An Early Look at Fantasy Football Questions and Projections for Key Giants Skill Position Players

Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com, North Jersey Record via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Pat Ragazzo

When a team isn't doing well on the field, chances are that none of their players are doing well enough to warrant consideration from fantasy football enthusiasts.

With the arrival of head coach Joe Judge, there is a renewed sense of hope that the Giants have finally put behind their sluggish and unproductive ways and are poised to make some noise not just in the statistics department but also in the wins column.

Find out below who to invest in on the Giants roster as we help you get a head start on preparing for your drafts.

Is Running Back Saquon Barkley is a Top-5 Draft Pick?

Lineups.com predicts running back Saquon Barkley to be a top-5 pick in most drafts and Fantasy Pros projects he will score 232.8 total points.

Barkley was expected to become the best running back in fantasy last season but was slowed by an ankle injury causing him to miss three games. However, he was still able to post what lineups called a solid “RB2” season, earning 244.1 points in 13 games.

This gives us good reason to question the experts’ prediction for Barkley, as he was still able to exceed their projection even with a severe high ankle sprain.

Given the improved offensive line that Barkley is projected to run behind this year, it would be wise to use your first pick on Barkley. He is not only a force in carrying the ball out of the backfield—he has 2,310 yards and 17 touchdowns in his career—he is also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield who should see more of those opportunities in Jason Garrett's offense.

Is Daniel Jones a QB1?

For the first time since 2005, the Giants will start a new season with a starting quarterback not named Eli Manning.

That would be Daniel Jones, who exceeded all expectations in his rookie year after taking over as the starter for Manning in Week 3.

Jones threw for 3,027 yards and 24 touchdowns while rushing for two scores in 12 starts (13 games).

According to Fantasy Pros, Jones is projected to earn 250.7 points throwing for more yards (3,883) and touchdowns (25) due to his “tremendous upside.”

The upgrades made to the Giants offensive line in the draft—Andrew Thomas is projected to be one of the starting tackles, and the Giants are likely to have a new starting center—should certainly help Jones.

His only blemish during an impressive campaign was his inability to hold onto the football as he led the league in fumbles with 18. He has emphasized fixing this off-season as he has been working out with Duke alumnus Anthony Boone in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Jones has also sought some input from former Cowboys quarterback and current CBS color analyst Tony Romo, who excelled in Jason Garrett's offense in Dallas.

Indeed, Jones is doing all he can to live up to expectations that come with being a QB1. If he puts it all together—the reduction in turnovers, showing a better feel for what's going on around him in the pocket and getting the chance to chuck the ball down the field—Jones would most definitely meet the criteria for a QB1.

Have health concerns dropped receiver Sterling Shepard to WR3?

Chosen in the second round of the 2016 draft, Sterling Shepard is one of the few remaining players from the Jerry Reese regime.

He's been a productive player for the Giants, especially in the slot, where 16 of his 17 career receiving touchdowns have come, per data gathered from Pro Football Focus.

But injury concerns have created pause when it comes to Shepard's potential fantasy value. He suffered two concussions last season in a month, and while there is hope he's over those issues, there is the concern that if he suffers another head injury, that could put his NFL future in doubt.

Health issues aside, when healthy, Shepard is still a very productive player. He's caught 247 balls for 2,862 yards and 17 touchdowns in four seasons.

And despite missing six games in 2019, he still had a solid year with 57 receptions for 576 yards and three touchdowns as he shared targets with veteran free-agent acquisition Golden Tate and rookie Darius Slayton.

Fantasy Pros is projecting a “WR3,” season for him with 117.8 points. But again, proceed with caution as his concussion issues are a legitimate concern, plus he has missed at least five games due to injury in 2 separate seasons since being drafted.

Where Would Giants YAC Leader Golden Tate Rank?

Golden Tate is entering his 11th season in the NFL, and while he is not the player he once was in his prime, he is still a very solid one.

The Giants yards after catch (YAC) leader with 291—this despite missing four games due to a suspension and one due to a concussion—showed last season that he's still a viable contributor.

He caught 49 passes on 89 targets for 676 yards and six touchdowns. But it's his yards-after-catch prowess—he has 711 YAC in his last two seasons—that makes him an attractive flex option against teams that don't have solid pass defenses.

