Fantasy football season is right around the corner. Most drafts happen within the next two weeks, and the market is ever-changing. The New York Giants are an enigma as a fantasy team. Daniel Jones hasn’t been consistent as a passer, and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett didn’t inspire hope during the ineffective 2020 season.
A truncated offseason was compounded with an inexperienced offensive line and an injury to star running back Saquon Barkley - these events didn’t help the quarterback or coordinator. Nevertheless, the Giants finished 31st in points for and 31st yards gained.
After the season, Garrett stated that the primary goal of the Giants’ offense was to limit Daniel Jones’ turnovers. This was successful. Jones fumbled the football seven fewer times and threw two fewer interceptions. Still, the cautious nature of mitigating risk may have led to the conservative approach that lacked explosiveness and big-play ability.
Dave Gettleman and company made a concerted effort to add explosive playmakers to the Giants in the offseason. We will see if it pays off. Let’s dive into the top-five fantasy-relevant players by ADP (Average draft position). The ADP is collected from FantasyPros.com, and it’s based on half-point PPR scoring.
RB Saquon Barkley (ADP 7.2)
Barkley’s ADP slid a bit since the start of the summer, mostly due to the uncertainty around his Week 1 availability. The star running back was injured in Week 2 of the 2020 season. He’s finally off the PUP list, and he’s practicing in a limited fashion, albeit not in joint practices with other teams. Reports from Ian Rapoport threw some cold water on Barkley’s Week 1 return, but there are positive signs that the running back may be available by the start of the season, although the extent of his role is unknown.
The fantasy community, and Giants fans alike, are yearning for the 2018 Rookie of the Year Barkley. A high-ankle sprain marred his 2019 season, and he missed almost the entire 2020 year. There are few athletes as dynamic and explosive as Saquon Barkley. He has pass-catching chops, home run ability, and the high investment from the Giants that suggests a large workload - fantasy football is about the number of touches. He’s not going to get vultured on the goal-line.
In a limited sample size, we saw Garrett use Barkley in an extensive role last season. In the Week 1 Steelers’ loss, Barkley played 87 percent of the snaps. He was hurt the next game against Chicago, but Wayne Gallman wasn’t dressed in Week 2, which suggested an even bigger workload for Barkley to “share” with Dion Lewis. If Barkley proves healthy, he could have a monstrous Christian McCaffrey type of role. If this happens, I don’t expect it to materialize until at least mid-season.
However, these injuries could lead to more Devontae Booker on the football field, especially early in the season. This could be frustrating for fantasy managers that invest a top-eight pick on Barkley. Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliot, and Derrick Henry are all going ahead of Barkley.
I would comfortably take the first four over Barkley. Henry is so unique, and I always find myself talking against him, which hasn’t necessarily worked in the past. Running backs with less than 20 receptions in PPR leagues scares me, especially in the first round. Henry made me look foolish last year with a 2,000-yard rushing season, but can that efficiency be maintained again with the porous Titans defense?
Barkley has his risks, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for going Henry over Barkley, but I may lean Giants’ blue there and bank on the upside. Aaron Jones is another name to watch. He’s going undervalued at an ADP of 10.8. A.J. Dillon will have a role, but Jones is still a solid running back to add in the latter half of the first round.
There is a ton of upside with a player like Barkley. He’s a league-winning type of player if he can stay on the football field. Trusting the health is a tough call, but he’s back on the football field. If he slides to seven in PPR drafts, I’m perfectly fine with selecting him there.
WR Kenny Golladay (ADP 67.8)
The hamstring injury in training camp has continued a slide down the ADP rankings for Golladay, the prized weapon added by Gettleman this offseason. Golladay is a true big-bodied “X” receiver whose skill-set meshes well with Jones’ propensity to throw solid passes deep. Before last season when Golladay was injured, he had 71 contested-catch opportunities in 2019 and 2018. He caught 43 of those passes, and not all of them were from Matthew Stafford.
Golladay is the exact type of receiver Jones needs, but he is struggling to find the football field early. His ADP has slid in recent weeks; some outlets have him in the late seventh round. This is value to me. The Giants and Joe Judge are being very cautious with all their injured players. Golladay and Jones spent much of the offseason training together, so a rapport has already been established. Yes, we’d like to see him on the football field now, but I think the missed training camp won’t be as big of an issue. This creates value on a star-wide receiver in an offense predicated on running through the X position.
