The New York Giants have a definite need on the defensive edge, that much is clear from their 2020 tape. It’s been a long time since the team has invested a premium pick on a pass rusher, and while they probably need to do so, the 2021 NFL Draft might not supply a good value — or fit — at the top of the draft board.
If that happens, it would once again leave the Giants looking for value down the depth chart.
Penn State’s Shaka Toney has played second fiddle to a pair of highly touted EDGE prospects over the last two year. In 2019 it was Yatur Gross-Matos, and in 2020 he was opposite Jayson Oweh, yet each season Toney hung with both of the more widely heralded prospects.
Could Toney be a sleeper at the EDGE position?
Prospect: Shaka Toney
Games Watched: vs. Memphis (2019), vs. Minnesota (2019), vs. Ohio State (2020)
Games Played: 40
Tackles For a loss: 28.5
Forced Fumbles: 4
Passes Defensed: 4
Tackles For a loss: 7.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 1
Best: Competitive toughness, burst, versatility
Worst: Snap timing, hand usage
Projection: A rotational EDGE in a hybrid or multiple defense.
(Toney is EDGE no. 18)
Shaka Toney is an athletic, competitive EDGE player from Penn State with the versatility to rush from multiple alignments in multiple or hybrid fronts.
Toney rushed as a defensive end from 3 and 4-point stances, lined up as both a 7-technique and wide-9 technique, in Penn State’s 4-3 fronts, as well as a rush linebacker in a 2-point stance in 3-man fronts. Toney has an explosive first step, with the ability to win with speed off the snap of the ball. He also shows some flexibility in his lower body, flashing the ability to bend the edge with good body lean and carry speed into the backfield.
Toney has an effective long-arm move, which he can employ as a power counter to his speed rushes.
Toney is a disciplined run defender, setting a firm edge without running himself out of the play or over-committing on read-option or play-action. He is a reliable tackler who is capable of both delivering hits and wrapping up to bring the ball carrier down with minimal yards after contact.
He generally appears comfortable as a stand-up rusher, showing a similar burst from a 2-point stance as a 4-point stance. Toney is also capable of dropping into zone coverage to help disguise blitzes. He gets good depth quickly in his drops and shows solid awareness, as well as an ability to read quarterbacks’ eyes and react quickly to passes (Memphis, 2019).
Toney needs to improve his snap timing, as he can be one of the last players moving at the snap of the ball. He also needs to become more consistent with using his hands to keep himself clean in his rushes. Toney has a tendency to rush with his shoulders, allowing blockers to latch on and he has difficulty disengaging. His inconsistent hand usage also limits his ability to counter if his initial move doesn’t work, resulting in some stalled rushes.
Overall Grade: 6.0 - This prospect has the competitive toughness and athletic tools to be a solid contributor as a rotational or depth player, but technique concerns introduce a bust potential.
Shaka Toney projects best as a rotational pass rusher in a multiple or hybrid defense.
His ability and experience to rush from a variety of stances in different fronts and alignments should give a creative defensive coordinator a number of options for working him onto the field. Toney flashes the tools to be a speed rusher at the NFL level, and coaches will certainly like his competitive toughness and hustle. His ability to drop quickly drop into zone coverage and occupy the flat or hook/curl areas of the field should also have value for teams that like to make use of zone blitzes and scheme pressure from unexpected angles.
That said, he might have to carve out a role for himself as a pass rush specialist, at least early in his career.
Toney’s hand usage is inconsistent, and he too often only makes token attempts to use his hands to keep blockers from fully engaging. Unfortunately that leads to too many snaps where he is swallowed up, and he can even have problems shedding tight end blocks. While he’s an athletic rusher, he doesn’t quite have the physical or athletic tools to win without consistent technique. Because of that, coaches will have a hard time relying on Toney on running downs as he is now. Whether he can clean up his issues with his hands and time his rushes a bit better will go a long way toward determining his ultimate role in the NFL.