*NFL Experts make predictions for the Giants' 2017 season following free agency and the NFL Draft: *
While the Giants' Week 1 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys is still four months away, football is nearing its return as the NFL offseason moves into its next phase.
The bulk of free agency and the draft have come and gone, and the newest members of the Giants report this week for the start of a three-day rookie minicamp. On May 22, rookies and vets will be on the field at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the start of organized team activities (OTAs).
"I feel that we have added a lot of competition to the roster," coach Ben McAdoo said after the draft. "Whether it was through free agency, adding some pieces there, or through the draft – we have a competitive roster."
Free agency began with a splash following the signing of veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Over the past decade, Marshall leads the league in receptions and receiving yards and is tied for second in touchdowns. The six-time Pro Bowler set an NFL record in 2015 with his sixth 100-reception season.
In the draft, the Giants spent their first-round pick on Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram. The Georgia native became the first player in Ole Miss history to earn All-SEC honors four times. He finished his college career as the Ole Miss leader in receptions (162), receiving yards (2,320) and touchdown catches (15) by a tight end.
With both Marshall and Engram in the fold, the Giants' receiving corps was listed by ESPN as one of four units that look much scarier in the wake of free agency and the draft.
"The Giants live in three-wide-receiver personnel under Ben McAdoo," ESPN's Matt Bowen wrote. "It's their base package. That's why New York went out in free agency and added wide receiver Brandon Marshall. The veteran has the size and ball skills to create matchups playing alongside Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. And this unit got even more explosive after the Giants drafted Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram in the first round. QB Eli Manning now has one of the top overall receiving corps in the league."
ESPN wasn't the only media outlet to take notice.
"Engram is a tight end in name, but his play resembles that of a big slot receiver," Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo added. "If he can show enough as a run blocker to keep defenses honest, he'll create mismatches in the passing game against linebackers and safeties."
As rosters take shape around the league, NFL experts are turning the page to 2017. While September may seem like a ways off, it's never too early for those in the prediction market to start making calls for the upcoming season.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora put out his list of 12 teams he believes will end up in the postseason. La Canfora projects the Giants to win their first NFC East title since the 2011 Super Bowl run.
"Defense still wins in this league," La Canfora wrote. "You have a legit front seven with two dudes who can come off the edge and a big-time playmaker on the back end who disrupts and turns the ball over, you are going to win a lot of football games. New York has that. Keeping Jason Pierre-Paul was huge and they'll be even better this year on that side of the ball."
La Canfora has the Washington Redskins also making the playoffs as a Wild Card, while the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are on the outside looking in.
La Canfora continued, "Eli Manning has someone beyond Odell Beckham to throw the ball to in Brandon Marshall and his new tight end Evan Engram, and while pass protection is a concern, I like this team quite a bit."
While the Giants will fall short of making any such predictions, general manager Jerry Reese sees a club that's made key upgrades at different positions.
"We tried to improve every part of the team," Reese said after the draft. "I don't know what part is the most improved position. As we move forward, we have plenty of things we would like to do before we get to preseason. Obviously, after preseason there will be cuts. We will be tinkering with the roster all the way until we play Dallas."