Rookie Rundown: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State

Rookie Rundown: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State

Rookie Analysis

Rookie Rundown: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State

(Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports)

Barkley will be the most coveted fantasy rookie. He could end up in the first round the hype and hope is so high with him. No matter where he goes in the first ten picks in the NFL Draft,  some scouts and analysts will claim that’s what they expected. Even if he went first overall to the Browns (unlikely but still), at least a few draft experts will be satisfied. If he went after the first ten picks, everyone would be shocked.

Where he ends up will be obviously critical. But Barkley will be the name every fantasy owner most wants to hear in April.

Height: 5-11
Weight: 230 pounds
40 time: 4.40 seconds

In the 2018 draft, Barkley is not only the only back certain to be a first-round pick, but likely a Top 5 selection.

Year Games Runs Yards Avg. TD Catches Yards Avg. TD Total Yards Total TDs
2015 11 182 1076 5.9 7 20 161 8.1 1 1237 8
2016 14 272 1498 5.5 18 28 402 14.4 4 1898 22
2017 13 217 1271 5.9 18 54 632 11.7 3 1903 21

Pros

  • Considered as a “generational” back with expectations to be an immediate elite player and difference maker.
  • 4.40/40 at the NFL combine was No. 2 among all running backs and his 41″ vertical leap was the top mark. He tied for the most bench presses (29). Just physically, he was easily the best back at the combine as the fastest, strongest and biggest.
  • Averaged over four receptions per game in 2017. His college pace would have ranked No. 5 in receptions against NFL running backs last year. A dual threat in the same vein as Le’Veon Bell only bigger and faster.
  • Accomplished blocker on pass plays. No need to come off the field.
  • The size to break tackles and averaged 5.7 yards per carry in college. Elusive rusher with jump cuts and spin moves to leave defenders behind.
  • High character guy with no off-the-field questions.
  • Noted for work ethic in practice, strength training, and conditioning.
  • Special teams ace that returned two kicks for touchdowns last year.
  • Ran in an offense that used one RB, one TE and three WRs that matches most NFL teams. Versatile in all facets of the offense.

Cons

  • As hyped as any back coming out in the last decade.
  • Dinged by some for turning runs out wide instead of committing to rushing north/south.

Fantasy outlook

This is considered a running-back rich draft but Barkley is the top back by a significant margin. He is expected to go in the first five picks and will step into a full-time starting role. There simply are no questions about his expectations. Recent No. 1 rookie backs of Leonard Fournette (2017), Ezekiel Elliott (2016), and Todd Gurley (2015) all turned in Top 8 seasons as a rookie with over 1,000 rushing yards. And none of them were as highly touted as Barkley.

The Browns pick both first and fourth. They are expected to select  QB Sam Darnold with the first pick but could take Barkley if he is there at the 1.04. The Browns appear to be improving (as always) and have an offensive line that should prove at least average though losing LT Joe Thomas to retirement leaves a major hole.

The Giants select second and could grab Barkley after witnessing what Ezekiel Elliott did for the Cowboys. Their offensive line is improving but has been problematic for several years. It is a new offense in New York and their only upgrade was the aging Jonathan Stewart.

The Jets own the third pick that will be a quarterback.  After the Browns use their fourth, the Broncos are fifth and could go a number of ways with the pick. Barkley may be a consideration and more so if C.J. Anderson is traded away before the draft.

The Colts and Buccaneers are next and both need a new running back having lost Frank Gore and Doug Martin respectively without replacing either.

This is a strong draft for backs and high value will exist in the second and even third rounds. But no back taken in 2018 will carry the promise and expectations that Barkley does.

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