The G-Men had question marks at WR and turned out three that had solid seasons. The running game took a step back. I see the running game bouncing back at the expense of the air attack.

Fantasy Playoffs Schedule:  Difficult
First they have to travel to Minnesota in Week 14. They return home to face the Eagles. Then they travel to Green Bay in the fantasy championship.

Five Star Fantasy Options

Four Star Fantasy Options
Eli Manning – Manning had an impressive season throwing for 4021 yards, 27 TDs, 14 INTs, a 62.3 completion percentage, and 93.1 passer rating. All of those numbers, except for the INTs, were career bests. He is a decent starting fantasy QB, but as I said, I expect the Giants to utilize the rushing attack more.

Steve Smith – Smith came out of nowhere to deliver for the G-Men in a big way. He had 107 catches for 1220 yards and 7 TDs. I expect a step back from Smith, but he still should be a solid WR2.

Three Star Fantasy Options
Brandon Jacobs – His 835 yards and 5 TDs were a far cry from the 1089 yards and 15 TDs he had in 2008. He suffered through injuries last year, which have been a problem most of his career. If he can stay healthy he can approach double-digit TDs. I wouldn’t bank on 1000 yards for him though.

Ahmad Bradshaw – Bradshaw almost certainly will have more total yards than Jacobs. Health could be a concern for Bradshaw as well, but he is very talented.

Hakeem Nicks – Nicks had fewer catches (47) and yards (790) than Steve Smith and Mario Manningham, but he offers the most upside. He has big play ability. Consistency could be an issue.

Giants Defense/Special Teams – They had a myriad of injuries in the secondary, but should be improved in that department. They are always a good bet to pile up the sacks.

Two Star Fantasy Options
Mario Manningham – Manningham was second in receptions and yardage last year, but is likely to be the third receiver this year. There will be times that you want to use him, but he’s more of a depth option at this point.

Kevin Boss – Boss had 567 yard and 5 TDs last year, which is solid, but I don’t seem much room for improvement. He’s a high-end TE2, but I wouldn’t want him as my starter.

One Star Fantasy Options
Andre Brown – What will Brown do for you? He’s coming off a serious Achilles injury so you will have to see his progress before you consider him. He’s probably at least a  year away (if he ever makes it at this level).

Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

Brandon Jacobs running
Image courtesy of Icon SMI

Brandon Jacobs was a beast when healthy last year rushing for 1089 yards, his second straight 1000+ yard season, and 15 TDs.  His health is a concern though as he missed two games to injury last year after missing five in 2007.  When he played last year he was pretty consistent.  He had a TD in nine of his thirteen games.  Two of the games he didn’t score he had 116 yards against Washington and 93 yards against St. Louis.  Only Pittsburgh (47 yards) and Philly (52 yards) were able to contain him.  He ran for 126 yards and 2 TDs in his other meeting with Philly and 73 yards and two scores against Baltimore.

Jacobs is a pretty solid sell high candidate.  He matches up against Kansas City, Oakland, New Orleans, and Arizona in Weeks 3-7.  He has one more cake matchup against Denver in Week12 vs. Denver.  His fantasy playoff schedule is tough going up against Philly, Washington, and Carolina.  If you can, try and move in in Week 8 after his easy stretch and get your team lined up for a fantasy football championship push.  Because of Jacobs’ injury history, it may not be a bad idea to handcuff Ahmad Bradshaw to Jacobs.

Jacobs will likely be taken in the mid-to-late second round.  If he stays healthy he should be able to run for 1100 yards with 10-12 TDs.

This is my preseason top ten.

Click here for my Midseason revised rankings.

Click here for my Second Half rankings.

1.  Adrian Peterson – All Day led the league in rushing and scored double-digit TDs again.  Sure, the loss of Matt Birk will hurt, but Peterson shouldn’t miss a beat.  He’s looking to add some muscle mass this offseason without losing any speed.  A bigger AP with the same speed and quickness.  Scary.

2.  Michael Turner – Burner Turner did not disappoint in his first shot as the feature back.  He struggled early against good defenses, but scored in seven of his last eight games.  As Matt Ryan progresses at QB, it will become more difficult to key in on Turner.

3.  Matt Forte - I love Forte’s versatility.  As a rookie he had the third most receiving yards for a Running Back.  Second if you discount Kevin Faulk, who isn’t a feature back.  He had 1715 total yards and 12 combined TDs.  Even if he has a 10% Sophomore slump dip in production, he’d still be good for over 1500 total yards and 10-11 TDs.

