Will the Detroit Lions pay the price for Saquon Barkley?

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Running back Saquon Barkley
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Running back Saquon Barkley /

Is the price tag to draft the best running back in the 2018 NFL Draft, Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, simply too high for the Detroit Lions to pay?

The Detroit Lions have a problem. I know, news flash right? This offseason, the Motor City must find themselves … well, a motor. The Lions rushing attack was disastrous in 2017, ranking dead last in the league. What Detroit really needs is a transcendent running back.

Unfortunately, those kinds of players are hard to find and expensive. And the running backs available to the Lions this offseason all come with major risks. For instance, let’s say Detroit opts to find themselves a veteran running back via free agency. As of now, the best one scheduled to hit the open market is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell.

When healthy, Bell is undoubtedly one of the best running backs in football. The 25-year old rushed for 1,291 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. He also had a career-high 85 receptions for  655 yards and two more scores.

But signing someone like Bell will be costly. Likely somewhere in the ballpark of the Atlanta Falcons’ Devonta Freeman, who signed a six-year, $43 million deal last August.

Now consider the risks. Not only has Bell had various off-the-field issues to consider, but he’ll be entering his sixth season in the NFL. And due to the physical toll running backs take, their ability to play at a high level is often very limited.

With so many concerns signing someone like Bell, it may appear that the Lions would be better off simply drafting a transcendent running back. But where signing a veteran at least delivers you a player with a history of success in the NFL, drafting a prospect out of college is a complete gamble.

Fortunately, in this year’s draft class of running backs, there is a clear number one. Everyone seems to agree that Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is that player. In fact, ESPN draft guru Todd McShay believes Barkley is the top prospect in the entire draft!

But with this much hype surrounding him, Barkley appears to be a guaranteed top five selection. Unfortunately, the Lions possess the 20th overall pick in the first round. Detroit would have to trade up in order to grab Saquon. And according to one insider, the price tag would likely be too high.

"“…the price would be prohibitive,” Mike O’Hara wrote on the team’s official website. “The Lions most likely would have to trade up to the No. 3 spot, at least, and work a deal with the Indianapolis Colts … The starting point for the Lions to trade up would be two first-round picks, plus others over a period of the draft this year and next. It’s an intriguing thought, but I don’t see it happening.”"

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If the Detroit Lions truly want to land the best possible running back they can in 2018, Le’Veon Bell and Saquon Barkley are certainly on the top of that list. But both players come with their own risks and a hefty price tag. The only question remaining is whether the Lions are willing to pay the price or not.