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Saquon Barkley was a massive mistake by the Giants

Eliot Shorr-Parks
October 10, 2018 - 10:39 am

Giants running back Saquon Barkley is a good running back. He might one day be very good. 

As the Eagles enter their Week 6 game against Barkley, however, the best way to describe the Giants’ first-round pick? 

A mistake. 

Heading into the 2018 NFL Draft, there was plenty of praise and expectations heaped upon Barkley. Here are just some of the things said about the former Penn State running back:

“He was touched by the hand of God” — Giants general manager Dave Gettleman

“If I was to say backs that would make up who he is, I would say Barry (Sanders), Eric Dickerson and Jim Brown” — Former NFL running back Curtis Martin

“Barkley is the best running back prospect I’ve ever seen” — ESPN’s Max Kellerman

“If you think about it, this kid makes our quarterback better, he makes our receivers better, he makes our O-line better. He makes our defense better because he has the much stronger ability to hold the ball..” — Gettleman 

Those were the expectations. They were unfair to Barkley, but those were the standards that were set — not just by analysts, but by his own employers. When the Giants selected Barkley at No. 2 overall, they immediately made him the top paid running back in the NFL. Fair or not, Barkley was paid and treated like he was already one of the elite running backs in the NFL. 

Through five games, let’s see what the Giants have actually gotten from from Barkley. 

Heading into Thursday night, Barkley is 21st in yards per attempt at 4.3 yards per carry. He is 12th in rushing yards. 

Barkley is not even leading NFL rookies in rushing yards. He is second among rookies this season in rushing yards, third in yards-per-carry and third in rushing yards-per-game. Pro Football Focus has Barkley ranked as the 16th most elusive running back in the NFL through five games. Another rookie — Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb — is No. 1. Of the 47 running backs that have at least 30 carries this season, 25 of them have a higher first-down percentage than Barkley. 

Barkley has made more of an impact as a receiver so far than a running back. He is second among NFL running backs in receiving yards with 274. Among running backs that have caught at least 10 passes, Barkley is fifth in yards per reception at 8.8 yards per catch. That is exactly 1.1 yards less than Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood averages per catch. He has 10 first-down catches this season, which is 8th among NFL running backs.

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Overall, Barkley’s stats paint the picture of a good running back, but not one that is heads-and-shoulders above others at his position in the league. He is not top five in rushing yards, yards-per-attempt or touchdowns. Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who also plays behind a bad offensive line, is. Barkley has not looked like a player “touched by the hand of God.” He hasn't topped 50 yards rushing in three of his five games. 

As everyone outside of the Giants' front office expected, Barkley has not been able to overcome the bad roster around him. 

The Giants’ mistake is worth noting this week as the Eagles and their fanbase also find themselves debating the importance of a running back. The rumors centered around Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy have sparked debate on just how important a running back is. Even the idea of trading a second-round pick for Bell has been met with some backlash — and Bell is a considerably better player than Barkley. 

For the Eagles, however, trading a second-round pick for Bell — or a late-round pick for McCoy — would be considerably different than what the Giants did. The Eagles have their quarterback. They have a strong run-blocking offensive line. They have a strong defense. Like all teams they have holes, but their issues are nowhere near as bad as the Giants. They are the kind of team that can invest in a running back. 

Despite sitting at 2-3, with their season on the line this Thursday, Eagles fans can sleep easy at night knowing top personnel executive Howie Roseman would never take a running back at No. 2 overall. 

When the Giants drafted Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick, they did so despite almost every NFL analyst saying it was too high to take a running back. They ignored their obvious need at quarterback. They ignored their need along the offensive line. They ignored all of their needs to take a running back with the 2nd overall pick. It was without question the wrong pick and a decision that will set their franchise back for years to come. 

Perhaps the biggest issue for the Giants, however, is that they drafted a running back that was supposed to be a generational talent. He was supposed to change the entire team. That is what the Giants said would happen when they introduced Barkley. That is the player they expected him to be. 

Through five games — and a 1-4 record — that isn’t the case. 

Instead, Barkley is just another good running back in a league that has plenty of them.

You can reach Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks or email him at [email protected]!

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