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“Sauer Notes” NFC East Breakdown: New York Giants

New York Giants

The 12 year Tom Coughlin era came to end last season as the G-Men missed the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season. Coughlin led New York to a pair of Super Bowl titles with a 102-90 record. Ben McAdoo takes over as team leader after holding the offensive coordinator job for the Giants in 2014 and 2015. Ben has 11 years of NFL experience while spending most of his career with the Green Bay Packers. His offense finished eighth in total yards last year and sixth in points scored (420). Both of these stats were a slight improvement from 2014. Mike Sullivan was promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. He ran the offense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 and 2013. The biggest disappointment for New York over the last two years was the play of their defense. The Giants became the worst defense in the league in 2015 after finishing 29th total yards allowed in 2014. They gave up 442 points (30th) last year, which was their highest total since 1966 (501). It will be Steve Spagnuolo’s job to save this fading franchise’s defense. Steve led this defense to a Super Bowl victory for the Giants in 2007 when he took down the high flying Patriots. Spagnuolo failed in his three seasons as the head coach of the Rams (10-38) from 2009 to 2011. Steve has three seasons of experience as the defensive coordinator.

NFC East Standings

  1. Washington Redskins 9-7
  2. Philadelphia Eagles 7-9
  3. New York Giants 6-10
  4. Dallas Cowboys 4-12

2016 Schedule

Week 1: @ Cowboys  Week 2: vs. Saints  Week 3: vs. Redskins  Week 4: @ Vikings

Week 5: @ Packers  Week 6: vs. Ravens  Week 7: @ Rams  Week 8: Bye  Week 9: vs. Eagles

Week 10: vs. Bengals  Week 11: vs. Bears  Week 12: @ Browns  Week 13: @ Steelers

Week 14: vs. Cowboys  Week 15: vs. Lions  Week 16: @ Eagles  Week 17: @ Redskins

Following a disappointing 6-10 season, the Giants have been rewarded with the second easiest schedule based upon average winning percentage of opponents, as they are tied with the Chicago Bears who also get to face teams with an average win rate of 0.461.

Free Agency

Key Losses: CB- Prince Amukamara, DE- Robert Ayers, DT- Markus Kuhn, WR- Rueben Randle, G- Geoff Schwartz

Key AdditionsDE- Olivier Vernon, CB- Janoris Jenkins, DT- Damon Harrison, LB- Kelvin Sheppard, LB- Keenan Robinson

Draft

Round 1: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State                                                                                                                               Round 2: Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma                                                                                                                Round 3: Darian Thompson, S, Boise State                                                                                                                     Round 4: B.J Goodson, ILB, Clemson                                                                                                                             Round 5: Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA                                                                                                                                   Round 6: Jerell Adams, TE, South Carolina

Team Breakdown

Quarterback

Eli Manning  eliOver 12 years in the NFL, Eli has a 97-86 record with two Super Bowl victories. Over the last two years, Manning has had the best passing opportunity of his career. He set a career high in pass attempts (601) in 2014 only to break that record last season (618). His completion rate (62.6) has been above his career average (59.3) in back-to-back season. Eli set a career high in passing TDs (35) while finishing with his second best year in passing yards (4436). His improved upside is clearly tied to the electric Odell Beckham. Rookie Sterling Shepard should more than offset the loss of Rueben Randle. Last year Manning had five games with 300 or more passing yards and one game with 400+ yards. Eli had two games with three TDs, two with four TDs, and one game with six TDs. Overall, his receiving corps lacks length so his success will be tied to his elite WRs and some production at RB and TE. With the NFL turning into such a passing league, 4500 yards does not seem to out of the question for Eli, although matching his TD production from last season may be a daunting task. He should offer solid backend QB1 numbers, and certainly can be a high-upside QB2 in two-quarterback leagues.

Running Back

Rashad JenningsjennJennings was a tough Fantasy ride in 2015. He finished with 225 touches for 1150 combined yards with four TDs and 29 catches. His lack of TDs hurt his playable value from week-to-week plus game score led to many games where Shane Vereen stole playing time. His best success came over the last four games of the season (521 combined yards with seven catches and two TDs), which was highlighted by his game in Week 17 (27/170/1 with two catches for six yards). Over the first 12 games of the season, Rashad never had more than 16 touches in a game compared to 22 touches per game over his last four starts. He offers a nice balanced skill set, but there is plenty of downside risk as well with the current structure of the RB position. At age 30, his window for upside appears to be closing. Jennings is a boring 10 point back over the long haul in PPR leagues with multiple players waiting to steal a piece of his playing time. Given his injury history plus the addition of ANOTHER back in Paul Perkins (and we thought RB by committee was three backs, we had Jennings, Vereen, Andre Williams, and Orleans Darkwa in 2015) Jennings should be pushed down your draft boards, and reserved for a RB4-5 at best.

