As expected, the New York Giants were busy on the waiver wire Wednesday. The Giants were awarded three players — linebackers Justin Hilliard (49ers) and Quincy Roche (Steelers) , and wide receiver Collin Johnson (Jaguars).
The Giants are 11th in the waiver wire priority, the same spot they drafted in a few months ago. They likely claimed other players as well, who were awarded to teams with a higher waiver priority.
The Giants, of course, have to drop three players from the 53-man roster they announced on Tuesday to make room for their new additions.
Let’s quickly assess the players the Giants added, see where they may fit, and who they might be replacing on the roster.
Hilliard went undrafted out of Ohio State. He led the 49ers in tackles this preseason with 18. He had two tackles for loss and one quarterback hit.
Here is a quick scouting report from Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network:
Positives: Talented three-down linebacker coming off a career campaign. Quick to read and diagnose, takes proper angles to the action, and breaks down well, using his hands to protect himself. Keeps the action in front of him, doesn’t get caught out of position and flows well to the play. Gets depth on pass drops and quickly picks up coverage assignments.
Negatives: Displays average speed in pursuit and struggles catching ball handlers from the back side. Possesses average size. Has just one year of starting experience.
Analysis: Hilliard turned in a terrific season and went from non-entity in the scouting community to draftable prospect. He offers potential at several linebacker positions and will be an inexpensive utility defender at the next level.
Here is what Dane Brugler of The Athletic wrote in his 2021 Draft Guide:
“A part-time player at Ohio State, Hilliard filled in at SAM linebacker in defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs’ scheme. The only five-star recruit in the Buckeyes’ 2015 recruiting class, he battled numerous major injuries shortly after he arrived in Columbus, which altered his career trajectory and buried him on Ohio State’s depth chart. However, Hilliard persevered and worked his way back, playing at a high level in six games as a sixth-year senior. While inexperienced in some areas, he is a twitchy mover in space with the trigger to unlock and go in a flash, finishing with a closing burst that surprises the ball carrier. Overall, the medical evaluations from teams will be the key to Hilliard being drafted, but he has unquestioned NFL talent, intangibles and determination tailor-made for the next level.”
Where does Hilliard fit?
We will find out later who Hilliard will replace on the roster. I don’t think, though, that Hilliard’s presence jeopardizes Tae Crowder or Carter Coughlin.
Remember that head coach Joe Judge said that with an extra week before the regular season begins, the time leading up to Week 1 could be more of a tryout time than usual. Hilliard could simply be a player who intrigues the Giants and they want to get him in the building for a look. They could use one of the players they need to place on injured reserve to do that.
Over and over during the pre-draft process, I mocked the former Miami Hurricane and Temple Owl to the Giants. He ended up going to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Round 6 (216th overall).
Roche had 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits in three preseason games with Pittsburgh.
A one-year starter at Miami, Roche lined up at right defensive end in head coach Manny Diaz’s scheme, standing up and rushing with his hand on the ground. He spent four years at Temple and set the AAC record with 26.0 career sacks before transferring to Miami for the 2020 season, finishing second on the Hurricanes in tackles for loss (14.5) and sacks (4.5) behind Jaelan Phillips. Roche is an easy player to admire with his ability to pounce out of his stance and never quit in his pursuit of the football. However, he is overly reliant on that first step, lacking ideal play strength and move-to-move sequencing. Overall, Roche’s average traits will be tough to overcome vs. NFL blockers, but he is the type of pass rush prospect who will make it because of his toughness, feel and effort. He projects as a situational or subpackage rusher.
SENIOR BOWL PERFORMANCES— College Football Rankings ™ (@CFBRanking) January 29, 2021
Miami Fl DE Quincy Roche
Blows past the Outland Trophy winner multiple times. pic.twitter.com/dVN8xDA2DW
LOOK AT QUINCY ROCHE TAKING THE RIGHT TACKLE FOR A RIDE INTO THE QB! #SeniorBowl pic.twitter.com/QtLyXZuxvI— Inside The Draft (@Jacobkeppen) January 28, 2021
This is what Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy told me about Roche:
After watching Roche in person for a week, Nagy said he is “better than I thought he was.”
“He’s not a wow you athlete, although I will say this — during our week seeing him live he is twitchier and a little more slippery and bendier than I thought he was,” Nagy said.
“He’s just a really hard block. He makes people work when they block him .. he knows how to set guys up, he knows how to rush. That’s why I think he’s got a chance to contribute immediately at the next level on third downs and in sub situations.”
Nagy thinks Roche is a Day 2 pick, and a good value wherever he lands.
“He’s somewhere on Day 2,” Nagy said. “He’s probably going to be a better player and outperform wherever he gets picked. That’s the kind of player he is. He’s just a producer.”
Where does Roche fit?
Well, this one seems pretty straightforward. The Giants have a rookie edge rusher they drafted on Day 3 in Elerson Smith. It would be a fairly seamless fit for the Giants to put Smith, who has barely done more than a walk-thru practice this summer due to a hamstring injury, on IR and take a look at Roche for a few weeks. Maybe he can give them a little of the sub-package pass rush they had hoped to get from Smith.
Oh, and they make yours truly look smart after all the time I spent banging the table for him.
A fifth-round pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2020, Collins is a 6-foot-6, 222-pound wide receiver. He played in 14 games last season Johnson had 18 receptions in 31 targets for 272 yards (15.1 yards per reception) and two touchdowns.
Here is Pauline’s 2020 report on Johnson:
Positives: Tall receiver who presents himself as an outstanding third-down and red-zone target. Tracks the pass in the air and uses his hands to separate from defenders. Gets vertical and contorts to come away with the difficult reception.
Negatives: Displays little in the way of quickness or speed. Tends to round off routes and isn’t sharp into breaks. Average run-after-catch skill.
Analysis: Johnson is a tall, imposing pass catcher who wins out for the high or contested throw. He has limitations in his ability to separate from defenders, but Johnson would be a great complementary wideout in third-down and red-zone situations.
Where does Johnson fit?
Well, the Giants kept seven wide receivers on their initial 53-man roster. One of those, though, John Ross, could be headed to injured reserve.
If Kenny Golladay is not a full-go when the season starts, perhaps Johnson could be a red zone target.