victor-cruz-camp2

So, which Victor Cruz will we get this year? And which Eli Manning will we get this year? And which Hakeem Nicks will we get this year? *shrugs shoulders, prays to gods above*

The Housekeeping

Notable Additions: Re-signed Will Beatty and Victor Cruz, and added Ryan Torain for running back depth. But the most important addition was new starting tight end Brandon Myers.

Notable Draft Picks: Justin Pugh

The Marquee Men (the elitest of the elite)

Victor Cruz (ADP: 32.1): There were only 13 pass catchers in the NFL last year targeted 140 or more times, and Cruz was one of them. Opportunity is crucial for any receiver, but especially one of Cruz’s vintage who runs a whole lot of straight, vertical lines before meeting a football at the end. In theory, that means chuck yardage will come in abundance after Cruz had five double-digit target games last year, highlighted by 17 targets in Week 2. In theory.

In practice, we know that Cruz has explosive speed, but there’s some question about his hands, and exactly which Cruz we’re getting. Drops are an unofficial stat, but unofficially Cruz had 11 of them last year (three of which came in one game). So unofficially, only Jimmy Graham (14) had more. Of course, reading too deeply into drops is a dangerous game, as some simple logic tells us that if a receiver is targeted in abundance as Cruz is, he therefore has more opportunities to drop a ball. We’ve seen that with Brandon Marshall and Roddy White over the years, who are both routinely among the leaders in targets and drops.

But still, those drops give us a slight dose of discouragement, as Cruz’s already fine numbers (86 catches for 1,092 yards last year and 10 touchdowns) could be even better. Therefore, we can partly blame drops for Cruz’s decline of 444 receiving yards between his rookie and sophomore years. Combine that with Eli Manning’s alleged dead arm period which didn’t really do wonders for a deep ball receiver, and we see why Cruz lived the definition of wide receiver volatility in 2012, with five +100-yard games, and five with less than 40. Hakeem Nicks’ lack of health (he missed four games) didn’t help matters either, with the focus shifted squarely to coverage deep on Cruz in those games.

So which Cruz will we get this year? With a healthy Cruz, Rueben Randle emerging, and a solid running back tandem to provide run support, likely the great one, and not “just” the really good one. Either way, at his current ADP Cruz is residing around the low end of the top tier of receivers, and quite possibly available to you in the third round after you’ve secured two running backs.

David Wilson (ADP: 36.3): Wilson doesn’t fit the true definition of this heading in the sense that he’s not “marquee” and most likely won’t be. However, he’s marquee enough to be a fine RB2, which makes him a hotly pursued commodity at a position where scarcity is the devil.

The Giants will take a committee approach this year between Wilson and Andre Brown, with the former most likely taking the lead role. The problem here is the same one we struggle with as we attempt to assess every committee situation, and ultimately fail: just how much of an advantage will Wilson have?

Well, history is usually a fine educator, and it tells us that it won’t be ginormous, but it’ll be sizable enough to give Wilson fine value and weekly promise. During Tom Coughlin’s 17-year career as a head coach first in Jacksonville and now in New York, his team’s top two rushers have been separated by fewer than 100 carries nine times, which is the most among active head coaches.

Let that serve as your cautionary tale. Wilson should be on the favorable end of this little quagmire, though he’ll be yanked on passing downs until some trust in his pass-blocking abilities develops. But at the end of the year, the advantage he’ll have in carries may not be substantial. Quite proverbially, this will be the ol’ thunder and lightening back and forth, something Giants fans are familiar with. Wilson will provide the flash, while Brown grounds and pounds. The former gets the yardage, while the latter steals the touchdown glory, etc., etc.

The Middle Men (middle-to-late round options)

Hakeem Nicks (ADP: 51.3): You’re rightfully scared of Nicks, because we’re still waiting on the first time he plays a full season, a wait which could go to infinity and beyond. What’s concerning is that his recent injuries are the kind which meet our appropriate justification for the injury prone tag. They’ve either been tied to a muscle (like the groin injury that’s kept him out for much of the offseason, and the Giants’ preseason opener), or of the reoccurring variety (his knee injury that’s lingered since 2010).

