Is Saquon Barkley the Surefire 1.01 in Superflex Rookie Drafts?
Congratulations! Whether it was through blind luck, skillful trade negotiations, or a 1-12 finish last season, you possess the first overall pick for your dynasty league’s rookie draft. And luckily for you, the consensus number one pick is the New York Giants’ Saquon “possibly a glitch in the Matrix” Barkley.
Undoubtedly, you’ve experienced an uptick in trade requests this fantasy offseason. Some have been laughably bad, others tempting, but you’re a smart fantasy owner. You know a generational, can’t-miss, game-breaking running back when you see one. There’s no way you’re taking anyone but Barkley, right?
SO, HERE’S THE THING…
It’s very important that we’re all on the same page here. Barkley is amazing. His measurables are off the chart, his skill set is perfectly suited for today’s NFL, and he seems like a genuinely good person. That said, I’m not so sure he should be a lock for the 1.01 in 2QB/Superflex rookie drafts.
Anyone who tells you they don’t like Saquon Barkley as an NFL or fantasy prospect is lying to you. It’s either that, or their mental awareness is slipping and you’re the first person to see the warning signs. I can assure you, however, I am a very stable genius, and my case for passing on Barkley at 1.01 is all about the quarterback position and how stability should always be a priority when managing rosters.
QUARTERBACKS ACTUALLY MATTER. A LOT.
Someone new to our format, and likely many grizzled 2QB veterans, will read this and immediately begin firing hate-missiles my direction. That’s okay. We all understand the impact a great, if not reliable, quarterback bullpen can have on our team’s success in this format (even if we can’t agree on how we build to that dynamic). With teams throwing the ball more than ever (58% in 2017), and running back values becoming increasingly tied to their market share in the passing game, we should always tend to our quarterback needs first when approaching the rookie draft.
My stance of potentially drafting a quarterback at 1.01, instead of Barkley, is rooted in my personal team-building philosophy. By no means does this work for everyone, and the decision to draft a quarterback over Barkley will depend greatly on your league’s size, its scoring settings, and your current roster makeup.
For me, quarterback is the foundational position in 2QB/Superflex. Other managers look at specific players as foundational to their teams, which I do as well, but I can’t help but desire the stability and peace of mind that comes with knowing I can count on my signal-callers week in and week out. Quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford, and Carson Wentz are virtually irreplaceable in our format. We know the type of production we can expect from these guys and know that, barring a Teddy Bridgewater-esque knee injury, they’ll be around for years to come.
Picking a franchise quarterback is a hard thing to do — the Browns and Bills send their regards — and in many ways, using the 1.01 to land a potential 10-year quarterback is just as hard. Using the top overall pick to select a passer in a deep quarterback class, when a seemingly perfect running back prospect is available, may feel insane. But that’s a chance I’d consider taking, especially if you think about the average career lengths for starting running backs vs. quarterbacks.
Quarterbacks, on average, have a shelf life of approximately 4.44 years, versus 2.57 for running backs. For what it’s worth, first-round picks stick around for an average of 9.3 years (this includes defensive players) and players with at least one Pro Bowl appearance tend to stick around for 11.7 years. And while I do think Barkley has a better shot to make a Pro Bowl or two early on, based on what his role in the Giants offense appears to be versus that of Mayfield in Cleveland and Rosen in Arizona, my money is still on one of the big-three quarterbacks from this class outperforming Barkley in the long run.
SAQUON BARKLEY IS SUPERMAN. NO, REALLY.
Earlier this offseason, Bobby Koch gave us superhero comparisons for the league’s current quarterbacks as part of TwoQBs’ Superheros Week. Unfortunately for Andrew Luck, I have to propose an amendment. Even though Barkley isn’t a quarterback, he is deserving of the Man of Steel’s comp. After all, Barkley literally is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and seems more than able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Don’t believe me? You must have missed Barkley’s combine numbers:
Penn State RB Saquon Barkley at 2018 Combine:
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) March 2, 2018
WHEN SHOULD YOU DO THE UNTHINKABLE?
