2021 Giants Offseason Preview
My objective with the Offseason Sneak peek series is to get captured up with each group’s 53-man lineup, offending and protective plans, group requirements, and offseason capital within a 10-minute read. The essentials will be at the top — cap area, draft choices, cut prospects, noteworthy departures — and the movie and analytics takes will be at the bottom. I intend to compose these in a manner that they’re referenceable throughout not simply complimentary firm and the NFL Draft, however likewise the 2021 season as we check out weekly matches. The offseason is the time for me to get beyond our dream football bubble and discover more about what’s going on at the other positions. You can check out the rest of my 2021 Offseason Sneak Peeks here and can follow me on Twitter (@HaydenWinks).
Giants 2020 Wrap-up
The Giants’ 2020 season began with veteran LT Nate Solder pulling out, and after that Saquon Barkley tore his ACL 67 snaps into the season. Daniel Jones (14 video games played), Sterling Shepard (12), and Golden Tate (12) likewise missed out on time, too. 2020 No. 4 total choice Andrew Thomas underperformed early in the season however did start turning things around late. It was simply far too late. The Giants eventually completed 31st in overall points and 30th in overall plays, probably making New york city the worst dream offense. On the other hand, the Giants’ defense overachieved, ending up 18th in passing EPA and 14th in hurrying EPA regardless of doubtful skill at edge rush and behind CB James Bradberry. Year two of the Joe Judge era hopefully entails better injury luck and a junior season leap from Jones. The defense will compete either way under DC Patrick Graham.
Giants 2021 Offseason
Giants Cap Space
$1.1 million (19th)
Giants Draft Picks
1.11, 2.42, 3.76, 4th, 6th, 6th, plus compensatory picks
Giants Cut Candidates
RG Kevin Zeitler ($12M cap savings), OT Nate Solder ($6.0M), Slot WR Golden Tate ($6.1M), LB David Mayo ($2.3M), TE Levine Toilolo ($3.0M), WR Cody Core ($2.0M)
Giants Depth Chart
Offensive Coordinator: In his first season calling plays since 2012, OC Jason Garrett led an offense that finished 31st in points, 31st in red zone trips ending in a touchdown, 30th in passing EPA, 30th in plays, and 27th in adjusted sack rate. Clap it up. As noted, the Giants’ offensive line was a problem, but the offense lacked creativity even when Daniel Jones was at full health. They attempted 15-plus air yard passes at the sixth-lowest rate (18%), used two tight ends at the third highest rate of pass plays on 1st down in the first half, and finished 27th in YPA on play action passes. It was a broken passing offense, and the run game lacked explosion following Saquon Barkley’s Week 2 torn ACL. The consensus around Garrett’s hiring was negative, and there was nothing about the 2020 offense to change the narrative.
Passing Offense: Daniel Jones was 30th in passing EPA per dropback and 30th in completion percentage over expected (-2.2) among 33 qualifying quarterbacks last season. Accuracy, decision making, and awareness in the pocket (4th in sacks) remain concerns, but it’s fair to say he was dealt a bad hand in 2020. OC Jason Garrett kept feeding him plays with just two route runners or plays where every player ran a five-yard curl. That led to the sixth-lowest rate of 15-plus air yard pass attempts and an unwatchable passing offense. Slot man Golden Tate will likely be cut ($6.1M in cap savings), but Sterling Shepard, deep threat Darius Slayton, Evan Engram, and Saquon Barkley will be out there in 2021. That’s a decent skill group to work with. If Jones doesn’t improve in year three, it could be his last locked-in season as a starter.
Running Offense: Veteran OT Nate Solder, 33, opted out of the 2020 season, forcing RT Cameron Fleming and 2020 first-round LT Andrew Thomas into the starting lineup. It’s unknown if Solder ($6.0M cap savings if cut) will return and Fleming is a free agent, so it’s possible that 2020 third-round RT Matt Peart starts. Inside, the Giants have 2018 UDFA C Nick Gates, 2018 second-round LG Will Hernandez, and 31-year-old RG Kevin Zeitler ($12M cap savings if cut). All three max out as average players, making this a bottom-10 offensive line heading into the offseason. Saquon Barkley should nearly be at 100% by Week 1 after tearing his ACL in Week 2 last season. Another bellcow workload is on the table with Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis, Devonta Freeman, and Alfred Morris all headed for free agency. Barkley will be big-play reliant on the ground behind this offensive line, but his receiving and goal-line roles should keep him in the top-five conversation for fantasy.
Defensive Coordinator: Under DC Patrick Graham, the Giants used Cover 3 zone defense at the second highest rate (37%) and did it with success, ending up ninth in scoring. It was a very “bend don’t break” approach, blitzing at the sixth-lowest rate and essentially only playing man defense with two safeties over the top. Graham got rebound seasons out of CB James Bradberry and DT Leonard Williams, and the rest of the unit fell into place nicely alongside them. There are a lot of potential departures — DT Williams, EDGE Kyler Fackrell, DT Dalvin Tomlinson — however, so this defense will be worth tracking this offseason.
