Bud-duh buh bud-duh buh!
Bud-duh buh bud-duh BAH!
BA BAH BA BAAAAAA!!!
and so on and so forth....
We are now two weeks away from the Hall of Fame game in which the Saints take on the Cardinals in the first pre-season game of the year. Ho. Ly. Crap. It seems like just yesterday that those guys beat those other guys in that last game of the year, or whatever. I have a terrible memory.
Oh yeah, that's right. The Giants beat the Patriots in a re-match of the last time the Giants beat the Patriots just five years ago. I bet Bill Belichick hates Tom Coughlin more than Cam Newton hates giving out free autographs.
Today is the day that I kick off my full 32-team preview of every offense in the NFL, doling out the depth charts of every skill position in the NFL with some predictions. I did this for the first time last year and I think it worked out pretty well. I started out just trying to name the starters but then you and I both know that starters and reserves can have equal importance in fantasy (Victor Cruz to name just one) so I wanted to go as deep as I thought reasonable. #ThatsWhatSheSaid?
I start off this years team previews with that same team that won the Super Bowl for the second time in five years. The New York Football G-Men....
New York Giants
2011 Record: 9-7 (Won an important game in the playoffs, though)
Skill Players Drafted: David Wilson, RB (1st), Rueben Randle, WR (2nd), Adrien Robinson, TE (4th)
Dearly Departed: Brandon Jacobs, Mario Manningham, Jake Ballard
I have taken a lot of shots at Manning over the years, and an article I wrote last season about him before a Seahawks game had more comments than anything I've ever written. Mostly from Giants fans that wanted to let me know that I'm a douchebag, despite the facts. Eli didn't have a good start to the year, and then he lost that game to the Seahawks and had three interceptions. My criticisms of Eli must have hit him hard though, because he became a different player after that.
Manning had 3,155 yards, 18 TD/11 INT, 59.5% completions and 8 Y/A in his final ten games of the year. He exploded in the playoffs for 65% completions, 9 TD/1 INT and 1,219 yards in four games. Doubtful that any quarterback has seen his stock soar more over the last year than Manning when you take into account the fact that he was so mediocre and then he really did lead the Giants to the Super Bowl. I thought it was a joke that anyone would put him anywhere near the "elite" class (including Manning talking about himself in such a way) and now he's got an argument. He's firmly in the top 10 this year, but does he belong? Should you trust him as your starting QB, despite the fact that Manning was average-mediocre for seven years? He's improved a bit each year, but he also threw 25 interceptions in 2010.
I would say that Manning ranks right around 10th best QB for me, based on everything. Yeah, he threw for almost 5,000 yards last season and he's coming off of a really big high, but I'd be worried that his "high" is too high for what he really deserves. Don't just focus on the greatest Eli has ever been, focus on the whole picture: a guy that has improved every year and might have just found his peak, making him a bit over-valued for what he really is.
2012 Projection: 62%, 4,600 yards, 28 TD, 19 INT
Fun Fact: David Carr hasn't started a game since 2007, when he was with the Carolina Panthers. Yeah, Carr started four games for the Panthers in 2007 and threw 3 TD and 5 INT. Carr was once an intriguing young quarterback that the Texans could not protect, and now he's just a bad quarterback. Well, assumed bad. I would assume that if he were a good backup quarterback, he wouldn't keep re-signing with the Giants on one-year contracts, he'd go compete for a starting job somewhere but he's thrown just 49 passes in the last four years.
2012 Projection: /throws out some hand signals to Eli
The loss of Brandon Jacobs to the 49ers doesn't necessarily open the door for more production from Bradshaw, since they spent a first round pick on David Wilson. Two years ago, Bradshaw had 1,235 yards, 8 TD and 4.5 yards per carry and then last season he had 659 yards, 9 TD, and 3.9 yards per carry. The YPC was a career-low.
Wilson and Jacobs share almost nothing in common, as Wilson looks more like a future replacement for Bradshaw, but that doesn't mean he won't get his fair share of carries. I expect Bradshaw to continue to get a little bit more than half the looks, but his successive dip in yards per carry in every season of his career is worrisome, even if he's only 26.
2012 Projection: 200 carries, 800 yards, 8 TD
As I said, Wilson is not a replacement for Jacobs. Wilson is 5'10", 200 lb and Jacobs is 6'5", 250 lb. He ran for 1,709 yards at Virginia Tech last year and was named ACC Offensive Player of the year and the athletically-gifted Hokie was tops at the combine in vertical jump, broad jump, and shuttle run, even if he "only" ran a 4.49 40.
I think that the Giants see a future star in Wilson, but he's going to be eased into duty this year before being a potential fantasy star later in his career after Bradshaw takes a step back or leaves New York. I'd draft him as nothing more than a bench player, a "maybe" on what he could do as a rookie. If you're going to draft Bradshaw, I'd draft Wilson too. Yep, handcuffs are still relevant and we don't know that Wilson might not already be better.
