During the Eli Manning era, the New York Giants have been most successful when their offense has featured a big “X” wide receiver. A bigger receiver at the X position allows Manning to attempt those NFL-caliber passes into tight windows. Everyone remembers the Manning throw to Mario Manningham in the last Super Bowl, and while it was a tough catch, the play was made by the throw. Manning fit the ball into a window just inches away from the safety rotating over from his spot in the cover 2 and the sideline. With just enough velocity to also beat the trailing cornerback, Manning completed the pass and the rest was history.
Of course, Manning is not always as accurate as he was on that throw. More often than not, when Manning does miss his target, it’s because his throw was high and with a lot of zip. We can draw from plenty examples of this during Manning’s time with Plaxico Burress and Hakeem Nicks before injuries derailed his career. A tall X receiver who will go up and make tough one-on-one catches on 50-50 passes allows Manning the confidence to make any and every throw.
In January, I mentioned that the Giants should go out and draft Mike Evans for these exact reasons. At the time, Evans was being mentioned as a mid-to-late first-round pick. While I would still prefer they select Evans, as the draft has moved closer, Evans seems much more unlikely to be there at No. 12 overall.
Instead, the Giants can choose from several other wide receiver options that fit this exact billing in what is easily the deepest class I have ever researched. Spanning from rounds two through five, the potential big X receiver list includes: Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson, Martavis Bryant, Donte Moncrief, Davante Adams, Cody Lattimer, Kevin Norwood, Devin Street and Brandon Coleman.
After assessing the players based on their game cutups from draftbreakdown.com, live action, measurables and projected round they will be drafted in, I strongly believe that Devin Street is the most underrated prospect at his position and maybe overall in the entire draft. Street is being projected to go as late as the sixth round, and the Giants would be smart to target him with their first fifth-round draft pick.
Position: Wide Receiver
40-yard dash: 4.55 (4.47 unofficial)
Vertical: 37 inches (10th-best at his position)
Production: In just 10 games in 2013, Street racked up 854 yards on 51 catches (16.7 ypc) while adding seven touchdowns. Over the course of his career, in 49 games, Street compiled 2,901 yards on 2012 catches (14.4 ypc) while adding 16 touchdowns.
Strengths: At 6-foot-3 with a 37-inch vertical, Street has the size and leaping ability to be a true No. 1 outside threat at wide receiver. He displays incredible body control in the air on vertical routes. For someone who lacks straight-line speed, he is still a plus vertical route runner. Aside from body control, Street has unique quickness for someone his size. He is especially quick in and out of his breaks, and this allows him to be a very effective route runner on slants and in routes. All of these strengths add up to make him a major threat in the red zone.
Weaknesses: Street lacks straight-line speed. In the NFL, if you’re a receiver who runs a 4.55 at the NFL Combine, you are unlikely to be drafted before the third day. Unlike others who lack straight-line speed, Street can still win on vertical routes.
Overall: Street can serve immediately as a red zone threat for new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. The Giants lacked options in the red zone in 2013, and it caused them to settle for too many field goals. With Hakeem Nicks gone, Street could immediately become the No. 1 threat inside the 20-yard line. His size and unique quickness can help him transition soon to different big packages where he lines up as an outside receiver. He has experience and success in the slot as well, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get early snaps there as well.
NFL comparison: A poor man’s Larry Fitzgerald or Sidney Rice
Projected round: 5th to 6th Round