There didn’t seem to be much indecision on the part of the New York Giants before the 2018 NFL Draft.
Big Apple fixture Eli Manning was going to be a part of the team’s plans for at least a couple more seasons, as management wanted to see if they could coax out one more magical run with him.
As such, the primary goal for general manager Dave Gettleman was to improve the team around Manning.
With said thinking in mind, the Giants grabbed Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick in that draft.
As we are now three seasons removed from that gargantuan decision to double down on Barkley, let’s take a look at why the Giants should not regret taking Barkley that high.
𝘕𝘰 𝘣𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘢 𝘤𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘣𝘢𝘤𝘬…
— Hotboxin' with Mike Tyson (@hotboxinpodcast) July 20, 2021
He Is Who They Thought He Was
Since running backs are seldom taken as high in the draft as Barkley was in 2018, there needed to be a strong reason why the Giants were willing to make the exception for the former Nittany Lion.
For starters, their backfield was one of the worst in the NFL in 2017, and they needed to make a big move to help the aging Manning.
Orleans Darkwa was the team’s leading rusher that season, tallying 751 yards on the ground, and not much else in the passing game.
Based on his performance in college, it seemed like Barkley would be able to come in and thrive in all areas of the position.
During his rookie season in 2018, that’s exactly what he did.
He hit the proverbial ground running, immediately validating his draft status and proving that he was one of the best players in the game.
Barkley churned out 1,307 yards on the ground with 11 rushing scores, behind a suspect offensive line.
He was also an integral contributor through the air, catching 91 passes, while being targeted 121 times.
While Manning was sometimes criticized for his conservative approach, Barkley proved to be an elite receiving option coming out of the backfield.
Since his rookie year, Barkley has dealt with a high ankle sprain, and more seriously, a torn ACL suffered early last season.
Unfortunately, injuries are a part of the game, but when he’s been on the field, he’s been nothing short of tremendous.
Bo knows 💥
— GQ Sports (@GQSports) July 18, 2021
The Alternatives Have Not Been Markedly Better
The pivotal fork in the road for the Giants before the 2018 draft was whether to supplement Manning, or choose to find his replacement.
We know which road they chose to go, but had they gone in the other direction, it probably wouldn’t have worked out any better than it has now.
Heading into the night of the first round of the draft, it wasn’t exactly clear who the Cleveland Browns would select with the top pick.
As a result, the Giants met with all four of what were then the consensus top quarterbacks.
Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen all had a chance to sit down with New York, and with 20/20 hindsight, it seemed like none of them made the strongest impression with the organization.
Mayfield went first overall to the Browns, leaving New York with three other realistic possibilities.
Darnold ended up being drafted by the New York Jets at number three, and his career has yet to take off.
Darnold defenders would say that he was never put in a position to succeed with the Jets.
While that may be true, the Giants were not exactly loaded on offense either heading into 2018, and the same career trajectory may have played out for the USC quarterback wearing blue.
Josh Rosen has not thrown a pass in the NFL since the 2019 season, and has been quickly dismissed as a viable starting option by the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins.
On the other hand, Allen has developed into a budding star, and his physical skills at the position make him one of the most exciting players in the league.
However, it didn’t seem like Allen was viewed that much more favorably than the other two, making it unlikely the Giants would’ve actually taken him.
Considering that two out of the three remaining quarterbacks they could have selected have been less than impressive, the Giants should not regret drafting Barkley.