How Penn State RB Saquon Barkley would ignite the Bucs offense … if only they could draft him

Penn State's Saquon Barkley leaves the field after a November game against Michigan State. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Penn State's Saquon Barkley leaves the field after a November game against Michigan State. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Published April 14 2018

Saquon Barkley

Position: Running back

College: Penn State

Height/weight: 6-3, 233

Draft projection: First round

Why he would make sense for the Bucs: Barkley is arguably the best overall player in the draft. Despite his exceptional size, he ran a 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, had a 41-inch vertical jump and benched pressed 225 pounds 29 times. But his production on the field is off the charts as well, rushing for nearly 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. Barkley also is an outstanding receiver with flypaper hands and good in pass protection. The Bucs have never had a three-down back with this size and speed. After averaging 3.7 yards per carry as a team a year ago, Tampa Bay could use this transformative talent. He's the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson.

Why he would not be a good fit for the Bucs: If you subscribe to the popular theory that the running back position is so bountiful and prone to injury that a team should never use a first-round selection, let alone at top 10 pick on a ball carrier, you won't want Barkley. That's about the only reason. You can argue the Bucs have bigger needs and it is a deep, deep draft at the running back position. With Peyton Barber and Jacquizz Rodgers back, they can afford to wait until later in the draft. The Saints Alvin Kamara was the NFL's Rookie of the Year and wasn't selected until the third round.

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Three questions with Barkley

How do you describe your running style?
I try to be a versatile player. I'm very confident in myself. Whether the ball is on the 1-yard line or the 99-yard line, I like to think I can find a way to get in the end zone. I can do it all. I can go over the top of you. I can beat you with speed. I can beat you with some wiggle. I can run through you. I try to improve every day. I watch film of a lot of the great backs. Like the Bells, the Gurleys, the Elliotts, and I try to take a part of their game and add it to mine.

Who did you pattern your game after?
Obviously, I was only alive for his last two years, but Barry Sanders. With technology today and YouTube and highlight videos and stuff like that, at a young age I was able to see the things he was able to do on the football field. He was spectacular. He was an awesome runner. He was a guy I looked up to, not only on the field, but off the field and the way he carried himself. He was humble. When he scored a touchdown, he gave the ball back to the ref.

What impact do you expect to have on an NFL team?
I can't see the future and sit here and say I'm going to rush for this amount of yards and have this amount of touchdowns. That's all in God's plan. But I do know whatever team I go to, I'm going to work (hard). Working and pushing myself and my teammates. I'm going to continue to try and be a leader and a competitor. At the end of the day, if I'm able to do all those things, everything else will take care of itself.