Team Giants


Special Report

Sent: 04-26-18

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.


By Dave Klein

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - During the first round of the draft, rumors come and rumors go.

This year, they all went.

The 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."

Shurmur 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 would signal.

"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."

And 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."

Gettleman 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."

Barkley 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."

Technically, 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 the lineup."

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.

And Barkley.

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.

Barkley 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."

The 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.

Check out Dave's website at E-GIANTS where you can subscribe to his newsletters which run much more frequently than what is available here.
- Team Giants

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