Scouts Inc.: Burress' departure creates void
|AP Photo/Eric Gay|
|Giants receiver Steve Smith has thrived in a complementary role, but it's unclear whether he's ready to be a No. 1 wideout.|
Steve Smith is a young player with potential. Dating back to his college days, he was a No. 2 wide receiver at USC and has the skill set you look for in a No. 2 at this level. For such a young player, he is very reliable and doesn't have glaring weaknesses to his game. He works hard and should continue to improve rapidly, but is also the type of guy who will flourish with a stud wideout on the opposite side of the field.
Domenik Hixon is a personal favorite of mine, as we spent time together at the University of Akron. We switched him from safety to wide receiver, even though he was the team's leading tackler the season before we arrived. He is very bright and an extremely hard worker with the size and long speed to be a productive No. 2 option in a similar fashion as Smith. But, once again -- and this is a recurring trend with the Giants' present group of wideouts -- he is still rather unproven and probably will never develop into a go-to guy who forces defensive coordinators to game plan for his abilities.
A wild card in this stable is second-year wideout Mario Manningham. I am not saying Manningham will be nearly as productive as Chad Ocho Cinco has been in the NFL, but he does have some strikingly similar qualities. Manningham was a big-play wide out at the University of Michigan and a field-stretcher at that level.
Much like Johnson, he didn't run well at the scouting combine and his stock dropped. Also like Johnson, his attitude has not always been the greatest and he isn't the most physical player around. But he is someone who could surprise, as many wideouts are now making that second-year jump. Manningham could be next in line to do just that.
The diminutive Sinorice Moss also entered the league with an impressive pedigree and certainly still has upside to his game, probably as a slot option. However, he hasn't shown enough in live regular-season action to put too much stock in him at this point. Just don't discount him yet, though.
Super Bowl legend David Tyree is a tough, physical receiver who is a great person to have on your team, but overall, his best contributions come on special teams. Still, he can handle spot duty at wide receiver.
It also has to be noted that the Giants' peripheral pass-catchers are not especially strong right now either. Starting tight end Kevin Boss is a solid all-around player who should improve, but depth behind him is really lacking. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Giants were to use a first-day draft pick on one of the many athletic pass-catching tight ends who are available in this year's draft to complement Boss and give Eli Manning a middle-of-the field target who can threaten a defense deep.
Also, excellent pass-catching running back Derrick Ward will now be catching passes in Tampa Bay, and Brandon Jacobs offers little to nothing as a receiving option. Ahmad Bradshaw will have to pick up the slack out of the backfield, but Ward will be missed in this capacity along with his reliability in blitz pickup, which could be a struggle for Bradshaw.
But, led by what should be a terrific defensive line, the Giants should field an elite defense next year, so putting up a huge number of points may not be required for victories. Also, New York's top-notch running game will force extra defenders into the box and present favorable matchups for many of the receiving options mentioned above.
Even taking those factors into consideration, no team should be heavier into the market for an established wideout like Braylon Edwards or Anquan Boldin than the Giants. In this case, I would be in favor of overspending for either player, offering the No. 29 pick overall as a starting offer for compensation.
Using that selection on another young, unproven wideout surely would not yield the immediate results of adding someone of Edwards' or Boldin's caliber.
Overall, while losing Burress' on-field prowess is a blow for sure, it obviously isn't a massive surprise. I still feel as though the Giants are the best team in the NFC as we stand today and have the potential to greatly improve before opening day.
Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com.
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