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How does a potential Tyreek Hill clone look to you with the No. 11 overall pick in Thursday night’s draft, Giants fans?
Would you sign up for that dynamic production at receiver right now?
Quarterback Daniel Jones surely would.
This is a scenario that may be staring the Giants in the face as their first-round pick arrives: a choice between two Alabama wide receivers, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
Both have a chance to be the game-changing receiver the Giants haven’t had since Odell Beckham Jr. was shipped to Cleveland. Either would be a welcome addition to a receiving corps that already includes free-agent acquisition Kenny Golladay and incumbents Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton.
The Giants, of course, have more pressing needs than receiver — most notably offensive line, edge rusher and linebacker. But general manager Dave Gettleman has the chance to make an improving position a strength if he picks one of these top receivers.
Smith is the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, just the fourth receiver ever to win the award and first since 1991, joining Johnny Rodgers, Tim Brown and Desmond Howard.
Waddle is coming off an ankle injury that limited him to just six games in 2020, but prior to his injury, he had outproduced Smith with 557 yards and 22.3 yards per reception with four TDs while Smith had 483 yards, 12.8 yards per catch and four TDs.
Smith’s career collegiate numbers are prolific compared to Waddle’s. He caught 235 passes for 3,965 yards (a 16.9-yard average) and 46 TDs. Waddle caught 106 passes for 1,999 yards (an 18.9-yard average) and 17 TDs.
The most recent narrative attached to Smith, though, has been his weight — 165 pounds — and the concern about whether he’ll be able to hold up physically, both health-wise and performance-wise, against bigger, stronger defensive backs than he faced (and beat) in college.
Waddle, 5-10, 180 pounds, is considered by scouts as a better route-runner than the 6-1 Smith, having played more of his snaps out of the slot in college, but not so many that he’s considered a slot receiver, which is Shepard’s spot on the Giants.
Waddle, who some draft analysts have compared (in frame and skill set) to Hill, the Chiefs’ big-play receiver who caught 87 passes for 1,276 yards and 15 TDs last season, has potential to be one of the most explosive players in the league and an immediate impact.
The last time the Giants had an impact player at receiver was when Beckham caught 77 passes for 1,052 yards and six TDs in 2018. Beckham caught 101 passes for 1,367 yards and 10 TDs in 2016, 96 for 1,450 yards and 13 TDs in 2015, 91 for 1,305 yards and 12 TDs in 2014.
The Giants’ receiving numbers in the past two seasons have been mediocre at best. Shepard led the way in 2019 with 57 catches for 576 yards and three TDs, Slayton had 48 catches or 740 yards and eight TDs and Golden Tate had 49 for 676 yards and six TDs. Last season, Shepard led the team in catches with 66 and Slayton led in yards with 751 while both caught three TD passes.
Those numbers are not going to win games for the Giants.
Waddle, also a punt returner, can change that.
Marcus Spears, a former NFL defensive lineman and current ESPN analyst, is among those who sees Hill in Waddle.
“Both of these guys [Hill and Waddle] are technically small in stature, the speed is unbelievable [as is] the ability to make people miss, and they both play bigger than what they are,’’ Spears said recently on “NFL Live.’’ “They are willing participants across the middle of defenses. They are involved in the reverse game, the jet-sweep motion. These two dudes are very similar when you look at them play side by side.”
ESPN’s NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said he can see up to 40 receivers drafted, predicting some 14 or 15 of them going in the first three rounds. Alabama had two receivers drafted in the first round last season: Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. Jeudy caught 52 passes for 856 yards and three TDs as a rookie, Ruggs 26 for 452 and two TDs.
“It’s deep not just with outside guys, it’s deep with slot guys, and you have some return men,” Kiper said of this draft.
Waddle, who Kiper called a “coast-to-coast player,’’ does all of the above.
Perfect fit for the Giants. It makes a strong position stronger and it makes Daniel Jones a better quarterback the instant the pick is made.
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