Last year's draft was a huge success for General Manager Jerry Reese. Their top rookie, Odell Beckham Jr., was an instant star, and guys like Devon Kennard, Jay Bromley and Andre Williams flashed at all the right moments. Heading into this year, the New York Giants knew they needed even more help. With a depleted secondary, a couple of important players facing injury, and some line problems, Reese was faced with a tough task.
In my opinion, I think this front office let themselves down. This was not a draft where the team needed to land future Hall-of-Famers. They just needed some depth at a few important positions, and for the most part, they didn't achieve that. Now this team has their backs against the wall with a .500 record despite a down year for their division. If the Giants fail to make the playoffs, it won't be because they didn't have the opportunity to win, it's because they weren't capable of making the moves to make it happen.
Who is helping? Who is hindering? Let's take a look at the rookie class at the midway point of the season to assess how things are going. Here, I have graded them based on how they have played compared to other players taken in similar areas of the draft as well as in comparison to their rookie teammates.
I'm sure there are other sites out there that are currently grading Flowers quite poorly, but I don't care because sometimes, it's not as simple as adding up scores on each play. Flowers has had his rough moments. I won't deny that for a second, but it's important to realize that his task is unbelievably difficult.
For a rookie to come into the NFL and immediately establish himself as a top left tackle is near-on impossible. What Flowers has done is join a unit in disarray and adapt to a game much quicker than what he saw in college. He has allowed pressures, he has allowed hits, but his sack totals are pretty low -- especially for a rookie.
The team knows he's young and they expect him to take some time. They even said so in their introductory press conference. All that can be expected for Flowers in Year 1 is to be good enough to start, and strong enough to learn. If we're to grade him on a curve of rookie left tackles, I'd say he's done admirably.
Those of you who read my posts leading up to the draft know that Collins is my boy. In my mock draft, I had the Giants picking him at No. 9 overall, because I truly believed he was worth that kind of draft capital, so you can imagine how ecstatic I was to see them land a secondary play maker on Day 2 of the selection process.
This then developed into a strong preseason and an even stronger regular season. The "box safety" tag has followed Collins since he left Alabama, and the Giants have had to work around his coverage skill set, but in the meantime, the rookie has shown that what he can do, he does well.
His work in the run game allows Brandon Meriweather to be the hard-hitting roamer that he needs to be, and his ability to contain rushing attacks -- both in the backfield and in the second-level -- somewhat makes up for an under-performing linebacker group. I stand true to my Collins' fandom and am really happy to see him emerging as a top young safety.
The Giants used a high-draft pick on a player with a difficult injury situation. Stop me if you've heard this one before. It's almost a lock every year that there's one guy with a ton of potential who is just never healthy enough to play. This year, that honor goes to Odighizuwa; a player who had a double hip surgery in college and is now on short-term IR with hamstring issues.
He might be good. He might not be. I don't know yet, so I'm not judging him. Injuries happen to every player in the league. I'm not writing him off after a few games, but after landing on the injured-reserve-designated-to-return list, the Giants will have to make the playoffs to see anything substantial from Odighizuwa this season.
We all know the story here. Thompson was scheduled to compete for a starting job opposite Collins, but he tore his achilles in the preseason. He likely would have the job currently filled by Craig Dahl as first safety off the bench were it not for his injury. Let's check in on him next year.
Davis has two catches for 21 yards. His value right now mostly comes on special teams, but the reason he gets a somewhat positive grade is because one of those catches happened on third down, in the fourth quarter, in a tied game against the San Francisco 49ers. This team never intended for Davis to see the field on anything other than special teams this year, yet here he was coming up big in a must-win moment. Admirable.
Hart has played just 12 snaps this year, and only two of those actually came on offense. He's been a healthy scratch in a couple of games, and that's worrying, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt as a rookie. We haven't seen what he's capable of doing, so we'll likely have to wait until next year.
Giants' fans love to pine after the top name at tight-end in every draft, and every year since Jeremy Shockey, they've passed. "This team would finally be a contender if they just took Eric Ebron" and "Can you imagine this offense with someone as talented as Gavin Escobar?" are things that one would read if they perused comments sections and message boards around April in previous years.
The message that the front office has sent to the league is clear; "We do not value tight ends". The team must believe that they are interchangeable, and, well, it's hard to fault them. Their last few starters have been late-round picks (Kevin Boss), undrafted players (Jake Ballard, Larry Donnell) or cheap free agents (Martellus Bennett, Brandon Myers).
Is Will Tye next in line for the carousel? Right now, Tye might be the best tight end on the roster. His blocking needs to improve, but then again, the Giants don't have anyone who can do that at that position, so it's not exactly holding him back from more playing time. Donnell is hurting and the team re-signed Jerome Cunningham to the active roster this week as insurance. Not only is Tye in line for understated success this season, but this could be the week he breaks out.
Technically Unga is not a rookie, because he was signed right at the end of the 2014 season, but I've included him here because he has about as much experience as a guy straight out of college. Unga has shown flashes. He had two interceptions early in the season, and has shown his skills as a linebacker capable of wrapping up a tackle -- we all know that's not a guaranteed attribute for Giants' linebackers.
Unga has a long way to go before achieving the caliber of play required by full-time starters, but he has the potential to get there next year after a full season of experience. The physical traits are there. He just requires the mental agility to match. With minimal cost and a high return on investment, Unga has been a strong addition to a team with issues at linebacker.