In 2013, the Giants opened the season with six consecutive losses before finishing 7-9, their first losing season since 2004 when they first acquired Eli Manning. Closing the season going 6-3, they’ll look to build on that finish heading into 2014.
2014 Giants Schedule
|11||San Francisco 49ers|
|16||@||St. Louis Rams|
By now, you’re aware that you need to use caution when looking at schedule analysis in advance. Looking at the Giants slate, they draw the AFC South to go along with their own comfortable division with a sprinkling of NFC West games along the way. Once they reach the back quarter, things look pretty promising for this offense if they get on track in year one under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
McAdoo was brought in to replace Kevin Gilbride and won’t have to do much to improve on what the Giants weren’t able to accomplish last season. Big Blue was a turnover machine and a factory of sadness on offense as 12 of the defenses they faced last season posted a top 12 scoring week for fantasy purposes. Here’s a glimpse of where they finished as an offense a season ago in several efficiency areas.
|Points Per Game||18.4||28|
|Average Scoring Margin||-5.6||23|
|Yards Per Point||16.7||27|
|Points Per Play||0.298||26|
|Yards Per Play||5.0||28|
Back to the Basics
The Giants also finished 29th in rushing yards per game (83.2) and 30th in yards per attempt (3.5) a season ago, forcing them to dedicate their offseason into bolstering that area. They signed guard Geoff Schwartz and tackle Charles Brown to go along with the acquisition of two running backs, one via free agency in Rashad Jennings.
Jennings is coming off of his best season as a pro, averaging .67 fantasy points per rushing attempt, which was higher than Marshawn Lynch, Matt Forte, Eddie Lacy and Adrian Peterson. He notched six top 24 PPR scoring weeks during a seven-game stretch from weeks nine through 15 in an unfavorable situation for producing usable fantasy production in Oakland, able to aid his output by averaging 2.4 receptions per contest.
The short term downside is that while Jennings has been efficient in his career outside of 2012, we’ve yet to get a full season of bankable fantasy production from him and he’s entering the season at age 29. Since entering the league in 2009, he’s missed time with a groin, sprained shoulder, knee, hamstring, and a concussion as he’s failed to appear in 16 games over any season. He still only has amassed 484 career touches thus far, which is 147 less than Alfred Morris has over the past two seasons. If he’s going to deliver a lead running back season, he’ll have to overcome some large odds. In NFL history, only six running backs have ever rushed for 1,000 yards or more for the first time in their career at the age of 29 or older and the last time it happened was 2002.
[table id=176 /]
The Giants also selected Andre Williams in the fourth round this spring and he will be in the mix to aid Jennings being able to stay on the field for all of the season. Williams is a big back with phenomenal athleticism, which propelled him in posting the most rushing yards (2,177) in an FBS season since Kevin Smith in 2007 (2,567 yards).
Williams is actually more of a big play runner, but projects to be used in short yardage and on early downs in this offense. He had only 10 receptions through four years at Boston College and is unlikely to see much work in the NFL in passing situations, which could make his role game script dependent. If Jennings were to go down, C.D. Carter highlights that there is a scenario in which Williams could be a fringe RB1 for fantasy purposes.
Davis Mattek has everything you need to know about this potential timeshare and I agree wholeheartedly with the conclusion. Jennings should return his price point in the fifth round of drafts in PPR leagues, but your selection of him needs to come along with expectations that you may be buying at his ceiling cost. At this juncture, I’m more inclined to pursue Jennings in auction leagues over snake drafts because you’re tempting fate by playing against a lot of red flags.
Williams will likely get into the later single digits rounds over the course of the next few weeks if his preseason keeps going the way it has through two weeks, which is going to price me out completely. While Williams has touchdown potential, you also have to project the Giants being a really improved offense over 2013 to make him a viable weekly option, similar to Stevan Ridley in New England. It’s just not a scenario I foresee happening in year one of this offense so I’m unlikely to own either player unless they become low hanging fruit.
Small Passing Game for the Giants?
With McAdoo and his West Coast offense, combined with the Giants’ emphasis on balance, it appears like they want to play small ball to mitigate the mistakes that hampered their success in 2013. 2011 seems so long ago for Victor Cruz as his fantasy output has dropped in succession over the two years since then. A big part of his drop in fantasy production stems from the fact that he’s not being used vertically in the offense anymore, something that is likely to continue as he’s expected to spend most of his time this season in the slot. Over the past three seasons, check out his target totals on throws over 20 yards downfield.
[table id=177 /]
*Table From Pro Football Focus
That’s problematic because 14 of Cruz’s 24 touchdown receptions have come from outside of the red zone in his career as he’s converted just nine of 41 red zone targets for scores over the past three seasons and in 2011 and 2013 he converted just three of 22 combined. He was still the fourth best receiver in 2013 in relation to being the best target for his individual team, but without splash plays or touchdowns, Cruz kind of becomes the poor man’s Andre Johnson. The Giants have tipped their hand as to wanting to be more balanced this season, so Cruz may never reach the triple digit reception totals needed to elevate him back to fantasy WR1 status. He’s very fairly priced in drafts right now, so he’s a solid buy, but I have a hard time anticipating him trumping his ADP by leaps and bounds in 2014.
