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Is Saquon Barkley really a generational RB talent?


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#1 Tempest

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 01:54 AM

 
The 2018 draft class is fascinating for a number of reasons. As many as five quarterbacks could go in the first round, and there's a surplus of talent at other positions. With question marks attached to all those quarterbacks, there's a race for the title of "best player in the draft" outside the game's most important position. 
 
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is one of those players thought by many to be the best pure football talent in this class. In three years as a starter for the Nittany Lions, he gained 3,843 rushing yards and scored 43 touchdowns on 671 carries. He also caught 102 passes for 1,195 yards and eight touchdowns, and added 18 kickoff returns for 500 yards and two touchdowns.
 
Barkley's positional versatility is singularly impressive among the running backs in this class, and it would be the same in most draft classes. He can run inside and outside with tremendous speed, lateral agility and acceleration. As a receiver, he can line up anywhere from offset in a Pistol formation to the slot to outside—he has the potential to be the NFL's best receiving back since Le'Veon Bell rounded out his skill set. As a direct-snap running quarterback who finds himself behind the center from pre-snap movement, Barkley can also create explosive plays. It's easy to see why some would tout him as a truly great back, and in many aspects of his play, he is just that.
 
Bert Whigham, who has been training Barkley this year at Tom Shaw Performance in Florida, set the bar fairly high regarding his client's professional prospects, comparing him to another player Whigham has trained.
 
"The only person I can think of that's comparable physically is [Oakland Raiders linebacker] Khalil Mack," Whigham told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News. "Khalil and Saquon are my 1a. and 1b. These two guys are outliers. They're freaks. It's those two and then probably [Tennessee Titans running back] Derrick Henry, another freak. But with Khalil, we knew he was the No. 1 overall pick. We knew he was going to be special. And it's the same with Saquon. You've got a generational talent."
 
And that's where things get interesting. There's no question Barkley looks like an ideal running back for the modern NFL. Now, teams want players who can not only stay on the field for all three downs, but as every down is potentially a passing down and versatility is the order of the day, players like Barkley (and there aren't too many of them) can fit in multiple offenses to the point where he could be called scheme-transcendent.
 
But a generational talent? At that point, you want to see a guy who can bring a defense to its knees in just about any way possible. And for all of Barkley's skills, the one thing holding him back—and this could be a more pronounced issue in the NFL—is that he struggles to run with power after contact between the tackles.
 
Some statistics seem to contradict this idea. Per Pro Football Focus, Barkley ranked 19th among all qualifying collegiate running backs in 2017 with 3.45 yards per carry after contact. He also ranked third in PFF's Breakaway Percentage metric—55.6 percent of his total yards came on runs of 15 yards or more. As is usually the case, merging stats and tape is instructive.
 
The yards-after-contact aspect of Barkley's game is especially interesting when you watch his tape. As long as Barkley gets a definitive early read on where his potential gaps are going to be, he's decisive and quick to meet them. And in this context as a runner, he builds up a full head of steam quickly enough to blast through any tackle attempts from defenders who are trying to get around blocks or just arriving to the play.
 
It's when his options are less clear that Barkley really struggles. If he can bounce outside from a closed gap, he's fast enough to create yardage out of what might otherwise be a busted play. But he doesn't seem to have an inherent ability to move interior tacklers as a true power back would. This is far from a liability if an offense utilizes him properly, but if we're talking about "generational talents," I would like to see Barkley run with more pure power in ways that would transcend the efforts of his offensive line.
 
Breakaway Percentage is also revealing on a couple of levels. Barkley is absolutely a home run hitter, capable of taking any play to the house, but he also finds himself involved in a number of negative plays.
 
PFF also took a statistical look at Barkley's ability to break contact at or behind the line of scrimmage and found that he averaged 0.46 yards per carry in those instances. He was also hit at or behind the line on 44.5 percent of his carries, a very high rate.
 
Based on my observations, this is the cause of Barkley's boom-or-bust style—the disconnect between his unreal athleticism and his frustrating inability to push the pile as you'd want a true power back to do.
 
Where you most likely want Barkley in your offense is as an outside runner, where he can use his impressive acceleration and lateral balance to create in open space. This run against Washington in the Fiesta Bowl is a perfect example. Barkley is met by some contact, but he's able to find some room and the results are as impressive as anything you'd see from the top NFL backs today.
 
Barkley gained 137 yards and scored two rushing touchdowns on 18 carries against the Huskies—it was one of the most impressive performances of his collegiate career against a top-flight defense. Against Ohio State's excellent defense earlier in the season, Barkley found it to be tough sledding, as most backs do—he rushed 21 times for 44 yards and a touchdown, but as the Buckeyes consistently plugged things up inside and dealt with Barkley's outside speed, it was hard for him to do much.
 
