2021 Fantasy Football Outlook: Saquon Barkley

Saquon Barkley Fantasy Football
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One of the most common mentalities among fantasy football players is taking risk-taking. They say, “You can’t win fantasy leagues unless you take risks.” This means looking for players who have a high ceiling but have a high-risk factor attributed to them. One of the first names that may come to mind when one thinks of this theory is the one and only Saquon Barkley. Barkley has an incredibly high ceiling in PPR formats, but after a devastating ACL injury early in the 2020 season, it raises the question: is it worth taking the risk on Saquon Barkley in fantasy football in 2021?

Saquon Barkley Fantasy Football Profile

Career Recap

When he was drafted number 2 overall by the New York Giants in the 2018 NFL Draft, Barkley was hyped up as one of the best running back prospects of the decade. With his incredible burst, agility, and speed, Barkley was a great playmaker that brought a lot to the table, and the Giants made him the face of their franchise.

In his rookie season, Barkley did not disappoint one bit. He rushed for over 1300 yards and also had over 700 receiving yards, leading him to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. More importantly for fantasy managers, he finished as the number 1 running back in PPR formats. He followed his incredible rookie season up with a very solid sophomore campaign, finishing as the number 10 running back in PPR formats, even while missing a few games with a sprained ankle during the season.

The devastation came in week 2 of his third season in the NFL. Barkley suffered an ACL tear during the Giants’ game against the Chicago Bears, causing him to miss the remainder of the season. In fact, there are still questions (as of 7/16/2021) as to whether or not Barkley will play week 1 in the 2021 season.

2021 Projection

Barkley’s 2021 campaign will come down to his recovery from the ACL injury. As we know, NFL players have access to world-renowned physical therapists and medical specialists. However, this does not discount the fact that ACL tears can easily be aggravated, especially in the full-contact sport at hand. Regardless, we are discussing the fantasy football aspect of the injury, not the medical aspect.

If Barkley recovers from the injury, expect him to pick up right where he left off. Barkley should easily finish as a top 10 fantasy running back in PPR, due to the heavy workload and the passes out of the backfield. If the injury is out of the equation, Barkley should continue to devastate defenses both on the ground with his breakaway speed, and with his hands and agility out of the backfield. This is what has made Barkley dominant throughout his career, and there is no reason to think that would change.

If Barkley struggles with the injury, needless to say, he will not perform very well in fantasy. If news breaks that he will play fewer games, it may be worth considering taking another back in the first round that offers a lower risk of re-injury than Barkley does. Players like Nick Chubb or Alvin Kamara could be better options at Barkley’s average draft position (ADP) if the injury is a legitimate concern.

Risk vs Reward

Ultimately, it comes down to philosophy. Would you rather chase the Saquon Barkley who can provide you with an extremely high ceiling in PPR – a ceiling of RB1 – or would you rather settle for a back who will provide you with consistent quality play, but will most likely not reach that ceiling (e.g. Jonathan Taylor or Nick Chubb).

Risk: Re-injury
Reward: Sky-high ceiling of PPR RB1

In the end, one should take Barkley in the top five in PRR formats. Taking the risk on his injury in exchange for the ceiling Barkley brings to the table is worth the gamble. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to philosophy. And put simply, one cannot win fantasy championships without taking risks.

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