Fantasy football is most often the epitome of “what have you done for me lately?” — in the essence that gamers tend to get overly fixed one way or the other on how a player performed last year. We’re all guilty of it in varying ways and to differing extents.
Sometimes, a player is just so awful that it becomes almost impossible to not be blinded by the memory of said putrid results. In 2020, few other players than New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones fit this description.
But does a fresh year warrant renewed optimism, or have we seen enough already?
Very few quarterbacks are positioned to have a true breakthrough season in 2021, and Jones is the one I continue to wrestle with being on the list. It’s almost too easy to pile on him after such a pathetic 2020 campaign. A quick spin through the pros and cons may help clarify his risk-reward ratio.
- Second year in offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s system
- This offense has been QB-friendly a number of times in the past.
- Jones flashed just enough in 2019 action to offer a glimmer of hope.
- The Giants went out of their way to upgrade the offensive targets, including the signing of WR Kenny Golladay and TE Kyle Rudolph, as well as drafting speedy wideout Kadarius Toney in Round 1.
- Running back Saquon Barkley (knee) is on track to return from an ACL tear and offers a dual-threat beast out of the backfield.
- Offensive tackle Nate Solder returns after opting out. While he ultimately may not make the roster, he’s a veteran presence who could compete for the starting right tackle job. If nothing else, it’s not like left tackle Andrew Thomas played lights out in 2020 (heavy on the sarcasm), so Solder may he safe.
- Jones completed passes at a slightly higher rate in 2020, and he threw six more times per interception than in his rookie season.
- There was a marked improvement from his first seven games last year vs. the final seven in which Jones started. He averaged 18 more yards per game, completed passes at a higher percentage, averaged fewer attempts and completions per touchdown, and averaged more than double the attempts and completions per interception thrown.
- The upcoming training camp should have a more traditional structure, and for as little as preseason may matter on the whole, it’s valuable for inexperienced players.
- In 2019, Jones averaged more yards per completion and attempt, also throwing a touchdown every 11.8 completions vs. one every 25.5 connections last year.
- New York’s offensive line was a flaming mess in 2020, ranking 31st by Pro Football Forecast. Without a massive leap forward from Thomas at left tackle, there’s going to be a little chance of Jones progressing. Thomas, a first-round rookie a year ago, gave up 57 pressures and 10 sacks. The next closest tackle yielded 43 pressures and none surrendered more QB-dropping hits. Yikes.
- Not to pick exclusively on Thomas, both guards allowed pressures on at least 8 percent of their snaps. The Giants allowed sacks at a rate of 8.8 percent, and Jones was tossed on 9.1 percent of his passing attempts. The average of New York’s 2020 opponents was 6.5 percent. In other words: insurmountably awful pass pro.
- The health of Barkley remains slightly of concern. Golladay is coming off an injury-ravaged season, and Rudolph underwent offseason foot surgery. Wideout Sterling Shepard quite possibly is one more concussion away from an early retirement. Then there’s Evan Engram, a tight end whose well-documented fragility is ever a worry, even after he started a full schedule in ’20.
- Jones must to prove he has chemistry with his new targets, and unless we see something wild in the preseason, the “unknown” is rightfully held against him after his feeble sophomore showing.
Fantasy football outlook
The fantasy football strength of schedule for New York is moderate, and if Jones can take a step forward with the intangibles, then it really points to this falling on the shoulders of the offensive line under new positional coach Rob Sale.
Jones is going, on average, with the fourth pick of Round 15 in 12-team formats. He has 27 other passers coming off the board ahead of him. In some sense, it is a deserved placement. If one is to be optimistic, Jones’ ADP puts him at a ridiculous value and completely negates any serious risk assumption.
I have yet to fully make up my mind over this situation, and it will take training camp observance before it likely sways strongly in either direction. For now, if you lock up an elite quarterback early on, there is no need to invest much in a backup, which makes Jones a prime target for owners of any of the top fantasy quarterbacks. No one in ADP before Joe Burrow (12th QB) has the same Week 10 bye as Jones, which certainly helps with taking a chance on him.