The lone exception on the ground was this 36-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter—again, watch how Barkley combines acceleration and patience to explode into a scoring position when he has a pathway in front of him.
 
Of course, the downside to that one big run is what it says about the rest of Barkley's game against Ohio State—on his other 20 rushing attempts, he gained a combined eight yards against a defense that knew how to shut him down. And you can see on this run for a loss that Barkley didn't really have an answer in power situations—here, he literally runs himself in a circle, out of the play.
 
So, unless he develops the mentality that gives him a greater ability to read power runs and capitalize on these situations—and at 6'0", 233 pounds, he should be able to—he's going to be more of a home run guy as opposed to a drive sustainer, especially against NFL defenses that will exacerbate his power problem. What mitigates that is everything he can do outside the box—Barkley also returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against Ohio State, and this touchdown catch against Michigan shows his potential as a receiver.
 
From the right slot, he fakes linebacker Mike McCray (No. 9) out of the route and scores after bobbling the ball. This is a running back you can put all over the field as a receiver, which is a tremendous attribute in empty-back sets and pre-snap looks in which he would move from the backfield to the formation.
 
However, is Saquon Barkley a "generational talent"? I love what he can bring to the field, and in the right system, he'll be a difference-maker in the Kareem Hunt/Alvin Kamara mold. The most obvious pro comparison is LeSean McCoy in terms of Barkley's speed and shiftiness, and ability to catch the ball in multiple concepts. McCoy is one of the best backs of his generation because he's been with teams that have used his skills correctly and avoided situations where he's forced to do things he doesn't do well. You don't want McCoy trying to get you three yards against eight in the box on 3rd-and-short over and over, but if you need a 60-yard blazer for a touchdown, there are few better in recent years.
 
Still, I'd pump the brakes on the "generational" label. In truth, Barkley may not even end up as the best running back in this draft class. If LSU's Derrius Guice returns to his pre-injury form in 2016, when he showed nearly equivalent speed and far better ability to move through defenders in power situations, he might prove to be more valuable. Guice doesn't have Barkley's receiving chops—no back in this class does—but Guice has the more polished skill set as a pure running back. And Barkley's inconsistency on those big plays is cause for concern if his future team doesn't have a fundamentally sound and potentially dominant offensive line.
 
If Saquon Barkley can fill in the one blank color in his palette, he may indeed move up to generational status. Right now, he'll have to be content with the potential to define an NFL offense for the next few seasons. That's not a bad outlook, but he could be even better.
 


#2 CrazedDogs

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 02:20 AM

Good read, thanks for posting



#3 jranieli

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 02:59 AM

I think we will go QB first round and take a running back in the 2nd or 3rd. 



#4 BronxRik

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 05:34 PM

In a draft day shocker, I think we pull off some kind of trade like the Eli deal, but in reverse. Maybe something crazy like taking a QB for the Colts (to groom behind the worthless Andrew Luck) and them trading us Barkley or us taking Barkley and trading for a QB plus picks. 

 

And before you all jump down my throat for the worthless Luck comment, think about it. The Colts had Manning, who had the neck injury and sat out a whole season, and what happened to him......Denver. Every time they update Luck's status he's always like "doing great, I'll be back, following a strict rehab but I feel great", then the next day it's "tossed the ball around but not the Duke. Very, very strict rehab, following it to a "T". It just doesn't feel right, but it feels good". By the time it feels right, it'll be 2 years since he'd seen a football field. And he's getting paid. The Colt's will find a way to unload the Albatross. After all, it is "today's NFL".



#5 Tempest

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 10:08 PM

I wouldn't rule out a trade deal being made on draft day and will be pleasantly surprised if the Giants get Barkley.



#6 GuyMeatdrapes

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Posted 14 April 2018 - 11:45 PM

In a draft day shocker, I think we pull off some kind of trade like the Eli deal, but in reverse. Maybe something crazy like taking a QB for the Colts (to groom behind the worthless Andrew Luck) and them trading us Barkley or us taking Barkley and trading for a QB plus picks. 
 
