Yahoo Sports recently released its 2021 consensus fantasy football rankings. The analysts involved in the rankings are Andy Beherns, Scott Pianowski, Dalton Del Don, Liz Loza, and Matt Harmon, the creator of Reception Perception. It’s only July, but the interest in fantasy football starts increasing in the coming weeks.
The Scott Fish Bowl draft (a fantasy industry league created for charity that consists of hundreds of contestants) is beginning early in July. Many outlets, including Yahoo Sports, are now releasing fantasy rankings and will continue to update those daily as new information is released.
These rankings are interesting in terms of New York Giants players. The Giants added a lot of talent to their offensive weaponry. This typically results in more fantasy output and a more efficient offense, but there is a fantasy cost; for instance, a team that is winning more football games generally won’t be throwing the football as often late in-game because it will be leaning on the rushing attack to kill the clock.
This would result in more fantasy opportunities for the running back. That’s not exactly the case with the Giants when analyzing 2020 into 2021 because, despite being 6-10 in 2020, the team still struggled to throw the football and earn what garbage points late in games.
Another instance of the 2021 additions negatively affecting Giants’ fantasy output is the great enigma known as Evan Engram. He led the Giants with 102 targets in 2020 - nine more than Darius Slayton at 94. Engram’s 21.8 percent target share, which ranked 5th among tight ends, will be reduced with the additions of the wide receivers and, obviously, the presence of Kyle Rudolph.
Furthermore, Slayton, who had a 19.4 percent target share, will see a reduction in his share, yet he still may be more efficient with the opportunities received, due to easier coverage assignments while playing opposite Kenny Golladay. Also, the variable of a Daniel Jones progression is undetermined, as is Jason Garrett’s ability to maximize the weapons at his disposal.
These factors make the Giants an interesting, yet somewhat high risk, team to invest in offensively - especially with a stout defense that may keep games lower scoring. Let’s see where these Yahoo fantasy analysts ranked some of the Giants’ top offensive personnel.
It’s no certainty that star running back Saquon Barkley will return to the team and be his 2018 self right from the get-go. Just last week, Sports Illustrated fantasy analyst Michael Fabiano tweeted that he wouldn’t expect a full Barkley until Week 3 or Week 4. Others are throwing cold water on the notion of Barkley as well, and there are reasons for concern. Here’s how the fantasy analysts for Yahoo see Barkley in their running back rankings:
Andy Beherns: 4th
Scott Pianowski: 7th
Dalton Del Don: 10th
Liz Loza: 7th
Matt Harmon: 4th
Each had Carolina’s Christian McCaffery, Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook, and Tennessee’s Derrick Henry over Barkley and that does make sense with all of the injury concerns. Del Don also had Ezekiel Elliot, Jonathan Taylor, Cam Akers, Alvin Kamara, Najee Harris, and Nick Chubb over Barkley; that’s a bit aggressive.
I believe Akers is primed for a huge breakout with the addition of Matt Stafford in an offense where he dominated down the stretch of the season. Elliot at two, with the ascension of Tony Pollard, is a bit too high for my liking, albeit I believe he is being slept on a bit. I haven’t gone deep into my rankings yet, although I will have them down by the start of the season, I wouldn’t have Barkley this low quite yet.
To Del Don’s point though, we haven’t seen a consistently dominant Barkley since his rookie season. He dealt with the high ankle sprain in 2019 and missed almost all of 2020. He had a great run towards the end of the fantasy season in 2019 but went five straight games finishing outside of the top 20 running backs.
It’s unlikely, with the additions made in the offseason, that Barkley will see anywhere near the 114 targets that he amassed in his rookie season. I’m not scared to select Saquon Barkley if he slides down draft boards in fantasy - he could be a high upside pick at the first round turn that can win someone their fantasy league. But, if you’re a bit more risk-averse, there are other options at three.
The consensus rankings have Kenny Golladay at 25th overall. He’s just behind Adam Thielen, Diontae Johnson, and Brandon Aiyuk. Golladay missed the vast majority of the season in 2020, but the reservations aren’t solely due to injury. Daniel Jones hasn’t proven that he can consistently provide reliable fantasy outputs for his receivers, albeit he hasn’t had anyone like Golladay to throw to.
