NFL Teams Could Trade Up To Select Saquon Barkley In NFL Draft
The NFL’s offseason officially kicked off on Sunday night after the Philadelphia Eagles secured their first Super Bowl title in franchise history over the New England Patriots.
Now that NFL football will not return for months, the Cleveland Browns are officially on the clock with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Although some experts have Penn State star Saquon Barkley at the top of their draft boards, he isn’t at the very top of most mock drafts that have been released so far.
It seems likely that the Cleveland Browns will pass on the Coplay, Pa. native with the first overall pick in favor of one of the many top-ranked quarterbacks available for selection. This opens up a host of possibilities in terms of Barkley’s NFL destination, including a potential trade-up scenario. Teams like San Francisco, Denver, and Detroit could be likely destinations if any of these franchises decide to make a trade into the top ten.
San Fransisco 49ers
Although a 6-10 season looks disappointing on paper, the future is bright for the San Fransisco 49ers. The team acquired quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots for pennies on the dollar on October 30, giving them long-term stability at the position. The 49ers were seemingly doomed to finish the season with two or three wins, but Garoppolo led San Fransisco to five consecutive wins to end the season.
This win streak pushed the 49ers out of the top five in this year’s NFL Draft, but the team will still pick in the top ten. Their exact draft position will be decided by a coin flip with the Oakland Raiders due to the two teams’ identical records. It’s entirely possible the team moves up from this spot to select Penn State’s No. 26.
Carlos Hyde was listed as the team’s starting tailback during the tail end of the 2017 season. He’s a solid player who nearly racked up 1,000 rushing yards this season, but he is not a star by any means and could be upgraded. Hyde is serviceable, but he’s not the team’s future at tailback. Drafting Saquon Barkley could give the 49ers one of the NFL’s most dynamic young QB-RB combinations in the game and, more importantly, a foundation to build the team around in future years.
Denver is in an interesting spot heading into this year’s NFL Draft. John Elway’s Broncos hold the No. 5 overall pick in the draft, so it’s entirely possible that Barkley falls into their laps in the event that Cleveland, the Giants, and Indianapolis pass on the tailback in favor of addressing other needs.
That said, all three of the teams picking above Denver need a running back who can step in and immediately contribute. The Giants’ lack of a running game was one of many factors that led to the team’s disastrous 2017 season, Indianapolis will likely cut veteran Frank Gore this offseason, and Cleveland is, well, Cleveland.
These teams’ pressing needs for a tailback make it totally plausible Barkley will be selected with one of the first four picks of this year’s draft. Since this is the case, Denver may potentially need to trade up into the top four in order to secure Barkley’s services next season.
While some may argue that the Broncos’ biggest need comes at quarterback, plenty of veteran signal-callers like Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins will be available via trade and free agency, so the ideal plan may be to go after a veteran quarterback once free agency opens in March and draft Barkley, even if this requires a trade.
Detroit may be the least likely of these three teams to trade up for Barkley solely due to their current draft position. The Lions currently hold the No. 20 overall pick in this year’s draft, so any trade including Barkley will need to include several other assets in addition to that pick.
The Lions have struggled to establish a run game since Barry Sanders victimized NFL defenses during his Hall of Fame career in the 1990s. Scores of tailbacks have come and gone through Detroit since Sanders’ retirement in 1999 as the Lions have struggled to find consistency in the backfield.
Drafting Barkley would give the Lions stability and a tremendous talent at the running back position. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been solid throughout his career, but his lack of a running game behind him has limited the amount of success his team has had in the NFL. While unlikely, Detroit acquiring Barkley would give Stafford a truly elite talent to work with in the backfield. Plus, it’s only natural for Barkley to be a Lion after spending the past three seasons as a Nittany Lion.