Anavarathan: Why the 49ers should draft RB Bryce Love...not RB Saquon Barkley
Every time Penn State takes the field on Saturdays, there's one argument that's made loud and clear by every fan base in America: "Draft RB Saquon Barkley!"
One of the highest-rated running back prospects in years, Barkley is slated to be more explosive than Jaguars' Leonard Fournette, Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliot and Chiefs' Kareem Hunt. The Nittany Lion rusher is able to beat you from all facets of the game, be it running it up the middle, catching the ball out of the backfield or even returning punts and kickoffs.
For the season, Barkley has rushed for 864 yards on 152 rushing attempts, including nine touchdowns. He's also caught 39 balls for 504 yards, including three touchdowns. But here's the problem with Barkley, in order to draft him, the 49ers will likely have to take him with their first-round pick. I've chronicled this before, but history shows that Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner have a tendency to draft running backs later in the draft and develop them into stars.
Here's the gist of the tweet below from pre-Draft 2017: Bobby Turner and Kyle Shanahan don't have a history of taking RBs high. Their stars from Washington to Atlanta were all drafted after the third round. San Francisco also has bigger needs with their first pick, rather than a luxury pick in a running back.
That's why John Lynch should look to his alma mater, Stanford, for their next running back. RB Bryce Love was one of my pre-season favorites to be a breakout star. RB Christian McCaffrey got all the love the last few years in Palo Alto, but Love was silently waiting in the wings.
So far this season, Love has taken 181 rushing attempts for 1,622 yards -- that's nearly twice Barkley's yardage on only 30 more carries. He's set to average NINE yards per carry this season if he can keep this pace up. He's not the same receiving threat out of the backfield, but as a true runner, the sky is the limit.
Here's the biggest thing with Love, he's likely to fall back late into the first round or even into the second round. The value for Love in a later round is better than getting Barkley at the top of the first round.