ATLANTA — What the Giants speculated was true before the 2018 NFL Draft and what they believe was validated during this past season was made official Saturday night: Saquon Barkley was the best.
The dynamic and classy running back was named the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in an NFL Honors ceremony at the Fox Theatre.
In a Giants-themed moment, Odell Beckham Jr. — the offensive rookie award winner in 2014 — made the presentation to Barkley.
There was plenty of support for Baker Mayfield, the Browns quarterback and the only player taken ahead of Barkley in the draft. The argument was the position Mayfield plays should carry more weight than running back and Mayfield succeeded in turning around the fortunes of a franchise, while Barkley managed to contribute to minimal gains for the Giants, who finished 5-11 this past season after going 3-13 in 2017.
Barkley, though, was one of a handful of top running backs in the league, regardless of experience. Mayfield broke the NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes and was clearly the top first-year quarterback. Mayfield, though, was not among the best quarterbacks in the league.
Previously, Barkley won the Pro Football Writers Association’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award and the fans voted him in as the Pepsi Rookie of the Year.
Earlier Saturday, Barkley was named the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Year, awarded to the league’s best running back. This is not a rookie award, and Barkley beat out Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys — the only player with more yards in 2018 — and Todd Gurley of the Rams, who finished third in the rushing title.
There is not much Barkley did not accomplish. If anything, he exceeded the soaring expectations the Giants had for him after general manager Dave Gettleman said Barkley “was touched by the hand of God.’’ Coach Pat Shurmur has called Barkley “a generational talent.’’
He lived up to the billing by leading the NFL with 2,028 yards from scrimmage, becoming only the third rookie in league history — Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James are the two others — with at least 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Barkley was voted into the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,307 yards and catching 91 passes for 721 yards. He scored 15 touchdowns — 11 rushing, four receiving. The 91 receptions are the most ever by a rookie. The entire package wowed players past and present.
“I don’t know if you guys remember the movie ‘Weird Science’ where they get to literally build a woman,’’ Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin said. “I think if you were building a running back it would be Saquon Barkley. He’s like the ‘Weird Science’ of running backs. He has the speed, the strength, the build, everything, the quickness, the elusiveness. He’s everything you want in a running back.’’