A Look Inside: 2021 New York Giants

The New York Giants found themselves one tank job away from a playoff spot in 2020 as the NFC (L)East representative. We laugh and mock Dave Gettleman for his poor decisions during the draft and free agency, but one thing he seems to have gotten right is head coach Joe Judge. Judge has the team trending up. The defense made strides in the 2nd half of the season and looks primed as a potential top-10 unit heading into 2021. With the return of Saquon Barkley, Gettleman might yet realize the style of play he’s been trying to build for his team. Will the Giants win the NFC East? Maybe. Will their offense be anything special for fantasy managers? Let’s find out as we take A Look Inside the New York Giants.

Note: You can follow the entire Look Inside series with this link and you can watch the full No Punt Intended episode with special guest Bob Lung on Youtube below!

Quarterbacks

Many pundits (myself included) criticized Gettleman for his selection of Daniel Jones with the 6th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. After throwing 24 touchdown passes his rookie season, things were certainly looking up. The hire of Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator heading into the 2020 season was seen as a positive. Many in the fantasy football community saw ascension on the horizon. The results: descension. Jones continued to struggle with ball security, totaling 21 turnovers in 14 games. This was after posting 30 in 13 games in 2019. (But hey, improvement!)

So what did Gettleman do to help his young quarterback? He went and signed a number one wide receiver for him. Kenny Golladay, the former Detroit Lion, is now a Giant. He is one of the best 50/50 ball receivers in the league, with over 40 contested catches from 2018-2019. Golladay played in only five games in 2020 due to injury, so those stats weren’t included here. He also boasts 16.8 yards per reception over his career. For as bad as Daniel Jones was in 2020, he led the NFL in passer rating on balls 20 or more yards downfield (132.5), per PFF. On those deep balls, he had six touchdowns to zero interceptions and the 3rd highest passing grade, also courtesy of PFF.

The cheat code for QBs is their rushing ability. Jones has shown an ability to run (or stumble) and totaled 423 yards on the ground in 2020, the 7th best among quarterbacks. With a healthy Saquon Barkley, will Jones run more? If anything, it should allow Garrett to call more run/pass options (RPOs). This will protect a porous offensive line and keep opposing defenses honest.

When you believe in a quarterback, it behooves you to surround him with players that fit his strengths. Gettleman has done just that, and now the rest is up to Jones. It will be a big Year 3 for Jones. Unless he’s used more as a runner, I don’t see the top-15 upside from him in 2021. Sorry, not sorry.

Running Backs

Look, I’ve made no secret about my, we’ll just call it “dislike,” for Saquon Barkley. Feel free to call me a hater. I’ve been called worse. I get it: “generational” athlete, built like a MAC truck, can run through and past everyone. These are all great traits to have, but every time I watch him run, he only wants the home run– that big run that goes 60+ yards to the house. That’s it. At a certain point, I just wish he would learn to fall forward, take a few yards, and live to play another day. Maybe an ACL injury is what does the trick. Fighting for more yards was how he tore the ligament — but who knows.

That said, you don’t spend the 2nd overall pick on a running back and NOT give him the damn football. As mentioned above, Gettleman built this team to run the football and play good defense. They started to play good defense to close 2020, and their stud running back returns. Easy recipe for a top-5 finish in fantasy, right?

Wait, you thought I was going to argue that? Aren’t you a silly one?

Barkley put together one of the greatest rookie seasons by a running back we’ve ever seen. He had over 2,000 yards from scrimmage, 15 touchdowns, and over 100 targets. The expectations were set from there. He is a lock to finish Top 3 in targets for this team if he’s healthy for at least 14 games. If all goes well, he could even lead this team in targets. That type of guaranteed volume is scarce in fantasy football these days. It seems that 300-touch backs fell victim to the Thanos Snap. (Figuratively. Or maybe literally?)

If you’re at all worried about Barkley’s knee injury and if he could suffer any setbacks, most injury analysts believe he’ll be fine. He didn’t need more than the one surgery to repair the ACL and was able to avoid surgery on the MCL. The biggest issue he could encounter is rust. Those first few games will test Barkley’s performance and how the team views his offseason progress.

