1. Saquon Barkley's biggest asset is being a receiver out of the backfield.
John Schmeelk - Fact:Saquon Barkley's skills as a receiver is what will allow him to rise above the analytics of the running back position. He had 54 catches last year for 632 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged an impressive 11.7 yards per catch as a running back. According to Pro Football Focus, his 1.9 yards gained per pass route was tops in the running back class. Last year alone, he had catches for 43, 46, 85, 36, 42, 20, 21 and 24 yards. He is not just a running back you dump the ball to out of the backfield on screens and check downs. He can be split outside and run receiver routes, or wheel routes out of the backfield to make big plays down the field. His pass protection is also strong enough to keep him on the field on third downs. I don't think Saquon Barkley is a guy that will pound it between the tackles 25 times a game. I think he is a much better weapon getting 18 carries and another 7-8 catches. He is a weapon that will drive defensive coordinators batty, especially on third down, the most important down in football.
Dan Salomone - Fiction. I think saying "fact" would pigeonhole his game, which is the opposite of what made him special in college and is the reason why Dave Gettleman and Pat Shurmur legitimately could not come up with an apt player comparison. We've all heard the phrase "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts," but in this case, the parts are also great. At the end of the day, he is a touchdown maker – whether it's rushing, receiving, returning, whatever.
Lance Medow - Fact: To label Saquon Barkley as just a running back doesn't do his game justice. He contributes in several other areas and his skillset as a receiver is what makes him that much more dangerous. The defense has to account for what he can do when he leaves the backfield, which will put a lot more pressure on the linebackers and present favorable coverages for the receiving corps. Barkley had 54 receptions for 632 receiving and three touchdowns in 2017 at Penn State. He finished tied for second on the team in catches and third in receiving yards. That tells you all you need to know. He's not just an insurance policy for quarterbacks or a dump-off option. He's very much used as a receiver within the gameplan.
2. With Barkley, Eli Manning now has the best group of offensive weapons of his career.
John Schmeelk - Fact: In the last five drafts, the Giants have used a first round pick on Odell Beckham Jr, a second-round pick on Sterling Shepard, and first round picks on Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley. Never before in Eli Manning's career has he had that number of premium players at all three skill positions. The closest competition would be from the group of Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Jeremy Shockey and Tiki Barber from 2005-2006, but I think both Barkley and Beckham are better overall athletic talents than anyone in that group. If the Giants can continue to fortify their offensive line, Eli Manning has more than enough weapons to turn the Giants into a big play offense again.
Dan Salomone - Fact. I fell into this trap a year ago…and I'm walking right over this unassuming pile of leaves again, whistling as I go. This time, however, I think there is solid ground underneath the camouflage. The difference is the commitment to building the offensive line, which is only just getting started with two more days of the draft to go. Additionally, a player like Barkley doesn't just help the rushing numbers. He helps the receivers. He helps the line. He helps the defense. Eli Manning is a happy camper right now.
Lance Medow - Fiction: On paper, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley is an extremely talented and versatile group. With that being said, the one thing I hate in sports is crowning a player, team, offensive corps, etc., way too soon, especially when the sample size is still very small or nonexistent. Manning has been surrounded by plenty of talented players throughout his career (all groups that have proven track records), so I'll take Plaxico Burress, Amani Toomer, Steve Smith, Kevin Boss, Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw over this current crew. I also would gladly take Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham, Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.
3. Barkley will be a factor in the return game as a rookie.
John Schmeelk - Fact: But only in spot duty. He might get a handful or two over the course of the entire season. If an opposing team takes a lead late, and the Giants are about to go into a two-minute drill situation, I could see rolling out Barkley as a kick returner to try to get a big return when they need it most. He had two kickoff returns for touchdowns and a 27.8 average in his final season at Penn State. Other than that, his touches will primarily come on offense.
Dan Salomone - Fact.As an Ohio State fan who was terrified every time the Nittany Lion took the ball out of the end zone, let me be the one to tell you he will be a factor, no matter if it is only once a game. You don't leave talent on the sideline in any phase of the game. If Antonio Brown can still return punts for the Steelers, everyone is eligible for special teams duty. Shurmur said Barkley will be in the mix, not as the primary returner, but as a weapon in certain situations.
Lance Medow - Fact:How can he not be? Barkley is just as dynamic a return man as he is a running back. Not utilizing him in that role would be not capitalizing enough on his versatility. Not playing him on special teams for fear of injury is one of the most ridiculous arguments I've heard. That thinking has clearly prevented the Steelers from relying on Antonio Brown as their main punt returner. There's a risk for injury every time a player steps on the field whether, you're a running back, quarterback, wide receiver, return man, etc. It makes no difference. Barkley had multiple games at Penn State when he received 20-plus carries and also returned kickoffs. It shouldn't be a concern.
4. The biggest surprise of the first round was Baker Mayfield going first overall.
John Schmeelk - Fiction: I know a lot of people were shocked, but I wasn't. If Baker Mayfield was 6-3 or 6-4, he would have been my top player in this draft class as well. He is a fierce competitor who is loved by his teammates. He was the most accurate passer in the class and had the best production. He won a ton of games. Every single analytic out there said he was the best quarterback, and player, in the class and it wasn't close. As long as he can figure out a way to navigate passing lanes and improves against the blitz, he is going to be a wonderful player. I was far more surprised by the Browns selecting Denzel Ward at four over Bradley Chubb, the Packers trading a future first round pick to get Marcus Davenport, and the Steelers taking Terrell Edmunds as high as they did. Mayfield did not compare to those.
Dan Salomone - Fact.Yes, the reports came out Thursday morning that he would go No. 1 overall. But that same report was written about Sam Darnold the day before that, about Saquon Barkley the day before that, and about Josh Allen the day before that. So, yeah, I'm still surprised he was the first overall pick when for much of the time he was regarded as a distant fourth behind the top quarterback trio. But it only takes the conviction of one general manager to make it happen. And it did. It is going to be fascinating to look at the top 10 picks of this draft five or 10 years down the road.
Lance Medow - Fiction:Considering there was a report leading up to the draft that this could very well come to fruition, it's hard to label this as the biggest surprise. I'm more surprised the Browns passed on Bradley Chubb at four (technically, you can argue they passed on him twice) and that Florida State's Derwin James fell to 17 to the Chargers.
View the best photos from Saquon Barkley's Draft Night