Saquon Rasul Quevis Barkley was born in the Bronx, New York. He grew up in a very athletic family. His father (Alibay Barkley) was a boxer, his brother was a star baseball player who was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels, and his uncle (Iran Barkley) was also a professional boxer who won titles across three-weight classes.
Always a bigger running back, Barkley measured 5’11” tall and weighed 233 pounds in high school, running a 4.66 40-yard dash.
When Barkley was young, his family chose to move to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in search of a safer upbringing. In high school, Saquon played basketball, ran track and field in addition to playing football. He was an elite track star, winning gold medals in the 100-meter dash and the long jump.
High school football came easy for Barkley. He put up video game numbers in football, rushing for 1,856 yards and 31 touchdowns in his senior year. Rivals listed him as a four-star recruit and after initially committing to Rutgers University, he decided to attend Penn State University.
The talented Barkley was inserted in the lineup as a true freshman, rushing for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. He did miss time with an injury. Barkley, as a sophomore, would win the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year among several other awards, while setting the Penn State record by rushing for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. His junior season saw a reduction in yards (1,271) while totaling 21 scores. Barkley's 54 receptions outpaced his total of 48 in his first two college seasons.
Barkley was hailed as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime talent,’ and projected to be the highest running back taken in the NFL draft since Reggie Bush in 2006. At the 2018 NFL Combine, his measurables were off the charts, at 6', 233 pounds, and he ran a 4.40 40-yard dash (impressive improvement since entering college). The New York Giants drafted him with the second overall pick in the first round.
Barkley had an awe-inspiring rookie season. Barkley played in all 16 games, rushing for 1,370 yards, 11 touchdowns as well as catching 91 passes and 721 yards with four receiving touchdowns. The performance propelled him into winning the Pepsi Rookie of the Year, FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Year, AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and many others. All this while playing behind a weak New York Giants team with a poor offensive line.
Heading into 2019, with rookie quarterback Daniel Jones eventually expected to take over for the aging Eli Manning and joining a group of offensive talent, including Evan Engram, Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton. The stage was set for Barkley to have a fantastic sophomore season.
Unfortunately, he failed to live up to the hype, rushing for just over 1,000 yards and eight total touchdowns, as well as catching 52 passes for 438 yards. The poor performance by Barkley likely stemmed from a high-ankle sprain he suffered in week three. Which, in my opinion (Dr. Morse), severely affected his entire season.
Barkley seemed to lack his usual level of explosiveness when he returned in Week 7 from his high-ankle sprain. Let’s briefly review high-ankle sprains.
Unlike a traditional (‘low’) ankle sprain, which is on the outer aspect of the ankle, the high-ankle is actually at the bottom of the lower leg as opposed to at the top of the foot. Traditional lower, lateral ankle sprains are very common, and usually, athletes who suffer these return very quickly (1-2 days, up to 2 weeks) and do not tend to linger and less often they are high grade.
High-ankle sprains are quite the opposite. Players who suffer high-ankle sprains often struggle to return to form even if given the appropriate amount of time. Some of these players lack the responsiveness, and explosive burst we come to know before the injury.
The syndesmotic ligaments connect the lower two leg bones, the tibia, and fibula while making up the ‘high-ankle.’ High-ankle sprains occur when a foot is jammed directly into the ground, causing the high-ankle ligaments to strain and stress. Often, a fracture can happen to the small thin lateral lower leg bone, called the fibula. Placing your foot on the ground puts significant strain on this high-ankle ligament, and causes the lower leg bones to want to separate.
Initial diagnosis is usually secondary to a combination of physical exam as well as MRI. Video replay is also helpful too. The majority of these injuries are traditionally treated as non-surgically unless there is a fracture or severe separation between the two lower leg bones.
Many players returning from high-ankle sprains admit that it is very challenging to get their footwork right and back to normal. It takes time for the ligament to scar down and be able actually to perform what the athlete wants the leg to do. They know which direction they want to move, but the leg is not cooperating as a result of the injury.
During the early stages, often, players are seen using crutches, or a scooter, as not to put weight on the leg. The leg support, while wearing a Cam-Walker boot, makes it heal faster. It may take several weeks before the player can even comfortably put his foot back on the ground and bear the weight without pain.
