2014 Fantasy Outlooks: New York Giants
There are plenty of times in life when change can be good, if not great. A new job or a new home can change your world. A new restaurant can make you happy. Maybe even a different way to work, which can save you a few minutes.
For NFL players, changing the voice in your ear can change your career. And that's what we're hoping for with the Giants this season.
Kevin Gilbride is gone as the offensive coordinator after a seven-year run. It was a successful stretch from 2007-13, which produced two Super Bowls, but the past two seasons have been stale. Sure, injuries played a prominent role with the Giants falling apart offensively, but they needed a new direction on offense.
Enter Ben McAdoo as the new coordinator. He spent the past eight seasons as an offensive assistant with the Packers. There's no guarantee McAdoo will dramatically improve the Giants offense, but a change was definitely needed.
We hope McAdoo can help Eli Manning the same way Marc Trestman helped Jay Cutler in Chicago and Ken Whisenhunt helped Philip Rivers in San Diego last year. Like Manning, those two quarterbacks were struggling under previous offensive coordinators, and the change in 2013 produced rebound campaigns.
If Manning plays better then that should help the entire offense, and the Giants will look different this season with free agent Rashad Jennings and rookies in Odell Beckham and Andre Williams playing prominent roles. Hakeem Nicks is gone, but the Giants won't miss the version they've had of him the past two seasons.
The best change for the Giants, at least in terms of personnel, could be along the offensive line. They added Geoff Schwartz to play left guard, and J.D. Walton should play center if he beats out rookie Weston Richburg. Chris Snee is back at right guard, and if Will Beatty can rebound at left tackle this should be a solid unit.
If the line is healthy and Manning can adjust to McAdoo's system right away, this could be a bounce-back year for the Giants in 2014.
Poised to rebound ... Eli Manning
Let's face it, Manning can't be much worse than he was in 2013. He passed for 3,818 yards, 18 touchdowns and 27 interceptions on 58 percent completions, and he had just one game with more than 20 Fantasy points, which was Week 1.
He is expected to be fine coming off ankle surgery in April, and that's something to monitor. And the Giants have to hope the combination of Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle can replace Nicks, and Manning also is without tight end Brandon Myers .
But Manning still has plenty of potential, and he was a Top 12 Fantasy quarterback from 2008-11. He could easily get back to that level if he plays well in the new offense, and Beckham and Randle help him make plays.
Victor Cruz remains a standout Fantasy option and one of the best slot receivers in the NFL. And the Giants should be better as a whole on offense with an upgraded offensive line and an improved running game. Not only did they add Jennings and Williams, but David Wilson (neck) could make a full recovery.
We don't suggest drafting Manning as anything more than a low-end No. 2 Fantasy quarterback. But don't be surprised if he has a Rivers-like year as a veteran being castoff by Fantasy owners, who can easily rebound in a new system if things go his way. Someone in your league might be starting Manning frequently this year, even though no one will be expecting that on Draft Day.
Rookie to target ... Andre Williams
I'm a believer in Wilson if he's healthy, and I'm skeptical of Jennings, who is 29 and has never been a featured back for a full year. Williams is the wild card, but he has plenty of upside.
He might remind you a little of Brandon Jacobs because of his size at 6-foot, 227 pounds, and he ran well at Boston College. Last year, Williams had 355 carries for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns, so he will help the Giants if they want to be physical running the ball.
I don't consider Williams the best rookie running back -- that should be Tennessee's Bishop Sankey -- but you can argue he's No. 2 ahead of Devonta Freeman , Terrance West , Jeremy Hill , Tre Mason or Carlos Hyde . He has the opportunity to play right away, and the Giants could lean on him if Jennings fails or Wilson is out.
Your plan should be to target Williams with a late-round pick in re-draft leagues, and stash him as your No. 4 running back in standard formats. He'll probably struggle in PPR leagues, but he could easily lead the Giants in rushing touchdowns this season and maybe in Fantasy points at his position, depending on what happens with Wilson and Jennings.
Keep the faith ... Rueben Randle
|Andre Brown||159 (139 car., 20 rec.)||22.5%|
|Peyton Hillis||86 (73 car., 13 rec.)||12.2%|
|Victor Cruz||73 rec.||10.3%|
|Brandon Jacobs||60 (58 car., 2 rec.)||8.5%|
|Hakeem Nicks||56 rec.||7.9%|
Randle has had a roller coaster offseason so far. He looked great when Nicks left for the Colts, but then the Giants seemed down on Randle heading into the draft. It led to Beckham being drafted in the first round, which appeared to squash any sleeper appeal Randle might have.
But Randle still projects as a starter for the Giants, and he will definitely get plenty of playing time. The Giants want Cruz to stay in the slot, meaning Beckham and Randle will play outside.
And while he struggled at times in 2013, Randle is entering his third season in the NFL, which could lead to a breakout campaign. He finished last year with 41 catches for 611 yards and six touchdowns, including a five-game stretch when he had at least eight Fantasy points in the middle of the season.
We hope that player shows up each week, but the addition of Beckham will be challenging. Still, with a mid- to late-round pick, Randle could provide quality rewards.
Manning's only 20-point Fantasy performance last season was Week 1 at Dallas, and he could open this season with a 20-point outing against the Lions, who are challenged in the secondary and will likely force the Giants to throw if they are chasing points. The Giants face the NFC West this season with a trip to the Seahawks in Week 10, but they also benefit with some weak opponents in their own division. Dallas should be terrible against the run with Sean Lee (ACL) out, and the Redskins joined the Cowboys in the bottom three of Fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. The Eagles also allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing receivers, so the Giants could have a nice bounce-back season on offense this year.
Training camp battles
Who's the No. 2 receiver? Beckham and Randle will compete for the starting spot, but the starter is irrelevant since the Giants will use plenty of three-receiver sets. Adrien Robinson is the starter at tight end, but the Giants will rely on Cruz, Beckham and Randle to handle most of the receiving duties this year. For Fantasy owners, you should rank the receivers as Cruz, Randle and Beckham.
What's the pecking order at running back? The Giants will likely go into training camp with the depth chart as Jennings, Williams and Wilson, since Wilson still needs clearance for contact. Jennings is definitely going to start barring injury, but he could easily be replaced if he struggles. Williams could work at the goal line, and Wilson is the change-of-pace rusher. Fantasy owners should rank the running backs as Jennings, Wilson and Williams heading into training camp, and I would wait on Williams or Wilson and pass on Jennings, who will likely command a mid-round pick.
The Giants are viewing Wilson as anything he can provide this year will be a bonus. And a lot has to happen for him to succeed this year. Jennings has to struggle or get hurt. Williams has to prove he's not ready for NFL carries in his rookie year or suffer the same fate as Jennings. And, most importantly, Wilson has to prove his neck is 100 percent.
We won't know Wilson's status until the start of training camp, but if he's ready to go, he has the most upside of this backfield. His speed and playmaking ability set him apart, and he would become my favorite Giants running back this season. The best part about him will be his value. Jennings will be drafted as early as Round 6, and Fantasy owners will take Williams first based on his college career. But Wilson, with a late-round flier, will be the best of the bunch if healthy.
Now that the Giants have improved their offensive line, Wilson can live up to his last year's breakout campaign, which was cut short in Week 5 when he hurt his neck. He just has to get healthy and stay on the field.
Eli Manning (ankle), probable for start of training camp. ... David Wilson (neck), questionable for start of training camp. ... Mario Manningham (knee), questionable for start of training camp. ... Jon Beason (foot), questionable for start of season