After posting a pair of subpar seasons in 2012 and 2013, Manning returned to form in 2014 despite the absence of Victor Cruz at wide receiver for much of the season and the lack of a proven pass catching tight end entering the season. Despite those issues, he emerged as a solid fit in new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s west coast offense, completing 63.1% of his attempts, a career-high, for 4,410 yards with 30 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions. With the anticipated return of Cruz, Larry Donnell providing reasonably solid production at tight end and the addition of Shane Vereen as a pass receiving threat out of the backfield, look for Manning to remain a lower tier QB1.
Signed prior to the 2014 season to a four-year, $10-million contract to lead the Giants backfield, Jennings had an uneven first season in New York as an ankle injury kept him out for five games and limited his usage in two other games. He struggled running the ball, averaging just 3.8 yards on 167 carries while failing to deliver many of the big plays that he managed in Jacksonville and Oakland. The Giants supplemented their backfield with the addition of Shane Vereen during the offseason and he is expected to assume a pass catching role which will likely result in a decrease in Jennings reception total of 30 from last season. In addition, second year player Andre Williams emerged as a solid short yardage option during his rookie season and figures to retain that role in 2015. With a deep backfield and Jennings possibly out of the mix for goal line work, he rates as a low end RB2 or upper tier RB3.
After four years of mostly teasing the Patriots with his promise as a change of pace, pass receiving option out of the backfield, Vereen signed a three-year contract worth over $12-million with the Giants. The good news is that Vereen reached career highs in most categories last season with 96 rushes for 391 yards and a pair of touchdowns while adding 53 receptions for 447 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver. In New York, we can expect him to fulfill the same role as he did with the Patriots although Giants management is certainly hoping for improved health. Vereen appeared in 16 games just once with New England and played in just 24 of the first 48 games of his career. Vereen isn’t a great option in standard scoring leagues since Andre Williams would like take over in the event of an injury to starter Rashad Jennings. However, he rates as a solid option in PPR formats, particularly those that utilize a flex position.
In the 2014 draft, the Giants used a 4th round pick to acquire Boston College’s Andre Williams and he produced a solid rookie season with 720 rushing yards and seven touchdowns to go along with 130 receiving yards on 18 receptions. An imposing, physical runner, Williams’ lack of speed figures to limit his touches in a now crowded backfield that will feature Rashad Jennings on early downs and free agent signee Shane Vereen in the passing game. After averaging just 3.3 yards per carry as a rookie, Williams will likely be relegated to spelling Jennings occasionally on early downs and possibly working as a short yardage, goal line back. Barring a Jennings injury, Williams isn’t worth owning in standard leagues and he rates as a low end dynasty prospect.
The question isn’t whether Odell Beckham Jr. is good. It’s whether he is as good as he looked during his marvelous rookie campaign last season when he displayed game breaking speed and ability, catching 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games. Making those numbers even more impressive is that he caught 70% of his targets while averaging 14.3 yards per game. Did we mention his consistency? He amassed 9.0 or more fantasy points in 11 of his 12 games. And he got better as the season progressed, totaling 60 receptions for 842 yards and nine touchdowns in his final six games. Don’t buy into the notion that Victor Cruz will eat into Beckham’s targets. Look for him to average close to 10 per game. Barring injury, he rates as a mid to upper tier WR1 and we wouldn’t have any qualms with him drafted inside the top 5 wide receivers off the board.
We have seen a rather rapid decline in Cruz’s performance since his breakout season in 2011 when he caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns. Last season, he was on his way to another 1,000 yard, 4-5 touchdown season when a torn patellar tendon ended his campaign in Week 6. This is a significant injury for a wide receiver to overcome and offseason reports indicated that he may not be ready for opening day. The truth is that his production in 2011 was in large part smoke and mirrors as he caught five touchdowns that accounted for 387 receiving yards, production that just wasn’t sustainable for a player with his skill set. While his fantasy prognosis doesn’t look great given the injury and Odell Beckham Jr.’s emergence as the team’s top receiving threat, it’s worth noting that his 2011 production occurred when he was thought of as the Giants second best receiving option behind Hakeem Nicks. Monitor his progress in the preseason and adjust accordingly.
At first glance, it would appear that Randle had a breakout season in 2014, finishing the year with career highs in receptions with 71 and yards with 938. However, the 2012 2nd round pick was once again underwhelming, forced into the starting line-up due to injuries to rookie phenom Odell Beckham Jr. and veteran Victor Cruz. A closer look reveals that Randle caught just 55.9% of his targets last season, only a marginal improvement on his 2013 rate of 51.3%. Not helping matters was that he managed to find pay dirt just three times despite a healthy number of red zone targets. While there is always a chance that the light could truly go on for Randle, the evidence suggests that he has limited upside and he won’t retain his starting spot once Cruz is healthy. Consider Randle worthy of a late round pick in standard 12 team leagues, especially if there are concerns about Cruz’s ability to play in Week 1.
Not even guaranteed a roster spot entering training camp let alone a major role in the Giants offense after catching just three passes during his first two years in the league, Donnell burst out of the gates last season, catching 25 of his 31 targets for 236 yards and four touchdowns during the first four weeks of the season. He crashed and burned after that, as the Giants started featuring Odell Beckham Jr. Over the final 12 games of the season, Donnell was mostly an afterthought in the team’s offensive game planning, catching 38 passes for 387 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Limited athletically with little big play ability (he averaged just 9.9 yards per reception), Donnell will be touchdown reliant for fantasy purposes this season if Victor Cruz returns to health, giving the team three solid receiving options at wide receiver to go along with newly acquired pass receiving back Shane Vereen. He rates as a mid to lower tier TE2.