Finding an explosive playmaker for the New York Giants was one of general manager Joe Schoen’s priorities heading into the 2023 offseason. Acquiring an alpha-type of receiver is no easy task; they’re not growing on trees, aren’t ubiquitous, and teams aren’t just giving them away for pennies on the dollar (looks over at Dallas).
Still, Daniel Jones has yet to benefit from a consistently dynamic, explosive receiving threat that wasn’t coming out of the backfield. The 2022 Giants were successful. They had 5,676 total offensive yards and 38 total touchdowns. Running back Saquon Barkley personally accounted for 1,650 of those yards and 10 of the touchdowns — roughly 30 percent of the Giants’ yardage and 25 percent of their touchdowns.
However, the offense still needed another point of identity - another threat - to continue ascending. Schoen talked with old scouting buddy and general manager of Las Vegas, Dave Zeigler, at the combine. The two laid a possible framework for a trade, and the Giants only had to part with the 100th pick in the upcoming draft - a pick acquired from Kansas City via the Kadarius Toney trade.
If healthy, the 31-year-old tight end is an offensive focal point, a mismatch nightmare that induces defensive panic and focus. Not only will that help Daniel Jones, but it will also help the rushing attack, despite Waller’s sub-optimal effectiveness as a blocker. Still, the combination of Waller and second-year tight end Daniel Bellinger creates a formidable 12-personnel package that provides Jones with the necessary weapons to operate the play-action passing attack.
Key losses: Nick Vannett, Tanner Hudson (waived by the Giants on December 3rd)
Key additions: Darren Waller, Tommy Sweeny, Ryan Jones
Why the Giants might be better
The Giants’ tight end room consists of Waller, Bellinger, former Bills’ tight end Tommy Sweeny, former wide receiver Lawrence Cager, UDFA out of East Carolina Ryan Jones, and veteran Chris Myarick. There may only be three tight end options available for the Giants’ final roster: Waller, Bellinger, and let the battle begin.
The combination of Waller and Bellinger, with a year under his belt, is a much better situation than the Giants had last year around this time. The Giants had veterans Ricky Seals-Jones and Jordan Aikens, along with UDFAs Austin Allen and Jeremiah Hall, along with Bellinger.
Bellinger surpassed expectations and proved to be a functional blocker with receiving upside. He caught 33 of 38 targets for 290 yards with three receiving and one rushing touchdown. He was a large part of the Giants’ initial protection package and their red zone philosophy.
Waller’s success is contingent on his health. He has missed 14 games in the last two seasons and only played nine in 2022. He suffered pair of ankle sprains and a strained IT band in 2021, as well as a pair of Grade 2 hamstring sprains in 2022. Due to the Giants’ training staff reducing soft tissue injuries by 200 percent, Schoen decided that the roll of the dice was sensible. On Darren Waller’s upside, I concur.
The third tight-end spot is interesting. In our very own Ed Valentine’s 53-man roster projection, he had Lawrence Cager as the third option. I don’t hate it; Cager is new to the position, has athletic upside, and could be the direct backup to Waller. However, my interest may be in a more reliable - less sexy - blocking type of player like Chris Myarick.
Either way, the competition at this position group should be entertaining and worthwhile for everyone behind Waller and Bellinger. As for those two, watching them operate together should yield success for the 2023 Giants.
Why the Giants might be worse
The Giants added Darren Waller - they’re much better right now.
The addition of Waller was the preeminent transaction for Schoen and coach Brian Daboll. His presence can fundamentally change how defenses play the Giants, especially when Saquon Barkley is in the lineup. The Giants also invested in their wide receiver room, resulting in plenty of options in terms of personnel packaging. Mike Kafka and Daboll will continue their creative approach by scheming and employing personnel advantageously for the New York Giants.