The New York Giants Have The Best Receiving Corps In The NFL

The New York Giants have been on the rise. In 2016 they got into the playoffs for the first time since 2011 with an 11-5 record and a Wild Card spot.

The defense clearly deserves a lot of credit for New York’s success, but the offense allowed for the rise of rookies Sterling Shepard and Paul Perkins. While the offense ranked 26th in points scored and 25th in total yards, this was hampered by a bad offensive line, predictable play calls on 3rd and 4th down from Ben McAdoo, the limited skill sets of Rashad Jennings and Will Tye, as well as the declining Victor Cruz. Eli Manning’s arm strength also showed signs of a decline. (Week 16 at Philadelphia was a premiere example)

Though it ended with a loss against the Packers in the Wild Card round, the team still went out of their way to add to an already dangerous team, adding two explosive receivers. The big prize of the offseason was receiver Brandon Marshall from the Jets. While 33, his skill set is still quite strong for someone of his age, and with Odell Beckham and Shepard, he’ll be able to help Manning distribute targets.

In the draft, the Giants selected Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram in the first round. While he’s been called more of a wide receiver than a tight end due to his weight, Engram is extremely talented and should be able to solve a tight end problem that has plagued the team for years.

These two offseason additions, as well as the upgraded roles of Shepard and Perkins, have made the Giants’ receiving corps the best in the league. So below, I’ll preview the 5 key receivers for the team: Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, and Paul Perkins (in a receiving back role).

 

Odell Beckham

Odell Beckham needs no introduction. He is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL, and in my opinion, he is. In each of his first 3 seasons, he has put up at least 90 receptions, 1,300 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns, and 13.5 yards per reception.

Beckham is one of six receivers in NFL history to put up 1,300+ receiving yards and 10+ TD in at least three consecutive seasons. He’s the first to do this in each of his 3 seasons since Randy Moss from 1998-2000.

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 10.14.39 PM

Beckham is in elite company, and has the chance to match Marvin Harrison’s record of 4 consecutive seasons with 1,300 yards and 10+ touchdowns in 2017, though with the loading receiving cast, it could be a challenge.

Nevertheless, Beckham is perhaps the most complete receiver in the league. His ball skills, route running, speed, and elusiveness are all first class, making the “distraction” narrative that’s been going around meaningless.

  GIF

  GIF

  GIF

Beckham is an insane YAC receiver that can turn impossible situations into big plays (GIF 1). Because of his field awareness, he’s able to understand how to break free and uses quick athleticism to sprint away from defenders.

While he dropped more passes than he should have in 2016, Beckham’s catch radius is still the best in the league (GIF 2). He’s capable of pulling in passes that wouldn’t be in the same area code for 90% of today’s receivers while securing the ball and completing the process of catching, making it look extremely easy.

Finally, Beckham’s ability on routes is nothing but special. He creates separation in all sorts of ways (GIF 3), which adds to the already difficult task of guarding him in the first place. All in all, Beckham provides everything you could want in a #1 receiver and then some.

 

Sterling Shepard

When Sterling Shepard stepped up in his rookie season, it finally afforded Eli Manning and the Giants’ offense a second great wide receiver behind Beckham. This in of itself allowed for more breathing room for the passing game.

  GIF

  GIF

  GIF

Already after one season, Shepard is a terrific slot receiver. In the slot, it’s key to use your spatial awareness and fight your way through traffic, which Shepard has shown he can do (GIF 1). He’s basically a 2nd rate Beckham, offering the same nimble route running (GIF 2) that allows him to be swift and open easily. As a slippery target, he’s shown consistent ability to fight through defenders at the line of scrimmage (GIF 3) and break tackles for YAC.

Shepard could definitely show improvement in year 2 against contact, but in general he’s been a fantastic addition to the Giants’ offense.

Brandon Marshall

Pairing up Brandon Marshall with Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepard was a scary thought after Marshall hit the free agent market, and that’s exactly what the Giants did this year. While the 33-year-old receiver saw a drop in quality from 2015 to 2016, he still packed a punch and made plenty of crazy plays that bailed out whatever quarterback he played with.

Staying in New York (or New Jersey, whatever you prefer) gets his best shot at making the postseason for the first time in his career. The Giants have two receivers that had at least 13.0 yards per reception in 2016 (Beckham with 13.5 and Marshall with 13.4), and since Marshall’s skill set has not reached the downhill spiral Victor Cruz’s did last year, he’s another weapon the offense can stretch downfield.

  GIF

  GIF

  GIF

Similar to Beckham, Marshall offers a gigantic catch radius that can bail out the quarterback’s accuracy (GIF 1). He’s old, but has remained healthy, so his athleticism on route running (GIF 2) is still high quality, and his speed after the catch is also very good (GIF 3).

