For a fourth straight season, Razzball will be interviewing local NFL beat writers for some actual in-depth football knowledge to shed some additional light on our fantasy football knowledge. Keep your eye out for an interview for every NFL team through the summer. This installment comes courteous of Dennis Esser from leading New York Giants blog Big Blue View:
1) A running joke we had on the Razzball Football Podcast last year was my co-host Nick’s man-love for David Wilson, who I called a bust all season long and was right for 15 out of 16 games. With Ahmad Bradshaw leaving for the Colts, it gives Wilson a starting gig. I don’t see it going too well and Andre Brown getting in the mix. How do you see the RB situation shaking out this year for the G-Men?
Let’s start with the fact that the Giants allowed Ahmad Bradshaw to walk this offseason. Bradshaw was a warrior for the Giants and they would not have let him go so easily if they didn’t feel that these two backs could help them win another championship. Wilson and Andre Brown will split the workload going forward with the % being the only question. Last season Wilson had the early fumble against the Cowboys and then was relegated to special teams ace before breaking out towards the end of the season. The biggest problem for Wilson is he was drafted one pick behind Doug Martin who had an extraordinary rookie season in Tampa Bay. He will forever be compared to Martin and that’s really not fair to either back. His comparisons to C.J. Spiller are what get fantasy owners excited and Giants fans buying higher and higher in fantasy drafts. Spiller struggled his rookie year and was being called a bust before his game breaking talent came to the forefront. Much like Spiller, Wilson will be sharing the backfield with an underrated back that is more than capable of being a solid NFL runner in Andre Brown. Brown has proven his goal line capabilities, but has also struggled in Pass Pro like Wilson. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if Wilson proves he can pass block and catch the ball consistently then he will be the back that gets the majority of the touches. He will get less goal line looks than Brown, but his big play ability could still see him pushing double digit touchdowns if he is the lead back. This will all shake out in training camp and if he ends up as the lead back you could have a low end RB1 for a third round pick in most fantasy drafts. If he struggles and doesn’t get the lion’s share you have a nice flex play with upside if Brown gets injured which very well could happen as Brown has had trouble staying healthy at every level.
2) Eli Manning went on a tear early last year, then things didn’t go so hot. Then there was the “dead arm” reports. Is Eli physically OK and will he be able to get the Giants passing game rolling again?
From all the reports I have seen Eli has been looking healthy this offseason. His arm strength looks good and he has been really working on fine tuning his mechanics. Last year was a struggle after having a huge 2011. His number one target Hakeem Nicks was injured and Victor Cruz struggled with consistency early in the season. The lack of a third receiver was also a big key as knee injuries to Domenik Hixon had taken their toll. With Nicks healthy, Cruz having a full training camp, the addition of Brandon Myers, and the emergence of Rueben Randle I can see Eli really pushing career highs. The key will be protection and a healthy motivated Hakeem Nicks. I see Eli as the first QB2 in fantasy drafts who can perform like a top 8 QB1 if everything goes well. I would love to have him as my backup to guys like Matthew Stafford or Robert Griffin III. In deeper leagues like 14 team and larger he could make waiting on a QB pay off.
3) If Hakeem Nicks could’ve had an injury-free NFL career, he might be one of the top WRs in the game. But it hasn’t gone like that, and Nicks’ inconsistency and injury history have fantasy owners unwilling to pick him early. Any chance this could be a big year from Nicks?
If you watch Nicks week in and week out you come to realize that when healthy there aren’t much better at getting open and catching the ball with their hands. His precise route running and connection with Eli Manning make him almost uncoverable at times. I have to chalk last year up as a lost season because even when he tried to play he was nothing more than a decoy after he was injured. The carrot of big off contract should be enough to see Nicks eclipse all of his career highs. While he doesn’t get force-fed like Calvin Johnson and Brandon Marshall he could still push for WR1 status if he stays healthy this year. With his fantasy stock never lower and his motivation never higher he could be the steal of most fantasy drafts.
4) Victor Cruz was solid last year, improving his receptions and touchdowns from his huge breakout 2011 campaign, but had 444 fewer yards, dropping his YPC from 18.7 to 12.7. Was Cruz just more relied on as a possession guy last year? Will we see him stretch the field again this season?
Victor Cruz had an amazing 2011 that was going to be hard to live up to during the 2012 season. He turned many short catches into long touchdowns which aren’t the norm for slot receivers. Teams caught on to his game breaking ways and made sure there was extra help to his side of the field. His ability to turn into a running back with unexpected breakaway speed won’t be catching teams off guard anymore. With a healthy Nicks and Murphy and Randle stretching the field I can definitely see Cruz have his yardage rebound this year. The fact that people are drafting Harvin and Cobb ahead of him at this point in the summer is crazy. Cruz should have a very big year and I could see him pushing for over 100 receptions.
5) We’ve seen the Giants passing attack support three WRs in year’s past, with Rueben Randle getting some preseason hype. Louis Murphy and Ramses Barden (who had the big breakout game in week 3 last year and reminded me of the Eli/Plaxico connection) are also a little interesting as guys to keep on the radar. Do you see a fantasy-relevant WR3 emerge this year?
I don’t see Barden being a fantasy option this year unless there are major injury problems for the Giants. I love that Randle got all the first team reps during OTAs as Nicks and Cruz were no shows. The talk was that he looked lightyears ahead of last offseason and Kevin Gilbride even spoke about him seeing the field a lot. I really like Randle’s athleticism and if he improved his route-running and coverage reads on option routes as has been intimated then he could be a very nice flex option in fantasy football this year. His leaping ability and knack for making big catches could see him getting some red zone targets. Murphy is the type of outside receiver the Giants needed as another option. Eli works the numbers as well as any quarterback in the league and Murphy is very adept at working that area. If there is an injury to Nicks or Randle, Murphy should be on the fantasy radar.
Dennis Esser (@Coachesser) is the current fantasy football expert for Big Blue View and has his own blog www.coachesser.com while a contributing writer for several other sites. He will be at training camp with the Giants and will be going down to Eagles training camp scouting them with a number of other fantasy guys.