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Five New York Giants Make ESPN’s NFLRank Top 100 in Football

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In another continuation of annual projects, ESPN released their NFL Rank Top 100 Players of 2017 list. The project featured 53 ESPN football experts to rate players based solely on how they’ll perform in 2017. Unlike rankings done after the season, this is more projection than looking back. Voters were also asked not to weigh positional value, only judging how each player will do in the upcoming season. The was a 100-point scale used, with 100 implying an all-time great season, 90 standing for All-Pro level, and 80 as a “very good” year.

New York Giants Football 2017

Five members of the New York Giants made this list. Odell Beckham Jr., the only member of the offense, was the highest ranked at ninth overall. Beckham had a rating of 91.92 — well into All-Pro territory — and he improved upon his ranking of 13th from 2013. He was the third-highest ranked wide receiver behind Antonio Brown (fifth) and Julio Jones (sixth).

The next-highest ranked Giant was safety Landon Collins at 29. Collins wasn’t ranked in last year’s version and his average rating among voters this season was 87.55. He was the third safety listed behind Kansas City’s Eric Berry (17th) and Seattle’s Earl Thomas (19th). In a companion piece on ESPN Insider, Collins got some more love from some former NFL defensive backs. Matt Bowen named Collins the most underrated player on the list with an argument that Collins should have been Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and that he expects another huge season in 2017. Domonique Foxworth listed Collins as his player most likely to be in the top-25 for next year’s list. Both are right and Collins probably should have been higher this year. As great as Berry was in his return to the field, Collins has claim for a bigger impact on the defense, though so does Thomas, who should still hold the title of top safety in the league.

Further down the list, the next three Giants are fairly close together. Olivier Vernon came in at No. 61, Janoris Jenkins was No. 65, and Jason Pierre-Paul was No. 74. Vernon’s rating average 84.25 and he improved 30 spots from last season’s rank of 91. It does appear some are catching on with the value Vernon brings to the defensive line. He was also mentioned by Field Yates as the most underrated player on the list.

Jenkins was either the eighth or ninth highest-ranked cornerback on the list, depending on how you want to classify Arizona’s Tyrann Mathieu at No. 59. While Jenkins had a breakout year in 2016 (he wasn’t ranked on last year’s list), it’s hard to place him among the top corners in the league with the likes of Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, and Chris Harris Jr. He probably does have an argument to be placed over No. 44 Josh Norman and No. 56 Malcolm Butler, who was Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz’s most overrated player in the ranking.

The last Giant was Pierre-Paul, who was not ranked last year. His 83.19 average rating still indicates many expect an excellent season from the edge rusher.

Notable Giants left of the list include Eli Manning, Damon Harrison, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Ereck Flowers — kidding about the last one. Twelve quarterbacks were on the list that excluded Eli, even though Manning ranked 11th in ESPN’s QB Tiers ranking that came from those who work in the league.

Harrison was Dan Graziano’s pick as his top snubbed player, who should have been within the top-100.

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What Does 2017 Offseason Hold for New York Giants?

New York Giants fell flat in their first playoff appearance since 2011. The Green Bay Packers poured it on the helpless defense, and an ineffective offense once again reared its ugly head. The 11-5 regular season record is a promising springboard into New York Giants 2017, but 0-1 is the only record the Giants should care about. This offseason, improving upon that mark will be the number one priority.

New York Giants 2017

New York Giants 2017

This offseason, unlike those of the past four Giants seasons, both management and players can look to the past season as reason for optimism. Recent history has forced the team to dismiss the previous season and look toward a future that may be brighter than the past. An 11-5 record, multiple All-Pro and Pro Bowl designations, and an elusive playoff berth all point to a team on the ascendancy. Not to mention Ben McAdoo, the rookie head coach who led them to 11 or more wins for only the fourth time this millennium.

The foundation of the team is laid for a championship run; money certainly buys talent and the 2016 Giants are an example of that. But for all the strides the team made, when the time came to step onto Lambeau Field and prove themselves, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers vastly outplayed and thoroughly embarrassed the visiting Giants.

Offseason Headlines

The week leading up to the game had its share of headlines; following the game, many of these story lines needed resolution. These resolutions, ranging from Eli Manning’s continual down slide to the correlation made between a certain boat trip and some untimely drops, garner interest but do not address what this team must do to improve this offseason. Or even adequately address what this team did wrong throughout the course of the game, and to a larger extent the season, that led to its many shortcomings.

