INDIANAPOLIS The Giants are investing significant time this week in running backs. Coach Pat Shurmurs enthusiasm for the position on Wednesday clearly was no joke. The Giants obviously seem interested in drafting one.
Penn State back Saquon Barkleys Thursday night interview with the Giants, it turns out, was only the tip of the iceberg. They also brought in N.C. States Nyheim Hines, as the Daily News first reported, and talked with USCs Ronald Jones, LSUs Derrius Guice, Auburns Kerryon Johnson, Mississippis Jordan Wilkins and San Diego States Rashaad Penny.
Barkley, however, is considered by many scouts and analysts to be the best prospect in this entire draft, not just its best running back. And if the Cleveland Browns take a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick, then Barkley would fall into the Giants laps and would be an obvious fit, especially because theyre scouting it as a prioritized need.
So why, then, are the Giants doing so much homework on so many backs if a clear star in Barkley is theirs for the taking? They could be doing it for comparisons sake, sure. Or hedging in case they are blown away by a quarterback they covet with the No. 2 pick.
The two Giant issues threatening Big Blues sunny forecast
But there is another possible reason: the Browns might take Barkley themselves at one or trade the pick to another team that will. And the Giants need to be prepared if they do.
Cleveland GM John Dorsey may have been posturing Thursday afternoon, granted, but he sounded like a man who wasnt set on a quarterback yet, even though he knows the Browns need one.
Theres a lot of things I could do at No. 1 and not just get a quarterback, as well, Dorsey said. My door is wide open if somebody wants to come up and talk to me about a trade, Im willing to trade. But also Im going to do whats best for this organization and I will do that.
Dorsey did nothing to quell speculation that Barkley might end up in Cleveland.
Giants remain intrigued by Davis Webb as NFL draft approaches
If hes a good football player and he plays the running back position, Id love to have him on my team, Dorsey said of backs in general. He later said of Barkley with a smile: Hes a good football player.
And above all, Dorsey also holds the No. 4 pick in the first round, and if he wants to get both a franchise quarterback and Barkley out of this draft, taking Saquon first overall might be the right play.
Barkley is considered such a potentially transformational player he and Georgias Nick Chubb each benched 225 pounds a crazy, running back-high 29 times on Thursday that if the Browns take a quarterback at No. 1, Barkley is unlikely to still be on the board at four after the Giants and Colts pick two and three.
However, if the Browns can identify just two quarterbacks in this draft class that they believe are future franchise QBs, they could take Barkley at the top, watch the Giants go QB at two, and feel confident that Indianapolis isnt drafting a quarterback.
Gettleman says Giants would listen to trade offers for No. 2 pick
The Colts could trade the pick, of course. But the Browns could win that bidding war, too, to protect their preferred QB, since they own 12 picks in this draft, including five in the first two rounds.
Barkley, it should be noted, said all the rights things in a humble yet confident podium performance on Thursday. And he didnt pick sides at all.
He expressed excitement about the potential challenge of playing for a Browns franchise that has won only one game the last two years.
That would be awesome. Something bigger than you, Barkley said. If you go to a team like that, obviously, theyve had some rough years. But I think theyre just a couple of pieces away. They do have a lot of young talent. Theyve brought in a new offensive coordinator. They only won one game, but they were in a lot of games. You want to be a part of something like that. Something thats bigger than yourself. Something that will leave a legacy.
Shurmur hiring puts Giants in favorable position entering Combine
He was complimentary of the Giants, as well, adding that any team in my mind would be a good fit.
You look at that team last year they were in a lot of games, too, and they had a lot of injuries, Barkley said. But you have guys like Odell (Beckham), that tight end (Evan Engram), Sterling Shepard, a quarterback thats established and proven himself and got two Super Bowl rings, and if I was fortunate enough to go to a team like that, and have the success that I have in college football, I think that would be a another good fit.
What stood out most from Barkleys interview, though, was his humility. He said I dont care if Im drafted one, five or 72 or the last pick. Im gonna come in with my head low ready to work. Thats not going to change me.
The combination of Barkleys character, versatility and production is what makes him so appealing. He had 1,271 yards rushing, 54 catches for 632 yards, and 21 rushing and receiving TDs as a junior.
Odell Beckham tweets ‘0’ interest in taking preseason snaps
The Giants want to add a running back. Barkley is the best. Their interviews with other backs could convince them they dont need to make the first-round investment. Or a quarterback could blow them away.
But with a prioritized need at the running back position, itd be hard to pass on such a dynamic player who would seem to be such a great culture fit, too.
If the Giants feel that way, too, then theres only one question: will he still be on the board?