominate performance during his sophomore season he showed his ability to catch the football out of the backfield with 28 receptions for 402 yards and 4 touchdowns. He averaged 14.4 yards per catch. Finally, during his Junior campaign his numbers somewhat regressed but he still ran for 1271 yards and had 22 touchdowns. He improved his receiving number by catching 54 passes for 632 yards and three touchdowns.
I can tell you all you want to hear about his numbers which were some of best for a running back in College Football but it’s really his highlight tape and performance at the NFL combine that got me even more excited about Barkley.
Barkley combines hs quickness and great vision with his amazing strength. When you watch his highlights he is so shifty and reads defenses so well making defenders fall to the ground. Barkley ran a 4.40 40 yard-dash at the combine, which was tied for the 13th best overall time and second fastest running back time at the combine. He benched 29 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and had 41 inch vertical. I’ll admit combine numbers don’t mean a whole lot to me but Barkley not only dominated in one category he dominated all the drills he participated in which is rare.
The other thing that makes Barkley great is how humble he is. He lets his playing do the talking and plays with a sense of needing to prove all the doubters wrong. Barkley was a low end 4-star prospect and wasn’t thought of as an immediate impact player at Penn State. The fact of the matter is he proved the scouting sites wrong for year now and ran for over 1000 yards in every year of college while finshing with 51 total touchdowns in three seasons.
Most recently in the NFL we have seen some really good impact running backs. To name a few Todd Gurley, Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott to name a few. All of those players except for Kamara were first round draft picks. I am not gonna say that just by taking a running back in the first round draft you will be guaranteeing a an all-pro for years to come but Barkley’s numbers along with his skills and talent from his highlights leave it hard to believe he won’t be an above average NFL player at least.
Teams drafting in the first few picks of the draft need help in a lot of areas but sometimes it’s not all about need and more about taking the best player available in the draft. Barkley fits that mold even for a team like the Cleveland Browns who didnt win a game last season and thats all you need to know. The second pick belongs to the Giants who have a bunch of no name running backs and drafting Barkley would bring some more excitement doesn’t have much of it outside of wide reciever Odell Beckham Jr. Finally, the Jets have the third pick in the draft and were just an average running team last season ranking in the middle or bottom of most rushing categories. Bringing in Barkley would be a jolt to sluggish offense that needs help all over the place. Oh yeah Barkley is a lifelong Jets fan as well.
If Barkley slips out of the top three picks it would be surprising. Quarterbacks are getting all the rage leading up to the draft, but the player with the most talent and best opportunity to come in and help your team improve right away is Saquon Barkley.
He is the NFL’s next game changer waiting to be drafted.