Saquon Barkley was once touted as the consensus 1.01 in most dynasty startups but has slowly seen his value drop significantly over the last 18 months. His value dipping was largely due to the outbreak of Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and Dalvin Cook, but an ACL injury in Week 2 against Chicago didn’t help either. A lot of Saquon Barkley’s value is actually still there, even if you draft him with the 1.01 in your startups this offseason. Let’s take a deeper look into Barkley’s career outlook.
Barkley shined at Penn State, inserting himself as the clear No. 1 RB in the 2018 NFL Draft. He averaged 5.9 YPC for the Nittany Lions while only seeing an average of 223 carries a season. While he was never looked at as a pass-catching back, Barkley continued to evolve his game and develop into an exceptional pass catcher at Penn State. He ended his three-year stint at Penn State with over 1,000 receiving yards and over 5,000 yards from scrimmage. He would enter the pre-draft stage as an all-world prospect with all-world strength and agility. He went on to run a 4.4 40-yard dash, bench 29 reps and had a 41.0” vertical, all of which placed in the 95th percentile or higher of all RBs in this class. He had the speed, strength, and size to handle a full workload, and it translated well to his first NFL season.
At the start of the 2018-2019 season, Saquon played all 16 games, attempting 261 carries for over 1,300 yards, just on the ground. He added 11 TDs and was the most efficient skill player on the Giants before the end of his rookie season. He also added 90 catches for 721 yards and four more touchdowns. His explosiveness and size mismatch caused a problem for defenses early, as the Giants found ways to scheme him open whether it was on the ground or through the air. Heading into the 2019-2020 campaign, Barkley was already topping dynasty start-ups, as he found his ADP (Average Draft Position) skyrocketing all the way up to the No. 1 spot. In his second season, his YPC dipped, while only playing in 13 games. The Giants offensive line isn’t good and hasn’t been for the entirety of Saquon’s tender, but Barkley still found ways to get open and create plays, as he topped over 1,400 yards from scrimmage in just 13 games. While Barkley wasn’t scouted as a premier receiving back, he’s developed a role in New York where the offense rolls through him, whether he’s pounding the ground game or creating plays in open space through the air. In 2020, he played 1 ½ games before tearing his ACL in Week 2 against the Bears. Of course, an ACL injury is a major injury for any RB, especially for one of Barkley’s stature.
However, Barkley is coming back to a New York team with a new identity. In the dreadful NFC East, the Giants have been the lone shining star, except for maybe Washington’s defensive uprise. This Giants team has a lot to do with Barkley’s future and how well he gets utilized in a system created from scratch by Joe Judge. Barkley’s ADP in start-ups sits at about 4 overall, where we are seeing guys like CMC, Kamara, Cook, and Metcalf all being taken above him. This is where the mistake is happening and where you get to steal Barkley at an extreme discount. He’s 23, for starters, with barely over 1,500 career touches (college and NFL). We know Barkley’s potential, and he has shown every single time on the field just why the Giants used a first-rounder on him. He’s an elite-level runner, who can get to the third level by the time you blink, who can also catch passes and use his elusiveness and agility to create plays against significantly smaller defensive backs. While his perceived value stands lower than a few backs, his value is much higher, with a much lower floor. The injury will scare people off, and while it isn’t certain he would come back to form, the time off and his young age should allow the body to heal quicker and more fully.
Everything about Barkley puts him on the fence of whether to buy or sell, and for me, it’s an easy buy. Most owners weren’t competing this year, and if they were, they could be looking to sell to gain players for their playoff run. If not, he won’t be cheap. Nothing about Barkley will be cheap, but the difference in the price you’ll pay now compared to what you will pay in 10 months is huge. I firmly expect to see 2018-2019 level numbers from him next year, especially as Danny Dimes and that offense continue to find their identity and gel. While CMC, Metcalf, Kamara, and Cook have produced consistently at an elite level, they all have floors that Barkley doesn’t. Kamara has relied on creating space on low yardage passes, which have significantly dipped since Taysom Hill took over, while Cook and CMC have seen the wear and tear this sport causes. While people will be buying those top-level assets, I would much rather get the younger RB who’s got the potential to blow all of them out of the water. This discount might not seem like it’s a lot, as you’ll still have to compensate with young pieces and assets. The ceiling for Barkley coming back is higher than I think we have seen before, based on the fact the Giants’ offense isn’t terrible. That Giants are coming. They are building chemistry and an identity they never had in Saquon’s first two years. Barkley coming back into this Giants organization next year will feel like a spring cleaning, as he’s coming back to a team that has started to piece everything together.
Saquon Barkley’s price tag has never been lower, and while the injury does cause concern, I believe with advanced medicine and rehab, he will come back the same dominant Saquon we all knew to love just a year ago. This fairly economical price doesn’t come often for players of his caliber, especially players who have much left in the tank. Barkley is not only the biggest BUY of the offseason, but he’s also my dynasty RB1. I’ll break it down short and sweet. Talent+ Volume + Perceived Value vs Actual Value. It’s that simple, I see his perceived value to be way less than his actual value, and he has the extreme talent and volume you need from your RB1. Go buy Saquon, before he comes back and takes the league by storm.