If there is a running back the Raiders are going to take in the first round, it might be Penn State Nittany Lions junior tailback Saquon Barkley. For the first few weeks of the 2017 college football season, he was your Heisman Trophy front-runner before Stanford Cardinal running back Bryce Love and Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield caught fire.
Though Barkley may not win the Heisman, he is a certain first-round running back talent coming out of Penn State this year. He’s going pro because his versatility as a runner translates very well to the NFL. In 37 games at Penn State, Barkley has 653 carries for 3,706 yards and 41 touchdowns. As a pass catcher, Barkley has 95 receptions for 1,157 yards and eight touchdowns.
At 5-foot-11, 228 pounds, Barkley the necessary frame to be the future bell-cow back that the Raiders definitely need. They may not have Marshawn Lynch for much longer. The Raiders need a running back that is good for 25 touches a game that can get the team over 100 all-purpose yards with great regularity.
Drafting a running back in the first round can be difficult. However, the NFL has done a good job of that in recent years with Todd Gurley going to the then St. Louis Rams in 2015, Ezekiel Elliott to the Dallas Cowboys in 2016 and Leonard Fournette going to the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Barkley be a premier NFL running back as a top-15 pick.