The only good thing that the New York Giants could have taken out of a 3-13 2017 season was that they were getting the No. 2 overall selection in the 2018 NFL draft.
With the legendary veteran quarterback Eli Manning’s football mortality suddenly being called into question, which included his unceremonious benching by former head coach Ben McAdoo in Week 13, the initial general consensus was that the Giants would draft the 37-year-old’s successor in April.
But new general manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Pat Shurmur have reaffirmed that Manning, who is signed through 2019, will be the Giants’ starting quarterback for the 2018 season.
So hold up on watching those highlights of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen — three of the top quarterbacks in the draft — for a moment because the Giants might be going in a different direction.
It’s not like this team is devoid of other needs. An offensive line that made Manning’s life a nightmare last season is in desperate need of an overhaul. The problem is, the linemen available on the free-agent market isn’t exactly anything to write home about.
The Giants could use that No. 2 pick as a bargaining chip to acquire a new piece for the trenches, whether that comes from receiving a lower pick(s) in the first round or a veteran from a team that is looking to move up in the draft and get their hands on one of those coveted quarterbacks.
Or they could keep the pick and take the best talent available that isn’t a quarterback, which just so happens to address another notable need on offense.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is the most explosive offensive talent that will be featured in this year’s draft class and would be a significant upgrade for the Giants at the position. Orleans Darkwa showed flashes of being an every-down back at times in 2017, but the playcalling and offensive line prohibited the Giants from gaining any sort of momentum in the ground game as they ranked 26th in the NFL in 2017.
And while it might be considered harsh to not give Darkwa a legitimate shot at the starting job, Barkley provides the prospect of being a cornerstone of an explosive offense that would take pressure off Manning and potentially add the same kind of playmaking ability that comes with the likes of Odell Beckham Jr.
Over the past two years at Penn State, Barkley averaged over 102 rushing yards and 1.6 touchdowns per game playing a majority of his games against a Big 10 conference that featured imposing defenses like Ohio State and Michigan.
At 5-foot-11, this is a running back that possesses blazing speed and an acute agileness that makes it seem as though the opposing defense is attempting to tackle shadows. However, it does not matter how nimble he is unless the Giants rebuild the offensive line. If they manage to do so and decide to draft Barkley, the Giants’ offense all of a sudden could be looking like a dangerous bunch.