If you're an optimistic Giants fan, then it's easy to spin the team's failure to make the 2012 postseason as a fluke. After all, New York still finished with a winning record and a +85 point differential — and, of course, the club is only a season removed from a Super Bowl win.
But if you're a Giants fan inclined toward pessimism, then you're probably still carrying around the pain of those December beatings. New York was absolutely smoked by Atlanta and Baltimore in back-to-back road games down the stretch, outscored 67-14.
The Giants are obviously an extraordinarily resilient team with a veteran head coach, a seen-it-all-before quarterback, and plenty of talent at the skill spots on offense. There's a lot to like here. This team is hardly a lock to return to the playoffs in the loaded NFC, but there's little question New York will again provide the fantasy community with plenty of assets.
Eli Manning delivered one of the top-10 all-time passing yardage seasons just two years ago, so we know his statistical ceiling is high. Eli also has the longest active streak of consecutive starts by a quarterback (146 games) and the third-longest in NFL history. Durability, clearly, is not an issue. Eli typically makes a few head-scratching decisions each year — the left-handed interception was a personal favorite — but he's also capable of brilliance, in the biggest moments. New York's starting wide receivers (when healthy) are of the highest quality, so Manning has plenty of talent to work with. At Eli's current Yahoo! ADP (102.2), there's almost no chance he'll fail to earn a profit for fantasy owners. He should be owned universally, even if you're playing in an 8-teamer. (And no, I don't really think dynasty owners need to mess with rookie QB Ryan Nassib.)
Victor Cruz got paid during the offseason ($46M/6Y), signing a relatively team-friendly deal that ties him to New York through his age-31 season. Drops have been a small issue for Cruz — he had 12 last season, 11 the year before — but we're also talking about a player who also makes degree-of-difficulty, field-flipping catches. He's given us 168 receptions for 2628 yards and 19 TDs over the past two seasons; you can expect another 80-1200-9 line in the year ahead, with the possibility for more. He's a clear WR1 in our game.
Hakeem Nicks has battled yet another summer injury, which should shock no one. This year it's a groin issue; last year it was his foot. But Nicks has returned to practice for the Giants — video evidence right here — and he claims to now be full operational. When he's right, he's a dangerous man, one of the NFL's toughest covers. Nicks ranked as the eighth highest-scoring receiver in fantasy back in 2010, even though he only appeared in 13 games. He's entering a contract year in 2013, so if he's ever gonna deliver a full 16-game season, this would be the time to do it. I've got no real quarrel with Nicks' draft-day price tag (ADP 46.1, WR18), because I think it properly accounts for his talent and his elevated injury risk. If you draft him, make sure you've got depth at receiver.
In fact, it wouldn't be the worst idea to snag Rueben Randle in the late rounds. Very few players anywhere, at any position, have generated as much camp buzz as Randle, a second-round pick in 2012. Randle closed with a two-touchdown effort versus Philly in Week 17 last season, you might recall, and he seems to have picked up where he left off. He's the unrivaled No. 3 receiver in New York, well-positioned to meet or exceed the production we saw from Mario Manningham in 2009-2011. In dynasty leagues, you definitely want Randle, if he isn't already kept. In standard, he makes a terrific end-game selection. If/when Nicks misses time, Randle will certainly rank among the must-starts.
The Giants lost Martellus Bennett via free agency, but they replaced him with Brandon Myers, a guy who was even more productive as a receiver last season. (Bennett is the superior blocker, no doubt, but Myers was signed for a fraction of his price.) There's little chance that Myers can approach last year's reception total (79), though you can probably expect his TDs to increase, a result of the improved team context. He doesn't need to be drafted in leagues of standard size, but he can certainly serve as a useful bye-week option.
New York's ground game is a much-discussed two-headed committee, with David Wilson and Andre Brown sitting atop the depth chart, together. Ahmad Bradshaw was released back in February, leaving 600-plus snaps and 240-plus touches up for grabs. Wilson is an uncommonly talented player, a big-play threat whenever he gets (and keeps) his hands on the football. But if he's going to emerge as the true featured guy in this backfield, he'll also need to make all the basic plays that don't end up in highlight reels. As longtime position coach Jerald Ingram puts it...
"[Wilson] has some qualities you get excited about and it's good to have that kind of weapon right now, but he's got to be able to do other things because that's what we do," said Ingram. "We're going to throw the ball here. We have had great balance in running and throwing and having that tradition, but you've got to take care of Eli. There's a lot of pride and respect with the offensive line. That's your job."
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has said, "You really can't play unless you can protect the quarterback," and we should take him at his word. Wilson's explosiveness was evident last year — he was a monster in the preseason — yet the team didn't exactly lean on him. He was barely a rumor on passing downs, and he played just 125 total snaps on the season.
So let's hope Wilson has really made strides in pass-pro, because he's a sensational runner — great after initial contact, great at avoiding contact, gifted with sprinter's speed. But Brown is still in the team picture, and he actually out-gained Wilson on a per-carry basis last year (5.3 to 5.0). He also crossed the goal line eight times in only 10 games. No matter how much we all like Wilson — and early drafters love him, selecting him ahead of Le'Veon, Sproles and Bradshaw — we can't simply wish away Brown. He'll have a role. Brown looks like the value buy in this backfield, with a dirt-cheap ADP of 115.2.
New York's defense finished next-to-last in yards allowed last season (383.4) and the pass rush didn't do much damage (33 sacks). This team couldn't stop the run (4.6 YPC, 129.1 YPG), and it ranked 28th against the pass. There weren't many significant personnel upgrades on D during the offseason, so the Giants are apparently counting on several players to simply perform better in 2013. Hey, it's a plan.
In standard leagues, think of this D/ST as merely a matchup play. Jason Pierre-Paul is recovering from back surgery, leaving his opening week status unknown, but he remains the most interesting IDP on this roster. Safeties Stevie Brown and Antrel Rolle should be on your radar, too. And Justin Tuck is entering a contract year, if you're looking for a reason to draft him.
2012 team stats: 26.8 points per game (6), 247.9 passing yards per game (15), 116.4 rushing yards per game (14)
Previous Juggernauts: 32. NY Jets, 31. Oakland, 30. Jacksonville, 29. Buffalo, 28. Cleveland, 27. Tennessee, 26. San Diego, 25. Miami, 24. St. Louis, 23. Pittsburgh, 22. Arizona, 21. Minnesota, 20. Kansas City, 19. Chicago, 18. Baltimore, 17. Philadelphia, 16. Indianapolis, 15. Carolina, 14. Cincinnati
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