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Giants Now: Sterling Shepard makes PFF's list of highest-graded WRs

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Sterling Shepard makes PFF's list of top WRs

Sterling Shepard put together a rather efficient campaign in 2020.

Shepard played in 12 games this past season after a toe injury forced him to miss a four-game stretch early in the year. Despite the absence, he still matched his career-high of 66 receptions set in 2018, finishing with 656 yards and three touchdowns. He also added six rush attempts for 49 yards and an additional touchdown.

The fifth-year receiver's 66 receptions came on just 90 targets, giving him a career-high 73.3 catch percentage. This was one of the highest catch percentages in the league among wide receivers with at least 75 targets.

Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash examined the analytics site's 25 highest-graded wide receivers of the 2020 regular season, and Shepard made the list at No. 23.

As Treash writes, "Shepard closed out his 2020 campaign with his two best games of the entire season, subsequently squeaking him into the top 25 with a 79.6 PFF grade for the year. He was one of 85 wide receivers to see at least 80 targets this season, and among that group, he was 11th in the percentage of catchable passes caught at 94.3%. Shepard hardly did anything vertically in Jason Garrett's offense, but he jumped to 16th in receiving grade on non-vertical route targets."

Rookie Report: How Giants rookies fared in 2020

The regular season is in the books. Let's see what the Giants' rookie class did in 2020. All advanced statistics are courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

Andrew Thomas

After a slow start to the season, Thomas improved his play in the season's final 2 1/2 months. Thomas allowed at least four pressures in six of his first seven games. Over the final nine games, he only allowed four pressures in a game three times; 39 of the 60 pressures he allowed came in the first seven games. He allowed no pressures in three of his final six games.

Over the course of the season, Thomas allowed ten sacks, nine quarterback hits, and 41 quarterback hurries. He finished with a 94.3 pass block efficiency and a 9.8% pressure rate. In his final nine games, those numbers improve to a 96.2 pass blocking efficiency and a 6.1% pressure rate.

There was improvement from Thomas throughout the year in his technique, which limited the number of times he got beat inside. 

"For me," Thomas said, "the thing that stands out the most would probably be the inside move. Obviously, in the beginning, that was something I really struggled with. With oversetting, that's something I've been working on over the last few weeks trying to get better at. I think that's made the biggest difference."

Xavier McKinney

A foot injury kept McKinney off the field until Week 12, when the Giants visited Cincinnati. He only played 26 snaps (12 on defense) the first two weeks. He played 131 snaps from Week 14 through Week 16, with all but two snaps coming on defense. He finished the year playing a career-high 80 snaps (74 on defense) against the Cowboys.

The Giants were not afraid to line him up in different areas of the field. He had 82 snaps at free safety, and 84 as the nickel. He also played 47 snaps around the line of scrimmage and inside the tackle box. His versatility allowed him to act as a man-coverage player, deep zone player, short zone player, and helper against the run.

McKinney had an interception (and another that was called back) and a pass defended in coverage. In his six games, he allowed seven reception on 10 targets for only 47 yards. He finished the year with 24 tackles and two quarterback hurries.

On special teams, McKinney played on the kick return, kick coverage and punt return units.

View some of the best photos of the Giants' rookies throughout the 2020 season as the team enters the offseason.