Here's why one expert believes Saquon Barkley will be a first-round fantasy football pick

Saquon Barkley figures to be a popular choice for fans when fantasy football drafts roll around.
Saquon Barkley figures to be a popular choice for fans when fantasy football drafts roll around.

Penn State fans, it turns out you won't be able to sit on your favorite NFL player for long in future fantasy football drafts.

According to Fantasy Guru managing editor Joe Dolan, a Penn State grad who's worked in the business for nine seasons, Barkley is already in the conversation as a top-10 fantasy pick. And, if he lands in the right situation, his ceiling could be as high as one legendary Hall of Famer's.

"His ceiling for fantasy purposes is 'prime' Marshall Faulk," Dolan said, referring to the seven-time Pro Bowler who played from 1994 to 2005. "If you'll remember, he's the last player to go 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in one season. (Barkley) is an elusive, dynamic back and he has that kind of capability. That's why people are so excited about him."

Dolan — who works for a website annually ranked among the most accurate in fantasy football, per Fantasy Pros — believes Barkley's fantasy floor is similar to Reggie Bush, who as a rookie with the New Orleans Saints had 1,307 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns in 2006.

The big question right now, obviously, remains where Barkley might land in the NFL. He's a clear top-10 NFL draft pick. And, if he goes to a team like the Denver Broncos or Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dolan said he would be a clear first-round fantasy selection.

Situations like those with the Indianapolis Colts or even the New York Giants, who are rumored to be shopping around Odell Beckham Jr., could push Barkley to the early second round of fantasy — right behind running backs such as the Dallas Cowboys' Ezekiel Elliott and the Arizona Cardinals' David Johnson.

"The ideal fit for me is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," Dolan said, referring to the team that currently drafts No. 7 overall. "That's ideal. I don't think their offensive line is very good, but their offense has so many weapons that it can take a lot of the attention from Barkley. You're not going to put eight in the box against a team with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson."

No matter where Barkley lands, though, Dolan said he's an athlete whom fantasy players should jump on early. Rookies have led the NFL in rushing the last two seasons — Elliott in 2016 and the Kansas City Chiefs' Kareem Hunt in 2017 — and Barkley's receiving ability makes him even more valuable for fantasy purposes.

"Take a look at Christian McCaffrey last year," Dolan said about the Carolina Panthers' running back. "He averaged 3.7 yards per carry. He was not any good as a runner but, because of his receiving ability, he was a top-10 fantasy scorer at the position. That's why I'm so enthused by Barkley because, even if the running ability doesn't translate, it's been proven that pass-catching ability translates very well from college to the NFL."

For now, the running backs who will be drafted ahead of Barkley — in fantasy — include the Pittsburgh Steelers' Le'Veon Bell, the Los Angeles Rams' Todd Gurley, the Saints' Alvin Kamara and Hunt.

And, based on his early projections, Dolan has Barkley's 2018 NFL numbers potentially mirroring those from Hunt last season.

"Maybe with less less rushing production but more receiving production," Dolan added. "So (Hunt) had nearly 1,800 yards from scrimmage this year with 11 touchdowns. I think that's attainable for Saquon Barkley."