Saquon Barkley: Early Fantasy Football ECR is Absurdly Low
Last week, I labeled Jerick McKinnon (RB – SF) “Fantasy Football’s Best Bargain.” Since then, the market has begun correcting itself, as McKinnon has risen from 48th to 35th overall in Half PPR ECR – still nearly two full rounds too cheap (13th overall on my personal Big Board).
Yet, following a busy 2018 NFL Draft, another incredible bargain has emerged. A generational talent who’s ceiling not only blows McKinnon’s sky-high upside out of the water, but who’s floor is considerably higher. A picturesque bellcow, capable of challenging Todd Gurley (RB – LAC) and Le’Veon Bell (RB – PIT) for the most complete back in the league… yet who’s ranked outside of Round 1 in all formats (#18 in half-PPR, #22 in PPR, and #13 in JV Standard).
Only a sheep fears the unknown, which is the only “justification” for these absurdly low rankings. This man-child belongs in your Top Five. Overall.
The Stock Formula
At Roto Street Journal, we grade every single player’s 2018 fantasy value using our “Fantasy Stock Formula.” In a nutshell, we believe fantasy worth boils down to six crucial factors that generates a “Stock Score” out of /100, weighed by importance below:
- Talent ( /30)
- Usage ( /25)
- Surrounding Talent ( /15)
- Coaching Scheme ( /10)
- Risk ( /10)
- Upside ( /10)
Total Stock Score ( /100)
A peak at Barkley’s Fantasy Stock Profile reveals he not only belongs in Round One, but should go ahead of every one not named Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell, Ezekiel Elliott, and Antonio Brown. He grades out highly in every single category, and has all the makings of a dominant RB1 would you can select in Round 2 — aka a title-winner.
(Note – for the more aesthetically pleasing and full Fantasy Stock Profile, click here)
The “Generational” Label is thrown out far too often, but with Barkley it’s fully warranted. He’s not unfairly labeled a “Bigger Barry Sanders” by many due to his elite elusiveness and breakaway speed, combined with a powerful, sturdy, and shredded 230+ lbs frame that pushes the pile and gets the tough yards up the gut.
Moreover, backs don’t get much more complete than Barkley, who’s versatility is legitimately on par with Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson thanks to butter-smooth route running and silky soft hands. He’s incredibly dangerous with the ball in space, weaving through defenses with incredible open field vision.
According to Giants GM David Gettleman, Barkley was his highest graded prospect ever outside of Peyton Manning. Some “light praise” from the GM includes: “Touchdown maker,” “Unanimous best player in the draft,” Haven’t seen a guy like this in a long time…for 30-plus years,” and, of course the ever important, “He was touched by the hand of God, frankly.”
Two negatives do exist. Most glaringly, we need to see the college skillset translate to the speed of the NFL — occasionally, monstrous college talents simply don’t make the leap. Two, Barkley may chase the homerun just a little too often, as he led college RBs in percentage of runs to gain negative yardage. However, in his defense, his line was God awful (hit behind line of scrimmage on 30% of runs), and he was the only weapon of note in the entire offense.
Both of these concerns are minor nicks on an otherwise sterling profile. Barkley is a beast, and should immediately exude Top-Five RB talent from Day One.
Simply put: HC Pat Shurmur is a bellcow breeder; truly, no one can squeeze more juice from a versatile back. From Steven Jackson, to LeSean McCoy, to what Dalvin Cook was becoming (and even *gag* Trent Richardson), Shurmur has ridden a three-down workhorse whenever able. According to PFF’s Scott Barrett, Shurmur’s RB1s have averaged 308.7 carries per season (83.9% of team’s share) + 61.3 targets – insane overall volume, especially in a committee-plagued era. The Bellcow Enthusiast might have his most versatile threat yet, and Barkley should push for Bell and Gurley’s “Fantasy Cheat Code” volume.
Surrounding Talent (13/15):
The surrounding offensive situation may be perfect. Behind an aging Eli Manning, the Giants are ready to hand the offensive reigns over to a 25+ weekly carry bellcow; prior to the draft, Todd McShay noted as much, stating: “I’ve heard very strongly that there are important people in the building who believe in Saquon Barkley and being a physical, run-first team. Barkley can be the face of the team for the next 10 years.”
