What positions on the roster do the New York Giants need to improve ahead of an extremely important 2021 season?
An improvement within the New York Giants roster from 2019 to 2020 was present, sure. But the overall layout wasn’t exactly perfect. Far from it actually.
Coming off a 6-10 campaign in which the team nearly made the postseason, the organization still has much work to do when it comes to building the most effective roster possible. Some of the weapons they currently employ carry talent, but a number of positions need a switch, boost, or any type of alteration that could help propel the Giants to the next level.
1. Wide Receiver
Just look around the Giants receiving corps and you’ll realize no true No. 1 wideout is present. Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton are likely No. 2 receivers at the moment. Golden Tate, on the other hand, is simply unreliable.
There was very much a lack of significant production within the trio of individuals in 2020.
- Shepard: 5.5 average receptions, 54.7 average yards, 73.3% catch rate
- Slayton: 3.1 average receptions, 46.9 average yards, 52.1% catch rate
- Tate: 2.9 average receptions, 32.3 average yards, 67.3% catch rate
Each of the aforementioned names didn’t garner the type of numbers that were noteworthy, and it certainly played a role in the hindered development of second-year quarterback Daniel Jones.
Building around Jones and giving him the sheer opportunity to improve should be a major goal on that side of the ball as well, and not employing an overly-reliable wideout won’t help with that objective.
Also, the Giants may not have a choice but to find someone. Shepard is currently locked into a four-year deal while Slayton has two years remaining on his rookie contract, but Tate can opt-out of his current four-year deal this offseason. Given his inability to make much of a difference in the passing game, his health concerns (three missed games due to injury in 2020), along with the “throw me the damn ball” debacle, keeping him may not be worth it.
There will be a number of unrestricted free agents to consider this offseason, (potentially) including Detroit’s Kenny Golladay and Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin. Both may ask for a decent chunk of change though given their talent. It’s also unclear if either team will look to franchise tag their respective young wideout.
Having said all of that, the draft may be the more beneficial (and certainly the cheaper) outlet. LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle, and Alabama’s DeVonta Smith (the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner) are atop the board, but the possibility all three will be available at No. 11 is extremely slim.
2. Tight End
There’s no sugar-coating it, Evan Engram somehow underwent a season full of numerous failures while making the Pro Bowl. It doesn’t make much sense, but don’t spend too much time trying to understand it.
It’s clear the Giants need to move off of him. Sure, he was third among NFC tight ends in both catches (63) and yards (654), but the 11 drops were a major issue. The Giants threw 12 picks this season (11 from Jones, one from Colt McCoy), six of which were on passes intended for Engram. There were multiple occasions in which a pass bounced off his hands and into the arms of a defender.
Amid the 26-year-old’s on-field issues along with Kaden Smith’s inability to be a true No. 1 tight end (only 18 catches for 112 yards in 2020), the Giants may need to part ways with Engram (one year left on his current deal) and possibly acquire someone in free agency.
Hunter Henry of the Chargers is set to be on the market this offseason, but the injury history may be a concern. However, he’s still young and could certainly be a serviceable passing-game target for Daniel Jones. Henry caught 60 balls for 613 yards in 2020 (14 games).
The Rams’ Gerald Everett will also be on the market and may not be all too expensive. Everett caught 41 balls for 417 yards and one score in the regular season and isn’t even the team’s primary tight end (that’s Tyler Higbee).
3. Edge Rusher
Kyler Fackrell’s future in East Rutherford is unknown. Leonard Williams‘ future in East Rutherford? Also unknown. Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines will be coming off injuries next season while Markus Golden is now in Arizona.
The Giants pass rush needs to add someone who can constantly step up when his name is called. It doesn’t need to be a premier pass rusher, nor a soon-to-be rookie who’s considered a potential first-rounder.
It just needs to be a reliable body the team can rotate in, which would be perfect for Patrick Graham’s situational schemes. Snagging an edge rusher on day two of the draft would likely prove to be a beneficial move for the roster.
The pass rush is crucial within Graham’s defense. During a late-season three-game losing streak, the Giants combined for just two sacks and nine quarterback hits while allowing an average of 24.3 points and 233.3 passing yards.
The losing streak became an overwhelming reason as to why the Giants missed out on a potential playoff berth.
The Giants employ a star at the cornerback position in James Bradberry. He was a no-brainer of a Pro Bowl selection and could end up becoming an All-Pro.
However, at the opposite outside corner spot, Isaac Yiadom is likely replaceable. He improved as the 2020 campaign progressed, but wasn’t all that successful.
To be honest, when you field a star like Bradberry but still allow 237.9 passing yards per game (tied for 16th in the NFL), you know you have a problem. Fielding another consistently reliable corner would take much pressure off Bradberry and provide opposing quarterbacks with significant issues.
Washington’s Ronald Darby is slated to be available and still young at the age of 27. He started in all 16 games for the Football Team in the regular season and posted a solid Pro Football Focus grade of 76.0.
As far as the draft is concerned, the cornerback position could be a spot the Giants target in the first round if they decide to pass on a receiver. Patrick Surtain II of Alabama and Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech are considered to be two of the top cornerbacks on the board and may be available at the 11th pick.
Surtain was a consensus All-American this season and the 2020 SEC Defensive Player of the Year.