Would they draft Jalin Hyatt, the speedy Tennessee wide receiver, or would they draft Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz to fill a gaping hole on their offensive line?
As it turned out, they spent the Giants selected Schmitz to be their long-term answer at center. They still had a pressing need at receiver, but couldn’t pass up (arguably) the best center in the draft. As it turned out, fortune smiled on Joe Schoen and the Giants, and Hyatt fell another 16 spots and was sitting at 73rd overall. Schoen was able to execute a trade up and halt Hyatt’s fall, securing a much-needed big-play weapon for the Giants’ offense.
But just how much could a one-year-wonder of a wide receiver help the Giants’ offense? Hyatt set the highest possible goal for himself: Offensive Rookie of The Year.
“I always set high goals for myself,” Hyatt said on Thursday, following another spectacular practice during which he caught a couple of deep balls from Daniel Jones. “A high goal is I want to be Offensive Rookie of the Year. I think that’s the biggest thing I want to do. But we’re going to get there. It’s going to be day by day, we’re going to stack days, and even if it’s a good day or a bad day, we’re going to learn from it and get better.”
Of course, a Giants’ wide receiver raising the specter of Offensive Rookie of The Year obviously calls to mind images of Odell Beckham Jr. and his incandescent 2014 season. Beckham became the the OROY after rewriting the record books despite missing a significant amount of time to an injured hamstring. And while his early campaigns with the Giants were remembered for his incredible athleticism and one-handed catches, those traits were enabled by exceptional route running.
Some around the media have questioned Hyatt’s route running, but he’s putting those fears to rest.
“Just getting open consistently, making plays when they do throw the ball to me. That’s one thing I just want to show,” Hyatt said. “I just want to consistently get open and show them that even under pressure, we still get things done.”
Being an outside receiver means seeing press coverage far more often than in the slot. Typically, how a receiver deals with press coverage is a concern for smaller players. Hyatt weighed in at 176 pounds at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine and is currently listed at 185, but he’s confident on his ability to run his route against press coverage corners in the NFL.
“I always wanted to be an outside receiver even though Tennessee had me in the slot most of the time,” he added. “So, coming up here and being an outside receiver makes it easier for me because I actually like them closer because you can get off the line quicker. I can use my quickness and lateral speed and just get open when I need to.”
On a personal note, I have questions regarding the tape study of those who questioned Hyatt’s route running coming out of Tennessee. I suspect they simply judged him by the offense in which he played, as opposed to how he executed what the offense asked of him. I watched a lot of Tennessee’s 2022 tape and came away with route running as a noted strength of Hyatt’s.
I also noted his ball skills as a definite strength — a strength he has already shown off in practice.
“I think for me, it’s just what can you do with contested catches, can you make 50/50 balls, and when you are getting covered, and you’re not in the spot that you want to be in, can you make a play?,” he said. “That’s really what I want to show Daniel and Coach (Brian) Daboll, really everybody on our team. I just want to show the respect for them.”
Hyatt’s obvious strength is, of course, his long speed. Adoree’ Jackson compared his speed in the open field to Usain Bolt, and Hyatt reportedly reached 24 miles per hour at times in camp. That would scan with his speed at the Combine, when he had the third-fastest top speed at 24.29 mph.
Hyatt noted that the Giants want to use his speed — as well as that of Darren Waller, Parris Campbell, and Darius Slayton — to make life easier for the players operating in the underneath area of the field.
“What we want to do, we want to make it easier for (running back) Saquon (Barkley). We don’t want them loading the box where now they have to respect us,” Hyatt said. “I think that’s what we want to get out of this, just make it easier for our running backs. That’s why I’m here.
“But when you actually get out there and actually have got to guard up and cover, it’s a whole different speed,” He added. “So, I think a lot of people don’t realize that until they’re actually in front and they see it and they’re backpedaling. But for me, like I said, I’m just trying to get better every day.”
And that’s what this time of year is really about. While the work being done that results in Rookie Of The Year honors and Super Bowl titles is being done now, they aren’t being won now. Right now, players are just focusing on getting better and getting ready for the season.
“I think for me, this is all training camp,” Hyatt said. “When we actually get to preseason and actually get in some games, I think that’s when everything will slow down for me. Everything’s new still for me, and I’m just trying to take it day by day.”
And if he keeps taking it day by day, and stacking those days on top of each other, maybe Hyatt will reach that high goal and bring another OROY to the Giants.