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2021 Rookie bye week report card: How are the kids?

How have the Giants’ rookies played in the first half of 2021?

Carolina Panthers v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The New York Giants are roughly halfway through the 2021 season.

It’s somewhat annoying that a 17-game season doesn’t have a natural first and second-half break like the 16-game schedule did. So the Giants’ Week 10 bye will just have to do, and this is as good a time as any to take stock of where the Giants are after nine games.

We’ll be taking looks at the offense and defense as entire units, but for now let’s take a look at how the Giants’ rookie class is shaping up.

Round 1 - Kadarius Toney, WR

Grade: C+

Kadarius Toney has flashed for the Giants. But while “flashes” are plenty for mid- or late- round picks, teams expect their first-round picks to be consistent contributors right away.

Toney had a great game in the Giants’ Week 5 game against the Dallas Cowboys, racking up 10 receptions for 189 yards on 13 targets. That was enough to get fans and writers incredibly excited, but it’s been just one game.

His other performances haven’t been particularly great.

  • Week 1: 2 targets, 2 receptions, -2 yards
  • Week 2: 0 targets
  • Week 3: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 16 yards
  • Week 4: 9 targets, 6 receptions, 78 yards (start)
  • Week 6: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 36 yards
  • Week 8: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 26 yards (start)
  • Week 9: 1 target, 1 reception, 9 yards (start)

Toney has yet to score a touchdown.

Part of the problem has been the Giants’ passing offense going into a shell over the last few weeks, not to mention Toney’s ankle and thumb injuries.

The Giants are counting on Toney to be a spark for their offense, but he’s been used more as a gadget player than a true offensive weapon. Hopefully we’ll see the Giants make more use of him in the passing attack after the bye week and he’ll be able to raise his grade over the final seven games.

Note: Part of the grade for this pick also comes from the Giants receiving the Bears’ 2022 first round pick. As of right now, the Giants have the eighth and ninth picks in the 2022 draft. They have to make good use of those picks, but they present a good opportunity to add important pieces to a team that’s facing some serious salary cap constraints.

Round 2 - Azeez Ojulari, EDGE

Grade: A

Ojulari has, thus far, been the Giants’ best and most consistent rookie. His raw stats are impressive with three sacks in his first three games and a huge 2.5-sack game against the Carolina Panthers — on top of another six tackles for a loss.

His down-to-down performance is a bit lacking compared to his box score. His run defense is still a work in progress and the Giants still lack a great speed rush. That being said, Ojulari still has plenty of development ahead of him and the tools to be a good player. He has turned out to be a very strong second round pick, particularly considering the Giants got an additional pick in the deal.

Round 3 - Aaron Robinson, CB

Grade: incomplete

While some might call rookies “busts” if they get injured, I refuse to do so unless the injury is the result of them doing something stupid off the field or are actively dogging their prehab or rehab.

For the most part, injuries are part of athletic life and that’s particularly true of football.

Robinson was activated off of the PUP list prior to the Giants’ game against the Kansas City Chiefs, but he’s barely seen the field since being activated. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of him after the bye week.

The Giants liked Robinson enough to trade up for him, and I’m interested to see what he brings to the field.

Round 4 - Elerson Smith, EDGE

Grade: incomplete

Like with Aaron Robinson, I can’t fairly grade Elerson Smith when he’s been injured all year.

While he was active against the Raiders, he only saw two special teams snaps. Hopefully he’ll get on the field more after the bye week, but as of now we just don’t have anything to go on. I will say, the fact that he hasn’t played a complete game of football since Dec. 13, 2019 could be a concern. But, we’ll have to see how much rust is in his game and give him the chance to develop.

Round 6 - Gary Brightwell, RB

Grade: C

Brightwell hasn’t been a factor on the offensive side of the ball, but he has been a consistent contributor on special teams. Considering sixth-round picks only have about a 10 percent “hit” rate, any contribution is a net positive.

Brightwell might have gotten the chance to show what he can do on the offensive side of the ball with Devontae Booker leaving the game against the Raiders. However, he missed the game and Elijhaa Penny stepped in and played well.

Round 6 - Rodarius Williams, CB

Grade: Incomplete

The third “incomplete” grade of the year for the Giants. As with Robinson and Smith, I just can’t criticize a player for getting hurt.

Williams only really got on the field in three games before tearing his ACL and never played more than 17 snaps and wasn’t a presence on special teams. His knack for making splash plays did get get him noticed by the coaching staff in training camp and was enough for him to rise up the depth chart. His coverage when he was on the field certainly was an adventure, but we can’t have the same expectations for a sixth-round pick as we would a Day 1 or 2 pick.

Round 6 - Quincy Roche, EDGE

Grade: A

While Roche might not have been a Giants’ draft pick, he is a rookie, so he’s getting graded.

Roche didn’t get to be a consistent presence on the field as a defender until the Giants’ Week 7 game against the Carolina Panthers when he played 23 snaps (36 percent). Thanks to injury and his own merits, Roche has played 50 snaps in each of the previous two games, and he has definitely flashed. So far he’s recorded 10 total tackles in the last three games, with a tackle for loss and the game-ending sack-fumble against the Raiders.

I had a third round grade on Roche before the draft and this is the kind of play I expect from a player with that grade. For a player drafted in the sixth round (after both of the Giants’ sixth round picks, by the by) and claimed off of waivers, Roche has been a definite “hit” so far in his young career.