New York Giants: Predicting Who Makes the Roster at WR in 2011

Is Victor Cruz Going To Make The Roster Next Year? (Picture source: allgiants.com)

I think this is the one position that we can safely assume that the New York Giants will avoid if/when free agency happens this year and that is the Wide receiver position.  A position of supreme depth for the New York Giants, a position with too much depth heading into the season. The Giants right now have copious of talented high-round picks that could be on their roster heading into next season. Who will they keep? Let’s take a look.

The contenders:

Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, Mario Manningham, Domenik Hixon, Ramses Barden, Jerrel Jernigan, Victor Cruz, Duke Calhoun, Devin Thomas, Michael Clayton, Derek Hagan, Darius Reynaud (there are even more options, but I’m not even going to get into those options).

Available Spots Open: 6. (Maybe 7).

First to Be Cut

Darius Reynaud

Reynaud gave nothing to the team on offense and nothing in special teams. I’m shocked he wasn’t released last year towards the end of the season, but he’ll be gone this year.

Duke Calhoun

I’m not saying he can’t play in the N.F.L. I’m saying he can’t play WR in the N.F.L. for the New York Giants. They are much too talented at the wide receiver position for Calhoun to make the team this year.

The Locks

 

There are only three absolute locks to be back on the roster next year. Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, and Jerrel Jernigan.

Huh? What Jernigan. That’s right. Jerrel Jernigan was just drafted in the third round, barring a catastrophic injury JJ is on the Giants roster next year. It makes absolutely no sense to draft a guy in the third round and get rid of him immediately after. You never plan on players drafted in the third round to be at their best the first season he’s a lock to make this roster.

The other two are also obvious picks.

Hakeem Nicks was Excellent last year. He plays with such a physical style that he’ll always be at risk to have nagging injuries and miss some game time, but last year he was Top 5 in production in the league (yards per game, touchdowns per game, receptions per game, plays of twenty or plus more yards). The only thing that Nicks needs to imporve his improving his inconsistent hands. He needs to concentrate on catching the ball before making his first move, but on the field a top 10 talent in the N.F.L and he’s still getting better.

Mario Manningham had one of the most under appreciated seasons in the entire league last year at WR. Manningham had 60 receptions for 944 yards and 9 touchdowns in spot-start duty and reserve role. Manningham is a stud and will be on the Giants next year.

Next Most Likely To be On the Roster

Steve Smith

Smith would be a lock if not for the injury and his possible impending free agency. Smith could be a free agent and it’s possible (though not probable) that he won’t be resigned. I think it’s  likely he’ll be back on the team, but it’s possible that the Giants are so worried about his injury that he’s let go. Smith is also a candidate to end up on the Physically Unable to Perform list, though he strongly denies that possibility.

So Far that makes four.

Needs to Step It Up, but are front runners

Ramses Barden. Barden has a few things in his favor. First is that he was a pretty high draft pick, and teams don’t like to give up on high draft picks early so that plays in his favor. Second, the Giants knew when they drafted him that he was a project and would take time. He’s shown flashes of utter brilliance in training camp and was good when given an opportunity in a game. He also has tremendous size that all of other Giants wide receivers lack so he brings something to the table.

Victor Cruz

A pre-season sensation and a fan favorite, Victor Cruz has a fair chance to make the roster at Wide receiver in 2011. He doesn’t have great measurables, but has a good nose for the ball. The problem with Victor Cruz is that he offers little in terms of special teams ability, which means he’ll be competing with Barden and others (Hagan, etc) for that role. Barden has unique size and could be a ‘punt blocker’ so edge off the bat goes to Barden. Cruz also show the Giants enough so that they believe he can be productive against top cornerbacks and not just in the pre-season. Fans hope he makes the roster, but I think he’s right on the bubble.

Fighting for a Special team role

Domenik Hixon

I think Hixon, unfortunately is going to get cut because of the knee injury he suffered at the New Giants stadium (I’m not acknowledging the other teams role in the New Giants Stadium). Hixon lost the entire season last year due to a knee injury, and knee injuries are bad news for players who are reliant on speed. Hixon has to come back 15 pounds heavier and .5 faster on his 40 to make this team, I think. I think he’s a very, very long shot. The Giants drafted Jerrel Jernigan on this team to play the same role Hixon plays except he’s more explosive, a better over all talent, younger, cheaper, and not coming off a bad injury.

Derek Hagan

While it is admirable the way that Hagan came back from being cut in preseason to reemerge with the Giants at the end of the season, he’s not a great N.F.L. player. I think he will have Coughlin and maybe Eli’s recommendation, I’m not sure he’ll be on the roster. Hagan caught 24 balls for 224 yards and 1 touchdown last season in 7 games played and four games started.  Hagan was cut prior to the season because of a belief that he was not doing enough on special teams. I think he should come in dedicated to special teams this season.

Devin Thomas

Of all of the players battling for a reserve spot, Thomas has the most natural ability. He’s big, tall, strong, and fast. Thomas was excellent in the Redskins game on special teams, but wasn’t as effective the rest of the season. He wasn’t put into many receiving packages and ended the season with zero receptions. He, unlike Hagan has good kick return ability and is a player that would be nice to have at the end of the roster. With that being said, barring a very strong training camp (if that happens), I don’t think Thomas will be on the roster.

Michael Clayton

I think the longest shot here. Even though he’s had the best prior season of any of the above listed players, Clayton is not a special teams player. He did have 2 receptions for 19 yards in very limited duty. I also think he’s on the outside looking in.

Final roster breakdown:

Six wide receivers.

Nicks, Manningham, Jernigan, Steve Smith, Ramses Barden, and Derek Hagan.

If Smith starts the season on the PUP (a decent chance of happening) or has to go on I.R. (doesn’t seem likely), I’ll put Cruz as the 7th.

You can follow me personally on twitter @NFLmocks or follow gmenhq @gmenhq

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  • Andrew Ilnicki

    Good thinking here…

    But my thinking is that with the developments at Fullback (a TE outplaying Hedge soup to nuts) and the amount of WR injury issues they had last year…. they go with 8 WRs on the 53 roster and rely heavily on Hagan, Hixon, and Thomas to reprise special teams duties.

    I think they let Clayton go, Reynaud obviously. Calhoun should never have been there to begin with.

  • http://nygblogjt.blogspot.com tufdan

    As far as Jernigan is concerned, at the end of last year Tom Coughlin lamented that they had no one that scared other teams on Special Teams. When the Giants week after week faced DeSean Jackson, Devin Hester, Dez Bryant, and Brandon Banks of the Redskins. I believe this is how they hope Jernigan develops. He wants a speed guy that can make a difference.

  • Andrew Ilnicki

    I agree, not having Hixon really hurt the Giants — not that he’s comparable to DJ or Mighty Mouse but an explosive returner makes that final third facet of the game much more interesting. The Giants were one of only 3 teams that didnt have a special teams TD last year. It is a HUGE disadvantage going into every game without a ST presence.

    Bill Belichick — if you win 2 of 3 segments within a given football game you tend to win. Offense, Defense, Special Teams. Think about this, the Giants went into basically EVERY GAME down 1. That is a huge disadvantage, getting ANYONE with the ability to make a play on ST, particularly the return game will be an improvement — period.

  • Stuart Eber

    Looks like a pretty good receiving corp. Of course, as you said you weren’t mentioning all the options. The obvious, hopefully they’ll check out Plaxico if he looks to be in good condition.

  • Andrew Ilnicki

    I agree. and I believe reports that Plax is in good shape — he told his wife his high vegetable diet has really benefited him and he said he feels like he did in college in terms of his physique. Not football shape per se, but in shape.