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Gervarrius Owens looking to be more than throwaway pick

Seventh-round picks often face an uphill battle to make the roster

NCAA Football: Houston at Texas Tech
Gervarrius Owens
Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Gervarrius Owens, the New York Giants final pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, No. 54 overall in Round 7, seemed to be a nod toward filling up the defensive backfield with as much depth as possible. But can Owens, a safety, actually make the Giants’ roster?

By the numbers

Height: 6-foot
Weight: 200
Age: 24
Position: Defensive back
Experience: Rookie
Contract: Four-year, 3,917,784 million deal | Guaranteed at signing: $77,784 | 2023 cap hit: $769,446

Career to date

Owens did not play in 2017. He decided to leave Kansas State for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. He played at the JUCO level before transferring to Houston. He played for Houston from 2019-22, primarily at the safety position but also some significant cornerback snaps, both in the slot and wide.

In 2019, Owens’ claim to fame was two blocked punts. He allowed a 120.4 passer rating and four touchdowns, garnering a 54.1 Pro Football Focus grade. In his sophomore season, he played in seven games, splitting time between deep safety, box safety, and slot corner. He had a 62.1 PFF grade and allowed 6 of 9 receptions for 66 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 57.0 run defense grade.

In 2021, Owens appeared in all 14 games for Houston and was named first-team All-AAC. He had a 70.2 PFF grade, including 73.2 in coverage and 61.5 against the run. He allowed 7 of 12 receptions for just 59 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions, and a 59.4 targeted passer rating. He added 52 tackles and a pick-six.

As a senior, Owens was named second-team All-AAC after recording 74 tackles, eight pass breakups, one interception, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. He posted an 82.9 PFF grade, including 70.7 in run defense and 87.1 in coverage. He allowed 17 of 24 receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Owens declared for the 2023 draft and was selected by the Giants with the 254th pick.

2023 outlook

Owens’ versatility is a plus, as he has played free safety, slot corner, and wide corner a fair amount. He did settle in primarily at free safety after his freshman year, but he still moved around. Owens may settle into an Xavier McKinney-type role, playing primarily free safety but roaming around as needed. He is listed as a defensive back on the Giants’ depth chart, but other outlets list him as a safety.

Wherever he lands, Owens will have a chance to make the roster, but it’s far from guaranteed. The Giants have a crunch at cornerback, but safety is a bit lighter. Even so, beyond McKinney, the Giants also have Bobby McCain, Jason Pinnock, Dane Belton, and Trenton Thompson, as well as Nick McCloud being moved from cornerback to safety.

Owens did see 328 total special teams snaps in college, primarily on field goal blocking, punt returns, and kickoff coverage. His PFF grades on special teams in four seasons were 74.1, 64.6, 70.3, and 54.4, as he recorded five tackles and two assists with no missed tackles. Perhaps that will help him stick on the roster.

If not, Owens is a clear practice squad candidate. His 9.21 relative athletic score is enough to make it worth trying to develop him. The Giants might want to explore making him a Swiff Army knife-type defensive back. Still, as a seventh-rounder, Owens lacks consistency in many areas of his game, including tackling and run defense, and could use quite a bit of work.