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Saquon Barkley's 12 best fits in NFL Draft: Favorites, sleepers and long shots

Which NFL team will draft Saquon Barkley? SN's Vinnie Iyer breaks down his best fits, including sleeper teams that could shock everybody and trade up for the star running back.

Who should select Penn State running back Saquon Barkley in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft? Pretty much every team that needs a running back and has a first-round pick.

Barkley, the top prospect at the position in this class, is the most talented all-around back to enter the league since Ezekiel Elliott went No. 4 overall to the Cowboys two years ago. Barkley is expected to be a top-five pick, too.

While recent drafts suggest most teams are not locked into the idea of drafting running backs early, there's also evidence of teams aggressively moving up to select a special, franchise-changing player, regardless of position.

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Based on rumors, Sporting News has "narrowed down" the Barkley draft derby to a dozen teams, all of which currently hold top-20 selections. Here are those 12 teams, ranked in relation to their likelihood of landing the Nittany Lion.

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12. Seahawks (No. 18 pick)

Seattle isn't bringing back Eddie Lacy or Thomas Rawls, leaving some combination of Mike Davis, Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise and J.D. McKissic as its backs for 2018. Since the trade for Marshawn Lynch more than seven years ago, the Seahawks haven't gone big in addressing their backfield.

With Seattle's defense and the passing game taking some personnel hits, this year would make sense as the time to finally re-establish itself as a traditional power running team to both better complement and supplement Russell Wilson. The QB will get his chance to mentor Barkley on ESPN's "QB2RB," but finding a way to pair the two for the longer term will be difficult.

The Seahawks don't have draft picks in the second or third rounds, with five combined in the fourth and fifth rounds. That's not much to work with in sliding up the board to a reasonable position.


11. Dolphins (No. 11 pick)

Miami's needs include just about everything on defense, led by tackle, outside linebacker and safety. Its luxury pick would be leaning toward a future alternative to Ryan Tannehill at QB, should UCLA's Josh Rosen, Wyoming's Josh Allen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield still be available when it's on the clock.

Because the Dolphins would improve with any "best player available," a trade up the board is unlikely. In the more unlikely event Barkley free-falls to No. 11, it would be logical for Miami to trade out of the pick in order to help address multiple needs. Besides, Kenyan Drake showed enough promise in taking over for Jay Ajayi last season for the Dolphins to think he can fly in a featured role from the get-go in 2018.

10. Jets (No. 3 pick)

Teams rarely make moves up the draft board for anything other than what they hope will be a franchise quarterback. Sure, Barkley is a franchise running back, and the Jets' backfield currently has former Browns early-down back Isaiah Crowell as its best new option in the wake of Matt Forte's retirement. In relation, Barkley is Samsonite, but the Jets have had too much lost luggage at QB not to grab one of the Joshs off the carousel.

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9. 49ers (No. 9 pick)

It appears San Francisco is giving pricey free-agent addition Jerick McKinnon his chance to be more of a feature back. Although McKinnon has some Tevin Coleman-like qualities, coach Kyle Shanahan is touting him as a Devonta Freeman-like lead back. But given this is the new, explosive 49ers offense led by Jimmy Garoppolo, their going for the gold of Barkley can't be ruled out.

Acquiring Barkley probably would require a slight slide, but the Niners are equipped with a second-rounder and two third-rounders, giving them some flexibility to move up a little. Shanahan's gushing, drooling and geeking out on McKinnon, though, would make this pick come out of left field.

8. Raiders (No. 10 pick)

Oakland signed Doug Martin, and Marshawn Lynch will be retained after a contract restructure. But that veteran committee raises enough durability, age and therefore production concerns in 2018 for the Raiders to keep Barkley on their radar. Oakland also hired Tom Shaw, Barkley's NFL Combine coach, as its strength coach.

Although it will come down to Jon Gruden and Reggie McKenzie pounding the table for Barkley, it's clear the Raiders are trying to change their identity to more defense- and running-game oriented. Trading up is unlikely, but should Barkley slip, there's a good chance the ultimate "Gruden grinder" could land in Oakland.

7. Colts (No. 6 pick)

The Colts dropping to No. 6 in their trade with the Jets shows that, even with their cloudy backfield situation — second-year players Marlon Mack and Josh Ferguson are their current top post-Frank Gore options — they didn't think Barkley was worth the pick at No. 3 as opposed to the bounty of three extra second-rounders over two drafts.

The beauty of the move is that Indianapolis can still get the elite pass-rusher it needs in N.C. State's Bradley Chubb. Should Barkley still be available for the Colts at No. 6, it would make the decision a lot harder. But the domino effect of the trade likely sets up Barkley to come off the board before No. 6.


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6. Redskins (No. 13 pick)

Save for the third-down boon of Chris Thompson, coach Jay Gruden has been frustrated about the state of Washington's backfield since he arrived. Rob Kelley had more durability issues in 2017, and Samaje Perine fumbled his way into the doghouse. That prompted Gruden to admit it's possible for the Redskins to draft a running back early in 2018.

