A question I’m hearing a lot is what to do with Saquon Barkley at the moment? There is no doubting that Barkley is talented, but currently, he just isn’t doing what you need him to be doing from a fantasy perspective. Let’s break out what is happening, and what you should do.
New York Giants Offense
Let’s deal with the biggest issue here. The Giants’ offense is just not good. Last season they scored the fewest points in the NFC, with only the New York Jets scoring fewer points. Not having scoring opportunities isn’t good for the RB position especially. There are likely bad game scripts as a result, fewer rushing attempts, and a defense that can force you to play how they want.
Daniel Jones is a big part of that. He is entering his third season in the league, but is still turning the ball over often, and making rookie errors. That in turn puts a huge amount of pressure on the running game, and Barkley, to try and move the chains.
The Giants’ offensive line isn’t good. Ok, I’ll be honest, it’s the worst in the league. There aren’t a lot of good blocks in the protection that Barkley is able to get. That puts him again, on the back foot. That’s shown in his rushings stats. From the 19 attempts he had last season, he had minus 1 yards before contact. This season he has fared better, but still only 35 yards from 23 attempts. That really puts pressure on Barkley again.
Barkley will continue to be given the majority of the touches out of the backfield. Currently, the only competition is Devontae Booker who has only had 6 carries this season. That has typically been the case since Barkley has been in the league, which isn’t a huge surprise.
|Season||Barkley Rush Attempts||Team Share|
|2019||217||60% (only played 13 games)|
Note: 2020 season has been omitted, as Barkley only played in two games.
Given the talent on the roster, Barkley will continue to enjoy a rushing share that is comparable to most other leading players at the position in the league.
This is where Barkley’s value really has taken a hit since he started in the league. In his rookie season, he just kept getting dump-offs from Eli Manning, giving him massive value- especially in PPR leagues. Since then, with the team moving towards a younger QB in Daniel Jones, the targets have decreased.
To put that into context, for the 2021 season he has only had 6 targets so far. That is fewer than Kyle Rudolph who is the TE on the team. Even Derrick Henry, who is known for NOT being a pass-catcher has had 10 this season! That’s the real hit in the value of Barkley.
The thing is, it’s really unlikely to change, given the way the roster looks currently. The team acquired Kenny Golladay in the offseason to join Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton and drafted Kadarius Toney in the first round. Adding in Kyle Rudolph and the (often injured) Evan Engram, there are a lot of mouths to feed in the offense.
The coaching setup has changed for the 2020 season, and the RB position is just not used as much as it was under the previous regime, looking at each of the seasons that Barkley has been in the league:
|Season||RB Total Targets||Target Share of Total|
So a general decrease in targets to the position since the team changed who was the team QB was, which damages Barkley’s overall fantasy value.
What to do with Saquon Barkley
Let’s take this from two angles. In a redraft league, unlucky, you aren’t going to be able to get the value that you are going to be looking to get. You need to hope that the team’s offense starts getting back on track and that Barkley becomes more of a force towards the end of the season. At a minimum, Barkley will have rushing volume, which you can’t say for a lot of players. At worst, Barkley will be a low-end RB2, but that is a real pessimistic view of his value.
In dynasty leagues, the situation is a little more complicated. Barkley’s contract is due to end at the end of the season (assuming the Giants don’t use the 5th year option, which they almost certainly will). The issue then becomes cap space for the team, and the Giants don’t have alot of it. Barkley is likely to have a home in the league, but in dynasty leagues you really don’t want instability- especially with contracts.
All of this leads towards a sell. But how are you going to sell him, when he seems like an obvious candidate to be a sell? You aren’t likely to get the true value of the player. But, it’s still worth considering opening up to trade offers, especially if you were amidst a rebuild. If I owned Barkley I’d be opening up the conversation with a couple of first-round selections, selling on the historical production. This is especially because you are only going to be getting later-round selections from contenders. Realistically, you aren’t going to be getting early selections. In an ideal world, they’d be from this year, but it’s more likely you’d be looking at this year and next year.
Realistically, I’d try and trade down a tier, with a selection thrown in. My favored target would be someone like J.K. Dobbins, who while he has suffered an ACL tear, has the tools and offense to be very relevant in 2022. Something that a true contender might be happy to let go, for some production this season. We have seen recoveries from these types of injuries before without long-term issue, there’s no reason to think that can’t happen here. If I can’t get that, I’d look to hold him, at least until he has a big week and look to cash in at that point.
Image Credit: Vincent Carchietta – USA TODAY Sports