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Fact or Fiction: Predicting production for 2020


RB Saquon Barkley will lead the NFL in yards from scrimmage for the second time in his first three seasons.

John Schmeelk: Fiction -- It wouldn't surprise me if Barkley leads the league in yards from scrimmage. It also wouldn't surprise me if Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott or Nick Chubb do. If Barkley stays healthy, it would shock me if he didn't finish in the top three with more than 1,900 scrimmage yards. When Jason Garrett was in Dallas, Elliott was second in the league in scrimmage yards in three of his four seasons. If he had not been suspended in 2017, he would have been near the top of the league that season, too. There's no reason to think Barkley won't do the same.

Dan Salomone: Fact -- Many people expect a big year out of Saquon Barkley in the new offense, and you can count me among them. He led the NFL in scrimmage yards as a rookie and still finished 11th in his second season despite missing three full games with an ankle injury that lingered after his return. Even if healthy, he still would have had a tall task to catch Christian McCaffrey's ridiculous 1,000-1,000 season, but I think Barkley could join the club. The Giants want to run the ball and control things up front, trademarks of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's proven scheme.

Lance Medow: Fiction -- In 2018, Saquon Barkley led the NFL in yards from scrimmage with 2,028, just 27 more than Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has finished second in that category in three of his four seasons. The only season he didn't finish second was 2017 when he served a six-game suspension. Zeke played in Jason Garrett's offense the last four seasons and provides a means of comparison for what a running back can accomplish in that system. Last season, Barkley missed three games due to an ankle injury and collected 1,441 scrimmage yards. That was nearly 1,000 yards off the pace of leader Christian McCaffrey, who is a dangerous weapon for the Carolina Panthers. Elliott finished second but was still 615 yards behind McCaffrey, who has increased his production in rushing and receiving in each of his first three seasons in the league. He also hasn't missed a game in those three seasons. Until McCaffrey slows down, he remains the player to beat.

WR Darius Slayton will have more catches than S Xavier McKinney has tackles.

Schmeelk: Fiction -- If McKinney starts and plays 16 games, I would expect he has a minimum of 80 tackles. Antoine Bethea led the team with 110 tackles in 16 games last year. Given the presence of so many accomplished receivers for Daniel Jones (Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley), I would be surprised if Slayton surpassed 80 catches. I expect the Giants offense to be of the equal-opportunity variety with receptions spread out between all five of those targets. McKinney should have more tackles than Slayton does receptions.

Salomone: Fiction -- As president of the Slayton fan club, this pains me. But I also double as an X man. As a rookie, Slayton had 740 yards and eight touchdowns, but they came on just 48 catches. I expect those numbers to increase across the board, but McKinney's production should be just as high on the other side of the ball. On the "Giants Huddle" podcast, Alabama coach Nick Saban said McKinney was a tough, instinctive tackler. He is also an effective blitzer and has "enough power to take on a blocker if he needs to."

Medow: Fiction -- Last season, Darius Slayton posted 48 receptions in 14 games. Xavier McKinney has yet to play in a NFL game, but in each of his last two seasons at Alabama, he collected 74 and 95 tackles. McKinney has a real opportunity to start opposite Jabrill Peppers at the safety spot, so he should see plenty of snaps in 2020 and plenty of tackles. It's unrealistic to think Slayton will double his reception total in 2020. Could he jump to 60? Yes, but keep in mind Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram combined to miss 19 games in 2019. That clearly created more opportunities for Slayton during his rookie campaign. We haven't seen enough games with all those players on the field together. That's why I think it's more likely McKinney finishes with more tackles than Slayton's total catches. A safety has led the Giants in tackles in each of the last five seasons and hasn't had less than 96 tackles in each of those campaigns.

LB Kyler Fackrell will have more sacks than WR Golden Tate has touchdown catches.

Schmeelk: Fact -- Golden Tate has had between four and six touchdowns the last seven years of his career, so it is fair to think he will land in a similar range. Fackrell's sack total will be largely dependent on his snap count relative to Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines. I think Fackrell will average enough snaps per game to have somewhere between five and eight sacks. It will be very close, but I will pick Fackrell. If the Giants re-sign Markus Golden, I would go with Tate since Fackrell's snaps would probably decrease.

Salomone: Fact -- With the Packers, Fackrell went from 10.5 sacks in 2018 to just one in 2019. He played all 16 games in both seasons but his defensive snaps fell from to 623 to 422. It came as a result of Green Bay signing Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith, who both posted double-digit sack totals.

"It was obviously not ideal," Fackrell said. "I've said before that I definitely got better [in 2019]. I think I played better this year than I did the year before, despite not getting the numbers that I would have liked. If you look at percentages and pressures per rush, I think I had 200 less rushes but ended up with more pressures than the year I had 10.5 sacks. I think as far as the way I play and getting better as a player, I think I took a step forward this year."

That's the attitude that will endear him to the Giants coaching staff and will lead to playing time.

Medow: Fact -- In 2019, Golden Tate had six touchdowns in 11 games. He's never had more than seven in a single season and that was back in 2012. Since then, he's collected five or less touchdowns in five of the last seven campaigns. In comparison, Kyler Fackrell has just one season in which he has posted more than three sacks. That was 2018 when he had a career-high 10.5 with the Packers. Given he's the only player on the defense who has a double-digit sack season and there's no Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith on the roster, Fackrell has a great opportunity to return to his 2018 form. I think it's going to be very close because I think the touchdowns and sacks will be spread across the board in 2020. I'll give Fackrell the slight edge because of the various offensive weapons surrounding Tate.

View photos of Giants quarterback Daniel Jones throughout his NFL career.

Daniel Jones will lead NFC East quarterbacks in total touchdowns (passing + rushing).

Schmeelk: Fiction -- Jones should have a real chance to total more than 30 touchdowns, but will he have more than Dak Prescott, who had 30 touchdown passes and three rushing touchdowns last year? Prescott has never had fewer than 28 total touchdowns in a season. Carson Wentz had 28 combined touchdowns last year and had 33 in 2017. I would also expect Saquon Barkley to grab double-digit rushing touchdowns, which should cut into Jones' total. I do expect Jones to be right with those other two quarterbacks, but the more likely bet here is the field rather than Jones.

My prediction:

Dak Prescott - 32

Daniel Jones - 31

Carson Wentz - 29

Dwayne Haskins - 24

Salomone: Fact -- It's his show now. It could be his division, too. Jones led all rookies in touchdown passes last year despite starting the season behind Eli Manning. Yes, Jones is learning a new offense. But it's a proven offense, especially for dual-threat quarterbacks. Just look at what Jason Garrett did with Dak Prescott in Dallas. On top of that, Darius Slayton is coming along and the Giants added some intriguing undrafted free agents, including Ohio State wide receivers Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor.

Medow: Fiction -- Last season, Daniel Jones had 26 total touchdowns (24 passing, two rushing) in 13 games (12 starts). In comparison, Dak Prescott had 33 in 16 contests, Carson Wentz 28 in 16 games and Dwayne Haskins seven in only nine games. Prescott is the most durable quarterback in the division. He hasn't missed a game in his four seasons in the league. Jones has already missed two games due to injury, Wentz has battled his fair share of injuries over the course of his career, and the jury is still out on Haskins. When you take that into consideration and the fact that Prescott hasn't had less than 28 touchdowns in any season, it's hard to project Jones finishing ahead of him. The other factor is the continuity that Wentz and Dak have in terms of coaching staff, personnel and scheme compared to Jones, especially in an offseason with no on-field work.


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