They already have a trio of starting caliber interior defensive linemen in Dalvin Tomlinson, B.J. Hill, and Dexter Lawrence II, all of whom were selected in one of the last three drafts. They also invested draft capital over the next two years in Leonard Williams — though he is a free agent.
However, Tomlinson is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and despite being the Giants’ best and most consistent defender last year could be allowed to hit free agency. That would fit with the Giants’ history of drafting talented defensive tackles in the second round, getting good, cheap production out of them on their rookie deals, then letting them walk after four years. And if the Giants decide that Williams’ contract demands are too rich for a player who only produced two tackles for a loss and half a sack over the course of nine games, what was the strength of the defense becomes an area of uncertainty after this year.
So let’s take a look at some mid-round interior defensive line prospects who could catch the Giants’ eye.
Leki Fotu (Utah)
It’s hard to imagine the 6-foot-5, 335-pound Fotu not catching Dave Gettleman’s eye. Fotu has all the mass and length Gettleman loves to see from defensive tackles and his power in one-on-one situations is definitely noticeable. He needs to work on playing with leverage, but like Dexter Lawrence, he is able to win through an explosive first step and his sheer size and power.
Unlike Lawrence, Fotu has experience and ability as a nose tackle, and could be an option if the Giants decide to let Tomlinson walk after 2020.
Rashard Lawrence (LSU)
Lawrence doesn’t have the sheer mass the Giants normally gravitate towards in the draft, but at 6-foot-2, 308 pounds, he is stocky with little “bad” weight on his frame and surprising power. Lawrence has played all over LSU’s defensive line, from 5-technique defensive end to nose tackle, which would be an asset if the Giants want to be a versatile, “multiple” defense. He has the power to hold up to double teams, but also the explosiveness to attack gaps as a rusher.
The Giants would also likely be attracted to Lawrence’s character and leadership. He is the leader of LSU’s defense, was named a permanent team captain back in 2017 and is heavily involved around campus as a student-athlete.
Jordan Elliott (Missouri)
Elliott certainly passes the eye test with a prototypical 6-foot-4, 315 pound frame. However, he would be a bit of a “pipeline” player selected on the third day of the draft. He has the requisite tools to be a disruptive interior defender with a good first step and the length to give blockers problems, but he just needs more coaching to fully unlock those traits.
If he can play up to his potential, Elliott has upside in both three and four-man fronts.
Raequan Williams (Michigan State)
New defensive coordiantor Patrick Graham used a number of different fronts, looks, and blitzes to try and create confusion on opposing offenses. Michigan State’s Raequan Williams has the tools that would play into that mode of defense. He boasts a versatile 6-foot-4, 304-pound frame, enough quickness and agility to be dangerous on stunts and twists. And despite being a leaner defensive tackle, Williams is stout when defending the run.
Williams might not have the upside to be an every-down starter, but he has versatility and could be a useful rotation piece.
Davon Hamilton (Ohio State)
Ohio State’s other prospects — particularly their EDGE rushers and cornerbacks — have gotten all the attention over recent years, but Hamilton has been one of the anchors for their defense. The red-shirt senior is frequently seen eating double teams while his teammates go on to glory in the offensive backfield. But while it isn’t glamorous and is usually overlooked, that kind of play is often necessary. If the Giants let Tomlinson walk, Hamilton offers a lot of experience as a fifth-year senior and four-year starter. He has the strength and leverage to stand up to double teams, but has also improved each year as a penetrator. This past year he racked up 9.5 tackles for a loss and 6.0 sacks on a very dangerous OSU defense.