I am a fantasy football junkie, as those who read me regularly know, so you can imagine my excitement over the release this week of our ESPN.com fantasy football draft kit. Part of the package is Matthew Berry's "100 facts" column, and a portion of that column is devoted to discussing New York Giants running backs:
37. Over the past five years, New York Giants running backs have the second- most rushing touchdowns (74) and the 11th-most rushing yards (8,337) among NFL corps.
38. Over that span, the Giants have run the ball on 55 percent of their plays from inside the 10-yard line, the seventh-highest rate in the NFL.
39. Rashad Jennings is currently being drafted outside the top 20 of running backs.
Matthew's point is that Jennings should be drafted higher, and on the face of it the argument makes sense. But I have this continual issue with the way Giants running backs are viewed for fantasy purposes, and my main thesis is that you're better off staying away.
Yes, the Giants like to run the ball near the goal line. Yes, Giants running backs score touchdowns. But my question is: Which one will it be? And if you can't answer that question, you have a fantasy running back mess.
I agree that Jennings projects to get a lot of carries, but you have to agree that Tom Coughlin doesn't always pick a running back plan and stick with it, right? What if Jennings racks up the yards and Peyton Hillis or Andre Williams gets the ball at the goal line? Do you want to rely on any of them? How does David Wilson, who was a darling of the fantasy community all last summer, fit into all of this? If he's healthy, he surely takes carries and catches away from Jennings, right? And maybe he gets the touchdowns? Or at least the longer ones?
My sense is that Coughlin's dream backfield is one that will make fantasy football players nuts as he mixes and matches depending on situations and health and all of that. Jennings may well have more value than the spot at which he's been going in June mock drafts. But it's completely fair to look at the recent history of Giants running backs and fantasy and decide to be cautious with Jennings. He and Wilson could both end up having very good years that aren't very good fantasy years. Giants running backs, for fantasy football purposes, just aren't that reliable because of the way they are used in real life.