Apr 262018
 
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Saquon Barkley, Penn State Nittany Lions (December 30, 2017)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

With the 2nd pick in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected 6’0”, 233-pound running back Saquon Barkley of Penn State University.

SCOUTING REPORT: Junior entry. Barkley is a complete three-down back who can make an impact running and catching the football. He has an outstanding combination of size, quickness, and speed. Home-run threat every time he touches the football. Barkley has great vision, instincts, and balance. He makes defenders miss and can accelerate to full speed in a heartbeat. Not limited, he is tough enough to run between the tackles and fast enough to turn the corner. In addition, Barkley is big enough to run through and athletic enough to leap over tackle attempts. Barkley is a very good pass receiver who can hurt a defense down the field in the passing game. Outstanding kick returner. His biggest negatives are that he isn’t a particularly powerful short-yardage back and he will sometimes try to do too much and dance around instead of taking what the defense gives him. Excellent intangibles. Team leader with a good work ethic.

SY’56’s Take:

Strong Points:

-Top tier movement when it comes to agility, explosion, speed
-Able to see diagnose and adjust on the fly, balance and control are at a rare level
-A big time factor as a pass catcher

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t take what the defense gives, too often looking for the home run
-Too much dancing as he approaches the inside running lanes
-Doesn’t impact pass rushers the way he can

Summary:

Junior entry. The top player in this draft, something I have been saying since early October. Barkley is a generational talent that does almost everything at the top level. He is built to carry a load when he has to and has the versatility to impact the game in several ways. He can be a focal point of an offense much like what Elliot and Gurley have provided for DAL and LAR, respectively.

MEDIA Q&A WITH GENERAL MANAGER DAVE GETTLEMAN AND HEAD COACH PAT SHURMUR: (Video)

Gettleman: Obviously, we felt Saquon was the best player in the draft. In baseball, they call it a five-tool player. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to pick five tools, but I have not seen a guy like this in a long time and I have been around a long time. I have been doing this for 30-plus years. The kid is so unique because of his size and his speed. He has the ability to string together multiple moves. He has the ability to step on the gas. He can do what we call cross the formation. There are a lot of good backs in this league, but they don’t have the speed to go across the formation. We all know he can catch the heck out of the rock. He is smart in blitz pickup, he sees it. That is probably the biggest issue with all these young rushers now. He is powerful, he runs through tackles and he runs through hits. When we were in here before, we were talking about quarterbacks and if they make everyone better. 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. He is a great kid and he will be great for our culture. He was the unanimous best player in our draft.

Q: What about the positional value argument?

Gettleman: You know what I say about that. It is a crock. At the end of the day, a great player is a great player. He is a touchdown maker. He is a threat to take it to the house every time he gets his hands on the ball. I think a lot of that stuff is nonsense. I think it is someone who had decided to get into the analytics of it and went through whatever. Jonathan Stewart is in his tenth year and he has not lost anything. I don’t believe in that. I don’t care who you take, they can all get hurt.

Q: Was this an easy pick for you?

Gettleman: At the end of the day? Do I have to tell the truth? Yes. Nothing changed. You can overthink it, it’s a running back this and that, you can make yourself crazy about it and you can overthink things. You have to go with your instincts and understand what it takes to put together a winning football team.

Q: You know who your starting quarterback is, but with the addition of Saquon, do you think this is a vote of confidence in Davis Webb?

Shurmur: I don’t know that. I think Dave said it, we thought that this was the best player in the draft. We know the value he brings to our team. He is a three-down running back. He can run it, catch it and pass protect. He can be on the field as long as he can handle it. Certainly, we are going to sub him at times. I don’t know if it is a vote of confidence in Davis. We loved what we saw this week. He got better every day. We certainly all know what Eli brings to the table. This is one pick. He is a tremendous player and he is going to do a lot for our offense and our organization. If everyone gets to know him as well as we got to know him, everyone is going to see how special this young man is.

Q: How much interest was there in the No. 2 pick?

Gettleman: We had such a strong conviction on Saquon. I was talking to people. Not a lot, but we all had such a conviction on this kid. At the end of the day, very frankly, today, Baker Mayfield goes. The only reason that pick wasn’t in at 9:58 was because we had to wait till the five-minute mark.

Q: Did you have any significant enough offers that made you consider a trade?

Gettleman: The short answer is no, not really. People call you and they want the second pick of the draft for a bag of donuts, a hot pretzel and a hot dog. Leave me alone. I don’t have time to screw around.

