Rookie, Undrafted Free Agent Watch for New York Giants' Training Camp
Heading into this year’s NFL draft, the New York Giants were expected to address their two weakest units: cornerback and linebacker. They surprised everyone, however, by not using any of their seven picks on either position.
Instead, Big Blue focused on getting tougher in the trenches, by selecting four players who reside on either the offense or defensive line. They did sign a linebacker and cornerback as undrafted free agents but it is clear that these positions were not as big of a priority as the fans and media perceived.
The following slides will introduce you to the rookies that will be competing for playing time and, in some cases, a spot on the 53-man roster in training camp. The Giants will need contributions from many of these players if they expect to make it back to the playoffs in 2013.
Justin Pugh, LT
- College: Syracuse
- Draft Status: Round 1
- Height: 6'4''
- Weight: 307
- College Production: Three-year starter at left tackle playing in 34 of 38 possible games.
Analysis: The negatives with Justin Pugh are scarce so we might as well get them out of the way first. His short arms have been talked about ad nauseum since the Giants drafted him with the 19th overall pick. His 32-inch arms are at least an inch too short to play the tackle position so he is probably better suited as a guard. He also doesn’t have ideal size to play tackle either.
With that said, he has the tools to be a Pro Bowl-caliber guard in the NFL, especially as a member of Big Blue. His quickness and mobility are a great fit for New York’s zone-blocking scheme. He is a hard-worker, which also plays right into what his new team is all about.
He’ll compete for the right tackle position in training camp against David Diehl and James Brewer. He’ll likely own that role at some point in 2013 with his move to guard coming in 2014 or 2015, when Chris Snee retires and/or Kevin Boothe leaves for greener pastures.
Johnathan Hankins, DT
- College: Ohio State
- Draft Status: Round 2
- Height: 6'3”
- Weight: 320
- College Production: 138 tackles, with 16.5 for a loss, and five sacks in his three-year college career.
Analysis: The only reason Johnathan Hankins fell to the Giants in the second round is due to his stamina. He had a tendency to wear down in a game after too many snaps.
With New York, he will be part of a defensive tackle rotation that will include starters Linval Joseph and Cullen Jenkins. With his snaps under control, Hankins should be a rookie that contributes right away.
His strength and quickness in shaking off blocks projects him to be an elite run-stopper in the NFL. He is not a great pass-rusher but he should be effective at collapsing the pocket, which will make the quarterback move his feet. His pass-rushing ability won’t be too much of a concern, however, in 2013 because he will likely not be on the field in obvious passing situations.
Long-term Hankins will need to build his stamina if he truly wants to be an elite, three-down defensive tackle. For now, he provides the Giants with valuable depth at a position that did not have any bright spots beyond Joseph in 2012.
Damontre Moore, DE
- College: Texas A&M
- Draft Status: Round 3
- Height: 6'4”
- Weight: 250
- College Production: 197 tackles, with 45 for a loss, 26.5 sacks and eight forced fumbles in three years as an Aggie.
Analysis: With the loss of Osi Umenyiora to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, the Giants needed to address defensive end this offseason. They decided the draft was the best way to do it and Damontre Moore was a solid choice.
The 20-year-old is not super athletic and he doesn’t figure to be an explosive player off the edge. He is polished, though, and consistent in getting into the backfield to either sack the quarterback and bring down a running back for a loss.
Moore doesn’t have a ton of upside but it is hard to envision him not being at least an adequate player in the NFL. At worst, he’ll be good for five to seven sacks a season and solid against the run. That isn’t a bad downside for a third round selection.
In 2013, he’ll likely play a lot in passing situations but his destiny is to replace Justin Tuck within the next few years and become a formidable complement to Jason Pierre-Paul.
Ryan Nassib, QB
- College: Syracuse
- Draft Status: Round 4
- Height: 6'2”
- Weight: 227
- College Production: Three-year starter. Threw for 9,190 yards and 70 touchdowns with a completion rate of 60.3 percent. Also only had 28 interceptions.
Analysis: In a vacuum, the Giants did a great job getting Ryan Nassib in the fourth round. He possesses a strong arm, good accuracy and tough leadership to effectively command a huddle. All of these attributes make him a starting-caliber quarterback in the NFL.
The problem is that draft picks can’t be made in a vacuum. Nassib doesn’t fit well on the Giants because they already have a better, more established quarterback in Eli Manning, who is still firmly in his prime. In addition, Manning never gets hurt—literally. He hasn’t missed a game due to injury in his nine-year career.
If their grand plan is to build up Nassib’s value through preseason games and garbage-time minutes in the regular season to facilitate a trade, they are asking for a lot of things to go right.
