2021 Projections for the Giants’ Kadarius Toney
Entering the league known more for his speed and elusiveness than his abilities as a wide receiver, the New York Giants (after moving down in a trade) decided to add to their wide receiver core by selecting Florida’s Kadarius Toney. Adding Toney to an offensive core that already includes Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones, and offseason addition Kenny Golladay will only help turn around the Giants under head coach Joe Judge, even if that turnaround takes a bit longer than hoped for.
Toney was an intriguing prospect going through the pre-draft process, as different camps and teams held various opinions of the electric weapon. As Toney kept seeing his name float all throughout mock drafts, it was evident that whichever team decided to draft him, they would be getting a superb athlete that may struggle to have staying power in an NFL offense, as his heavy reliance on speed and having the ball in his hands can make him less dimensional than what is typically looked for in an early draftee.
The Giants, who moved down with the Chicago Bears as they completed their search for their next franchise QB with the selection of Justin Fields, were able to move down in the draft and secure a valued piece for their offense, even with the notion that other elements of their team, both offensively and defensively, were more pressing.
On the surface, Toney will be fighting for touches amongst Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton, as well as whatever passing game work Barkley and tight end Evan Engram earns. Seen potentially as more of a gadget guy than a proven wideout in the early stages of his career, getting Toney a consistent role in the New York offense is tough to forecast at this time.
An element that should help the rookie out, at least early in the season, is going to be how cautious this team is in welcoming Barkley back from his ACL tear that prematurely ended his season last year. By incorporating Toney into the rushing game through end-arounds, direct handoffs, and even backfield work, the coaching staff can help earn a better picture of what he is capable of right out of the gate.
But lower your expectations for his first season, as Toney likely will not be counted on in heavy amounts, albeit in mop-up duty or if injuries strike the wide receiver depth chart.
41 receptions / 387 yards / 4 TDs / 11 rushing attempts / 72 yards / 0 TDs / 2 fumbles
Making Toney a first-round selection ultimately seemed to be the likeliest outcome throughout the pre-draft process, but that decision is not necessarily the right one, especially for the situation that he enters into with Jones and the Giants.
Golladay was brought in on a big-money deal this offseason to help get him away from the below-average play that the Detroit Lions consistently demonstrated, and he immediately becomes the top option for Jones in the passing game. As the former Duke quarterback tries to finally find his firm footing leading this offense, the target share that a healthy Golladay will likely command from Jones makes the slice of pie in this offense that much smaller for Toney.
Barkley’s work back from last season’s injury throws a wrench into the evolution of this unit, which can help provide Toney with a role and help fit into the game plan. While his role will vary based on game script and opponent on a weekly basis, it can be assumed that before Barkley is back to earning 70-plus percent workload shares on a weekly basis, Toney will hold a more-than-minor role for the Giants.
Toney’s role in this offense will struggle to be fleshed out early on, making any sort of fantasy impact he may have to begin the season tough to define. Having Toney as a high-upside WR3 is the likeliest role that he should fill to open the slate, subject to change based on what he shows in limited action. Not knowing how he will be used in the offense and how heavily Jones will want to target the rookie makes it tough to see Toney having a major role right away.
The wideout’s ceiling looks to be the lowest out of the five WRs that were selected in this year’s first round, an uncertainty that the Giants really cannot afford to take a gamble on. As their offense struggles to establish an identity while awaiting the return of Barkley to prime form, Toney likely will not hold the kind of role you would expect out of a first-round option, causing disappointment and even some reservations related to how well the Evan Engram selection has gone since he was taken 23rd overall in the 2017 draft.
The Giants understand that they have as good of a chance as anyone in their division to win the NFC East crown, and while Toney may not be seen as a major contributor at this point, his skill set is just unique enough to help push this team into the realm of seeing the postseason again. Fading him until he proves his worth and role on this team alongside Golladay and others is a justifiable outcome at this point, even if proving his draft stock never comes to fruition.