Q: Did Sam Darnold falling to No. 2 affect the trade talks?

Gettleman: They went Mayfield, we were taking Saquon. It’s that simple.

Q: How long have you been thinking about Saquon and where he can fit? Have you drawn anything up with him in mind?

Shurmur: In my spare time, certainly. I think every guy that we thought we would take, in my mind, we had a role for. The running back is an easy guy to fit in an offense. You have to turn around and hand it to him. It doesn’t take a genius to do that. Then, a lot of times when you try and throw the ball downfield and they cover them all, you can dump him off the ball, or you can feature him in the pass game. I have seen the effects of a really, really good running back not only on the offense, but on the team. You have to run the football not just for your offense, but for your team. I have seen the effect that a great running back can have on teams. I was excited about the fact that he was the best player in the draft and I was excited about the fact that we were able to draft him.

Q: Who does he remind you of?

Shurmur: He is unique for me because he has quickness and he has speed. He can score touchdowns from any part of the field and he has a couple of things I am looking for. Number one, he can catch the football. That is first and foremost. He has great vision and then he has what we call in coaching ‘collision balance’. When he goes through the hole and someone tries to tackle him, he can keep his balance, but also when he is stepping up to try and block someone, he has a good set of lowers to drop his weight on him. We are going to nitpick him, I’m sure, at some point, but this is a guy that can do everything.

Q: You were very clear that Saquon Barkley was the right pick? What was your second option?

Gettleman: I don’t think it is fair to the kid to answer that question.

Q: How much discussion was there about having to fall in love with one of the quarterbacks because you might need one soon?

Gettleman: That tells you your answer right there. If you have to try to make yourself fall in love with a player, it is wrong. You will never be happy with the pick. You have to go through the process. As Theo Epstein said, you don’t cheat the process. You get all the information and give everyone their say at the right time. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t have to talk yourself into a guy. If you talk yourself into a guy, you are making a mistake. There was a player on our board as recently as three days ago. We couldn’t figure him out. We didn’t know where he fit. Coaches weren’t sure if he was a fit and we as evaluators weren’t sure if he was a fit. You know what, at the end of the day, if you can’t picture it, don’t take him. That’s really what it is. If you have to make yourself fall in love with a guy, you are going to make a mistake.

Q: And that’s what it would have been with the quarterbacks?

Gettleman: If you have to make yourself fall in love with a guy… You’re not getting a quote.

Q: Eli is 37. What is the long-term plan at quarterback?

Gettleman: What’s the long-term plan with the quarterback? He’s going to play. What do you want me to tell you? He’s our quarterback, we believe in him, he threw the hell out of the ball for three days, he has not lost one bit of arm strength and I’m coming back five years later, watching a quarterback in his prime, and now he’s 37. You have to stop worrying about age. Oh, by the way, Julius Peppers played last year at 38, Mike Davis played at 37. There are some guys that are just freaks. Brady is 41. I mean c’mon. He is our quarterback.

Q: Eli Manning only has two years left on his deal. Do you think he can play past that contract?

Gettleman: We’re going to find out. We’re going to find out.

Q: The guy you passed on was drafted by the team across town right after you. They’re going to be compared to each other. Did you recognize that and what do you have to say about that?

Gettleman: Slow down. We passed on about 230,000 players. You guys have got to understand me, I don’t care. All I care about is the New York Football Giants and every decision we make will be in the best interest of the New York Football Giants. I don’t care about that stuff. It doesn’t bother me. I know you’re looking at me like I’m crazy. I don’t care. Every decision that we are going to make is going to be in the best interest of the New York Football Giants. It is going to be in the best interest of this iconic franchise.

Q: Who does Saquon remind you of?

Gettleman: You guys are going to have to called Ernie (Accorsi). The thing that makes him different is he has the feet and speed of a little guy, with the power and strength of a big guy. That’s what makes him so darn unique. He’s different. It’s like he was touched by the hand of God, frankly. I can’t give you a name. I wish I could. Call Ernesto, that’s what you’ve got to do.

Q: You’ve been pretty honest in your gold jacket test. Do you see Saquon Barkley as a potential Hall of Famer and how do you expect him to handle those kinds of expectations?

