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NFL Draft grades 2023: Just how good were the Giants’ picks?

The Giants got better in the 2023 NFL Draft, but how much better?

NCAA Football: Alabama at Tennessee Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

After four long months and three long days, the 2023 NFL Draft is in the books.

Now the New York Giants are moving on to fine tune their roster over the course of their rookie camp, mini-camp, training camp, and the rest of their off-season program. But as we wait for news of the off-season program, not to mention undrafted free agency, let’s take a moment to take stock of what the Giants did to over the three days of the draft.

Grading a draft not even 24 hours after it is finished is silly. Every single player who was drafted over the last three days is a project. Some “home runs” could turn out to be busts, and some players who were discounted could turn into stars. That’s why we like to wait three years to give players a chance to develop before we assess a draft class.

But I can still offer my thoughts in the immediate aftermath of the draft.

24th overall - Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland

Grade: A-

I’m going to agree with the Big Blue View poll on this one. I didn’t think there was much of a chance that Banks would be available for the Giants to even consider in the first round, so this is automatically an A. Banks should be a great fit in Wink Martindale’s defense and give them a good bookend for Adoree’ Jackson. He will go on to be the Giants’ CB1 depending on what happens with Jackson after this year.

I do think it’s fair to knock the grade down a bit due to the trade up. Yes, the Giants wanted to secure ‘Their Guy,’ but there is an opportunity cost to trading up. By and large, trading back and accumulating more picks is the wiser choice given how every draft choice is a lottery ticket. However, it’s also unlikely that the 160th and 240th picks would be difference makers, which is why I think it’s only a slight knock on the pick.

57th overall - John Michael Schmitz, OC, Minnesota

Grade: A

Schmitz was one of my top offensive linemen at any position in the entire draft. He isn’t the biggest, strongest, or most athletic lineman in the draft. Personally, I don’t think that matters. He’s athletic enough and has a sky-high football IQ, fantastic awareness, great technique, competitive toughness, and a wrestling background. He also has a background in a diverse running scheme and is a reliable pass protector

The Giants have a pretty desperate need on the offensive interior, and Schmitz should be an immediate starter. He should also be a stabilizing force on the offensive line. And while the Giants probably could have gotten a starting center a bit later, he probably wouldn’t be as good as Schmitz.

73rd overall - Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee

Grade: B+

This is another pick that we probably would have accepted at 25th overall had the board fallen badly for the Giants in the first round. So from that perspective, this is an “A” or even an “A+”. Hyatt should give the Giants the big-play potential their offense has lacked, and create room for their various slot machines to work.

And while the Tennessee prospects were likely dinged for the offense in which they played, there’s evidence that Hyatt should be able to adjust to the NFL game. I’m also pretty confident that Mike Kafka and Brian Daboll can adjust their schemes to put Hyatt in position to succeed while he hones his skill set as a receiver.

But as with the selection of Banks, I think it’s fair to knock the selection a bit due to the trade up. The Giants sent their fourth-round pick (128th overall) to the Los Angeles Rams to make the jump up. I’m knocking it down a letter grade because the 128th pick is more likely to be a valuable piece than the 160th or 240th pick (or the two put together). But, as with Banks, the Giants wanted to make sure they got their guy, and there’s no guarantee that a receiver they valued would be available at 89th overall.

172nd overall - Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma

Grade: B+

It was a long 3-hour, 20-minute wait for the Giants to make their first pick of the third day. Time will tell if they made the most of the pick, but it’s hard to see this pick going awry.

Gray is a compact, twitchy, and agile running back who’s with good vision and the ability to string moves together to make defenders miss in close quarters. He was consistently productive as a runner and receiver for an Oklahoma offense that had taken a step backward from previous years. Gray doesn’t have “pull away” speed, but he does have the quickness and burst to keep the chains moving, even if the play goes sideways.

There were several runners available who offer different flavors of similar upside. We have to trust that the Giants picked the one who best fits their team vision.

The “B+” is really a provisional grade, because you can’t grade players until a couple years down the line. Gray will probably be the Giants’ RB3 this year and could wind up pushing Matt Brieda. It’s likely that he stays as a reliable depth player in the Giants’ backfield who the coaching staff feels confident rotating onto the field. But it’s possible that he could become a long-term starter. In the former case, this is a solid “B” pick — not a home run, but the kind of single you need to build a team. If Gray becomes a solid starter, then this immediately becomes an A+ pick.

209th overall - Tre Hawkins III, CB, Old Dominion

Grade: C

I’ll admit I didn’t watch Hawkins. The feel I get from my research after the pick was turned in is that he’s a toolsy lottery ticket who could develop into something with time and coaching. Hawkins has good size at 6-foot-1 (32⅛-inch arms), 197 pounds, and is an excellent athlete. He ran a 4.39 second 40, 6.74-second three-cone and 4.22-second short shuttle, and also has a 37.5-inch vertical jump. He reportedly needs work on his technique and awareness after giving up too many touchdowns in college.

Hawkins was labeled a “Priority Free Agent” by both Lance Zierlein and Dane Brugler, so it seems that Joe Schoen used this pick to secure a UDFA the Giants didn’t want to risk signing elsewhere.

243rd overall - Jordon Riley, DT, Oregon

Grade: C

If I’m being honest, Riley never really stood out to me in the Oregon tape I watched, though that can happen with a nose tackle. He’s a massive defensive tackle at 6-foot-4, 340 pounds, with 34-inch arms. He’s also had a winding road to the Giants, starting his collegiate career in 2017 in North Carolina, before transferring to Nebraska and finally to Oregon. He was Academic All Big Ten in 2021, so he seems to be a smart player, and this seems to be another instance of Joe Schoen locking down a player he had his eye on as a priority free agent.

Taking a step back, the Giants might have the heaviest defensive line in the NFL this year. Between the 340-pound Riley, 340-pound Dexter Lawrence, 330-pound D.J. Davidson, 325-pound Vernon Butler, 320-pound A’Shawn Robinson, and 307-pound Rakeem Nunez-Roches, the Giants have a hefty defensive front. All that investment in mass up front could tell us something about how Wink Martindale wants to play defense.

254th overall - Gervarrius Owens, S, Houston

Grade: C

This is another case where it feels like the Giants took the opportunity to secure a player they had earmarked as a high priority free agent.

Owens is a good-sized athletic safety who was also a second-team All-ACC, and had some intriguing production. Over the last two years he’s had 126 tackles (5.0 for a loss), 3 interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown), 11 passes defensed, and 1 forced fumble. He has a background as both a corner and safety, and has a reliable as a willing hitter.

This is another grade that’s starting out as “average” but could be an easy “A” if if Owens turns into a contributor (it is a very late seventh-round pick, after all. They’re not expected to succeed). It’s possible that the Owens could be an immediate factor in the Giants’ safety group, but he’ll likely need to prove himself on special teams first.