Giants: No Tiki, but a good chance they'll get torched
August 17, 2007
Sporting News WHERE THEY STAND
The G-Men, who staggered into the playoffs at 8-8 last season after a 2-6 second-half stumble, stand on shaky ground as far as fantasy help goes. A few reasons why:
- Brandon Jacobs and Reuben Droughns, bruisers with lesser receiving skills, are trying to replace retired do-it-all running back Tiki Barber.
- Fourth-year quarterback Eli Manning still hasn't developed consistency.
- Top receiver Plaxico Burress is hobbled by a sprained ankle. He hasn't been able to practice.
- Defensive end Michael Strahan is holding out and might retire, which weakens a unit that was 24th in the league in points allowed last season.
At this point, it's difficult to see this team improving on what it did on offense in '06. With Barber getting 385 touches, the Giants were 11th in the NFL in scoring. Even if Jacobs and Droughns match that total, it's doubtful the fantasy results -- in particular, total yards and big games -- will be the same. And if Manning goes into another funk, everyone's fantasy production will suffer.
Projected draft round
Eli Manning, QB 8-9
Brandon Jacobs, RB 3
Reuben Droughns, RB 9-10
Plaxico Burress, WR 4
Amani Toomer, WR 11
Jeremy Shockey, TE 7
Lawrence Tynes, K DND
Defense/special teams DND
Draft position based on a standard 12-team combined scoring and yardage league with a 17-round draft. DND: Do not draft.
Key additions:RB Reuben Droughns, LB Kawika Mitchell, K Lawrence Tynes.
Key losses: LB LaVar Arrington, RB Tiki Barber, OLB Carlos Emmons, K Jay Feely, LT Luke Petitgout, LB Brandon Short, FB Jim Finn. 5-Star Players
None 4-Star Players
Brandon Jacobs, RB. If the Giants ever wanted to go to a power running attack -- and there are no indications that they do -- they have the guy for it. Jacobs, all 265 pounds of him, loves contact, which has helped make him a touchdown vulture (nine rushing TDs last season). Will he have that same drive late in a game after bulling his way through 20-25 carries? Well, Jacobs trained in the offseason with the guy who helped turn Tiki Barber and Larry Johnson into workhorses; that's a good sign. Plus, the hard-charging Reuben Droughns can provide relief between the 20s. One more reason to buy high on Jacobs: He averaged 13.5 yards on 11 receptions in 2006. That second number is sure to go up this season as new offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride tries to get Jacobs more touches.
Plaxico Burress, WR. Quality, rather than quantity, made Burress a top fantasy play last season. Ten of his 63 receptions went for touchdowns, he averaged 15.7 yards per reception and six of his catches went for 40-plus, tying him for third in the NFL in that category. But Burress also struggled physically, with back spasms, an ankle injury and a sore heel. Plus, he became a marked man in midseason after No. 2 WR Amani Toomer went down with an injury. Now the ankle is giving Burress problems again. Burress has No. 1 receiver ability, but be very careful about making too big an investment in him.
Jeremy Shockey, TE. Shockey had his own health issues last season, namely a sprained ankle, and his production was a mixed bag. He finished with 66 catches -- the second-highest total of his career -- but a career-low 623 yards and 9.4 average. His seven TDs were third-best among NFL tight ends, however. If Shockey's body remains intact, if he isn't asked to block as much and if he matures, and if Manning improves on his short throws, he can be a force in the middle of the field -- and your use of a mid-round pick on him will be wise indeed.
Antonio Pierce, MLB. Pierce ranked eighth in the league with 139 tackles last season (109 solo), ahead of such stalwarts as Lance Briggs and Derrick Brooks. IDP owners beware, however: The Giants' front four figures to be weaker this year especially if Michael Strahan doesn't play. Blockers might have an easier path to Pierce.
Gibril Wilson, FS. His 102 tackles were good for sixth among NFL safeties last season, and that number figures to increase if the front seven struggles. On the flip side, he had no sacks and two interceptions, limiting his IDP value some. 3-Star Players
Eli Manning, QB. Give the guy this much: He's durable. Manning has made 39 consecutive starts dating to when he took over as the Giants' No. 1 QB in 2004, his rookie season. But you just don't know what you're going to get from week to week. Manning had a Rex Grossman-like effort in Week 16 against the Saints: 9-for-25 for 74 yards, with a TD and a pick. In Week 15, he was 28-for-40 for 282 yards against the Eagles, albeit with two INTs. He kicked off the second half by completing fewer than half his passes in Weeks 9 and 10. Given the talent around him last season, Manning should have had much better numbers. His 57.7 completion percentage rate shows that he missed a lot of throws. Now that Tiki Barber is out of the picture, Manning is an even riskier option as a fantasy backup; don't get caught having to take him on draft day.
