Andre Williams, Rashad Jennings' Updated Fantasy Outlook After Bills vs. Giants

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistAugust 4, 2014

CANTON, OH - AUGUST 3: Running back Andre Williams #44 of the New York Giants runs for a gain during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills at the 2014 NFL Hall of Fame Game at Fawcett Stadium on August 3, 2014 in Canton, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Football mercifully returned to our lives in Sunday night's Hall of Fame Game, so it's only proper that we start the year off right by parsing every last detail of the Giants' 17-13 win over the Bills in Canton, Ohio.

And by that I mean ignoring all real-life football and taking a look at the fantasy football implications. Unlike the teams that actually play on Sundays, fantasy football owners do not have the luxury of waiting a month to get ready. August is informally known as Fantasy Football Draft month, mostly because nothing else is going on in the sports world.

So things like a glimpse at the Giants' running back hierarchy is what we have to stay excited.

Spoiler alert: It seems to be going mostly as expected.

Free-agent signing Rashad Jennings opened the game a few steps behind Eli Manning and received a bulk of the carries with the first team. Jennings carried the ball seven times for 23 yards and made three receptions for 20 yards, as Manning and Co. really struggled to get anything going against a strong Buffalo front seven.

David Richard/Associated Press

Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo seemed particularly interested in getting Jennings going in the passing game. Each of Manning's passes to his running back came out of design rather than a checkdown, and the offensive line did a nice job in most cases getting out in front of their blocks. Jennings, 29, made a career-high 36 receptions last season with the Raiders and should get most of the work in passing situations.

His stranglehold on the bulk of the carries, though, started to look a little tenuous with the arrival of a former Heisman finalist.

Fourth-round pick Andre Williams excelled in his professional debut, carrying the ball seven times for 48 yards, most of which came with the first-team offense. Tom Coughlin rotated Williams and Jennings against the Bills second-team defense, and the Boston College star time and again looked like the more effective back. He broke the game's longest run of 21 yards after making a nice read on a zone run and then scored the team's first touchdown from three yards out.

"I feel like I'm built to run the ball, to play football and carry the ball," Williams told reporters. "Once I tuck it away, I do feel comfortable. I feel like I'm doing what I was built to do. It's fun out there and I'm just having fun."

Williams was the nation's leading rusher last season with 2,177 yards. He scored 18 touchdowns, won the Doak Walker Award and finished fourth in the Heisman voting. When the Giants took Williams with the No. 112 pick in May, some theorized that he would be able to win the starting job in camp and become the latest in a long line of rookie backs to excel.

The reality has been much more of a process. Williams, who did not make one reception his senior season at Boston College, has struggled mightily to pick up the intricacies of the passing game. Multiple reports out of camp said Williams had issues in pass blocking and making basic receptions out of the backfield. He was even taking passes off his facemask, per Jordan Raanan of

The Giants did not feature Williams in the passing game Sunday. He was not targeted once and was often shuffled out on obvious passing downs. By contrast, even the stationary Peyton Hillis received two passing targets. Hillis might be a strong indicator that we shouldn't be getting too excited about Williams' rushing totals either. The former Madden cover athlete-turned-guy just hoping to make the roster rushed for 36 yards on seven carries.

Aug 3, 2014; Canton, OH, USA; New York Giants running back Andre Williams (44) celebrates after rushing for a touchdown during the first quarter of the 2014 Pro Football Hall of Fame game against the Buffalo Bills at Fawcett Stadium. Mandatory Credit: And

Then again, it is always best to avoid any nonsensical proclamations after one preseason game. Williams might make enough strides over the next couple of weeks to completely take over the starting job. Or his seven carries in the Hall of Fame Game could be a minor blip on the radar, and his lack of multifaceted talent could prove his downfall.

At most, the situation bears slightly closer monitoring. David Wilson's tragic career-ending spinal injury leaves Jennings and Williams unimpeded to compete for the top spot, barring some existential need for Coughlin to highlight Hillis' brand of three-yard gains. 

Jennings was a borderline starter in a 12-team league before the preseason opener and remains as such; he's somewhere among the 20-25 best running backs in fantasy. Williams will go undrafted in most leagues and is only worth a flier in the very last round of a deep league or a dynasty format.

Nothing changes.


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