In this era of the Philly Special and record-breaking touchdown passes from defenders, it seems like a team is coming with a wacky new play every game. But are these play calls a sign of season-long tendencies, or just a flash in the pan? I’ll attempt to determine the fantasy implications of a unique play each week and let you know if it’s safe to trust the players involved.
Week Five: Odell Beckham Jr’s Touchdown Pass to Saquon Barkley
There isn’t much to be excited about this year if you are a Giants’ fan. A poor 1-4 start aside, sophomore tight end Evan Engram has missed consecutive games with a knee injury and Eli Manning is just 17th in the league in passer rating. Odell Beckham Jr. was held without a touchdown for the first four weeks of the season. Pro Football Focus ranks the offensive line 24th in the league and the team released uninspiring third-year tackle Ereck Flowers this past Tuesday. So what do you do when your offense isn’t working?
If you answered, “Have your wide receiver chuck the ball downfield to your rookie running back,” congrats. You probably watched the highlights of the Giants’ game this weekend.
Odell Beckham Jr. is one of the most electric players in the entire NFL and limiting him to catching the ball is doing his talent a disservice. Midway through the second quarter, New York faced a 17-3 deficit to the Carolina Panthers and needed a big play to jump-start its offense. Manning took a snap from under center and immediately whipped the ball to Odell. The play, appearing to be a screen at first, drew the entire Carolina defense to the left side of the field. Saquon Barkley easily snuck out on the right side. No defender was within five yards of Barkley when he caught the ball and the rookie easily outran linebacker Jermaine Carter for a 57-yard score.
Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Odell’s pass traveled 45 yards in the air. The throw was no dump-off that Barkley took to the house. Furthermore, Beckham barely got the pass off before James Bradberry hit him. Overall, it was a well-executed trick play that got the Giants back in the game (although they would eventually lose on a 63-yard field goal from Graham Gano as time expired). But what does it mean for your fantasy team?
There probably isn’t much new fantasy information that can be derived from the trick play, but I’ve committed to this weekly series and there were no other wacky plays this weekend. It is nice to see that the Giants have not folded the season after such a dismal beginning. Look no further than the 2016 Miami Dolphins for proof that starting the season 1-4 isn’t a death sentence. That team went on to win eight of its final ten games and made the playoffs.
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula is trying to make the most of an offense that is somewhat crippled by an ineffective offensive line and an aging quarterback. Once Evan Engram returns, the team has three legitimate receiving threats in Beckham, Engram, and slot maestro Sterling Shepard, plus the dynamic Barkley. If the release of Flowers serves as a wakeup call for the remaining linemen, the Giants’ offense could transform into one of the best in the league. Saquon Barkley ranks second in the league in avoided tackles with 21, per Pro Football Focus, and has created the second most yards of any running back according to Player Profiler. Imagine what he could do with even an average line blocking for him.
New York also has a relatively easy schedule when it comes to pass defenses. Five out of its next six opponents rank 15th or worse in pass yardage allowed, with the Eagles and Falcons 22nd and 23rd, respectively. New York plays the Buccaneers in Week 11. Tampa Bay ranks dead last in passing yards allowed, giving up a whopping 358 yards per game. Porous secondaries like these can allow Beckham, Engram, and Shepard to rank up catches, yardage, and fantasy points.
Adding in wrinkles like passes from wide receivers will help to keep the offense from relying solely on Eli Manning, who is only completing 21.4% of his passes beyond 20 yards, per the Air Yards database. Just because Odell Beckham Jr was the 33rd highest scoring receiver in standard leagues through the first four weeks does not mean he will stay a WR3. Don’t give up on the Giants’ offense just yet. They may surprise you.