2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report
Prospect: Saquon Barkley
School: Penn State
Ht: 5'11" Wt: 223
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Heading into the 2017 season, there is little doubt that Barkley is one of the most electrifying playmakers in the country. Over his first two years in Happy Valley, he has consistently shown the ability to be a nightmare in the open field and entering his third season, he is the top running back prospect eligible to enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Still, there is more to gain for Barkley as a Junior. The last two drafts have produced two running backs (Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette) picked in the top five selections, despite a decade of devaluing the position. Barkley has the ability to add his name to that group, but he has to take his game to another level in what could be his final year.
Anyone who has seen Barkley run can attest to the fact that he has rare lower-body strength. That allows him to be explosive at an elite level. He changes direction as well as anyone I have seen since LeSean McCoy. Not only can he avoid defenders laterally, but he has an impressive vertical that he uses to hurdle tacklers. I have seen Ezekiel Elliott do this, but Barkley doesn't need two steps. Within a single step, he can make the decision and bounce to incredible heights to avoid defenders. My only complaint is that he tends to do it too often, especially in scenarios where I'd rather see him lower his shoulder. Still, his powerful lower-half makes him incredibly difficult to get solid contact against for defenders. He also displays very good hands out of the backfield. He may be a little raw running routes, but he has the tools to be extremely effective in the passing game at the next level.
Barkley's vision in the open field is remarkable as well, but he will have to improve when running in traffic. Penn State uses a spread system that allows for tons of running room up the middle. He hasn't had to learn how to read blocks and anticipate where the hole will come open, but my gut tells me this won't take him long once he gets into a pro scheme. One thing that will take some time is his instincts running inside. Barkley has a tendency to head for the edge and doesn't always show good patience. Of course, there are times when that is appropriate, but it cannot be his default maneuver. At the next level, defenses are much faster, and he will have to understand when it is best to try and outrun them to the sideline, and when to salvage the play by picking a crease and lowering his shoulder. That brings me to my biggest concern for him. From the waist down he looks like a beast, but his upper-half looks like a sprinter. He has to add more bulk to his shoulders and core; otherwise, Barkley will run into the same durability concerns that shorten most undersized-backs' careers. Also, I do not see him lower his shoulder nearly enough, and it leaves yards on the field. Once he adds the necessary muscle, I want to see Barkley start finishing runs with a more physical nature.
Overall, I love this kid's potential to continue to grow. He is already a dynamic athlete with lower-body strength but the added upper-body power could unlock a ton of new features. He could become a much better short-yardage runner, as well as the full package on passing downs. He has the legs to absorb pass-rushers' strength, but Barkley must equip himself with a sturdy strike and punch to be able to stop them dead in their tracks. While guys like McCoy, C.J. Spiller, and Reggie Bush were never able to acquire the necessary size, Barkley has the frame to support it without losing much as an athlete. His long speed may not break any records, but I am willing to bet it will be more than enough to entice teams to target him in the top half of the first round. Barkley has no character concerns and seems to have a quiet demeanor most of the time. He is a leader by example, and his work ethic is obvious through his commitment in the weight room. Barkley has the drive to put himself in the same category as Elliott and Fournette as a Junior, and should be one to watch in the Heisman race as well.
Compares to (Current NFL Player): Marshawn Lynch (Oakland Raiders)
- Terrific lower-body strength
- Incredible lateral-quickness
- Great vision in the open field
- Soft hands as a receiver
- Outstanding work ethic
- Leads by example
- Potential to continue to grow into a complete back
- Top half needs more bulk
- Needs to learn to read blocks, be patient, and resist continuously bouncing runs outside
- Would like to see him leave his feet less and lower his shoulder more
- Raw in pass protection
|Video Courtesy of The Highlight Factory|
1)   *Running back* Saquon Barkley's now broken a Penn State weightlifting record   - SB Nation |
2)   Barkley's Big Year: Penn State's Saquon Barkley is poised to claim every major running back record   - Penn Live |
3)   Penn State Recruiting Rewind: Heisman Trophy hopeful Saquon Barkley as a high school prospect
- www.landof10.com |
4)   Saquon Barkley Twitter|
4)   Saquon Barkley Instagram|