Nothing in the NFL goes as planned. Football is a sport of uncontrollable variables. Injuries, situations, opportunities, and plain luck all play major parts in an NFL team’s success or failure. Because of this, we often see players come out of nowhere and become vital contributors to their team. For the New York Giants, who have the league’s worst record over the past 3 seasons, a few unexpected heroes would be a sight for sore eyes. Here are three lower-profile Giants that have a chance at a big year in 2020.
TE Kaden Smith
Smith played in nine games after being claimed off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers last September. The Stanford product appeared in over 90% of the Giants’ offensive snaps from Weeks 12 through 17 while filling in for the oft-injured Evan Engram. Smith performed admirably, improving each game and carving out a role in Big Blue’s offense. The 2019 sixth-round pick closed out the year with two touchdowns against the Washington Redskins and 98 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Engram missing more time with injury would be the clearest path to Smith breaking out. But even if Engram stays healthy, Smith could still have a productive year as the second tight end. Every indication points to the Giants trying to become a run-heavy team that passes off play-action. This could mean more two tight end packages so that Smith sees the field with Engram. He’ll be a viable weapon in the red zone with his 6’5″ frame, and he’s already shown chemistry with quarterback Daniel Jones. Throw in offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s scheme which uses tight ends as downfield receivers, and Smith could be primed for a big season.
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RB Wayne Gallman
No offense to Gallman, but Giants fans hope he doesn’t see the field much this year. If all goes well, Saquon Barkley stays healthy for 16 games and has an MVP-caliber season. However, Barkley missed more than three games with a high ankle sprain last year. The possibility of him losing even more games to injury has to be taken seriously.
Gallman himself got hurt last year, so he couldn’t take full advantage of the opportunity that Barkley’s injury provided. If he can stay healthy in Barkley’s absence, he could enjoy his best season as a pro. Gallman has the slashing, decisive, one-cut running style (reminiscent of former Dallas Cowboys back DeMarco Murray) we’ve seen succeed under Garrett. If the Giants’ retooled offensive line can be the run-blocking force it promises to be, Gallman could be a beneficiary.
WR Corey Coleman
The G-Men added Coleman midway through 2018 after he was traded by the Cleveland Browns and cut by both the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. He immediately flashed as a kick returner in New York. The 2016 first-rounder averaged 26 yards per kickoff return in eight games that year, and figured to be a special teams fixture in 2019. Unfortunately, Coleman’s season ended before it started when he tore his ACL in training camp. The Giants brought Coleman back on a one-year deal to help boost their return game.
Coleman should be fourth on Big Blue’s receiving depth chart, assuming he holds off the corps of undrafted free agent wideouts. The Baylor product could be pressed into starting duty if injuries crop up at the position like last they did last year. Coleman’s first-round pedigree suggests he has more to give than a typical bench player. His speed could also provide a vertical element that’s lacking at the top of the depth chart. If Coleman fully recovers from his ACL tear, 2020 could be the year he finally realizes his potential.