The 2021 New York Giants were nothing short of a total disaster for fantasy football purposes, and a large reason was the revolving door at wide receiver, thanks to a bloodthirsty injury bug.
Two of the prominent losses down the stretch were rookie first-rounder Kadarius Toney and veteran slot man Sterling Shepard. The former missed seven of the final eight contests with various ailments and underwent arthroscopic knee surgery following the season. The latter tore an Achilles tendon in Week 15 and remains in the rehab phase. As of June 2, Shepard told CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson he is running again but has no timetable for his full-fledged return.
The 2022 Giants are expected to emphasize Toney in the offensive plans under new head coach Brian Daboll, the former play-caller for the Buffalo Bills. Shepard actually could find himself in position to lose his job by way of an injury, especially if the second-year receiver stands out in training camp. In Year 7, despite this being a new system, Shepard’s mental reps will likely be enough to get a grasp on the offense, but rust could be a serious concern well into the regular season.
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Most players are physically healthy from an Achilles tear nine months post-surgery and mentally trusting the repair by a year. Nine months would put Shepard back into action within the first few weeks of the season, but he may not be himself until closer to the final month of it.
Toney’s current recovery is more straightforward. He had a knee scope, presumably to clean up loose bodies, and the recovery time is usually in the weeks and not months timeline.
Durability is a major factor to weigh when considering him in 2022 fantasy drafts. In addition to the final two weeks he missed, Toney sat out four games in his rookie season with a quad strain. Toney also didn’t go in Week 7 because of an ankle injury, and he missed three contests with a moderately strained oblique muscle. To compound the litany of injuries, the former Florida Gator was absent for most of training camp and the preseason with a Grade 2 hamstring strain. In a sense, this will be his rookie season in part.
Fantasy football outlook
Shepard broke through as a rookie and scored eight times on 65 receptions in 2016. He has 13 touchdowns over 284 grabs since, and his career high in yardage is just 876. In other words, he’s a role player and not the game-changing weapon that Toney offers.
Quarterback Daniel Jones‘ on-field maturation is the driving force behind all things New York passing success, and if any coach can coax it out of him, Daboll figures to be the man for the job.
Currently, gamers are opting for Toney with an early selection in Round 11, on average, as the 52nd receiver drafted. That placement presents an opportunity for profit, but it’s obviously not without risk given the exhausting list of 2021 injuries he suffered. It becomes even more uncertain after New York’s second-round investment in slot receiver Wan’Dale Robinson. Toney can man the outside better, though, and the rookie should be considered more of an insurance selection by the club and a flier for fantasy purposes.
The team’s No. 1 receiver, Kenny Golladay, has injury issues of his own, and another lengthy absence could thrust Toney into the top role, giving him even more upside.
Shepard’s ADP is Pick 14:10 in PPR, and he’s WR70, on average. At this stage of his lackluster career, coupling Toney’s likely ascension with Shepard’s rehab situation, the veteran is no more than a late-round depth.
So long as Toney’s recovery goes as planned with a return for training camp, he’s the guy to own between these two.