The year before Steve Smith suffered a season-ending and career-threatening knee injury, the USC product put up one of the greatest receiving seasons in New York Giants history. Although he has since moved on to an unsuccessful stint with the division rival Eagles, Smith was everything the Giants could have hoped for from the tenth receiver taken in the 2007 draft.
What made Smith so special was his uncanny ability to get open (a pretty important quality for a receiver to have), especially on third downs. He’s not big and he’s not particularly fast, but he was quick, he ran great routes and he just had that extra sense that allowed him to find holes in opposing defenses. He was such a unique weapon as a slot receiver, giving Eli Manning the kind short yardage safety valve that was rivaled only by Wes Welker.
For a two and a half year stretch, Smith was Manning’s security blanket, and the most important receiver on the team. In 2009, he obliterated the Giants’ reception record with 107, and was named to the Pro Bowl (where he caught a touchdown). He has since been replaced by Victor Cruz, whose magical 2011 season made fans forget about Smith’s departure. Rumors on a possible return to the Giants have been floated around, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Even if Smith never returns to Big Blue, he has already left his mark on the franchise. His oft-forgotten third down conversion right before Plaxico Burres’ Super Bowl 42-winning touchdown was the kind of drive-saving play Smith became known for during his Giants career.