Saquon Barkley | RB NYG
Remember Saquon Barkley? For the second straight season, Barkley has missed time due to an injury, and in 2020 he only played in two games. Those two contests produced 34 yards on 19 carries and zero touchdowns. He only caught six passes and dropped a target. However, there is no denying that Barkley is an elite talent and capable of finishing as the RB1 on the season. To bounce back, he will have to buck the trend of ACL injuries that hamper RBs.
While dealing with the ACL, Barkley will also have to contend with the lousy quarterback play of Daniel Jones. Barkley will face multiple defenders in the box as Jones doesn’t scare defenses. However, the Giants brought over Kenny Golladay and Kyle Rudolph to assist Jones and open up the offense.
Barkley should continue to be the home run threat at any given carry. There is no real threat to his volume reaching bell-cow status. Assuming he's close to 100 percent to start the season, Barkley should finish in the top-5 of all running backs.
Barkley was hailed as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime talent,’ and projected to be the highest running back taken in the NFL draft since Reggie Bush in 2006. At the 2018 NFL Combine, his measurables were off the charts, at 6', 233 pounds, and he ran a 4.40 40-yard dash. The New York Giants drafted him with the 2nd overall pick in the first round. Barkley had an awe-inspiring rookie season. He played in all 16 games (his only time), rushed for 1,370 yards, 11 touchdowns and caught 91 passes for 721 yards and 4 receiving touchdowns. All this while playing behind a weak New York Giants team with a poor offensive line.
Unfortunately his sophomore season failed to live up to the hype, rushing for just over 1,000 yards and 8 total touchdowns, as well as catching 52 passes for 438 yards. Injury was the primary culprit of this poor performance, as he suffered the dreaded high-ankle sprain in Week 3. This is the same injury derailed Kamara’s season in 2019, and CMC and Michael Thomas’ 2020 seasons. Barkley seemed to lack his usual level of explosiveness when he returned in Week 7, and this is classic from high-ankle sprains.
Barkley has suffered several injuries that led to games lost throughout his football career. During his 2015 college season, Barkley sustained an ankle injury as a freshman, costing him 2 games. The following year he again injured his ankle, but this was considered minor, and he did not miss any games. During the preseason of his monster rookie 2018 season, Barkley suffered a hamstring strain, but thankfully it was minor and only cost him 8 days. Then in 2019, he suffered the ankle injury that we just discussed.
Heading into 2020, in this very draftguide I gave Saquon a ‘moderate risk score of 5.’ Unfortunately that elevated risk came to fruition when he tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus in his knee in Week 2. Devastating injury. If you look back there are not many NFL RBs over the past 10-15 years that have suffered an ACL tear while in the NFL, and then returned to RB1 status. There are only 3 names that come to mind: Adrian Peterson, Dalvin Cook and Jamaal Charles. AP and JC are genetic freaks, and AP returned 6 months after the surgery to almost break Eric Dickerson’s rushing record. Dalvin Cook has returned to RB1 status but it took him until his second season after the ACL surgery to look ‘normal’ again. So returning to RB1 status immediately after ACL reconstruction is the exception, not the rule.
I have to urge you to temper your expectations with Saquon in 2021. There have been rumblings that the Giants are going to limit his snaps early in the season. His cost (ADP) is just so high, that you would need a repeat of Saquon’s rookie season (or better) in order to justify that price, and that’s a lot to ask. He’s on track to start in Week 1, but there’s still a lot of time as of this writing (June) until late August. Any minor setback could push his return several weeks.
There is a mental component to ACL tears and reconstruction surgeries that needs to be mentioned. Many players struggle to ‘trust’ their new ligament, and that fear takes time to go away (usually about 2 years post-surgery). Could he pull an AP and go nuclear in 2021? Yes, but that’s not a bet I would be willing to make. Fade him at a top 5 RB cost, he’s simply too risky in 2021. In dynasty, I still believe he is a top 10 RB, but wouldn’t pay a top 5 RB price for him, just too many variables (Could he pull a ‘Todd Gurley-esque’ cliff? Yes, unlikely but possible). He’s a full fade for me unless I can get him as my 2nd RB (think late 2nd or 3rd round).
There is a chance Saquon doesn’t see the field until October, possibly later. The Giants’ may choose not to rush their star player. The sport is better with Saquon healthy, but his price is simply too rich in 2021 for the amount of risk you have to assume. Genetic freak but give me Kamara, CMC, Henry, Ekeler or Zeke over him.
Injury Risk: High. 7/10.
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