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Saquon Barkley Looks Explosive in Pre-Season Debut - Is he a Safe Pick in Round 1?

Updated: Aug 12, 2018


When considering who to take in the first round of your fantasy football draft, you should always consider the saying "You can't win your fantasy football league in round one, but you certainly can lose it." With this sage proverb in mind, do we believe rookie Saquon Barkley is a safe pick in the middle of the first round this year? One thing is for sure and that's Barkley looked EXPLOSIVE on Thursday night in his first NFL first pre-season game. In case you were not tuning in, here is Barkley's first carry at the NFL level.



When I saw that play I literally blurted out "WOW" as he was able to turn what should have been a two yard loss into an electric 39 yard scamper. This run reminded me of a young LeSean McCoy as he was able to side-step the first defenders then fake the D-end left to draw him inside the block. Most backs would bounce it outside at this point, but instead Barkley fakes outside and slips back up the middle and proceeds to turn on the jets and explode up-field. Few backs in the league are able to outrun a crashing safety who has the angle on them as Barkley did on this play.


The rest of the night for Barkley saw Browns defenders in his face as soon as he was handed the ball and he was only able to gain four additional yards on three more carries. This performance could very well foreshadow what we could see out of Barkley this year as he attempts to live up to the insane levels of hype while running behind what has been one of the NFL's most pitiful offensive lines in recent memory.


The Giants did upgrade their offensive line this off-season by making Nate Solder the highest paid left tackle in football (a huge mistake in my opinion) and drafting guard Will Hernandez in the second round of this year's draft. But, will that be enough to right the ship? PFF has the Giants line ranked as 25th overall this year, so the sledding could still be pretty tough for the young rookie.


Barkley is currently being drafted on average at number seven overall and fantasy football fans everywhere are wondering if it's worth selecting Barkley at this lofty ADP. He figures to tally close to 350 touches as a rookie and has the potential to put up monster fantasy numbers. Still, the question remains, is he a safe pick to take this high in round one? In short, the answer is yes.


One guy who really knows his running backs is Saints head coach Sean Payton and here is what he had to say about Saquon Barkley:


“He’s the best running back prospect I’ve seen in 25 years. Another team, which had given only four draft prospects perfect grades in the last 20 years, told me Barkley is the fifth"

~Sean Payton via SportsIllustrated's MMQB.com.


Saquon Barkley looking like a David Johnson clone

In case you forgot, Sean Payton is the guy who drafted the running back going immediately after Barkley in fantasy drafts this year - Alvin Kamara. Still, fantasy drafters are typically gun-shy about picking a rookie this high in the draft for fear of selecting a bust who will ruin their fantasy season when they could have taken a more proven player. But, should we really be worried about this?


I went back and took a look at all RBs selected in the first round of the NFL draft dating back to 2005 searching to answer this question. Here is what turned up:

First round rookie running back fantasy finishes since 2005

So, what this tells us is that of all running backs who were selected in round one of the NFL draft since 2005, their average fantasy RB rank that season was 31st.


Stripping away the data to include only rookies who played at least 14 games their rookie year, that number jumps to an average finish of RB22.


When we widdle it down to only include running backs selected in the top ten overall picks since 2005, on average they finish as the #17 ranked RB in their rookie season. How about top 5 picks?


Of all RB selected in the top 5 since 2005 (min 14 games played), on average they finish as the # 13 RB in fantasy during their rookie season.


After considering this data that is going back 12 years, when looking at Barkley at his current average draft position of #7 overall, we can be pretty confident that he is going to finish this season as a RB1. Considering his pedigree and the fact that he is being touted as the one of, if not the best running back prospect to come out in the last 25 years, you can feel confident drafting Barkley this high with very little worry of a potential bust season.


The Giants rarely miss on offensive skill position players in the draft as evidenced by their selection of Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham Jr. a few years back. Speaking of Odell, he is another reason you should not worry about Barkley's production this year. With defenses needing to deal with Beckham, plus star tight end Evan Engram running up the seam, Barkley will rarely face eight defenders in the box on defense. Add in the fact that he is a fantastic receiver out of the backfield and there is even more reason to like him knowing that he is going to continue to produce in games that get out of hand when the game plan is forced to move away from the ground.


I think a lot of fantasy owners are thinking that Barkley is over-hyped and likely to disappoint at this ADP and therefore, would rather select someone like Alvin Kamara, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones or Leonard Fournette before taking a chance on Barkley. All these guys are nasty, but consider this combine comparison before you write off Barkley for someone you are more familiar with:







These are freakish numbers and paint the picture of a generational talent at running back. Part of the fun of fantasy football is having that guy people are not quite sure of and then watching him dominate the competition as you ride their coattails to fantasy glory. If you have the opportunity to select Saquon Barkley after the "big four" running backs in Todd Gurley, Le'Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliot and David Johnson, do not hesitate to pull the trigger.


-Murph





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