Browns, NFL Draft

Why the Browns Must Pass on Saquon Barkley

The Cleveland Browns have locked in picks No. 1 and No. 4 in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Despite the trial and tribulation Browns fans experienced en route to this draft day, aka the Browns Superbowl, there is once again the excitement of upside and choices to be made at the top of the draft. WFNY has been covering the upcoming NFL draft for months now, and will continue to do so with unparalleled insight. Indeed, from a player evaluation standpoint, Jake Burns and Joe Gilbert have provided Browns fans with a deep archive of analysis for 2018 picks. This analysis includes their rankings of the 2018 NFL running back draft class which Joe Gilbert described in terms of depth below:

This class is one of the best I have ever seen, as well as the deepest class. Last year was really good, but the 2018 class is better and deeper. I had a hard time narrowing my list to a top five. I had an argument for at least nine backs to be in my top five.

Yet, the most popular name amongst the NFL draft intelligentsia is Saquon Barkley, a talented multi-faceted back from Penn State University. The following argument involves Barkley as a figurehead rather than a singular talent. There is little doubt that Barkley will improve the fortunes of an NFL team in some capacity, but his fit with the Browns, and the risk of as well as aging of NFL running backs, dictate that the Browns should not use a Top 5 pick, or even a first round pick, on a running back.1

One of the major problems for an NFL team like the Browns in the midst of a long term and arduous rebuild is that immediate productivity is not an absolute necessity wherein longevity is a massive value. In terms of team building, the Browns are looking for players at picks No. 1 and No. 4 who will contribute not only in 2018 but in 2023 as well. This is the great danger of the running back.

Research by a site constructed around fantasy football success has established that the peak and aging curve of running back to be front loaded and brief.  For instance, the NFL peak for running backs is the earliest in football and occurs near to draft date.

Courtesy of So Called Fantasy Experts

One of the recent arguments for drafting a running back near the top of the first round is Ezekiel Elliott. In many ways, the Elliott example illuminates the value of drafting running back in a circumstance where a team can compete immediately. At the time of the pick, Elliot was drafted to a loaded Cowboys team who had collapsed due to a quarterback injury. Indeed, Elliot was drafted to complement a team with the best offensive line in football and a pro-bowl caliber quarterback. In this context, drafting a running back in the first 10 picks makes a lot of sense because the front-loaded nature of running back production is useful to a team primed for contention.2

However, the Browns are not a team ready for immediate contention, and offensively, seems miles from competence despite seemingly adequate weapons.  The Browns need to use this pick on a player with a longer peak shelf-life and overall, better staying power.

Courtesy of So Called Fantasy Experts

Further, the depth of the 2018 draft class at running back also requires a conservative approach to the position. With a class rolling potentially nine deep including talents like Sony Michael, Bryce Love, Ronald Jones, and Derrius Guice, patience would appear to be the key. The Browns can certainly improve the position in this draft but the pick must be later on in order to correct for the gap between their contention window, and the aging curve of running backs.

Saquon Barkley can help a contending level team reach no heights but serves no purpose to a team toiling in development multiple pieces away from stealing a wild card spot. The Browns have to hit on franchise cornerstone at picks No. 1 and No. 4, and a player with an early peak and short shelf-life simply does not fit that need. Unless you believe the Browns are a playoff contender in 2018 or 2019.

  1. Jake Burns has noted that Derrius Guice of LSU could be a bargain at the end of round one, and I will yield to this notion in respect for his evaluation skills. []
  2. That rookie Dak Prescott wound up being the starting quarterback for that Cowboys team wound up being inconsequential. []

  • RGB

    Sashi? Is that you?

  • Pat Leonard

    I would like the idea of drafting Saquon Barkley a lot more if Hue Jackson wasn’t the head coach. We can’t lose sight of the fact that Duke Johnson was an absolute force this season when he received touches. I think the Browns could have a very potent offense predicated on running the ball with Barkley and Johnson, then add in a competent QB like Alex Smith to manage the passing game. But could we rely on Hue Jackson feeding 20+ touches per game to Barkley and 12+ touches per game to Duke without getting pass happy? I don’t see it. If the lead RB is only going to get 15 touches per game, might as well wait and draft Nick Chubb, who would be a much better version of Crow.

  • Keep in mind the Hue is now looking for an OC. If the new coordinator is devoted to the running game and Hue gives him playcalling duties, then I see less of an issue between Hue Jackson and Saquon Barkley when it comes to touches.

  • @acase22

    Don’t know about all this. The Browns could easily be contenders as early as next year with the right moves. Paying Kirk Cousins would make the browns a legit threat. As would trading for Alex Smith. Remember that Roethlisberger isn’t getting any younger, Le’Veon Bell may move on to greener pastures, the Bengals seem to be in disarray and the ravens aren’t all that frightening.

    I’ll also add this, the Browns defense was pretty good the past two years. But they were on the field WAY too much because the offense couldn’t stay on the field. The best way to make the defense even better is to keep them off the field. Barkley could very well do that by churning off runs and keeping the clock moving.

    My dream scenario, sign Cousins, draft Barkley and Fitzpatrick, trade back into the first and get Ward.

    Hue’s just gotta stop lying about being committed to the run and this will all work out very nicely.

  • @acase22

    Hue is a selfish, lying bafoon. If he does actually hire an OC it will be because he was forced to.

  • Pat Leonard

    True. I cannot imagine Hue giving up play-calling duties though, he doesn’t believe his play-calling is the problem and has a ton of pride wrapped up in that.

  • Dave

    Part of the problem with trying to build via the draft is that none of these fine young men deserves such a horrendous punishment as being drafted by the Browns.

  • mgbode

    Hue’s Jan 1 quotes, Dorsey & Haslam’s quotes, and the rumors on Ryan only accepting interviews if he has playcalling tied to it all point towards that hand being forced.

  • BenRM

    Don’t do that to yourself, man.

  • Pat Leonard

    Fingers crossed, but that’s great news.

  • hetz

    If he gives up play calling he can focus on which pocket his challenge flag is in.

  • JM85
  • Harv

    Agree, so many holes they need to fill with NFL-grade starters, and they should be able to significantly upgrade in the second or third round.

    No one’s yet talking about how they have too many draft picks to use, given that they acknowledge the roster is already too young. So they’ll either be trading picks for veterans or to move up at various spots. We should also expect that many of the recent draftees will be pursuing careers elsewhere. No way that the contributions over 2 seasons by guys like Ricardo Louis, Higgins, Kessler, Nassib and others justify roster spots on a team that aspires to upgrade quickly. Their patron is now sniffing out opportunities at big law firms, and film don’t lie.

  • paulbip

    Now is the time for impact players and not another load of benchwarmers. Barkley at 1 and Mayfield at 4. Another rb at 33 and move Duke wr-slot. Kiss the crow bye bye.

  • RGB

    “Their patron is now sniffing out opportunities at big law firms, and film don’t lie.”
    He’s probably shlepping for his dream job at PFF.

  • Say it with me: Kirk Cousins. Ain’t coming. To Cleveland. He’ll get his boatload of cash elsewhere without subjecting himself to this embarrassment of a professional franchise. No one will or should choose to come to the Browns until they show they are no longer content being a laughingstock, and they have yet to give any indication of that.

  • scripty

    THere’s 2 or 3 potential all-stars here.

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  • WFNY_DP
  • mddawg

    I agree with that, no top tier free agent will come here no matter how much money is thrown around. I hope for a quick turnarond but highly doubt it, didn’t Detroit go 4-12 after their winless season?

  • Saggy

    never gets old.