2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Saquon Barkley

  • Saquon Barkley, 6-0/233

  • Running Back

  • Penn State

  • Saquon Barkley Scouting Report
    By Charlie Campbell

  • Instinctive, natural runner
  • Decisive runner
  • Fast and explosive
  • Elusive; excellent moves in the open field to dodge tacklers
  • Speed to break off long touchdown runs on any carry
  • So fast that his speed takes away angles from defenders
  • Threat to score on any carry
  • Starts games fast; doesn’t need carries to get in a groove
  • Rare acceleration
  • Tough, physical runner
  • Power back who can run over defenders
  • Excellent vision
  • Great feet
  • Cutting ability
  • Can return kicks
  • Ideal build and size
  • Gets lots of yards after contact
  • Keeps feet going after contact
  • Finishes runs well
  • Burst to the hole
  • Good vision
  • Capable of creating for himself
  • Capable of controlling games
  • Runs well in the second half
  • Quality short-yardage back
  • Has great straight-line speed to pull away from defenders
  • Shiftiness; will juke defenders
  • Has a second gear in the open field
  • Fast to the hole
  • Nice hands
  • Receiving ability
  • Excellent route-runner
  • Soft hands
  • Willing blocker in blitz pickup with potential to be very good
  • Hard-nosed runner between the tackles
  • Has a nose for the end zone
  • Wears down defenses
  • Excellent knee bend
  • Runs behind his pads
  • Runs well in the second half
  • Perfect fit for a zone-blocking system
  • Perfect fit for a man-blocking system
  • Intimidates defenses
  • Ball security
  • Durable
  • Good character

  • Weaknesses:
  • Was contained in some games as a junior

  • Summary: From the very beginning of his collegiate career, Barkley illustrated that he has stud potential for the NFL. In his debut season, he averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,076 yards with seven touchdowns. The freshman also caught 20 passes for 161 yards and a score. Barkley was even better as a sophomore, averaging 5.5 yards per carry on the year for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also took 28 catches for 402 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver.

    Barkley dominated many opponents in 2017 and every defense he went against sold out to stop him. On the year, Barkley averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,271 yards with 18 touchdowns. He had 54 receptions for 632 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver. Barkley also contributed as a kick returner and provided a ton of huge plays for his team.

    Barkley’s natural running skills are off the charts. He is extremely fast to hit the hole with rare acceleration downfield. Barkley’s game-breaking speed makes him a threat to score on any touch. He has the ability to constantly produce long touchdown runs. Routinely, Barkley would make a great cut to dodge a tackler and then explode down the field for a game-changing play. His long speed, first-step explosion, and instant acceleration are off the charts.

    Barkley has tremendous footwork and balance to cut around defenders and maintain his footing after they initiate contact. With his powerful build, Barkley runs through tackles and bends at the knee to run behind his pads. He charges for yards after contact, and his legs don’t go dead on contact. While Barkley’s speed and explosion catch the eye so easily, he also is a physical runner who uses power and strength to run over defenders. There were plays where his awareness and instincts made him seem like he had eyes in the back of his head with how he was able to take away angles from defenders downfield.

    Barkley is going to be an asset and a mismatch weapon in the passing game. As a receiver, he is phenomenal. He runs superb routes to create separation and get open for his quarterback. Barkley has soft hands and tracks the ball well. He is a dangerous mismatch weapon with his speed and shiftiness in the open field. Barkley could have the ability to line up in the slot and run routes like other talented receiving backs of Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey. In pass protection, Barkley is a willing blocker who will dish out some good hits. Once he learns his protection assignments. Barkley should be a good three-down starter in the NFL.

    Of all the prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, Barkley is the best player available. He is a lock to be a top-five pick. In the NFL, he could be a franchise player who has a huge impact on leading his team to wins. He could be a Pro Bowler as early as his rookie season and has the talent to be one of the best running backs in the league during his rookie contract. Barkley is a generational talent who could go on to a prolific and legendary NFL career.

    Player Comparison: Barry Sanders. I don’t like to pick Hall of Famers for the player comparison, but watching Barkley reminds me of watching Barry Sanders during his amazing career for the Lions. The combination of natural running skills with extreme speed and a strong build is truly rare. Barkley can do anything on a football field, even dominating good opponents. Sanders was like that in his amazing career filled with highlight-reel runs and sheer domination. Sanders was a top-five pick, and Barkley is going to be a top-five choice as well. If Barkley doesn’t get injured, I think he could be a back who is similar to Sanders during his NFL career.

    NFL Matches: Cleveland, New York Giants, New York Jets, Indianapolis, Denver, Tampa Bay and San Francisco

    As the best player in the 2018 NFL Draft, Barkley is a lock to go in the top five. Cleveland needs a feature back, and I know Browns sources that love Barkley. If the Browns don’t take Barkley with the first pick, they would be thrilled to see him get to their next selection at No. 4 overall.

    However for that to happen for Cleveland, two teams would have to pass on Barkley. At No. 2, the Giants could use a feature back for their offense, and there are a lot of rumblings that they would take Barkley over a quarterback. At No. 3, the Colts need an impactful running back, and it would be surprising if they passed on Barkley.

    The Broncos, Jets, Buccaneers and 49ers all could use a feature back for their offenses, but there is no chance that Barkley gets out of the top five. These three teams picking in the No. 5-9 range, however, are not too low to make trading up for Barkley impossible.


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