Saquon Barkley is a great talent, and odds are he’s going to have a wonderful NFL career. When you peruse the criticism of the New York Giants’ selection of Barkley at No. 2 overall, you won’t find many people who rip Barkley’s ability.
However, it’s a pick that is ripe for criticism. Running backs are a high-profile position, but one that the NFL has devalued. All you have to do is check the top salaries at each position to know that. And the Giants used the second pick on one, with good quarterback prospects on the board and their own starting quarterback who is clearly near the end.
The Giants continue to feel bad about how Eli Manning was benched last season, and seem willing to make suboptimal decisions as a franchise to make it up to him. Manning is 37 years old. He has been on a steep decline in many areas the last two seasons. Even if you believe in a Manning rebound, history says the odds of him being productive at age 40 are terrible. Finding his replacement, and soon, is crucial.
The Giants had a chance to draft Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold or Josh Allen at No. 2, and passed. Gettleman said he never considered any player other than Barkley, even when Darnold dropped. Teams spend a lot of resources to chase a quarterback when they don’t have one. The Giants will soon be in that spot, even if you’re an extreme optimist about Manning (and Gettleman is just that, on Thursday he said, “You have to stop worrying about age. There’s some guys who are just freaks.”).
Gettleman said he didn’t love any of the quarterbacks available to him.
“That tells you your answer right now. If you have to try to make yourself fall in love with a player, it’s wrong,” Gettleman said in his news conference after Thursday’s first round. “You will never be happy with the pick.
“You shouldn’t have to talk yourself into a guy. If you’re talking yourself into a guy, you’re going to make a mistake.”
The hole in that argument is there are very, very few flawless quarterback prospects. And even if another 2012 Andrew Luck comes along, the Giants might not have access to him. Those guys are in extreme demand. You’d have to luck into the first overall pick when the rare transcendent quarterback prospect comes along. If you just wait until the ideal quarterback prospect comes along, you might wait forever.
Yet, Gettleman simply doesn’t buy the argument about positional value.
“I think a lot of that is nonsense,” Gettleman said. “I think it’s someone who had this idea and got into the analytics of it, and did all these running backs and went through their whatever.r Hey, Jonathan Stewart is in his 10th year and he hasn’t lost anything. I don’t believe in it [positional value].”
This could all work out. The Dallas Cowboys didn’t have a post-Tony Romo plan, then Dak Prescott fell out of the sky to them. That’s far from guaranteed, but it happens. Or, Giants 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb will be a star and he’ll be Manning’s successor.
However, it seems risky. The Giants just passed on three good quarterback prospects, when their quarterback is 37 and declining, for a running back. Then the New York Jets took Darnold at No. 3, which means the Giants won’t be able to escape their decision if it ends up being wrong.
Gettleman isn’t worried about that. He got Barkley, who he said he couldn’t even find a comparison for because of Barkley’s size and speed. Ignoring positional value and taking Barkley is a bit of an old-school approach for an old-school GM, and if it doesn’t work out, he’ll be reminded about it often.
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More NFL draft coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• NFL draft: Round 1 winners and losers
• NFL draft grades for Round 1
• Saints pay huge price for raw, unproven talent
• And the Cowboys select … not a wide receiver