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New York Giants Positional Breakdown: Wide Receivers

Throughout the next several weeks, I’ll be breaking down the Giants’ roster, position by position. We’ll take a look at what each player brings to the table, their chances of making the roster and, if applicable, their roles on the 2015 team. Next, we’ll take a look at one of Big Blue’s biggest strengths: wide receivers.

Odell Beckham Jr.

Roster odds: 100%

Beckham was easily the most exciting player on the Giants’ roster last year, and he should continue to dazzle in his sophomore season. Last year’s 91 catches for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns is made even more impressive by the fact that OBJ racked up those stats in just 12 games. After Victor Cruz’s devastating knee injury, Beckham stepped up in a major way.

It’s possible Beckham will need to do the same this year. Cruz is still recovering from his injury, and there’s a chance he won’t return to his previous level of effectiveness. Either way, make no mistake: Odell Beckham Jr. is the Giants’ #1 receiver. His elite speed, route-running ability and, of course, his hands make him a powerful weapon on every play. He could require double coverage by some defenses, opening things up for Cruz, Rueben Randle, and the rest of the Giants receivers.

Let's be honest. We all saw the catch. It needs no further description (Getty Images).

Let’s be honest. We all saw the catch. It needs no further description (Getty Images).

The only concern surrounding Beckham is his lingering hamstring injury. Beckham missed the entire preseason and the first four games of 2014 with injuries to his right hamstring. The good news is Beckham’s current hamstring injury is on his left side, so it’s unrelated to his 2014 injury. The bad news is Beckham’s current injury has been serious enough to keep him out of OTAs, and his absence could extend into training camp. The Giants insist his absence is precautionary, but it’s a situation worth keeping an eye on.

Victor Cruz

Roster odds: 100%

Cruz is a major question mark heading into the 2015 season. He is currently rehabbing from a patellar tear he suffered last year against the Eagles in Week 6. While Cruz’s rehab is going as scheduled, and he could be ready for Week 1, the real concern surrounds Cruz’s effectiveness after this injury.

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz looks to make a big comeback in 2015 (Getty Images).

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz looks to make a big comeback in 2015 (Getty Images).

Cruz’s injury is similar to the one Cowboys running back Ryan Williams suffered during the 2011 preseason while with the Cardinals. Williams missed the 2011 season and returned to the Cardinals in 2012. He averaged just 2.8 YPC in five games that season, a far cry from the 5.3 YPC he averaged at Virginia Tech. He hasn’t notched a regular season carry since 2012.

If Cruz is healthy and effective next year, the Giants will have the dangerous duo of OBJ and Cruz to work with. But that’s a best case scenario, and it’s just as likely that the torn patellar has sapped Cruz’s speed and agility. The reality is we won’t know what to expect from Cruz until his rehab is complete and we see him face off against live defenders.

Rueben Randle

Roster odds: 100%

This is a big year for Rueben Randle. He will be a free agent after the 2015 season, and has a good chance to establish himself as the Giants’ #2 receiver, regardless of Cruz’s recovery. Beckham’s breakout season overshadowed what was a solid 2014 for Randle, who caught 71 passes for 938 yards, both career highs. The downside was Randle’s three touchdowns, down from his six in 2013.

Randle has shown steady improvement in each of his NFL seasons, and has received praise from quarterback Eli Manning for his work this offseason. Eli went as far as to predict a breakout year from Randle.

“I think Rueben’ll have a big year,” Manning said according to the New York Post. “I think Rueben can be a great receiver, a dominant receiver.”

Randle’s production will likely be capped by Odell Beckham, who should dominate targets. At the same time, Randle should be the main beneficiary if and when Beckham sees double coverage. The Giants will hope the work he has put in this offseason, along with the motivation that comes with being an impending free agent, will result in a big year.

Dwayne Harris

Roster odds: 100%

Harris is one of the more puzzling free agent additions the Giants made this offseason. He joined the Giants on a five-year, $17.5 million deal, which is not unreasonable for one of the league’s premier special teams players. What makes the signing a bit of a head scratcher is the $7.1 million the Giants guaranteed him. It suggests the Giants have plans for him to contribute on offense as well.

Head coach Tom Coughlin said Harris could serve as a blocking receiver, much like former Giant David Tyree. His miraculous Super Bowl 42 catch aside, Tyree mostly contributed on special teams, never recording more than 211 receiving yards in a season. Still, that would be an improvement for Harris, the ex-Cowboy, as he recorded just 33 catches for 418 yards and three touchdowns in four seasons in Dallas.

Giants receiver Dwayne Harris during his time with the Cowboys (Getty Images).

Giants receiver Dwayne Harris during his time with the Cowboys (Getty Images).

