The Giants don't know whether and to what extent Victor Cruz will recover from his severe knee injury. He may not be ready to start training camp, and even if he is, he's likely to be on a somewhat limited program as the team works him back slowly from his torn patellar tendon. There's a chance he misses a game or two, and a strong chance he's not 100 percent even when he does return to game action.
Roy Helu, 26, looks like a perfect fit for Oakland’s new up-tempo offense that will often feature a no-huddle approach. ESPN scout Matt Williamson thinks Helu can be one of the Raiders’ most productive offensive weapons even though it will be in a limited role.
“While he isn’t great in protection, I think he will be a very valuable piece and a quick safe option for Derek Carr in this up-tempo passing game and offense overall,” Williamson said. “Helu has been extremely productive on a per-snap basis.”
Helu has averaged 2.69 catches per game in his four-year career, and is expected to serve as the team's primary passing down back while Latavius Murray and Trent Richardson compete for early-down duties. The Raiders are planning to move to a more up-tempo offense under OC Bill Musgrave, who spent last season working for Chip Kelly in Philadelphia. Helu is likely to be fantasy relevant in PPR formats, though the explosive Murray should hold the most fantasy value in 2015.
Friday, April 10, 2015, 10:32am
The Giants have their second tight end back.
On Wednesday afternoon, the club came to terms with Daniel Fells on a one-year deal, according to sources. Fells will rejoin Larry Donnell, an exclusive rights free agent who already re-signed, in a solid tight end tandem for the Giants.
Fells, 31, was a quiet addition to the franchise last season, but he quickly emerged as perhaps the most well-rounded weapon in an anonymous tight end corps. An ex-Bronco and ex-Patriot, he was the best blocker of the group, and he added four TD catches and 18 receptions.
Friday, April 10, 2015, 10:31am
Eli Manning was in uncharted waters a year ago at this time. He was learning a new offense for the first time in his NFL career, while nursing an ankle injury that still hadn’t fully healed. His immediate future seemed filled with uncertainty.
But he feels none of that uncertainty now.
Manning is ready to take the no-longer-new Ben McAdoo offense “to another level” in the 2015 season, now that he’s so much more familiar with the playbook after a full year in the system. In an interview with the team website – Manning wasn’t made available to any outside reporters – the quarterback spoke of an “easier transition” in Year 2 that has him “excited” for the possibilities of the offense on his 6-10 team.
“This year will be a much easier transition, knowing that we have been through so much of it already,” said Manning, who recently had been working out at Ole Miss with some of their receivers and alumni. “It’s definitely a different starting point. I feel good about it. I feel that I have a good understanding of it."
Manning will benefit with bust-out new star Odel Beckham Jr. and what looks like the return of Victor Cruz at WR. Plus, he seemed to be more on the same page with Rueben Randle toward the end of last season, so Manning will be surrounded by weapons in 2015. He'll be drafted as a QB2 most likely but with the potential to put up QB1 fantasy stats from time to time.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 8:22pm
The emergence of Odell Beckham Jr. as a No. 1 wide receiver in his 2014 rookie season after Cruz went down is one of those reasons. The severity of the injury (torn patellar tendon) from which Cruz is recovering is another. And this recent study by NumberFire, which shows that Cruz's production was already in decline in the two years prior to 2014, offers yet another.
The story goes on to say a lot could still depend on what happens in 2015 - whether or when Cruz recovers, how productive he is in the second year of Ben McAdoo's offense, how he meshes with Beckham and Rueben Randle and Shane Vereen and Larry Donnell and Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, all of the varied weapons available to the Giants on offense. This decision could be an easy one in either direction next February. But the potential is there for it to remain a tricky one, because of a lot of things that weren't yet factors when he signed that contract just two years ago. The Giants would save only $2.45 million against this year's cap if they cut Cruz now, and they have no reason to do so. But the cap savings jumps to $6.1 million if they cut him next offseason, the story adds.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 11:45am
Williams was partly victimized by an offensive line that lost way too many battles at the line of scrimmage, failing to open up holes long enough for Williams to exploit. Only one starting offensive lineman had a positive run blocking grade last season, per Pro Football Focus (left tackle Will Beatty at +6.1).
Williams also displayed poor vision in finding those holes and cutback lanes. At 5-11, 230 pounds, Williams is a bruising north-south runner with some giddy-up when he gets to the second level, but he had trouble grasping the patience aspect of being an every-down back. Instead of waiting a split-second after he was handed the ball for his blocks to materialize, Williams would often run straight ahead, knocking into the backside of his offensive linemen countless times.
That's not to say that Williams' rookie year was a complete lost cause, the story went on to say. He finally broke the 100-yard mark in Week 14 against the woeful Tennessee Titans, busting out for 131 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown. Two weeks later against a much better St. Louis Rams defense, Williams gashed them for 110 yards on 26 carries. Those performances give reason for optimism that Williams can develop into a nice complementary back in his sophomore season. But with Shane Vereen now in the fold as the likely third down running back behind Jennings, that leaves Williams' role this year up for question.
Cruz tore his patellar tendon in mid-October, so it's no sure thing that he'll be back for the start of the season. He's probably a player to avoid this season unless his price drops so much that he becomes a value in the later rounds. He's not going to get the same number of targets given Odell Beckham's emergence as a top-flight wideout.
