Fantasy Football New York Giants Team Preview: Eli Manning Underrated
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The Giants dealt with several unfortunate injuries last year, including the devastating loss of Victor Cruz to a torn patella tendon. No team had more players land on injured reserve, and the Giants lost 91 games from their starters. Even with those struggles there were reasons for optimism, led of course, by Odell Beckham Jr. He too had injury issues and started the year late, but once OBJ got rolling, there was no stopping him. Eli Manning became more and more comfortable in his first year with Ben McAdoo's offense, and Beckham blew away the competition from Week 7 on, outscoring second place Dez Bryant by 30.7 Fantasy points. For 2015, Cruz, Rashad Jennings and many more Giants starters will return from injury, which gives fans and Fantasy owners plenty of hope.
As mentioned, 2014 saw the Giants and Manning transition to Ben McAdoo's offense. Early in the season, Bruce Arians said he wouldn't judge Manning's performance "until Week 8." He said veteran quarterbacks may need half of a season to adjust to a new offense. You could see it in the numbers, as Manning averaged 225 yards with 14 touchdowns and 20.3 FPPG before Week 8, placing him at QB15. From Weeks 9-17, Manning jumped to 315 yards with 16 touchdowns and 23.1 FPPG, ranking him as QB6. On top of that, Manning improved even more after his rough games against the 49ers, finishing the last six games with a 66.0 completion rate, 1,915 yards, 12 touchdowns, just three interceptions and 23.9 FPPG (QB5).
There are questions along the offensive line with the loss of Will Beatty to a torn pectoral muscle and rookie Ereck Flowers now thrown into a starting role. A healthy Geoff Schwartz and newly minted center Weston Richburg should help give Manning ample time to find his talented receiving weapons. The hope is that Cruz can just be 90 percent of what he was, and with Beckham's emergence and Rueben Randle still very young with room to grow, the Giants boast one of the league's best receiving trios. Add in Larry Donnell's solid production and out-of-the-backfield threat, Shane Vereen, and defenses will be hard-pressed to slow this passing attack.
Due to several injuries at running back and on the offensive line, the Giants ranked just 23rd in the NFL at 100.2 rushing yards per game even though they had the 10th most attempts. The good news is that in his seven healthy games, Jennings had 543 yards and four touchdowns along with 24 receptions and 171 yards. Andre Williams was strong in place of Jennings, with two big games late in the season: 24 carries for 131 yards in Week 14 and 26 for 110 in Week 16. Henry Hynoski is one of the league's best fullbacks, and the addition of Vereen adds another dimension to the backfield.
The Giants are certainly more pass-heavy than during their ground-and-pound days. While they likely won't see a significant increase in rushing attempts, a healthy and more dynamic backfield will lead to better production on a per attempt basis. Plus, defenses will be focused on stopping the explosive passing game, softening their fronts.
There wasn't much change coaching wise, at least on offense. Mike Sullivan returns as quarterback coach, and the defense has two new faces led by Steve Spagnuolo, also making his return as defensive coordinator. Player-wise, the most significant free agent signing came in Vereen. They also signed Dwayne Harris for receiver depth and his return skills. The offensive line brings the biggest changes on offense. As mentioned, Beatty is possibly out for the year, Flowers is penciled in as the starting left tackle and the Giants added a few depth pieces that will need to contribute more than planned. The Giants plan to use Vereen plenty, as he averaged 61.4 yards and 8.4 Fantasy points per game over the past two years with the Patriots. Vereen adds another dimension to the offense, and one that will force defenses into playing two of the five weapons one-on-one, which is a nightmare for opponents.
The majority of Fantasy options for the Giants are well-known and will be owned in all leagues. Given the injury history in New York over the past few years, there could be a few deeper options worth monitoring. Harris could step in as the third option if Cruz's return hits a snag, but he's better suited for the slot, so keep an eye on Corey Washington. He turned heads a few times last year, especially during the preseason, and Washington has the size and raw skill to succeed in the NFL. Not one running back is free from injury concerns, which means Orleans Darkwa is a name to know. Darkwa flashed potential last preseason for the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent. He's an adept pass-catcher and would be able to contribute out of the backfield if Jennings and/or Vereen went down. The Giants have been waiting for, even begging Adrien Robinson to break out at tight end. He was drafted as a project thanks to his terrific athletic skills, but he's been on the roster bubble the past two years. Donnell has health concerns of his own, so the door is open for Robinson to finally make some noise.
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