Fantasy Depth Chart Review - NY Giants
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Eli Manning is coming off a 2014 campaign where he posted career-best 63.1 completion percentage to go along with 4,410 yards and 30 touchdowns (both second best for his career). His 8th place fantasy finish was his highest since 2011, and it marked the fifth time he’s finished in top 10 in his 11-year career.
Manning wasn’t off the charts in any one category last season, but he was a fairly high floor fantasy option topping double-digit fantasy points in 12-of-16 weeks. His current ADP of 9.05 as the 13th quarterback positions Manning as a borderline QB1/priority QBBC, and that’s about right. He’s about as unlikely to finish the season as the top fantasy quarterback as I am to suit up for the Giants this season. However, with arguably the most dangerous offensive weapon in the NFL, Manning again offers a high fantasy floor.
Unlike some of the other pieces in this series, I’m not going to spend a lot of time breaking down the quarterback position. You know what you’re going to get when you rely on Eli.
There’s a lot more attention being paid to the Giants wide receivers. Odell Beckham Jr. (that’s OBJ folks, not ODB) was the most impressive rookie wide receiver we’ve seen since Randy Moss. He put up 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games played and was the No. 1 fantasy wide receiver in fantasy from Week 7 on. From that point in the season, only Dez Bryant posted a higher points per opportunity than Beckham’s 0.66.
If you owned Beckham last season, there’s a good chance you won your league. His production was historic, but how should we be valuing Beckham entering Year 2? It’s always tricky evaluating a player coming off a massive year. The inner optimist in us wants to believe that players will continue to produce at these levels, but regression to the mean suggests otherwise.
Still, Beckham’s performance last season suggests the former first-rounder is primed to keep producing. He edged all but A.J. Green and Demaryius Thomas in yards per route run, and actually led all receivers in this stat from Week 7 on with an astonishing 2.96 YPRR. If you want Beckham this season, be prepared to pay a premium. His ADP is holding steady at the tail end of the first round.
Of course, there is still some risk with Beckham, as a lingering hamstring injury will likely keep him sidelined until camp. While his injury issues are concerning, we’re only in June, and he has plenty of time to get healthy for the 2015 season.
Speaking of injuries, Victor Cruz is currently rehabbing a torn patellar tendon and is reportedly on track to start in Week 1. However, this is a nasty injury and it wouldn’t be a shock if Cruz isn’t ready to roll by the opener.
A revelation in 2011 when he finished as fantasy’s No. 4 wide receiver with 1,536 yards and nine scores, Cruz’s per route production has dipped significantly from a YPRR of 3.08 in 2011 to just 1.99 in 2013 and 1.73 before his injury last season. Turning 29 in November, Cruz isn’t the massive ceiling fantasy option he once was, and his current ADP of 7.01 seems way to high. Cruz is much more ideal in the WR4/WR5 range.
Instead, the better value in New York might be with Rueben Randle. He’s been getting some buzz in OTAs as a player Eli Manning identified to have a breakout season. While he only managed to finish 35th in standard scoring last season, Randle actually tied for 20th in targets (122) among wide receivers. Though not the most consistent fantasy option, Randle topped 100 yards three times in his final seven games. A big concern for fantasy purposes was Randle’s three touchdowns. However, he did see 12 end zone targets, which suggests we could see improvement in his touchdown total.
Right now Randle is coming off the board as 58th wide receiver at pick 13.04. While he’s going to lose targets to Cruz, I don’t think the gap between these two is that wide for fantasy purposes. Depending on how well Cruz recovers, it’s fair to suggest that Randle offers decidedly more upside and is a much better value later in fantasy drafts.
Preston Parker is the next man up at receiver on the Giants’ depth chart. After not playing for two seasons, Parker recorded 36 receptions for 418 yards and two scores in relief of Cruz last season.
Shifting to tight end, Larry Donnell wasn’t on anyone’s fantasy radar entering last season following his three-catch 2013 campaign. However, he exploded into fantasy relevance with a score in Week 1 and a three-touchdown game in Week 4. Donnell cooled off down the stretch, but was still the No. 15 fantasy tight end from Week 7 on. With the Giants not adding any tight ends in the offseason, Donnell is again slated for the starting job and makes for a solid high floor/low ceiling TE2 fantasy option.
There’s a bit of a logjam at running back for the Giants. Both Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams return from last season, and the Giants also signed Shane Vereen. Our current projection is for Jennings to get early-down work with Vereen as the passing-down back and Williams spelling Jennings.
Now entering his age-30 season, Jennings got off to a hot start in 2014, ranking 10th among running backs in fantasy scoring through the first five weeks of the season. Then a knee injury caused him to miss five games, and he limped down the stretch with an ankle issue. All told, Jennings managed to finish a respectable 20th in fantasy points per game.
Williams saw an expanded role when Jennings was sidelined and then again over the last month of the season. Despite putting up prolific numbers at Boston College, Williams proved a pedestrian runner, averaging 3.3 yards per carry and just 2.1 yards after contact per carry.
