2021 Franchise Focus: New York Giants

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2021 Franchise Focus: New York Giants

For the first time in his career as a general manager, Dave Gettleman traded down.

The Giants very clearly wanted DeVonta Smith with their first-round pick at #11 overall, but division rival Philadelphia traded up to snag him, forcing Gettleman’s hand. Why is this important? Well, it’s because Gettleman acquired a second 2022 first-round pick in the process, which makes this a make-or-break season for third-year QB Daniel Jones.

While the Giant offensive line remains a concern, Gettleman has also surrounded Jones with a lot of weapons, including free-agent signing Kenny Golladay and the Giants’ eventual 2021 first-round pick, WR Kadarius Toney. RB Saquon Barkley should be back from an ACL tear early in the season, if not Week 1.

It’s all on Jones, who has no excuses if things go badly in 2021.

New York Giants Franchise Focus Companion Podcast

The Basics

Team FuturesOdds
Season Win Total (O/U)7 (-130/+110)
NFC East+450
Playoffs (Y/N)+210/-275
NFC Championship+4000
Super Bowl+8000

Season Prop Movement

  • Win Total: 7 (-110) in late March to 7 (-130)

  • Super Bowl: +6600 in early February to +8000

Premium 2021 Betting Preview from Tom Brolley found here.

Key Offseason Moves

AdditionsDraftDepartures
Mike Glennon (QB)Gary Brightwell (RB)Colt McCoy (QB, Ari)
Zach Fulton (OG)Kadarius Toney (WR)Cameron Fleming (OT, Den)
Jake Burton (OG, UDFA)Elerson Smith (DE)Kevin Zeitler (OG, Bal)
Brett Heggie (OC, UDFA)Azeez Ojulari (OLB)Wayne Gallman (RB, SF)
Devontae Booker (RB)Aaron Robinson (CB)Dion Lewis (RB)
Corey Clement (RB)Rodarius Williams (CB)Devonta Freeman (RB, NO)
Kenny Golladay (WR)Golden Tate (WR)
John Ross (WR)Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Min)
Kyle Rudolph (TE)Kyler Fackrell (OLB, LAC)
Danny Shelton (DT)David Mayo (ILB, Was)
Ifeadi Odenigbo (DE)
Ryan Anderson (DE)
Raymond Johnson (DE, UDFA)
Reggie Ragland (ILB)
Devante Downs (ILB)
Adoree’ Jackson (CB)
Joshua Kalu (S)
Jordyn Peters (S, UDFA)

Scott Barrett’s Fantasy Strength of Schedule

Quarterback: 15th-softest (+0.03)

Running Back: 2nd-toughest (-1.59)

Wide Receivers: 14th-toughest (-0.29)

Tight Ends: 7th-softest (+0.40)

Pace and Tendencies

Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.5 (T-15th)

Plays per game: 61.4 (27th)

When the game is within a score — Pass: 55.1% (23rd) | Run: 44.9% (10th)

When the team is ahead — Pass: 46.7% (23rd) | Run: 53.3% (10th)

When the team is behind — Pass: 67.2% (12th) | Run: 32.8% (21st)

Despite not having Saquon Barkley for basically the entire year, the Giants were still very run-heavy. Not only were they the 10th-most run-heavy team when the game was close or when they were ahead, OC Jason Garrett ran the ball on first down at an incredibly high rate. On first down plays not in the 4th quarter or in the red-zone, Garrett called a run an astronomical 57% of the time which was fifth-highest rate. The Giants run rate in these situations was higher than the Browns and close to the Ravens (61%) and Titans (64%) for the league lead. Especially considering that his top two backs were Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris, it’s hard to understand why Garrett thought being so predictable on first down was a good idea. That makes the Giants 2021 outlook a two-fold question. Will Garrett lean more on the pass with the new weapons they’ve added? Or will he continue to be conservative?

Key Statistics

  • In his first two seasons, Daniel Jones has averaged 1.4 turnovers per game.

  • Among QBs with at least 16 career starts, Jones ranks sixth-worst in turnovers/game behind Deshone Kizer (1.7), Charlie Frye (1.5), Rex Grossman (1.5), Jameis Winston (1.5), and John Skelton (1.5).

  • Jones ranks 25th in fantasy points per game over the last two combined years (14.6).

  • Saquon Barkley has finished as a RB1 (top-12) in 58% of his starts in his career. For reference, Derrick Henry has been a RB1 58% of the time over the last two years.

  • The all-time leader in scrimmage yards per game is Jim Brown (125.5)… Barkley ranks 5th (114.9) just slightly ahead of Dalvin Cook (114.8) and Christian McCaffrey (114.0).

