I don’t know how to spell out the sound of snoring, but picture that’s what I just did. The subject of applying lazy running back generalizations to Saquon Barkley are putting me to sleep.
Yes, I’ve heard all the stats. Like how the past 19 Super Bowl winners only had three Pro Bowl running backs. Or like how there’s only been three 1,000-yard rushers in the last 10 Super Bowl champs.
That’s why there was backlash to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that Barkley is in the mix to be selected No. 1 overall:
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 5, 2018
OH MY GOODNESS, A RUNNING BACK AT NO. 1?!?!?!? THE BROWNS ARE SO DUMB!!!
Yeah, Twitter fingers. Real original. Next you’ll fire off some groundbreaking take that Arie from “The Bachelor” is an idiot, too.
People like Colin Cowherd and others came out and completely dismissed the idea of Barkley going No. 1 overall because in case you forgot, you can get good running backs late in the draft. Quarterbacks are the position you have to go out and get, according to the running back haters.
Let’s all just completely ignore the fact that the greatest quarterback of all-time — a sixth round pick — and third-round pick Nick Foles just battled in a Super Bowl shootout for the ages. But sure, tell me more about that running back rotation.
Enough. Stop comparing Barkley to even the backs drafted in the top 10 the last few years. He confirmed the longstanding belief at the combine that he’s more explosive than all of them.
Or do you need a side-by-side comparison that shows that?
Admittedly, I’m not a big believer in combine numbers by themselves. They should be used to compliment the film. There’s a reason that Barkley was considered a Heisman Trophy favorite in the middle of the 2017 season. It certainly wasn’t because the guy knows how to test well in shorts.
Barkley is different than any running back prospect that we’ve seen in recent memory. Period. His combination of explosiveness, big-play ability, catching out of the backfield and blocking is unmatched. The guy played behind an offensive line that was average on its best day and he still displayed all of those things.
And for what it’s worth, all the people who are comparing Barkley to those aforementioned backs, here’s something else to consider; Elliott, Fournette and Gurley were all the driving offensive forces behind teams that went from awful to playoff-bound in a season.
But let’s get back to the real comparison. In terms of impact, Barkley has the ability to do what Adrian Peterson did. Their styles are certainly different — Peterson took on more contact and Barkley was better at using his agility to turn something out of nothing — but their game-changing ability is extremely similar. They’re home-run hitters. They look for the big play and take a few more negative yardage plays because they’re capable of taking it 80 yards at any given moment.
Go back to Peterson’s 2007 draft, when he was selected No. 7 overall despite the fact that in the eyes of many, he was the best player in the class. Let’s allow for a re-draft with the knowledge of how every player’s career will go:
Even in a draft with future Hall of Famers like Calvin Johnson and Joe Thomas, I bet all six of those teams ahead of the Vikings wish they could’ve had Peterson, especially the Raiders at No. 1. Instead, they rolled the dice on a quarterback with question marks galore and set their franchise back years.
People might forget that the Vikings didn’t win a division title in the six seasons before drafting Peterson and then they won two in his first three years.
I get that you need a quality quarterback to have a chance in today’s NFL. But in case you haven’t noticed, elite running backs have actually been the safer, smarter pick the last 5 years.
After Trent Richardson busted as a top-10 pick in 2012, nobody took a top-10 running back until Gurley in 2015. After that, it was Elliott in 2016 and then Fournette in 2017. All three are already franchise players who could all easily wind up in a Pro Bowl next year. And Barkley is a better prospect than all of them.
It might break the internet if the Browns make Barkley the first running back to go No. 1 overall since fellow Penn State back Ki-Jana Carter was the top pick in the 1995 draft. Injuries derailed his career, back in the days when ACL tears were basically a death sentence for running backs.
Times have changed. It’s time that we stop trying to put running back prospects into a box. Saying that Barkley can only be as good as Elliott or Fournette or Gurley makes no sense. If he is indeed a Peterson-like back — again, just impact, not style — then Barkley is worth picking at No. 1 overall.
If an 0-16 team believes that Barkley is the best player in the draft and that he could help them not go 0-16 again, there’s nothing wrong with making him the first pick. The Browns can still get an elite quarterback prospect at No. 4 and enter 2018 with a promising 1-2 punch at the two most important skill positions. If they pass on Barkley at No. 1, chances are that scenario flies out the window with the Giants and Colts both lacking a franchise running back.
If he does become the next superstar in somewhere that isn’t Cleveland, the Browns will face a whole lot more ridicule for not getting the best prospect in the draft with either of their top-four picks. Sure, there’s risk, but if I was going to bet on one thing in this draft, it’d be something that might make Browns fans feel a little better.
Saquon Barkley definitely isn’t Trent Richardson.