Victor Cruz was an undrafted free agent when he joined the Giants in 2010. He made a name for himself in the first preseason game of that year by going off for 145 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Jets who were being featured on Hard Knocks. At one point in the show you even heard Rex Ryan saying into the headset “Hey here’s an idea how about we stop number 3 from getting the ball” (he played as #3 before he took on the #80). Cruz was unstoppable that preseason hauling in a few one-handed catches of his own.
Cruz suffered a major tear of his hamstring that year and was placed on IR before he got the chance to take the field in the regular season. He had to wait until the following year and his opportunity came with injuries to Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks which allowed him to get on to the field.
Odell Beckham is all the rage now but Cruz’s first full season was something just as special. In fact, if you treat it as his true rookie season (as he sat out all of 2010) his 82/1,536/9 season would have been the most ever by a rookie beating out Bill Groman’s record set in 1960 by a full 63 yards. He went on to win a Super Bowl that year and fittingly scored a touchdown in an epic performance against the Patriots.
At 28 years old he should be in his prime. If things had been different, Cruz and Beckham would have given the Giants a nightmare one-two punch in the air. Opposing defenses would have to pick their poison as to who they would want to double and it would make for some very long games for their NFC East division opponents.
But that is not the case. Cruz tore his patella tendon in Week 6 last year and unfortunately has a very long uphill road to climb to make it back to anything close to the player he was before. Patella tears are extremely rare injuries very difficult to overcome. In our database of injuries that goes back to 2007 we have only six instances of this injury occurring.
o Cadillac Williams’ injury occurred in 2007. In 2006 he began to slide after his best season in 2005. His return in 2008 was met with another tear. He did play again for another two seasons but was only a backup
o DuJuan Harris’ injury occurred in 2013. In 2014, he only had 16 attempts for 64 yards and no touchdowns. He was released in the offseason and is now with the Minnesota Vikings.
o Dustin Keller (who to be fair tore his ACL and MCL in the same injury) Keller probably had the worst of all injuries. He basically tore every tendon in his knee. He never played again.
o Austin Collie injured his patella tendon in 2012. Collie returned in 2013 with the New England Patriots and started one contest. He caught six passes for 63 yards and no touchdowns. He was then cut from the team. Even though he got looks from other teams in 2014, he didn’t catch on anywhere after a preseason cut by the San Francisco 49ers.
o Brandon Gibson tore his tendon in October of 2013. In the seven games he played prior to injuring it, he had 30 receptions for 326 yards and three touchdowns. In prior seasons he typically caught anywhere from 80-90 receptions with two or more touchdowns. In his return in 2014, he caught 29 passes for 251 yards and just one touchdown. He was released in the offseason and claimed by the Patriots.
o Ryan Williams was a second round draft choice for the Arizona Cardinals. Then in a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers in 2011, he ruptured his patellar tendon. He played in five games in 2012 and rushed 58 times for 164 yards (2.8 yards per carry average) and caught seven passes for 44 yards and no touchdowns. He was eventually cut, picked up by the Cowboys and then released without being able to take the field in OTAs due to knee swelling.
We were able to find one other player who suffered the injury and he did have a positive outcome after surgery. Nate Allen who tore his patella in 2010 has been able to continue to play at a high level, improving on his tackle numbers from before the injury.
Reports from Giants camp about Victor Cruz’s rehab have been glowing as you would expect them to be. However, based on the tiny sample of previous athletes who have undergone this procedure it’s highly unlikely Cruz is able to come even close to the magic he was able to produce in his 2011 and 2012 seasons. Our injury probability for Cruz is not as high as you might expect it to be and that is purely because players who have ruptured their patellas don’t necessarily get injured again as they’re usually unable to take the field in a meaningful way.
At best we’re looking at him playing a situational role as a possession receiver with very few if any yards after contact. At his 9th round ADP there are better options.
In doing some research for this article I found this five-minute documentary that shows just how special his first year was and gives an idea of what could have been.