Stewart: Barkley, McCaffrey are best RBs in NFL

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  • By Grant Gordon NFL.com
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In little time, Saquon Barkley has shined and Christian McCaffrey has dazzled.

So much so that one longtime NFL veteran believes they are already the best of the best on the football field at running back.

"The best running back in football right now is Saquon Barkley, I think," said running back Jonathan Stewart, who played nine seasons with the Panthers before playing last year for the Giants, on the Wilson & Parcell show Friday. "And I'd say a 1B to that is Christian McCaffrey."

Cowboys and Rams fans are likely to disagree and when Le'Veon Bell finds a new squad, those fans might, as well.

Obviously it's up for debate, but when asked who he believed to be the best at the position, Stewart, who is a free agent, did not hesitate to name Barkley and then McCaffrey -- albeit both of them former teammates.

After he was drafted second overall by the Giants, Barkley responded with his educated feet carrying him to AP Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. In his freshman campaign, Barkley's 1,307 yards rushing were second in the NFL and went along with a 5.0 yards per carry average, 91 receptions for 721 yards and 15 total touchdowns (11 rushing).

Barkley was a versatile dynamo, doing anything and everything for the skidding Giants.

"He's just a tremendous talent," Stewart said. "There's no way around it, he's doing things that are just freakish."

As much as anything, Barkley's 91 receptions are an eye-popping number.

That's until you look at McCaffrey's stat line for this past season with the Panthers.

Though he's just in his second season, McCaffrey's long been regarded for his pass-catching prowess and it showed and then some to the tune of an NFL-record 107 receptions, the most by a running back in league chronicle. With those catches came 867 receiving yards and six touchdowns, which were on top of his 1,098 yards rushing and seven ground scores.

"You have a guy that everyone overlooks because of whatever the reasons are," Stewart said of McCaffrey. "He's put up the numbers, he's played every single down pretty much this past year. He can do everything on the field, such as passing and catching and running and running routes and breaking tackles. You find those same things in Saquon Barkley."

Much like Barkley, McCaffrey was outstanding in the face of his franchise's travails as the Giants were 5-11 and the Panthers finished at 7-9. Win or lose, the burgeoning stars produced consistently.

Of all the mind-spinning numbers surrounding Barkley and McCaffrey, perhaps the most impressive is that they're each just 22 years of age.

Thus, the debate of who the NFL's best running back is can rage on. And it can rage on for a longtime to come.

Said Stewart: "I think these two guys are a staple of what the NFL running back, what it is, and what it's going to become."

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