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Saquon Barkley
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Giants Fantasy Preview

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: July 24, 2020, 12:37 am ET

2018 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 5,697 (17th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 36 (21st)
Offensive Plays: 984 (25th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 630 (8th)
Rush Attempts: 354 (29th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 132 (14th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 11 (29th)

Coaching Staff

One of the Browns’ many failures as head coach, Pat Shurmur registered a 9-23 record in two seasons as Cleveland’s head man from 2011-2012. He got himself back on track with Chip Kelly in Philly before then landing the Vikings’ OC job in 2017 only to win Assistant Coach of the Year and parlay that into the Giants’ head job. Shurmur went 5-11 his first year with the G-Men and has a career .306 winning percentage as a head coach. He simply may not be cut out for the job and could be better off as an assistant. It’s doubtful Shurmur has that long of a leash in the New York market. He also has surrounded himself with an underwhelming OC in Mike Shula. Shula wore out his welcome in Carolina when the pass offense seemed to get worse each year. But he’s buddies with GM Dave Gettleman. Shurmur was credited with coaxing a career year out of Case Keenum in 2017 with Minnesota, which may go down as the best coaching job of his life. The Giants were a middling 17th in offensive pace last year and have since traded their best pass-game weapon in Odell Beckham and remain committed to an overwhelmed Eli Manning. Shurmur grew tired of OBJ’s personality and seemed genuinely overwhelmed in year one.

Passing Game

QB: Eli Manning, Daniel Jones
WR: Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer
WR: Corey Coleman, Russell Shepard
WR: Golden Tate, Darius Slayton
TE: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison

Manning’s stats on paper from a year ago don’t look all that bad; he set a career high with a 66% completion percentage and also managed a new career-best with just a 1.9% interception rate. Manning threw for his fourth-most yards ever (4,299) and improved from 19 to 21 touchdowns from the previous season. However, Manning took the sixth-most sacks in the NFL (47) and didn’t really even play up those middling stats most of the season. It had become painfully clear by year’s end that the Giants needed to do something at quarterback. Both coach Pat Shurmur and GM Dave Gettleman continued to support Manning in the media, saying they believe he can still be passable if surrounded by the right pieces, and Gettleman even paid Manning his $5 million roster bonus, guaranteeing the 38-year-old a cool $22 million for 2019. But after the team used the No. 6 overall pick on Jones, it has left Manning’s days as an NFL starter numbered. And his days as a fantasy starter are over. He’s a poor option even in two-quarterback formats in an offense that figures to dink-and-dunk its way down the field.

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Jones turned pro after making 36 starts at Duke where he completed just 59.9% of his passes with a poor 6.4 yards-per-attempt mark. His college supporting cast was nothing special, but we typically like to see quarterbacks elevate those around them rather than play down to their level. Despite such a big frame, Jones doesn’t throw with power and primarily works around the line of scrimmage as a touch thrower. It’s concerning his completion rate was so low. The expectation is Jones will make multiple starts as a rookie, but his chances of success were severely weakened by the trading of Odell Beckham. And Manning will have to be dragged off the field. Neither of these quarterbacks has any fantasy appeal heading into Week 1.

With the decision to trade OBJ to the Browns, it leaves Shepard as the No. 1 wideout. After being in the slot over 58% of the time in 2018, Shepard is expected to play outside far more often sans Beckham. Shepard has shown flashes of being special since being drafted No. 40 overall in 2016, but a move to the outside doesn’t look like the best plan of attack for him. With Beckham out with an injury the final four weeks of last season, Shepard played in the slot just 28% of the time. He responded with receiving lines of 2-17-1 vs. WSH, 2-37-0 vs. TEN, 6-113-0 vs. IND, and 4-67-0 vs. DAL. However, opportunity will be there for Shepard to have his best statistical season yet due to there being such little talent at receiver for the Giants. Shepard should easily surpass his previous career high of 107 targets and post his first 1,000-yard season as long as he stays healthy. He freshly inked a four-year, $41 million extension and should be able to return WR3 value in fantasy.

Before being traded to the Eagles at the deadline last season, Tate was again on pace for over 100 catches and 1,000-plus yards for the Lions. He had trouble adjusting midseason to the Eagles’ offense and responded with just 342 yards across 10 games. Tate is now entering his age-31 season after signing a four-year, $37.5 million deal in the wake of the Beckham trade. With OBJ gone, the Giants are turning to Shepard and Tate as the clear duo at receiver. It’s a clear sign the Giants plan to live around the line of scrimmage with Manning’s declining skill set as a downfield thrower and even Jones’ preference to operate in the short areas of the field. It’s unclear if this offense will be able to support the main four of Shepard, Tate, Saquon Barkley, and Evan Engram, but Tate would figure to have a decent shot to bounce back to WR3 status, even if he’s the likely No. 4 option in that group most weeks.

