This is the 49th in a series of scouting reports in key players who are expected to become free agents on March 13, unless they are re-signed or franchise before then.
News: After playing through something of a disappointing 2011 season in which Hakeem Nicks established a career high for receiving yards and Victor Cruz set club records after an incredible breakout season, Mario Manningham's stock elevated in the postseason. After only 39 catches for 523 yards and four TDs in the regular season, he burst out for 13 catches, 189 yards and touchdowns in each of the first three playoff games as the Giants reached the Super Bowl. That's where he made his biggest contribution, catching five passes for 73 yards, including the 38-yard, toe-tapping reception down the sideline that set up the game-winning drive against the Patriots. Now Manningham, who turns 26 in May, has primed himself for more action in the free-agent market as a result.
Notes: Manningham regressed as a senior at Michigan, productivity-wise, after a monster junior season. He saw his stock fall (after some off-field incidents) and wound up being the Giants' third-round pick in 2008 after at one time being projected as a first-rounder. He struggled to get on the field as a rookie the year after the Giants won the Super Bowl, but he broke out his next two seasons. In '09, Manningham caught 57 passes for 822 yards and five touchdowns, and he bested those numbers the following season with 60-944-9 receiving. He was set up, many believed, for a big '11 season, but Cruz surpassed him on the food chain in New York before Manningham made his biggest contributions as the Giants won a second title in four seasons.
Positives: Manningham doesn't have elite speed, but he can get outside the numbers and be effective downfield. He's smooth with a good first step, able to evade press coverage effectively, and has light, quick feet. Manningham is capable of making highlight-reel catches (witness the Super Bowl grab) with good hands, dancer's feet and good body control. He seems to enjoy the spotlight and often will make big plays when they are needed most.
Negatives: Despite his highlight ability, Manningham also suffers from concentration drops, sloppy routes and lapses throughout games, even after he has made big catches. Manningham (6-0, 185 pounds) also is not sturdily built, occasionally wearing down from season-long contact, and he doesn't run after the catch with great strength or tackle-breaking ability. He also has been immature and moody in the past, occasionally grating on coaches.
Risk factor: Heading into the postseason, it appeared the Giants would at least let Manningham test the market following a disappointing regular season. But his strong work in the playoffs helped raise his stock and probably opened some teams' eyes to view Manningham as more than a No. 3 receiver. That's all he would be in New York alongside Cruz and Nicks, but Manningham might believe he's more than that. He has expressed some desire to return, but a bigger-money offer with a better opportunity from another team — the Buccaneers are one team that reportedly is very interested — could make his decision to leave easier. There's risk because he never has consistently performed as a No. 2 over an extended period of time.