4.  Maurice Jones-Drew – With Fred Taylor heading to New England, MJD should be huge in 2009.  He’s always good for 400+ receiving yards and double-digit TDs.  Give him 300-320 carries and you could be looking at nearly 2000 total yards and 15+ TDs.

5.  Ronnie Brown - Last year Ronnie had 214 carries to Ricky Williams’ 160.  I think the split will be even more in Ronnie’s favor next year.  With Ronnie another year removed from his knee injury, he should be closer to the 2007 back that had 991 total yards and five combined TDs in seven games.

6.  LaDainian Tomlinson - LT battled through a variety of ailments last year and still managed to produce 1536 total yards and 12 combined TDs.  Not only do I think he’ll be healthy in ’09, I think he will be motivated.  I don’t see pre-2008 LT, but a better version that last year’s model.

7.  Clinton Portis – CP was severely overworked last year, but he still remains on the right side of 30. I see him producing similar numbers next year, only spaced out a whole lot better.  Jim Zorn will do a better job managing Portis’ carries so he doesn’t wear down at the end of the year.

8.  Brandon Jacobs - You would think Derrick Ward’s departure to Tampa Bay would have a significant impact on Jacobs’ value.  I don’t think so.  Ahmad Bradshaw will likely pick up most of the slack. As long as Jacobs can stay healthy, there isn’t any reason he couldn’t run for 1200+ yards and scored 18+ TDs.

9.  DeAngelo Williams – You must think I’m crazy putting D-Will this low after leading all RBs in scoring last year.  I’m sorry, but I don’t see another 1700 total yards from him.  Furthermore, there is little to no chance he approaches 20 TDs again.  Jonathan Stewart played a major role last year, and I think the split will be a little closer to 50/50 this year.

10.  Steven Jackson - Steven Jackson’s strong finish (637 total yards and 4 combined TDs in his last five games) is sticking in my mind more than the most forgettable 19 games he had in 2007 and the first part of 2008.  If he can stay healthy he has a chance to leapfrog several of the guys above him.  I haven’t completely forgotten though, which is why he’s in the ten spot.

Images courtesy of Icon SMI

Derrick Ward, one of the top Running Backs in the free agent market, signed a four-year deal with Tampa Bay worth $17 million.  He was part of a three-headed monster in New York with Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.  Brandon Jacob’s role will remain the same, and Ahmad Bradshaw will take over Ward’s role as the Giants will likely move to a two-headed monster.

Meanwhile, in Tampa the signing signifies the end of Earnest Graham’s hold on the starting job.  He’ll still get plenty of carries, and will probably be the short-yardage back meaning he could vulture some TDs.  Cadillac Williams’ value takes a hit, but at this point you can hardly afford to gamble on him any more than the Bucs.  Ward should see a small boost in production as he moves to a feature back role.  As I said, Graham will get plenty of carries so temper your expectations.

Lester’s NFL Leagues Notes

25 February 2009
The Jets cut WR Laveranues Coles.  He had 70 receptions for 850 yards and 7 TDs last year.  Not only will the Jets have a new starting QB next year, but they also have to replace their #1 wideout.  That shouldn’t be hard as Jerricho Cotchery has averaged 78 receptions and 983 yards the past three seasons.  Chansi Stuckey will likely become the #2 WR.  He had 32 grabs for 359 yards last year.  Brad Smith should see an increase in playing time as well.  Coles is a solid WR and will land on his feet.  Let the Coles to the Eagles rumor start right now.  I don’t see that happening though.

The other big news in New York was Giants related.  Brandon Jacobs signed a four-year, $25 million extension with the Giants.  $13 million of it was guaranteed.  Jacobs had 1089 yards and 15 TDs.  This almost ensures that Derrick Ward will not be back.

Tampa Bay got younger by cutting RB Warrick Dunn and WRs Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard.  Earnest Graham, Cadillac Williams, and likely a Rookie RB will carry the load for Tampa.  Clifton Smith could get some play as their Third Down WR. The Bucs could also lose Michael Clayton to free agency so they’ll be active this offseason getting wideouts.

The Rams cut QB Trent Green and WR Drew Bennett.  At 38 with a history of concussions, Trent should hang it up.  Bennett never lived up to the six-year, $30 million deal he signed with St. Louis.  Neither of these moves have fantasy implications.

Trent’s former team, Kansas City, cut Damon Huard.  That also doesn’t have fantasy implications.

My good pal and Giant fanatic Joe Z. was kind enough to analyze the offseason plans for the New York Giants.

