The New York Giants’ offense will look quite different on the field tonight against the Carolina Panthers as starting wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and running back Ahmad Bradshaw will both be out due to injury.
Nicks will be sidelined due to a foot injury, while Bradshaw will not play because of a neck injury he sustained in last week’s game against Tampa Bay. In addition, wide receiver Domenik Hixon, who is the Giants’ regular No. 3 wide receiver, is also out due to a concussion.
With all these injuries, several Giants will have the opportunity to step up and be a difference-maker tonight, although the greatest opportunity in terms of fantasy relevance belongs to that of Andre Brown.
Brown, the fourth-year running back out of North Carolina State, has already shown what he’s capable of as he had 71 yards rushing on 13 carries (5.5 ypc) against the Buccaneers last week after Bradshaw left the game. He also caught two passes for 19 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown, a two-yard plunge into the end zone with just 31 seconds remaining.
Brown will get the start tonight in Carolina and should receive the lion’s share of carries. The Panthers enter tonight’s game ranked 28th in the NFL in rushing defense, as they have given up an average of 146.5 yards per game, not to mention 4.7 yards per carry, to their first two opponents — Washington and New Orleans.
This combination of opportunity and opponent makes Brown an appealing RB2 fantasy option this week, as evidenced by our own Week 3 running back rankings. The only reason he’s not ranked higher is due to the fact he’s still a relatively unknown commodity. That may very well change after tonight, but regardless, he’s certainly worth taking a flyer on, depending on your other options.
Brown’s present position is where many pundits and prognosticators thought rookie David Wilson would be in before the season started. However, since Wilson fumbled early in his first NFL game he has seen very few touches on offense. That could change tonight as Bradshaw’s absence moves Wilson into the No. 2 spot in the backfield.
There’s a reason the Giants took Wilson in the first round of April’s draft, and they are well aware of the speed and play-making ability he brings to the field, as he’s averaging more than 26 yards on kickoff returns. Now it’s up to Wilson to show that he can do things to help the offense, starting with holding onto the football.
For now, Wilson is fantasy irrelevant, but that could change depending on how many chances he gets tonight and what he does with those opportunities. He certainly is worth keeping an eye on, especially in deeper and keeper leagues.
With both Nicks and Hixon out, Ramses Barden and Rueben Randle both move up the depth chart. Barden will get the start opposite of Victor Cruz, and unless the Giants dramatically change their game plan, Randle, the Giants’ second-round pick from LSU, should see plenty of snaps in their three-wide sets as well. Even with the playing time and opportunities both could see, I am nowhere near as optimistic regarding their fantasy value compared to the running backs.
First, Barden has one catch on two targets through the first two games. Now that one catch did go for 24 yards, but contrast that to Nicks, who has 21 targets in two games. The point is this, unlike running back, where you just have to receive the hand off to get the ball; chemistry plays a much bigger role when it comes to a quarterback and his wide receivers. I’m just not so sure that Eli Manning will “trust” Barden, or Randle for that matter, as much as he does Nicks.
If anything, Cruz (who leads the team with 28 targets) and tight end Martellus Bennett (third with 16) should see even more passese thrown their way than they usually do. Cruz remains a top wide receiver option this week, while Bennett also enters must-start territory at his position, for this week anyways.
As far as Barden and Randle go, Barden is the better fantasy option between the two, but even then it’s really only as a flex option in deeper leagues. To that end, our wide receiver rankings have Barden at No. 54 with Randle just making the cut at No. 64.
Another way to look at it is this. Before the news came down late Wednesday about Nicks being declared out for tonight’s game, Manning was ranked No. 3 among quarterbacks for Week 3. In the aftermath of this development, Manning was moved down to No. 7, just behind Tony Romo and one spot ahead of Robert Griffin III.
The adjusted ranking shows we still have plenty of faith in Manning, who’s coming off of a 500-yard, three-touchdown (also 3 INTs) effort against Tampa Bay, but our expectations have been somewhat lowered now that we know Nicks won’t be out there to haul in his passes. After all, it’s not easy to replace someone, either on the field on on your fantasy roster, who’s 6-1, 208 and currently averaging nearly 17 yards per reception.
— By Mark Ross, published on Sept. 20, 2012
2012 Fantasy Football Positional Rankings: Week 3