Fantasy Football 2021: Advice on Saquon Barkley, Players Returning from Injury

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 30, 2021

Fantasy Football 2021: Advice on Saquon Barkley, Players Returning from Injury

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    Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

    Injuries are almost always the absolute worst.

    That's true regardless if you're discussing NFL action or its fantasy football counterpart.

    An unfortunately timed injury can sink an entire season, but every now and then, the shadow of a previous ailment can discount a player's draft cost and open up a value opportunity. But how do you tell when the discount is great enough to cover any lingering risks?

    That's a case-by-case discussion, so we'll lay out advice for specific fantasy stars working their way back from injuries.

Treat Dak Prescott Like a Top-5 Quarterback

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    There's a universe in which Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is setting the fantasy market at his position right now.

    He had a real chance to pace the fantasy world in points last season before a gruesome right ankle injury cut his campaign down to just five games. He didn't even finish the fifth and still tied for the third-most fantasy points overall through five weeks, per FantasyPros.

    Despite the ankle injury and a more recent shoulder strain, Prescott looks good to go for Week 1 and should be regarded as someone who can rank atop his entire position group. In Weeks 2 through 4 alone last season, he piled up 1,424 passing yards and eight passing touchdowns, plus another 56 yards and three scores on the ground.

    While Prescott could be QB1 this season, you don't have to pay that price. He usually lands somewhere around QB5, so if he's part of your 2021 plan, that's the range where you need to invest.

Wait on Saquon Barkley Until Back Half of Round 1

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    Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

    The last time Saquon Barkley was fully healthy, he scored the second-most points among fantasy running backs and 11th-most points of anyone.

    If that sounds surprising to hear, that's because it's been a while. It was 2018. Barkley was a rookie. Todd Gurley II was the lone back Barkley trailed. Plenty of time has passed since.

    But these should be the best seasons of Barkley's career. He's 24 years old, meaning he's either in the heart of his prime or still ascending toward it. His do-everything skill set is built to dominate the modern NFL.

    He just needs to stay upright, which is becoming increasingly challenging. He missed three games as a sophomore in 2019 and all but two last season, when his year was derailed by an ACL tear. He hasn't seen game action or even full contact since.

    But if he gets the green light for Week 1, he'll be on a short list of players likeliest to lead the running back position in fantasy points. Don't be blinded by that upside and throw a top-five pick his direction, but keep it in mind if he's still on the board near the back end of the opening round. If he stays healthy, it might be the best draft pick anyone makes.

Don't Draft Odell Beckham Jr. as Your WR1

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    David Dermer/Associated Press

    Few wide receivers can match the talent of Odell Beckham Jr. But that's been true for the better part of a decade, and he's had trouble matching the production of the position's elites.

    He has made it through all 16 games once in the past four seasons. He played a total of 23 in the other three years combined. An ACL tear limited him to just seven appearances last season. Even before the injury, he wasn't having a great season, catching just 23 of his 43 targets for 319 yards and three scores.

    His floor is, more or less, a wasted season. That's what two of his last four campaigns have been. There's too much risk to put him atop your wide receiver group.

    Ideally, you can grab him as a WR3 and come out well ahead in the risk-reward debate. But in deeper leagues or those where you go heavy on running backs early, he could certainly return positive value as a WR2.