There are few things that get a fanbase as excited as a rookie having a breakout season. Not only does it inspire incredible hope among fans, but getting great production from a rookie is a great advantage for a team. Rookies are relatively inexpensive and cost-controlled for four or five years, giving the team an advantage in cap flexibility.
The flip side of that coin is that there are few things more frustrating than a highly-drafted rookie coming out and having a poor season. Teams need production from their early draft picks as soon as possible, and not getting it can put a lot of stress on the rest of the team and the front office as a whole.
Sam Monson over at Pro Football Focus put together a list of 10 sophomores who are under pressure after disappointing rookie season. New York Giants’ wide receiver Kadarius Toney is one of those players. Toney’s rookie season was certainly disappointing, with the receiver managing just 420 yards — and 0 touchdowns — in 10 games.
Let’s see what Monson had to say.
WR KADARIUS TONEY, NEW YORK GIANTS
It’s never a great sign when the team drafts a player that appears to be a natural replacement for someone who was drafted at the same position the year before, but that’s the reality facing Toney after the Giants selected Wan’Dale Robinson in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Toney flashed unbelievable talent as a rookie but has struggled to stay on the field. Additionally, there has been quiet chatter about his attitude and dedication. Toney was always going to be a difficult player to mesh seamlessly with an NFL offense due to his unique talent and playing style, but now, he has to show he can do that and stave off the threat of another unusual athlete for a new regime in New York. Toney has incredible ability with the ball in his hands but is already under pressure entering Year 2.
Is Kadarius Toney under pressure to keep his job this season? Yeah, he probably is. Even before we get to the Giants’ roster construction as a whole, it’s worth remembering that ownership did a clean sweep of the front office and coaching staff. There are very few players on this roster in whom the new regime has any investment. That could mean that everyone on the roster is in a battle for their jobs.
Monson points out that the Giants selected a very similar player in this year’s draft. Wan’Dale Robinson had a very similar college career as Toney. Both started out as “gadget” players who weren’t true receivers. They both moved around the offensive formation and were schemed touches on sweeps, bubble screens, pitches, and various “trick play” concepts. They both played much more of a “receiver” role in their senior seasons before going to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Both players are undersized (Robinson more-so than Toney) and base their game around stop-start quickness.
Beyond even Robinson — who is a pretty direct analogue for Toney — the Giants also have Sterling Shepard, C.J. Board, Richie James, and Austin Proehl, all of whom offer a similar skill set.
So that’s obviously a skill set Brian Daboll, Mike Kafka, and Joe Schoen want around, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Toney is a lock to provide it. He can’t afford a repeat of his rookie season. While he had a good game against New Orleans Saints and a great game against the Dallas Cowboys, Toney’s other eight games totaled just 35 catches for 153 yards (with no touchdowns).
Toney has talent — perhaps not to the hyperbolic level that Monson suggests, but Toney’s certainly talented. However, he needs to get on the field consistently and produce consistently when he’s on the field.