2021 New York Giants Fantasy Team Outlook: Can Daniel Jones Finally Take the Leap?

A fantasy football breakdown of the New York Giants by high-stakes legend Shawn Childs
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Coaching

Nov 15, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New York Giants head coach Joe Judge coaches during the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium.

Joe Judge made the jump from special teams/wide receiver coach for the Patriots in 2020 to New York’s head coaching. He went 6-10 in his first season. Judge worked in New England system since 2012. Over the previous 11 years, he was part of three Super Bowl wins (2014, 2016, and 2019) and two National Championships (2009 and 2011) for Alabama.

Jason Garrett returns for his second season as the Giants’ offensive coordinator. He went 85-67 over 10 years as the head coach for the Cowboys with three trips to the postseason, which included three NFC East titles (2014, 2016, and 2018). Garrett has been a coach in the NFL for 16 years.

New York finished with a disaster offensive season in 2020, leading to a 31st ranking in yards and points (280) allowed. In addition, the health of Saquon Barkley has been a problem in back-to-back seasons.

Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and the Giants defense were the unquestioned strengths of the 2020 team. The unit, which had undergone significant personnel changes in the 2020 offseason with additions such as cornerback James Bradberry, safety Logan Ryan, and inside linebacker Blake Martinez, finished 12th overall and in the top 10 league-wide in rushing defense and sacks; and second in the redzone (50.85%) after finishing the 2019 season ranked 25th, 20th 22nd and 20th respectively.

Free Agency

The top signing by New York in the offseason was WR Kenny Golladay. He gives the Giants a deep threat with upside in scoring ability. His role should be the WR1 while expecting a career year in his new home.

They brought in Kyle Rudolph to upgrade the tight end depth. Mike Glennon takes over the backup role at quarterback. WR John Ross adds speed to the passing game. They also threw three darts (Devontae Booker, Ryquell Armstead, Corey Clement) to compete for the backup running back job.

The Giants lost DT Dalvin Tomlinson to the Vikings. He played well in his four years in the NFL against the run while delivering 49 tackles and 3.5 sacks in each of the past two seasons.

New York signed CB Adoree Jackson to upgrade the secondary. He missed almost all of last year with a knee injury.

New York Giants Mailbag: Post Minicamp Musings

Draft

With the 20th overall selection in the first round, the Giants invested in WR Kadarius Toney. He came to the Gators as a quarterback before transitioning to wide receiver. Toney missed time in two seasons with injuries, which restricted his development. His route running has a running back feel where he relies on head and shoulder fakes to create space and separation. His play grades well in the open field, thanks to his wiggle in space.

Over the next three rounds, New York focused on improving their defense with the additions of DE Azeez Ojulari (2.18), CB Aaron Robinson (3.7), and DE Elerson Smith (4.11).

Ojulari brings fire to a defense when attacking the run. His strength and quickness set the tone for his success while owning the commitment to push even higher. His next step is developing his pass-rushing moves and improving his vision and the timing of his attack.

Robinson grades well in coverage over the short areas of the field while owning an upside foundation to handle press coverage. His skill set works well in a trail position. Robinson gets in trouble off the ball when peaking into the backfield, leading to missteps on ball fakes and double moves by receivers. He plays hard in run support with some risk in the deep passing game against elite speed players.

Smith gets off the ball quickly with the acceleration to disrupt. His base remains a weakness despite adding more bulk and strength. Smith competes through the whistle and shows up on every down. Beating the big bodies on the offensive line will be an issue if his first step doesn’t create an edge. He will need time to develop.

New York added RB Gary Brightwell and CB Rodarius Williams with their final two picks in the sixth round.

Brightwell attacks the line of scrimmage with the mindset to win with power or hit on a cut-back lane. Once in free space at the second level of a defense, he lacks separation skills in the open field. His vision and patience hold him back from reaching a higher ceiling. Brightwell has limited experience in the passing game with questions about his ability to pass protect.

Williams had work to do to become a viable press coverage player. His speed grades well with a chance to win in jump ball situations. He will struggle against top-tier receivers in man coverage. Williams gains value in his red zone assignments with the talent to limit the damage in the deep passing game when using off-the-ball coverage.

More New York Giants Coverage from SI

Offensive Line

The Giants finished 19th in rushing yards (1,916) with 13 rushing touchdowns and only nine runs over 20 yards. Their ball carriers gained 4.4 yards per rush with 24.9 attempts per game.

New York dropped to 29th in passing yards (3,336), with a league-low 12 touchdowns plus 11 interceptions. They gained only 6.5 yards per pass attempt while allowing 50 sacks.

