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2018 NFL Draft Prospect: Saquon Barkley

On December 30th, Saquon Barkley will likely play one last game before heading off to the NFL. He’ll look to put a cap on a historic career as one of the best and most exciting backs in recent memory as Penn State takes on Washington in the Fiesta Bowl.

Washington boasts one of the best defenses in the nation, with defensive tackle Vita Vea leading the way. They boast the fourth-best defense in S&P+ ranking, the best of any team that the Nittany Lions have faced all season. It will be one last test for Barkley to impress scouts and convince them he’s a top-five pick.

Athleticism

Barkley comes in at 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, which is essentially the ideal build for a running back. He’s been tabbed by many as No. 1 freak athlete in the country, and it’s easy to see why. Here are some of Barkley’s personal bests:

  • 4.33 forty (hand timed).

  • 38-inch vertical.
  • 30 reps of 225 pounds on bench press; 415 pound single rep bench press.
  • Single rep Squat of 600 pounds; 5 reps of 525 pounds on squat.
  • 405 pound power clean (Penn State record).

  • 121 inch Broad Jump
  • 4.00 shuttle time (hand timed)

Barkley’s weight adjusted times should be crazy. His speed score projects to be roughly 130 based on his hand timed numbers, and with a 4.00 shuttle, his agility numbers should be equally as impressive.

RB Prospect Lab

Our RB Prospect Lab produces a score on a scale of 0-100 and generates closest comparisons for each RB using a variety of factors. I adjusted Barkley’s 40 time by .05 to account for it being hand timed and gave him the average 3-cone time of all backs between 2004-2017 who ran between a 4.00 and 4.15 in the shuttle. Here’s how he fared:

NAMEAGEYEARWTFORTYCONEATTSYPGTDSRECSSCORE
SAQUON BARKLEY20.8920172304.386.9816.5894.51.753.9100
LADAINIAN TOMLINSON21.4420012214.466.8433.55196.1820.9198
STEVEN JACKSON20.4420042314.557.0326.92118.851.463.3898
DARREN MCFADDEN20.3620082114.336.8625140.771.231.6295
MATT FORTE21.9720082174.446.8430.08177.251.922.6795
KEVIN SMITH21.0520082174.536.7432.14183.362.071.7191
LEVEON BELL20.8820132304.566.7529.38137.920.922.4691

Barkley scores a perfect 100. He’s quite literally a perfect RB prospect.  It’s important to note that I did include his total touchdowns in his numbers, but I’ll dive into this when discussing his production.

Production

I’ll be focusing on Barkley’s final-season production, but he did have over 1,000 yards and 20 receptions in each of his first three seasons. This year, Barkley posted the following market share numbers:

  • 78% of non-quarterback carries
  • 82% of non-quarterback yards
  • 89% of non-quarterback touchdowns
  • 17% of receptions
  • 17% of receiving yards
  • 10% of receiving touchdowns
  • 14% Dominator Rating

Two things really stand out about Barkley and his production: his receiving numbers and his age. He doesn’t even turn 21 until February, and we know that producing at a young age is key for prospects. It’s also quite rare for any back to put up those kind of receiving numbers, and even more impressive when you consider his size and rushing numbers. He’s also an elite kick returner who averaged over 28 yard per return and scored two TDs this year.

Putting this all together, here are the only players to match Barkley’s season of 1,100 rushing yards, 400 receiving yards, 400 kick return yards, and 20 total touchdowns:

  • Chris Johnson
  • CJ Spiller
  • Dri Archer

Spiller and Johnson were two of the most explosive and dynamic backs to come into the NFL in recent memory, but Barkley can do this while being 30 pounds heavier.

Outlook

Barkley has the potential to be a special player at the next level. The only hole in his resume is his lack of elite rushing production, but he did run behind a sub-par offensive line at Penn State and only averaged about 16 carries per game in his final season. His closest comparable in the prospect lab was Steven Jackson, but his fantasy ceiling is closer to Le’Veon Bell: a player who could function as an elite receiver or RB—a true Swiss Army knife. He’s likely a top-10 back the second he gets drafted, and I’d love to see him end up on the 49ers, as a head coach like Kyle Shanahan could work wonders with a player of Barkley’s caliber.

  1. or if you reacted the same way @CoachTimBanks did?  (back)

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