EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – With a week to go before the NFL draft, Saquon Barkley hasn’t received a lot of calls from the top prospects wanting to know what to expect next week.
A few former Penn State teammates have reached out to the New York Giants running back, and the only message the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year gave them was to be ready when the season starts.
It’s the attitude he took last year, and nothing has changed, even with the recent trade of star wide receiver and good friend Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns.
Speaking after an organized team activity on Thursday, Barkley said he is looking for new things to challenge him. He wants to improve his pass blocking and catching the ball and being more of a leader in his second season.
The one thing that doesn’t need help is his running. The No. 2 pick overall in last year’s draft ran for a franchise-rookie record 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns, including a long of 78 yards. He also led the team in receiving with 91 catches and four touchdowns.
What Barkley wants is anything that can help the Giants win.
“My competitive nature would love to be the best player in the league and the best running back in the league, but I think you could make an argument that I was one of the best running backs in the league last year and we went 5-11 to account for it,” Barkley said. “My mindset is whatever it takes to take this team to another level and compete for a championship, whether that is 2,000 yards, 1,500 yards or 800 yards.”
Looking to the draft, Barkley doesn’t intend to watch much of it. He felt the draft lasted too long last year, and it was over for him after the second pick.
However, he knows what the Giants need.
“Just guys that love the game,” Barkley said. “That is the biggest thing I have learned so far in my one year in the NFL. Just guys that love the game and love competing, whether you are 2-14 or 14-2. I know I sound like a broken record because I said it before, but it is truly what it takes.”
General manager Dave Gettleman didn’t shed much light on whom the Giants would take with the sixth and 17th overall picks in the first round next Thursday. The Giants need pass rushers, an offensive tackle, defensive backs and a quarterback to replace 38-year-old Eli Manning.
While many hope Gettleman takes an heir apparent for Manning, he insists there is no pressure to take a quarterback.
“I am just saying I won’t force a pick,” Gettleman said. “You can’t draft for need. You will get screwed every time and make a mistake.”
Gettleman said this is a deep draft and there is a lot of value in the first four rounds, which is good for the Giants, who have 12 picks. He added he would make a trade if it helped get a player the team coveted.
“First-, second-, third-round draft picks at the very least, you are looking for a big rotational player,” Gettleman said. “Everyone talks about the way the league is going down, 65-70% of the time you have your defensive sub package in. You can easily make the argument that your nickel is your starter. You can make that argument. Your third wide is your starter. That is what you are looking at. Guys that walk on the field and help you win now. Anything after that is a huge bonus.”
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