New York Giants NFL football player Saquon Barkley talks to the media after practice in East Rutherford, N.J., Monday, Aug. 12, 2019.
New York Giants NFL football player Saquon Barkley talks to the media after practice in East Rutherford, N.J., Monday, Aug. 12, 2019.|Tom Canavan | Associated Press

Fantasy Life NFL Preview: 2019 New York Giants – Stud Saquon Barkley should be your #1 or #2 pick

Life without OBJ begins

Gladys Louise Tyler

It has to be difficult to start the season with little optimism, but that is just where the New York Giants appear to be headed. After finishing last in the NFC East for the second year in a row, with no significant additions, key subtractions and whole lot of…huh? from the general manager, optimism isn’t flowing in giant proportions.

Off-Season Changes

One of the main reasons for the lack of confidence could stem from the trading of wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., to the Cleveland Browns for a first round pick, which turned out to be defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence; third round pick, who is defensive end Oshane Ximines and safety Jabril Peppers, who finished last season with 79 total tackles, one sack and one interception.

They did acquire the talents of quarterback Daniel Jones, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. General manager Dave Gettleman has stated that he fell in love with Jones at the Senior Bowl, “After the three series I watched, I saw a professional quarterback.” Let that sink in for a second. Gettleman drafted Jones as the Giants sixth overall pick, after watching him for THREE SERIES in the Senior Bowl.

Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, who watched for considerably more than three series, had this to say about Jones after the Senior Bowl, “ Jones’ arm strength looked less than impressive once exposed to poor weather. His accuracy was notably off, especially on back-to-back interceptions that were just misses during Tuesday’s practice….Jones had some QB1 hype at times this season, but he left Mobile as the second best quarterback in attendance behind Lock.”

Now this would probably be just another oops, in a spectacular two year run of Giant oops, had it not been for the other Giant off-season move — the loss of Beckham. Last season Beckham accounted for 124 targets. He was on the field for 69.72 percent of the offensive snaps. He was only out snapped by Sterling Shepard with 90.94 percent and Saquon Barkley with 82.96 percent. The next closest to Beckham was wide receiver Bennie Fowler with 35.93 percent.

To fill the void, the Giants acquired wide receiver Golden Tate from the Philadelphia Eagles by way of Detroit Lions. In 2018 Tate was targeted 113 times for 74 receptions, four touchdowns and 795 yards. Tate’s most productive season was in 2014, when he had 1,331 yards, four touchdowns on 144 targets and 99 receptions. That’s five years ago, and that isn’t the worse of it. Currently Tate is under a four game suspension for performance enhancing drugs (a fertility drug he says), insert your own performance joke here.

And that is on the offensive side of the ball. On the defensive side they lost defensive end Olivier Vernon to the Browns. Vernon led the team in sacks last year with seven. Safety Landon Collins who did finish the 2018 season on injured reserve, after collecting 96 total tackles, is gone, just to name a couple.

While sixth round pick Corey Ballentine and second rounder Deandre Baker are getting lots of praise in training camp there is zero NFL game experience between the two. It would be a super duper stretch to say that the Giants won the off-season.

Fantasy Prospects

Saquon Barkley is a stud. If he isn’t the first or second player off your draft board … what game are you playing? Last season Barkley rushed 261 times and had 91 receptions, for a total of 15 touchdowns. In his final eight games (after everyone realized he was a stud) he averaged 18.8 carries with 5.3 average yards per rush. He was on the field for 82.96 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.

Without Beckham there is really no viable wide receiver threat, and chances are Barkley will see a stacked box…on just about every play. No problem. According to Next Gen Stats, in 2018 with eight plus defenders, Barkley’s rushing efficiency was 22.99, and in Week 14 when facing eight plus defenders he rushed for 141 yards and one touchdown. This was the most rushing yards when facing eight defenders since Next Gen Stats began tracking the stat in 2016. It will also be helpful that the Giants have the sixth easiest schedule according

Then there is Evan Engram, tight end. From all reports coming out of Giants’ training camp, there are a lot of passes being thrown to the tight ends, especially Engram. Last season in 11 games, Engram had 64 targets for 45 receptions and three touchdowns. He has stated to anyone willing to listen that he wants to play 16 games this season. In what looks to be a shallow fantasy tight end pool, Engram is worth a middle round flyer.

There are other offensive players who will get drafted — quarterback Eli Manning, wide receiver Sterling Shepherd, maybe n Tate and desperately tight end Rhett Ellison and late…late rounds Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer. Maybe.

There is a chance that the defense will be spending a lot of time of the field. Bad for them, good for your fantasy prospects. Prospects you should be able to get off the waiver wire in the first two weeks. If things are looking as expected.

Season Prediction

The Giants have landed in the bottom of their division two years running. For their reward they have the sixth easiest schedule in the NFL and the second easiest schedule in the NFC East. So that should equate to a better record than 5–11 right?

It should be, even with the loss of Beckham and Vernon. There is hope that Manning’s arm is resurrected. There is belief that Barkley may be all they need. There is a faint hope that Jones is worthy of first round pick. And maybe Tate can get his suspension dropped. The problem is at least three of the four have to be valid for the Giants to get off this downward spiral.

On the surface it feels as if the Giants go two steps forward (acquisition of Barkley) and four steps back ( first round acquisition of Jones) or even holding on to Manning way past his ability to help the team. So what should Giant fans expect from this season? If they go 8–8 consider it a godsend.

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