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The premise of a Pick-a-Player question is as follows:
- Three comparable players are available.
- The draft is at a stage where these players are usually drafted, and none of their bye weeks are duplicated on your current roster.
Every few days, we ask a question of three groups of people -- the Footballguys staff, the great people following the Footballguys Facebook page, and the active members of our Shark Pool message board. If you'd like to answer a future Pick-a-Player question, there will be another one every few days until the week before the 2020 season kicks off. Plus, there is a lot of other content there as well. Follow the Facebook page and/or join the Shark Pool, and you can take part in the great discussions happening every day.
And the winner is -- Saquon Barkley! See the percentages below.
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Comments from the Staff
Saquon Barkley is my choice of the trio with Ezekiel Elliott my preferred secondary option. Barkley is on a better track than Christian McCaffrey through two seasons than Christian McCaffrey on a per-game basis. Barkley is a game-changing talent where a No.1 overall running back season feels like the norm for his type of profile and soon in his career. Barkley can take any play to the house and put up 30+ PPR points any week by breaking only a handful of plays. Elliott is the lead back on the best offense compared to McCaffrey and Barkley, which makes 1.03 (or wherever Elliott lands) as one of the optimal value points in Round 1 of drafts this year as well.
This is a pretty simple thought exercise. Ask yourself which one of these guys has the potential to produce on par with Christian McCaffrey.
The only answer is Barkley, who edged out McCaffrey for the PPR scoring crown in 2018.
Elliott and Kamara are each in better offenses, but Barkley is the only one who will be the focal point on early downs, passing downs, and at the goal-line. Jason Garrett's presence as offensive coordinator inspires little confidence Barkley will be used creatively, but at least he's the same coach responsible for overfeeding DeMarco Murray in 2015 (449 total touches).
With last year's pesky high-ankle sprain behind him and an improved offensive line, Barkley is the one player who can keep McCaffrey from outscoring the RB2 by a 30+% margin, like he did 2019.
I agree with my colleagues. Barkley is my No. 2 pick in all formats given his versatility and lack of alternatives within the Giants' offensive framework. For what it’s worth, I think Elliott is a defensible pick anywhere in the Top 3, but don’t think there’s a good case for Kamara over any of these guys.
I think there are reasonable arguments to make for Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara. Elliott played in the best offense in football in terms of total yards last season and the offense suffered no major losses heading in 2020. If he’s healthy after testing positive for COVID-19 and has immunity he is at less risk than others. He carries major volume potential on an offense than can duplicate last year in yardage and add more scoring. Kamara has shown in his career 5.5 reception per game and a touchdown per game upside. There are few that can match that. 2019 was a down season while hampered with injuries, but I think he can bounce back efficiency-wise in 2020. Barkley is the answer because he can do both Elliott’s rushing volume and Kamara’s passing volume.
I would agree with those who have said Saquon Barkley, but I wouldn’t be upset at landing Ezekiel Elliott in the No. 2 slot. It is unlikely that Dallas goes on a full-on aerial assault with the drafting of CeeDee Lamb, but the Cowboys clearly have the better receiving group and quarterback to help Elliott. Daniel Jones is inexperienced and his wide receiving group leaves a lot to be desired. You could argue positives and negatives for all this, but ultimately Barkley should be touching the ball more.
As for Alvin Kamara, he still hasn’t broken 900 rushing yards, but his remarkably consistent receptions per year, 82, 81, and 81 is well worth considering if you value this metric.
For the sake of playing Devil's Advocate, I'll argue the only answer here is Elliott.
Barkley is a compelling talent but let's take off the highlight goggles. A closer and clear-eyed look belies the sizzle with Barkley on the surface.
- The Giants defense must get better to reduce passing game scripts.
- The offensive line should be better this year, but it is still not on par with top units.
- New York's quarterback has major flaws with feeling pressure in the pocket, a lack of downfield accuracy, and had his greatest success with one-read, quick-hitting plays.
- Barkley's occasional forays outside the structure of the play design come from a lack of patience due to the flaws with surrounding talent that goad him into doing more than he should. He loses patience with the maturest decision to take what's in front of him.
Barkley had 4 games in 2019 with less than 60 yards rushing and 4 of those games tallied less than 70 total yards and no scores. There were also seven games where he didn't score a touchdown.
In contrast, Ezekiel Elliott has a better offensive line, a better quarterback, and better surrounding skill talent that leads to more red-zone appearances.
Elliott scored twice as many rushing touchdowns as Barkley last year despite having better surrounding talent. Although Elliott had 5 games with less than 60 yards rushing and 3 with less than 70 total yards, only 2 of those games did he go without a touchdown.
Elliott only had six games where he didn't score a touchdown and four games with two touchdowns. Barkley had two games with two touchdowns.
