Today we examine the wide receivers as well as the tight ends. The wide receiver unit is rich with potential, injury risk and X-factors. The tight end core is, as the kids are saying, “meh.”
The biggest complaint for the wide receivers is that there is no “legit number one.” The definition of a “legit number one,” according to these people, is someone who blends both size and speed; someone who can stretch the field and double as a large red-zone target. My response to this argument is that if Hakeem Nicks is not a “legit number one,” this is a very rare breed. He may not be 6-5, but his playmaking ability is off the charts. He is fast enough to stretch the field (he has caught a 30 yard pass in a larger perecentage of his games than did Plaxico Burress as a Giant), and he wreacked havoc in the red zone last year, grabbing 11 touchdowns in 13 games. He may not be 6-5, but his playmaking ability is off the charts. He just needs to stay healthy.
Mario Manningham is still developing, but he looks poised to become one of the leagues better #2 targets. Domenik Hixon is a solid number three when healthy, and by all accounts he is near 100%. Pre-season stud Victor Cruz and rookie Jerrel Jernigan are interesting young players, but Ramses Barden could be the X-factor. When Barden was drafted in the third round of the 2009 draft, everyone agreed he was a project that would be very unlikely to make major contributions in his first season or two. So why then, after only two seasons, are people ready to jump ship? This is a make or break season for Barden, but he’s shown enough in training camp to hang around for at least one more season. Like just about every Giants receiver, he’s had injury problems, but there is still reason to believe he can turn into a contributor in the near future.
Derek Hagan, Michael Clayton, Devin Thomas and Duke Calhoun are solid depth, with Hagan being the most reliable and Calhoun possessing the most upside. Don’t bank on any to make the final cut.
The biggest thing dragging this group down is the lack of a big-time tight end. Free agent Kevin Boss has shown flashes, but never developed into the all around player some thought he might. He’s still a solid option, but perhaps the concussions stunted his growth as a player.
Bear Pascoe is a useful backup, but his use at fullback stretches the TE position thin. Travis Beckum is at risk of being cut if he does not show something – anything – this season.
If a healthy Steve Smith re-signs, bump this grade up to an B+.