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Alternate Universe Giants: Saquon Barkley

With the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft the New York Giants Saquon Barkley from Penn State. This was the consensus pick, but what if it never happened? I did a 2018 redraft segment for my podcast (available here) and I got to thinking and eventually conjured up a dual-pointed query. First, who would they select in his place, and secondly, where would Barkley himself land later in the draft? Its draft season so let’s make like Dora and explore!

His Replacement

There are two realistic options in this scenario. No, i’m not going to take Lamar Jackson, let’s play by some kind of rules here.

Quenton Nelson

First up, the former 6th overall pick in this year’s draft. Nelson, the prolific Fighting Irish interior lineman has been great for the Colts. According to Pro Football Focus, he had an overall grade of 91.2, run blocking grade of 82.8, and a pass blocking grade of 90.8. Nelson, the highest graded player on the Colts and second highest graded guard in the league behind Brandon Brooks, has been the anchor of the best offensive line in the last two years.

In 2018 Although they finished 20th in the league (107.4 YPG), they had nine games with more than 100 yards rushing. Additionally, including the playoffs, as well as three games over 200. On 730 pass-blocking snaps, Nelson allowed just two sacks, four quarterback hits, and 17 hurries, which graded him out as the top rookie offensive lineman, second-best left guard, and the sixth-best overall guard in the league (74.3), according to PFF.

Among guards who played at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps, Nelson was one of only 25 players who allowed two or fewer sacks, and only one of 24 who allowed 23 or fewer total pressures. Nelson acted as one who gave Andrew Luck time as well as opened up a zone running game that allowed Marlon Mack and the Colts to set the tone in tons of games and make it their style with high volume. He was a rookie of the year candidate and at least in the conversation with fans for MVP. He could make the same impact on the Giants with his power, strength, and mobility.

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The Other Option

Sam Darnold

In this hypothetical situation, the Giants pull the trigger on a quarterback in an early round. Now, this goes against everything Dave Gettleman was insinuating pre-draft but let’s pretend that was smoke and mirrors. More importantly, and sadly, that means no Daniel Jones the next year. However, taking the chance on Sam Darnold here is worth it. He has great touch and accuracy on his throws as well as clean mechanics.

Continually, even though his release is slightly drawn out but it generates power. Darnold’s main concern coming out of USC, however pro ready he was, was a turnover problem. It hasn’t been rectified as he’s had a 36 touchdown to 28 interception ratio. However, his arm talent and ability to read defenses are enough to put him over. Also, take the stats with a grain of salt as he’s had below average weapons, poor coaching, and underwhelming protection.

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Barkley’s Landing Spot

With the Giants new pick in place let’s discuss the implications that it has on Saquon Barkley’s draft stock, draft position, and career! Where does he fall?

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley during the 2018 NFL Draft on Thursday, April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Perry Knotts/NFL)
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Cleveland Browns

So our first Barkley suitor comes in the form of the Browns. With the selection of quarterback Baker Mayfield remaining the same here, Cleveland’s still in need of a dynamic runner. Now, in real life back in 2018, they took Georgia running back Nick Chubb. But it’s hard to imagine with Barkley on the board the Browns don’t take him. Take into account their losing value with this selection in hindsight, passing up Denzel Ward and Nick Chubb. However, if your John Dorsey in 2018, selecting Barkley is the definitive move. He’s the best player on the board with his explosiveness, vision, power, and strength. Barkley in turn, opens up the offense for the Browns, giving Mayfield another pass-catcher, arguably more dynamic than Chubb.

Indianapolis Colts

As the Giants select Quenton Nelson, the Colts are left without their impact guard. In this scenario, it’s entirely plausible they draft Saquon Barkley, purely based on value. Now, the lack of Quenton Nelson’s skills and smarts on the interior may lead to a downward shift in the running game.

On the other hand, with the addition of Barkley and installation as the lead back could replace that production, seeing as he is more dynamic than Marlon Mack. Barkley’s burst and power helped him post 1307 yards, 5.0 yards per attempt, and 81.0 yards per game as well as 91 receptions despite an offensive line with way less consistency and performance than the Colts’. That goes to show you his game-changing ability and Barkley on the Colts with elite and consistent offensive tackles, in the form of Anthony Castanzo and Braden Smith, could lead to some explosive stretch runs and big games.

Where Else Could He Go

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Barkley falling this far is quite unrealistic. However, the Bucs are the next team up and the value here is remarkable. The league is built up of three different types of offensive lines. First, ones that hinder what you do on offense. Second, ones that don’t get in the way and ones that boost what an offense. The Buccaneers unit falls right in the middle of this spectrum. Putting Barkley behind them with normal gap blocking would completely change their offense as a whole, making them one of the best units in the league. It would take the pressure off quarterback Jameis Winston, offering the option of play action and opening things up for Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and O.J Howard. Although its a clustered offense at this point, the high-powered degree of it allows for optimal production and in turn satisfactory fantasy football results for many.

Free Fallin’

Detroit Lions

At this point in the first round, the possibility of Barkley being on the board would be a miracle. But with the 20th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions would be elated to select Barkley. At this point in the offseason, the Lions had a pressing need for a play-making tailback. They filled that hole with highly-touted Auburn prospect Kerryon Johnson. Johnson, similar to Barkley has speed, elusiveness, and pass catching ability as well as a leaner stature, compared to Barkley.

He’s been promising with 1,044 rushing yards in 18 total games but has been riddled with injuries and underutilization. Taking Barkley at this juncture would be a great value and offer a little more in terms of the offense. Sacrificing their original selection Frank Ragnow may hurt, in 2019 he allowed just two sacks on 996 snaps, but like the Colts with Nelson, Barkley’s can make up for their presence of an interior offensive lineman with his talent.

That wraps it up, where could see Barkley going if he got passed up by New York?

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