Giants ‘Love’ Top Running Back Prospect as Possible Saquon Barkley Replacement

Saquon Barkley

Getty The New York Giants "love" top running back prospect James Cook as a possible Saquon Barkley replacement.

As the 2022 NFL draft inches closer (April 28 to April 30), the rumors are starting to heat up.

According to FanSided’s Matt Lombardo, the New York Giants “love” former University of Georgia running back James Cook.

“The thing I like about him is he’s a solid change-of-pace guy,” an NFC Executive told FanSided. “He may not be a three-down back, but he runs hard and has a lot of talent.”

Cook is a running back prospect that increased his value after an impressive performance at the NFL Combine in February. Cook topped his older brother’s 40-yard dash time at the combine, Minnesota Vikings superstar tailback Dalvin Cook, by running a 4.42, which was eighth-best among running backs in attendance. The older Cook ran a 4.49 40-yard dash back in 2017, before getting selected by the Vikings in the second-round of the draft.

The Giants were well-represented at Georgia’s annual Pro Day on March 16, where general manager Joe Schoen was on site. Cook, who is projected to be taken between the third and fifth-rounds of the draft, could potentially be a long-term replacement for Giants running back Saquon Barkley.

Lombardo also mentioned that it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Giants add Cook to serve as a complement to Barkley in the Giants’ backfield this season.

In four seasons with the Bulldogs, Cook racked up 2,233 total yards and 20 touchdowns during regular season action. He also helped Georgia win a National Championship in January.

Barkley’s Successor?

Barkley is entering the final year of his rookie contract and is set to make $7.2 million in 2022. If the Giants are unable to trade him this offseason, he is expected to return as the starter in New York’s backfield.

Despite Barkley’s name being heavily involved in trade rumors thus far in the offseason, his market has yet to develop. The 25-year-old’s salary is fully guaranteed, which means the Giants will have to pay him the full amount he is owed unless they can trade him.

Regardless of whether Barkley gets dealt or not, Schoen and the Giants could seek out a long-term successor at the position in the mid-to-late rounds of this year’s draft. The writing appears to be on the wall for Barkley, who at the moment, does not seem to be in the new regime’s long-term plans.

New York signed veteran running back Matt Breida on Monday, March 22, to compete for the backup job on the depth chart. Breida spent the 2021 season with the Buffalo Bills, where Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll were previously employed.

Offensive Line Help

While the Giants are likely to address the offensive line early in the draft, one name to keep an eye out for is Mississippi State offensive tackle Charles Cross.

As Mississippi State reporter Jon Sokoloff of WCBI News reported on March 22, the Giants’ interest in Cross is “very, very real.”

“Multiple New York Giants scouts praised Charles Cross after his Pro Day concluded,” Sokoloff wrote in a tweet.

According to Sokoloff, the Giants’ staff members in attendance for Cross’ Pro Day included offensive coordinator Mike Kafka, offensive line coach Bobby Johnson and assistant offensive line coach Tony Sparano Jr.

The Giants hold the No. 5 and No. 7 picks in the NFL draft this year. They appear to be destined to select an offensive linemen with one of these choices, and Cross could be a realistic option if he is still on the board when the Giants’ turn comes up.

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