QB Eli Manning
(2013 QB Rank—#21, 15.5 FPts/G)
Eli Manning is coming off of his worst season since the early years of his career when he was still learning how to play the position. He only threw for 18 touchdown passes while accruing an unbelievable 27 interceptions. Manning has never been a great fantasy asset, but his steady production and ability to put together 16-game seasons on a yearly basis has always made him a safe bet to finish as a borderline fantasy QB1. There are many reasons that could have led to such a poor 2013 including a porous offensive line (Manning was sacked a career-high 39 times), an ankle injury suffered during the season and the offensive game plan being stale. The line issues were addressed through free agency and the draft while Manning had offseason surgery to clean up his ankle. Furthermore, former Packer quarterback coach Ben McAdoo replaced the only offensive coordinator that Eli has ever known, Kevin Gilbride. There’s hope for the younger Manning to turn things back around, as the Giants will be one of the offenses that will seek to emulate the “fast” up-tempo game-plans now in vogue. McAdoo is also installing a more west-coast style offense that will use short screens and slants, as opposed to Gilbride’s vertical-based offense. The offensive line will not have to hold its blocks as long and wide receivers Victor Cruz, Reuben Randle and Odell Beckham are great fits for the new offense. Manning will forever be linked to Philip Rivers due to the draft day trade between New York and San Diego that swapped the duo. Rivers, who also looked to be in a downslide, thrived last season under a new quick hitting/timing based offense and the hope is that Manning will do the same. Manning is a nice target for those that like to wait and use a QBBC approach in redraft leagues.
RB Rashad Jennings
(2013 RB Rank—#22, 9.2 FPts/G)
Career backup Rashad Jennings was able to parlay a nice run in 2013 with the Oakland Raiders into a decent NFL payday this offseason. Jennings was able to rush for 733 yards with six touchdowns and caught 36 balls for another 292 yards last season. He looked the part after taking over the starting running back positions in Week 10 following a Darren McFadden injury. General manager Jerry Reese has referred to the veteran as a “bellcow type” and head coach Tom Coughlin is impressed by his versatility. Jennings is the type of solid grinder that Coughlin prefers and his pass blocking and ball protection should parlay into Jennings seeing the field quite a bit in 2014. Jennings has never handled more than 163 carries in a season, however. While some people may see that as him having a “little tread off his tires,” there have also been hints that the Giants may not see him as a true workhorse. There have been reports that we could see a three-headed RBBC in New York to help keep Jennings fresh by limiting his workload. Fantasy owners should look at his 4.5 yard per carry average from last season and Coughlin’s track record of having little patience for mistakes and feel confident that they can rely of Jennings for RB2 results in 2014, but also need to face the reality that his upside could be limited. In a west-coast offense, Jennings’ ability to block and catch well sets him apart from his competition and that should make him an attractive option in PPR leagues.
RB David Wilson
(2013 RB Rank—#92, 4.3 FPts/G)
David Wilson had a disappointing season in 2013, culminating with a serious neck injury that threatened his future as a football player. All things considered, getting clearance to play football in 2014 following neck surgery is a major boon for Wilson’s fantasy owners. Wilson is now getting snaps with the second unit and should earn a change-of-pace role as long as he stays healthy. Prior to his injury, Wilson was still a disappointment and often found himself in head coach Tom Coughlin’s doghouse as a result of his penchant for fumbling and his issues with pass protections. Wilson is one of the most explosive players in the league, combining above-average speed and surprising power in his compact frame, but will need to earn his playing time in order to exploit his gifts. Learning to better protect Eli Manning alone would create a tremendous opportunity for him, as his skillset is otherwise well suited to contribute as a pass catcher in the newly implemented west-coast scheme the team will employ. Wilson’s speed, agility and power would be deadly on screens and in the flat. Wilson received clearance on July 21 to take part in contact drills, but Giant fans and fantasy owners will be holding their breath every time he lowers his head and takes a hit. In fact he has already suffered a “stinger” in training camp, making his future that much cloudier. Wilson has the ability to easily surpass Rashad Jennings on the depth chart, but an early-season role of 6-8 carries a game is likely a best case scenario at this point. From there, health and the trust of the coaching staff will the only things holding him back. Sadly, both of those things could be tough for Wilson to obtain.