Coleman is by no means locked into the No. 3 receiver job or even a roster spot. He’ll face competition from veteran special teamers Latimer and Shepard in addition to rookie Slayton. Whoever comes away with the spot isn’t going to have any fantasy value in 2019.

For an offense that offers little to get excited about, Engram is an exception. He really struggled as a sophomore in 2018, failing to top 25 yards in four of the first five games before then getting hurt only to return the final four weeks of the season when Beckham was out with his injury. In those four contests with OBJ hurt, Engram caught 22-of-31 targets for 320 yards and one touchdown, topping 75 yards in all four outings. Engram was the fantasy TE2 behind only George Kittle in Weeks 14-17. And in 14 games without Beckham in the lineup the last two seasons, Engram has secured 67-of-117 targets for 842 yards (12.6 YPR) and six touchdowns. Extrapolated across 16 contests, that’s a 77-962-7 line. As long as he stays healthy, Engram has a real chance to elevate his numbers to put himself at the top of the second tier of fantasy tight ends behind only the big three of Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and Kittle. Engram is my favorite tight end to targets in the middle rounds of drafts when missing out on the aforementioned trio.

Running Game

RB: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Paul Perkins, Rod Smith
OL (L-R): Nate Solder, Will Hernandez, Jon Halapio, Kevin Zeitler, Mike Remmers

The No. 2 overall pick in the draft last year, Barkley was thrown right into the fire as the centerpiece of the Giants’ offense. He joined Eric Dickerson and Edgerrin James as the only rookies ever to eclipse 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Barkley averaged 5.0 yards-per-carry and also caught 91 balls as a do-it-all workhorse. His 91 catches registered as the seventh-most ever for a running back. Despite running behind one of the league’s saddest offensive lines, Barkley still managed to finish as the overall RB1 in PPR formats as a rookie. With the Giants shipping out Beckham, Barkley figures to be leaned on even more in the passing game this season. As mentioned above, Manning has lost his fastball, and Jones doesn’t even have one. This offense is going to live and die through Barkley on the ground and quick-hitters in the passing game. In the OBJ trade with the Browns, the Giants were able to acquire Zeitler, plugging a massive hole on the offensive line. Zeitler was the big get in that deal for the G-Men. Still just 29, Zeitler graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 5 overall guard a season ago and has routinely found himself near or at the top of their guard rankings on an annual basis. He’s a gargantuan upgrade on the Jamon Brown-Patrick Omameh duo from last season. The Giants also plucked Remmers off the free-agent market in what should be a big upgrade on Chad Wheeler, who was Pro Football Focus’ fourth-worst tackle out of 80 qualifiers in 2018. Remmers is coming off back surgery at 30 years old but had a passable year under Shurmur in Minnesota two seasons ago. Barkley is a special, fool-proof fantasy option who could theoretically build even more on his first season. He’s a locked-in top-four fantasy pick and the one most often going No. 1 overall right now coming off a 352-touch campaign.

Gallman was the lightly-used No. 2 back to Barkley a year ago, but word out of offseason workouts was he was struggling badly with drops in the passing game. And by the time spring practices ended, Gallman had been passed on the depth chart by Perkins. Perkins was a summer fantasy darling two seasons ago only to flame out miserably in a lead role and then miss all of 2018 on injured reserve. Whoever wins the No. 2 job won’t be playing much anyway as a strict backup behind three-down workhorse Barkley. Neither Gallman nor Perkins is exciting. Cowboys castoff Smith could push Gallman off the roster completely this summer.

Win Total

The Giants’ projected win total of six is the lowest in the NFC East and tied with the Bengals for third-lowest in the NFL, ahead of only the Cardinals and Dolphins, who have each been saddled with a five-win total. The G-Men are -135 favorites to hit the under on six wins. New York appears to have one of the easier schedules out there, however, with home dates against the Bills, Redskins, Cardinals, and Dolphins, as well as road dates with the Bucs, Lions, Jets, and Redskins again. Topping six wins with a 7-9 record looks within the realm of possibilities, but there’s no question the on-field talent level of this Giants team is at a low point. Defensively, DC James Bettcher’s group is severely lacking both pass rushers and cover men, which obviously will make it hard for the Giants to keep other teams from scoring points. A four- or five-win season seems far more likely than a six- or seven-win one. The Giants are likely to again be picking at or near the top of the 2020 draft.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for NBC Sports Edge since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.