Monday, April 23, 2018

Green: Why drafting Saquon Barkley with the first overall pick should be a no-brainer for the Cleveland Browns

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas- USA TODAY Sports

In an era where second guessing in front offices across the National Football League are the norm, the Cleveland Browns are arguably in a good position from a depth standpoint for the first time since the Bill Belichick era in the early 1990’s.

Given their brash off-season upgrades with quarterback Tyrod Taylor from the Buffalo Bills, running back Carlos Hyde from the San Francisco 49ers and Jarvis Landry from the Miami Dolphins, the Browns should not focus on drafting a signal caller right away given their murky results over the last two decades.

Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen could be on the board and taken by Cleveland with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but not the first as the top priority should be Barkley and here are the reasons why:

1) Much needed depth in the running back position

- With Hyde now in the fold, Barkley would not have to take every touch in the backfield and can line up in the backfield and as a slot receiver, which could give defenses headaches as they would have put together more packages to stop the nifty back from Penn State.

2) 'Pulling an Eli’ should not be a deterrent

- Despite a report on Apr. 18 that Barkley’s agent, Kim Miale implored him to pull an Eli Manning and make the Browns not draft him, which was denied vehemently.

- Sure, the bright lights and massive media market of New York City seem like the dream, but most fans forget the New York Giants are in a similar fate fresh off a 3-13 record in 2017 with no guarantees that Odell Beckham Jr. will be the same player he was before last season. The grass might not always be green on the other side and Cleveland should not be afraid of the “small market” reputation and take a chance with Barkley to help strengthen its running back depth.

3) No guarantees with the No. 4 overall pick

- Management can’t assume Barkley will be available at the No. 4 spot as the New York Giants and Jets would be ready to scoop up the prospect if the Browns fail to take him with the top overall pick.

4) Combine performance for the ages

- Sure, everything can’t be judged on a performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, look at JaMarcus Russell from 2008 as a shining example. On the other hand, Barkley made a strong case as to why he could be the top pick in the draft as he benched press 29 reps, ran 1.54 seconds in the 10-Yard Split, breezed by with a 4.4 in the 40-Yard Dash and a 41” in the Vertical Jump in the NFL Combine last month in Indianapolis.

- To put those numbers in perspective, here is a comparison to other NFL players from different positions via the NFL Research department:

Browns fans are used to having the rug pulled under them time after time, but with the pieces they assembled free agency, the time is now to make what would be a surefire pick in Barkley and potentially challenge the vaunted Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North in the 2018 season.

Come Thursday night, everyone will be glued to a television screen or streaming device to see how Cleveland’s first pick plays out.