However, their depth was exposed by a rash if injuries that knocked out three of their top four receivers on the injured reserve.
This year’s receiver class is stacked with players who have concerns, but will be valuable contributors at the next level. Deon Cain of Clemson is one such receiver, and considering how many talented receivers Clemson has out in the NFL, he deserves a look.
- Long frame with a good catch radius.
- Deceptive speed. Accelerates smoothly with the top gear to run away from coverage.
- Good short area quickness.
- Willing blocker on runs and screen plays. Looks for work.
- Makes an effort to snag the ball out of the air.
- Low volume receiver. Averaged four receptions per game in 2017, just over two per game the previous two years.
- Thin frame and needs more play strength.
- Small (8 ¾ inch) hands will fall below some teams’ thresholds.
- Route running needs to continue to improve. Too often rounds out breaks.
- Production averages declined despite increased target share in 2017.
What they’re saying
Cain is a classic Clemson receiver with a good combination of size and speed and an underappreciated feel for the position. Cain’s routes are smooth, but also show an understanding of coverage. Cain has the pure speed to attack over the top, but he should be a competitive option on all three levels. His drops are more a function of concentration than ability, but it needs to be improved. Cain has the chance to become a very good NFL starter but is better suited to handle the WR2 rather than a role as the alpha target.
Does he fit the Giants?
Cain tends to go unmentioned in this draft class. There are a glut of of similar receivers in the middle of the draft, and it’s easy for any one of them to be lost in the shuffle. That isn’t to say that they won’t be contributors -- in fact this draft could produce a number of quality second, third, or fourth receivers. Cain is among that group. He has an intriguing blend of length and the speed to be a legitimate deep threat, as well as the quickness to make something happen in space or on a screen play. As an added benefit, it’s encouraging to see him get his hands dirty as a blocker for his teammates -- that kind of effort is often the difference between “a” play and a “big” play.
Cain does need to get stronger, but it is still up in the air whether his frame will allow him to add the needed girth without sacrificing his athleticism. He might also struggle to deal with physical press coverage at the next level, which could limit where he lines up in the offensive formation.
His length and speed are something Giants could use more of on their wide receiver depth chart, and Cain has the upside to (eventually) be a starter as a Flanker or a major contributor as a third receiver.
But whether or not he fits the Giants could come down to whether or not they still believe in hand size as a prerequisite for a “Giants” wide receiver. Under Jerry Reese, Giants receivers always had monstrous mitts -- Hakeem Nicks and Odell Beckham being the most well known, but they rarely, if ever, added a receiver with hands below 9 ½ inches. Dave Gettleman grew up in that same school of player evaluation, and (rightly or wrongly) Cain’s hand size alone might disqualify him for the Giants.