Granted, Marshall has a small window left before he eventually retires, so it’s wise that he’s on a team that is capable of making the Super Bowl. He gives the Giants a really good WR2 while Beckham works the WR1 and Shepard carries the load in the slot.

Evan Engram

Out of all the tight ends drafted in the loaded 2017 class, Evan Engram just might be the most talented. Because of his size (6 ft 3, 234 lb.), he’s considered by many to be “a wide receiver disguised as a tight end.” Indeed, he was treated as such at Ole Miss, putting up 926 yards to the tune of 8 touchdowns in his final season in college.

That’s not a problem at all for the Giants, since it gives them a FOURTH receiver that can dominate anywhere on the field and provide yards after the catch.

  GIF

  GIF

  GIF

Engram’s physical talent is awe-inspiring. He’s perfect for McAdoo’s offense as a short game receiver due to his elusiveness, which can be jaw dropping at times (GIF 1). He can also stretch the field and offers excellent concentration at the catch point (GIF 2) (GIF 3), which will be a huge asset for Manning, who hasn’t had that kind of skill from a tight end in a long time.

Engram is one of the more exciting rookies for these reasons, offering the perfect target for an offense that desperately needed a tight end.

 

Paul Perkins

Finally, though more of a running back, Paul Perkins has shown hints of explosiveness as a receiving back. Perkins is a very talented back that ultimately took over the starting job at RB at the end of the season. And with the release of Rashad Jennings, the Giants are committed to him as the starter.

  GIF

Perkins has had few attempts as a receiving back, but has done well in his limited role. In the GIF above, he shows off his ability to elude defenders, stepping back and getting a few extra yards on the catch and run. As a back, his cut ability is terrific and his vision behind a poor offensive line is stellar. With more (probable) targets as a receiving back, Perkins will add to the Giants’ Big 4 a 5th dangerous receiver.

 

Conclusion

You might be wondering why I don’t consider the Buccaneers to have the best receiving corps in the NFL. Tampa Bay’s is also terrific, but it’s very close. Odell Beckham has the edge over Mike Evans for WR1, DeSean Jackson gets it over Brandon Marshall at WR3, Sterling Shepard has the edge over Adam Humphries or Chris Godwin in the slot, and while Cameron Brate is a really good tight end, I think Engram has just as good ball skills as him, and I like him better than O.J. Howard (who to his credit is the best blocking tight end of his class).

Charles Sims has more experience as a receiving back, but Paul Perkins has age and health on his side. I like Shane Vereen, but he’s a question mark at this point, and must prove he can be a force on the Giants’ offense. Jeremy McNichols is a guy I’m high on, though he’s not a guarantee to make the Bucs’ roster according to Dirk Koetter. Wayne Gallman has a shot to compliment Perkins in the run game, while Doug Martin has to prove he can be the RB1 in Tampa after he returns from suspension.

Really, this could go either way and I’d be perfectly acceptable with it. But to me, the Giants receivers’ at their peak look just slightly better than the Buccaneers’ at their peak. All of Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, and Paul Perkins have the skill sets to be dangerous at pass catching, giving the G-Men one of the NFL’s most dynamic and dangerous offenses heading into 2017.

There could be a few setbacks. Eli Manning needs to show better arm strength, but with this supporting cast he should have an easier time completing passes. The offensive line is a train wreck, and left tackle Ereck Flowers, a first round pick in the 2015 draft, is rapidly drifting into bust territory. Ben McAdoo must show more aggression and trust in his offense on 4th down play calls, and his 3rd down calls need to be less predictable.

Still, the Giants are covered in the pass game, and with a top defense on the other side, they could easily start the season 5-0. They’ve managed to stress Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in their two matchups against him, can beat the Detroit Lions in week 2, can beat the Eagles in week 3, could get the edge in a showdown against (who else) the Bucs, and can beat the Chargers at home in week 5.

If all goes right, the Giants are a team the rest of the NFC needs to look out for, and they have the best receiving corps in the league.

 

Featured image via sny.tv

Jalen Richard Brings A New Dimension To Explosive Raiders Offense

Stories can come from anywhere at any angle. That’s what’s so great about them. They can come through the straightforward “as we expected” route or through the underdog rags to riches route.

For Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard, his story comes as an underdog. Undrafted out of Southern Mississippi, Richard had to participate in a 3 day tryout just to even make it to Raiders training camp. All of this while competing with Dwayne Washington, Oakland’s 5th round pick.

Despite going through the preseason injured, #30 made enough of an impression that he had made the team. A terrific achievement, but how long would it last?

