When speaking of Eli Manning, it tends to be a hot topic among NFL fans. On one hand, his laid back demeanor has led to criticism among many and his sometimes sloppy play has backed him up. In addition, having to live up to the hype of all-time great Peyton Manning isn’t easy.
But on the other hand, Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP and, despite his knack for interceptions, has gone largely underrated throughout his time in the NFL. Sure, he doesn’t post the best stats, but the fact that he never misses a game and constantly puts his team in the position to win says something about the type of player he is.
But depending on what side of the fence you fall on in the Manning debate, one thing is for certain: he hasn't had the best options at wide receiver to throw to.
Sure, the trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard currently look like one of the best receiving units in the entire league. But for a large portion of his career, Manning hasn’t had top tier targets to help him out when the situation calls for it.
Let’s take a look at some of those receivers.
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15 Tim Carter
When the New York Giants selected Tim Carter in the second round back in 2002, they were expecting a lot out of the receiver. Back at Auburn, Carter wasn’t only a receiver and return specialist, but he also starred on the track team as well. After a decent rookie campaign at Giants Stadium, the sky was the limit as Carter entered his third year with Eli Manning at the helm. Unfortunately, however, Carter failed to live up to expectations as he wasn’t much of a threat by the time Manning became the starting quarterback.
He was a part of the receiving core for three seasons with the Giants, suiting up for only 36 games. Carter only had 44 receptions over that span, good for 621 yards and three touchdowns.
14 Preston Parker
Parker didn’t have a long stint with the Giants, as he spent only two seasons in a Big Blue uniform. His time with the organization, however, was memorable; but unfortunately, it was mostly for the other reasons that players want to be remembered for. Parker’s first year with the Giants was largely successful; he played in all 16 games, caught 36 passes for 418 yards, scored two touchdowns and also contributed on special teams. Entering 2015 as the Giants starting slot receiver, many thought he could capitalize on the year prior.
Instead, Parker lasted just two games before being cut, as he dropped multiple passes in consecutive games in crucial situations. Not the way to stick on a team, and not the way to win Eli Manning over.
13 Sinorice Moss
Due to the success of his brother Santana Moss, there were a lot of high hopes surrounding the younger Sinorice Moss, who was drafted in the second round back in 2006 out of the University of Miami. The speedster figured to help Eli Manning as a slot receiver, while also working as a return man, but injuries ruined his entire career with the Giants. Moss played in four seasons with the team, only scoring three touchdowns on 421 yards, all from Manning. From 2006-2009, he had a reoccurring quad injury, tore his ACL and received a sports hernia, amongst other smaller injury issues. Despite making his way to the Philadelphia Eagles, he never took a snap for the team and his career ended shortly thereafter.
12 Ramses Barden
The Giants were looking for a large target for Eli Manning, both in the vertical game and in the red zone. The organization’s choice for the job was Ramses Barden, who they traded up to get in the third round back in 2009. The idea worked on paper, as the 6’6” Barden seemed like an ideal player for the job. Unfortunately, an underwhelming career was the outcome for the promising receiver. He only played in 29 games in four seasons with the Giants, collecting 394 yards on 29 catches. Outside of a nine-catch, 138-yard game back in 2012, his struggles on the field combined with a broken ankle set Barden back. He joined the practice squad with both the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, but Barden never saw NFL playing time outside of his stint with the Giants.
11 Louis Murphy
Back in 2013, the Giants were looking for a true vertical threat in their passing game, someone who can sprint passed defensive backs and find his way into the end zone with ease. The team thought they found that answer for Eli Manning in the form of Louis Murphy, who came to the team after a spending time with the Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers. The signing backfired, however, as Murphy failed to provide the game he lent to his former employers. In his lone season with the Giants, Murphy didn’t help Manning out too much as he had six receptions, 37 yards and a touchdown in 14 games. Despite general manager Jerry Reese hyping the signing before the season began, Murphy never meshed well with the Giants and went on to have a decent two year stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the following seasons.
10 Adrien Robinson
Okay, I’m going to cheat just a little bit here. Although Adrien Robinson was a tight end and not a wide receiver, he was drafted to the Giants because of his ability as a pass catcher. Unfortunately, he hardly played during his time with the organization. Drafted out of Cincinnati in the 4th round back in 2012, GM Jerry Reese proclaimed Robinson “the JPP of tight ends,” because of his natural ability and freakish athleticism. Despite the hype, Giants fans never saw the benefits. Robinson was a target for Manning from 2012-2014, and over that span he caught just five balls for 50 yards and a touchdown, all in his final year. After being cut by the Giants in 2014, Robinson was signed by the New York Jets but released shortly thereafter.
9 Michael Jennings
If one thing is for sure, you can’t knock Michael Jennings for trying. The NFL wide receiver never even played college football, as he was a track star for Jacksonville State. His speed was so impressive, however, that football teams decided to give him a shot to make the roster. After brief stints with the San Francisco 49ers, the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens, Jennings was scooped up by the Giants and placed in NFL Europe to gain some experience. After his time overseas, the speedster finally made his way to an NFL field, making an in-game appearance in 2006. But right when he started to look like a viable option at the position, Jennings ruptured his achilles tendon, all but ending his playing career.
