The New York Giants‘ receiving corp is one of the most enigmatic position groups in the NFL. For instance, the trio of Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton was lauded recently by one personnel exec who told ESPN that “a lot of teams will be hard-pressed to match that top three.” However, Pro Football Focus sees things drastically different, ranking the group as just the 21st-best receiving corps in football.
It’s safe to say The Ringer’s Danny Kelly’s perception of Big Blue’s pass-catchers aligns more with the former’s take.
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Giants Pass Catchers Among NFL’s 6 Most Underrated Position Groups
As Kelly noted, “Daniel Jones’ rookie performance was impressive enough on its own merit.” However, with a healthy receiving corps entering 2020, New York’s passing game can become quite the headache for opposing defenses.
If the team’s core pass-catching nucleus can stay healthy and on the field together this year, Jones should have a very intriguing mix of established veterans and ascending young talent at his disposal.
That core pass-catching nucleus, of course, includes the likes of veteran Golden Tate, target-collector Sterling Shepard, and arguably the most intriguing offensive weapon at Jones’ disposal on Big Blue’s offense, Darius Slayton.
Tate is the elder statesman of the group, and while the soon-to-be 32-year-old is likely already on the down slope of his career, he can still do some damage both down the field and on quick-hitting throws over the middle. He’s particularly effective from the slot, where his gyroscope balance and natural tackle-breaking talent places him among the league’s best at picking up yards after the catch.
Shepard is an underrated playmaker at all three levels as well. The fifth-year pro dealt with the effects of two concussions early in the season but finished out the year strong, reeling in 32 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns over the team’s final six games (an 85-catch, 824-yard pace over a full season).
And Darius Slayton, who was a surprise contributor as a rookie last year after falling to the fifth round of the draft, brings near-limitless potential as the team’s outside threat. The former Auburn standout paced all Giants receivers with 701 snaps played in 2019, reeling in 48 catches with team highs in yards (740) and touchdowns (eight). He brings speed, size, and a knack for winning at the catch point―and could put together a big breakout season in 2020.
Don’t Sleep on NY’s TE Duo
We all know the type of talent Evan Engram is. When healthy, there’s not many in the league that can present the type of mismatch problems that the former 1st-rounder can for opposing defenses. However, last season, like the majority of his career, Engram struggled to stay on the field. Yet, this time, unlike in years the past, New York found a plausible injury-replacement for him in Kaden Smith.
Big Blue is hopeful that Smith can emerge as the Robin to a healthy Engram’s Batman moving forward.
Of course, we can’t forget about the team’s tight end duo of Evan Engram and Kaden Smith. Engram has 4.4-second 40-yard-dash speed, making him a threat up the seam and after the catch, and he just needs to put together a full season to cement himself among the league’s elite at the position.
Smith showcased some intriguing chemistry with Jones down the stretch, starting the team’s final six games while catching 30 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns in that stretch (an 80-catch, 712-yard pace). The former 49ers sixth-rounder may have carved out a role in the team’s passing game this year with that relief performance, especially in the red zone, where his size and strength make him a mismatch.
The five other position groups to join New York’s unheralded pass catchers included the defensive lines for both the Redskins and Ravens, as well as the Dolphins’ receiving corps and the Raiders’ offensive line.
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