2014 Fantasy Football Team Preview: The New York Giants
Note: This piece was originally written on July 15th by Adam Ganeles and is one of many unique pieces that can be found in our 2014 fantasy football draft guide. None of this information has been updated since it was originally published.
Team Profile – New York Giants
“Change is the law of life”, and failure inspires change. Following a disenchanting 7-9 campaign, the Giants stepped out of organizational character this offseason by taking a hyperactive approach to the free agency period. They added 14 new faces, predominantly beefing up the secondary and depth along the offensive line. Additionally, they brought in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to modernize the offensive scheme. McAdoo will attempt to keep Eli Manning upright (39 sacks) with more West Coast flavor (less vertical), while utilizing the receiving skills of newly minted RB Rashad Jennings out of the backfield.
There is no way to sugarcoat Eli Manning’s 2013 performance level. Indeed, the offensive line made his job infinitely more difficult, but at the end of the day… decision making with the pigskin was Eli’s responsibility. To nail down the point: according to Pro Football Focus, 17 of his 27 interceptions came on downs when he was facing “no pressure”. And when blitzed – on 194 drop backs – Manning completed 52.5% of his throws with just four touchdowns. It should be noted that the Giants failed miserably to implement any semblance of the play-action pass, an area that should see new life under McAdoo. Last season, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride used PA on 14.4% of drop backs (2nd to last) — Manning’s completion % differential between play action pass versus standard drop back was -9.4%. That’s backwards, folks. Behind a rebuilt offensive line and a more balanced, versatile scheme, there is hope for an Eli bounce back. But to say he’s Jekyll and Hyde behind center would be putting it lightly. Proceed with caution… There is no backup option in sight.
The Giants signed Rashad Jennings to a 4-year $10 million deal at the outset of free agency, and by all indications, team brass expects him to be the “workhorse” back. Jennings turned 29 in March, but he still has a ton of tread on his tires at this stage of his career. Stuck behind Maurice Jones-Drew in Jacksonville and Darren McFadden in Oakland, he’s accumulated only 387 professional carries (last year’s 163 was a career-high). Jennings will carry defenders (2.8 YCo/Att), but shake and bake is not part of his repertoire (16 missed tackles). He notched eight and seven reception games last season, ultimately finishing as the 13th rated receiving RB by Pro Football Focus. Rookie Andre Williams is an intriguing dynasty target, but until he learns to block and disproves the notion that he has stone hands, the former Boston College Eagle will struggle to curry favor with the coaching staff. Ignore Peyton Hillis.
Even with Hakeem Nicks bolting for Indianapolis, the Giants still boast solid depth at the wide receiver position. Slot dynamo Victor Cruz remains the go-to option, but he struggled to separate in tight quarters a season ago. Cruz scored four touchdowns, and three of those came in week #1 at Dallas. A higher-octane tempo should result in statistical gains across the board for Cruz. Last year he was overdrafted, this year he’s liable to be underdrafted. Rookie Odell Beckham Jr. should earn plenty of snaps on the outside. Beckham Jr. can hit every mark on the route tree and he attacks the ball fearlessly despite his 5’11 frame. Think taller and more physically imposing Steve Smith (Baltimore). He’s got the ‘knack’. Jerrel Jernigan is firmly in the equation after hauling in 19 passes for 227 yards in the final three weeks last season. The G-Men will look to him for a spark in 3WR/4WR sets.
Subscribing to the theory of going to battle with what you’ve got, the Giants didn’t address tight end in the NFL Draft. Third-year TE Adrien Robinson, who general manager Jerry Reese once labeled “the JPP of tight ends”, will be granted every opportunity to run with the starting role. He’s got the size/athleticism combo, but the unknowns are plentiful. Robinson has never caught an NFL pass. UDFA Xavier Grimble, who never quite lived up to the hype at Southern Cal, could challenge Robinson with an eye opening training camp. However, Grimble is also not a lock to crack the 53-man roster, exemplifying just how fragile this position is in NY. The Giants signed veteran Kellen Davis during free agency, but he’s a security blanket at best and can be ignored.
While the offense was self-imploding in 2013, the Giants defense often responded with large efforts. They finished 8th in total defense and top-15 in both passing and rushing yards allowed. The unit’s 29 takeaways would have been a stout number if Eli Manning and co. didn’t turn the rock over 40 times. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell will count on second-year linemen Damontre Moore and Johnathan Hankins to replace the output of departed FA’s Justin Tuck and Linval Joseph. The Giants secondary should improve by leaps and bounds with the addition of shutdown corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and slot specialist Walter Thurmond. With that being said, the loss of playmaking safety Will Hill could leave them shorthanded on the backline.
Player to Watch
LSU alum Rueben Randle will have to outmaneuver his former college teammate (Beckham Jr.) for field time. Randle made a number of big plays in 2013 (six TD’s), but timing inconsistencies between him and Eli Manning cost him valuable opportunity to shine. Nevertheless, Randle is a demon after the catch (5.2 YAC) and his upside remains substantial despite an ambiguous role.
32.7% third-down conversions
You can’t win without sustaining drives, and likewise, your fantasy personnel can’t produce if they’re strapped to the sidelines. Negative first down runs and QB sacks left the Giants in far too many unmanageable down and distance situations. A more imaginative offensive scheme could go a long way in curing this debilitating ill. If McAdoo brings just one thing to the table… it needs to be less predictability.