Report Card Grades for NY Giants' Undrafted Free-Agent Signings
As I said in my intro, nothing was official until a contract was signed, as sometimes players and agents think a player is going one place and then a better offer comes along.
Anyway, in this piece I’m going to revisit the players announced as having signed with the Giants. I’ll give you a look at the pros and cons and explore their chances of making the roster.
Disclaimer: The media’s first access to the OTAs isn’t for another couple weeks, so all assessments you’re about to read are based on my research, knowledge of the team and educated guesses.
I’ll report on the OTAs and minicamp workouts and will be able to better assess who’s getting it and who isn’t.
Defensive Tackle Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
South Carolina’s Kelcy Quarles (6’3”, 297 pounds) played in 35 games, with 28 starts, in three seasons. Over that time, he recorded 105 tackles (66 solo), 13.0 sacks, 23.5 tackles for a loss and eight quarterback pressures.
Last season, he posted 9.5 sacks in 11 games to lead the Gamecocks—including this year’s No. 1 overall draft pick Jadeveon Clowney (Houston)—in that category.
In what I’ve been able to see of him on tape, he plays with a nonstop motor, has a quick first step and uses his hands well to disengage from blockers. He also seems to have good size and quickness, and is relentless in getting after the ball.
B/R's Ryan Lownes, in his scouting report on Quarles, notes that most of the defender's sacks were of the coverage variety, and that Quarles "lacks the anchor strength to hold up to double-teams and take on two-gapping responsibilities."
As I’ve noted in other analyses I’ve done for B/R, the Giants have four defensive tackles on the roster with NFL experience: projected starters Cullen Jenkins and Johnathan Hankins, and reserves Markus Kuhn and Mike Patterson. Jenkins and Patterson are 33 and 30 years old, respectively.
Patterson is on a one-year contract; Jenkins is on year two of a three-year contract.
See where I’m going?
While there’s no reason to think that Patterson and/or Jenkins can’t produce this year, at some point the Giants are going to need to get younger in the trenches.
The youth movement is on with the offensive line, where the only guys age 30 or older on that side of the ball are projected starting right guard Chris Snee (32 years old) and backup guard/center Dallas Reynolds (30 years old).
I think it will be sooner rather than later when we see the defensive line follow that lead.
Since the defensive tackle position is one where having a solid core of players to rotate is key, I think if Quarles comes in here, keeps out of trouble and works hard, he could surprise a few people.
Revised Grade: A-
Defensive Tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna, BYU
BYU’s Eathyn Manumaleuna (6’2”, 305 pounds) comes to the Giants as a 25-year-old rookie after serving a two-year Mormon mission.
The married father of one played in a BYU school-record 54 games at both nose tackle and defensive end, finishing his collegiate career with 144 tackles, 17 tackles for loss (TFL) and 6.5 sacks.
He did suffer a knee injury in 2012, but showed no signs of that last season, when he posted 48 tackles (23 solo) and 7.0 TFL.
On tape, Manumaleuna doesn’t seem to have a quick first step out of his stance, though he does well to stay on his feet. He shows a solid effort on every snap, but against those opponents who latch onto him, he’s sometimes unable to shed the blocker and make the play.
Manumaleuna, who per his college bio is the oldest of five children, doesn’t seem to have the size or bulk to play as an NFL nose tackle.
He posted a 5.16 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, and looks to be a very raw prospect who would benefit from a year in an NFL weight training program, and who is in need of some more moves in his pass-rushing arsenal.
Revised Grade: C
Defensive End Kerry Wynn, Richmond
Richmond defensive lineman Kerry Wynn (6’5”, 270 pounds) lined up at both defensive tackle and defensive end for the Spiders, starting 30 of 32 games.
Per his official combine results, Wynn recorded 31 reps on the bench press, which tied him for sixth place among top-performing defensive linemen at the combine and had a 34.0-inch vertical jump that tied him for 12th place.
The combination of strength and the ability to jump up to bat down passes is there. However, his production doesn’t seem to reflect that, as per the Giants, he finished his college career with 145 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks.
Per Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com, Wynn struggles with his pad level and doesn’t have a quick first step off the ball, two factors that could explain his production.
B/R’s Michael Schottey also offered this observation of Wynn from the East-West Shrine Game practices.
