Fantasy News & Analysis

Giants RB Saquon Barkley medically cleared & set to return vs. Broncos in Week 1

The New York Giants are getting a big boost on offense.

Running back Saquon Barkley has been medically cleared to play Sunday against the Denver Broncos, per ESPN's Jordan Raanan.

Barkley is returning after suffering a torn ACL in Week 2 last year. The team was extra cautious with him this spring and summer, but he was trending in the right direction to play and made it through practice without any setbacks.

He was listed as questionable on the final injury report.

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But with a multi-ligament and structure injury comes a far more lengthy and complex recovery process. The average return-to-play timeline for multi-ligament injuries is 10.4 months. Barkley will be at just under 12 months when the 2021 season kicks off, and research shows that being young, playing offense and being a high draft pick equates to better success rates of returning to the same level of play as prior to the injury.

Still, there are a couple of worrying factors regarding Barkley's workload early in the season. The Giants play their first three games in 14 days. Putting him under that level of fatigue with minimal rest seems like a recipe for disaster. The reinjury rate for an ACL tear is 18%, with the greatest risk being in the first two years. Barkley is also at increased risk for soft-tissue injuries early in his return. As such, it would be in his and the team's best interest to ramp his workload up as the beginning of the season progresses.

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Barkley gets tough test in first game back: The Broncos were a top-10 defense against the run in 2020 according to PFF's grades (69.8). Denver's defensive line also has the slate's biggest run-game advantage. Click here to find PFF's OL/DL matchup chart.

Still, Barkley will be busy vs. New York: Barkley will likely be the dominant force in the backfield while Devontae Booker spelling him for stretches. PFF's consensus fantasy rankings have Barkley at RB14 in PPR formats, though PFF's projections are more positive at RB6.

Season PFF Grade Rush Yds Rec. Yds Inside 5-yd line carries
2019 72.2 (T-33rd) 1,003 (15th)
438 (11th) 8 (T-23rd)
2018 85.2 (4th) 1,307 (2nd) 721 (4th) 18 (2nd)


Giants are 3-point underdogs at home to Teddy Bridgewater: Daniel Jones earned a 78.4 PFF grade last season compared to Bridgewater's 66.0 and with Barkley back, now might be the time to ride with Joe Judge and the Giants. See PFF's full projections for the spread, over/under, and moneyline here.

Barkley's player props offer value: Barkley's carry prop is lined at 13.5 (+100), and we'd expect to see him get a nice workload against a Broncos team that ranked just 19th in expected points allowed per run play last season. See all of Saquon's props and PFF's projections with PFF's player props tool.

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