Saquon Barkley has been dealing with an ankle injury since the New York Giants Week 5 matchup with the division rival Dallas Cowboys. He’s been on the shelf since. Now that we are heading into Week 11, will Barkley be making his return? What should fantasy managers do with Barkley, and when can we expect the Giants RB to return?
Saquon Barkley’s injury timeline
When New York drafted Barkley No. 2 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft, the hope for the Giants faithful was that a dominant running back would help change the direction of the franchise and bring them back to the promised land.
As the saying goes, “the best ability is availability,” and availability has been an issue for Barkley through the first three and a half seasons of his career. Out of a possible 58 games, Barkley has missed 22 so far.
The Giants had their bye week in Week 10. Now, coming out of the bye, there is optimism that we might see Barkley take the field. On Wednesday, November 17, head coach Joe Judge said that he was “very encouraged” by Barkley. He expects him on the field for Wednesday’s practice.
If Wednesday’s practice goes well and Barkley is able to get more reps throughout the week, he could be active for Monday Night Football against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The matchup is tough, with Tampa Bay having the best run defense in the NFL. So even if Barkley makes his return, it is doubtful that he will have much of an impact.
What should fantasy managers expect in the second half of the season?
It’s beginning to look like we may not see — at least not this year — the dominant Saquon Barkley that we all came to know and love during his sensational rookie season. In 2018, Barkley saw 261 rushing attempts, which was the second-most in the league. He also saw 121 targets for 91 receptions in the passing game. That elite usage combined with this skill set is what painted the picture of fantasy dominance for years to come.
Breaking those numbers down to per-game averages, Barkley averaged 16.3 carries, 7.6 targets, and 5.6 receptions per game in 2018. Since returning from his first injury (where he was sidelined for three games in 2019), those averages have dropped to 14.9 carries, 4.9 targets, and 3.6 receptions. A 16-game pace with those averages totals 238 carries, 79 targets, and 57 receptions.
Don’t get me wrong. That workload is still solid and would make him a low-to-mid RB1 when he’s on the field. But it’s not the same as it once was for a running back that many considered in contention for the first or second RB selected in fantasy drafts. That elite, heavy workload appears to be behind us.