Could the Cleveland Browns pass on Saquon Barkley twice?

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Running back Saquon Barkley
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Running back Saquon Barkley /

The Cleveland Browns might pass on selecting Saquon Barkley not once, but twice in the 2018 NFL Draft. Here’s why that would be foolish.

Saquon Barkley remains a polarizing figure among Cleveland Browns fans. Although Barkley is the consensus number one overall prospect, there is a sentiment among Browns fans that the team should not select him, even if he falls to them with the fourth overall pick.

Let’s start with a few assumptions:

First, the Cleveland Browns will draft a quarterback with the first overall pick.

Second, the New York Giants will not draft Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick.

Third, the Cleveland Browns will not trade the fourth overall pick.

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If these assumptions play out (and the Jets take a quarterback, as expected), Barkley would be available when the Cleveland Browns are on the clock with the fourth overall pick. With the Browns securing their quarterback of the future at number one, selecting Barkley would seem like a no-brainer. Still, although they are becoming a minority, the naysayers have a loud voice.

One reason is the other players who would be available to the Browns at number four. These include names such as North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Ohio State corner Denzel Ward and Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.

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Before general manager John Dorsey made a series of trades and free agent acquisitions, it would have been hard to pass up secondary help. However, now that need seems not to be as urgent. Chubb is a tremendous talent, however he plays a position that is arguably among the strengths of the Browns team.

There is also the positional value objection. That is, with so many running backs available, you simply can’t take a running back in the first round. However, this is a deep draft  for a lot of positions. At some point, the question of positional value has to turn into a question of player value.

The same reasons that players like David Johnson and LeVeon Bell are valuable to fantasy football teams are the reasons they are valuable to real football teams. They gain yards and score points. Those are valuable things regardless of position.

Others note that adding Carlos Hyde removes the need to draft a running back this early. If Hyde, who will turn 28 during the season (when the decline of production for running backs over 30 is well documented), checks the box for running back,  I submit to you Jamal Lewis. The last blue-chip running back the Browns have had, Lewis turned 28 before the 2007 season, his only exceptional year.

Coincidentally, that was the last winning season the Browns have enjoyed. Since Lewis, the Browns have never been able to find a comparable replacement. If quality running backs just grew on trees, the Browns would have found one by accident. They haven’t, because they don’t. Let’s not forget, after making picks No. 1 and No. 4, the Cleveland Browns have less control over the draft than may be thought.

I’ve read some analysis that Barkley is not a “three down back” because he doesn’t run well up the middle. Maybe he can, maybe he can’t. I’m just a guy that watches football.

What I know is Barkley would be a playmaker who defensive coordinators would have to account for. And remember, the “running back” of today has to be a pass catcher and blocker as well as a runner. Barkley checks all of those boxes. One of the most balanced looks at Saquon Barkley that I’ve seen is this article from Pro Football Focus. I’ll let you decide for yourself.

Next: Staff predictions for the first and fourth picks

Finally, Barkley would be one piece of an offense that now has Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, Duke Johnson and Hyde. He wouldn’t have to be the focal point right away. As the Cleveland Browns continue to take steps to rebuild the talent, and the culture of their team, the question is not whether they can afford to take Barkley. The question is how can they not?