Cover Photo: Getty Images

Getting the top pick in your fantasy football draft is like winning the lottery. You pretty much get to lock in a stud no matter who you decide to draft, but picking the right player is still a crucial decision to your success. Just ask anyone who took Le'Veon Bell over Todd Gurley last year. 

Many fantasy drafts in 2019 will be pitting NFC East rival running backs against each other. Drafters will likely be deciding between Saquon Barkley or Ezekiel Elliott near the top of their drafts.

While most drafters will just look up the latest expert fantasy rankings and pick the higher guy, sharp drafters understand there is much more that goes into the decision. Let's try to break this down and see who comes out on top.


The biggest driver in fantasy production is opportunity, as your players need to get the ball to score points. Elliott gets the edge in this metric, as he saw 381 touches to Barkley's 352. Both dominated their respective backfields, but ultimately, it was Elliott who had more opportunities.

Passing Game Involvement 

Not all touches are created equal. Most leagues operate on some form of PPR scoring, which assigns a point value simply for making a catch, regardless of the yardage gained on the play. That means that a player that has no catches and 100 rushes could be less valuable than a player that has no rushes and 100 catches. 

Both Elliott and Barkley were excellent receivers in 2018. Elliott's passing game production seemingly came out of nowhere, as he saw just 58 catches over his first two seasons combined. He then put up 77 in 2018, but that still didn't come close to Barkley, who put up 91 catches as a rookie. 

Offensive Line

Generally speaking, a running back is only as good as his offensive line. Coming into 2018, everyone would have taken the Cowboys' line over the Giants', but they instantly encountered problems as All-Pro center Travis Frederick was diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome and missed all of 2018. LT Tyron Smith also missed time.

The Giants' line exceeded expectations, allowing Barkley to hit 5.0 yards per carry. Rookie guard Will Hernandez performed well and free agent tackle Nate Solder opened up lanes. Unless Frederick comes back for the Cowboys, the Giants likely have the edge at line heading into 2019.

Team Wins

When your team is winning, you run the ball more. More rush attempts means more fantasy points. Naturally, you want a running back from a good team. While we don't have any win totals to bet on at the FanDuel Sportsbook yet, we have a general sense that the Cowboys will be expected to win more games. 


Everyone outside of the state of Texas likely agrees that Barkley should go ahead of Elliott. He had more total yards (2,028 to 2,001), more passing game work, and scored 15 touchdowns to Elliott's 9. While we can pencil in Elliott for more pure opportunity, Barkley checks more boxes and has the best potential fantasy production that your No. 1 pick will get you. 

Join FanDuel Sportsbook Today. New users get a risk-free bet up to $500. Join Now.

Taylor Smith is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Taylor also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username jtsmittyyy. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in their articles are the author's alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.