The New York Giants rookie class arrived in camp Sunday morning, marking the beginning of their first season in the NFL.
The rookie year is always an interesting one as prospects strive to meet the expectations placed upon them. Some will succeed and meet those expectations, some will fail, and some will exceed them wildly.
Right now is a chance for the rookies to work closely with the coaches without the bulk of the veterans there and out of the prying eyes of the media. I decided to take the opportunity to set my expectations for the Giants’ draft class.
And yeah, some of them are pretty lofty.
2nd Overall - Saquon Barkley
Starting Running Back
Rushing: 288 Carries (18 per game), 1,490 Yards (5.17 per carry), 12 Touchdowns,
Receiving: 64 Receptions (4 per game), 530 yards (8.3 per reception), 5 Touchdowns
2,020 Total Yards
17 Total Touchdowns
Expectations have been piled high on Barkley. Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson is projecting him to rush for 1,300 to 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns this year.
Considering his pedigree as the second overall pick, widely considered the best player in the draft and by far the most dynamic offensive weapon in the draft, those expectations aren’t out order.
I’m upping the ante on LdT (I maintain that there is only one “LT,” and Tomlinson is probably glad he never had to play him). I’m putting Barkley into the rarefied air of topping 2,000 total yards as a rookie, a feat Tomlinson himself didn’t accomplish until his second year.
Barkley has some issues, mostly related to patience behind the line of scrimmage and the tendency to try for a game-breaking play every time he touches the ball. With Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram on the squad, Barkley won’t have to feel as though he is carrying the team. Likewise, with those other mismatch nightmares to account for, defenses can’t concentrate on stopping him as they could in college.
Now, as for how I got to my numbers: I took a look at how Dalvin Cook was used as a runner before he went down for the season, as well as Jerick McKinnon and Christian McCaffrey as receivers. Likewise, I also looked at how Kareem Hunt was used by Andy Reid (from whom Pat Shurmur learned offense) and Ezekiel Elliott (with whom scouts widely compared Barkley during the draft process).
I believe that Barkley will have a fairly wide variance in production on a run-to-run basis, but his extreme combination elusiveness, explosiveness, and size will keep his averages where the should be for a back with his pedigree.
Finally, I actually kept his total touches (carries and receptions) down from where they could be based on how exciting a prospect he is. For one, I wanted to be wary of over-working Barkley and breaking the dreaded “370 touch barrier” — a mark at which running backs’ production falls off a cliff then next season. And second, I think Wayne Gallman will have a larger role in the offense than many are predicting, perhaps something similar to how Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are used in Atlanta.
I recognize that I listed Barkley as a player who could be primed to disappoint and fail to meet the lofty expectations put upon him in 2018, but I’m still going to say: I’m expecting a lot out of the young man.
34th Overall - Will Hernandez
Active for 16 games - Starting Left Guard
You can’t speculate on stats for offensive linemen, but I’m expecting big things from Hernandez. That he has drawn comparisons to both Rich Suebert and Chris Snee is exciting.
Hernandez should be able to play well in any blocking scheme Shurmur decides to call. He will show off his power, and despite being built like a vending machine stocked full of hate and pain, he has excellent flexibility and mobility to pull or execute zone schemes.
I’m expecting Hernandez to rival Quenton Nelson in terms of play, giving up a few pressures and with the Giants averaging better than 4.5 yards when running behind him.
66th Overall - Lorenzo Carter
Active for 16 games: 50 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 tackles for a loss, 2 passes defensed
Carter is something of a raw and unpolished athlete at the linebacker position, but he has a couple advantages that could see him on the field early and often. First, that athleticism is on a level which few other linebackers in the NFL, let alone on the Giants defense, can match. The Giants need that athleticism on the field, both as a speed rusher opposite Olivier Vernon or in coverage on blitzes from elsewhere on the field. Second, there have been hints that the defense will be similar to that called by Kirby Smart, Carter’s head coach at Georgia.
Carter will likely be a sub-package player his rookie season, but given how often James Bettcher calls sub-packages, that might not mean much for his snap count.
69th Overall - B.J. Hill
Active for 16 games: 35 total tackles, 4 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks
The Giants surprised when they selected Hill in the third round, and then Hill himself surprised when he began running with the first-team base defense this spring. I think he goes for the hat-trick and surprises a third time with his production.
The Giants are facing a number of talented offensive lines and teams that like to base their offense around running the ball and the run-pass option (RPOs). That could mean that Hill sees more time on the field than many are expecting, and teams will be more likely to try the rookie’s side of the field rather than test Damon Harrison or Dalvin Tomlinson.
Supplemental Draft - Sam Beal
Active for 12 games: 20 total tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 4 passes defensed
It is entirely possible that Beal is active for all 16 games, particularly given how thin the Giants are at outside corner. However, I’m betting on them taking it slow with him since he missed their entire off-season program. He is several months behind the rest of the secondary in learning Bettcher’s defense, and that will take some time. As well, that will give the Giants time to develop him physically and fill out his lanky frame a bit — and start to improve his tackling technique.
But, I don’t think it will take long for his natural talent to prevail and for him to work his way on to the field to give Janoris Jenkins or Eli Apple a rest, particularly towards the end of the season. Quarterbacks in the MAC generally avoided Beal in coverage, leading to depressed tackle numbers, but he knows how to use his length to break up passes. I think NFL QBs will be eager to test the rookie, to mixed results for the Giants.
108th Overall - Kyle Lauletta
Pre-Season: 15-for-20 (70%), 150 yards, 1 touchdown.
If all goes even remotely according to plan, Lauletta won’t see the field outside of preseason until 2019 at the absolute earliest. However, I’m expecting him to be efficient after some early struggles late in preseason games and some panic among fans regarding his arm strength. I also expect that he’ll show off the mental aspect of his game and not make the same mistakes multiple times.
139th Overall - R.J. McIntosh
Active for eight games: 10 total tackles, 2 tackles for a loss
It is difficult to make much of a projection for McIntosh, simply because he has yet to get on the practice field. I do expect him to make the roster, but likely be inactive through the first part of the season.
After that, we could see him rotated in at the 5 and 3 - techniques to spell veterans, whether it is to keep them rested for a playoff push or to get him experience for his sophomore season if the Giants aren’t looking at a viable path to the playoffs. However, he proved to be remarkably disruptive his junior year at Miami, and had his best game against one of the best linemen in the country in Quenton Nelson.