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Looking for keepers on Day 3 of the draft

The Giants need some later round draft picks to succeed to improve a shallow roster

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Detroit Lions v New York Giants Photo by Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

The New York Giants are not a star-studded team. They placed only two players in the NFL Top 100, although the omission of Andrew Thomas was a travesty. By comparison, the San Francisco 49ers had eight, the Philadelphia Eagles seven, and the Dallas Cowboys seven. Those are the teams most likely standing in the way of a Giants’ return to the Super Bowl in the next few years.

Maybe Daniel Jones will ascend to top 100 status this season, or Kayvon Thibodeaux, or Darren Waller. Or perhaps one of Deonte Banks, John Michael Schmitz, or Jalin Hyatt will have breakout rookie seasons and become instant stars. That’s not the Giants’ history, though. They have rarely been a top-heavy team. Among players, only Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, and Michael Strahan from the Super Bowl era are Hall of Famers, and it’s not certain that more from past teams will be added in the future. The Giants’ best teams have instead been characterized by depth, with many good to very good players, often unheralded when they were drafted.

A feature of recent NFL draft history well known to New York Giants fans is their tradition of missing on third-round draft picks. Round 3 was once kind to the Giants. In 2005 it made Justin Tuck a Giant; in 2007, Jay Alford, who didn’t have much of a career but who did sack Tom Brady at the most opportune time in the Super Bowl; and in 2008 Mario Manningham, who had only a few good seasons but made one of the biggest catches in Super Bowl history.

Since then, though, Round 3 has been a wasteland: Ramses Barden, Travis Beckum, Chad Jones, Jerrel Jernigan, Jayron Hosley, Damontre Moore, Jay Bromley, Oma Odighizuwa, Darian Thompson, Davis Webb (who did at least perform heroically in his only start as a Giant), Lorenzo Carter (good but not good enough for a second contract), and B.J. Hill (who became a very good player after the Giants traded him and was OK as a Giant).

Third-rounders still with the Giants from the Dave Gettleman era are Oshane Ximines (who seems to be slipping down the depth chart), Matt Peart (who started well in the Lions pre-season game but regressed after that), and Aaron Robinson (who may be a good player but can’t stay on the field long enough to prove it). There’s still time for all of them to establish themselves as worthy of having been top 100 selections, but the clock is ticking. Loudly.

This year’s Round 3 pick, Jalin Hyatt, has had a great camp though he was quiet in the first preseason game. Hopes are high for him to break the Giants’ third-round curse.

A spreading disease

The Giants’ futility in Round 3 has obscured the fact that they haven’t done well on Day 3 either in the past decade. Once upon a time, players like David Diehl (Round 5), David Tyree (Round 6), Derrick Ward (Round 7), Brandon Jacobs (Round 4), Kevin Boss (Round 5), Ahmad Bradshaw (Round 7), and Devon Kennard (Round 5) made important contributions to winning Giants teams. Since 2014, though, the only Day 3 picks who have been real assets as Giants are Julian Love and Darius Slayton, both from the 2019 draft class.

Rebuilding a roster that was as bereft of talent as the Giants’ 53 was in 2021 is a big task. General manager Joe Schoen has done a good job finding free agents and making trades to acquire personnel for the starting lineups on offense and defense that not only can compete but can win when they receive good coaching. Add to that the fact that some of the high draft picks of the Gettleman era who seemed disappointing early in their careers have developed to become very good to excellent players (Daniel Jones, Dexter Lawrence, Andrew Thomas).

The thing is, the Giants’ roster is top-heavy. The starters when healthy were good enough to get the Giants to the playoffs and even the Divisional Round in 2022. The depth, though, was subpar and mostly remains that way. A big reason has been the later rounds of the draft. During their pre-season loss to Detroit, in which most of the starters sat, it was clear that the Lions’ depth is generally better than that of the Giants at the moment, especially at edge defender and linebacker.

Teams should be able to find good players sometimes in the later rounds of the draft. Consider these players from the past few drafts:

  • 2018: Bilal Nichols (Round 5), Wyatt Teller (5), Ja’Whaun Bentley (5), Bradley Bozeman (6), Sebastian Joseph-Day (6), Foyesade Oluokun (6), Nyheim Hines (4), Jordan Whitehead (4), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (5), Josey Jewell (4), Josh Sweat (4), Russell Gage (6), Taron Johnson (4), Jordan Mailata (7), John Franklin-Myers (4), Dalton Schultz (4), Brian Allen (4), D.J. Reed (5), Zach Sieler (7), Richie James (7), Avonte Maddox (4), Boston Scott (6), Mike White (5)
  • 2019: Maxx Crosby (4), Tony Pollard (4), David Edwards (5), Dre Greenlaw (5), Hunter Renfrow (5), Gardner Minshew (6), Andrew VanGinkel (5), C.J. Gardner-Johnson (4), Ben Powers (4), Drue Tranquill (4), David Long (6), Donovan Wilson (6), Scotty Miller (6), Kaden Elliss (7)
  • 2020: Darnell Mooney (5), Gabriel Davis (4), Michael Onwenu (6), Donovan Peoples-Jones (6), Kamren Curl (7), L’Jarius Sneed (4), Kevin Dotson (4), K.J. Osborn (5), Jordan Fuller (6), Isaiah Hodgins (6)
  • 2021: Amon-Ra St. Brown (4), Trey Smith (6), Rhamondre Stevenson (4), Michael Carter (4), Michael Carter II (5), Chuba Hubbard (4), Elijah Mitchell (6), Khalil Herbert (6), Talanoa Hufanga (5), Jonathon Cooper (7), Drew Dalman (4)
  • 2022: Tariq Woolen (5), Tyler Allgeier (5), Braxton Jones (5), Jamaree Salyer (6), Isiah Pacheco (7), Malcolm Rodriguez (6), Damarri Mathis (4), Dameon Pierce (4), Isaiah Likely (4), Brock Purdy (7), Chigoziem Okonkwo (4), DaRon Bland (5), Bailey Zappe (4), James Houston (6)

These are based on combined information from Pro Football Reference’s weighted Approximate Value metric (influenced by quality of play and amount of time on the field) and Pro Football Focus’ grades (based on analyst assessments of individual performance). Only a few of these players have emerged as stars (e.g. Maxx Crosby, Wyatt Teller, Amon-Ra St. Brown), and to be honest I am unfamiliar with some of them, especially those from less prominent teams that the Giants rarely play. What they all have in common is that they have been at least solid, productive starters or contributors for their teams.

