When a football team is coming off a 3-13 season, it’s probably safe to say that it has a lot of needs to address.
Unfortunately, the more needs a team has, the less likely it’s able to fill them all in a single off-season. The Giants identified and prioritized their most significant needs, which, based on the personnel moves they made in the draft and free agency, were at linebacker, the defensive secondary, and the offensive line. That’s a start. However, it still leaves the Giants with a glaring unfilled need.
No, not a pass rusher, at least not in the opinion of Football Outsiders. Instead, the popular analytics site believes the Giants’ remaining most significant need is—wait for it—wide receiver.
Here was Football Outsider’s reasoning behind its opinion that receiver is the Giants' biggest remaining need:
If his 9.6% DVOA in his rookie season is any indication, 2019 fifth-rounder Darius Slayton was a winning lottery ticket. Still, Slayton may remain specialized as a field-stretcher, and even if he doesn't, the Giants need more help at wide receiver. Golden Tate will be 32 this September and has been inefficient in the last two seasons with below-average DVOA rates. An expensive contract may make him a cut candidate after the 2020 season. Sterling Shepard has been more effective and is much younger, but he also has a history of migraines and suffered two concussions within a month of one another in 2019. It's difficult to trust that he can be a part of the next Giants contender, which could still be another year or two away in their current rebuild. Odell Beckhams don't grow on trees, but a capable backup or two would help the Giants avoid a dilemma like they faced in 2017 when a Beckham injury left them to rely on the likes of Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, and Travis Rudolph. A similar situation in 2020 could derail Daniel Jones' development.
Admittedly, the Giants' decision to not draft a receiver was surprising for the very same reasons Football Outsiders named—Sterling Shepard’s health history and Golden Tate’s advancing age, and, while not mentioned, the gamble they’re taking on Corey Coleman’s return from a torn ACL.
While the Giants did add some intriguing free agent receivers like LSU’s speedster Derrick Dillon, the tallish and athletic Binjamen Victor out of Ohio State, and his teammate Austin Mack, a somewhat polished route runner, it appears that the Giants are banking on Corey Coleman, who is coming off a torn ACL from last summer, rounding back into shape as a potential vertical deep threat and as their No. 4 receiver.
While Football Outsiders makes many valid points, there are a few things that make the Giants' decision not to address receivers a lot less scary.
First, the Giants have other receiving options besides the wideouts such as tight ends Kaden Smith and Evan Engram and running back Saquon Barkley. Such wasn’t necessarily the case in 2017 when the receiving group was walloped by injury, and the Giants’ primary receiving targets outside of the underwhelming wideouts on the roster included Engram, running back Shane Vereen.
Second, early projections of the 2021 draft class are extremely positive regarding the depth and could be a class that ends up matching if not surpassing the 2020 class, which yielded six first-round picks.
If the Giants are indeed looking at the roster-rebuilding process in stages—and the moves they have made would support that belief—they likely (and correctly) felt it more important to address a significantly underperforming defense that couldn’t get out of its way last year and an offensive line that for years has been barely held together by a thread.
Lastly, despite the 49ers showing that it’s possible to go from worst to first in the conference, people need to remember that the 49ers had a structure in place in terms of a core foundation and a coaching staff. In contrast, the Giants are starting from scratch this year. While anything can happen, to expect the Giants to push for a Super Bowl berth this year is an unrealistic reach given where they currently are.
The best-case scenario for the Giants would be to hope for improvement and that what they have at receiver gets them through. But if for some reason, the worst-case scenarios come to fruition, I’m not so sure the moves would be quite as catastrophic as they were in 2017 when the Giants were wiped out at the receiver position because of injury.