For the past 24 months, Saquon Barkley’s NFL future has been pondered, talked about and analyzed.
Now that there’s further clarity — now that Barkley has declared for the NFL draft, officially forgoing his senior season at Penn State — NFL and college experts across the country weighed in on the running back’s future in the league.
Here’s what analysts, former players and more said about Barkley’s next step:
Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN: Kiper, Jr., who has served as an ESPN NFL draft analyst since 1984, believes Barkley is the No. 1 prospect in this year’s pool of players.
The analyst recently wrote that Barkley is “a lights-out athlete with tremendous balance, a great lower body and quick feet.”
He believes that the now-former Nittany Lion will run under a 4.4 40-yard dash.
“Barkley could be a top-five pick in 2018,” Kiper, Jr. wrote, “and he’s going to get an elite grade from me.”
Todd McShay, ESPN: McShay and Kiper Jr. often disagree — and they did so again in regards to Barkley. But ever so slightly.
McShay has Barkley as his No. 2 prospect in this year’s draft behind only UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen.
In a recent mock draft, though, McShay had Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold going No. 1 overall to the Browns — and Barkley joining him in Cleveland with the No. 6 selection. (Since that mock draft, the Browns have now solidified the No. 4 draft pick from the Houston Texans instead of No. 6.)
Cleveland is where football players go to suffer — but could a Barkley-Darnold backfield resurrect the lowly Browns?
That would be interesting.
Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: After Barkley announced his decision to leave Penn State, Miller — who has always been high on the back — said, “My top overall player for the 2018 draft is in.”
Miller wrote last week that despite attention on Darnold, Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and other quarterbacks, he would make Barkley this year’s No. 1 overall pick.
“In a draft class dominated by talk of franchise quarterbacks and outlier prospects carrying Heisman trophies, we’ve forgotten to talk about the best player in the class,” Miller wrote. “And that’s Barkley.”
CBS Sports: Barkley comes in at No. 8 in CBS Sports’ prospect rankings. He’s the highest-rated running back, with LSU’s Derrius Guice ranked No. 12.
Here are the players ranked above him, in order: N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb, Florida State safety Derwin James, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown, Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith, Alabama cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Bruce Feldman, FOX Sports: Feldman, who named Barkley college football’s No. 1 freak athlete in the offseason, said the Coplay native is the “most complete RB I’ve seen to come out of college in many years.”
Feldman complimented everything about Barkley, including his blocking — an underrated quality in the back’s arsenal.
Feldman claims that Barkley will “light up the Combine.”
WalterFootball.com: A go-to site for NFL mock drafts, WalterFootball.com has Barkley going No. 3 overall to the Indianapolis Colts.
Here is their reasoning: “Frank Gore is going to retire soon, and Marlon Mack doesn’t seem like the long-term answer. Indianapolis needs to give Andrew Luck lots of help, and while the offensive line needs to improve, a dynamic running back would help as well.”
Cris Carter, NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver: Carter — who was there in-person with FOX’s coverage team to see Barkley’s performance at Ohio State — put things simply on Twitter.
“NY Giants please draft Saquon Barkley,” Carter wrote.
Straight and to the point.
Plus, Barkley-to-New York has been a growing theme. Without a real running threat, Barkley would fit with the Giants — as much as that might pain his father, who has a Jets tattoo.
John McGonigal: 814-231-4630, @jmcgonigal9