Saquon Barkley Wants To Be The Browns Version Of LeBron James If They Draft Him

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We’ve managed to get to the point in the calendar where the NFL Draft is little more than a week away. But as it gets closer and the narratives around the top players in the draft sharpen into focus, some counter-narratives are bound to pop up.

Take away the gaggle of quarterback prospects that dominate the top of the first round and the questions are all about Saquon Barkley. The Penn State standout running back is quite possibly the most talented runner in the draft in years, yet there are questions. Should a running back be taken first overall? Where does he want to go, anyway?

Ben Baskin wrote a feature about Barkley for Sports Illustrated that was a fascinating exploration of Barkley’s run-up to the draft and how he is deeply involved in his branding. Barkley signed with Roc Nation and the group has a 15-person team around him, working tirelessly to make him the new face of the NFL.
Where Barkley gets drafted could certainly impact that status, but while the piece claims Roc Nation wants him to avoid Cleveland (something they have denied), Barkley seems like he’d be happy to follow LeBron James’ path by saving a Lake Erie franchise if he’s drafted by the Browns. Baskin wrote that there were some concern about the Browns ruining Barkley’s career before it starts.

His Roc Nation handlers, however, don’t want him to be taken No. 1. They don’t want him in Cleveland. They want him to go second to the Giants and play in the media capital of the world. That’s where you can become the Face of the League. His manager even implored him to pull an Eli Manning and demand that the Browns not draft him. Barkley never considered the option. Sure, he likes the idea of being back in the city of his birth—even playing for the Jets, the team he grew up rooting for. And of course he’s heard countless people tell him that if he ends up in Cleveland, his career will be ruined.

Barkley, to his credit, says he’s not worried about that. Which, when you read about all the things he actually is worried about, does seem comforting.

He’s happy to take that risk, though. For the last few weeks he has told close friends about a vision he has. He believes that if he brings a championship to the Land, as LeBron did, he’ll be hailed as the best athlete of his generation and have a statue built in his honor.

Now wouldn’t that be good for the brand?

Whoever ends up drafting Barkley is getting a world of potential, but expecting him to “pull an Eli Manning” seems a bit unrealistic at this point. His goals seem much bigger than worrying a single team can ruin him.