Fantasy Football 2019: Saquon Barkley and Safest Players to Draft No. 1

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistAugust 28, 2019

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the New York Jets Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Michael Owens)
Michael Owens/Associated Press

The elation of holding the No. 1 pick in your fantasy football can swiftly turn to apprehension and nervousness when the league's draft day is approaching.

What if I mess up this selection? That could ruin my entire season! Look at 2018 when Le'Veon Bell didn't play a single snap!

Sometimes, the best players aren't always the safest selection. Fortunately, though, that doesn't look like the case in a 2019 class led by New York Giants star Saquon Barkley.

If your league uses standard or full point-per-reception scoring, a pass-catching running back will always be the best choice at No. 1 overall in a fantasy draft. Other running backs don't catch 60-plus passes, and wide receivers usually don't offer any production beyond an occasional trick play or maybe as a returner.

Past production, opportunity and injury history are the biggest factors in identifying the safest picks. This year, they're all familiar running backs.


Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

As long as Capt. Checkdownoh, sorry, Eli Manningis leading the offense, Barkley has enormous statistical upside.

During his rookie year, the Penn State product caught 91 passes for 721 yards and four touchdowns.

Barkley's receiving numbers alone would've made him a competent FLEX play, scoring similarly to Golden Tate, DeSean Jackson and Larry Fitzgerald.

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 07:  Saquon Barkley #26 catches a touchdown pass from teammate Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the New York Giants during their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on October 7, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

But that's merely the extra production Barkley provides.

He scampered for 1,307 yards and 11 scores while never fumbling the ball. Overall, Barkley amassed a league-high 2,028 yards from scrimmage and 15 touchdowns. The rookie led non-quarterbacks in PPR scoring and ranked second in standard formats.

Banking on another 2,000-yard season is unfair, but a healthy Barkley should total around 1,600 yards and 12 touchdowns. That is unquestioned RB1 territory.


Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers

McCaffrey fits a similar mold to Barkley. Last season, the Panthers' running back was even more productive as a receiver, too.

One of 11 players with 100-plus catches, McCaffrey pulled in 107 passes for 867 yards and six scores. In a PPR league, he would've finished as a WR2. Throw in 1,098 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground and McCaffrey was an elite fantasy weapon.

Granted, his workload has drawn some concern. According to ESPN's David Newton, the Panthers used McCaffrey on more than 90 percent of their offensive snaps in 2018.

Carolina has a solution, though.

David Newton @DNewtonespn

Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner is ‘'concernée'' about the number of touches running back Christian McCaffrey had last season, about 320. That doesn't mean McCaffrey will be used less. Turner just wants to be smarter... https://t.co/cH9ZXeHaob https://t.co/Ume3udNjBW

The plan to keep his touches high in fewer snapswhile not necessarily ideal for his longevityis good news for your fantasy team. McCaffrey could surpass 300 on the season once again, even if he spends a little more time on the sideline.

Few players have that immense level of opportunity.


Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints

In each of his first two seasons, Kamara has posted between 700-900 yards both rushing and receiving. And since Mark Ingram left in free agency, expectations should not change.

"It will be similar to what we've been seeing," New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said of Kamara's workload in 2019, according to ESPN's Mike Triplett. "We've been pleased with the balance we've had with him. We think it's been a good count."

After Ingram returned from a four-game suspension last season, Kamara typically had 18-22 touches per game. Every fantasy GM should be thrilled to have a player with that opportunity.

Yet there is plenty of room for improvement, too.

Kamara recorded a single run of 20-plus yards and cracked the 10-yard mark 20 times. For comparison, Barkley had 16 and 31, respectively, while McCaffrey notched six and 31. All things considered, Kamara was relatively inefficient on the ground in 2018.

If the Saints can open up a few massive running lanes, Kamara could have a breakout year as a runner. His two 80-catch seasons have already set a high floor anyway.


Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR