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Road to the Draft: Making the case for, against Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

In the final buildup to the draft, we're taking our analysis of the draft's prospects one step further. We're making the case for and against 10 of the players and scenarios that are linked to the Browns, who hold the No. 1 and No. 4 picks.

The case for Penn State running back Saquon Barkley

1. Most believe he's the best overall player in the draft: Forget about the mock drafts for a second. Whether it's Todd McShay or Daniel Jeremiah, most draft analysts believe Barkley is the best overall player in this year's draft class. He's been called a generational talent, drawing comparisons to Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk and other game-changing running backs of the past and present. Throughout the buildup to the draft, Browns general manager John Dorsey has said his favorite player in the draft is "the best player available" while not pigeonholing himself to a specific position.

2. Elite running backs have made immediate, culture-changing impacts: The Cowboys went from one of the worst teams in the NFL to a division champion after adding Ezekiel Elliott to the roster. The Jaguars did the same after adding Leonard Fournette with the No. 4 pick in last year's draft. The Rams rode Todd Gurley, a former top-10 pick, to a NFC West crown in 2017. The position may not produce a ton of first-round players, but the best of the best have been at the center of their respective teams' turnarounds.

3. He can help the Browns in multiple ways: Barkley isn't just the best runner in this year's class. What makes him special is his game-changing ability as a pass catcher and return specialist. Barkley had 54 catches for 632 yards and three touchdowns to go along with his 1,271 rushing yards. Even when he struggled to find running room against Ohio State, he made one of the game's biggest splash plays, returning a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. It wouldn't be a stretch to say a backfield with Barkley, Duke Johnson Jr. and Carlos Hyde would be one of the NFL's most potent.

Does the draft???s top playmaker make sense for Cleveland at No. 1 or 4?

The case against Barkley

1. The Browns have bigger needs than running back: Cleveland quickly addressed the loss of Isaiah Crowell to free agency by signing Hyde, who is entering his fifth year and coming off his most productive season as a pro. Johnson is one of the NFL's most dynamic pass-catchers out of the backfield. And when the Browns had the opportunity to run in 2017, they were pretty solid, averaging 4.5 yards per attempt, a figure that ranked sixth in the league. Asked at the combine about the top five positions that are linked directly to winning, Dorsey listed quarterback, pass rusher, cornerback, left tackle and wide receiver.

2. A whole bunch of star RBs weren't anywhere close to 1st round picks: An argument can be made that the two best rookie running backs (Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt) were drafted in the third round. Jordan Howard (fifth-round pick) has amassed more than 2,400 yards in his first two seasons. The Browns found Johnson in the third round. The list goes on and on and on. The Browns have a general manager who identified one of those players (Hunt) and, since embarking on a career in player personnel, has never worked for an organization that used a first-round pick on a running back.

3. ...And this year's running backs class is especially deep: It seems to be a unanimous belief that Barkley will be the first player at his position selected in the draft, and it will happen early in the proceedings. Behind him, there's no guarantee any others will go in the first round, leaving a plethora of talented running backs available for the Browns, who hold picks No. 33, 35 and 64 in the second round. Players such as Derrius Guice (LSU), Ronald Jones II (USC), Sony Michel (Georgia), Nick Chubb (Georgia), Rashad Penny (San Diego State), Kalen Ballage (Arizona State) and more could be on the table when Cleveland kicks off the second day of the draft.

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