Coming off of their second straight losing season, the New York Giants will be looking for a plethora of players to step up.
The 2019 NBA Awards finished last Monday, June 24. The headlines were Giannis Antetokounmpo winning Most Valuable Player, Luka Dončić winning Rookie of the Year, Rudy Gobert winning Defensive Player of the Year, and Pascal Siakam winning Most Improved Player. While all of these awards were for basketball they can also be applied to football.
Let’s apply these awards—with a few twists—to the 2019 New York Giants.
Most Valuable Player (MVP): Saquon Barkley
There’s no shocker here that Saquon Barkley will be the team’s MVP. In his rookie season, Barkley was already the most productive player on the team, putting up over 2,000 scrimmage yards with one of the worst offensive lines in football. Now the second-year running back has a legitimate quest of being the best running back in the league.
The Giants have made it a serious goal this offseason to improve their front five on the offensive side. The team added two quality veteran starters (Kevin Zeitler and Mike Remmers) and will be getting their former starting center (Jon Halapio) back from injury this upcoming season. The arrival of these three players matched up with Will Hernandez and Nate Solder on the left side could be a scary thing with Barkley running behind them. Saquon already forced 71 missed tackles last year and, with a stouter front, he may see more daylight than ever.
The Penn State product was also a serious threat in the passing game last year. He had 721 receiving yards and, with the departure of Odell Beckham Jr., he could see his 91 receptions increase in 2019.
The combination of a better offensive line and an increase in touches should bolster Barkley to not only the team’s MVP but in the race for the NFL’s MVP Award as well.
Rookie of the Year (ROTY): DeAndre Baker
While Daniel Jones has been the most talked about rookie, DeAndre Baker can be the most impactful, especially if his reported OTA momentum carries forward. For Jones, he may not start one game this season. Baker, on the other hand, is projected to be an every-down starter.
Baker was the best defensive back in college football last year, as evidenced by his Jim Thorpe Award. Throughout his college career, Baker only allowed one touchdown. He allowed none in his final 28 games. If this wasn’t enough to scream elite, the University of Georgia product also has never let a receiver put up more than a 100 yards against him. Baker did this against the best competition. He played in the SEC—arguably the best conference in college football.
Georgia constantly played the best of the best and Baker never faltered. Against Power Five opponents over the past three seasons, Baker earned a Pro Football Focus (PFF) grade of 92.1. Baker always stepped up in the biggest games and in his 2017-18 trip to the College Football Playoffs he had five total tackles and one interception. This came against Baker Mayfield who was the runner-up for the NFL Rookie of the Year. In the championship game against Alabama, he allowed a passer rating of just 3.1 on 41 coverage snaps.
Baker has demonstrated that he can play at a high level against the best. If he can translate this to the pros, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be the best Giants rookie and one of the best rookies in the NFL.
Offensive Player of the Year (OPOY): Evan Engram
Evan Engram will be entering his third NFL season in 2019. Overall, the kid’s been a solid player for the Giants but hasn’t received any stardom due to his average play. However, if there was ever a year to break out, this is the year.
The Giants will desperately need receivers to step up this year after the trade of Beckham. OBJ was targeted 124 times in 2018. Those targets will have to go elsewhere. Engram is in a prime position to receive a good share of these targets because of his natural talent. He runs a 4.42 40-yard-dash and has a 36-inch vertical which makes him a nightmare for linebackers. When teams try to put defensive backs on him, his size usually makes him a hard cover.
The young tight end will also be coming into the season healthier than seasons past. Due to the fact that he missed six of his last 32 games, New York has been overly cautious with Engram. He has been feeling better and believes that he can be one of the best in the game this upcoming year.
“I’m good. I’m just being smart,” Engram told Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com. “I don’t really need anything crazy right now. I’m still just trying to be healthy for summer and be ready for (training) camp.”
If Engram can stay healthy he will certainly be one of the best offensive weapons that the Giants possesses. While he may not play at a caliber to that of Barkley, Engram certainly has a chance to be a Pro Bowl tight end.
Most Improved Player (MIP): Lorenzo Carter
Lorenzo Carter was a third-round selection by the Giants in the 2017 NFL Draft. Carter silently put together a decent rookie season given the amount of time he played. He was active in 15 games but only started in two. In that minimal time, Carter totaled 43 tackles and four sacks. This made him 11th on the team in total tackles and third on the team in sacks.
The raw prospect from Georgia spent most of his 2018 season developing his game. However, when Carter was given the opportunity to play he was highly efficient, marking a Pro Football Focus grade of 65.8. This made him fifth amongst all rookie EDGE defenders.
However, overall, Carter was very raw last season. He relied heavily on his athletic ability and needs to work on the finer points of his game. Carter has spent a lot of time on this aspect of his game in the offseason.
“When you see him rush, a year ago he was trying to get off the ball as quick as he could and use his hands when he could,” Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher said. “Now, you see a guy that is aware of how he wants to rush, aware of techniques that he wants to rush with.”
In 2019, Carter will have more of an opportunity to use these enhanced techniques as the Giants moved on from starting outside linebacker Olivier Vernon. With Vernon gone, Carter has slid into the starting outside linebacker spot. Now Carter will have to take the next step to transform his improvement to production.
Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Jabrill Peppers
Jabrill Peppers will also be entering his third season as a pro. Since being drafted, Peppers has played the last two seasons for the Cleveland Browns. Last season, he played strong safety and he made vast improvements in his sophomore season. In 2018, Peppers reached 79 tackles, had his first career sack, and also recovered three fumbles.
Now Peppers will be expected to take the next step as a member of the Giants. After letting Landon Collins—leading tackler, former strong safety, and captain—go in free agency, the Giants traded for Peppers so he could lead their defense. In 2019, he will be heavily relied on to bolster a young Giants defense. Peppers himself is aware of this.
“Even before the trade, I was saying that I have to pick up the play. It’s Year three,” Peppers said following day one of mandatory minicamp, via the Giants official website. “You definitely got to pick up the play to be at the level I know I need to play at, and this organization needs me to play at. Regardless of how I got here, I’m here, and I’m ready to play my best ball, work as hard as I can and help this organization win ball games on Sundays.”
Due to the fact that the Giants don’t have many proven playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, Peppers may emerge as one of their best players. He’s seen improvement every year since entering the league and if the talks of his offseason performance are true, he may very well be Big Blue’s best defender.
Special Teams Player of the Year (STPOY): Aldrick Rosas
This is an easy one. Aldrick Rosas was nothing less than phenomenal in 2018. Rosas entered the 2018 season on the roster bubble. He quickly showed the Giants that this was wrong.
Rosas was arguably the best kicker in football last year. He made about 97% of his field goals and extra points, missing one of each. He also saw a career-long 57-yard field goal. This allowed for Rosas to be the fourth ever Giants kicker to make the Pro Bowl.
Now, Rosas will hopefully be rolling into 2019 with all of the confidence in the world. He was just re-signed as a restricted free agent. This allowed the Giants to guarantee another year with the young star on a small contract. If Rosas was to have another amazing season he would definitely allow for himself to see a nice 2020 payday with the Giants or some other team.
Nevertheless, barring some miraculous turn of events, Rosas should have another solid year, making him the Giants 2019 STPOY.