Giants select RB Saquon Barkley with No. 2 pick

The New York Giants made it clear before the offseason even started they wanted to build around Eli Manning, not replace the 37-year-old quarterback. That's where Saquon Barkley comes in.

The Giants selected the Penn State running back with the No. 2 overall pick Thursday, passing up the opportunity to draft USC quarterback Sam Darnold or possibly trade down to a team like the Broncos, who was reportedly interested in a move up according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.

Barkley is the rare running back prospect who could be worth passing on all those riches. Like LaDainian Tomlinson with an extra 20 pounds of muscle, Barkley is the perfect fit for this era in the NFL. He can stay on the field all three downs, excelling as an inside runner, pass protector and receiver out of the backfield or in the slot. Barkley was drafted this high, however, for his incredible vision and ability to make big plays on the outside. He excels in space and is a matchup problem no matter where he lines up on the field. After years of running backs not being valued in the draft, NFL teams are realizing that unicorns like Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and now possibly Barkley have incredible value to change a team's offense on every down.

Eli should be smiling somewhere. With Odell Beckham set to return from injury, the G-Men have one of the most explosive young cores of skill position talent in the league with tight end Evan Engram and underrated slot receiver Sterling Shepard also in the mix. The Giants haven't had an above-average running game for most of this decade and that's the best way to protect Manning at a stage of his career where he clearly has limitations.

Barkley is one of the safest picks in this draft and new Giants general manager Dave Gettleman won't be criticized if Barkley starts racking up seasons with more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Still, choosing to stick with Manning and promote continuity while letting Darnold fall to the crosstown Jets will be a decision that is debated in Gotham for years to come. The Giants believe they can return to playoff contention immediately and don't plan to be drafting this high most seasons. It's on Eli Manning to help prove them right.

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