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Saquon Barkley Fantasy Football Outlook 2018

The 2018 fantasy football hype around Saquon Barkley isn’t a bunch of malarkey. In fact, I’ve never scouted a running back that possesses the amount of talent Barkley has.

Saquon Barkley Fantasy 2018

Saquon Barkley is 6-foot tall, weighs 233 pounds and ran a 4.41 40-yard dash. On the bench press, he flexed his muscles with 29 reps, then showed his leg explosion with a 41 inch vertical and his quickness with a 4.24 20-yard shuttle. These metrics are why his SPARQ (Speed. Power. Agility. Reaction. Quickness) score is in the 99th percentile.

Barkley had an incredible junior season at Penn State where he touted the rock 217 times for 1,217 yards, 18 touchdowns and added 54 receptions for 632 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver. His production on the field is obviously impressive, but his performance at the NFL scouting combine is a major reason why the Giants selected him second overall in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Metrics and college production is excellent but why should you get excited about him for 2018? Well for starters a rookie running back has led the NFL in rushing the last two seasons (Ezekiel Elliott in 2016 with 1,631 and Kareem Hunt in 2017 with 1,327), and Barkley finds himself in a favorable fantasy situation. I know it’s hard to believe me considering the Giants running backs combined haven’t scored more than six rushings touchdowns in a single year the past three seasons. Plus the last three seasons the Giants haven’t ranked high in rush attempts:

  • 2017: 394 attempts – 25th in the NFL
  • 2016: 398 attempts – 22nd in the NFL
  • 2015: 403 attempts – 19th in the NFL

But this year is different because the Giants finally have a workhorse running back that they invested high draft capital into. With high draft capital comes a change, and I believe that change is extra rushing attempts. I went back and looked at the last five teams to select a running back in the top 10 picks of the NFL Draft and see how it impacted their play calling.

  • The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Leonard Fournette 4th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft and went from 392 carries in 2016 to 527 in 2017, which is a 34.4% increase.
  • The Carolina Panthers selected Christian McCaffrey 8th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft and went from 453 carries in 2016 to 490 in 2017, which is an 8.6% increase.
  • The Dallas Cowboys selected Ezekiel Elliott 4th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft and went from 408 carries in 2015 to 499 in 2016, which is a 22.3% increase.
  • The St. Louis Rams selected Todd Gurley 10th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft and went from 395 carries in 2014 to 429 in 2015, which is an 8.6% increase.

The only team amongst the five that didn’t have an increase in carries was the Cleveland Browns who selected Trent Richardson 3rd overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. They went from 415 carries in 2011 to 396 in 2012 which was a 4.6% decrease. I’m confident in saying Barkley is not the next Trent Richardson.

When you put all the percentages together it comes out to a 13.8% increase in rushing attempts. So to get an idea of how many rush attempts the Giants will have in 2018 I took the average attempts of the Giants the last three years (398.3) and multiplied it by a 13.8% increase. This spit out a number of 453 rushing attempts which would have ranked the Giants 9th in the NFL in 2017.

How many of those carries will be Barkley is the more important question. Considering his skill set I predict Barkley to get around 60% of the Giants carries in 2018 which is a fair number considering the Giants offensive makeup. For comparison, Ezekiel Elliott received 65% of the Cowboys team carries in 2016 and Leonard Fournette received 51% as a rookie. If the Giants run the ball 453 times and Barkley gets 60% of the carries this puts Barkley at around 272 carries in 2018. But as I stated before Barkley is also a great pass catcher, so how many receptions will he have in 2018? Well let’s start with the Giants running back targets the last three years:

  • 2017: 139
  • 2016: 114
  • 2015: 129

That’s an average of 127 targets a game to the running backs and I expect Barkley to get about half of them considering the Giants do have some reliable pass-catching running backs. So the number I’ll throw out there is 64 targets for Barkley in 2018 which is one more than Kareem Hunt had last season for the Chiefs. Now, how many of those will he catch? I think a safe catch rate for a player of Barkley’s skill set is 70%, which is exactly the same catch rate of Todd Gurley in 2017. That would put Barkley around 45 receptions.

So my May projection for Barkley right now is for him to see around 317 touches. How does that compare to 2017? Check out a tweet from my personal account @MitchellRenz365 below:

Saquon Barkley 2018

When looking at any player especially the incoming rookies, I try and project touches not touchdowns. It’s a more effective way to predict a players fantasy value. Barkley right now is the no doubt 1.01 pick in rookie drafts and he is my RB 6 in redraft leagues. The Giants should be much better on offense with a better offensive line after signing Nate Solder this offseason and investing in Will Hernandez in the 2018 NFL Draft. Plus the second year for tight end Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard is entering his third year. Oh yeah, and a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. should also help. Defenses won’t be able to stack the box against Barkley and he should have a terrific rookie season. You can write this with a sharpie, the number one rookie running back in 2018 will be Saquon Barkley.

 

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Mitchell Renz

Mitchell is working full-time as Senior Writer & On-Air Talent at Chat Sports in Dallas, TX. Mitchell is a Head Writer at Gridiron Experts and Co-Host of the Empire Fantasy Podcast. He also is a featured fantasy writer for the Fantasy Footballers and FantasyPros. Mitchell has a Ph.D. in Fantasy Football so give him a follow on Twitter @MitchellRenz365.

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