Saquon Barkley is a 'next level' Barry Sanders

Saquon Barkley is a 'next level' Barry Sanders

Saquon Barkley absolutely dominated the NFL Combine from an athletic standpoint, but it's his production, character, and all the other traits that have led John Brenkus to make a lofty comparison for the New York Giants rookie running back.

"Saquon Barkley is the definition of a no-brainer in this draft," Brenkus, the host of Sport Science and co-host of Soul and Science told Giants on 247Sports in an exclusive interview. "You can draft him and have him show up game day and he’ll crush it. On our show, we looked at the top five running backs of all time who have had long careers and you have five players who are all six feet or under." Barkley qualifies in that range as he measured in just under six feet at the Combine.

"This allows you to have a lower center of gravity and to change directions quicker," Brenkus continued. "Barkley differs and his explosiveness makes him a next level Barry Sanders. Which is crazy to say, but Barkley is designed bio-mechanically to excel as a running back. When you put that together with his character and his production, he is the definition of a no-brainer. He is just constructed properly, and the larger more powerful running backs are more susceptible to injury because of mass times acceleration. Barkley is a unique combination that you just haven't seen."

Brenkus has joined forces with Trent Dilfer to create a brand new sports segment called "Soul and Science" that will appear on NFL Network that will feature Dilfer and Brenkus as they provide in-depth analysis of athletes in every sport, with Dilfer exploring the intangible factors (Soul) that make an athlete special, and Brenkus diving deep into the biomechanics (Science) of elite athletic performance."

Barkley nearly broke The Combine. At 5-foot-11 and 233 pounds, Barkley posted a 99th-percentile SPARQ results -- used to measure athleticism. He ran a 4.40 40-yard dash which was faster than Devin Hester. He put up 29 bench press repetitions which were more than future Hall of Fame left tackle Joe Thomas put up. He had a 1.54-second 10-yard split which was quicker than Desean Jackson. He also posted a 41-inch vertical jump, better than both Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones.

An NFL scout also compared Barkley to a "bigger Barry Sanders" in a conversation with Bob McGinn Football. ESPN's Todd McShay said Barkley tied for the second-highest running back grade he's ever given, behind Adrian Peterson but ahead of Ezekiel Elliott. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman gave Barkley a "perfect 9.0" grade -- it was only the second time he's ever handed out a perfect grade since he began scouting in 1986 -- the only other perfect grade was Peyton Manning.

Needless to say, the Giants are very excited about Barkley will bring to the franchise.

Dez Bryant is still an NFL free agent and those who have covered him in the past are starting to wonder if he is simply waiting for the New York Giants to come calling. Up until this point, the Giants have expressed no public interest in Bryant any further than general manager Dave Gettleman saying they would look into any player. However, Bryant has made it clear he wants to remain in the NFC East in order to get revenge on his former team and he specifically named the Giants as one team where he sees himself as a potential missing piece. The NFL Network's Jane Slater recently suggested Bryant is simply waiting for the process to play out -- as it gets closer to training camp -- he envisions the Giants will come calling.

“Right now, it’s a little bit about revenge,” Slater said Thursday on NFL Network. “I think he’s holding out to see if New York happens to have a need come training camp, and I have to tell you that selfishly, I’d like to see Dez in this division. Covering the Cowboys as much as I do, because I think that he’d make a matchup that’s already entertaining now that we have Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott, now adding Dez Bryant, and I think you have a very interesting division.”

Throughout the offseason, Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins has lobbied publicly for the team to sign Bryant. On paper, Bryant fits an obvious need as a boundary (outside) wide receiver with size and physicality. Fans envision Bryant as someone who can replace Brandon Marshall and give the offense what he was supposed to bring at a fraction of the price. Bryant reported turned down a multi-year contract offer from the Baltimore Ravens rumored to be in the $5 million annual range for a chance to sign a one-year "prove it" contract with another team. Shortly after the Giants used the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to select running back Saquon Barkley, Bryant warned NFL teams on Twitter to watch out for the Giants. Here is what Bryant told Mike Fisher of 247Sports about the possibility of signing with the Giants even before they landed Barkley.

"It won't be about the money,'' Bryant told Mike Fisher of 247Sports before specifically mentioning the Giants as a potential suitor. "I'm just wanting to win. I want to go somewhere, I'm not going to lie. Our division, New York, they got a hell of a defense, OBJ (Dez pal Odell Beckham Jr.) coming back, Sterling Shepard, that'd be crazy. Crazy. Football means everything to me. Dallas winning the championship means everything to me. I come from nothing, so I'm not going to jeopardize how I feel about football or about winning. Football gave me life. Gave my family life.''

The Giants' lack of interest in Bryant should not come as a big surprise, even considering his friendship with Beckham and the Giants' lack of depth at the wide receiver position. As it stands today, the Giants have just under $8 million in 2018 salary cap space remaining and they still need to sign several players from their 2018 draft class including Barkley. The Giants will also want to save salary cap room for in-season signings, veteran signings around training camp, and potential long-term contract extensions for Beckham and Landon Collins. Continuously investing assets (both draft picks and free agent contracts) at the wide receiver position is what got the Giants into the roster mess they were in during the 2017 season that led to a 3-13 final record. Former general manager Jerry Reese couldn't stop investing in skill position players, but Gettleman is more focused on building through the trenches.

Putting the financial and philosophical reasons why the Giants might pass on Bryant aside, there is also the question of his fit in the locker room with the new culture head coach Pat Shurmur and Gettleman have attempted to breed. The Giants have targeted, signed, and drafted multiple handfuls of high-character players this offseason with a history as a team captain or leader of their past football teams. When Bryant is seeing the fourth-most offensive touches behind Beckham, Barkley, Evan Engram, or maybe even the fifth-most behind Sterling Shepard too, there is a good reason to believe that he could cause a problem in the locker room based on his history. This is something the Giants are looking to avoid on their football team in 2018.

    247 Sports | Dan Schneier | April 27, 2018



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