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Receivers Preview: Will the Giants Regret Not Drafting at this Position?

The Giants didn't add to their wide receiver corps via free agency or the draft. Will that decision come back to haunt them?

Wide Receivers

WHO THEY HAVE: Golden Tate (UFA/2019); Sterling Shepard (D2/2016); Darius Slayton (D5/2019); Corey Coleman (UFA/2018); Cody Core (W/2019); David Sills V (FA/2019); Da’Mari Scott (FA/2020); Alex Bachman (FA/2020); Derrick Dillon (UDFA/2020); Austin Mack (UDFA/2020); Binjimen Victor (UDFA/2020);

KEY ADDITION: None

KEY LOSSES: Cody Latimer (UFA/WAS); Russell Shepard (UFA/unsigned)

WHERE THINGS STAND: The Giants haven’t had a true No. 1 receiver since they traded Odell Beckham Jr to the Browns last off-season. 

While that would normally be a cause for concern, new head coach, Joe Judge, has stressed that the game plan will be changed each week to take better advantage of the various matchups. 

This could very well be why the Giants decided not to spend a pick on a receiver from a historically deep class in this year’s draft, even though value was there to be had.

But here’s the flaw with Judge’s thinking. For the passing game to take flight, the featured receivers—whoever they are in any given week—must show a consistent ability to separate down the field. 

According to NFL NextGen Stats, Shepard averaged 3.1 yards of separation at the time of their catch, followed by Tate and Slayton, who both averaged 2.2 yards.

The Giants receivers also need to up their performance into the deep passing game (passes of 20 or more yards). Per Pro Football Focus, the Giants’ top three receivers—Tate, Shepard, and Slayton—caught 18 of 50 deep pass attempts (36%) with two drops for nine touchdowns.

Tate, who at age 31 still showed himself to be shifty in the open field, continued to excel at racking up yards after the catch, leading the Giants receivers with 291 yards in 11 games, followed by Slayton (199) in 14 games and Shepard (184) in 10 games, per Pro Football Focus.

WHERE WE GO FROM HERE: The Giants surprised a lot of people when they didn’t draft a receiver from this year’s historically deep class. But upon closer inspection, the reason for what some consider to be a glaring omission in their personnel rebuilding efforts might not be as crazy as it seems.

On the surface, the Giants appear to be just fine at receiver with Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton projected to be their top three receivers. 

They’re hoping that in addition to Coleman rounding back in the deep threat he was before suffering a torn ACL last summer, that one or more of the undrafted free agents they added from the aforementioned historically deep draft class steps up.

However, this is a high-risk, high-reward proposition, and here’s why.

Shepard missed several games thanks to two concussions he suffered within a month of each other. While he did make it back to finish out the season, if he were to suffer another head injury, there’s no telling what that might mean for his future.

And then there is Coleman, who before tearing an ACL early in training camp last year, showed the kind of vertical speed that would appear to be an ideal fit for what the Giants are believed to be planning to run on offense.

Coleman will be more than a year removed from surgery, but that doesn’t mean that he’ll be 100% back to where he was before suffering the injury, making him a wait-and-see prospect.

And what about the undrafted free agent receivers? Admittedly it’s not impossible to catch lightning in a bottle—the Giants did, after all, accomplish that with Victor Cruz back in 2010.

But let’s be clear about something. There is a reason why players go undrafted, and while it’s not impossible for them to develop into solid contributors, it’s also not something that happens often enough, which is why the Giants’ apparent reliance on developing talent to move up the depth chart eventually is one they better hope pans out.