Saquon Barkley


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By: Mark Leipold


The Pros:

  • Special Teams
  • Pass Protection
  • Receiving Game
  • Madden Create-A-Player
  • Sneaky Trick Play Upside

Special Teams – Few of the NFL’s starting RBs also play on special teams. This probably won’t do much for him in NFL terms, since he’ll be a starter regardless and doesn’t need the Special Teams play to make a roster or get on the field, but it’s one more possible way he can score you fantasy points, and that’s what I care about. Sadly, it would surprise me if any NFL team risks their star RB on special teams, but his prowess makes it a real possibility

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Pass Protection – The untrained eye might see this and ask how pass blocking scores you fantasy points, and the answer is obvious – it doesn’t. It does, however, prevent teams from taking Barkley off the field in third-down situations since we know he can catch passes, and he can pass block if he’s not running a route. There’s no situation where he can’t be on the field, and snaps lead to touches, which are the key. He’s also capable as a lead blocker in the running game, which will likely be a rare occurrence, but you can see him clear the way for his QB Trace McSorley in the second clip

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Receiving Game – I wrote in my profile of his teammate TE Mike Gesicki that Gesicki turns upfield slowly after catching passes and struggles to quickly and seamlessly transition from receiving to running. Barkley is the polar opposite – he’s basically running before he catches the ball, he turns upfield so smoothly and seamlessly. The second clip is a play where few RBs would be able to make that catch and turn around so effortlessly, much less turn that bad shovel pass into a positive gain. In the third clip, the juke he puts on the defender right after making the reception is just silly

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Madden Create-A-Player – I’m not sure how to explain this one, but the best I can do is that Barkley is essentially the player you created on Madden NFL video games and gave your own name as a kid – the one you maxed out to 99 on every attribute. He’s fast, powerful, elusive, explosive, agile, etc. Basically, he’s a running back coach’s wet dream

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Sneaky Trick Play Upside – Lots of people talk about Barkley, but few of them mention any plays where he throws the ball. I’ll concede that this is far from an amazing throw, but the fact that Penn State was willing to use him in trick play situations, and that he completed the pass, just gives NFL teams one more possible way to keep him on the field – as if they’ll need it

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The Cons:

  • Unwilling to cut losses
  • Thinks he’s Superman
  • Human

Unwilling to cut losses – Barkley has an admirable spirit, and he wants to fight to gain yardage on every play, but that burning desire often leads him to try and reverse directions or bounce runs to the outside, and when he doesn’t make he, he turns a 1 or 2 yard loss into a 5 or 6 yard loss. In this clip, he can be seen trying to get to the outside, then realizes he can’t get there and he cuts back to go to the outside the other way. He tries to bounce outside a little too much at times

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Thinks he’s Superman – Barkley thinks he can escape anything, which is admirable. This is very similar to the last point, but in the NFL, he’s not going to be able to outrun these defenders. He got away with it many times, but here’s a clip against Ohio State where he didn’t make it out.

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Human – This is only a knock on him because the Dynasty community and Draft Twitter seem to forget that Barkley is not infallible. He can make mistakes. I use this only as a warning not to put him on a pedestal too high.

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Summary:

Not much needs to be said – Barkley is far and away the best RB prospect in this rookie draft class and the best one in recent memory. I’ve seen some analysts say he’s the best RB prospect of all time, and while there are certainly others in the conversation, his college resume and athletic measurables are off the charts, so it’s not far-fetched to stake that claim. Barkley is incredibly versatile and will be able to impact an NFL team in the way that a Le’Veon Bell or David Johnson can. He can truly do it all. There aren’t any major holes in his game, either. Barkley will be a huge asset to any NFL team.

Fantasy Impact:

Much the same as the NFL impact. Barkley should easily walk right into 20+ touches per game on day 1, and maybe 25+. Without efficiency, that doesn’t guarantee him to be in elite company for fantasy, but he should be an immediate contributor, and he should be in the RB1 conversation regardless of the team that selects him. He’s the clear-cut 1.01 in dynasty rookie drafts, a first-round startup pick in dynasty formats, and he has a good chance to be a first-round pick in standard redraft leagues for 2018. Long story short, Barkley is almost certainly going to smash.