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Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr. bring star power to fantasy ad

Victor Cruz, Odell Beckham Jr. in NFL's fantasy football ad

Despite significant improvement in the 21st century, the Giants have been star-starved at wide receiver for most of their 90-year history.

Their last NFL leader in receptions? Tod Goodwin, who had 26 in 1935.

Perhaps you don't remember Tod. The late co-owner Wellington Mara, who was 18 that autumn, certainly did. He once told me Goodwin messed up pass patterns so often, teammates took to calling him "Dingbat."

Anyway, times have changed. You knew that already, but the latest illustration is a new NFL ad featuring a binary star system at wide receiver that has fans abuzz.

It is part of a campaign to promote's seasonlong fantasy football games and features Victor Cruz and Odell Beckham Jr. sitting beside each other in the Giants' locker room -- where it was recorded in May.

The spot has not yet been seen on television, but it is available on YouTube. In it, Cruz tells Beckham he plans to start the Falcons' Julio Jones over him on his fantasy team, eventually leading to an awkward silence and a discussion of pet cats, or lack thereof.

The theme of the campaign, produced with Grey Group, is "Friends Don't Small Talk, Friends Talk Fantasy." In addition to the two Giants, it includes the Steelers' Antonio Brown and the Packers' Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb.

Jaime Weston, the NFL's senior VP of marketing, said the ads aim to differentiate between increasingly popular daily fantasy games and the (relatively) old-fashioned season-long variety. "Daily games are more individual," she said. "Season-long is more about camaraderie."

Hence the concept of having players who are friends finding common ground in chatting about fantasy.

"It came to this idea of small talk," Weston said. "They're around the water cooler."

It's no accident that those involved in the commercials play fantasy-friendly positions and have broad appeal.

"We really look across the league and try and showcase our great players and the ones that are fan-friendly and are part of the community that they play in," Weston said. "You want to make sure they speak to fans ages 5 and 95."

It does not matter as much as it used to that big stars play in big markets. But Weston said having big stars in big markets helps teams there rise above the entertainment clutter -- especially in the most crowded market of them all.

"You're competing with Broadway, the movies, so much going on," she said. "I think it's great in big cities when you have guys who stand out."

Cruz and Beckham do. And they are not the only ones as the Giants and Jets begin training camp this week with enviable star power for two teams that have lost their postseason ways in recent years.

Eli Manning stars in his latest DirecTV ad, which launched last week, without brother Peyton.

The Jets' Darrelle Revis appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated last week in a re-creation of an iconic 50-year-old cover shot of Joe Namath.

And Revis appeared inside the magazine in the re-creation of another famous SI shot of Namath from 46 years ago. This time, Broadway Joe himself appeared poolside in Florida, with Revis playing Joe's old role.

Cruz, meanwhile, has appeared on two recent episodes of the risque HBO show "Ballers," playing himself.

None of this means the Giants or Jets will play their way into the bright lights once the regular season begins. (Helpful suggestion: The NFL should allow the teams to merge and use the Giants' offense and Jets' defense.)

But it does hint at a vibe of excitement and anticipation surrounding both teams as they get down to business. We will not know until September at the earliest whether all that is mere fantasy.

New York Sports