The year was 2011 and Mario Manningham was coming off a season that saw him approach 1,000 yards receiving and scored nine touchdowns. Manningham struggled with injuries during training camp, but many fantasy football minds thought he was an ideal breakout candidate with the departure of Steve Smith. The emergence of Victor Cruz in the preseason had zero impact on Manningham’s ADP as he was drafted as the 24th WR off the board according to MyFantasyLeague.com’s Redraft ADP from 2011.
Manningham had all the ear marks for breakout season heading into 2011. He was a highly regarded prospect that fell in the draft because of some character concerns and some sloppy combine numbers. He had a strong 2010 where he made the most of his opportunities and his role looked like it would be expanding. I think saying his combine numbers were sloppy is a bit of an understatement when you look at them compared to other wide receivers.
The real sloppiness in Mario Manningham‘s game came from his inconsistency. (Does that ring a bell?!!) Manningham regularly ran the wrong routes or misread coverages in his first few years with the Giants. Even when he did make the right reads he often didn’t possess the route running skills to connect with Eli consistently. His biggest mistakes came along the sideline on fade routes where he didn’t lave enough room between himself and the sideline to make receptions in bounds. The funny part of all of this is that he made that tremendous sideline reception in the 2011 Super Bowl against the Patriots that erased all of the bad routes from Giants’ fans memories.
The 2011 season saw Manningham miss time and eventually fall behind the un-drafted phenom that was Victor Cruz. Cruz had wowed Giants’ fans and the Giants’ brass in the 2010 preseason, only to suffer a significant hamstring injury that led the Giants to IR him for the season. The 2011 season saw Cruz start off slow with some drop problems and fumbling issues, but then he exploded for over 1,500 yards and 9 end-zone Salsa Dances. The Giants knew what they had in Cruz and let Manningham walk away during free agency after they won the 2011 Super Bowl.
This year the Giants have Rueben Randle seemingly poised to make the leap to fantasy football relevance. Last year he managed 41 receptions for 611 yards and six touchdowns in a limited role. He was a favorite of many in best ball league drafts last year because of the shaky health history of Hakeem Nicks. Randle’s role diminished over the latter part of the season because of his inability to get on the same page as Eli Manning in Kevin Gilbride’s offense. Eli threw more interceptions on passes intended for Rueben Randle then some QB’s threw all season.
Before I compare Randle to Manningham we should loom at his combine numbers and comparables.
Randle showed more promise and explosiveness on the field playing for LSU than he did at the combine. His pedestrian Vertical leap and mid 4.5 40 yard dash made people go back and study what he did on the field. His slightly poor combine and raw route running skills had him fall to the end of the second round in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Giants pulled the trigger as they needed a wide receiver with some potential and the body size to play on the outside in today’s NFL. Randle proved to be raw as he continually ran the wrong routes and did not have the proper technique to beat press coverage at the line of scrimmage as well as getting across the face of the defender in “MUST WIN” situations. His size and quickness should have made it easy for him to beat an inside shade, but he seemed to lack the technique and the want to win at times.
This year the Giants brought in a new Offensive Coordinator in Ben McAdoo from the Green Bay Packers and the thought was that Randle wouldn’t have to read coverages as much and he could just work on his route running. I can tell you from going to practices and training camp that Randle looks like he’s learned a lot between this year and last. He easily beats DRC and Prince Amukamara off the line of scrimmage and they have a hard time keeping up with him and reading his routes. So far that hasn’t amounted to much in the preseason as the Giants offense has struggled as a whole.
Eli looks a little shell shocked once the red jersey comes off and I think his regression more than Randle’s lack of skill will keep him from reaching his potential. The offensive line for the Giants is a huge question mark as their key off-season addition, Geoff Schwartz, dislocated his big toe in their last preseason game and the offensive line is once again forced to shuffle. It looks like the rookie Weston Richburg could take over for Schwartz in the short term as Schwartz avoided surgery and is week to week.
What makes the situation eerily similar to 2011 is that the Giants once again have an undrafted free agent that is making waves in the preseason. Corey Washington is a big outside wide receiver from a small school that just might be the next Marques Colston or Victor Cruz. The fact that wide receiver Marcus Harris has already been IR’d and Mario Manningham has done nothing in the preseason has Corey Washington teetering on the wide receiver five spot going into the final preseason game of 2014. If Washington wins a roster spot and Randle struggles, he could push for some playing time in the second half of the year.
The fact remains that Randle is a lot more talented than Manningham was back in 2011 and is healthy going into the season. The Giants are going to give Randle every chance to be their main outside threat, but he could eventually be pushed by both Odell Beckham Jr. and Corey Washington. If there is a mid draft run on wide receivers I wouldn’t reach for Rueben Randle before the middle of the seventh round in 12 team leagues. In most home-league/work-league drafts I’ve seen Randle last until the ninth round. That’s a nice spot for his upside. He is also going at a nice value price in auctions and could be a nice keeper if Eli can get back to his old gun-slinging self. The best part about Randle’s current ADP is that you can get him a full three rounds later than where Manningham was going in 2011.
My recommendation for Corey Washington is to grab him in your deep dynasty leagues. Whether it’s 16 team leagues with 24+ rosters or 12 to 14 team leagues where you have expanded rosters. It never hurts to grab big, tall wide receivers that have a nose for the end zone.