Saquon Barkley Injury Update: Will the Giants RB be available for fantasy in Week 1?

Saquon Barkley's injury kept him out for most of the 2020 NFL season. Will he play in Week 1, and what does it mean for fantasy?

The New York Giants played running back Saquon Barkley’s long recovery from a major knee injury just right, it seems.

Barkley is “gearing up” to play Week 1, NFL Network first reported, which would be his first game action since tearing his ACL last September. Barkley is “as close as he’s ever been to being fully cleared,” the report added.

Saquon Barkley’s injury shouldn’t hold him out of Week 1

The team has not yet committed to playing Barkley this week, wanting to see how his body responds to another few practices before giving him the green light to play. If he responds well, expect him in uniform against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.

This has been the Giants’ timeline all along — even though Barkley’s rehab was delayed by the joint decision to wait more than a month after the injury to perform reconstructive surgery.

After keeping him out of spring ball and the preseason, the Giants have been slowly ramping up Barkley’s role in practice, even subjecting him to hits from teammates during a padded practice last week.

That was an important benchmark in Barkley’s recovery. Giants coach Joe Judge said he would not be comfortable putting Barkley into a game without seeing if he could handle contact.

When did the injury occur?

Barkley, who had more than 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, suffered the knee injury on September 20, 2020. His reconstructive surgery took place on October 30, after doctors delayed the procedure to allow swelling in the knee to recede.

The Giants then tailored his rehab with the goal of having him ready for Week 1. It seems as though that plan has worked.

Barkley, a dynamic dual-threat weapon out of the backfield who has scored 23 offensive TDs and averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his career, will be a big part of any success the Giants will have offensively in a make-or-break season for quarterback Daniel Jones and general manager Dave Gettleman.

“I guess I feel good,” Barkley said last week, according to Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. “… I don’t think about ‘Am I my old self?’ I’m a very confident player.”

While most expect Barkley to play Sunday, there still is a bit of mystery around his role. Will he be a high-volume back right away, or will the Giants ease him back into form?

The other running backs on the Giants’ roster are veterans Devontae Booker and Elijhaa Penny and rookie Gary Brightwell.

Saquon Barkley’s fantasy impact and outlook for Week 1

There is no denying the unbelievable talent of the 2018 No. 2 overall pick. When at 100% health, he can put up points with the best of them. However, Barkley is nowhere near full strength. While he might play in Week 1 against the Broncos, I am not sure anyone should be excited to start Barkley in fantasy.

For one, there is the concern of the Giants limiting his touches. Barkley has not seen any contact outside of a few snaps in team drills since he tore his ACL in Week 2 of last season. So unless he hits the ground running, literally, he could be set to disappoint with the late-first/early-second round ADP.

Also, this is not a great matchup. For one, the Giants’ offensive line is a question mark entering the season, and the Broncos should have one of the best defenses in 2021. When this unit was at full health last season, they allowed just 3.67 yards per carry and 1 TD to RBs (even without Von Miller on the field). They will be a top-five rushing defense this season. Given the uncertainty of Barkley’s knee, matchup, and opportunities, he is a mid-level RB2 for fantasy football.

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