NEW YORK (CBS SPORTS) — It’s draft season which means we’re reading too deeply into things that top prospects say about their potential future employers. Baker Mayfield says something about Miami to fellow Oklahoma Sooner and Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills? HE LOVES MIAMI. Saquon Barkley gets profiled by Sports Illustrated about the many different ways in which he’s driven to succeed but also wants to become a #brand and the “Face of the League” and along the way it gets mentioned his marketing team would prefer he be in New York to Cleveland?
OH IT’S A THING. It actually is a thing on Wednesday, as we struggle to fill the void between now and the draft. According to Ben Baskin, writing a lengthy profile of the former Penn State running back for SI, the folks at Roc Nation “don’t want” Saquon to go No. 1 overall and encouraged him to “pull an Eli Manning.”
From Baskin’s article:
His Roc Nation handlers, however, don’t want him to be taken No. 1. They don’t want him in Cleveland. They want him to go second to the Giantsand play in the media capital of the world. That’s where you can become the Face of the League. His manager even implored him to pull an Eli Manning and demand that the Browns not draft him. Barkley never considered the option. Sure, he likes the idea of being back in the city of his birth—even playing for the Jets, the team he grew up rooting for.
The folks at Roc Nation have since denied saying this, and are probably less than thrilled about Baskin including it in the article, which is going in a published magazine and can never be wiped from history.
But here’s the thing: this is probably fairly accurate. The “pull an Eli” thing might not be true. Or maybe they floated it sort of vaguely and it immediately got shot down. Who knows. I know this — anyone who wants to turn someone into the “Face of the League” would absolutely rather have that person play in New York than Cleveland. This isn’t a diss on Cleveland or a rip on the Browns. The reality of the situation dictates that New York equals a greater branding opportunity than Cleveland.
The only exception to this would be someone like LeBron James; someone so big in terms of brand awareness and value that he trumps the very nature of geography.
Saying Barkley doesn’t have that kind of upside from a marketing standpoint isn’t an insult, it’s just the reality of the situation. Barkley would need to become the greatest running back of all time and he still wouldn’t be able to reach LeBron’s marketing ability because of the differences between the two sports (shoe sales plus those helmets football players wear which conceal their faces, just to name two things).
Landing in New York would substantially boost his ability to sell and market if he takes off as a big-time player, however, and Cleveland might very well suppress that potential. It’s not weird that his marketing team wants him to be in the most, you know, marketable market.
At the end of the day, it’s going to be out of his control, at least for his first contract.