There are 72 players on this list from the past five years’ drafts, meaning that an average team should have found 2-3 good players on Day 3 over this time period. The Giants currently have one (Slayton). No Day 3 gems remain from the Jerry Reese era, either. The Giants are seeking to be more than an average team, and without many stars, they have to do it the way previous Super Bowl Giants teams did, with more than their fair share of good players from the later rounds.

That means that the Giants have been playing catchup to flesh out the roster, not only at the top where most of the attention is given but everywhere since Joe Schoen arrived as general manager. The Schoen era didn’t get off to a great start in 2022 Rounds 3-7 either, except for Daniel Bellinger, who only played part of the season:

  • Josh Ezeudu: A hoped-for eventual starter who lost much of 2022 to injury.
  • Cor’Dale Flott: A player who has made a few plays but also lost time to injury and hasn’t seized a boundary or slot corner job that is wide open.
  • Dane Belton: Also made a few plays in 2022 but did not have much of an impact.
  • Micah McFadden: Couldn’t keep a job that was there for the taking in 2022.
  • Marcus McKethan: Missed the 2022 season with an ACL tear.
  • Darrian Beavers: Also missed the 2022 season with an ACL tear.

In Schoen’s defense, he didn’t start as GM until three months before the draft and didn’t have his staff fully in place before having to conduct his first draft. Also in his defense, not all draft picks hit the ground running. There is a learning curve for many of them, especially for those who were injured for all or part of the season (10 of the 11, only McFadden did not miss a game).

Are things looking up in 2023?

Eighteen of the 31 2018-2022 Round 3-7 draft picks remain Giants as of this writing. Many of them could be on the chopping block when rosters have to be cut to 53. There are also seven new 2023 draft picks. How many look like they can be real contributors in 2023 and beyond?

On offense, the bad news is that the only draftee who received an above-average grade for the first pre-season game was guard Shane Lemieux. The good news about that is that Lemieux, an atrocious pass blocker as a rookie (16.9 PFF grade), graded 85.0 in pass protection, with no pressures yielded in 20 pass blocking snaps. That is miles better than anything he ever did as a rookie, where he never had a game pass block grade better than 57.1 and once infamously got a PFF pass block grade of zero. If Lemieux is finally learning to pass block, that would be a huge plus for a Giants offensive line desperate for reliable depth.

On defense, the situation is a little better. We have to start with safety Jason Pinnock - if you can’t draft well in the late rounds, then pilfer someone else’s late-round pick. As discussed by Rivka Boord this week, the Jets drafted Pinnock in Round 5 in 2022 and then waived him, hoping to get him to the practice squad, but Schoen grabbed him instead. Pinnock has emerged early in camp as the odds-on favorite to get the other starting safety spot opposite Xavier McKinney. In only five defensive snaps against Detroit, he made a big impression, grading 92.3 with an interception (causing Giants defensive backs on the sideline to ask, what’s an interception?).

Why didn’t the Giants draft Pinnock themselves? Pinnock was taken with the No. 175 pick, while the Giants had pick No. 164. What did they do with that pick? Traded it to Denver to move up in Round 3 to take...cornerback Aaron Robinson. Now they have both. With luck, both will be important contributors to a stingy Giants’ 2023 secondary.

More recently, the Giants grabbed sixth-rounder Isaiah Hodgins from the Buffalo Bills. The fact that Hodgins, who languished with Buffalo, could become perhaps the Giants’ best receiver within a month of joining the team speaks to the dearth of talent of the 2022 team. Hodgins hasn’t been very visible in camp and pre-season, but more because he is established as part of the primary rotation of receivers for 2023.

The other surprise is Micah MacFadden, who graded 90.5 against Detroit, mostly on the strength of excellent run defense, something he did not feature much as a rookie. Since the Giants have lost Jarrad Davis for the season, and Darrian Beavers is returning from an ACL tear, a more effective McFadden playing behind a strengthened interior defensive line would be good news for the Giants. Don’t get too excited yet, though - McFadden graded 90.5 in his first 2022 pre-season game last year but wound up with a 38.7 defense grade for the season.

Dane Belton also graded highly (75.7) and had an interception. Among 2023 Day 3 draftees, seventh-round pick Gervarrius Owens, who has received little attention in camp, graded 73.4 in 40 snaps, with one reception yielded in two targets for only eight yards. Tre Hawkins III, who has gotten much more attention, gave up four receptions in six targets but for only 30 yards and generally showed an ability to stay with his man, grading 64.3. Jordon Riley did not grade highly but seemed to nicely clog the middle when he was in there. Eric Gray didn’t flash, but it’s hard to impress when your offensive line can’t open any holes. Undrafted free agents Alex Cook and Habakkuk Baldonado also played well, though only Cook’s PFF grade seems to reflect that.

Not all of these players need to succeed for the Giants to become true contenders. It would sure be nice, though, if Joe Schoen could break the curse and become known as a GM whose late-round draftees are worth paying attention to.