He’s shown an ability to play through those various bruises and such, with two +1,000-yard seasons in just his four years as a professional ball catcher. Highlighting those years is coming just eight yards short of 1,200 in 2011, and scoring 11 times in 2010. But last year, the breaking finally broke him, and the result now is hesitancy to pay a significant fourth-round or early fifth-round price.

Because of both his absence and his ineffectiveness even when he was playing, Nicks’ yards per game fell by 26.3 last year. But another difficulty we encounter is that if it’s a wide receiver you seek, there’s no avoiding injury risk in Nicks’ general area of drafts, with Pierre Garcon, Danny Amendola, and Jordy Nelson also coming off the board around there. Eventually, if you’re picking from that crowd, you’re simply left with personal preference.

Me? Given me Garcon, since a healthy Garcon is best buddies with Robert Griffin III, and he runs a long way after the catch on crossing routes.

Eli Manning (ADP: 102.8): Little brother Eli had a perplexing 2012 season, and in fantasy statistical language that’s vividly reflected in even a cursory glance.

Why, just look at his yardage. Overall it dropped by nearly 1,000 after he came just short of the 5,000-yard club in 2011 (he threw for 3,948 yards in 2012). We all understand that in reality, at best passing yardage is a skewed and poor metric to use when judging the quality of a quarterback. But for me, Manning’s 2012 season is the rare exception to that rule, since his drop in passing length was so staggering. His yards per attempt fell by a full yard (from 8.4 to 7.4), and his individual game yardage was…odd. He had one vicious outlier with 510 yards in Week 2 when all was well and he wasn’t maybe dealing with a limp arm, and then five games with less than 200 yards, a mark he didn’t fall below once in 2011.

Yes, it’s all very confusing, and sort of maybe good. See, if the super wicked Eli returns (a possibility which will be helped by another if…if Nicks can stay healthy) you’re getting a mighty fine draft discount. Then again, this is more likely another case where history is a jerk. To the surprise of no one, Manning’s 2011 season is a mystifying outlier over the last four years. If we exclude it, he’s averaged 3990.3 yards per year since 2009.

Andre Brown (ADP: 80.7): I’ve already outlined much of the fantasy outlook of the Giants backfield in my David Wilson rant/beamoning above. With Brown, though, know that by drafting him you’re purchasing the flex value of a touchdown vulture at a much lesser price. He was given just 73 carries last year, yet he scored eight times. For some fun perspective, Frank Gore also scored eight rushing touchdowns…on 258 carries.

The Menial Peons (sleepers, flex plays, and matchup plays)

Brandon Myers (ADP: 118.8): I know it’s tempting to get really jacked about Myers after his breakout season a year ago with the Raiders when his receiving yardage climbed by 654. And indeed, he just might be a fine dude to ride among the many late-round tight end options.

But please remember that was an Oakland offense buried in nothingness, leaving Carson Palmer little choice but to take his Myers lemons are craft delicious lemonade. The Giants, meanwhile, often wasted Martellus Bennett, their now former TE who had four games with 15 or fewer yards. With Bennett then and likely Myers now, there will be too many hands between Cruz, Nicks, and Reuben Randle, and not nearly enough targets to spread around and secure the desired fantasy outcome.

Rueben Randle (ADP: 130.0): We’ve already reviewed Nicks’ habitual ripping, making this a rare instance where if you’re willing to close your eyes and take the Nicks plunge, handcuffing essentially his backup (for fantasy purposes, at least) is wise, especially at Randle’s minimal price. If Nicks goes down again, Randle could blowup quickly.

The Mop-Up Men (deeeep sleepers and handcuffs)

Louis Murphy (ADP: undrafted): There’s no running back handcuff here, since there won’t be a true backup with the time share, and Brown is being drafted far too high to be considered a handcuff. So if you really, desperately need to scratch that deep sleeper itch on this roster, or if you’re in a league that will subtract substantially from your brain cell count because it’s so deep (like my 20 teamer), then go with the guy who logged a 609-yard season in 2010 despite starting only nine games. That’s…something.