LT Andrew Thomas

No one on the Giants starting offensive line struggled more than Thomas, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2020 and the fourth overall pick (and first offensive tackle) selected in the draft. Thomas, facing some of the NFL’s top pass rushers early on, allowed 44 pressures in his first nine games before finally settling down and allowing just 13 in the remaining six contests, including two games in which he pitched back-to-back shutouts (Weeks 12 and 13).

LG Will Hernandez

After an impressive rookie campaign in 2017, Hernandez has been struggling to build momentum in his growth. A powerful man mountain, he is at his best working in a phone booth, but cracks in his game included struggles in handling stunts and twists and lacking the footspeed to execute timely pulls as required in the offense. He tested positive for COVID-19 and missed two games, ultimately losing the starting left guard duties to rookie Shane Lemieux. Despite his struggles last season, the Giants aren’t about to give up on him and have him penciled in to compete for the starting right guard job which opened after the team released Kevin Zeitler in a salary-cap related move.

C Nick Gates

After holding his own off the bench in 2019, Gates made 16 starts last year. He finished the year with minimal pressure allowed while ranking as a below-par run blocker. However, Gates improved as the season moved on, pointing to him winning the starting role again this year. New York signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2018.

RG Matt Pearl

Due to weakness at guard, the Giants may ask Pearl to move inside this year. In limited snaps in 2020 after getting drafted in the third round, he came up short in pass protection with some flashes in run blocking.

Peart has the look of an upside tackle, but he needs to add more fight and strength to his game. Peart moves well for a big man (6’7” and 320 lbs.), and his frame should accept more bulk without losing a step in his game. His quickness and footwork set the tone for a developing skill set in pass protection. Peart needs to improve his vision, hands, and decision-making in space to secure a long-term job in the league.

RT Andrew Thomas

With Nate Solder skipping 2020, New York had to start Thomas at left tackle. Unfortunately, he allowed too many sacks and pressure, suggesting his home this year will begin on the right side.

Thomas brings a power/vision combination to the offensive line. His foundation technique grades well while having the quickness to handle his responsibilities outside his blocking area. Thomas can lose his edge when making the first move, and a defender doesn’t attack off the snap. His hands help his wins while needing to improve his base when attacked by quick-moving pass rushers with follow-through in strength.

The Giants addressed some of their offensive line issues in last year’s draft. They need all of their young talented players to play at a much higher level in 2021. The outside of the line is in much better shape than the guard position. New York must band-aid one guard position, and I don’t expect the center position to be an area of strength. This offensive line projects to below the league average.


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Offense

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New York didn’t air the ball out despite a losing season (6-10), leading to only 32 passes per game. Better defensive play led to a ball-controlled offense. The Giants finished 30th in offensive plays.

Quarterback

Daniel Jones

Jones failed to deliver a playable fantasy game in his sophomore season with the Giants. He had seven games with no passing touchdowns. In the end, Jones gained 6.6 yards per pass attempt that matched his value in 2019.

Over two seasons, he has 29 fumbles, with 17 balls landing in the hands of the defensive team. His completion rate (62.5) increased slightly while being a lost soul in the passing touchdown department (12). Jones continues to play well in the run game (65/423/1), helping his floor.

Fantasy Outlook: The Giants added a big-play wide receiver, and a healthy Saquon Barkley would help their offense become much more competitive. The structure of the receiving corps points to a better passing game. Jones flashed four times in his rookie season (364/4, 335/4, 328/4, and 364/5), giving him sneaky upside as a QB2 in 2021. Keep an open mind as 4,000 combined yards with a run at 30 touchdowns isn’t out of the question if his offensive line minimizes the damage in sacks.

Other Options: Mike Glennon, Clayton Thorson

Running Back

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After an excellent running back season in 2018 (2,492 combined yards with 17 touchdowns and 113 catches) with Saquon Barkley in the fold, New York regressed in back-to-back seasons in running back production. Their backs gained 1,731 combined yards last year with 14 scores and 57 catches while only 4.10 yards per rush and 7.0 yards per catch.

Saquan Barkley

Barkley has been a first-round bust in back-to-back seasons due to injuries. He scored 141.7 fewer fantasy points in PPR leagues in 2019 while missing three games due to a high ankle sprain. His season ended in Week 2 last year after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee. Barkley finished with only 94 combined yards with six catches.

He gained 3,563 combined yards with 23 touchdowns and 149 catches over his first 31 games in the NFL. His success breaks down to 115 yards, 0.74 touchdowns, and 4.8 catches per game or 20.30 fantasy points per game in PPR leagues.

In his rookie season, Barkley ranked second in running back scoring (385.80 fantasy points – 2,028 combined yards with 15 touchdowns and 91 catches).

