KEY LOSSES: Hakeem Nicks, Andre Brown, Linval Joseph, Justin Tuck
KEY ADDITIONS: Rashad Jennings, Mario Manningham, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Trindon Holliday, Geoff Schwartz, J.D. Walton
DRAFTED: Odell Beckham, Andre Williams, Weston Richburg
After starting the 2013 season 0-6, the New York Giants rallied back to win four in a row and five out of six to challenge (briefly) for a playoff spot at 5-7. Two brutal losses later they ended their season 7-9. What is the outlook on the Giants for 2014? Who are the players that will have fantasy relevance? It all starts with the offensive line. The Giants bolstered their offensive line this offseason by signing Geoff Schwartz and J.D. Walton. They solidified even more through the draft with Weston Richburg a Center from Colorado State. When looking at fantasy predictions for QBs, RBs and WRs, making sure that an offensive line is in place that can allow these skill players to perform is critical in any analysis.
QUARTERBACK: Eli Manning
The Giants' OL ranked 28th overall according to Pro Football Focus - 31st against the pass. The signings and draft pick mentioned above should help give Eli Manning more time to throw and more time to let plays develop, which in turn will help him perform better. Manning's 2013 campaign was a disaster. He is not as bad a QB as he showed last year, but he also is not as good a QB as he showed in 2011 when he passed for nearly 5,000 yards. He is somewhere in between. I have seen some sites rank Manning as low as QB21. I would certainly take him over Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer or Alex Smith who are all currently ranked higher. I might even consider drafting him ahead of Philip Rivers. Don't forget, the Giants have a new offensive coordinator in Ben McAdoo this year who was the QB coach for the Green Bay Packers and last I checked the Packers were pretty good at throwing the ball. Is Manning (as they say) elite? Heck, no but if you subscribe to the theory of waiting on a QB and miss some of the guys you were targeting he could flirt with top 10/top 12 status this year.
RUNNING BACKS: Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, David Wilson
After losing David Wilson to injury and then Andre Brown to free agency the Giants threw some money to Rashad Jennings to be their bell cow back. It is as good a situation as any for Jennings to prove that he can handle the load of a full season of work. He spent time in Jacksonville backing up Maurice Jones-Drew and then moved on to Oakland last year where he rushed for over 700 yards and caught 36 passes. He has only fumbled three times in 387 career rushing attempts but all of them came in one season, 2012. He currently ranks as RB28 on ESPN which is probably a bit low if you think he handles the rock for the entire season. The Giants drafted Andre Williams in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft who was a Heisman Trophy finalist out of Boston College. He is a straight downhill runner, who gets what is blocked according to Rotoworld's Evan Silva. He rushed for over 2,000 yards last year at BC and is getting rave reviews in training camp. BUT - get this - he did not catch a single pass last year in college and he only caught 10 passes his entire NCAA career! Can he be a first and second down back? Sure. He is a flyer I will look to take in the late rounds of my fantasy drafts. The David Wilson situation is still fluid. He was at the doctor last week and still has not been cleared for contact off the neck injury sustained last year. The Giants are confident that he will be cleared at his next visit but Wilson is nothing more than a "monitor in preseason and see" type guy. When healthy, he is a game breaker and the New York Giants coaching staff is more than aware of his capabilities.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham, Rueben Randle, Jerrel Jernigan
I have never been a big Victor Cruz fan and that has been to my detriment. He is coming off of three straight 1,000 yard seasons (OK sticklers - he had 998 yards last year) and is returning to the slot position, which is Eli Manning's favorite target. Steve Smith (the other Steve Smith) put up a 107/1220/7 line from the slot in 2009 before Cruz came on the scene in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Right now Cruz is a WR18 on ESPN. That is probably a little low if you think this offense will come back from last year. I would take him ahead of Percy Harvin, I would probably rate him ahead of Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson (I will evaluate the Redskins later this week) and probably take him ahead of Larry Fitzgerald. I think he is a low teens WR. He is, though, the only WR of any fantasy relevance on this team. Beckham is a rookie and probably worth a late round flier but is unproven. Randle is a disaster. Although the talent is there and he did shine in three of the Giants sixteen games, his head is a mess. He was consistently the target of Manning's ire for running the wrong routes and consequently the target of Manning's interceptions as at one point nearly 50 percent of Manning's INTs were targeted toward Randle. New offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo's offense will have plenty of love for more than one WR it's just figuring out who that other WR is will be guess work until the preseason. My money is on Beckham but keep an eye out for Jerrel Jernigan. This is a guy that took full advantage of his opportunity when Cruz went down last year. In the last three games - two of them wins - he had a 19/237/2 line and was targeted a whopping 27 times. That's nine times per game! He also ran the ball two times for 57 yards and a 30 yard TD.
Although I am only rating skill positions for these previews, the Giants D/ST upgraded as well. They bolstered their secondary signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to join Antrel Rolle and signed Trindon Holliday to return kicks. This is going to be a much improved unit as well.
The Giants will be a better team this year. It starts on the line and they have added talent and depth. I see them finishing 9-7 maybe 10-6 and contending for the NFC East title with the Philadelphia Eagles.