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NFL Draft

Would Dave Gettleman Really Pick Saquon Barkley All Over Again?

  • The Draft Network
  • August 18, 2021
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Hindsight is 20/20, they say. Every draft that features what appears to be a generational talent at the running back position ignites a debate regarding whether or not drafting a player at that position in the top 10 is worth it.

New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman went against the grain when he selected Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. There’s no doubt that Barkley was one of the most electric running back prospects in recent memory. He was an absolute pleasure to watch on a weekly basis at Penn State with his combination of quick feet, speed, elusiveness, and vision. When it was all said and done, Gettleman made Barkley the first running back to be drafted in the top three since the Cleveland Browns selected Trent Richardson with the No. 3 pick in 2012.

Every year, football analysts enjoy writing a “revisiting or redrafting the (insert year) draft” article. With the knowledge available to us after a draft class has two or three years of NFL experience under their belts, it can be an entertaining and educational exercise. If his recent comments are to be believed, Gettleman wouldn’t take advantage of an opportunity to turn back the clock, though. 

“Absolutely, Absolutely,” Gettleman said when asked if he still feels drafting Barkley was the right decision. “Stuff happens, not everything’s perfect, and there are guys all over the league who get hurt. I feel the same way about him.”

Of course, Gettleman is referring to the multitude of injuries Barkley has suffered in his NFL career so far. An ankle injury forced Barkley to miss three games in 2019. A torn ACL limited Barkley to just two games in 2020. We haven’t seen him play a down of football since, as the Giants eagerly await his return this season.

An NFL scout once told me there’s a 100% chance of injury in the NFL. It’s a physical game. Guys get hurt and miss time. Nobody would have labeled Barkley as “injury-prone” when he was flat out embarrassing defenses every week at Penn State. But even when you remove the unfortunate injuries from the equation, Gettleman must wonder what his team would look like if he took that pick in another direction, right? 

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second. Would the Giants’ offensive line be in better shape if they had taken Quenton Nelson instead of Barkley? Nelson was seen as a generational prospect in his own right. The Indianapolis Colts drafted Nelson at sixth overall, just four picks after Barkley, despite the fact interior linemen don’t typically get drafted highly (and neither do running backs). The Colts certainly don’t regret that decision, as Nelson quickly became one of the best offensive linemen in the league. Meanwhile, Gettleman has yet to put together the right combination of O-linemen on the field since arriving in New York, although there’s reason for optimism that this group is finally headed in the right direction.

The burning question when revisiting this topic isn’t on the O-line, though. It’s at the quarterback position, where several signal-callers were available when Gettleman selected Barkley with a premium pick despite rostering an aging Eli Manning at the time. The big two here are Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, who have transformed their organizations into perennial contenders while racking up several individual awards and playing exciting brands of football. It’s worth noting that almost every team in the league passed on Jackson, who was drafted with the 32nd overall pick. but Allen was well-liked in league circles and went just a few picks after Barkley.

In the interest of fairness, it’s not guaranteed that Gettleman would have made the right pick even if he decided to take his selection in a different direction. He may have opted for Sam Darnold instead of Allen or Jackson. After all, Darnold was the first quarterback taken after Barkley, and the team that drafted Darnold has already given up on him. We would still be writing this article (or something similar to it) if Gettleman had drafted Darnold over Barkley.

There are a lot of questions to ponder here, especially because we know how stacked the 2018 class was. So although Gettleman claims he doesn’t regret the Barkley selection, he may have a lot more sleepless nights over it if the Giants don’t turn things around in 2021. He’ll have plenty of time to question his choices if he finds himself unemployed in 2022.

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