Rueben Randle will enter his third year in 2014. He saw his snap count as a sophomore more than double from his rookie season, participating on 589 plays compared to 250 in 2012. With those increased snaps, he doubled his production across the board in receptions (19 to 41), receiving yards (298 to 611), and touchdowns (3 to 6). Still only 23 years old this past May, here’s the list of wide receivers in NFL history to have at least 50 receptions, 800 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns through their first two seasons before turning 23.
[table id=178 /]
He falls on the shallow end of this list, but it still goes to show you that he’s at least done something of note at a young age. James Todd is still buying Randle, and you should too at his price this season. In McAdoo’s offense, Randle will fill the role of James Jones, a player he nearly clones physically. Check out their profiles entering the league.
[table id=179 /]
Jones really never amounted to more than a fantasy WR2/3, nor did he rack up big yardage in this system (career high 817 receiving yards), but Randle doesn’t have as much competition as Jones did in Green Bay. He also projects to be player most likely to produce in the red zone on this roster. As long as Randle stays near the eighth round, he’s a nice fit on your roster as your WR4 in anticipation that something big can still possibly be in store in season three.
The Giants used the 12th overall selection this spring on Odell Beckham, a player that I had mixed feelings on entering the draft. Regardless of that predraft determination, this system is beneficial to his skill set, but he needs to get on the field first. Tom Coughlin is from the old guard and makes you earn his trust. Beckham has yet to participate fully in camp with a hamstring injury, so he’s falling slightly behind the eight ball in terms of favor. Either way, it’s hard to feel tremendous about his 2014 fantasy prospects under Coughlin as only one receiver has ever reached 50 receptions in his first season under the coach in 18 seasons. Here’s every rookie receiver to record a reception under Coughlin.
[table id=180 /]
You can see, there’s a smattering of high draft picks in there as well. None as high as Beckham was, but there’s a trend going on under Coughlin. It’s likely that both Beckham and Jerrel Jernigan see time this season, rendering both as spotty contributors for any roster. Jernigan was a third round selection in 2011 under Coughlin and didn’t even record a single reception as rookie, lending credence to the above table’s merits. It’s also worth mentioning that Corey Washington has been taking advantage of Beckham’s absence in the preseason. Matthew Freedman has the ultimate low down on Washington here for those looking for a Rip Van Winkle.
It’s hard to see any tight end coming out of this group and being fantasy relevant. Initial thoughts are that this offense will be similar to how Green Bay was when Aaron Rodgers and Jermichael Finley were absent a season ago, meaning a guy like Daniel Fells can claim the starting role because of his run blocking. Most of the community would like to see workout warrior, Adrien Robinson, get a real shot, but he’s looking more and more like a lost cause art this point. I would avoid this unit entirely.
Eli Manning has seen his completion percentage and yards per attempt drop for three consecutive seasons and 2013 was new low point for his career. He averaged only 5.4 yards per attempt, the lowest mark in his career and had five games in which he threw three or more interceptions. Since 2009, he’s had 13 games with three of more interceptions, most in the NFL. In fact, his 58 interceptions over the past three seasons are the most in the league and for perspective; Aaron Rodgers has thrown only 52 interceptions in his entire career.
For fantasy purposes, Eli sported the fifth lowest total in fantasy points per aimed throw (FPAT) and 80 percent of his fantasy weeks were considered complete duds, by far the worst total for any quarterback last season. He was disappointing in all game situations a season ago, so it’s hard to completely blame the team in totality for his poor play.
He has thrown for 4,000 yards only three times in his career and more than 4,021 only once, when he had two high end receiver options, something he may or may not have this season. The ray of sunshine is that he’s never missed a game in his career and has thrown at least 24 touchdowns in six of his ten seasons. C.D. Carter has Manning flirting with low end QB1 numbers if he can hit high end equity score and Manning has been quietly great in division play for his career. I feel like the Giants really want to make things easier on Manning this season in terms of short throws and going back to balanced attack, so there’s an element that is intriguing with adding a player with his pedigree at such a low cost. With their division and schedule, Manning is worth an add early because he’s so cheaply priced in the streaming pile of the position. I don’t expect the bounce back that most do, but if he looks like the Manning of 2013 early on, you cut bait and wash your hands.
2014 Fantasy Relevant Projections
|Odell Beckham Jr.||74.0||40.7||553.7||2.8||72.5||113.2|
Best Option to Crash through their projection without injury: Randle – entering the fabled third season for a receiver, Randle has an open door to lead this team in touchdowns. If he garners enough targets to boost his reception total, he could finish as a WR2.
Biggest Risk to fall through their projection: Jennings – It’s obvious, but it has to be acknowledged when investing into a 29 year old back with no full season of tangible production on his resume yet.
Best Waiver Wire Option: Jernigan/Beckham – if Randle doesn’t elevate his game that leaves room for either option to make an impact. Beckham will need to find consistent snaps at some point, but that’s something that should happen eventually if not immediately when healthy to go.
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