Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for New York Giants
With the 2014 NFL draft complete, the New York Giants have most—if not all—of the players who will eventually make up the 53-man roster that enters Week 1 of the regular season less than four months from now.
As of Saturday night, Big Blue had 85 players on their roster, according to Giants.com, including the seven players they drafted. The roster limit is 90 for the offseason, so the Giants can conceivably add five more players as undrafted free agents.
If they want to cut anyone with a reserve/futures contract that is currently on the roster, they would then have the option to sign more than five undrafted free agents.
Since there are conflicting reports about the prospects New York has signed post-draft so far, this depth chart will only deal with players who were either on the roster prior to last Thursday or taken in the draft (with one exception on the defensive line).
Rookie draft picks will be in bold type for easy reference.
Starter: Eli Manning
Backups: Josh Freeman, Ryan Nassib, Curtis Painter, Rusty Smith
There is no question that Eli Manning is the Giants' starting quarterback. However, whether he will participate in offseason workouts prior to training camp is still up in the air.
Shortly after the draft, though, signs point strongly to the signal-caller participating in OTAs—which start on May 28—since head coach Tom Coughlin confessed to Jordan Raanan of NJ.com that Manning is already taking snaps and is allowed to practice as long as he has no setbacks.
As for the backups, it will be worth watching to see if the Giants keep three quarterbacks again on their 53-man roster. If they don’t, who the two odd men out will be among the trio of Josh Freeman, Ryan Nassib and Curtis Painter should be an intriguing storyline.
Running Backs and Fullbacks
Starters: Rashad Jennings, RB; John Conner, FB
Backups: Peyton Hillis, RB; David Wilson, RB; Andre Williams, RB; Michael Cox, RB; Kendall Gaskins, RB; Henry Hynoski, FB
Rashad Jennings will likely stay at the top of the depth chart for the running back position. He was a key free-agency signing for Big Blue, and last year’s Week 1 starter, David Wilson, is still making his way back from a neck injury that cut short his 2013 campaign in October.
Despite a 4.3-yards-per-carry average for his career, whether Jennings can be an effective three-down back over 16 games is questionable. His high for carries in a season is only 163, which is more indicative of a running back in a committee.
A healthy Wilson and Andre Williams, the Giants' fourth-round selection Saturday, could push 2013 seventh-round pick Michael Cox out of a roster spot. New York only kept four running backs for its 53-man roster last season, and Peyton Hillis would appear to be a good bet to make the team over Cox, who was unimpressive in his limited playing time in 2013.
As for fullback, the battle between Henry Hynoski and John Conner will be an interesting one to follow between now and late August. Conner gets the edge at the outset, since he is coming off a solid season filling in for the injured Hynoski. The 26-year-old had a 9.0 Pro Football Focus rating (subscription required) over 245 offensive snaps in 2013.
Starters: Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle
Backups: Odell Beckham Jr.*, Jerrel Jernigan, Mario Manningham, Trindon Holliday, Kris Adams, Julian Talley, Preston Parker, Travis Harvey, Marcus Harris
*denotes third wide receiver
Odell Beckham Jr. may be the Giants' first-round draft choice, but I don’t think that means he’ll be handed a starting spot. Tom Coughlin is not known for starting rookies frequently (even Justin Pugh, who started all 16 games as rookie last season, initially won his spot due to injury), and he has a viable option in Rueben Randle to play opposite Victor Cruz.
Beckham Jr. should eventually overtake Randle, but he’ll likely be the third wide receiver entering OTAs.
The selection of Beckham Jr. also opens up the distinct possibility that Trindon Holliday won’t make the team. Holliday was primarily signed this offseason to return punts and kickoffs for Big Blue. Beckham Jr., though, did both very effectively at LSU. Safety Quintin Demps is also adept at returning kickoffs.
The Giants only kept five wide receivers out of training camp in 2013. If they do the same this August, Holliday, or even returning Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham, could be left out in favor of Jerrel Jernigan for the fifth slot.
