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Will Giants, Barkley succeed in grand experiment against convention?

Tom Pennington / Getty Images Sport / Getty

There is a convention trumpeted among the old vanguard of the football community, hypothesizing that running backs are no longer worthy of first-round picks. Since football is a sport that is resistant to progressive thinking, a legion of sycophants often blindly parrot this notion, trotting rudimentary economic theories about how running backs are an inefficient use of a quality resource.

After selecting Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick, New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman burned down the traditional model of team-building, opting for the most electrifying player of this year's class. Gettleman is now married to the Barkley pick, with his career riding on his grand experiment against the tired tropes that the culture of football is rooted in. Tasked with fixing one of the marquee franchises in the NFL, Gettleman could provide a model for the future, or serve as a cautionary tale to any executive who dares take a calculated risk.

"Guys have kind of laughed around the league when we’d be on the clock in Carolina and I’d have my pick in 28 seconds,” Gettleman told reporters prior to the draft. "If you know what you want, then go do it."

It was obvious Gettleman knew what he wanted as soon as he was hired by the Giants. He tried his best to hide how much he loved Barkley, but he was evidently struck by the sight of the running back galloping away from defenders in the open field, providing the optical illusion that his competition was decelerating while he scampered to the end zone. It should be patently obvious that teams are tasked with selecting players for their future potential, not the player they are now, and Barkley could join Odell Beckham Jr. as the operative Kings of New York for decades, dueling perhaps only against the Yankees' duo of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

By taking a cursory glance at the Giants, it's baffling to think they finished 3-13 with Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram aboard. Add Barkley into the fray as a player who is capable of winning the rushing title in his rookie year, all while serving as a home-run threat as a receiver, and the Giants' disastrous 2017 campaign appears certain to look like an anomaly. If Barkley can lead the Giants back to the playoffs in his rookie year, or better yet, a Super Bowl during his rookie contract, he can become the transformative player who appeared to have the Heisman Trophy locked up in October. And if Barkley turns out to be every bit as good as advertised, wouldn't it look silly to renounce him because of some farcical ideal applied to the economics of draft picks? The Giants selected a ferocious player at No. 2 in 1981 and he turned out to be the greatest linebacker of all time in Lawrence Taylor. Thirty-seven years later, the Giants seem to have struck good fortune again.

There is a non-zero chance Barkley fails to live up to this potential. It is possible one of his cohorts usurps him as the best running back in the class and makes the Gettleman-Barkley marriage look foolish in the process. But why apply these hypothetical failures now? Gettleman selected a player who has the potential to propel the Giants and topple the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. By paying no mind to the position itself, the Barkley-Gettleman partnership is a march against convention. History will now dictate whether Thursday serves as the beginning of the revolution.

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