The New York Giants have entered the dog days of summer. Rookie mini-camps are already through, and OTAs commence on May 22nd. New York has yet to extend a training camp invitation to any of their rookie mini-camp invites; last season, defensive lineman Ryder Anderson earned that honor.
Unlike most previous years, the NFL has a subaltern league rife with poachable young talent and adequate coaching. That league is the XFL, which just concluded its 2023 Championship game - a 35-26 Arlington Renegades upset of the D.C. Defenders.
Several XFL players have signed with NFL teams over the last week. Former 2019 fourth-round pick Hakeem Butler signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers after his 51-catch, 605-yard, eight touchdown season with the St. Louis Battlehawks. Jack Heflin - who spent time on the Giants practice squad in 2022 - signed with the New Orleans Saints after he recorded 19 pressures and three sacks for the Houston Roughnecks. Another former Giant, Niko Lalos, also signed with the Saints from the Seattle Sea Dragons. Seattle - and former Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback - Ben DiNucci signed with the Denver Broncos.
The XFL is becoming a meritorious pathway to the NFL. Here are three players the Giants should consider extending an invite toward
Tuzar Skipper, EDGE
Yes, we’re taking this stroll down memory lane. Dave Gettleman claimed Skipper off the Pittsburgh Steelers waivers just before the 2019 season. Skipper played 40 snaps for the Giants with one pressure and a sack before spending another two months on the practice squad until the Steelers resigned him at the end of the 2019 season.
Skipper is a 6-foot-3, 246-pound edge defender with solid overall burst off the line, but who has failed to be an impact run defender at the NFL level. His explosiveness was on display for the Seattle Sea Dragons in 2023; Skipper recorded 14 pressures and seven sacks. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the fifth-highest-graded defensive player, with the third-highest pass-rushing grade.
Would Skipper be guaranteed a roster spot? No, of course not, but could he provide depth to a position group with injury issues? Maybe so; he’s still just 27 years old, and the Giants need depth at edge. Skipper provides some pass-rush ability and enough athletic ability to flip his hips and cover.
John Daka, EDGE
Another edge rusher ... kind of. Daka was massively successful in the 2019 season for James Madison University. He’s only 6-3, 227 pounds, but he amassed 97 pressures and 21 sacks in his senior season. Daka was an undrafted free agent in 2019 and became familiar with Wink Martindale’s defense after the Ravens signed him.
Daka was released by the Ravens at final cuts in 2019 and bounced around a few practice squads. He was the premier pass rusher this spring for the Houston Roughnecks, and he recorded 32 pressures and seven sacks while having the fourth most stops (17) of all edge rushers in the XFL. Daka understands how to generate pressure and he does string together pass-rushing moves.
The 25-year-old has an elite motor that was on display in the XFL and at James Madison, which could entice the Giants' coaching staff. Still, he’s undersized. A fair question that would help Daka’s chances of competing in training camp would be - could Daka be cross-trained to play inside linebacker? That’s no easy task for many reasons, but his ability to flip his hips and drop in coverage was something he did adequately throughout his career.
Deontay Anderson, LB/S
The Las Vegas Vipers hybrid linebacker recorded 41 tackles, eleven stops, an interception, and four passes defended in 2023. The 6-2 230-pound former Houston Cougar was teammates with the Giants’ seventh-round pick Gervarrius Owens, and could possibly have a relationship with Giants’ special teams’ coach Thomas McGaughey (his son plays for Houston).
Nevertheless, Anderson’s size, role, and athletic profile are interesting. He ran a 4.74 40-yard dash but jumped 37 inches in the vertical and more than 10 feet in the broad jump. He was used more as a pressure player coming forward in his final year at Houston (2021).
Anderson started his college career at Ole Miss where he was a Freshman All-SEC Second Team selection (Athlon) as a safety. He moved closer to the line of scrimmage as his college career progressed, and he left Oxford after the 2017 season. Anderson fits the positionless defense that Martindale is attempting to cultivate, but he would have an uphill climb to crack the Giants’ roster. However, if there’s a spot to be had, a linebacker spot could be obtainable.