Saquon Barkley will be an instant fantasy football stud
By Henry Buggy
Rookie running backs have had plenty of success for fantasy football owners in recent years.
Saquon Barkley will undoubtedly be a hot commodity in fantasy drafts this summer. The New York Giants clearly expect him to take on a significant workload in his rookie year, investing the No. 2 overall pick on the Penn State prospect.
Through three seasons in the Big Ten, Barkley amassed 3,843 rushing yards, 1,195 receiving yards, and scored 51 touchdowns. He consistently made the most of his touches despite playing behind a struggling offensive line.
The 6-foot, 233-pound tailback used his speed, shiftiness, and power to find extra yards and hit home run plays.
The Giants are putting an emphasis on reestablishing their ground game under new head coach Pat Shurmur. The additions of Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, and Patrick Omameh should vastly improve New York’s offensive line, which struggled to open running lanes in 2017.
Despite poor blocking up front, undrafted running back Orleans Darkwa averaged 4.4 yards per carry. He led Big Blue’s rushing attack with 751 yards on the ground and scored five touchdowns.
Barkley will be running behind a better offensive line and is a far superior talent than any of Big Blue’s running backs in recent years.
Setting Barkley up for Success
The Minnesota Vikings posted the league’s seventh best rushing attack in terms of yards under Shurmur in 2017.
New York Giants
Minnesota’s rookie running back Dalvin Cook got off to a hot start in Shurmur’s offense, racking up 444 yards and two touchdowns in just four games. Unfortunately for the second-round pick out of Florida State, his season was cut short due to a torn ACL.
Shurmur will look to set Barkley up for success. But he also notes it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to fit an elite talent like Barkley into an offense, via New York’s team website.
"“You have to turn around and hand it to him. It doesn’t take a genius to do that. Then, a lot of times when you try and throw the ball downfield and they cover them all, you can dump him off the ball, or you can feature him in the pass game. I have seen the effects of a really, really good running back not only on the offense, but on the team. You have to run the football not just for your offense, but for your team. I have seen the effect that a great running back can have on teams.”"
Barkley is the ultimate three-down back, making him only more appealing for fantasy football owners.
He will be the recipient of plenty check-down passes from Eli Manning. He has incredible vision and can make jaw-dropping plays when catching passes in the open field.
Unlike other running backs that will have to split time or share the workload, Barkley will have no shortage of touches.
Alvin Kamara and Leonard Fournette are two perfect examples of this. Both are dynamic fantasy running backs worth owning in every league. But both are not necessarily complete three-down backs like Barkley.
Kamara has to share touches with Mark Ingram. That didn’t stop him from winning last year’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but it’s still worth noting.
Fournette can catch passes out the backfield, but Jacksonville doesn’t always rely on their bruising running back to do so. Jaguars backup T.J. Yeldon recorded just six fewer receptions than Fournette in 2017.
None of this means Barkley will have more fantasy points than Fournette or Kamara next season. What it does mean is that Barkley is likely to have more opportunities.
But in football, nothing is certain, especially due to injuries.
First-Round RB Breakouts
First-round rookie running backs having breakout seasons is nothing new for the NFL.
Eric Dickerson’s 1,808 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns earned him Rookie of the Year honors in 1983. Dickerson’s impressive rookie year tends to be looked over since he set the league’s single-season rushing record (2,105) the following year.
In recent seasons first-round running backs have had plenty of fantasy football success. Leonard Fournette, the No. 4 overall pick in last year’s draft, finished the 2017 season with the league’s eight most fantasy points in standard leagues and ninth most points in point per reception leagues, according to Fantasy Pros.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas’ first-round pick in 2016, shined in his rookie year. He recorded the second most fantasy points in both standard and PPR leagues that season.
The Rams first-round pick in 2015, Todd Gurley, also took the league by storm in his rookie year. The 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft posted the fifth most fantasy points in standard leagues and ninth most points in PPR formats.
Both Fournette and Gurley also missed three games each in their rookie years.
Elliott did have the benefit of running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines in 2016, but the same cannot be said for St. Louis or Jacksonville.
Even Trent Richardson, who is no longer in the NFL, thrived for fantasy football owners in his rookie year. In 2012, Richardson posted the ninth most fantasy points in standard formats and the seventh most points in PPR leagues. He turned out to be a solid pick up for that season, just not in keeper leagues.
Doug Martin, who was taken 31st overall in the 2012 draft, also made an immediate impact for fantasy owners. In his rookie year, he recorded the second most fantasy points in both PPR and standard leagues.
Barkley will look to join the long list of rookie running backs with instant fantasy success. Given his pre-draft evaluation, college tape, and expected role, it’s not far-fetched to believe he will be one of the top fantasy football running backs to own in 2018
He is already considered the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, according to Bovada.
Next: New York Giants Draft Grades For All Six Picks
Barkley is worthy of a top 12 pick in fantasy drafts and should be considered a steal in the second-round. A top five fantasy draft pick is likely a reach for Big Blue’s rookie running back.
But make no mistake about it, Barkley is going to be a valuable fantasy asset right away.