The New York Giants wide receiver situation is interesting.
The Giants currently have 13 receivers on their training camp roster, a group that comes in all shapes, sizes, and skillset. Presumably, the top four roster spots will be filled by Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, draft pick Wan'Dale Robinson, and, once healthy, Sterling Shepard.
That leaves about nine other receivers to compete for maybe two additional spots on the 53-man roster. And as is always the case with the bottom of the roster at any position, being able to contribute on special teams will be a huge help to one's cause.
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Enter Richie James. James, 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds was originally a seventh-round draft pick by the 49ers in 2018 out of Middle Tennessee State. In his first NFL season, James contributed 23 kickoff returns, one for a touchdown, for 580 yards, earning All-NFC honors from the Pro Football Writers of America and a spot on ESPN's All-Rookie Team.
James, who lined up quite often with the Giants' first-team offense in the slot this spring, appeared in 40 games with ten starts for the 49ers. He missed the 2021 season with a knee injury, but he has been a productive return specialist for the 49ers, logging 51 punt returns for 373 yards (7.3 average) and 47 kickoff returns for 1,081 yards and one touchdown (23.0 yards/return).
His best season as a receiver was in 2020 when he had a career-high 23 catches for 394 yards. James has 38 receptions for 689 yards and three touchdowns in three seasons.
What He Brings
The Giants have been looking to upgrade their return game for some time, and this year is no different. If healthy, James can return both kickoffs and punts, plus he can contribute in the slot and on the outside. James has good run-after-catch ability, having averaged 10.6 yards after the catch in his career.
James' former college coach, Rick Stockstill, spoke glowingly of his former student-athlete after the 49ers picked him up.
"Very dynamic, has great vision, has good hands, he can make contested catches," Stockstill told 49ers Web Zone.
"He's not going to overpower you with his strength because he is a small guy. He plays fast. And you guys have seen it where guys run a 4.4, but when the game comes on, they don't run a 4.4. Richie is a full-size guy that runs 4.5 all the time. He plays really fast."
On the negative side, as a receiver, James has five career drops (56 pass targets), a 28.6 percent contested catch rate (two of seven), and has been on the receiving end of three interceptions, so his hands and play-strength figure to be points of emphasis for him this summer.
James signed a one-year minimum salary deal worth $1.065 million, which counts for $965,000 against the cap. He received a $100,000 signing bonus, which would be the dead money charged to the Giants' cap if he does not make the 53-man roster.
James was able to lay down some early positive impressions with the opportunities he received early in the spring. But again, it's going to come down to his special teams play. Does he have that explosiveness, vision, and burst to make defenders miss? If he can put all that together, his versatility might be hard for the Giants to ignore when they put their 53-man roster together.