Saquon Barkley is at a pivotal point in his career as it pertains to his dynasty value entering the 2022 season. After finishing as the overall RB2 as a rookie, Barkley has struggled to stay on the field the past three seasons. Has injury sapped Barkley’s explosiveness, or can he recapture the lightning that was his rookie season? The answer will determine how dynasty fantasy football managers should value Barkley going forward.
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Saquon Barkley’s dynasty profile for 2022
Slapped with the “generational talent” label, Barkley lived up to the hype and then some as a rookie. He averaged 24 PPR fantasy points per game, second only to Todd Gurley’s 26.3 ppg in the 2018 season. Given that Barkley was only a rookie, the Giants and fantasy (including dynasty) managers alike were expecting much more in the coming years.
Barkley regressed in his sophomore season, but it wasn’t by as much as some may think. Although 18.8 ppg is a considerable decrease, Barkley still finished as the overall RB7 (minimum eight games played). He missed three games with a high ankle sprain, but by no means were fantasy managers concerned about him being injury-prone.
2020 is where things really started to take a downward turn. Barkley was incredibly ineffective over the first two games of the season, and then he tore his ACL. In 2021, Barkley once again missed a handful of games with an ankle sprain, but it was a flukey injury that actually occurred in between plays when Barkley stepped on another player’s foot.
In 13 games in 2021, Barkley averaged 11.6 ppg. He finished as a mid-RB3 and was thoroughly outplayed by backfield mate Devontae Booker. Entering the 2022 season, dynasty managers need to decide if they believe Barkley can regain his pre-injury form or if his value is headed for a crash.
Dynasty fantasy projection for Barkley
I need to preface my assessment of Barkley with a reminder that Barkley was legitimately a generational prospect. If he puts together a healthy season where he looks like his former self, it wouldn’t be shocking. With that said, I’m here to offer my evaluation of Barkley, and to put it bluntly, it’s not good.
For starters, there’s a real chance Barkley is done. Yes, finished. It’s not unprecedented. The aforementioned Todd Gurley was the best running back in football in 2018. His production fell off a cliff in 2019, and by 2021, he was out of the NFL. Am I saying Barkley is headed down that career trajectory? Honestly…maybe.
Barkley’s performance has declined every year he’s been in the NFL. Last season, he averaged just 4.2 yards per touch and was outside the top 20 in yards created per touch. I always viewed Barkley as a bit overrated as a talent (despite the generational label) because of his tendency to pass up moderate gains in favor of chasing the home run.
Operating under the same conditions as Barkley, Booker was just more effective when on the field. In games where Booker saw at least 8 carries, he averaged 12.8 ppg. Booker recorded four games with over 14 fantasy points. Barkley had just three of them. A one-game difference doesn’t seem like much, but Booker only had five games where he played over 50% of the snaps (Barkley had 10 such games).
He’s never been elite without Eli Manning
The reality is Barkley simply hasn’t been an elite fantasy asset without Eli Manning. We have a large enough and relatively even sample size of Barkley with and without Manning. In 20 games with Manning, Barkley averaged 23.3 ppg. In 24 games without Manning (most of them with Daniel Jones), Barkley averaged 13.8 ppg.
The stark contrast stems from Manning’s tendency to dump the ball off to Barkley, whereas Jones either tries to force it downfield or takes off running. Barkley averaged 7.1 targets per game with Manning against just 5 targets per game with Jones and Co.
What is his future beyond 2022?
Barkley is still just 25 years old. If he can return to form, he has plenty of time to produce for fantasy managers. Given his status as a former second overall pick, he will almost certainly get a chance to be a feature back in 2023. At this point, the overwhelming favorite for Barkley’s landing spot should be somewhere other than the Giants.
The Giants haven’t extended Barkley, and they don’t plan to do so. Perhaps he has a renaissance season that compels the Giants to want to pay him. However, new general manager Joe Schoen doesn’t strike me as someone whose first big move is giving a 26-year-old running back $60 million.
This should be viewed as a good thing. The Giants have been the worst franchise in the NFL over the better part of the last decade. This is a team far away from competing. More pointedly, it’s an offense without an identity.
Jones is not the answer at quarterback, and outside of Kadarius Toney, this team lacks offensive playmakers. Wherever Barkley ends up has to be better than where he is now.
What can fantasy managers expect from Barkley?
Is it fair to blame injuries for Barkley’s diminished production? Perhaps. More importantly, though, is the conclusion fantasy managers choose to draw. For me, I believe injuries have sapped Barkley’s explosiveness, and I don’t think it’s coming back.
Barkley’s dynasty value is all over the place heading into the 2022 season. Ultimately, what to do with him comes down to what you believe. If I had Barkley, I’d be looking to sell him to a manager that believes in a rebound — because I simply do not.
At the same time, there may be a manager out there anxious to get rid of Barkley. Despite my lack of belief in him, every player has a price where he’s worth the risk.
With all that said, I view Barkley as a mid-to-low RB2 in dynasty leagues. I think his downward descent will continue, and there’s a very real chance he’s not in the NFL in 2025.