New York Giants wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan had just three catches over his first two NFL seasons, and even his role as a kickoff returner (nine returns) was minimal in that time. That did not change much early in the 2013 season, with 10 receptions for 92 yards and eight kickoff returns for 172 yards over the first 12 games he played.
But when Victor Cruz went down with a knee injury and a concussion against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15, Jernigan got an opportunity to shine and made the most of it with 19 receptions (on 27 targets) for 237 yards and two touchdowns over the final three games of the season. Can Jernigan build on his late season surge and be a viable option for fantasy football owners going forward?
Jernigan took over as New York’s primary slot receiver with Cruz out, which has a chance to limit his opportunities looking toward next season with Cruz only requiring minor knee surgery and expected to fully recover in time for offseason work. That said, Jernigan has earned the opportunity to play more and a likely new offensive coordinator for the Giants would do well to find a way to get him on the field.
Hakeem Nicks is slated to become a free agent, and at this point it’s unlikely he’ll be back with the Giants after a disappointing season (56 receptions for 896 yards and zero touchdowns). So there could be a re-shuffling of the team’s wide receiver depth behind Cruz, with Jernigan and Rueben Randle both in line for bigger roles in 2014 and beyond.
I don’t think Jernigan will be draftable in most fantasy leagues next year, but he may become a popular waiver wire addition fairly quickly if he ends up with a significant role right out of the gate.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.