He became the first Giants rookie to surpass 1,000 yards and set a franchise record with 14 total touchdowns. Heading into the final week of the regular season, Barkley is third in the NFL with 1,198 rushing yards and tied for fifth in rushing touchdowns (10). He is second among running backs in receptions with 87 for 688 yards and four touchdowns.
Barkley has already established himself as one of the NFL’s premier running backs in just 15 games. He has put together an Offensive Rookie of the Year-worthy resume. Truthfully, there is only one player who has a realistic shot at snatching the award away from Barkley: the Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield and Barkley have a rivalry of sorts since their collegiate days. Mayfield won the 2017 Heisman Trophy at Oklahoma. Barkley finished fourth as a Penn State Nittany Lion. The Browns selected Mayfield first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft while the Giants picked Barkley second.
If Barkley isn’t named Offensive Rookie of the Year, it will be because Mayfield bested him yet again.
Mayfield was named the Browns’ starter in Week 4. He has completed 287 passes in 444 attempts (64.6 percent) for 3,349 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. However, his impact is greater than his statistics.
The Browns are 7-7-1, surpassing their combined wins of the previous three seasons. Mayfield is 6-6 as the starter, playing with a swagger missing in the nearly two decades since Cleveland returned to the NFL. It has permeated throughout the entire Browns organization. Most important of all, Mayfield’s swagger has led to success on the field.
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That is the main difference between Barkley and Mayfield. Barkley, though blessed with undeniable talent, is not transcendent. He is not the type of player who will change a team’s culture and he doesn’t need to be. The Giants will miss the playoffs for the sixth time in the seven seasons since winning Super Bowl XLVI. In spite of what fans and the talking heads have to say, the Giants are not the Titanic or the Hindenburg.
Cleveland, on the other hand, has one postseason appearance since 1999. Mayfield is the 30th quarterback to start for the Browns since they re-entered the league. That is symbolic of the organization’s dysfunction and need for a complete rebuild from top to bottom. Mayfield has brought hope to the Dawg Pound for the first time in what seems like an eternity.
Saquon Barkley has some advantages when it comes to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Since the award’s inception in 1967, running backs have won it 39 times. Three of the last five winners were running backs (Alvin Kamara-2017, Todd Gurley-2015, Eddie Lacy-2013).
Conversely, quarterbacks have only been named Offensive Player of the Year eight times. Four quarterbacks won the award in the 2010s (Dak Prescott-2016, Robert Griffin III-2012, Cam Newton-2011, Sam Bradford-2010).
If Barkley wins, he will be only the second Giants player in history to be named Offensive Rookie of the Year. Odell Beckham Jr. capped off his rookie season with the award in 2014.