Penn State star Saquon Barkley officially put an end to months of speculation Sunday night when he announced he’ll forgo his senior season of eligibility to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.
Touted as one of, if not the best, players in college football, Barkley should undoubtedly be selected among the first few picks of the NFL Draft. He’s currently the top prospect on Mel Kiper Jr.’s big board.
The NFL Draft order of the league’s 20 non-playoff teams was set after the regular season concluded. Here’s a look at where Barkley could end up in April:
Cleveland Browns (No. 1 and 4 Overall Picks)
With two top-five picks, the Cleveland Browns have the best possible chance at drafting Saquon Barkley. And trust us, they need to pick up some quality talent. After losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, the Browns join the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in NFL history to finish a regular season winless.
So many big-ticket quarterbacks have completely busted in Cleveland (like Tim Couch, Johnny Manziel, and Colt McCoy, to name a few) and the Browns have a decent-potential signal caller in DeShone Kizer. A lot of analysts project the Browns will use their two top picks to take Barkley and a big-name quarterback like Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold.
That said, drafting Barkley along with a big-name quarterback would, at the very least, give that quarterback a solid running back to work with. A lot of quarterbacks in the past have busted because of the lack of quality surrounding them (like post-2011 Mark Sanchez).
I think the most-likely draft scenario is the Browns taking Barkley just to give their quarterback a top-tier weapon not named Josh Gordon to work with. As Barkley said himself on ESPN Monday, he should be the No. 1 pick because of his versatility and his ability to impact the game with or without possession of the football.
New York Giants (No. 2 Overall Pick)
While Cleveland is a likely destination for Barkley, the blue half of New York may be the most logical spot.
Their 3-13 record may indicate otherwise, but the New York Giants could’ve been a decent 9-7 team in 2017 if the team stayed healthy. However, literally all of the Giants’ wide receivers were injured within two weeks of the season and Ben McAdoo handled the situation in the worst way possible. Even so, it’s possible the Giants would have narrowly missed postseason play because of their lack of a running game.
Picking a top quarterback makes sense for the Giants as Eli Manning gets older, but Saquon Barkley would slot perfectly into the Giants’ lineup. Paul Perkins is listed as the No. 1 tailback on the Giants’ depth chart and he ran for 546 yards this season. That’s a pressing need the Giants could fill right away with a guy like Barkley.
Unlike Cleveland, the Giants don’t have the ability to fill two needs at once with two top-five picks, so they’ll need to pick one or the other. If the Giants do take Saquon Barkley with the second pick, they’d probably be stuck with free agency or a trade to pick up a decent quarterback.
Indianapolis Colts (No. 3 Overall Pick)
With an enviable No. 3 overall pick, the Colts are unique in that they don’t really need to draft a quarterback in 2018. Though some fans speculate Indianapolis needs a pass rusher, Colts owner Jim Irsay hinted at a potential Saquon Barkley draft Monday, according to IndyStar sports reporter Zak Keefer.
Jim Irsay hinting that the Colts might be thinking Saquon Barkley at No. 3? pic.twitter.com/MKHeuEBa1N
— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) January 1, 2018
If Barkley lasts to the No. 3 pick, it would be a no-brainer to draft him after a comment like this. He epitomizes the bigger, faster, and stronger profile.
New York Jets (No. 6 Overall Pick)
It’s unlikely that Barkley falls out of the top five, but if he does, the Jets should pounce on the opportunity. Regardless of who went above him, Barkley would easily be the best player available at No. 6. Taking the best player available, rather than filling a need, has worked out in the past for the Jets, allowing them to pick up now-core defensive players Leonard Williams in 2016 and Jamal Adams in 2017.
Selecting Barkley would give the Jets the best player available and fill a need. Matt Forte was the team’s feature back this year, but he will likely be released this offseason. Bilal Powell is a solid NFL back, but he is best utilized in third down situations. Barkley would give the Jets their first top-class tailback since LaDainian Tomlinson finished his career in New York.
Some Jets fans may be scarred by the memories of Blair Thomas’ three-year tenure in New York in the early 1990s and want to avoid a Penn State tailback, but Saquon Barkley is the real deal and would accelerate the Jets’ rebuild if he somehow lands in the green half of New York. A reunion with Christian Hackenberg is unlikely, but would be awesome for everyone in the Jets’ organization, and frankly, fun to watch for Penn Staters in general.
While the Denver Broncos also hold a top-five pick with the No. 5 slot, it’s doubtful the team will pick up Saquon Barkley. Instead, the Broncos are more likely in the hunt for a left guard, right tackle, or maybe even a big-name quarterback to lead the franchise into the future.
We’ll find out Saquon Barley’s ultimate fate at the 2018 NFL Draft, slated for April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.