Tyreek Hill is arguably the premier deep threat in the NFL, but one underrated wide receiver for the New York Giants actually outpaced the seven-time Pro Bowler in one key statistical category.
Darius Slayton finished tied for third with 10.2 yards per target in 2022, just ahead of Miami Dolphins’ star Hill’s 10.1, according to Pro Football Reference. The impressive tally is one reason why Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox believes Slayton is one of the most underrated wideouts in the league.
Knox also thinks Slayton’s track record deserves more respect, since the 26-year-old “has topped 700 yards in three of his four seasons and has provided a passer rating above 96.0 in two of them.”
Getting more from Slayton will depend on Giants’ head coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka letting quarterback Daniel Jones “stretch the field, which could be in the cards this season.”
A more vertical passing game makes sense when the Giants boast a target who can out-gain Hill. It also makes sense after Big Blue added even more speed to Jones’ receiving corps, in the form of 2023 NFL draft third-round pick Jalin Hyatt.
Giants’ Hidden Gem Deserves Bigger Role
Slayton’s consistency as a steady performer merits more targets than the 71 he received last season. Especially since No. 86 was perhaps the only true deep threat at Jones’ disposal, averaging 15.7 yards per catch and snagging 12 receptions for 20-plus yards, including three of 40-plus.
The spectacular grab against Washington was part of a three-week spell defined by Slayton burning defenses deep, per SiriusXM host Lance Medow.
Unfortunately for the Giants, there’s a sharp contrast between Slayton’s vertical production and what the rest of the Jones-led passing attack mustered. The Giants were last in the league with a mere 28 completions of 20-plus yards.
That lowly number underlines Slayton’s importance to this offense. It also explains why the Giants invested valuable draft capital to acquire Hyatt.
Speedy Duo the Key to More Expansive Pass Attack
Hyatt’s credentials as a big-play specialist are impeccable, including averaging 18.9 yards per reception during his final year at Tennessee. The rookie’s potential to stretch the field is also underlined by his 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash at the annual Scouting Combine.
Tapping into the skills of a receiver who thrived on targets of 20-plus yards, per Pro Football Focus, can transform Jones. The latter must add a vertical element to his repertoire after averaging a career-low 5.1 completed air yards per completion last season, according to Pro Football Reference.
The Giants paid Jones like an elite quarterback when they handed him a four-year, $160-million contract earlier this offseason. Justifying the investment will demand Jones adds more big plays to the offense.
Hyatt will be key to the process, but his emergence shouldn’t come at the expense of Slayton’s snaps. The smarter move would be for Daboll and Kafka to utilize both field-stretchers together as often as possible.
Defenses forced to keep safeties back to account for two deep threats will be left vulnerable to a ground game led by Saquon Barkley. Facing more deep coverage shells will also open up space for Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller to boss the middle of the field.
That’s how Kafka saw things work with Hill when the pair were members of the Kansas City Chiefs from 2017-22. Allowing Slayton and Hyatt to recreate the same dynamic is the quickest way for the Giants to boast a more versatile and potent pass attack.