So, once again we find ourselves in the offseason with questions about what to do at wide receiver. And like the last couple years, we find ourselves with something of a glut of talented (or high-ceiling) options at WR... and any true Giants fan is still going "...the hell? Giants? Are you sure? How'd that happen?" But that's neither here nor there, but still a great problem to have.
So, how can we deal with it?
We'll start with the clear No. 1, and best receiver on the team:
Hakeem Nicks: I'll start by uttering blaspheme. Nicks needs to be a part-time player, at least to start. Yes, you never WANT to take a player as talented as Nicks off the field. He's got a nose for the end-zone, makes all the catches, and has the ability to just ignore double teams. Unfortunately, he has yet to exhibit the ability to get all the way through the season. So, I'm of the opinion that Nicks being on the field for 75-80% of snaps but at 100% all year long (particularly for the closing stretch) is better than him only playing 80% of games, and being limited at the end of the year.
Victor Cruz: THE breakout star of last season. Cruz seems to be perfectly suited to play the slot in Killdrive's offense. He has great hands, quick twitch athleticism, and the toughness of a running back... and that mentality that the play STARTS when he catches the ball, not ends. Cruz pretty much needs to be on the field all the time, either outside in 2-wide sets, or in the slot in 3-wide. Get yo salsa ready.
Ramses Barden: Though oft maligned, I'm still of the opinion that Barden can step up and be the true replacement to Mario Manningham (maybe make some big plays along the way). When he gets semi-constant reps, Barden has flashed the ability to be a solid-at-worst receiver. He can play inside and out, he's also got the size/athleticism to fill Beckum's role and has the intelligence to operate in Killdrive's system. He should be the usual No.3 this year.
Jarrell Jernigan: Last we saw of 2011's 3rd round draft pick, he was a hare's breath away from breaking a return for a touchdown in the Superbowl. And I think that's going to be his primary role next year. With Aaron Ross likely gone, JJ12 is likely the team's most dynamic return man. In college, he was Troy's entire offense, and has the potential to be lightening in a bottle. He'll also need some snaps on offense, and has the ability to line up all over (wide, slot, backfield) and make something happen between the 20's. I'd say no.3b
Dominik Hixon: Probably the gutsiest player on the team, I love Hixon... I'm just not sure where his knee is. I'd use him sparingly, particularly until the bye week. Maybe give him a couple returns or use him to spell Nicks.
Dan DePalma: Barring the picking up any WR's in the draft, I think DePalma will be the surprise guy to make the squad out of camp. Word is, he's one of the best athletes on the team. If he can get a rapport with Eli and get his head around the offense, he could turn some heads. Probably would be a ST's demon (after playing the role of converted DB in Giants' practices leading up to the SuperBowl), and a 2nd slot in 4-wide sets.
Note: I'm using "Killdrive" as a something of a term of endearment. His offense can be frustrating as all hell, but its on of the best in the league and got us 2 Lombardi's. Can't complain too much.