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Countdown to 2021 fantasy football drafts: Saquon Barkley No. 5

Saquon Barkley comes in at 5 in our fantasy football rankings countdown to the 2021 NFL season.

New York Giants v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

A torn ACL cost Saquon Barkley almost all of his season last year, and likely dampened the enthusiasm for a lot of people who drafted him early in their fantasy draft. But Barkley is making progress toward a full return with the New York Giants for his fourth season as a pro. And in case you forgot since he was out most of last season, Barkley at his best can be one of the most productive running backs in the NFL.

To commemorate the 2021 NFL season, we’ll be counting down the 75 best fantasy football players in the league. Picking a Top 75 is subjective, especially when you are projecting a whole season of accumulated fantasy points, but that’s part of the fun. We’ll assume what I see as an average league, which is 12 teams, .5 PPR scoring and a roster of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, & 1RB/WR/TE. Kickers and defenses need not apply.

Change is the nature of the NFL beast, so trades and injuries will likely impact this list as we go along, but hey, this isn’t rocket science. We’re here to have a little fun and build up some much needed anticipation for a league cast in the shadow by baseball, soccer, hockey, etc. Sarcasm aside, the NFL is addictive and we’re here to give your daily fix as we close in on the season.

The official fantasy football drafting tiers can be found here.

No. 5, Saquon Barkley, New York Giants, RB

Barkley tore his ACL in Week 2 last season. The Giants are still taking it slow with his return. He’s still not working in 11-on-11 in practice halfway through August. But there’s really no need for the Giants to rush him; they know what he’s capable of. At his best, Barkley is a threat in both facets of the offense. As a rookie in 2018, he ran for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns on 261 carries, and he posted 721 receiving yards and four more touchdowns on 91 receptions.

Competition for touches

The Giants brought in both Alfred Morris and Devontae Booker during the offseason to share the load in the backfield. Once the Giants are confident in Barkley’s health, it’s unlikely that either eat into his workload too much.

Team offensive expectations

The biggest question in the Giants offense is going to be quarterback Daniel Jones, but the team does have a solid group of receivers led by offseason acquisition Kenny Golladay, that should help open up more room for Barkley to work. If he’s healthy, expect him to be the centerpiece of this offense. All those receivers could eat into his potential totals in the passing game.

What’s his upside?

We saw a tantalizing glimpse of a two-way threat back in 2018. With a full season of health, it’s reasonable to expect those numbers to move upward.

What’s his downside?

Health is the biggest concern with Barkley. The Giants are smart to be taking it slow with him—this isn’t a Super Bowl team, so there’s no reason to rush. But the year before his ACL tear, he dealt with an ankle injury that cost him playing time and limited his ceiling.

Projection

250 carries; 1,100 yards; 9 touchdowns; 50 catches; 350 yards; 2 receiving touchdowns.