When the New York Giants selected Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, people thought they should have taken a quarterback. Running backs are not normally seen as franchise cornerstones and many draft pundits believed that USC quarterback Sam Darnold was a franchise quarterback for whatever team drafted him.
While the USC product has struggled with turnovers in his debut season, Barkley has been sensational as he is third in the NFL in rushing yards 1,124. His 14 runs of 20 or more yards is first in the NFL and he has given the Giants’ offense the spark it drastically needed last season. The Penn State product has been just as dangerous out of the backfield as he leads all rookies in receptions with 78.
His ability to impact the game in different ways has allowed for Eli Manning to be a more confident passer in the pocket as he is completing a career high 67.7 percent of his passes. Barkley’s presence in the backfield means that defenses need to stack the box against him, because he is a big play waiting to happen.
His success on the ground is even more impressive considering the Giants do not have one of the league’s best offensive lines as Manning has been sacked a career high 43 times so far this season. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott are the only two players in the league with more rushing yards than Barkley, but they have a little more consistent line play than Barkley has had this season.
Left tackle Nate Solder was brought in from the Patriots, but has struggled protecting Manning’s blind side in 2018. Rookie left guard Will Hernandez has been solid in the run game, but has been inconsistent in pass protection so far. Spencer Pulley is the team’s starting center after Jon Halapio was put on injured, while the right side of the offensive line has been a mess this season.
While the line play has improved for the Giants during the second half of the season, Barkley has been producing all season as he tied Edgerrin James for the second most games of 100 or more yards from scrimmage with 12. His play so far has made him the clear choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year and a potential superstar in the near future. Barkley was viewed by experts as the best player in the 2018 Draft and has not disappointed so far this season with 1,753 yards from scrimmages.
His consistency throughout the season has made him the better selection than Darnold, who has shown promise as a future starter, but leads the NFL with 15 interceptions. The debate on whether the Giants made the right selection in Barkley over Darnold will continue for years to come, but Barkley has had a better rookie season than Darnold and been the better draft selection for the Giants.