Saquon Barkley is the no-brainer Giants can’t pass on
The Post debates whether a team can justify taking a running back — any running back — with the No. 2 pick in the draft.
Hey, Giants, keep it simple and draft Saquon Barkley.
There’s a faction of Giants fans who stand defiantly in the camp that says they should take a potential quarterback of the future, Eli Manning’s successor, with the second-overall pick Thursday.
Given the rare elevated position in the draft where the Giants are picking and given the fact that Manning is 37 years old, this is an understandable sentiment.
But to this theory I ask this question of Giants fans: Wouldn’t you rather win now?
Giants fans have watched their team produce four losing seasons in the last five years with no playoff appearances since 2011. That’s no fun for anyone — least of all the fans who are dutifully paying the PSL freight at MetLife Stadium.
Newly hired Giants general manager Dave Gettleman last week stated his directive perfectly and succinctly when he said: “As the GM, I walk a tightrope. I’ve got to look at the short term [and] then I’ve got to look at the long term.”
Notice that he said “short term’’ first.
By drafting Barkley, the prolific Penn State running back, Gettleman would accomplish both objectives.
If Gettleman passes on Barkley and takes one of the quarterbacks, he would hurt the short-term success of the team and would be rolling the dice that whomever he selects truly will replace Manning.
Every one of the top quarterbacks in this draft has warts significant enough that it’s possible none of them becomes a Super Bowl-winning quarterback or even a long-term starter.
USC’s Sam Darnold threw 22 interceptions and fumbled 21 times (losing 14 of them) in 27 collegiate games. That’s as bright a red flag as you can have entering the NFL, where turnovers decide games more than any other element of the game.
UCLA’s Josh Rosen, at 6-4 and just 226 pounds, had durability issues in college, playing six games as a sophomore before a shoulder injury ended his season, and missing two games this past season after suffering two concussions.
Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is only slightly taller than 6-feet and his brash behavior is cause for concern.
Wyoming’s Josh Allen finished his college career with a mere 56 percent completion percentage, and he didn’t face the top-level competition in college that the above-mentioned three players did, and in his three games against Power Five teams he threw one touchdown and eight interceptions.
“When you’re picking this high, if you make a mistake, if you miss on a quarterback, it’s a five-year mistake,” Gettleman said last week.
If you’re a Giants fan, do you want a potential five-year mistake or do you want to make a run right now with Barkley headlining an improved cast around Manning, who’s already proven he can win based on his two Super Bowl MVP trophies?
It’s a no-brainer.
“You have a great running back [and] he immediately makes your quarterback better, your offensive line better and your passing game better,’’ Gettleman said.
Barkley rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons at Penn State, finishing with 3,843 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns for his career. He, too, had 102 catches for 1,195 yards and eight touchdowns.
If your draft-a-quarterback argument is based on the theory that you can find a running back anywhere — lower in the draft or on the street — look at what Ezekiel Elliott did for the Cowboys, Leonard Fournette did for the Jaguars and Todd Gurley did for the Rams.
Elliott (1,631 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns) turned the Cowboys (13-3) into instant contenders his rookie year in 2016. Fournette (1,040 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games) turned the Jaguars from perennial losers (22-74 in the six seasons before his arrival) to division winners who got to the AFC Championship last season. And Gurley (1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns, along with 64 receptions for 788 yards and another six touchdowns last year), helped the Rams to the NFC West title.
Top running backs make a difference. And the Giants haven’t had one since Tiki Barber rushed for 1,000 or more yards in five consecutive seasons from 2002-06. The Giants, who ranked 26th in the league in rushing last season, have had one 1,000-yard rusher since 2011 and have made the playoffs once since then.
That’s not a coincidence.
So keep it simple Thursday, Giants. Get better instantly, and for the future. Pass on the quarterback candy and draft Barkley.
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