This is, as you know, Video Game Week at SB Nation and I would certainly consider myself an avid gamer. I like most games and I can still remember playing Super Mario Bros. and The Legend Of Zelda on my Nintendo (the OG Nintendo Entertainment System).
Interestingly, the one genre of game I never really got into was sports games (at least not since NBA Jam: Tournament Edition). Maybe that’s because RPGs (Role Playing Games) formed a big part of my gaming formative years. I spent a big chunk of the late 90’s and early aughts playing games Final Fantasies 6, 7, and 8, Pokemon, Chrono Trigger, Diablo, and Neverwinter Nights, and I can still say that I’m drawn to games with a great story.
So I thought it could be a fun (and different) take on on this week’s theme to cast some New York Giants in common roles in a classic RPG party.
So come with me, if you will, to the fabled land of Nefeastia as we begin our quest...
(Get it? Nefeastia? NFC East? Okay moving on.)
A dark cloud has fallen over the land.
The Mind Flayer is no longer content to reign over corrupted land from the mountain castle to which it was banished by a long-dead fellowship in a bygone age. The townspeople are used to fighting off the occasional reanimated skeleton, giant spider, or rabid kolbold. But as the Mind Flayer has healed from the battle that cost it its freedom, it has grown restless in its mountain refuge. Unable to break the magic binding it inside the castle, the Mind Flayer has resolved to seek forbidden powers. As the Mind Flayer reaches to seize the power of long-slumbering eldritch horrors, their evil is seeping out to wreak untold havoc on Nefeastia.
From the despair a band of heroes, the Giants of New York, steps forward to confront the darkness and undertake a quest to restore light and order to the realm.
Wizards of The Coast, the creators of the classic table top RPG Dungeons And Dragons, recommends a party size of 3-5 players. And since D&D has served as a template for many video game RPGs, I’m going to go with a party of five for our quest. It might be a bit unwieldy for a video game format, but it also gives me the opportunity to explore a number of roles.
The Paladin - Saquon Barkley
Barkley takes the role of “fighter” in our party. Fighters are the most versatile combatants on the field, with training in a variety of gear and fighting styles. Barkley is a natural fit as party’s fighter as he is the Giants’ best offensive weapon. More specifically, not only is he a great runner but he is also a dangerous receiving option giving him the ability to play a variety of roles in the Giants’ offense. Paladins are a sub-class of fighters who are holy warriors who augment their skills with the power of their faith, also allowing them to perform miracles to heal sick or injured party-mates.
Barkley gets the “Paladin” specialization as a player who always seems to say the right thing, and he certainly has the power to create the occasional miracle and cure the offense’s ills.
The Tank - Dalvin Tomlinson
Another specialized fighter, the party’s “Tank” is character who puts all of his points into defense and armor. While capable of doing damage, tanks have the thankless job of draw enemies attacks and allowing their teammates the freedom to act. Tomlinson is the Giants’ best defensive tackle and excels in taking on multiple blockers, combining the highest double-team rate with the highest pass rush win rate among the Giants’ defensive tackles in 2019.
Tomlinson isn’t the biggest, most powerful, or most athletic tackle on the team, but his technique and understanding of leverage and angles allow him to excel at the thankless jobs.
The Rogue - Sterling Shepard
Rogues are often the least threatening members of a party, but often the most useful. Thieves, spies, and assassins, the rogue class prioritizes stealth and skill over brute strength and direct combat. Rogues are the class for players who like to solve problems indirectly or with quick, precise strikes. They’re the ones who can open locked chests or doors to keep the quest alive when punching the problem won’t work.
Sterling Shepard isn’t the scariest Giant, but he is one of the most effective. He lead the team in average separation with his precise route running, and has consistently proved to be a dependable option to pick up first downs. He does most of his work in the short to intermediate are of the field but also has the ability to get lost in a defense and come up with big plays.
The Ranger - Darius Slayton
Rangers often start out as solitary hunters but in games often apply their skills as ranged specialists. While they can be capable in close quarters, they are at their best when using their speed and skill to attack from afar. With the right preparation and an accurate shot, Rangers are capable of doing tremendous damage.
Slayton is the Giants’ top outside receiver going into 2020 and looks to be their primary deep threat as well. While Shepard operates best in the short and intermediate area, using his route running to create separation, Slayton is at his best streaking down the field to create chunk plays. Like the Ranger class, Slayton is not at his best in close quarters (he had among the lowest average separation among qualifying receivers in 2019, per NFL NextGenStats), but is a definite threat from range.
The Mage - Eli Manning
Any party would be lost without their spellslinger. Masters of the arcane, Wizards spend years — decades — studying to wield the forces of magic with ease. I could have picked Daniel Jones here, but he is still young. So I instead decided to pull Eli out of retirement in his tower where he, presumably, has been studying ancient grimoires (when not live-tweeting his brother’s golf games). Wizards are physically weak but their vast knowledge make them formidable opponents, and that fits Eli perfectly. He was never the best athlete on the team (or even a good athlete by NFL standards), but his knowledge of NFL offenses and ability to run complex schemes with ease make him dangerous. And Giants fans will never forget the magic missiles he used to defeat the Evil Overlord in a pair of climactic battles.