Garrett has utilized Terrell Owens, Miles Austin, and Dez Bryant in great ways throughout the years, and I see this happening for Golladay if he can stay on the field. Depending on draft strategy, he’s going as the third or fourth wide receiver for a team - I welcome that. I wouldn’t rely on him to be a wide receiver one, but a great addition if you have other wide receiver depth. He’s also a bit better suited for standard leagues - Golladay has never eclipsed 71 catches in a season. Let’s see if Garrett can work the slant-flat and quick spacing/curl game to get the Giants big investment north of 75 catches this season.
TE Evan Engram (ADP 135)
There’s quite a dropoff after Golladay. Engram’s a tight end who saw more than 100 targets last season, which is valuable in fantasy football. However, he was inefficient, struggled with drops, and was a more significant focal point of the offense. Now, with the additions of Golladay, Kadarius Toney, and a healthy Barkley, I don’t envision Engram receiving this many opportunities.
Furthermore, Kyle Rudolph’s skill-set is much more aligned with Jason Garrett’s offense. Rudolph is more of the traditional “Y” tight end who can block and run solid routes in the short to intermediate parts of the field. Engram isn’t the best route runner, and he struggles to hold onto the football - Rudolph doesn’t. Unfortunately, Rudolph is still on the PUP list after having offseason foot surgery, so his availability is questionable.
The tight end position is generally gross in fantasy football. There’s a ton of merit to selecting Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or George Kittle early to get a positional advantage, especially in leagues that only start two running backs, two wide receivers, and a flex. Mark Andrews and T.J. Hockenson are solid options in the fifth round if you miss out on those three. I wouldn’t want to rely on Evan Engram, and I’d rather go with Adam Trautman, Cole Kmet, or Gerald Everett, who are all being selected after Engram. I also wouldn’t write off Tyler Higbe (ADP 119) now that Everett is a Seahawk.
Regarding the Giants, if Rudolph is healthy and up to speed, which is a big if, then I’d rather have Rudolph than Engram. Engram has value on the football field, but I don’t want to trust it in fantasy football. There are too many other players that interest me around his ADP.
WR Sterling Shepard (ADP 199)
There have been nothing but rave reviews coming out of Giants’ camp about Shepard this off-season. He is healthy, his routes continue to look crisp, and he’s showing great athletic ability against an improved secondary. Shepard’s ability to create separation in tight spaces is precious, especially on Garrett’s quick curls/search routes and the pivot towards the sideline.
The issues with Shepard when it comes to fantasy have to do with his upside. He had 9.9 yards per reception last season, and his aDot (average depth of target) was 8.6 yards. He is better on quick-hitting plays where he can leverage his release ability.
Shepard scored a touchdown against the Eagles last season in the red zone. The ability is there, and we also saw it his rookie season when he scored eight touchdowns. However, he only has 12 touchdowns since 2016, and he struggles to stay on the football field.
I think Shepard is a solid addition late in full-point PPR leagues that start three receivers. That’s where his value is highest. There are a lot more mouths to feed in this Giants offense, and there are far too many question marks about the offense in general. There are no question marks about Shepard’s abilities on the field, but he’s still a moderate floor, low ceiling player in most fantasy formats outside of full-point PPR.
QB Daniel Jones (ADP 210)
Jones had 516 drop backs in 2019 and 527 in 2020, yet he was sacked more, pressured more, and the Giants wide receivers dropped a lot more passes in 2020. He’s still a young quarterback trying to master Garrett’s system. Yes, he locks onto targets sometimes and gets happy feet. Yes, he misses some reads, but these are mistakes that young quarterbacks tend to make.
I’m not sold on Jones as the Giants’ long-term quarterback, but, for fantasy, he’s an athletic player who rushed for more than 400 yards last season. New York added the weapons necessary for his growth. Garrett’s offense hasn’t proven conducive to modern quarterback success, especially for a young, unproven player like Jones, but I like to take the swing on Jones as a quarterback three in super-flex leagues.
Always target quarterbacks with a rushing floor in fantasy football. The high-end players like Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, or even Pat Mahomes can have a terrible day passing, yet still not kill your team because of the 60 yards they may pick up on the ground. Rushing is king for fantasy quarterbacks. Jones is the lesser version of all those quarterbacks. He will scramble, and he can run. He is an incredibly capable athlete, and he has a bunch of new weapons with another year under his belt in Garrett’s system.
He doesn’t have to win football games to help your fantasy team, especially when he’s being drafted post 200, albeit he should go before that in super-flex. He’s not a quarterback I want to rely on, especially after the horrendous fantasy season in 2020. But, if I have an extra bench spot in two-quarterback leagues, I’ll add him if Justin Fields and Trey Lance aren’t available.