He also outgained Barkley on the ground for each of the past two seasons and tallied 131 catches, 986 yards, and 5 scores during that span despite a reputation that he's not much of a receiver. Barkley has 143 catches, 1158 yards, and 6 scores during the same span--not enough to make up for the lack of touchdowns or inconsistencies.
Elliott isn't as sexy of a pick because he lacks the sizzling moves and breakaway speed of Barkley, but he's a far more mature player between the tackles. As good as Barkley is, I want good players in good situations, and while Barkley fits that criteria over most players, Elliott is a better player in a better situation.
The old, "he'll be the only a focal point," sounds good but is it really true?
Elliott's totals and surrounding talent suggest it isn't.
I think this boils down to Saquon Barkley and Alvin Kamara. Both are capable of 70+ receptions, double-digit total touchdowns, and over 1,500 yards from scrimmage, and that may not be generous enough. Outside of Christian McCaffrey, they are the only capable backs who can put up those numbers. Both Barkley and Kamara are coming off an injury last year that stunted their overall production. Both can come back strong in 2020. So who's the better choice? My pick - Barkley. He will see more goal-line carries than Kamara, and let's not forget, Kamara will compete for carries with Latavius Murray. The Saints may be the better offense, but Barkley, like McCaffrey, is the lone back on the team. He will see nearly all of the team's carries, therefore he will see plenty of touches and scoring opportunities. The last time Alvin Kamara had 20 carries in a game was...never. The most he's ever had is 19. Barkley had two in the last three games of 2019 and six total in his career. Barkley is my choice by sheer volume, talent, past production, and monopolization of the position.
No question for me that it is Barkley. Even when every defense knew he was getting the ball 20+ times last year, he still delivered strong RB1 numbers. Elliott and Kamara have to share touches with other strong skill position players on their respective teams, so Barkley wins out for me. The guys did a great job of breaking it down overall, but it is a clear choice in my book to take Barkley.
Elliott is the clear choice here. Sure, Barkley may get a slightly bigger percentage of his team's offensive production, but Elliott's team is going to produce far more yards and points than Barkley's. Prior to last season, the knock on Elliott was that he didn't catch enough passes. But in 2019, he caught two more than Barkley in three more games. That small catches-per-game deficit will be outweighed by his touchdown production. Last season, Elliott had 14 to Barkley's 8, and it's hard -- if not impossible -- to find anyone in the industry predicting that New York will score more touchdowns this season than Dallas.
Make no mistake, having a top-four pick in this year's draft is envious, but I like Barkley the best of these three but it's not by much over Ezekiel Elliott. Looking at this from a projections point of view, I have these two players separated by just eight points, but that's giving Elliott more overall touches, a touchdown more, but ten fewer receptions. They are nip and tuck statistically.
One can argue that Elliott is more durable and the Cowboys offense a better bet to be a top-five overall unit so he may have more upside and arguably a higher floor.
The difference, or slight edge if you will, for me is in the passing game where Barkley is an absolute beast. Elliott is no slouch, of course, but I think we could see Tony Pollard carve out a little bigger role there and lower Elliott's reception enough for Barkley to be the better pick.
I am either going to look good or look like a clown for banging this drum this summer, but Saquon Barkley's 2019 worries me a great deal. Matt makes the case against Barkley well, but I'm particularly interested in his fourth point about Barkley's running style not being very mature. That reminds me of something Greg Cosell likes to say about Barkley - he is an instinctual runner who reacts to jerseys and not always to what's blocked in front of him. His incredible athletic talent allows him to succeed, but when gifted film analysts like Waldman and Cosell agree on something I'm going to listen.
The major issue I have with Barkley from a fantasy standpoint is that the receiving and red zone numbers that we've come to expect weren't there with Daniel Jones under center. I completely understand that this could turn out to be an aberration given the small sample size. But it isn't something to be ignored. Both his red zone opportunities and his receiving numbers fell last year. If they rebound then he is the correct answer to the question of who should be #2. But it seems to be riskier than the other options.
Kamara is certainly a tantalizing choice. I, along with everyone else, expect he'll score more touchdowns than he did last year. But he's never going to have the opportunities on the ground that Barkley or Elliott will get. Obviously he makes up for some of that in the receiving department, but the touchdown variability makes him a hair behind my pick for the second spot.
My choice is Elliott. His touchdown numbers have a remarkably robust floor, and the offense as a whole is going to be dynamic. I posed this question a few weeks ago - would you be shocked if Elliott had 20 touchdowns this season? I realize we can't predict that type of thing, but there are very few moments in a football player's career in which all the factors add up to produce career-defining seasons. This year could be that year as his age is still favorable, the offensive playcalling last year was improved, the offensive line is still above average, the playmakers on the outside are gifted, and the quarterback will guide the team to scoring opportunities at a rate not many offenses can claim. Elliott's final bonus is his durability as he has yet to miss a game due to injury in his career. When you are making that second pick Elliott's combination of upside and safety makes him stand out for me.