Passing Defense: The defense is extremely zone heavy, only playing Cover 1 man (15.2%) and Cover 2 man (13.5%) in rare situations. They mixed between single-high and two-high nicely, although their base coverage is Cover 3. Physical and instinctive CB1 James Bradberry is an ideal fit for it, but the Giants are still looking for long-term starters at CB2 and in the slot. 2018 third-rounder Isaac Yiadom has been picked on each season (that’s why he was traded out of Denver last season and benched in Week 17), and 2020 fourth-round slot CB Darnay Holmes struggled as a rookie on limited snaps (and he’s a UCLA Bruin). It’s possible that 2019 fourth-rounder Julian Love and 2020 second-rounder play more corner than safety this year with both FS Logan Ryan and SS Jabrill Peppers under contract for 2021. The secondary is a strength all around. Up front, the Giants are set to lose EDGE Kyler Fackrell (4.0 sacks in 12 games) and don’t have a one-for-one replacement on the current roster. The Giants’ No. 17 adjusted sack rate defense could slide down a few spots in 2021. It’s a weakness, majorly so if free agent DT Leonard Williams (11.5 sacks) isn’t retained. He’s very likely to re-sign.
Running Defense: Between the single-high base defense and meaty DTs Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson, opposing offenses knew they were going to struggle running the ball against the 2020 Giants, who had the third-highest neutral pass rate allowed (meaning teams choose to pass against them in neutral situations). Assuming Williams is paid handsomely, the Giants may have to let high-end DT Tomlinson walk in free agency. Williams, Lawrence, and 2018 third-rounder B.J. Hill are more than good enough to fill the projected Tomlinson gap. Overall, the defensive interior should be a strength, as is LB Blake Martinez who is in year two of a three-year contract. Martinez absolutely needs a better running mate, however. 2020 seventh-round LB Tae Crowder had 10 missed tackles to only 40 tackles per PFF. Another top-15 hurrying EPA defense season is relatively likely assuming Williams is re-signed and the Giants can plug up that second linebacker spot.
Giants Team Needs
1. Edge Rusher(s) – The Giants are in need of a pure pass rush off the edge with OLB Kyler Fackrell (4.5 sacks) heading towards free agency. The current list of edge rushers — 2018 third-rounder Lorenzo Carter (IR, Achilles), 2019 third-rounder Oshane Ximines (IR, shoulder), and 2020 seventh-rounder Carter Coughlin — are all unproven question marks with injury concerns.
2. Defensive Tackle – This likely is as simple as re-signing Leonard Williams (11.5). It’s a near lock after the Giants traded for him 2 seasons ago. Williams offers plenty of pass rushing ability, something the Giants are lacking currently. 2017 second-round NT Dalvin Tomlinson may have to walk due to cap constraints. 2018 third-rounder B.J. Hill has shown enough to fill in Tomlinson’s plus run-stuffing abilities.
3. Receiver – After the iffy production, suspension, and feuds with the coaching staff in 2020, Golden Tate is firmly in the cut candidate mix ($6.1M in cap cost savings). With Tate likely out, the Giants can be flexible with a three-receiver set replacement because Sterling Shepard can play outside or in the slot. An alpha No. 1 receiver would be a luxury with some of the other passing-game weapons, but it may just be what the doctor ordered for Daniel Jones.
4. Linebacker – Blake Martinez is under contract for two more seasons, but the second linebacker spot is firmly up for grabs. 2020 seventh-rounder Tae Crowder, cut candidate David Mayo, and free agent Devante Downs were all liabilities last season.
5. Tight End – The Giants shouldn’t use as many two-tight ends as they use on very first downs — seriously, nobody loves only sending two route runners on 1st and 10 more than OC Jason Garrett — but it’s clearly something that’s in the playbook and Levine Toilolo is a cut candidate ($3.0M in cap savings). Evan Engram, who is in the final year of his contract, has also been floated in trade talks and may not be in the long-term future of the new coaching staff. 2019 sixth-rounder Kaden Smith is a nice No. 2 tight end.
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2021 Fantasy Football Rankings
Consider these my way-too-early 2021 fantasy football ranking ranges ahead of free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft, and here’s where each player ranked in PPR points, expected PPR points, and PPR points over expected last year.
Saquon Barkley (RB1) – As long as his torn ACL progresses as expected, Barkley should be near 100% in Week 1 and should see top-five usage right away. Jason Garrett and Daniel Jones are ceiling barriers, but Barkley’s goal-line plus pass-game role makes him a high-floor, high-ceiling RB1. Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis, Devonta Freeman, and Alfred Blue are all free agents.
Sterling Shepard (WR5) – Golden Tate ($6.1M in cap savings) is on the hot seat after a bad 2020 season, so Shepard could be heading into the slot in 2021 and beyond. The Giants could find an upgrade at No. 1 receiver, but Shepard’s floor is relatively high as a reliable 28-year-old over-the-middle target. He was the WR38 per game in PPR leagues last season.
Evan Engram (TE1/2) – The Giants could shop Engram this offseason, but if he stays, he’ll be on the TE1/2 border as he was last year when he completed as the TE16 per game on TE5 overall fantasy usage. Among 43 tight ends, Engram ranked 42nd in PPR points over expected, meaning he was one of the least efficient tight ends in the entire league. A change of scenery could unlock Engram’s athletic ceiling. I’m not sure five-yard curl lover Jason Garrett will.
Darius Slayton (WR6) – The most obvious negative regression candidate heading into 2020, Slayton busted, finishing as the WR59 per game on WR51 fantasy usage. Slayton has plenty of burst as a deep threat but doesn’t profile as a high-volume player. His ceiling will be tied to largely unpredictable big plays and touchdowns. “I like him more in best ball” applies.
Daniel Jones (QB3) – His 12.9 fantasy points per game ranked 30th among qualifying quarterbacks last season. It’s hard to buy into Jason Garrett’s plans, and the red flags on Jones’ pre-draft profile haven’t been silenced in two seasons as the starter. Better offending line and receiver play (and more zone-read runs) are necessary before Jones reappears as a ceiling-play QB2 in dream.
Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.