Saquon Barkley's rookie season compares with the all-time greats

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The records are going to keep on coming. It's inevitable with the way Saquon Barkley is performing during his rookie season.

He set the New York Giants rookie rushing record in Sunday's 30-27 overtime win over the Chicago Bears when he passed Tuffy Leemans' previous mark of 830 yards. That was a record that stood for 82 years.

The Giants’ rookie touchdown and reception records are next. Barkley needs one more score to top Odell Beckham Jr. and Billy Paschal at 12 touchdowns and 17 catches to move even with Beckham, more than reasonable with four games left this season. It would be a surprise if he didn’t get both of those before all is said and done.

Not that it's anything he is really thinking about.

"Not really. You're just so stuck in the moment, stuck in the season, trying to get better every single day," Barkley said after finishing with 125 yards rushing against the Bears' second-ranked rush defense.

The No. 2 overall pick maintains an unassuming approach in the face of incredible statistical success. It doesn't matter that he has three 50-yard touchdown runs this season and the Giants had three in the previous 10 years. Or that he's the first rookie with three touchdown runs of 50 or more since Minnesota's Adrian Peterson in 2007. Barkley can best one of his idols when the Giants play Peterson and the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field on Sunday.

Barkley could become the first player in NFL history with 100 total yards from scrimmage in 11 of his first 12 career games. Eric Dickerson did it in 10 of his first 11 during a rookie campaign in 1983 that is among the greatest of all time.

This is the elite company Barkley is keeping. He's in rookie conversations with Dickerson, Peterson and Ezekiel Elliott. His rookie numbers are better overall than the likes of Barry Sanders and LaDainian Tomlinson. Heck, all-time greats such as Jim Brown and Walter Payton didn't even hit their full stride until Year 2.

Barkley did it from his first run of the preseason (39 yards against the Cleveland Browns) and is still going. He's third in the NFL in rushing with 954 yards, second among running backs with 74 catches and 602 receiving yards, third in yards from scrimmage with 1,556, behind only Todd Gurley II and Elliott.

All this as a rookie.

"I don't care if he's the No. 2 pick," veteran wide receiver Russell Shepard said. "There have been backs picked in the top 5 in the last 20 years and there aren't too many, if any, who are doing what he is doing. He has Barry-like ability to make people miss and to get north and south. This isn't normal. You don't like using the term 'generational talent' but we have two guys on the same team [including Beckham]. It doesn't happen. It's pretty unique."

The debate will rage for years about whether the Giants should have taken Barkley or a quarterback second overall. It will have nothing to do with his ability and effectiveness as a player. That already is not in doubt.

"I think he's had a positive impact on our team," coach Pat Shurmur said. "I said it early and I really believe it, he's got a generational spirit in terms of how he competes, and I have not been -- we have not been -- disappointed in [any] way.

"He's extremely talented running the ball, catching the ball, he blocks well, we're doing what we can to give him the football so he has an impact on the game, and I think he has. Last week someone was talking about how he has great production and the answer he gave was, I'm just trying to continue to work on the little things, just keep being you. If that's your mindset, then we'll try to encourage that along the way because great players that have that mindset and are worried about getting a little bit better, then I think that's good for us."

It's also working for Barkley. He's having one of the best and most productive rookie seasons of all time.