2020 NFL Team Previews: New York Giants
2020 NFL Team Previews
By Professor MJ
New York Giants
Giants fans had hopes of making a playoff push after rookie QB Daniel Jones won his first two NFL games to bring back the team to a 2-2 record. However, the team underwent a nine-game losing skid, while seeing many good players go down to injuries.
The team fired head coach Pat Shurmur, and the new leader will be Joe Judge, a member of the Patriots coaching staff for eight years.
There is optimism around this franchise with young budding stars on offense. After six losing seasons over the past seven years, can the Giants finally turn the corner?
2. Offensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
2.1 Quarterbacks (QBs)
Taking Daniel Jones as the #6 overall pick in the 2019 draft was a bit of a head-scratcher. No one is laughing at the Giants’ pick anymore.
Jones was brilliant during preseason games by going 29-of-34 for 416 passing yards, 2 TDs and no picks. The team still gave Eli Manning the starting nod, but that didn’t last very long. Prior to Week #3, head coach Pat Shurmur announced the Daniel Jones era was about to begin.
His first NFL game was one to remember. He threw 2 TD passes and rushed for a couple more in a wild 32-31 win in Tampa (thanks to a missed 34-yard chip shot field goal by Matt Gay).
Jones went on to throw 24 touchdown passes by completing 284-of-459 passes, a subpar 61.9% completion rate. His main issue was turning the ball over too often: he was picked off on 12 occasions, while fumbling 18 times.
Jones still showed a lot of upside. As a comparison, many considered Kyler Murray’s rookie season as a nice success. Both Murray and Jones threw 12 interceptions, but Jones racked up 4 additional TD passes with three fewer games played.
Eli Manning retired after an illustrious career, so the team signed free agent Colt McCoy, formerly of the Redskins. Every time I’ve seen him play, he’s been pretty bad as a passer. He can do some damage with his legs once in a while, but that’s about it. He has 29 career TD passes versus 27 interceptions over 10 years. Draw your own conclusions.
2.2 Running Backs (RBs)
Saquon Barkley’s numbers were down from his rookie season, even accounting for the fact that he missed three games due to an ankle injury. His yards-per-carry average dropped from 5.0 to 4.6, which was still pretty good. He was also targeted a lot fewer in the passing game.
I’m not worried about him. He is super talented and he will benefit from having a QB that has now more experience in this league. Defenses won’t be able to stack the line because they’ll know that Daniel Jones can be dangerous. Barkley is one of the best in the business at his position.
Newly acquired Dion Lewis is the favorite to win the #2 role. He had his best year by far in 2017 with the Pats by rushing for 896 yards and reaching the end zone on nine occasions. His next-best season? 517 rushing yards the following year in Tennessee, but his 3.3 yards-per-carry average was really bad. He is more of a third-down back who can catch passes out of the backfield.
Last year, Wayne Gallman seemed to be Barkley’s main backup. However, the coaching staff didn’t seem to trust him very much. Gallman even ended up being a healthy scratch for a few games.
2.3 Wide Receivers (WRs)
Sterling Shepard received the highest marks from PFF among Giants receivers, but one thing causes some concern about the 27-year old pass catcher: concussions. He suffered many of them during the 2019 season.
Hopefully he can be healthy in the upcoming season because he’s been very good. If you project his 10-game 2019 season into a full 16-game year, his stat line would have been 91-922-5. He has been a consistent producer in each of his first four years in the NFL.
Golden Tate missed 5 games last season (4 due to a suspension and 1 because of a concussion). He had missed just two contests in the previous eight seasons!
Much like Shepard, Tate has always been a consistent player. His “worst” season between 2014 and 2018 was 74 receptions for 795 yards and 4 TDs. He will be 32 years old when the season opens, but he seems to have gas left in the tank, as shown by the fact that he was on pace for a 983-yard season last year.
