Juggernaut Index, No. 15: The New York Giants

The Giants have continuity on offense this season, and at least one elite play-maker. Not such a bad fantasy situation, really. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
The Giants have continuity on offense this season, and at least one elite play-maker. Not such a bad fantasy situation, really. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking and review of NFL teams for fantasy purposes — repeat: FANTASY PURPOSES. Here we concern ourselves with a franchise’s likely contributions to the fantasy player pool. We are not concerned with projected wins and losses. Instead, we’re focused on yards and points. As always, we’re beginning with the league’s least useful teams, working our way toward the elite fantasy juggernauts.

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Watching Tom Coughlin display the full and unfiltered range of human emotions over the course of a single NFL game was, without question, an absolute delight. But all eras must end, and so it is with Coughlin’s long, successful reign in New York.

For fantasy purposes, we shouldn’t have to fret much about the transition from Coughlin to new head coach Ben McAdoo, because the latter has served as the team’s OC since 2014. Under McAdoo, Giants quarterback Eli Manning has delivered back-to-back seasons with at least 4400 passing yards and 30 scores, ranking top-eight at his position in standard leagues. Not coincidentally, Manning has produced two of the best statistical years of his career since Odell Beckham Jr. was added to the mix. Eli is clearly a starting-quality QB in fantasy, well-priced at his current ADP (88.0, QB10). He’s started 194 consecutive games, postseason included, so he gets the highest possible marks for durability. No one around here will attempt to convince you that Manning is a top-tier QB, but you can certainly win a fantasy league with him as your primary starter. As long as Beckham remains healthy, Eli remains a top-10 option at his position — and I don’t care that he’ll occasionally attempt a wrong-handed throw into traffic. It’s part of his charm.

Beckham is routinely selected as a top-three overall fantasy pick, and, honestly, it’s tough to argue with the decision. He’s great. Elite. A freakishly gifted catcher of footballs. Beckham has given us two straight years with 90-plus catches, 1300-plus yards and at least a dozen touchdowns. He hasn’t yet played all 16 games in any season, but his per-week production is simply insane. Beckham averaged 17.2 fantasy PPG in standard leagues as a rookie, leading all receivers, and 14.9 last year, ranking second. Here are his per-game averages since entering the league: 6.9 REC, 102.0 yards, 0.9 TDs.

Just ridiculous. Draft him early, then gloat. He’s exceptional. And in case you were worried about Josh Norman’s presence in the division, you’ll note that A) Odell delivered a 6-76-1 stat line against him last season, and B) the second New York-Washington matchup takes place in Week 17 this year, when most fantasy championships are already settled.

Beyond Beckham, the Giants’ depth chart at wide receiver has a few interesting/terrifying names. Victor Cruz hasn’t appeared in a game since October of 2014 and he’s only rarely practiced, because he’s been dealing with every possible lower-body injury (knee, calf, groin). At this stage, it’s difficult to imagine him delivering even a bad impression of 2011 Cruz. I haven’t drafted him yet, nor have I been tempted. Rookie second-round receiver Sterling Shepard is well-positioned to deliver a useful fantasy season, and he faces no serious challenger for snaps. Shepard caught 86 balls for 1288 yards and 11 scores for Oklahoma last season (7 for 87 against Clemson), then followed with a terrific showing at the pre-draft combine (41-inch vertical). He’s a relatively advanced route-runner for a first-year player, and he rarely drops a ball. There’s a lot to like here. Shepard isn’t necessarily a Treadwell/Coleman-level prospect, but he’s a good receiver in a great situation. Don’t be surprised if he gives us 60-plus catches and 750-plus yards.

Larry Donnell and Will Tye are likely to share the tight end snaps and targets this year, with Matt LaCosse a possible darkhorse. In a league of typical size and shape, you aren’t drafting any of these guys. In recent years, Giants tight ends are best used as bye-week placeholders.

Rashad Jennings was surprisingly helpful in the closing weeks in 2015 (Getty Images)
Rashad Jennings was surprisingly helpful in the closing weeks in 2015 (Getty Images)

New York’s backfield was a big blue (expletive)-pile last year for three months, but Rashad Jennings was very good in the closing weeks. Over the Giants’ final four games — with quality defenses on the schedule (Min, Car) — Jennings carried 79 times for 432 yards (5.5 YPC) and two TDs, adding seven catches for 89 yards. He’s on the wrong side of 30, but he was plenty effective last season while handling the largest rushing workload of his career (195 carries) and playing all 16 games. It sounds as if the plan is for Jennings to operate as he did last December, as the team’s featured early-down runner…

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…which makes him a nice enough value at his current ADP (75.1, RB32). No one ever took a victory lap after drafting Jennings, but he belongs on your radar — particularly if you’re a ZeroRB zealot.

Andre Williams is a member of the best-shape-of-his-life club, but he has football issues that cannot be addressed via push-ups. Shane Vereen returns as a passing-down/PPR option, following a season in which he caught 59 balls for 459 yards on 81 targets. Fifth-round rookie Paul Perkins was an impressive player at the collegiate level, topping 1500 scrimmage yards in back-to-back years at UCLA. But he isn’t likely to have a significant role in his first pro season unless a plague of injuries hits this team’s backfield.

New York addressed its defense in a massive way during the offseason, both through the draft (Eli Apple, Darian Thompson) and free agency. This team went on an epic spending binge in the spring and summer, adding pass-rusher Olivier Vernon, run-stuffer Damon Harrison, as well as corners Janoris Jenkins and Leon Hall. On paper, this D/ST looks like a fantasy relevant group, but the early-season schedule is kinda rough: at Dal, NO, Was, at Min, GB. It’s tough to find a friendly matchup in any of those first five games, so I’ve been passing on this D in drafts.

2015 Offensive Stats & Ranks
Points per game – 26.3 (6)
Pass YPG – 271.7 (7)
Rush YPG – 100.6 (18)
Yards per play – 5.7 (7)
Plays per game – 65.8 (10)

Previous Juggernaut Index entries: 32) Cleveland, 31) San Francisco, 30) Philadelphia, 29) Baltimore, 28) Tennessee, 27) Los Angeles, 26) Miami, 25) Detroit, 24) Chicago, 23) San Diego, 22) Minnesota, 21) Tampa Bay, 20) Atlanta, 19) Washington, 18) Buffalo, 17) Kansas City, 16) Oakland