2017 may have been the “Year of the Running Back” with talents such as Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, and Christian McCaffrey, but the 2018 running back class isn’t looking too shabby. One of the elite talents is right at the heart of that ultra-exciting Penn State offense, and his name is Saquon Barkley. An uber-talented prospect, Barkley (after originally committing to Rutgers) went to PSU as a 4-star recruit out of Whitehall High School. As a true freshman, Barkley became an impact player for James Franklin rushing for over 1,000 yards and earning All-Big Ten Second Team honors. He was even better his sophomore year as he rushed for just under 1,500 yards and had 18 touchdowns, along with being named an AP Third Team All-American. Now, going into his junior year, I can’t wait to see the ridiculous numbers he’ll put up. Here we’ll break down Barkley as a player, and discuss just how bright his future is in the NFL.
Speed: Barkley is a burner, plain and simple. You don’t even have to look at the tape. Although not an official “NFL Combine” time, Barkley has already run a 4.33 40.
— Penn State Football (@PennStateFball) March 1, 2017
And when you do plug in the tape, the first thing that jumps out is that Barkley is going to be an outstanding NFL athlete. Offensive coordinators are going to love working with this kid and finding every way imaginable to get the ball to him in space.
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) May 13, 2017
Quickness/Agility: You don’t run a 4.33 40 with top end speed alone, you need tremendous acceleration, and Barkley has that in spades. In fact, I would say that his quickness/agility is indeed his top trait. Barkley is and is going to be, a big play just waiting to happen with his ability to get to the edge, and then simply win a foot race down the sideline. Linebackers are often left dazed and confused as to how he got around them. This is just part of what makes him so much fun to watch.
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) May 11, 2017
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) May 14, 2017
Receiving: I am absolutely ecstatic about Barkley’s future as a three-down back. His athleticism combined with very good route running and hands to match makes him a matchup nightmare. Teams are almost going to be forced to bring a safety down in the box to match up with him out of the backfield, which isn’t always ideal for defenses, and especially so for Cover “2” and Cover “4” heavy teams. Barkley can easily be the centerpiece of an NFL offense, and a damn good one at that.
Blocking: If you want to poke a hole in Barkley’s game, this one is pretty glaring. From speedy safeties off the edge to powerful linebackers, Barkley struggled with them all. I will give him props for giving full effort, after all, that is the first step to being a successful blocker, he just has to get a lot better with his hands and using leverage to not get overpowered. If Barkley can improve here, he’ll be a complete back, and even more ready to take on the NFL.
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) May 12, 2017
Saquon Barkley is a clear elite talent and someone I highly recommend watching if you get the chance. He has a great shot to be in the Heisman race this season and should get a lot of hype thrown at him when the 2018 NFL Draft begins to roll around. A simply incredible athlete with a great secondary skill set, I can’t wait to see how Barkley does and how he is used in his NFL career. Here we are very early in the 2018 NFL Draft process, and Barkley is already looking like a first round lock.
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