Kerry Wynn (DL Richmond) looks great in stance & bends well out of a decent first step. Initial punch is there, but seems to lack 2nd move— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) January 15, 2014
If versatility is the name of the game, Wynn might be facing an uphill battle to make the Giants. At 270 pounds, he is not an NFL-sized defensive tackle.
Even if he adds bulk to his frame—and he appears to have the room to do so—will that slow him down even further considering he appears to have average speed off the snap?
Revised Grade: C-
Linebacker Justin Anderson, Louisiana-Lafayette
Louisiana-Lafayette linebacker Justin Anderson (6’2”, 232 pounds) is a versatile prospect who can play both inside and outside linebacker.
He finished his four-year collegiate career with 294 tackles (166 solo) and 3.5 sacks, leading the Ragin' Cajuns in tackles each of the last two years, with 98 as a junior and 132 as a senior.
A first-team All-Sun Belt performer, Anderson, who was not invited to the combine, averaged more than 10 tackles per game, according to NFL Draft Scout. He projects to be a middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
I was unable to find any solid information regarding a scouting report or any film on Anderson, so it wouldn’t be fair to sit here and declare Anderson as strictly camp fodder at this point.
Certainly a player who’s versatile enough to play multiple positions, as Anderson apparently is, has to be worthy of a look. However, he’s someone I’ll need to see when the OTAs begin in order to ascertain if he has a chance at landing on the practice squad.
Revised Grade: Incomplete
Safety Thomas Gordon, Michigan
Michigan’s Thomas Gordon (5’11”, 210 pounds) primarily played the strong safety spot for the Wolverines last season, in which he recorded 49 tackles (28 solo) and a career-high three interceptions in 11 games.
A four-time letterman, Gordon started 38 of the 46 games in which he played, finishing with 220 tackles (128 solo), three sacks, six interceptions and six pass defenses.
I wasn’t able to find film on Gordon to draw some conclusions, but NFL Draft Scout’s Dane Brugler notes of Gordon that he’s “a tough, powerful striker, but also has the athleticism the NFL wants, evidence by his 41-inch vertical at his pro day.”
However, his one-game suspension last season for what ESPN’s Chantel Jennings reported was an unspecified violation of team rules probably didn’t help his draft stock.
In a time when NFL teams place such a premium on high-character types, if a player is putting himself ahead of his teammates that usually won’t go over too well.
The Giants safety situation might be set for now, regardless of what happens with Will Hill’s appeal of his third suspension in as many years.
Thus, those undrafted free agents who are auditioning for a spot with the team at safety are probably doing so more for 2015 than they are for 2014, when Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps, the two projected starters for 2014, are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.
From all indications, Gordon has some NFL-quality talent. Does he have the discipline to handle the next level or will he succumb to the temptations that come with being part of an NFL club?
If he can stay focused, the Giants might have something there to work with.
Revised Grade: Incomplete
Defensive End Emmanuel Dieke, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech defensive end Emmanuel “Too Tall” Dieke (6’6”, 257 pounds) is a long, lean-looking athlete who transferred to Georgia Tech after completing junior college.
As a two-year starter for the Yellow Jackets, Dieke finished with 72 tackles, 5.0 sacks and two forced fumbles in 49 career games.
Dieke, whose parents are of Nigerian descent, began playing organized football when he was 15 years old. While attending North Clayton High School in College Park, Georgia, he served two seasons as the captain of the football team.
I wasn’t able to find any film on Dieke or any scouting reports, so he’s another player that I’ll have to watch in the upcoming OTAs to see if he jumps out in the drills.
One of the things I’m curious to see about him is his pad level—usually taller defensive players struggle with playing underneath their men, so I’m curious to see how well Dieke handles this area of his game.
I’m also interested to see how his strength stands up against bigger offensive linemen who have anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds on him.
Revised Grade: Incomplete
Linebacker Dan Fox, Notre Dame
There seems to be a lot to like about Notre Dame inside linebacker Dan Fox (6’3”, 233 pounds), the Irish’s leader in tackles over 10 starts last season.
A former high school safety at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Fox did not miss a game during his collegiate career, finishing with 226 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks in 52 games, 32 of which were starts.
According to the NFL’s scouting report (h/t Dan Salomone of Giants.com), Fox is good at reading his keys, flowing to the ball and wrapping up on the tackle.
