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Can D.J. Davidson be more than just a depth piece?

Giants’ fifth-round pick has proven ability against the run

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have been a bit short on size in the interior of their defensive line since Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill left the roster. Can fifth-round pick D.J. Davidson make enough of an impact to change that?

Let’s break down Davidson’s NFL outlook as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the 90-man roster the Giants will bring to training camp.

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 327
Age: 24
Position: Defensive lineman
Experience: Rookie
Contract: Year 1 of four-year, $4.014 million rookie contract | 2022 cap hit: $793,530

Career to date

Davidson had a slow start to his college career at Arizona State. He redshirted as a freshman in 2017, and a leg injury limited to just five games in 2018. He broke out in 2019 with 51 tackles in 13 games while being coached by former Giant Antonio Pierce.

Davidson flashed top-end ability against the run. He had 57 tackles, six of them for loss, and earned a PAC-12 leading 77.7 run-blocking grade from PFF. That earned him a spot on the conference second team.

But according to Davidson, his personality and work ethic are the main reasons that New York drafted him.

“I believe what made the positive impression is who I am as a person,” Davidson said after the draft. “I went back to my roots. I stayed true to myself. I stayed true and kept it real with the owners, with Coach Patterson, with all of them and what my goals are, just to be the best teammate, to be the best player that I can be.”

Dane Brugler of The Athletic had a seventh-round grade on Davidson.

“Overall, Davidson will never be known for his pass rush prowess, but he has a stout anchor and nose for the ball as a steady-flowing run defender. He will appeal to multiple schemes as a rotational nose,” Brugler said.

2022 outlook

The Giants have been plagued by defensive line issues for years, but Davidson is unlikely to do much to alter their weak pass rush.

He can, however, give them more depth in the middle of the line. Since trading away Hill before last season, the Giants have lacked a strong presence at nose tackle. They experimented with Danny Shelton, but the former first-round pick didn’t show much.

New York added Justin Ellis in free agency, and he’ll likely be the first man up when the team needs a stereotypical run-stuffer outside of Dexter Lawrence. But Ellis is 31 years old and on the decline after logging just 18 tackles and one quarterback hit in 2021. If Davidson can play faster than his size suggests and impress during training camp, there could be a path to playing time.