3 underrated offseason moves by the New York Giants

By: Daniel Racz

Introduction 

The New York Giants are entering a make-or-break year for many within the organization. Quarterback Daniel Jones is entering the vaunted third year leading the franchise, and many are doubting whether he will earn a second contract. This offseason general manager Dave Gettleman, who himself is on the hot seat, gave Jones a supporting cast through the offseason and draft. Big Blue broke the bank to add ex-Lion wideout Kenny Golladay and spent the 20th pick in the draft, acquired from Chicago in Dave’s first trade-down, on Florida playmaker Kadarius Toney. During free agency, the Giants also added tight end, Kyle Rudolph, on a two-year contract. The Giants decided to not add to their offensive line, instead choosing to rely on past investments.

On the defensive side of the football, the Giants did not make any super splashy moves. The team re-signed defensive lineman Leonard Williams while letting interior presence Dalvin Tomlinson sign with the Vikings. The Giants added a collection of bodies to their front seven with the hope to remain an above-average defense. In regards to their secondary, the Giants drafted UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson in round three and gave a three-year, 39-million-dollar contract to Adoree’ Jackson. The Giants made waves when they signed Jackson, Golladay, and Rudolph, but other moves deserve recognition. 

Gaining future capital

Before the draft, media personalities were saying “There will be right turns in NASCAR before Dave Gettleman trades back.” In his first seven drafts for the Giants and Panthers, Gettleman had never traded back. However, within the first two rounds of the 2021 draft, Gettleman moved back twice. Some even started calling him “Trader Dave” given his newfound affinity for defraying risk through moving down the draft board and acquiring 2022 draft picks. The Giants were rumored to be in love with Alabama wide receiver Devonta Smith. However, when the Eagles traded up ahead of the Giants for Smith, the Giants pivoted.

The Giants moved down from pick 11 to pick 20, acquiring a 2021 5th round pick and 2022 1st & 4th round picks in the process. 

During the second round of the draft, the Giants were on the clock at 42. First-round caliber pass rusher Azeez Ojulari was on the board, yet the Giants moved down to 50, taking Miami’s 2022 3rd round pick to do so. At 50, Ojulari was still on the board, so the Giants rushed their card in to make him a Giant. 

The Giants exited the draft with extra first, third, and fourth-round picks in the 2022 draft. Gettleman managed to add players that can help the Giants compete for a 2021 playoff spot while also having sustained success. If the Giants do not have a winning record in 2021, Gettleman (and possibly Daniel Jones) will be out of a job, but the team will have plenty of assets to move up the board in 2022. Quarterbacks like Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler, Carson Strong, and Malik Willis will be in play for the Giants if Jones does not pan out, and that extra first-round pick will come in handy. 

Trusting their in-house offensive lineman

The New York Giants offensive line has been putrid for the better half of a decade. When Dave Gettleman took over, he promised that he would fix the offensive line. The results have not been promising. Will Hernandez, a 2018 second-round pick, is in the final year of his rookie contract. Nate Solder is a free agent after the 2021 season following a re-working of his contract. New York brings back another lineman Andrew Thomas, Nick Gates, Matt Peart, and Shane Lemieux. Their group did not play well in 2020, but there are plenty of excuses that can be made. The team came off a limited offseason and had to learn offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s new scheme. During the year, Joe Judge fired their offensive line coach. Once Judge relieved Marc Colombo of his role with the franchise, the group played better.

The Giants hired former Louisiana offensive coordinator and line coach Rob Sale to mentor their hog mollies. Sale has gotten rave reviews from the Giants camp so far this offseason, giving fans a reason to expect improvement. The Giants have reiterated that they have confidence in their young unit. While the group has not come together yet, this will be their first complete offseason together in the Judge regime. If the young, affordable unit plays at a close to league average level, it could catapult the team into the playoffs.

Adding front seven depth

The New York Giants’ 2020 defense was a revelation. The success came from new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham and his innovative multiple schemes. Graham’s scheme relies on moving defensive lineman, disguising blitzes, and man defense. Last season Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence were the top two pass rushers on Big Blue’s defense. While both return and likely retain their roles as the key disruptors, there are now a plethora of players around them. 

