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Which Giants receivers have the most to prove for 2024?

The receiver room could look very different next season

New York Giants v Washington Commanders
Darius Slayton
Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

Heading into the 2023 season, the New York Giants’ receiving corps had a lot to prove. Lacking a true No. 1 stud, they instead fielded countless receivers of a similar slot skillset. The remaining players had questions about sustainability and drops.

Twelve games into the season, how much has changed? The Giants still have no alpha in the room, too many slot receivers, and players with sustainability and drop issues. That means there are multiple receivers with a lot to prove in the last five games of the season. Right now, the team could be looking at as many as three or four new faces in the room for next year. It’s up to the current group to prove they deserve to stick around.

Let’s rank the Giants’ receivers based on their need to prove they belong on the team.

1. Sterling Shepard

Putting Shepard at No. 1 is a nod to the fact that he’s unlikely to be on the roster next year. The main thing he can do to try to secure a spot down the depth chart is to catch what comes his way. He’s caught just seven of his 15 targets, which is putrid with an 8.8 average depth of target (ADOT). He also has two drops for a whopping 22.2% rate.

For a veteran receiver on a team trying to feature its young pass-catchers, Shepard has been receiving a decent number of targets. He’s had three each over the past three weeks. The issue is that he’s only caught one of them each time, although one catch was a touchdown against the Cowboys. He’s 0-for-3 in contested targets over that time.

For Shepard, the equation is simple: catch the darn ball. There’s not much more he can do at this point.

2. Parris Campbell

Campbell lost his role on offense completely at one point in the season. He has been relegated to a bit player. He’s been a colossal disappointment this season. He began the season as the starting slot receiver and general chess piece. He showcased lackluster route running skills, no lateral agility, and little YAC ability.

After seeing 21 targets over the first four weeks of the season, Campbell has seen just six in six games since. There’s not much he can do at this point to jumpstart more targets barring an injury. Still, on the rare occasion that he’s targeted, he needs to gain more YAC. His ADOT is just 3.0, yet he’s gaining only 3.4 YAC per reception. The only way to make an impact with such a short depth of target is to make defenders miss and get upfield. Campbell has not done that.

3. Isaiah Hodgins

Hodgins began the season as a starting outside receiver, but he’s been a non-factor for most of the season. It’s hard to know whether it’s simply been a matter of poor quarterback play or if Hodgins has regressed to his pre-2022 form. Hodgins ranks 103rd among receivers with just 24 targets.

One of Hodgins’ problems with proving himself is that it’s tough to do so when not generating targets. Still, he made the most of his one target against New England, taking a pass short of the first down and turning it into a touchdown. His biggest assets in 2022 were his sure-handedness and ability to get the yardage the Giants needed on third down.

If Hodgins can show that on whatever few targets he receives, he’ll make a case to be on the roster, even if it’s as the fourth receiver. He’s very valuable in that role.

4. Darius Slayton

Slayton signed what was essentially a two-year prove-it deal with the Giants in the offseason. It’s difficult to say that he’s “proven it” this season, as he has just 32 receptions for 434 yards and one score. That projects to 45 catches for 615 yards over a 17-game season, which is less than the 46 catches for 724 yards he posted last season, even though his 2022 season included a deactivation and no targets over his first two games played.

Slayton has made one major statistical improvement, though: he’s dramatically cut down his drops. After dropping six balls at an 11.5% rate in 2022, he has just one drop this season for a 3% rate. However, the flip side of that is that his contested catch rate is way down: after going 8-for-15 in that department in 2022, he’s 0-for-8 in 2023.

In other words, Slayton has improved in catching balls he should catch, but he’s faltered in catching balls he could catch. In the final five games, he needs to prove that he can catch some more difficult passes.

The other big difference in Slayton’s profile has been his distribution of targets. In 2023, he already has 22 targets in the intermediate area of the field (10-19 yards), whereas in 2022, he had 15 the whole season. Slayton has been quite productive on those throws, catching 14 of 22 targets for 257 yards (18.4 yards per reception).

Despite his decreased overall yards per reception from 15.7 in 2022 to 13.6 this year, Slayton has started to prove that he’s not just a one-trick pony in the deep area of the field. If he can continue to do that over the final five games, he’ll demonstrate his value independent of Jalin Hyatt, who is the primary deep threat on the team.

5. Wan’Dale Robinson

Robinson’s spot on the team is quite safe considering that he was a second-round pick in 2022. Still, he has not been nearly as productive this season as he was in his rookie year before a torn ACL prematurely ended his season. In 2022, he averaged 3.8 receptions for 37.8 yards per game, while this year he’s at 3.6 catches for 26.5 yards. Robinson’s efficiency is also way down; he averaged 1.76 yards per route run last year, but he’s down to just 1.10 this year.

