Maybe the Giants have a No. 1 receiver after all.
Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton were billed as one of the NFL’s most dangerous trios, but a consistent criticism was the group lacked a true game-breaker. Some forward-looking 2021 mock drafts even suggest the Giants will go shopping for a receiver with their first-round pick.
Slayton — and the re-emergence of many more pressing needs — could change that thinking over the next three months.
Picking up where he left off as a rookie, Slayton had six catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-16 season-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium on Monday. The top Giants’ highlight of the night was a 41-yard scoring strike when quarterback Daniel Jones had time and room to step up in the pocket and find Slayton on a well-run post route.
With every game that goes by, the former fifth-rounder looks more and more like the Giants’ biggest draft steal of the three-year tenure of general manager Dave Gettleman — and maybe further back to the turn of the decade when Super Bowl trophies were in the cards.
“Darius did a good job tonight, he’s had a good camp and he came in ready to go,” Jones said. “I certainly have a lot of faith in him.”
Slayton and Jones established a rapport in rookie minicamp in May 2019 and have continued on with minimal interruption.
Slayton missed last season’s first two games with an injury when Jones was on the bench. When Jones missed two with an ankle injury, Slayton caught three touchdown passes in Eli Manning’s farewell tour.
Monday was the fourth time in 15 career games that Slayton has scored multiple touchdowns and he is averaging 15.6 yards per catch during his short career. What is his potential?
“Slayton has a chance to be in the top-10 conversation [at wide receiver],” NFL analyst Chris Simms of Pro Football Talk told The Post.
Slayton also was the intended receiver in the end zone when Jones was intercepted on a tipped ball in tight coverage to halt a potential go-ahead drive in the third quarter. It was maybe a sign of too much confidence in their connection.
“You play every play independent of the other,” Jones said. “Can’t afford those mistakes in that situation.”
Tate did not play because of a hamstring injury that has kept him limited in practice since Aug. 31. Jones remarkably has never played a game with Slayton, Tate, Shepard, tight end Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley all available.
“Golden is working to get back,” Jones said. “I’m looking forward to it. We’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays and my job is to get them the ball.”
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