Edge rushers Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines both return from injuries that cost them the majority of their 2020 seasons. The Giants also added Georgia pass rusher Azeez Ojulari and Northern Iowa edge player Ellerson Smith during rounds two and four of the draft, respectively. In free agency, the Giants signed depth rushers Ifeadi Odenigbo and Ryan Anderson to round out the group.  On the interior, the Giants brought back Austin Johnson and added nose tackle, Danny Shelton. To stabilize their linebacker group, the Giants signed Reggie Ragland. None of these individual moves likely move the needle, but the collection will make an impact. The Giants’ edge presence was lacking last year, mainly due to the absence of Carter and Ximines.

The Giants defense was a top ten unit last season, and to improve the unit the Giants quietly added a handful of players that will see meaningful snaps during the season. The edge rush presence will allow Pat Graham to drop more players into coverage when necessary and still feel confident that his group will pressure the quarterback enough. The Giants’ defense does not have to be a top three-unit, but if they want to sniff the playoffs they must have an above-average group.

Who won the Julio Jones trade?

What are the long term implications?

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes 

Introduction

In an era where elite wide receivers can’t stay out of the news and spend their careers across multiple teams, Julio Jones’ tenure with the Falcons feels like an anomaly. Julio came out of Alabama and the Falcons selected him sixth overall in the 2011 draft. For a decade, Julio was a premier wide receiver with the Falcons. Julio totaled 12,896 yards, 848 receptions, and 60 touchdowns in Atlanta. His magnificent career will undoubtedly put him in the hall of fame, but his story is not done yet.

Rumors regarding Julio wanting out of Atlanta were present for the entire offseason, but they picked up after the draft. During a call between Shannon Sharpe and Julio Jones, Julio expressed his desire to play for a competitive team and his displeasure with staying with the Atlanta Falcons for the 2021 season. So, the Titans jumped in. General Manager Jon Robinson offered a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick for Julio Jones and a sixth-round pick. The compensation for a 32-year-old Julio Jones is similar to the capital that the Arizona Cardinals moved for Deandre Hopkins. 

Though Tennessee had to give up valuable draft picks to acquire Julio, they are undoubtedly a winner of the trade. Atlanta received somewhat fair compensation, but they mishandled the situation and should have drafted knowing they would be entering a rebuild. 

Winners

Tennessee Titans

The Tennessee Titans were always a frontrunner for acquiring Julio’s services because they lacked weapons after a quiet offseason. Besides A.J Brown, the Titans weapons depth chart consisted of Dez Fitzpatrick, Anthony Firkser, and Josh Reynolds. Despite their questionable group of playmakers, the rest of the Titans’ roster is in competitive shape. The offensive line features the addition of rookie Dillon Radunz and a healthy Taylor Lewan. The defense added rookie corners Caleb Farley and Elijah Molden and signed edge rusher Bud Dupree.  The Titans had a below-average defense in 2020, but their new additions will likely bring them close to league average.

A team with a mediocre defense can only make a super bowl run with an electric offense, hence why Tennessee felt they needed to add Julio. The Titans have Ryan Tannehill on a relatively cost-effective deal, so they have the money to take on Julio’s salary (an average of 13.8 million dollars over 3 seasons.) 

Julio is still a premier wide receiver in the league. Last season, Jones averaged 2.70 yards per route run, per player profiler, good for 3rd in the league. Julio also ranked third in average depth of target and 7th in QB rating when targeted. If Julio is even 85 percent of his Atlanta self with the Titans, this acquisition is a homerun.

Fringe NFC Contenders

Julio Jones is now out of the NFC, and every team that did not attempt to trade for Julio is ecstatic. 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that he would have loved to acquire Julio, but the next best destination is the AFC. Teams in the NFC have one less top wide receiver to gameplan around.

The biggest NFC winner is likely the Saints, as they would have played the Falcons twice. With suspect cornerback depth behind Marshon Lattimore, but during their bouts with the Falcons, they will not have to focus on Julio anymore. The Saints should be expected to defeat the Falcons twice during the season, giving them a chance at a wildcard spot. The Giants, 49ers, Football Team, and Cowboys all also may be more likely to make the playoffs after the Julio move, as all those teams play the Falcons in 2021. 

