The New York Giants currently have a plethora of wide receivers on their 90-man roster, 12 in all, most with either NFL experience or the advantage of knowing the Giants used a draft pick on them. Ben Edwards has none of those things. He is the least accomplished of any of the receivers on the roster, and at 5-foot-10, 197 pounds, also the smallest. Does he really have a shot at sticking with the team, either on the 53-man roster or the practice squad?
Let's take a closer look at Edwards as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90 players the Giants will bring to training camp.
2014 Season in Review
To tell the story of Edwards' 2014 season, you have to go back to 2013. Eight games into his senior season, Edwards had a highly productive collegiate career at Richmond cut short by a torn right ACL that required reconstructive surgery. At that point, Edwards had met with 29 teams and had hoped to hear his name called in the 2014 NFL Draft.
"Multiple teams had mentioned to me that they had me rated as a late-round draft pick," Edwards said during a recent interview. "You know how that stuff goes, you can slip through the rounds. But I knew I was definitely at least a preferred free agent."
Instead, he found himself rehabbing and hoping NFL teams would take a chance on him. In the spring, both the Giants and New Orleans Saints did, inviting him to rookie mini-camp tryouts. Neither team signed him. In August, the Cleveland Browns had Edwards in for a look-see. Again, no contract was offered. The Cleveland tryout was the last contact he had with an NFL team during 2014.
Edwards didn't give up on his NFL dream. He got himself a job as a substitute teacher and part-time football coach at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, a prestigious military academy and prep school. Mostly, though, what Edwards did at Fork Union was work out.
"They have training facilities there and I just worked my butt off doing five day a week workouts. Just doing everything I can to stay in shape, to get bigger, faster and stronger," Edwards said. "This go-round my knee is much healthier and I honestly feel like I'm in the best shape of my life."
2015 Season Outlook
Maybe this tweet from Edwards explains a lot about him.
"Suffer the pain of hard work now, so you will not suffer the pain of regret later."— Ben Edwards (@Ben_Edwards6) May 28, 2015
All of that hard work, though, guaranteed Edwards nothing. When the 2015 pre-draft process rolled around again, Edwards was healthy and hoping he could make NFL teams remember the player he had been at Richmond. In four seasons for the Spiders, Edwards caught 208 passes (15 for touchdowns), ran the ball 48 times for 247 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and averaged 12.1 yards on 22 punt returns.
Edwards participated in the Richmond pro day again in 2015, but still his phone did not ring.
"If you want me to be honest there was about a month or so before I got the call from the Giants I was actually thinking about just hanging up the cleats and calling it quits because I hadn't heard from anybody and nothing seemed to be going on after I tried the pro day at Richmond for the second time. After that for a while there I honestly thought that my career was over," Edwards said.
Perhaps Edwards' history of concussions -- three documented ones at Richmond, including two within a month as a senior -- led NFL teams to shy away from him.
"I haven't had a whole lot of contact for a while. I'm definitely not going to worry about it. I think everything's settled and even though it is relevant in today's game it's part of the game," Edwards said. "Things happen, injuries happen. If you think about it that's when you're more susceptible to having an injury. You've just gotta go out there and play the game and give everything you have."
The Giants, perhaps looking for a prototypical slot receiver in the event Victor Cruz does not make a full recovery from his torn patellar tendon, were the only team to invite Edwards to a rookie tryout this spring. The final night of the 2015 NFL Draft Edwards found out he had been invited to the Giants rookie mini-camp.
"That's all you need sometimes is that one team. Sometimes you just need that one team that likes you," Edwards said. "They wanted to bring me back and see if I was ready to go this time and I was extremely excited for the opportunity and blessed that I was able to make the most of it."
Edwards earned a spot on the 90-man roster and a chance to compete for an NFL job by impressing in that tryout. Can he take the dream all the way to a spot on the 53-man roster? Edwards would seem to face long odds to actually make the 53-man roster. Among the 12 wide receivers on their roster, they have nine players with regular-season NFL experience, as well as Marcus Harris and sixth-round pick Geremy Davis. They will likely keep six, maybe seven, receivers.
"I know with the Giants I'm an underdog," Edwards said. "I know we have a very prestigious wide receiver corps, some great players. My mindset is to just find a way to have the coaches keep me around. Whether that's on special teams or playing in the slot or wide receiver. Wherever they need me.
"I'm a receiver that will be able to play special teams. I'm a nitty-gritty kind of guy, I like to do the hard work, to do the underneath stuff as well as the over the top stuff. I like to block, I like to do all the things that a lot of wide receivers get a bad rep for, saying they don't want to block and work hard and [being] prima donnas. I honestly think that I'm the complete opposite, that I'm just really hard-working and that's something that I really hang my hat on. At the end of the day I feel like I can outwork people."
"He's an amazing route runner, and he'll create windows for the ball to be thrown into," Rocco told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "At that next level, those guys throw the ball so well that they like to have guys who can create just a little bit of space.
"He can create space, and he can go catch the football."
Edwards has been getting looks during OTAs both at receiver and as a punt returner.
"I definitely think that's what I do best is my route running. As a slot guy I'm a mismatch for linebackers and nickels and safeties," Edwards said. "Just my ability to separate is something I have to be able to do day in and day out to show the New York Giants that I'm capable of doing that.
"I remember them telling me that I need to constantly prove myself every single day and show them that I can make people miss as well as create separation, whether it's at punt returner or as a slot receiver."
Edwards has already overcome long odds just to get this opportunity with the Giants. Don't discount the idea he could actually take advantage of it.