Jones is ranked 19th behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, Baker Mayfield, and Trevor Lawrence on their consensus quarterback board. This means he’s a streamable asset in the right matchup in one quarterback leagues and an option in super flex. His rushing upside will help provide a baseline of fantasy points, but it doesn’t appear analysts are fully convinced Golladay and Jones will be able to unlock Golladay’s high-end wide receiver two potential.
I understand the consternation - Jones has to prove he’s reliably capable - but there isn’t another Giants receiver until Sterling Shepard ranked 55th. According to fantasypros.com ADP calculator, which averages the draft position of all their websites’ drafts, Golladay is selected at 56 and Shepard at 176th. Golladay is being chosen in the mid-to late-fourth round which is encouraging for his value, although he still falls out of the top 24 (wide receiver two) range in Yahoo’s rankings.
For context, Allen Robinson of the Bears and Stefon Diggs of the Bills were selected around that range in 2020; the latter went on to be the most productive wide receiver in fantasy, but the parallels between the 2020 Bills and the 2021 Giants have already been considered with the Josh Allen, Daniel Jones, discussion.
Darius Slayton isn’t too far from Shepard at 62 on Yahoo’s list. I wouldn’t rely on either receiver for fantasy football; the offense is still a question mark and neither will be the top option with the presence of Golladay, a possible healthy Barkley, and an offense that loves to utilize the tight end and now upgraded to a more traditional Y tight end in Kyle Rudolph.
I do, however, believe that both Slayton and Shepard are solid targets for depth in streamable matchups in the double-digit rounds. John Brown (Raiders now), Darnell Mooney, and the Jets’ Elijah Moore are all ranked around Slayton and Shepard and I believe that there’s more upside with those pieces than the two Giants players as of right now. Kadarius Toney was ranked as the 87th receiver and I understand the hesitation with Toney as well.
Engram made a Pro Bowl in 2020, but it was still a year to forget. Engram made multiple mistakes that cost the Giants in clutch situations. Despite the addition of Rudolph, I still believe there’s a path for some usage, and a place for Engram in this Giants offense - just not on these quick curls and Y-stick option type of routes.
Engram is ranked 16th according to the consensus with Rudolph ranked 39th as the last player on their list. If Rudolph is healthy to play Week 1 and doesn’t miss all of training camp, I believe he’ll be more utilized from a target perspective than Engram, who will be in a more judicious role that features his unique athletic ability.
Both players should earn snaps in the offense, due to Garrett’s proclivity to run 12/13 personnel packages, but, depending on the situation, I believe Rudolph, if healthy, will be the tight end in 11 personnel packages when the Giants are operating in quick game. The Giants signed him for a reason and honored his contract after the injury was revealed. He will be much better suited for the tight end role in Garrett’s offense than Engram was in 2020.
The Giants can still use Engram in space, on seven routes, up the seam, and in the mesh concept, but I believe Yahoo is underestimating what Rudolph could do in Garrett’s offense, if healthy. There are a lot of mouths to feed, so I don’t believe Rudolph or Engram will be desired fantasy options, albeit the tight end landscape is barren most years.
Barkley is a unique talent who could be facing a lot more lighter boxes, especially if Jones can establish a consistent passing attack in the early parts of the season. With the added weapons and a consistent, and lively, arm from Jones, the defense may have to align in more two-high looks to prevent being beaten deep. They will also have to account for the quarterback’s ability to run the football, which can stress defenses in their RPO game and with the zone read.
A healthy Golladay could be a solid selection towards the end of the fourth round in a 12-team league. He’ll be on the backside of a lot of 3x1 sets in Garrett’s offense, facing a lot of MEG (man everywhere he goes) coverage. His catch radius, leaping ability, and release off the line of scrimmage can help him in these one-on-one matchups.
The rest of the Giants’ skilled position players aren’t certain for a consistent role. Rudolph will be more utilized than Yahoo is projecting at the moment, and I would take the flier on either Slayton or Shepard in the double-digit rounds, but they wouldn’t be assets I’d want to rely on early in the season. I would rather go with a player who has a bit more consistency with their targets, as well as upside with their role.