Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Fantasy Football Augury, Chapter 12: New York Giants

QB: It seems impossible that Eli Manning is entering his 11th season, but it's true.  Along the way, he's carved out an excellent career for himself, including (not least of all) a couple of Super Bowl championships.

But last year was an off year for the youngest Manning.  For the first time since his rookie campaign he threw more interceptions than touchdown passes; in fact, he led the league in interceptions (27) for the second time in four years.

There is even more concern here.  Since 2010, Manning touchdown totals have been falling.  Last season's 18 touchdowns were his worst since his rookie season.  This total is even more bleak when you consider four of those touchdown passes came in the very first week of the season.

Fantasy owners also endured five games in which he threw three or more interceptions (in leagues that subtract points for INTs, this was especially disastrous).  Needless to say, if Manning was your starting quarterback, you were looking for a new starter early in the season.

He never did right the ship.

So what does this mean for 2014?  I think last year was just a hiccup; Manning will bounce back, but there are so many more reliable quarterbacks available, that I don't rank Manning as more than a second tier player.  He's a comfortable insurance policy as a back-up, but I don't want him as my starter.

RB:  Gone are the days of Rodney Hampton and Tiki Barber.  I had high hopes pinned on David Wilson last season; the former first round pick was entering his second year and was projected to put up top tier fantasy numbers.  But a neck injury ended his season and it is unclear where he goes from here.

It's really difficult to know where to tier Wilson.  I most certainly would not draft him early (like I did last year!).  In fact, I don't know if I would even draft him at all.  I am putting him in the fourth tier for now.  This may change in August if he looks back to 100%.

Rashad Jennings has spent his entire career toiling in obscurity behind Maurice Jones-Drew for four seasons.  He went to Oakland last year, and thanks to the paper mache nature of Darren McFadden, Jennings finally had a chance to start eight games and he showed flashes of good stuff.

In three of those games, he topped 100 yards rushing/receiving (twice over 150 yards) and five touchdowns.

Most importantly, he didn't fumble once in 199 touches.  That was enough to sell Grumpy Coughlin.

With Andre Brown out of the picture, my gut tells me Jennings will be the bell cow for the Giants; if Wilson is healthy, he'll share carries, but Jennings will be the primary back.

I will go out on a limb and predict Jennings is crowned comeback player of the year (even though he's not really coming back from anything).  I'm making him a second tier prospect for now.  I wouldn't reach for him, but I would roll the dice on him as my second running back.  Call it a hunch.

WR:  Three short years ago, Victor Cruz was the perfect Cinderella story.  The unknown, undrafted player from Massachusetts exploded onto the scene in 2011 with the third-most receiving yards in the league, won a Super Bowl title and even had a trademark touchdown dance.

But since then, he's taken major steps backwards.  He signed a fat new contract last season and responded by missing two games, not breaking the 1,000 yard barrier (despite having 122 targets) and scored less than half the touchdowns he had in the previous two seasons.

So what to make of Cruz this season?  I can't help but think he will bounce back and put together a respectable year.  He should be Manning's go-to weapon and I will classify him as a upper-level second tier option.  He could be a steal in the middle rounds.

Rueben Randle is entering his third year and the former second rounder better get his stuff in one sock.  This could be it for him in New York.

The good news is Randle had twice as many receiving yards and touchdowns last year than he had in his rookie season.

The bad news is he's had just 110 targets in his career, less than Victor Cruz had in 14 games in 2013.  When you are a contributor to your quarterback leading the league in interceptions by running the wrong routes (which Randle did more than once last year), said quarterback has a tendency to look elsewhere to throw the ball.

Perhaps year three is the breakout year for Randle, but I'm not going to wager my life savings on him.  I will label him a mid-level third tier receiver at this point.

Another reason I'm highly suspicious of Randle's tenure in New York is in the form of rookie Odell Beckham.  The Giants spent the 12th overall pick on the former LSU Tiger; this tells me they are obviously not sold on Randle.

Rarely do rookie wide receivers make a fantasy impact (gee, where have you heard that before?), but Beckham will be given every chance to unseat Randle as the starter opposite Cruz.  He's a fourth tier player, but keep an eye on him.

TE:  Every source I've researched claims Adrien Robinson is the starting tight end for the Giants.

If you've never heard of him, it is because he's never caught a pass in the NFL  Actually, he's never even  had a target in the NFL.  That being said, in nine of the last ten years, the starting tight end for the Giants has had at least 522 yards receiving and averaged five touchdowns per season.

If Robinson proves to be an average, he'll be second tier.