Washington would jump for joy if Barkley is somehow still available after the first dozen picks. The Redskins would love to get the No. 2 running back in the class as the fallback, but LSU's Derrius Guice might not be around at No. 44 overall in the second round.

So the Redskins could use that pick to help them slide up for Barkley; or, with Dolphins-like needs defensively, they might look to trade back in the first round in order to be more in the wheelhouse for Guice. Washington already has been aggressive offensively this offseason with the Alex Smith and Paul Richardson additions, but a complete back such as Barkley remains a real void.

5. Lions (No. 20 pick)

Detroit is likely looking for more defensive line help early in the draft, but general manager Bob Quinn also made an early offseason declaration that the team would finally fix its running game. The addition of an aging LeGarrette Blount in free agency doesn't scream solution. The Lions need Barkley to clean up the telegraphed, inefficient mess of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.

The biggest issue for the Lions in drafting Barkley is their place late in the first round; they have only six picks in the draft overall, with No. 51 up next. It will be interesting to see whether Quinn can make a bold move to get a transcendent player who fits their No. 1 need.

4. Buccaneers (No. 7 pick)

The Bucs said bye to Martin and re-signed Peyton Barber as their default No. 1 back. That puts them in play for Barkley, and they might not have to do anything but wait their turn in order to get him with QB-desperate teams ahead of them.

Tampa Bay got wide receiver Chris Godwin out of Penn State last season, and Barkley's skill set would allow its offense to take the needed next step with Jameis Winston, delivering both the balance and extra explosiveness. Barkley would be a no-brainer if he's still available.

The Bucs also are sitting on eight overall picks, including No. 38 in the second round, so they could move up one or two spots to get him if needed. The Bucs have big needs related to their pass rush and secondary, but based on value and the best player who can immediately change their fortunes, Barkley blows away the other options.


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3. Browns (No. 1 and No. 4 picks)

The Browns got busy with their secondary in NFL free agency, adding T.J. Carrie, Damarious Randall (via trade) and Terrance Mitchell while subtracting Jason McCourty. So while they're probably still looking at Sam Darnold at No. 1 overall to groom behind Tyrod Taylor, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick no longer looks like the best pick at No. 4.

Cleveland did sign former Ohio State standout Carlos Hyde away from the 49ers for early downs to replace Crowell. The team is also working on extending dynamic receiving back Duke Johnson Jr.

Hue Jackson loves a deep running game, and Barkley could join Johnson as another asset for a suddenly loaded passing game with Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry and David Njoku. But Barkley still would represent a big-time luxury pick for a team trying to reconstruct itself after a winless season. It also is not in new GM John Dorsey's DNA to take a running back so high.

2. Giants (No. 2 pick)

The Giants' lone free-agency addition of aging former Panthers power back Jonathan Stewart indicates they are still searching for an every-down feature back, given both Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen were unsigned. Barkley would be a home-run pick should the Giants stay put at No. 2, but the top QBs throw a spanner in the works.

The Giants could grab their true successor to Eli Manning with the No. 2 pick and disappoint the Jets at No. 3. Or, knowing they have a coveted pick, the Giants could trade back to stockpile selections, much like the Browns and 49ers did in the previous two drafts.

Really, QB isn't as pressing for the Giants, and unlike many teams picking this high, they aren't starving at too many positions in the short term. Barkley would bring the element that could help push New York back to the playoff status they enjoyed in 2016 while running behind a much-improved line with Nate Solder at left tackle.

MORE: Justin Tuck wants Giants to go 'all in' on Barkley

1. Broncos (No. 5 pick)

If the Browns take Darnold, and the Giants (or another team at No. 2) select one Josh and the Jets go for another Josh, then the Broncos are unlikely to reach for Mayfield. That's because, for now, with Case Keenum in the fold, running back is a more glaring offensive weakness with fading C.J. Anderson as the top option.

Denver wants to re-establish its toughness and attitude with the defense/running-game formula that won Super Bowl 50. They also might notice the Jaguars, Eagles, Panthers, Saints, Bills, Vikings, Rams, Chiefs and Patriots all made the playoffs in 2017 on the strength of top-10 rushing attacks. The Broncos were on the cusp of that group at No. 12 and had the potential for more success. Barkley would step right in and deliver a major upgrade.

MORE: NFL Mock Draft 2018: Bills jump Jets for preferred QB; Broncos settle

As much as Elway wants to fix QB, with Keenum signed, he no longer needs to force it for the short term. Elway also knows he won two Super Bowls as a player because of fellow Hall of Famer Terrell Davis' domination.

A trade up the board is possible, too, with the Broncos sitting on 10 picks overall. After free agency and trades, a Mile High pick on Barkley makes a ton of sense.