How Saquon Barkley grades vs. elite running backs I've scouted

Barkley's journey to top NFL prospect (0:54)

Witness Saquon Barkley's hard work and transformation from an undersized kid to mega NFL prospect. (0:54)

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is the clear-cut No. 1 running back in the 2018 NFL draft class, but how does he compare to other elite RB prospects? Let's run through my highest graded RBs since 2007, slotting in Barkley accordingly.

The "as a prospect" blurbs are how we viewed each player coming out of college. How they performed as professionals was not factored in.

98 grade

Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma, 2007

Pre-draft ranking: No. 3 overall

As a prospect: "Peterson is a tough runner who can pick up yards between the tackles and break tackles when he gets into the open field. He has the burst to turn the corner, make the first defender miss and turn on the jets when he finds a seam."

In the NFL: Drafted by the Vikings No. 7 overall because of health concerns, Peterson has had a Hall of Fame-worthy career. He is currently 12th on the all-time rushing list with 12,276 yards and won the 2012 NFL MVP award.

97 grade

Saquon Barkley, Penn State, 2018

Pre-draft ranking: No. 1 overall

As a prospect: "Barkley is an explosive runner with a rare combination of size, speed, body control and competitiveness. He displays burst to turn the corner and run away from pursuit when he catches daylight. The top prospect on our board, Barkley projects as a Day 1 every-down back with the elite talent and elite intangibles to become a franchise-changing player. He's gifted enough to emerge as an All-Pro caliber player early in his career. Barkley carries the highest running back grade we've given since Peterson. As far as NFL comparisons go, Todd Gurley (Rams), Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys) and Barry Sanders (former Lion) are all fair in their own right."

Trent Richardson, Alabama, 2012

Pre-draft ranking: No. 3 overall

As a prospect: "He's a complete football player. He's a power back who can grind out yards between the tackles, and he's quick enough to get outside to where he can make defenders miss. His ability to contribute on third down makes him that much more attractive considering the direction NFL offenses are heading."

In the NFL: Just like the Browns, I'd like to have this one back, too. Drafted by the Browns No. 3 overall, Richardson played only 17 games for Cleveland and amassed a disappointing 1,055 yards on 298 carries (3.5 yards per rush). He was traded to the Colts during the 2013 season but only averaged 3.1 yards per carry in 29 games in Indy. He was out of the league after the 2014 season.

93 grade

Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State, 2016

Pre-draft ranking: No. 4 overall

As a prospect: "Elliott is a highly competitive runner with an excellent combination of agility, power and top-end speed for a bigger back. He also shows natural pass-catching ability, and he brings elite toughness to the field as a blocker. Elliott is the best running back in the class, and while he's not as dynamic of a runner as Peterson or Gurley, his well-rounded skill set makes him the rare RB prospect who's actually worth a first-round pick."

In the NFL: Drafted by the Cowboys No. 4 overall, Elliott led the league in rushing his rookie season with 1,631 yards in just 15 games. He also made the Pro Bowl, was first-team All-Pro and scored 15 TDs. In 2017, he was suspended for six games for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. He has been great on the field but needs to take care of himself off the field to live up to this draft slot.

Marshawn Lynch, California, 2007

Pre-draft ranking: No. 17 overall

As a prospect: "He's big enough to carry a heavy workload and his speed should make him a home-run threat in the NFL. In other words, he can pound the ball inside and turn the corner as an outside runner. There's also reason to believe he'll emerge as a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, so he compares favorably to Peterson in a lot of ways."

In the NFL: Drafted by the Bills at No. 12 overall, Lynch has been an impact player with three teams (Buffalo, Seattle and Oakland), winning Super Bowl XLVIII with Seattle. Lynch has more than 10,000 rushing yards in a very productive 11-year career.

Leonard Fournette, LSU, 2017

Pre-draft ranking: No. 4 overall

As a prospect: "A highly competitive and physical runner with a rare combination of size, speed and power. Fournette runs through a lot of contact and can be a nightmare to corral when reaching the open field. Needs to develop more patience as a runner at the NFL level."

In the NFL: So far, so good with Fournette. He was second among rookies with 1,040 rushing yards and helped lead the Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game.

92 grade

Todd Gurley, Georgia, 2015

Pre-draft ranking: No. 8 overall

As a prospect: "Durability is a concern with Gurley, as he's coming off of a torn ACL. But if he can stay healthy, he could wind up as one of the best players in this entire class. He's a downhill runner with elite power and balance to go with outstanding breakaway speed. The most underrated part of his game is his pass-catching ability -- he has very good hands and is quick to accelerate upfield after the catch."

In the NFL: Second in the NFL in rushing last season with 1,305 yards, Gurley rebounded from a dip in production in 2016 and looked like an MVP candidate in 2017. He also had 64 catches for 788 yards in Sean McVay's offense last season and is a great receiver out of the backfield. He's living up to the hype.

Christian McCaffrey, Stanford, 2017

Pre-draft ranking: No. 9 overall

As a prospect: "McCaffrey is a three-way player who can contribute as a running back and returner on special teams and is one of the most polished receivers we've ever evaluated at the position. Outstanding intangibles and NFL-ready to contribute from Day 1."

In the NFL: McCaffrey had a bit of a disappointing season on the ground, amassing only 435 rushing yards. However, he had 651 receiving yards on 113 targets and was clearly more comfortable in the offense as the season progressed. The Panthers know he can work wonders in the slot, but the big question going forward will be how productive he can be on the ground in a rotational role.