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Is Malik Nabers the most valuable Giant?



Is Malik Nabers the most valuable Giant?

The New York Giants offense is going to look different in 2024 than it did in 2022 or 2023.

At least, that should be the case if everything goes well. And central to that will be the Giants’ wide receiver corps, highlighted by 2024 sixth overall pick Malik Nabers.

The Giants are reorienting their offensive philosophy from being a run-oriented attack which flowed through Saquon Barkley, to a pass-oriented attack which will be all about Daniel Jones.

As Joe Schoen put it in Hard Knocks, “We aren’t paying him $40 million to hand the ball off.”

But while the 2024 season is all about Daniel Jones, The Athletic recently asked which non-quarterback on each team was the most valuable.

Nabers got the nod for the Giants.

Dexter Lawrence and Brian Burns are also prime candidates for this role, given Lawrence’s dependability and Burns’ potential impact in tandem with Kayvon Thibodeaux after his arrival in New York. But with Saquon Barkley gone, the offensive focus will be dialed in on the rookie Nabers. He’s shone early in spring and has that “it factor” of a top wide receiver. If this Giants offense is successful, it will be part of that QB connection with Nabers. Nabers’ arrival also should allow Jalin Hyatt and Wan’Dale Robinson to be more successful. Nabers relishes the opportunity to prove himself, and there’s no doubt he wants to accomplish big things at the next level.

Raptor’s Thoughts

I can see the reasoning here, particularly in July.

Recency bias is very much a thing that we have to actively guard against. And not only is Nabers the shiny new toy, but writers’ most recent exposure to the team has been in OTAs and minicamp. Those are situations that are almost tailor made to make a receiver look good.

Nobody is in pads or allowed to hit, the defense itself is just learning a whole new scheme, and the tempo simply isn’t what it will be in training camp, the preseason, and certainly not the regular season.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t be excited about Nabers, and he certainly will be an incredibly significant part of the offense. And frankly, the Giants need their offense to take a massive step forward this year and play at a level we haven’t seen in almost a decade.

But while it’s one thing to say that a rookie receiver could be the best player on the field, it’s another to put the short-term future of the franchise on him.

That’s a lot to put on a rookie wide receiver. It feels almost like raising up a hero to be torn down later.

And after all, receivers can be taken out of a game. They can be double teamed and the Giants’ offense is built on quick one or two-man reads. Likewise, Nabers will need to prove that he can win against press man coverage or in contested catch situations. Those were weaknesses in his college tape, and likely what teams will concentrate on as a rookie.

At this point I fully expect to see opposing defenses use quarters coverage to keep a lid on the passing game, as well as post-snap rotations to slow down the quarterbacks’ process. I’m also expecting MEG (Man Everywhere he Goes) pattern matching rules in an attempt to disrupt Nabers’ routes until he proves that to be a mistake.

There’s almost certainly going to be a learning curve for the rookie, and I want to caution against putting too much on him too quickly.

Had The Athletic asked me, I probably would have said Wan’Dale Robinson before Nabers. And no, that isn’t a contrarian take, there’s real reason to believe that Robinson could be set to turn heads around the NFL.

Nabers’ presence will probably make Robinson’s life easier, but Robinson may already have been poised for a big year. He flashed his rookie year before suffering a season-ending torn ACL. He looked better and better last year as he got further away from the injury and does a lot of things really well. He’s a good route runner, a reliable catcher who can leap and contort to bring in poorly placed passes, and is very dangerous after the catch.

Now, he’s getting a full offseason to practice and improve. He’s also going to be in a much more pass-first offense while also benefitting from being experienced. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Robinson as “Mr. Available” in coverage voids and doing his best Victor Cruz impression against missed tackles.

Nabers might be the “No.1” receiver, but Robinson might be the one to watch for a breakout season.

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