2012 Projection: 100 carries, 500 yards, 5 TD
Another combine-athlete, Scott was a 7th round pick in 2011 after he led running backs in the 40 with a time of 4.34. He made the 53-man after having two explosive scoring plays (97 yards on one, 65 yards on a fake) but he didn't have much of an impact during the season. Not surprising though, as Scott was playing fourth fiddle on the depth chart, something he'll be doing again if he can make the team. He'll be competing with longtime Giant D.J. Ware for playing time.
2012 Projection: Everyone on the team changes their name to something with an apostrophe. E'li, Ah'u'Mad'Bro, and V'i'C'T'o'r'
He's got a five year NFL career, is a year older than Bradshaw, and has 81 career carries with 37 career catches and 25 career kick returns. I wish that I had whatever it is that Ware has to keep an amazing job for five years, win two Super Bowls, and only have to "go to work" every so often.
2012 Projection: A sweeter life than I will ever know.
Despite being outshined by Cruz, Nicks had a fairly consistent and productive third season in the NFL. He was projected to breakout and though he didn't do what Cruz did, he was a solid #1: 76 catches, 1,192 yards, and 7 touchdowns. He only had 3 games that I would consider bad (I consider bad to be <60 yards or 0 touchdowns) and had three games over 100 yards. He had two great games (I consider great to be 100 yards and a score or 2+ touchdowns) during the regular season and then went off in the playoffs: 115 yards 2 TD in round 1, 165 yards and 2 TD in round 2, 10 catches for 109 yards in the Super Bowl.
He had as many 100 yard games in the playoffs as he did in the regular season.
The question is whether or not Nicks and Cruz can continue to co-exist as top 10 fantasy receivers. How long can that happen, what will happen if Eli regresses back to average, and how will teams plan to stop them now that they're aware of Cruz? I am leaning a bit more towards Nicks right now, even though I fell in love with Cruz last year.
2012 Projection: 75 catches, 1,200 yards, 10 TD
I listed Cruz as a sleeper last year, and man was he ever. The former undrafted free agent, who was basically an NFL rookie, became the top free agent fantasy pickup of the year. He finished with 82 catches for 1,536 yards and 9 TD, and did that despite going into week three with only 17 yards. Whereas I said that Nicks had two "Great" games, Cruz had six and a seventh game that was 99 yards and a TD.
Nicks took over in the playoffs though and Cruz was not as explosive except for a 10 catch, 142 yard performance against San Francisco. I like Cruz - a lot - but I expect Nicks to be steady and Cruz to be the guy that has a couple more explosive games. They end the season with similar output:
2012 Projection: 80 catches, 1,100 yards, 10 TD
He was a little bit of a disappointment at LSU, because Randle was rated as perhaps the second best recruit in the nation in high school. He had 44 catches during his first two seasons and then 53 catches, 917 yards and 8 TD as a junior. The thing is, LSU just isn't really known for their passing game. They have gifted players, but that's an old school, defensive football team.
He's about 6'3", 210 pounds, with speed that ranges from 4.40-4.55, and he'll be competing with Domenik Hixon I imagine for WR3 catches after the departure of Manningham.
I think that Randle has WR1 potential, but it's going to take some time. He'll be worked into the system and perhaps even as soon as 2013, he could be a real helpful addition to your fantasy team. I'd just stay clear while they still have two of the top receivers in the NFC.
2012 Projection: 25 catches, 350 yards, 2 TD
There's something I like about Hixon, but he's only played in two games over the last two seasons because of tearing his ACL twice. He's a longshot, but I listed him as a sleeper for the Giants because he's shown ability in the past. Hixon had 43 catches for 596 yards in 2008 while also returning punts and kicks.
He's a sleeper in the deepest sense, but sometimes I just have a feeling about a player. He belongs on the waiver wire in your league, but I'm gonna keep an eye on him.
2012 Projection: 17 catches for OH OUCH MY ACL, MY ACL!
So last season the Giants went from Kevin Boss to Jake Ballard and nobody knew what the hell to expect because Ballard had never caught an NFL pass before. It seemed like an area of concern and then Ballard had 38 catches for 604 yards and 4 TD. Now Ballard is gone and they're going with more unknowns or unprovens.
Beckum is a fourth year tight end out of Wisconsin and a former third round pick that has 26 career catches for 264 yards.
Competition will include Bennett, who signed a 1-year, $2.5 million contract after four years with the Dallas Cowboys and 85 career catches in four years for 846 yards.
Finally there is Robinson, a 4th round pick this season out of Cincinnati. The 6'4", 267 pound tight end has some serious competition ahead of him if he's going to contribute at all.
2012 Prediction: As if this is any easier than predicting that Ballard would have a pretty good season. Giants like to use the tight end, but so far have proven to only use one tight end at a time, from Boss to Ballard and now I'm going to guess over to Bennett. You don't have to draft any of these guys, but Bennett could make an interesting sleeper.
Tomorrow: Philadelphia Eagles