In fantasy rankings across the board, as well as a handful of mock drafts that I’ve done, I’ve seen Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley ranked/selected as not only one of the top running backs, but a top pick overall. Those top running backs are typically steady contributors on the ground AND through the air.
He’s even gone off the board above established running backs with big roles like Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara and Leonard Fournette. Crazy, right?
The biggest knock on Barkley has to be the team around him. The Giants were awful in 2017, but they were also incomplete. How they handled Eli Manning was a joke. They were very limited in talent at running back. And their biggest threat in the passing game, Odell Beckham Jr., spent most of the season injured. With his return and the addition of Barkley, you can make the case that the offense functions much better, or at least good enough for Barkley to live up to those lofty fantasy football expectations.
The case AGAINST selecting Barkley 5th or 6th overall
As a rookie, it’s hard enough to learn one position within an NFL playbook. Becoming both a featured runner and receiver is even tougher. That’s what makes rookie campaigns like Alvin Kamara’s (81 receptions) and Christian McCaffrey’s (80 receptions) so remarkable.
Guys like David Johnson (2016), Le’Veon Bell (2017) and and Todd Gurley (2017), who all hauled in 60+ receptions during their last full seasons weren’t close to those numbers during their rookie seasons. Johnson was an effective touchdown scoring back as a rookie, but had just 36 receptions in 2015 during his first year. The same can be said for Gurley, who had 10 touchdowns but just 21 receptions in 2015.
That said, it’s hard to imagine that Barkley will contribute as much as a Kamara or Hunt, who should both get better in their second seasons.
The case FOR selecting Barkley 5th or 6th overall
While I don’t think Barkley will find his way into as much of the offense as Hunt or Kamara their rookie seasons, let’s not kid ourselves and think that just because it’s his first year going to a "sub-par" Giants team that he’ll be unproductive. Rookies, especially those that are bell cows, have performed very well over the last few seasons at running back.
Ezekiel Elliott is obviously a great example with 1,631 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns in his first season. Those expectations, however, might be a little too high for Barkley when you consider that Elliott played behind such an outstanding offensive line.
How about Jeremy Hill? While he’s not the household name we thought he’d become after his rookie year, he certainly made a fantasy impact with the Bengals in 2014. His 1,124 yards and nine touchdowns were more than enough for what his average draft position was that year.
Eddie Lacy would also be a good example for what he accomplished during his rookie year in 2013. He went into a pass first offense with Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones, and he flourished. Lacy finished with 1,178 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.
The list goes on, but the point I’m making is that it’s certainly possible for Barkley to have a great season. The common denominator with the aforementioned rookie campaigns is that they all received at least 220 carries, and I think Barkley’s on the way to a similar workload.
Let’s take a brief look at the college statistics. If you believe in numbers, these can be decent indicators in terms of passing game production. Le’Veon Bell nor David Johnson hit the 40 reception mark in college. Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey and Kareem Hunt each had one college season with 40 or more catches.
Saquon Barkley had 54 receptions during his last season at Penn State. Certainly, he should be a frequent target of of Eli Manning. After all, the Giants’ 139 running back targets were the sixth-most in the league in 2017.
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Published at Tue, 21 Aug 2018 00:22:00 +0000