Fantasy football enthusiasts should be able to expect a better year if he stays on the field more consistently as Fantasy Pros believes he will earn 108.9 points this season.

What will last year's rookie breakout player Darius Slayton offer?

Now we get to our sleeper on the team in Darius Slayton.

Darius Slayton wasn't supposed to be more than just a spot receiver last year. After overcoming a hamstring strain at the start of the season, Slayton, one of the Giants fifth-round picks, went on to lead all Giants skill-positioned players in receiving touchdowns (8).

The earliest signs of Slayton's impact on a game were felt in his Week 3 debut against the Bucs when he recorded three catches for 82 yards.

In 14 games, he had 48 receptions for 740 yards and eight touchdowns (2nd most among rookies). Timed with 4.39 speed, Slayton's big-play making ability should be a perfect fit for a Giants offense believed to be planning for more vertical concepts.

According to Fantasy Pros, that should be the case, as Slayton is projected to earn 116.7 points. However, that comes with a disclaimer, as if the rest of the offensive skill guys are healthy that it could take targets away from him.

Still, that's a good problem for the Giants to have, and Slayton, given his upside, is too valuable to pass up if he is there in the later rounds of your fantasy draft.

Can tight end Evan Engram finally put it all together?

Tight end Evan Engram has been one of the biggest teases the Giants have had on the roster in years.

Blessed with talent and skills when Engram is appropriately deployed, his production can be off the chart.

But not only can an argument be made that past coaching staffs have relied on Engram to do a little too much in the way of blocking (not a strength), but the added pounding has contributed to Engram, who played in just 19 games over the last two seasons, being injured.

Presumably, that will be different under Garrett, who at Dallas liked to deploy multiple tight end sets.

Engram, who had his rookie option picked up by the Giants, still carries more upside that makes him worth the investment. When healthy, he's a matchup nightmare against linebackers and safeties, especially when he travels up the seam.

Engram, with speed to rival that of a wide receiver, has 153 passes for 1,766 yards and 12 touchdowns in three seasons. How much fun might it be to see Engram split out wide or in the slot more this year where he can get those mismatches against the opponent?

The answer is a lot. Fantasy Pros believes that Engram could finally have that breakout season that his skills have hinted him capable of having since he arrived in New York, starting with a projected 109.6 fantasy points for anyone who adds him to their team.

Is tight end Kaden Smith worth drafting?

Kaden Smith, whom the Giants acquired off waivers from the 49ers, was among the team's most pleasant surprises.

Smith, who stepped in for the now-retired Rhett Ellison when Ellison had to miss time with a concussion, finished with three touchdown receptions in six starts, one of his touchdown receptions being the game-winner in overtime against Washington in Week 16.

That performance was good enough to assure Smith a chance at competing for a larger role on offense this year. Smith, a solid run blocker, scored 44.8 fantasy points down the stretch of his rookie season.

Teams might key in on him more this year, especially given how Garrett has deployed tight ends in his offense. While Fantasy Pros, who projects him to earn 19.1 points this year, isn't entirely convinced, Smith might end up being the biggest sleeper for fantasy owners who take the risk of drafting him.

And what about the defense?

The Giants' defense has been one of the league’s worst units in the last three years, a combination of a lack of experience, some missing pieces in the back end, and coaching.

This off-season, the unit underwent a significant upgrade that general manager Dave Gettleman is hoping pays off, including veteran linebackers Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell, veteran corner James Bradberry, and youngsters Xavier McKinney and Darnay Holmes, both draft picks.

Add all that talent and increase in team speed to an equation in which the Giants have a new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham who is said to be better at adapting his scheme to what he has, and there are enough reasons to be optimistic.

But is it enough to take a gamble on the unit for an entire fantasy season? Not until the unit shows that it's on the right track of putting everything together, not just in coverage but with its pass rush.

All of this is probably why the Giants' defense did not earn a ranking higher than No. 23 from Fantasy Experts.

Not that a fantasy football ranking should be motivation for the unit to hit the ground running—pride and a desire to be great should be the only motivators. But the bottom line remains that the Giants defense is entering 2020 in a show-me mode not just for fantasy football enthusiasts, but for the NFL in general. 

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