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From the Bleachers: Should Barkley Go First Overall in NFL Draft and Where Ronaldo Ranks in History

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From the Bleachers: Should Barkley Go First Overall in NFL Draft and Where Ronaldo Ranks in History

Dominic Hoscher, FHNGameday.com editor, points to the field on the bleachers of FHN.

Dominic Hoscher, FHNGameday.com editor, points to the field on the bleachers of FHN.

Credit to Alyssa Barber

Dominic Hoscher, FHNGameday.com editor, points to the field on the bleachers of FHN.

Credit to Alyssa Barber

Credit to Alyssa Barber

Dominic Hoscher, FHNGameday.com editor, points to the field on the bleachers of FHN.

By Dominic Hoscher, FHNGameday.com Editor

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“Once in a generation” athletes are prized and valued more than anything in sports. Fans plan around their events just so they can see them perform. They buy their jerseys and would give anything to get their autographs or even a picture. These athletes are the center of attention in every game or event they compete in. They change the game unlike anyone else. They’re simply a once in a generation talent.

Finding such an athlete is as rare as the Cleveland Browns finding a quality quarterback. In the world of sports today, there are just a handful of names that fit this description. Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw are the lone two players in baseball that can be classified as generational talents, and the list in hockey isn’t any longer with just Sidney Crosby earning this title. When one comes up either through free agency or the draft, members of all fan bases get excited. There may just be that type of player in this year’s NFL draft: Saquon Barkley.

Saquon Barkley has received as much hype and national attention as any running back in recent years. He’s been compared to some of the game’s all-time greats, such as Adrian Peterson and even Barry Sanders. He tops nearly every draft board, proving that he’s the best player in the draft by a rather large margin. In scouting terms, Barkley truly is a once in a generation athlete. But will that be enough to allow him to go first overall, or will the running back position label hold him back as it has with rushers in the past?

In soccer, there are two players who should be considered as true generational talents: Lionel Messi and one of the focuses of this week’s column Cristiano Ronaldo. Over the past week, Ronaldo scored yet again in a crucial Champions League match, continuing to add to his already legendary legacy. While there are no doubts as to whether or not Cristiano is a special athlete, there are some questions on where the Portuguese superstar ranks among soccer’s greatest players. These inquiries will be addressed in this week’s “From the Bleachers.”

 

NFL

The last time a running back was picked with the first overall selection of the NFL draft was in 1995, when the Cincinnati Bengals traded up to draft Penn State’s Ki-Jana Carter. Carter went on to rush for 1144 yards…in his entire career. Since then, teams have avoided taking running backs with the first pick in a draft for a number of reasons, the biggest being that there can still be great value at the position later on in the draft. In the 1995 draft, 17 of the running backs drafted after Carter ran for more yards in their careers than the Penn State alumnus.

With this in mind, teams usually have good reason to shy away from a half back with the draft’s opening pick. However, this year is different. The running back position is deep yet again in 2018, with the likes of Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Ronald Jones II, and Nick Chubb making up the class. But none of these players can create as monumental of an impact as Saquon Barkley can and will.

In his junior year at Penn State, Barkley totaled 1903 yards from scrimmage and an absurd 21 total touchdowns. It was the second time in his college career where he scored over 20 total touchdowns in a single season, finding the end-zone 22 times in his sophomore season. Statistically, there weren’t many better than Barkley in the college game but this isn’t where his incredible resume ends. Among the NFL’s top draft prospects and with all of the scouts watching, the former Penn State back showed out.

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At the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Barkley delivered a sensational performance that will go down as one of the greatest in the event’s history. He ran a 4.40 second 40-yard dash, the second lowest total for a running back ever. Barkley then put up a 41-inch vertical, which was the fifth best in the draft. In comparison, star NFL backs Ezekiel Elliott (32.5 inches) and Le’Veon Bell (31.5 inches) both had lower verticals when they participated in the event. He would then go on to have a better 10-yard split (1.54 seconds) than NFL wide receiver DeSean Jackson and finished with more bench reps (29) than All-Pro NFL offensive lineman Joe Thomas.

