Saquon Barkley has long been inspired by legendary running back Barry Sanders — and as the NFL Combine draws closer, the former Nittany Lion is being likened to the Hall of Famer.
With the Combine just a week away, NFL.com released their individual draft profiles on the attending athletes, highlighting strengths, weaknesses, draft projections and even player comparisons for some.
Barkley’s comparison? Sanders.
“Every-down running back with the ability to alter the course of an offense and become the face of the franchise-type player,” the profile states. “He has a chance to become an early All-Pro no matter which team takes him.”
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Now, the Barkley-Sanders comparison isn’t entirely new. Legendary NFL scout Gil Brandt said a month ago that Barkley might be the best college running back to come out since the Oklahoma State superstar.
Barkley has been likened to Rams running back Todd Gurley and former Ohio State rusher Ezekiel Elliott, but Sanders always seemed to fit just right.
As his profile notes, Barkley “has the rare ability to create additional yardage through elusiveness, speed, vision and feel for space in the open field.” He has a knack for making something out of nothing.
“He was explosive. He was special,” Barkley told ESPN six months ago, explaining why he’d choose Sanders to model his game off of. “He was able to make something out of nothing on the field.”
Believe it or not, Barkley outproduced Sanders at the college level. The former had 5,038 yards from scrimmage and 51 offensive touchdowns, while the latter tallied 3,720 yards and 49 scores.
Now, Barkley is ready to make the same leap Sanders took in 1989. Barkley is a projected top-five selection, while Sanders, the No. 3 overall pick by Detroit, made the Pro Bowl in his rookie season.
Barkley could do the same in 2018.