And before you all jump down my throat for the worthless Luck comment, think about it. The Colts had Manning, who had the neck injury and sat out a whole season, and what happened to him......Denver. Every time they update Luck's status he's always like "doing great, I'll be back, following a strict rehab but I feel great", then the next day it's "tossed the ball around but not the Duke. Very, very strict rehab, following it to a "T". It just doesn't feel right, but it feels good". By the time it feels right, it'll be 2 years since he'd seen a football field. And he's getting paid. The Colt's will find a way to unload the Albatross. After all, it is "today's NFL".

you forgot one other thing...he's hasn't lit the league on fire when healthy..he's not that good when healthy...not bad, but nothing special

#7 bigblue25

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 01:29 AM

you forgot one other thing...he's hasn't lit the league on fire when healthy..he's not that good when healthy...not bad, but nothing special


Nah Luck is good, maybe even great. He has over 19,000 yards passing in just 70 games started. He went 11-5 his first three years in the league with an AFC Championship appearance and this Colts roster sucks. It's amazing that Ryan Grigson was a GM for five years and they just got rid of Pagano finally

#8 BlueInCanada

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 01:32 AM

In a draft day shocker, I think we pull off some kind of trade like the Eli deal, but in reverse. Maybe something crazy like taking a QB for the Colts (to groom behind the worthless Andrew Luck) and them trading us Barkley or us taking Barkley and trading for a QB plus picks. 

 

And before you all jump down my throat for the worthless Luck comment, think about it. The Colts had Manning, who had the neck injury and sat out a whole season, and what happened to him......Denver. Every time they update Luck's status he's always like "doing great, I'll be back, following a strict rehab but I feel great", then the next day it's "tossed the ball around but not the Duke. Very, very strict rehab, following it to a "T". It just doesn't feel right, but it feels good". By the time it feels right, it'll be 2 years since he'd seen a football field. And he's getting paid. The Colt's will find a way to unload the Albatross. After all, it is "today's NFL".

 

You know wasnt the only time this has ever happened has been with Eli?

 

I really cant see it happening since no team has shown the love for a player like EA was for Eli this draft, since none of these QBs are on the same level. 

 

Seriously I can't remember a time when a team was so willing to say "Fuck it you take him and we will trade you for him".



#9 Herc

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 01:36 AM

Nah Luck is good, maybe even great. He has over 19,000 yards passing in just 70 games started. He went 11-5 his first three years in the league with an AFC Championship appearance and this Colts roster sucks. It's amazing that Ryan Grigson was a GM for five years and they just got rid of Pagano finally


Worst gm ever. Hes directly responsible for lucks injury issues and should never get any kind of front office job again

#10 Nas

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 01:45 AM

In a draft day shocker, I think we pull off some kind of trade like the Eli deal, but in reverse. Maybe something crazy like taking a QB for the Colts (to groom behind the worthless Andrew Luck) and them trading us Barkley or us taking Barkley and trading for a QB plus picks. 
 
And before you all jump down my throat for the worthless Luck comment, think about it. The Colts had Manning, who had the neck injury and sat out a whole season, and what happened to him......Denver. Every time they update Luck's status he's always like "doing great, I'll be back, following a strict rehab but I feel great", then the next day it's "tossed the ball around but not the Duke. Very, very strict rehab, following it to a "T". It just doesn't feel right, but it feels good". By the time it feels right, it'll be 2 years since he'd seen a football field. And he's getting paid. The Colt's will find a way to unload the Albatross. After all, it is "today's NFL".


Didnt the Colts trade out out of the third spot?

#11 BlueInCanada

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 02:02 AM

Worst gm ever. Hes directly responsible for lucks injury issues and should never get any kind of front office job again

 

I've never seen a worse attempt at building a team around a once in era type of player like Luck.

 

I mean outside of David Carr in Houston those first number of years, Luck has just gotten raw dogged in terms of the talent and players that the GM brought in.

 

Fuck he might as well been out there by himself. 



#12 BlueInCanada

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 02:09 AM

Didnt the Colts trade out out of the third spot?

 

Not to mention Brissett didnt play all that bad this year.

 

I mean if they rolled with him with another year of the team under his belt, they might win some games, put off deciding on Luck, and can use these draft picks for other positions of need before getting another QB. 



#13 BronxRik

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 02:52 AM

Didnt the Colts trade out out of the third spot?

Yeah, with the Jets, but there's no reason they couldn't trade out of it though. I just used that as an example of a crazy draft day trade. 



#14 Sephiroth

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Posted 15 April 2018 - 10:30 PM

Nope.

#15 Iceman

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Posted 16 April 2018 - 11:11 AM

Luck was/is a generational type talent that was fucking shafted by the Colts who gave him nothing to work with. He did brilliantly with what he had. The injury is unfortunate - but the Colts have absolutely wasted him - like Houston did with poor David Carr who is still suffering PTSD.

 

True cunts were Leinhart, Harrington etc



#16 Tempest

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 05:48 PM

I have been reading and hearing day after day about why the Giants shouldn't take Saquon Barkley.

