Dave Klein was the Giants' beat
writer for The Star-Ledger from 1961 to 1995.
He is the author of 26 books
and he is one of only three sportswriters to have covered all the Super Bowls.
Dave has allowed TEAM GIANTS to reprint some of his articles.
GIANTS SELECT BARKLEY WITH SECOND OVERALL SELECTION IN NFL DRAFT
By Dave Klein
RUTHERFORD, N.J. - During the first round of the draft, rumors come and rumors
This year, they all went.
Giants didn't have to do anything to land the best running back in the draft,
Saquon Barkley. They just had to wait until Cleveland took Oklahoma quarterback
Baker Mayfield with the first overall selection.
Then they snapped up the Penn State running back, the 6-0, 233-pound Barkley,
labeled by general manager Dave Gettleman as "the best player in the draft ... a
kid with unique skills ... a threat to score a touchdown every time he touches the
ball ... a player who makes us all better."
Gettleman admitted that he liked Barkley a month ago, but kept studying film and
analyzing the kid. "He has the feet and speed of a little guy," he said, "and
the power the strength of a big guy. He's what I would call a ‘five-tool' player,
as they say of a phenom in baseball. He has unique skills - he has the moves,
he can step on the gas, he can cross formations, he can catch, he can pick up
blitzers and he is incredibly powerful."
Head coach Pat Shurmur, sitting alongside Gettleman and both participating in
their first drafts as the heads of their departments, was equally pleased. "He
was easily the best player in the draft," the coach said. "A running back this
good can easily fit into an offense. You just hand him the ball and watch what
happens. He has quick speed, raw power and he can score from anywhere."
said he would be treated "like any other rookie," but added that he expected him
to "find his way into the starting lineup quickly."
By taking Barkley and not one of the quarterbacks aside from Mayfield, the Giants
indicated they are still confident in Eli Manning, still harbor hopes for last
year's rookie Davis Webb, and most crucially, intend to field a potentially winning
team in 2018 by eschewing the rebuilding phase that a first-round quarterback
"We like Eli a great deal,"
Gettleman said. And Shurmur added "we loved [heavy emphasis here] Webb this week
[the three-day minicamp ended Thursday morning] and Saquon will fit right in and
help to make everybody on offense better."
To which Gettleman added: "A great running back can help the defense, too. He
can keep them off the field and keep them rested."
It is said that Barkley, who was born in the Bronx, whittled down his college
choices from a list of many to Penn State and Rutgers - "and they told me there
was no way I was going to get to Rutgers," he said via a telephone conference
call. "The Penn State people really wanted me."
so did the Giants. "We considered that there was a slight chance Cleveland would
take him first," said Gettleman, "but we thought they were zeroed in on a quarterback."
And what if the Browns did take Barkley? "I don't even want to go there," Gettleman
laughed. "We knew who we wanted and when you have the second overall choice, you
have to be sure and you can't afford to make a mistake."
was especially enamored of a game last season against Iowa, when Barkley set a
Penn State single game record for all-purpose yards with 358 - 211 rushing, 94
receiving and 53 on kickoff returns. "There was one play when he took the ball
and started upfield," he said. "There were two defensive backs and a linebacker
lined up to stop him. He used three different moves, lost them all and scored.
It was a fantastic display."
said he has already become "close friends" with Giants' wide receiver Odell Beckham,
Jr., which might indicate that the team has no intention of trading the unpredictable
superstar. They became friends while training in Los Angeles over the winter,
and Saquon said minutes after the selection was announced, he received congratulatory
text messages from not only Beckham but Manning as well.
Late reports indicated that the Giants rejected a trade offer from Denver minutes
before they took Barkley. Evidently, the Broncos wanted quarterback Sam Darnold
(who went third overall to the Jets) and Denver countered with defensive end Bradley
Chubb. "People call you and they all want the second pick of the draft for a bag
of donuts, a hot pretzel and a hot dog. I tell them to leave me alone. I don't
have time to screw around."
Barkley will join the team as the first backup running back to veteran free agent
Jonathan Stewart, signed during the off-season from the Carolina Panthers (from
whence came Gettleman), but as Shurmur said, "it's going to be a learning experience
for the kid; he's going to learn everything, like where his locker is, where the
meeting rooms are, where the field is. Then we'll see if he can find his way into
At the moment, the Giants'
running backs include Stewart, Paul Perkins, Wayne Gallman and a handful of hopefuls
who will almost certainly turn into training camp fodder.
Chances are that Shurmur,
Gettleman and thousands of Giant fans would be bitterly disappointed if their
first-round draft pick doesn't make it into the starting lineup, with a few tips
and a little mentoring from the 10-year veteran Stewart.
was asked if he expected to start. "No, sir," he said. "I want to earn everything.
If I'm not doing what's needed to be done to get that starting job, then I don't
want it. I'm a big believer in competition and I know there's a lot of great backs
there already. Jonathan [Stewart] is there and I'm looking forward to being able
to pick his brain and learn from him. He's been in the NFL for a long time and
I know there's a lot of things that I can learn. But no, I don't expect to start.
I expect to come in and work and earn my job."
draft will continue Friday with rounds two and three and conclude Saturday with
the remaining four rounds. The Giants, however, do not own a selection in the
sixth or seventh rounds, pending trades over the next two days.
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