Max Kellerman picks Saquon Barkley as dark horse MVP candidate

Matthew Cataruzolo
New York Giants, Saquon Barkley
Dec 30, 2018; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) points to his family on the sideline during warmups before a game against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran/ via USA TODAY NETWORK

During a First Take segment on Wednesday, co-host Max Kellerman picked New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley as his dark-horse MVP candidate for the upcoming season. Other names such as Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, and Matt Ryan were also mentioned in the conversation, but Barkley was the name that stood out. Is Saquon actually capable of an MVP caliber season? The answer is: Absolutely.

Let’s actually consider it for a second — the last running back to be named MVP was Adrian Peterson in 2012, logging 2,314 yards from scrimmage along with 13 total touchdowns for the Vikings. Since then, the following seven MVP’s have all been quarterbacks. Needless to say, the NFL is due for a skill player to earn the award, and Barkley is the perfect candidate.

During his Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign in 2018, Barkley racked up 2,028 yards from scrimmage and 15 total touchdowns, all behind a putrid offensive line and an end of the road Eli Manning under center. While the Giants ultimately fell short of the high expectations with a tantalizing offensive combination of superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Barkley, the season was just a peek into Saquon’s potential.

Despite missing three games in the following season, Barkley still managed to log 1,441 yards from scrimmage and eight total touchdowns. Looking ahead to 2020, there is no reason why he shouldn’t succeed. Here’s why:

Revamped offensive line:

With the selection of Georgia OT Andrew Thomas fourth overall in the NFL Draft, the Giants have their franchise right tackle who can and should eventually take over for Nate Solder at Left tackle. Also, selecting UCONN OT Matt Peart in the third round, the Giants should have their franchise tackles for the foreseeable future, not only to help protect Daniel Jones but open up holes and maximize opportunities for Saquon Barkley.

Young, promising quarterback:

Nothing but respect to Eli Manning, but there is little to no debate on his decline in his last two seasons. Daniel Jones has created optimism, and hope for an otherwise recently depleted fan base. He is mobile, has a strong arm, and can distribute the ball effectively. The Giants have something to look forward to with the tandem of Jones and Barkley. The better Jones plays will only benefit Barkley.

New coaching staff:

Joe Judge so far has said all of the right things, instilling a culture change in the locker room and has garnered the respect and faith of multiple players as well as fans. The hiring of long time Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett for the offensive coordinator position received mixed reviews, but according to Judge they will be running the offense that Garrett ran in Dallas. Not too shabby considering the Cowboys ranked first in the league in total yards last season under Garrett. In Garrett’s offense, Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in rushing yards two of the four years he has been in the league. The talent gap between Saquon and Elliott is not very big at all; hopefully, the scheme translates smoothly and produces similar success for Barkley.

Saquon Barkley is a generational player, and one of the most talented players the New York Giants have had in franchise history. The running back position’s value has been diminished as the game moves more towards a passing league, but hybrid backs that can both run and catch passes such as Barkley and Christian McCaffrey are the new blueprint. Even from the most neutral, unbiased standpoint, anyone who has paid even moderate attention to professional football could tell you: Saquon Barkley is MORE than capable of winning an MVP.