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Preseason Draft Spotlight: Saquon Barkley

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While it is hard to pinpoint that many glaring needs on the Eagles roster, it is worth noting some prospects Eagles fans should be interested in heading into the season. As we get closer to the beginning of college football, I want to highlight some of the more intriguing prospects in the country. Here's a few things to know about a local prospect on his way to stardom.

Name: Saquon Barkley

Position: Running Back

School: Penn State

Measurements: 5-11, 223 Pounds

2016 Stats: 272 Carries, 1496 Yards, 18 Rushing Touchdowns, 28 Receptions, 402 Yards, 4 Receiving Touchdowns.

The Skinny

The NFL is getting more and more top level running back prospects after a brief lull in talent at the position in the league and college level. Saquon Barkley's resume suggests he is the next running back in line to warrant a top ten selection in the NFL Draft.

It is hard to find things to say about the third year phenom that have not already been said. Not only has he been highly productive in his first two seasons in Happy Valley, he was featured in Bruce Feldman's annual Freak List as the best pure athlete in college football. His workout numbers are eye popping but his mention in the article also features his head coach waxing poetic about his high character. The fact that he is such a legend on the field, off the field and in the weight room only maximizes his chances to become an NFL star.

Breaking down his game on the field, it is easy to see why there is such a buzz around him and frankly it is difficult to poke holes in his game.

Barkley is an incredibly creative runner who does a great job finding holes and running to daylight. Most importantly, he does a great job keeping his feet movement even when he is looking for an opening in the line. It makes his movement hard to predict and doesn't allow defenses to key on a stationary target.

In the case that there is a hole open, Barkley's initial burst makes him very difficult to stop once he gets going. The first 10 yards with the ball in his hand is where Barkley consistently beats the defense. His acceleration propels him to the open field and it is a house call from there.

This play really shows off everything that makes Barkley so special. His vision to consistently find the open field, his ability to string together rushing moves to dodge tackles and how he rarely loses speed when he's cutting in the open field. This eventual touchdown basically features all of Barkley's gifts as a running back and this play alone sums up why he is as special as any back to come out in the last few years.

If Barkley's pure running talent was not enough to be convincing of how good a prospect he is, consider his receiving ability as well. Penn State used him as a check down option, but would also run him out on wheels to create mismatches against linebackers. His speed is truly too much for any linebacker in the open field and is a big reason he averaged over 14 yards per catch, a crazy number for a running back.

It is hard to find glaring holes in Barkley's game. To nitpick, it feels like his top level speed is less than top notch but that is something he makes up for with how he can separate from defenses with his agility and burst. The other critique would be the moments he could just take the yardage in front of him and ends up losing yards instead trying to create something more. This process to find yardage usually ends up benefiting the team, so it is not a glaring issue, but it is worth saying he could add some discipline to his game behind the line of scrimmage.

NFL Comparison: Ezekiel Elliott

Why should Eagles fans be interested?

Pretty simple. The Eagles current crop of running backs feature two guys who are thirty or over, two running backs who are the size of a burly 16 year old, a former fifth round pick who has proven nothing yet and a walking injury report who is likely to get cut. While they will make due with that group in some capacity this year, there is really no long term option among those guys. Barkley is a blue chip running back talent and after the team added a lot of names at receiver, Barkley could be the player to take this offense over the top in 2018.

What games will be pivotal for Barkley?

With a Big 10 Schedule, there area lot of games that will put a lot of pressure on Barkley to succeed. Teams like Iowa, Michigan and Ohio State are all historically stingy defenses for very good teams and Penn State will lean on Barkley to shoulder the load if they are going to win. Ohio State has defenders like Sam Hubbard and Jerome Baker, Iowa has Josey Jewell and Michigan has Rashan Gary to slow down the likes of Saquon Barkley. There is a lot of NFL talent in the Big 10 on the defensive side of the ball so the best thing to do would be keep an eye on Barkley every week as he contends for the Heisman and for being among the best players in the 2018 draft.

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