Football season is here, and that means one thing. Fantasy! Every year with fantasy season comes one burning question: Who should get drafted No. 1 overall? Last year Todd Gurley was the clear choice, but this year it’s a little more complicated. The most popular choice is New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, however, cases can be made for a handful of other stars like Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffery. If you’re not sure who to take, don’t worry, Jorge Eckardt and Ben Berg make a case for both sides.
Jorge Eckardt: After a lot of deliberation, I’ve finally made up my mind on which star running back to draft at No. 1 overall, and even though McCaffery has a ton of upside, I have to go with Alvin Kamara. Oh, did you think Barkley was going to be one of the options? Think again. Barkley is at best No. 3, and if when you’re reading this Ezekiel Elliott has signed a contract extension, then Barkley is No. 4. However, this isn’t about the top-couple players, this is about No.1 , and that is without a doubt Alvin Kamara. Ever since Kamara broke onto the scene in 2017 as the lightning to Mark Ingram’s thunder, he has been an absolute cheat code in fantasy football. Used effectively as both a rusher and a pass catcher, Kamara has averaged over 1,500 yards from scrimmage a season in his career, split almost evenly between rushing and receiving. He’s also a touchdown machine, racking up 13 in his rookie year and a whopping 18 last season. However, most importantly, you know what you’re going to get with Kamara. The Saints’ offense is one of the best in the NFL, and Kamara will have no shortage of scoring opportunities. Unlike Barkley and the Giants, you know that they have the ability to move the ball downfield and get in the redzone. What’s perhaps the most exciting thing about drafting Kamara this year is that he’s managed to put up top-end numbers while sharing a backfield with another top-25 back, and now that Mark Ingram is in Baltimore, Kamara will have even more room to shine.
Ben Berg: Don’t overthink this one; Saquon Barkley should be the first player taken in your upcoming fantasy football drafts. The reigning offensive rookie of the year had a sensational 2018 and will only get better in 2019. In his first year as a New York Giant, the rookie phenom shattered the single-season record for catches by a rookie running back (91), while leading the entire NFL in scrimmage yards (2,028). Not only was he productive on the ground (1,307 yards rushing), but he was efficient in that area as well. Barkley ranked ninth in the league in yards per carry (5.0), tied with RB Christian McCaffrey (5.0) and ahead of star running backs like Todd Gurley (4.9), Ezekiel Elliot (4.7) and Alvin Kamara (4.6). Barkley also found the end zone 15 times in his first pro season. As impressive as his year-one stats are, they’re even more impressive when you consider Barkley’s weak 2018 supporting cast. Although Barkley spent his first NFL season sharing touches with superstar Odell Beckham Jr., he did so while running behind one of the worst offensive lines in football. With Beckham Jr. now in Cleveland, Barkley will be the undisputed focal point of the Giants’ offense in 2019. Furthermore, he will greatly benefit from the addition of guard Kevin Zeitler and the return of center Jon Halapio to anchor the offensive line in front of him. The sky’s the limit for Barkley in 2019, which is why he should be the first player to come off the board in your fantasy drafts.
Jorge Eckardt: I get it, “SaQuads” is electric, he’s incredibly talented and he’s in a big market. He very well could end the season as the No. 1 running back in fantasy, but there are simply too many question marks around him to make drafting him a slam dunk. The Giants are going to be bad, like really really bad this year. The defense is probably a bottom-third unit in the league, and that is going to be the strongest part of the team. The offense, aside from Barkley, is just flat out bad. The offensive line is admittedly improved, with the addition of Kevin Zeitler going to be a huge help, that is, at least in the passing game. However, unfortunately for Barkley, Zeitler is much more of a pass blocker than a run blocker, and while he is one of the league’s best at protecting the quarterback, his ability to open up running lanes leaves much to be desired. The Giants also have one of, if not the worst aerial attacks in the NFL. The shipping of Beckham Jr. off to Cleveland for what ended up being safety Jabrill Peppers, defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and defensive end Oshane Ximines is actually going to have a negative effect on Barkley. Sure, he does become the clear No. 1 weapon on offense, but how much more could the Giants realistically use him without literally running him into the ground. He was already second in the NFL last year with 352 touches, only behind Ezekiel Elliott. If anything, expect him to be less efficient than he was last season, due to opposing defenses having the ability to heavily stack the box against the Giants thanks to an almost nonexistent threat from the passing game. Sure, Evan Engram is good but other than that their top receivers are Sterling Shepard who is nothing more than average and a 31-year-old Golden Tate who is suspended for the first four games of the season due to PEDs. Then you get to the quarterback situation, which one of the messiest in the league. For now, the starter is Eli Manning, who, to put it kindly is far past his prime. However, they did take Daniel Jones out of Duke at No. 6 overall in the draft, who I expect will take over the starting job before the halfway point of the season – when the Giants’ season is already over and they finally decide to look towards the future. This offense is going to be brutal, and even though the volume is going to be there for Barkley, volume does not equal efficiency. Take Kamara, he’s the much safer pick.
Ben Berg: You said it yourself, Kamara is a part of one of the best offenses in the NFL. The problem is that’s all he is, just a “part,” albeit a very talented one. Perhaps the most valuable commodity in all of fantasy football is touches (especially in a PPR league), and Barkley will get far more than Kamara. The Saints RB1 will be splitting carries with talented runner Latavius Murray which will diminish his overall fantasy output, that is, when Brees isn’t airing the ball out to one of the many receiving weapons the Saints have. If there’s one thing predictable about New Orleans head coach Sean Payton it’s that he loves to throw the ball down field, and when your quarterback has the most accurate arm of all time, why not? WR Michael Thomas will without a doubt be the primary weapon in the Saints offense, not Kamara. The Giants, on the other hand, are very thin at all skill positions outside of Barkley. With a four-game suspension to Golden Tate and a thumb injury currently sidelining Sterling Shephard, Barkley will be Eli Manning’s first, second and third option on the ground and in the air. In the end, it may actually work against Kamara that he’s surrounded by so much talent. Barkley, on the other hand, will be the sole driver of this 2019 Giants offense, which scored the most points in the NFC East last season, primarily due to the herculean effort from their star running back. I doubt the Giants will repeat as division scoring champs in 2019 because there are so many question marks. However, the one thing that is certain about Big Blue’s attack is that Barkley will be seeing a LOT of touches.
Jorge Eckardt is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at Jorge.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ben Berg is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.