A Giant Barkley mistake
The New York Giants were one of the worst teams in the NFL in 2017, due to an overall lack of talent and an aged quarterback in Eli Manning, who appeared to be at the end of his 14-year career.
The Giants’ 3-13 record scored the team the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, which included what was widely considered one of the top quarterback draft classes in recent memory. Although New York had a number of significant roster holes to fill, drafting a quarterback was the obvious move to make — the only question was which top QB to select.
So, the Giants did what any reasonable team would do — they drafted a running back. And they didn’t trade back in order to acquire much-needed draft capital before drafting RB Saquon Barkley — they simply selected him with the second overall pick in the draft.
Drafting Barkley was a poor decision for a number of reasons, but not because the Penn State product is a bust; the rookie runner ranks 12th in the NFL in rushing yardage. The Giants’ mistake was that they drafted a running back — any running back — with the second overall pick.
Running backs are cheap and plentiful, and running the football isn’t that important.
Early draft picks are expensive from both a draft-capital and a financial perspective. Why spend the No. 2 overall pick and $8 million a year on the 12th ranked rusher when you can have the 10th ranked running back — undrafted free agent Matt Breida — for pennies on the dollar?
Perhaps the Giants’ front office thought Barkley’s pass-catching ability, where running backs truly provide value, warranted his early selection — but the third round of each draft is full of elite pass-catchers who cost less than $1 million a year.
New York certainly salivated over their opportunity to acquire the annual “generational talent” running back of the draft, in the hopes that Barkley would become the best dual-threat running back in the game. And maybe Barkley will become that irreplaceable piece similar to Le’Veon Bell — who the Pittsburgh Steelers easily replaced with James Connor, who’s currently on pace for 2,000 scrimmage yards and 20 touchdowns.
Best-case scenario, the Giants went with a “sure thing” at a position they overvalued, because they either didn’t trust their scouting department to choose from the draft’s plethora of quarterbacks, or they incorrectly thought Manning was and would remain a good quarterback for the forseeable future.
If that’s the best-case scenario, then what’s the worst-case scenario? Running backs are commonly injured, early-round RBs pan out at an extremely low rate when compared to other position groups and Barkley’s $31 million contract is fully guaranteed.
Saquon Barkley is a freak of nature, a stellar athlete and probably the second best player on the New York Giants’ roster — but is he helping the Giants win football games?
However, just because Barkley was overdrafted doesn’t mean San Francisco should ignore the dangerous playmaker on Monday night. The 49ers will need to game plan for the rookie in tonight’s matchup, as he will likely be the centerpiece of the Giants’ offensive attack.