The 2018 RB Sweet 16: (1) Saquon Barkley vs (16) Justin Jackson

March Madness is back, and so is the RotoViz Running Back Prospect Sweet 16 Tournament. We take some of the top incoming RBs and put them through the brackets March Madness style.

Various RotoViz writers will break down the matchups and give you the insight that goes into each selection. This exercise is meant to give readers a look at the opinions and the thought processes that go into choosing a player in a head-to-head setting.

The RotoViz writers were instructed to pick a winner for each matchup based upon the following criteria:

1. RotoViz metrics

2. Projected chance of future success

3. Cost to acquire player (draft price)

4. Personal preference

Each staff member’s vote counts as one point.  Each member will post a narrative justifying his pick. In the end the player with the most points advances to the next round.

Here is a look at this year’s bracket:

RB Bracket 18

Ready for the first matchup of 2018?

(1) Saquon Barkley vs (16) Justin Jackson

Anthony Amico – Saquon Barkley

I want to give a quick shoutout here to Jackson, who has 122 collegiate receptions and four years with at least 245 carries. He is an attractive sleeper. That said, he simply cannot overcome Barkley here, who was a dominant college player and absolute freak at the NFL Combine.

Matt Wispe – Saquon Barkley

While I believe that the acquisition cost for the 1.01 has reached new levels of absurdity, I can’t blame dynasty players for loving Barkley. In a situation that was nearly impossible to improve his draft stock, Barkley may have done just that at the combine. His rushing efficiency should raise some small questions, as should the fact that his rushing production waned against higher levels of competition, but the standout number from his production is his 4.0-plus receptions per game. Along with his production and athleticism, his draft stock as a top-10 pick makes this an easy selection.

Blair Andrews – Saquon Barkley

Jackson is probably underseeded here, as a back who was productive all four years of college and one of only two players since 2000 with over 5,000 rushing yards and 100 receptions. The problem is, everything Jackson does well, Barkley does better.

Cort Smith – Saquon Barkley

I can’t find a chink in Barkley’s armor. Young, fast, big, productive, he ticks every box we look for when it comes to potential at the next level. He also looks like an elite receiver out of the backfield and is probably the only back in the draft that is immune to a landing spot.

Jordan Hoover – Saquon Barkley

Jackson was productive as a runner and receiver at Northwestern and exhibited solid burst and agility at the combine. He’s an interesting later-round option in rookie drafts but simply can’t compete with Barkley’s complete resume.

Dave Caban – Saquon Barkley

While I like Jackson’s agility and multi-faceted college production, Barkley is rare prospect that will only be topped by the fiercest of competetion.

Jeff Matson – Saquon Barkley

Jackson had above-average rushing yards per game (compared with this field of 16), but he has below average weight, speed, and receptions per game, the other important factors according to the RotoViz RB Success Model.

Hasan Rahim – Saquon Barkley

Jackson fared well in Amico’s RB prospect projections, and it’s a shame he ran into Barkley in the first round. Barkley is one of the top RB prospects since 2016 and should be drafted with the 1.01 in all rookie drafts.

John Lapinski – Saquon Barkley

Barkley might be the best all-around RB prospect we’ve seen in a long time. As others have pointed out though, Jackson is an interesting sleeper and actually had the third-best career workhorse score for this year’s RB class, coming in just behind Barkley himself.

Scott Smith – Saquon Barkley

There are a few nice things that you can say about Jackson. He has been productive throughout his college career and offers solid upside as a satellite back at the next level. He tested better than expected at the combine, possibly causing people to dig a bit deeper into Jackson as a prospect. With that said, there is no way he was ever going to win this match up. Barkley sets up to be maybe the best RB prospect of the last 20 years. Barkley’s combine profile alone is enough for me in this match up.

Ryan Bobbitt – Saquon Barkley

If Jackson was off your radar before the combine, he’s corrected that. His production and athletic profile makes him an interesting selection late in rookie drafts. However, Barkley simply has every box checked in his favor: production, athleticism, and projected draft capital.

Final Result

Our first matchup of the bracket is a clean sweep. Barkley, the top seed in the bracket, disposed of Jackson fairly easily. Though Jackson did earn some praise for his ability to produce as both a runner and receiver, he was simply no match for Barkley’s outstanding collegiate production, as well as his dominant performance at the NFL Combine. Barkley will go on to face the winner of Kerryon Johnson and John Kelly.