The best battle for position supremacy this college football season could be at running back, where Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and LSU’s Derrius Guice will jockey all year long for the right to be the first running back drafted in 2018.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, who’s been busy studying prospects this summer, offered his opinion on both running backs:
“Barkley (Penn State) and Guice (LSU) were entertaining runners as freshmen, but both players took it to that “uh-oh” level as sophomores with eye-opening yardage and touchdown numbers,” Zierlein wrote. “People will start nit-picking both players this year as the hype surrounding them picked up tremendous steam after their 2016 seasons. After watching the tape on both runners, I’m confident that Guice and Barkley are as talented as any runner taken in the 2017 draft.”
Considering Leonard Fournette (Jaguars) and Christian McCaffrey (Panthers) were both drafted in the top 10 this year, Zierlein’s assessment of Barkley and Guice is remarkable.
It’s also 100-percent correct.
The NFL is enjoying an influx of talented running backs in recent years. It started in 2015 with Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon breaking the streak of running back-less first rounds. If Barkley or Guice get picked in Round 1 next year, it’ll make four straight drafts with a first-round running back.
Both players are talented enough to qualify as first-round prospects regardless of team needs. Clubs with competent starters could still select Barkley or Guice because of the upgrade they’re sure to represent.
I currently have Barkley rated as the top running back heading into the regular season. Even if Guice passes him on my board this year, both backs are first-round players barring an injury or inexplicable decline in performance.