Malik Nabers primed to be difference maker for Giants

Malik Nabers changes plenty for the Giants, and perhaps for Daniel Jones. He will drag the Giants out of the offensive Dark Ages and point them in the direction of the end zone. He will make Brian Daboll a better play-caller. He will make the Giants more fun to watch.

Nabers is a difference-maker.

But how much of a difference will the much-ballyhooed receiver from LSU be able to make for this team and for this quarterback?

Malik Nabers, who is expected to be a difference maker for the Giants, runs a drill during practice. Noah K. Murray / New York Post

“I think he can be a tremendous weapon for us,” Jones said at minicamp. “He can do everything, there’s not much he can’t do really from a route-running standpoint. He’s dynamic either way the ball in his hands, and strong, fast, explosive, catches the ball well. Yeah, he does a lot well.”

Jones will have the fastest, quickest set of receivers he has had in his six-year career, but it is Nabers who is his first true No. 1. It is Nabers who was drafted to replace Saquon Barkley as the Giants’ most feared playmaker.

“I feel like there’s no pressure,” Nabers said. “I mean, I’ve been playing football all my life, I’m just trying to stay up with the guys here, put the competition that those older guys want to see out of me. I’m just trying to be me, trying to level my game every day that I’m out here.”

I asked him how much of an impact he thinks he can make as a rookie.

“I’m not sure,” Nabers said. “I can only be a great teammate to the guys here, help my team win some football games, do anything that Coach Daboll wants me to do in the offense.”

Does he consider himself a difference-maker?

“Yes, of course,” Nabers said, “but right now I’m just trying to get the offense down.”

Daniel Jones, throwing a pass during practice, is expected to benefit from having a weapon such as Malik Nabers. Noah K. Murray / New York Post

He electrified Thursday’s practice the way Odell Beckham Jr. used to a decade ago during his rookie season.

“When I’m out there on the field, the level of competition rises at it’s highest,” Nabers said. “I bring the dog, I bring the juice when I’m out there.”

Message to Jones and Daboll: Just give him the damn ball.

Asked about his on-field attributes, Nabers said, “Speed, tremendous catch radius … that’s really it. I guess they have to see come gameday.”

There are too many variables from one year to the next, from one decade or one era to the next, to the more pass-happy current NFL, for anyone to fancy himself as any Nostradamus.

A look back at how much rookie receivers drafted in the first round have impacted a team’s success:

Beckham had 91 receptions, 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns, but the Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning Giants slumped from 7-9 to 5-11 in 2014.

CeeDee Lamb went 74-935-5, but the Cowboys dropped from 8-8 to 6-10 in 2020, after Dak Prescott (ankle) played just five games.

Justin Jefferson was 88-1,400-7, but the Kirk Cousins Vikings slipped from 10-6 to 7-9 in 2020.

Garrett Wilson was 83-1,103-4 in 2022, but the Jets finished 7-10 after 4-13.

Julio Jones was 54-959-8 and helped the Falcons to a 10-6 record and 2011 wild-card playoff loss to the Giants, following a 13-3 season and a divisional-round playoff loss in 2010.

Mike Evans was 68-1,051-12 in 2014, but the Buccaneers dropped from 4-12 to 2-14 … with QBs Mike Glennon and Josh McCown.

Malik Nabers catches a pass during Giants’ practice. Noah K. Murray / New York Post

The grand slam home run was Ja’Marr Chase, who was 81-1,455-13 to help Joe Burrow and the 2021 Bengals to a Super Bowl. Chase’s 368 postseason receiving yards set a rookie record, breaking the previous record of 242 set by Torry Holt in 1999.

Sammy Watkins was 65-982-6 and helped the Bills improve from 6-10 to 9-7 in 2014.

A.J. Green was 65-1,067-7 and helped the Bengals improve to 9-7 after 4-12 in 2010.

Turn back the clock:

Jerry Rice was 49-927-3, but the 1985 Niners went 10-6 and lost a 1985 wild-card playoff game to the Giants after winning the Super Bowl a year earlier.

Calvin “Megatron” Johnson was 48-756-4 and helped the Lions improve from 3-13 to 7-9 in 2007.

Nabers has been the talk of the offseason.

“He’s gonna have a great career,” LB Bobby Okereke said.

The kid wearing No. 9: Getcha popcorn ready, Giants fans.

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