After career lows for both Victor Cruz and Eli Manning in 2013, it's no surprise that the Super Bowl winning tandem is nervous heading into 2014. Last season, Cruz posted his lowest reception, receiving yard and touchdown totals in his four-year career with Giants, partly because he missed the final two games of the season with a knee injury, and partly because the entire Giants offense looked about as dangerous as a box of matches drifting in the ocean. Meanwhile, Eli Manning led the NFL in interceptions with a show-stopping 27. Both are excited about their new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, but recently expressed concerns about getting up to speed.
"Whenever you're coming into camp with a new offensive coordinator and a brand new offense you get a little nervous," Cruz told NFL Media reporter Kimberly Jones, "We feel confident we will get to learn this offense and we'll be performing at a high level in no time." Eli reiterated that "repetition and more plays" will help get the team up to speed. Fortunately for the G-Men, training camp is finally underway so the team can work out the kinks of the new offense.
From a fantasy perspective, McAdoo could open up things for Cruz in the passing attack as he brings his version of the Green Bay Packers' West Coast offense to the Big Apple. Cruz expressed excitement about being able to do more "after contact and after the catch" in the new offense, which should bode well for his fantasy production. The shifty salsa dancer has shown he has moves in the open field before, like on his 99-yard touchdown reception. He'll remain in the slot almost exclusively, with Odell Beckham Jr. and Rueben Randle occupying the outside roles. Despite the Giants' abysmal start to the season, Cruz was looking like a fantasy monster in September. In the first four games of the season, Cruz racked up 43 percent of his receiving yardage and 100 percent of his touchdown receptions for 66.5 fantasy points (roughly 55 percent of his total for the season!). Why the wheels completely fell of the wagon after that is anyone's guess. Perhaps Eli threw them to the opposing team?
I digress. Cruz is currently sitting at an ADP of 43.77 as WR16 according to NFL.com mock drafts, and that feels a tad high. He was the 19th wide receiver drafted in our latest experts mock draft at pick 47, for instance, and I'd be more comfortable with that placement (even though it's only a few picks later). Cruz still has the potential to stuff the fantasy stat sheets like few other receivers. But with Eli still searching for his old form like Velma searching for her glasses, and the unproven duo of Beckham and Randle as his running mates, there's a fair amount of risk in him posting merely mediocre numbers. Cruz was at his best when he had a dangerous Hakeem Nicks to pair with in the passing attack (boy, those were the good old days, eh?). If Beckham proves to be as good as some NFL brass believe him to be in the preseason, then I'll be a bit higher on Cruz heading into fantasy drafts. But as it stands, he's at the bottom WR2 tier for now. Beckham is worth a late-round flier if you're feeling frisky or are a true blue homer, while the other Manning is better left alone until he finds those glasses.