ESPN Draft experts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. break down the top prospects in this year's draft:
Draft analysts use a lot of the same adjectives to describe Saquon Barkley, but Todd McShay has his own – "inevitable."
When the great quarterback debate is all said and done, the ESPN draftnik believes the Penn State running back is destined to be the next face of the franchise for the New York Football Giants, who hold the second overall pick in next week's draft.
"If you were to spend 10 minutes with Saquon, you understand that he is going to be a face of a franchise," McShay said Wednesday on a conference call. "He is just so likeable, so easy to get along with, a great, genuine, young man who loves the game and is going to give you everything he's got every week. It just feels to me like it's inevitable Saquon Barkley is going to be a New York Giant."
McShay is operating under the assumption that USC quarterback Sam Darnold goes first overall to the Cleveland Browns.
"If you're committed to the run game and that's what you want to be as an organization, then it makes sense [to draft Barkley]," said McShay, who added: "What is your emphasis? If you're trying to throw the ball around and you're going to go 60-40, 70-30 pass-to-run, then I don't know if it makes sense. But if the Giants want to be a run-first team – and that's what I'm told that the emphasis is – then Barkley makes all the sense in the world because the talent is there. It doesn't take a super-scout to figure out that he's a highly talented back.
"You're getting an every-down starter and a player that brings intangibles and leadership and a work ethic that you rarely find in a player who's your most talented player on the football team. So I think he is a franchise-changing type of player."
Coming off a 3-13 season, the Giants were a franchise in need of changing.
Dave Gettleman had a homecoming and became the team's new general manager, saying at his introductory press conference that "the same three things you had to do in '35 that you got to do now in 2018. You've got to run the ball. You've got to stop the run. You've got to pressure the passer. Everywhere I've been and with the great teams that I've been associated with – those were three very big staples."
Notice which one he mentioned first.
Meanwhile, McShay, who was later relieved on the conference call by his colleague Mel Kiper Jr., spoke about a variety of topics as we sit almost a week away until draft day. Here were other items of interest:
Cleveland not open for business. What about Giants?
McShay said with confidence that the first overall pick is not available in a trade and that Cleveland will take either Darnold or Wyoming's Josh Allen. That will be the first piece of the puzzle before the Giants fill in a blank at No. 2.
"More people in the league I talk to are saying Josh Allen now, but until [Browns general manager] John Dorsey has said it or the commissioner announces the name, you never know," McShay said. "So assuming one of those two guys are gone, I don't think ultimately the Giants are going to wind up trading. I think they want to stay at two and take an elite player, and Barkley would be my best guess. If it is Josh Allen at one, though, and if the Jets really like Sam Darnold, could they try to talk to the Giants about moving up one spot?"
We will find out in a week.
Mayfield has risen the most
If you would have asked Kiper back in August, he would have put a third- or fourth-round round grade on Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield before he went on to win the Heisman Trophy this past season. That is not the case anymore. But Kiper's order is still Allen, Darnold and then a drop-off to UCLA's Josh Rosen and Mayfield.
"Baker Mayfield has risen the most," Kiper said.
The question, Kiper said, is just whether Mayfield can channel that "linebacker mentality" and energy into being the everyday "CEO" of a franchise.
Is USC's track record an unfair knock on Darnold?
McShay and Kiper both think so. Seven quarterbacks have been drafted out of USC since 2000: Carson Palmer (first overall), Matt Cassel (seventh round), Matt Leinart (10th overall), John David Booty (fifth round), Mark Sanchez (fifth overall), Matt Barkley (fourth round) and Cody Kessler (third round). McShay brought up an interesting reason for the checkered history, saying that they were surrounded by so much talent and great offensive minds at USC, especially in the cases of Sanchez and Leinart, that they were tough to evaluate on their own.
"You have to really isolate each quarterback and look at the situation," McShay said. "I think you make a mistake if you just paint it with a broad brush saying that every USC quarterback is going to be a failure in the NFL."
"I'd be surprised if he's a bust," Kiper said. "Now, he's got to recreate a little bit of what we saw two years ago. The bad habits have to be eliminated."
Kiper not bothered by Allen's sub-60 completion percentage
Allen's biggest fan right now is Kiper, who is brushing off the recent talk about the perils of not completing more than 60 percent of passes in college. Kiper thinks Allen has "super-elite" talent that draws comparisons to Matthew Stafford and Brett Favre.
"Remember, Stafford had his critics too because he was only at 57 percent coming out of Georgia," Kiper said. "People said he should be a second-round pick, he's a thrower, not a pitcher. I heard the same things about Matthew Stafford when he went No. 1 and he should have gone No. 1. He's had a heck of a pro career and he's been at 66 percent the last three years in the NFL.
"This notion if you don't complete 60 in college, you can't in the NFL – I can give you tons of examples of guys. Even back in the day when they threw the ball 25 times a game, they say that doesn't matter. Well, Josh Allen didn't throw the ball that much. [He had] 32 attempts or more in just one game the last two years and that was against Iowa. Most of the time he was around 25, 26 attempts a game. So he wasn't throwing it 40-plus times a game. He was doing what the quarterbacks did back in the 70s, 80s, early 90s, just getting his 22-28 attempts a game. That's why with no layup, his completion percentage wasn't 62, 63 percent."