Ki-Jana Carter wanted nothing more than to have Saquon Barkley join the “fraternity” of fellow No. 1 overall picks. Carter was selected at the top spot by the Cincinnati Bengals back in 1995, while Barkley, of course, just missed out, going second to the New York Giants in April’s NFL draft.
Still, Carter — the former Heisman Trophy runner-up and Penn State legend — believes Barkley is in a “great situation.” He and 1986 national champion Blair Thomas lauded the rookie after signing autographs prior to Tuesday’s New York-Penn League All-Star Game at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
“The Giants, two years ago, were a playoff team,” Carter said. “He’s with a quarterback, Eli Manning, who’s a two-time Super Bowl champ, probably one of the top three receivers in Odell Beckham Jr., (tight end) Evan Engram and (wideout) Sterling Shepard. So, with all the weapons around him, they’re not going to focus on him as much. ... I think he’s going to have a great season.”
Added Thomas: “I think you’re going to see some exciting things from him.”
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That is the general expectation. Barkley is the overwhelming betting favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, per Bovada, while ESPN ranks him No. 6 overall on its fantasy football top-300 list behind only Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Ezekiel Elliott and Antonio Brown.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, who made Barkley the highest-drafted running back since Reggie Bush in 2006, said the playmaker was “touched by the hand of God,” and New York is going to implement him in every phase of its offense. That’s what really excites Carter.
Considered by some to be the greatest Penn State running back of all-time, Carter watched Barkley thrust himself into that conversation with his versatility. Barkley put up 5,038 scrimmage yards and 51 total touchdowns over the past three years.
And the two Nittany Lions think Barkley and his new team can put up more mind-boggling numbers in 2018.
“With his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, it’s going to open up that offense,” Carter said. “What it kind of reminds me of, I go back to our ‘94 team. We had a prolific running game, but we also had a prolific passing game. If you put eight men in the box, we’re going to throw the ball. If they try to drop extra DBs to stop the pass, we’re going to run the ball. It’s going to be hard for NFL defenses to key in and say, ‘You know, Odell’s the star player, let’s bracket him with a DB,’ when you have Saquon in the backfield.”
“He’s the perfect back for the style of offenses out there now,” Thomas said. “Speed, explosion, he has all the tools. The jump cut and accelerating out of the cuts. He’s just a well-rounded back, and he’s going to continue to get better as time goes on.”