Giants 2021 Position Breakdown: Wide receivers led by new No. 1 Kenny Golladay

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Kadarius Toney/Kenny Golladay/Darius Slayton/Sterling Shepard Treated Image
Kadarius Toney/Kenny Golladay/Darius Slayton/Sterling Shepard Treated Image

Heading into the 2021 season, the Giants have a much-improved roster on both sides of the ball and are looking to finally make their way back into the playoffs to become a Super Bowl contender once again.

In this series, we’ll break down every position group on the depth chart for Big Blue. This time, we’ll go in-depth on the wide receivers…

Depth Chart

WR1: Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton
WR2: Sterling Shepard, Dante Pettis
SWR: Kadarius Toney, John Ross III
Depth: CJ Board, Austin Mack, David Sills V, Derrick Dillon, Alex Bachman, Kelvin Benjamin

-Key Additions: Kenny Golladay (4 years, $72 million), Kadarius Toney (No. 20 overall draft pick), John Ross III (1 year, $2.25 million)

-Top 2020 Performer: Darius Slayton – 751 yards, 50 receptions (96 targets), 3 TD, 15 yards per catch

What Giants WRs have going for them

First of all, the Giants finally have a No. 1 receiver entering the season. The Giants have lacked that player since Odell Beckham Jr. was traded to the Cleveland Browns, but Dave Gettleman shocked some when he was able to nab Golladay off the free agent market on a four-year deal.

Daniel Jones needed some better weapons to throw to, and Gettleman got arguably the best free agent wideout.

Golladay can virtually do it all at the position, offering a tall deep ball threat that can make fine intermediate and short routes that comes with reliable hands that fights through contact. He did only play five games in 2020 due to injury, but he’s expected to be fully healthy entering training camp. And the Giants will surely be working on the Jones-Golladay connection early on.

And though they didn’t land their other big fish, Alabama’s Heisman Trophy-winning DeVonta Smith in the NFL Draft (the Philadelphia Eagles traded up one spot ahead New York to take him), Gettleman traded down and took Toney – a speedy Florida gadget wide receiver that is elusive and precise with his yards after the catch. Whereas Golladay is the all-around receiver, Toney is that guy who can take a screen 60 yards to the house because of his ability to pick up yards after making defenders miss.

With the speedy Ross looking to revive his career as well, the Giants also have Shepard and Slayton on board still, as they will both get their touches as well. Shepard finished the 2020 season strong and has the versatility to play in the slot and outside. Slayton wasn’t as electric as he was in his rookie campaign in 2019, but he still led New York in receiving yards in Year 2.

Key Concern: Kadarius Toney

Why be concerned about the team’s first-round pick? Well, we know what Golladay brings to the table when he’s on the field as well as Shepard and Slayton.

But Toney is a type of wideout that OC Jason Garrett hasn’t really had in his offense over the years. He’s the type of guy that can get defenses off-balance from the jump with pre-snap motion, quick screens and other deceptive plays.

So that’s where the concern lies: Can Garrett gameplan properly to get the best use out of Toney right away? It will show from Week 1 what the Giants expect to do with his skillset. But, if Garrett doesn’t deliver with more creative play-calling for Toney, then there will be a lot left on the table.

Player who must step up in 2021: Kenny Golladay

You wouldn’t think to write this for a No. 1 receiver option, but since it’s a new home for the 27-year-old, he needs to be as advertised for the Giants if the offense wishes to be better than their low-scoring unit of 2020.

When Golladay has played full seasons with the Detroit Lions, he posts numbers like 1,190 yards, 11 touchdowns and 65 receptions like he did in 2019. But his injuries last season stymied production and left him off the field. Whether or not there will be some rust will be seen.

Golladay is not too much of a concern for Big Blue, but setting the tone right away in Week 1 would do this unit well. And more importantly, staying on the field throughout the season and providing quality production for Jones and the rest of the offense will be a major key to the Giants’ success in 2021.

Biggest Camp Battle: Kadarius Toney vs. John Ross III

This is the matchup I’m most looking forward to on offense this summer.

Toney is the Giants’ first-rounder and someone that is expected to make an immediate impact. But he will have some fierce competition with a player that was also a first-round draftee but hasn’t been able to stay on the field due to injury. When he is there… boy, is Ross fast. He can take the top off any defense at a whim once he gets going, which is why the Giants took a low-risk flyer on him in the first place.

There’s only one slot position, though, so these two will be going at it from the jump and it will be fun to see how it shakes out.

2021 Outlook

A big problem in 2020 was the lack of separation from defenders, and that was mainly due to the fact that the Giants just didn’t have the same talent level at wide receiver as other teams. That’s completely changed now with various additions to go along with other offensive weapons – Saquon Barkley returns along with Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph at tight end – to help draw other defensive eyes.

Golladay will have a large spotlight and he has answered the bell with a Lions team that has been subpar for some time now. He has a better supporting cast around him now. It may take some time for Toney’s skillset to be utilized properly, but Shepard and Slayton are still solid veterans that also may have a chip on their shoulder after mediocre 2020 campaigns.

This group has a lot to prove and will be crucial for the offense to break into that 20-plus points per game status that the NFL demands now to win. The potential is there on paper, and I believe the uptick in production compared to last season will be there at the end of the day.