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New York Giants’ rookie mini-camp: First impressions of the 2023 draft class

This certainly seems like a class of smart, tough, dependable young players

Tae Banks
Ed Valentine

In my New York Giants rookie mini-camp preview, I talked about some of my first impressions from previous camps I have attended. So, here are some of my first impressions of the Giants’ 2023 draft class.

Hardly any of these players did anything on the field over the two-day camp, so these are not on-field assessments at all. They are more personal impression from brief interactions.

Tae Banks

Yes, it’s Tae. Not Deonte. The Giants’ first-round pick has made it known that he prefers to be called ‘Tae’. So, that’s that.

Banks seems like a really nice young man. He is not, though, an expansive talker. At least early in his career, he is not going to be a go-to quote in the Giants’ locker room.

Here is the opening segment of his session with the media on Friday:

Q. How was the first day?

DEONTE BANKS: It was really good. Real smooth. Real light. Real good.

Q. What’s been your first impression of Coach Daboll and the coaching staff, just getting you acclimated here?

DEONTE BANKS: I like it. I like the coaches, I like how they coach me. It’s real smooth. It’s real good.

Q. How about the important stuff? What do you think of No. 36?

DEONTE BANKS: It’s alright. It’s just what I have right now. That’s what I’m working with right now. That’s cool.

Q. Did you pick it?

DEONTE BANKS: No, I didn’t pick it, no. They just gave it to me.

Q. You grew up watching the Ravens. How easy was it for you to go out there and kind of execute what (Defensive Coordinator) Wink Martindale was asking you to do?

DEONTE BANKS: They play a lot of man, so if you know me, you know how I play man.

Q. What is it about man defense that you like?

DEONTE BANKS: I don’t know, it’s just a mentality thing. I just love doing it.

Q. Is there ever a challenge that you ever back down from?


Short and to the point. No wasted words.

As Banks’ time with the Giants unfolds he might become a popular in the community, especially with kids. Banks said that is something he did a lot while at Maryland.

“Got to,” he said. “I like seeing the smiles on young kids’ faces.”

John Michael Schmitz

Schmitz got more work, if you want to call it that, than any of the other rookies. He was the snapper for every 7-on-7 rep over the two-day period, probably two dozen reps total.

Schmitz, as those who have coached him recently told me, just seems like a nose to the grindstone player who is going to put in the work.

“I’m just — I’ve been saying I’m taking it one day at a time, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning the offense, learning the techniques and fundamentals for this offensive line room and taking it one day at a time,” Schmitz said. “Just got to keep getting better with your technique and fundamentals each and every day. That’s really important for our individual work, with your pass set, with your run blocking. You can do that every day without even doing any hitting. (Offensive Line) Coach Bobby Johnson, does a tremendous job of getting us better each and every day.”

Jalin Hyatt

OK, call me weird. Or, hate me for this. Looking at Hyatt’s face and hair, I couldn’t help but think he reminded me of former Giant tight end Evan Engram.

I was, honestly, perhaps more impressed by Hyatt’s work at the podium on Friday than by any of the Giants’ other draft picks.

He was comfortable, well-spoken, appreciative of his NFL opportunity, humble enough not to offer any bravado or make promises about what he would accomplish in the league. He also smoothly handled questions regarding about those who have doubted his ability.

“People are always going to say things. I think that’s what I learned the most,” he said. “I’m here now and I’m here with the Giants, and the draft process and everything else is out of the way. I’m here, and my only focus now is getting better, learning my new teammates, learning the coaching staff here, learning the playbook and just going out there when my opportunity presents itself, and that’s my goal and that’s what I want to do.”

What about that video of a Dallas Cowboys’ assistant doubting his route running?

“It didn’t bother me at all. Coaches and — a lot of people have their own opinions on things, and I respect the Cowboys receiver coach, met with him when I went up to one of my 30 visits when I went up there,” Hyatt said. “I have a lot of respect for him, and like I said, that’s in the past now. Draft process is in the past. I’m here with the New York Giants, and I’m just ready to get to work.”

Eric Gray

Saquon Barkley has a rival. No, not for the job as the Giants’ lead running back — at least not in 2023. We’re talking quad size here. When he came to the podium to speak to media on Saturday, Gray was wearing a pair of short shorts that showed off massive Barkley-esque quads.

Gray was asked about the devaluation of running backs in the NFL. For a young man experiencing his first weekend as an NFL player, I thought Gray gave an insightful answer for such a young player.

“I think it’s a very valuable position,” he said. “You look at today’s game, you look at just the different running backs in the league and you think about how important they are to the offense. They’ve got to learn protections; they’ve got to learn the passing game. They have to know what everyone is doing, so in my opinion it’s a very valuable position that can make a lot of money.”

Tre Hawkins III

This is a young man who doesn’t lack for confidence. Who does he model his game after or compare to?

“I model my game after a little bit of everybody,” Hawkins said. “I’ve been told — kind of making a comparison, Jalen Ramsey, Patrick Surtain, Jimmy Smith, people who kind of got my size and my traits.”

Can he play press-man coverage?

“I could see myself playing anywhere in the NFL,” Hawkins said. “I can fit any scheme.”

Coming out of Old Dominion is he worried about the step up in competition?

“I don’t let too much into level competition. When I face a guy who came from Power Five — when we hit the NFL, Power Five or Sun Belt or DII doesn’t matter,” Hawkins said. “If you get in the NFL, you’ve got the same competition. Randy Moss, when he went — where did he go?”

Moss, one of the best wide receivers of all time, attended Marshall.

“There’s greats everywhere, so level competition isn’t too much of a difference,” Hawkins said.

Let’s see if he can back up the bravado.

Jordon Riley

I actually felt bad for Riley during his media availability on Saturday. About two minutes into it, undrafted wide receiver Bryce Ford-Wheaton also popped out to talk to media. Ford-Wheaton, reportedly paid the most of any Giant undrafted free agent in this cycle, had been requested for interviews by a number of media members.

Why did I feel bad for Riley? Probably three quarters of the media listening to him speak — including myself — left to go and speak with Ford-Wheaton.

After bouncing through four colleges, including Garden City Community College, and lasting to pick No. 243, Riley is likely used to not being the center of attention.

He also doesn’t seem to be all that aware of his NFL surroundings, admitting Saturday that he didn’t know much about Dexter Lawrence or Leonard Williams.

To me, though, he seems like a kid worth rooting for. Riley had a special reason for not giving up during his winding college career.

“I’ve got a little daughter at home, and she means the world to me, and I just think me stopping wouldn’t have helped her, so I just felt like, just keep going,” he said. “That’s all I was thinking about.”

Gervarrius Owens

I missed Owens’ media availability. In looking at the transcript of his remarks, though, I can appreciate his mention of a “hard-hat mentality” and the fact that he said he did a lot of special teams work while playing at Houston.

I also enjoy the reactions of kids who are fulfilling a dream, especially late-round picks who might not have been sure they would be selected. Owens was the draft’s 254th pick.

“Man, it was crazy to say the least, just hearing my name called. It’s a childhood dream since I was like eight years old,” he said. “Just kind of waiting on this day, so for it to come full circle was just a blessing. All my family and friends were around me, so just being surrounded by all that love, it just really put everything in perspective for me, so I’m definitely blessed to be here and going to get to work for sure.”