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Where will key Giants rank on ‘NFL Top 100’ list?

The Giants have several blue-chip players. How high can they go?

Houston Texans v New York Giants
Dexter Lawrence
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In the dead time of the offseason, lists are the name of the game. Naming the New York Giants’ skill position players 27th in the NFL and trashing their offseason as 29th is certainly one way to go about it. However, on a more positive note, the ‘NFL Top 100’ list debuts in August. Discussing who will make that list is a common talking point.

The Giants’ players who will and will not appear on that list are pretty clear-cut. The gap between their top players and everyone else on the roster is pretty sizable. As this list is voted on by the players and coaches, when you factor in reputation, that gulf widens even further.

Rather than covering who will make the list, which you already know, let’s speculate about where those players will land on the list. Furthermore, which Giants players have a chance of inserting themselves into the top 100 in 2024 when this exercise commences once more?

Andrew Thomas: Teens

Andrew Thomas was a second-team All-Pro in 2022 and a Pro Bowl snub. His 89.1 Pro Football Focus grade, which ranked third among tackles, was all the more impressive considering the complete chaos that surrounded him. Thomas has more than lived up to his draft billing after a rough start.

Despite his lower profile, I think Thomas will get the recognition he deserves. The edge rushers who had to play against him will have told their teammates what a brick wall he is. He allowed just three sacks and three quarterback hits all regular season.

If Thomas keeps this up, he will get his first-team All-Pro nod once Trent Williams decides that age is a thing. He is a cornerstone of the Giants franchise.

Dexter Lawrence: 20s

On the other side of the ball, Dexter Lawrence proved himself in a breakout 2022 season. Although he was a second-team All-Pro rather than first-team, Lawrence was up there statistically with the league’s best interior defenders.

Lawrence ranked fourth in pressure rate (12.3%), second in sack-plus-hit rate (6.04%), and second in total pressures (63). He added PFF’s top run defense grade for defensive tackles at 81.9, showing his skills as a complete player. He was properly rewarded with a four-year, $90 million contract extension this offseason.

Although there are other big-named big men out there, including Aaron Donald, Chris Jones, Quinnen Williams, Jeffery Simmons, and Daron Payne, Lawrence was right in the thick of them in 2022. I think he will be the fourth-ranked defensive tackle on the list behind Donald, Jones, and Williams. Considering how interior defensive linemen got paid this offseason, the NFL recognizes how important the position is.

Therefore, I believe that Lawrence will end up in the upper echelon. Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but that’s how good Lawrence was in 2022. I would personally rank him even higher, but there are players with bigger reputations who could pull ahead.

Saquon Barkley: 30s

It’s difficult for me to get a handle on where Saquon Barkley will be ranked. Following his outstanding rookie season, he rocketed up to 16th on the list. He dropped to 31 after a less-impressive second season, then fell off altogether in 2021-22 following his ACL tear and subsequent lackluster comeback year.

Barkley made the Pro Bowl in 2023 and still has a reputation as one of the league’s best backs. Whether that is the case is up for debate, but the players clearly believe that he is. Recently, Jason and Travis Kelce, on their New Heights podcast, talked about Barkley as one of the best backs in the game.

I was hesitant to put Barkley as high up as the 30s simply because of the running back rhetoric this offseason. However, it seems apparent from the Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs picks that at least some NFL decision-makers don’t believe the analytics. Therefore, it stands to reason that many of the coaches and players don’t, either. If so, just going based on reputation, they’re going to overrate Barkley.

He’s not worthy of that slot, in my opinion, but that’s where I think he’ll end up.

Darren Waller: 80s

Darren Waller has been on the list for three consecutive seasons from 2020-22. Despite missing time with injury in 2022, Waller is poised to make that a fourth consecutive season, in my opinion. His reputation among his peers is solidified, and a trade to the Giants brought him back into the conversation after a lull on the disappointing 2022 Raiders.