A few prominent topics surrounding this Giants’ offseason is how to “deal” with Odell Beckham and acquiescing that Eli Manning’s future is no longer a concrete part of the Giants plans.  These are two relatively straight forward issues for the Giants; Beckham and Manning will both be with the Giants next year and are their greatest chance for success. The defense’s impressive rebound this season only proved to take the team so far before the offense’s stagnation caught up with the team. Beckham is the most explosive play maker the Giants have, and Manning possesses a mastery of the position that can only be acquired through 13 years of high quality play. There are numerous stories revolving around the futures of these two important players, but both must be part of the Giants future if the team is to find any success.

An Offensive Fix

There are several issues that the Giants must address this offseason to counterbalance the weight of winning games that so often fell on the defense’s shoulders. First and foremost, and this is directly from McAdoo himself, is establishing a strong running game and making the ground attack a force in the game plan. McAdoo preached the importance of a running game throughout the season, but the extent of this only ever culminated in one 100 yard performer this year.

The Green Bay game showed that the Giants lack both the ground game to control the clock and the firepower to keep up with Aaron Rodgers.  A gash here and there by Paul Perkins and Rashad Jennings is not enough to keep defenses honest. The current Giants’ offense does not appear predicated on the run game. But the threat of a rushing attack is vital for any quarterback, especially one that thrives on play action and quick passes.

Will Johnson, who was placed on IR before the season even began, may have spelled the demise for any semblance of a running game. Brought over from the Steelers, Johnson was in line to play the H-Back role, a tight end type who could run routes out of the backfield and lead block for tailbacks. His stint never materialized and the Giants were forced to press Larry Donnell, Will Tye, and later Jerrell Adams into more traditional blocking roles that do not fit their pass catching proficiency. Donnell was effectively benched near the end of the season and Adams was injured for the play off game.

The running game that McAdoo preached was non existent against the Packers, and an offense that had not scored more than 28 points during the season was forced to play catch-up. Personnel wise, finding a competent run blocker and sure handed receiver out of the back field is much more important than any discussion about the immediate futures of Odell Beckham and Eli Manning.

Thinking Outside the Numbers

Sticking with the offensive side of the ball, the Giants must also address the wide receiver position. Sterling Shepard and Odell Beckham, the two leading receivers, averaged less than 14 yards per completion. Victor Cruz, who may have played his final game as a Giant, offered little in terms of a downfield threat. His inclusion on the roster this year was a redundancy, with an athletic slot receiver clearly in line to take his place.

While Shepard’s rookie season exceeded expectations, management’s decision to keep both Cruz and Shepard on the roster, while passing up on other, more physical down field threats, such as Michael Thomas, must be questioned. Obviously, the off season excitement revolving around Manning and his three receivers, never came to fruition. Perhaps their overlapping skill set and somewhat limited physicality had something to do with the marginal success.

Watching Odell rip defenses with slants is certainly entertaining, and his athleticism and spatial awareness is incredible. But, at Eli’s peak, he had taller, and now it can be said, more sure-handed receivers to throw to on the boundary. The back shoulder fade that Eli and Plaxico Burress nearly perfected can not be run with Odell and the 5’10” Shepard. The presence Hakeem Nicks offered outside of the numbers allowed both him and Victor Cruz to flourish and even helped Mario Manningham sign an offseason contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

Acquiring a big bodied receiver, akin to Burress or Nicks, is imperative for the Giants moving forward. This receiver could already be on the roster, or the Giants could turn to the draft or free agency to find a receiver. Tavarres King and Roger Lewis have already gotten playing time and recorded touchdowns. Wherever this receiver comes from, a presence outside the numbers meshes well with Eli and allows him to push the ball down field.

2017: Playoffs or Bust

Of course, New York Giants Game the success of the passing game is directly correlated with the play of the offensive line and the running game. In past years, or years where the Giants have made the playoffs and won, both of these facets excelled. The offensive line, which has been under scrutiny for the better part of two years, has deservedly been critiqued. Ereck Flowers’ struggles encapsulate a unit that has no continuity and has trouble controlling the line of scrimmage for any duration of time.  A stark contrast from the play of the defensive line this season, but another off season of completely ignoring the offensive line will only lead to similar results.

2017 will have a different feel for the Giants; coming off a playoff berth with a team largely unfamiliar with the post season will have a profound effect on the team. This effect could be positive or negative. It remains to be seen, but the Giants have already shown the talent and ability to win. 11 wins is a tough mark to top, and with a few new pieces implemented and slight modifications to game plan and scheme, a deep play off run is a feasible and realistic expectation.