Losers

Atlanta Falcons

If I am only evaluating the Titans and Falcons deal involving Julio Jones, there is no clear loser. An aging, veteran wide receiver does not often go for a first-round pick. However, the circumstances surrounding the deal make Atlanta feel like they mishandled Julio. 

Every report suggests that new General Manager Terry Fontenot and Head Coach Arthur Smith were made aware of Julio’s trade request before the draft. The Falcons’ brain trust should have reevaluated their draft strategy and looked to deal Julio earlier. The main gripe with the Falcons’ handling of Jones stems from how they dealt with their quarterback position.

The Falcons re-structured Matt Ryan’s contract, making him virtually immovable for at least two seasons. The restructure signals that the Falcons are committed to competing in 2021. However, if the Falcons knew that Julio wanted out, which they did, they should not have made such an effort to win now. The Falcons then selected Kyle Pitts, a generational tight end/wide receiver hybrid with the fourth pick. The Falcons effectively drafted Julio’s replacement instead of Matt Ryan’s replacement in the first round. Justin Fields, the elite Ohio State passer, was still on the board with the fourth pick in the draft. If Fields makes even one pro bowl during his career, he will likely have a far greater impact on his team than Kyle Pitts could ever make. If the Falcons were intent on dealing Julio Jones, they should have kept Ryan’s contract, drafted Justin Fields, and cut Ryan after the 2021 season. 

Indianapolis Colts

An under-the-radar loser of the Julio Jones deal is the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have a thin wide receiver room, so not acquiring Julio is already a missed opportunity. Julio landing within the Colts’ division with the Titans is even worse for Indianapolis. The Colts now are tasked with facing the trio of A.J. Brown, Derrick Henry, and Julio Jones twice during the season. If the Colts want to win the division, they will have to see a much-improved Carson Wentz. 

The Carson Wentz trade that the Colts made before the draft further complicates their situation. The Colts owe their first-round selection to the Eagles if Wentz plays 75 percent of the offensive snaps, or 70 percent of the snaps, and the Colts clinch a playoff berth. There is a likely scenario where the Colts will be forced to play Wentz until the end of the season to make the playoffs, but the team ultimately falls short. If this is the case, the Colts will be without a playoff berth and first-round draft selection, setting their franchise back. 

Potential Fits for Jamison Crowder

Where could the slot receiver land?

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes

Introduction

One of the most underappreciated positions in the NFL is slot wide receiver. A good slot receiver provides a safety blanket for the offense and is crucial in short-yardage situations. On the Jets over the past few seasons, Jamison Crowder has been their slot receiver. During his two seasons with Gang Green, Crowder has finished with a PFF grade in the 70s, firmly placing him as an above-average wide receiver. 

However, the Jets are undergoing major changes on every level. New head coach Robert Saleh drafted BYU quarterback in the first round, and Ole Miss slot receiver Elijah Moore in the second round. The Jets are looking to add cornerbacks to their depth chart, and they need to free up some money. Crowder has missed OTAs because the Jets asked him to take a pay cut. If Crowder does not take a pay cut, the Jets will either trade him or cut him, freeing up 10 million dollars and forcing Crowder onto a new team. Though every team could use a slot receiver, two stick out as the best landing spots.

Kansas City Chiefs

During free agency, the Kansas City Chiefs pursued Steelers’ slot receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. While Juju did not accept their offer, the Chiefs still have a glaring need at wide receiver. The Chiefs’ depth chart past Tyreek Hill is Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, and Cornell Powell. Now I do not know what a Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, or Cornell Powell are, but I know that the Chiefs need competent wide receivers. Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are the clear alphas in the Chiefs offense, and Hardman and Clyde Edwards-Helaire will see meaningful targets in the passing offense, but beyond that, it is a wasteland.

Tyreek can play from the slot or succeed from the outside. If Crowder were to sign with the Chiefs, Hill would kick out to the outside virtually any snap that he would share with Crowder. Crowder could succeed in the underneath area of the field, giving Kelce and Hill the chance to run deeper routes and rip off big plays.

