Cheers filled MetLife Stadium again on Thursday night: Cheers of relief and cheers of optimism. Young, old and those just out for an evening stood on the turf at the stadium in the Meadowlands, thrilled NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had uttered the words they wanted to hear: “The New York Giants select Saquon Barkley …”
Hundreds of fans dressed in Giants gear celebrated perhaps the most popular first-round choice since Lawrence Taylor was the No. 2 selection overall in 1981. There were high fives and hugs and vows to never to forget this moment.
Edgar Herrera, an elementary school principal from Roselle Park, N.J., was among those applauding the selection. He hoisted his 7-year-old son, Elijah, who also liked the idea of Barkley becoming a Giant. Dad was wearing a white Giants jacket with a blue N.Y. hat and white-framed sunglasses. Elijah wore a white No. 10 Eli Manning jersey.
“This is what father and son time is about,” the elder Herrera said. “It’s the 2018 draft and what are we doing? We’re getting Barkley.”
The cheers actually began when the Browns used the No. 1-overall selection to take Baker Mayfield, the quarterback from Oklahoma. That seemed to stun just about everyone in the stadium. It left a mountain of options for the Giants: A choice of three highly regarded quarterbacks in Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen; or they could take Barkley or even trade down. It was clear those at MetLife wanted the Penn State running back.
“He’s one of the missing pieces to the puzzle,” said Francisco Rodriguez of Long Branch, N.J. “He’s explosive, he’s dynamic. I think he’s going to bring a great energy to New York. I think he’s going to bring Giant Pride back. I think everyone is excited. I don’t think we’ve seen this much excitement since LT got drafted.”
Rodriguez and Herrera are season-ticket holders who join a group of about 20 that make an annual road trip. Last year it was to Oakland, Calif., where Manning’s consecutive streak as a starter came to an end. It wasn’t a happy time.
“We were cheering ‘Eli … Eli,’” Rodriguez said. This year the group is already booked for Atlanta. “It’s a new beginning,” Herrera said, still holding his son. “We’re tired of losing.”
John Raines of Rutherford wanted Barkley, too. A Giants fan for four decades, the Vietnam veteran didn’t want any of the quarterbacks.
“They added to the offensive line through free agency and they still have a good quarterback in Eli,” Raines said. “You draft a quarterback and it’s a signal they’ve given up on the season. If you take Barkley you’re adding someone who can help get you to the Super Bowl.”
The Giants made it clear Manning is their quarterback for the near future. The addition of a dynamic back like Barkley should make things easier for the veteran quarterback.
“I have a lot of faith in Eli,” Raines said. “How many Super Bowls has he taken us to? How many MVPs does he have in the Super Bowl? I’m not worried about him.”
It was hard to find anyone who thought taking a running back with the No. 2 selection was not the right move. Not when his name is Saquon Barkley. Since 2012, the Giants have used five of their six first-round picks on offensive players. Only wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. has gone to the Pro Bowl. Barkley could be next.
“Barkley is the guy they need,” Raines said. “We need more guys like [Phil] Simms, Taylor, [Carl] Banks and [Michael] Strahan. Those were the guys that had blue in their blood. I think Barkley does, too.”
Published at Fri, 27 Apr 2018 04:58:39 +0000