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Giants 2021 roster profile: WR Kenny Golladay

Giants banking on getting big plays from expensive free agent

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NFL: New York Giants at Detroit Lions
Kenny Golladay
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants are hoping for a Year 3 leap from Daniel Jones similar to the one Josh Allen took for the Buffalo Bills a season ago.

In Buffalo, a massive trade for wide receiver Stefon Diggs — four draft picks, including Buffalo’s 2020 first-round pick (22nd overall) — made that happen. It paid off as Diggs had a career year with 127 catches and 1,535 receiving yards, Allen was terrific, the Bills won the AFC east and ended up in the AFC title game.

The Giants are hoping their massive investment in Golladay (four years, $72 million, $40 million guaranteed) despite a soft wide receiver market pays similar dividends.

Will it? Let’s take a closer look at Golladay as we continue our player-by-player profiels of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-4
Weight: 214
Age: 27
Experience: 4
Position: Wide receiver
Contract: Year 1 of four-year, $72 million contract | Guaranteed: $40 million | 2021 cap hit: $4.473 million

Career to date

Golladay is one of the many examples in recent years of the ability of NFL teams to find good — no, really good — wide receivers beyond the first round of the draft. The Detroit Lions selected Golladay out of Northern Illinois in Round 3 of the 2017 NFL Draft, 96th overall.

Golladay was the 12th receivers taken in that draft, including his teammate now with the Giants, John Ross (Round 1, No. 9 overall). Only three receivers drafted before Golladay that year have more career receiving yards than Golladay’s 3,068. Ju-Ju Smith Schuster (62nd overall, Pittsburgh Steelers has 3,726, Cooper Kupp (69th, Los Angeles Rams) has 3,570 and Chris Godwin (84th Tampa Bay Buccaneers), has 3,540.

Golladay, 6-foot-4, 214 pounds, has been one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league during his four-year career.

Despite missing most of the 2020 season, Golladay ranks fourth among NFL wide receivers in deep receiving yards over the past three years, and he was just nine yards behind third place. He’s not racking up these yards by separating multiple steps away from coverage defenders like Tyreek Hill, but rather from bodying cornerbacks with his sheer size. Golladay jumps to No. 1 in deep receiving yards since 2018 on tight coverage targets, and he is tied for first in deep receptions on those same plays (14).

It’ll be interesting to monitor how Golladay impacts the growth of Daniel Jones, who is entering a pivotal third year. The improvement he displayed in his 2020 sophomore campaign is slightly underappreciated, but he still has much to work on. Jones was fantastic when he threw the ball deep, but he was a bit trigger shy and the offense, by design, also limited his opportunities to throw it downfield. He ranked third in passing grade on deep throws but also placed in the bottom half of the NFL in many volume deep passing metrics, such as total deep completions and yards.

Golladay also ranks as one of the league’s most efficient receivers and best at making contested catches.

Golladay did miss 11 games last season with a hip injury.

2021 outlook

New York Yankees play-by-play announcer Michael Kay always talks about how you should be able to expect that a player will usually play to the back of his baseball card. Meaning that more often than not his end-of-season numbers will reflect pretty much what he has done throughout his career.

If Jones and Golladay play to the back of their football cards — to what they have done statistically in their careers — they should be an outstanding match. Jones’ ability to throw the deep ball with accuracy should mesh well with Golladay’s ability to make plays down the field, even when he really isn’t open.

In a video breakdown after the Golladay signing, Mark Schofield called Golladay a “universal fit,” a receiver who makes sense in any system, and can be a force at all levels of the field.

Golladay has never been a high-volume receiver. In 2019, he had 65 catches, good for 4.1 per game. That was 55th in the NFL. In 2018, when he caught a career-best 70 passes that averaged out to 4.7 per game (34th).

It’s the impact of the balls Golladay catches that really matter. His 74.4 yards receiving per game were 15th in the league in 2019, and his 70.9 yards per game in 2018 were 21st.

It will surprise no one if Golladay sets a career high in catches in 2017, provided he stays healthy. The Giants are going to want to maximize their investment, and this will be the NFL’f first 17-game season. Still, if you’re expecting 6.5 or more receptions per game, you might be disappointed.

Volume has not been Golladay’s game, and with Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Saquon Barkley and Kadarius Toney the Giants have a lot of mouths to feed.

The Giants are looking for game-changing plays from Golladay. If he and Jones can combine on enough of them them, the Giants should have a chance at having a good season.