Can You Trust Sterling Shepard or Golden Tate at Their Current Draft Costs?

The New York Giants found their franchise signal-caller in Daniel Jones last season, and to be successful in year two, he's going to need some help from an underrated receiving core.

Last season, Darius Slayton took control as the WR1 in the offense and fantasy owners salivated over him in his rookie season, leaving Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate as an afterthought.

Tate missed the first four games of 2019 due to a PED suspension but ended the season as the WR41 (103.2) in standard leagues behind Slayton's 33rd place finish (122.0). Shepard trailed both at 54th overall (84.8) in standard leagues, and the same for PPR leagues, except it was much closer with Slayton (37th) still leading the pack with 170.0 fantasy points compared to Tate's 152.2 (45th) and Slayton's 141.8 (48th).

The Giants' offense averaged 21.3 points (19th) and 233.2 in passing yards per game (18th) in 2019 despite the lackluster numbers from their trio.

Do either Shepard or Tate have a chance to be WR2s in fantasy this season, or are they best reserved in a WR3 role?

Giants' Wide Receiver ADP

Shepard, at 27 years old, is being selected ahead of Tate (31) in BestBall10's mocks this month, 119.57 to 130.16. In 12-team drafts, that calculates to 11.11 for Shepard and 12.10 for Tate.

Shepard is the 48th receiver coming off the board, while Tate isn't far behind at 51st overall. At both of their current average draft costs, it doesn't hurt to take a swing on them, but with a healthy trio coming back, they will all suffer from a lack of targets.

Last season was an injury-riddled one for the Giants' receiving core, as Shepard and Tate both dealt with concussions. Shepard had two concussions forcing him to miss six games, and Tate missed one -- in addition to his four-game suspension.

Shepard led the three receivers in fantasy points per game with 14.2 in 10 games with Tate right behind at 13.8. Slayton trailed the bunch with 12.1 fantasy points per game but played in the most contests among them with 14, allowing him to lead the trio in overall fantasy points.

numberFire's projections peg Shepard to record 107.49 fantasy points in standard leagues and Tate to net 98.56 points. Interestingly enough, both wide receivers are projected to outproduce Slayton in fantasy points (93.77), despite Slayton being drafted ahead of them as the 41st receiver off the board at 7.09 (93.94).

In keeper or dynasty leagues, Slayton is the clear choice out of the trio being the same age as Jones (23), but of the other two, who will have a better season?

2020 Preview

Both Shepard and Tate saw 83 targets or more last season but posted underwhelming numbers in 2019. Tate held a 57.6% catch rate in his first season with New York, catching 10 fewer passes than Shepard, but recording 100 more yards and 3 touchdowns. Tate posted 13.8 yards per catch as the intermediate-to-deep route option for the team because of his route-running despite being the slowest of the three.

Tate is projected by numberFire's model to record 61.51 receptions, 98.92 targets, 735.93 yards, and 4.10 touchdowns -- which would mark his first non-back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons since 2012-13.

The Giants' offense will also divvy up targets to 23-year-old running back Saquon Barkley, 25-year-old tight end Evan Engram, and newly-signed running back Dion Lewis. Five players recorded 40 or more receptions in 2019, and only Barkley and Shepard posted more than 50 receptions. Engram missed eight games but averaged 5.5 receptions per game, just behind Shepard's team-high 5.7.

Engram averaged over 50 yards per game, a mark all the receivers saw, yet Tate led the way with a mediocre 61.5 yards per game. Lewis should be a slight factor in the offense owning above-average receiving abilities with a 70% catch rate or better in seven seasons with three teams.

Jones threw 459 pass attempts in 13 games last season, and he's projected to post 581.94 in 2020. Jones could clear that number with a healthy receiving core, as we witnessed seven quarterbacks surpass 590 pass attempts in 2019. Shepard has the edge over Tate -- in not only age and health -- but in target share, too.

Shepard posted a team-high 23.4% target share as well as a 24.5% red zone share, second on the team behind Engram's 25.0%.

According to PlayerProfiler, Slayton only lined up in the slot 4.5% of the time, so there will be a battle for the slot role as Tate played a team-high 73.6% in the slot, compared to Shepard's 40.1%.

Shepard also posted a 68.7% catch rate in 2019, and numberFire's 2020 projections have him leading the team in receptions (67.94), targets (111.21), and receiving yards (788.34) -- while also ranking second in touchdowns (4.48) behind Engram (5.33).

Tate's projections peg him to have a slightly better season than last year but not far off from Shepard's with 61.51 receptions, 98.92 targets, 735.93 yards, and 4.10 touchdowns.

If you're choosing between two similarly predicted players, it's not a bad idea to go with the younger option or the player with a better opportunity at target shares, which both happen to be Shepard.

The Verdict

To be clear, their projected numbers are certainly WR3 worthy in fantasy, but Shepard's upside is much higher.

Shepard has averaged 61.75 receptions, 94.75 targets, 715.5 yards, and 4.25 touchdowns in his four-year career, and with Jones taking over, an increase in targets could take place.

Shepard has recorded two 100-plus target seasons, and we can expect this to be number three under his belt.

If you're in a PPR league, Tate would appear to be the best bet because of his impressive numbers with Detroit, but that's not the case anymore. Shepard steadily put up better numbers than the rest of the receiving core but saw those two concussions limit his 2019 season with Jones. Tate will turn 32-years-old by the start of the NFL season, and his 2018 and 2019 seasons with the Eagles and Giants resulted in his lowest reception per game totals since 2013.

Even if Shepard has another average season of 60 receptions, 700 yards, and 4 touchdowns, Tate's ceiling won't be much better than that with Slayton's emergence. Draft the younger option in Shepard before selecting Tate in fantasy this season, but don't expect either player to fill your team's WR2 role anytime soon.