With the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns select Saquon Barkley from Penn State University. Those should be the words Roger Goodell speaks April 26. There should be no way the Browns’ brass screws this up. This selection is not a Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer, Trent Richardson, or Johnny Manziel type of situation. Barkley is the real deal, and with the Browns now having a surplus of running backs, Barkley is still the right choice.
In 2017, the Browns rushing attack was led by Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. The Browns would finish 18th in the NFL in rushing with 1714 yards with an average of 107.1 per game to go along with 11 touchdowns. This is why drafting Barkley is so important. The Browns running backs averaged 4.5 yards per carry, but the recent retirement of Joe Thomas may put a dent in those numbers — or maybe not.
Despite Thomas retiring, the Browns may still be lethal on the ground. If they do take Barkley, he will be paired with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson. At first glance, the trio doesn’t seem all that terrifying, but a close look reveals that each player will bring something different to the table. Barkley will provide the speed between the tackles and the outside as he did with the Nittany Lions, where he gained 3,843 yards on 671 attempts and 43 touchdowns with an average of 5.6 yards per rush, according to Sports Reference.
In 2017, Hyde gained 938 yards and eight touchdowns with an average of 3.9 yards per carry. Hyde will give the Browns their power option. Then, the Browns can shake things up with Johnson. While he’s not the 20-plus-per-carry type of back, he’s best suited to catch the ball out of the backfield. In 2017, Johnson caught 74 passes for 693 yards and three touchdowns. Will it be enough carries to go around?
Name another team that poses the same threat on the ground the Browns will have in 2018. What the Browns can possibly have is what helped the Philadelphia Eagles win the Super Bowl this past season. LeGarrette Blunt, much like Hyde, was the power back. Jay Ajayi, much like Barkley, was the shifty runner, and Johnson, much like Corey Clement, was the receiving back. Paired together, the Browns could be unstoppable on the ground.
Another reason this may come true is due to their quarterback and receiver situation. In order for an offense to be successful, there has to be some sort of balance in their attack. The Browns’ quarterbacks were so awful that defenses stacked the line with no respect for their quarterback or receivers. However, the Browns changed that with offseason trades in which they acquired Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry.
If Taylor, Landry, and Josh Gordon can get their chemistry down, that will open the door for the ground game to explode. For the first time in a while, the Browns are legit.