  • The all-time leaders in FPG at RB are McCaffrey (23.1), Alvin Kamara (21.7), and Barkley (20.8).

  • Sterling Shepard has finished as a WR2 (top-24) or better in just 36% of his games over the last two seasons.

  • Shepard has never finished better than WR32 in total PPR points.

  • Darius Slayton has finished as a WR2 or better in just 23% of his career games.

  • This might come as a shock, but Evan Engram was fourth among tight ends in targets (109).

  • Engram was just the anti-Tonyan, and scored only 1 TD on all of those looks.

  • Since 2000, only one other tight end has seen 100 or more targets and scored just 1 TD (Chris Cooley in 2008).

  • On average, tight ends that get 100 targets in a season average 6.3 TDs.

  • Engram saw just three targets in the end-zone, which ranked tied for 26th among TEs.

Huber’s Scheme Notes

Offensive

For those who have stock in Daniel Jones, Saquon Barkley, one or more of New York’s WRs, or are simply a fan of the team, I’m going to pass along a recommendation that might be difficult to believe. It’s a one-word suggestion: patience. We need to be patient with the ongoing knee rehabilitation for Barkley. Despite their 6-10 record from 2020, we need to be patient with Jones. And we need to be patient while the passing attack builds cohesion. If we want to express our growing frustration, it should entirely be directed at the O-line and GM Dave Gettleman. Following a season where Jones was literally lucky to conclude with his health intact, Gettleman’s lone free agent O-line addition over the following seven months stands as Zach Fulton. Not that Fulton had a horrible ‘20 for Houston, but it was a down season compared to his previous campaigns.

In Gettleman’s first season as GM, he drafted Will Hernandez in the second round. I’ll admit, I was high on Hernandez, as well, coming out of UTEP. But the Giants, as with all teams, need a GM in place that will not hesitate to approve sitting a guy they personally drafted when falling well short of expectations. Despite a pair of solid years to begin his career, Hernandez’s pass blocking during the ‘20 season failed the NYG offense to eye-sore proportions. In his second season, Gettleman chose not to address the O-line. He greatly altered that approach during the ‘20 draft, adding Andrew Thomas (first round), Matt Peart (third), and Shane Lemieux (fifth). Brutal but true, based on his play, Lemieux should not be on an NFL active roster. Until we see Peart step forward in pass protection, he should not be in the starting lineup.

Thomas and, if he displays signs of returning to form in camp, Hernandez are the exceptions. Since Gettleman made the decision to bypass the draft for O-line support, he’ll be banking everything on Nate Solder transforming their protection in his return from a ‘20 opt-out. The same 33-year-old Solder whose play dropped off dramatically for the team in 2019. If Solder is unable to unseat Peart at right tackle and Fulton is unable to move ahead of Lemieux at left guard, New York’s offense will be in significant trouble. As for center Nick Gates, again, we need to be patient. The ‘20 season was Gates’ first taste of playing center after spending his career at guard and tackle. Hey Gettleman, why not draft an actual center, and shift Gates over to left guard/right tackle? Too late. Perhaps with a new O-line coach, Rob Sale, the Giants will figure out a better way of protecting Jones.

If you’ve been reading the training camp reports out of Quest Diagnostics Center, you already know we’ve yet to see anything positive reported on the offense. Big surprise. I’ll save details surrounding the above average pass rush, near-elite/elite coverage from New York’s defense until later. But we do need to remember it’s definitely not the easiest defense to practice against. Bottom line: Jones is still being protected by the same O-line that should still be widely regarded as the worst in the game. To give that statement some legs, the O-line allowed the fourth-most QB pressures/game last season. As for Jones’ play, we may not have seen much to get excited about within his FPG output; he at least provided some of the signs of continued development we want to see in a second-year QB. Most importantly, he avoided any setbacks when facing the most important coverage schemes. He also improved his numbers facing Cover 2, increasing his YPA average by 21%.

We also need to factor the receivers surrounding Jones in his appraisal. With the O-line unable to protect themselves, let alone the pocket, checkdown/underneath options became vital for Jones. Since Barkley didn’t make it through the second game, Jones lost the guy who should have stood as his safety valve. Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis, and Devonta Freeman each failed to provide anything approaching Barkley’s level for Jones. Always keeping in mind what my late, precious grandmother used to tell me: “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Even though the NFL should always be viewed as a business first, analysis can always be worded in a way without personally attacking individual players. Unless Evan Engram presents himself to this offense as a reliable target, functionally tapping into his immense athleticism, he will simply not deserve the type of contract he will most likely expect when his rookie contract expires after the 2021 season.

