It’s very rare to come across the perfect prospect. Coming out of college, even the finest of players have some kind of chink in their armor, whether that be a certain aspect of their game that needs refinement or an off-field issue that teams must take into account in their evaluation. On occasion, a player will come along that possesses generational talent and that embodies the phrase ‘can’t-miss prospect’. That player is Saquon Barkley.
Barkley is a freak. He posted historically impressive numbers at the Combine, showcasing speed (4.40 forty yard dash), explosion (41 inch vertical) and power (29 bench press reps). At 6-foot, 233 pounds, he has the ideal frame for a running back. Being over 230 pounds enables him to set a physical edge on the field, but this doesn’t take away from his speed or explosiveness in any way. Running a 4.40 forty at his weight was easily one of the most impressive feats at this year’s Combine. He is a special physical specimen with rare athletic traits, and this is evident from his tape.
Barkley keeps a low center of gravity to stay agile and ready to change direction. Because of this running style, he is an extremely elusive runner who is difficult to tackle even in close quarters. He has ridiculously smooth change of direction skills and stays light on his feet at all times, ready to make a move. Even if a defender instantly penetrates the backfield, Barkley’s feet are quick enough to dance his way outside.
His vision and decision-making are exceptional. He shows patience behind the line of scrimmage before finding the hole. He has a nasty jump cut and makes defenders look silly in the hole by lowering his weight, planting his foot and exploding out of his cut. He is such a tough player to tackle not just because of his physicality but because he is so slippery. He routinely makes guys miss because his short area quickness.
His balance is exceptional, allowing him to shake off tackles with ease. His lower body explosiveness is very impressive and also contributes to his tackle-breaking ability. However, utilising this lower body power to simply break tackles would be too easy for Barkley. When you have the freakish athletic traits that he does, you hurdle other human beings.
Barkley’s lateral quickness is absurd. He can press the line of scrimmage and cut laterally to evade defenders without losing any speed or momentum. Watch him tease the oncoming Iowa defenders by appearing to commit to breaking the line of scrimmage just outside the hash marks before exploding to the perimeter and using his speed to race down the sideline.
Barkley is your quintessential three-down back. He can run, catch and pass protect at a high level. As a receiver he shows natural hands as well as the ability to run routes. In the following play against Iowa, he does a nice job of creating separation against the linebacker before caressing the ball into his possession.
As a pass protector he can establish a solid base, sink his hips to establish leverage and deliver a strong upward punch. Watch the finish on this play against Michigan State, where he punishes the defender by slamming him into the turf.
If the Browns are in love with a quarterback, they have to go get their guy at #1. It’s the most important position on the field and you can’t afford to take the risk that the future face of your franchise isn’t there at #4. If they aren’t in love with a quarterback in this year’s class, go get Saquon at #1. Similar to the rationale behind their selection of Myles Garrett with last year’s #1 pick, Saquon is the best player in this year’s draft and it’s very tough to pass on this kind of talent.