The New York Giants receivers in 2020 weren't very productive.
Of their 22 dropped passes last season (seventh-most in the NFL, by the way), 12 came at the hands of the receivers. That number by itself isn't horrible if you consider that of the six teams in front of them for most drops, the Giants and Lions were tied for the fewest dropped passes by wide receivers.
But there are other pieces of statistical evidence to underscore just how poor the Giants receivers were last year, starting with their 12 touchdown receptions, which ties them for dead last with the Patriots.
The Giants also finished tied with the Bengals for last in the league in big-play (25+ yards) receptions (17); 27th league-wide in first downs by reception (178), 31st in reception yards-after-catch by receivers (1,275), and 27th in average yards per catch (10.4).
More stats can be cited--like a 45% conversion rate on contested catches. But by now, the reasons why the Giants sought to upgrade the position should be pretty clear.
The beautiful thing about the wide receiver position is that there is never any shortage of choices. And to that end, the Giants, in their efforts to ensure quarterback Daniel Jones has as much support around him as possible, have assembled a strong mix of options that will slug it out for five or maybe six roster spots on the 53-man roster.
They added Kenny Golladay, their first big-bodied and legitimate X-receiver, something the offense has lacked since the days of Plaxico Burress. They have youngster Kadarius Toney, their first-round draft pick, in the pipeline as the heir to Sterling Shepard's slot position.
They have Darius Slayton, another tall receiver, and one coming off a forgettable sophomore campaign. They added John Ross, a track star type of receiver, to a group that includes an additional assortment of talents.
In short, the Giants have options as to how they put this receiving group together for 2021, but one thing they are going to be looking for is big-play-making ability. Twelve receiving touchdowns isn't going to cut it, not when the team aspired to make the playoffs, nor did it win enough contested-catch situations.
There are some risks involved with this group--Golladay and Ross, for example, are coming off injury-shortened seasons. But the promise far outweighs the risk to where the Giants felt comfortable enough bringing in the specific players they did--players they need to justify their earnings in what is a pivotal season ahead for the organization.
Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, David Sills, Dante Pettis, C.J. Board, Austin Mack, Alex Bachman, Derrick Dillon
Despite splurging on Kenny Golladay, the Giants' financial investment in their receivers group ranks 15th in the league ($25,373,014, or 13.68% of their total cap), which puts them just slightly over the league average of $23.9 million.
Regarding the average per player at this position, the Giants are averaging $1,951,770, which is not bad (and which is under the league-wide average of $2 million), considering the group still has much to prove in the coming year.
Sterling Shepard ($9 million) tops the Giants receivers in terms of biggest cap hit at the position. He is followed by Kenny Golladay ($4,473,525) and rookie Kadarius Toney ($2,494,456) as having the top-three highest cap hits at the position on the team.
John Ross ($1,838,233), Dante Pettis ($1,352,803), and C.J. Board ($1,020,000) round out the rest of the Giants receivers who are due to count for seven figures against this year's cap. Early projections have one of those three (Board) as having the best chance to stick on the roster given his special teams contributions as a gunner.
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1. Can Kenny Golladay deliver the goods?
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Golladay's history--two straight 1,000-yard seasons, a 60.2% career contested catch rate, 142 career first downs out of 182 receptions)--sure would suggest that he's more than capable of delivering the goods.
That said, Golladay is coming off a season-ending hip injury which, while believed to be in the rearview mirror, still lingers some, given that he can earn up to $250,000 in per-game roster bonuses when he's on the field.
Why else would Golladay, who signed a four-year $72 million contract, have such a clause in his contract--and only in the first year of the deal rather than in each year? After all, wouldn't it make sense to assume Golladay would be active for every game and be on the field for most of the snaps?
But in getting back to the question, the answer is yes. If Golladay is healthy, he's certainly more than capable of delivering the goods and turbocharging the Giants stale passing offense.
If he's truly healthy...
2. Can Darius Slayton rebound from his sophomore slump?
After posting a surprising and impressive rookie campaign in which he caught 60% of his pass targets (48 out of 80) for 740 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns, there was talk that maybe Darius Slayton could be a No. 1 receiver in the making.
That talk quickly ended when the receiver failed to build on that rookie campaign, logging a disappointing set of numbers, including catching 53.2% of his pass targets (50 out of 94) for 751 yards and three touchdowns.
But there were factors in Slayton's second season that weren't there in his first, starting with assorted injuries that he battled through, including to his lower body. All one need have done is watch the tape, and it was clear that Slayton had lost a step due to some sort of lingering injury that is thought to have popped up during the Giants' first meeting against Washington.
Another potential factor in Slayton's drop-off was that he saw his slot snaps jump from 22 as a rookie to 114 in his second season, that likely due to Sterling Shepard's turf toe injury that landed him on injured reserve in the early part of the season.
Whatever the reason, Slayton needs a bounceback year. With the additions of Golladay and Toney, don't be surprised if Slayton's pass targets, which were at 80 as a rookie and 94 last year, drop off. And if that happens, then it becomes even more important for him to take advantage of every opportunity that comes his way.
What Would Surprise Me
John Ross makes the roster. The Giants took a one-year flier on former Bengals first-round pick John Ross, a speedy straight-line runner whose career has been derailed in part due to injuries. While Ross has some value, he also has a few things working against him.
For starters, there is the projected depth chart at receiver. Assuming everyone stays healthy, Kenny Golladay should be a lock as the No. 1 receiver, followed by Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, and Kadarius Toney. That means, at best, Ross, if he makes the roster, would be the fifth receiver in what's a crowded room.
For example, Ross could potentially lose his roster spot to C.J. Board, is special teams. Simply put, Ross, per Pro Football Focus, has never played special teams in the NFL. So if it comes down to Ross versus C.J. Board, Board likely gets the nod considering he contributed last year on special teams as a gunner and did enough to warrant a return engagement.
What Wouldn’t Surprise Me
The Giants carry no more than five receivers on the roster. Injuries will sway how many Giants keep at each position beyond, of course, performance. Still, unlike past years when the Giants might not have had receiving options at the other positions, this year, if everyone is healthy, they do.
Eight players--receivers Golladay, Shepard, Toney, and Slayton; tight ends Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph; and running back Saquon Barkley--all figure to be part of the receiving target rotation for the Giants.
Again, if everyone is healthy, it's hard to imagine the fifth receiver getting many pass targets, which means he'd have to be a significant contributor on special teams. And if the fifth receiver is likely to be starved for pass targets, what chance would the sixth receiver on the depth chart have?
Be sure to keep it locked on Giants Country all the time!