Engram had a script-like opportunity written for him to blow up last season. What did he do with it? First, his overall blocking — quite obviously — fell apart just when it was needed the most. In spite of averaging a career-high in air yards/attempt (7.4), his yards gained/route (1.29, YPRR), and yards after the catch/reception (4.5, YAC/Rec) stand as career-lows. Needless to say, Engram failed to answer the call for Jones. Without Barkley and combined with Engram’s failures, Sterling Shepard was forced to reduce his average route depth by a full two yards in order to provide Jones with an outlet. Without Shepard helping to keep safeties honest over the top, secondaries were able to completely eliminate Darius Slayton.

Wait, wasn’t patience for the Giants offense requested? Has anything covered to this point provided any reasons for optimism? Fortunately for the offense, Gettleman did acquire some weapons that should open up the offense. It’s important to realize the Vikings’ decision to release Kyle Rudolph was based on his spot in a position of strength, rather than a reduction in effectiveness. Rudolph presents the Giants with one of the NFLs top-five pass blocking, top-15 run blocking TEs. Pretty much providing them with the anti-Engram. Kenny Golladay was also brought into the fold. Prior to a hamstring injury cutting his ‘20 season after only five games, Golladay was well on his way toward establishing himself as a top-five WR based on his analytics. Without a reasonable explanation for the number of games he lost to the hamstring injury, uncertainty mounted, and led to a lukewarm market for Golladay. Gettleman capitalized on the opportunity, removing his WR1 talents from the market with a four-year, $72 million contract.

Golladay’s addition will significantly open up the field for both Slayton and Shepard. But we still need to address Jones’ drastic requirement for an impact checkdown option in the flats. And that’s precisely where ‘21 first-rounder Kadarius Toney fits into the picture. First of all, do not believe for a second that OC Jason Garrett intends to sit Toney on the pine while the offense suffers. Every beat writer in the world can report until they are blue in the face that Toney has only been seen practicing with the ____-team offense, blah-blah-blah. Don’t listen. Gettleman did not draft Toney with the 20th pick to present further artillery to his detractors for diminishing his moves as GM. Standing alongside Kyle Pitts and Ja’Marr Chase as submitting the most impressive results among all prospects, Toney blew the scouting community away with the results from his Florida Pro Day. Consider that on only 16% of his career UF routes — personally charted this offseason, Toney generated 48% of receptions, 42% of TDs, and resulted in 4.12 YPRR. It seems Gettleman, believing he would be unable to fix his O-line with the options available, drafted Toney with the immediate goal of providing Jones with a reliable checkdown threat.

If you’re searching for an explanation for Jones throwing 24 TDs two seasons ago, compared to only 11 last season, look in the backfield. When Jones had Saquon’s esteemed reputation drawing a percentage of the defensive attention, the Giants’ offense was considered an up-and-comer. Without his elite athleticism working behind Garrett’s Gap-heavy blocking scheme, nothing seemed to work. As we all anticipate his return from a Grade 2 MCL and Grade 3 ACL tear, it seems perfectly logical for team doctors to be taking the cautious approach. Keep in mind, were Barkley to suffer a significant setback, the Giants would be forced to rely on Devontae Booker, Alfred Morris, Corey Clement, and/or Gary Brightwell to fuel their rushing attack. Far from an ideal situation, to say the least.

At this point, nothing outside of ensuring they field the best possible options on the roster can be done about the O-line. It’s a problem now, it will be a problem at the end of the season, it will be a problem heading into next season. But we’ve seen offenses find relative success with clever adjustments to their approach. Garrett is never going to be confused with those heralding the NFLs sweeping wave of Spread/Air Raid attacks. His offenses are stale, to state it bluntly. However, even Garrett will need to consider increasing his seventh-lowest ‘20 rate of three-wide sets now that he has Golladay, Toney, Slayton, and Shepard on the roster. Likely too many “ifs” and “buts” for the taste of many fantasy owners. But, keep in mind, other than Barkley, each of the Giants’ impact players can currently be had for pennies on the dollar.

Defensive

The story on defense is quite different. Last season the Giants' pass rush ranked 15th in QB pressure rate. Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams form one of the top combo pass rushing interiors in the game. That’s in addition to the duo offering second-year DC Patrick Graham with his top-two run defenders. The D-line limited opposing QBs to the sixth-lowest rushing output and finished inside the top-15 in pure rushing volume allowed to RBs. With the addition of EDGE/9-technique Azeez Ojulari out of Georgia, New York’s pass rush became all-the-more frightening. But they will need to fill the shoes of Dalvin Tomlinson, who signed with Minnesota. The two vying for that nose tackle vacancy include Austin Johnson and free agent addition Danny Shelton.

