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Fantasy Football: Does Daniel Jones offer sneaky upside as a QB2?

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) looks for an open receiver in the first half against the Washington Football Team at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in East Rutherford. Nyg Vs Was

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Last season, the New York Giants scored 24-plus points in just two games; every other team reached that threshold on at least four occasions. Never for a second did this team look like a playoff contender, as their -77 point differential was the fourth-lowest mark in the NFC. All but one of the Giants’ six wins came by five or fewer points. This was anyone’s idea of a bad football team in 2020.

Fast forward to 2021 and there is reason for optimism in this offense. The front office made a splash in free agency by signing contested-catch maestro Kenny Golladay, and they followed that up by selecting electric Florida WR Kadarius Toney with the 20th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Throw in the potential for this secondary to suddenly be scary with CB Adoree’ Jackson pairing up with incumbent No. 1 CB James Bradberry, and it’s fair to not be completely taken aback by the overall talent level of this team ahead of 2021.

The X-factor: rising third-year QB Daniel Jones, who has struggled to stand out from the pack during his first two seasons. There are a number of factors that helped doom Jones in 2020 (more on that in a bit); either way, he’ll ultimately be judged on whether or not he can elevate his teammates and field a contender.

What follows is a breakdown on exactly what went wrong for Jones and company in 2020 as well as what we should expect from the Giants’ young quarterback as a fantasy asset in 2021. 

Jones actually got better from 2019 to 2020 in terms of efficiency

It’s tough to be at all kind to Jones about his production last season in terms of counting numbers. Dak Prescott (13 TDs) found the end zone more than Jones (12) in nine fewer games, for crying out loud.

Jones does deserve some credit for posting better marks in most efficiency categories in 2020 compared to 2019; the problem is that he still found himself as nothing more than a middling quarterback in just about any of these metrics.

  • PFF passing grade: 77 (tied for No. 17 among 44 qualified QBs)
  • Big-time throw rate: 5.1% (No. 16)
  • Turnover-worthy play rate: 3.3% (No. 24)
  • Adjusted completion rate: 74.8% (tied for No. 28)
  • Yards per attempt: 6.6 (tied for No. 31)

The drop off was particularly harsh in fantasy land. The former No. 6 overall pick was a popular late-round quarterback option in 2020 following a productive rookie campaign that saw only Lamar Jackson rack up more games with 30-plus fantasy points (seven) than Jones (three): In 2021, Jones scored more than *20* fantasy points on just two occasions and finished as the QB24. Sheesh.

The only reason why Jones wasn’t a complete bust at times was thanks to his (wait for it) sneaky athleticism. He gained at least 40 rushing yards on five separate occasions from Weeks 1-11 before injuring his hamstring. People forget Jones is apparently the fastest man alive.

After that aforementioned hamstring injury, Jones would gain just 20 total rushing yards in his final three games as the Giants posted pedestrian point totals of 7, 13 and 23.

There were some hidden positives for Jones. Only Derek Carr, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson earned a higher PFF passing grade when targeting a receiver at least 20 yards downfield. Jones also posted high marks in PFF passing grade (No. 11) and big-time throw rate (No. 12) when given the benefit of a clean pocket.

The problem was that Jones was afforded the latter opportunity less than just about anyone in 2020: Only the New York Jets (44.9%) allowed a higher pressure rate than the Giants (39.7%). This is sometimes more of an indictment on the quarterback than the offensive line, but we actually see the Giants fall to dead last in this metric when accounting for only throws that were released in under 2.5 seconds.

Luckily, not all of the 2020 Giants offense will look the same in 2021.

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