Starter: Adrien Robinson
Backups: Larry Donnell, Kellen Davis, Daniel Fells
The picture of Adrien Robinson in action, above, was taken in a 2012 preseason game. Why not use one from official action? Because it is hard to find one of him in a game that counts, since he only has three offensive snaps in two regular seasons with New York.
Since he has the most talent and potential of this group, at least according to general manager Jerry Reese two years ago, Robinson has the best chance of being the Giants' starting tight end in 2014.
Why Reese didn’t use one of his seven picks to fortify this position is mind boggling. Maybe he was just trying to reinforce a point he made to a reporter rather rudely on May 1 about the general health of the Giants' tight end position.
Whatever his reasons, Reese better hope someone emerges as an adequate option, or the Giants offense will be missing a key component.
Starters: Will Beatty, LT; Geoff Schwartz, LG; Weston Richburg, C; Chris Snee, RG; Justin Pugh, RT
Backups: Charles Brown, T; James Brewer, T; Brandon Mosley, T; Troy Kropog, T; Steven Baker, T; ; J.D. Walton, C; Dallas Reynolds, C; John Jerry, G; Eric Herman, G; Stephen Goodin, G
There are several interesting storylines coming from this unit. First, Weston Richburg should be a plug-and-play option at center. The Giants were ecstatic to get him in the second round, and for good reason. His quickness and intelligence is ideal for Big Blue’s zone-blocking scheme. He is also a durable player who didn’t miss a game in four years at Colorado State.
J.D. Walton is the only other viable option to start over Richburg, but he hasn’t played since early in the 2012 season due to a severe ankle injury and wasn’t that effective even when he was on the field. In 2010 and 2011 with the Denver Broncos—his only two full seasons in the NFL—Walton posted minus-15.9 and minus-31.9 Pro Football Focus ratings, respectively.
Also, the health of Will Beatty and his ability to return to his 2012 form at left tackle is critical for the offensive line to rebound from its woes last season. Right now he is ahead of schedule in his recovery but still does not have a return date.
If he does return healthy, he’ll have to prove his performance last season, where he posted a minus-6.3 PFF rating and allowed 13 sacks, was an aberration. Beatty only allowed three sacks and had a 22.3 PFF rating in 2012.
If Beatty’s struggles continue or he fails to get healthy enough to play, free-agent acquisition Charles Brown, who started 14 games at left tackle in 2013 for the New Orleans Saints, would likely be the choice to replace him.
However, Brown posted a minus-9.3 PFF rating and allowed seven sacks as Drew Brees' blind side protector last season, so it is highly questionable whether he would be much of an upgrade over an absent or ineffective Beatty.
Finally, 32-year-old Chris Snee will look to reclaim the right guard spot after missing all but three games last season due to a hip injury. If his comeback fails, newcomer John Jerry, who started all 16 games at right guard for the Miami Dolphins in 2013 before signing with the Giants this offseason, would likely take Snee’s spot.
Starters: Mathias Kiwanuka, DE; Johnathan Hankins, DT; Cullen Jenkins, DT; Jason Pierre-Paul, DE
Backups: Robert Ayers, DE; Damontre Moore, DE; Mike Patterson, DT; Jay Bromley, DT; Markus Kuhn, DT
The most important factor to the success of this unit will depend upon which Jason Pierre-Paul shows up in 2014. Will it be the dominant player from 2011 or the one who only recorded two sacks and played in 11 games last season?
Maybe they’ll get something in between—like Pierre-Paul’s 2012 season. Two years ago, JPP played in 16 games and was still effective—as witnessed by his 23.2 PFF rating—despite having a modest 6.5 sacks.
Despite the loss of Justin Tuck in free agency, Pierre-Paul still has some talent surrounding him at defensive end. Mathias Kiwanuka gets the nod as the starter on the left side after a rough transition back to defensive end last year, following two seasons at outside linebacker. He’ll be pushed heavily for playing time, though, by newcomer Robert Ayers and second-year man Damontre Moore.
