The New York Giants have bad luck when it comes to the NFL draft. Over the past several seasons, the front office has invested serious draft capital into prospects who have not panned out as expected. With the injury bug infecting the Giants roster, the team must now turn to its 2021 first-round draft pick.
Usually, when teams draft a player in the first round, they expect early returns. That has not been the case with the Giants’ most recent selection.
The New York Giants roster is depleted after injuries
The New York Giants are off to a disappointing start to the 2021 NFL season. They’ve lost three consecutive games to open the season, and more losses could be on the horizon.
As if the team’s 0-3 record wasn’t bad enough, the Giants roster has also been decimated by injuries. Starting offensive lineman Nick Gates suffered a potentially career-ending leg injury in Week 2 against the Washington Football Team.
The defense lost its leading tackler, Blake Martinez, for the season after he tore his ACL in Week 3 against the Falcons.
Wide receivers Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton suffered injuries as well, and their statuses for the next game are up in the air.
These injuries are significant blows and could not have come at a worse time for the Giants. Some talented players are still on the roster, but the team struggled to play well, even at full strength.
Joe Judge wants to get 1st-round pick Kadarius Toney more involved
As a result of the injuries adding up at wide receiver, the New York Giants will have to rely on Kadarius Toney for production. That’s easier said than done, though, given the receiver’s tumultuous start to his NFL career.
The Giants drafted Toney with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft out of Florida. The 6-foot, 193-pound wideout was one of the most explosive playmakers in college football during the 2020 season.
Toney played four years with the Gators but didn’t enjoy a breakout season until he was senior. He caught 70 passes for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was one of those players who needed the ball in his hands.
Giants head coach Joe Judge now has the task of getting the ball to Toney. The first-rounder missed time during the offseason and plummeted down the depth chart. He’s previously expressed his frustration with his role in the offense, according to NJ.com.
Toney played just 24 snaps through the first two games of 2021. He saw an uptick in his role after Shepard and Slayton went down. The Mobile, Alabama native saw 46 snaps but caught just two passes for 16 yards.
Judge spoke on increasing Toney’s role moving forward. “It’s something we’re focused on right now,” he said per Pro Football Talk. “We’ve got to get him the ball, and we definitely want to.”
Can Toney avoid being the latest Giants draft bust?
If you scan the New York Giants roster, you’ll find several players the team drafted who have not performed to expectations. General manager Dave Gettleman must have one of the hottest seats in the NFL.
Tight end Evan Engram (2017), quarterback Daniel Jones (2019), and offensive tackle Andrew Thomas (2020) were first-round draft picks, and all have struggled to live up to their respective draft positions.
Saquon Barkley was the No. 2 overall pick in 2018 but has battled injuries. The Giants are hoping he can regain form from his rookie season. Guard Will Hernandez was drafted just outside the first round but struggled mightily in 2020.
Failed first-rounders Ereck Flowers (2015), Eli Apple (2016), and Deandre Baker (2019) are no longer with the team. The front office needs a draft win, and bad.
Kadarius Toney has the tools to be a productive NFL player. Similar to Kansas City Chiefs star Tyreek Hill, he’s undersized but explosive. If the Giants find ways to manufacture touches for Toney and build his confidence, he should succeed in New York.
If not, the front office will need to take a hard look in the mirror and assess its direction moving forward.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference