Saquon Barkley Tops McCaffrey, Zeke on List of Best NFL RBs

Saquon Barkley ranked as No. 1 running back in NFL by ESPN

Getty Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants

Nearly a month to the day since Pro Football Focus omitted New York Giants‘ all-world running back, Saquon Barkley, from their ranks of the top-50 NFL players heading into the 2020 regular season, the former Rookie of the Year has found some redemption.

In a list compiled by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, polling more than 50 NFL executives, scouts, coaches and players, Barkley reigned supreme as their choice for the best running back in football. 2019 First-Team All Pro selection, Christian McCaffrey, and Barkley’s divisional foe, Ezekiel Elliott, closely followed, ranking No. 2 and No. 3 respectively.

Barkley’s Size, Speed Combo Sets Him Apart From Rest of NFL

While Barkley is clearly a top-three running back talent in the NFL, many outsiders were a bit surprised to see his name ranked ahead of McCaffrey. This is mainly due to Barkley’s drop in production during what was an injury-riddled 2019 campaign. On the other hand, McCaffrey enjoyed one of the most prolific seasons by a running back in NFL history, leading the league in touches, total touchdowns and yards from scrimmage. His 2,392 yards from scrimmage was the third-highest single-season total ever, regardless of position.

Still, it’s evident that Barkley’s physicality, checking in at 6-feet tall and 233-pounds, strikes a slightly more of a well-rounded fear into opposing NFL defenses than McCaffrey and his 205-pound frame.

One anonymous AFC executive stated that McCaffrey was simply “not as sturdy as Saquon. Not the same speed-and-power combo. That affects what you do a little bit more, even though both are great.”

While a veteran NFL linebacker noted that when it comes to Barkley, “You have at least four guys worrying about him every snap.” 

Barkley appeared in just 13 games a season ago due to a high-ankle sprain. Still, despite limited game action, he managed to produce the 11th-most total yards in the NFL (1,441 total yards) while once again topping the 1,000-yard mark on the ground, the second time in his two-year pro career.

Expectations are sky-high for a healthy Barkley heading into 2020. The running back is primed to operate behind arguably the best offensive line the Giants have had in recent memory. Which is just one of the many reasons Barkley’s former college coach, Penn State’s James Franklin, is expecting monster production from the stud offensive weapon.

I think Saquon is going to have a huge year for you guys this year. I was really happy watching the draft, I saw you guys picked up an offensive lineman and some guys, so that’s going to help your quarterback, that’s going to help Saquon and it’s going to help the whole team and the whole organization.

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NFL Coach Ranks Zeke Outside of Top-10

While Ezekiel Elliott still managed to find himself placed within the top-three of ESPN ranks, not everyone was as fond of the Dallas Cowboys star playmaker. One anonymous offensive coach pointed towards Zeke’s lack of big plays and potential deteriorating abilities as a reason why he ranked Elliott outside of his personal top-10 list.

“Very few breakout runs, doesn’t look as strong anymore,” the coach told Fowler. “Feels like he’s about 60 to 70 percent of what he was.”

Elliott has since responded to the anonymous coach via Twitter, claiming “Whoever that is, is faded lol.”