STATE COLLEGE, Pa.-- Saquon Barkley will likely be off the board within the first five picks, which has him poised to be among some of the NFL's elite young running backs.
"I talk about the last three or four running backs who went in the top-10: (Leonard) Fournette, Ezekiel Elliott went at No. 4, (Todd) Gurley went at No. 10, Christian McCaffrey went at No. 8, so they're the last four top-10 backs," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Monday on his annual pre-combine teleconference. "They've all helped their teams become better and I could make the case that this kid Barkley is the best of all of those guys. He's clean off the field and he'll be great in your locker room. I would be absolutely stunned if this kid doesn't go in the top 5."
While there are two months to wait until Barkley will be ready to buy his mom that house he promised, his path to the draft heats up this week in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine. Penn State will have eight players in attendance, the program's largest contingent since 2009. While Barkley is the headliner, the combine doesn't hold as much value for him as it does for his seven former teammates. Yes, it's still extremely important as he'll go through medical examinations, interviews and workouts, but there are fewer unknowns with someone as proven as Barkley.
As Mayock put it, the combine should be a celebration for player who he called a "transformational back."
"Really all it is is confirmation of his physical gifts," Mayock said. "For a guy like Barkley who has worked so hard to develop his gift, for him it ought to be a victory celebration. It really should. He ought to come in and just knock it down one drill after the other and he's going to walk out of there four days later and everyone is going to go, 'Wow. He's just as good or better than we thought he was.' When he goes into the meetings at night he's going to blow people away."