Gettleman: Listen, he’s a wonderful kid and there is going to be a load on him. He just had a kid, second pick in the draft, biggest media market in the country, coming to a 3-13 team. The advice I’m going to give Saquon when I see him tomorrow, I’m going to tell him to be Saquon. That is it. That’s all that I want you to be. I don’t want you to be everything to everybody. Just understand that you take care of your football, the world will be at your feet.

Q: He’s a great return guy. Do you risk him at that position?

Shurmur: We’re going to use him. We’re going to get him in the mix, we’re going to get him going as soon as we can get him here and then we’re going to train him as a running back. He’ll perform return duties – typically, not normally your first returner. You can give him the ball enough times. I think when it comes down to touches and whatnot, we can give him the ball other ways.

Q: For as complete of a player as Barkley is, what can he still learn and work on when he gets here and starts to work with the coaches?

Shurmur: There is a lot to learn. Even though he is extremely talented, he’s still a rookie. He’s got to get in here and learn our culture. Our offense is much more diverse than the one that he was just playing in. We’re going to ask him to do more things and colleges just run a whole bunch of plays sometimes. We don’t run quite that many and you have to be really good on the ones that you’re involved in. It’s everything from here is your locker to here is your helmet, here is where the field is and let’s play ball. He’s going to get indoctrinated like any rookie and we’re going to treat him like any rookie coming to our organization. Now with that being said, if he’s the best Saquon he can be, then he will find his way into the lineup if he does what he’s supposed to be doing and he will find a way to help lead this team and I think that’s the challenge for him. But, first and foremost, we’re going to treat him like a rookie when he comes in here.

Q: You mentioned Ernie Accorsi several times. We know all the stories about the conviction he had in 2004. Do you see any similarities about the conviction Ernie had with Eli compared to the conviction you had with Saquon?

Gettleman: Yes, I do. When you take a guy this high when you know you’ve got that pick. I got hired and four days later, I know we have the second pick in the draft. I’ve been thinking about it since then. I’ve got to evaluate our team, then go through all the draft processes. Again, like I told you guys last time – when I watched a player on the defensive side playing Penn State, I was like a 3-year-old, I was watching Saquon.

Q: Were you thinking that any other team had a conviction like that about Saquon?

Gettleman: We thought about it.

Q: You’re such a film guy, what was the one play that you saw when you said, ‘That’s our guy’?

Gettleman: Well, I don’t know who it was against, but he breaks into the second level and he’s got two linebackers there and the safety coming here and he strung together three moves and – he just took it to the house. I had to run it back a couple times and say to myself, ‘I know I wasn’t drinking.’ So when you get to that, you just watched it and you’ve seen all the other stuff and it’s like, ‘Okay, put the clicker down and go to the other guy.’

Q: Was it the Iowa run?

Shurmur: That’s one of them. There was one against USC that was tremendous. There are a handful of them that you guys can vote on. They were all pretty good.

Q: At what point was that when you were watching tape on Saquon?

Gettleman: I did Saquon probably in March when I finally started to look at the film because everybody around here kept telling me, ‘You have to watch Saquon. You have to watch Saquon.’ So I said, ‘All right, I’ll watch him.’ He’s just so gifted.

Q: Did you think that you were being too complimentary about Saquon during this process that you were giving too much away?

Shurmur: I didn’t do much talking at all. He is a terrific player.

Q: Do you see him as a Le’Veon Bell-type back that can handle 25-27 touches a game?

Shurmur: He could be. He could handle that type of a load if need be. We’ll just have to see as we go and put this thing together. He’s one of a bunch of guys that we’re going to get in the mix – Eli, him, Odell, Evan and ideally if we can spread the ball around and block him well, Shep. I mean we’ve got a lot of really good players and he’s going to be one of them.

MEDIA Q&A WITH SAQUON BARKLEY:

Q: What is it like to come to an offense that includes wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram?

A: Yeah, it’s exciting. The players you just named are very talented and you’ve got that offense led with Eli Manning, a proven quarterback in the NFL with Super Bowl rings. OBJ at wide receiver, probably the best wide receiver in the NFL. Being able to surround yourself with that talent, you’ve got a standard to hold, you’ve got a standard to come into and you’ve got to raise your level of competition and raise your level of talent to compete with those guys and to be able to help that offense out at a young age.

Q: What is your relationship like with Odell Beckham Jr.?

A: Odell and I started our relationship kind of in the offseason, I guess you could say, training for the NFL Draft. After the Combine, I went out to LA to train and that’s where he’s at and we kind of just hit it off. Built a great relationship and welcomed me in with open arms and gave me great advice, the good things and the bad things. I feel like it’s important to learn from people’s mistakes and he’s the guy at the top of the game right now and everyone’s looking at him. So, I’d be dumb not to try to learn from the lessons he has taught me and told me.