With Shane Vereen leaving to join the Giants, the Patriots needed a new pass-catching RB, and Cadet fits the bill. Cadet has caught 45 of 61 targets for a 7.7 yards-per-catch average. Vereen had a lower catch rate but a higher YPC (9.6) in three years with the Patriots. If he can secure the job, Cadet will be fantasy relevant in PPR formats.
Vereen will serve as the team's passing down back, putting a sizable dent in the upside of Rashad Jennings, who averaged 3.2 catches (and 23 receiving yards) in the nine games in which he played significant snaps. With Andre Williams also in the mix for early down work, this situation appears to be devolving into a true committee.
"The injury's going well, the rehab's going very, very well," Giants WR Victor Cruz said. "I'm a little more than halfway there, we're building the strength back in my leg. The rehab's been hard, it's been difficult, it's been long, it's been grueling, but I've been going through it, man, and it's definitely paying off now. The strength is coming back slowly but surely.
"I started running on this cool machine called the Alter-G, where it lets you run with a certain percentage of your body weight. And I just started doing that yesterday so it's only a matter of time before I get out there on that field, so I'm excited about that."
As for when he'll be back running and cutting in pads, Cruz has the start of training camp in his crosshairs, but said that he should be feeling close to 100 percent well before the start date. His goal is to be ready to shake off the rust in the months leading up to training camp and be ready to go full throttle when practices start.
Cruz will re-join a receiving corps that has a new alpha dog -- Odell Beckham. If healthy, Cruz should see WR2-type targets out of the slot, but he's unlikely to see the 8.8 T/G that he received from 2012-2013.
Here are the five players who got the non-exclusive franchise tag, and the amount of the tender offer for each:
This may not make either Bryant or Thomas happy, but it ensures that they aren't going anywhere for at least one more season. Both players figure to be ranked in the top 5 at their position in 2015 fantasy drafts.
Jordan Raanan on the Giants' receiving corps:
This has nothing to do with free agency, but wide receiver Rueben Randle remains part of the Giants plans despite a season where he was twice benched for a quarter because of tardiness to meetings. Randle is not being shopped after multiple run-ins last season with Coughlin.
The Giants are moving forward as if Randle is part of the future, with the hope that he can excel next season playing alongside Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz. Randle is still just 23 years old and the team was happy with the way he played late in the season, when they used him more as a downfield threat instead of the possession-receiver role he filled early in the season.
"I think Rueben gets banged on a lot. Sometimes he should get banged on, but I think he gets banged on sometimes a little too much," general manager Jerry Reese said. "I think he is a good, young player and all he needs are some chances. With Odell and Victor, I think he will get plenty of chances."
But if things don't work out with Randle or Cruz (returning from a serious injury), one player I was told to keep an eye out for was Marcus Harris. The Giants were close to using Harris as a starter (in three-wide-receiver sets) last year before injuries shut him down at the end of the summer for the season. The 25-year-old really impressed the Giants last spring and summer.
Randle finished #32 in PPR formats and #37 in standard despite seeing the 20th-most targets (127) on the year, so he wasn't very efficient in his targets. He finished the season with 12 catches for 290 yards and a touchdown in the final two games. He's probably not going to finish in the top 30 in 2015 if Cruz comes back healthy since Cruz and Beckham will likely dominate the targets.
Mettenberger averaged 272 yards, 1.8 touchdowns and 1.0 interception in the four games that he started and finished. He was also on pace for 329 yards and 1.8 TD against the Texans in Week 13 before missing nearly half the game with a shoulder sprain. He wasn’t effective against the Giants in Week 14 before re-injuring his shoulder. For the most part, what we saw was encouraging, especially since he was just a rookie. If the Titans enter the season with Mettenberger as the starter, then we can expect the solid QB2 numbers that he posted in 2014 -- he’ll be a committee and/or streaming candidate.
Giants beat writer Dan Graziano: They really like Larry Donnell and believe he's in the midst of developing into a very good player. They like his athleticism and his size, and most of all they really believe in his offseason dedication and determination to work on and learn the things he still needs to learn. Donnell made a huge leap from 2013 to 2014, and the Giants believe that his offseason work ethic will lead to another big leap in 2015. They believe they have not only a starter, but a future star in Donnell.
Donnell finished the season as the #11 TE in both standard and PPR formats, but did not crack 60 yards or find the endzone in the final six games. He had the 17th-most targets (5.2 T/G) over that span, after seeing the 7th-most (6.1 T/G) in the first 11 weeks. He'll continue to be a red zone threat, but with Odell Beckham and a presumably healthy Victor Cruz gobbling up targets, Donnell is unlikely to see more than six looks per game in 2015.
Giants TE Larry Donnell was a productive receiver, but he has to be more consistent both catching the ball and blocking. If nothing changes, he should be the top tight end entering training camp. But the Giants will look to upgrade that position as they will all others and it’s possible someone not currently on the roster will provide Donnell with his toughest competition for the job.
Donnell finished the season as the #11 TE in both standard and PPR formats, but did not crack 60 yards or find the endzone in the final six games. He saw the 17th-most targets (5.2 T/G) over that span, after seeing the 7th-most (6.1 T/G) in the first 11 weeks. He'll be a red zone threat, but with Odell Beckham and a (healthy?) Victor Cruz gobbling up targets, Donnell is unlikely to see more than six targets per game in 2015.
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