(Photo Credit: USA Today via Reuters/Catalina Fragoso)
The initial reaction to the New York Giants’ decision to take Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second pick in last month’s draft naturally ran the gamut among Giants’ fans from great to “oh, my.”
The latter are probably part of a group still clamoring that the team should have drafted one of the three quarterbacks who followed Baker Mayfield in the top 10. While 37-year-old quarterback Eli Manning is nearing the two-minute warning of his career, the Giants need to win now. That’s what a 3-13 season and one playoff appearance in the last six years has led to.
Unless Manning was to get injured, Sam Darnold or Josh Allen or Josh Rosen would not be starting for the Giants this season. Barkley, the best running back in the draft, not only should start Week 1, but should be an early favorite for offensive rookie of year.
Help is here
In 2016, the Giants ranked 29th in rushing (88.2 yards per game) and improved slightly to 26th (96.8) last season. Since 2015, New York has totaled 17 rushing touchdowns. To put that into perspective, the Rams’ Todd Gurley scored 13 times on the ground last season alone.
Barkley, who was born in the Bronx, rushed for 3,843 yards and 43 touchdowns in his three seasons with the Nittany Lions. He also caught 102 passes, including 54 in 2017. He’s a home-run hitter with all-world talent. The perfect antidote for a team in need of a rebound.
The Giants will get their first look at Barkley in the controlled environment of this weekend’s rookie minicamp. For New York fans, it officially brings the promise of a new day.
Show of support
While Barkley might be the key to the Giants’ turnaround, the team’s coaches won’t put pressure on him to go it alone. Manning will do all he can to help the rookie adapt, veteran addition Jonathan Stewart should be a terrific backfield mentor and even Odell Beckham Jr. took time away from worrying about a long-term contract to praise the selection of Barkley.
There’s probably no better feeling for a rookie than being accepted by your new team minutes after your name is called on draft day. But the Giants are eager to move forward and prove last season was a fluke, and though injuries were partially to blame for the disastrous 2017 season, they were embarrassed by the collective performance.
Don’t think there would be this much excitement if they had taken a quarterback.
What about that quarterback?
It would seem Manning has at least two more seasons left in him, assuming he stays healthy and the Giants don’t win the Super Bowl this season and retirement becomes an option. What the Giants do on the field likely will dictate which direction they go in the draft next season.
That could mean taking a quarterback in the middle rounds to nurture or if they struggle mightily again in 2018, get one of the better signal callers early in the first round. Don’t forget, New York took Kyle Lauletta, an intriguing prospect from FCS Richmond, in the fourth round this season, and also thinks highly of second-year backup Davis Webb from Cal.
How this all plays out should be interesting to watch, but for the moment, the excitement surrounding the addition of Barkley, should give the Giants and their fans something to look forward to and feel good about.
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