The team leader in receiving yards turned out to be a surprise: fifth-round rookie Darius Slayton. He caught 48 passes for 740 yards, while hauling in 8 TD passes. You can’t expect much more out of a fifth-rounder, especially playing with a rookie QB!
Slayton had three games with a couple of scores. All of them occurred on the road, which shows his great character. With Shepard and Tate with a clean bill of health, I’m not sure he can match his 2019 performance, so I’d be cautious if I were a fantasy owner.
Cody Latimer was thrown into action following the numerous injuries to the Giants receiving corps. He did a decent job, but he is now off to Washington.
Losing Latimer won’t hurt very much. Having a trio composed of Shepard-Tate-Slayton is nice.
2.4 Tight Ends (TEs)
Evan Engram is certainly an upcoming tight end in the NFL. His main problem has been staying on the field. He missed one game in 2017, then five in 2018 and eight more last year. That’s worrisome.
He underwent a surgery that requires a lengthy rehab. He is likely to miss many offseason activities.
Prior to last year’s injury, he was on pace for his best season. If you project his numbers to a full 16-game year, he would have caught 88 passes for 934 yards and 6 TDs. Only Travis Kelce and Darren Waller caught more than 88 passes as tight ends last year.
Rhett Ellison was mainly used as a blocking TE. He missed a few months with a concussion and decided it was time to hang up his cleats.
In order to fill the void left by Ellison, the team signed Levine Toilolo. He only caught two passes with the Niners last year and he doesn’t offer much in the passing game. He is expected to be the primary blocking tight end in this offense.
Kaden Smith was drafted by San Francisco last year, then released and claimed off waivers by the Giants in September. He ended up getting quite a bit of playing time following Engram’s injury. Over the final six games, he averaged 5 receptions for 45 yards. He remains unlikely to be involved very much as long as Engram is healthy since he is limited in terms of talent.
2.5 Offensive Line (OL)
The team needed to upgrade this position in order to make it to the next level. Other than Kevin Zeitler, all other 2019 starters were either average, or below-average.
Zeitler had been one of the best guars in the league throughout his first seven seasons in the NFL. His 8th year, which happened to be his first in a Giants uniform, was no different. He was graded as the number 7 guard in the entire league by the PFF rating system.
The team’s other guard, Will Hernandez, saw his PFF grade drop from 66.7 to 58.4 after being chosen in the second round of the 2018 draft. He finished as the 53rd guard out of 81 players.
At center, the team relied on Jon Halapio. He played pretty poorly and tore his Achilles’ in the season finale. The team has yet to re-sign him as they plan to check on his rehab during the summer. If he doesn’t come back, Spencer Pulley is the favorite to get the job, but he’s no better.
Nate Solder protects Daniel Jones’ blindside. He is now 32 years old and is coming off a year where he received his lowest PFF grade over his 9-year career. That’s a source of concern for sure.
Finally, we are rounding off the offensive line with right tackle Mike Remmers. He was borderline starting material and he did an adequate job last year. However, he left for the Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs.
Andrew Thomas was taken with the fourth overall pick last April. He is a lock to get a starting job right away. He played RT as a freshman with Georgia, before moving to LT in the next two years. Will he play RT with the Giants, or will they use him at LT while moving Solder to RT? No matter what, he’s very likely to be an upgrade for this unit.
The intriguing part is whether third-round rookie Matt Peart can crack the starting lineup or not. He played his first two seasons as a LT with UConn before sliding to the RT spot in his final two years. The word on Peart is he has the physical traits required to succeed, but he lacks aggressiveness and strength at the moment. He should compete with Nate Solder in training camp.
The team signed Cameron Fleming, who has been primarily a backup during his six-year career with the Patriots and Cowboys.
2020 VS 2019 OFFENSE
Will the 2020 Giants offense be better than the 2019 version?
The first thing that comes to mind is how much this unit suffered from the injury bug last year. Barkley, Tate, Shepard and Engram all missed time due injuries (or suspension). That alone is more likely to diminish than to increase, so this should help the production.
