Generational talent is a common term that is referenced in the fantasy football community. While it is often overused, it undoubtedly applies to Saquon Barkley. The Penn State product enjoyed a prolific college career and is poised to make an immediate impact at the NFL level. He has been the topic of conversation as the 1.01 in dynasty rookie drafts for virtually his entire college tenure, and also figures to be a near consensus first round selection in redraft formats for the 2018 season. Does he warrant such significant praise and hype? Even more, will the former Nittany Lion deliver on the lofty expectations and comparisons being directed his way as a rookie? In order to find out, let’s examine his pedigree and sample of work prior to his rookie campaign in the NFL.

NFL Scouting Combine Overview

Height/Weight 40 Yard Dash Bench Press Vertical Jump 20 Yard Shuttle
6' 0" / 233 Pounds 4.40 Seconds 29 Reps 41.0 Inches 4.24 Seconds

As evident from the metrics listed above, Barkley delivered exceptional results in all of the events that he participated in at the NFL Scouting Combine. His 4.40 forty time ranked second among all RBs in Indianapolis, which is incredible for a 233-pound tailback. Saquon’s 29 bench press reps also tied for best at the position alongside Georgia running back Nick Chubb. While repetitions of weight do not necessarily translate to success in the NFL, it at least demonstrates that Barkley’s strength is off the charts for his body frame. As if the fantasy community was not sold on him enough beforehand, Saquon then proceeded to post a 41-inch vertical jump. Unsurprisingly, that score represented the best among all RBs at the Combine.

NFL teams will surely covet the opportunity to select Barkley in the NFL Draft this April, as his athleticism and profile are reminiscent of a superstar in the making. It’s now a question of when and not if the 21-year-old’s name will be called during the first round in a matter of weeks as he is expected to be a lock as a top-ten pick. One thing remains clear, fantasy owners will be salivating at the opportunity to own Barkley regardless of his eventual landing spot in the NFL.

Collegiate Production

Year Rushing Yards Yard Per Carry Average Rushing Touchdowns Receptions/Receiving Yards Receiving Touchdowns
2015 1,076 5.9 7 20/161 1
2016 1,496 5.5 18 28/402 4
2017 1,271 5.9 18 54/632 3

Do not be mistaken, the numbers provided above are indeed real and not from a video game simulation. Remarkably, Barkley finished his Penn State career with more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage and 51 total offensive touchdowns. From that level of production alone, a simple conclusion can be drawn that he is an elite prospect. In fact, Barkley has been mentioned as the best running back to declare for the NFL over the past 25 seasons by those in league circles.

With at least 1,000 yards rushing and a 5.5 yard per carry average in each of his three collegiate seasons, it is rather obvious that Barkley is a more than capable rusher. Remember, he ran for 36 touchdowns in 2016 and 2017 alone. The element of his game that’s often overlooked is his contribution as a receiver. He recorded no fewer than 20 receptions in his freshman and sophomore campaigns, and then closed out his career in 2017 with 54 catches out of the backfield. To put that number into perspective, consider that fellow top RB prospect Derrius Guice had 32 receptions across his entire career at LSU. Simply put, Barkley is a rare talent that should make a seamless transition from college to the NFL gridiron. After all, a prerequisite for success at the next level is dominant output in the collegiate landscape. Fortunately for Saquon, he passes that test with flying colors.

Fantasy Outlook

As alluded to at the beginning of this article, Barkley is entrenched as the 1.01 in dynasty rookie drafts. In fact, he already owns a consensus top-12 ADP in startup drafts this offseason. While there is certainly some risk associated with that valuation, it is the market price that has been set to own him in dynasty formats. That stance and price tag should not change barring a colossal pre-draft setback. The more pressing debate is where he should be selected in redraft leagues for 2018, as there are a plethora of other RBs and WRs to consider that are arguably safer investments in the early stages of a serpentine draft.

Based on the success of recent rookie tailbacks like Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara, fantasy owners should have little concern over allocating a first round pick towards Saquon Barkley. Of course, his landing spot will ultimately dictate where in that range he deserves to be selected at. Nonetheless, those that are fortunate enough to secure Barkley’s services as a rookie can expect a featured back that is shifty, powerful, balanced and explosive. He owns the necessary tools to become the RB1 overall in fantasy football in as soon as 2018, but will also have a hefty draft day cost to live up to. Due to these factors, I think that Barkley is best viewed on the borderline of being a back-end of the first/top-end of the second round pick in redraft at the present time. Others are sure to be more bullish on him as a potential top-five option, so be prepared to pay a premium in drafts due to the increasingly crowded Saquon Barkley hype train.

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