Woody Paige: If Saquon Barkley is available at No. 5, Denver Broncos must draft him
Saquon is the One.
If Saquon Barkley remains available at the fifth pick, the Broncos must eschew the quarterbacks and choose The Running Back.
In 12 days, draft No. 8 will be the most vital for Ol' No. 7 since his first. The Broncos possess their highest pick since 2011 when John Elway made his wisest selection ever - Von Miller.
Fifty-one years ago, in the inaugural combined AFL-NFL draft, the Broncos chose a running back in the sixth spot. Floyd Little is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Elway didn't win a Super Bowl until he was accompanied by another incoming Hall of Fame running back - Terrell Davis (drafted in the sixth round).
The Broncos should say yes to "Say Say'' Saquon. He is the best player in the wacky quarterbacky draft.
At Penn State, Barkley compiled 5,088 yards rushing, receiving and returning, and scored 53 times. More than half his carries were for 15 yards-plus. He is the epitome of the three-down, touchdown back.
At the NFL Combine Barkley dominated, doing the 10-yard split in 1.54, the 40-yard dash in 4.4, a vertical jump of 41 inches and 29 reps in the bench press. Those numbers were superior to exceptional NFL offensive linemen, wide receivers, running backs and punt returners.
The Broncos president of football operations, his consigliere Gary Kubiak and coach Vance Joseph always maintain they want to run the football, and score the football.
Here's Your Man.
A veteran NFL scout told me Friday: "All you have to know is he's better than Ezekiel Elliott, and he doesn't come with luggage. He should be No. 1 overall.'' Elliott was drafted fourth in 2016. At the combine he ran 1.58, 4.47, had a vertical of 32.5 and did not participate in the bench press. Zeke is a 6-footer weighing 225 pounds. Quon is 6-foot, 234 pounds. Elliott rushed for 1,631 yards and 15 touchdowns as a rookie, then was suspended for six games last season.
Everyone in Denver seems to have an opinion about which quarterback the Broncos should take - Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold.
There's a very reasonable possibility all four will go before the Broncos pick.
The decision should be a snap for Elway et al.
From QB to Q2: Guard Quenton Nelson or Saquon Barkley? Nelson probably will become a Pro Bowler someday, but Barkley probably will be Rookie of the Year and a Pro Bowler in 2018.
Suddenly, with Barkley and Case Keenum, the Broncos aren't rebuilding. They're retaking the AFC West and a postseason position.
Those four quarterbacks won't even get on the field for a year or two, or three. How much has Paxton Lynch helped the Broncos in his first two seasons? Zero. Did Garret Bolles get the Broncos into the playoffs last season? Would Nelson or Bradley Chubb turn the Broncos into a franchise that can beat out the Patriots, the Steelers or even the Chargers? No.
Which would you rather have - C.J. Anderson's past or Barkley's potential? Anderson would be owed a $4.5 million salary, and the fifth pick likely will receive $28 million over five years. C.J., bless him, could be traded after the Barkley pick for a middle-round choice.
The Broncos are in love with Devontae Booker, but he has produced 911 yards (3.6 average) in 29 games, and rookie De'Angelo Henderson rushed for 15 yards, and caught one sparkling pass in the final game for 29 yards and a touchdown. They are a fine pair of backups.
How intrigued are the Broncos, and especially Elway and Kubiak - Joseph is a bystander - with Barkley? Dove Valley isn't echoing with hints or whispers. The Broncos haven't invited Barkley for a visit, but he did disclose that they interviewed him at the combine. The Broncos obviously know that Barkley has been strong academically at Penn State, comes from a solid family background and is a journalism major. He could write this column.
Yet, the Broncos have been showing more interest in a half dozen other running backs who won't be selected in the first round or possibly the entire draft. Wrong.
A problem does exist: Barkley could go in the first four.
But Saquon should be Plan A. Plan B: Trade the pick.