The New York Giants are not a team with a storied history of receivers. Amani Toomer is widely regarded as the greatest receiver in team history, and his years alongside Plaxico Burress brought both men into prominence. The Giants were never more lethal through the air. Until now.
The Giants receiving corps is an offensive coordinators dream. They are young, they have game-breaking talent, and they are already putting up eye opening numbers. Each and every single one of them has the potential to be a top receiver for the next decade, and the glut at the position the Giants have is the envy of many a team in the NFL. Let's see why...
Mario Manningham came into the draft with a lot of question marks. Character issues and durability concerns were more than enough to push the stellar collegiate receiver into the third round of the 2008 draft. He fell right into the Giants' lap, and his performance last season proved several things: he can play, he is a game changer and he produces.
Despite starting only eight games (playing in 15), Manningham had 944 receiving yards and nine TDs, while catching 60 balls and averaging 15.7 yards per catch. Unlike Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham has consistent vertical ability and great moves on defenders in space. Like all Giant receivers, he suffered from the dropsies, but Tom Coughlin will definitely address that in the preseason (if there is one).
He has the most upside of the receivers featured here, as the holes in his game can be coached. Eli Manning knows that when Mario Manningham is on the field, he is murder in single coverage and has no fear of throwing the ball his way. Watch the Green Bay game at the end of last season, or his performance in the infamous Philly game, and tell me this isn't a special ball player. If healthy, there is no reason to think he won't continue to light it up next season. He's the real deal.
A quick look at the receivers taken ahead of him, and the teams that drafted them:
Donnie Avery (Rams. Decent, but nowhere near Manningham's talent)
Devin Thomas ('Skins. Ironically buried on the Giants depth chart)
James Hardy (Bills)
Eddie Royal (Broncos)
Jerome Simpson (Bengals)
Desean Jackson (Eagles. Well done)
Malcolm Kelly ('Skins. Two busts in one round. Nice job guys)
Limas Sweed (Steelers. Ouch)
Earl Bennet (Bears)
Early Doucet (Cardinals)
Harry Douglas (Falcons)
The most polished receiver of the bunch, Steve Smith may never approach his 2009 campaign, but don't be surprised to see him thought of as one of the best clutch receivers in the game for years to come. He spent most of last year injured but had strong games against Tennessee, Dallas and Houston.
All told, Smith only started seven games, appearing in nine due to injury. His stats (48 catches, 529 yards and three TDs) extrapolated over the season would look something like this: 95 catches, 1100 yards six TDs. He doesn't excel in the deep game, nor does he break many tackles, but when featured (and healthy), Smith is an excellent option because of his knack for making tough catches and use of his body to get that extra yard.
His chemistry with Eli Manning is the strongest of the bunch as well, and Smith helps cover up for Eli when he makes mistakes with his throwing mechanics. That kind of reliability is hard to find, and it elevates both of their games. Though not the biggest receiver, Smith's body control is exceptional and helps make up for his lack of size. As a bonus, he's also a strong blocker in tight field situations. Just a solid receiver all around.
Wide Outs taken ahead of Steve Smith:
Calvin Johnson (Lions. Hall of Fame ability)
Ted Ginn, Jr. (Dolphins. Speed kills... on paper)
Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs. Hard to argue against him)
Bobby Meacham (Saints)
Buster Davis (Chargers)
Anthony Gonzalez (Colts. Boy do they wish they could fix this)
Dwayne Jarrett (Panthers. Last seen with Big foot on a cruise with the Loch Ness Monster)
Hakeem Nicks has the biggest hands of any starting receiver in the NFL. The Giants have to custom order his gloves. So what? Well, amazingly, Nicks had some critical drops last season. And he was still far and away the Giants best receiver.
A quick look at his 2010 season: 79 catches, 1052 yards, 11 TDs and a 13.3 yards per catch average. In 12 starts. He lacks speed and quickness, two things that can't be coached. Those are the only true holes in his game. He drops more passes than he should, and isn't great in the blocking game, but those are things that CAN be coached.
He is explosive off press coverage, runs dynamic routes, and is excellent at seeing how a play will go down as soon as the ball leaves Eli's hands. He has a nose for open space, and is deceptively strong, and boy does he love the end zone. he's got great chemistry with Eli Manning, and most importantly, he seeks out advice from veterans and coaches alike in the hopes of improving his game. GM's and scouts agree he is a special player. The guy is a game breaker, and should make his fair share of Pro Bowls if he can stay healthy.
Wide Receivers taken ahead of Nicks, and the teams that drafted them:
Michael Crabtree (49er's. Hasn't approached Nicks production, but look at his QB situation. Can't miss talent)
Jeremy Maclin (Eagles. Will only get better)
Percy Harvin (Vikes. Time will tell)
The Giants are deep at this position, with all of their starters capable of being No. 1's on many teams. The thing that jumps out is the fact that these guys are all young, and have strong seasons under their belts already. Eli Manning isn't the greatest, but he's better than most and is totally unafraid to throw to any of them at any time.
Many receivers would crumple under that kind of pressure, but Manningham, Smith and Nicks embrace the trust Eli and the offense has in them. They may very well be the standard as far as receiving corps go for the next decade. Are they the best? No. Not yet. If the Giants can magically keep them together, the sky is the limit. If not, I'm sure they will continue to produce for whatever team is fortunate enough to have them. A final look at their combined stats from 2010:
Yards Per Catch: 13.3
Thoughts? Comments? Fire away!