Disagreeing With The Gents: Why Taking Barkley At #2 Is Still A Mistake

On the recent gridiron gents podcast ranking the running backs of the NFL, something was said that made me sit up and think ‘no Simon, I disagree with you there’. Simon opined, and his fellow gentlemen agreed, that with the benefit of hindsight taking Saquon Barkley with the number two pick of the 2018 draft was absolutely the correct move. Its difficult to disagree that Barkley is a phenomenal talent so I won’t. Barkley was a deserving winner of the Offensive Rookie of the year. His speed, power, elusiveness and vision make him clearly one of the top runners in the league. The draft is all about acquiring talent so getting one of the best players in the league makes this a slam dunk of a pick. What possible reason do you have for thinking this pick was a mistake?

I need to emphasis this point heavily. My problem with taking Barkley at #2 has nothing to do with Barkleys ability. He’s great and I’d love to have him on my team. Also, despite his clear decline, taking Barkley instead of finding Eli Mannings replacement isn’t the problem with taking Barkley at #2. With so many holes in the Giants roster there were lots of ways the giants could go. Building a team to put a quarterback into is also a viable method of team building, even if it makes selected the right quarterback all the more important so you don’t ruin all that team building. No. The problem is a team building one and investment of monies into a volatile position with diminishing value.

Speaking frankly, running backs are ten a penny. Great running backs can be found at a much cheaper cost both in draft capital and real money costs. Currently only 3 other running backs have more guaranteed money on their contract: Todd Gurley, Le’veon Bell and David Johnson. All of those running backs are on their 2nd contract. Only one of those running backs was selected in the 1st round as Bell was taken in the second round and Johnson in the third. Saquon Barkleys contract has $31 million in guarantees which is 4 million more than Leonard Fournette and 7 million more than Ezikiel Elliot. This is a lot of money to invest in any position, never mind a position with a super short shelf life and they are going to have to shell out again when his next contract is up (they could of course pick up his 5th year option then tag him twice, but that’s not a cheap option either).

Lets compare some other young running backs to Barkley. Nick Chubb was selected in the second round and has only 5.3 million in contract guarantees. I concede that Bradley is better than Chubb, but is Bradley nearly 6 times as good as Chubb? I’d wager he isn’t. Looking at another young running back, Joe Mixon, who has only 2.8 million in guarantees. Again is Bradley 11 times better than Mixon? Again I’d wager not. Chubb and Mixon were both taken in the 2nd round of the draft and are costing their teams a lot less. Personally I would prefer to have a slightly less talented (but still very good) running back on my team at a cheaper contract and invest the money and draft captial on positions which are a lot scarcer.

This is the basic crux of my argument. There are positions of scarcity in the NFL. Pass rushers, shut down corners and competent offensive lineman. Denzel Ward, Bradley Chubb and Quentin Nelson were all available if the Giants didn’t want to draft a quarterback and all at positions of scarcity. When you can get such good players at running back in lower rounds who are as good as, if not better than Barkley I find it very hard to justify spending so much draft capital and money on any running back. Players like David Johnson, Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt can be found in much later rounds and are either on par with Barkley or not too much of a step down. This is why the pick is a mistake because Gettleman is not taking basic economics into consideration. When there is a surplus of a commodity then the price of that commodity falls, so voluntarily paying over the odds for that commodity is a mistake.

Also not in Gettlemans favour are his comments about why he drafted David Jones saying that all he needed to see of him was a few drives in the senior bowl to know he was the quarterback of the team. Not buying yourself a lot of street cred there Mr. Gettleman.

Perhaps I will be accused of being too analytical in my approach here, perhaps I’ll be accused of missing out on the majesty and excitement of what makes the NFL great. Perhaps, but for me roster construction is just as interesting as watching a defense disguise its coverage. Just as interesting as watching an offense run RPO concepts. Just as interesting as all the battle of wills that occur on the gridiron. The best thing about the sport we love is the many ways it can be enjoyed and nerding out about draft picks and guaranteed money is certainly in my wheel house.

You can check out Will on twitter here and the Gents here