SAQUON BARKLEY

9/21/21, 6:18 PM

Updated:

INJURY RISK

2021:

Long-Term:

2/5

3/5

Bottom Line:
Saquon is heading strongly in the right direction. We saw him make explosive, elusive moves with success in Week 2, and his snapcount restrictions are likely to be lifted within the next ~2 weeks. The concern remains the supporting cast on the Giants, and specifically whether his O-line can create space for him to run. So far, the answer to that looks like a "No", but he should still get enough volume to be a viable RB1 in 2021.

Major Injuries:
2020 - ACL tear, MCL sprain, meniscus tear (Week 2; missed 14 games; surgery 10/30/2020)
2019 - right high ankle sprain (Week 3; missed 3 games)
2018 - hamstring strain (Aug; no games missed)
2016 - right ankle sprain (Nov; no games missed)
2015 - right high ankle sprain (Sep; 2 games missed)

Games Played:
2020 - 2/16
2019 - 13/16
2018 - 16/16

Return to Play:

Saquon was 10 months post-surgery at the start of September. Although the average return time for RBs is 12 months, recent NFL data shows that 30% of them were able to return in 10 or less.

Most of the criteria for a player to return to football are based on muscle recovery and performance in functional testing (think squats, jumps, single leg balance). Is Saquon in the top 30% there?

Objectively - based on his NFL Combine performance percentiles of 90-98 - one would think, “yes absolutely”. That’s why are not surprised to see him cleared shortly before the start of the season.

Performance:

NFL studies have shown mixed results on productivity in players returning after ACL reconstruction. Multiple publications suggest a decrease in productivity that lingers even 2-3 years afterwards. However, very few players in those studies - or really even in league history - are comparable to Saquon athletically or with regard to pre-injury productivity. Both his measurable and qualitative characteristics indicate that he is likely to be an outlier. Don’t necessarily expect 100% out of the gate, but do expect Saquon to return to his prior level early on in the season.

Durability:

Data on ACL tears demonstrates shorter careers and fewer games played. Saquon’s knee injury also included a tear of the meniscus, which acts as a shock absorber in the knee. Meniscus tear data similarly points to a decrease in game participation post-injury.

Overall, there is pretty convincing reason to be concerned about long-term durability, but these are less relevant to the 2021 season. 4-6 years down the road, the wear and tear is more likely to be evident. For now, we’re drafting Saquon without hesitation.


Image Source: Keith Allison, CC-BY-SA-2.0