We New York Giants fans are going to need some answers. The utter-disrespect placed on running back Saquon Barkley over the past month or so has been mindboggling, to say the least.
Bandwagon hot takes met with little merit in hopes of discounting Barkley’s brilliance on the football field appear to be the “cool thing” to do at the moment. First, it was Pro Football Focus, inexplicably excluding Barkley from their list of top-50 NFL players entering the 2020 season. Then it was EA Sports, whole doled out a laughable overall rating to the star running back for their upcoming release of Madden 21.
Now we can add former Jacksonville Jaguars running back and current NFL.com analyst, Maurice Jones-Drew, to the mix of people looking to discredit Barkley’s placement in the upper-echelon of NFL running backs.
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MJD on Saquon: Not a Top-5 RB, ‘His Pass Protection is Horrible’
While the media has enjoyed piling on Barkley this offseason, the majority of the NFL still clearly holds Barkley in high regard. Most evident by his placement atop ESPN’s best running backs list, which was compiled by polling 50-plus NFL executives, scouts, coaches and players.
However, Jones-Drew has done his best to dispel that list, releasing his personal running back rankings this week, a list in which Barkley plummets all the way to No. 6.
Rank 6: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Barkley is one of the most talented players in the NFL. There’s no questioning that. BUT his pass protection is horrible. Remember when Jamal Adams grabbed the ball out of Daniel Jones’ hands and took it to the house? Well, that was Barkley’s block. He missed it, and it cost the Giants big time. I need to see this part of his game improve.
The five running backs listed ahead of Barkley proceed as followed: Christian McCaffrey (No. 1), Ezekiel Elliott (No. 2), Nick Chubb (No. 3), Alvin Kamara (No. 4) and Joe Mixon (No. 5).
Evaluating Barkley’s Pass-Pro Skills
Let’s disregard Barkley’s placement on MJD’s list for a moment and focus on Jones-Drew’s biggest gripe with Barkley, his “horrible” pass blocking.
It’s easy to highlight the most drastic of blunders, however from a broader perspective Barkley is far from horrible in pass protection. Could he benefit from improving that facet of his game? Certainly.
However, while his pass-protecting skills may have diminished slightly from year one to year two with the Giants, the majority of that can be attributed to his high-ankle sprain, something Yahoo Sports senior NFL reporter Terez Paylor details brilliantly details in this clip.
You don’t have to go back too far to see Barkley flash his brilliance in pass-protection. Coming out of Penn State, Barkley was tied with now-Patriots running back, Sony Michel, as the top-rated RBs in pass protection for the 2018 draft class, via Fantasy Points’ Graham Barfield:
A big part of where Sony Michel wins is in pass protection. In fact, he and Saquon Barkley are the most accomplished protectors in the 2018 RB Class: pic.twitter.com/yYIBjcIdJG
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) April 17, 2018
Barkley on a HOF Pace?
Finally, no matter how you feel about Barkley’s pass protection abilities, that’s still just one facet of an otherwise highly-elite skillset.
As noted by CBS Sports HQ, despite missing three games in 2019, Saquon Barkley joined Barry Sanders as the only two players in NFL history to accumulated at least 20 total TDs and 3,400 scrimmage yards in under 625 touches.
Many of the names listed above of Barkley on MJD’s list clearly deserve their praise. However, we can’t help but feel like a fully-healthy Saquon in 2020 will make his doubters eat their words.
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