Just to add one last point that isn’t fantasy-oriented for now, but if we’re talking real football, Alvin Kamara’s skill at pulling through wraps and bouncing off contact is one of the most mystical things I have watched from a running back.
Barkley’s the Dominique Wilkins of running backs—a human highlight film of athletic wonderment whose game is lacking that one thin layer of high-end conceptual processing that separates excellence from greatness. Maybe Barkley develops to that point, but Elliott has that layer although not quite Barkley’s physical ability.
This guy has both.
We’ll see if they let him be all he can be this year. If they do, we’ll be including him in the mix next year.
It is Barkley for me. The argument that Barkley should be discounted because of his four games with under 60 yards rushing last season misses the fact that each of those was due to injury. The first time he didn't hit 60 yards was Week 3 when he had a major injury in the first half. He was expected to miss at least two months but came back in three weeks to gut it out while clearly not 100%. The other three sub-60 rushing yard games came in that first handful of games back from the high ankle sprain.
If you take out the game Barkley left early with an injury and his first games back in late October and November when he didn't look fully recovered, his numbers were just as impressive as in his monster rookie season. In the seven games Barkley was healthy, he averaged 110 rushing yards, 32 receiving yards, and 1.0 touchdowns per game. Over 16 games, those numbers would project to 1,758 rushing yards, 517 receiving yards, and 16 touchdowns.
Select Comments from The Shark Pool
Saquon without a doubt. He checks every box.
- Proven production: his per-game averages for his career are 5 receptions, 120 total yards, and 0.8 TDs which translates to 79 receptions, 1900 yards, and 13 TDs. This includes a stretch of games where he was playing on a high ankle sprain.
- Incredible profile: it's become a running joke but he was a generational RB prospect with incredible draft capital
- Supreme athlete: basically a Madden generated create-a-player, there's no other RB in the league with his combo of size, speed, and explosiveness
- The apex of his career: He is 23 years old. Ages 23-25 are the peak years for RB production.
- Low injury risk: Every RB comes with injury risk but Saquon has been very healthy over his time at NY and PSU. He also showed an Adrian Peterson-like ability to recover quickly and play through pain. His high ankle sprain was expected to keep him out 7 weeks and he was back after only missing 3 games.
- Offensive upside: Daniel Jones showed that he's far from the disaster draftniks expected. He seems capable in year 2 of running a very functional offense. The Giants spent a top 10 pick on an OT to improve the line. Teams can't overly commit to stopping Saquon because Sterling Shepherd, Evan Engram, Golden Tate, and Darius Slayton are a nicely balanced collection of weapons that should keep defenses honest.
- A stranglehold on the job: Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman aren't stealing many touches from Barkley.
What's not to like? The only thing that could improve his stock is if he was playing in Kansas City or San Fran.
Guess I'll pile on. Yeah, it's Barkley. I just traded for him in one Dynasty and gave up Zeke so it shows how much I believe in that. I do love Kamara this year too.
I actually took Barkley over CMC at 1.1 in a high stakes payout draft several months ago, before the actual NFL draft. Not sure it was the right call and would probably go CMC today but my point is I got Barkley closer to 1.1 then to 1.3.
IMO the first tier is CMC and Barkley and then the rest. I would love to be sitting at 3 in a draft with someone who would choose anyone else in 1-2.
I'll be the contrarian I guess.
Barkley's talent is unquestioned.
The only downside I see to Barkley is his schedule. Weeks 1-3 Steelers, Bears, 49ers. I'm sure most of us know we are going to the Superbowl, so Barkley gets Baltimore week 16.
I'll take Kamara 1.02. He really looked like he was playing hurt last year. I'm expecting a big bounce back.
Pass on all three.
Given the settings you've established and assuming standard scoring otherwise, the best "compromise" value at 1.2 is Michael Thomas
The best RB off the board after CMC will be Josh Jacobs of the Raiders. Although I recognize his ADP will likely drift him into the early 2nd round or so, and not a legitimate value for slot against 1.2. There will be a distinct advantage for folks whose nominal draft slot is late in the first round, the serpentine swing will make Jacobs appropriate for value for slot as well as the best breakout candidate ( assuming a normal season was to happen)
Elliott should not raise concerns because of pandemic nor his contract nor his bizarre off-field stuff, losing Travis Fredrick and shifting to Looney at the pivot will have a lasting impact on his production. Kind of bizarre, after all these years, how no one looks at the pivot when trying to assess skill player production. I suspect NO, at this point, will heavily consider using early pick Ruiz at center, shifting Erik McCoy out, which is a mistake. On paper, it will look reasonable, they have a pair of excellent top tier tackles, and McCoy is more suited than Ruiz to make the shift to guard. Until the Saints figure out they should have left McCoy alone, I would start to shade Kamara. The Giants will rely on a pretty middling line. A rookie, Thomas, at right tackle and Nate Solder in his path towards more regression. That NY interior line is also a mess.
