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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: New York Giants

Senior Fantasy Writer
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There are plenty of times in life when change can be good, if not great. A new job or a new home can change your world. A new restaurant can make you happy. Maybe even a different way to work, which can save you a few minutes.

For NFL players, changing the voice in your ear can change your career. And that's what we're hoping for with the Giants this season.

Kevin Gilbride is gone as the offensive coordinator after a seven-year run. It was a successful stretch from 2007-13, which produced two Super Bowls, but the past two seasons have been stale. Sure, injuries played a prominent role with the Giants falling apart offensively, but they needed a new direction on offense.

Enter Ben McAdoo as the new coordinator. He spent the past eight seasons as an offensive assistant with the Packers. There's no guarantee McAdoo will dramatically improve the Giants offense, but a change was definitely needed.

We hope McAdoo can help Eli Manning the same way Marc Trestman helped Jay Cutler in Chicago and Ken Whisenhunt helped Philip Rivers in San Diego last year. Like Manning, those two quarterbacks were struggling under previous offensive coordinators, and the change in 2013 produced rebound campaigns.

If Manning plays better then that should help the entire offense, and the Giants will look different this season with free agent Rashad Jennings and rookies in Odell Beckham and Andre Williams playing prominent roles. Hakeem Nicks is gone, but the Giants won't miss the version they've had of him the past two seasons.

The best change for the Giants, at least in terms of personnel, could be along the offensive line. They added Geoff Schwartz to play left guard, and J.D. Walton should play center if he beats out rookie Weston Richburg. Chris Snee is back at right guard, and if Will Beatty can rebound at left tackle this should be a solid unit.

If the line is healthy and Manning can adjust to McAdoo's system right away, this could be a bounce-back year for the Giants in 2014.

Poised to rebound ... Eli Manning

Let's face it, Manning can't be much worse than he was in 2013. He passed for 3,818 yards, 18 touchdowns and 27 interceptions on 58 percent completions, and he had just one game with more than 20 Fantasy points, which was Week 1.

He is expected to be fine coming off ankle surgery in April, and that's something to monitor. And the Giants have to hope the combination of Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle can replace Nicks, and Manning also is without tight end Brandon Myers.

But Manning still has plenty of potential, and he was a Top 12 Fantasy quarterback from 2008-11. He could easily get back to that level if he plays well in the new offense, and Beckham and Randle help him make plays.

Victor Cruz remains a standout Fantasy option and one of the best slot receivers in the NFL. And the Giants should be better as a whole on offense with an upgraded offensive line and an improved running game. Not only did they add Jennings and Williams, but David Wilson (neck) could make a full recovery.

We don't suggest drafting Manning as anything more than a low-end No. 2 Fantasy quarterback. But don't be surprised if he has a Rivers-like year as a veteran being castoff by Fantasy owners, who can easily rebound in a new system if things go his way. Someone in your league might be starting Manning frequently this year, even though no one will be expecting that on Draft Day.

Rookie to target ... Andre Williams

I'm a believer in Wilson if he's healthy, and I'm skeptical of Jennings, who is 29 and has never been a featured back for a full year. Williams is the wild card, but he has plenty of upside.

He might remind you a little of Brandon Jacobs because of his size at 6-foot, 227 pounds, and he ran well at Boston College. Last year, Williams had 355 carries for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns, so he will help the Giants if they want to be physical running the ball.

I don't consider Williams the best rookie running back -- that should be Tennessee's Bishop Sankey -- but you can argue he's No. 2 ahead of Devonta Freeman, Terrance West, Jeremy Hill, Tre Mason or Carlos Hyde. He has the opportunity to play right away, and the Giants could lean on him if Jennings fails or Wilson is out.

Your plan should be to target Williams with a late-round pick in re-draft leagues, and stash him as your No. 4 running back in standard formats. He'll probably struggle in PPR leagues, but he could easily lead the Giants in rushing touchdowns this season and maybe in Fantasy points at his position, depending on what happens with Wilson and Jennings.