Fantasy Outlook: I’m never a fan of investing in football players coming off significant injuries, and the Giants suggested this spring that Barkley would be eased into action early in the year. His ADP (5) puts him in the first half of most 12-team leagues in 2021. Barkley is a beast when healthy with three-down ability. A successful season would make the whole offense better in New York. My conservative projections in June came to 1,500 combined yards with a dozen scores and 75 catches.

Devontae Booker

A move to the Raiders led to Booker playing better in the run game (93/434/3), thanks to his best success on long runs (four of 20 yards or more and one 40-plus carry). Over his first three seasons in Denver, he played well in the passing game (99/815/1) with only one real opportunity to prove his worth as a runner (174/612/4 in 2016).

His ceiling is relatively low. Booker will compete for the backup running back role for the Giants this year.

Ryquell Armstead

Armstead brings a physical presence to the RB position. He is a north/south runner who shows the ability to make quick cuts in tight quarters with the power to finish in the open field. Armstead projects well on pass protection. He needs to add patience to his running style while offering minimal upside in catches. His vision isn’t ideal, but his subtle movements give him a chance to work his way up the running back depth chart.

Armstead struggled to rush the ball (3.1 yards-per-carry) in his rookie season in 2019 while being more productive than expected in the passing game (14/144/2). He sat out last year with COVID issues.

Gary Brightwell

Over the last three seasons in college, Brightwell failed to reach 550 yards in any year. He gained 1,569 combined yards with 10 touchdowns and 19 catches. In 2020, Brightwell led Arizona with 101 touches over five games with one touchdown and 13 catches. This season, he’ll compete for an early-down backup role for the Giants.

Other Options: Corey Clement, Taquan Mizzell, Sandro Platzgummer

Wide Receiver

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The Giants’ wide receiver had a similar opportunity last year as in 2019, but lower passing attempts led to a sharp decline in catches (177), receiving yards (2,126), touchdowns (9), and targets (280).

Kenny Golladay

After two productive seasons (70/1,063/5 and 65/1,190/11), Golladay battled a hamstring issue early in the year, and a hip injury led to him missing the final nine games. When on the field over four starts, he posted two 100-yard contests (4/105 and 6/114) with two other productive showings (6/57/1 and 4/62/1).

Golladay averaged 16.8 yards per catch in his career while gaining 20 yards or more on 53 of his 183 catches. His catch rate (58.1) remains below the top receivers in the game due to most of his chances coming well past the line of scrimmage.

Fantasy Outlook: New York desperately needs to extend their passing game, and Golladay brings them the ideal skill set they were looking for in the offseason. His ADP (60) works well for his recent resume. His next step should be 80 catches for 1,200 yards and six to eight scores.

Sterling Shepard

The Giants gave Shepard a floor of six catches in eight of his 12 starts. He gained fewer than 60 yards in eight games. His best play came over the final two weeks (9/77/1 and 8/112/1). Shepard missed four weeks early in the year with a toe injury. He also had minor bouts with hip and rib issues.

Over his five seasons with the Giants, Shepard has between 57 and 66 catches while failing to gain over 900 yards in a season. His best production in scoring (eight touchdowns) came in his rookie season. Shepard has a career 66.7 percent catch rate with fading value in his yards per catch (9.9).

Fantasy Outlook: His possession skill set works well in PPR leagues, but Shepard missed 15 games over the past four seasons. His ADP (190) in 12-team PPR leagues is more than fair. Pretty much a 5/60 type player with a 25 percent scoring, making him a viable flex play.

Darius Slayton

Despite finishing with similar catches and yards over the past two seasons (48/740 and 50/751), Slayton was a tough start in fantasy leagues in most weeks due to fewer touchdowns (3 – 8 in 2019) and a minimal opportunity in 11 contests. His best two games (6/102/2 and 8/129) came over the first five weeks. Over his final 11 matchups, Slayton caught only 27 of his 56 targets for 386 yards and one score.

Fantasy Outlook: He falls into the deep flier category. A better run game should lead to more open field in the passing game on play-action plays. Slayton will be tough to time while also being an explosive option when his number comes in.

Kadarius Toney

After working in a split role between running back and wide receiver over his first three seasons (1,025 combined yards with three touchdowns and 50 catches), Toney had a starting opportunity for Florida in 2020. He finished 70 catches for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns with some damage on the ground (19/161/1). His star rose over his final three games (8/108/1, 9/182/1, and 8/153/1) in his college career.

To make an impact in the NFL, Toney needs to improve his route running. His lower half paves his way to success, and he does catch the ball well when given a chance. Early in his career, Toney may land a role as a punt returner.

Fantasy Outlook: Toney should be the top handcuff to Sterling Shepard in the Giants’ passing game. He’s not a lock to hit the ground running, but New York may try to get him the ball on some plays each week.

