Five Things to Watch Heading into New York Giants Training Camp
Now is the time of year when your fantasy football draft research should be ramping up, as every team’s camps start up over the next week or so. Teams have added impact free agents as well as rookies from the draft, yet only speculative conjecture can be made from samples of prior years. Not until training camp can we finally get a sense of how 53-man rosters and depth charts may turn out. What that means for fantasy football depends on situation and team. Let’s take a look at five things to watch during Giants training camp that will help with your upcoming drafts.
Can Eli Manning stay protected?
Throughout the 2016 season, Eli Manning had a tough time staying upright. Pro Football Focus had the Giants O-line ranked 28th of 32 teams, and many of the players that started last year are returning this year. Ereck Flowers and Bobby Hart were thrust into starting positions as rookies in their first year, and are expected to improve with a year of experience. Flowers has been getting used to his role at left tackle, while Hart is settling in at right tackle. However, in a tough tackle draft class, the Giants chose to not draft any bodies at the position.
DJ Fluker was signed as a free agent and may line up outside if he can win a starting job, but that remains to be seen. There is some optimism with Justin Pugh returning to the O-line, after missing time last season with a knee injury. Weston Richburg, another top tackle, missed time with a hand injury last season.
In reality, the Giants O-line is likely better than their 2016 rank, but they’ve been playing a dangerous game with quarterback pass protection. They’ll likely be using another tight end fully as a blocker, specifically Rhett Ellison.
How will Brandon Marshall fare as the WR2 in New York?
Coming over from the New York Jets, Brandon Marshall is settling into a familiar location with new faces. While he has to learn a brand new offense with a new quarterback, Marshall is a student of the game and has reportedly been working tirelessly to adjust to the Giants scheme. He’s attended every voluntary workout, held a few one-on-one sessions with Eli Manning to discuss plays and timing, and even went to Manning’s voluntary passing academy. I’m not worried about Marshall picking up this offense, and you shouldn’t either.
Make no mistake, Odell Beckham Jr. is still the primary receiving option. However, Marshall looks to replace Sterling Shepard as the second receiving option. In 2016, Shepard had 105 targets, 65 receptions, 683 yards and eight touchdowns. While Marshall is 33 and entering his 11th NFL season, he has plenty left in the tank. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to see Marshall produce a stat line similar to Shepard’s 2016 year, perhaps totaling even more yardage and receptions. Marshall will serve as a fine real-world and fantasy WR2.
Will Paul Perkins emerge as the main RB?
At 5’10”, 196 lbs, Perkins is on the smaller side when it comes to NFL running backs. Drafted in the fifth round by the Giants in 2016, Perkins is entering his second year under the Giants system. Last year, the Giants had journeyman Rashad Jennings as the lead back, until injuries forced him out of the lineup. Perkins was part of a committee of backs in Jennings’ absence. In total, Perkins received less than 40 percent of the team’s snaps in 2016. Furthermore, as mentioned before, the offensive line just didn’t do the running game any favors. The Giants haven’t had a 1,000 yard rusher since Ahmad Bradshaw in 2012.
However, things are about to change in 2017. His percentage of team plays could easily rise to 75%-80%, and the RB coach has been heaping praise on him. Giants running backs coach Craig Johnson has been talking up Perkins as a three-down back, saying that he covers the three phases of rushing, receiving and blocking. Perkin’s biggest struggle coming out of college was his blocking ability, so it looks like he’s improved on that during the offseason. While he may lose passing down work to Shane Vereen, Perkins will be a solid upside pick in the middle rounds as an early down rusher, with goal line opportunities.
Will Evan Engram be a fantasy relevant TE?
Rookie tight ends are hard pressed to make an impact in their first year, but Evan Engram may try to be the exception. Drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft by the Giants (23rd overall), there are high expectations for him in his first year. Standing at 6’3”, 240 lbs, he may not be the largest or most physical presence at tight end, but his main strengths lie in his soft hands and route running.
The main issue for Engram will be playing time. The aforementioned Brandon Marshall will be settling into his role as WR2, and will see a healthy amount of targets. This leaves either Engram or Sterling Shepard as the third receiving option. However, since neither Shepard nor Engram are praised for their blocking ability, it is far too obvious of a passing play to have Shepard in the slot and Engram at the Y position. Rather, newly acquired Rhett Ellison will likely have a role as the blocking tight end, leaving Shepard and Engram to substitute in as the third receiving option.
Engram will likely grow into a serviceable starting fantasy tight end, but 2017 won’t be the year it happens.
Who will be the backup quarterback?
Eli Manning is the definition of an ironman, as he hasn’t missed a start in his entire career. Entering his 14th NFL season, he has started and played 199 NFL games, plus 12 playoff games, all with the New York Giants. Despite the shoddy O-line, Manning was only sacked 21 times in 2016, amd had a 40% completion rate under pressure.
That being said, Manning is entering the twilight of his career, and the backup quarterback position is up for battle this year in the Giants camp. Fighting for the backup job is Geno Smith, Josh Johnson and Davis Webb. Geno Smith is the former second round draft pick of the New York Jets, who is coming off ACL surgery and a disappointing role with the Jets. Josh Johnson was with the Giants last year, but hasn’t thrown a pass in the regular season since 2011. Davis Webb is intriguing, as he was drafted in the third round of the 2017 draft and lands in an ideal spot to be mentored by Manning. If Davis performs as well as he did in college, both Smith and Johnson may be out of jobs, with the Giants only choosing to go with two quarterbacks.
For more updated news, notes and analysis on the Giants training camp, visit Giants.com and follow the team writers as they break down the above issues and many others. Plus, check out the TFA website for more training camp articles and content!