Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Weight: 233 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.40 seconds
Vertical: 41.0 inches
Broad jump: N/A
If you haven’t heard about Barkley by now, you’ve likely been living under a rock. Not only was his Penn State tape impressive, but he essentially showed off in the NFL Combine. One of the best graphics during the event was that he ran a faster 10-yard split than DeSean Jackson, a faster 40-yard dash than Devin Hester, benched more than Joe Thomas, and jumped higher than Julio Jones. Yeah, he’s an incredible athlete, but he’s also an incredibly gifted football player.
He’s going to walk into a workhorse role immediately, so it’s good to see that he totaled at least 17 touches in 11-of-13 games in 2017. There have been some saying he’s the best draft prospect at the running back position since Adrian Peterson, while Saints head coach Sean Payton recently said he’s the best running back prospect he’s seen in 25 years. It’s safe to say that the expectations are through the roof with Barkley.
Vision: 4.0 out of 5 stars
One of the only knocks on Barkley’s game is that he’ll sometimes look for the highlight-reel run and bounce the run outside rather than take what’s given to him. While this can be considered a negative, it can also be considered a positive. Once he sees a hole, though, he’s going to hit it. There isn’t a running back in this draft class that has better vision in the open field than Barkley. If you’ve ever watched Le’Veon Bell run the ball, you know that his patience is on a different level than anyone else. Barkley has the patience when it comes to waiting for the blocks to develop, but if they didn’t open a gaping hole, it’s when you saw him try to bounce the run outside, which would lead to a monster play or a monster loss. There’s definitely some give-and-take with his vision/patience.
Elusiveness (twitch, juke, tackle breaking): 4.5 out of 5 stars
Barkley isn’t the tackle-breaking monster that Adrian Peterson was coming out of college, but he’s extremely elusive. He’ll use anything from jump-cuts to spin moves to jumping over defenders in order to free himself and is big enough (233 pounds) where he won’t be tackled by his shoelaces, though he’s not a bruiser.
Speed: 5.0 out of 5 stars
It’s not going to be easy for a player to receive a five-star grade in any category, but Barkley hits the mark with his speed, playing on a different speed than anyone in college. Most players say the biggest difference from college to the pros is the speed of the game. Well, that’s because of players like Barkley. Once he puts you in his rearview mirror, you might as well stop chasing him – he’s gone.
Pass-catching/Pass-protection: 5.0 out of 5 stars
This is one of the primary reasons Barkley is considered as a top-five overall pick in the NFL Draft. His ability to stay on the field for all three downs is what sets him apart from the rest of the pack. Not only is he a terrific ball-carrier, but he’s one of the better pass-blockers and receivers in the draft. His hands can be compared to those of a wide receiver, and he’s one of those guys who could catch 100 balls in a season. There were plenty of times where Penn State lined him up out of the slot, something crafty offensive coordinators will do with him at the next level.
Balance: 5.0 out of 5 stars
You won’t see him lose his balance very often, and it’s more impressive than most when you factor in his height and weight. Most running backs of his size are tackle-breaking machines not known for their lateral movement (body size comparisons are Jordan Howard, Matt Asiata, LeGarrette Blount), but that’s what makes him special. Barkley is as shifty as they come and handles his body with ridiculous balance.
Potential Landing Spot
As you may have heard, the Browns have reportedly considered Barkley with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. After making the moves they did last week, it appears they’re getting closer to doing just that. No matter where he goes, though, Barkley is going to be a first-round pick in fantasy drafts. When drafted inside the top-10, you’ll be brought in to make a difference right away. Fortunately for him, the Browns already have a top-10 offensive line in place. The same cannot be said for the Giants, who pick at No. 2.
It shouldn’t surprise you to see him compared to David Johnson, one of the game’s elite running backs. While Johnson is a bit more downhill in the run game, both are extremely strong and are a load to bring down. Barkley might actually be a better receiver than Johnson, which is saying something considering Johnson caught 80 balls for 879 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. Some have mentioned Adrian Peterson as a comparison, but that’s not who Barkley is. He’s a three-down back who is going to be impossible to pull off the field, regardless of the game script.