Chicago Bears

After a quiet free agency and active 2021 NFL draft, the Bears still have a hole at slot receiver. The Bears are still looking to trade Anthony Miller, meaning the Bears may not have a true slot receiver on their roster come September. 7th round pick Dazz Newsome had an opportunity to win the slot role this offseason, but he broke his collarbone and may not be healthy in time for training camp. The Bears’ current receiver room boasts Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, and new acquisition Damiere Bryd. Byrd and Mooney are burners, while Robinson is a true alpha, outside wide receiver. 

Jamison Crowder would be the front runner for the slot role in the Windy City if he were to sign with the Bears. Though Andy Dalton is the current top quarterback on the Bears’ roster, it is only a matter of time until Justin Fields takes control. Fields’ Ohio State success came from his exceptional deep accuracy, but a safety blanket like Crowder can help acclimate Fields to the league. 

NFL coaches on the HOT seat

Who could lose their job?

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes 

Introduction

Every season, a few NFL teams decide that parting ways with their current head coach are in the team’s best interest. While some coaches retain their job for many years, every bad coach is eventually fired once their flaws are revealed. Even teams with star quarterbacks, like the 2020 Houston Texans, fired their coaches. Whether it be due to an outdated scheme, a lack of interpersonal skills, or the inability to make in-game adjustments, there are a few current men that should be coaching as their lives depend on it.

Kliff Kingsbury

In theory, the Arizona Cardinals have built their team properly. After realizing that Josh Rosen was a failed draft pick, the team went back to the well and took Heisman winner Kyler Murray with the first overall pick. To complement their young quarterback, the Cardinals added college offensive guru Kliff Kingsbury to coach their squad. During the 2020 offseason, the Cardinals added Deandre Hopkins to give Kyler Murray a legitimate alpha wide receiver. This offseason, the Cardinals signed J.J. Watt to shore up their defensive line.

The additions that the Cardinals have made, in addition to Kyler Murray’s lack of major development as a passer, have put Kingsbury’s job security in jeopardy. The Cardinals have yet to have a winning record with Kliff at the helm. The offense that Kingsbury has designed is reminiscent of any college air-raid offense. There were many questions about whether an offense that ran a large portion of their plays with four wide receivers and one running back would work. The Cardinals ran this personnel, called 10 personnel, a record 20 percent last season, 5 percent more than the next team–the Buffalo Bills. Kyler Murray’s lack of major development as a passer has forced many to evaluate if he is the man for the job. If the Cardinals do not post nine wins next season, Kingsbury could be on his way out. 

Zac Taylor

Sean McVay’s disciple Zac Taylor was a surprise hire during the 2019 coaching cycle. The then 36-year-old with no prior experience naturally drew comparison to McVay, his mentor. When McVay was hired to develop Jared Goff, there were doubts. However, once the public saw the transformation Goff underwent, many teams searched for the next young, offensive mastermind. The Bengals took a shot on Taylor, hoping they could find a franchise-changing coach. However, in his first two seasons, Taylor has been underwhelming at best. The Bengals have six combined wins in Taylor’s two seasons and have held a top-five pick in both years. 

After Taylor’s first season, the Bengals selected the heir apparent to Andy Dalton, LSU Heisman winner Joe Burrow. Burrow’s rookie season was cut short when he tore his ACL, but when Burrow played he looked like a franchise quarterback. The issue with Taylor’s tenure is not what he has done at the quarterback position, but rather everything else. The offensive line is among the league’s worst, raising red flags about the viability of the offense long-term. The defensive line lacks edge rush talent, and they let their premier pass rusher, Carl Lawson, walk during free agency. The Bengals still may not have NFL-caliber linebackers, and the secondary is still in shambles. The Bengals are looking at another top ten draft pick, and Zac Talyor will likely be out of a job come January. 

Best bets for 2021 defensive rookie of the year

Which rookie can take home the hardware?

