The most underrated player on the Giants’ roster is Keenan Robinson.
John Schmeelk: FICTION - There are a couple of players from last year’s draft class I thought about for this, but it is hard to call a second-year player underrated. I’m going to go with Dwayne Harris. His snaps at wide receiver went down last year, so fans lost sight of some of his contributions. He didn’t flash as a big play returner, but Harris was great on coverage teams, especially as a gunner on punts. He downed a number of Brad Wing’s punts inside the five and was a huge contributor to the field position battle.
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Dan Salomone: FACT - He’s an example of why starts can be misleading in the NFL. Robinson made only six of them last season, the fewest on the team among linebackers who started at least one game. But he played 70.3 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, second only to Jonathan Casillas (71.6) and a good deal more than Devon Kennard (47.9) and Kelvin Sheppard (40.7). But it’s what Robinson did with those snaps that led to the Giants re-signing him this offseason. While carving out a role in sub packages, Robinson used his athleticism and coverage skills to finish fourth on the team in tackles while breaking up seven passes. With his help, the Giants allowed a league-low 25 offensive touchdowns.
Lance Medow: FICTION - Keenan Robinson’s name belongs in the conversation given how valuable he was in coverage in 2016, especially when it came to defending tight ends. But I’m going to give the edge to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Often in sports, you don’t see the true value of a player or fully appreciate a player’s skillset until he leaves the team or is sidelined due to injury. and that’s the best way to put DRC’s tenure thus far with the Giants in perspective. There’s no better example than in last season’s wild card playoff game against the Packers when Aaron Rodgers took advantage of Rodgers-Cromartie’s absence in the second half due to a thigh injury. This was also apparent in the 2015 season, in a Week 12 game at Washington, when Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins connected with wide receiver DeSean Jackson for a 63-yard touchdown, in the second quarter, on the very first play after DRC left the game due to injury. His versatility (ability to play outside/inside), speed and length make him a valuable asset to the Giants’ secondary but he doesn’t always get the credit he deserves especially in the national conversation regarding best corners in the league.
Paul Perkins will eclipse 1,000 yards from scrimmage this season.
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Dan Salomone: FACT - For some perspective, 22 running backs reached 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season. So that’s a fairly high percentage out of 32 teams. I’d hold off on saying fact for 1,000 rushing yards until he proves otherwise, but because we’re adding in receptions, I think he gets there. He had 618 in a limited role as a rookie, but he showed enough down the stretch to make the Giants comfortable enough to move on from Rashad Jennings.
Lance Medow: FICTION - Last season, Paul Perkins collected 618 yards from scrimmage. While that total came in a season in which he wasn’t the featured back for the entire year and played in 14 contests, keep in mind, Shane Vereen, who is the team’s top receiving back, missed the majority of the season. Catching the ball out of the backfield is Vereen’s specialty, and while Perkins is capable of contributing in that area, assuming Vereen is healthy, I don’t think Perkins will eat into Vereen’s workload too much. I think Perkins has the potential to be the Giants’ main back, but I think he’ll fall short of 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
The D.J. Fluker signing was the most intriguing move of the Giants’ offseason.
John Schmeelk: FICTION - I guess it depends how you define “intriguing,” but I can’t put Fluker ahead of Brandon Marshall. Fluker has started and played thousands of snaps over four years in the NFL at tackle and guard. We know what he is. There’s still a chance he improves, but given everything he has put on tape, I’m not sure I would label him as intriguing.
Dan Salomone: FICTION - The Brandon Marshall signing was the biggest, the most intriguing, and any other superlative you want to attach to it. It’s a bad job by me -- I did not realize how historic Marshall’s production has been until I did the research when he signed with the Giants last month. The most intriguing part is that he’s the first receiver in NFL history to go for 1,000 yards with four different teams. And the three times he switched – 2010 Dolphins, 2012 Bears, and 2015 Jets – he got it in his first season with his new team.
Lance Medow: FACT - D.J. Fluker has experience playing both right guard and right tackle in his four-year stint with the Chargers, so it’ll be very interesting to see where the Giants utilize him during spring workouts as well as training camp. John Jerry and Bobby Hart, who started the majority of last season’s games at right guard and right tackle, respectively, are both back in the mix. That means Fluker could challenge both players for a starting job. The Rhett Ellison signing is also intriguing, but unlike Fluker, given Ellison served mainly as a blocking tight end/fullback in five seasons with the Vikings, it’s a bit easier to project how he’ll fit in with the Giants as opposed to Fluker.
The Raiders are the best team on the Giants’ 2017 schedule.
John Schmeelk: FACT - This comes down to a competition between the Raiders and the Cowboys. Dallas lost a bunch of starters from its defense last year and will rely on the draft to fill a lot of those spots. Despite the fact that the draft is loaded on defense, relying on young players is a dangerous proposition for any team. The Raiders, on the other hand, are a young team that’s still ascending and might be even better in 2017 than they were last year. They have playmakers on offense (Derek Carr, Amari Cooper) and defense (Khalil Mack) that will be a huge challenge for the Giants.
Dan Salomone: FICTION - I was going back and forth between the Cowboys and Raiders, but then I settled on what I respect most in this league: consistency. That led me to picking the Seahawks. Dallas has fluctuated from 8-8 to 12-4 to 4-12 to 13-3 over the last four seasons. Meanwhile, the Raiders just made their first postseason appearance since Super Bowl XXXVII. Seattle, on the other hand, has a double-digit win total in each of the last five seasons, including two trips to the Super Bowl and winning one of them.
Lance Medow: FACT - I can make a case for some of the teams in the NFC East, but given the Giants play them every single season, I think it’s only fair to select an opponent outside of the division. The Raiders showcased one of the best offenses in the NFL in 2016 (7th in the NFL in scoring – averaged 26 points per game) and that nucleus will return this season. Quarterback Derek Carr plays behind one of the best offensive lines in the league, and even though Oakland lost starting running back Latavius Murray in free agency to the Vikings, it still has last year’s fifth-round pick DeAndre Washington, who flashed multiple times during his rookie campaign. Carr’s targets in the passing game include wideouts Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, Seth Roberts and Cordarrelle Patterson, whom they signed from the Vikings as well as tight end Jared Cook, whom they added from the Packers. Patterson will also help bolster the Raiders’ special teams. While Oakland doesn’t have a dominant defense, it does have a number of disruptive playmakers highlighted by pass rushers Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin, who combined for 18 of the team’s 25 sacks in 2016. What also makes the Raiders challenging is the fact that the Giants have to travel cross-country to visit Oakland. I’d put the Broncos and Seahawks right behind the Raiders.