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Penn State's Saquon Barkley picked No. 2 overall by the Giants

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, April 26, 2018, 8:24 p.m.
Running back Saquon Barkley of the Penn State Nittany Lions rushes the football against the Washington Huskies during the second half of the Playstation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on Dec. 30, 2017 in Glendale, Ariz.
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Running back Saquon Barkley of the Penn State Nittany Lions rushes the football against the Washington Huskies during the second half of the Playstation Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on Dec. 30, 2017 in Glendale, Ariz.
Saquon Barkley of Penn State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #2 overall by the New York Giants during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas.
Getty Images
Saquon Barkley of Penn State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #2 overall by the New York Giants during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas.

Running back Saquon Barkley became the first Penn State player in 18 years drafted among the top two picks Thursday night when he was chosen second overall by the New York Giants.

Barkley, 5-foot-11, 230 pounds, steps into elite company with former Penn State players Courtney Brown, a defensive lineman, and linebacker LaVar Arrington, who were taken first and second by the Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins in 2000.

Since then, the only other Penn State player chosen in the top five was offensive tackle Levi Brown (No. 5 to the Arizona Cardinals) in 2007.

Barkley is the first Nittany Lions player taken in the first round since defensive end Jared Odrick, who was chosen No. 28 by the Miami Dolphins in 2010.

Running backs have been devalued in the draft in recent years. Barkley is the only ninth in the past 15 years chosen among the top five. But each of those eight teams that invested a high pick in a running back improved their victory total from the previous season.

The Giants hope Barkley fits into that category.

“I think he can do what (Alvin) Kamara can do at 230 (pounds),” Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin told Sports Illustrated. Kamara totaled 1,554 yards rushing and receiving as a 215-pound rookie last season for the New Orleans Saints. “That changes the game.”

When Barkley graduated from Whitehall High School near Philadephia in 2015, he was rated the No. 2 overall prospect in the state by Rivals.com behind Central Valley defensive back Jordan Whitehead, who went to Pitt and also declared early for this year's draft.

Barkley rushed for 1,076 yards as a freshman in coach James Franklin's second season. After that, he led Penn State to back-to-back 11-3 and 11-2 seasons, including the school's first Big Ten championship in eight years in 2016.

Barkley averaged 5.7 yards per carry in three seasons as a starter at Penn State, with a total of 3,843. He also caught 102 passes for 1,195 yards. Overall, he scored 51 touchdowns, 43 on the ground (including 18 in each of the past two seasons).

Getting drafted was nice, but it wasn't the most significant event in Barkley's life this week. His daughter, Jada Clare, was born Tuesday.

“It's unbelievable to experience the two greatest moments in my life in the same week,” Barkley told the NFL Network's Deion Sanders moments after he was picked.

“I believe in Eli. I believe in OBJ,” he added.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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