It’s second and nine from Penn State’s own eight yard line. The score is 21-7; Penn State leading Washington with just over nine minutes to go in the first half of the Fiesta Bowl. The Nittany Lions, in shotgun formation, hand the ball off to their running back. And just like that, he’s gone. 92 yards to the house almost untouched.
Their running back? A man by the name of Saquon Barkley.
Following the school’s Fiesta Bowl victory, Barkley announced his intent to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. Some mock drafts have him predicted to be the first overall pick.
If by chance, Barkley manages to fall to the sixth spot, should the Jets take him? Short answer: Yes.
Saquon Barkley is a 20 year old running back who has done extraordinary things. On top of his career long rushing touchdown, Barkley had quite the season. He broke 1,000 yards rushing in each of his three years in college. He collected two touchdowns and 172 yards on the ground in the season opener. Barkley began returning kickoffs this season, returning two for touchdowns. One of them was the opening kickoff against Ohio State. The running back also notched over 300 all purpose yards in a tight game over Iowa in Kinnick Stadium.
Barkley even has a passing touchdown; A 16 yard pass to fellow Penn State draft class member DaeSean Hamilton.
Despite the numbers he put up, Barkley hit a three game slump against Ohio State, Michigan State, and Rutgers, where he was held below 100 rushing yards in each of the games. Against Ohio and Rutgers, he was held to lows of 2.5 and 2.1 yards per carry, all but costing him the Heisman trophy which would have put a cap on his college career.
Barkley finishes second all time in Penn State rushing yards. While he is predicted to go very early, it wouldn’t be the first time a highly rated player fell to the Jets with the sixth overall pick. Jamal Adams and Leonard Williams both were supposed to be off the board by the time the Jets picked in 2015 and 2017 respectively. They were not. Going into the 2018 season, the Jets need a quarterback, but if Barkley is available when they are on the clock, it may make sense to pull the trigger on the two time Big Ten Offensive Player of the year.
A Diamond in the Rough
The Jets have huge holes on offense, namely at the quarterback, running back, and offensive line positions. Matt Forte has been plagued by injury, and very well could receive his walking papers in the offseason. Bilal Powell, while he has proven to be a reliable running back, will be turning 30 next October. Elijah McGuire, while young, fumbled the same amount of times as he found the endzone.
The 2017 quarterback class is full of potential franchise players, but many could be available in the second round. With two second round picks, the Jets could grab somebody like Luke Falk or Mason Rudolph.
There is nobody like Saquon Barkley, who has often been referred to by scouts as one of the most complete backs to come out of college. He made plays happen without a stud offensive line that players like Ezekiel Elliot have had throughout their careers. If the Jets find themselves looking at their draft board and Barkley is still on the clock, there is little doubt that they should draft him, even with a larger need at quarterback. Barkley will take the pressure off of whoever is under center and can make plays happen even with the Jets poor offensive line.
Long story short, if Saquon Barkley falls, the Jets should not hesitate to grab him.