New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley capped off his inaugural NFL season with the Offensive Rookie of the Year award and his first Pro Bowl berth. In very short order, he has earned the respect of his peers.
The annual announcement of the NFL’s Top 100 Players was completed Wednesday. The list is compiled from votes of 1,098 NFL players to determine who is the best of the best. Barkley really impressed in his first season, earning the No. 16 spot on the list.
Barkley became just the third player in NFL history with at least 2,000 yards from scrimmage (2,028) and the league’s all-time leader in receptions by a rookie running back (91). He is the highest ranked rookie in the Top 100 and the third-highest ranked running back. The Los Angeles Rams’ Todd Gurley (No. 5) and the New Orleans Saints’ Alvin Kamara (No. 14) were the only running backs ranked higher than Barkley.
Barkley was second in the league in rushing yards with 1,307. The Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott was first with 1,434 yards but was ranked No. 18 by his peers. Barkley was even ranked higher than his former teammate Odell Beckham Jr. (No. 24).
Barkley’s selection with the second overall pick was a little controversial considering the Giants’ need for a quarterback. This was compounded by the selection of four quarterbacks in the first 10 picks. However, Barkley was rated as the best player in his draft class regardless of position. His rookie season proves the Giants were not fools for drafting him.
In 2019, he may be called upon to do more than he did as a rookie.
Beckham was traded. Wide receivers Corey Coleman and Sterling Shepard suffered injuries at the start of training camp. Free agent signee Golden Tate received a four-game suspension for violating the league policy on performance enhancing substances.
Barkley acknowledges his importance to a Giants squad that finished 5-11 after losing seven of their first eight games. The team is also seeking just their second postseason appearance since winning Super Bowl XLVI. Recently at a Giants practice, he was greeted by fans chanting “MVP! MVP!”. The last running back who was named league MVP was Adrian Peterson in 2012.
Despite the chants from fans, Barkley has embraced a team-first mentality while admitting winning the award is not completely out of his mind.
“MVP? Yeah, I think anything is possible,” Barkley said. “I am a big believer in that, but my mindset is not just that trophy. Obviously, I am not going to sit here and say, ‘I don’t want to win the MVP’ or ‘I don’t want to win this or win that’. But I am big believer. I take care of the little things and focus on the team first. It’s a team-first mentality and all of the individual awards will take care of themselves.”