The unthinkable happened. Not only did it last the entire season, but Richard’s addition to the Raiders has actually made the offense better.

Despite being undrafted, he already looks like a high quality back after 1 year, and on an offense rich with talent. Mostly used as the return guy, Richard’s role was used increasingly as both a running and receiving back, And he quickly caught the attention of analysts such as Jon Gruden, Dan Fouts and Cris Collinsworth once his role was increased.

As a result of his breakthrough, the Raiders showed unbelievable depth at both the run and receiving game, helping them make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Richard finished his rookie season with 491 rushing yards (5.9 YPC) and a touchdown while putting up 29 receptions for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns. Richard is only the fourth player in NFL history (and the first since 1979) to rush for a 75-yard touchdown or longer in his first career game, running for an 84 yard touchdown on his first career carry.

It’s this kind of impressive play that has allowed the Raiders to explore new dimensions with an already explosive offense.

Richard’s size and play has given him comparisons to famed small back Darren Sproles, and in respect he does represent that role. Where as Latavius Murray is tall and sturdy, making him the workhorse back, Richard is small and nimble. He is also an intelligent player, allowing him to have a wide skill set for the Raiders to use him as an offensive weapon.

Richard’s nimbleness makes him an alarming threat in the running and receiving games. He is difficult to grasp not just because of his size, but also his athleticism. In the first GIF, He jumps on the screen pass from Derek Carr, and uses that jump to get a quick burst of acceleration. In the 2nd GIF, Richard shows outstanding vision and dodges an incoming tackler, creating space ahead of him to turn nothing into a 6 yard gain. The same field awareness is used in the 3rd GIF, where #30 uses an excellent outside jump cut to gain 7 yards while helping the offense move the chains.

These 3 GIFs are perfect for showing off how wide Jalen Richard’s skill set is because his thought process is prepared meticulously beforehand. He’s able to survey the field and instantly decide how to approach tacklers, angles and gaps, the sign of a quality back. So it goes without saying that Richard has this in spades.

In perhaps his best career game yet against the Colts, Richard showed outstanding vision and patience, helping him get 66 yards on 6 carries. In the first GIF, Richard makes an amazing cut across the field at the line of scrimmage for a massive gain. The Le’Veon Bell esque patience is shown in the 2nd GIF, where Richard is able to manage a claustrophobic gap to get a 9-yard gain out of it.

 

These next set of GIFs show Richard’s sturdiness despite his size. Here, he bursts through a small hole while jabbing his way from a tackler, who gets hands on him but can’t bring him down. The result is a 22-yard gain. The 2nd GIF shows Richard breaking 2 tackles, one with an up the middle jump cut and an outside cut.

Despite his small size, Richard is surprisingly tough to take down. It’s one thing to even get to him, but to wrap him up and take him down is another story. His burst and strength allow him to slip through tackles and go for longer gains after contact.

In this GIF from the playoff game against the Texans, not only did Richard (somehow) survived this hit, he also avoided getting brought down, bouncing off the tackle like a pinball and running for the races, giving Oakland excellent field position on the eventual scoring drive.

Conclusion

Football audiences gawk at flashy stats and performances, but to me, the ability to know how to approach the football and a situation is more impressive. This may seem obvious, it’s a trait certain players in the league lack. You’ll see guys lose precious yards in situational play because they’ll jump to conclusions and look to get more yards, or fail to see openings and useful opportunities.

For a player who had to participate in a 3-day tryout just to make it to training camp, much less go undrafted, to show off these traits and then some is sensational. The work Jalen Richard has put into his craft has made him a really good back, and his emergence has not only given the Raiders further depth at the running back position, but also another way to approach the field.

It’s difficult to conclude how Jalen Richard went undrafted, because his talent and football smarts indicate he’s a high quality starter and will be one for years to come.

(Featured image via justblogbaby.com)

Obscure Studs of the NFL: Tyrell Williams

Obscure Studs of the NFL

Previous: Jamison Crowder

Next: Doug Baldwin

 

Many of my favorite players in the NFL are late round picks or undrafted free agents. Combined with the surprising skill sets these players have, I gravitate towards a good story, something that shows through dedication and perseverance, someone is making their dreams come true.

Today, that story is San Diego Chargers’ 2nd year receiver Tyrell Williams.

From Western Oregon, Williams was undrafted in 2015 before being signed by the Chargers. Waived during the season, he was reclaimed and promoted onto San Diego’s practice squad, and barely saw action all season until the final game of the season, where he caught 2 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown (on a busted coverage). A nice moment, but not the sign of another key addition to the Chargers’ receiving corps, right?

