The Giants gushed so much about him before and immediately after they selected Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft that it almost sounded as if they were describing an indescribable running back.
Words such as “rare’’ and “unique’’ and “a guy who can do everything’’ were bandied about so freely, the Giants decision-makers might as well have been conjuring up an image of a player never before seen on a football field.
General manager Dave Gettleman is so taken with Barkley that he could not come up with another running back, as far as an apt comparison. “You guys are going to have to call Ernie,’’ Gettleman said, referring to Ernie Accorsi, a former Giants GM and something of a sports historian.
“I’m enjoying the draft with no pressure and all of a sudden I’m getting phone calls,’’ Accorsi cracked Friday morning.
Well, have at it. Whom does Saquon Barkley most closely resemble?
“I can’t compare him with any one person,’’ Accorsi said, noting he has never seen a running back with Barkley’s blend of speed and size. But it is fascinating whom Accorsi mentioned first when talking about Barkley.
“Nobody compares anybody to Jim Brown,’’ Accorsi told The Post. “Jim Brown was state-of-the-art, there’s never going to be another Jim Brown. But I mean, he had it, of course, in every aspect of it. But [Barkley] is just rare. He’s got a rare set of tools and that’s what makes him so special.’’
This is not talk from the couch. Accorsi did not scout any of the players in this draft, but he did see every game Barkley played the past two years at Penn State, a school Accorsi worked for and a program that remains dear to his heart.
“I’ve never seen anyone with that kind of burst and speed that big,’’ Accorsi said. “I don’t mean big like Brandon Jacobs. I’m talking about, he’s thick, his legs are big. Usually a sprinter doesn’t have big, powerful, tackle-breaking legs.’’
One comparison Accorsi has heard, and rejects, is Barkley and Barry Sanders, the Lions Hall of Famer.
“He’s not at all like Barry Sanders,’’ Accorsi said. “Barry Sanders was smaller. The thing about Barry Sanders, a lot of times on third-and-2 they took him out. You’re not taking this guy out. On a third-and-short he can be a power back. You don’t take him off the field, unless you just want to give him a break. There’s no situation or set of downs you have to take him off the field. Even third-and-15, he’s a tremendous receiver, and from what I understand about this offense of Pat Shurmur’s, that’s going to be a big factor.’’
Despite all these accolades, Barkley did not have a record-breaking 2017 season, rushing for 1,271 yards, although he did average 5.9 yards per rushing attempt. He was limited to 56 yards against Indiana, and Ohio State (44 yards), Michigan State (63) and even Rutgers (35) held Barkley in check.
“The quarterback [Trace McSorley] had a good year, but basically everybody that played them said, ‘We got to stop [Barkley],’’’ Accorsi said. “In that offense, which is a read option, a lot of times he doesn’t burst into the line, it’s a read-and-react offense and they were trying to gang-tackle him.
“Sometimes a defense has to make decisions — ‘if somebody’s going to beat me, he’s beating me, not this guy.’ They were not going to let Barkley beat them. The big plays he made, he sort of made creatively. Kickoff return, he’d take a swing pass, he’d break out of the backfield and now he’d have some space and, boom, he’s gone. I just can’t tell you how many times it looked like he was going to get a 15- or 18-yard gain and run 55 yards. He’s got it all. He’s got great vision, he sees the field. He’s rare.’’
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