NY Giants news: Is B/R correct listing Saquon Barkley as a mistake?

Saquon Barkley of Penn State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #2 overall by the New York Giants during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Saquon Barkley of Penn State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #2 overall by the New York Giants during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The folks over at Bleacher Report think Saquon Barkley was the NY Giants’ biggest mistake over the last five years. A correct assessment?

Maybe it’s fair to criticize NY Giants general manager Dave Gettleman for some of the gaffes he’s made over the years, and there’s certainly no shortage of them.

But as soon as someone tosses in the idea Gettleman’s top choice from the 2018 NFL Draft, former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, as a potential candidate for the worst mistake the G-Men have made in recent history, it’s bound to get some discussions going.

New York loves Barkley, understandably so.

Yet there’s no doubting his torn ACL suffered early in 2020 all but derailed any hopes of the NY Giants fielding even an above-average offense, which has led to both criticisms of quarterback Daniel Jones and the need for the G-Men to surround Jones with talent heading into 2021.

Including getting a healthy Barkley back.

Nevertheless, Bleacher Report’s Chris Roling listed Barkley as New York’s biggest mistake over the past five years, saying:

"Barkley is fun to watch and great at what he does; it just doesn’t move the needle all that much and the great injury risk to the position became a factor quickly. The team needed a different sort of impact for the rebuild with such a prized asset, whether it was a different prospect or trading it for multiple picks.Now, instead of contending, the Giants will stare a costly long-term extension for Barkley right in the face soon."

Bleacher Report has a point naming Saquon Barkley the worst NY Giants move recently

On the surface, there’s merit to the argument.

The NY Giants had gone 3-13 the year before and were readying themselves for quarterback Eli Manning’s eventual retirement. And in Gettleman’s first year as general manager, the thinking was he would do what many a rebuilding team needs to do in the NFL Draft: use a top pick on a quarterback.

In this sense, perhaps going after one of the signal-callers selected after Barkley was chosen second overall in 2018 would have made sense: USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen or, heck, even Louisville’s Lamar Jackson. Doing so would have negated the need to reach up for Jones the following year, and it’s anyone’s guess how the last two seasons would have panned out under center.

Even if Gettleman wasn’t satisfied with those quarterbacks, though, one can use 20-20 hindsight to say Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, NC State EDGE Bradley Chubb, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith or Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick would have been better picks, right?

And there’s the current NFL mantra that teams should never use a high-profile pick on a running back anyway, especially considering their lifespans and burnout times can be so quick.

With Barkley regressing a bit after his 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign and then suffering his debilitating injury last year, it does make sense.

But is it fair to use the hindsight argument in this case?

Why Dave Gettleman, NY Giants can be excused for drafting Saquon Barkley

It’s somewhat of a loose argument, but Gettleman and the G-Men should be cut some slack for going with Barkley at No. 2 overall and not someone like Allen, which will likely parallel the discussions about how New York missed out on a potential perennial MVP candidate in favor of a running back.

At the time, Allen was viewed as a wild card and a project, a quarterback with a strong arm and great mobility but terribly inaccurate and someone who’d need at least two or three years at the pro level to find his footing, if he ever got to that point.

Amid the pressure that is New York, and in his first year as general manager, Gettleman had one simple move to make.

Go with the best player available.

According to many a 2018 draft big board, that player was Barkley; someone viewed as a game-changing running back despite the league’s tendency towards pass-first offenses. As soon as the Cleveland Browns selected quarterback Baker Mayfield at No. 1 overall, Gettleman had his sights on the player many a draft scout pegged as the draft’s top talent.

Is it hard to fault the NY Giants for that? Especially after a three-win season the year before?

Related Story: What happens if Saquon Barkley gets hurt again?

Gettleman wisely passed on Darnold, whom many thought could be the No. 1 overall player taken in 2018. Same with UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, who was selected eight picks later. Either one of those two picks probably would have been popular decisions among the G-Men fanbase, too, considering the need.

But neither was or is as good a player as Barkley.

OK, so Gettleman might have been wiser to engineer the start of the rebuild through the trenches, another common strategy for rebuilding teams, and it’s not hard to see how players like Chubb or Nelson could have been ideal fits for New York at the expense of the Barkley selection.

Given what he knew at the time and was trying to achieve, though, one has to at least understand why Barkley ended up being the pick.

Even if some are still questioning it.

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