Juggernaut Index No. 7: Plaxico, Eli, and the many secret crushes of Brad Evans

The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here, only fantasy potential. These rankings rely entirely on hard, incontrovertible math. They are not to be questioned.

7. New York Giants


Anyone remember the Giants' performance in Week 12 last season?

Anyone? No?

Here are three lines from the Yahoo! box-score to refresh your memory:

Darren Sharper intercepted Eli Manning for 20 yards (Ryan Longwell made PAT)

Dwight Smith intercepted Eli Manning for 93 yards (Ryan Longwell made PAT)

Chad Greenway intercepted Eli Manning for 37 yards (Ryan Longwell made PAT)

The network cut away from the game with 12:59 remaining in the fourth quarter and Minnesota leading 41-10.

Manning threw four interceptions against the Vikings, and three were returned for touchdowns. Eli and his receivers often had radically different ideas about where, exactly, passes were supposed to be thrown. Jeremy Shockey was at least as inept as his quarterback.

On that day, it was really inconceivable that New York's season would finish as it eventually did. Manning was a punchline -- the joke usually involved that Citizen watch ad -- and every significant skill position player on the Giants' roster seemed to be injured. There were few obvious reasons for optimism.

And now, of course, they're the defending champs. They beat a pair of 13-win teams on the road in the NFC playoffs, then overwhelmed one of the NFL's all-time offenses in the Super Bowl.

For various reasons, the Giants are tough to place in a team-by-team fantasy ranking. When they were bad last year, they were spectacularly bad; when they were good, they were better than anyone else. They've hardly been injury-free during the preseason, but there are still several useful pieces here for fantasy purposes.

Eli is the 14th quarterback selected in a typical Yahoo! draft (ADP 97.0) and he's 16th in our composite QB ranks. His completion percentage is relatively poor (56.1 in '07, 54.7 career), and his turnovers have increased every season (19 in '05, then 20, then 27). You shouldn't view him as an every-week starter in a 10- or 12-team league. He's had a nice enough preseason (16-for-30, 2 TDs, no INTs), and you'll recall that he played through a significant injury last year. Eli is also a solid brand name, and there's a lot to like about his early-season schedule (vs. WAS, @ STL, vs. CIN, bye, vs. SEA, @ CLE).

If you draft him, you'll need to think of him as a situational starter and a trade chip.


Plaxico Burress is an elite receiving option, but he's been dealing with an ankle injury for as long as anyone can remember. Still, he insists that he'll be ready for Week 1:

“If I’m not (100 percent), I’ll be pretty close,” Burress said. “I’ll be a lot further along than I was last year. The more I rest, the more I take care of my ankle, I’ll be close to 100 percent. If I’m not 100, I’ll probably be 95, 96.”

Let's just say he'll begin the season at 95.5 percent, then slowly degrade. Burress is currently 11th in the receiver ranks. He finished last season as the No. 10 fantasy scorer at his position (167 points), despite dealing with the ankle issue and limited practice time.

Burress is the only Giants wide receiver who's likely to be drafted in public leagues. Amani Toomer is ranked No. 58, but he's a low-ceiling player coming off a three-TD season. He'll deliver one great fantasy game, probably against the Eagles. Second-year WR Steve Smith is a reasonable late-round flier in deeper leagues, and Domenik Hixon has had a remarkable, depth chart-climbing sort of preseason (9 REC, 137 yards, 2 TDs). Sinorice Moss and Mario Manningham had some very nice moments...in college. You're not drafting them. (OK, maybe Manningham late in a dynasty league, but that's it).

Tight end Kevin Boss showed enough promise in '07 for Brad Evans to rank him 14th at his position this year. No other expert exhibited any obvious enthusiasm, but that has more to do with the depth and upside at TE.

The Giants had a terrific running game last season (134.3 YPG, 4.6 YPC, 15 TDs), but it was also a committee with a few members, and that could continue this season. Brandon Jacobs topped 1,000 yards and scored six touchdowns, and he needed only 11 games to do it. Considering his size (6-4, 265), Jacobs has remarkable speed. He's not the most elusive back, but he can punish tacklers. Jacobs is 15th in our preseason RB rankings. If he's going to outperform that spot, he'll have to do it by scoring touchdowns, because he isn't likely to be a 300-carry back.


Matt Buser expects the Giants to distribute touches this way: 258 for Jacobs, 144 for Ahmad Bradshaw, and 100 for Derrick Ward. Bradshaw was terrific in the playoffs last season, and he ran for 151 yards and a touchdown against the Bills in Week 16. He's 64 percent-owned in Yahoo! leagues, but that seems too low. If you're drafting Jacobs, you should also target Bradshaw.

A week ago, the Giants defense seemed like an obvious top-10 unit. But New York lost defensive end Osi Umenyiora (13.0 sacks, 5 FFum) for the year, due to a preseason knee injury. Unless Michael Strahan un-retires -- a possibility, if the respect/price is sufficient -- the Umenyiora injury will lead to a complex wheel-play:

(Mathias) Kiwanuka will move into Umenyiora's spot at right defensive end, while Justin Tuck will hold onto Strahan's old spot on the left. Danny Clark, a free-agent pickup in the offseason, will move from weak side linebacker to the strong side, meaning Gerris Wilkinson will likely start on the weak side.

Not ideal. The best of the Giants' remaining IDP options are Antonio Pierce (103 tackles) and Tuck (65 tackles, 10.0 sacks, MVP-worthy Super Bowl).


2007 Giants team stats

Rushing: 134.3 Y/G

Passing: 197.1 Y/G

Points per game: 23.3

Turnovers: 34

Red Zone possessions and TDs: 55, 30

'08 Schedule strength: .520


The rest of the Index...

32) Chicago, 31) Tennessee, 30) San Francisco, 29) Miami, 28) Baltimore, 27) NY Jets, 26) Oakland, 25) Tampa Bay, 24) Atlanta, 23) Houston, 22) Kansas City, 21) Buffalo, 20) Carolina, 19) Detroit, 18) Seattle, 17) Denver, 16) Washington, 15) St. Louis, 14) Minnesota, 13) Arizona, 12) Jacksonville, 11) Cincinnati, 10) Philadelphia, 9) Pittsburgh, 8) Green Bay, 7) NY Giants


Photos via Getty Images

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