Most wondered at the time of the Plaxico Burress shooting whether or not the New York Giants would be able to focus and block out the immense distraction that the situation provided.  In hindsight, the immense media scrutiny paled in comparison to actual loss of Burress on the field.   Not only did Eli Manning lose his top target, but defenses were able to play an extra defender up in the box to target to stop the run game.   With Burress’s future being cloudy at best, coming up with a way to ease the pressure on the run game, as well as allow Steve Smith and Domenick Hixon to be secondary receivers should be the Giants primary offseason goal.   

The first person to potentially fill the gap is Burress himself.  While its uncertain whether or not he’ll face jail time or how long a potential suspension would be, the Giants have publicly stated that they have not yet closed the door on him.  While he has been a distraction in the past, many teammates have said that they would welcome him back.  This would not cost anything additional other than already reserved cap space, and might be the easiest option for the Giants going forward.  This was assuming that Burress would come back to the Giants on his hands and knees begging forgiveness, which given how he let his teammates down would have seemed to be the logical emotion.  However, a potential roadblock popped up in the form of Drew Rosenhaus and how he sent out a league wide email stating Plaxico was one of his clients desiring a trade.   If clarity comes with his legal situation and its certain that he’ll be playing in Week 1, I still can’t see a team being willing to give the Giants enough that they’d want to give him up.  

If the Giants determine that they have to move on, the only rumored names that could truly represent an upgrade for the Giants are Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmanzadeh; and neither will be easy to acquire.  All rumors of Boldin’s availability have come out of Boldin’s camp, not from Arizona.  As much as Boldin wants out, he is signed at a bargain price for Arizona, and it would take a bounty to acquire him.  Given his production and bargain cap number, Arizona might not decide to trade Boldin until after the Giants need to make a decision on their offseason intentions.

The free agent market only offers one receiver that could potentially provide number one receiver production.  TJ Houshmanzadeh is the anti-Burress in terms of attitude and distractions, but even if he were interested in leaving, he seems to be a candidate to be franchised by Cincinnati since they are under the cap and probably won’t be able to attract many marquee free agents until they start winning.

Its very rare to draft a receiver and receive number one production.  It will be even rarer to get that receiver at the back end of the first round after Michael Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin are long gone.

Before they resolve the number one receiver situation, its likely that the Giants will have locked up the services of Brandon Jacobs to a long term deal.  Last week, they franchised Jacobs, a move so rare for the Giants that you have to look all the way back to Jumbo Elliot to find the last time they did that.  The Giants want Jacobs back, and Jacobs wants to be back, so it would be surprising if they can’t find the middle ground on a long term deal.  Given that, it likely means that Derrick Ward will move on to another destination.  While the Giants loved having Ward, someone will likely offer a starting spot and more dollars than the Giants can, given that they have in house candidates to replace him.  Most fans would logically think Ahmad Bradshaw will be the guy, but reports are that the Giants are very high on Danny Ware, so an interesting battle for that lead backup job could develop in training camp.

The Giants also appear to be close to locking up Eli Manning to a long term deal.  The structuring of his bonus will be a key factor in whether or not they end up with the ability to pursue any free agents beyond Brandon Jacobs.  Giants fans have watched Eli go through some significant bumps in the road, and he’ll never be as good as his brother, but Eli has proven to be a top ten quarterback and many teams would kill to have the stability at the Quarterback position that Eli provides the Giants.  

The offensive line received praise throughout the season and looks to return in tact next season.  Depending on how the Giants internally evaluate the long term future of young linemen such as Kevin Boothe, Guy Whimper, and Adam Koets will determine whether the team pursues a linemen or two to develop and take over eventually for Shaun O’ Hara, Rich Seubert, or Kareem McKenzie as they each now have eight plus years in the league.  

Defensively, the Giants will receive a huge upgrade when Osi Umenyiora returns to his place in the lineup.  While Mathias Kiwanuka did a nice job moving back to replace Umenyiora, the dropoff was noticeable.  The defensive stats don’t show any true problems, but at no time was the pass rush anywhere near the level that it had been when Strahan, Tuck, and Umenyiora were harassing Quarterbacks.  Fred Robbins had a Pro Bowl quality year, but getting Osi back will be wonderous for this team. 

The secondary also will return in tact minus James Butler.  2008 1st round pick Kenny Phillips proved to be ready to replace Butler going forward.  Corey Webster in his fifth year will be elder statesmen of the starting secondary, so there is nowhere to go but up for that unit.   Any drafting to the defensive line or secondary will be done solely because the person picked provided too much value to pass up at the position they were selected. 

