Before the draft, I wrote that the two most pressing needs for the Giants were to improve the pass rush and fortify the offensive line.
General manager Jerry Reese took care of the latter need in Round 1 by selecting versatile Syracuse OL Justin Pugh, a prospect capable of playing either right tackle or on the interior of the offensive line.
In Round 2, he addressed the former, but not in the way that I expected.
While pretty much nobody (including yours truly) projected the Giants to take a defensive tackle in the early rounds of the draft, Big Blue pulled a bit of a surprise with the selection of Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins with the 49th-overall selection.
Let's discuss how Hankins will fit in with the Giants.
In the Eli Manning/Tom Coughlin era, Big Blue has succeeded on defense by punishing the opposing quarterback with wave after wave of pass-rushers. Last season, their defense fell apart down the stretch, largely due to their inability to sack the quarterback. The team recorded only 33 sacks, their lowest total since 2009.
The common denominator between the two seasons? Neither iteration of the team qualified for the postseason.
While Hankins isn't a pass-rusher, he can certainly help the Giants in their quest to attack the quarterback.
Hankins (6'3", 320 lbs) is an absolute monster, with the size and strength to take on the double-team, as well as the athletic ability and quickness to move laterally and make plays from sideline to sideline.
He will join Linval Joseph, Marvin Austin, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson, Shaun Rogers and Markus Kuhn in the Giants' rotation at defensive tackle.
Jenny Vrentas @JennyVrentas
More descriptive Ross on Hankins: "Not a glam-type of guy inside, but he does the dirty work you need in there to occupy people." #nyg2013-4-26 23:52:35
Hankins can occupy the double-team and generate burst up the middle. While he didn't have a prolific sack record at Ohio State (five in three seasons), he won't have to get at the quarterback; he'll just have to take on blockers, create havoc and allow the Giants' defensive ends (Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka) to rush the passer.
Also, let's not discount how this will affect Big Blue's rush defense. The Giants did a poor job of stopping the run last season, finishing 25th in that category. Hankins will occupy space in the middle of the Giants defensive line and should help their run defense immediately.
A bonus for Big Blue? Hankins blocked two kicks last season for the Buckeyes, and he can join Pierre-Paul to give opposing special teams coordinators sleepless nights.
The knock on Hankins is that his junior season, 2012 (four tackles for loss, one sack), wasn't nearly as good as his sophomore campaign in 2011 (11 tackles for loss, three sacks). When he's right, he has the ability to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
Hankins' stamina has also been called into question, and while I believe he has the ability to be a three-down player, he likely won't have to when you consider the Giants' depth at the position.
This pick reeks of "boom or bust," but the Giants don't necessarily need Hankins to be an all-world player.
Again, the Big Blue goal in defense is to attack the opposing signal-caller with wave after wave of quality defensive linemen, and Hankins will be in that rotation from Week 1 on.