The New York Giants may have found a serious gold mine in the form of a failed Denver Bronco.
Cody Latimer, a 2014 second-round draft pick, has a legitimate shot at starting out wide opposite Odell Beckham Jr.
The Giants love to operate in three-receiver sets and when all three are solid, the offense reaches new heights. After Victor Cruz couldn’t stay healthy and Brandon Marshall failed in the role, Big Blue has an intriguing new option in Latimer.
While Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard are the two top dogs, Shepard lines up in the slot, giving Latimer the clear-chance at a starting role on the outside.
More importantly, neither Beckham or Shepard stand over six-feet tall, nor weigh north of 200 pounds. Latimer, on the other hand, stands at 6’2” and weighs 215 pounds, numbers the Giants haven’t had in a big weapon with his level of athleticism.
Latimer’s 40-yard dash time came in at 4.39 before the NFL Draft, and he was just barely removed from a procedure on his foot. At the 2014 combine, he hoisted 23 reps on the bench, showing that his size and speed didn’t cost him his strength.
Those intriguing numbers make one wonder why he flamed out in Denver, failing to latch on next to Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.
The answer to that question actually isn’t all that complicated. He always had someone breathing down his neck for reps ever since he arrived in the pros.
In his first campaign, he shared backup reps with Andre Caldwell, which was an issue considering the Broncos weren’t all too content on operating in four-receiver sets. Wes Welker’s last year in Denver was in 2014, so Caldwell and Latimer fended for a minimal role.
Latimer fell on the short end of the platoon with the experienced veteran. He only garnered four targets in 2014 despite playing in eight games.
Though Welker left, Caldwell stayed around the year after and it was more of the same for Latimer, who managed just six receptions on 11 targets in 2015.
With Caldwell gone in 2016, Latimer didn’t have to fend him off for targets. However, he had competition from Bennie Fowler, Jordan Norwood, and Jordan Taylor. Latimer missed time that season and Fowler stepped into the third role admirably, leaving just eight grabs on 15 targets for Latimer.
Last season, things got a lot more interesting. Emmanuel Sanders suffered a handful of injuries that sidelined him fully for four games and also missed parts of a few others. Latimer and Fowler split that time, though Fowler had the edge thanks to his play in 2016. Latimer carved out his biggest impact as a pro, breaking through for 287 yards and an average of 15.1 yards per reception, but was now the fourth option with Fowler producing.
However, Fowler totaled 350 yards on 29 receptions, just less than Latimer’s 31 targets. Fowler averaged 12.1 yards per catch, three whole yards less than Latimer’s average. With Latimer producing but in limited quantities and Fowler racking up catches for uninspiring yardage totals, the Broncos elected to move on from both of them.
This past offseason, Denver selected Courtland Sutton from Southern Methodist (SMU) and DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State’s all-time leading receiver, in the draft. Fowler moved on to the Chicago Bears, competing for reps with Kevin White, Javon Wims, Marlon Brown, and Joshua Bellamy behind the starters, Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel.
Latimer will get a fresh start with Eli Manning and the Giants, seeking to get the starting role opposite Beckham in a chokehold. Shepard has little-to-no competition in the slot, so the trio of Beckham, Shepard, and Latimer should be the starting three-receiver set come September, of course barring injury.
The Indiana product also is one of the few players to catch passes from both Peyton and Eli Manning. Those are just about two of the best people to learn from and work with as a receiver.
He has shown flashes throughout his brief career but has yet to firmly latch onto a prominent role. The statistics are there in limited quantities, and increased involvement would suggest healthy numbers.
In New York, he’ll have a chance to do so, working as a starting option in what may be one of the league’s most lethal aerial assaults.