A three-year starter at Penn State, Barkley established himself as one of the best players in college football very early in his career, becoming the only player in program history to record 3,000+ rushing yards and 1,000+ receiving yards in his career. His production tailed off in 2017, but that was largely due to defenses game-planning to not let him beat them. Barkley offers a unique mix of power and athleticism with the explosive traits that makes him dangerous any time the ball is in his hands.
The great runners consistently gain more yardage than what is blocked for them and Barkley does that, however, his tendency to stop his feet in the backfield is a concern and could hold him back until improved. Drawing similarities to LaDainian Tomlinson, Barkley is a clean football player on and off the field and his versatility as a runner and receiver makes him an immediate weapon in the NFL.
A four-star running back recruit out of high school, Saquon Barkley was considered a top-three recruit in Pennsylvania, also lettering in basketball and track – won the gold medal in the Colonial League 100-meters. He originally committed to Rutgers the fall of his junior year before flipping to Penn State the following spring once James Franklin took over as head coach. Barkley emerged as the starting running back as true freshman in 2015, leading the Nittany Lions with 1,076 rushing yards on 182 carries and seven scores to earn Second Team All-Big Ten honors. He had his most productive season as a sophomore with 1,496 rushing yards on 272 carries and a conference-best 18 touchdowns, leading the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (140.9) to earn Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Sculpted, athletic body type and has worked hard to pack on muscle to his frame. Able to make athletic movements in any direction with twitchy stop-and-shake skills. Springs in his calves to make sharp cuts without gearing down. Vision to anticipate cutback lanes and find escape routes. Instant acceleration through the hole and sustains his speed to be a home run threat. Runs low to the ground with the core strength and leg drive to finish through contact. Natural pass-catching skills with fluid body control. Improved details as a route runner to separate from linebackers and safeties out of the backfield or in the slot. Doesn’t shy from taking on contact as a blocker. Experienced kickoff returner, averaging over 27 yards in college with two kickoff return touchdowns. Hardworking and humble with instilled work ethic, getting the most out of his ability. Genuine individual with unselfish character. Finished his career top-three in several rushing categories in Penn State history. – Dane Brugler 11/28/2017
Overly patient at times with a bad habit of stopping his feet in the backfield. Abandons developing holes too quickly, looking to bounce runs outside instead of taking what is available – scorer’s mentality gets him in trouble searching for home runs instead of taking the singles or doubles. Will have the occasional focus lapse as a receiver and needs to improve his consistency on throws away from his body. Too much of a catcher in pass protection and needs to develop an aggressive punch to stay off his heels. Only four 100-yard games as a junior. – Dane Brugler 11/28/17
COMPARES TO: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers – With his lower body explosiveness and ability to create big plays in different ways, Barkley flashes Tomlinson-esque impact with the ball in his hands. But perhaps the best similarity between the two talents is their ability to impact the game both rushing and receiving.
IN OUR VIEW: Barkley is a clean football player on and off the field and his versatility as a runner and receiver makes him an immediate weapon in the NFL. He belongs in the conversation with Ezekiel Elliott and Todd Gurley for the distinction of best running back prospect to enter the NFL over the last decade.