Fullback Henry Hynoski, who in 2012 had his best season of his short career, looked to be on his way toward becoming one of the top fullbacks in the NFL.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he graded out with an 8.0 overall mark, the eighth-best mark of all fullbacks. He also posted a 7.6 grade in blocking, the fifth-best grade of all fullbacks in 2012, blocking for 15 of the team’s 18 rushing touchdowns.
In pass protection, he allowed just one quarterback hit. As a receiver, he caught 11 of the 15 balls thrown his way for 50 yards and a touchdown.
However, a freak accident during the team’s first OTA of 2013 left him with a chip fracture of his lateral plateau and a MCL injury in his left knee. Those injuries required surgery and weeks of rehab.
Hynoski started training camp on the physically unable to perform list, but was determined to be ready by opening day. When he realized that goal and was on the field against Dallas in Week 1, he had his worst game as a pro.
He finished with a -1.5 mark from PFF in the 13 snaps he played, and missed a rare block on a defender who went on to cause one of David Wilson’s two lost fumbles in that game.
Hynoski, who never really looked like he had much of a burst, followed that game with overall grades from PFF that included 0.4 in Week 2 and 0.5 in Weeks 3.
His season came to an end in that Week 3 game against Carolina when he suffered a fractured left shoulder that, according to Conor Orr of the Newark Star-Ledger, he had surgery for.
The Giants brought in John Conner, who had been cut by the Bengals after training camp ended. Interestingly, Conner was signed to a two-year contract instead of the normal one-year deal most every other street free agent signed for depth received from the Giants last year.
Once Conner got a handle on the Giants’ offense, he did well, finishing with a 9.0 overall grade from PFF and a 7.0 run-blocking grade in 245 snaps.
He also caught six of the eight passes thrown his way for 31 yards, and, like Hynoski did in his first two years in the league, contributed on special teams (kickoff returns).
Thus the Giants' dilemma. The 26-year-old Conner is under contract for 2014, counting for just $740,000 per Over the Cap (the veteran minimum salary plus a $10,000 workout bonus).
He certainly didn’t do anything to ruin his chance to compete for a roster spot. Whether he'll be competing against Hynoski, a restricted free agent, remains to be seen.
The decision New York will have to make regarding Hynoski is whether to tender him an original round level (projected to be $1.389 million, per Joel Corry of CBS Sports), or try to sign him to a one-year “show me” deal at the veteran minimum salary.
Such a deal would be $645,000 for a fourth-year player, a contract in which they could also include a modest roster bonus in lieu of a signing bonus.
My guess is the Giants will try to accomplish the latter. New York not only has a lot of needs to fill, they traditionally don't spend spent big bucks on the fullback position.
That's understandable since the position usually doesn’t play more than 45 percent of the team’s snaps and is one that has been swapped out for a tight end in certain packages.
Given Conner is already under contract, it doesn't appear to make financial sense for the Giants to offer Hynoski an original round tender.
In an ideal scenario, the Giants will find a way to have both Hynoski and Conner compete for the starting job. Certainly with a new offensive coordinator, both will be starting from scratch in terms of leaning the playbook, so a competition between the two could be a fun one to watch during camp.
However, given all the needs the Giants have to fill this offseason, can they afford to bring two fullbacks into training camp?
More importantly, if Hynoski doesn’t get an original round tender, will he want to come back on a minimum qualifying offer, or will he have new agent Drew Rosenhaus try to get him a better deal with another team?