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Giants’ 90-man roster: CB DeAndre Baker will be expected to step right into starting lineup

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Giants ignored pre-draft criticism of Georgia cornerback to make draft-day deal for him

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NFL: New York Giants-Rookie Minicamp
DeAndre Baker
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants sacrificed a pair of selections in the 2019 NFL Draft, a fourth-round pick (132nd) and a fifth-round pick (142nd) to move from No. 37 to No. 30 and select Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker.

They did it because cornerback was a position where the Giants obviously needed help, and per GM Dave Gettleman the Giants felt Baker was “the best cover corner in the draft.”

The Giants went all-in to upgrade the cornerback spot, also selecting Julian Love (Round 4) and Corey Ballentine (Round 6) to add to new safeties Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea.

At corner, it will be Baker who carries the biggest expectations. He isn’t worrying about that.

“I just come in and play my game and just show them they haven’t made a mistake by coming to get me,” Baker said during rookie mini-camp. “Just want to come in and help the team.”

Let’s learn more about him as we continue profiling the 90 players the Giants will bring to training camp this summer.

The basics

Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 193
Age: 22
Position: Cornerback
Experience: 0

How he got here

In a way, Baker is already a success story.

Baker grew up in Liberty City, the neighborhood in northwest Miami that produced NFL stars like Chad Johnson and Antonio Brown. Baker avoided trouble in what he called an area with a “rough environment,” that sidetracked many other kids in the community.

His father [Andre Baker] works in property management and his mother is in event planning.

“Family support had a whole lot to do with it,” Andre Baker said. “Both parents being there and grooming him and keeping him grounded and keeping him busy away from the distractions in the community.”

He became a shutdown cornerback at Georgia, and didn’t surrender a touchdown in his final two seasons. He only gave up one touchdown pass, in fact, in his four seasons with the Bulldogs.

Pro Football Focus had Baker as its 16th-ranked prospect in the 2019 draft class, making him great value at No. 30:

Almost exclusively an outside corner at Georgia, Baker saw 657 of his 711 defensive snaps in 2018 come at either left or right cornerback, with just 18 snaps in the slot and 36 in the box. At 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, and running a 4.52-second 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, Baker is almost the very definition of the average athletic profile of what a cornerback looks like. While he ran a little bit slower than most would have liked, his wingspan of 77 1/8th inches backed up the playmaking ability we saw from a player who had 20 pass breakups over the past two seasons.

Baker was incredibly stingy when it came to shutting down opposing wide receivers, ranking in the top-five in terms of fewest yards allowed (175), fewest touchdowns allowed (0) and lowest NFL passer rating allowed (40.2) among cornerbacks who saw at least 300 coverage snaps in this draft class in 2018. He wasn’t a one-year wonder in that regard either, with Baker allowing just 23 receptions for 295 yards, no touchdowns and an NFL passer rating allowed of 32.7 in 2017. If you’re keeping score at home that means that Baker didn’t allow a single touchdown on 870 coverage snaps over the past two seasons. In fact, in his four-year career at Georgia, Baker allowed just one touchdown on 1,019 coverage snaps.

Baker performed well against the best opponents he faced too, producing a 92.1 PFF coverage grade against Power 5 opponents over the past three seasons. He stepped up in the College Football Playoff in 2017, coming away with an interception and three pass breakups, to go along with just three receptions allowed in the games against the Baker Mayfield led Oklahoma Sooners and eventual National Champions Alabama. Despite the loss to the Crimson Tide, Baker allowed an NFL passer rating of just 3.1 on 41 snaps in coverage against Alabama.

He might not be an elite athlete, but Baker has proven himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the nation over the past two seasons and his coverage numbers speak for themselves.

Baker skipped Georgia’s appearance in the Sugar Bowl and turned down an invitation to the Senior Bowl. There were questions raised about him during the pre-draft process.

SI.com’s Albert Breer wrote about “character concerns” with Baker and “practice habits” not matching his play on Saturdays.

ESPN’s Todd McShay projects Baker as a first-round pick—he mocked him at No. 19 overall—but said “if he falls, part of it is going to be maybe some frustration from the coaching staff about the way he finished his career in terms of not playing in the bowl game, being around and not being the best influence. That’s the best way I can put it. There’s some teams trying to sort through all that.”

Andre Baker said he was surprised about “character” questions about his son.

“Never been in trouble, never been arrested, never had no issues,” he said. “Never got suspended off the team so I don’t know where that came from.”

The Giants ignored all of that in moving up to No. 30 and making the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award winner, given to the nation’s best defensive back, the first cornerback selected in the draft.

My numbers speak for themselves,” Baker said on the NFL Network. “I only gave up one touchdown my whole college career. I haven’t given up a touchdown in two years, no receiver had 100 yards on me — I just produce. That’s what I do.”

2019 outlook

Baker is the favorite to be the starting cornerback opposite Janoris Jenkins.

“He is a really talented guy,” defensive backs coach Everett Withers said. “When you watch his tape, he is a guy with a lot of competitive experience. To have another guy over there next to Janoris, he is talented enough to go over there and be a factor over there opposite Janoris.”

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher pointed out that Baker’s collegiate success came against some of the best teams in the country.

“The thing I would say about Baker is that he played in a very, very tough league,” Bettcher said. “We all know how long it was before he gave up a touchdown pass. He competed and covered some of the best players that have come out of that league on offense. His tape speaks for itself. One of the best, if not the best, tackling corner in the draft, period.”

The Giants are obviously counting on Baker to quickly establish himself as a starting-caliber NFL cornerback and, down the line, perhaps more than that.