While the 2019 season has been less than satisfactory for the New York Giants, there’s a great deal of young talent to be excited about.
An eventful draft for the New York Giants concluded on April 27 when New York walked away with 10 newly-acquired rookies. Today, many have already become big parts of the team.
Even though the Giants currently sit with a 3-11 record, the team’s youth provides promise for potential future success. With just two games left in this current campaign, let’s evaluate and grade each of the first-year players.
Round 1, Pick No. 6: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
The selection of Daniel Jones so early in the draft has been highly debated and will continue to be questioned. Ultimately, the concern won’t stop until Jones clearly shows the Giants whether or not he can lead the franchise.
The one thing that’s for certain is that the rookie quarterback has experienced a rollercoaster season.
After winning his first two games, Jones has lost eight straight as a starter. While this is worrisome, it must be noted that he’s been playing with a team that currently lacks talent and has suffered numerous injuries. Jones has already been sacked 33 times and is also yet to play with Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley, Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard (his big four) at the same time.
However, this doesn’t excuse Jones’ awful ball management. The Duke University product has thrown 11 picks and has fumbled the ball a league-high 15 times making ball control an important aspect for Jones to focus on next season. He won’t be able to last in this league if his current turnover rate stays the same.
While Jones has had a bumpy year, the season hasn’t been all that bad for Jones. He’s thrown for 2,374 yards and 18 touchdowns in only 10 games. The Duke product has also added 241 yards and two scores on the ground.
With these stats, Jones has provided some promise for future success. Needless to say, 2020 will be a big year for him and the Giants to see that if his success can be continuous.
Round 1, Pick No. 17: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
The only reason why Dexter Lawrence isn’t graded higher is that an interior defensive lineman was not the biggest need at pick No. 17. It was clear the Giants needed a pass rusher, finishing the 2018 season with only 30 sacks. But in New York’s eyes, the best player available at the time was the former Clemson Tiger.
This selection has proved to currently be working out fine. Lawrence has been the third-highest graded rookie by Pro Football Focus (PFF) this season. He hasn’t been stuffing the stat sheets, only having racked up 34 tackles, 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble, but instead has been stuffing up the middle of the line. His run-stopping ability has proved to be dominant as he currently has an 88.4 PFF rating in that category.
It looks like Big Blue found their replacement for Damon “Snacks” Harrison with Dexter Lawrence. There is even an argument to say that Lawrence is a better option. Lawrence currently possesses youth and pass-rushing abilities that Harrison does not have.
Round 1, Pick No. 30: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
To put it simply, Deandre Baker was the biggest letdown of the rookie class. The Giants traded back up into the first round giving away second, fourth and fifth-round picks to pick Baker.
After becoming a starter in Week 2, Baker was disappointing up until recently. The supposed “best defensive back in college football” allowed a passer rating of 119.0 and four touchdowns through the first 10 weeks of the season.
Even worse, Baker’s effort came into question multiple times as he was caught on film giving up on plays.
However, Baker has indeed right the ship over as of recently. Since being called out for his poor performance against the Jets the Georgia product has turned it up a notch. Over the last four weeks, he has recorded five pass deflections and has only allowed a passer rating of 26.3—sixth-best in the league over that period.
Baker has a lot more work to do for his selection to be justified but his current play is a step in the right direction. Baker is starting to look like he is developing into the lockdown corner he was hoped to be.
Round 3, Pick No. 95: Oshane Ximines, DE, Old Dominion
Oshane Ximines was a project pick out of a small school. He was not expected to light up the league in his rookie year. However, he did manage to have a solid start recording two sacks in his first four games. But after that, Ximines was awfully quiet, only recording one tackle-for-loss in his next eight matchups.
Ximines did indeed make up for this below-average period in his last two games, where he has recorded 2.5 sacks. This is a step in the right direction but Ximines will need to develop his overall game if he wants to see his timeshare increase. It is clear that Ximines is a very raw prospect who receives the majority of his snaps on obvious passing downs. Next year will be a big season for the Jamaican native in determining if he can continue to improve and possibly become a starter.
Round 4, Pick No. 108: Julian Love, CB/FS, Notre Dame
Up until week 12, Julian Love was buried on the bench. He only saw three defensive snaps prior to his emergence after the bye in Chicago. But in that very matchup, Love found himself on the field for 57% of the defensive snaps. He recorded one tackle and an interception in the loss, both career firsts. Following that game, Love earned his first-ever start in Green Bay, where he recorded seven tackles and a forced fumble. In both games, Love earned himself a PFF grade of 80.0 or higher.
It is good to see the converted safety receiving an increased role following the bye. He has recorded 19 tackles (three for a loss) since. Prior to his increase in playing time, it seemed Love was a bust. The rookie couldn’t even manage to see the field on a struggling secondary unit.
Love’s original lack of playing time can be traced back to his position change from cornerback to safety. When entering the NFL, the Notre Dame product was forced to learn a role different from the one he’s played in before. Though it appears that everything worked out for Love and the Giants though. He could end up becoming the starting safety alongside Jabrill Peppers next season.
Round 5, Pick No. 143: Ryan Connelly, LB, Wisconsin
Ryan Connelly is currently the best rookie on the team in terms of draft value and production. In just four games (three starts), Connelly recorded 20 tackles, two interceptions and a sack.
Unfortunately, the former Wisconsin Badger suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Week 4 win over the Redskins. If this doesn’t hinder Connelly, he should be able to be an instant starter next year. He was arguably the best player on that defense prior to the injury. If he continues to improve, a captain of the defense and a potential Pro Bowl await for Connelly next year.
Round 5, Pick No. 171: Darius Slayton, WR, Auburn
Darius Slayton is easily one of the best offseason moves Gettleman made since coming to New York. The fifth-round pick experienced a slow start, battling bad practices along with a hamstring injury. However, since Slayton became healthy in Week 3, he’s been the best receiver on the team.
The rookie leads the team in both receiving yards (690) and receiving touchdowns (eight). This type of production is hard to find in the fifth round, making Slayton an elite selection.
Round 6, Pick No. 180: Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn
As a sixth-round selection out of Washburn University who was tragically shot on draft night, Corey Ballentine didn’t have many expectations. With this, Ballentine instantly turned heads during the offseason and even earned himself some first-team reps.
When the regular season rolled around, Ballentine was able to become the starting kick returner before suffering an injury in Week six. As a kick returner, he averaged a solid 25.6 yards-per-return, with his longest going for 52 yards. Later on this season, Ballentine even earned himself the starting nickel cornerback job for a pair of games.
Unfortunately, as a defensive back, the Washburn product has been far from great, rendering a 118.4 passer rating when targeted with only two pass deflections. As the current starting slot corner, it is evident that Ballentine is far from NFL ready, but his rawness and athletic ability have supplied quality depth.
Round 7, Pick No. 232: George Asafo-Adjei, OT, Kentucky
George Asafo-Adjei was, by no means, meant to be a starter for Big Blue. The Kentucky alum was drafted to bring competition to the back-up offensive line, and he did exactly that during the offseason. Asafo-Adjei ended up not making the 53-man roster and the Giants placed him on injured reserve before the season started. However, his hard work during the offseason will allow him to compete for a roster spot next year.
Round 7, Pick No. 245: Chris Slayton, DT, Syracuse
Chris Slayton was the second Giants draftee to not make the 53-man roster. He was chosen really late, so there were not high hopes, to begin with. Nevertheless, Slayton had himself a solid preseason, recording five tackles. This earned him a place on the practice squad, allowing him to continue his NFL dream.