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The New York Giants decided against selecting a quarterback of the future when they drafted Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick in 2018 after he had a dominant career at Penn State, and the running back repaid them by winning Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Barkley, who established himself as one of the best running backs in the league in his first season, beat out other contenders such as Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield to win the award Saturday.
@Giants RB @saquon Barkley is the 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year! #NFLHonors https://t.co/K4t2OIZ9fG
The 21-year-old did everything a team could ask of a modern-day back, demonstrating the power to pick up short yardage and convert near the goal line, consistently running through arm tackles, flashing the elusiveness and speed to turn minimal gains into game-changing plays, and making defenders miss at the second level with lightning-quick cuts and spin moves.
Barkley was a three-down back who could take advantage of the openings created when Odell Beckham Jr. attracted attention downfield. The running back led the Giants in receptions (91) on his way to 721 receiving yards and four touchdown catches.
That was just in the air, as he added 1,307 rushing yards and 11 touchdown runs on five yards per carry.
The numbers are eye-popping on their own, but they are all the more impressive considering he produced at that level while running behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. Football Outsiders ranked the Giants as the 29th-best run-blocking team in the league and 20th-best in pass protection.
The lackluster blocking forced Barkley into situations in which he was asked to break tackles behind the line of scrimmage almost as soon as he received a handoff. He still finished second in the league in rushing yards, and it is not difficult for fans to imagine what he could have done with an even mediocre offensive line.
New York was just 5-11 during the 2018 campaign, its second straight losing season, but there is reason for optimism with Barkley and Beckham anchoring the offense.
The rookie running back posted more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage in his first NFL season, and he figures to only improve with additional experience and better offensive line play.