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes

Introduction

Unlike offensive rookie of the year, which is given to a quarterback an overwhelming majority of the time, the defensive rookie of the year award can be won by multiple positions consistently. The positions that win the award most often are edge rusher and linebacker because they offer immediate production and can stuff the stat sheet.

Last year, the three finalists for the award were edge rusher Chase Young, linebacker Patrick Queen, and linebacker/safety hybrid Jeremy Chinn. Even though Patrick Queen graded out as a poor coverage player by PFF, he still posted lots of tackles. As long as a player can post a decent stat line and have top 64 draft capital, they can be in contention for the award. Another important factor in evaluating these rookies is considering if they will get day one work. 

Jaelan Phillips (+700)

Within the NFL draft community, Jalelan Phillips was considered the best edge rusher in the class of 2021. His freakish athleticism and pedigree made him a coveted player in the draft. The Miami Dolphins made Phillips the first edge rusher off the board, an immediate bonus for his rookie of the year chances. Phillips will be one of Miami’s starting edge rushers for week one, so if he posts double-digit sacks the award will likely go to him. Miami’s interior defensive line already has Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis, so Phillips will have help generating pressure. Miami’s elite secondary will cover wide receivers for extended periods of time, giving coverage sack opportunities to edge rushers like Phillips. 

Jaelan succeeded in college by aligning across the defensive line. Miami’s defense is incredibly multiple, so players like Phillips will likely get work at multiple positions in various formations. Phillips has the top 20 draft capital to make him a favorite for the award and the skill to bring home the title. Though he is priced as the second most likely player to take home the award–behind Micah Parsons at +400–he should be the favorite. 

Zaven Collins (+1100)

Two picks prior to Jaelan Phillips’ selection, the Arizona Cardinals made Zaven Collins their newest addition with the 16th pick. Collins is an athletic freak of nature from the University of Tulsa. He is physically imposing, weighing in at anywhere from 255 to 270 pounds. The edge rusher/linebacker hybrid player has been given comparisons to fellow swiss army knife player Anthony Barr. 

Zaven’s playstyle and strengths lend themselves to putting up impressive numbers early in his career. The Arizona Cardinals announced that they want Zaven to primarily play MIKE linebacker, so Zaven will line up in the middle of the field 3-5 yards off the line-of-scrimmage often. This location will let Zaven be involved across the entire gridiron, leading to lots of tackles. Jordan Hicks, Arizona’s current top linebacker, has already requested a trade because Zaven will be a day one starter, so his price will likely become more expensive once Hicks is officially traded. 

At Tulsa, Zaven was a tremendous run defender, pass rusher, and coverage player. If he has a strong grasp of just two of these three skills in his rookie year, he will post near-historic rookie of the year numbers. Triple-digit total tackles, a handful of sacks, and a few turnovers are a reasonable projection for Collins, showing why he should be firmly in contention for defensive rookie of the year.

Why Lamar Jackson will return to MVP caliber

Can the former MVP return to his former glory?

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes

Introduction

When Lamar Jackson entered the 2018 NFL draft, the football community debated whether or not his style would translate to the league. Though some believed Lamar’s athleticism could best be utilized as a wide receiver, the Ravens ultimately traded up into the first round to take the quarterback with the 32nd pick.

In his first full season as the starter, Lamar took the league by storm and won the MVP trophy. Many expected Lamar to repeat his 2019 success, but he fell short of expectations. Lamar did not throw for as many touchdowns, and he caught covid during the season, which caused him to miss time. The Ravens should feature an improved offensive line and playmaker group, so a repeat MVP performance could be on the horizon for Lamar Jackson.

Offensive Line Help

Prior to the 2020 season, perennial all-pro guard Marshall Yanda retired, leaving a hole on the Ravens’ offensive line. During the year, all-pro pass protecting tackle Ronnie Stanley tore his ACL, forcing him to miss significant time. Stanley is expected to be ready for week one, so Lamar will have his left tackle back.

During the offseason, the Ravens made additions to their line. To replace Orlando Brown Jr, Baltimore signed ex-Steeler tackle Alejandro Villanueva. Villanueva has been a consistently above-average tackle since entering the league in 2015, grading out above 70 in five of his six seasons per PFF. The Ravens also drafted guard Ben Cleveland in the third round. Cleveland projects as a potential day one starter and is a depth piece at worst.