Waller still ranked ninth among tight ends with a 72.4 PFF grade last season. His 13.9 yards per reception ranked second, and his 1.58 yards per route run ranked 10th. Statistically, it was far from an elite season, but it was enough to keep him in players’ minds as a top player when healthy.

Waller ranked 99th on the list in 2020. I believe he’ll work his way into the 80s.

Missed the cut

Leonard Williams

The Giants’ other starting interior defensive lineman is coming off back-to-back seasons in which he made the Top 100 list, ranking 84th and 97th, respectively. I don’t think he will make it this season, although his reputation may take him into the 90s.

Williams did rank 12th among interior defensive linemen with a 77.9 PFF grade. However, he ranked 20th with a 9.35% pressure rate, 28th in sacks, and 14th with a 72.0 run defense grade. Although he is still a good player, I think it’s unlikely that he’ll make the cut, especially with Lawrence overshadowing him in the middle.

Daniel Jones

Despite Daniel Jones’ shiny four-year, $160 million contract extension, I don’t believe anyone around the league will put him into the top 100. Jones’s contract reads more like a two-year prove-it deal than a big payday for a star. If the Giants themselves are evaluating Jones to see if he can take the next step, there is very little chance that his peers will consider him among the game’s best.

Jones ranked 17th among quarterbacks with a 76.0 PFF grade and 20th with a 71.1 passing grade. Although his 81.8 run grade was eighth among quarterbacks, that is not enough to vault him into any sort of top quarterback conversation.

Graham Gano, K

Graham Gano is one of the more underrated Giants. The veteran kicker was money as usual, hitting 29 of 32 field goals (90.6%, tied for eighth among kickers). He did miss two extra points, bringing his extra point rate down to 94.1%, which ranked 23rd.

One of Gano’s claims to fame, though, was his 8-for-9 mark from beyond 50 yards, an 88.9% rate that was sixth among kickers. None of those ahead of him had more than six attempts from beyond 50 yards, though. He was also 10-for-11 in the 40-to-49-yard range, a 90.9% rate that was seventh-best.

However, only the lofty Justin Tucker gets recognized on top 100 lists. Players who quietly do their job generally don’t get noticed. Tucker’s 94th ranking in 2022 was the only time a kicker has ever made the list since its inception in 2011. Therefore, Gano is highly unlikely to make the list.

Potential 2024 first-timers

Kayvon Thibodeaux

I was a big fan of Kayvon Thibodeaux’s talent (well, not his attitude) before the draft, and I remain a believer in his abilities. I listed him as one of the three Giants players most likely to break out in 2023.

Although Thibodeaux had just a 9.8% pressure rate in 2022, which tied for 52nd out of 77 qualified edge rushers, his 20.2% pass rush win rate as a senior in college indicates that the ability is there. He showed flashes of his talent as a rookie, including two key strip sacks, excellent run defense, and a lot more hustle and motor than the draft process gave him credit for.

Thibodeaux explained that he has learned to utilize leverage to win battles more consistently. He may appear lanky, but his lower half is stronger than it looks; it’s using that strength that usually requires a learning curve in the NFL. For edge rushers who are used to having their way with college tackles, the finer points of pass rush often take time.

I am expecting a big Year 2 leap from Thibodeaux. I don’t know about a spot on the Top 100 list, but I think the potential is there.

Daniel Jones

Is it too much to hope or expect that Jones can insert himself into the top 100 conversation in 2023? Perhaps. However, $82 million guaranteed over two years comes with expectations. If Jones hasn’t hit that point by next offseason, there will be questions about what the Giants’ future at the position looks like.

Note: Kirk Cousins has made the list in six out of the last seven seasons.

John Michael Schmitz

The Giants were ecstatic when John Michael Schmitz fell into their laps at No. 57. Schmitz already made’s prediction for the All-Rookie team. He has the potential to take the Giants’ run game to another level with his mauling from the middle.

That being said, even Creed Humphrey, who was third in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting as a rookie in 2021, did not make the list last season. He’ll certainly be there after Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro selections in his sophomore season, but it seems to take that level of excellence for a center to make the list.

