Dave Gettleman respectfully disagrees with the notion that running backs don’t matter as much now as they once did in the NFL.
“I think the devaluing of the running back is really a myth,” the Giants’ general manager said Thursday at a pre-draft news briefing at the team’s training facility. “You have a great running back, it immediately makes your quarterback better, your offensive line better and your passing game better. It’s just the way it is.”
It therefore makes perfect sense in Gettleman’s mind that Penn State running back Saquon Barkley would be an appropriate choice at No. 2 overall in next week’s draft. Barkley is the kind of dominant player — he can run, catch passes and return kicks — any team would want. And under the right set of circumstances, he would make perfect sense for the Giants: If they had a quarterback in his prime and a solid young offensive line and were close to making a Super Bowl run, Barkley would be a no-brainer.
But the fact remains that this team is much further away from a championship. So taking Barkley instead of one of the top quarterbacks available or top pass rusher Bradley Chubb remains a tricky proposition.
If Gettleman truly believes one of the premier passers available is worthy of a top pick, he’d be crazy not to take him if the Browns don’t select that quarterback with the top pick.
With 37-year-old Eli Manning drawing ever closer to the end, if Gettleman believes in his soul that Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield or Josh Allen can be his quarterback for the next decade, he has no choice but to take him.
The feeling here is that Darnold or Rosen would fit Gettleman’s requirements.
But here’s the rub: There is a chance that Gettleman doesn’t have the kind of conviction on one of those quarterbacks to make that call. He predictably wouldn’t tip his hand about whether he indeed feels that way, because like any good general manager, he wants to keep his options open.
On Thursday, Gettleman was sufficiently vague to allow for every possibility — up to and including using the No. 2 choice on a quarterback, a running back, a guard or a pass rusher, or even trading back to collect more picks to create much-needed roster depth.
The quarterback situation remains the most important issue of all, and Gettleman is mindful of the dangers of guessing wrong.
“You miss on a quarterback, you’ve really hurt the franchise for probably five years,” he said. “It’s a five-year mistake.”
The Browns have learned the hard way about failing to make the right call on a quarterback. In the last two years, they snubbed Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, and both already have shown plenty of promise. The Browns will get a third chance this year, and there’s every reason to believe new GM John Dorsey will take a blue-chip passer at either No. 1 or No. 4.
If Gettleman has come to the conclusion that he can get a franchise quarterback he believes in at No. 2, it’s an easy choice. No matter how good a running back Barkley may be, there’s simply no comparison to taking a top passer, especially with the Giants able to give said passer time to develop under Manning, who will remain the starter for another year or two.
But if Gettleman isn’t convinced that any of these passers is worthy of the No. 2 pick, Barkley is a legitimate consideration, especially because of how easy it has been to see his potential.
How much of a no-brainer is Barkley? “He’s one of those guys my mother could have scouted,” Gettleman said. “She could have figured that one out.”
But Gettleman must first figure out a much more complicated equation before making that fateful decision next Thursday night. He must decide whether there’s a quarterback worth such an expensive investment.
Either way, it’s a franchise-changing decision.
Gettleman had better hope he makes the right call.