We have previewed 2018 New York Giants training camp, and the upcoming season, a bunch of different ways. With the full roster reporting for training camp on Wednesday, let’s try one more.
Below is a power ranking of the 15 most important Giants player entering the season. This is NOT done in order of talent. It’s done in what I believe to be order of importance to the outcome of the upcoming season.
I know you will argue with some of the choices. Believe me, I argued with myself for a long while when it came to the final few spots on the list. There are several players who could have made the last couple of spots, but did not. Anyway, here it is counting down from 15 to 1.
15. B.J. Goodson — If Goodson can stay on the field next to Alec Ogletree after playing only seven games a year ago, the Giants have a chance to have really good linebackers. Think about that for a second.
14. Sterling Shepard — He is the No. 2 wide receiver. Can he play like one, especially if he has to line up outside more often?
13. Alec Ogletree — Trading for Ogletree signified that the Giants’ new GM, Dave Gettleman, was going to place more emphasis on the linebacker position than his predecessor, Jerry Reese. Ogletree is far from a perfect player (-7.5 Pro Football Focus grade in 2017, 15 missed tackles — sixth-worst among inside linebackers, an 83.1 percent completion rate when targeted in coverage). All of that aside, he is still an athletic 26-year-old linebacker with experience and leadership skills who should help the Giants.
12. Will Hernandez — The second-round pick brings not only talent to the offensive line, but a nasty, protect-my-teammates demeanor the Giants can absolutely use.
11. Evan Engram — Flashed all kinds of ability while perhaps being mis-used a year ago. His versatility could, no should, be a huge asset to the new Giant offense.
10. Janoris Jenkins — James Bettcher’s risk-taking defense requires shut down play from the corners. That’s what Jenkins was in 2016, and that’s what the Giants. Problem is, 2016 is the only time in his six-year career he played to that level.
9. Ereck Flowers — The Giants finally got Flowers away from the blind side of Eli Manning, but he still faces a huge challenge in moving to right tackle. If he fails, that’s going to be a major problem.
8. Eli Apple — The Giants are gambling that Apple can put last year behind him and play like the first-round pick he was in 2016. If he can’t, the Giants have a big hole in their secondary.
7. Damon Harrison — Because he’s so darn good I can’t put him any lower on this list. If the Giants are going to successfully build a wall against the run, Harrison is the foundation.
6. Nate Solder — Protecting Manning’s blidside will only be part of his job. Equally important will be leading the offensive line and helping Will Hernandez and Ereck Flowers.
5. Landon Collins — He is the best player on the Giants’ defense, and is becoming its leader both on the field and off/
4. Olivier Vernon — The Giants are counting on Vernon making a Chandler Jones-esque transition from defensive end to linebacker. It’s a big ask, and an important one.
3. Saquon Barkley — The Giants are only hoping that he becomes not only a great running back but the future face of their franchise.
2. Odell Beckham Jr. — He’s the Giants’ best player ... unless Barkley takes that title away from him.
1. Eli Manning — He isn’t the most talented Giant. I will let the rest of you argue about whether that should be Beckham or Barkley. Or, maybe Collins. What he is, in my view, is the most important. The Giants pushed all their chips to the center of the table this offseason and bet that Manning can still get the job done when it counts. This season won’t turn out well if he can’t.