I know, it’s only Week 4 of the NFL season and the 2018 NFL Draft is still months away, but it doesn’t mean that Cleveland Browns fans can’t wish to have certain players come next fall. As it looks right now, the Browns will yet again have one of the top picks in the draft, so they have a chance to select a player who can change the franchise. WFNY’s Michael Bode posted his list of wide receivers to watch that the Browns can potentially select in the 2018 draft, and I wanted to add to the NFL Draft talk.
Although plenty can change prior to the draft, including what happens the rest of the college football season, the measurements and times at the NFL Combine and Pro Days, and a number of other assessments, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley has the chance to be the No. 1 pick next spring. He has the strength, speed, elusiveness, vision, and playmaking ability to be a game-changer and playmaker in the NFL. For that alone, and the fact that Isaiah Crowell’s future in Cleveland is in question, the Browns must find a way to draft Barkley. Whether it’s staying put or trading up, Cleveland has the ammunition to basically get whatever player they want in the first round, I just hope they see Barkley to be a player that they need.
Through three games this season, it’s obvious that the Browns offense needs more playmakers. Whether it’s at running back or wide receiver, they need players that can make plays, whether it’s in terms of breaking away from a defender and getting open or making plays with the ball in their hands.
Not to look ahead to the 2018 season already, but imagine a Browns offense that is led by playmakers like Duke Johnson and Barkley. Does that not excite you, Browns fans?
In case you don’t think he has the strength to play like this in the NFL, he showcased just how strong he is during the offseason by power cleaned a program record 405 pounds. Oh, and his leg muscles are quite impressive, hence why he can break tackles, stiff arm defenders away, and has sub-4.4 40 speed.
— MARK ALLEN (@theALLENshow) June 29, 2017
— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) July 19, 2017
Considered the second-best prospect in the 2018 draft, only behind USC quarterback Sam Darnold, ESPN’s Mel Kiper seems to be as high on Barkley as I am. The 5-foot-11, 223-pound running back has the chance to be a game-changer in the NFL.
Last Saturday, Penn State took on Iowa in what will be one of the best games of the entire college football season. The Nittany Lions scored on fourth down and with no time left, but it was Barkley’s performance that mattered most. He had 358 all-purpose yard (211 rushing, 94 receiving, 53 kick returning). With 12 catches for 94 yards, he led Penn State in both receptions and receiving yards…as a running back. Although he (somehow) had just one touchdown, Barkley showcased just how good he is in one game. Let’s take a look:
Long run called back due to holding
Barkley was set to run right into a number of Iowa players. Instead, he made a quick juke move to his left to open up plenty of space. The play was unfortunately called back due to holding, but the running back started the game by proving that he will be hard to stop, just like he’s been throughout his whole career at Penn State.
Don’t have anything downfield? The Barkley will create space out of the backfield to have a catch and run and get the first down on third-and-12. He’s a matchup nightmare because of the fact that he’s faster than many linebackers and stronger than most cornerbacks. Good luck, opposing defenses.
Play clock awareness
While quarterback Trace McSorley was busy getting a play from the sideline and calling an audible, Barkley had his eyes on the play clock and was the main reason why the quarterback then called timeout instead of receiving a delay of game penalty. Even though he’s just a running back, it proves that he has tremendous game (and time) awareness.
The defensive end tried to contain the edge, but one small hesitation caused him to get way behind Barkley. Then, a quick little move to his left allowed him to get five additional yards and a first down.
Barkley may be the best running back in the country, but he has tremendous versatility, too. Motioning into the backfield from the slot, he was able to catch and run for nine yards on first down.
When Barkley sees a hole in the defense, his eyes must light up. It looked like he was going to run toward the sideline, but he quickly cut up field to get a big gain on second-and-short.
24-yard kick return
He’s a running back that can run the ball with speed and strength, catch the ball out of the backfield or out of the slot, and oh, he can also be a kick returner as well. Is there anything Barkley can’t do on offense and special teams?
Most running backs would have gotten tackled before even getting a first down here. For Barkley, he basically got an 11-yard gain from nothing here.
Just when multiple Iowa players thought they had Barkley wrapped up for a short gain, he uses his strength to break through both tackles and run for 25 yards.
He almost showcased everything he can do running the ball out of the backfield in this play alone. Whether it’s his quick juke right when he got the ball to allude a defender, cutting it outside to create even more space, or diving for the end zone, Barkley proved just how good he is on this play alone.
Just when you though Barkley was going out of bounds before even getting a first down, he breaks a tackle and takes off for 44 yards.
Picks up the blitz
Oh, he can do things without the ball in his hands, too? Yep. As a running back in the NFL, it’s important to be able to block in the backfield for pass protection. Although McSorley got the ball out quick, Barkley’s block on the blitzing linebacker proves that he can pass protect as well.
Eight-yard touchdown run
Great football players have an eye for the end zone. Although he didn’t have to do much here besides bounce it to the outside and somewhat break a tackle, Barkley’s ability to find the end zone can’t go unnoticed.
It may have only been a seven-yard run, but Barkley slowed his pace down in order to see holes open up and even had a quick juke move to get a nice play on first down.
Two Iowa players had a good chance to tackle him behind the line of scrimmage, but instead Barkley got away from the defenders for yet another seven-yard gain on first down.
Yet again, multiple defenders should have tackled him in the backfield, but Barkley used a quick juke move and two stiff arms to get away and run for nine yards. The amount of times that Penn State should have had second-and-long and Barkley turned it into a second-and-short are incredible.
He’s had long touchdowns, juke moves, stiff arms, and a number of other impressive plays, but this might just be his best. An Iowa defender tried to go low, so Barkley used his athleticism to jump over him. Not only did he leap over the guy, but while up in the air, another Iowa player hit him and the running back was still able to keep his balance and run for a first down.
Nothing open on the right? Nothing open in the middle? Not a problem for Barkley. He showed his vision and ability to get positive yards on any play in this one. Honestly, I don’t even know how he gained seven yards the way the play started.
Iowa basically had three chances to tackle Barkley behind the line of scrimmage. Instead, he used his strength and speed for a nice seven-yard run on first down.
When a linebacker tries to cover Barkley, you no matter what pass him the ball. He didn’t do much here besides show off his speed out of the backfield. Luckily for him, he didn’t suffer a serious injury when his cleat got stuck in the ground at the end of the play.
With McSorley about to get sacked, he was a smart man and passed the ball to his best playmaker. It looked as though Barkley was a dead duck right when he got the ball, but somehow, he still gained 14 yards on a play that should have ended behind the line of scrimmage multiple times. Yet again, Barkley made something happen out of nothing.
Barkley and Penn State travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State October 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, in what will be a must-see matchup. Not only because of the Playoff implications, but also because Barkley will go against one of the best defensive lines in college football.