There is a reason the Cleveland Browns are 1-31 in their last 32 games, and there’s a reason they have over $70 million in cap space. They have missed on draft picks year after year and overthink simple draft selections. Whether it be reaching for Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel or trading out of spots where Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson were eventually selected, they have effectively left their roster nearly void of talent. When that is the case, it is inexcusable to not take the best player available, and to me, that is clearly Saquon Barkley.
Most years, taking a running back top 5, much less number 1, is a mistake for a team that has so many needs.
But this year isn’t most years, and Barkley isn’t most running backs.
Barkley was the focus of the offense for Penn State and carried that team game in and game out. Whether he was carrying the ball, catching it out of the backfield, or in the kick return game, Saquon Barkley was (and is) a game-breaking talent. The one game that really stuck out to me was during this past season against Iowa. On the road in one of the toughest places to play in the country, Barkley willed that team to a victory, totaling 305 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. The most impressive play from that game is when he hurdled a defender, took a hit in mid-air and continued running to pick up the first down. Essentially, if you were creating the perfect running back in Madden, that running back would be Saquon Barkley. At his combine, his strength was comparable to Joe Thomas, his quickness to DeSean Jackson, his speed to Devin Hester, and his leaping ability to Julio Jones. He clearly won the genetic draft and is a truly can’t miss talent. This move also fits perfectly with what has lined up for Cleveland this off-season.
Perhaps the strength of the Browns is their offensive line. They have arguably the best left tackle in the NFL and a very good interior line as well. According to PFF, their guards ranked 6th (Joel Bitonio) and 10th (Kevin Zeitler) in the league this season and their center J.C. Tretter was ranked 13th in the league. Having an uber-talented running back behind this line gives this team a much-needed identity. Being able to run the ball in the AFC North when the temperature becomes frigid and you get that lake effect snow will make a huge difference in trying to win games late in the season when battling for playoff spots down the road.
The Browns having the fourth pick allows them to fill an important hole on defense as well. With that pick I expect Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to be available. Ending up with Barkley and Fitzpatrick would breathe a whole new life into this franchise, reinvigorating the lifeless shell of an organization that we have been accustomed to viewing for the past decade-plus. You would go out every Sunday with Barkley, Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry, and Josh Gordon (who is only 26 believe it or not) on offense, to go along with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Myles Garrett defensively. That’s a core that has the potential to be scary soon. Then with the remaining $70+ million to spend, you can supplement this roster with enough talent to make a big jump from no wins to possibly 8 wins, and have a very bright future ahead of you.
As I stated earlier, the overthinking nature of this organization has killed its present. Drafting for need instead of best player available is how you end up with drafting Marcus Smith over Allen Robinson like the Eagles in 2014. This pick is easy Cleveland. Saquon Barkley is an all-time slam dunk pick.