Drafted number two and number three by the New York Giants and Jets, the careers of Saquon Barkley and Sam Darnold will always be linked.
Despite playing once every four years in the regular season, the New York Giants and Jets have developed a rivalry—a one-sided rivalry that is. The Giants have won four Super Bowls over the last 32 years and 2018 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Jets lone Super Bowl title when they defeated the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3.
But despite the lopsided rivalry, fans of both teams still like to debate and talk trash to one another about who is the better team year after year. Each fanbase possesses its own unique style when colliding with the enemy color.
Following this year’s draft, a new wrinkle was added in this rivalry as the Giants and Jets had the second and third pick in the draft. The Giants took Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and the Jets took USC quarterback Sam Darnold.
Since they were taken right after one another and the fact that they’ll play at MetLife Stadium on Sundays, the careers of Barkley and Darnold will always be linked to one another.
Conversations and debates will go on for years regarding who was the better draft pick and whether or not the new regime led by Dave Gettleman made the right decision since Eli Manning is 37 and just two years remaining on his contract.
We started to see this debate unfold Thursday night following the Giants preseason-opening 20-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns when backup quarterback Davis Webb struggled mightily completing just 9-of-22 passes for 70 yards. Webb’s performance left lingering doubts on whether or not he can be the Giants quarterback of the future.
However, not all was bad for the Giants on Thursday night. On Barkley’s first NFL carry, he galloped 39 yards. He made shifty moves to break away from would be defenders on his way down the right sideline.
— New York Giants (@Giants) August 9, 2018
He showcased elusiveness that the Giants have not gotten from the running back position in years and reaffirmed why the Giants drafted him, and many feel he’ll be the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
While Barkley owned the sports headlines in the Big Apple Thursday evening and Friday morning, the talk of the town Friday night and Saturday morning belonged to the QB in green.
In the Jets 17-0 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Darnold was solid completing 13-of-18 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. Although he was playing against backups, he showed poise and accuracy that’s seldom seen from a rookie quarterback making their debut.
EVERY Sam Darnold passing play from last night.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) August 11, 2018
There’s a ton of pressure on the 21-year-old Darnold as the hopes and dreams of a long-awaited Lombardi Trophy are resting on his right arm. The Jets have not had a true franchise quarterback back since Joe Namath was at the helm from 1965- 1976.
Just to show how futile Jets quarterbacks have been over the last four decades, Namath is still the team’s career passing yards leader with 27,057 yards. The Jets hope that by the time Darnold’s career is over, he’ll be their new passing yardage leader.
There’s also a ton of pressure on the shoulders and quadriceps of Barkley.
The 21-year-old Barkley was not only considered the best running back in the draft, but the best offensive player. He’s already drawn comparisons to some all-time great running backs such as Adrian Peterson.
The Giants running game has been atrocious for the past several seasons. The Giants have not had a 1,000-yard rusher since Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 1,015 yards in 2012. With Barkley, the Giants are confident that he can revive their once proud ground game.
Not only are Barkley and Darnold expected to revive the Giants and Jets respective running and passing games, but they will be the faces of the franchises.
With Eli Manning in the twilight of his career, Barkley and superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. will be the face of the franchise for years to come.
It’s been a long time since the Jets had a clear-cut face of the franchise. You’d probably have to go back to Darrelle Revis’s first stint with the Jets from 2007-2012 last time they had a true face of their franchise. But that is exactly what the 21-year-old Darnold is now as the Jets hope he can lead them to the playoffs in the near future.
Whenever Barkley or Darnold lead their team to the playoffs is when the debate of who was the better draft pick will really heat up. Neither franchise has been accustomed to making the playoffs since MetLife stadium opened in 2010.
The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010 while the Giants have only made the playoffs once, back in 2016, since winning Super Bowl 46.
This will be the ninth year that the Giants and Jets have been co-residents at MetLife stadium, but despite being the only stadium that hosts two NFL teams, the only playoff game hosted there was the Giants 24-2 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the 2011 Wild Card Round.
When MetLife stadium hosts its second playoff game, Barkley or Darnold will be the main reason why.
Team success always comes first and foremost in the NFL. But the determining factor on who was the better draft pick will come down to who had the better individual career.
When you take a player second and third in the draft, the expectations are that they’ll make several Pro Bowls and will be a Hall of Fame caliber player. Giants general manager Dave Gettleman mentioned that when you take a player that high, the expectation is that one day they’ll be wearing a gold jacket.
If things go the way the Giants and Jets are hoping, Barkley and Darnold will both one day be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
But until their careers come to an end, the debate will go on about who was the better draft pick.
We’ll get the first chance to see Barkley and Darnold share the spotlight of MetLife stadium when the Giants and Jets have their annual preseason game on Friday, Aug. 24.