Keep the faith ... Rueben Randle

2013 Touches Leaders
706 total touches
Andre Brown 159 (139 car., 20 rec.) 22.5%
Peyton Hillis 86 (73 car., 13 rec.) 12.2%
Victor Cruz 73 rec. 10.3%
Brandon Jacobs 60 (58 car., 2 rec.) 8.5%
Hakeem Nicks 56 rec. 7.9%
All Others 272 38.5%

Randle has had a roller coaster offseason so far. He looked great when Nicks left for the Colts, but then the Giants seemed down on Randle heading into the draft. It led to Beckham being drafted in the first round, which appeared to squash any sleeper appeal Randle might have.

But Randle still projects as a starter for the Giants, and he will definitely get plenty of playing time. The Giants want Cruz to stay in the slot, meaning Beckham and Randle will play outside.

And while he struggled at times in 2013, Randle is entering his third season in the NFL, which could lead to a breakout campaign. He finished last year with 41 catches for 611 yards and six touchdowns, including a five-game stretch when he had at least eight Fantasy points in the middle of the season.

We hope that player shows up each week, but the addition of Beckham will be challenging. Still, with a mid- to late-round pick, Randle could provide quality rewards.

Schedule analysis

Manning's only 20-point Fantasy performance last season was Week 1 at Dallas, and he could open this season with a 20-point outing against the Lions, who are challenged in the secondary and will likely force the Giants to throw if they are chasing points. The Giants face the NFC West this season with a trip to the Seahawks in Week 10, but they also benefit with some weak opponents in their own division. Dallas should be terrible against the run with Sean Lee (ACL) out, and the Redskins joined the Cowboys in the bottom three of Fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. The Eagles also allowed the most Fantasy points to opposing receivers, so the Giants could have a nice bounce-back season on offense this year.

Training camp battles

Who's the No. 2 receiver? Beckham and Randle will compete for the starting spot, but the starter is irrelevant since the Giants will use plenty of three-receiver sets. Adrien Robinson is the starter at tight end, but the Giants will rely on Cruz, Beckham and Randle to handle most of the receiving duties this year. For Fantasy owners, you should rank the receivers as Cruz, Randle and Beckham.

What's the pecking order at running back? The Giants will likely go into training camp with the depth chart as Jennings, Williams and Wilson, since Wilson still needs clearance for contact. Jennings is definitely going to start barring injury, but he could easily be replaced if he struggles. Williams could work at the goal line, and Wilson is the change-of-pace rusher. Fantasy owners should rank the running backs as Jennings, Wilson and Williams heading into training camp, and I would wait on Williams or Wilson and pass on Jennings, who will likely command a mid-round pick.

Bold prediction

The Giants are viewing Wilson as anything he can provide this year will be a bonus. And a lot has to happen for him to succeed this year. Jennings has to struggle or get hurt. Williams has to prove he's not ready for NFL carries in his rookie year or suffer the same fate as Jennings. And, most importantly, Wilson has to prove his neck is 100 percent.

We won't know Wilson's status until the start of training camp, but if he's ready to go, he has the most upside of this backfield. His speed and playmaking ability set him apart, and he would become my favorite Giants running back this season. The best part about him will be his value. Jennings will be drafted as early as Round 6, and Fantasy owners will take Williams first based on his college career. But Wilson, with a late-round flier, will be the best of the bunch if healthy.

Now that the Giants have improved their offensive line, Wilson can live up to his last year's breakout campaign, which was cut short in Week 5 when he hurt his neck. He just has to get healthy and stay on the field.

Injury report

Eli Manning (ankle), probable for start of training camp. ... David Wilson (neck), questionable for start of training camp. ... Mario Manningham (knee), questionable for start of training camp. ... Jon Beason (foot), questionable for start of season

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Player News
Kenny Britt looking for fresh start in Week 1 vs. Vikings
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:34 am ET) Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt ended an up-and-down career in Tennesse by catching only 11 passes for 96 yards last season. Reunited with former Tennessee head coach Jeff Fisher, the embattled receiver will look to begin his tenure with his new team on the right foot in Week 1 against the Vikings.

Britt has flashed big-play ability in the preseason, catching a 36-yard pass from starter Sam Bradford in Week 3 before the quarterback succumbed to a season-ending injury. He then tacked on a 32-yard completion from backup Shaun Hill on the team's second drive. If Britt can find chemistry with his new starting quarterback quickly, he has the opportunity to emerge from a muddled Rams receiving corps and become the team's No. 1 option in the passing game.

