Micah McFadden
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Giants general manager Joe Schoen is trying to find the top 53 guys for the Sept. 11 opener against the Titans. The organization has cut players, signed players to the practice squad, and placed players on both short-term and season-ending injured reserve.

These moves have paved the way for superb opportunities for some of the team’s under-the-radar draft picks.

Which mid-to-late-round rookies could now assume big roles in the regular season?

OL Josh Ezeudu. Projected starting left guard Shane Lemieux is on short-term IR with a foot ailment. He will sit out at least the first four games of the year. This comes after he missed nearly all of last season with a knee injury.

With Lemieux not able to make an early-season impact, Ezeudu — a third-rounder — could have a daunting task ahead of him. He’ll be a candidate to start Week 1 at left guard alongside the remaining projected starters.


Whether Ezeudu is up for the challenge is unclear. But he sure has an opportunity to immediately prove his worth to the team. If he does start, any early struggles would set him back and the Giants could then look to reserve linemen Tyre Phillips or Jack Anderson, both recent waiver claims. Ben Bredeson is also on the roster if needed.

CB Cor’Dale Flott. The Giants are widely inexperienced in the secondary. Projected starting boundary corner Aaron Robinson struggled during the preseason and it’s tough to imagine he’ll turn everything around quickly. Second-year corner Rodarius Williams is also on short-term IR with a knee injury.

Taking all this into consideration, don’t be surprised if defensive coordinator Wink Martindale asks a lot from Flott, another third-rounder, early on. He will likely be a reserve slot corner behind third-year man Darnay Holmes, but must prepare for any assignment.

TE Daniel Bellinger. The Giants signed veterans Ricky Seals-Jones and Jordan Akins in the offseason before drafting Bellinger in the fourth round.

The initial expectation was that Seals-Jones would potentially assume the No. 1 tight end spot on the depth chart. With Bellinger slotting in behind him in hopes of eventually earning a starting role.

But Seals-Jones missed much of training camp with a toe injury and was placed on season-ending IR. The Giants also released Akins before he could make an impact.

Just like that, the staff has accelerated Bellinger’s timeline. He will be the team’s top tight end even as a mid-round pick who’s never played an NFL regular-season game.

While tight ends aren’t widely used in head coach Brian Daboll’s offense, Bellinger is to see much more time than previously expected.

LB Micah McFadden. Sixth-round rookie Darrian Beavers tore his ACL in the preseason and the Giants just shockingly released veteran Blake Martinez.

It’s McFadden’s time. The fifth-rounder will be asked to slot in alongside Tae Crowder, the team’s top inside linebacker. Unlike fellow linebackers Carter Coughlin and Cam Brown, McFadden is a product of this current regime and not just a primary special teams player. The hope is the Giants truly found a diamond in the rough, and the former Indiana standout starts to grow in this defense.

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Ryan Honey is a staff writer and host of the Wide Right Podcast.