Ramses Barden and Travis Beckum, the New York Giants' 2009 third-round draft selections, were complete non-factors in their rookie seasons.
Barden, a wide receiver, caught just one meaningless pass in the final regular season game. Beckum, a tight end/H-Back, caught just eight, only three of which came after the season's fifth game.
Which player do you think has a better chance to be the 2010 version of Mario Manningham? Remember, Super Mario was a 2008 third-round pick who went from four catches and one memorable fumble as a rookie to a breakout season of 47 catches and lots of big plays in his second season.
So, Barden or Beckum? Which of these two talented young receiving threats do you believe has the best shot at being a breakout player for the Giants in 2010?
#13 / Wide Receiver / New York Giants
Jan 01, 1986
My money ... if I was betting on it ... would be on Barden. The reason is simple, and it has nothing to do with which player I think is better. They both have pass-catching skills I am sure Eli Manning could find ways to exploit.
The reason is this. Opportunity. Plain and simple. I think Barden's path to playing time, and a clear role in the Giants' offense, is much more identifiable than is Beckum's.
Let's explore Barden's path to playing time.
In 2009, Barden was a rookie from a small school (Cal Poly) who was viewed largely as a developmental project. At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds he had the size and strength to be a weapon. He didn't have the knowledge or route running ability to separate from experienced corners. Without a role in the offense, he also did not have the special teams ability to force his way onto the field on game days. He was the sixth, or maybe seventh, wide receivers on a game day roster with room for only five.
I doubt that will be the case this season. If Barden shows the advancement in maturity and understanding you should be able to expect after a year of more or less sitting and learning, he should be able to at least work his way past Domenik Hixon on the wide receiver depth chart and into the regular rotation as the fourth receiver.
Here is Barden discussing his comfort levelfollowing a recent OTA.
6-3 243 Jan 24, 1987 Wisconsin
#47 / Tight End / New York Giants
When it comes to Beckum, I have no problem with the skill set. He is a pure pass catcher, not a traditional tight end who can be up on the line as a blocker. He is an H-Back type, a guy you move all around, put in motion, line up wide or in the backfield and throw the ball to.
Jan 24, 1987
Beckum had more opportunities than Barden last season, and early on it looked as though he might become a regular part of the passing attack. After a couple of costly mistakes, however, Beckum found himself back on the outside looking in for most of his rookie season.
Mike Garafolo talked with Beckum recently, and the second-year pro sounded optimistic about his chances to have a bigger impact.
"I think it’s going to be a great season for us and for me as well just because of my knowledge now," he said. "It’s just so much easier for me to understand the playbook, read the hots and read the defense. I feel so much more crisp.
"I picked it up toward the end of last year as far as what I knew, but the reps still didn’t come in the game. It is what it is. I’m just looking forward to getting better, having a great year and us having a great year as well."
I know there is a tendency with Beckum to put the blame for his lack of use on offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. It's old "He has different skills, and Gilbride has no clue how to use him" argument. If I have heard it once, I have heard it dozens of times. And I don't buy it.
KG has run every type of offense there is in the NFL from the conventional Giants' approach to the Run 'N Shoot days in Houston. He knows what Beckum's skills are.
Put yourself in Gilbride's shoes for a second. How do you get Beckum on the field?
Let's use a four-wide receiver set as an example. You have Smith, Nicks, Manningham and Barden or Hixon. And you have either Boss at tight end or Ahmad Bradshaw lined up in the backfield.
Who comes off the field? Not Nicks. Not Manningham in most instances.
Are you going to take Boss, an excellent receiver, off the field? I thought we wanted more Bossman, not less. KG would get killed for doing that -- because it would be the wrong thing to do.
Would you take Bradshaw off the field and put Beckum in the backfield? He can't block for beans, so you would be announcing pass to the world and inviting the opposing defense to rush the house and kill Eli. That doesn't make any sense, either.
So, your choice is really simple in most cases. You have to choose between Barden, Hixon and Beckum. If I'm making that choice, most of the time Beckum is staying on the sidelines.
There might be some red zone instances where that changes, but that is about all. I would advocate a four-receiver set of Smith, Nicks, Barden and Beckum inside the 20, getting the smaller Manningham and Hixon off the field. Along with Boss, that would give Eli several big, physical targets to make plays in red zone traffic.