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Can Darius Slayton establish himself as a top option?

Darius Slayton

Darius Slayton / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

NFL training camp starts towards the end of July, which means players around the league are getting their last bits of offseason work in before the real work of trying to make the roster begins.

For certain players, this season is what some may call “Make or Break,” meaning they need to put together a productive year or they could be looking for employment elsewhere at the end of the 2023-24 campaign.

We’ll highlight those players for the Giants, continuing with wide receiver Darius Slayton.

2022 Stats

– 16 games (11 starts)

– 46 catches for 724 yards and two touchdowns

Why Make or Break?

Slayton is entering his fifth season with the Giants, but he has never really been considered the top option during that time. Despite this, he’s generally produced well whenever he has been given playing time and targets.

The Giants don’t have an obvious No. 1 receiver, so perhaps this could be the year when he finally gets an opportunity to be the man.

In previous years, he had to wait patiently while signing big money Kenny Golladay or high draft picks like Kadarius Toney have understandably been given opportunities ahead of him, but he’s generally outproduced them when given the chance to play. Unfortunately, they’ll then bring in another high pick or key signing and then the pattern will repeat itself.

Over the past four seasons, Slayton comfortably leads the Giants in receiving yards and has averaged 15 yards per catch to highlight his big play abilities. That’s in spite of the fact that he has started just 40 games in four years. He also leads the team in touchdown receptions during that time, as his total of 15 is almost double that of anyone else.

Doesn’t he deserve an extended shot at a starting role?

What will break it?

The main thing standing in the way of Slayton finally breaking through in 2023 is the number of other receiving options on the team.

Isaiah Hodgins came out of nowhere to establish himself as the top receiver down the stretch and in the postseason and tight end Darren Waller was the big offseason acquisition and sure to be targeted regularly. The team also brought in another rookie, Jalin Hyatton Day Two of the draft and so might once again be tempted to feed the rookie more reps to the detriment of the reliable Slayton.

If he gets the opportunity, Slayton must grasp it. During the playoffs, he started both games but a good performance against the Vikings was tempered by two dropped passes, and then in the Divisional game against the Eagles, he caught just one pass for four yards on five targets.

Naturally, Slayton needs to stay healthy too. He’s only missed seven games in his career, but in such a crowded receiver group, he can’t afford to lose ground on some of his main competition.

What will make it?

As noted, when Slayton does get opportunities, he generally produces. If he can start the year in the starting lineup and the Giants are once again in postseason contention, then there is no reason to diminish his role.

However, if they drop out of the race, this is where someone like Hyatt might start to get opportunities ahead of him with an eye on the future.

If Slayton doesn’t have a good season, he is at risk of being released with no new guaranteed money in 2024 and a pending roster bonus. This should at least motivate him to perform well. Slayton is still only 26, but Hyatt is 21 and will earn less over the next few seasons, so Slayton may need to convince the Giants that he’s a better option right now.

Slayton was recently named as the most underrated wide receiver in the NFL by Bleacher Report and it’s hard to argue that sentiment. He’ll be hopeful that his coaches will soon realize they’ve been underrating him too.