Darius Slayton giants
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The Giants are entering Week 17 in a spot not many would’ve expected back in August. If they beat the Indianapolis Colts at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, New York will clinch its first playoff berth since 2016. Due to a number of circumstances, wide receiver Darius Slayton has played a role in Big Blue getting to this point.

It wasn’t always that way, though. Slayton was initially seen as an afterthought on the roster. Even with an already-thin wide receiver room.

General manager Joe Schoen tried to find a trade partner for Slayton to save $2.5 million in cap space. He was unable to do so, and New York decided to keep him on the roster. But instead of getting his $2.5 million salary, Slayton agreed to a pay cut down to the league minimum of $965,000.

Despite being on the Giants’ 53-man roster to start the year, the pass-catcher was still low on the priority list. He wasn’t active for Week 1’s matchup against the Tennessee Titans. Also, guys like Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Wan’Dale Robinson were ahead of him on the depth chart. But then, those dudes began stepping aside to give Slayton an opportunity to get more looks from quarterback Daniel Jones.

Toney got traded to the Kansas City Chiefs. Golladay’s second year in New York has somehow been worse than his first. Shepard and Robinson both hit the Injured Reserve at different times with season-ending injuries. Even before all these things happened, it behooved the Giants to see what kind of production they could get out of Slayton.

Sure, he took a pay cut, but New York was still paying him to catch passes on Sundays, ya know.

Slayton has turned this opportunity into being the Giants’ leading receiver. He enters Week 17 with 710 receiving yards on 44 receptions. The next-closest receiver on the squad is Richie James, with 493 yards.

This is the third time Slayton has surpassed the 700-yard mark in a season since making his debut in 2019. He’s only 41 yards shy of setting a new single-season career-high mark, too. He accumulated 751 receiving yards off the strength of 50 receptions in 2020.

Here’s what Slayton said of the journey he’s taken throughout this season (quote via WFAN):

I think it just shows I love ball. I feel like a lot of people probably that might’ve been in my predicament might’ve gotten down or stopped maybe giving effort or not trying to get themselves out of that predicament. But I truly love playing football. So, even though I was inactive in Week 1, I didn’t want that to be my predicament. But as long as I got my health and I can play ball and I can go out there and practice, I believe in myself. And I believe in my ability.

On the long list of things we didn’t expect to see from the Giants, we can put Darius Slayton being the team’s leading wide receiver toward the top. That’s why they play the game, folks.

Matt Musico can be reached at matt.musico@xlmedia.com and you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8.

Matt Musico is an editor for ESNY. He’s been writing about baseball and the Mets for the past decade. His work has been featured on numberFire, MetsMerized Online, Bleacher Report, and Yahoo! Sports.