Will it happen? The Vikings were one of the worst teams in the league at defending the pass last year, ranking 30th in pass-defense DVOA, according to Football Outsiders. The results, however, look much better in the early-going this season. In the team's third preseason game, the defense held Kansas City starter Alex Smith to 140 yards on 14-of-24 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

If that same defense comes to play Sunday, Hill may have nothing but trouble trying to move the chains consistently. But if the upgraded offensive line can keep the Vikings at bay, the Hill-to-Britt connection has the potential to surprise. Consider Britt a quality free-agent add in advance of Sunday's game on the chance that he and Hill show something.


Zac Stacy could struggle vs. Vikings
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:20 am ET) Rams running back Zac Stacy lost his starting quarterback for the season during preseason competition. This is nothing new for the second-year back, as he had to play the second half of 2013 without Sam Bradford as well.

Though Stacy ripped off four 100-yard games after Bradford's injury, he mixed in several ugly lines as well, managing only 62 yards on 26 carries against the Colts, just 25 yards on 14 carries against the Cardinals and only 15 yards on 15 carries as the Seahawks exacted their revenge in Week 17.

Stacy's Week 1 matchup this season is a Vikings team that played well against the run last season. The Vikings finished seventh in the league in rate stuffing the running back at or behind the line of scrimmage. The defense surrendered just shy of 3.9 yards per carry, which is right at Stacy's per-carry rate from last season.

The Rams will likely try to remain committed to the running game with a second stringer at quarterback, but the Vikings have the personnel to sniff out a conservative gameplan and more or less shut down the running game. CBSSports.com Fantasy experts are split on Stacy's stock this week, with Jamey Eisenberg slotting him eighth at the position and Davie Richard ranking him 20th.


Wes Welker expected to be suspended for Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker will be suspended for Week 1, according to the Denver Post.

Mike Klis initially reported that there was a chance Welker's suspension wouldn't kick in until after Week 1, but issued an update later. While the NFL has yet to officially announce the suspension, the Broncos have been informed of the move. The team is expected to send out a press release confirming the information Tuesday.


Report: Wes Welker may play Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Update: Welker will be suspended for Week 1, according to the Denver Post. The team is expected to send out a press release shortly.

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker may play Week 1 against the Colts, according to the Denver Post

Welker is expected to be suspended for four games after reportedly testing positive for amphetamines. The league, however, has not officially announced the suspension. Suspensions are typically announced by Tuesday, according to Pro Football Talk. Since the NFL has yet to announce the move, it's thought Welker could be available for Week 1, but would serve his suspension once the NFL announced the move. 

There are a lot of uncertainties regarding the situation at this time. The club expects Welker to be available, provided he passes concussion protocal, but it remains to be seen how the NFL will handle this suspension. 


Randall Cobb to be tested Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb should be in for a tough test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Cobb caught just three passes during the preseason, picking up 34 yards and a score. His lack of work shouldn’t be a huge concern, as the Packers offense doesn’t need any fine-tuning. The main thing here is that Cobb is 100 percent healthy after playing in just six games last season due to a leg injury.

His Week 1 production could be dampened by a strong Seahawks DST. Seattle was exceptional against the pass last season, holding opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game. That figure was the second-lowest rate in the league. On top of that, Cobb may have to deal with Richard Sherman, who is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Sherman may spend the majority of the game stopping Jordy Nelson, but he could find his way over to Cobb on a few occasions.

Cobb’s versatility makes him a strong candidate to be moved around the Packers’ offense. If Green Bay can create some nice matchups, and Sherman is preoccupied with Nelson, Cobb could be in for a better game than people might expect. 

Despite that, expectations should be tempered. Seattle’s DST was strong last season, and while Green Bay boasts a strong offense, things should be muted Week 1. Cobb is a fine start, considering his upside, but he carries more risk this week due to the matchup.


Jordy Nelson in for a tough test Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson should be in for a difficult test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Nelson had a quiet preseason, catching just two passes for 19 yards. One of those catches wound up being a touchdown. Despite the lack of action during the preseason, Nelson’s upside with a healthy Aaron Rodgers is well-known among Fantasy owners. That said, he’s going to have to work for everything he gets against Seattle.

The Seahawks rated as the best defense in the league last year. They were strong in every facet of the game. Seattle held opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game, the second-lowest figure in the league. To make things even more difficult for Nelson, he’ll likely be covered by Richard Sherman. Sherman, by many counts, is arguably the best corner in the game. 