As will be the case with just about every receiver on the roster, Harris’ role could expand further if Victor Cruz does not regain his pre-injury effectiveness. His speed and 5’10”, 202-pound body means he could probably see time at slot receiver, especially given how many three-receiver sets OC Ben McAdoo likes to run. For now, though, expect him to be a special teams dynamo who is occasionally sprinkled in on offense.

Geremy Davis

Roster odds: 65%

The Giants picked Davis out of UConn in the sixth round of last month’s draft. While he has a good shot at a roster spot, given the Giants’ depth at the position, he isn’t a lock. Davis has good size (6’2”, 216) and excellent hands, but lacks speed. Long term, he projects as a special teams weapon who could see some action in the slot. I’d be more confident in Davis if Dwayne Harris hadn’t been signed earlier this offseason to fill that same role. But as long as Davis performs well this preseason, I think he’ll make the team.

Marcus Harris

Roster odds: 60%

Don’t let his zero career receptions fool you; Harris has a real shot at making the team out of training camp. He didn’t have the 2014 preseason that Corey Washington had, but he still turned enough heads that he received some first-team practice reps late in the preseason, and the Giants seriously considered him for a starting role. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury landed him on injured reserve, and he missed the entire 2014 season.

Giants wide receiver Marcus Harris looks to impress in 2015, one year after a shoulder injury kept him out for the entire 2014 season (Getty Images).

Giants wide receiver Marcus Harris looks to impress in 2015, one year after a shoulder injury kept him out for the entire 2014 season (Getty Images).

Preston Parker

Roster odds: 45%

Parker was out of the league in 2013, and then somewhat surprisingly started seven games for the G-Men in 2014. He wasn’t terribly effective, catching 36 passes for 418 yards and just two touchdowns. He spent most of the year as the Giants’ third receiver, but that was mostly due to Beckham missing the season’s first four games, and then Cruz missing the last ten.

Parker’s outlook is considerably cloudier this year, with Beckham, Cruz and Randle far ahead of him on the depth chart, plus the addition of Harris (Dwayne), and the return of Harris (Marcus). He does have experience in McAdoo’s offense on his side, but he will likely need an impressive offseason for the Giants to opt to keep Parker over a younger receiver with upside.

Corey Washington

Roster odds: 45%

Washington, undrafted out of Newberry College, had a dominant preseason last year (10 catches, 155 yards, four touchdowns), earning himself a spot on the 53-man roster. Unfortunately, he could not carry that momentum into the regular season, as he recorded just five catches for 52 yards and one garbage time touchdown in his rookie year.

Giants second-year receiver Corey Washington enjoyed an incredible preseason last year. Can he do it again to make the 2015 team? (Getty Images)

Giants second-year receiver Corey Washington enjoyed an incredible preseason last year. Can he do it again to make the 2015 team? (Getty Images)

At 6’4”, 214 pounds, Washington has the size NFL teams look for in an imposing red zone receiving target. But despite Cruz’s injury, Washington was still an afterthought last year, buried on the depth chart since he’s not a great special teamer. There is potential here, but the Giants are loaded at receiver, so Washington likely needs another huge preseason to crack the final roster in 2015.

Juron Criner

Roster odds: 20%

Criner spent most of last season on the Giants’ practice squad, and then signed a Reserve/Futures deal with the team after the season. The former fifth-round pick of the Raiders has yet to make any sort of impact in the NFL. He did not appear in a game last season, and in two years (2012-2013) with the Raiders, he recorded just 19 catches for 183 yards and a touchdown. It’ll take a lot for Criner to make the team.

Julian Talley

Roster odds: 15%

Talley should be a familiar name for Giants fans, as he has been with the team on-and-off ever since 2012. Victor Cruz’s teammate at UMass, Talley has not had the same success Cruz has enjoyed. He has made just a few appearances in the regular season, and has played mostly special teams. For what it’s worth, Talley enjoyed a strong season with the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League in 2013, when he had 74 catches for 821 yards and 17 touchdowns. Unfortunately, the AFL is probably Talley’s best bet to play football, as he’s a longshot to make the Giants.

Ben Edwards

Roster odds: 10%

Edwards is a guy to root for. He enjoyed a solid first three years at Richmond, racking up 2,202 receiving yards, good for sixth on Richmond’s all-time list. It seemed like he had a solid shot at being a late-round pick in this year’s draft before tearing his ACL and missing the 2014 season for the Spiders. The rookie has upside, but faces long odds at making the final roster. Not only will he have to prove he is healthy and effective after his injury, but he will also have to compete with a talented group of receivers. Edwards could be a nice practice squad candidate.

Chris Harper

Roster odds: 0%

Harper was a rare recent draft mistake by the Seattle Seahawks, who took him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. The former Kansas State receiver could not even make the Seahawks’ roster out of training camp. Since then, he’s had stints with the 49ers and Packers, the latter of whom he appeared in four games for, recording no catches. He’s simply a warm body for the Giants, and given Big Blue’s depth at receiver, it would be an absolute shock to see Harper come September.

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