Saquon Barkley is an absurd athlete. Everyone who watched NFL last season knows that. He’s 6’, 233 lbs and runs a 4.40 forty yard dash. The only RB at last years combine to beat that time was Nyheim Hines who is 35 pounds lighter than Barkley. That size/speed combo is absolutely ridiculous and helped cement Barkley as a top 5 pick in the NFL Draft. Barkley plays like Barry Sanders, but he weighs 30 pounds more than Sanders. That should not be possible. Barkley’s highlight tape from this season is amazing to watch and shows all the physical tools that you could ever hope for a RB to possess. If you want to be mesmerized for the next 16 minutes, feel free to click this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvpiUlMFH_g
But I still had one huge question when scouting Barkley: Is he an amazing athlete that happens to play running back, or is he a true running back that happens to be an amazing athlete? Or more specifically, does he hit the hole and get what’s there on a consistent basis to keep the offense on schedule or does he constantly try to hit a homerun to the detriment of the team a la post 2000 yard Chris Johnson?
The tape revealed the answer and it couldn’t look better for Barkley.
Let’s check out the tape. First, some boring runs that show Barkley’s willingness to hit the hole and get what he can:
Notice that all 4 of those runs came in the Giants Week 16 game against the Colts. A game in which Barkley had 43 yards on 21 carries. But strangely this game was impressive to me because it showed Barkley was willing to take what was available and follow his blocks. The Giants offensive line was not good last year (it shows on film) and that led to some disappointing games from Barkley.
But when they did give him a hole? Wow was he amazing. He has the vision to hit hole hard, the acceleration to surprise defenders and force them to take bad angles, and the agility (oh wow the agility) to make subtle moves with his feet as well as absolutely stunning jump cuts that leave defenders grasping at air. He has the power break through arm tackles and push the pile at the end of runs. And finally he has the balance to bounce of of tackles and keep his feet.
Check out this run against the Buccaneers:
Notice how he stays low behind the line of scrimmage (very similar to Zeke). That crouched position allows him to explode and make the cut to get through the hole just before #91 closes it. He has the power to run through 91’s arm tackle and then he makes subtle movements with his feet after he breaks through the line. These subtle moves keep the defenders off balance and almost let Barkley break through to the end zone.
Now this run against the Cowboys:
Barkley follows his blocks, hits the hole with a great cutback, accelerates into open space, and breaks an arm tackle. He is ridiculous and absolutely lives up to the hype. Another clip to show his absurd combo of agility, speed, power, vision and balance:
A ridiculous jumpcut to break outside and leave the defender grasping at air against the Eagles:
Again in Slowmo:
Another run against the Eagles (sorry Philly fans) showing his patience behind the line, vision to see a lane outside and absolutely insane acceleration after making the cut. He’s at full speed in two steps. Notice the terrible angles from the defenders:
Another ridiculous run, this time against the Jaguars:
And I’ll finish it off with a run against the Panthers that shows how sudden Barkley is:
Suddenness is truly the best word to describe the way Barkley runs. He is so twitchy and keeps the defenders on edge and unable to read him. When you combine the unpredictability with his athleticism and vision, you get, in my opinion, the most talented RB I’ve scouted to this point. His OL is a work in progress and could hinder his production in some games, but he is always a threat to take one the distance and has the physical ability to overcome a poor OL. There are still times that he tries to make something out of nothing and loses yards, but that is well worth the risk because of his ability to make a play out of nothing and take it to the house.
He is also an extremely capable receiver, although I did not see true polish in his route running. His receiving prowess purely comes from his ability to make huge plays when he gets the ball in space. The Giants are committed to getting Barkley the ball any way possible, and that should lead to another huge season for the sophomore back.