One of the NFLs true defensive breakouts last season was provided by MIKE ‘backer Blake Martinez. He limited his coverage responsibilities to the fifth-lowest passer rating on designed targets, eighth-fewest yards gained/coverage snap (YPCS), and sixth-fewest FPs/coverage snap (FPCS) among 47 qualified box LBs. As if that weren’t enough, he stands as the league’s top LB when working from a Cover 2 design. However, the quality at LB essentially begins and ends with Martinez. GM Dave Gettleman is banking that underachieving free agent signing Reggie Ragland can either secure the WILL spot outright or at least provide above-average depth. A far more promising player competing for the role is ‘18 third-rounder Lorenzo Carter, shifting inside after three seasons at EDGE.

Even if neither LB steps forward to provide quality at WILL, Graham will also have the option of playing additional snaps from a Nickel and/or Dime set to counter three- and four-wide attacks. Last season, that simply was not an option for Graham. What changed? For one, the Giants boast one of the deepest safety units in the league. After spending much of his career in the slot, Logan Ryan secured the starting free safety role by ranking second-best in YPCS, FPCS, and air yards/coverage snap (AYCS) among 77 qualified FS. What strong safety Jabrill Peppers may lack in coverage efficiency is counterbalanced with his strong run defense and pass rushing skills. That frees Julian Love to work all over the field and allowed ‘20 second-rounder Xavier McKinney to spend nearly half of his rookie snaps defending the slot.

Graham pieced together a scheme rotation including competitive rates of Cover 2 (Zone), Cover 3 (Zone), and Cover 2-Man. Fortunately for the Giants they have the services of one of the NFLs top-five CBs in James Bradberry. How the Panthers failed to identify what they had on their hands with Bradberry during his four seasons in Carolina is beyond imagination. Despite doing his work while shadowing opposing No. 1’s, Bradberry still limited his coverage to the seventh-lowest passer rating on designed targets, seventh-fewest YPCS, sixth-fewest FPCS, and commanded respect with the eighth-lowest AYCS among 89 qualified outside corners.

BREAKING NEWS: things are about to get even more difficult for Giants’ opponents. Gettleman saved his free agent dollars to bring over Adoree' Jackson on a three-year, $39 million contract. While a knee injury limited Jackson to only four games for Tennessee last season, don’t allow that to dissuade you from the imminent threat he presents. Last year, you attacked this defense in fantasy with WR2’s. If Jackson returns to even 90% of his pre-injury form, that strategy will be eliminated. Few secondaries can claim to roster a pair of CBs with the speed and skill of Bradberry and Jackson. Speaking of speed, when he returns from the PUP list, Graham will also have the 4.39-speed of ‘21 third-rounder Aaron Robinson working from the slot.

Tattooed across the face of the franchise, throw everything you have at the Giants’ sieve-like O-line. It was a tried-and-true method last season, it’ll prove advantageous once again until Barkley proves he’s 100% healthy. Luckily for HC Joe Judge, his defense is loaded at every spot sans ongoing camp battles at nose tackle and WILL. If the O-line can somehow hold its own long enough for the offense to put points on the board, this team could turn a few stolen wins into something more meaningful. Just don’t get too carried away. The Giants’ O-line will not be carrying this team into the playoffs. But an 8-8 season would go a very long way for this proud franchise to regain some of its former reputation… as long as Gettleman finally decides to dig deep into his pockets to shore up that O-line.

Projected Fantasy Contributors

Daniel Jones (Proj: QB17 | ADP: 153 | Pos ADP: QB21)

It’s time for year three of the Daniel Jones experience. The Giants added 1st round WR Kadarius Toney and free agent WR Kenny Golladay into the fold offensively, so Jones will have his best supporting cast to date. Well, with one obvious caveat: the offensive line. The Giants’ line was the worst-graded PFF pass-blocking unit in 2020, and that translated to Jones facing the 2nd-highest overall pressure rate (40.3%). For 2021, no sweeping improvements to this OL were made, and that’s shown up in the preseason rankings. The Giants were one of four teams that Ross Tucker ranked as ‘Poor’ in his offensive line rankings, and PFF outright ranked them as the worst OL in the league. Another season of Jones facing heavy pressure seems likely, and that certainly doesn’t help his case as a fantasy QB. Despite the extreme pressure, he did notably improve his PFF passing grades (from 65.6 to 74.4), turnover worthy play % (from 5.5% to 3.1%) and his points earned per throw (from 0.04 to 0.07) in his sophomore season. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to much fantasy success for Jones, who saw his FPG fall from 16.5 to 12.9. Interestingly, the Giants made an effort to run Jones more in 2020, increasing his designed rush attempts from six in 2019 to 23 in 2020. Jones isn’t a Konami code guy, but his rushing upside certainly helps secure his floor, as he showed last season by averaging 3.5 rushing FPG (13th-most). In order to make the leap from a low-end QB2 to anything resembling a QB1, Jones will likely need either Justin Herbert-esque passing efficiency under pressure or a Josh Allen-esque year three improvement. Neither of those scenarios seem particularly likely, but being surrounded by the best weapons of his career won’t hurt.

