The Giants Guys

How Does Saquon Barkley Compare to the Game’s Greats?

When the New York Giants selected Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, they knew they were getting a potential multi-pronged weapon.

With the Nittany Lions last year, Barkley rushed for 1,271 yards and 18 touchdowns while catching 54 passes for 632 yards and three more scores. He is a threat to bust open a big play every time he touches the football.

So, how many yards should we expect out of the rookie here with the Giants this season and beyond? 1,800? 2,000? 2,500? There have been 65 instances of a player eclipsing 2,000 total yards from scrimmage in NFL history, the most recent being the Titans’ Chris Johnson’s 2,509 in 2009.

The numbers are simply the numbers, they may not equate to wins, but if Barkley can rack up numbers close to those, it will go a long way towards rejuvenating the Giants’ sagging offense, which averaged just 15.4 points per game last year.

Barkley as been compared to some of the most productive players in NFL history by many experts. The expectations are high. Here are some of those comparisons:

Tiki Barber

Barber holds the Giants’ record for total yards from scrimmage with 2,390, set in 2005. He also eclipsed the 2,000 yard mark three times with the Giants. That is third on the NFL’s all-time list behind Johnson and Marshall Faulk’s 2,429 in 1999.

Barkley is a bigger and faster man than Barber. Barkley is 6-foot and 233 pounds with massive quads. Tiki was 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds in his heyday. Saquon runs a 4.4 40-yard dash while Tiki was timed at a less-explosive 4.6, but ask anyone who ever tried to tackle him how difficult that was.

Both players have enormous big-play and YAC potential. If Saquon comes anywhere near Tiki’s numbers, Giant fans will be doing cartwheels down Paterson Plank Road.

Marshall Faulk

Faulk is considered perhaps the greatest all-around back in the history of the league. A Hall of Famer, Faulk topped the 2,000-yard mark four times and had five double-digit touchdown seasons and had over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in 1999.

The Rams became the Greatest Show on Turf mostly due to his ability to keep defenses on their heels. Faulk was smaller than Barkley in stature (5-foot-10 and 210 pounds), but was timed in the 40 at 4.35 seconds. Once he got past the line of scrimmage, he was gone.

Barkley presents both a size and speed advantage over back seven defenders, so it will be interesting to see how he exploits opponents during his career.

LaDanian Tomlinson

Tomlinson racked up three 2,000-yard seasons with the Chargers and actually had 100 receptions in 2003. He also was 5-foot-10, but a bit thicker than Faulk and Barber at 221 pounds.

LT, as he was called, ran a 4.46 40 and was a workhorse in San Diego for nine seasons, leading the NFL in touchdowns three times. His 31 trips to the paint in 2006 are an NFL single-season record.

Edgerrin James

Many forget how good a player James was. He had three seasons over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and three seasons where had over 400 touches.

James burst onto the scene with the Colts and rushed for over 1,500 yards four times and probably would have had more had he not been plagues by injuries.

Keep in mind, the Colts were predominantly a passing team behind Peyton Manning, and James had five seasons in which he caught 50 or more passes. At 6-foot-0 and 210 pounds, James is still nowhere near the physical specimen that Barkley is, but his 4.38 40 time is sliver faster than Saquon’s.

Todd McShay comparisons

In all of the backs that ESPN draftik Todd McShay has scouted over the years, he grades Barkley behind only Adrian Peterson as the best he’s seen.

“Barkley is an explosive runner with a rare combination of size, speed, body control and competitiveness. He displays burst to turn the corner and run away from pursuit when he catches daylight. The top prospect on our board, Barkley projects as a Day 1 every-down back with the elite talent and elite intangibles to become a franchise-changing player.

“He’s gifted enough to emerge as an All-Pro caliber player early in his career. Barkley carries the highest running back grade we’ve given since Peterson. As far as NFL comparisons go, Todd Gurley (Rams), Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys) and Barry Sanders (former Lion) are all fair in their own right.”

Daniel Jeremiah comparisons’s Daniel Jeremiah asked five front office executives around the NFL to compare Barkley to a player either currently in the league or in their memory. Here’s what he was told…

Executive 1: David Johnson

“My first thought — Superman. Since I can’t use him, I’ll say David Johnson. Both of these guys are such complete, 3-down backs. Barkley’s lower-body strength and explosiveness are pretty tough to match, though.”

Executive 2: Kareem Hunt

“He’s a better version of Kareem Hunt. Better body frame, better feet and hips, quicker, more explosive, more elusive, better hands and he’s faster.”

Executive 3: Corey Dillon

“I haven’t fully studied him but I see some similarities to Corey Dillon. Big, fast and physical.”

Executive 4: Joe Mixon

“He’s a more explosive Joe Mixon. When he gets the ball in his hand, he can accelerate and separate quickly. Mixon would build speed and stall out. They both are dangerous as runners and receivers, both 3-down backs.”

Executive 5: Ezekiel Elliott

“I was at the game a few years ago when Elliott and Barkley shared the same field. As impressive as Elliott was, Barkley was the better player. They have similar skill sets but Barkley is better in every area.”

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