 

They present spreadsheets and statistics and point out market value of the NFL RB.  Are we watching football or spreadsheets on sunday?

 

Last year the NFL watched the Jacksonville Jaguars powered by Leonard Fournette and the defense to win their division and play in the AFC Championship.  2017 was not the year Blake Bortles skyrocketed from the bench and into the elite echelon of NFL QBs.

 

Eli Manning paired up with Barkley, we're going to win a lot more games and possibly a super bowl.  A RB like Barkley is going to make life easier for the next QB of the NY Giants as well.  There are other RB's in the draft but there is no guarantee they will be available at the next pick.



#17 Herc

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 05:53 PM

Fournette is probably the 5th biggest reason the jaguars turned it around last year at best. I would be livid if the giants took fournette 2nd if he was available this year. What makes Barkley worth a top 5 pick is his ability in the passing game. Fournette is a 2 down back who was a physical mess at the end of the season

#18 Vendetta

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 05:58 PM

We're all giddy about picking in the top 5, especially after nailing our selection (or trade) for Eli last time we were in the top 5... but as fan, we need to prepare ourselves for the very distinct possibility that even a top 5 pick can be a bust. If you look at the "bust" rate or underachievement rate of top 5 picks in the past 10-15 drafts, I'd venture to guess it's higher than you might expect. Like 25-40%. Remember the draft where Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, and Carnell Williams went 2, 4, and 5 respectively? Just one example. 

 

The draft is a crapshoot. There is no "sure thing." Even though the success rate of players is generally commensurate with round drafted, even the high picks have a fair rate of underachievement or bust.



#19 Nas

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 06:28 PM

We're all giddy about picking in the top 5, especially after nailing our selection (or trade) for Eli last time we were in the top 5... but as fan, we need to prepare ourselves for the very distinct possibility that even a top 5 pick can be a bust. If you look at the "bust" rate or underachievement rate of top 5 picks in the past 10-15 drafts, I'd venture to guess it's higher than you might expect. Like 25-40%. Remember the draft where Ronnie Brown, Cedric Benson, and Carnell Williams went 2, 4, and 5 respectively? Just one example. 

 

The draft is a crapshoot. There is no "sure thing." Even though the success rate of players is generally commensurate with round drafted, even the high picks have a fair rate of underachievement or bust.

 

There are certainly arguments to be made against drafting a RB this high given their cost at rookie contract and their overall shelf life.  While I will be very happy with Barkley, I'm hoping the Giants trade down and still land him or Nelson or Chubb and that can only happen by not going down further than the #7 pick...



#20 Vendetta

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 07:16 PM

 

There are certainly arguments to be made against drafting a RB this high given their cost at rookie contract and their overall shelf life.  While I will be very happy with Barkley, I'm hoping the Giants trade down and still land him or Nelson or Chubb and that can only happen by not going down further than the #7 pick...

 

Outside of Allen or Rosen, I'll be satisfied with Barkely, Darnold, Mayfield, Nelson, or Chubb as a top 5 pick. But I'm realistic enough to understand that they all have the potential to be busts or underachievers. No-one is a "sure thing."



#21 CrazedDogs

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 08:00 PM

 

 

Eli Manning paired up with Barkley, we're going to win a lot more games and possibly a super bowl.  A RB like Barkley is going to make life easier for the next QB of the NY Giants as well.  There are other RB's in the draft but there is no guarantee they will be available at the next pick.

 

I could see it.

 

Lets say Barkley is the next Terrell Davis.... if he gets the Giants another ring, and only has a brief career?.... totally worth 2nd overall. 



#22 fringe

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 11:53 PM

 

I could see it.

 

Lets say Barkley is the next Terrell Davis.... if he gets the Giants another ring, and only has a brief career?.... totally worth 2nd overall. 

Let's say he's the next Charles Barkley- 12 years of great ball handling followed by an excellent tv career- but not a role model....umm where was I?



#23 Tempest

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 03:40 AM

I'm enjoying these last few hours of excitement at the prospect of getting Saquon Barkley knowing full well this opportunity might never happen.

 

Preparing for the disappointment only a QB can bring to an organization.



#24 Iceman

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 04:20 AM

I think the best option would be to trade down with the Broncs and get Nelson at 5. That would have me stoked.

 

But otherwise, Im going with Barkley who could have an immediately impact towards this team making the playoffs. Solder should elevate Eli's play automatically.



#25 Nas

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 10:57 AM

I think the best option would be to trade down with the Broncs and get Nelson at 5. That would have me stoked.

 

But otherwise, Im going with Barkley who could have an immediately impact towards this team making the playoffs. Solder should elevate Eli's play automatically.

 

I don't think the Broncos have any need to trade up...






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