Shane Vereen– Fantasy owners had to be disappointed with the final results of Vereen in 2015 based on his draft value. Shane finished with 120 touches for 755 yards with four TDs and 59 catches on 81 targets. Vereen had eight games with two catches or fewer and four games with four catches or more leading to a tough managing schedule. In the end, Shane outscored Rashad Jennings by 2.8 Fantasy points in PPR leagues while averaging nine fantasy points per game as the 27th highest scoring running back. Game score is a big part of his opportunity. The Giants’ RB structure would be much cleaner for Shane if they had a lead back with more power. Jennings offers just enough balance to steal some of Vereen’s catches plus New York added Paul Perkins in this year’s draft. Pass-catching backs work well at the RB2 position, but the ultimate goal is to find a back with a three down opportunity as the season moved on. In the early draft season, Shane is the 45th RB off the table with a fair ADP (144). You should proceed with caution selecting any of these Giants’ RB committee as none of them will be consistent from a week-to-week basis. Well, scratch that thought- one or more of these RB may be consistent weekly…consistently bad.

Paul Perkins– perkinsOver three seasons at UCLA, Perkins rushed for 3488 yards with 29 rushing TDs while catching 80 balls for another 739 yards and three TDs. His best success came in his sophomore year (1773 combined yards with 11 TDs and 26 catches). His skill set will overlap Rashad Jennings with better vision, quickness, and overall speed. Jennings runs with more power while owning a polished skill set in the passing game. Paul’s overall game will be intriguing if an injury or two creates more playing time. Perkins has some wiggle in the open field while knowing how to make defenders become flat-footed leading to more yardage. His cutting ability and small area acceleration will lead to long runs at times, and he has enough finishing speed to score long TDs. Perkins just needs to run with more power between the tackles to create more playing time.  He has enough strength to give himself a fighter’s chance in pass protection. I view him as back-end flier with a chance to steal the lead role late in the season if Jennings goes down with an injury.

Wide Receiver 

Odell Beckham Jr.– objBeckham’s late season success in 2014 didn’t translate into the elite success Fantasy owners expected in 2015. Odell finished with 96 catches for 1450 yards and 13 TDs on 158 targets or 308.9 Fantasy points in PPR leagues leading to him finishing 5th in the final WR rankings. Beckham had eight games with 100 or more receiving yards including six straight over the second half of the year. He only had seven double-digit target games, which was well below the top WRs in the game. Over 27 games in his short NFL career, Odell averages 6.9 catches per game for 102 yards and 0.93 TDs per game. This works out to 22.7 Fantasy points per game in PPR leagues. His floor should be 100+ catches for 1500+ yards and double-digit TDs while he has the ceiling to be the best receiver in the game.

Sterling Shepard– shepOver four years at Oklahoma, Sterling caught 233 passes for 3482 yards and 26 TDs. He even chipped in with 17 rushes for 109 yards and a TD. His best success came in his senior year (86/1288/11). Shepard doesn’t have an elite resume, and he did spend more of his career working as an outside wide receiver in college. He needs to prove he can handle the pounding if asked to play on many downs as a slot WR. He has solid hands with upside in his route running–never mind his quickness and underlying strength. The WR2 in this offense caught 57 passes for 797 yards and eight TDs on 90 targets in 2015. I expect Sterling to be much more active in the passing game with questionable value in TDs. I don‘t view him as a lock, but he has a very good chance at catching 75+ balls for 900+ yards with a handful of TDs. He’s a player to watch over the summer as his value could rise quickly.

Victor Cruz– Cruz suffered his second major injury in his five-year career in 2014 when he tore a patellar tendon in his right knee. The early reports suggested Victor would be ready for Week 1, but I had a tough time believing he will play at a high level early in the year. As it turns out, Victor never played a snap in 2015 as a result of a left calf issue that ended up needing surgery in mid-November. His value faded over the last ten games of 2013 when he caught 47 passes for 523 yards with no TDs on 79 targets. Cruz played well in two of his six games in 2014 (5/107/1 and 6/108), but he had delivered losing value in his other four games (12/122). In a way, the calf injury gave him a full offseason to recover from his previous knee issue. Even with six months of recovery, Cruz is still limited in the early OTAs. His past resume suggests upside, but his growing health issues make him a tough investment unless his price point is free. I need to see him in game action before thinking about drafting him.

Tight End

Will Tye– willOver the last seven games in 2015 as the starter for the Giants, Tye caught 32 passes for 368 yards and three TDs on 44 targets. He scored all of his TDs over his last four games of the year. Will was the much better option at TE in 2015 while offering more length to his catches (11.0) and a solid catch rate (67.7). Both Donnell and Tye have weakness in pass blocking. Either way, this situation looks to be a weak Fantasy option due to a possible split situation. If I were looking for a depth option, I’d place my bet on Will.

