The initial period of waiver claims and veteran signings is complete and the 2018 New York Giants 53-man roster is set — for now.
In addition to draftees and veteran free agents, the Giants’ roster this year is home to a number new undrafted free agents. This is nothing new, UDFAs play a role on every NFL team, and they have a celebrated place in Giants’ history. None more than the recently retired Victor Cruz, who along with Henry Hynoski, Spencer Paysinger, and Mark Herzlich, helped the Giants win their latest Super Bowl.
It might be tempting to look at undrafted free agents as players who are there simply to fill out the 53-man roster and help facilitate practices during the week, they are an under rated source of value for the NFL. Statistically speaking, undrafted free agents tend to out-perform fifth, sixth, and seventh-round selections.
Looking at draft position collectively, undrafted free agents are as likely to be “hits” (have a greater than league-average career) as those fifth, sixth, and seventh-round draft picks, combine. And, as of a couple years ago, they are the third-most likely group to produce an All-Pro player behind the first and second round (respectively).
There’s a few reasons for those surprising stats. First, and foremost, there are lot more undrafted rookies than late-round draft selections. Even with compensatory picks, a team might only get three or four players from the late rounds of the draft, while they could get double or triple that number of undrafted free agents. That makes it more likely that a team might stumble upon a player who simply fell through the league’s cracks (a la Victor Cruz).
Secondly, teams have a tendency to draft potential at the late rounds — Players with intriguing measurables or high upside who they don’t want to make sure are in their camp. Undrafted players tend to have lower ceilings, but their higher floors help them stick around.
Meet the rookie free agents
Evan Brown (C) - Brown is the Giants’ third back-up center/guard and was signed this year out of SMU.
40-Yard Dash: 4.97
Vertical Jump: 36”
Broad Jump: 9’5”
3-Cone 8.06 sec
Bench Press: 36 reps
Brown was a solid four-year starter at center for the Broncos. He doesn’t have great movement skills, but his upper body strength and lower body explosiveness show themselves in his run blocking. He is fundamentally sound as a run and pass blocker and showed a solid awareness of pass rushers, but struggled when asked to block in space.
Sean Chandler (S) - Chandler was one of the potential jewels of the Giants’ rookie free agent class. They quickly signed him out of Temple after the end of the 2018 draft, and he beat out former starters Darian Thompson and Andrew Adams to make the Giants’ final roster.
Chandler isn’t a great athlete for a safety, but he is solid in a variety of roles, from playing the deep zone in a Cover 2, Cover 3, or Cover 4, playing close to the line of scrimmage as a strong safety, or even filling in as a corner.
He was a very productive four-year starter for Temple, playing in 48 games in four years. Over that span he racked up 265 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, 10 interceptions (2 touchdowns), 23 passes defensed, and 4 forced fumbles (2 recoveries).
Toughness and intelligence are Chandler’s stock in trade, and he should be a solid depth player in the secondary and could become a key contributor to the Giants’ special teams.
Tae Davis (LB) - Davis is a former safety turned linebacker out of Tennessee-Chattanooga. He spent camp and the preseason as a depth player behind Ray-Ray Armstrong. Davis was solid throughout the preseason on defense, and showed up in extended action in the Giant’s final preseason game.
Weight: 225 pounds
40-Yard Dash: 4.63
It became clear over the course of the preseason that the Giants need more speed to help defend the middle of the field. The answer was to add Ray-Ray Armstrong to the starting rotation as the “moneybacker” in nickel situations. Davis isn’t quite as big as Armstrong, but as another former safety, he gives the Giants depth at the position.
In his final season at Chattanooga, and first at linebacker, Davis had 74 total tackles, a sack, 5 tackles for a loss, and 6 QB pressures. He had 13 total tackles and a pass defensed for the Giants in the pre-season.
Robert Martin (RB) - The Giants were set at running back when they signed Robert Martin out of Rutgers. But after an impressive performance in their rookie mini-camp, they couldn’t let him leave.
Weight: 210 pounds
40-Yard Dash: 4.60
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.57
3-Cone Drill: 7.02
Vertical Jump: 32
Broad Jump: 09’06”
Bench Press: 19
Martin isn’t the most explosive athlete at the running back position, but he played too well on the field for the Giants to risk losing him on the waiver wire. Martin gained 97 yards on 15 carries, good for 6.5 yards per carry, scoring 1 touchdown against the Detroit Lions. Martin only had 11 yards on 3 carries against the New England Patriots, but by that time he had showed his potential. He runs with good patience behind the line of scrimmage and a solid burst through the hole. Combining good lower-body strength, quick acceleration, and good balance, Martin proved tough to bring down. Martin enters the season as the Giants’ fourth running back.