Player Spotlight: Saquon Barkley
an article by Angel Maldonado
Time for some trivia!
Who holds the Rookie record for most rushing touchdowns in Giants’ history?
Who holds the record for most 40+ yard plays in NFL History?
Who has the most receptions as a Rookie RB in NFL History?
Answer: Saquon Barkley. For all of the above.
Saquon Barkley entered the 2018 NFL Draft as the most hyped skill position player of the decade. He was touted as a generational talent with extraordinary speed and strength. He dominated the NFL Combine, benching 225 lbs for 29 reps. He proceeded to show off his 41” vertical and his 4.4 40 Yard Dash. For comparison, he measured up as faster than Devin Hester and stronger than Offensive Lineman Joe Thomas. He blew away scouts and emerged as the best player of the draft class. He was then drafted number two overall in the Draft, going to the New York Giants. From the moment they selected Barkley, New York opened themselves up for criticism. Should they have taken a Quarterback? Why didn’t they draft Darnold? It’s a question that will continue to be asked of New York for a long time… but Barkley showed exactly why he was drafted so early in Week 1.
Giants vs Jaguars. AFC Championship Finalists vs the second worst team of 2017. It looked like a mismatch and, for the first three quarters, it was. That was, until Barkley broke open for a beautiful 68 yard touchdown in which he changed direction multiple times and broke multiple tackles along the way. It was a preview of what was to come for the historic Rookie as he had 9 40+ yard plays throughout the year, which you already knew since you read the trivia. He looked more comfortable as a receiver as the year progressed and he was still breaking huge plays almost weekly. His Coming Out Party was on Thursday Night Football against the Eagles, where he finished with the most rushing AND receiving yards on the team. He had 13 carries for 130 yards and a touchdown while also making 9 receptions for 99 yards. His performance offered tangible proof of something that Giants’ brass had already known since May: they had made the right selection. But still, there was something missing. Barkley kept getting stuffed for negative plays. Yes, the Giants O-Line was inept, but was part of the problem Barkley’s tendency to make big plays? Giants coaches believed so, and they let Barkley know. Barkley could have responded with an attitude and said that he was doing just fine and it would have been completely accurate. Instead, he listened to his coaches and turned his great season around into a historic season. He began hitting holes with more authority and those -2 yard losses started becoming consistent 4 yard gains. He was still making big plays, but now he was also setting up the Giants offense for more manageable second and short situations rather than second and long. It didn’t mean much for the Giants’ win-loss record in 2018, but it surely will in upcoming years.
Barkley ended 2018 with 1307 rushing yards on 261 carries , good for a 5.0 YPC. He also had 91 receptions to go along with that and totaled 2028 yards in total. Over 2000 yards… in a rookie campaign! There are Hall of Famers that have not had that type of season. Here’s the best part: He is just getting started. Barkley will be a force in 2019 once again, but he will face more stacked boxes with the departure of OBJ. Still, there’s nothing in the film to suggest he won’t be able to overcome his offense’s issues like he did last year, especially if the Giants continue to upgrade their Offensive Line. Barkley will be a Top 3 Fantasy Player in 2019 and continue to reward those who invest in him.