The Giants have invested heavily in their defensive front over the past couple seasons, giving big contracts to Jason Pierre-Paul, Olivier Vernon, and Damon Harrison, and offering a good multi-year contract to Johnathan Hankins.
Their investments paid off with a defense that was able to stand up to, and turn back, a daunting Dallas Cowboys’ rushing attack. However, their production as pass rushers were inconsistent, and depth is a question.
The Giants generated plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but struggled to consistently convert it into sacks, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had to rely on manufacturing pressure once Jason Pierre-Paul went down to injury. Even before that point, the Giants’ starting defensive ends played far and away a greater share of the defensive snaps than any other starting defensive end.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa was expected to step up as the Giant’s third defensive end, but his future is in question as he tweeted cryptically that he would be stepping away from the game. 2016 UDFA Romeo Okwara flashed against the now-retired Doug Free, but was unable to sustain that level of play, and Vernon only managed half a sack without JPP in the lineup.
The Giants have a couple physical thresholds that they want their defensive ends to meet. Chief among them are arm length (333⁄4 inches or longer), plus agility (in the top half of either in short shuttle or 3-cone drill), and a good “explosive” number, either broad or vertical jump.
Need - Pass Rusher
Day 1 - Taco Charlton (Michigan)
Despite having a breakout campaign in 2016 (coincidentally, the first year Michigan played a 4-3 as their base defensive front) Taco Charlton is not yet the sum of his parts. Many parts of his game need polishing, and he needs to hone his craft as a pass rusher. He needs to really learn how to use those long arms, keep his pads down, and how to set up moves and use angles to his advantage.
However, he has “plus” traits across the board. Charlton’s above average height, weight, speed, agility, and explosiveness make him a handfull for offensive tackles. In fact, despite not being a finished product as a pass rusher, Charlton converted 41.2 percent of his pressures into sacks, the second-highest rate in the class.
Converting pressure into sacks was one area where the Giants’ defense struggled in 2016.
The Giants don’t shy away from taking incomplete players in the first round if they think they can contribute in their rookie year and have a good chance of reaching a high ceiling.
Day 2 - Tarell Basham (Ohio)
A largely unknown player, Basham fits the Giant’s mold with long (341⁄2 inch) arms, and plus numbers in the short shuttle (66th percentile of all EDGE players) and broad jump (73rd percentile) at 270 pounds. He is a high energy defender with significant upside as as an edge rusher as he continues to add strength and gets pro coaching. His success as a rusher in college was predicated on athletically overwhelming blockers as his level of competition, but he is nowhere near his ceiling.
Basham is a dependable run defender (important in the NFC East), who also owns several of his school’s sack records. He also has experience on both sides of the defensive front, allowing him to step in and let both JPP and Vernon to get rest.
Day 3 - Deatrich Wise (Nebraska)
A potential high Day-3 (or possibly even late Day 2) pick, Wise has the kind of raw tools teams love to see. With a 6’5,” 275-pound frame with 351⁄2 inch arms, Wise still tested in the top 66th percentile in the 3-cone, 75 percent of short shuttle, and 90 percent of the broad jump. He is just a one-year starter, but his physical tools are impressive.
Wise has the strength to hold up as a base end or play inside at defensive tackle in nickel downs, and the physical upside to potentially grow into an important contributor.