Dexter Lawrence
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The New York Giants will be looking to begin their full rebuild this season. A pair of rookies could help jumpstart this process.

The New York Giants are coming off of a 5-11 season, which was compounded by an abysmal 3-13 season the year prior. These past two years have been hard on Giants fans and a third losing season would hurt even more.

To help stop the bleeding, the Giants have entrusted their future on a nucleus of young players. Two of these players (Saquon Barkley and Will Hernandez) were bright spots on the horrid 2018 Giants team. They played well enough to earn themselves spots on the 2018 NFL All-Rookie Team.

Big Blue will now hope to pair these two rising stars with the 10 rookies selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, three of which are destined to join their predecessors on the NFL All-Rookie Team.

Dexter Lawrence

With the 17th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Giants elected to draft Dexter Lawrence, an athletic defensive tackle out of Clemson. Lawrence is a run-stuffer who saw a lot of success in this category during his college career. He used his 342-pound frame to stuff gaps and dominate the run game.

Lawrence ended his Clemson career with 162 tackles, 20 for a loss. These are great numbers, but the knock on Lawrence is that he did not translate his production into the pass-rushing game. Don’t expect the big man on the field in many sub-package looks.

But despite the immediate sub-package snub, the Clemson product will be looking to add a more refined pass rush to his game. He has previously stated how we would like to prove himself that he can be efficient not only as a run stopper but as a sack guy as well. Lawrence even went on to call his ability to get after the quarterback as “underrated.The big man’s development is one that the Giants staff has no doubt will occur.

“[Lawrence is] versatile, he’s got hips, he can flip to rush the passer and we are thrilled to have him,” Dave Gettleman said about his second pick in the most recent draft. 

To help Lawrence flip the switch, he will be paired with a young, strong front. Lawrence will team up with Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill to make up the Giants’ front three. This will be a scary sight, as all of them check in over 300 pounds.

Their hog-mollie size is not to be mistaken with an inability to get after the quarterback. In a limited 2018 role, Hill was able to rack up 5.5 sacks—second on the team. For Tomlinson, the Alabama product has done nothing but be a next level run stopper in the league. He came into the NFL in 2017 and was the highest graded rookie defensive lineman in the run game. Since then, he has not slowed down, making tackles at a ridiculous pace while only missing one in his first two seasons.

The projected uptick in the box score for Hill, matched with Tomlinson’s elite run-stopping ability should be a nice welcome for Tomlinson. If Tomlinson can build off the ability of his teammates he will be a frightening rookie for opposing offenses.

Deandre Baker

Thirteen picks later, Big Blue traded up to snag potentially the best cornerback in the draft, Deandre Baker. The Jints newest corner is an elite cornerback: exactly what the Giants needed. Many say he is the best player New York selected and fills the biggest hole.

At the defensive back position, this team was lacking depth. After losing four starters (Eli Apple, B.W. Webb, Curtis Riley and Landon Collins) the Giants desperately needed more playmakers. New York got just that with the acquisition of Baker.

The Georgia product did nothing but ball out during his time at Georgia. He only allowed one touchdown in his 36 games and none in his last 28. If that wasn’t enough, Baker is a Jim Thorpe Award (best defensive back in college football) winner.

The only knock on him was that some scouts believed he did not possess the athleticism to be elite at the next level. However, the Giants and Baker do not think this will be even the slightest bit of problems.

“My numbers speak for themselves,” Baker said on the NFL Network. “I only gave up one touchdown my whole college career. I haven’t given up a touchdown in two years, no receiver had 100 yards on me — I just produce. That’s what I do.”

And if there was any doubt that Baker could continue this production at the highest stage, it should be stopped … now. Baker played in the SEC, arguably the best conference in college football, which forced him to match-up with the nation’s best receivers.

During his Bulldogs career, Baker stepped up his play during the biggest games. Against Power 5 opponents over the past three seasons, Baker earned a Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of 92.1. During his 2017 trip to the College Football Playoffs, he began with three pass deflections and one interception against an Oklahoma team run by Baker Mayfield. In the championship, he allowed of just 3.1 in 41 coverage snaps. If these numbers don’t scream elite, nothing else will.

Baker will now have the opportunity to combine his talents with a Giants secondary that continues to grow. At Georgia, he was always the number one corner making him guard the best receiver. Now with the Giants, it seems that Baker will receive much more help.

Baker is slated to play alongside former Pro-Bowl corner Janoris Jenkins. In the slot, the Giants can feature either Sam Beal, Grant Haley or Julian Love, all of whom have the ability to be every down starters. But due to the recent accumulation in depth at this position, their snaps will have to be hard-fought.

Nevertheless, whoever Big Blue features it will only help Baker’s campaign to tear up NFL offenses during his rookie season. Baker was already predicted to be a candidate for the 2019 NFL All-Rookie Team, and barring injury, there is no reason he won’t qualify. 

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