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Giants’ Backfield Without Saquon Barkley Fantasy Football Breakdown: Matt Breida vs. Eric Gray vs. Gary Brightwell

Jeremy takes a look at the remaining fantasy football options in the Giants’ backfield with Saquon Barkley ruled out for Week 3.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 21: Matt Breida #31 of the New York Giants runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 21, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

The New York Giants have some tough decisions to make at running back for Thursday night football tonight, with Saquon Barkley out with a sprained ankle. The Giants don’t necessarily have a bell-cow running back like Barkley on the roster as a backup, so they will have to go to a running back by committee approach while Barkley is out. The other running backs on the roster include Matt Breida, Eric Gray, and Gary Brightwell. Let’s take a look at each of their fantasy outlooks for the next few weeks while Barkley is out.

Matt Breida Fantasy Football Outlook

Breida is listed as the backup running back to Barkley and should get the first opportunity to be the lead back while Barkley is out. Breida has not seen much action so far this season as the number two running back on the roster. He had two carries for nine yards and one reception on one target for -3 yards in Week 1, and just one carry for five yards in Week 2. For his career he has averaged 4.8 yards per carry, but much of that production came while running behind some great offensive lines in San Franciso from 2017 to 2019. This week, he will not have the luxury of running behind a great offensive line as the Giants will be missing both starting left tackle Andrew Thomas and starting left guard Ben Bredeson. Breida has not been able to stay healthy in recent seasons when he has received the opportunity to play a more expanded role in the offense, so I can see the Giants mixing in multiple running backs to try to keep him healthy. I expect Breida to come out as the starter on Thursday night this week, but I could see him handling 12 to 16 touches for the game, making him a flex play at best against a tough 49ers defense this week. I would want to give it a week to see how the touches are distributed before I trust starting him with Barkley out.

Gary Brightwell Fantasy Football Outlook

Brightwell was a sixth-round pick for the Giants in the 2021 NFL draft. During his 32 games with the Giants, he has 33 carries for 150 yards and one touchdown and eight receptions for 51 yards. He is expected to be the backup to Breida for tonight’s Week 3 game. I could see Brightwell getting anywhere from four to eight touches in tonight’s game. The main reason I am curious about who gets the most touches behind Breida tonight is because of Breida’s extensive injury history. I could see either Brightwell or Gray as the starting running back in Week 4 if something happened to Breida this week.

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Eric Gray Fantasy Football Outlook

Gray is the running back that intrigues me the most in the Giants backfield. He was a fifth-round pick in this year’s NFL Draft by the Giants. In the first two games of the season, he has been active for both games, but has not seen any offensive snaps as he is the Giants’ primary punt returner and a special teams player. The thing that intrigues me most about Gray is he is more explosive and shiftier in the open field than both Breida and Brightwell. The only thing stopping Gray from possibly being ahead of Breida and Brightwell on the depth chart right now is his pass-protection skills are viewed as a liability for the team. I expect Gray to see two to five touches in the game tonight, but he is the wild card in the backfield moving forward. If he cleans up his pass protection issues and plays well, he could see an expanded role in Week 4.

Overall, I would expect Breida to have the most touches this week and possibly moving forward if he can stay healthy, but I do think both Brightwell and Gray will be in the mix, making for a true running back by committee for week 3. If you are in a deep Dynasty league, I would pick up Gray just to stash him on the bench because he is the youngest, most explosive back the Giants have right now. 

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