Much like they’ve done for the entirety of this offseason, the New York Giants used Thursday night to continue their receiver overhaul. The team used the No. 20 overall pick on Florida product Kadarius Toney. The 22-year-old becomes the third notable addition to the receiving corps this summer, which also includes the signings of Pro Bowler Kenny Golladay and ex-top-10 pick John Ross. While the latter is nothing more than a flyer at this time, there’s no denying the position is getting a tad crowded.
Yes, the team moved on from Golden Tate back in early March. Yet, their two leading receivers from last season — Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard — still remain on the roster, as does former second-rounder Dante Pettis, who flashed towards the end of 2020.
While Slayton and Shepard have certainly manned roles superior to their talent level in previous seasons, there’s no denying they’re still each worthy of starter snaps. However, the Toney selection will almost certainly throw a wrench into that notion, to some degree. To that point, many wouldn’t blame the wideouts were they to feel a certain type of way about how the offseason has transpired.
With that said, Slayton doesn’t seem all too fazed by the team’s moves at the position. If anything, he’s actually quite pumped about the offense’s expanding weaponry. The third-year pro took to Twitter after the Giants’ selection of the Toney to voice his excitement.
Lawd have mercy we got ballers everywhere let’s goooo #giantspride‼️
— Darius Slayton (@Young_Slay2) April 30, 2021
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Could Shepard Be the Odd Man Out?
The short answer here is a resounding yes. Yet, the real question is, ‘how soon?’
Shepard is a beloved member of the team. The longest-tenured Giant on the current roster, the former Oklahoma Sooner may not be the most exciting wideout the team has to offer, but he’s arguably the most reliable — owning an 80% catch rate with Daniel Jones at quarterback this past season.
Of course for all the good Shepard brings to the Giants lineup, actually being in the lineup has been a struggle for the 28-year-old. He’s appeared in fewer than 13 games in three of his last four seasons. Contractually, the Giants have Shepard on the books for the next three seasons. However, they do have a potential out following this season, via Spotrac.
From day one, Toney’s dynamic playmaking skills will prove far superior to Shepard. His game speed and quickness trump every recent Giants receiver besides maybe Odell Beckham Jr. Furthermore, he has the ability to prove just as reliable as Shepard when it comes to serving as a safety net for Daniel Jones, owning just a 2.4% drop rate over his UF career — lowest career drop percentage in the 2021 Draft class, per PFF.
With all that said, Shepard likely still has a short-term place on the roster. While he will almost certainly cede some playing time to Toney, he can also serve as a veteran presence for the young wide receiver. Beyond that, it’s not as if the position group is rid of other question marks.
Slayton Must Continue to Develop
We’ve already touched on the shot in the dark signing of Ross. Yet, the addition of Golladay was also met with some pushback due to his recent injury history. As for Slayton, he’s developed quite the fandom over his two years in East Rutherford, and rightfully so.
The former fifth-rounder has two 740-plus receiving yard seasons under his belt, far exceeding expectations. However, if you look at his play without blinders, there’s no reason why he should be guaranteed a long-term starting gig in New York. 45 players recorded more receiving yards than Slayton last season. Yes, you could theoretically point to Jones missing time at quarterback for his lack of production. Yet that argument doesn’t quite hold up, as Jones missed just two games. If you eliminate Slayton’s three games of 93-plus yards in 2020, he averaged just 32.8 yards per game over his other 13.
Still, Slayton possesses loads of upside and is still just 24 years old. If he turns the corner this season, watch out. His vertical speed could be what takes the Giants’ offense from intriguing to flat-out impressive as it’ll allow players like Toney and Shepard to dominate the intermediate game.