He also has experience as a weak-side linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, has contributed on special teams and is a “good football and personal character.”
The Giants seem to be focused on upgrading the talent at inside linebacker behind projected starter Jon Beason, where the incumbent is veteran Mark Herzlich.
Fox will compete with fifth-round draft pick Devon Kennard and fellow undrafted rookie free agent Justin Anderson for that role now that the Giants have waived Allen Bradford, who had initially been in the mix.
Whether he’ll strictly work in the middle or will see some snaps on the outside remains to be seen.
Since Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger and Jacquian Williams will all be free agents after this season, the Giants have begun their search for talent in the unlikely event they can’t re-sign those three players.
Revised Grade: B
Safety C.J. Barnett, Ohio State
The Giants focus on team captains extends to former Ohio State safety C.J. Barnett (6’0”, 201 pounds), who in addition to playing strong safety served as a gunner in punt coverage for the Buckeyes.
Barnett, a fifth-year senior, played in 45 games with 37 starts, logging 224 tackles, the second-most on the team. He also posted eight career interceptions.
According to the NFL’s scouting report (h/t Dan Salomone of Giants.com), Barnett is a physical tackler who is quick to fill.
A highly intelligent player who is not afraid to be vocal, Barnett is also “very smart, understands football concepts and can handle complex assignments.”
B/R's Ian Wharton notes in his review of Barnett that the safety has the room to add weight to his frame, but because Barnett's game is "already slow," the concern is that the added bulk might make things worse for him.
In addition to lining up prospective safeties for 2015, the Giants remain on the watch for a solid special teams contributor, and I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these young safeties auditioning for a spot on the roster ends up filling that role—remember, Will Hill, in addition to being a solid safety, was also an enforcer on special teams.
Barnett seems like a classic Giants type of player—a high-character, intelligent athlete who's not afraid of a challenge.
It remains to be seen how he adapts at the pro level, but he seems to have the foundation in place on which to become a success, even if it’s at minimum on the practice squad.
Revised Grade: B
Defensive End Jordan Stanton, James Madison
James Madison defensive end Jordan Stanton (6’4”, 263 pounds) has experience at both defensive end and at defensive tackle, the latter a position he played nine games at during the 2010 season, according to his JMU bio.
Stanton has played in 33 games with 16 starts, including nine in 2012, the last year his athletic bio was updated.
A sport and recreation management major, Stanton earned First Team All-Colonial Athletic Association accolades for the first time in his career for posting 56 tackles with 11.5 for loss and 8.0 sacks last year.
Other than obviously not having ideal size to line up inside on a defensive line, Stanton seems to be pedestrian coming off the snap, at times looking hesitant. He does do a decent job of trying to fight his way through blocks, using his hands well, but he seems to be a very raw prospect at the NFL level.
It's always a challenge from players coming from a smaller program to hit it big in the NFL as a rookie, and Stanton will probably face that same obstacle. He has talent; it just needs to be developed and harvested.
Revised Grade: C
Tight End Xavier Grimble, USC
Per NJ.com's Jordan Raanan, the Giants are expected to sign undrafted free agent tight end Xavier Grimble.
Even though Grimble's signing isn't official as I write this, I'll include him in this slideshow.
Grimble (6’4”, 257 pounds) is the prototypical tight end in terms of having the size to be a factor as a blocker and a taste for the physical aspect that comes with playing the position.
His long arms also give the impression that he would be a reliable possession receiver in the passing game, even though he doesn’t have top-shelf speed.
The problem with Grimble has been consistency. Despite having ideal size, he doesn’t use it well.
He also posted a 26.5-inch vertical jump at the combine, which is disappointing for a man his size, and tends to lunge at opponents who can then easily knock him off balance.
B/R’s Ryan McCrystal notes that Grimble’s route-running is far from being polished and, at times, looks deliberate. He did deal with some injuries last season, specifically a shoulder injury that he tried to play through, but overall his production was disappointing.
I’m not sure at this point who is going to line up at tight end for the Giants other than maybe Kellen Davis, whom NFL Draft Scout compares to Grimble.
I do think that if new tight ends coach Kevin M. Gilbride can work with Grimble to correct some of the technique flaws and get him to go hard on every snap, the Giants could very well have something here.
Revised Grade: C+