Heading into the 2019 season, Saquon Barkley was one of the most coveted NFL players to draft in fantasy football. In fact, a number of platforms predicted Barkley to be the best running back in fantasy. Unfortunately, Saquon was unable to live up to the hype due to a nagging ankle injury that prevented him from playing in three games last season. Although there is a great opportunity for Barkley to rebound in 2020 and excel as an elite RB in fantasy football.
Despite this injury, Barkley was still able to play well as a low-end RB2. In his 13 games, he carried the ball 217 times for 1,003 yards, 4.6 yards/carry, and six touchdowns. Moreover, Barkley was able to make some noise in the receiving game, with 52 catches on 73 targets for 438 yards and two touchdowns. While these stats are sharp declines from his 2018 totals, he was still a reliably efficient player who ranked seventh amongst all RBs for fantasy points per game.
|Saquon Barkley||RUSH YDS||RUSH TD||REC||REC YDS||REC TD||FUML||FANTASY POINTS||FPPG|
New York Giants
Heading into the new decade, the New York Giants decided to move in a new direction from a coaching standpoint. As a result, the Giants chose to fire Pat Shurmur after he failed to reach .500 in his short stint as head coach. Shurmur’s successor will be former Patriots special teams coordinator, Joe Judge, who selected former Cowboys head coach to serve as offensive coordinator. While there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding what the Giants’ offense will look like next season, it seems promising, especially for RB Saquon Barkley.
For much of the Giants’ recent history, they have featured a west coast offensethat relies on short passes, check-downs, and yards after the catch. This made it difficult for Barkley in the ground game because the defenses often loaded the box to counter the Giants scheme. While these safe, short passes gave Barkley opportunities to excel on screens and check-downs, it limited his ability to generate explosive rushes.
Even though the Judge and Garrett have refrained from publicly giving away any details concerning their 2020 scheme, there are some safe assumptions relating to how it will likely look. For starters, Jason Garrett has been known to cater and orient his offense around the strengths of his personnel. This is tremendous news for Saquon Barkley’s fantasy value because it indicates that he will have a healthy number of touches as the Giants’ most productive skill-player.
During his time as Wade Phillips’ offensive coordinator in Dallas, Garrett was an underrated play-caller. From 2007 to 2012, Garrett’s offenses never ranked outside of the top-ten for yards per game. Moreover, Garrett’s running backs had four seasons with top-ten rushing production during this same period. Obviously, this trend bodes well for Barkley and puts him in contention to be the league’s leading rusher. In fact, Saquon’s 2020 fantasy season could be very similar to Demarco Murray’s 2014 campaign.
While Garrett tends to tweak his offense to accommodate his players, one aspect that he consistently employs in all of his schemes is a vertical offense. According to Sports Illustrated, Garrett’s offense utilizes the Air Coryell scheme to spread defenses vertically. This dramatically raises Barkley’s ceiling because a successful vertical offense will force defensive coordinators to refrain from loading the box. As a result, he will surprisingly have his best chance to accumulate explosive rushes every week.
Within Garrett’s system, he frequently utilizes a shotgun formation that specializes in inside zone runs. This formation helped propel Demarco Murray to his fantastic 2014 fantasy season, and will likely do the same for Saquon Barkley. However, one thing that needs to be noted is that Murray ran behind an elite offensive line, while Saquon Barkley’s line has been lackluster, to say the least.
Throughout Barkley’s tenure with the G-men, his offensive line has ranked 25th and 29th for run-blocking efficiency. Given that the Giants have refrained from making any acquisitions amid this porous OL free-agent class, they will likely need to draft someone to assist Saquon. Nevertheless, Barkley’s production with a subpar offensive line indicates that his floor is head and shoulders above all other elite running backs.
As mentioned earlier, Saquon Barkley will probably have the most explosive season of his career in 2020. This is most likely surprising to Giants fans who are accustomed to Barkley’s sensational rushes. Nevertheless, Barkley’s history of highlight-reel carries is a testament to his skill, because his success came despite New York’s subpar scheme and offensive line. In fact, his situation was so detrimental that Barkley faced a loaded box on 11.52% of his rushing attempts according to NextGen NFL Stats. However, he should see fewer of these instances and generate stellar production in his third season. If the Giants draft a stellar OL prospect, like Andrew Thomas, Barkley looks to be a solid RB on a down-to-down basis as well.
While Barkley’s rushing success is likely to continue, his receiving production will probably decline in Garrett’s new system. In the west coast scheme, Barkley saw a good number of screens and check down passes from Eli Manning and Daniel Jones. However, Jones will likely target receivers such as Darius Slayton and Golden Tate deep down the field regularly. This will be even more apparent if the Giants opt to draft a receiver like Jerry Jeudy or Ceedee Lamb instead of an offensive lineman.
Additionally, Jones will likely utilize Evan Engram as his safety valve option instead of Barkley if Engram can stay healthy. This doesn’t mean that Barkley is a liability in PPR leagues. Although it does forecast that Saquon’s receiving production will most likely fall outside top-seven for running backs in terms of receiving efficiency. Therefore, his value will be remarkably higher in standard leagues unless Garrett and Judge line him at wide receiver in obvious passing situations.
If everything pans out well, Saquon Barkley could have a fantastic fantasy season within Garrett’s scheme. A productive vertical offense, coupled with an improved offensive line, could allow Barkley to have a fantasy season even better than his stellar 2018 season. Resultantly, Barkley’s fantasy success will be partly dependent on Daniel Jones’ improvement as a passer. Although he will unlikely eclipse Christian McCaffery’s historic 2019 fantasy campaign because he won’t be utilized as much in the receiving game Yet he is in contention to be the best running back in fantasy football next season.
2018 Giants Target Distribution
Makes it hard for Saquon to compete w/ CMC unless they go very run-heavy in 2020.
— Heath Cummings (@heathcummingssr) March 10, 2020
On the other hand, the Giants’ situation could hinder Saquon Barkley’s success in 2020. For instance, Barkley will be forced to fend off loaded-boxes if Daniel Jones fails to fix his turnover issue and move the ball well. Moreover, Barkley’s production will stagnate unless the Giants’ front office and coaching staff can bolster their offensive line. However, Barkley’s floor is still abundantly higher than other rushers because of his ability to maximize rushing production with shoddy offensive lines. Therefore, his floor is unlikely to get any worse than his 2019 season unless he suffers a nagging or devastating injury.
As of right now, Barkley is projected to be a top-three fantasy running back, and top-five overall player in fantasy football. We anticipate him to rush for 1,000+ rushing yards and haul in 51 receptions for 550+ yards. In both PPR and standard leagues, Barkley is almost sure to be a top-five RB barring any significant injury. If you can scoop him in the first five picks of fantasy drafts, you would be crazy to pass on him.
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