5 Undrafted NY Giants Players Who Could Prove to Be Gems
Ask any NFL general manager or personnel executive about undrafted free agents and they will probably tell you that there was something in a player’s background—injury, skill or character—that caused that player to receive a lower draft grade.
That doesn’t mean that undrafted free agents can’t become contributors on their respective teams. Just look at the New York Giants as a perfect example.
In 2011, linebackers Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger and fullback Henry Hynoski all made the Giants team despite not having been drafted. All three, at some point or another, have been starters; currently, all three still contribute to the roster.
Granted there generally aren't many roster spots open for undrafted free agents, and often times those free agents land up on a practice squad where they will receive further coaching as they wait that long-desired promotion to the 53-man roster.
That brings us to 2014, and those undrafted free agents that the Giants currently have on their roster who could very well become a contributor on this team, if not this year then perhaps in the foreseeable future. Read on to see which five prospects have the best chance.
Linebacker Dan Fox
If there’s a silver lining to the injury suffered by inside linebacker Jon Beason, it’s that youngsters such as Dan Fox, who might not have ordinarily gotten many snaps this summer, can likely expect to receive an increased workload.
Fox could in fact be an interesting prospect to watch this summer. While he probably won’t be able to nail a spot on the final 53-man roster, if he can parlay his solid spring into a good summer showing, a spot on the practice squad might very well be waiting there for him.
Looking ahead, Spencer Paysinger, Jacquian Williams and Mark Herzlich (assuming all three make the roster) will be unrestricted free agents after this year. It’s unlikely the Giants re-sign all three.
If Fox, who has been working with the second-string team at strong-side linebacker, can earn a spot on the practice squad and spend a year working to get stronger and more explosive off the snap, he could very well have a spot on the 53-man roster sooner than later.
Defensive Tackle Kelcy Quarles
At 6’4”, 294 pounds, undrafted free-agent defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles is the tallest of the Giants' rostered defensive tackles, but he is also among the lightest. (Another undrafted free agent, Eathyn Manumaleuna, is the lightest at 289 pounds.)
Looking ahead, the Giants could have at least one opening at this position next year, as veteran Mike Patterson has crossed over to the dreaded wrong side of 30 and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Enter Quarles, who in his three-year career at South Carolina finished with 105 total tackles, including 23.5 for a loss and 13.0 sacks, per SportsRefernece.com. That’s pretty good production, regardless of the fact that he played on a line that included defensive end and overall first-round draft pick Jadeveon Clowney.
If the Giants’ goal is to get younger and faster, guys such as Quarles could very well be a consideration if he has a strong camp and can carve out a spot for himself on the practice squad.
Tight End Xavier Grimble
Of all the positions on the Giants, right now the tight end is wide open in that not one of the candidates from a group that includes Adrien Robinson, Larry Donnell, Daniel Fells, Kellen Davis and Xavier Grimble appear to have jumped out in the lead.
That’s good news for Grimble, the undrafted free agent out of USC, who hopes to impress the coaches enough to earn a roster spot. Grimble’s three-year numbers while at USC were somewhat pedestrian, at least from a receiver perspective—in 22 career starts he had 69 catches for 730 yards and 11 touchdowns.
However as we’ve seen so far in the OTAs and minicamp, the tight ends in offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s offense will be asked to do more than they ever have before. In addition to lining up in-line, they will be split wide, work from the slot and line up as the fullback in certain sets.
Did I also mention that in their quest to toy with the defense, they will also be motioning a lot before the ball is snapped?
That Grimble’s college production wasn’t eye-popping isn’t going to be so much of a factor this summer; instead, his ability to grasp the numerous responsibilities McAdoo wants from the position will probably factor more into play.
Early on, he had a few bumps that drew the ire of McAdoo, but he has since showed some progress in those reps he has received.
In order to keep up in this race, however, he is going to have to show so much more.
Defensive End Kerry Wynn
As I have noted throughout this slide show, something to keep in mind when assessing the chances of undrafted free agents is the future. Whose contract is expiring? What are the current numbers at the position? What does the injury situation look like?
At defensive end, the Giants currently have four viable options that should make the roster—Jason Pierre-Paul, Mathias Kiwanuka, Robert Ayers and Damontre Moore.
Of those, Pierre-Paul and Kiwanuka are both set to become unrestricted free agents after this season. Pierre-Paul is expected to be the priority for the team to re-sign.
Kiwanuka, who this week told Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger that he was upset by how the Giants handled his latest pay reduction, is unlikely to re-sign with the team after this year is over.
In looking at the roster, it is possible that the Giants could keep five defensive ends when the dust settles. Former Richmond defensive end Kerry Wynn, who per his NFL draft profile was the team lead in tackles for a loss in 2012 with eight (out of 45 total tackles in 11 starts), could be in that mix.
However, he has limitations, which his scouting profile lists as “average playing speed and burst” as well as an inability to shed blocks. Because of those issues, it is more likely that he will need a year of development on the practice squad.
Safety CJ Barnett
Was it really only a month ago that the Giants safety position seemed to be a strength?
However long it was, the position has since been weakened thanks to the poor judgment by Will Hill, whose third NFL suspension resulted in the Giants parting ways with him.
Meanwhile Antrel Rolle is entering the final year of his contract, a deal that in 2014 will pay him a base salary of $7 million, per Over the Cap.
Even if the Giants do re-sign Rolle—it’s possible but not set in stone—will they be able to do so for less than $7 million per season, and will Rolle, who’s going to be 32 on his next birthday, want to play for several more years?
Then there is the matter of Stevie Brown, who hopes to make it back from ACL surgery from a year ago, and Quintin Demps.
Both of those players are on one-year deals with no guarantees of what the future holds.
In short, there’s potential for a practice squad player from this year to be in an excellent position to compete for a spot as soon as next year to join Cooper Taylor and Nat Berhe.
One such player who has been turning some heads has been CJ Barnett, formerly of Ohio State. Barnett has been bouncing back and forth between the second and third-team defenses, and has looked alert in coverage.
While there is still some hesitation in his game, the fact that he has been able to get himself around the ball has certainly been a positive.
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