I see more upside with this offense. Daniel Jones now has one year of experience under the belt. Dion Lewis provides better depth than Wayne Gallman or Buck Allen. The receiving corps is more likely to be healthy.
The lone question mark concerns the offensive line. They weren’t so good last year. They didn’t address the position in free agency, so all hopes are in Andrew Thomas’ hands (and possibly to a much lesser degree, their 3rd round pick Matt Peart).
My final conclusion is a moderate upgrade over 2019. The team had the 18th-most points scored last year, and it might go up to the 10th-14th spot.
Final call (2020 vs 2019):
Big downgrade-Moderate downgrade-Small downgrade-Stable-Small upgrade-Moderate upgrade-Big upgrade
3. Defensive Position-by-Position Breakdown
3.1 Defensive Linemen (DLs)
This is an underrated group. They don’t have big names, but they have been pretty effective. Indeed, all four main guys finished among the top 36 DLs out of 114 qualifiers, based on PFF rankings!
Leonard Williams was traded from the Jets to the Giants last year. He received his lowest PFF mark of his five-year career, but he was still way above-average. He is now looking at a massive contract extension.
Dexter Lawrence was the 17th overall pick in last year’s draft. He was good in all aspects of the game and finished as the 20th-best DL in the NFL. A great start to his career!
Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J Hill are two more young guys who have performed at a high level thus far in their respective NFL careers. Both played roughly 50% of the snaps and they finished as the number 16 and 20 interior defenders based on PFF ratings.
3.2 Defensive Ends (DEs) / Edge Rushers (ED)
Markus Golden led the team with 10 sacks. That was great, but he is now asking for $10 million per year, which the cash-strapped Giants cannot afford. For this reason, he is unlikely to re-sign with the team, unfortunately.
The team found a cheaper option with Kyler Fackrell, who is coming over from Green Bay. He clearly had a down year with just one sack, one year after posting 10.5! His run defense is also very suspect.
After being selected in third round of the 2018 draft out of Georgia, Lorenzo Carter posted 4 sacks and 41 tackles in his rookie season. He slightly increased those numbers in his sophomore year with 45 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He is an above-average, yet unspectacular, edge defender in this league.
Rookie Oshane Ximines also recorded 4.5 sacks, but his PFF grade was much lower than Carter’s. Indeed, he wasn’t nearly as good against the run, nor in pass coverage.
3.3 Linebackers (LBs)
Alec Ogletree is more name than game. Most fans know him, but he never obtained a PFF mark above 63.3. His skills defending the run are simply not good. His two seasons with the Giants have been disappointing and he won’t be back with the team in 2020.
New York signed last year’s second leading tackler, Blake Martinez. He has spent his first four years with the Packers and racked up at least 144 tackles in each of his past three years.
Don’t be misled too much by the numbers, though. He’s not that great. He does the job, but he’s from being a top-20 linebacker.
After two mediocre seasons and failing to crack San Francisco’s lineup during the 2019 training camp, David Mayo was an unlikely candidate to become a good LB. He had just 51 tackles in four years. Yet, he surprised many with 82 tackles and two sacks, earning surprisingly high marks from PFF. Still, I wouldn’t hold my breath about him matching his 2019 performance.
Deone Bucannon has been a major bust as a former first-round pick in the 2014 draft. He started the year with the Bucs before being released, and then signed by the Giants. He played nine games with the team. He’s unlikely to make a big impact.
3.4 Cornerbacks (CBs)
Last year’s starters were rookie DeAndre Baker and Janoris Jenkins.
Baker was picked towards the end of the first round in last year’s draft. Coming out of Georgia, he struggled mightily in coverage. PFF graded him as the number 105 CB out of 112 qualifiers. He must clearly up his game in 2020.
Jenkins was much more solid year on the field, but off-the-field incidents led to his release late in the season. He openly complained about not being used to cover top wideouts, but the icing on the cake was an inappropriate Twitter exchange with a fan.
