Giants get their man: Take Saquon Barkley at No. 2
The Giants got their man.
Do not expect Saquon Barkley to fly in wearing a red cape but he will embark on his NFL career donning blue and riding high. Based on the way the Giants lavished praise on this special running back in the weeks and days leading up to the NFL Draft, referring to him as SuperQuon – as The Post did, splashing him across the back page way back on March 3 – the expectation is he can do heroic things for Eli Manning and for the entire offensive operation.
After the Browns, leading off the draft Thursday night with the No. 1 pick, selected quarterback Baker Mayfield, the Giants were on the clock and knew exactly who they wanted. It is believed Sam Darnold of USC was their top-rated quarterback and there was some sentiment in the building to secure Manning’s eventual replacement. That sentiment was washed over by the conviction the Giants have in Barkley, considered the top running back prospect to enter the NFL in a decade.
Super Saquon to the Giants.
“He can string together moves and get in and out of stuff,’’ general manager Dave Gettleman said not long ago. “He’s unique, no doubt about it. He’s big, he’s powerful, he can step on the gas, he’s got different levels of speed and he catches the heck out of the ball and he sees the blitz pickup stuff. He’s unique.
“I’m not going to lie. He’s a tremendous talent. You put the film on of a defensive guy and if they’re playing Penn State, then I’m watching Saquon. He’s one of those guys that my mother could have scouted. She could have figured that one out.’’
The Giants figured it out, with Gettleman warning beforehand the danger of “getting too cute’’ with such a lofty pick. The Giants have not selected this high in 37 years – they took linebacker Lawrence Taylor with the second overall pick in 1981 – and Gettleman insisted the No. 2 pick must be reserved for a player he could envision one day making the Hall of Fame. Gettleman also stipulated the player must be viewed as worthy of the No. 2 pick not only in this draft, but in any draft. Barkley checks both boxes.
Barkley was born in the Bronx, a Jets fan, and in his youth he and his family moved to Bethlehem, Pa. He was an immediate and repeated sensation at Penn State, amassing 3,843 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns. What separates Barkley is his ability as a pass-catcher.
He had 103 receptions for 1,195 yards and eight receiving touchdowns in his college career, possessing a skill set that will immediately make him popular with his new head coach, Pat Shurmur, and Manning, his new quarterback.
“When you watch his tape you don’t see anything he can’t do,’’ Shurmur said. “As a running back he’s got to do the obvious, run the ball and secure the ball and he’s done that, and put the ball in the end zone, which he’s done. He’s really a pretty good pass protector, that’s an important piece and then he can catch the football as well, he can do everything you’re looking for in a running back and then he’s a terrific human being as well.’’
The Giants are all-in with the 37-year old Manning and continue to bolster the talent around him. They signed left tackle Nate Solder in free agency, anchoring Manning’s blind side, and expect to have superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. back from a fractured left ankle at full speed in time for training camp, if not earlier.
Barkley joins a backfield that includes Wayne Gallman, coming off a promising rookie season, and Jonathan Stewart, a 10-year veteran from the Panthers signed this off-season. Barkley arrives as the prize newcomer and no doubt Shurmur has already drawn up schemes to utilize Barkley’s many and varied skills. He can line up in the backfield and get the ball on a handoff. He can flare out of the backfield and get the ball, as he is a gifted pass-catcher. He can line up in the slot or out wide and run wide receiver-type routes. He had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown at Penn State.
The Giants see Barkley not as a running back, but as a weapon.
“I think that the devaluing of the running back is really a myth,’’ Gettleman said a week ago. “If you have a great running back, he immediately makes your quarterback better, your offensive line better and your passing game.’’
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