Fantasy Football: Making Sense of the New York Giants’ Backfield
Prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, the New York Giants’ backfield was already loaded with interesting talent. And now with the addition of former UCLA running back Paul Perkins, question marks surrounding each of the backs’ touches for the 2016 season have surfaced.
The Giants’ lead back in 2015, Rashad Jennings, earned 48.3 percent of the team's carries in 16 games, as he carried the ball 195 times for 863 yards and 3 touchdowns. According to our Net Expected Points (NEP), Jennings earned the fifth most Successes (a "Success" occurs when a player produces positive NEP -- the player performed above expectation and increased his team’s chances of scoring) with 99 which, in turn, pushed his Success Rate to 50.77 percent, first among all backs with at least 70 carries.
In addition to his overall success, Jennings earned a bulk of his yardage during the final four games of the season, which should push him to the top of the depth chart at the start of the regular season regardless what happens for the remainder of the offseason.
Jennings is looking forward to molding Perkins’ game at the next level, but more importantly, he’s ready to get back to work.
“You need healthy running backs to run the ball," Jennings said, via James Kratch of NJ.com. "I'm excited to have another young guy to teach and give everything I know, and to groom him into a great running back.”
“I'm here to help. Everything's much bigger than me. I'm going to work like I work, regardless of anybody's opinions of me. I'm here to help win a championship.”
According to FantasyFootballCalculator.com, Jennings’ 2016 average draft position is a whopping 33.7 picks lower in comparison to last season, likely because of the addition of Perkins. However, Perkins shouldn’t pull a significant amount of carries away from Jennings as he adjusts to the NFL game.
The Committee Behind Jennings
Former New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen carried the ball just 61 times for 260 yards in his first year in New York, but he did thrive in the receiving game, as he brought in a career high 59 receptions for 495 yards and 4 touchdowns. According to our NEP metric, Vereen earned the third most Reception Successes (41) among all running backs with at least 30 receptions and ranked 12th in Receptions Success Rate (69.49 percent).
With that being said, Perkins does possess some of the necessary skills to compete for a third-down role, but Vereen should still see a majority of the reps on third down given the amount of success he had in 2015.
Behind Vereen, former Boston College back Andre Williams is entering his third season in the NFL, and though he had some success as a rookie in 2014 (217 carries for 721 yards and 7 touchdowns), Williams will be limited to short-yardage situations because of his lack of speed and quickness. Yes, he can bully his way in between the tackles at 5’11”, 230 pounds, but he's unreliable on perimeter runs and will struggle to turn open lanes into significant production. So unreliable, in fact, that he's been one of the worst running backs our database has ever seen.
Where Does Perkins Fit?
Perkins, on the other hand, should draw some interest as big-play threat on the ground because of his above-average elusiveness and quickness and, in turn, he should take over for Williams as the Giants’ number-two back. Though that isn’t saying much given that Williams had less than 90 carries in 2015, Perkins should benefit from producing a higher per-carry average.
With the Bruins, Perkins carried the ball 237 times for 1,343 yards (5.67 yards per carry) and 14 touchdowns, and he accumulated 30 receptions for 242 yards and 1 touchdown.
If there is any interest in the running backs deeper down the Giants’ depth chart (e.g. Orleans Darkwa, Bobby Rainey), it’s unprecedented. Head coach Ben McAdoo likely won’t keep more than four running backs by the start of the 2016 regular season, which should push both Darkwa and Rainey on the 53-man roster.
Look for Jennings to again lead the committee in New York, and though his seat will definitely be warmer this season because the added talent behind him, the depth running backs will have to earn their role in the Giants’ offense before they start taking away a significant amount of touches away from Jennings. Perkins and Vereen are interesting depth players or insurance options, but Jennings is the only Giants back with even RB2 potential in fantasy football.