The New York Giants got a potential steal when they traded up to select wide receiver Jalin Hyatt in the third round of the 2023 NFL draft. Hyatt, taken 73rd overall, is a legitimate burner, but his versatility to also work in the slot spells trouble for at least two other Giants’ wideouts.
Hyatt’s arrival adds to an already crowded depth chart, according to Dan Duggan of The Athletic. He outlined how “Hyatt, (Parris) Campbell, (Darius) Slayton, Wan’Dale Robinson and Isaiah Hodgins are locks to make the roster. Veterans Sterling Shepard, Jamison Crowder, Collin Johnson and Jeff Smith figure to battle for the one or two remaining roster spots at the position.”
Duggan noted Wan’Dale Robinson and Sterling Shepard need to recover from torn ACLs, while Collin Johnson recuperates from tearing his Achilles. The timeframe of those recoveries will impact each player’s chances of making the final roster, but Shepard and Crowder could also be vulnerable because of Hyatt’s varied scheme fit.
Jalin Hyatt’s Versatility Bad News for 2 Veterans
Hyatt became a star at the University of Tennessee thanks to his track speed and the ability to take the top off of defenses. He showcased those talents by averaging 18.9 yards per reception for the Volunteers last season and scoring touchdowns like the first of his five-scoring grabs against Alabama.
The Giants got a genuine vertical playmaker to boost a pedestrian passing game that produced just 28 completions of 20-plus yards last season, the fewest in the league. Yet, Hyatt won’t expand the Giants’s air attack simply by going long on the outside.
Instead, the 21-year-old is likely to work from the slot after spending “89 percent of his snaps” inside last season, according to Duggan. The Giants now have a logjam of slot receivers after “Robinson and Campbell primarily played in the slot last season, while that’s been the most effective spot for Shepard and Crowder during their careers.”
Those new faces and numbers mean Shepard and Crowder face an uphill battle to stay relevant, despite each only signing one-year deals earlier this offseason.
Experienced Pair Will Struggle for Snaps
Crowder signed from the Buffalo Bills in free agency, but his future was already in doubt, even before the Giants drafted Hyatt. The 29-year-old is a possession-style inside receiver, but those skills aren’t unique on this roster.
Making an impact as a returner was probably Crowder’s best bet of making the final 53, but he no longer has that ace up his sleeve. Not when general manager Joe Schoen highlighted fifth-round pick Eric Gray’s history in the return game, per Giants.com managing editor Dan Salomone: “He also has done some returns in his past; he did some at Tennessee, comfortable catching punts at Senior Bowl.”
If Gray proves his worth in football’s third phase, Crowder will be left trying to outdo multiple receivers, including Shepard. The latter was brought back, despite the Giants voiding his contract in February.
Any doubts about Shepard concern his struggle to stay healthy. He tore his ACL against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 3 last season, adding to the concussions, hamstring and Achilles problems that have all meant he’s missed 33 games since 2018.
Shepard is capable of stretching defenses from the slot, but the 30-year-old is likely to find that role taken by the younger Hyatt. If he can’t take underneath work away from Robinson, Campbell and Pro-Bowl tight end Darren Waller, Shepard could find himself surplus to requirements, especially if it means the Giants freeing up some cash for more pressing needs.
Schoen still needs to work out long-term deals with running back Saquon Barkley and All-Pro nose tackle Dexter Lawrence II. That will be easier to achieve if the Giants shed the $1.165 million Spotrac.com has Shepard owed for this season, as well as the same amount due Crowder.
Putting that money elsewhere will be tempting since Slayton and Hodgins will give Giants’ quarterback Daniel Jones targets on the outside, while Campbell, Robinson and Waller work underneath and Hyatt thrives at multiple levels. There’s likely only room for one more receiver to join this group.