The New York Giants took a risk when they drafted running back Saquon Barkley second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. They did so with the hope that he would live up to the billing that a second overall pick would imply. But can Barkley live up to the hype that the Giants have created for him by drafting him in the top two? And can the Giants get enough out of him to be good again?
Taking a running back so early in the draft is a difficult decision to justify. The position is too interchangeable to spend a potentially franchise-altering pick on, yet that is exactly what the Giants did. For a team that has had success running with players like Ahmad Bradshaw and Dave Meggett throughout the franchise’s history, one would think that the Giants would know that you do not need a highly touted running back to have success on the ground.
Barkley is a player that the Giants are hoping will be similar to Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott was another high draft pick at running back, with the Dallas Cowboys taking him early in his draft class with plenty of success. The difference between Barkley and Elliott, though, is the fact that Elliott has always run behind a great offensive line in Dallas. Barkley, meanwhile, will need to overcome one of the worst offensive lines in football if he wants to make an impact as a rookie.
What could make Barkley great is his ability to contribute offensively in many ways. He is a great runner and very skilled at catching the ball out of the backfield as well. Those skills combined with superior athleticism and speed make him a very viable candidate to win the Rookie of the Year award at the end of his first season in the league.
The lack of talent on the Giants will be what stands in the way of Barkley’s success. The team lost more good offensive linemen than they picked up this offseason, which will directly impact Barkley’s ability to break big runs. With NFL betting odds to win Super Bowl LIII putting the Giants near the bottom of the list of title contenders, the problems with their roster will become Barkley’s problem unless they address their issues blocking before the season starts.
As a whole, drafting running backs in the top two in the draft simply isn’t a good plan. This is even truer when the Giants could have drafted a quarterback to help them develop a succession plan for when Eli Manning inevitably retires. As the Seahawks and Patriots have shown recently, the key to winning in the NFL right now is to have a quarterback who isn’t too expensive. The draft is the perfect place to find one of those, but the Giants refused to do so. It will be interesting to see if the team can overcome that decision, and they will need Saquon Barkley to be great to help them do that.