Fantasy Football Today

Giants need big year in passing game

By Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer

Eli Manning should benefit with Ben McAdoo replacing Kevin Gilbride at offensive coordinator. (USATSI)
Eli Manning should benefit with Ben McAdoo replacing Kevin Gilbride at offensive coordinator. (USATSI)

The Giants passing game has been in the news in recent weeks with Eli Manning's ankle surgery and Victor Cruz wanting the team to draft a receiver. It's made for some interesting preseason outlooks.

The Giants should improve throwing the ball this season -- they can't be much worse than 2013. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who was an assistant with the Packers since 2006, will bring his version of the West Coast offense to New York. That should help Manning, who is coming off a miserable year, because he needed a change from Kevin Gilbride.

Manning, who should be fine with his ankle for training camp, has now gone two years in a row with fewer than 4,000 passing yards. In 2013, he had more interceptions (27) than touchdowns (18), and he completed just 58 percent of his passes.

He said the new offense gives him the chance to "re-invent himself," and the Giants will have a different look at receiver with Hakeem Nicks gone as a free agent to Indianapolis. Cruz will remain the No. 1 receiver, and Rueben Randle is expected to be the other starter.

The Giants brought back Mario Manningham after a two-year stint with the 49ers, and Jerrel Jernigan is also expected to play a bigger role. The team also will likely address tight end in the draft (we'd love to see them get North Carolina's Eric Ebron) or a late free-agent signing like Jermichael Finley (if his neck is healthy).

Not many owners are going to draft Manning as anything more than a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback, and he has a lot to prove. But if he can grasp this offense and his receivers thrive, he could return as a Top 12 Fantasy passer, which he was from 2008-11. It's a stretch, but he's someone to monitor during the season.

Cruz should also rebound after a down year in 2013 when he had just 73 catches for 998 yards and four touchdowns, scoring three of them in Week 1. This was the first time since his breakout season in 2011 that Cruz failed to finish as a Top 15 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues (he was No. 29).

The reason Cruz wants help at receiver, which shows little faith in Randle, is he does his best work in the slot. When Nicks was healthy and playing well, Cruz was dominant. As we saw last year when Nicks wasn't at 100 percent, it made it easy for defenses to slow Cruz down.

Now, we'll find out if the Giants plan to upgrade over Randle, but if he's No. 2 on the depth chart as expected then we like him as a sleeper. Randle flashed his potential last season as the No. 3 receiver for the Giants with 41 catches for 611 yards and six touchdowns. He's entering his third year in the NFL, which is typically a breakout season for receivers, and Randle is headed in that direction.

As for Jernigan and Manningham, they aren't worth drafting in the majority of leagues. Jernigan will be the No. 3 receiver for the Giants, and we saw him play well toward the end of last season when Cruz was hurt with 19 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns in three games. He'll have to show he's more than just a Cruz replacement, and we want him to prove himself first.

Manningham was a shell of himself with the 49ers, and he missed 14 games in two years with San Francisco, including a torn ACL in 2012. He will be No. 4 on the depth chart, so his playing time could be limited when everyone is healthy.

In looking at the Giants on Draft Day, Cruz should be taken in Round 5 in standard leagues and Round 4 in PPR formats as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver. Randle is worth a mid-round pick as a No. 3 receiver, and Jernigan is only worth a late-round flier in deep formats. Manning is also just a late-round pick if you're looking for a backup quarterback.

We hope the Giants will improve under McAdoo, and there's still plenty of talent on this roster for the passing game. It will fall on Manning to make it all happen, and hopefully he can turn back the clock to 2011.

 
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