2018 NFL Draft: Giants foolishly go all-in with Eli Manning by taking Saquon Barkley

The New York football Giants are coming off a three-win season -- during which they benched their now 37-year-old quarterback, posted a negative-142 point differential, ranked 30th in DVOA, and fired their coach and general manager -- that handed them the second-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, a pick that should've been used (1) to restart their franchise by drafting Eli Manning's successor, or (2) as trade bait to rebuild a roster riddled with holes by filling those holes with a plethora of picks. 

Instead, the Giants used that pick to go all-in with Manning and that three-win roster. 

With the second-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Giants selected running back Saquon Barkley out of Penn State. Pete Prisco gave the Giants a "C+" for the selection. That's a nice way of putting it. After making the pick, new Giants general manager Dave Gettleman revealed that he didn't even listen to trade offers for the No. 2 pick. Didn't even listen!

"Basically, once Cleveland took Baker, I told our guys, 'Don't even waste your time. We're taking Saquon and we're going to run,'" Gettleman told ESPN.

It's the second straight year Gettleman, formerly of the Carolina Panthers, has used a top-10 pick on a running back. Like Christian McCaffrey before him, Barkley is a remarkable running back prospect who will become an instant starter and potentially, a star in the years to come. 

Prisco, a notorious critic of the position, ranked him third on his prospect rankings. Barkley isn't just a pure runner, though his 5.9 yards per carry and 18 touchdowns last season are nothing to dismiss. He's also a talented pass catcher, evidenced by his 54-catch, 632-yard, three-touchdown 2017 season. He's the perfect running back for today's NFL -- especially for a quarterback like Manning who isn't exactly opposed to dinking and dunking his way downfield. Imagining Barkley lining up in the same offense as Odell Beckham is scary, which is something (wanna-be Giant) Dez Bryant immediately noted.

But that doesn't make it the right pick -- especially not when the Giants were sitting in a perfect situation to plan for the future while also giving Manning the help he needs right now, especially when they took a running that high in the draft order -- despite what Gettleman says.

Of note: Jonathan Stewart averaged 4.8 yards per carry his first four years and 3.9 yards per carry in the six years since, including a career-low 3.4 yards per carry last year. Also of note: The Giants signed him this offseason.

After the Browns took quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first pick, the Giants sat in a situation that allowed them to draft a highly touted quarterback prospect at No. 2. Take your pick among Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen -- the remaining three quarterbacks who round out the big-four quarterback group -- because it's a more impressive group than most draft classes. Then, with the second pick in the second round, the Giants could've helped Manning win in the short-term by drafting a hyped running back prospect not named Saquon Barkley. 

You can get an all-star running back in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft. It's mighty difficult to get a franchise-changing quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds.

Maybe the consensus No. 2 running back Derrius Guice would've been still on the board at No. 34. Maybe they would've had to "settle" for Ronald Jones II or Nick Chubb or Sony Michel. It doesn't matter.

Almost every year, the draft shows us that teams can get star running backs in the mid-to-late rounds, running backs who measure up or surpass their counterparts taken at the top of the draft. The Cowboys drafted Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth-overall pick in 2016. The Bears got Jordan Howard with pick No. 150. To this point, Howard has rushed for 179 fewer yards than Elliott. Last year, the Jaguars drafted Leonard Fournette with the fourth-overall pick. The Saints got Alvin Kamara at No. 67 and the Chiefs got Kareem Hunt at No. 86. Fournette averaged 3.9 yards per carry, Kamara won Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Hunt finished third in yards from scrimmage. The point being, taking any running back -- regardless of how good of a prospect he is -- with the second-overall pick -- regardless if a draft is loaded with top-flight quarterbacks, like this one is -- has proven to be a waste of elite draft capital. 

Now, Gettleman is banking on Barkley being enough (along with the offseason signing of left tackle Nate Solder, of course) to take the Giants from a three-win team to a playoff team.

It's not impossible to envision a scenario that sees the Giants improving drastically. Say Solder solidifies the offensive line, new head coach Pat Shurmur and his play-calling elevates Manning's quality of play, Odell Beckham gets through the season healthy, Barkley lives up to the hype, Evan Engram continues his progression, the defense returns to its 2016 form -- if all of that happens, then sure, the Giants can compete for a playoff spot and maybe even the NFC East crown (maybe?). The Cowboys could take another step back if Dak Prescott doesn't improve and hey, it's not like he has a star studded receiver group to throw to, the Redskins are transitioning to a new quarterback, and there's no guarantee Carson Wentz will be completely healthy for the Super Bowl champion Eagles

Is it difficult to see all of those ifs going the Giants' way? Sure, but it's not impossible, I guess. 

But even if all of that happens -- and that's a ton of ifs to work out in the Giants' favor -- it just means the Giants will be even further away from enacting a plan for life after 37-year-old Manning. This was their chance to plan for the future and build for the now at the same time, and well, they decided to sacrifice the future instead.

In the meantime, while the Giants picked Barkley at No. 2, the Giants' same-city rivals, the New York Jets, capitalized on the Giants' myopia by grabbing Darnold with the third-overall pick. The Jets might suck in 2018, but they're getting their rebuilding process over with. They've got their quarterback. 

Meanwhile, the Giants are stuck trying to delay the inevitable instead of embracing the future. 

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

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