Saquon Barkley would be a great get for the New York Giants with the second overall pick but his selection alone won’t transform the offense, let alone the organization.
In fact, it could be a wasted pick if the Giants don’t transform their offense in the same way that one of their NFC East rivals did.
Two years ago, the Dallas Cowboys took what was considered a gamble at the time, selecting running back Ezekiel Elliott fourth overall. At the time, it was seen as a gross overreach given that Elliott wasn’t a popular nod to go in the top-5 that year. Pundits thought the Cowboys panicked.
But it turns out that Elliott was a perfect fit for an offense and, in particular, an offensive line that was seemingly built with the Ohio State running back in mind. He ran his way to being the league’s top rookie in 2016.
Barkley is every bit as talented as Elliott but he wouldn’t enjoy the same level of success here with the Giants as the Cowboys saw with their running back two years ago. The Giants need to follow the Cowboys blueprint if they hope to maximize a potential Barkley selection, even if it means scrambling in free agency to do so.
First things first for the Giants would be rebuilding or rather perhaps simply building their offensive line, given how much it has struggled the past three years. If they don’t make this a priority this offseason, then the selection of a player like Barkley would be a waste.
Barkley has been a transformational player for Penn State the past three years, a running back who was an early Heisman favorite this year. His numbers dipped slightly during the second half of his junior season as teams stacked the box to limit his productivity.
But equally as impressive as his 18 carries for 137 yards and two-touchdown performance in the Fiesta Bowl win over Washington, has been his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He had 54 receptions in 2017, a number that suggests he can help any offense in a variety of ways beyond his 5.9 yards per carry last year.
Numbers and a skillset that would, could and should benefit a Giants offense that ranked 25th in the league in total rushing and with just six rushing touchdowns last season.
They also struggled to use their running backs in the passing game, something Barkley can address.
The reason why the Cowboys drafting Elliott made sense back then – even if the selection was questioned at the time – is because the team had one of the best offensive lines in the league. He was able to rush for over 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns his rookie season because the line was paving a road for him to run.
It was a perfect fit for Elliott but similar success can’t be had or found here for Barkley unless the Giants do some work in a hurry.
At a minimum, the Giants need to address pressing and glaring needs at left tackle and at least one of the guard spots in free agency. These moves can elevate a unit that has been bottom-3 in the league the past three seasons. If they don’t, then a potential selection of Barkley won’t reap the same benefits as the Cowboys taking Elliott two years ago.
He’d simply be running into a wall.
The Cowboys were committed in the years prior to the 2016 NFL Draft in selecting offensive linemen early in the draft. They stuck to this, even as they had other needs on their team.
So when Elliott was taken, the rookie running back was able to step into an ideal situation of talent meeting need.
The Giants squandered their ability to build-up the offensive line over the past two seasons so they’ll need to make free agency and answering their questions along the line their greatest priority this offseason. If they can do this and do it well, then Barkley would be a home run selection.
As he showed at Penn State, Barkley could be their Elliott, a transformational selection that could elevate an entire franchise. If they don’t address this, if the status quo exists along a questionable offensive line, then the Giants would not only be wasting an immense talent in Barkley, they would be wasting what could be the future of their organization.