First, they need Nassib to be good when he plays. Since his playing time will be limited, even when you factor in preseason games, this is a tight window to try to showcase his talent. A few bad outings and the market will likely cool on him very quickly.
Second, even if he does play well, they will need a team desperate enough for a quarterback to give up substantial assets for an unproven player. It worked for the Philadelphia Eagles in the Kevin Kolb trade. Kolb’s major flop in Arizona, though, will probably make teams hesitant to give up much more than a mid-round pick in future trades for an inexperienced signal-callers.
Trading a player who was picked in the fourth round for a mid-round pick doesn’t sound like a winning proposition for the Giants.
Cooper Taylor, S
- College: Richmond
- Draft Status: Round 5
- Height: 6'4”
- Weight: 228
- College Production: Two-year starter at strong safety at Richmond after transferring from Georgia Tech following his sophomore season. Had 78 tackles, four interceptions, 1.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and nine pass defenses as a senior in 2012.
Analysis: Taylor is a great story, as he lands in the NFL less than four years after being diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a heart condition.
His size and athleticism makes him a good value in the fifth round. At this point he is a tweener, since he could continue to play strong safety or slide up to outside linebacker. Either way, head coach Tom Coughlin was intrigued by the possibilities shortly after the draft, as you can see in the quote below, courtesy of Ed Valentine at Big Blue View:
He is a safety by trade but you drop him down in that three-safety package or whatever you want to do in terms of -- you substitute a defense whether he plays an outside backer or whatever. That is all going to have to be determined when we get him in here. We are hoping that he is going to come in and apply all of the tools that he has right away there in the secondary for us.
Taylor’s versatility makes him a virtual lock to land on the 53-man roster. If he plays well and learns quickly in training camp, he’ll have a chance to get some defensive snaps right at the start of the season.
Eric Herman, G
- College: Ohio
- Draft Status: Round 7
- Height: 6'4”
- Weight: 320
- College Production: Started all 40 games his last three years at Ohio. Earned All-MAC second team honors in both his junior and senior seasons.
Analysis: Eric Herman has good strength and nice potential as a productive run-blocker. However, his limited skill-set and inability to play any other position besides guard will hurt his chances of making the 53-man roster.
Herman is simply not quick enough to man either tackle position and he never played center in college. The Giants like their backup offensive lineman to have the flexibility to play multiple positions. Since Herman can’t provide this versatility, he will have to be ultra-impressive in training camp and also probably prove useful on special teams to make the squad.
Herman will be battling the likes of Bryant Browning, Selvish Capers and Matt McCants to secure a spot on the regular season roster.
Michael Cox, RB
- College: Massachusetts
- Draft Status: Round 7
- Height: 6'1”
- Weight: 214
- College Production: Transferred from Michigan to UMass after his junior season. In 2012, he rushed 710 yards and five touchdowns on 198 carries.
Analysis: Despite being the last pick for the Giants in the draft, Cox has a good chance of making the roster.
He possesses good size, sure hands and a decent burst when hitting the hole. It is a little disconcerting that Cox only had 19 carries in his college career before his transfer to UMass. He was productive, however, for the Minutemen—especially considering the team went 1-11 in 2012.
The Giants depth at running back behind David Wilson and Andre Brown is unimpressive at best. Da'Rel Scott has shown nothing in his first two years in the NFL and the last time Ryan Torain was relevant was in 2010, when he rushed for 742 yards and four touchdowns with the Redskins.
If Cox shows any ability in training camp, especially as a pass-catcher, he should surpass both of these players and be in pads Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys.
Undrafted Free Agents
Undrafted free-agent list:
- LSU TE Chase Clement
- Ohio State LB Etienne Sabino
- Virginia Tech S Alonzo Tweedy
- Charleston Southern CB Charles James
Analysis: Etienne Sabino and Charles James are the most intriguing names on this list because the Giants have depth issues at both linebacker and cornerback.
Sabino was never able to put it all together in his college career. After a promising junior season that saw him make 62 tackles and register two sacks, he was limited to only eight games in 2012 due to a broken fibula.
The 22-year-old is a big, physical player who is at his best when fighting through blocks on the inside. He does lack speed, though, making him a liability as an outside linebacker and in nickel situations. He’ll have a chance to make the team but even marginal players like Spencer Paysinger and Aaron Curry will probably beat him out, leaving Sabino to fight for a spot on the practice squad.
James is in a slightly better position than Sabino. He impressed enough in offseason workouts to get some reps as a punt returner. If Terrell Thomas moves over to safety and James outplays Trumaine McBride and Terrence Frederick in training camp, he could win a job as the Giants fifth cornerback. If he can continue to be productive as a punt returner, that will only help his cause.
Versatility is always a fringe player’s best friend.
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