Draft positional preview: Wide receiver

It's imperative that the Giants get Hakeem Nicks back to his best in 2013. Jim O'Connor/US PRESSWIRE

This is the third installment in a position-by-position analysis of the Giants as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Wide receiver.

Depth chart: Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz (restricted free agent tender), Rueben Randle, Louis Murphy, Jerrel Jernigan, Brandon Collins, Kris Adams, Kevin Hardy.

The departed: Domenik Hixon (Carolina), Ramses Barden (free agent).

Scouting report: Nicks was severely limited by injuries last season, and it is imperative that the Giants get their lead receiver back to full strength. Nicks’ big-play ability was missing last season and Eli Manning and the offense suffered without it. Cruz will benefit even more from a healthy Nicks with more room to operate. We’ll have to see how Cruz’s contract situation impacts the receiver if it does at all this season.

The Giants need a third receiver to emerge, and Randle showed in the season finale that he can be that guy. The Giants will need the second-year receiver to continue to improve and work hard toward being what Mario Manningham was for the Giants. Jerry Reese is excited about the prospects of what Murphy might add to the offense as a speedy deep threat. Jernigan is entering his third season and has a chance to see snaps as a fourth receiver. He could also factor in as the team’s kickoff and punt returner.

The last time: The Giants selected Randle in the second round in 2012.

Potential targets: With Nicks, Cruz and Randle, the Giants are set at receiver for this season. But the future isn’t as certain with Nicks entering the final year of his deal and Cruz set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Giants are hoping to lock up both receivers with long-term extensions but money will be an issue. The Giants could also use their franchise tag on Cruz in 2014 if the two sides are unable to agree on an deal.

Still, if the Giants are worried that they might not be able to lock down one of their star receivers, they could draft one. They have much bigger needs (offensive line, pass rusher, cornerback) to address than receiver with the 19th pick. But if Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson or West Virginia’s Tavon Austin were to be there when the Giants select, could one of them be the best player available on Jerry Reese’s board at the time?

The Giants were intrigued by Patterson’s immense potential during the combine, according to a source.

A speedy receiver with return ability would seem to make more sense later in the draft. The Giants could use another receiver for depth with Hixon gone and Barden unsigned.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 4.