Since this is my first piece for the Vault Studio, I thought I would introduce myself before diving into this week’s content. I am the co-host of the Vault NFL Fantasy Football podcast, with my man James Cooney. I’ve been playing redraft for about six years, and dynasty for nearly two. My articles here will have a redraft focus, and I write dynasty pieces over at Dynasty Football Factory. I will be putting out one article each week during the season, outlining my favourite plays of the week as well as any waiver wire targets, and D/ST and K streaming options. You can find me on Twitter @FF_DownUnder where I share all of my work.
Importantly, I will be writing my redraft advice and analysis from assumed league settings of 12 team, 1QB, and PPR scoring. You should also know that I draft QB late. Always. I will never draft one of the first 5-8 QBs off the board. The position is too deep, and the demand in a standard 1QB league is so low. On any given week there is probably a QB1 streaming option. Credit to JJ Zacharison from The Late Round Podcast (@LateRoundQB) for creating this strategy. Check out his work if you are interested in a deeper understanding of the late round QB theory.
Now we have the formalities out of the way, let’s look at one player who is generating all kinds of hype – Saquon Barkley.
Barkley is a running back from Penn State, who was drafted #2 overall by the New York Giants. In 2017, he was top 5 in the nation in yards from scrimmage and led the nation in receiving yards by RBs. He also managed 1,200 yards on the ground despite being behind one of the worst O-lines in college football. Per Football Outsiders the line had a stuff rate (percentage of carries stopped at or before the line of scrimmage) of 21.3% which was 95th in the country.
If you want proof of his talent, check out his game tape against Iowa last year, or his freshman breakout game against #1 ranked Ohio State back in 2015 against a defense stacked with future NFL studs including Joey Bosa, Malik Hooker, Raekwon McMillan and Darron Lee.
Let’s examine Barkley’s college production history courtesy of Sports-Reference:
Over 5,000 yards and 51 touchdowns is output and his on-field production was matched by his athletic testing. Whilst the combine doesn’t prove anything on the gridiron, it’s still fun to be dazzled by freak athletes – and I think Saquon might be an alien. Look at him compared to David Johnson.
Evaluating running back prospects is a multi-faceted approach. You need to see the talent on film, the college production history, and the combine/athletic profile. Barkley passes all of these tests with flying colours.
New York Giants
The Giants have had a weak running game for the past few seasons, and Big Blue fans will be hoping Saquon is the man to turn it around. Their O-Line has also been terrible (something Saquon is used to), but they address the position in free agency and in the draft. They signed LT Nate Solder and RG Patrick Omameh, and drafted LG Will Hernandez, so some improvement on last year can be expected. Even so, Orleans Darkwa managed 751 yards at 4.4 yards per carry (YPC) and Wayne Gallman rushed for 476 yards at 4.3 YPC and Barkley is a superior running back to those gentlemen in every aspect of the game.
Also in Saquon’s favour is the coaching change in New York. Ben McAdoo has been replaced by Pat Shurmur, who likes to run the football. Last year as Offensive Coordinator for the Vikings, he called a run play on 46% of plays (5th highest in the NFL) and also targeted running backs on 20.8% of pass attempts (13th in the NFL) which means his RBs were involved in over 57% of his offensive play calls. Barkley is going to see ridiculous volume this season, and his receiving ability mitigates and concerns remaining with the Giants O-line.
Mike Clay of ESPN has Barkley projected for 258 carries and 60 receptions. Given Shurmur’s history, his carries might even be higher. In Shurmur’s seasons as an OC where he had a true number 1 running back on his roster (Steven Jackson in 2009 & 2010, and LeSean McCoy in 2013 & 2014), his lead back averaged 320 carries per season.
It also helps that there are multiple passing weapons for Eli Manning in the form of OBJ, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard to keep defenses honest and stop them from stacking the box.
There are just 4 running backs I would draft ahead of Barkley this season. They are proven performers over multiple seasons and are guaranteed to receive elite fantasy football volume:
- David Johnson;
- LeVeon Bell;
- Todd Gurley; and
- Ezekiel Elliot.
If you want to take a running back in the middle of round 1, draft Saquon Barkley with confidence.
Finally, make sure to tune into our weekly Fantasy Football podcast to hear our segment ‘Saq-Watch’, where we break down his fantasy production on a weekly basis and see if he is able to meet his sky-high expectations of fantasy football owners.
NB – all statistics in this article come from ffstatistics.com unless otherwise stated. Shout out to its’ creator Addison Hayes (@_amazehayes).