Other Options: John Ross, Austin Mack, C.J. Board, Dante Pettis

Tight End

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New York looked to their tight ends 136 times last year, which was four more targets than 2019 (140). They gained over 800 yards in each of the past three years with a floor of 79 catches.

Evan Engram

For the first time in his career, Engram played an entire season, leading to 109 targets. He finished 13th in tight end scoring (126.30 fantasy points), despite scoring over 15.00 fantasy points in two games (5/48/1 and 6/129). Engram gained fewer than 50 yards in 12 games while catching under three passes in six matchups. His catch rate (57.8) came in a weak area, showing he wasn’t on the same page with Daniel Jones on many plays.

Fantasy Outlook: This year, his ADP (131) slipped to a buying area for a fantasy owner willing to cheat the tight end. Engram is a better player than he showed last year, but New York has more depth in their receiving options. A 70/850/5 season is within reach if he stays healthy and New York plays better offensively.

Kyle Rudolph

Heading into 2020, Rudolph scored 30 touchdowns over his previous 80 games. His stats regressed in 2019 (39/367/6) and 2020 (28/334/1) while missing four games last season due to a foot injury. Rudolph has excellent hands, and he improves the Giants’ scoring in the red zone.

Other Options: Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Kevin Benjamin

Kicker

Graham Gano

After missing 2019 with a left knee injury that required surgery, Gano made 31 of his 32 field goal chances, with his only miss coming over 50 yards (5-for-6). Over his past seven seasons, he had strength in his field goal rate (87.4). Gano came up short in 14 of his 262 extra points over this span while drilling 20 of his 30 kicks through the uprights from 50 yards or more.

Fantasy Outlook: Gano has an attractive leg, and New York will score more this season. He projects as a bench kicker, who will be found in the free-agent pool in most 12-team leagues.

Defense

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New York climbed to 10th against the run (1,782 yards). They allowed 4.1 yards per carry, with runners scoring 14 touchdowns and gaining over 20 yards on nine plays.

The Giants worked their way up to 16th in passing yards allowed (3,807) with 22 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. They finished with 40 sacks, with quarterbacks gaining 7.2 yards per pass attempt. New York allowed 43 catches of 20 yards or more.

DE Dexter Lawrence

In his second season with the Giants, he finished with 53 tackles and 4.0 sacks while playing well in run support.

Lawrence is a beast of a man with exceptional power while failing to reach his full potential in college. His play is athletic, with the foot quickness to disrupt in all areas. He needs more creativity rushing the quarterback while refining his technique and his hands. At the very least, Lawrence will clog up the middle in the run game.

DE Leonard Williams

The Jets drafted him in the first round in 2015, but Williams underachieved his potential over his first five seasons. Last year he found his rhythm in the pass rush (11.5 – career-high) while delivering 57 tackles. His play remains an edge against the run.

DT D.J. Hill

New York added Hill in the third round in 2018. His game appeared to be on the rise in his rookie season when he made 48 tackles and 5.5 sacks. The Giants used him as a rotational run defender on early-down over the past two years.

LB Azeez Ojulari

New York added an exciting piece to their defense with the addition of Ojulari in this year’s draft class. He’ll upgrade the run defense while needing time to develop his pass-rush skills.

LB Reggie Ragland

There has been no excitement in Ragland’s game over the past three seasons. He tends to struggle against the run while heading to the sidelines on passing downs.

LB Blake Martinez

Martinez delivered impactful tackles in each of the past four years (144, 144, 155, and 151). He has 11 sacks, two interceptions, and 10 defended passes over the last three years. His run defense shined in his first year in New York.

LB Lorenzo Carter

Carter produced two steady seasons after getting drafted in the third round in 2018. His run defense continues to improve. He missed 11 games last year due to an Achilles injury, leading to regression in his value in the pass rush.

CB Adoree Jackson

Over his first three seasons with the Titans, Jackson played well in coverage, but he did make some mistakes in touchdowns allowed. Tennessee drafted him in the first round in 2017. He missed 12 games last year with a knee injury.

CB James Bradberry

Bradberry played at his highest level in pass coverage in his first season with the Giants. He finished with 54 tackles, three interceptions, and 18 defended passes. Bradberry continues to miss tackles, but his run defense played well in 2020.

S Jabrill Peppers

Over his last three seasons, Peppers posted 246 combined tackles with three interceptions, 21 defended passes, and one touchdown. He played well against the run last year, with continued growth when asked to rush the quarterback.

S Logan Ryan

Ryan picked up 207 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 27 defended passes over his previous two seasons. He continues to be a neutral player against the run with downside in coverage.

New York should build on their growth on defense this season. They have one question mark at each level with strength at linebacker and their defensive ends. The Giants have the talent to slow down the run while offering an improving pass rush. A viable second fantasy defense with matchup value. 

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