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Will Darius Slayton remain Giants’ top receiver?

Slayton is back with a bigger contract

NFL: NFC Divisional Round-New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

No offense to Darius Slayton, but he’s probably the best example of the ramshackle state of the New York Giants’ wide receiver position over the last few years. No Giants player has more receiving yards than Slayton since he was drafted in 2019, and yet he had to take a pay cut to the veteran minimum just to stay on the team last year.

Slayton returns for 2023 with a larger contract and higher expectations. Will he remain a major factor in the Giants’ offense?

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 194
Age: 26
Position: Wide receiver
Experience: 5
Contract: Year 1 of two-year, $12 million deal; $4.9 million guaranteed; $4.5 million in incentives | 2023 cap hit: $4.206 million

Career to date

The Giants took Slayton in the fifth round of the 2019 draft following a standout career at Auburn. With Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate both missing games due to injury, Slayton ended up leading the Giants with 740 receiving yards as a rookie. He also had eight touchdowns, more than half of the 15 he’s scored in his career.

Slayton doubled down with a team-high and career-high 751 receiving yards in 2020. He scored only three touchdowns though, and didn’t seem to improve from his rookie year.

His production and usage dipped further in 2021, as Slayton played only 64% of the team’s snaps. His drop percentage ballooned to 10.1%, and his yards per target dropped from 8.8 as a rookie to 5.8. Slayton took a pay cut to stay with the Giants in 2022 rather than play out his rookie contract.

Turmoil at wide receiver — injuries, trades, and whatever the right term for Kenny Golladay is — left Slayton as the Giants’ No. 1 wideout for much of 2022. He mostly replicated his 2020 stat line, though his first catch didn’t come until Week 4. He led the team with 724 receiving yards and setting a career high with 10.2 yards per target. He also had 12 catches of 20+ yards; the rest of the roster combined for just 16 such catches as the Giants finished last in the league in that category.

Slayton had seven drops last year though, including one that nearly jeopardized the Giants’ chances in their Wild Card game against the Vikings. He dropped six passes the year before on just 58 targets.

2023 outlook

What a difference a year makes.

Darren Waller is the new top option in the passing game, but Slayton figures to open the season atop the Giants’ depth chart — one year after fighting for a roster spot. No receiver on the roster has as much experience with Daniel Jones. It’s possible Isaiah Hodgins ends up as the No. 1 wideout, but he and Slayton enjoyed similar success last year.

Slayton has led the Giants in receiving yards in three of his four NFL seasons. Despite that, Slayton does not get recognition as a top receiver. He isn’t sweating it.

“I wouldn’t say it bothers me because everybody doesn’t know what I know. Everybody is not in the Giants building. At the end of the day, you can only judge based on what you see from afar. You see this guy go for a 1,010. Or see a guy go for 100 yards every week, and you go, he’s really good,” Slayton said. “Some of these guys play with nobody. I play with Saquon (Barkley). Where do you think the ball is going first? Not me. (Sterling Shepard) Shep, we had Evan Engram and now Darren. I didn’t play with just a bunch of bombs.

“That’s a little annoying because at the end of the day it’s not like I’ve ever been the only person or one person to get the ball, whereas somebody is. It is what it is. At the end of the day, I just play to win. As long as the Giants win, I’ll be all right.

Slayton’s contract does not include any guaranteed money in 2024, so he’ll have to produce to avoid being cut after the season. The drops in critical moments also have to stop if Slayton is going to be trusted as a top option. The Giants have a ton of other options that may not have Slayton’s track record, but do have cheaper contracts.

At the most basic level, though, Slayton has led the Giants in receiving yards in three of the last four seasons. There’s no reason he can’t do it again.