8 Derek Hagan
A product out of Arizona State University, Derek Hagan’s tremendous college career had many pegging him for a strong NFL career. His stock dropped in the Senior Bowl, however, as a number of drops and poor routes led to a third round selection. After spending time on the bench as a rookie with the Miami Dolphins, Hagan followed it up with a decent sophomore campaign. Hagan ended up being released midway through his third season, and the Giants - who needed receiver help for Manning and also wanted a low-risk, high-reward signing - scooped up Hagan in 2008. In his two-plus seasons in blue, Hagan failed to live up to his hype from college, scoring just two touchdowns while being a backup receiver for the Giants.
7 Travis Beckum
Despite being noted as a tight end on the depth chart, there’s no denying that Travis Beckum was more of a receiver than a tight end. Another product of the Giants draft selections (third round pick in 2010), Beckum, a Wisconsin Badger, was a poor run blocker, making him a threat in the passing game and nothing else. He lined up in the slot a lot of the time, but despite a good matchup against safeties and linebackers, he failed to make an impact.
Beckum played in just 48 games between 2009-2012, only catching 26 passes for 264 yards. In addition to his poor stats, Beckum hardly gave Manning the type of target necessary to score, as he only compiled three touchdowns over that span as well.
6 Mario Manningham
Despite being an elite college receiver with the University of Michigan, Mario Manningham failed to be a good choice for most teams due to his marijuana use and classroom issues. The Giants, however, were in need of options for Manning to throw to, and they took a risk by taking Manningham in the third round of the 2008 draft. To be fair, the receiver did post decent numbers in his first four seasons with the Giants (160 receptions, 2,315 yards, 18 touchdowns), and he also made one of the most clutch catches in Super Bowl history. With all that said, Manningham’s talent paralleled some of the best in the game and he was never able to put it all together.
After leaving the Giants and signing with the San Francisco 49ers, Manningham had a devastating knee injury, making him a shadow of his former self.
5 Hakeem Nicks
Like Manningham, Hakeem Nicks didn’t have a terrible career with the Giants, and was at one point Manning’s favorite target. His problem, however, lied in his ability to stay healthy, hampering a once promising NFL career. The organization took Hicks in the first round back in 2009 and he became a threat almost immediately. After posting back-to-back 1,000-plus yard seasons in 2010-2011, Nicks was looking like one of the NFL’s next elite receivers.
Injuries unfortunately slowed his career down, as his numbers were cut in half over the next two years and the Giants let his contract expire as a result. He tried to make a comeback with the Indianapolis Colts and had a subpar year but still didn’t resemble his dominant self. Nicks came back to the Giants in 2015 but was largely relegated to the bench and is now a free agent.
4 Jerrel Jernigan
Talk about a huge disappointment. Despite coming out of a small school like Troy University, Jerrel Jernigan was a jack-of-all-trades for his team, as he worked as a receiver, returner and even ran out of the backfield as well. Drawing comparisons similar to Wes Welker at the time, the Giants used their third round pick back in 2011 to get him. For the longest time, Manning and the offensive coaching staff tried to make Jernigan comfortable as they designed specific plays both in the backfield and out of the slot for him.
Unfortunately, however, he underwhelmed, as he caught just 38 balls for 391 yards in his career while also being a non-factor as a returner. There’s no denying that the Giants tried to make him an integral part of the offense, but for one reason or another, Jernigan struggled to do so.
3 David Tyree
Giants fans, don’t get mad - I know what David Tyree means to the organization, and if it wasn’t for his tremendous helmet catch and touchdown in Super Bowl XLII, the New England Patriots would be the greatest team in the history of sports. But outside of that game, Tyree failed to be the receiver that the Giants thought he could be when he came out of Syracuse. From 2003-2007, he never caught more than 19 passes in a season, totaling just 650 yards and four touchdowns over that span.
While Tyree did excel in the special teams aspect of the game, he never was able to become even a secondary target of Manning, despite racking up 1,214 yards with the Orange. Tyree will forever live in the Giants lore, but it will never be because of his ability as a receiver.
2 Brandon Myers
After the Giants won their first Super Bowl of the 21st century with replacement Kevin Boss as one of Manning’s favorite targets, the organization believed that the tight end position could be a revolving door. They thought they solved their issue when they inked Brandon Myers to a team friendly four-year, $14.25 million deal after a breakout season with the Oakland Raiders. Instead of capitalizing on his best season to date, Myers ended up being one of the worst free agent signings in team history.
Failing to mesh with Manning and the offense, Myers was a near non-factor in the passing game (47 receptions, 522 yards, four touchdowns) while failing in the blocking game as well. Myers lasted just one season with the Giants, putting an end to a once promising-turned-disappointing signing.
1 Rueben Randle
Who else could take the cake as Eli Manning’s worst receiver? Like Manningham and Nicks, Randle was a top receiving threat when playing collegiately at Louisiana State University, and the Giants - at the time - were lucky enough to snag him in the second round. Despite the condition of his knees and maturity issues, Randle succeeded…on paper. In his four seasons with the Giants, he hauled in 188 passes for 2,644 yards, good for 20 touchdowns. But when watching the game, it was another story.
Randle failed to complete routes, didn’t compete for balls and looked lazy a lot of the time, resulting in a ton of interceptions credited to Manning but should have been given to Randle. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason but was cut before the regular season began.
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