Player Points - Eli Manning
By Chase Stuart
May 25th, 2010

In 2007, the Giants had one of the best running games in the league. Brandon Jacobs was the lead back and averaged 5.0 yards per carry; Derrick Ward was the change of pace back who averaged 4.8 YPC, and Ahmad Bradshaw was the third-string runner who averaged an incredible 8.3 yards per rush (and added over 200 rushing yards in the post-season); it was the Giants great rushing attack that helped them win the Super Bowl that season. New York continued to have success on the ground in 2008 when the Giants led the league in both yards per carry and rushing yards. Jacobs and Ward became the fourth pair of teammates to ever rush for 1,000 yards in the same season, and Jacobs, Ward and Bradshaw all averaged 5.0 or more yards per rush. Most thought the Giants had the best offensive line in the league, and their individual lineman racked up the post-season awards: Right guard Chris Snee was a unanimous first-team all-pro choice, Shaun O'Hara was a first-team all-pro selection by the Sporting News and left tackle David Diehl (along with O'Hara) was a second-team all-pro choice by the Associated Press. Along with right tackle Kareem McKenzie and left guard Rich Seubert, the starting five offensive linemen were all between the ages of 26 and 31 in 2008. Not only did the Giants have great individual linemen and did the group perform beautifully as a unit, but all were in the primes of their careers. The Giants looked to have a dominant running game for the foreseeable future.

A funny thing happened along the way, though. The offensive line regressed in '09. Derrick Ward went to Tampa Bay. Brandon Jacobs battled injuries. And the Giants constant drafting of young receivers started to pay off.

In 2006, the Giants drafted Sinorice Moss in the second round, a pick that hasn't worked out. But New York went back to the well in 2007 and took Steve Smith in round two. In '08, the Giants selected Mario Manningham in the third round. In the '09 draft, the Giants took Hakeem Nicks in the first round and Ramses Barden in the third. They also selected tight end Kevin Boss in the fifth round of the '07 draft and signed Domenik Hixon after the former fourth round pick was released midway through his second season in 2007. Not all of the moves have worked out, but as the running game faded in 2009, the passing game blossomed. New York's four top receivers -- Smith, Manningham, Nicks and Boss -- were all 25 years old or younger. Smith is already a star, Manningham continues to develop, and Nicks looks like the next star receiver after gaining 790 yards as a 21-year-old rookie last year.

Since the merger, only two teams have had a younger set of weapons than the '09 Giants (several other teams have had a quartet that was the same average age), but neither team's weapons were anywhere as near as productive as the Giants receivers were in 2009. In fact, only five teams since the merger can meet the following criteria:

  • Have the average age of their top three WRs and top TE be 24 years or younger
  • Have their top three WRs and top TE total 50 points of net VBD or more

The '09 Giants quartet were 23.25 years old (Nicks was 21, Manningham 23, Smith 24 and Boss 25) and they totaled 101 points od VBD (Smith had 91 points, Manningham 14 points, Nicks 12 points and Boss -16 points). The '09 Eagles also meet the above criteria with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Brent Celek. In addition you've got:

  • The 2005 Arizona Cardinals (23.25 years old, 117 points of VBD) with Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Bryant Johnson and Adam Bergen
  • The 1999 St. Louis Rams (24.00, 85) with Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az-Zahir Hakim and Roland Williams
  • The 1995 Cincinnati Bengals (23.75, 85) with Carl Pickens, Darnay Scott, Tony McGee and David Dunn

What will happen with the Giants embarrassment of riches at the receiver position? No one knows, although Smith and Nicks look to have particularly bright futures. Just a year ago, the Giants had the top running game in the league and one of the stingiest defenses around, and Eli Manning was thought to have mediocre fantasy value going forward. Now Manning has perhaps the best set of young receivers in the NFL and a running game and a defense that might supply an ample number of shootouts. Fantasy owners who see boring old Eli are sleeping on a potential high-flying passing offense in New York. As our owner likes to say, things change quickly around here. And there's no better example of that then Eli Manning's outlook in the last twelve months.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to stuart@footballguys.com.