When the spotlight was on, Barkley proved to the entire NFL world how special he truly is. He put together one of the more stunning combine performances in NFL history, while also totaling numbers in college that rival some of the level’s greatest players. The question, however, is whether or not this is enough to make Barkley the first pick in the 2018 draft.

If the Browns are interested in turning their franchise around, then this should be more than enough. Yes, Cleveland still needs a quarterback as they have for the past 20+ years, but there’s nobody special in this year’s quarterback class. Baker Mayfield is probably the strongest at the position, but he isn’t going to sell the tickets and he’s most likely not going to turn an entire organization around. If Cleveland really, really wants a quarterback they can wait just three more picks until they’re on the clock again with the fourth overall pick because there’s only one man who’s right for the first overall selection and it’s Barkley.

Cleveland fans have been looking for a reason to get excited for years now, and Barkley can be that reason. He’s the only player that can get a fan base that has gone through as much as the Browns’ has off their seats every time he touches ball. Cleveland has been the place to avoid for draftees and free agents for years now, but getting a player as special as Barkley changes that. He can create a hope for a fan base that has been hopeless for decades now. Only a once in a generation player can do this, and that is exactly what Saquon Barkley is.

 

Soccer

Cristiano Ronaldo time and time again has proved himself on soccer’s biggest stages. He’s scored against some of the world’s top goalkeepers and teams. He’s scored goals that have sent his team to either the next round or to achieving glory. Ronaldo’s done it on every level, and at the age of 33 he is still firing on all cylinders when his team needs their Portuguese superstar the most.

When it was announced that Real Madrid would be taking on PSG in the round of 16 of the Champions League, heads immediately turned to the matchup between Ronaldo and Paris’ Neymar Jr. Cristiano, at 33, is still being compared to the likes of Neymar, who’s in his prime at 26, and is expected to perform at a similar level despite this age difference. But Ronaldo didn’t perform at this level. He was able to do even better, and outshine his winger counterpart.

Starting in the first leg, Ronaldo was able to find the back of the net twice to lead his Los Blancos past PSG 3-1. While they weren’t the prettiest of goals, his first being from the penalty stripe and the second bouncing off his knee, they counted nonetheless and set Madrid off to a flying start against one of the best teams in Europe. Neymar, on the other hand, was kept off the score-sheet and held to a rather quiet night in Spain. The Brazilian would then miss the second leg due to an ankle injury he suffered against Marseille on February 25.

The Cristiano show didn’t come to an end in Madrid, though. When the two clubs met in Paris for the second fixture, it finished with a similar result. Behind Ronaldo’s 51’ minute header over Dani Alves and a goal later on by Casemiro, Real was able to advance to the quarterfinals of Europe’s top competition for the eighth consecutive year. This was the ninth straight game where Ronaldo has scored and was his 12th goal of the competition. It’s only March and again, he’s 33.

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In each game he plays, Ronaldo seems to either equal or break a goalscoring record. This time around, it was the consecutive matches with a goal streak that saw CR7 go level with Ruud van Nistelrooy at nine games. In terms of total goals in the Champions League, he’s well in front of the pack with 117 goals so far. The next highest total? Lionel Messi with 98. Nothing in Europe is more challenging or draws more attention than this tournament, and even then Ronaldo has kept his composure and performed at a level that can only be matched by a few.

With these statistics and performances in mind, one question remains: where does this put Ronaldo among the sport’s greatest players?

You’re likely going to hear a different answer no matter who you ask, but if Real Madrid’s #7 had to be ranked all-time he would have to be placed in the top five. In his prime, only Messi was able to match Ronaldo’s remarkable scoring record and the impact he was able to make on his teams in everything they took part in.

He may not be as creative of a player now as he was five years ago, but he’s still rising up to the challenge when the spotlight is on and the world is watching. He’s proved himself in England and in Spain, and he’s done it on Europe’s biggest stage. All-time, he may still trail the likes of Messi, Pele, and Diego Maradona, but after them Cristiano Ronaldo has cemented his legacy as both a once-in-a-generation player and one of the greatest players to ever hit the pitch.

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About the Writer
Dominic Hoscher, FHNGameday Editor

Senior Dominic Hoscher has been on the FHN publication staff for one full year. Hoscher joined when he was a junior and is now finishing his senior year...

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