The talk about Saquon Barkley heading into the NFL Scouting Combine was whether he is worthy of a top-five pick. Coming out of Indianapolis, there were rumblings he could go first overall.
That puts the Giants, who are set to draft second on April 26, in play for the standout running back out of Penn State. ESPN's Todd McShay certainly thinks so, projecting Barkley to the Giants in his post-combine mock draft.
"The Giants could go a lot of different directions here," McShay wrote. "If they are really looking to win now with Eli Manning at QB, then they should take the best player in the draft, Barkley. Give Manning a running game and a little more pass protection (via free agency or later in the draft) and Giants fans would argue they are a playoff team. Bradley Chubb and Quenton Nelson are in play here as well. And New York also could get a sweet offer to move back for a team looking to jump up and take a QB."
The buzz about Barkley only grew last week at Lucas Oil Stadium, where he led all running backs (tied for fifth out of all 336 prospects) with a 41-inch vertical jump. He also tied for first at his position with Georgia's Nick Chubb with 29 reps in the bench press. Barkley just missed out on the top spot for running backs in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.40 seconds. Nyheim Hines of North Carolina State led the group at 4.38.
Even so, McShay hasn't changed his mind for the No. 1 pick. He still has USC quarterback Sam Darnold going to the Cleveland Browns.
"I've had Darnold here in the previous two mocks as well," he wrote. "After the combine this past week, it's sounding as if this pick could come down to him or Saquon Barkley. Darnold is the best QB in this class, in my opinion. However, I also could see Josh Allen as the choice here, since he has more experience in the cold, the big arm and the hand size (10⅛ inches) to diminish fumbling concerns in bad AFC North weather. If Cleveland addresses its quarterback situation in free agency (AJ McCarron?), then I think Barkley is the pick here."
The rest of his top were North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb to the Colts, Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick the Browns again, and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson to the Broncos at No. 5.
Pick: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Analysis: "A QB could be picked here, but Barkley is a rare talent."
Pick: Sam Darnold - QB, USC
Analysis: "Darnold has the potential to be the best quarterback in this class. Sitting behind Eli Manning for one year would be ideal."
Pick: Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California
Analysis: "He didn't throw at the combine, which could make him a perfect candidate for the Giants, who probably wouldn't need him to throw a regular-season pass in 2018, either. New GM Dave Gettleman would probably love to get a shot at Barkley and will probably be tempted to add Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson, one of his beloved "hog mollies," to what may be the league's worst offensive line. But at the end of the day, it's rare for the Giants to be in position to draft a franchise passer — they haven't had a top-five selection since they wound up with Eli Manning in 2004. Though Manning, 37, may have another year or two in his tank, this is too good an opportunity to enact a bona fide succession plan, especially considering Darnold's estimable upside and a low-key demeanor (like Manning's) that would probably work well in The Big Apple."
Pick: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Analysis: "The New York Giants could use this pick on a quarterback of the future, but I believe this front office has faith in Eli Manning for a few more seasons and likes the development potential of Davis Webb. With those two on the roster, there is no pressure to immediately address quarterback. The Giants would love to see Barkley here, but even if he's gone they can still get a player some scouts I've talked to feel is the best and safest in the class. Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson looks like an All-Pro-caliber guard coming out of South Bend. He's big (6'5", 325 lbs), a mauler in the run game and a very smooth mover in both the run and pass game. Nelson isn't a sexy pick, but the Giants can both protect Manning and solve some run-game issues with this pick."
Pick: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Analysis: "Thanks a lot, Cleveland! Dave Gettleman's making a lot of noise about not drafting a quarterback because of Eli Manning, but going Allen at No. 2 and letting him sit behind Eli, then picking up pieces in free agency is the ideal situation for the Giants."
Pick: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Analysis: "They have to get the eventual replacement for Eli Manning, and Rosen would be that guy. He could sit for a year or two."
Pick: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming (Giants trade up to No. 1)
Analysis: "Allen put on a show at the combine and made it clear he'd love to play for Pat Shurmur. And with 37-year-old Eli Manning entering his 15th season, the Giants are in the market for his replacement -- and it's unlikely they'll have this draft position again anytime soon."
Pick: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Analysis: "NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock compared Chubb to Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, and ran a quicker 40 time this past weekend in Indianapolis."