Mel Kiper has a new name as his projected top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Heisman favorite Saquon Barkley would now be the NFL Draft guru’s first selection in April after a memorable performance over the weekend against Michigan — rushing for 108 yards, receiving for another 53 yards, and tacking on three touchdowns.
“Barkley is a lights-out athlete with a great lower body and quick feet who shows tremendous balance,” Kiper wrote.
He jumped USC quarterback Sam Darnold, who had been at the top of Kiper’s “Big Board” since the beginning of the season but has not lived up to the expectations this year that he set during a Rose Bowl for the ages against the Nittany Lions last season.
Stats and form don’t hurt, but the Big Board isn’t necessarily based on numbers. Kiper factors in “size, athletic ability, statistics, and what I hear from people around the league.”
It’s no guarantee that Barkley will leave to go pro after the season, but he would surely be a top five pick barring injury.
For now, the star running back can only keep his name in the conversation with a pair of top 25 clashes coming up in the next two weeks against Ohio State and Michigan State as James Franklin’s squad works toward back-to-back Big Ten titles and a spot in the College Football Playoff.