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Opportunity might be knocking for Giants’ cornerback Sam Beal

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Could he be the player to benefit if DeAndre Baker can’t play

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NFL: NOV 10 Giants at Jets
Sam Beal
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sam Beal has given the New York Giants little return on their investment of a third-round pick in the 2018 NFL Supplemental Draft, playing in only six games over two seasons.

To this point, the gamble has not paid dividends. DeAndre Baker’s legal troubles, though, could give the 23-year-old cornerback an opportunity to change that in 2020.

Let’s take a closer look.

The basics

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 177
Age: 23
Position: Cornerback
Experience: 2
Contract status: Year 3 of four-year, $4.082 million rookie contract (UFA 2022)

How he got here

The Giants rolled the dice by snagging Beal in the 2018 Supplemental Draft.

“We feel like we’re getting our third-round pick now,” GM Dave Gettleman said via a release from the team after the Giants selected Beal. “We discussed it at length yesterday, and had a great conversation. We basically had a draft meeting in the office, with people on the speaker phone who had seen him. It was a very thorough conversation.” ...

“We’re very, very excited about getting Sam in the draft,” Gettleman said. “He’s long, he’s very athletic for a corner, he has all the physical skills, he can carry the vertical, he has very good play speed, he shows instincts out there, he has ball awareness, he doesn’t panic when the ball is thrown at his guy, and he is a very willing tackler. We just feel it gives us a really talented young kid with the ability to ascend.”

Beal hasn’t ascended yet.

A shoulder injury suffered in one of his first Giants’ practices cost him the 2018 season. Leg injuries landed him on IR for the first half of the 2019 season, and he finally appeared in six games with three starts during the final part of last season.

In that time he surrendered 16 completions in 21 targets (76.2 percent) with a passer rating against of 115.2 and one pass defensed.

The numbers weren’t great, but considering how long it had been since Beal had played football it’s hard to know if they give us an accurate picture of the kind of NFL player Beal might be.

2020 outlook

Until Baker’s legal troubles surfaced, it looked like Beal would likely be competing with a horde of other young cornerbacks for a reserve role behind Baker and James Bradberry. Now, with Baker’s availability for the 2020 season and perhaps beyond very much in doubt, Beal could compete with Corey Ballentine and perhaps others for the right to start opposite Bradberry.

Scouts loved the Giants’ gamble on Beal when they took it two years ago. Here are a couple of the reactions:

SB Nation says “Beal has the makings of a starting cornerback with potential to grow into an upper-echelon defender.”

Beal will be well served by the amount of man coverage that Western Michigan played last season. As NFL defenses become more man coverage-centric, Beal is a perfect fit for any defense looking for someone who can compete for a starting spot immediately. It’s rare to have a player in the supplemental draft that’s as talented as Beal.

NFL.com believes Beal “possibly become a natural cover corner on an island.”

Projected by some to be a top-5 player at his position next year, Beal was viewed as a near-lock to be selected today. NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks noted that Beal owns the footwork and body control to possibly become a natural cover corner on an island, but needs to work on his run defense. Beal joins a Big Blue D that has undergone an overhaul under new defensive coordinator James Bettcher. The Giants need depth at outside corner behind current starters Janoris Jenkins and erratic Eli Apple. Bettcher’s system calls for his corners to play a lot of man-coverage on the outside. It’s a role Beal is suited to grow into, even if it’s not in Year 1.

If he can stay healthy, perhaps Beal can still fulfill that potential. It looks like there could be an opportunity waiting for him.