As I’ve been saying throughout this love letter to quarterbacks, using the 1.01 to take a rookie quarterback over Saquon Barkley is a philosophical choice (and you may want to consult your doctor before doing so). There are, however, a couple of scenarios in which I’d entertain doing the unthinkable.
First, what if your current 2QB/Superflex starting quarterback tandem looks something like the following pairs:
- Tom Brady & Tyrod Taylor – The prototypical Stud ‘n’ Scrub approach the past couple seasons, but now Brady’s last couple of viable seasons may finally be upon us and Taylor’s job with Cleveland seems to be in jeopardy before it even begins. This combo has done you well, but now it’s time to draft the future.
- Andy Dalton & Marcus Mariota – Likely a mid-round duo when you drafted them in our format, a lackluster 2017 for both signal-callers may make you think twice before charging into 2018 without new blood in your quarterback bullpen. Both Dalton and Mariota are due for some positive regression (especially Mariota’s TD%) and they are expected to be around for a while. Unless your running back situation is a complete disaster, think about stabilizing your quarterback situation now and give yourself some insurance in case things don’t turn around.
- Deshaun Watson & Joe Flacco – Maybe you finished 2016 with Joe Flacco and another late-round quarterback and then drafted Deshaun Watson to help reset the situation. While Watson looks like a promising prospect, he did miss most of 2017 with an ACL injury and Joe Flacco (age 33) hasn’t finished inside the top 20 since 2014. Spending a high draft pick on a quarterback for the second year in a row may feel redundant, however, it would be well worth it if it means pairing Watson up with another young stud or, at worst, having a serviceable third option until Flacco is no longer the guy for Baltimore.
- Eli Manning & Case Keenum – A Zero-QB strategy that saw the benefits of savvy roster management with the addition of Case Keenum (or Nick Foles for some). This QB-lite approach should mean that you have a solid foundation to support the position. Instead of adding to your depth there, complete the team by drafting a quarterback and have an answer in place for your aging veteran(s).
Essentially, if either of your two starting quarterbacks look to be on their way out due to age or lack of job security, based on recent lackluster performances, this is the year to tap into the 2018 quarterback class and plan for the future.
What’s the second scenario in which I’d consider not taking Barkley at 1.01? What if your team simply doesn’t need another running back?
It was a great year for the running back position in 2017. Blue chip rushers like Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, and LeSean McCoy all finished within the top-seven in standard leagues, while Zeke Elliott (in 10 games) and Dion Lewis (of the infamous Patriot RB system) also ended their seasons as RB1s in 12-team leagues. Additionally, last year’s rookie class stole the show with memorable performances by Kareem Hunt (RB3), Alvin Kamara (RB4), Leonard Fournette (RB8), and Dalvin Cook, who averaged 13.6 points/game in his only four games of 2017.
If you managed to load up on running backs last year then Saquon Barkley might be overkill, especially if you’re limited to just two starting RBs. And with another deep, albeit muddled, 2018 running back class, selecting a quarterback can set you on the path of being deep at two of the three most important positions in fantasy.
ROOKIE QB TARGETS
Speaking of the 2018 quarterback class, hear are my current top-six rookie signal-callers to aid you in making the most controversial decision in your league’s history:
- Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals – Low-pressure landing spot, solid team foundation.
- Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns – Surrounded by offensive talent, Cleveland worries me.
- Sam Darnold, New York Jets – Only 20 years old, high-pressure market, lacking team foundation.
- Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens – Flacco aging and not performing well, feels like a smart stash.
- Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills – Not sold on his viability and landing spot is concerning.
- Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers – Roethlisberger aging, could see snaps if Ben goes down again.
Very rarely do we see the type of consensus hype surround a player like we currently see with Saquon Barkley. Maybe it’s the pessimist in me, but when so many people are calling the same shot, my instant reaction is to question it. Barkley may prove to be the second coming of Le’Veon Bell. He could even blow away every quarterback prospect in this draft in terms of long-term fantasy relevance. But, at the end of the day, I guess I’m a little more willing to sacrifice the short- or medium-term explosiveness of Barkley in favor of the 10-year stability I could get from a rookie quarterback.