The old adage in fantasy circles is that you can’t win your league in the first round of your draft, but you sure can lose it. So, when you are faced with a tough decision early in your draft what should you do? It has been a few years since everyone agreed on a consensus No. 1 overall selection, but that honor unequivocally goes to Christian McCaffrey in 2020
But the question now is who should be next from a group of five players between Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliott, and Michael Thomas? All made their case in either a positive or negative direction coming into this draft season, but their 2019 performances don’t necessarily tell the whole story of what to expect this year.
All of these guys are worthy of the No. 2 pick in some way or the discussion wouldn’t be important to have. So, the details of their prospects become the most important part of the conversation. Which guys have true injury concerns? Which guys had a 2019 season that was an aberration – good or bad? And which guys have the elite usage in all phases of the game to warrant their coronation in the No. 2 slot?
Barkley’s rookie campaign was so good that predicting his 2019 would have been impossible to do. He suffered an ankle sprain in Week 3 and left that game early. Although he came back in Week 7, he clearly suffered from the injury. According to Pro Football Reference, Barkley’s broken tackle rate fell precipitously from eighth in the league (per game) in 2018 as a rookie to 23rd in the league last year. Further, his overall role on the offense shrunk as well. But injury may not tell the whole story.
The Giants transitioned from starting quarterback Eli Manning to Daniel Jones in Week 3, the same week Barkley got hurt. So Jones and Barkley weren’t on the field together until Week 7 before Jones then missed Weeks 14 and 15 due to injury. That leaves analysts a scant 8 game sample to judge what 2020 will look like. That is very difficult to do, but there are some clues that can point you in the right direction.
Barkley’s backers would tell you that his prognosis for this year should look more like 2018 than 2019. Some signs point to that being reasonable. Despite his injury, Barkley’s rushing usage was still strong when he returned as he carried it 18 times per game over his final ten games. The Giants still leaned on him heavily by giving him 269 touches in just 12.5 games. His yards per touch, despite clearly losing some of his elusiveness because of injury, fell only slightly from 5.8 to 5.4 yards every time he touched the ball (rushing or receiving).
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