As expected, a contentious, seemingly perpetual debate has ensued on social media, sports talk radio and every other platform and venue on which and where New York sports fans can voice their opinion about the Giants drafting running back Saquon Barkley last Thursday instead of a quarterback.
The Giants used the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft to select the Bronx-born Barkley after the Cleveland Browns somewhat surprisingly chose University of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield No. 1. By the assessment of analysts that deeply evaluate the college talent pool, the 6-foot, 233-pound Barkley was the consensus best player in the draft irrespective of position.
The Penn State product has been called by some a transcendent running back who will have an immediate uplifting impact on a Giants team that was 3-13 last season and averaged a meager 3.9 yards per carry. Their leading rusher, Orleans Darkwa, only compiled 751 yards, 28th in the league.
Barkley’s meld of size, speed (4.40 in the 40-yard dash), strength (29 bench press reps of 225 pounds), intelligence and elusiveness was too enticing for the Giants to forego. “Obviously, we felt Saquon was the best player in the draft. In baseball, they call it a five-tool player,” said Giants general manager Dave Gettleman.
He expounded, “I have not seen a guy like this in a long time and I have been around a long time. I have been doing this for 30-plus years. The kid is so unique…When we were in here before, we were talking about quarterbacks and if they make everyone better. If you think about it, this kid makes our quarterback better, he makes our receivers better, he makes our O-line better. He makes our defense better because he has the much stronger ability to hold the ball. He is a great kid and he will be great for our culture. He was the unanimous best player in our draft.” Which is why drafting a quarterback at No. 2 would not have been the prudent move for the Giants.
There is the widespread viewpoint the Giants should have selected quarterback Sam Darnold, taken by the Jets at No. 3, or perhaps Josh Rosen, chosen by the Arizona Cardinals at No. 10, to be the successor to 37-year-old Eli Manning. But a longitudinal study of the NFL Draft concludes quarterbacks taken in the first round are more likely to be average at best than franchise saviors.
Furthermore, having a Hall of Fame quarterback does not always translate into multiple Super Bowl wins or appearances. The New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees and the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers will both be first ballot Hall of Famers. Yet, at age 39, Brees has been to the Super Bowl only once, defeating the Indianapolis Colts in 2010, and Rodgers, 34, also has just one Super Bowl ring, earned in his one trip to the game in 2011.
John Elway didn’t get his two rings until running back Terrell Davis emerged as one of the game’s best. A strong running game, led by a versatile running back such as Barkley, a good quarterback and a top five defense is a proven paradigm for success, one that carried the Seattle Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowls a few years ago. It’s an archetype that Gettleman is evidently modeling.