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Fact or Fiction: Barkley vs. Jones rookie seasons


Daniel Jones' rookie season was more impressive than Saquon Barkley's.

John Schmeelk: Fact -- "Impressive" is an interesting word choice because it takes into consideration expectations for players at their positions. Barkley had a better rookie year than Jones, but was it more impressive? Running backs with credentials like Barkley's are expected to come into the league and waste no time setting the league on fire. There isn't a big adjustment period, with few major changes in what they are asked to do from college to the pros. Quarterbacks, meanwhile, are expected to have a longer and more arduous adjustment period. Jones performed at a higher level than many expected in his first game, and kept it up for much of the year. There are plenty of things he still needs to improve upon, like avoiding turnovers, accuracy downfield and pocket presence, but he established a very strong launch point. That's why I think Jones rookie year was more impressive.

Dan Salomone: Fiction -- When you etch your name in the record book for teams like the Texans, you're talking a few decades. When you do it for a franchise like the Cowboys, you're going up against 60 years. When you're with a cornerstone organization like the Giants, that's nearly a century's worth of players. That's what makes Daniel Jones' 2019 season and Saquon Barkley's 2018 campaign so special. As for which was more impressive, I'm giving the edge to Barkley. Forget rookies. He did something only one other player (Tiki Barber) had done in franchise history – eclipse 2,000 yards from scrimmage in a season. On top of that, he led the NFL in that category.

Lance Medow: Fact -- They both rewrote the Giants' rookie record books, but I will give the edge to Jones because of how much more difficult it is to play quarterback in the NFL. After taking over the starting job in Week 3, it was essentially a baptism by fire for Jones. Despite some issues with ball security, Jones threw for just over 3,000 yards with 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions (2:1 TD:INT ratio). He also completed 62 percent of his passes. You could do a whole lot worse at that position as a rookie.

Julian Love is the 2019 rookie most likely to make a big jump in 2020.

Schmeelk: Fiction -- Despite my high expectations for Love this season, I think the more likely choice here is Dexter Lawrence. While Lawrence played well in his rookie season, he wasn't extremely productive with only 24 solo tackles, 38 total, and 2.5 sacks. I think his production will better reflect his play in 2020, with a bump up to 4-5 sacks and more tackles. While most people focus on Lawrence's size, which is immense, it is his quickness and athleticism that gives him the potential to be a special player. I want to see what a full offseason in an NFL conditioning program will do for him. I think he comes back better and ready to dominate in 2020.

Salomone: Fiction -- My candidate is in the secondary: DeAndre Baker, the third of last year's three first-round picks. As the season progressed, you heard his name less and less. That's a compliment for cornerbacks and offensive linemen. Corner is one of – if not the – most difficult non-quarterback positions on the field, let alone for rookies. It takes time for them to develop, which you saw from Baker late in 2019. Now all the young defensive backs will learn from position coach Jerome Henderson and assistant Anthony Blevins.

"Jerome has a great resume, he's coached a lot of good players in a lot of good schemes," head coach Joe Judge said. "I think the more you check around with Jerome, I talked to guys that he coached, the way they responded to him and the way they respected him in the room definitely said a lot about him as a coach."

Medow: Fact -- In comparison to the rest of the 2019 draft class, Julian Love didn't see much playing time until late in the season. That means his sample size is smaller than the rest of the group, so if he is on the field in 2020 from start to finish, he has a great chance to make significant strides. Despite the limited playing time (37% of defensive snaps), Love's versatility was on full display as he lined up at safety and slot corner. It will be interesting to see how new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham decides to utilize Love's skillset, but he should have an opportunity to make a big impact in a young secondary.

Early impressions indicate the 2020 draft class is stronger on defense.

Schmeelk: Fiction -- Unlike last year, which was a very strong draft on the defensive side of the ball, this will be an extremely heavy offensive draft. There could be up to four quarterbacks picked in the first round. It is one of the deepest wide receiver classes in recent memory, with top 10 worthy talents in Jerry Jeudy and Ceedee Lamb. The running back class is strong with D'Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor as potential top 50 picks. There could be up to six offensive tackles selected in the first round. When we look back at this draft in five years, it will be one that injected a new crop of offensive stars and stalwart tackles into the league.

Salomone: Fact -- Do I watch a lot of college football? Yes. Do I zigzag the country to see these prospects play live and then lock myself in a bunker to watch game tape on prospects for four months? No. I leave that to the pros on the other side of this building and the 31 others around the country. Now that I got that disclaimer out of the way -- Oh, you're still reading? -- I'm going to give you my impression. Joe Burrow, a quarterback, is king of the hill, but there are a lot of defenders swiping at his feet from below. I've found the best way to use all these mock drafts and position rankings is not to take them as gospel on a pick-by-pick, prospect-by-prospect basis. Just aggregate them and you'll see themes.

Medow: Fact -- I think this draft class is balanced across the board, but since this statement is based on "early impressions", I'll lean toward the defense. Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young, his teammate (cornerback) Jeff Okudah and Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons could all be top five picks. Iowa pass rusher A.J. Epenesa, as well as South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw and Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown, are projected to go in the first round. The safety position isn't too shabby with LSU's Grant Delpit and Xavier McKinney of Alabama also high on many boards. Every draft, teams are typically aggressive in trying to find franchise quarterbacks and this year won't be any different, starting with LSU's Joe Burrow likely off the board at number one. There's also some depth at wide receiver, tight end and on the offensive line. Like I mentioned earlier, I don't think there's a huge disparity between the defense and offense in this draft, but as of now, I think the presence and projections of Young, Okudah and Simmons give the defense the edge.

View photos of players listed on NFL Network's Top 50 NFL Draft prospect rankings

The Super Bowl is the hardest championship to win in all of sports at any level.

Schmeelk: Fact -- In the NBA, the best team normally wins because the title is determined in a seven-game series. Winning a World Series is difficult because a team has to win at least one five-game series and two seven-game series. It requires so many players on the team to play well at the same time. Football, like the NCAA tournament, is a one-game elimination tournament. One bad day can sink a team's title hopes, which is why winning the Super Bowl is the toughest. At the same time, some luck, breaks and random chance can go a long way to helping a team win a title. It's that randomness that makes it so hard to win a Super Bowl. There is simply more control over your destiny in the other sports. In football, you often need to be good and need some luck. It's very hard to come by.

Salomone: Fiction -- Watch Game 1 of any Stanley Cup Playoffs series. Let me repeat: Game 1 of the first round. You will be physically exhausted just watching the intensity. Again, I repeat: Game 1 of the first round. You have to win 16 grueling games to receive the most storied trophy in all of sports. Think about that. It's the grind of all grinds.

Medow: Fact -- I'm going with the fact sweep this week. In the NBA and NHL, half the teams make the playoffs and in MLB, although not nearly as big a field, in order to advance, you have to win a series. That increases the chances of the better team winning. In the NFL, just 12 of the 32 teams (38%) make the playoffs, the postseason structure is one and done, and the injury rate is extremely high. So many things need to go right in order to win a Super Bowl, and typically there has to be some luck involved. There's a reason the best team in the NFL doesn't always advance to or win the big game. The Giants are actually the perfect example with their two most recent Super Bowl runs. When it comes to parity, the NFL runs laps around every other sport.


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