Q: How early in this process did you get a feeling that the Giants loved you and were going to take you?

A: You see all the reports and you hear all the reports, but I got a feeling after the visit, when I got to formally meet all of the coaches and GM and everybody in the building. Leaving there, I just felt like that’s home. That’s the place where I wanted to be. Obviously in the Draft, you don’t decide where you want to go, but if I had to pick, that would be the place that I would pick. Walking into that facility and you see the four Super Bowl rings just hanging in a trophy case, that right there just shows you the mindset and the standard of that place. And that’s where you want to be and that’s a place you want to be a part of.

Q: How nerve-wracking were the last few days for you, not knowing where you were going to end up?

A: Yeah, but the way I handled that is something that I learned in college, is to control what you can control and that’s how I came into this whole thing. If the Giants wanted to draft me and they draft me, I was going to be super proud and super happy to come to this organization and try to come off hot and ready at a young age and try to help the offense out as early as I can. But if they traded or if they did other things with the pick, I can’t control that. The only thing I can control is how I handle myself and my approach. But like I said, I’m just truly thankful and truly honored to be a part of the Giants.

Q: Was being caught in photos wearing Giants gear recently intentional?

A: I know you guys would love for me to say that it was intentional, but in all honesty, it was a sweatshirt that I got actually from the visit [to the facility]. You get that from other teams when you visit and I had to go get a haircut and I went to the barber shop and I was running late and I just got out of the shower, so I just grabbed it and went. And I put it on, not even thinking about anything, but someone snapped a picture of me and I guess it got to TMZ. But, hey, I guess it all worked out for the best.

Q: What kind of high are you on right now, having your baby daughter born two days ago and now getting drafted second overall?

A: Yeah, it’s honestly incredible, it’s amazing. First and foremost, you’re blessed for the opportunity of fatherhood and being able to have a daughter, a beautiful daughter, and being able to raise her and try to set an example and a standard for her of how she should be treated by a man and how she should follow her life. But then the icing on top and the cherry on top, to be able to get drafted to New York, the New York Giants. Like I said, how well known this franchise is and known for the four Super Bowl rings and championships and being able to come home. This is the place I was born. I was born in New York, I was born in the Bronx and I’m not far from home anyway. I’m only like an hour and 45 minutes from the Lehigh Valley and I’m just happy I’m able to stay close and be able to play for such a prestigious franchise.

Q: What is your mindset coming in with an expectation to wear a gold jacket one day?

A: Yeah, hearing that, you love that. That shows that this franchise believes in you and you’ve got to believe in them. And that’s a mindset I have for myself. Obviously, everyone in this Draft will tell you that they want a gold jacket one day. But it’s easier said than done and I’m aware of that, I’m strongly aware of that. And I know that I have to work my butt off every single day to get to where I want to go. And it’s not going to happen in one day. It’s going to take baby steps and it’s going to take a long trip up that mountain, but every single day I’m willing to work.

Q: Do you come in expecting to start?

A: No, sir. I want to earn everything. I want to earn everything. If I’m not doing what’s needed to be done to get that starting job, than I don’t want it. I’m a big believer in competition and I know there’s a lot of great backs there already. I believe Jonathan Stewart is there and I’m looking forward to being able to pick his brain and learn from him. He’s been in the NFL for a long time and I know there’s a lot of things that I can learn. But no, I don’t expect to start. I expect to come in and work and earn my job.

Q: Have you heard from any Giants players yet?

A: Yeah, actually I just got off of Facetime with Odell and Eli texted me right away, saying congratulations and if I ever need anything, let him know and let’s get ready to work.

Q: If there is one thing that you think you will have to polish up on as you become an NFL rookie, what is it that you would like to work on in the next several months?

A: In the next several months, just obviously getting into the playbook. The mindset and the mental part of the game is where I would like to improve. A guy that I want to (model) my game after is a guy like Marshall Faulk. I heard a lot of great things about him and just try to be like another quarterback out there. And obviously I know it’s not going to happen tomorrow and it’s not going to happen in one year. Continue to work and obviously continue to pick Eli’s brain and try to be as well prepared as I possibly can because the more you know the game and the more knowledge you have of the game, the better player you are. That’s something that I look forward to.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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