Saquon Barkley caps his NFL Combine with historic performance

INDIANAPOLIS — In between meetings and testing Friday the NFL Scouting Combine, former Penn State receiver DaeSean Hamilton caught quick peeks at his social media. Of course, Saquon Barkley was all over it.

“I thought since I left college I would stop seeing so much of him,” Hamilton said. “Obviously that’s not the case.”

Barkley punctuated his week at the combine with a drills performance that had NFL scouts still chatting as they left Lucas Oil Stadium on Friday afternoon. Already considered the most complete running back in this year’s draft, Barkley certified his status by showcasing his speed, explosiveness and even hands in the combine’s on-field workout.

“It’s always fun when you’re watching a player and you know there’s no chance he’s getting to you,” said Los Angeles Rams general manager Les Snead, who drafts 23rd and has a franchise back in Todd Gurley. “… You sit back and go, ‘Wow. This guy’s just fun to watch.’”

Barkley ran the 40-yard dash in 4.40 seconds Friday, the second-best time among all running backs at the combine. He also reached 41 inches in the vertical jump (the highest jump at his position) and ran a lateral-movement drill called the 20-yard shuttle in 4.24 seconds (eighth).

Combined with his 29 repetitions (at 225 pounds) in the bench press, Barkley compiled a complete body of testing, particularly for a 233-pound running back.

According to NFL Research, at his combine Barkley did one bench-press rep more than Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Joe Thomas; ran a faster 40-yard dash than retired NFL speedster Devin Hester (4.43) and had a higher vertical jump than 6-3 Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones (38.5).

Further, according to NFL Research, Barkley so far is the only player at this combine with more than 25 bench-press reps and a vertical jump of more than 40 inches. One player did that last year: Myles Garrett, the defensive end selected No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Browns.

Afterward, Barkley confessed to some disappointment with his numbers, not unusual for him. He told the NFL Network that he wanted to run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds and reach 42 inches in the vertical jump.

Still, Barkley was satisfied with how he performed in the receiving drills, which he considers a vital component of his game. Barkley caught 54 passes last season at Penn State and made that a focus of his off-season training. His goal Friday was to “make sure a ball didn’t touch the ground.”

“That’s where the game is going,” Barkley said. “If you want to be elite, if you break down the top five backs, all those guys can catch the ball out of the field. All those guys are special with the ball in their hands, and that’s something I strive to be.”

On Friday, former Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki recalled a time when Barkley was more uncertain about his talent, when he thought Penn State’s other running backs would surpass him (“Saquon, shut up,” Gesicki said).

Then, in one of his early practices as a freshman, Barkley scored on a long touchdown run, and the skills began that he showed at the combine began to emerge.

“That kid was just at prom last week, and now he’s doing this,” Gesicki said. “He’s been an unbelievable talent, and he’s only going to improve.”

NOTES FROM THE COMBINE

• Gesicki didn’t quite match Barkley in the bench press, but he ranked second among tight ends, doing 22 reps. Gesicki is one of four former Penn State players who are raising money for rare-disease research through the combine bench press. Gesicki, Troy Apke, Jason Cabinda and Grant Haley will participate to continue their affiliation with Penn State’s chapter of Uplifting Athletes.

• Hamilton said he will participate in every drill at the Combine but the bench press and 40-yard dash. He played in two postseason all-star games and wants to prepare to run at Penn State’s Pro Day on March 20.

• Ka’Raun White, an Emmaus High graduate, started his combine well Friday. The West Virginia product led all receivers with 24 reps in the bench press. He will perform the on-field drills Saturday. White’s brother Kyzir, a defensive back at West Virginia, arrived at the combine Friday.


DOMINATING THE COMBINE

Saquon Barkley's testing numbers at the NFL Combine, along with his position rank.

Bench press: 29 reps (T-1st)

Vertical jump: 41 inches (1st)

40-yard dash: 4.40 seconds (2nd)

20-yard shuttle run: 4.24 seconds (8th)


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Twitter @MarkWogenrich

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