The New York Giants are depending on their young players — rookies and second-year players — to form the core of their team going forward.
The good news for the team is that their rookies have been some of their best players over the last two years. Last year Saquon Barkley, Will Hernandez, and B.J. Hill proved to be bright spots in a 5-11 season. This year it was once again the rookies that gave fans hope while the team stumbled through one of the league’s easiest schedules to fall to 4-12 and fire their head coach.
Pro Football Focus is particularly bullish on the Giants’ rookie class, rating four of the Giants’ 10 picks (eight of whom made the initial 53-man roster and seven finished the season healthy) in their (PFF’s) Top-50 rookies of 2019.
9. DI DEXTER LAWRENCE, NEW YORK GIANTS
Lawrence slowed down the stretch, but his hot start lands him at No. 9 in PFF’s rookie rankings, as he still ranks 20th in PFF overall grade among all at his position. His pass-rushing could still use some work — he managed just 30 total pressures on 412 pass-rushing snaps and finished the year tied for 43rd among interior defenders in pass-rush win rate (9.6%) — but the return on investment has still been higher than anticipated for the 17th overall pick.
Raptor’s Thoughts: The pick of Lawrence was a surprise at 17th overall was a surprise with Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill already in the fold. Lawrence has played well, though the decline from his surge in the second quarter of the season is noteworthy, it is partially explained by more snaps played as a nose tackle with the arrival of Leonard Williams. If we’re being completely honest, while Lawrence certainly played well enough to be considered one of the 50-best rookies, ninth-best seems a bit rich. Especially considering EDGE Josh Allen landed at 27 as the second-best pass rusher in the class. Likewise, DT Ed Oliver didn’t make the list at all despite finishing in the top-10 pass rush win rate among all DTs (7th), and finishing the regular season with more sacks, tackles, tackles for a loss while playing 150 fewer snaps.
13. S JULIAN LOVE, NEW YORK GIANTS
After playing mostly out wide at Notre Dame, the Giants had Love move into the box and in the slot, and over the last six weeks, Love earned the ninth-best PFF grade in the box and allowed just 19 yards on his 80 coverage snaps at that alignment.
Raptor’s Thoughts: It took a while to realize the fruits, but once the injury to Jabrill Peppers forced Love onto the field, he played well. He certainly made mistakes down the stretch, but he had more good play than bad. He also showed himself to be a very good tackler for a DB — let alone a rookie at a new position. Love’s emergence as a box safety makes for an interesting decision for the Giants’ next coaching staff. Do they try moving him to free safety, or play him where he has already shown upside and transition Peppers to a linebacker role?
22. WR DARIUS SLAYTON, NEW YORK GIANTS
Former Auburn Tiger Darius Slayton produced numerous highlight-reel plays in 2019 and picked up seven receptions that resulted in a gain of at least 30 yards — tied for the 16th-most in the league. Slayton ended the year with a 70.5 receiving grade that currently ranks sixth among rookie players at the position.
Raptor’s Thoughts: Slayton was, unquestionably, one of the few (and possibly biggest) bright spots for the Giants this year. Nobody expected much from him as a rookie coming out of Auburn’s rudimentary passing attack who battled injuries throughout the spring and summer. But once he was able to consistently get on the field, he produced. His ability to use his athleticism to separate, then track and adjust to the ball and make difficult catches flashed several times throughout the season. Slayton still needs to work on honing his craft as a receiver, but the upside is there to be a dangerous mismatch for opposing defenses.
34. QB DANIEL JONES, NEW YORK GIANTS
Daniel Jones has pretty much been as expected at the NFL level — he produced an average rate of positive plays but put the ball in harm’s way at an alarming rate. The sixth overall pick’s turnover worthy-play rate on the year ranks second to last among all quarterbacks, one spot worse than the perennially turnover-prone Jameis Winston. Most of those turnover-worthy plays stemmed from his recurring fumbling issue, though, as he fumbled in 10 of his 13 game appearances this season. His 17 fumbles on the year is the most in the NFL.
Raptor’s Thoughts: Giants’ fans will be happy to see that Jones’ flashes were enough to get him on the list, despite being the fourth-rated quarterback (behind Gardner Minshew, Kyler Murray, and Dwayne Haskins). However, addressing his tendency to put the football in jeopardy is something which the Giants’ next coach will need to make a priority this year. Next year the Giants will play some of the best defenses — and best teams — in the NFL, and they can’t give teams like the Baltimore Ravens or San Francisco 49ers any extra opportunities.