How the New York Giants can maximize Kadarius Toney in 2021

When the New York Giants traded back in the 2021 NFL draft and landed Kadarius Toney at 20th overall, most were perplexed at the simple fact that general manager Dave Gettleman managed to execute an improbable deal. The Giants added another first-round pick for the 2022 draft, courtesy of the Chicago Bears, but they also managed to grab an offensive weapon in Toney, who offers a unique blend of agility and play-making ability to an offense that ranked last in yards after the catch last year.

However, Toney has received unwarranted negative attention as of late due to a string of unfortunate events, thanks to an equipment mishap with his cleats, leaving practice early due to a family emergency, and his rapping hobby.

Let’s just be happy that Toney is focusing on music rather than putting himself in undesirable situations; queue the DeAndre Baker debacle.

Some analysts, like Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, believe that Toney could disappoint in 2021, but he leaves out context in his evaluation.

Those expecting New York Giants first-round pick Kadarius Toney to be an instant difference-maker in the level of D.K. Metcalf or Justin Jefferson could be disappointed. The Florida product has undeniable speed, but he’s extremely raw as a route-runner.

“His routes can look like one-on-one isolation basketball moves at times, but he has the ability to make instant cuts and break his routes off sharply. He could become a much more creative and consistent route runner in due time,” NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein wrote.

Toney may primarily be a gadget player early in his career, and while there’s value in that, many New York fans may be disappointed that he isn’t an instant 1,000-yard pass-catcher.

What should the New York Giants expect from Toney in 2021?

Very few expect Toney to be a 1000+ yard contributor in his rookie campaign, but rather a change of pace player who operates specifically out of the slot and can be deployed as a gadget player. His versatility on offense should allow coordinator Jason Garrett and his coaching staff to devise more creative game plans and keep defenses on their toes. With a player that forced a 35% missed tackle rate in 2020, the Giants can maximize his shiftiness in the open field and get the ball in his hands with space to work with.

Considering who the Giants added this off-season, they will likely push the field vertically with Kenny Golladay and Darius Slayton on the outside, which will allow Sterling Shepard and Toney to operate with more space in the interior. Taking more defenders out of the box will help the slot receivers and running game but will also take significant pressure off the offensive line. Defenses played cover-1 and cover-0 at an astronomical rate last year, indicating they were sending 5+ blitzers and playing man-coverage across the board. The NFL is a mismatch league, and when you’re sending more 5+ blitzers at five blockers, you’re likely going to have issues.

Last season, Toney caught 70 passes for 984 yards and recorded 11 total touchdowns, showcasing his ability to put points on the board. He’s what Dave Gettleman would call a “touchdown maker” and even referred to him as a “receiver who runs like a running back.”

When you have a player like Toney with such a strong center of gravity and high effort, you can put him in positions to succeed. Ultimately, giving him space to work with and drawing attention to the boundaries will help maximize his potential. With so many weapons to spread the ball to, Toney’s lack of production won’t be a result of his own doing, but rather the scheme trying to feed the ball to Golladay, Saquon Barkley, etc.

It is also positive to see that Kadarius has only dropped two passes in four years, indicating strong hands to go with basketball-like isolation moves. He should be a devastating weapon for the Giants, who focuses on exploiting matchups in the secondary.