Osi Umenyiora, DE. Without Michael Strahan around to divert attention, Umenyiora will need to really step up his game to remain a useful IDP option. To do that, he'll need to stay healthy after missing five games with a hip flexor last season. Umeniyora (six sacks in '06) is at best a late-round pick. 2-Star Players
Michael Strahan, DE. If Strahan comes back healthy and motivated -- two enormous ifs -- the defense's outlook will change dramatically. The pass rush obviously will be a lot better, which will make the DBs greater INT threats as QBs hurry throws. The run defense might not see much gain, but the overall performance should turn the Giants' D into a midlevel fantasy unit.
Amani Toomer, WR. He missed the entire second half in 2006 with a torn left ACL. That robbed Eli Manning of a reliable third or fourth option in the passing game behind Plaxico Burress, Jeremy Shockey and Tiki Barber. Toomer is listed as a starter in training camp, but rookie Steve Smith is coming along quickly. For now, assume Toomer is worthy of a No. 3 spot, but also keep Smith on your radar.
Reuben Droughns, RB. How quickly they forget: Droughns had back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons in 2004 (Broncos) and 2005 (Browns). He fell out of favor in Cleveland last season; he rushed for 758 yards behind a poor line and had shoulder and foot injuries that forced him out of two games. Like Brandon Jacobs, Droughns is primarily a straight-ahead guy, and he is known for fighting for every yard. I'd say he is a worthy handcuff.
Giants defense/special teams. This group finished 24th in scoring defense last season -- and that was with Michael Strahan playing in nine games. The personnel didn't change a whole lot in the offseason -- LB Kawika Mitchell is the only major import. First-round draft pick Aaron Ross eventually might fight his way into a cornerback job. Otherwise, players were promoted or shifted, most notably Mathias Kiwanuka from left end to strongside linebacker. The return game was poor last season -- 30th in kick return average, 25th in punt returns. Second-year WR Sinorice Moss might provide a lift if he is over his quad problems, and Derrick Ward might be ready to contribute more now that his broken foot is healed. R.W. McQuarters has three career punt return TDs. But none of them will put the return units in a higher bracket.
Lawrence Tynes, K. Tynes fell behind Josh Huston during the offseason when his wife gave birth to twins prematurely and his practice time was curtailed. Tynes is catching up now that he is in camp. The Chiefs traded Tynes in the offseason after a 24-for-31 performance on field-goal tries. Two of those misses came from 30-39 yards, three from 40-49. To review: Tynes has trouble making kicks and is fighting to make a team that isn't guaranteed to score a lot. You can do much better. 1-Star Players
None 0-Star Players
Anthony Wright/Jared Lorenzen/Tim Hasselbeck, QB. Eli Manning needs to be durable with these guys backing him up. Wright was 2-5 as a starter with the Ravens in 2005, the last time he played extensively. Lorenzen has thrown zero passes in the NFL. Hasselbeck hasn't thrown a regular season pass in four years. No, no and no.
Ultimate Fantasy Football Tip: Get on the Brandon Jacobs bandwagon before the fare gets too high. The big fella will set you back $5.5M, but he is a better risk than either of the Panthers' backs, DeAngelo Williams ($5.45M) or DeShaun Foster ($5.65M). TO KNOW LIST Coaching:
Tom Coughlin pulled a Week 17 switcheroo in '06, taking the offensive coordinator duties away from John Hufnagel and giving them to Kevin Gilbride, then the quarterbacks coach. The Giants responded by scoring 54 points in two games, the second a playoff loss to the Eagles. Gilbride officially got the promotion a couple weeks later. At the time, he told reporters the offense needed to take more shots downfield, and that Jeremy Shockey needed to be the target of some of those shots. With Shockey and Plaxico Burress making more big plays, it will do wonders for their value as the season goes on.
New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo demands aggressiveness from his players. That's a big change from predecessor Tim Lewis' read-and-react scheme, which the players felt inhibited their playmaking ability. The D might give up more yards this season as it tries to make big plays, but it also expects to produce more sacks and takeaways. It still won't be enough to make the unit draftable, however. Offensive line:
The O-line is one of Big Blue's strongest units. The starters have worked together the past two seasons, and they all have been in the league at least three seasons. Continuity took a hit when longtime starting LT Luke Petitgout was cut in the offseason, but the team responded by promoting from within. LG David Diehl moved outside and backup Rich Seubert -- who missed 36 games from 2003-05 with a severely broken leg -- moved into Diehl's old spot. RG Chris Snee and RT Kareem McKenzie are extremely powerful blockers. C Shaun O'Hara anchors the middle. Given all that toughness up front, the Giants easily could become an extreme power running team, which would in turn boost Brandon Jacobs' and Reuben Droughns' value. Schedule analysis:
It's just like Baby Bear's bed in the Goldilocks tale: not too hard, not too soft. New York plays just five teams that were above .500 in '06, but all five made the playoffs. The Giants are matched with the AFC East and the NFC North.
Weeks 5-7, against the Jets, Falcons and 49ers, really should be to Brandon Jacobs' liking. He also could play a big role in the fantasy playoffs, as the Giants play at Philadelphia, home against the Redskins and at the Bills in Weeks 14-16. The Patriots visit in Week 17, after most of the winnings have been doled out. Fantasy Strength of Schedule: 17th toughest (or 16th easiest).