Here are my top 5 players to watch out for in the 2016 season for the Giants. The 5 are players I believe will have a huge impact for the Giants this year. A couple of obvious choices and one or two wildcards! There will also be a little prediction for each player.
Weston Richburg C
Pro Football Focus had Richburg the number 3 ranked Center in 2015 only behind Ryan Kalil and Travis Frederick (1 and 2 respectively). Richburg is entering his 3rd season in the NFL and his 2nd full season playing in his natural position of Center, which means there’s still a lot more to come from the 25 year old as he gains more and more experience. Don’t be surprised to see Richburg step up this season in terms of leadership, as he has always been vocal throughout his career, something which this patchy offensive line is in dire need of. There’s no coincidence that Eli Manning’s numbers have drastically improved since Richburg entered the league 2 years ago and I see no reason for that to change in 2016.
Prediction; Pro Bowler.
Olivier Vernon DE
The highest paid defensive end in the NFL. Olivier Vernon should be a no-brainer in terms of players to watch. The Giants paid obscene amounts of money for the ex Miami Dolphin man so expectations are high on Vernon, who joins a pass rushing core which sees JPP returning (hopefully) to full fitness. The early signs are good for Vernon, he was disruptive all through preseason and reports from training camp are that he and JPP are looking a formidable duo. The Giants pass rush can’t get much worse than last season as they only totalled 23 sacks for the season (30th overall in the NFL), but Vernon should be aiming to be one of the top sackers in the NFL this season and live up to the big money contract that he signed in the off-season.
Prediction; 15+ sacks.
Landon Collins S
Unfortunately for Collins, his rookie season will be remembered for dropping an easy game ending interception off Tom Brady in week 10 against the Patriots. He did however have a solid rookie season, in which he ended with 112 tackles, 1 interception and a forced fumble. Collins’s hard-hitting raw talent was clear to see throughout the season, but as the Brady dropped showed, he still has many sides of his game to refine. I expect to see Collins up at the line more this season to help out in the run game and also to come off the edge and rush the QB, as last season he was asked to do too much against the pass, which he’s not yet comfortable with.
Prediction; 120+ tackles, 5 sacks, 2 Ints.
Sterling Shepard WR
The 2nd round pick out Oklahoma was described before the draft as “the most feisty competitor in the entire draft class”, and Shepard joins an already competitive WR core with Odell Beckham and Victor Cruz. I can’t wait to watch OBJ and Shepard play together, along with Victor Cruz, if he can get back to his former self. Shepard is a natural born pass catcher, dropping only 8 times in 253 catches during his college career. Odell Beckham will obviously receive a lot of attention from defenders,which will pave the way for Shepard to rack up receptions and yards. OBJ has already set his team mate the goal of 1,306 yards (1 more than OBJ his rookie year), so Shepards’ competitiveness will be tested early.
Prediction; 1,000+ yards, 10 touchdowns.
Orleans Darkwa RB
The Giants really like this running back who had a breakout game against Dallas last season where he averaged 6 yards on 8 carries. He showed some great bursts of speed in preseason and was impressive enough to make the 53 man cut ahead of 2014 4th round pick Andre Williams. Although I don’t expect to see Darkwa on the field all too often this season, as Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen will see majority of the reps, I do believe Darkwa can inject pace and energy into certain games, especially near the goal-line. This is a huge wildcard pick for players to watch, but the Giants carousel of running backs will continue to turn so there will be plenty of opportunities for players, like Darkwa, to step up and make plays.