At this point in the NFL season, the pretenders have separated themselves from the contenders. Although none of the playoff spots are set in stone, they are now an unattainable goal for a handful of teams.
With that in mind, it may be time for fans of the league’s worst teams to start preparing for the NFL Draft. The bottom five teams, in particular, should start looking forward to having a high draft pick. These prospects are the most realistic options for those teams.
Draft order as of November 18, 2017.
Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Tell me if you’ve heard this before: the Cleveland Browns have a need at quarterback.
Rookie DeShone Kizer has been anything but impressive as the team’s starter. Cody Kessler is a solid backup at best and Kevin Hogan isn’t a starting-caliber player, either.
And yet, the Browns shouldn’t pick a quarterback if they end up with the first pick.
Cleveland has made a habit of giving up on quarterbacks early. One year after they picked Kessler, Kizer was drafted. Two years before that, they picked Johnny Manziel, who himself was drafted two years after Brandon Weeden was picked. Most of these players have proven themselves to be busts. However, it’s not like the Browns have given them much to work with. Josh Gordon hasn’t played an NFL game since 2014 due to suspensions. Terrelle Pryor had a breakout season in 2016, but they failed to bring him back in the following offseason. The same applies to Travis Benjamin in 2015.
They also haven’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Peyton Hillis in 2010. Isaiah Crowell has come close, but he hasn’t been anything special as their starting running back. That’s where Saquon Barkley comes in.
Barkley has had a down year from a statistical standpoint, but those who have watched his tape understand that stats don’t tell the whole story. After all, he has pretty much every trait one could want in a running back.
He has a big, pro-ready frame at 5-foot-11 and 233 pounds and is great at shedding tackles, but he’s also a fantastic athlete. In fact, Penn State coaches timed his 40-yard dash at 4.33 seconds in the offseason. Although schools typically exaggerate their players’ testing numbers, it’s still evident that Barkley has superb athleticism.
Barkley has great vision and can make defenders miss. He runs around and over would-be tacklers. In addition to all of this, he’s a very good blocker and a good receiver.
Kizer isn’t playing all that great, but he doesn’t have great weapons around him. Add someone like Barkley, who can contribute in several ways to the Browns’ offense, and they may see their quarterback turn things around.
Next: San Francisco 49ers