Andre Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images
by Brendan Cassidy and Eric J. for BigBlueInteractive.com
While the wide receiver and quarterback positions were bright spots for the Giants in 2014, the same couldn’t be said for the running back position, and to some extent, tight ends. Going into the 2015 NFL Draft, these are both prime positions to be considered in rounds two through four (there most likely isn’t a player at either position deserving of the 9th overall selection.) Some players who we like that Big Blue could potentially take include: TE Max Williams out of Minnesota, TE Clive Walford and RB Duke Johnson from the University of Miami, and Todd Gurley out of Georgia. All of these players would have an opportunity to make an immediate impact and dethrone the current starters.
The biggest crutch for the running game seemed to be the offensive line. While both Jennings and Williams are talented, it proved difficult to find holes to run through. If the offensive line is improved via the draft and/or free agency, we can expect their production to go up next season. As mentioned earlier, don’t be surprised if a rookie back gets added to the mix for the upcoming season. The tight end position flashed during the season, but failed to have the consistency needed throughout the season. Regardless, here is a very early look at how the positions will stack up in 2015.
Running back for the most part was a two-man show, with newly signed free agent running back Rashad Jennings and rookie Andre Williams. Jennings was coming off a career year with the Raiders where he ran for 733 yards, good for a respectable 4.5 YPC. The Giants liked what they saw and signed him to a 4-year, $10 million dollar contract. Andre Williams was a 4th-round pick of the Giants out of Boston College, fresh off a Heisman Trophy-nominated season. Williams lead college running backs with 2,177 rushing yards during the 2013 college season; however his lack of quickness, shortcomings in the receiving game, and trouble blocking caused him to slip in the draft.
Rashad Jennings – © USA TODAY Sports Images
Trying to determine which Giant’s RB to draft for your fantasy lineup at this point is very difficult. When both are healthy, it seems that Jennings would get more touches. If you are in a PPR league, Jennings has more value as Williams is known for his lack of prowess in the passing game. However, Williams has seen quite a bit of action at the goal line and the Giants may begin to shift some of the goal line work over to him. This may be contingent on whether or not he shows he is capable of picking up the blocking assignments. If you throw in the uncertainty of how the offensive line will shape up, the running game is very muddled for 2015.
It was clear the Giants struggled to run the ball as they finished 23rd in the league, with an average of 100.2 yards per game while finishing 10th in rushing attempts. Connect the dots and you have a very low yard-per-attempt average. Only the Chargers and the Cardinals had a lower average. Here is the bright spot: the Giants finished 12th in rushing TD’s, and that means fantasy points. Furthermore, another positive for the Giants RBs is that Coughlin likes to run the ball, and insists on having balance on offense. So, how do we rank the Giants RB’s for fantasy in the upcoming season? First, we must recognize that this is a split backfield, so they need to be ranked behind the twelve or so three-down backs in the NFL. If the Giants improve their offensive line, there is no reason why they cannot finish around 14th in team rushing with Rashad Jennings edging out Andre Williams in fantasy production.
Rashad Jennings Projections:
- 900 Yards, 8 Touchdowns
- 40 Receptions, 300 Yards
- Fantasy Football RB Rank: 15th Overall
Analysis: Jennings appeared to be more effective than Williams when healthy. It looks to be his job to lose. He ran with power and vision and was trusted to protect Eli. Therefore, he should edge out Williams this year in terms of production. When healthy, Jennings proved to be a stellar fantasy running back. In the nine games he played (not counting the Tennessee and Washington games where he totaled three carries and was a decoy), he averaged 15.5 points per game in PPR format. That was good for 9th best in the NFL ahead of some of the elite running backs. As noted earlier, the biggest issue for him will be his health. If healthy, he is a solid RB2 with upside. He should be owned in all formats.
Andre Williams Projections:
- 750 Yards, 8 Touchdowns
- 15 Receptions, 100 Yards
- Fantasy Football RB Rank: 21st Overall
Analysis: For a rookie, Andre did well in filling in as the starter for Jennings. He will continue to mature and learn the position and his blocking assignments. The Giants will begin to trust him more as his second season progresses. He is a solid runner who will be a reliable player for the next few years. He needs to use this season to develop his pass catching abilities and field vision. He can be looked at as a low end RB2 or flex option in 12 team leagues. If Jennings fails to stay healthy, look for William’s value to get a major boost. He should be owned in most if not all formats, but look to grab him in the later rounds.
Larry Donnell – © USA TODAY Sports Images
Going into the 2014 season, the majority of fans were worried about the tight end position. Many on BBI expected the Giants to address the position through the draft with a premium pick. There was a strong backing for Eric Ebron out of North Carolina who went 10th overall to the Lions, two picks earlier than Odell Beckham. Going into the season the Giants entered with a bunch of “unknowns” at the position: Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, and “The JPP of tight ends” Adrien Robinson. While Fells excelled at run blocking, Donnell did the majority of the damage in the receiving game.
Donnell burst onto the scene week 4 against the Washington Redskins, catching 7 passes for 54 yards and 3 touchdowns, all career highs. While many had high hopes for him following this performance, he would struggle for the majority of the season going forward. He finished the season with 63 catches for 623 yards and 6 touchdowns. This was good for the 12th most points among tight ends in PPR leagues with 157.3 points. While this was solid fantasy production for Donnell, from a football standpoint he was plagued by poorly timed drops and fumbles. It appeared that Eli and the coaching staff began to lose confidence in him as the season went on. The last six weeks of the season Donnell was held out of the end zone, while averaging a measly 31 yards per game. From a fantasy football perspective, Donnell was the more valuable tight end; however, one could argue Fells was the more effective tight end for the Giants in 2014.
Larry Donnell Projections:
- 61 Catches, 560 Yards, 4 Touchdowns
- Fantasy Football TE Rank: 15th Overall
Analysis: We believe the coaching staff will give Fells more of an active role in the offense, leading to a slight drop in Donnell’s production for 2015. If you take away his three-touchdown game against the Redskins, he only had three touchdowns the rest of the season. His production could drop even more if the Giants do decide to invest a premium pick at the position in April. He will most likely be looked at as a high-end back up or bye-week filler in twelve-team leagues.
Daniel Fells – © USA TODAY Sports Images
Daniel Fells Projections:
- 26 Catches, 282 Yards, 3 Touchdowns
- Fantasy Football TE Rank: 45th Overall
Analysis: From a fantasy football perspective, it is hard to expect much from Fells. As mentioned earlier, his bread and butter is blocking, that’s what earns him a spot on the roster. We do, however, expect his numbers to go up slightly from this past season (16 catches, 188 yards, 4 TDs), as he earns more playing time at the expense of Donnell. Nonetheless, aside from a Donnell injury, he has little to no fantasy value.
These positions will be looking to rebound in the second year of Ben McAdoo’s offense. If the offensive line is improved, the running game will surely benefit. If Donnell can increase his football IQ, he has a shot at being a TE1 going into the season. We can only hope they will continue to grow as players and increase their value for the Giants and fantasy owners alike.
Brendan Cassidy has over 15 years of experience in fantasy football in both league and daily fantasy formats and is an avid New York Giants fan.
Eric J. was born into a Giants family and is a lifelong season ticket holder. He has dominated his fantasy leagues for the past 14 years.