Saquon Barkley (Proj: RB6 | ADP: 9 | Pos ADP: RB8)

One of the most exciting rushers in the NFL is coming off an ACL tear he suffered in Week 2, which clouds his fantasy situation more than any other first-round RB. The Giants are obviously committed to taking it slow with Saquon Barkley’s return to play, and that’s led to speculation that he may not suit up in Week 1, or even for the first few weeks of the season. Alongside speculation that when he is active, he will be in a limited role, at least initially. That’s certainly possible, but without any major setbacks, Barkley should play for at least three quarters of the NFL season, and that still makes him a worthy first-round RB. In his 30 career full games, Barkley has averaged 21.4 FPG, 6.8 targets per game, and 117.8 YFS per game. Those numbers would’ve ranked third, third, and fourth among RBs last season. Keeping up his impressive rushing efficiency (4.7 career YPC) will certainly be difficult behind an offensive line that’s expected to be well below average, but that’s nothing new to Barkley, as he’s never played behind an OL that’s ranked top-15 in PFF run-blocking grades. Even so, the combination of recovering from an ACL tear and a poor OL could certainly lead to the least efficient rushing season of Barkley’s career. Thankfully, his pass game work should help make up for any reduction in rushing efficiency. In 2018 and 2019, Barkley was the fifth-most targeted RB in the NFL, and remember, targets are 2.64 times more valuable than carries in PPR formats. With oddsmakers impling 7.0 wins for New York, Barkley will get the added boost of negative gamescript, and that’ll mean more of those high-value targets for the fourth-year RB. The progress of his ACL recovery will determine most of his 2021 fantasy outlook, but there’s no doubt Barkley’s worthy of a first-round pick, especially in PPR, given his incredible talent, the investment New York has made into him, and the volume of touches he should see. Barkley can miss 1-3 games and still provide ample value on his RB8 ADP, and if he plays all 17, he’s almost certainly a league-winner. He could smash his RB8 ADP if he plays all 17 games, and even if he misses the first few weeks, should still provide an RB1 floor.

Devontae Booker (Proj: RB52 | ADP: 190 | Pos ADP: RB61) Devontae Booker may get a chance to shine as the Giants’ lead back if Saquon Barkley isn’t ready to suit up in Week 1. That lead back role is quite unfamiliar to Booker, who’s been a backup almost his entire career, as he’s seen 20+ touches in just 3 of his 77 career games, and all three of those games were in his 2016 - his rookie year with the Broncos. With a 3.99 career YPC, Booker hasn’t been anywhere close to an elite runner with the ball in his hands. On the bright side, Booker’s shown solid pass blocking throughout his career (3 seasons with a PFF pass blocking grade >74.0) and is a capable pass catcher, but it’s important to remember Corey Clement’s presence on the Giants roster will limit Booker’s third-down usage. Factor in one of the league’s worst offensive lines and it’s safe to say Booker’s ceiling will be limited, even if he gets an opportunity to be this backfield’s lead rusher. If Barkley misses time, Booker will profile as a mid- to low-end RB2, but once Barkley returns to full health, Booker won’t be fantasy relevant.
Kenny Golladay (Proj: WR29 | ADP: 59 | Pos ADP: WR25)

Kenny Golladay has been one of the best outside receiving threats in the NFL since entering the league in 2017. Among WRs with over 200 targets, Golladay’s 16.8 career yards per reception ranks 1st over the last four years. He’s been able to accomplish that impressive mark, at least in part, by running some of the deepest routes down the field in the league. Golladay has a career aDOT of 14.6, and in his best season ever (2019), Golladay’s 16.1 aDOT led all receivers. 2020 didn’t go as planned for Golladay, as he played just 5 games due to hamstring and hip injuries. That ended his tenure in Detroit, with Golladay choosing to sign a $72 million deal with the Giants in March. That’s WR1 money, and there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that Golladay will step into that WR1 role now that he’s in New York. He faces a QB downgrade going from Matthew Stafford to Daniel Jones, but another 100+ target season is a near-lock, and Golladay has always shown he can make the most of his targets, as he’s recorded the 4th-highest contested catch rate (60.2%) of any WR over the last four seasons. And he’s been one of the most consistent WRs in fantasy, scoring 10 or more fantasy points in 25 of his 36 games over the past three seasons. Not to mention Daniel Jones was actually one of the league’s best deep ball QBs last year, recording a 95.6 PFF passing grade (3rd) and 132.5 passer rating (1st) on his throws of 20 or more yards. The market seems to be too bearish on Golladay after a down year, setting up potentially one of the best early-round injury discounts available. There are a ton of question marks surrounding the Giants, but Golladay’s status as their WR1 isn’t one of them.

