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Take Two: Just how special of an NFL player will Barkley be?

CLASS OF 2019 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | State | Position | Team


Take Two returns with a daily offering tackling a handful of issues in the college football landscape. National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney lays out the situation and then receives takes from National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell and an expert from the network.

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In a story written by Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports, one NFL scout told him that Penn State running back Saquon Barkley was the best player he’s seen in the last decade. Not just the best running back, but the No. 1 player at any position.

The question has been asked whether he can be in the same company as Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette of the Jacksonville Jaguars – that immediate, game-changing talent.

Based on NFL Combine measurables, the answer is absolutely yes. The Penn State back ran faster than those three (Gurley didn’t run because of injury) going 4.4 flat; Elliott was closest at 4.47. He jumped way better (same story on Gurley) with a 41-inch vertical. Elliott had 32.5 and Fournette a disappointing 28.5. Neither Elliott nor Fournette did the bench press.

Gurley pumped out 17 reps. Barkley: 29 reps.

As for college stats, Elliott edged Barkley in rushing yards by 148 yards on 80 fewer carries. Fournette had 17 more yards but three fewer touchdowns. Gurley’s numbers are lower than the others because he finished his career with only 510 carries. In three years at Penn State, Barkley carried the ball 672 times for 3,813 yards and 43 touchdowns, that number tying Elliott.

So just how special of a player will Barkley be in the NFL?


“I don't really get into the NFL Combine superlatives game all that much just because it seems so subjective to me and, maybe more important, I don't have a great read on what everyone else is doing. That said, I know what I've seen at Penn State the past decade and I know what I've seen of Penn State's opponents the past decade, and Barkley is the best, most impressive individual player and athlete I've witnessed in that time.

“The highlights and the production both speak for themselves - he's done things that, frankly, I just haven't seen anyone else ever do, be it jumping over defenders to pick up a crucial third down, one-handed catches, kickoff returns for touchdowns or that still-unbelievable 79-yard TD carry in the Rose Bowl. Those things absolutely separate Barkley into a rarified tier of players. But it's his demeanor, his IQ for the game, the film study, the coaching he takes, the leadership in the locker room, his ability to get along with everyone, (how he) represents himself and his team well, has an unbelievable thirst to exceed perfection, and has unparalleled weight room and speed work dedication. Those are the elements that, in combination, create a truly special and unique player. Football, I think as much or more than any other sport, requires support from complementary pieces to truly achieve success. Within that construct, though, Barkley brings so much to the table that I can’t imagine his impact to whichever team he lands with as being anything short of extremely significant.” – Bauer


“The hype is a little much. He had a great combine and there was a lot of pressure on him. He’s going to have to have instant success within two or three years like Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott to live up to that.

“Really, it depends on what team he goes to. If he goes to a team without an offensive line he could struggle. We saw Gurley struggle two seasons ago because the offensive line was horrible. Running back is a position that’s really reliant upon the guys up front. He’s special. I wouldn’t say the most special player at any position over the last 10 years though. That’s a little bit of a stretch.”