Andrew Erickson of Pro Football Focus recently listed potential Fantasy Football breakout stars, sleepers, and busts for the New York Giants heading into the 2021 season. As many of the readers of Big Blue View know, the Giants were one of the worst offenses in the league during the 2020 season - the first with Jason Garrett as the coordinator.
Yes, the offensive line was abysmal for most of the season, and Daniel Jones was in his second system in as many years, but at the end of the day the Giants weren’t putting enough points on the board to win football games. The Week 2 Saquon Barkley injury was a devastating blow to the offense’s identity.
GM Dave Gettleman and the Giants acknowledged these faults at their end of season press conference; they knew that the personnel had to be upgraded around Jones in order for the young quarterback to have a shot at scratching his potential. The realization of the sub-par weaponry led to the Giants investing in wide receivers Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and John Ross, while also adding tight end Kyle Rudolph, and running back Devontae Booker as insurance behind an ailing Barkley.
Erickson saw the potential in these additions and also saw signs of development from Jones that are played out in the analytics. Before Jones’ injury in Week 12 against the Bengals, he ranked 12th in PFF’s quarterback grading scale, despite throwing for only 11 touchdowns.
An interesting fantasy stat was uncovered by Erickson, albeit it’s such a small sample size. Daniel Jones only played two full games with Saquon Barkley, Evan Engram, and Sterling Shepard. In those two games, he averaged 26 fantasy points per game. Plus, with the 10 games Jones played with Barkley, he averaged 23 fantasy points per game.
“In five games with Shepard before suffering an injury in 2020, the Giants quarterback averaged 19.3 fantasy points per game. That rate fell to 11.2 fantasy points per game without Shepard.”
It makes sense, right? When you lose your talented teammates the offense as a whole is going to suffer, especially when you’re a young quarterback. Also, before the injury, Jones ranked third in rushing yards (403) and seventh in rushing attempts per game (4.5). Some of these were designed runs and others were scrambles out of the pocket.
According to Erickson, PFF ranked the Giants offensive line last in the NFL. The lack of skilled players, plus a young offensive line (that now lost Kevin Zeitler), led to an offense that ranked second to last in plays per game. This will have to improve if Jones can be relied upon in fantasy football.
All the additions, plus Barkley, should help Jones as a fantasy asset; his legs are also gigantic for fantasy, as Erickson pointed out Jones wasn’t shy to flee pressure. His ADP (average draft position) right now is 181st and the 26th quarterback off the board, according to fantasypros consensus boards. I would take a swing on him in super-flex/two quarterback leagues; his legs provide upside and there will be positive touchdown regression through the air. A lot of Giants’ receivers were tackled near the goal line last season.
Enough about Jones, Erickson lists Barkley as a VALUE in fantasy right now. The reports aren’t encouraging because they don’t affirm availability, but Barkley appears to be moving around well. The lack of commitment to his Week 1 availability from Joe Judge and Barkley, combined with ESPN Jordan Raanan’s report that the Giants would be comfortable leaving Barkley out the first few weeks, is going to drive Barkley’s price possibly into the second round (he’s at fifth overall now). The Giants are a conservative organization and they want to take the rehab process slow, but, if I were to bet, I would say he is ready for Week 1 - he just may not handle his full workload until a bit later.
Barkley would have to slide a bit farther for me to consider him a value. If he starts sniffing the second round, or falls to the latter half of the first, then he’s a value. Golladay is also listed as a value, and this makes a lot of sense. The star receiver is being slept on at an ADP of 61. I understand why he’s not higher - he was hurt almost all season last year, but his skill-set meshes so well with Garrett’s offense, Jones’ abilities, and they have already developed a rapport from a bunch of off-season training. Erickson had this to say:
“The big-bodied receiver ranks fourth in receiving yards on 20-plus-yard throws since 2018 (1,072) and fourth in contest-catch percentage since 2019 (67%). Jones’ tight-window throw rate (22%) tied for fourth-highest and his passer rating on 20-plus-yard throws (132.5) ranked first in 2020.
The new landing spot for Golladay is perfect for him to offer WR2 fantasy production and the chance for top-10 production should he continue his dominant pace from 2020. In Golladay’s four healthy games last year, he averaged 16.4 fantasy points per game — 12th-best at the position. He also posted a career-high in yards per route run (2.47, 7th) and in target rate per route run (24%, 19th).”
If Golladay can stay healthy, I think he’ll pay off that ADP plus some. I can also see his ADP rising slightly in the coming weeks - wide receiver 24 is just a bit too low for the opportunity he should see at targets with the Giants. Erickson also lists Sterling Shepard as a value; I think his 201st ADP makes him a value for sure, but I wouldn’t want to rely on Shepard too much in fantasy.
The offense is going to run through Barkley and Golladay with a strong emphasis on the tight end position. This leaves Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard in a spot where targets may not be consistent. Shepard will certainly have his games, as will Slayton, but they’re more best ball guys to me in terms of reliability. However, Shepard at that ADP is silly, so I see what Erickson is writing about.
The two BUSTS that Erickson talks about are Evan Engram in Kadarius Toney. Engram is not seeing 100 targets again in this offense. I also tend to think that a healthy Kyle Rudolph will play more snaps than Engram, due to Garrett’s propensity to use the Y tight end, which is more aligned with Rudolph’s abilities. Engram is the tight end 13 and Rudolph is going undrafted in most leagues. A lot of this is contingent on Rudolph’s foot injury, so I totally get the skepticism.
Toney is a rookie who has to learn the offense and probably will struggle to consistently find the football field with this deep roster, so I understand why people are hesitant to draft him in fantasy. He is an interesting dynasty addition, but not someone to entertain in redraft leagues early on.
Erickson’s SLEEPERS are John Ross and Devontae Booker. I love the latter pick due to the unfortunate nature of Barkley’s injury. Booker is RB 58 right now and he could be annoying for the Barkley fantasy manager early in the season, so deep leagues he may have some value. With Barkley’s injury history, he’s definitely worth the stash as well, at least early on.
As for Ross, he has to beat out Dante Pettis for this roster. It’s doable, but then he has to earn snaps in a crowded room. He also has to stay healthy, stop dropping the football, and hit those home run explosive plays - which I do believe will be designed for him. His issues have always been about health; in 2018, he ranked ninth in fantasy points per touch and we all rave about his record setting 4.22 combine speed. He’s a pure dart throw, but not a terrible add in deep best ball leagues.