Larry Donnell– Over the first eight games of the 2015 season, Donnell caught 29 of his 41 targets for 223 yards and two TDs. He had fewer than 40 yards receiving in every game while securing four catches or more catches in four different games. His season ended in early November due to a neck issue. Larry received medical clearance in March leading to him signing with New York. For the whole year in 2015, the Giants completed 89 passes to the TE position for 817 yards and five TDs on 130 targets. His value takes a hit with the emergence of Will Tye. At best, Donnell would be a TE2 in most Fantasy formats if he retains the starting job.

Kicker

Josh Brown– Over the last two seasons with the Giants, Brown made 54 of his 58 field goal chances (93.1 percent) including all seven kicks from 50 yards or longer. Josh was successful in 44 of his 45 extra-point tries. His success in 2015 (30-for-32 in FGs) led to Brown finishing 7th in kicker scoring with six games with three field goals or more. New York struggled to run the ball in close last year, which created a bump in scoring chances. In a division with plenty of weak defense, Josh has an opportunity to be a top 10 kicker in 2016. At the very least, he’ll have matchup value.

Defense

New York finished 24th in rushing yards allowed (1942) with 15 rushing TDs. They allowed 4.4 yards per rush on 27.8 carries per game.

Their failure was on defense.  They  tied for the most passing yards allowed (4783) in the league with 31 TDs and 15 Ints. The Giants only managed 23 sacks in 2015.

The two free acquisitions will become New York’s best two defensive linemen. DE Olivier Vernon had strength against the run while posting 7.5 sacks in 2015. Over the last three years with the Dolphins as a starter, Vernon had 25.5 sacks. His overall production ranked highly at his position. DT Damon Harrison was part of a very good run-stopping line with Jets. His success may be a result of better players around him. Either way, Harrison will improve the run defense with no real value in sacks (1.5 in his career over 53 games played). DT Johnathan Hankins handled himself well against the run in limited snaps last year with risk rushing the QB. New York hopes DE Jason Pierre-Paul regains some of his pass rushing form after his bad injury to his right hand that cost him the first eight games of the season. Jason struggled against the run in 2015 with only one sack due to playing with a cast on his right hand.hand

LB Keenan Robinson will compete for the starting middle linebacker job after playing poorly in all areas in 2015 with the Redskins, which was partly due to a shoulder issue. LB Jasper Brinkley should work as a rotational guy in run support, but he has high risk in pass coverage. LB J.T. Thomas played his way of a starting job last year with failure against the run and weakness in pass protection. LB Devon Kennard held his own against the run with no value rushing the QB. Overall, there is plenty of weakness at the second level of the defense. New York probably needs rookie B.J. Goodson to at least add value as a run stopper on early downs.

The Giants should have two serviceable cornerbacks in coverage as Janoris Jenkins and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie grade in the top half of the starting NFL CB class. Rodgers does have risk in run support. Rookie CB Eli Apple should add depth to their secondary once he gains NFL experience. The options for both safety positions have risk in coverage. Rookie S Darian Thompson may have value on early downs, but QBs will look to test him in pass coverage.jen

This defense will be improved for sure. The DL and CB positions should be above the league average with some of their upside tied to the success of Pierre-Paul rushing the QB. New York needs improved play at the linebacking and safety positions. The Giants may have matchup value at times in the Fantasy market.

Conclusion

Last week I chose the Cowboys to be one of the few times to go worst to first in their division on a year-to-year basis. The Giants with their new coaching regime and easy schedule will finish in second in the NFC East above last season’s victor Washington Redskins. The G-Men will miss the NFC playoff picture yet again for a sixth straight season by one game as they finish the season over .500 at 9-7, but are on the outside looking in come the start of the postseason.

Find me on twitter: @zaksauer

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(Click the Red link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Football Radio: Join Ej GarrCorey D Roberts, and Coach Jeff Nelson live Saturday July 9th from 1-2:30pm EST for episode #63 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. This is a live broadcast and we take callers at 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the hosts. Our first 4 shows of the year covered each AFC division. This week we begin the NFC side with NFC East.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

(Click the Red link below to listen)

Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio: Join Corey D Roberts and Kyle Amore live on Thursday June 30th, 2016 from 8-10pm EST for episode #72 of Major League Fantasy Baseball Radio. We are a live broadcast that will take callers at 323-870-4395. Press 1 to speak with the host.

Our guest this week is Marc Foster a veteran owner with MLFS since 2009, an occasional writer, and 3 time champion in MLFB/MLFF leagues.

You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”

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