- Ken Daube, Fantasy Football
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Thirty-two teams, 32 burning fantasy questions. Thoughout the preseason, we put one of these questions to an ESPN.com analyst for an in-depth look at the most interesting, perplexing or dumbfounding fantasy facet of each NFL team.
How will the Giants replace Tiki Barber's production, both on the ground and through the air?
It seems like a straightforward question, but the explanation involves the domino theory, so the answer is convoluted.
Simply put, there were three main points of impact that Barber had for the New York Giants: first as a runner, second as a receiver and third as a blocker. In two of the three cases, the downgrade from Barber to the current options is significant.
How the Giants attempt to replace Barber as a runner:
By acquiring Reuben Droughns, the Giants announced to the world that they aren't completely sold on Brandon Jacobs being an every-down back. It was a wise decision to get Jacobs help, as through his brief career he has managed a paltry 3.9 yards per carry. Droughns, best known as a product of the Mike Shanahan line of running backs, doesn't provide a real upgrade from Jacobs, since he's also averaged 3.9 yards per carry during his career.
Barber averaged 5.2 yards per carry over the last two seasons. The difference between the combination of Droughns and Jacobs and the borderline Hall of Famer will mean the Giants will need to lean more heavily on the inconsistent arm of Eli Manning. This is important, as the downturn in rushing production will lead to more third-down and long-yardage situations than the Giants saw during the Barber Era.
During occasions when the Giants are fortunate enough to get into short-yardage situations on third down, the loss of Barber will continue to be pronounced. Over the past two years, Barber converted 77 percent of short-yardage, third-down situations into first downs. During the same time, the bigger and supposedly more powerful Jacobs converted only 63 percent of similar opportunities. Droughns was even worse, gaining a new set of downs just 52 percent of the time. Any way you cut it, rushing production is set to drop significantly due to the loss of Barber.
How the Giants attempt to replace Barber as a receiver:
The main thing to take into consideration here is not Barber's actual receiving production, but rather the number of targets he received: 76 targets per season over the last two years. Those passes likely still will be thrown on short to medium-range routes, which place the primary candidates as: Droughns, Jacobs, Jeremy Shockey, Amani Toomer and whomever fills the vacant fullback slot caused (Jim Finn is already out for the season). Assuming Droughns and Jacobs split all halfback responsibilities, the allocation of those 76 targets could be split in the following manner: 22 each to Droughns and Jacobs, 11 each for Shockey and the fullback to be determined and the remainder to Toomer. Obviously, those are approximations, but the end result from the disbursement of those targets is a slight bump in fantasy value for Shockey, who likely was overvalued anyway, but no bump for any of the other mentioned players.
Domino affects of the loss of Barber:
Based on the downgrade in the rushing game, Manning will be forced to throw more often to move the Giants down the field. Manning has been erratic over his career, and this strategy is unlikely to spell success for the Giants. Making Manning's job even tougher is that Barber was one of the better halfbacks when it came to picking up the blitz, something neither Droughns nor Jacobs does particularly well. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that additional pressure on a quarterback who already has problems with his accuracy is not a formula for success.
Look for the Giants to struggle early and often. If you believe in Jacobs, you really need to reassess why. He didn't put up respectable numbers as a change-of-pace back behind a potential Hall of Famer, and there's no reason to expect that he can improve regardless of the opportunity presented to him. Droughns wouldn't be on your fantasy radar except for one good season in the Shanahan system. The Giants won't be moving to a zone-blocking scheme any time soon, so Droughns will be as useless this year as he was last. Let someone else waste picks on the duds, and use your selections to draft someone who actually might produce good fantasy numbers this season.
Ken Daube is a fantasy football analyst for TalentedMrRoto.com and ESPN.com. He can be reached at KenDaube@TalentedMrRoto.com.