Saturday, July 7, 2018
Giants Offensive Profile Last Four Years
2014-2017 Pass Attempts Rank: 9th, 6th, 8th, 1st
2014-2017 Rush Attempts Rank: 10th, 19th, 22nd, 25th
2014-2017 Play Volume Rank: 4th, 11th, 16th, 10th
2014-2017 Yards Per Play Rank: 15th, 9th, 23rd, 26th
Unaccounted for Air Yards from 2017 (Rank): 869 (23rd)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2017 (Rank): 264 (5th)
Projected Starting Lineup
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Passing Game Outlook
Eli Manning enters his age-37 campaign with descending yards per attempt (7.3 > 7.2 > 6.7 > 6.1) and QBRs (62.5 > 60.5 > 49.3 > 41.7) in four straight years. Last season, Manning finished dead last among 34 qualifiers in both PFF’s Accuracy Percentage (26.7%) and QB rating (38.8) on throws 20-plus yards downfield. Ex-coach Ben McAdoo had seen enough of Eli’s act by December, benching him for Week 13 to end Eli’s consecutive starts streak at 210 games, second most in league history and by far a franchise record. Ownership immediately intervened to have Manning reinstalled for Week 14, fired McAdoo, and spent the next six months making feel-based reparations by hiring longtime Eli proponent Dave Gettleman as GM, quarterback guru Pat Shurmur as coach, and bypassing Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen at the No. 2 pick in favor of a running back. Odell Beckham’s return does make a massive difference; since OBJ entered the NFL in 2014, Manning has averaged 5.7 more fantasy points, 0.58 more TD passes, and 49.1 more yards per game with Beckham in the lineup than without. One concern is facing the NFL’s fourth-toughest schedule, including the league’s hardest Weeks 1-7 slate. There are reasons to believe Eli is undervalued at his mid-QB20s ADP, and also reasons to believe he could again be benched. He’s a boom-bust late-round QB2.
Odell Beckham endured a high left ankle sprain last preseason, missed Week 1, was the overall WR4 in Weeks 2-5, then suffered a broken left fibula to end his season after just four games. Albeit short lived, it was Beckham’s fourth-straight year finishing WR5 or better in fantasy points per game. Much as Gettleman did with Steve Smith and Josh Norman in Carolina, the Giants’ new GM has played hardball with OBJ by not even offering him an extension. Thus, this will be Beckham’s contract year after he logged 1,300-plus yards and ten-plus TDs in three of his first four NFL seasons. Beckham reported for OTAs/minicamp in an effort to maintain amicable contract talks, although beat writers say a training-camp holdout remains in play if no negotiating progress is made. An un-guard-able short-area and long-speed separator, Beckham remains my WR4 behind Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, and Julio Jones.
Sterling Shepard capitalized on Beckham’s 12-game absence to lead last year’s Giants in receiving yards (731). Rookie TE Evan Engram outdid Shepard in targets (115, 84) and catches (64, 59). Shepard’s above-par skill level showed up in his No. 33 ranking among 93 receivers in PFF’s Yards Per Route Run. Shepard benefited from Beckham and Brandon Marshall’s early-season year-ending injuries, however, and dealt with his own health woes. He missed Weeks 6-8 with a high ankle sprain, Weeks 11-12 with recurring migraines, and Week 17 with a neck sprain. Shepard is a solid role player who last year ran 84% of his routes in the slot. With Beckham back, Shepard is tough to support as anything more than a WR4/5.
Roger Lewis, Cody Latimer, and Travis Rudolph will vie for third-receiver duties. Lewis quietly led all Giants wideouts in 2017 snaps (69%) but was an abomination as a blocker and receiver and should be on a short leash. 2014 second-round bust Latimer landed in New York on a one-year, $2.5 million deal and worked in Beckham’s first-team place at minicamp. (OBJ was still recovering from his fibula fracture.) Latimer showed very little in his four-year Broncos stint but plays special teams and was signed by new GM Gettleman, boosting his roster odds. Rudolph is Shepard’s direct backup as a slot-only receiver with sub-par speed (4.65) and overall athleticism. As Beckham, Shepard, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley are target magnets, this battle is unlikely to churn fantasy production.
