Every team in the NFL spends every off-season looking for ways to improve their roster. That means that, whether through trade, free agency, or the draft, teams add new faces to their locker rooms every year.
The folks at Pro Football Focus decided to put together a list of 20 “Newcomers” — that is, players who were not on their current teams last season — who could have an immediate impact in 2018.
The New York Giants were one of three teams to feature multiple players, with both Saquon Barkley and Will Hernandez making the list.
Few members of the 2018 draft class enter their rookie seasons with the same lofty expectations as former Penn State phenom Barkley. This year’s No. 2 overall pick will be tasked with dragging a Giants rushing attack, formerly ranked 22nd in yards per carry, from dark depths of the league back to the limelight. Fortunately for Giants faithful, Barkley has start talent and ability to do just that.
Barkley was leaps and bounds ahead of his peers in the draft class, as he earned 86.0-plus overall grades in all three of his collegiate seasons and continued to trend in an upward direction through his final year on campus. In 2017, he broke 35 tackles and averaged 3.4 yards after contact per carry on his 200 carries en route a career-high 89.9 overall grade. He also was one of the most efficient pass-catching backs in football, as he led all FBS running backs with at least 40 targets in yards per route run (1.90).
Barkley is a home run waiting to happen with a profound ability to impact all areas of the game early in his career.
Raptor’s Thoughts - I won’t comment on PFF’s grading of Barkley. Their methodologies are their own. However, they are right about one thing: Barkley is a home run waiting to happen. Players with his size, speed, explosive power, and agility rarely come along. Players with those physical traits and proven versatility on the field are even rarer. He has the ability to turn even a sliver of daylight into a potential game-changing play.
They are also right that few players have the expectations heaped upon them that Barkley carries. In selecting him, the Giants moved all their chips to the center of the table, betting everything on “Now”. It is far too early to tell whether or not they made a wise wager — much will hinge on whether Eli Manning responds to the changes in coaching and offensive personnel. As well, Davis Webb or Kyle Lauletta developing into a viable starting quarterback could make the Giants look much smarter for drafting Barkley.
But for now, the team needs “SaQuad” to be an impact player, from the first snap in Jacksonville to the last snap against the Dallas Cowboys on December 30th.
Hernandez has reportedly been as physical as he is talented in his limited experience practicing with his new team, a testament to his menacing approach to the game. Hernandez is a true mauler in pass protection and the run game, as evidenced by his 91.0 and 86.1 grades in each of the two facets, respectively, from a season ago.
Raptor’s Thoughts - Fans might wonder just how much impact a left guard could have on the team, and whether it could possible be enough to land him in the top 20 of newcomers in the entire league.
The answers are “quite a bit,” and “definitely.”
Hernandez might not have game-changing impact on his own, but his undeniable power as a run blocker will help Barkley have his own impact. Likewise, his pass protection will help give Manning room with which to work and time to find his receivers. While much has been made of the Giants’ offensive tackles, Manning has always been a quarterback for whom protection up front was of vital importance. He could always step up in the pocket to avoid pressure off of the edges, but rarely can he escape pressure in his face — which has a tendency to disrupt his mechanics.
Hernandez could also help to transform the culture of the Giants’ offensive line, restoring the “nasty” to which they became accustomed with Chris Snee and Rich Suebert on the line, but have seen only infrequently since. The Giants’ rookie lineman is hard-nosed and doesn’t back down from a challenge, as evidenced by his throwing down with Damon Harrison in mini-camp.
They could certainly use that attitude on offense again.