As for defensive tackle, Johnathan Hankins will look to replace the departed Linval Joseph at the 1-technique position. Mike Patterson and third-round pick Jay Bromley should figure into a rotation that will be rounded out by 3-technique starter Cullen Jenkins. Bromley could be a strong pass-rushing option backing up Jenkins, considering he had nine sacks his senior season at Syracuse.
Speaking of pass-rushing defensive tackles, it appears the Giants picked up one after the draft—according to a multiple sources, including Jordan Raanan and Conor Orr of NJ.com—in South Carolina’s Kelcy Quarles. He had 9.5 sacks himself in his final college season and was considered a mid-round pick prior to the draft. His addition could easily push Bromley for playing time.
Starters: Spencer Paysinger, WLB; Jon Beason, MLB; Jameel McClain, SLB
Backups: Jacquian Williams, Devon Kennard, Mark Herzlich, Allen Bradford, Spencer Adkins, Kendrick Adams
Jon Beason and free-agent acquisition Jameel McClain appear entrenched at middle linebacker and strong-side linebacker, respectively. Spencer Paysinger will likely split time on the weak side with Jacquian Williams. The latter should get the nod on most passing downs.
Bleacher Report’s Patricia Traina theorizes that fifth-round compensatory pick Devon Kennard could allow defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to institute multiple defensive fronts—an idea he experimented with last summer prior to the 2013 season.
Overall, this is a solid, unspectacular group that doesn’t contain a lot of playmakers but should hold up nicely against both the run and pass.
Starters: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Prince Amukamara
Backups: Walter Thurmond*, Trumaine McBride, Zack Bowman, Jayron Hosley, Bennett Jackson, Charles James, Travis Howard, Laron Scott, Junior Mertile, Chaz Powell, Ross Weaver
*denotes slot cornerback
The talent and depth of this group is staggering, easily making it the best unit on the team. Since the first five players on the depth chart are virtual locks to make the squad—and given the fact that New York only kept six cornerbacks on its 53-man roster out of training camp last season—a few interesting decisions will need to be made.
If the sixth spot is filled by Jayron Hosley, then sixth-round pick Bennett Jackson could find himself on the practice squad to start his tenure with Big Blue. In the scenario where Jackson gets the nod, Hosley would likely get cut. The 2012 third-round pick is not eligible to be stashed on the practice squad.
Starters: Antrel Rolle, Will Hill
Backups: Stevie Brown, Quintin Demps, Nat Berhe, Cooper Taylor
While Will Hill is slotted in as a starter at safety, his time with the Giants could very well be done following a reported third failed drug test in three years, as per Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports (via Chris Wesseling of NFL.com).
If the reports are true, Hill could be facing a season-long ban. However, regardless of the length of the suspension, New York may finally cut ties with the talented, but troubled, 24-year-old.
His loss would be a big blow for Big Blue. As proof, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller ranked Hill as the seventh-best safety in the league, out of 75 evaluated, for his 2014 B/R NFL 1000 list.
If Hill is not part of this group, then expect Stevie Brown to take his spot as starter. The five-year veteran had eight interceptions in 2012 for New York before tearing his ACL in training camp last summer—an injury that forced him to miss all of last season.
Starters: Josh Brown, K; Steve Weatherford, P; Zak DeOssie, LS
Backups: Brandon McManus, K; Jordan Gay, P
There isn’t too much intrigue with this unit. Barring injury, the starters will remain intact, with Brandon McManus and Jordan Gay all but a certainty to get cut at some point before the 53-man roster is set.
The kicking game should be in good hands with Josh Brown and Steve Weatherford. The former made 23 of 26 field-goal attempts in 2013, while the latter was seventh in the NFL with a 46.9 yards-per-punt average.