- Associated Press - Thursday, April 26, 2018

Saquon Barkley will receive a phone call on Thursday night, instantly making him both a millionaire and the savior of a franchise’s dormant ground game.

Of more importance to fantasy football players will be how to slot the Penn State running back once the draft is done and the season approaches. Regardless of where Barkley goes in the first seven picks (at the worst, he won’t get past the Buccaneers, who own the seventh overall selection), his fantasy value will be dissected the moment after Commissioner Roger Goodell calls his name.

Todd Gurley II, Le’Veon Bell, (a healthy) David Johnson, Kareem Hunt and Ezekiel Elliott will each be off the board in the first eight fantasy picks. In a 10-12 team league, Leonard Fournette, Alvin Kamara and LeSean McCoy will be gone by the end of the first round with Melvin Gordon making a strong case to crash the party. Barkley is firmly planted into the second tier of backs, which would project him to be picked somewhere in the mid-to-late second round.

In a point-per-reception format, Barkley could slot just ahead of Gordon and could even be considered over McCoy considering McCoy is 30 and has 2,626 touches from scrimmage over the past decade, two factors that should concern fantasy owners.

Here’s a pre-draft ranking of rookies by potential fantasy impact this season:



1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

2. Sony Michel, RB, Georgia

3. Derrius Giuce, RB, LSU

4. Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State

5. Ronald Jones II, RB, USC

6. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia

7. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

8. D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland

9. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

10. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

ACUNA ARRIVES

Fantasy baseball owners will be breaking their free agent banks upon the arrival of Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna, who made his debut on Wednesday night. Projected with one of the highest ceilings since Mike Trout, Acuna is a potential .290-35-110 monster with the speed to swipe 40-plus bases. Expectations should be tempered but try telling that to fantasy owners who have awaited his arrival with childlike glee.

WHO’S ON DECK?

With Acuna now in Atlanta, Rays 2B/SS Willy Adames could be the next top-end prospect for fantasy baseball players to watch. Adames has a .339/.438/.559 slash line in Triple-A and with Tampa sinking in the AL East standings, the countdown to Adames’ debut is looming.

DON’T GO WEST(BROOK), YOUNG MAN

Although fantasy basketball season is over, the question of drafting Thunder guard Russell Westbrook early should present a moment of pause over the summer. Westbrook’s consecutive seasons of averaging triple-doubles has come at usage rates of 42.5 and 35.7 percent. He’s a lock to be a top 5 pick, but Westbrook’s usage rate compares strongly to Allen Iverson, who had eight straight seasons of at least 30 percent UR before hitting a steady decline after his age 30 campaign in 2005-06.

Westbrook turns 30 on Nov. 12. This past season marked the eighth straight year he averaged a UR above 30.

CLEARED BROOKS

Reigning U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka returns to action at this week’s Zurich Classic in New Orleans. Coming off a partially torn left wrist, Koepka’s return will give fantasy golfers a chance to see how much rust he will need to shake off. While a strong score would be welcomed, Koepka’s weekend should simply be viewed as more of a preseason of sorts as the focus will be if there are lingering effects from the surgery.

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This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com

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