Saquon Barkley, Penn State
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

With a quarterback reportedly not on their radar, the New York Giants should draft Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the number two overall pick.

The New York Giants appear willing to pass on a quarterback with the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. If management is intent on doing just that, they should draft Penn State running back Saquon Barkley instead of reaching for an offensive lineman.

Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King reported that the Giants are expected to pass on selecting a quarterback such as UCLA’s Josh Rosen or USC’s Sam Darnold with the number two overall pick. If that’s true, it speaks to their profound trust in Eli Manning producing next season and Davis Webb potentially succeeding the veteran down the road. So with quarterback supposedly on lockdown for the foreseeable future, the Giants need to focus on drafting the best player available.

The Giants’ most glaring weakness is their offensive line. They’ve struggled to protect Manning and help facilitate any sort of consistent running game. While beefing up the line should be a priority, management cannot reach for someone in the draft based on need.

Yes, Texas’ Conor Williams, Oklahoma’s Orlando Brown or Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey would, in theory, be an upgrade over what’s already in place. But what’s going to help the team find immediate success: Signing a franchise left tackle such as New England’s Nate Solder and/or a guard such as Carolina’s Andrew Norwell or taking a gamble on a rookie lineman? With no rookie lineman viewed as a surefire Andrew Whitworth, so to speak, the Giants would be taking a huge gamble selecting one of them so high.

The Giants have reached and seen first-round linemen fail to live up to expectations in the past. Back in 2015, they used the ninth-overall pick on Miami tackle Ereck Flowers, who many projected as a late first-round selection. Three years later, the lineman has been categorized as a liability who supposedly quit on the team before their Week 17 matchup with the Washington Redskins and has struggled to hold his ground at left tackle. Do the Giants want to risk potentially reliving a similar situation?

In Barkley’s three years at Penn State, his final two, in particular, he showcased an ability to be a franchise halfback in the NFL. Rushing for 2,767 yards and 36 touchdowns on 5.7 yards per carry in his final two seasons at Penn State, Barkley was a force to be reckoned with on the ground. He shed tackles well, has breakaway speed and is also a versatile back.

In addition to his running prowess, Barkley is also a receiving threat. In 2017, the running back reeled in 54 receptions for 632 yards and three touchdowns. Another intriguing aspect of Barkley’s game is that he can be utilized as a kick returner.

Running back 15 kickoffs, two of which were for touchdowns, in 2017, Barkley was able to make an impact on special teams too. The running back is a special talent.

There are multiple mock drafts that get released before the NFL Draft. Some of them have top five picks in such spots, while others have them in the later portion of the first round. This notion applies to Barkley.

Some have Barkley as the Giants’ first-round selection, such as ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., while some think the running back is a tad bit overrated. The same goes for the most prestigious quarterback prospects in this class such as Rosen, Darnold, and even Wyoming’s Josh Allen. Maybe general manager Dave Gettleman is one of those critics?

Saquon Barkley, Penn State
(Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Passing on a quarterback in what’s a very deep quarterback draft class is a huge risk but one the Giants appear willing to take. If that’s truly the case, they have to swing for the fences and not settle.

Drafting a running back over an offensive lineman on a team where little to no blocking takes place sounds absurd, but don’t forget that the Giants have already preached they’re focusing on beefing up their line this offseason. And signing polished lineman is better than reaching for one in the draft. With an improved line, a gifted back can thrive. Plus, with a passing attack consisting of Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram, Barkley could make the Giants’ offense one of the game’s best and most well-rounded.

Of course, there’s the myth that you can’t draft a running back in the first round based on their “lack of production” and the risk of injury. Well, look at the last two-to-three years. Did the Jacksonville Jaguars make a mistake selecting Leonard Fournette at number four overall? What about the Panthers with Christian McCaffrey at eight? Or the Dallas Cowboys with Ezekiel Elliot at four? The Los Angeles Rams with Todd Gurley at 10? How about the Los Angeles Chargers with Melvin Gordon at 15?

Drafting Barkley is a risk, but passing on Manning’s potential successor is an even bigger one. Management is prioritizing getting offensive linemen and doing so will help establish a reliable run game.

The Giants are already taking a big risk by potentially passing on a premier quarterback in the draft. They might as well make it a risk worthwhile, instead of drafting out of need. Barkley has the potential to be a top-five halfback in the NFL and the Giants are looking to improve their ground game. Based on where their intentions supposedly lie, potentially selecting the next Tiki Barber is an opportunity the Giants shouldn’t pass up on.

Robbie Stratakos is a New York Knicks/Giants Beat Writer for Elite Sports NY (ESNY); he also covers the NBA nationally. He previously wrote at Last Word On Pro Basketball and Empire Writes Back. In addition to writing for ESNY, Robbie is an MLB columnist at Baseball Essential. He previously wrote at HardBallScoop - part of Scout/CBS Interactive/247Sports, Last Word On Baseball and District On Deck. He is attending Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, New York. Follow him on twitter @RPStratakos