The New York Giants have rebuilt their pass-rush through free agency. Additions such as Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon, and the key re-signing of Jason Pierre-Paul, mean this unit is poised to make a much needed jump in 2016. However, the work is never done. The defensive line is a group that requires multiple waves of talent to succeed. Simply having four good starters will not do, and with their two most recent Super Bowl wins coming on the back of a deep rotation of linemen, the Giants know this better than most.
Could Penn State's Austin Johnson be the latest addition to an already re-worked arsenal? If he slips out of the first round, he could be a valuable selection in Round 2, or an absolute steal in Round 3. He's a stocky defensive tackle who can be unleashed to keep a fresh rotation and make the Giants one of those teams you simply cannot run against.
Weight: 314 pounds
Arm Length: 32 3/4"
Hand Size: 9 7/8"
40 Time: 5.32 seconds
3-cone drill: 7.84 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.75 seconds
Bench press: 25 reps
Vertical jump: 26 inches
Broad jump: 99 inches
- For a 314-pound player, his athleticism is better than a lot of guys who play much lighter.
- Relentless, even when faced with double teams.
- Succeeds in lots of unglamorous techniques such as occupying multiple players and racking up interior tackles in the run game.
- Intelligent guy who finished his degree with plans for post-football life before declaring for the draft.
- Keeps square when blocked, allowing him to dictate what direction to advance the play.
- Will improve with next-level coaching for his hands and pass-rushing.
- Dominant against small schools, but was visibly neutralized against top teams like Ohio State.
- Despite being listed as a nose-tackle, and playing as a true 1-technique, he may not be capable enough to man the middle of an NFL 3-4 defense.
- Not elite at either pass-rushing or run-defense, though offers a strong base talent for both.
I have included two videos here to show the highs and lows of Johnson's time with Penn State. In the Maryland video, you'll see a future Hall of Famer, and against Ohio State, you'll see a guy struggling against better competition. The reality lies somewhere in between, and it's important to not take one game in a vacuum.
Big Board Rankings
Big Blue View - 32nd
Mocking The Draft - 36th
CBS - 44th
Draft Tek - 77th
Does He Fit With the Giants?
There is always room for another good defensive lineman. Some may point to the signing of Harrison as a reason to not draft Johnson, but that's too reductive. Instead, consider the possibility that this team wants a multitude of mammoth interior defenders to plug those holes. Maybe this is just their type of guy, and if that's the case, Johnson will fit in nicely. Between fatigue and general injuries, you can never be too deep on the line. Johnson would be a classic case of the Giants strengthening their strengths, and if he's there on Day 2 for either of the team's selections, he could be the pick.
Steve Spagnuolo inherited a defensive roster lacking the kind of players he usually craves. Wisely, he spent a year figuring out who works and who doesn't before looking to overhaul the team to fit his scheme. What they've done with the defense so far has been promising, and there's definite talent there, but it remains a shallow pool. Picks like Johnson are the difference between a strong line in September and a strong line in December. Depth, rotation, options; these are the keys to success.