Year-Over-Year Improvement

The narrative that Lamar Jackson is a poor passer is without much backing. Lamar operates out of a run-first offense, making him a low-volume passer. Equating Jackson’s lack of opportunity with a lack of talent is a disservice to his game. During the 2019 season, Jackson’s MVP campaign, he threw at a league-average/above-average level in terms of playerprofiler’s accuracy metrics. Jackson finished with a 70.9 true completion percentage and a 75.8 clean pocket completion percentage, both ranking within the top fifteen in the league. In 2020, Jackson finished with 74.9 and 76.9 in those identical metrics, suggesting that Lamar is in fact getting better as a thrower. For all we know, the best is yet to come.

Dynamic Passing Offense

Lamar will not have to shoulder the same load that he has done in previous years. The Baltimore front office made significant investments to overhaul their passing game. While Baltimore has previously invested in size-speed specimens or deep threats, they focused on acquiring route-running specialists with yac or contested-catch skills this offseason. The Ravens drafted Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman with the 27th pick in the draft and selected Tylan Wallace in the fourth round. The Ravens also signed Sammy Watkins, but the two rookie wideouts are the main cause for optimism. Wallace dominated for years at Oklahoma State and will give Lamar a separator on the outside. Bateman can win from anywhere on the field, and he boasts sub 4.40 speed. The new-look Ravens’ offense could transform into a more balanced attack, and Lamar Jackson could be the main beneficiary. 

Most likely teams to go worst to first in their divisions

Who can flip the script?

By: Daniel Racz

Every year at least one team comes out of nowhere and earns a division title after having a terrible record the year prior. Last year it was the Washington Football Team, who went from the second overall pick to win the NFC East. In 2018, both the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans rebounded from last-place finishes in 2017. The precedent for a rapid turnaround has been in the National Football League for decades, and it persists to this day.

Most teams that take a massive leap forward undergo some massive change in the offseason, whether it be new personnel, coaching staff, or unpredictable development from a key player. This year, there are a few prime candidates to make playoff births after lackluster finishes, and both have new quarterbacks. 

San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers made the Super Bowl in 2019, so fans had lofty expectations for them in 2020. Sadly, San Fransisco did not live up to the hype. Early, season-ending injuries to Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas hurt the team. Quarterback Jimmy Garropolo, running back Raheem Mostert, tight end George Kittle, and wide receivers Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel could not piece together complete seasons, but all of the team’s weapons looked great when on the field.

Garropolo’s future with the team remains uncertain. In one of the biggest blockbuster trades in recent memory, the 49ers gave up three 1st round picks and additional compensation for the right to select North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance with the third pick in the NFL draft. Shanahan previously worked with Matt Ryan and Jimmy G, so the mobility that Lance brings to the table may be emphasized in the revamped Shanahan offense. 

The 49ers finished in fourth place in the NFC West, so they will face an easier schedule than the rest of their division. San Francisco managed to win six games with a barebones roster, so a healthy weapons group and a dynamic quarterback could lead to an eleven or twelve-win roster. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

After a trainwreck of a 2020 season, the Jaguars cleaned house. They fired Doug Marrone and hired decorated former college head coach Urban Meyer. Meyer’s tenures with Ohio State and Florida are synonymous with success. He won national titles for both programs, so many Jaguars fans are hoping for the same success in Jacksonville.

Urban takes over a roster that is not in the worst shape. The Jaguars had the first pick in the 2021 draft and took generational talent, Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence is perhaps the most hyped-up prospect at any position since Andrew Luck. It is fitting that Luck is the only number one pick, rookie quarterback to take his team to the playoffs in year one. If Lawrence is indeed the prospect that many believe him to be, a playoff berth is in the range of outcomes.

The Jaguars also play in the NFL’s worst division. With the Texans set to implode without Deshaun Watson, they will contend for the NFL’s top pick. The Titans lost most of their weapons, so a path to mediocrity is foreseeable. The Colts did not make any significant additions, and they need to take on the Carson Wentz reclamation project. The Jaguars may not be the most talented team, but they only need to piece together a half-decent season to win their division. 