Overall, among 73 receivers with at least 40 targets, Robinson’s 7.4 yards per reception ranks 72nd, and his 1.10 yards per route run ranks 64th. While that can partially be justified by his minuscule ADOT (3.8, the lowest among qualifiers), he is not producing enough on his targets, particularly in the YAC per reception department, where he’s down from 5.5 to 3.9 this season. In and of itself, that can explain most of the difference between Robinson’s lower yards per reception average this season.

Over the final five games, the biggest thing Robinson needs to prove is that he can be more elusive with the ball in his hands. His ADOT is unlikely to change, especially given the state of the Giants’ offensive line. He needs to improve his YAC to prove that he’s worthy of being the starting slot receiver. Otherwise, the Giants will likely look to sign another Campbell-type receiver, keeping Robinson from a full role.

It’s certainly possible that Robinson’s ACL tear affects his elusiveness. That’s the most common issue for running backs on their return from ACL injuries; they are simply unable to break tackles and make defenders miss as they did before. (In 2021, Saquon Barkley’s 2.69 yards after contact per attempt was down from 3.23 in 2019, before his ACL tear.) Still, as more time passes from the injury, Robinson needs to show improvement over the last five games.

6. Jalin Hyatt

This may be somewhat controversial, as Hyatt has not had a perfect rookie season by any stretch. His roster spot is obviously secure, but his 2024 role is not. Will the Giants be able to rely on him to be more than an occasional deep threat?

Hyatt has not been efficient as a receiver despite some big plays. His 1.28 yards per route run would rank 57th out of 73 qualified receivers. Still, there is a major offset to that statistic: Hyatt’s targets have generated a 12.1% completion percentage over expected, which would be the second-highest among qualified receivers. Targets in Hyatt’s direction are expected to have just a 48.6% completion percentage, which would be the lowest among qualifiers, but he’s actually caught 60.7% of his targets.

Although CPOE is considered a quarterback statistic, in truth, a high CPOE often speaks to the skill of the receiver. While a low CPOE may have a confounding factor of poor quarterback accuracy, a receiver who catches more balls than expected is usually doing a good job with contested catches or ball tracking. Therefore, Hyatt’s top-notch CPOE is very impressive despite his lack of efficiency. He’s catching balls deep downfield that he is not expected to catch.

What the Giants want to see from Hyatt going forward is closer to his game tape against New England. He won Rookie of the Week after catching 5 of 6 targets for 109 yards. He had a very high ADOT (20.8) but generated three receptions of 20+ yards. While he was wide open on one of them, he made one extremely impressive catch downfield and also did a nice job gaining YAC on a shorter throw.

Of course, Hyatt is unlikely to go off for 100 yards in each of his remaining five games, particularly if most of his targets are deep. Still, Hyatt’s one-yard reception turning into a 12-yard gain would be a valuable addition to his game. In general, an expanded route tree would give the Giants more of an opportunity to see if Hyatt can be a starting receiver next season.

While Hyatt does not control which routes he runs or when he’s targeted, making the most of his shorter opportunities in addition to deep targets would be an excellent sign for him moving forward.

Overall picture

Most of the Giants’ receivers have had their numbers depressed by the team’s poor quarterback play. In particular, Slayton’s productivity is down because passers simply do not find him, whether due to lack of time to throw or poor vision. Hyatt and Slayton are both suffering from the poor pass protection because their routes tend to be longer developing.

Still, all six of the receivers must do a better job of capitalizing on their targets. As a unit, their hands have been surprisingly average, as they have 7 drops on 128 targets, a 5.1% drop rate that is slightly better than the league average for receiver drops (5.5%). Still, they’re lacking explosiveness with the ball in their hands, especially on short, YAC-intended throws.

In many ways, Slayton, Hyatt, and Robinson have the most to prove. All three are trying to prove that they can be starting receivers on the 2024 squad. Slayton may be battling to fend off Hyatt for the second starting outside receiver spot since the Giants will almost certainly bring in a true No. 1 receiver. If he wants to do that, he’ll need to prove his value as a more diverse receiver than Hyatt, capable of catching balls all over the field and doing a better job of contested catches. Robinson, meanwhile, is trying to get a grip on the starting slot role.

Hodgins may have the toughest job ahead of him. He’s simply not generating targets this season, and he ran just eight routes the whole game against New England. He’ll need to find a way to capitalize on those routes and make himself available in the red zone and on third down.

One way or another, watching the Giants’ receivers battle it out down the stretch should be an interesting storyline. Tommy DeVito has utilized his receivers somewhat differently than the other quarterbacks, adding to the intrigue. We’ll see where things stand after the final five games and reevaluate the order of roster security then.