With Wayne Gallman moving on to San Francisco, who is the “break glass in case of emergency” back behind Saquon Barkley? That would be Devontae Booker, most recently of the Las Vegas Raiders. Before that, he “starred” in Denver with the Broncos. The quotations should tell you all you need to know about Booker. He’s at least versatile– a capable pass catcher and decent runner. However, like Gallman in 2020, he will be a huge step down in the event Barkley finds himself hurt for the third year in a row. (He dealt with an ankle issue in 2019.)

Wide Receivers

The arrival of the aforementioned Kenny Golladay gives this Giants’ receiving corps some legitimacy. The last couple of years has seen an emphasis on slot receivers playing out of position (Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate) and a 5th round pick playing the part of the X (Darius Slayton). Well, that’s over. Tate was kicked to the curb. Slayton was replaced by Golladay. Shepard…well, he’s still miscast as an outside receiver since the Giants spent a 1st round pick on Florida’s Kadarius Toney — yet another slot receiver.

What does all of that mean? Golladay is the player to roster in season-long fantasy. Shepard is more of a Best Ball target with FLEX potential. Toney will have touches manufactured for him, but that always starts roughly for rookies. Finally, Slayton can say goodbye to any meaningful targets as long as those in front of him are healthy.

I mentioned some of Golladay’s greatest traits when talking about Daniel Jones, but there are a few negatives here too. Golladay has never topped 119 targets in a season. With a 17th game this year, that shouldn’t be too worrisome but is worth mentioning. He also has only one season with 70 catches (2018). If anyone remembers Dez Bryant in Dallas with Jason Garrett, they shouldn’t worry much about Golladay. The plus side with Golladay in the role over Bryant? Bryant had only three seasons with an average of 15 or more yards per reception in his career. Golladay averages almost 17 yards per reception for his career.

Let’s talk about Shepard for a bit. Despite his proclivity for missing games (ten games missed the last two seasons; 15 games missed in his five-year career), he’s been the most consistent receiver for the Giants in their post-OBJ years. He’s averaged 7.9 targets per game the last two years and 7.2 targets per game over his career. He’s had solid hands going back to his days at Oklahoma and has performed well both inside and outside. As a secondary weapon for Jones, expect some Cole Beasley-type efficiency from Shepard in 2021. That makes him a depth piece on benches with upside in the event of injury.

Toney is the piece we all want to know more about. Going into the NFL Draft, many in the FF Twitterverse were down on Toney from a dynasty perspective for several reasons. The biggest of these being a late breakout age and limited usage at receiver. He wasn’t a full-time receiver at Florida until his Senior season. Watching him with the ball in his hands though…make sure you have your sweatpants on. Most nickel corners play off the line. Give Toney an inch, he’s going to take a mile. He’s twitchy and I’d wager Garrett will find ways to scheme him open. However, with Barkley handling a large part of the underneath targets, the rookie breakout will likely be on hold.

All told, Golladay is the best piece of this receiving corps to roster, and his current WR2 price is accurate value.

Tight Ends

Evan Engram led the team in targets in 2020. While his drops were a weekly point of frustration, Jason Garrett’s usage of him was even more baffling. Garrett had the benefit of trotting out future Hall-of-Famer Jason Witten for years in Dallas. I don’t know if you know this, but Engram and Witten are two completely different players at the TE position. Engram was unable to use his athleticism — you know, the trait that got him selected in the first round in 2017. This severely limited what he was able to do after the catch. Engram had the lowest YPR, yards after catch per reception (YAC/REC), yards per route run (Y/RR), and fewest touchdowns of his career in 2020.

Any TE not named Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or George Kittle would be happy to have Engram’s 109/63/654 line though. He was 4th in targets, T-5th in receptions, and 8th in yards at TE in the league last year. That’s a damn good season. The problem: One fucking touchdown! Engram finished as TE15 on the season. If he has two TDs, he’s TE11. If he has three, he’s TE8. Five TDs? TE7. We talk all the time about how important touchdowns are for the TE position. Engram has the catches and yards down. If he can post 4-6 TDs, he had six in 2017, we’re talking about a top-7 TE. With Barkley back and the signing of Golladay, that may not be in the cards, unfortunately.

BUT, let’s say the TE position does see more touchdowns than last year. It was slim pickings with Jones throwing only 12 on the year. Are we sure Engram will be the target? The Giants brought in former Viking Kyle Rudolph. He would presumably play more of the Jason Witten role that Garrett may prefer. Rudolph has been a player with a higher touchdown upside (48 touchdowns in his career), so Engram’s fantasy upside may be beyond resuscitation.