2020 NFL prop picks: Saquon Barkley primed for monster season

Saquon Barkley carries
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Fantasy football analyst Craig Williams offers his insight in an effort to provide NFL bettors a valuable perspective to consider prior to finalizing their prop wagers this summer.

Saquon Barkley rushing yards
1250.5
OVER -115
UNDER -115

For starters, Saquon Barkley is the most physically gifted running back in the NFL, the closest thing we may ever see to a mashup of Bo Jackson and Barry Sanders. Combining his raw talent with what figures to be a hefty workload sets the stage for a wildly productive 2020 season.

Installing a new coaching staff and offense during the COVID-19 pandemic is obviously less than ideal, but from general manager Dave Gettleman through head coach Joe Judge and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, the Giants are aligned in their desire to instill a “physical” and “tough” brand of football. Every team loves its buzzwords, but there’s little-to-no doubt that Barkley will be heavily leaned on in the offense.

When it comes to Barkley’s 2020 prospects, the two most pressing concerns are the quality of the offensive line and the risk of injury, the latter of which is universal at the position. He won’t be running behind an elite unit, but he’s still managed to average 79.7 rushing yards per contest over 29 career games. The offensive line stands to benefit from some continuity, and it’s reasonable to expect them to perform on par with last season, if not better. For reference, the Giants ranked No. 25 in adjusted line yards, according to Football Outsiders. As far as injury risk is concerned, Barkley missed three games in 2019 due to a high ankle sprain, but has otherwise demonstrated an ability to shoulder meaty workloads.

One of the easiest traps a fantasy owner or props bettor can fall into is chasing the high end of a player’s range of outcomes. However, in this case, conjuring scenarios in which Barkley fails to rush for 1,251 yards feels like the chase. Volume is generally the most important factor when considering a player’s outlook. Barkley has averaged 16.5 attempts per game, and for added context, Ezekiel Elliott averaged 20.9 in his four seasons under Garrett’s watch. Odds are against Barkley’s per-game carry volume dipping. And even a modest increase to 17.0 attempts per game extrapolates to 272 rushes over 16 contests. That’s a key number because at 4.6 yards a pop — the lower of Barkley’s two YPC rates — it yields 1,251 yards.

Finally, don’t discount the role of financial motivation. Barkley’s professionalism has never come into question, but he’s seen Elliott and Christian McCaffrey land monster deals and it could be his turn next offseason.

Play: OVER

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