Over the last five seasons, no more than three centers have ever made the top 100 in a year, and all of them were either All-Pros that season or had been previously. If the Ravens’ Tyler Linderbaum, who finished seventh in the Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, cracks the list, then maybe Schmitz has a chance. However, he’ll probably have to garner at least a Pro Bowl nod to have a shot. That’s a lot to ask from a rookie.

Others under discussion

Xavier McKinney

Giants fans are going to bring up Xavier McKinney, so I figured I’d mention him here. McKinney did not make the Top 100 in 2022 after his “breakout” season in 2021. He was a solid safety but far from a star. In 2022, he took a big step back even before his injury. Whether due to a poor fit in Wink Martindale’s system, difficulties learning the new defense, or simple regression, McKinney enters a contract year with much uncertainty ahead of him.

Will he earn a new contract after the season? It’s highly unlikely that the Giants would use the franchise tag, estimated at $14.46 million for the non-exclusive tag and $11.867 million for the transition tag, per Over the Cap. Several higher-profile safeties with better bona fides in the NFL earned lackluster contracts this offseason, including C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Jordan Poyer, and even Julian Love. Unless McKinney has a true breakout season, he could go the way of Love in 2024.

I don’t see McKinney making this list a year from now, either. Even if he does, it could be as a member of another team.

Deonte Banks

It’s easy to look at Sauce Gardner, Tariq Woolen, and Pat Surtain II as models of what rookie cornerbacks can do in the NFL. However, expecting that level of play out of a rookie is foolhardy. Banks has the skills to become a good cornerback, but he will likely be tested early and often out of the gate. In Martindale’s defense, he will find himself on an island, and that’s a tough place for a 22-year-old.

Even Darrelle Revis, arguably the greatest man corner of all time, struggled somewhat in his rookie season, allowing 748 yards and four touchdowns in 2007. Don’t expect Banks to be Revis, either, but he has a chance to progress into a top-level corner. It will simply take time as he adjusts to NFL expectations.

The Giants face a murderer’s row of receivers this season. Even though Adoree’ Jackson is their top cornerback, Banks will still face the other team’s top threat at times, whether because the Giants match him up that way or opponents scheme to try to get their best player on a rookie. The names include CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Stefon Diggs, Terry McLaurin, Garrett Wilson, Davante Adams, Christian Watson, Chris Olave, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Cooper Kupp.

I have big hopes for Banks, but he needs patience.

Jalin Hyatt

Just as Banks will need time to learn in the NFL, Jalin Hyatt needs some time. The third-round receiver is coming from a spread offense that often saw him wide-open. It’s not that Hyatt never ran routes, but there’s a lot more technical detail that he’ll need to learn at the NFL level.

Furthermore, with all the Giants’ weapons, there’s a chance that Hyatt doesn’t see many offensive snaps early in the season. Darius Slayton, Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell, Wan’Dale Robinson, and even Darren Waller could thin out his possible playing time.

I’m also very high on Hyatt, and I love his energy. But it’ll be a process with him, so I’m not expecting a breakout rookie season.

Adoree’ Jackson

The Giants’ best cornerback is still not a top-10 corner in the NFL, ranking 28th with a 71.0 PFF coverage grade in 2022. He’s a solid cornerback but not a top-100 player in the league. This also may be his final year with the Giants, as he is set to hit free agency in 2024 after his age-28 season.

Bobby Okereke

Another big-contract guy who is not a top-10 player at his position. Bobby Okereke ranked 22nd among off-ball linebackers with a 73.3 PFF grade. His best mark was as a run defender, where his 79.3 grade ranked 15th. Okereke will be an upgrade at linebacker for the Giants, but I’m not expecting him to suddenly become a star just because he got the 10th-highest average per year among linebackers.

What do you think, Giants fans? Do you agree or disagree with my placements for Giants players in 2023? Did I miss anyone who has a chance to break out in 2024?