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Giants position review, wide receiver: How will the Giants upgrade their pass-catching weapons?

The Giants got more production than expected in 2022, but still need upgrades going forward

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - New York Giants v Minnesota Vikings
Isaiah Hodgins
Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

The New York Giants entered the 2022 season with questions about whether or not they had enough talent at the wide receiver position. Injuries, poor performance, and a lack of ability to co-exist with a former first-round draft pick led to an on-the-fly in-season makeover of the position.

The Giants got better than could have been expected production out of a group of receivers they did not think they would have to rely on in 2022, but they enter the 2023 offseason once again knowing they need to add more playmakers for quarterback Daniel Jones.

2022 in review

The roster

Starters: Isaiah Hodgins, Richie James, Darius Slayton
Backups: Marcus Johnson, Kenny Golladay
Practice squad: David Sills, Jaydon Mickens, Makai Polk, Kalil Pimpleton
Traded: Kadarius Toney
IR: Sterling Shepard, Wan’Dale Robinson, Collin Johnson

The Giants lost Collin Johnson, a useful 6-foot-6, 222-pound receiver who was having a good training camp, to a torn ACL in preseason. They got only three games and 13 receptions out of Sterling Shepard, who also suffered a torn ACL. They got only six games and 23 receptions out of exciting second-round pick Wan’Dale Robinson. Yes, again, the dreaded torn ACL is what ended his season.

The Giants got nothing out of Kenny Golladay. He was active for 12 games, had just six receptions, and caught his only touchdown pass in two seasons during a meaningless Week 18 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Giants found David Sills wanting. Sills began the year as a starter and ended it as a practice squad player, catching 11 passes in nine games. The Giants tried journeyman Marcus Johnson around midseason, but quickly found him wanting, as well.

They ended up settling on an unlikely trio of wide receivers — Richie James, Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins — who were far more productive than expected.

James, who had only 38 receptions in three seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, tied Saquon Barkley for the team lead in catches with 57. He was a big part of the passing attack early in the season, and re-emerged toward the end after a midseason lull.

Slayton was low man on the totem pole, the seventh receiver on a seven-man depth chart when the season began. He ended up with 46 receptions for a team-high 724 yards, two touchdowns and a career-best 15.7 yards per catch average.

Hodgins was a revelation after being awarded to the Giants on waivers from the Buffalo Bills at midseason. In eight games and just five starts, he caught 33 passes for 392 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound 24-year-old’s ability to slide seamlessly into the offense, make plays and gain the trust of quarterback Daniel Jones changed the passing offense for the better over the second half of the season.

NFL: Detroit Lions at New York Giants
Wan’Dale Robinson
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

2023 outlook

The wide receiving corps is certain to look different for the Giants next season.

Golladay is almost certain to be gone. GM Joe Schoen will eat some dead money and not spend another year with a roster spot wasted on a Dave Gettleman mistake.

James and Slayton are both eligible for free agency. There is no guarantee either will be back with the Giants in 2023.

Shepard’s contract voids this offseason and he will be a free agent. After a torn Achilles tendon limited him to seven games in 2021 and a torn ACL limited him to three games in 2022 there is no guarantee the Giants will bring the 30-year-old back. Schoen said only that the Giants would “monitor his rehab” and that they “may or may not entertain” giving him a chance to make the 2023 team.

The only certainties seem to be that Hodgins, and exclusive rights free agent, and Robinson, a 2022 second-round pick, will be part of the plan.

How will the Giants supplement the wide receiver position group?

The free agent market appears devoid of difference-makers, which is really what the Giants need.

Could the Giants engineer a trade for someone like Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals? He is a spectacular player with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons who can be a free agent after the 2023 season. With wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, quarterback Joe Burrow and others to pay, could the Bengals be convinced to part with the 6-foot-4, 215-pound 24-year-old? Higgins has 215 receptions in just three NFL seasons, and would massively upgrade the Giants’ passing attack.

Would the Giants pay a price like the Philadelphia Eagles did to get A.J. Brown from the Tennessee Titans, a first- and third-round pick?

The Giants will possess 11 draft picks once compensatory selections are finalized, four of those in the first 100 picks. Barring a major pre-draft move like a trade for Higgins, they figure to use a premium draft pick on a receiver, and perhaps a Day 3 pick as well.