INDIANAPOLIS — For a while, the NFL’s philosophy on drafting running backs was patience. Wait until the later rounds where there was still plenty of depth and talent at the position. Then, star players began returning to the top of the board. Ezekiel Elliott, Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette were gobbled up early and gave teams immediate returns.
Will Penn State’s Saquon Barkley be the next of that bunch? And more to the point, will he do so as a Giant?
Dave Gettleman, general manager of the Giants, said he has no aversion to taking a running back with the second overall pick.
“The bottom line is, is the guy a football player?” he asked. “This whole myth of devaluing running backs, I find it kind of comical. At the end of the day, if he’s a great player he’s a great player. It doesn’t matter what position it is.”
Barkley may be that great player. Most analysts have him as the top prospect in the draft talent-wise and potential-wise. And the Giants certainly can use a running back who can help not only their group production, but also their passing game.
“The position in general, I have a high opinion of what a running back brings to your offense,” head coach Pat Shurmur said. “But I also have a very high opinion that that guy has to be able to run the ball, he has to be able to pass protect, and he has to be able to catch… I think the running back is a huge weapon in the passing game whether you look down the field and check it down or you dedicate throws to the runner.”
Barkley can do that.
“Oh yeah,” Shurmur said. “Most of the top-flight runners can catch the ball and that’s what makes them top-flight.”
Shurmur also was quick to point out that with running backs, it “takes a village.” That means he’d like to ideally have two backs or more who can handle the job. The Giants have selected a running back in each of the past two drafts – Paul Perkins and Wayne Gallman – and also have rights to pending free agent Orleans Darkwa for another few weeks if they decide to retain him. Any of them might make lovely accessories to Barkley.
“The best scenario in my mind at running back is when you have a 1, 1-A deal,” Shurmur said. “And as a play-caller you can’t be worried about what plays you are calling because this guy can’t catch or this guy can only run the ball, because you know what, the defense knows all that too. So you have to have a guy at my opinion at running back who is a multi-dimensional guy.
“Really I have no use for any offensive skill player who can’t catch, and running back is no different.”