Penn State’s Saquon Barkley put together an incredible campaign in 2017, establishing himself as one of the top players in college football. In fact, Barkley was so good last season that he impressed even Penn State legend Jack Ham.
In an article by the Centre Daily Times’ John McGonigal, released on Wednesday, Ham said that Barkley should be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and that the Cleveland Browns, who currently hold the No. 1 pick, would be “absolutely crazy” if they didn’t select Barkley.
“I did see some of the clips from the combine, and if Cleveland does not take him No. 1, they are absolutely crazy,” Ham said in the article. “A running back like this does not come around that often, especially at 233 pounds. That’s probably the biggest he’s been, which bodes well for him going into the NFL. He can carry the ball 20 times a game; he’s got that kind of durability. He’s a mismatch nightmare for defenses because you can run a lot of different offenses — a conventional offense with him in the backfield or turn it around and spread him out.”
“[Barkley] is the best running back Penn State has ever had, and he’s a classy young man, as well,” Ham added. “I wish him well.”
Ham ― who won four Super Bowl championships with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is one of the best linebackers in Penn State history ― is an analyst for the Penn State Sports Network. He said he has never seen a player like Barkley.
“There’s not a comparison you can make,” Ham said. “He does so many different things. I think the last time he fumbled the ball was when the kid from Maryland got the point of the ball like two years ago. I mean, he blocks so well in protection. He’s just such a complete back. The best compliment I can give is that I don’t have a comparison.”
In addition to having the top pick, Cleveland also has the No. 4 pick in the draft. The Browns have been looking for a franchise quarterback since the team returned to Cleveland in 1999, so there is a strong chance they could draft a quarterback with the top pick. However, if the Browns are able to sign a quarterback through free agency, drafting Barkley No. 1 may be the route they go.
“He’s special,” Ham said of Barkley. “And like I said, Cleveland has the first and fourth pick. There are a bunch of quarterbacks out there, and I know it’s a quarterback-driven league. But you don’t pass on somebody like this. You just don’t pass on him.”
In 2017, Barkley rushed for 1,271 yards and 18 touchdowns on 217 carries in 13 games with the Nittany Lions. He also added 3 receiving touchdowns last season.
The NFL draft begins Thursday, April 26.