INDIANAPOLIS – Saquon Barkley obviously doesn’t mind a challenge.
Barkley spoke to the media on Thursday at the NFL scouting combine, and the top running back in this year’s draft was happy to talk about the possibility of being drafted by the Cleveland Browns. There have been reports in recent years about this prospect or that prospect not wanting to go to the Browns, who are 1-31 the past two years. Helping turn a franchise around is part of what makes the Browns appealing to Barkley.
“That’s awesome, something bigger than you,” said Barkley, who had 3,801 yards from scrimmage and 51 touchdowns the past two seasons for Penn State. “You go to a team like that, and obviously they’ve had rough years, but I think they’re a couple pieces away. They have a lot of young talent.
“You want to be part of something like that. It’s something bigger than yourself. That’s something that, you leave a legacy being a part of something special.”
[Watch on Yahoo: Live stream the 2018 NFL scouting combine on Yahoo Sports’ website, app]
If the Browns do want Barkley, they might need to use the first overall pick to get him. There’s no guarantee Barkley will still be on the board when Cleveland goes back on the clock with the No. 4 overall pick. Running backs don’t generally go that high in the draft, but Barkley is a unique talent. He said he weighed a touch over 232 pounds, but he runs with the quickness of a back 30 pounds lighter. He’s also a great pass catcher out of the backfield. He admits he wasn’t good at that part of the game his freshman year at Penn State, but is proud of his improvement in that area. He caught 54 passes last season.
“That’s where the game is going,” Barkley said. “When you break down the top-five backs, all those guys can catch the ball out of the backfield. That’s something I strive to be. I want to be one of the best.”
Barkley is sure to impress teams this week. The quiet confidence he displayed during his time with the media should play well in interviews with teams. His workout numbers are expected to be phenomenal for a back his size. Pair that with the game tape, and he’s one of the truly elite running back prospects in years.
“Saquon Barkley is a transformational back,” NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said in a conference call. “I would put him in the same category as [Leonard] Fournette, [Todd] Gurley, and Zeke Elliott, all of whom have been Top 10 picks and made their teams better immediately.
“I talk about the last three or four running backs that went in the Top 10, which were Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott went at 4, Gurley went at 10, [Christian] McCaffrey went at 8. They’re the last four top-10 backs. They’ve all helped their teams become better. I could make the case that this kid Barkley is the best of those guys, best of all five of them.”
As a prospect, Barkley doesn’t have an obvious weakness. A couple times Barkley mentioned patterning some of his game after Le’Veon Bell, and it’s possible Barkley can be the same type of player in the pros. He will probably come out of the combine as the biggest non-quarterback headliner in this draft class.
“I’m very confident in myself,” Barkley said. “I can do it all. I can go over the top of you, I can hit you with speed, I can hit you with some wiggle, I can run through you. It’s something I try to improve on every single day.”
Whether Barkley goes to the Browns or somewhere else in the top 10 — it’s hard to imagine him falling further than that — he’s going to be one of the most talked-about rookies of the 2018 season.
“I can’t see the future and can’t sit here say I’ll rush for this many yards or this many touchdowns. I don’t know. That’s in God’s plan,” Barkley said. “What I do know is I’m going to come to a team and I’m going to work.”
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