I think one of the most important questions facing the New York Giants in 2015 is whether second-year wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. can repeat -- or even approximate -- his dazzling rookie-year performance. After missing the first four games because of a hamstring injury, Beckham still managed to catch 91 passes for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was named offensive rookie of the year and played in the Pro Bowl. A suitable encore would be no small accomplishment.
While the Giants welcome back Odell Beckham Jr., there are still some questions regarding the depth of the wide receiver corps.
And yet ...
When I was in Bristol last weekend for SportsCenter duty, I got to speak with former Cowboys safety Darren Woodson, who's one of our NFL analysts now. He said he was in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, helping Michael Irvin coach the team that had Beckham on it, and he couldn't believe what he saw. He said it was hard to describe, but that Beckham had an ability to shift and wiggle his hips during his routes that he's never seen before. He said Cleveland's Joe Haden was covering Beckham on a route in practice and got smoked and came back to the bench shaking his head because he couldn't understand how he'd been beaten.
"They tell you to watch the receiver's hips, not his eyes, because the hips don't lie," Woodson told me. "But Odell ... his hips lie."
So there you go, in case you were wondering whether the kid can do it again. There are plenty who think he can and will.
This leads me into an examination of the Giants' wide receiver depth chart with 15 days left until the draft:
Projected starters: Odell Beckham Jr., Rueben Randle, Victor Cruz*
The asterisk is because the Giants don't know whether and to what extent Cruz will recover from his severe knee injury. He may not be ready to start training camp, and even if he is, he's likely to be on a somewhat limited program as the team works him back slowly from his torn patellar tendon. There's a chance he misses a game or two, and a strong chance he's not 100 percent even when he does return to game action. The Giants run the vast majority of their offensive plays out of three-receiver sets, and their ideal setup would have Cruz in the slot and Beckham and Randle on the outside. But they know they may have to adjust around Cruz, and that's where the rest of this crew comes in.
Dwayne Harris, Ogletree and Parker all have experience playing the slot -- the latter two in the Giants' offense last season. So if Cruz has to miss games or even snaps, they are candidates to take over. Dwayne Harris is expected to be a significant contributor on all four special teams units, but there's a chance he could get an opportunity to perform on offense as well. He had 33 catches for 418 yards and three receiving touchdowns the past four seasons in Dallas, so a significant involvement in the offense would be a surprise. Parker made the team last season only because of injuries to Beckham and Harris, but he impressed the coaching staff with his toughness, and it's not crazy to think he could sneak onto the roster again, especially if there are other injuries. Ogletree caught just five passes for 50 yards in seven games with the Giants last year. Marcus Harris and Washington were training camp and preseason stars in 2014. Marcus Harris missed the season because of injury and it remains to be seen how fully recovered he is. Washington spent the season on the roster but had only five catches for 52 yards, and the coaching staff has said he must perform more consistently on special teams in order to earn a larger role on offense.
Draft possibilities: Where the Giants are picking, at No. 9 in the draft's first round, they could have a chance at one of the better wide receivers. It's unlikely but not inconceivable that Alabama's Amari Cooper and/or West Virginia's Kevin White could be there, and it seems likely that Louisville's DeVante Parker will be. Central Florida's Breshad Perriman and Arizona State's Jaelen Strong are possibilities for the second day of the draft if the Giants believe they need to address this position there. Cruz's injury, the size of his Cruz's contract and the fact Randle only has one year left on his deal all are reasons the Giants could decide they need to address receiver in this year's draft.
Dan Graziano | espn.com| April 15, 2015
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