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Fantasy Impact: Barkley Should Have More Bite in 2024

By Steve Schwarz | 3/13/24

Saquon Barkley

Even the occasional fan, looking from the outside, would assume that Saquon Barkley will be an upgrade in 2024. But will he? And if so, by how much? Let’s look at the numbers.

Barkley in New York

Barkley entered the league in 2018 with a bang! He rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 91 balls for 721 yards and four more scores. He finished the year with a position-high 383.8 fantasy points and was second in FPts/G averaging 24.0 behind only Todd Gurley (26.3). His second season wasn’t quite as good, though he still ranked 10th in total points at the position. The next two years were rough, mostly due to injuries, but he returned in 2022 to his old self playing all 16 games and averaging 17.6 FPts/G in an ugly Giants offense. Last season, with almost no passing game to distract defenses, he still averaged 16.1 FPts/G which was good enough for ninth among running backs.

All this was done with an inferior offensive line. The Giants tried to improve the line, but it never panned out. Things will change in 2024 for the former Penn State running back.

 Saquon Barkley
Year G Ru Yds Ru TDs Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs TPts TP Rk FPts/G FPts/G Rk
2018 16 1307 11 91 721 4 383.8 1 24.0 2
2019 13 1003 6 52 438 2 244.1 10 18.8 7
2020 2 34 0 6 60 0
2021 13 593 2 41 263 2 150.6 30 11.6 33
2022 16 1312 10 57 338 0 282.0 5 17.6 5
2023 14 962 6 41 280 4 225.2 13 16.1 9

Barkley in Philadelphia

In agreeing to a three-year deal with the Eagles for an estimated $37.75 million, he’s set the mark for free agent running backs. He also forced GM Howie Roseman to crack open his wallet for a running back, something the head man hasn’t done while getting the Eagles to two Super Bowls (winning one).

Why would Roseman change his financial philosophy of winning without spending big dollars for running backs for this six-year veteran?

Perhaps, he has seen the light. The blazing light coming from San Francisco where running back Christian McCaffrey has transformed the 49ers offense since getting traded from Carolina in the middle of the 2022 season. He saw those results, and wanted the Eagles’ offense to have just such a weapon in their arsenal.

Or it could have been he saw how vulnerable his defense looked over the final six regular season games of 2023 and an ugly playoff loss to Tampa Bay and figured he’d need his offense to score 40 points a night to win games in 2024… until he can rebuild the defensive side of the ball.

Will this theory work?

Barkley will be running behind the best offensive line he’s seen since his college days. In New York last season, Barkley managed just 1.9 yards before first contact. The Giants run blocking “win rate” was 67% which ranked 31st of 32 teams. By contrast, Eagles starting back, D’Andre Swift’s first contact was at 2.8 yards. That mark was fourth-best among all qualifying running backs. The Eagles line blocking “win rate was 77% which was the best in the league. After contact, Barkley averaged 1.95 more yards vs. 1.77 yards for Swift. Barkley will most certainly improve on his “yards-per-carry” mark.

Even with the retirement of future Hall-of-Fame center Jason Kelce, a number of sites still have the Eagle OL ranked No.1. They had already drafted Kelce’s replacement two years ago, Cam Jurgens, who Kelce personally scouted and recommended.

The loss of Kelce might help Barkley in a second area. The “Brotherly Shove” which was so successful in 2023, was led by Kelce. Without him, Barkley and the other Eagles running back may get more red-zone scoring opportunities. (Sorry, Jalen Hurts owners).

The addition of Barkley will also help in disguising play calling. No longer will the Eagles have to bring in Kenneth Gainwell in pass situation. Barkley is a three-down back.

Bottom line

Barkley will never reach the heights of his rookie season when he averaged 24 fantasy points per game. The Eagles offense is too loaded with pass-receiving weapons; A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. There is also Hurts’ legs. But all those weapons could allow Barkley to be as efficient as he was that season. My analysis has Barkley with 240 carries for 1,200 yards, 60 catches for 420 yards and a combined 10 touchdowns worth 282 fantasy points. That’s not quite CMC territory, so let’s call Barkley “McCaffrey Light.”