Evan Engram became just the second rookie tight end since 2000 to clear 550 yards thanks largely to Beckham, Shepard, and Brandon Marshall combining for 28 missed games. Engram played more snaps (77%) than any wide receiver on the roster and finished second among NFL tight ends in targets (115) en route to a TE5 fantasy finish despite poor efficiency. Engram led all tight ends in drops (11) by four and posted an abysmal 55.7% catch rate. Despite elite 93rd-percentile SPARQ results coming out of Ole Miss, Engram ranked a disappointing 22nd in average yards of separation at target (2.6) among tight ends with at least 40 targets, barely ahead of washed-up 38-year-old Antonio Gates. Engram is a candidate to be severely over-drafted due to a potentially major volume loss with Beckham and Shepard back healthy, but he can compensate to some extent with improved efficiency, which should be expected in Engram’s second year. Although I anticipate a downturn in week-to-week consistency, Engram maintains sixth- to seventh-round best-ball appeal for his big-play and red-zone chops at fantasy’s weakest position.
Running Game Outlook
Saquon Barkley’s multi-phase skill set gives him the potential to join Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, and Ezekiel Elliott as one of the league’s few elite every-down backs who almost never come off the field and have 400 touches in their range of potential outcomes. Barkley’s college tape was similar to Johnson’s as a dynamic receiver and perimeter runner with inconsistent between-the-tackles production. Barkley shined as a pass blocker at Penn State and led all NCAA running backs last season in both receiving yards (632) and yards after catch (644). The Nittany Lions fielded one of college football’s worst offensive lines, so at least Barkley has experience dealing with weak run blocking heading to a Giants team with question marks from center to right tackle. As the G-Men passed on a loaded quarterback class to draft Barkley at No. 2 overall, they have major incentive to get the absolute maximum out of him as a favorite for 2018 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Gurley, Bell, Elliott, Johnson, Alvin Kamara, and Melvin Gordon are the only backs I have ranked ahead of Barkley in re-draft leagues.
Jonathan Stewart signed a two-year, $6.9 million contract to reunite with ex-Panthers GM Gettleman and OC Mike Shula. At the Giants’ post-draft press conference, Gettleman brazenly insisted Stewart “hasn’t lost anything” at age 31, despite Stewart’s four-year descent in yards per carry (4.6 > 4.1 > 3.8 > 3.4) and utter lack of passing-game value. Once a competent receiver, now-stone-handed Stewart averaged a painful 4.59 yards per target in the last five years and caught just 16-of-36 targets (44.4%) with seven drops in the last two. Shula still saw fit to feed him in scoring position; Stewart ranked eighth, eighth, and seventh in carries inside the five-yard line in each of the last three years. It’s not crazy to suggest Stewart could vulture goal-line TDs from Barkley. Also in the hunt for backup running back work is 2017 fourth-round pick Wayne Gallman, who quietly finished No. 10 among 47 qualified backs in Football Outsiders’ rushing Success Rate and cleared 40 receiving yards in three of the Giants’ final four games. If Barkley went down, Gallman would likely be a better lead-back option than late-career role player Stewart.
2018 Vegas Win Total
The Giants’ Win Total opened at 6.5 (-130), a number the G-Men failed to beat in three of the past four years. One big concern is New York’s season potentially going off the rails during a Weeks 1-7 gauntlet (vs. JAX, @ DAL, @ HOU, vs. NO, @ CAR, vs. PHI, @ ATL) that could theoretically threaten Eli Manning’s job security should the Giants start, say, 2-5 or 1-6. New systems are being installed on both sides of the ball, including DC James Bettcher’s 3-4 system for which the Giants don’t yet have quality personnel, especially in outside pass rush, man-coverage corners, and dime linebacker. New coach Pat Shurmur did design a ball-out-quick, high-percentage passing game in Minnesota that helped offset pass-protection deficiencies, which his new team is sure to have. Even for as devoted to resuscitating Eli has ownership and Gettleman have been, I think the likeliest 2018 outcome is Manning’s exposure as a washed player and New York’s need to turn the page, perhaps as early as the Giants’ Week 9 bye. I’m taking the under.