The Giants do have major concerns at linebacker.  They spent the entire year with below average starters on the outside, and by the end of the year Antonio Pierce had become a liability in the middle.  The Giants face a difficult decision with Pierce , as he is clearly the Quarterback of the defense and probably can’t be replaced intelligence wise in one year.  However, the sight of Brian Westbrook, DeAngelo Williams, and Adrian Peterson flying past Pierce has to haunt every Giant fan as they reminisce back to 2008.  Luckily, the draft and free agent class are deep at linebacker, so the Giants should have opportunities to upgrade.  Throw in the fact that Kiwanuka could conceivably return back to the linebacking corps and the team should have no trouble getting the unit back up to par.  One angle to watch would be whether the Giants are able to clear the cap space after the Jacobs and Manning signings to pursue Karlos Dansby out of Arizona.  Ohio State’s James Laurinaitis or USC’s Clay Matthews could be targets for the team with their first round pick.  

Knowing that Wide Receiver and Linebacker are the two areas of need for the Giants, its important to note that they have extra 2nd and 5th round picks from the Jeremy Shockey trade.  This depth could allow the Giants to trade up in the draft, or to potentially package some picks to a cap starved team to help fill needs.  

Overall, General Manager Jerry Reese fit a home run with his first draft in 2007.  However, he has not yet acquired a marquee player via free agency nor trade in his tenure, and this is the offseason where his creativity to do so is needed and up for judgment.”

KFFL Free Agent Tracker:

Pos Player Name FA Status Previous Team Current Team
QB David Carr Re-signed New York Giants New York Giants
QB Andre’ Woodson Re-signed New York Giants New York Giants
QB Anthony Wright UFA New York Giants Free Agent
RB Reuben Droughns UFA (Cut) New York Giants Free Agent
RB Brandon Jacobs Franchised New York Giants Free Agent
RB Derrick Ward UFA New York Giants Free Agent
RB Danny Ware RFA New York Giants Free Agent
WR Amani Toomer UFA New York Giants Free Agent
TE Martrez Milner Re-signed New York Giants New York Giants
PK John Carney UFA New York Giants Free Agent
C Grey Ruegamer UFA New York Giants Free Agent
DL Jerome McDougle UFA New York Giants Free Agent
DL Michael Strahan UFA New York Giants Free Agent
DL Renaldo Wynn UFA New York Giants Free Agent
CB Kevin Dockery RFA New York Giants Free Agent
CB Sam Madison UFA (Cut) New York Giants Free Agent
CB R.W. McQuarters UFA New York Giants Free Agent
SS Sammy Knight UFA (Cut) New York Giants Free Agent
FS James Butler UFA New York Giants Free Agent

Before the Giants game against Dallas in Week 9 I suggested that Brandon Jacobs would struggle against Dallas, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.  Did I ever miss the mark as he rolled up 316 yards and 5 TDs against the trio. 

I continued to say that you needed to worry about him breaking down.  With two missed games in the last four weeks, I am starting to get some vindication.  I also suggested that you move him for Marshawn Lynch because he has a much better stretch run.  Since the original article, Jacobs has 439 yards and 6 TDs.  He hasn’t caught a pass.  In his last four weeks he’s had just 123 yards and 1 TD, including the aforementioned DNPs.  In the first two rounds of the fantasy playoffs he has just 52 yards.

Let’s take a look at how Marshawn Lynch has fared.  Since Week 9 Lynch has 552 rushing yards, 153 receiving yards, and 2  TDs.  That’s good for 82.5 fantasy points to Jacobs’ 79.9.  In his last four games Lynch has 371 rushing yards, 43 receiving yards, and a TD.  That’s 47.4 fantasy points to Jacobs’ 18.3.  In the first two rounds of the fantasy playoffs Lynch has 158 rushing yards and 17 receiving yards.  That’s 17.5 fantasy points to Jacobs’ 5.2.  If you made the deal I suggested, you’d be in pretty good shape right now.  Especially when you consider they face Denver’s 27th ranked Run D while Jacobs may not even play.  If he does, he has to go up against Carolina’s 18th ranked Run D.

When Jacobs steamrolled Baltimore, I took it pretty hard.  I did soften the blow by warning you that his demise could still be looming.  The past few weeks have proven just that.  I no longer have to eat crow.

A couple of weeks ago I looked at Brandon Jacobs’ schedule and figured his ship was sinking.  I’m here to report that his ship is not only afloat, but is continuing to dominate the opposition.  Of course, you all know this, but I wanted to go on record and apologize to Jacobs and Giants fans.  He’s a beast.

Dallas statistically had a good Run D.  Jacobs bowled them over to the tune of 117 yards, and a score.  Philly does have a good D.  Jacobs made a mockery of them going for 126 yards and two scores.  Of course there is some debate whether or not the second TD was legit, but that’s neither here nor there for fantasy owners. 