Yet, Manning still has enough juice to keep this offense and the explosive Surrounding Talent churning. The Giants have an insane stable of receiving weapons, obviously highlighted by Odell Beckham Jr., and rounded out by blossoming freaks Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard. This unit should move the ball with ease, creating consistently long and sustained drives, in addition to plenty of scoring opportunities. Boxes can’t be stuffed, and Barkley should find oodles of space underneath to flourish in the receiving game. The Giants line is mediocre, ranking 26th of 32 NFL Teams in last season’s PFF grades. Still, Nate Solder has been a mauling run blocker in his career, while rookie guard Will Hernandez (selected 34th overall) is a mammoth who can move and has a viscious mean streak. addition should certainly help.
Coaching Scheme (10/10)
After coaching for a decade under Andy Reid, including seven seasons as the QBs Coach, Shurmur is an apple that doesn’t fall far from his “West Coast” tree, meaning he’s rooted in a system that features plenty of high-percentage, quick strike routes and concepts. Yet, during his time as OC in Philadelphia, Shurmur also soaked in plenty of run game concepts from Chip Kelly. In general, Shurmur’s offense unfurls from the backfield outwards with a far more run-heavy approach than the coaches who have groomed him — all great news for Barkley
We’ve already emphasized Shurmur’s love for a true “Bellcow” but as a reminder: Shurmur’s RB1s have averaged 308.7 carries per season (83.9% of team’s share) + 61.3 targets. Meanwhile, the Vikings ranked 2nd in the NFL in rushing attempts in 2017, and their 53:47 pass-to-run ratio was the fourth lowest in the league. This, despite running three-wide receiver sets 56% of the time, suggests Shurmur likes spreading teams but still pounding the rock. Again, this will be the ideal type of scheme for Barkley.
Really, the minimal risk with Barkley is “the unknown,” as we haven’t seen him on an NFL field yet. Many dominant collegiate players have struggled adjusting to the faster pace and harder hits of the professional level, and there’s a chance this happens to Saquon.
Still, he feels near-guaranteed to translate. At minimum, Barkley’s receiving skills are elite, which will prevent him from being “game-flow” dependent — the Penn State will be in on all downs and distances. With such heavy volume coming his way in this versatile role, Barkley should be consistently racking up double digit FPs, with some true explosions mixed in. Besides the unknown, the only other risk comes with his blessing: a high-volume RB absorbs countless hits. This does increase his chances of getting hurt, but Barkley is built well for the punishment.
Even for a rookie that’ll get hit a ton, the risk feels minimal.
Barkley’s insane combination of Talent and Usage, within what projects to be a high-scoring offense, gives him a very real shot at becoming the next Le’Veon Bell or Todd Gurley. This means week-winning, 30+ point upside, alongside a sturdy 12-15 weekly FP floor. There’s simply no higher-upside fantasy product than a talented three-down workhorse in a strong offense.
Total Stock Score (95/100), A
Saquon Barkley landed in the ideal spot for his fantasy football value with the New York Giants. His talent is generational. Pat Shurmur is a bellcow breeder. This offense drips in explosive potential thanks to high-end receiving weaponry, yet is ready to transition to a run-first attack under an aging Eli Manning. All-in-all, the fantasy stars have aligned for a Top Five overall season for Barkley.
As Barkley highlights, “bargain-hunting” isn’t limited to only the later rounds of your fantasy draft (although we’ll be diving far deeper for next week’s bargain). Barkley, currently falling to Round 2, would be a steal even at the tail end of Round One; at this price, owners can build a stable of two 20+ weekly FP workhorses — a championship winning strategy. Sure, hunting for the right late round “penny stocks” and finding the next Alvin Kamara is a blast, but capitalizing on the early round bargains is often more important, even if less flashy. Almost every season a late-first or early second-rounder yields a Top Five fantasy season (hello, Todd Gurley), and Barkley will be this for 2018. Don’t miss out.