Position: Running back
Weight: 233 pounds
School: Penn State Nittany Lions
Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash: 4.40 seconds (second among running backs)
Bench press: 29 reps (tied for best among running backs)
Vertical jump: 41 inches (tied for fifth at 2018 NFL Combine)
20-yard shuttle: 4.24 seconds
Saquon Barkley 2018 NFL Draft Profile
The running back position in the NFL is in the midst of a renaissance. Players such as Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Alvin Kamara and many others are showing how important a versatile, every-down back is to a given team’s success. Part of it involves them figuring prominently into how pass-happy the league is nowadays. And in 2018, no other draft prospect is generating as much hype regarding his ability to join those aforementioned stars as Saquon Barkley.
The Whitehall, PA native was actually born in The Bronx, NY, and sports some unique athletic bloodlines. His great-uncle Iran, nicknamed “The Blade,” is a former world champion in boxing, having held titles in three different weight classes. The younger Barkley excelled on the gridiron and was highly sought after by college programs as the 11th rated running back recruit in the nation according to Rivals.com. He chose to stay in-state, comprising James Franklin‘s second recruiting class as Penn State head coach.
Barkley rushed for over 1,000 yards in all three of his seasons in State College. During that time, he racked up numerous awards en route to rewriting the Penn State record books. His 43 career rushing touchdowns, 53 total touchdowns and 5,038 yards from scrimmage are all school records. In 2017, he finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting while becoming the first running back in Big Ten history to earn conference player of the year honors more than once. Barkley also joined Paul Giel, Archie Griffin, Anthony Thompson and Braxton Miller as the only two-time winners of the Chicago Tribune’s Silver Football.
- immediate plug and play option expected to be a week one starter;
- extremely well-proportioned frame with an ideal combination of upper and lower body strength;
- can turn the corner outside the tackles with exceptional perimeter speed;
- multifaceted weapon who’s a threat in all three phases of the passing game;
- accelerates to full speed rather seamlessly;
- punishes over-pursuit with a wicked hop cut to the inside;
- uses relentless leg churn to power through tacklers and gain yards after contact;
- boasts elite level lateral quickness;
- high motor player who can wear down defenses late in games;
- a veritable big play waiting to happen on special teams;
- fairly extensive track record of durability in the wake of a sizable workload.
- can take a few steps too many before getting the ball on run plays;
- might need to get used to pro-style schemes with his quarterback behind center;
- tends to do too much if he doesn’t trust his initial gap, resulting in lost yardage;
- overly relies on lateral athleticism instead of playing more downhill;
- not always in the right place at the right time in pass blocking situations;
- already has a great deal of mileage on his legs.
NFL Comparison: Todd Gurley
Projection: Top five pick
When it comes to checking most if not all of the boxes, Barkley is as good as it gets irrespective of position in this year’s draft class. His ability to elude tacklers both in space and after contact is off the charts. Combine that with his pass-catching prowess and you have a game-changing prospect capable of altering the fortunes of a franchise right off the bat.
The big question is: will he go first overall? Ironically enough, the last time a running back did so was when Ki-Jana Carter, also a Penn State product, went number one to the Cincinnati Bengals in 1995. That other NFL team from Ohio, who certainly counts the position as one of need, has a decision to make. Do they pull the trigger on Barkley right off the bat or wait and hope he’s available when they pick again at four? Regardless of where he goes, Barkley is without question a surefire starter whose ceiling at the next level is that of a multi-year Pro Bowler.