Should New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese look to be creative, Hakeem Valles could be a steal late in the 2016 NFL draft.
By Jack Aylmer
The New York Giants found a diamond in the rough last season with undrafted free agent signing out of Stony Brooke, tight end Will Tye.
In 2015 Tye burst on to the scene for Big Blue, racking up 42 catches for 464 yards and three touchdowns over 13 games, played in place for the injured Larry Donnell.
However it is the depth (or lack thereof) behind Tye that should concern the Giants.
Donnell’s season ending neck injury was apparently so serious that early retirement was considered a possibility, while backups Matt LaCosse and Jerome Cunnigham combined for only 11 catches for 81 yards and no touchdowns last season.
LaCosse and Cunnigham are young, only 23 and 24 respectively, and have plenty of potential to improve as players but nothing really suggests that their break out years will come in the near future.
Meanwhile, Donnell’s value for the Giants only comes as a receiver.
Donnell had a down year in 2015, one in which through eight games the only receiving statistic he was not on pace to worsen from the season before was fumbles lost.
Needless to say, his second string job is far from being locked up.
A good late round fit to compete for that second tight end gig is Monmouth wide receiver turned tight end Hakeem Valles.
The 6’5″ and 260 lbs Valles is a match up nightmare for opposing defenses, too big for slot corners, and too quick from his experience as a wide out.
Character is far from a concern for Valles as he was not only elected by his teammates as captain for the 2015 season, but also underwent extensive leadership training to earn the “C” on his chest.
Valles had this to say about being named captain:
“It was an honor being named a Monmouth captain. It was a long and strict four month process that included interviews with the coaching staff, essays, and three leadership seminars. But once the process was over it was a great feeling. To see how much change that has occurred in the program, and to see the mark that has been made on the program now that my five years are over is an amazing feeling.”
Valles collegiate career stats include 40 catches for 491 yards on a 12.3 yards per catch average and three touchdowns.
Valles also appeared in every single one of Monmouth’s 22 games through the 2014 and 2015 seasons, starting in 20 of them.
“I really honed into switch to tight end. Although it was a challenge, I saw the switch more as an opportunity. Because I moved from receiver, the move allowed me to take advantage of all of the mismatch situations,” said Valles. “The most difficult part was getting the hang of inline blocking. My tight ends coach, Jeff Gallo, really bought into the switch and took all of the extra time that I needed to perfect all of the imperfections that I came into the position with. He is ultimately the reason for my success as a tight end.”
The Giants have shown plenty of interest in Valles as a potential Draft prospect.
New York both spoke to him after his Pro Day (where Valles ran 4.60 forty yard dash, had a 9’10” broad jump, a 33 1/2 inch vertical, and put up 15 reps on the bench) and also invited him to attend their annual Pro Day for local prospects held on April 8th.
“I had a great time there. They have amazing facilities. Just a very welcoming family environment there. That would be something great if I could a spot in that locker room. I got to meet Will Tye today in the locker room and that was all the inspiration I needed,” said Valles on his workout with the Giants. “It was kind of like once I told him I was a tight end, he kind of gave me that look like “alright now,” like a mutual respect. It was just awesome to put a face to the name and see how humble of a guy he is. And just knowing he came from a small school like me, it just adds fuel to the fire.”
Valles also noted his deep respect for current Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning and his dedicated work ethic, saying:
“It was also awesome to see Eli Manning in the facility as well, knowing players don’t have to report until next week.”
Similar to newly signed fullback/tight Will Johnson, Valles is a versatile player who can play with his hand on the ground as traditional tight end, as well as an outside or slot receiver.
If head coach Ben McAdoo values having the ability to line players up in different positions like the Johnson signing would suggest, Valles would be an excellent tool for McAdoo to move around and exploit match ups with in his West Coast scheme.
Valles will next visit with the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets after having already drawn interest from the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, and San Diego Chargers.
It is clear Valles has intrigued many teams around the league and is a player with high NFL upside.
The Giants should make him a priority on their draft board as a valuable play maker to snag in the later rounds of the 2016 NFL Draft.