With one of the NFL’s best wide receivers and perhaps one of the most polarizing personalities in all of sports, is now in Cleveland after the New York Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Browns last week, the onus of top playmaker for the G-Men falls on the broad and very sturdy shoulders of Saquon Barkley.
The once in a generation running back who the team selected with the No.2 overall pick in last year’s draft had a sensational rookie season that saw him finish his first season with a Pro Bowl bid. He would also end the season as the third first-year rusher in NFL history to finish with over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and the first rookie running back since Edgerrin James did so in 1999 after going fourth overall to the Indianapolis Colts.
Barkley was not just the most impressive rookie running back last season, but he was arguably the best overall back in the entire league last year as the multidimensional back finished with the season with 1,307 yards rushing, recorded nearly 100 catches (91) for 721 yards receiving and totaled 15 touchdowns.
The player nicknamed “Saquads” for his massive thighs that resemble tree trunks, exhibited tremendous playmaking ability week in and week out for a Giants team that struggled on both sides of the ball despite running behind arguably the worst offensive line in the league.
He and Beckham Jr. formed a formidable playmaking tandem for the first 12 weeks of the season and even hooked up for a touchdown from the wideout to the running back on a trick play. Barkley got a sample size of what it would be like in an offense without Odell when the receiver missed the final four games of the year with a lingering lower leg injury.
Over the course of the final month of the regular season, the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year racked up 353 yards and three scores on the ground as well as 17 receptions for 119 yards receiving.
Barkley led the team in rushing as well as receptions and was third on the team in receiving yards. He will now have to be the No.1 playmaker for a full 16 week season until the Giants can surround him with more commentary weapons or if some of their high round picks from the past few years in Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram, who the team took with a first round pick in 2017 can step up in a major way with Beckham Jr. now in Cleveland.