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Victor Oladipo, Pacers

Saquon Barkley Fantasy Football Outlook For The 2020 NFL Season

If the words ‘Saquon Barkley’ are mentioned in any sort of capacity, minds commonly travel to how hot of a commodity he is in the world of fantasy football. As one of the consensus top-two players in the fantasy world, hopes are always high for Barkley.

Sitting just behind Carolina Panthers Swiss Army knife and running back Christian McCaffrey, Barkley’s role on the New York Giants is, when put very bluntly, very important. As the main offensive piece next to quarterback Daniel Jones, Barkley is the first option, second option, and pretty much the first top ten options in that offense, showcasing his skills and abilities in essentially every facet of the game.

Regardless of if it is through the running or the passing game, Barkley’s name comes up at least 20 attempts per game, per the number of touches that he received in his rookie season (22) and the number of touches he had in his second year (20), when he missed three games due to injuries.

2019 Fantasy Football Stats

13 G / 269 total touches
217 rushing attempts / 1,003 rushing yards / 6 rushing touchdowns
52 receptions / 438 receiving yards / 2 receiving touchdowns

While playing in 3 fewer games, accruing 83 fewer touches, and scoring 7 fewer touchdowns, all while putting up 587 fewer total yards, Barkley’s 2019 fantasy statistics were pretty solid across the board. Even though only 4 of his 13 games had 100+ rushing yards, Barkley proved that his high first-round grade was quite worthy, even if it was not as valuable as his rookie season.

In a standard point-per-reception league through ESPN, Barkley produced nine games of double-digit scoring totals, including a season-high of 43.9 points in Week 16 against the then-named Washington Redskins. Rushing for a season-high 189 yards on 22 carries and a rushing touchdown, Barkley also reeled in four catches for 90 yards and a score through the air.

Coming into the ‘19 fantasy season, Barkley and McCaffrey were vying for the right to be the top pick off the board in most leagues, and after the ‘19 fantasy season, it was quite clear that McCaffrey did a lot more – with less – to take that crown quite handily. The injuries were what held Barkley back, but even if he was in for a full 16-game slate, the absolute efficiency that McCaffrey put up in a mostly-inept offensive attack was pretty untouchable.

So while Barkley’s sophomore campaign was not quite at the same level of his Pro Bowl campaign in his first season in the league, he still produced great numbers that helped set himself up for a bounceback 2020 season.

Saquon Barkley Fantasy Football Outlook For The 2020 NFL Season

Injuries may have pushed his stock down ever so slightly amongst some industry experts, but it is hard to pick against a player that is that team’s offense, as is the role that Barkley fills.

Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton are the top three receiving threats for the team, and with tight end Evan Engram needing to find the breakout player that he was earlier in his career, Barkley’s role in this offense is well-defined and laid out.

Tate’s role in the slot helped open up a bunch of deep shots that Jones was able to take advantage of last season, and that role looks to not be differing this upcoming season, which plays into the role for Barkley to fill. Both Shepard and Slayton have their roles in the offense, and while each takes the pressure off of Barkley by stretching the field, manning the boundaries and helping provide aerial support for Jones to target, Barkley’s receiving chops out of the backfield are polished enough to profile him as a solid dual-threat running back.

Realistic expectations for Barkley will probably look like some sort of hybrid between his rookie season and his second season in the league, as a combination of a refined gameplan and a more focused approach by opposing defenses putting more guys in the box will throw a few changes Barkley’s way in 2020.

11.52% of Barkley’s snaps included having eight-plus defenders in the box, which truly is quite low compared to the likes of Derrick Henry (35.31%), Leonard Fournette (31.70%), and Dalvin Cook (24.00%). While other offenses provide various looks and personnel groupings, the Giants MO on offense always has been centralized around Barkley, so the 11.5%+ amount of snaps with eight or more men in the box will surely increase next season.

Another testament to how the gameplan for the Giants may change is how much time Barkley spent behind the line of scrimmage on each play. His 2.89 seconds of average time spent behind the line of scrimmage lends itself to a slower-paced offense, which is an element that new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will hopefully be implementing, although Dallas Cowboys’ running back Tony Pollard led the NFL with an average TLOS of 3.11 seconds, so Garrett is going to need to modernize his offense a bit if he wants to survive with the Giants, all while optimizing Barkley’s talents.

So in short, expect more of the same from Barkley – with having drafted left tackle Andrew Thomas to help solidify the offensive line for hopefully the next ten-plus seasons, plus another season with Jones at the helm with the same crop of wide receivers, Barkley’s role should only expand, keeping him in the top two of fantasy drafts everywhere.

Positional Rank

There is really only one player that gives Barkley a run for his money every year – McCaffrey. But let’s take a look at the backs that just missed out on being at the same level as Barkley.

When healthy (and not holding out), the likes of Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, Dalvin Cook, and potentially even Derrick Henry are all nipping at the heels of Barkley and McCaffrey in the second tier of running backs. But none are able to truly be looked at as being as large of portions of their respective offenses and what both Barkley and McCaffrey are.

Kamara and Zeke, out of the aforementioned group, are the two players that could eventually move their way into that top tier of backs – Kamara is the do-it-all back for the New Orleans Saints that is a flex back and displays his strengths through the receiving side of the offense, while Zeke rides behind one of the best offensive lines in the league to racking up monster rushing totals.

But Kamara’s injury problems (combined with his backup Latavius Murray being one of the better backup running backs in the league) makes it hard to move him up into that tier. The Saints have Drew Brees and Michael Thomas, two elements that can easily take over a game, meaning that Kamara could as easily be leading the game in touches and then being fazed out altogether if the gameplan changes.

For Zeke, they are transitioning to a new play-calling focus of sorts, as new head coach Mike McCarthy is going to be more in-tune with Kellen Moore, which could lend itself to some fundamental changes in playcalling and stylistic areas. Also, with the team now boasting three above-average wide receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and first-round selection CeDee Lamb, the passing attack may take on more of a prominent piece of the pie to make sure that all three get their requisite touches, something that may make both Zeke and Pollard suffer.

Cook’s injury history with his ACL and his potential holdout status this offseason makes him a volatile choice to pass up any of the other names, and they also lost offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski to the Cleveland Browns, who was a big proponent in capitalizing on a rushing-focused attack that was buoyed with a solid play-action plan.

Henry decided to break out last year and his role in the offense for the Tennessee Titans should not change, especially with Ryan Tannehill being back for the long haul – but Henry is for sure a rush-first back that is being incorporated more and more into the passing game, so his one-dimensional style can lend itself to be focused on quite heavily by defenses, loading up boxes and making rushing the ball a tough pill to swallow.

Regardless, Barkley’s role is firmly entrenched at the top of his positional group for the time being – with injuries hopefully holding off for this year, he is primed and ready to resume his bulldozing impact on the Giants’ offense, with a look ahead to future success getting much closer.