Is Saquon Barkley Worth the #1 Pick?


The NFL Combine is often one of the most talked-about events of the year, as front offices are permitted to evaluate some of the top prospects coming out of the NCAA. Well, the charts may have very well been broken these past few days, as Penn State running back Saquon Barkley was out of this world.

The 41-inch vertical of Barkley is impressive in its own, as he is heavier than professional backs such as Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, and Ezekiel Elliot, yet surpassed them all. In addition, his 4.40 40-yard dash, which came just after his 29 bench reps, contains quite the twist.

According to CBS Sports, since 2000, a total of 49 running backs have surpassed Barkley’s 4.40 40-yard dash time. However, only three of those running backs were more than 230 pounds: Beanie Wells, Mario Fannin, and Kniles Davis. It is recorded that Barkley weighs 233 pounds.

Since the combine, many are speculating that Barkley could now go as early as the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. This would mean that the Penn State back would be of course be selected by none other than the Cleveland Browns. Since 2010 with Peyton Hillis, the Browns haven’t had a running back rush for 1,000+ yards. Could Barkley potentially turn around the slump?

In his three years at the college level, Barkley has accumulated over 3,800+ rushing yards, and an additional 1,000+ yards receiving. With a combined 51 touchdowns, this is a back that knows how to find the end zone.

This of course, could very well be outbalanced by the curse of the Browns. Finishing dead last in scoring at 14.2 points per game, this was a franchise that couldn’t manage to win one game last season. Although Isaiah Crowell was technically the “lead back” in Cleveland, many viewed Duke Johnson Jr. as the more effective player in the backfield.

With Crowell hitting free agency, and with Johnson Jr. on a contract year, this move makes sense, right? In theory, absolutely. For multiple draft boards, Barkley could be viewed as the best available player in this draft class. I sincerely believe that the only aspect stopping the Cleveland Browns from drafting Saquon Barkley with the first overall pick involves their need for a quarterback.

Considering the experiment involving DeShone Kizer is written off by many already, this could very well trigger the front office to select a prospect such as Sam Darnold instead. Even then, would Barkley really be sitting there at the #4 slot (Cleveland’s next pick)? I don’t believe so.

The Indianapolis Colts are set to cut ties with veteran running back Frank Gore, which only leads us to believe that Barkley has to be on their radars. If Barkley wasn’t selected by the Browns at the #1 pick, it seems rather likely that either the Colts would take him at #3, or an outside team would trade up in order to receive Barkley’s services.

That begs the question: Sam Darnold or Saquon Barkley? Both can be viewed as the face of a franchise, but neither should fall very far. If I were the GM of the Cleveland Browns, I would snag Barkley without hesitation, and here’s why:

If Barkley were to be selected with the #1 pick, there is no reason to believe Darnold won’t be there at their next pick. I have UCLA QB Josh Rosen going to the New York Giants at #2, and the Indianapolis Colts are in no position to select a quarterback for the time being. Pending any trades, Darnold could very well fall to the Browns at #4, leaving them in an interesting situation. While it seems to be one of the multiple theories looming, the Browns should absolutely bet on Saquon Barkley after the combine he recently showcased.

Trevor Ruszkowski | USA TODAY Sports

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