'Good Morning Football' picks Victor Cruz as one of greatest UDFA stories
Former Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz's rise from an undrafted rookie free agent to an All-Pro and Super Bowl champion is truly a remarkable story.
Following a successful career at the University of Massachusetts in which he was twice named First-Team All-CAA, Cruz was not selected in the 2010 NFL Draft. He signed with the Giants the following day and reported to training camp later that summer with hopes of simply making the team.
Cruz would go on to put up outstanding numbers that preseason. In the third preseason game against the New York Jets, the wide receiver caught six passes for 145 yards and three touchdowns while playing on ESPN's Monday Night Football national broadcast. He finished the preseason with a league-high 297 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. His performance earned him a spot on the Giants' 53-man roster.
While a hamstring injury prevented him from seeing the field in his rookie campaign, Cruz exploded in 2011. He caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards and nine touchdowns, and tied the record for the longest reception in NFL history when he took a pass from Eli Manning 99 yards for a touchdown against the Jets. He was named Second-Team All-Pro that year while helping lead the Giants to a victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
Cruz played six seasons with the Giants, catching 303 passes for 4,549 yards and 25 touchdowns in 70 games (53 starts). He ranks 11th in franchise history in both receptions and receiving yards.
NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” crew took a look at some of the all-time greatest undrafted free agent stories. Cruz was selected as one of these top UDFA stories, joining the likes of Kurt Warner, Antonio Gates and Tony Romo.
"I'm amazed to look back at the footage of Victor Cruz in the preseason as an undrafted rookie free agent because his number was No. 3!" NFL Network's Peter Schrager said. "This is Rhett Bomar throwing him touchdowns passes against the Jets. This is on Monday Night Football. Victor Cruz had three touchdowns, had the game of his life, national television.
"It was so good that LeBron James tweeted about him during this game. Now, Victor Cruz and LeBron James could probably go get a drink right now and be buddies. At the time, that was unheard of for an undrafted rookie out of University of Massachusetts. Victor's story is incredible. He's a Patterson, New Jersey kid. He's a local legend. For anybody who's ever met Victor Cruz, they will tell you he's the same guy that he was during that preseason game that he is now when he's on these YouTube videos with Cam Newton, Odell Beckham and the rest. I love Victor Cruz as a guy and also love his story. Victor Cruz is my favorite undrafted story."
Could one of this year's UDFA signings turn into the next Victor Cruz? Check out all of the Giants' undrafted rookie free agents in the gallery below.
View photos of every undrafted free agent signed by the Giants.
Evan Engram lands on NFL.com's list of Top 10 tight ends
Evan Engram enjoyed a strong start to the 2019 season before an injury forced him to miss the second half of the year.
The tight end began his third season in the NFL by catching 11 of 14 targets for 116 yards and a touchdown in the season opener against the Cowboys. Two weeks later, he caught six passes for 113 yards and Daniel Jones' first career passing touchdown, a 75-yard catch-and-run to the house, against the Buccaneers.
Unfortunately, a foot injury caused him to miss the final eight games of 2019. The 25-year-old finished the year with 44 receptions for 467 yards and three touchdowns in eight games (six starts).
When he is on the field, Engram is one of the top tight ends in the league. In 15 games as a rookie, he caught 64 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns, earning a selection to the Pro Football Writers Association's All-Rookie Team.
Former Giant and NFL.com analyst David Carr ranked the NFL's top 10 tight ends. Despite missing significant time last season, Engram landed on the list, coming in at No. 10.
As Carr writes, "Make no mistake, the fourth-year pro is a nightmare matchup in the passing game as a crafty route runner and asset in the run game (much like Ertz). With a full recovery from knee and foot injuries that forced him to miss the second half of last season, Engram is in good position to have a career year as quarterback Daniel Jones continues to develop."
How good can Giants offense be under Jason Garrett?
Daniel Jones enjoyed a solid rookie season last year, completing nearly 62.0 percent of his passes for 3,010 yards and 24 touchdowns in just 12 starts. He finished only three touchdowns shy of Baker Mayfield's all-time rookie mark of 27 touchdowns set in 2018. Jones' stats are even more impressive when considering that he did not have his full arsenal of playmakers on the field at the same time at any point during the season.
The Giants' five key offensive playmakers – running back Saquon Barkley, wide receivers Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Darius Slayton and tight end Evan Engram – were not all on the field together for a single snap in 2019.
Despite that fact, the group is being praised for its talent and depth. ESPN’s Bill Barnwell recently ranked the offensive weapons for all 32 teams across the league, and the Giants came in at No. 7.
With training camp right around the corner, all of the Giants' skill-position players are healthy and ready to get to work under new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
Garrett experienced a ton of offensive success during his tenure in Dallas. The Cowboys finished in the league's top 10 in yards eight times and were in the top half of the NFL in yards all but twice during the 13 years he spent with the franchise. The Cowboys' offense also finished in the top seven in points in seven of those seasons.
ESPN’s Jordan Raanan recently listed some of the key Giants storylines heading into training camp. One of the first questions asked was how good can the offense be with all of its playmakers on the field and Garrett calling the plays?
According to Raanan, the Giants could sport one of the league's better offensive units if everyone can stay healthy.
As the article states, "ESPN's Bill Barnwell recently had the Giants seventh among all teams in his rankings of the NFL's best weapons. Combine that with an offensive line that added Andrew Thomas with the No. 4 overall pick along with the addition of Garrett, and this should be a pretty potent offense -- much better than the unit that ranked 25th in offensive efficiency last season. In Garrett's first year as Cowboys' offensive coordinator in 2007, Dallas ranked fourth in offensive efficiency; he had a strong group of weapons (Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, Jason Witten and Marion Barber). Fielding a top-10 offense with this year's Giants group is hardly out of the question. Of course, the big caveat is if the Giants stay healthy. Jones didn't play a single snap with his top weapons all of last season."
View photos of all skill position players on the Giants' 90-man roster.