Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey: which RB will have a better 2022 season?

Will Saquon Barkley or Christian McCaffrey have a better 2022 season?

By: Jeremy Trottier

With the large majority of the 2022 offseason moves already made, it is time to start making projections for the 2022-2023 season. In the last couple of seasons, we have had numerous running backs dealing with injury issues, more recently the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliott, and at times Alvin Kamara. The first two RBs listed have been the more notoriously injured, however, as each has dealt with numerous injuries of various levels of concern. In this article, I will be detailing which of the two I expect to have a better 2022 season, and breaking down why I believe they have a better chance at producing this year. So without further ado, let’s begin with their surrounding rosters:

Comparing Rosters: Giants Vs Panthers

The first thing worth noting when trying to project a running back’s potential production is what their roster can bring to the table. The most notable three parts for a back specifically are the offensive line, the quarterback, and any other notable running backs who could take snaps away. So first, the offensive lines:

Offensive Line

Both of these teams have done a really solid job trying to build their offensive lines this offseason. Both teams spent top 10 picks on offensive tackles, with the Giants taking Alabama OT Evan Neal at pick #7, and the Panthers taking N.C. State OT Ikem Ekwonu at pick #6. The Giants would also draft two more offensive linemen in Joshua Ezeudu (3rd round) and Marcus McKethan (5th round), and the Panthers one more in round 6 with Cade Mays. Overall, the Giants have the higher upside offensive line, with 2 potential rookie starters (Neal at RT and Ezeudu at LG) as well as LT Andrew Thomas potentially on track for a breakout season. The Panthers on the other hand have the more solidified offensive line day 1, with OT Taylor Moton and incoming C Bradley Bozeman alongside Ikem Ekwonu.

Quarterbacks

Next up we have quarterbacks, and with both of these halfbacks being more of the satellite variety with a heavy emphasis on the screen and receiving games, the person getting them the ball is going to be important in their production. As of this moment, neither RB has an elite QB behind center, those being Daniel Jones and (presumably) Sam Darnold, unless the Panthers make a trade for Baker Mayfield. Based upon last season, with both QBs starting 11 games, Daniel Jones was the better passer. While he had slightly fewer yards (2428 to Darnold’s 2527), he had more passing touchdowns, fewer interceptions, a significantly better completion %, a higher QBR, and almost 200 more completed air yards. Overall, Jones takes this category pretty comfortably for now.

Runningback Room

Next, let us take a look at the other runningbacks surrounding these two, and whether or not they could take snaps from them. The Giants have:

  • Matt Breida
  • Gary Brightwell
  • Antonio Williams

While the Panthers have:

  • Chuba Hubbard
  • D’Onta Foreman
  • Spencer Brown

Neither room has a premier player as of yet to take a huge deal of snaps away provided both these players remain healthy. However, there is one back among these 6 listed that has carved out a spot in his offense, and that is Chuba Hubbard. After starting 10 games last season and playing in all 17, he accrued 612 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, as well as 174 yards receiving and 1 reception touchdown. While the hope would presumably be that he will not be the starter this year, considering CMC will be coming back, he still has shown to be effective on the ground. With a 3.6 yards per carry average, there is a good chance that he may dip into some of the teams running snaps, whether that be 3rd down plays or otherwise.

Injury Comparisons

The other thing worth noting about these two players is their recent injuries, and how heavily they could impact their respective types of play styles. First up we have Barkley, who recently has dealt with:

  • Pedal ankle sprain (2021)
  • ACL Tear & MCL Sprain (2020)
  • 3 other instances of ankle sprains (2019, 2016, 2015)

While CMC has had the following:

  • Pedal ankle sprain (2021)
  • Hamstring strain (2021)
  • Shoulder A/C joint sprain (2020)
  • Various other sprains & strains (thigh/glute strain, pedal ankle sprain in 2020, inguinal hip pull)

The main difference between the two is that many of CMCs issues have been soft tissue injuries, and joint issues, while Saquon has had the more notably serious injury with his ACL tear. CMC has seemed to bounce back relatively quickly from each of his injuries in the few games he has played each year in 2020 and 2021. Barkley has seemed slightly less shifty, which is understandable considering his situation with ankle injuries, and has been trying to bounce back from this.

Prediction of production in 2022

Now we use this to figure out who should have a better 2022. Overall, Barkley seems to have the slightly better offense around him in terms of QB and OL “in the long-term”. CMC on the other hand has the better day 1 OL, and is not coming off any major tears, but has some competition for snaps in the backfield as well. In my opinion, I would expect, in a vacuum, CMC to have a better 2022 campaign, as he has seemingly been able to still make strong cuts and has not lost much of his lateral agility. If Barkley can show his lateral agility again in 2022, and work back to his rookie season, he should put up a good run at McCaffrey this season. But for now, it would be a slightly safer bet to go with Christian.

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