Best long shot bets for 2021 NFL MVP

Who provides the most value?

Daniel Racz @Danny_Dimes

Introduction

The Most Valuable Player award is given out to the player that the voters feel made the greatest impact on their team’s success. In recent years, longshots have won the award. Over the past few seasons, Aaron Rodgers (+2500), Lamar Jackson (+10000), and Patrick Mahomes (+7500) all were not in the limelight before their success. This season, there are a few decent values on the award, and all can lead their teams to the playoffs. 

Lamar Jackson (+1700)

Don’t call it a comeback! Lamar Jackson’s resurgence, or LJaxBounceBack, is here. The Baltimore Ravens’ offense is primed to explode in 2021. Lamar Jackson is only a year removed from winning the award, but he seems like the forgotten man in many discussions about the leagues’ premier quarterbacks. The Ravens drafted wide receiver Rashod Bateman in the first round to improve the passing game. Bateman is a smooth route runner and dynamic weapon in the open field. 

Lamar won the award in 2019 due to his rushing ability. He is a fine passer, but if he takes his game to another level he will surely be in contention for the award. The Ravens also lost their top two edge rushers via free agency, so their defense could take a step back. If the Ravens need to pass more often, Lamar could pad his stats even more. 

Justin Herbert (+2000)

Before the draft, Justin Herbert was priced at +2500 for the award. However, due to the predictable additions to the offense, Herbert has climbed up to +2000. Herbert lit the league on fire during his first season, securing rookie of the year honors. The Chargers fired their head coach, Anthony Lynn, and hired defensive coordinator Brandon Staley. Staley has stressed that the new-look Chargers will emphasize analytics. 

The Chargers drafted tackle Rashawn Slater and signed all-pro center Corey Linsley and versatile ex-Steeler Matt Feiler to revamp their offensive line. The Chargers are still in contention for Julio Jones. Though Justin Herbert is not the top quarterback in the league at the moment, he could take a sophomore jump and catapult himself to stardom.

Daniel Jones (+9000)

The best longshot on the board is without a doubt, Daniel Jones. His expectations are low, but his upside is enormous. The New York Giants could be a trainwreck, but the pieces are there to make a playoff run. My point here is that the Giants have a wide range of outcomes. The MVP award is given out based on one player’s high-end outcome coming to fruition, so betting on Jones with 90-1 odds makes sense.

The Giants are gaining a plethora of weapons. Wide receivers Kenny Golladay and KAdarius Toney will revamp the passing offense. Saquon Barkley could re-assert himself as the top running back in the game. Kyle Rudolph will improve the red zone offense. If the New York Giants manage to live up to the goals of many fans, Jones could take the league by storm and gain the MVP award in the process. 

Why Joe Judge will post 8+ wins in year two

Can Big Blue take a leap forward in 2022?

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes

Introduction

Ever since Tom Coughlin left the Giants after the 2015 season, the Giants have been searching for a long-term solution at their head coaching spot. With rumors circulating that the Giants had interest in Matt Rhule during the 2020 offseason, the Giants shocked the league and hired Joe Judge. 

Judge’s Giants finished with a 6-10 record in year one, but the team recorded five of its six wins during the back half of the season. The progress the Giants made in Judge’s first year gives optimism to Giants fans regarding the team’s playoff aspirations. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s stellar defense was perhaps the greatest surprise for the Giants last year. This offseason, the Giants broke the bank to improve their roster, and further boosted their roster in the draft. The Giants also have a healthy weapons group to start the season, so a winning record is on the horizon. 

Top-Ten Defense

The New York Giants defense took major strides during the 2020 season. The emergence of Leonard Williams as a borderline top-five interior defensive lineman in the league and the pro-bowl play of corner James Bradbury made the Giants an above-average unit. The Giants ranked in the top ten in rushing defense and top sixteen in passing defense and  total defense allowed. After years of atrocious defensive play, a year where the Giants allowed only 5,589 total yards across sixteen games is a welcome surprise. The Giants also placed ninth in expected points contributed via their defense, courtesy of pro football reference. 