People will see Elliott running into contact. They will denote a sharp decline in splash/home run type plays. They won't however see the correlation on whether Joe Looney can engage another defender after his initial block. Or what angles he takes when tasked to start blocking on the 2nd level.
Skill players do not determine pace and game flow, offensive lines do. Pace and game flow dictate play-calling, which dictates trends in usage.
People want to grind into the minutiae of how a young WR will try to release against a secondary. Which all becomes irrelevant if your QB1 is face down in the dirt.
Core Walsh methodology - How is your pass rush without blitzing in the 4th quarter of games? That will tell you where you are as a team and if you will win or not
Not West Coast Offense. Not Jerry Rice and Roger Craig. Not Cool Joe. But if you are taking the other team's offensive line's lunch, then beating them to death with their Super Man lunchbox right afterward.
I am taking Barkley because I think he is the most talented running back in the NFL and situations in the NFL are fluid. As bad as the Giants have been I think they could be in a great spot this year. Terrible defense, better offensive line, and probably an improving quarterback.
I would take Kamara over Zeke. I think Zeke is the better running back, but for this season there are a lot of mouths to feed in Dallas. Plus it is PPR, adding Lamb, Blake Jarwin is an upgrade to a 37-year-old Witten and Cobb. I think Zeke's ceiling is about 45 catches.
Barkley is the easy choice. Barkley, Zeke, and Kamara all have 20 TD potential......but Barkley has 2000 yd rush potential (which Kamara will never come close to), and 100 catch potential (which Zeke likely won't come close to).
I had to think about this more than most of you I guess.
Elliot has been very good. Let's assume that Barkley didn't miss any games last year. he was on pace for 1773 combined yards and 9.8 TD Elliot had 1777 combined yards and 14 TDs. Barkley was on pace for 64 receptions last year compared to 54 from Elliot. If I average the prorated numbers for Barkley and his rookie season, that would be 1900 combined yards 12.4 TDs.
Barkley is 2 years younger and it seems likely he will have more receptions than Elliot will (although Elliott does well there also) so more upside than Elliot. Elliot has been solid his whole career and is in a better offense overall than the Giants. I would say he is a safer choice.
Ultimately I will go with the upside here which is Barkley but I think it is closer than others have indicated it is in the thread.
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I'm going with Barkley. Last year was a typical sophomore slump. He has an improved offensive line and no big new WR weapons to help the passing game, so more touches for him.
Elliot is on a roster with more WR weapons and a QB who wants to be paid big bucks. Kellen Moore wants to throw more than he did last year. On top of that, they lost the best center in football to a terrible neurological disorder. I see fewer touches this year for Elliot.
Same goes for Kamara. The addition of Emanuel Sanders is another weapon to draw targets away from Kamara. Saints are in a super bowl window, so they will win by any means necessary which may give Kamara fewer touches to keep him fresh late in the year.
Zeke. I want consistency at that pick. Better floor week to week and only two games last year without a TD or reaching 100 total yards.
Give me Saquon Barkley. Even playing on the anemic New York Giants offense with a rookie quarterback at the helm and 9 -10 men in the box Saquon still broke some long runs. Fast forward to 2020 and Daniel Jones has a year under his belt and my bet is Saquon rebounds and may even surpass his stellar rookie season this year!
Well, it seems like people argue whether it’s McCaffrey or Saquon first, so Saquon 2nd is a no-brainer. Kamara is not in the discussion for me.
Zeke. Although there has been off the field issues with him, he's proven his worth as a fantasy back to me
Barkley for me. I feel like he has the upside to complete with CMC for the #1 RB this season that the other two don't. Also, has a QB entering his 2nd season so should have a better offense in 2020.
Barkley, he is the best combination of a solid floor with a higher ceiling. Zeke will lose touches to the improved passing game and Kamara has a riskier floor. Splitting hairs here of course
I’d be happy with either Zeke or Barkley, but I’d probably go with the one who hasn’t been paid yet (Barkley).
Kamara is the one I would take last out of those 3.
Gimme Zeke. He’s already had COVID-19, he’s a running back in a good offense, and he’s racked up some solid numbers in garbage time closing games out...
Zeke. It’s time to stop basing Saquon’s ranking on his potential.
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