What if Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks is lost for the season?
By Matt Waldman
September 2nd, 2012

What if Victor Cruz ruptures a calf muscle doing his patented salsa dance in the red zone and/or Hakeem Nicks has five injuries at the same time that prevent him from playing (because you know that's what it will take).

Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks are a huge reason why the run and shoot concepts that Kevin Gilbride uses in New York have been so successful. Eli Manning might make terrific reads and big-money throws, but Cruz and Nicks have to make strong reads and route adjustments to make the whole thing work. If one or both of these receivers are lost for the year, the Giants offense will be scrambling to adjust with young, unproven players and not ready for prime time veterans.


Ahmad Bradshaw, RB – The lack of established talent at wide receiver beyond Nicks and Cruz will mean that the ground game will become an even bigger part of the offense and that will also mean short passes and run plays from shotgun. Bradshaw will effectively be the best player non-quarterback skill player on the field if both starting receivers are out. Although David Wilson will be a good option to consider, as long as Bradshaw is healthy he'll be the best bet to earn 15-18 touches per week. I also wouldn't be surprised if the Giants opt for more two tight end sets with Martellus Bennett and Bear Pascoe to aid the ground game.

Martellus Bennett, TE – There's truth in the clichι that a tight end is a young quarterback's best friend. It's also a veteran quarterback's safety blanket when receiver play takes a dip and that's exactly what will happen if Nicks and Cruz are out at the same time. Bennett has the athleticism and hands to develop into the Giants first or second option in a passing attack and Tom Coughlin isn't afraid to make adjustments to his offense or defense get the best players on the field. Look for New York to incorporate Bear Pascoe and fullback Henry Hynoski, who are both reliable pass catchers, into the passing game as ways to work off a power running attack. The beneficiary will be Bennett split outside or used in play action situations.

David Wilson, RB – If the ground game becomes a bigger part of the offense due to injuries at receiver, Wilson will surely see enough time to become a fantasy factor. If not, he'll get that opportunity if Bradshaw breaks down, which is a viable fear due to the nature of the position and the ongoing issues with his feet. Wilson has en elite combination of explosiveness and balance. He has to mature with his decision-making on runs between the tackles and get better at pass protection. If he has to learn on the fly, he'll still be good enough to produce as an up-and-down RB2 with huge weeks due to his big-play ability.


Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks – Whichever of the two gets hurt for the year, the other will continue to see enough targets to remain a viable fantasy option. Hakeem Nicks probably has more to lose if Victor Cruz gets hurt because teams will bracket Nicks more often. However, don't expect Nicks' numbers to drop to the point where he's not a fantasy starter. Likewise, if Cruz is the last man standing of this duo he'll be moved around enough to draw matchups that will help him remain a productive player.


Eli Manning, QB – Manning's value will go down if both receivers are hurt for the year and there won't be much a fantasy owner can do to earn good value from a trade. However, if only one of Nicks or Cruz gets hurt, there's still a chance that Manning owners can generate enough value with good games from Martellus Bennett or a strong, but fleeting performance from the receiver depth chart.

Rueben Randle, WR – If the young rookie receiver gets called to action due to a Nicks or Cruz injury, get what you can for the talented college star from LSU because he's likely to disappoint as an up and down player along the lines of Greg Little during his rookie year. Randle is a fine prospect with success in store for him, but making nice catches in training camp and running great routes in real games are completely different. Odds are against Randle making a consistent fantasy starter impact as a rookie based on a good, but not great training camp. Play up the athleticism angle if you have the depth to part with Randle as a receiver. If you are in need of receiver, he's a worthwhile flex-gamble if he earns the job.

Ramses Barden, WR – If you decide to add Barden, be cognizant that he has failed to improve to the point of fighting for starter time at any point during his multiple seasons in the NFL. If he is tabbed to replace Hakeem Nicks, he's likely to split that time with Rueben Randle. Find a desperate owner and get what you can for the big, receiver with build-up speed and slow-developing route skills.


Domenik Hixon, WR – Hixon has the athleticism and experience to replace Victor Cruz as a viable slot weapon if needed, but he won't be more than a WR3 in most fantasy leagues. He lacks the big-play ability in tight, man coverage on vertical routes that makes Cruz borderline special. He'll be a nice waiver wire addition that can save a fantasy season, but not one that will win it for you by itself.

Jerrell Jernigan, WR – Like Hixon, Jernigan isn't a great receiver in tight single coverage down field. Unlike Hixon, Jernigan has the open field skill that could rival Cruz. He's worth considering as a roster addition if the coaching staff opts for him to replace an injured Cruz.



Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to waldman@footballguys.com.

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