Adrian Peterson: RBs like Saquon Barkley don't come around often

Giants rookie Saquon Barkley has an admirer on a rival team in the Redskins' Adrian Peterson. Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire

ASHBURN, Va. -- Adrian Peterson first noticed Saquon Barkley at Penn State, taking note of his talent. Peterson wanted to see more -- and quickly did when Barkley reached the NFL.

The New York Giants rookie rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown in his debut. Peterson was sold.

“For me, I want to see what he’s going to do once he gets into the NFL,” Peterson said. “I was like, ‘OK, this kid’s got something.’ Just keep watching, keep watching and each time I see him I’m like, ‘OK, this kid can be really good.'

“I always sit back and watch young guys when they come in and he’s one of those guys that really excites me.”

Nobody would disagree, not after what Barkley has shown in the Giants’ first seven games. He’s rushed for 481 yards while adding another 424 yards receiving. Meanwhile, Peterson has carried the Redskins’ offense with 438 yards. The two backs will share a field in New Jersey on Sunday.

There have been other good backs to enter the NFL in recent years. Barkley is different, Peterson said.

“He’s the guy that stands out a little more than what I’ve seen in the past few years,” Peterson said. “Todd Gurley is a guy that has great potential as well. He falls in that same category, but they’re two different styles of players. I would say the biggest thing is one is just more elusive. Which one is that?”

When a reporter said “Barkley," Peterson said, “Yeah.”

“You can just see with the talent,” Peterson said. “It’s obvious, him being a rookie and what he’s accomplished so far. That doesn’t happen every year or even two or three or four years [where] that type of talent comes around.”

Barkley leads the NFL with four plays of 50 yards or more from scrimmage -- two rushing and two more receiving. It led to more effusive praise from Peterson, more than he’s given any other backs he’s played against this season.

“From what I’ve seen so far he shows some God-given ability,” Peterson said. “Great patience, his lower-body strength and balance is amazing. He flows.”

For Peterson, it’s more proof of the value that running backs hold. The debate, of course, has long been about where to draft running backs. Barkley was picked second overall; Peterson was the seventh pick in 2007. Peterson looked bewildered why anyone would suggest the position has been devalued.

“You look around the league and it’s some running backs doing some great things right now,” Peterson said. “That’s crazy to even say.”