INDIANAPOLIS - There are a number of Eagles fans who are Penn State fans and vice versa. Hopefully, they have come to the realization that Saquon Barkley will not be sporting midnight green in the NFL.
Barkley could potentially be the No. 1 overall pick as he offered a glimpse of what's in store on the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium by notching 29 reps in the bench press Thursday. That total would have been sixth highest among the offensive linemen.
Howie Roseman has pulled off some amazing trades in the past, but the Giants have made it clear that Barkley is in play at No. 2 if he gets past Cleveland. Just a year ago, Giants general manager Dave Gettleman used the No. 8 overall pick on a running back - Christian McCaffrey - when he was in the same position with the Carolina Panthers.
"If he's a great player, he's a great player," Gettleman said. "Is this guy worthy of being the second pick of any draft?"
Gettleman added that when it comes to the No. 2 pick, "you can't get too cute."
Barkley gained 1,271 yards on the ground, averaging 5.86 yards per carry, in 2017. But he brings more to the table than just rushing ability making him one of the cleanest overall evaluations in this draft class. He caught 54 receptions for 632 yards. He also averaged over 28 yards per kickoff return. In all, Barkley crossed the goal line 23 times last year.
"You want to be a complete back. You want to be a guy who’s on the field for three downs. That’s something I had to do in college. I definitely struggled with that my freshman year. A lot. I’m (still) not where I want to be with that. I’m not satisfied with any part of my game," Barkley said.
"I try to be a versatile player. I’m very confident in myself. Whether the ball’s on the 1-yard line of the 99-yard line, I like to think I can find a way to get into the end zone. I can do it all. I can go over top of you. I can beat you with speed."
While Barkley is set to go atop the draft, another former Big Ten running back slipped to the point where he wasn't chosen at all a year ago because of a perceived inability to help in the passing game - Corey Clement.
"He came off the field on third downs. That was the bizarre thing," NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "They had another back (at Wisconsin) that they ended up using in passing situations. You love the way he ran. You love how physical he is, but it was like, 'How valuable can he be in the passing game?' It turns out he's not just adequate in the passing game, he's outstanding in that area. That's kind of why he slipped through."
Clement was signed by the Eagles as a rookie free agent. He made the 53-man roster out of Training Camp and after impressing on special teams in the first month of the season he carved out a role on offense. In the Super Bowl, Clement ironically caught four passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. This was after he had a team-high five receptions in the Divisional Round win over Atlanta.
"Corey is an unbelievable story. A local kid (Glassboro, New Jersey) who came out of college with a lot of questions. He brought a lot questions about himself and his character. When you talk about what he did this year and his work ethic and his attitude, he’s another guy who answered all of those," Howie Roseman said.
"We had a secret weapon with Corey. Dom (DiSandro), our VP of security, and Corey go back a long way. So we were able to ask Dom any questions we had. He assured us, like he does on a lot of things, that we were missing the boat on some of the information we had. He certainly proved us right. Joe Douglas and I tell Dom all the time that he deserves a lot of credit for Corey."
Jeremiah thinks that Clement is the best back on the Eagles' roster.
"It's a dream situation if you're the Eagles. You look at Corey Clement and the skill set that he has, he's just scratching the surface of what he's going to be able to do," Jeremiah said. "We saw what he did in the Super Bowl in the passing game. I think he's got the ability to run with power inside. He's got the ability to get to the perimeter."
The Eagles are thankful to have Clement as it is apparent that Barkley will not his pro ball in the same state as his college. Eagles/Nittany Lions fans hope at the very least that his talent will be taken out of the NFC East.