One of the major stories of the New York Giants preseason has been the surprising potential shown by Jordon Riley, a defensive tackle surprisingly chosen by the team in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
On Monday, assistant general manager Brandon Brown described how the Giants came to be convinced Riley — a player seemingly on no one else’s radar — was a player they wanted to work with.
“I can’t mention Jordon Riley without mentioning (assistant director of player personnel) Dennis Hickey and (director of player personnel) Tim McDonnell. They were driving forces in terms of the process of Jordon,” Brown said. “I remember going back to my notes; Jordon’s not on anybody’s radar. It’s October, Dennis Hickey goes out to Oregon and sees him and is like, ‘B, listen, I’m just telling you this guy has traits that we want to play with. Knockback, we want to be big up front, want to control the line of scrimmage, he fits our brand of ball.’ Tim tells me, ‘B, we need to go see him play.’
“So, Tim and I went and saw him play against Cal. Tim’s been the ultimate checks and balances for me, someone that I have blind trust in where he says, ‘We need to go watch this guy, and we come apart from it, you can walk out to warmups, and he sticks out like a sore thumb.’”
Riley, 6-foot-5, 325 pounds, was — and still is — not a perfect prospect. He went to four colleges, including Garden City Community College. He had size and power, but little in terms of pass rush and his technique needed a makeover.
“There’re some inconsistencies in his game, and you’ve got to do the full, call it, the full evidence and due diligence and the fact-finding process on Jordon,” Brown said. “Him being a three-school transfer, us going the extra mile in terms of having Andre Patterson and (assistant defensive line coach) Bryan Cox work him out privately. In the personnel department, we refer to Dre Patterson as Dr. Dre, right? So, he’s a guy that puts his fingerprints on guys and tweaks up their techniques, and we see flashes, but you can’t replicate Jordon’s size. There’s not just that many men walking on the world that have his size.
“So, it’s on us to kind of bridge that gap with, can he take to the coaching? The development, getting his weight right, all those things that every time we put a benchmark in front of him, he’s met it. The nice part is the teammates root for him. (Defensive lineman) Leo(nard Williams) and (defensive lineman) Dex(ter Lawrence II), they’ve taken him under their wings like a little brother. The production that you’re seeing in the preseason, we’re hoping that can be a catalyst for things to come in the future. But it’s been really cool to see.”
Here are more takeaways from Brown’s media availability.
On the rookie class overall ...
“When you go back to June when we talked last, we talked about adding more guys that are smart, tough, dependable. Like I said in June, it doesn’t guarantee them success, but it gives them an opportunity and a platform for success. So, I think when you look at the draft class, we added explosiveness, we talked about making a conscious effort of adding generators on the offensive side, getting more explosive on the defensive side, guys that fit our brand. I think when you look from the top down from Joe and Dabs preaching collaboration, when there’s synergy between the scouting department and the coaching staff, it allows us, like I kind of label it, ‘finding players within the margin,’ right? There are guys that may be imperfect later on as you go in terms of on day three, but we’re asking them to do things that fit the system. That accentuates their positive traits. So, I’m excited. I’m excited. Obviously, there’s been early success, but the book isn’t written yet. But it’s a good start right now.”
On scouting Jalin Hyatt ...
“I think with Jalin, it’s doing your due diligence. It’s knowing what he was asked to do at Tennessee. It’s us having those extra conversations with his position coach at Tennessee, talking to the coaching staff at Tennessee, knowing what their system called for because what he’s doing for us, he has more talent in his body than the role he was asked to play at Tennessee.
“So, you look at the skillset, did he have bend, balance and burst? Can he get out of breaks? Was he asked to run a limited route tree at Tennessee versus what he can do for us? I think us going that, call it, full circle of doing all our due diligence and finding the evidence, it was a great process.”
On finding Tre Hawkins III ...
“You look at Tre, look no further than the physical traits. I kind of laugh and tell him he’s Temple, Texas tough. He’s a guy that’s gone the JUCO route. He’s got length that fits our system. Getting the description from (defensive coordinator) Wink (Martindale), Wink is very particular of what plays in the system and what’s at a premium. We know, hey, you’ve got to be able to run, got to be strong, guys that have length and you’ve got to be willing to be physical in the run game also in press coverage. So, when you look at Tre, he’s a guy that stood out at the All-Star game. It’s not a surprise to us. We had him in the building on a 30 visit. (Defensive backs coach) Jerome (Henderson), (safeties coach) Mike Treier, they spent time with him on the board.
“Then you look at where he is in training camp. Nothing has been too big for him. Every time there’s been a platform, he’s answered the bell. So, I think more guys like him that fit our profile, and then they have the mental toughness, play with short term memory. They’re getting coached the same way. It doesn’t matter how we acquire them. Once they’re here, it’s an even playing field. Dabs says, again, you earn your playing time based on merit, and Tre’s nothing more than an example of that.”
On front office preparations for cutdown day ...
“it’s a point where you look at times of, where can you acquire players? Whether it’s the Draft, whether it’s the trade deadline, whether it’s the cutdown period, I kind of say for the pro guys, it’s their Super Bowl. Besides free agency, it is an acquisition point where we have the ability to improve the roster and we do our due diligence on everyone,” Brown said. “I know you guys may see stories on guys that we don’t entertain, guys that we do entertain, just know we’re doing our due diligence on everyone.
“That’s the unseen work from the pro department. We set up our free agency board, our draft boards. It’s no different than the preseason board. There’s a board that goes across by priority and positions and we look at, ‘Hey, what would be an upgrade from what we currently have and what wouldn’t and why?’ And then find out, especially, if you look at what positions over historical data have been claimed the most. You look at defensive guys having a higher hit rate of being claimed and playing on a 53 after the cutdown then maybe some offensive guys. So, we take all that into account and try to make the most sound and informed decisions.”