Enter 2016. Receiver Stevie Johnson was placed on injured reserve before the season even began, and Keenan Allen tore his ACL during Week 1. These turn of events were bittersweet, allowing Williams to be promoted as the #3 receiver behind Dontrelle Inman and Travis Benjamin.

Enter Week 11. All of a sudden Williams is the Chargers’ leading receiver and a consistent fantasy option, with 43 catches for 720 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 16.7 yards per reception. In 3 of his last 6 games he has eclipsed 100 receiving yards.

It’s a great story, and what makes it great is that the work is legit; Tyrell Williams is a quality wide receiver.

The Chargers are a YAC heavy offense consistently running short crossing routes among other things. As you may have guessed, Williams has played a huge part in these shallow crossing routes. Williams is very talented, and at 6 ft 4 and 204 lb he is a big receiver, making him a favorable target for Philip Rivers.

He is also a sweet YAC receiver. In the GIF above, Rivers throws to Williams on (what else but) a shallow crossing route. Williams makes a couple of impressive moves against the Falcons defense after the catch, using a jab move to create space outside before making a terrific cut and finally stepping out of bounds.

In the above GIF, Williams does an excellent jab to get open, catching the slant pass from Rivers. Williams’ ability to drag for yards makes him tough to tackle, and it shows here. Notice the subtle cut outside as Williams is able to get a couple more yards after the catch.

In this sequence (all occurring on the same play), Williams further shows his ability after the catch. First of all, he does a nice job of using aggression before the catch to come back to the ball. Immediately, he plants his right foot and springs forward and through defenders while using his feet to further get YAC. This type of awareness and playmaking is incredible for an undrafted player, and Williams’ aggression before and after the catch point stands out.

 

On a team filled with wide receivers, Williams’ ball skills catch the eye. The two catches above are difficult ones at that. The first one is extremely impressive not because of how Williams plays the catch, but how he gets there, doing an excellent cut on his route to get open. Rivers has been excellent this season, and is a quarterback that consistently anticipates openings, making his receivers better. This is a great throw and a great catch

The 2nd play is thrown a bit behind Williams, who manages to still move in stride regardless of the throw. He’s also standing directly into the sun’s glare while in stride, so his concentration and focus on the football, in addition to the adjustment he has to make, stick out.

 

In his first full season, Williams is already a really polished route runner. He understands how to play the routes and how to get himself open for Rivers to throw him the ball to. Most undrafted wide receivers, and even high draft picks, fail to understand how to create separation because they came from favorable offensive schemes in college, or offer explosiveness but lack consistency. As a result, we see a lot of expectations flush down the drain.

Thankfully, Williams’ route running ability is more advanced than even some first round picks. In the first GIF, stutter steps and pretends to block on the play. This baits the receiver and allows Williams enough time to distance himself. Rivers’ throw is not precise, but fortunately for him Williams makes a great adjustment, managing to not only make the catch, but also keep his feet in bounds. His route running ability is further shown in the 2nd GIF, Williams gets a boost off another jab at the line of scrimmage, getting him open on another easy slant pass from Rivers.

Like a tight end, Williams is able to box out defenders, making him a good target for converting first downs. In the above play, Williams’ size on the matchup allows him to box out his foe, converting the first down. Williams is what I like to call a “Crabtree Receiver”, or CR. Named after Michael Crabtree, this describes a wide receiver that is built like a tight end but has the athleticism, more expansive list of routes, and skill set of any regular wide receiver. Williams’ frame allows him to be perfect for short distance throws and conversions because of this.

 

Finally, Williams’ frame in addition makes him a 50/50 receiver, expanding his skill set. On each of these 2 plays, Williams plays the ball beautifully, making difficult adjustments to complete the connections. The first GIF offers nice ball security, while the 2nd is a fantastic over the shoulder catch at his neck. As I’ve said in the past, it’s how you play the catch point that matters, and Williams’ ability and awareness at this point shine.

 

Conclusion

In addition to being a feel good story, Tyrell Williams is a very good wide receiver with an impressive skill set for an undrafted player. His frame allows him to work as a quick option on slant/shallow crossing routes, his route running skills combined with his frame allow him to win matchups and create separation, and his superb ball skills in addition make him a favorable downfield target.

Williams is currently 8th in receiving yards and 10th in yards per reception, without any fumbles so far (knock on wood). This is no fluke. Williams has been fortunate to have the opportunity he has, but the talent and efficiency he possesses is the reason he isn’t going anywhere.

 

(Featured Image via denverpost.com)

 

Obscure Studs of the NFL

Previous: Jamison Crowder

Next: Doug Baldwin