Sterling Shepard (Proj: WR62 | ADP: 170 | Pos ADP: WR64)

In his five NFL seasons, Sterling Shepard has been remarkably consistent from a fantasy perspective. He’s finished no worse than WR48, and no better than WR30 in any season, and he’s always logged between 83 and 107 targets. Remarkably, Shepard managed that consistency despite missing four or more games in 3 different seasons. While Shepard is viewed by most as a slot receiver only, he’s actually played the majority of his offensive snaps over the last two seasons lined up outside (63.5% in 2020 and 54.9% in 2019). That’s a significant change from his first three seasons in the league, where he averaged a 71% slot snap share. Shepard certainly benefited from his added outside snaps, as he led the Giants in targets in both 2019 and 2020 while also earning his best PFF receiving grades (73.8 and 79.4) and FPG (14.2 and 13.5) over the last two seasons. It should come as no surprise that Odell Beckham’s departure from New York in 2018 resulted in Shepard’s boosted outside role, as the Giants have lacked a dominant outside WR since he signed with the Browns. The addition of Kenny Golladay changed that. With Golladay as the overwhelming favorite to lead the team in targets, along with the emergence of Darius Slayton as a stellar deep threat, Shepard is likely to be pigeon-holed in the slot, similar to his first three seasons in the league. First-round WR Kadarius Toney will also steal snaps and touches, granted he’s likely to be involved as more of a gimmick player, at least initially. Regardless, this shapes up as the most competitive Giants’ receiving room since Shepard’s rookie year. Because of that, his ceiling is likely capped around that of a low-end WR3, but his floor is significantly safer than most WRs available after WR50, making Shepard a strong pick in deep season-long leagues, but a much weaker one in best ball or smaller leagues.

Kadarius Toney (Proj: WR75 | ADP: 237 | Pos ADP: WR83)

A QB in high school, Kadarius Toney didn’t see a legit starting WR workload until his senior season in college, and what he did as a slot WR that season had NFL teams gushing over what he could be at the next level. Wes Huber acknowledged Toney looked tremendously raw as a route-runner early on, but has always had elite play-making ability when running with the football. By his final season at Florida, Wes writes that “his senior film blew me away. It’s truly a different player. He’s always had an elite skillset with the ball in his hands. But I was not expecting to see the crispness of his route running so quickly”. PFF’s Mike Renner compared Toney to “The Human Joystick,” Dante Hall. Greg Cosell mentioned Toney reminded him of Randall Cobb, but with significantly more explosion and straight-line speed. He recorded a near-elite 88.8 SPORQ score. Clearly, Toney has the tools to be an outstanding WR and elite fantasy contributor at the next level. For 2021, however, his fantasy outlook is cloudy. Given the presence of established talents like Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, and Sterling Shepard, Toney will have a difficult time earning snaps, and may not exceed a 50% snap share his rookie year. Even so, he should still see schemed touches, and if he can convert those into big plays - something that’s quite likely given his talent - he could absolutely emerge as a core tenant of the Giants offense as the season progresses. The risk of a limited offensive role is already well-baked into Toney’s ADP, and considering his talent, he profiles as a solid high-upside pick at the end of drafts.

Darius Slayton (Proj: WR83 | ADP: 226 | Pos ADP: WR80)

A fifth-round draft pick in 2019, Darius Slayton immediately emerged as a dominant deep threat for the Giants, leading the team with 41 deep targets and a 14.3 aDOT over the last two seasons. No Giants WR came close last season to matching Slayton’s snap count, as the 54.8 snaps he averaged per game led the team, and ranked 26th overall among all WRs. It should be obvious that his playing time is likely to take a step back in 2021, after New York added Kenny Golladay in free agency and Kadarius Toney in the first round of the draft. That’ll lower Slayton’s floor, but what’s made him an appealing fantasy option throughout his career has been his ceiling. So far, Slayton’s scored 20.0+ fantasy points four times, and 32.0+ twice. The added receiving competition will make it tougher for Slayton to post those ceiling performances, but WRs with Slayton’s talent and upside, who have already proven themselves as fantasy assets, are very difficult to come by in the final rounds of drafts. Slayton is basically free with an ADP of WR80, and he's a lock to provide value on that draft position if he can maintain his starting role throughout the season.