Still, it’s tough to pass up Nelson’s upside with a healthy Rodgers. The Packers boast an overabundance of weapons, and it’s possible moving Nelson around before the play could put him in a more favorable matchup. Even if Sherman covers him the entire game, Nelson is a good enough receiver to make some noise. While he doesn’t have a great matchup, Week 1 is not the time to take a player as good as Nelson out of your Fantasy lineup. 


Eddie Lacy to have his hands full Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers running back Eddie Lacy will have his hands full Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Lacy is coming off a tremendous rookie season, in which he rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He didn’t get a ton of use during the preseason, but seemed to be in midseason form. Lacy rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries, good for a 5.5 average over two preseason games. He also managed to run in a touchdown.

Though he looked strong in the preseason, Lacy should have a tough time against the Seahawks Week 1. Seattle allowed just 12.32 Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs last season. That was the second-lowest rate in the league. While the Seahawks lost three defensive linemen during the offseason, the club is thought to still have the top-rated Fantasy defense.

In many circles, Lacy was considered a strong Fantasy pick after the elite four running backs were off the board. With that in mind, it’s unlikely he’ll be benched in many leagues Week 1. There are better matchups out there, but Lacy is a tough player to sit. Given Green Bay’s offensive capabilities, he’s still a decent start even against the best Fantasy defenses. 


Aaron Rodgers taking on a tough task Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has his work cut out for him Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Rodgers entered the season as one of the top Fantasy options at quarterback, but will take on the best defense in the league. Last season, Seattle held Fantasy quarterbacks to just 10.89 points per game. That was the lowest rate in the league. The Seahawks DST ranked tops in the league in limiting points and yards last year. On top of that, the team forced the most turnovers.

While Seattle lost three members of the defensive line during the offseason, the club is still expected to have one of NFL’s best defenses. If Seattle struggles to get to Rodgers, that could open things up for the Packers offense.

Given the cost to acquire Rodgers, in a snake or auction draft, he’s probably going to start for most Fantasy teams despite his tough Week 1 matchup. While there are better quarterback options for this week, Rodgers still has a strong potential for dominance. He’s healthy and still has a bevy of weapons at his disposal. It might not be Rodgers best game of the season, but he’s shown that he can put up numbers against even the best defensive clubs.


Percy Harvin looking to start the year on the right foot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin is looking at a strong matchup Week 1 against the Packers.

A quiet preseason was a good preseason for Harvin. After missing nearly all of last season due to a hip injury, Harvin was able to play in all but the final game of the preseason. He missed the fourth game due to a personal issue, and not because of an injury. Harvin caught seven balls for 92 yards in August.

The Packers didn’t boast a strong pass defense last season. The team allowed opposing wide receivers to average 22.94 Fantasy points per game. That wasn’t one of the worst rates in the league, but it was below-average. The team attempted to address this during the offseason, taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. Despite that, there’s no guarantee the team will perform better in the defensive backfield.

Despite the fact that Harvin is a five-year veteran, there are questions about how he’ll be used with the Seahawks. While Harvin was able to play during the club’s playoff run, it was unclear whether he was actually fully healthy last year. Harvin has shown the ability to be a game-changing wide receiver, so it’s assumed the Seahawks will find ways to get arguably their best playmaker the ball. The club has been been incredibly run-heavy over the past few seasons, but a healthy Harvin could make them more balanced. 


Marshawn Lynch ready to roll Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is looking to get off to a good start Week 1 against the Packers.

Lynch had an abbreviated preseason, carrying the ball just three times for 16 yards. That’s probably not a bad thing considering his high workload over the past couple years. Lynch also had a brief holdout during the offseason, but reported to camp in shape, and should be ready to roll.

The Packers weren’t particularly strong against the run last season, giving up 19.18 Fantasy points per week to running backs. That was the eighth worst figure in the league. While the team tried to shore up things defensively during the offseason, the loss of B.J. Raji should make it easier for teams to gash the Packers up the middle. 

With that in mind, Lynch should be a strong start. The Seahawks modus operandi the past couple years has been the run game, and that probably won’t change now. There are concerns about Lynch’s workload and lack of preseason reps, but his pedigree and matchup make this a strong start Week 1. 


 
 
 
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