The Cleveland Browns Were Right to Pass on Saquon Barkley

Erick W. Rasco -Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

I’ve probably confused many people with this headline, so let me clarify.

Saquon Barkley looks legit. The New York Giants running back is a walking highlight reel, providing more evidence of this in Thursday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. He possesses game-changing talent and athleticism which can help transform an entire offense.

With that said, man, am I glad the Cleveland Browns passed on him. I wanted nothing to do with them taking the talented running back first overall, and the Giants are going out of their way to prove Cleveland was right to take Baker Mayfield instead.

A sizable chunk of the Browns fan-base insisted the team had to take Barkley with the first overall pick. Said supporters believed his talent was too good to pass up, that Cleveland could take advantage of a deep class, grab Barkley first and then get a quarterback with the fourth overall pick.

Instead, Cleveland drafted Mayfield, which was followed by the Giants sprinting to make Barkley their pick.

To clarify again, the former Penn State star is in no way a bust. Barkley is indeed as good as advertised.

Yet, the Giants are 1-5, with the rest of their season looking like nothing but a formality. This is mostly due to the quarterback play of an aging Eli Manning.

New York is proving that, yes, a supremely talented running back is indeed a great weapon to have. However, none of it matters if the quarterback is struggling.

Consider how this would’ve played out had Cleveland selected Barkley first overall. By the time the team went back on the clock with the fourth pick, two rookie quarterbacks were sure to be off the board. One could safely assume said players would be Mayfield and Sam Darnold.

In this scenario, the Browns would have Barkley and either Josh Allen, Josh Rosen or, if we want to reach, Lamar Jackson. In the time since, Allen has had an uneven rookie campaign with the Buffalo Bills, Rosen has looked OK on a bad Arizona Cardinals team, while the Baltimore Ravens just use Jackson as a gimmick.

Bottom line – none of the quarterbacks the Browns could’ve taken has completely reinvigorated his team’s offense quite like Mayfield has. Cleveland is 2-2-1, with fans dreaming of a potential playoff berth. A major reason for this is the impact created by the team’s rookie QB.

Meanwhile, as Barkley keeps making must-see plays, he does so while Manning spends entire games throwing check-down passes. New York’s offense is, for the most part, toothless. This despite having Barkley, Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram.

As you can see, having an answer at quarterback is far more important than possessing a game-changing rusher.

Consider, too, how badly the Browns were struggling to move the ball with veteran Tyrod Taylor leading the offense.

Many of those arguing for the Browns to take Barkley did so while insisting the team would be just fine with Taylor under center. With a serviceable QB in tow, they claimed, the Browns could afford to target the best available players instead of investing in a rookie signal-caller.

Can you imagine how rough things would be looking for them if this was the route they took?

Taylor wasn’t awful during his time as the Browns starter, but the offense in general struggled to move the ball. Against the Jets in Week 3, it appeared the veteran’s inability to get anything going was a source of frustration with his teammates. Had he remained in said game, it sure seemed like another loss was the most likely outcome.

Instead, Taylor got hurt, Mayfield stepped in and showed how much better a team can look when it gets effective quarterback play.

Right now, the Giants don’t have this, and it’s a big reason why the they’re 1-5 despite all the highlights Barkley produces.

A great running back can add a considerable amount of firepower to an offense. He can spend every week making plays which blow you away, which seemingly can’t be done by anyone else on the field.

However, he can’t overcome bad quarterback play. He can’t alleviate the effect which comes from the constant struggles at the most important on the field. He can’t single-handedly carry a team.

Personally, I’m glad the Giants are the ones making this realization, and not the Browns. Some fans may have been upset about Cleveland passing on Barkley, and might (inexplicably) still be. I’d like to think they’ll soon embrace the fact their favorite team isn’t on the losing end of a draft narrative for once.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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