The Giants made somewhat of a splash by acquiring one of the top available corners on the market, James Bradberry. He instantly becomes their starting corner opposite of Baker. He has picked up eight interceptions in his first four seasons in the league.
PFF is not very high on Bradberry, though. He obtained the #68 spot out of 112 CBs last year, and has never received very high marks throughout his career. Don’t expect him to be the savior.
The team’s depth is great at the position: Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine and Grant Haley aren’t good enough to start in the NFL.
3.5 Safeties (S)
Antoine Bethea played 99.6% of the defensive snaps last year. The team was not satisfied with his play and released him in the offseason. According to PFF, he wasn’t horrible since he ended the year as the #40 safety out of 87 guys.
The other starter was Jabrill Peppers. The former first-round pick has done an “okay” job thus far in his career. He has one interception in each of his first three seasons.
With a glaring hole at the position, the Giants picked up Xavier McKinney early in the second round in this year’s draft. He was very productive with the Crimson Tide while playing from different spots on defense (from the slot, as a safety, or in the box). He has great instincts, but he could improve as a tackler.
Julian Love picked up the slack when Peppers down to an injury last year. He was a 2019 fourth-rounder out of Notre Dame and he also did respectable work.
2020 VS 2019 DEFENSE
Markus Golden is gone; in comes Kyler Fackrell. That’s a net loss for the Giants. I also believe the team was better off with Janoris Jenkins at CB than newly acquired James Bradberry. Also, getting rid of Antoine Bethea may not be a positive for the team when focusing on the 2020 season, although rookie Xavier McKinney could successfully fill his shoes.
Granted, the team upgraded the linebacking corps by replacing Alec Ogletree with Blake Martinez.
As of late February, the team had the lowest cap dollars devoted to the defensive side of the ball. You can’t expect great results under such circumstances.
The team allowed the third-highest number of points last year, so there is not much room for going down further. Still, to me the talent level dropped a little bit overall in comparison to 2019.
Final call (2020 vs 2019):
Big downgrade-Moderate downgrade-Small downgrade-Stable-Small upgrade-Moderate upgrade-Big upgrade
4. Regular Season Wins
According to sportsbooks, the New York Giants are expected to win 6.5 games this season. Should we bet the “over” or the “under”?
I'll answer this question via two different methods.
4.1 Professor MJ's Prediction
I won't go into the mathematical details, but here is a summary of my own personal pick (based on my analysis above and my estimated spreads for the Giants' 16 games):
Tip: Bet UNDER 6.5 wins
4.2 Based on BetOnline's Point Spreads
Here is the methodology I used here:
- Use BetOnline.ag’s point spreads on all 256 regular season games.
- Convert those point spreads into win probabilities.
- Simulate each of the 256 games, according to those win probabilities, via the R statistical software.
- Repeat the previous step one million times (you get 1M simulated seasons).
- Count the proportion of seasons where the Giants won more or less than 6.5 games.
Here are the results:
Tip: Bet UNDER 6.5 wins
In summary, both analyses recommend betting the UNDER. I do like this play quite a bit, personally.
Here are BetOnline’s point spreads for the Giants’ 16 regular season games:
- HOME: 0 vs ARI, +1 vs CLE, +3 vs DAL, +3.5 vs PHI, +3 vs PIT, +7.5 vs SF, +3 vs TB, -5 vs WAS.
- ROAD: +12.5 @ BAL, +5 @ CHI, 0 @ CIN, +7.5 @ DAL, +7.5 @ LAR, +5 @ PHI, +9 @ SEA, 0 @ WAS.
Note: The “Best odds” from the table above were obtained after looking at 13 well-known online sportsbooks on May 18th, 2020.
5. Mailing List
Join numerous savvy sports investors who have joined my mailing list!
By doing so, you won't miss any of my work:
- NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA picks;
- General betting advice;
- Winning systems;
- And much more!
Sign up to my mailing list and see your bankroll grow! Go to bottom-right corner of this page.