RB Andre Williams
(2013 RB Rank—N/A)
Andre Williams led the nation in rushing yards as a Boston College Eagle last season. His size and running style is very reminiscent of former Giant Brandon Jacobs. Williams lacks any real wiggle, but has very impressive straight-line speed for his size and is tough to bring down once he gets momentum. Camp reports indicate that he has seen work with the first-team unit during goal-line drills, which makes Andre the Giant an interesting late-round flier in redraft leagues. While he doesn’t have pass-catching ability, he could punch in some touchdowns early in the season and earn some first and second down work. An injury to Rashad Jennings or David Wilson could open the door further to an expanded role that the big back may not let close behind him.
WR Victor Cruz
(2013 WR Rank—#28, 8.8 FPts/G)
Victor Cruz’s numbers dropped across the board in 2013 and he failed to even reach 75 receptions, 1,000 yards or five touchdowns. After bursting on the scene as an unheralded second-year player in 2012 (82-1,536-9), it’s been a steady decline for Cruz. The optimist can look at last season as a total disaster for the passing game as a whole, which was addressed by the team hiring a new more innovative offensive coordinator. The pessimist may state that opposing defenses have learned the way to shut Cruz down and that Eli Manning is in the decline phase of his career. The truth, as usual, is likely somewhere in the middle. Cruz had some good fortune during the 2012 season and took advantage of a few busted plays, which led to some big yardage plays for him. While Hakeem Nicks missed time and was ineffective last season, Cruz saw a lot of bracket coverage. Cruz should see more time in the slot this season, a place where he has shown to be effective. The reports from camp so far have been very positive. The New York offense will be modeled after Green Bay’s and beat reporters are speculating that Cruz will fill the “Randle Cobb role.” Based on that Cruz could be up among the league leaders in receptions at season’s end. Cruz has a powerful frame and is blessed with quickness that is generally seen in smaller packages. If this offense clicks Cruz should become a high-volume producer, as the most talented pass catcher on the team, which makes him a strong candidate to outperform his current ADP.
WR Rueben Randle
(2013 WR Rank—#45, 6.1 FPts/G)
Reuben Randle scored six touchdowns in limited action last season, but still had to endure an offseason where his value was constantly questioned. General manager Jerry Reese failed to endorse him as a capable starting wide receiver and former offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride implied that the team was never sold on his abilities. The apparent slights by the organization seemed to be further borne out when the team spent the No. 12 overall pick on wide receiver Odell Beckham, despite more pressing needs. Reports about Randle from OTAs and from training camp have all been nothing but positive, however. The new offense is thought to be a better fit for his skillset and should allow him to rely more on his physical gifts to get open rather than requiring him to make the proper read. Last season Randle and Eli Manning weren’t always on the same page, and the hope is that Randle will be more effective this season in the new offense. At 6’2” he’s the tallest of the wide receivers and he should see significant action. With the team having no discernible tight end, Randle could be the team’s top red zone target.
WR Odell Beckham Jr.
(2013 WR Rank—N/A)
A hamstring strain kept rookie Odell Beckham out of almost all of the offseason activities and all of training camp thus far. This, of course, has not sat well with bristly head coach Tom Coughlin and could put Beckham behind Jerrell Jernigen on the team’s depth chart for the start of the season. For those in redraft leagues, Beckham is probably not even worth a roster spot at this point. Even if he does manage to get himself completely healthy, the thought is that his role as a rookie will be mostly as a field stretcher running clearing routes in order to allow quick hit strikes to Victor Cruz and Reuben Randle underneath. The team did spend an early first-round pick on him, though, and he was considered to be the best route runner in the draft. His role could grow once he proves that he can beat press coverage and be an effective target for his quarterback. It’s also worth noting that the Giants base offense will consist of three receiver sets so once Beckham moves past Jernigen he should see the field consistently. Owners swinging for the fences with their late-round picks can consider the youngster in the last couple of rounds, but if you are an impatient type or want to play it safer you are likely better off passing on him.
TE Adrien Robinson
(2013 TE Rank—N/A)
Early offseason speculation had third-year player Adrien Robinson as the starter at the tight end position. He performed poorly in OTAs, however, and now finds himself buried on the depth chart behind uninspiring competition such as Larry Donnell, Kellen Davis, Xavier Gamble and Daniel Fells. When he was drafted, Robinson was referred to as the “JPP of tight ends” in reference to teammate Jason Pierre-Paul’s freakish athletic ability. Obviously, with zero career receptions, Robinson has not lived up to the hype. Even though the Giants are no longer employing Kevin Gilbride’s offensive system, it should be noted that in the past the Giants offense has made “stars” out of marginal talents like Jake Ballard and Kevin Boss at tight end position, so there could be value here. The problem is, as of right now, special team blocker Larry Donnell sits atop the depth chart. If Robinson starts to make some noise in camp and preseason games he could make an interesting late-round flier.