Jacobs could have some troubles this week as he faces Baltimore, but the Giants are the better team, and their line will most likely continue to dominate the line of scrimmage and allow Jacobs to do what he does best.  His remaining schedule doesn’t seem as daunting now.  He has Arizona, Washington, Philly, and Dallas before colliding with Carolina in fantasy Super Bowl week.  I see no reason why he can’t keep scoring like he does.

That said I will warn you, he will be soon facing untested waters when he surpasses his 202 carries of a year ago.  Although the G-Men do a good job of mixing in Ward and Bradshaw to limit his load.  Another fear I have comes from the Giants’ success.  They could wrap everything up early and lighten his load down the stretch.  If that happens, I will have some vindication for my initial prediction, but as of now, I underestimated #27.

Brandon Jacobs began a string of tough matchups last week with Pittsburgh.  The G-Men won, but he was held to 47 yards on 18 carries (2.6 ypc).  The road continues to get bumpy with several matchups against some of the league’s best Run Defenses.

First up is Dallas, who ranks 11th with 95.5 rushing yards per game and tied for 13th with 6 rushing TDs allowed.  After than he’s looking at Philadelphia (89.4 ypg, 3 TDs), Baltimore (64.3, 1 TD), Arizona (96.4, 5 TDs), Washington (82.8, 4 TDs), Philly again, Dallas again, Carolina (99.9, 4 TDs), and Minnesota (70.7, 7 TDs).  Not one of those defenses is a pushover.  In fact, none of those teams rank below 14th in rushing yardage or 13th in rushing TDs allowed, and Carolina  is the only team to allow 4.0 yards per carry.

Furthermore, you have to figure the Giants will continue to utilize Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw to keep Jacobs fresh for the stretch run.  Ward and Bradshaw have combined for 86 carries through Week 8.  It behooves the Giants to continue to share the load in the ground game. 

Finally, you have to worry about Jacobs breaking down.  He already has 114 carries in seven games.  His career high is just 202 carries.  With the Giants cruising to another playoff appearance it’s likely Jacobs will get a lighter workload when you need him the most, which is in the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16).

So what to do with Jacobs?  Trade him.  His numbers are amazing, but if you can ship him out for Marshawn Lynch, who faces Cleveland, Miami, Kansas City, San Francisco, and Denver down the stretch, you’ll be better suited to make a run at a fantasy title.  If you have good depth at Running Back, perhaps you can move him for an elite Wide Receiver.  Either way, it appears his fantasy dominance has run its course.

New York Giants Preview

29 August 2008

The team is truly Eli Manning’s now that Tiki Barber and Michael Strahan have retired in subsequent years.  Not to mention the respect he gained as he picked up his game on the Giants improbable Super Bowl Run.  Not that they are the Champs, everybody will be gunning for them.  Playing in one of the toughest divisions in football doesn’t help matters.

Offensively I don’t see a lot of differnce between last year’s model and this one.  Their Offensive Line is still intact.  The triple-headed rushing attack of Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Derrick Ward will wear teams down.  Eli Manning will pass for around 3500 yards and 22-25 TDs while throwing around 16-18 INTs.  Plaxico Burress will continue to be Eli’s top target, but I expect Steve Smith to finally start to show his worth.  Kevin Boss will try to replace Jeremy Shockey.  While he won’t produce like Shockey, he won’t disrupt like Shockey either. 

Defensively life will be more difficult with the retirement of Michael Strahan and the season-ending injury suffered by Osi Umenyiora.  Those 22 Sacks are going to be hard to replace.  I expect Justin Tuck to become one of the most dominating forces in the game, but he won’t be enough.  They will need some production from elsewhere.  Not only are there star lineman gone, but #2 tackler Gibril Wilson went to Oakland and #3 tackler Kawika Mitchell went to the Bills.  Rookie Kenny Phillips should help their secondary, but they will need their defensive front to put pressure on the QB or Giants fans could have some long Sundays.

I don’t see the Giants making it back to the playoffs, much less repeating.  Losing Strahan and Osi will prove too costly.  I’m predicting a 7 to 9 win season for the G-Men.  The Giants like being underdogs though so anything is possible.

Fantasy-wise Eli is a low-end starter/high-end backup fantasy QB.  He simply throws too many INTs for my liking as a fantasy guy.  Brandon Jacobs is the highest value of the RBs and Ahmad Bradshaw is the one I would use as a handcuff.  Plaxico makes a decent #1 WR or an outstanding #2.  Steve Smith and Amani Toomer are worth a flier in late rounds.  The same goes for TE Kevin Boss.  My expectations of their defense lowered after the Osi injury.  They still are worth a start vs. the right matchup.

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