Perhaps the most interesting back of this bunch for fantasy purposes is Vereen. He comes over from the Patriots where he had 99 catches over the last two seasons, and gives the Giants a versatility they lacked last season.
While much of the buzz from the Giants beat has suggested Vereen will play a big role in this offense, he’s unlikely to out-touch Jennings. Current ADP has Jennings going at 6.01 and Vereen at 7.08. While Vereen is very intriguing, he may be a bit overvalued in that spot in standard leagues. That said, his value is certainly higher in PPR formats. At this point, Williams is at best a late-round dart in standard leagues. His touch volume won’t be significant enough to produce weekly fantasy value, but he would slide into the early-down role if Jennings gets injured.
Move to the defensive side of the ball, the Giants have one of the strongest IDP assests in Jason Pierre-Paul. He’s coming off a strong 2014 campaign where he racked up 77 total tackles and 12.5 sacks. Pierre-Paul finished as fantasy’s No. 2 defensive lineman, though he was a very distant second to J.J. Watt. With solid tPOP (8.7%) and QB pressure (11.0%) numbers, Pierre-Paul appears poised for another strong season of production. He’s locked in the top tier of defensive linemen.
On the opposite side of the line, we’re currently projecting George Selvie to start. I wouldn’t read too much into this, as the Giants should use a fairly heavy rotation with Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore also in the mix.
After floundering for five seasons in Denver, Ayers flashed potential in 2014 with five sacks. While that number doesn’t jump off the page, Ayers led all qualifying defensive linemen last season with a QB pressure on 19.3 percent of his pass rush snaps. The only defensive lineman close was J.J. Watt at 18.8 percent.
Ayers gave the Giants a scare getting carted off with an ankle injury at OTAs back in late-May, but tests revealed no structural damage. While Ayers offers loads of pass rushing upside, he doesn’t project to play enough snaps to be fantasy relevant. Likewise, the rotation will keep Moore on the fringes of the fantasy radar.
Of course, those in dynasty leagues will want to be aware of Owa Odighizuwa. The Giants selected the former UCLA Bruin with the No. 74 overall pick in this year’s draft. One of the better edge rushers in this year’s class, Odighizuwa recorded a pressure on 10.8% of his pass rush snaps and converted eight of his 56 pressures for sacks last season. He’s fast (4.62 40 time) and explosive (39″ vertical), but for now will be buried on the Giants’ depth chart. Don’t expect anything from Odighizuwa in redraft leagues, but grab him and stash him in your dynasty leagues.
You might be surprised to find out that Jonathan Hankins finished as the No. 7 defensive tackle and No. 32 defensive lineman in balanced scoring systems last season. Though he’s not a household name, Hankins took a huge step forward in 2014, posting 55 total tackles and seven sacks. Those in DT-required leagues will want to prioritize Hankins the McCoy/Donald/Suh tier of defensive tackles.
Linebacker has been a weak spot for the Giants in recent seasons. The orange and red across the first stringers on our depth chart suggests things won’t be getting better any time soon. We currently have Jon Beason, Jameel McClain, and J.T. Thomas projected to start with Devon Kennard likely in the mix.
Once an elite fantasy option, Beason played every game over his first four years in the NFL and averaged 135.3 total tackles per season. Since then, he’s been one of the league’s most brittle players, missing 40 out of a possible 64 games. He has been productive when he’s been on the field, especially in 2013 when he racked up 93 total tackles in 12 games for the Giants. But with Beason, it’s only a matter of time before the next injury hits. Keep that in mind if you take a shot on him this season.
Truth be told, it might be worth the risk. The Giants home stat crew was one of the most tackle-friendly last season, awarding 1.39 tackles per opportunity. Only the Jets’ and Bills’ crews awarded tackles at a higher rate.
With Beason sidelined last season, the Giants turned to McClain to play every-down. While the veteran put up decent tackle numbers (116 total), he struggled both against the run and in coverage. McClain graded out as PFF’s No. 51 inside linebacker out of 60 qualifiers.
His performance would suggest McClain isn’t long for a three-down role, but the Giants really don’t have a better option in Thomas, who finished as the No. 55 inside linebacker last season with the Jags. While there’s fantasy value to be had if one of these guys gets subpackage duties, it’s tough to endorse either horse in this race.
At defensive back, the Giants have one of the rare fantasy relevant corners in Prince Amukamara. The former first-rounder had 85 total tackles in 2013 and was off to a strong start last year with 45 tackles through eight games before a biceps injury ended his season. Despite his less-than-ideal injury history, Amukamara’s strong tackle production makes him a solid DB2 in big play leagues.
Those in IDP circles also want to be aware of rookie Landon Collins. The second-rounder landed in one of the best depth chart situations with essentially no one in New York after the Giants parted ways with both Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown in the offseason. Collins isn’t a machine, but he’s a more than capable tackler who gets to play behind a suspect linebacker corps in one of the most tackle-heavy home venues in the league. He’s a threat for triple-digit tackles in Year 1.
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Assistant Managing Editor and resident IDP maven and DFS junkie of PFF Fantasy.