The Giants had a disappointing 2018 season on both sides of the football. The offense struggled early in the season due to poor offensive line play combined with degrading play from aging QB Eli Manning. The defense struggled to generate a pass rush, ranking second worst in sacks. Both the offense and defense finished worse than average by both yards and points allowed, with the defense ranking worse.
However, the offense showed signs of life in the second half of the season as the offensive line began to gel. The Giants averaged just over 27 points per team game over their final eight games, better than the 2018 league average of 23 points scored per team game. Four of those games were without star WR Odell Beckham Jr., when the Giants averaged 25.5 points per game over those four games, a better than average offensive scoring output. The Giants scored 35 or more points in two of their four games without Beckham. New York also averaged 374 yards per game over those four games without Beckham, better than the 2018 league average of 352 yards per team game.
Key Departures:Odell Beckham Jr., WR; Landon Collins, S; Olivier Vernon, DE/LB; Curtis Riley, S
Key Acquisitions:Golden Tate, WR; Jabrill Peppers, S; Daniel Jones, QB; Dexter Lawrence, DT; Deandre Baker, CB; Kevin Zeitler, OL; Markus Golden, LB; Antoine Bethea, S
The Giants’ performance in their final four games without Beckham is noteworthy given that Beckham was shipped to Cleveland for a package of picks and safety Jabrill Peppers in March. Beckham is one of the most explosive receivers in the league, and his loss is significant for New York’s offense, which will now be more reliant on other players, including TE Evan Engram, WR Sterling Shepard, and potentially more work for the focal point of the offense, RB Saquon Barkley.
Tate, who primarily works out of the slot, is expected to push Shepard to the outside. Tate had a disappointing second half of 2018 after being traded from the Lions to the Eagles, seeing declines in snap rate and targets. Tate is a bounce-back candidate in 2019 with a more secure role with the Giants.
Daniel Jones was selected sixth overall and while he is not expected to start right away at QB, he is a candidate to push for playing time as the season progresses.
2019 Fantasy MVP
Saquon Barkley, RBBarkley, who was described as a generational talent at running back prior to being selected by the Giants at second overall in the 2018 draft, had an outstanding rookie season. He led the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,028 and ranked second in touches with 352. Two-Hundred and sixty-one of those touches came from rushing attempts, the second most rushing attempts in the league. Barkley racked up 1,307 rushing yards, second most, and scored 11 rushing TDs, fifth most.
The Giants were criticized for placing so much emphasis on a RB in a league designed to make defenses pay through the air. However, Barkley is one of the best receiving threats at RB, and his ability to catch the ball and make plays in space gives him a second dimension to his game aside from his excellent rushing skills. Barkley ranked third in targets among RBs with 121, second in receptions among RBs with 91, fourth in receiving yards with 721, and eighth in receiving TDs with four.
With Beckham out of the picture and the Giants’ offensive line improving, Barkley is a candidate to expand on his eye-popping rookie season with even more fantasy value in 2019.
2019 Fantasy LVP
Eli Manning, QBManning’s stats looked fine on paper in 2018, ranking ninth in passing yards with 4,299 while posting a 92.4 QB rating, only slightly below the 2018 league average of 92.9. However, Manning clearly does not have the same playmaking ability and pocket presence that he had during his prime. Years of poor offensive line play have appeared to broken Manning’s internal clock, and he often bailed on letting plays develop downfield to throw high-percentage check downs that inflated his stats but didn’t help the team score points. Manning’s mobility is also a huge issue, and he cannot overcome poor offensive line play like some other more mobile QBs can. Manning took 47 sacks, sixth most, and while a large part of that was due to the offensive line, some of it was on Manning’s poor mobility.
The Giants saw the writing on the wall with Manning and took Jones with the sixth overall pick. While Jones’ selection was criticized by some as a reach, Jones has looked impressive in practice with the Giants and could push for playing time at some point, especially if the Giants are out of the playoff picture. Jones looming in the background makes Manning’s job security shaky and gives Manning less margin for error than previous seasons.
2019 Breakout Player
Evan Engram, TEEngram is an athletic pass-catching tight end who has raw skills and stands to benefit from increased volume due to Beckham’s departure. Engram averaged about eight targets and 80 receiving yards per game over his final four games with Beckham sidelined, numbers that would put him towards the top of the position over the course of a 16-game season.
Engram led the league in average yards of separation from defenders at the time of the catch or incompletion, per the league’s player tracking system. He was also one of the league’s best at outperforming his expected yards after the catch in 2018, per the league’s player tracking system, which takes into account defender distance and blockers.
Final ThoughtsWhile the loss of Beckham is huge, the Giants’ offense could offset some of his loss with better offensive line play. The Giants’ line gave up 16 sacks over their final eight games, an improvement from 31 sacks over their first eight, as the line appeared to begin to get more comfortable playing together. Better offensive line play would help boost the fantasy value of the skill players on the Giants’ offense.
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