Healthy Offense

The success of the 2020 New York Giants came entirely from their defense. Daniel Jones did not win games for the team, though he did not lose them either. His improved PFF grade in the 2020 season compared to the 2019 season (78.4 vs 65.9) is a positive sign. Jones did not get to play all of the 2020 season, which is both a red flag and a reason for optimism in 2021. 

The Giants are also getting back their all-pro running back, Saquon Barkley. In Barkley’s rookie season, he posted over 2,000 yards-from-scrimmage. The Giants unleashed Daniel Jones’ rushing ability after Barkley tore his ACL during week two, and they could continue to use his running skill in the backfield to pair with Barkley’s dynamism. 

Offseason Additions

The phenomena of “winning windows” has become increasingly relevant since the 2010 CBA made rookie contracts incredibly inexpensive. When a quarterback is on a rookie deal, a front office can assemble a great team around them and make the playoffs. Even below-average quarterbacks like Jared Goff can lead their team to a super bowl on a rookie deal if their surrounding talent is sufficient. 

The Giants signed Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay to a four-year, 72-million-dollar contract, giving Daniel Jones a legitimate alpha weapon. The Giants also drafted gadget-weapon Kadarius Toney at 20, giving the team a diverse group of playmakers. On the defensive side of the football, the Giants gave cornerback Adoree Jackson a three-year, 39-million-dollar deal to play across from James Bradbury. They then drafted Azeez Ojulari in the second round, potentially completing their pass-rushing group.

Remaining free agent targets for the New York Giants

How Can Big Blue Improve?

Daniel Racz @Danny___Dimes

Introduction

While the majority of offseason signings occur right after free agency starts in mid-March, free agency never stops. Even during the regular season, many quality football players remain on the open market for one reason or another. Meaningful additions to any roster can be made this week, either via trade or signing.

For the New York Giants, the remainder of their moves will likely come in the form of signings, as they do not have much cap space to take on more expensive already negotiated deals. The Giants did not address their offensive line in the draft, and their edge rusher room still leaves a lot to be desired. The players the Giants will be looking for are rotational players or injury insurance at high-value, positions of need. 

Melvin Ingram

Perhaps no remaining free agent could make as significant an impact on the Giants in 2021 as Melvin Ingram. However, Ingram will carry a much higher price tag than other available players. In late April, Pro Football Focus estimated that Ingram would receive a one-year, eight million dollar deal. Very few teams have that money to spend, so his actual price tag will likely fall more in the five million dollar range. Ingram was graded out as a borderline elite player by PFF in 2016 and 2017 and has graded out as above average from 2018 to 2020. Ingram’s impressive body of work, coupled with the Giants’ lacking pass rush crew, make them an ideal fit. From 2015-2019 Ingram posted at least 7 sacks each season.

Russell Okung

Many in the NFL draft community expected an offensive tackle selection in the first round. Few could have imagined a world where the Giants passed on the offensive line for the entire draft. Nevertheless, the Giants enter the 2021 season with Nate Solder as their only addition at the tackle position. 

Enter Russell Okung. Okung has never been a premier blindside protector, but he has always been good enough. His consistently slightly above-average PFF grades, ranging from 62.4 to 78.4, suggesting that Okung would be a great addition to the poor group the Giants currently have rostered. Okung would compete with Andrew Thomas, Matt Peart, and Nate Solder for tackle reps in-game, and coach Judge may even decide to rotate them throughout games. 

Austin Reiter

Without a doubt, the worst position on the Giants’ depth chart is their interior offensive line. Cutting Kevin Zeitler to make room for the Adoree Jackson signing may become infamous in Giants’ lore. A group composed of Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, and Shane Lemieux has the potential to be the worst in the National Football League. 

Austin Reiter is the best available interior offensive lineman. He profiles more as a center, measuring in at 6-foot 3-inches and 300 pounds, but the transition between interior positions is not the most difficult. Reiter has graded out as an above-average player in four of his five years, with his best PFF grade coming in at 78.6 in 2018. Even if the Giants do not add Reiter, they ought to address the position in one way or another. 

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