When the New York Giants selected University of Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt in the third round, it seemed like a major value pick given Hyatt’s college production and mock draft projections.
However, from his slide down the draft boards, it was clear that some teams had concerns about the Fred Biletnikoff Award winner for college football’s best receiver. Those concerns were highlighted in the NFL Films series “Hey Rookie,” where, during Tennessee’s Pro Day, Hyatt is recorded having a conversation with Dallas Cowboys wide receivers coach Robert Prince, where Prince questions whether Hyatt is more than just a deep threat.
"Do you not see me coach?"@JalinHyatt is confident in his route running ability 😤#HeyRookie | @Vol_Football pic.twitter.com/TtmRiMrNa7
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) April 26, 2023
“You know what you are,” Prince tells Hyatt. “You have a skillset. It’s your speed.”
When Hyatt also says, “I can run routes though,” Prince answers back, “We’re about to see.”
While Hyatt’s frustration in the video is clear, he has also been direct in his post-draft interviews at Giants facilities about his desire to prove that he is not a one-dimensional receiver. When asked directly what type of wide receiver role he sees himself playing for the Giants, Hyatt said, “Really anywhere…Wherever Coach wants me at, that’s where I’m going to play.”
“I’m not going to come in here and say I only play slot, or I only want to play outside,” he added. “That’s why I said I’m dynamic and explosive. I want to play everywhere…I’m going to do what I have to do.”
At the University of Tennessee, Hyatt wasn’t simply asked to be a deep threat, and he was clear to address that he’s played in multiple systems throughout his career.
“We did run a little different things [at Tennessee], but at the same time, I played in pro-style offense before,” he said. “It’s not like I always play spread my whole – I’ve played pro-style offense. I understand what I have to do and the roles to it.”
Still, coming into the NFL Draft, Hyatt was aware of his reputation as a vertical threat. Despite considering himself “probably the best deep threat receiver in the draft,” he also continued working hard to diversify his skillset.
“That’s really what I was working on, just com[ing] from a different system, just getting used to more complex routes… I’m very capable of doing what I have to do.”
Hyatt also models his game on another receiver and fellow Fred Biletnikoff Award winner who was doubting coming out of college.
“I was very big on DeVonta Smith,” Hyatt admitted to Giants reporters. “I think he has a lot of capabilities that I have. Slim build, long arms, explosive, dynamic, gets open 24/7. He’s consistent in how he catches the ball. He’s a consistent receiver and a guy that makes plays, and that’s what I want to do.”
Despite also being called too slim or just a vertical threat, Smith put up 1,196 yards on 95 catches for the Eagles this year with seven touchdowns. If the Giants are able to get anything close to that production from Hyatt, they’ll be ecstatic.
Hyatt himself has faith that he can deliver, no matter who is putting him in a box or questioning his skill set. It doesn’t matter if it’s by college coaches that thought he was too thin or NFL coaches that think he’s pure speed. Proving people wrong is something Hyatt relishes.
“I love it when I’m counted out,” he said on the night of the draft. “I really believe I’m the best receiver in the draft. It doesn’t matter where I was slotted at.”
A few days later, on his first trip to New York, he doubled down on his desire to thank the Giants for their faith in him.
“Now it’s time to actually get down and grind and do what I have to do,” he said. “The Giants traded up to get me and that’s something I’ll always remember, and I can’t wait to go out and show up for them.”
If he happens to show up against a certain Cowboys coach, that would just make it even sweeter.