Breaking down New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is easy… He’s great at running, catching, and blocking, but when compared to some of the top backs in the NFL, how does he stack up?
The typical compare and contrast debate revolves around Barkley and Cowboys’ running back Ezekiel Elliot. This matchup will be front and center for the foreseeable future in the NFC East.
Let’s take a look how they stack up against eachother:
1.) Ezekiel Elliot
Entering the NFL, Elliot was one of the most dynamic and explosive prospects to date. His ability to find holes in the defense and exploit them with superior power was at the forefront of his abilities. That has been apparent in his first two years at the professional level. In just 10 games last season he managed nearly 1,000 yards, a milestone that most running backs aim for in 16 games. Additionally, he’s a menace in the passing game, averaging 10.3 yards per reception.[sc name=”NYG Articles Thumbnail”]
Elliot has always enjoyed a stellar offensive line to run behind, which ultimately questions his overall ability and statistical totals. There’s no doubt he’s a highly skilled player, but take away the Dallas OL and we may see the real Zeke. In fact, when comparing his 2016 season to his 2017 campaign, his yards per attempt saw a significant drop-off. In 2016, Elliot managed 5.1 yards per carry, and only 4.1 in 2017. This can be a correlated directly to the loss of several high-profile lineman for the Cowboys.[sc name=”StubHub”]
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2.) Saquon Barkley
The Penn State running back has a different style to his game, often showing elite agility and speed in the open field. The primary question in regard to Barkley is his downhill running ability. Can he be a power runner? Can he move the chains on third-and-1? These are all questions that are to be determined in 2018, but the resounding answer is, yes! Why? Because Barkely isn’t just a normal running back. He smashed nearly every challenge at the NFL combine, showing insane measurable in strength, power, speed, agility…. You name it.
In college, Barkley took a majority of hand-offs from the shotgun formation, which ultimately allowed him to utilize his vision and quickness to bounce the ball outside. Eli Manning has a different approach to his game and will likely force Barkley to play out of the “I” formation. Manning is highly skilled in selling the play-action fake, which he will utilize early and often with Barkley’s catching abilities. It will certainly be a change for the dynamic back, but it shouldn’t be something that hinders his skill-set.
So, how can we compare Barkley to Elliot? Well, right off the bat we can notice the difference in running style. Zeke has a violent, head banging mentality, while Barkley uses his agility to avoid hits and extend his shelf-life. Both are effective styles, but avoiding unnecessary hits through insane agility often wins in terms of career life-span. In terms of NFL effectiveness, that’s to be determined, but we can take a look at other running backs to provide an example of Barkley’s potential.
Barkley has similar traits to Darren Sproles, one of the NFL’s all-time greats. While Sproles is on the smaller side, his agility and lateral movement make him the dynamic player he once was. His vision is unparalleled and can often change direction on a dime to avoid tacklers. Sproles has been in the league 12 years — far longer than the average running back. Overall, the potential for Barkley far exceed Elliot’s in the long-run, but his immediate impact is to be determined. Elliot enjoyed a fantastic rookie season, compiling 1,631 rushing yards, 15 TDs, 363 receiving yards and one receiving TD.