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Rookie report: What’s the outlook for the Giants’ rookie class at the bye?

Rookie class offers some hope for the future

Washington Redskins v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

It’s midway through the New York Giants’ 2018 season, so it’s time to check in on the rookie class. It could be argued the play of this class is one of the few positive points in the season so far. To assess the impact of these players, we’ll break them into categories instead of handing out arbitrary letter grades.

Promising building blocks

Will Hernandez, OL, second round (34th overall)

There might only be one offensive lineman who hasn’t been disappointing this season and that’s Hernandez. He had possibly his worst game of the season against Washington, but the UTEP product has easily been the most consistent lineman on the team — admittedly not a high bar when there have already been three starters replaced.

Throughout the first eight games of the season, there have been more instances when the rookie has helped out veteran left tackle Nate Solder than the other way around. There have been some rookie mistakes, as would be expected, but Hernandez has been the best lineman in pass protection, can be a beast in the run game, and has the athleticism to pull on the rare occasion the Giants ask him to do it.

What’s been truly impressive about Hernandez is his awareness to always look for work. Once communication improves along the entirety of the offensive line, Hernandez has the chance to be a star.

B.J. Hill, DL, third round (69th overall)

Hill has made an impact with limited snaps. Those snaps will increase with the trade for Damon Harrison and the Giants might look for his impact to as well. Hill is tied for the team lead with seven tackles against the run at or behind the line of scrimmage (Harrison had nine). Tackles aren’t a perfect stat, but Hill has as many tackles (24) as Dalvin Tomlinson despite 82 fewer snaps. Here’s a play from the last game against Washington. Hill worked past center Chase Roullier (73) to fill Adrian Peterson’s intended gap and before the back had a chance to reset to the other side, Hill was able to get his hands around Peterson’s hips and bring him down for no gain.

With two sacks, Hill is also tied for the team lead — though his impact has been mostly that. Sports Info Solutions has charted him with just two pass pressures and he’s only been credited with two quarterback hits. But converting on the chances is not a bad thing, even in a limited capacity, and he’s already shown the ability to rush from the interior and the edge.

It’s complicated

Saquon Barkley, RB, first round (second overall)

What can we say about Saquon Barkley that hasn’t been said already? We can come down to these two statements that can both be true:

Barkley is second in the league by yards from scrimmage, which is great. Despite that, the Giants’ offense has been ineffective for most of the season. For as good as Barkley has been, does anything about his play so far prove that running backs are more important than the offensive line when it comes to a good run game? The Giants are 21st in rushing DVOA. Barkley’s production has also dropped off over the past few weeks. He’s now 13th in rushing DYAR (a counting stat) and 15th in DVOA (efficiency) after he was among the league leaders over the first few weeks of the season. By Expected Points Added, all of Barkley’s rushing attempts have combined for minus-4.0 EPA. Football Outsiders has him 31st among running backs in success rate. Some of that is out of his control, but that’s also kind of the point.

The question now going forward is how valuable will Barkley be for the next era of the Giants’ offense? There’s the argument that placing a new quarterback into an offense with Barkley and Odell Beckham will help, especially with an improved offensive line, but when will that be? Is that going be 2019 or will that stretch into 2020 and 2021 when Barkley will be on the third and fourth years of his rookie deal when he’ll make $8.5 million and $9.9 million?

So when you judge Barkley do you focus on his individual accomplishments (quite good) or do you focus on the lack of overall impact on the quality of the offense? It’s going to be an argument possibly for Barkley’s entire Giants tenure or at least until the offense is good again. But even that should take a new quarterback and improved offensive line. That is why it is and will continue to be complicated.

Wait and see

Lorenzo Carter, EDGE, third round (66th overall)

Not putting Carter in the promising category might be a surprise to some. But Carter is the rawest prospect the Giants drafted and while there have been some flashes to get many excited, the play-to-play consistency leaves something to be desired. Carter is tied with Hill for the team lead with two sacks, but that’s less impressive for an edge defender whose main goal is to get to the quarterback on every play. Carter does have those two sacks, but just five pressures per Sports Info Solutions charting. When put in the context of the amount of pass rush snaps he’s had this season, it’s at the bottom compared to the other pass rushers on the team.

EDGE Pressue Rates

Player Pass Rush Snaps Pressures Pressure Rate
Player Pass Rush Snaps Pressures Pressure Rate
Olivier Vernon 106 8 7.5%
Kareem Martin 177 12 6.8%
Connor Barwin 129 7 5.4%
Kerry Wynn 176 7.5 4.3%
Lorenzo Carter 143 5 3.5%

Carter is definitely a plus-plus athlete. His Speed Score (weight-adjusted 40-time) was the second-highest of this edge rushing class. But the concern is the nuances of being a pass rusher have yet to click and Carter can be handled easily by opposing offensive linemen at times. Why that is a concern is that Carter wasn’t a full-time pass rusher in college. He had just 14 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss total across his four seasons. You could say that gives him more promise because he’s still just learning the position, but these athlete-to-pass rusher transitions don’t always go smoothly early in careers. Carter could click soon and become the secondary edge the Giants need or he could continue to show just enough flashes keep that promise but never put it all together.

Cleveland Browns v New York Giants
Kyle Lauletta
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Kyle Lauletta, QB, fourth round (108th overall)

There’s a lot more going on here than there was just a week ago. With the Giants struggling on offense, it would not be hard to imagine Lauletta getting some play over the second half of the season. But with his arrest this past week and the unknown consequences of it, that could be put in question. There’s still a lot to find out in regards to his situation, that will be something to monitor.

R.J. McIntosh, DL, fifth round (139th overall)

McIntosh has been on the non-football injury list since July. He finally got on the practice field in the middle of October and has three weeks from his first practice to be activated — that timeline would be around Nov. 7.

UDFA roundup

Grant Haley was promoted from the practice squad and got a start in the slot against Washington after the Eli Apple trade. He held up pretty well and was targeted just twice. He allowed one reception but was in close with the receiver who was brought down immediately. The Giants made a big effort to sign Haley after the draft and he’ll get a chance to make an impact as the slot corner for the remainder of the season.

Sean Chandler made it on the 53-man roster out of training camp but spent most of the season playing special teams. He played 26 percent of the defensive snaps against Washington and will bounce between a dime corner and safety.

Tae Davis has made his way into the linebacker rotation over the past two games. He played 17 percent of the defensive snaps against Atlanta and bumped up to 62 percent against Washington with Alec Ogletree out. Before that, he had mostly been on special teams.

Quadree Henderson looks like he might be the legitimate return man the Giants have been looking for. Jawill Davis had that role before injury with a small role on the offense as a receiver.