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Ranking the Giants’ draft class by likely Year 1 impact

New York’s seven-pick haul has a chance to contribute from the get-go.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 04 Reese’s Senior Bowl
John Michael Schmitz
Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

New York Giants GM Joe Schoen has garnered high marks for his 2023 draft haul from most avenues. We at Big Blue View are bullish on his selections, as many of them should make an instant impact on the team in areas of need.

Still, some of them will clearly make their presence known more than others from the get-go. Let’s project the order of the seven players’ Year 1 contributions to the Giants, from least to most impactful.

7. DB Gervarrius Owens (No. 254)

Considering that Ed Valentine had Gervarrius Owens missing the final 53-man roster, I think it’s fair to say that he is likely to have the least impact among the draft picks. Owens profiles as a special teamer and will likely begin the season on the Giants practice squad.

Owens’ 9.21 RAS makes him an intriguing developmental prospect, but the team likely has too many other young defensive backs to make space for him in Week 1.

6. DL Jordon Riley (No. 243)

Jordon Riley’s 2.80 RAS is in the 28th percentile among all defensive linemen whose testing has ever been recorded. That’s generally not NFL-level. Riley was ranked 567th out of 587 on NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board.

Schoen claimed that he selected the 6-foot-5, 338-pound defensive lineman for stout run defense since the Giants’ defensive line depth is definitely thin. However, Riley’s 57.6 PFF run defense grade ranked 304th out of 374 FBS interior defensive linemen (min. 100 run defense snaps). His 5.9% stop rate was 219th (58th percentile), though, so it’s possible he can bring something to the table.

Ed picked Riley to make the team over D.J. Davidson, but I’m going to go with the opposite. I think Riley takes a spot on the practice squad this season.

5. CB Tre Hawkins III (No. 209)

Nick Falato provided an in-depth film breakdown of Tre Hawkins III’s strengths and weaknesses. Hawkins goes for the big hit, which leads to highlight-reel tackles and forced fumbles but also to bad misses. He is aggressive in press coverage, as well, which is likely why the Giants took him to add to their cornerback room. Hawkins is most likely to see special teams snaps in his rookie season while learning better technique from defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson.

4. RB Eric Gray (No. 172)

The Giants needed another running back to add to the rotation, and Eric Gray was a really strong pickup. The running back learning curve is the smallest out of any position in the NFL, which makes it easier for backs to hit the ground running.

Gray’s 44 rushes of 10+ yards in 2022 tied for fifth among 146 qualified FBS backs (min. 100 rush attempts). He complemented that with a stellar 3.43 yards after contact per attempt, which ranked 45th (70th percentile). His 78 runs for a first down ranked 10th. This is a back who can do more than just spell Saquon Barkley, as his 1.03 yards per route run was in the 70th percentile.

The area that Gray definitely needs to work on is his blitz pickup. He posted a 27.5 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus on 43 attempts, which ranked 160th out of 193 FBS backs with at least 30 pass-blocking reps. This will limit his ability to play on third down.

Gray may not supplant Matt Breida as the RB2, but I expect him to see a significant role in the Giants’ offense and help keep Barkley’s workload manageable.

3. CB Deonte Banks (No. 24)

I had a hard time deciding between Deonte Banks and Jalin Hyatt in this spot, but I ultimately put Banks below Hyatt for a couple of reasons. First of all, the rookie learning curve for cornerbacks is generally pretty high. Banks is stepping into a difficult situation, as he will be asked to play on an island in press coverage a fair amount in Wink Martindale’s attacking defense.

I loved the Banks pick and think he has a bright future with the Giants. I just think that his tendency to get grabby and press skills that need some refining might lead to big plays and penalties against him in Year 1. He did not demonstrate much of an instinct for the ball in college, which makes it less likely that he will nab interceptions to offset those struggles.

Then again, Banks will be a starter and Hyatt most likely will not, which gives Banks a leg up in terms of snap count.

2. WR Jalin Hyatt (No. 89)

I think Hyatt will make a big impact on the Giants’ receiving corps even if it doesn’t show up in the box score. The Giants needed a true burner; Hyatt is that, with a 4.40 40-yard dash and 1.50 10-yard split, which means he gets up to speed in a hurry. His 18.9 yards per reception and eight touchdowns of 20+ yards in 2022 show his potential to open up the offense.

That being said, Hyatt has not shown much of an ability to beat press coverage, which means that he might be relegated exclusively to the slot. The Giants already have Parris Campbell and Wan’Dale Robinson there, which means that Hyatt might have to compete for snaps from the outset.

Still, his deep-play ability will keep him on the field often, opening up the intermediate area for Darren Waller, Darius Slayton, and some of the Giants’ other skill position players.

Daniel Jones had the second-lowest deep attempt rate out of all starting quarterbacks last season at 4.3%, with just 26 targets of 20+ yards. Being forced to stack first down upon first down without that big-play threat through the air makes it harder to score and increases the likelihood of mistakes.

For this reason, I believe that Hyatt will have a strong impact on the Giants’ offense.

1. OC John Michael Schmitz (No. 57)

Yes, that’s how high I am on John Michael Schmitz in the Giants’ offense. I think he is going to be their most impactful player from the first day of camp.

For all the talk about the team’s lack of wide receivers and playmakers on offense in 2022, the single biggest issue was the offensive line. Injuries and subpar play made Jones the second-most pressured quarterback in the league, while the Giants were just 18th in non-quarterback EPA per rush up the middle at -0.094.

JMS brings the nastiness, grit, and football IQ that Brian Daboll covets in his offensive linemen. His floor is the highest of any of the Giants’ rookies, and he is the most pro-ready draft pick on the team. The impact of an offensive lineman isn’t always immediately evident, but you can likely attribute any early-season run-game improvements to the new man in the middle.