In scouting it is rare to find a consensus opinion among scouts that a running back is the best prospect in the draft. However such is the case in 2018 as Penn State's Saquon Barkley looks to become one of the first players drafted in April. Here is this week's "Emptying the Scouting Notebook":
Saquon Barkley - On the Barry Sanders-level of lateral explosion and acceleration, Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is blessed with a complete package of skills that represents the epitome of a "generational talent" at his position. Barkley possesses a lethal combination of home run speed, rare strength, and the type of subtle patience and vision through the hole that you are either born with, or you're not. A multi-sport star in high school, Barkley offers the bell cow abilities to tote the rock 25+ times a game, yet has the type of receiving skills that would make Christian McCaffrey jealous - he also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2017 as well. Watching Barkley, you see some of the most impressive coordination and controlled athleticism of any back to enter the league in the past 20 years. A devastating open field runner, Barkley owns a sensational jump-cut with impressive lateral explosion and body control to evade defenders in the open field, along with the second and third gear to run away from a defense. In today's game, with teams looking for the next three-down back to build an offense around, Barkley's rare talent won't be available for long in April.
James Daniels - Going back and watching the Pinstripe Bowl between Iowa and Boston College, the one player that stood out was Hawkeyes center James Daniels. A 6'3, 295 lb center with room to add weight, Daniels was given a 2nd Round grade by the NFL's advisory committee according to my sources, which is what prompted him to go pro. When it is all said and done in April, don't be surprised if Daniels is one of the first 2-3 centers drafted this spring.
Sam Hubbard - One player who ended the season with a bang is Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard. A 6'5, 265 lb edge-setter who will inevitably draw the comparison to former 6'6, 270 lb teammate Joey Bosa, Hubbard finished the year with five sacks in the Buckeyes' final three games (2.5 vs Michigan, 2.5 vs Ohio State), giving him seven sacks and 13.5 TFL on the year. A long, athletically-gifted pass rusher, Hubbard has flashed a complete set of skills that allow him to run the arc with his speed, or use his strength to collapse the pocket as a rusher inside. While he isn't nearly the finished product that Bosa was when he was taken 3rd overall in 2016, Hubbard still offers the same profile of player, and given Bosa's enormous success in his first two seasons (23 sacks in 28 career games played), I'd expect in a copycat league for teams to look at Hubbard and see another Bosa. With a strong Combine, Hubbard has the look of a 1st Round pass rusher.
Roquan Smith - While the industry expectation is that Georgia star linebacker Roquan Smith will be a Top 20 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, word out of Athens has been that Smith has given serious consideration to returning to school for his senior year, and as of last week has been on the fence regarding his decision.
Heath Harding CB Miami (OH) - Keep an eye on this Shrine Game-invitee when he arrives in Tampa/St. Pete for the East-West game next week. Every year there is a player that comes out of the MAC and has immediate success in the NFL. I'd put my wager on the Redhawks' corner Harding, who tallied 10 interceptions and 28 pass breakups during his career in Miami.