Evan Engram (Proj: TE15 | ADP: 135 | Pos ADP: TE14)

Evan Engram took a significant step back in 2020, seeing his FPG fall from 12.3 (in his first three seasons) to 8.8 last year. That decrease in fantasy output may have been due to the Lisfranc injury Engram suffered in 2019. FantasyPoints’ very own injury expert Edwin Porras warned us last year, “Lisfranc injuries reduce NFL offensive players’ on-field production by an average of 21% in the first season following surgery. This production seemed to level off after the second year and returned to baseline.” Well, we are about to enter Engrams second season following surgery. If he returns to his baseline of 12.3 FPG, he’ll immediately be a top-6 fantasy contributor in the league’s thinnest fantasy position. We can’t forget, though, about the receiving talent New York has added recently. With Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, the Giants have significantly more competition for targets than in 2020, when Engram averaged a 22% target share (third among TEs). A 15-18% target share for Engram seems like the most likely scenario in 2021, but keep in mind that only six TEs last season recorded a target share of 15% or higher, so that could still be enough to lift Engram into TE1 territory. The receiving competition and Engram’s Lisfranc injury likely pushed the market too far in a bearish direction, and while those factors may cap his ceiling, Engram’s ADP of TE14 is arguably his floor if he’s fully healthy for 2021.

Kyle Rudolph (Proj: TE42 | ADP: 489 | Pos ADP: TE72)

Kyle Rudolph is likely in the twilight of his career heading into his 11th season. The 31 year-old TE is another new addition to this Giants offense after spending his first 10 seasons in Minnesota. As he’s aged, Rudolph has unfortunately lost some of his value as a receiver, and it’s shown up in his target totals, as he didn’t eclipse 50 targets in either of the last two seasons, after doing so in every season (with the exception of his rookie year) that he exceeded 10 games played. Rudolph’s game-to-game upside has also taken a hit, as he’s only seen more than 6 targets in an individual game once over the last two years. The clear TE2 behind Evan Engram, Rudolph’s only realistic shot at worthwhile fantasy production is an Engram injury, and even in that case, he would be no better than a mid-end TE2.

Hansen’s Final Points

For Daniel Jones’ sake, I really wanted the Giants to shore up their OL this year by adding some impact players, but they have done next to nothing to improve what was a poor group last season. That will probably come back to haunt them in many ways, but that doesn’t mean Jones is screwed for fantasy. Since he was uneven in camp last year in a new offense run by Jason Garrett, I’m using the summer vibes on the Giants and Jones to make a final determination because, while I was disappointed in the lack of OL support, they are incredibly loaded with good pass targets. And the OL isn’t hopeless, with LT Andrew Thomas showing some promise late last year (per our Greg Cosell’s film study). Cosell also came away encouraged after revisiting Jones’ 2020 tape this summer. Jones is off to a shaky start in Giants camp, but it’s really early (8/2), and the team was very happy with his off-season. The bottom line with Jones is simply this: his upside still stands out relative to his ADP. That’s another way of saying he’s dirt cheap in drafts (165 ADP, QB21) because it’s hard to see a ton of upside with a guy who ranks only 25th in fantasy points per game over the last two combined years (14.6). I have not forgotten, though, that he was the QB12 in FPG in 2019, so I will still take a shot with Jones as an upside-oriented QB2 150+ picks into a draft.

The way to approach Saquon Barkley this year seems pretty simple to me. If you’re risk-averse, conservative, etc., then you should let him pass, since he’s still a #1 pick as of 8/2, and he’s being taken ahead of some quality options, namely Nick Chubb and Aaron Jones. It’s possible that he’s on track to play in the opener, and he might be exactly where they were hoping he’d be months ago. But we don’t truly know where he is, and there’s been plenty of talk about easing him into the season, so his touches may be minimized. Of course, even if he’s good-to-go in September, he’s still a guy who’s had two serious injuries in his last two seasons, so there’s seemingly more risk with him than almost anyone else on the board at RB. On the other hand, there’s a reason he’s still a first-round pick, despite his issues. On the chance that he enjoys good health all season, his massive role plus his massive talent should equal league-winning production, so he’s a guy I’d be more inclined to take in a high-stakes draft or a national contest. So it’s really about your approach to fantasy and how much you’re willing to risk it for that biscuit. If you do take him, it would behove you to also grab clear RB2 Devontae Booker, who should still have a clear edge on all comers behind Barkley, including veteran Alfred Morris, who signed with the team on 8/2.

