Normally you can’t accuse this column of any sort of East Coast bias. But the New York Giants changed that this week by becoming the center of the fantasy universe. For better and for worse.
We lost the consensus No. 1 draft pick, Saquon Barkley, to a high ankle sprain for an estimated 4-8 weeks. But we gained “Danny Dimes,” thanks to the surprisingly explosive debut of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones — which should also boost the value of tight end Evan Engram and receivers Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, according to ESPN Giants reporter Jordan Raanan.
“Engram and Shepard, they’re like on Cloud 9 right now,” said Raanan, who said it’s no coincidence that both of them had 100-yard games in Jones’ debut — because not only does he throw the ball deep with accuracy, but he also keeps plays alive with his legs longer than previous QB Eli Manning did.
Raanan had a great breakdown of how Jones’ mobility played such a big role in the Giants’ 32-31 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in which he threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 28 yards and two more TDs.
Raanan stopped short of predicting Shepard will become a top-20 fantasy receiver, because he thinks Shepard and Tate could be somewhat interchangeable when Tate returns from a suspension in Week 5.
However, Raanan does believe that Jones himself can be a legitimate fantasy asset going forward — especially when you throw in those bonus points he can provide in the run game.
“I mean, he’s done it pretty consistently,” Raanan said. “He completed 85% of his passes in the preseason. That’s really good no matter who you’re playing against. And he’s not throwing dink and dunks — he’s willing to throw it down the field. That’s probably the thing he does best. He averaged 9.8 air yards per attempt.
“And he’s gonna put up numbers because their defense is not very good. So they’re gonna have to score points.”
Raanan did offer some notes of caution, though. For one thing, fumbling has been an Achilles’ heel for Jones, with three of them in the preseason and three of them already in limited regular-season action. And, of course, the Giants offense will lose some potency while Barkley is sidelined, especially when they face top defenses like New England and Minnesota in Weeks 5-6.
As for replacing Barkley, Raanan said he thinks third-year RB Wayne Gallman is “their guy” and that he should see around 15 carries per game. He certainly won’t replace the production level of Barkley — and Raanan doesn’t think he will see nearly as much work in the passing game, some of which could go to fullback Elijhaa Penny. But Raanan said he’s a little higher on Gallman’s running ability that others seem to be and thinks he could have moderate success because the opportunity will be there.
Now for the rest of our weekly tour with ESPN’s NFL Nation reporters:
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson revealed that he “hates” running the ball, according to Jamison Hensley. Fortunately for the Ravens and for his fantasy owners, he’ll still do it when necessary — and quite effectively.
Carolina Panthers: Greg Olsen is re-establishing himself as one of the league’s top tight ends, wrote David Newton. That should remain the case whether Cam Newton returns at QB or the Panthers stick with last week’s breakout, Kyle Allen.
But as Eric D. Williams wrote, once Gordon gets back up to speed, coach Anthony Lynn said he will resume his role as the team’s starting running back.
Los Angeles Rams: So, wait, how did the Rams go to the Super Bowl without Cooper Kupp last year? Because as Lindsey Thiry wrote, it’s clear that QB Jared Goff views the receiver as his security blanket.
New Orleans Saints: Teddy Bridgewater proved the Saints can survive without Drew Brees — thanks to a conservative approach that relied almost exclusively on Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. But the QB’s job won’t get any easier in his second start against a Dallas defense that shut those guys down last year like no other defense has.