They’ll also open up opportunities for younger players to make an impact on offense. Fantasy Football fanatics will like the sound of that, but it’s not a guarantee that any young member of Big Blue breaks out in a big way.
Perkins clinched himself a role in the 2017 offense after averaging 4.2 yards per carry over his last five games, all of which included at least 10 carries. But Jennings’ release actually hurts Perkins’ chances of ascending into an every-down back because the competition for playing time figures to heat up with the Giants moving in a younger direction. Plus, you can practically guarantee that they’ll draft a rusher -- they’ve done it in five of their past six drafts.
Perkins’ situation is also challenged by the Giants’ preferred approach of using two running backs. The last time a New York back had 250-plus carries for them was in 2010 (Ahmad Bradshaw, 276). In the six years since then, the G-Men have bestowed over 200 carries to just two running backs, and only two have scored more than four rushing touchdowns.
So it’s quite a hill for Perkins to climb. He must first carve out a role bigger than a part-time rusher, then must be electric in the backfield. No one’s saying that won’t happen, but it’ll take a very strong training camp and preseason in order for it to manifest.
Don’t commit to Perkins as a No. 2 running back yet.
No one expected Cruz to impede on Shepard’s development, but does Cruz’s departure open up more possibilities for Shepard? Of the 1,064 plays Shepard participated in, he lined up wide just 164 times. Kind of speaks to where the Giants are comfortable playing him.
If the Giants were willing to line up Shepard all over the field, he’d have a great chance at improving on his 10.5-yard receiving average. But he’s so good in that slot role that New York might simply keep him there and find a new outside receiver to replace Cruz.
Don’t expect Shepard to land a bump into No. 2 receiver territory following Cruz’s departure.
As for Cruz replacements via free agency, the Giants are probably interested in a cost-effective signing. If they had more cap space they could make a run at Alshon Jeffery, Terrelle Pryor, DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon. All four of those wideouts are expected to land large deals (Pryor and Jeffery might get franchise-tagged).
More reasonably priced alternatives include Kenny Britt, Michael Floyd, Brandon LaFell, Terrance Williams, Kamar Aiken and Brice Butler. Not many of these guys would make Fantasy owners swoon regardless of where they signed.
With 935 career carries, Jennings isn’t your typical over-30 running back. He has impressive size (6-foot-1, 234 pounds) and good hands. While he won’t blow the doors off a defense anytime soon, the argument can be made for him being a modest contributor and emergency starter for a team’s backfield.
Maybe Cruz signs a veteran’s minimum deal to prove he can still play in the NFL, but he just wasn’t the same in his comeback season. His last 100-yard game came before the injury. He scored once last year, once in 2014 before he got hurt and four times in 2013.
Sadly, Cruz just isn’t the same. Fantasy owners should know better than to draft him, even if he ends up as a potential starter somewhere else.