I’m probably on my own with this one, but I have almost no interest in Kenny Golladay this year, at least at his (reasonable, but not cheap enough for me) price of 60 overall and WR29. He’s coming off a worrisome injury-plagued season, will suffer from a significant downgrade at QB going from Matthew Stafford to Daniel Jones, and there are suddenly a ton of weapons around Golladay competing for the ball, unlike his time in Detroit. He was a good signing for them because they needed a true X receiver who can line up outside and on an island and make plays at all three levels of the defense, but until I see him click well with Jones, I’m going to assume that Danny Dimes will be more comfortable throwing to his boy Sterling Shepard, and two TE Evan Engram. And if Saquon Barkley is healthy, he’ll get a ton of opportunities, obviously. I’m not feeling it personally, but the rest of the staff seems to believe there’s a small buying opportunity with Golladay this year.

I have always been something of a Sterling Shepard mark, and while he’s yet to hit the ceiling I believe he has, he has been pretty damn consistent, never finishing below WR48 in PPG (but also never better than WR30). I thought his career was over two years ago due to his lingering concussions, but he’s been the WR35 and WR28 the last two seasons. That’s pretty darn good for a guy whose ADP is sitting around WR60 off the board around 170 picks into a draft. Obviously, he’s an afterthought because the team signed Kenny Golladay, but that move will also put Shepard back playing in the slot more, and I do like that, since Jones loves throwing it to him and will likely lean on him more than people expect. Now, the other element keeping Shepard’s ADP down is the addition of #1 pick Kadarius Toney. I do think Toney is a baller, but he’s likely to line up all over the place, and Tony is a little raw still as a former HS QB. At the end of the day, we can’t expect more than 55-60 catches, but I could see Jones leaning on Shepard a lot, especially if their star RB isn’t ready for a full workload and/or if Golladay is slow to produce on his new team.

As he told me himself during an interview earlier this year, Kadarius Toney didn’t start playing WR seriously until his senior season in college last year, and his route-running is considered raw still. It’s actually a little surprising he was a #1 pick, but his talent does stand out. In fact, our Greg Cosell liked his tape a lot, and was adamant that he’s not just a slot receiver or gadget player. The NFL is starting to line guys up all over the place, and in that regard Toney stands out, since he can play anywhere, including outside. I absolutely loved his shiftiness and contact balance and RAC potential, and in that regard I saw a little Brandon Aiyuk in his game (I’m the only one in the world to make that comp, I think). I really don’t expect him to have a big showing in year one, but I’m still willing to draft him. That’s simply because he’s buried on the ADP board as the WR75 drafted around 235 overall. If I took him with my last pick, he may be the first guy I cut for a waiver wire add, but Toney still stands out because he’ll likely have the most raw talent and overall upsite of the receivers going off the board well over 200 picks into a draft.

I liked Darius Slayton as a mid-round pick last summer, and for a little while there, it looked like a good call - until it didn’t. I do think he and Jones have good chemistry, and he’s been one of Jones’ boys in practice, but we have a snaps and playing time issue here with Golladay added. He’s a better best ball pick very late because he’ll probably have a couple of big games, but unless there’s an injury to Gollday or Shepard, it’s hard to envision a path to fantasy relevance. He’s a throwaway pick at the bitter end of a 14-team or larger league.

He’s been a frustrating fantasy asset, and I’m no longer counting on big things, but there is a chance that Evan Engram looks more like the Engram of old a year removed from his Lisfranc injury, and in his second year in the new offense. It also felt like new OC Jason Garrett struggled to utilize Engram early in the season, but also that things improved in the second half. He’s reportedly in great shape this summer, so if the vibes are good throughout August, I may warm up to him as a TE1 pick, since there really aren’t 12 slam dunk TE1s out there. Engram won’t approach his 22% target share from last year, but he can do a lot with a little if he’s right, and the added weapons in NY could easily take some pressure off him and afford him with better matchups with less attention on him. As mentioned above, Engram’s ADP of TE14 (135 overall) may actually be his floor, so there’s mostly upsite to drafting him.

I do like his addition to the Giants due to his superior blocking, but the days of us drafting

Kyle Rudolph are over. He didn’t even hit 50 targets in either of the last two seasons, and at 31 he runs like he’s going on 51, so his only chance to merit fantasy consideration is if Evan Engram is out, and I doubt I’d be interested even then.

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