When the athlete passes this stage, he can start traditional rehabilitation, to get the ankle stronger and have it respond as it usually would. Quick changes of direction, which are vital for NFL players, often lag after returning from a high-ankle sprain. Thus running backs who suffer high-ankle sprains early to mid-season often struggle for the rest of the year.
Eventually, the player will be able to return to running and quick changes of direction. However, it seems to take several months for the player to feel back to 100% physically, and possibly that is why Barkley struggled for about a month after returning in the 2019 season (Kamara too). While he still put up very respectable numbers, it was clear that he lacked that additional gear that he had before the injury.
Let’s review some other injuries that Barkley suffered throughout his football career. During his 2015 college season, Barkley sustained an ankle injury as a freshman, which cost him two games. The following year he again injured his ankle, but this was considered minor, and he did not miss any games.
During the preseason of the 2018 season, Barkley suffered a mild hamstring strain, which is not uncommon for this time of the year, missing just eight days and was able to play in week one. He did not suffer a re-injury the entire year.
In 2019, he suffered an ankle injury. There have been several ankle injuries and a hamstring strain in just four seasons of college and pro football. Even though minor, it is still mounting up.
For 2020, expect Barkley to be back to where he closed the season in 2019. In the last three weeks to conclude the year, he finished fifth, first, and tenth in weekly scoring for RBs. These numbers are indicative of Barkley.
Dependable workhorses surround Barkley. At wide receiver, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, and Sterling Shepherd return. Also, Evan Engram will be back. The receiving crew was on the field just once as a unit. More playing time will benefit the cohesion of the offense and give Barkley more of an advantage.
The offensive line has improved. New York drafted Andrew Thomas in the first round out of Georgia to start at right tackle while adding Matt Peart in the third and Shane Lemieux in the fifth for depth. Will Hernandez, Spencer Pulley, and Kevin Zeitler should be more cohesive. Mike Remmers is now in Kansas City.
The troubling spots on the offensive line are at the tackle positions. At left tackle, Nate Solder, who did not protect Daniel Jones very well and a rookie (Thomas). Jones should be worried about who will be coming at him at any given moment, and this will keep offensive coordinator Jason Garrett up at night.
Giants' head coach Joe Judge recently stated that the offense is going to be similar to what Jason Garrett ran in Dallas.
"We're going to be a team that focuses on gameplans, and whatever we have to do game by game," he said. "That may be running the ball every play or throwing the ball every play -- based on the opponent --, but we're going to make sure we're not too rigid in what we're doing that we can't adapt by gameplan."
Barkley has had worse offensive lines to run through in his first two seasons and has performed at a high level when healthy. Now, the offense just needs to stay away from hospitals and stay on the field.
Sports Injury Predictor believes that Barkley has a 54.7% chance of injury in 2020, which translates to about 1.3 projected games missed this upcoming season. These are realistic projections, and a good chance he plays at least 13 games in 2020.
Over the past five years, Barkley has suffered three separate ankle injuries. Unfortunately, it seems that he may be a little predisposed to injury, specifically to his ankles. Despite struggling with his return from a high-ankle sprain in 2019, he still was a very respectable/startable fantasy player.
These are all good signs for Barkley’s stock in 2020. There is a concern about a re-injury to his ankle, as evidenced by his past, but it should only be minimal. Hopefully this off-season he put in additional work to help get his ankles in the best shape they can be.
Despite improvements to the offensive line, Jones needs to be smarter about holding onto the ball and preventing fumbles.
By keeping the offense on the field translates to more points for Barkley. Even though he has a moderate injury risk of 5 out of 10, expect him to perform as a top-five running back and finish anywhere between RB1 and RB2 numbers.
Injury Risk: Moderate. 5/10.
|Projected Missed||Probability of injury per game ?||Probablity of injury in the season ?|
|Sep 22, 2019||Pedal Ankle Sprain Grade 2||He suffered a high ankle sprain in the second quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Aug 13, 2018||Thigh Hamstring Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1||Barkley was hurt in camp while running a pass route. He missed 8 days but was ready for Week 1.|
|Nov 26, 2016||Pedal Ankle Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1||Barkley injured his right ankle in the 3rd quarter vs. Michigan State but was able to play the following week.|
|Sep 26, 2015||Pedal Ankle Sprain Grade 2||Barkley missed 2 games as a freshman with an ankle injury.|