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Saquon Barkley headlines four Giants in ESPN Top 100 rankings

No Daniel Jones, though

NFL: Preseason-Carolina Panthers at New York Giants John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

Just one year after being absent from the list entirely, the New York Giants have four players represented in ESPN’s annual top 100 player rankings.

Saquon Barkley leads the way at No. 39. Dexter Lawrence, Andrew Thomas and Kayvon Thibodeaux were also recognized.

There are 12 quarterback’s in this year’s rankings, though Daniel Jones is absent from the list. Among NFC East teams, the Giants fared worse than the Philadelphia Eagles (seven players) and Dallas Cowboys (five players) but better than the Washington Commanders.

The list is based solely on NFL experts’ projections for the upcoming season and does not take past performance into account.

Let’s take a closer look at what ESPN’s panel had to say about the Giants’ best:

39. Saquon Barkley

Barkley was finally healthy last season, and he looks even better this summer. He also is motivated to produce while in search of a new contract. The bottom line is whenever he has been on the field in his career, he has produced. The Pro Bowler played 80.2% of the offensive snaps last season, most among running backs. — Jordan Raanan

What they are saying: ”I mean, I think Christian McCaffrey is a great route runner, but I think Saquon might be the best. He’s got speed. He’s got shiftiness. His wiggle is really good. He’s just a dominant player.” — Giants linebacker Bobby Okereke

Perhaps there’s some irony in the fact that for all the big-money extensions the Giants inked this offseason, their highest ranked player is the only one they couldn’t sign to a long-term contract.

Barkley is the third-highest ranked running back on the list, trailing only Christian McCaffrey and Nick Chubb. Suffice it to say that Barkley has regained respect from his peers after largely falling out of the national narrative the past couple of years. He ran for a career-high 1,312 yards last year and earned his first Pro Bowl nod since his rookie season.

Barkley will play on a one-year deal worth up to $11 million. If he lives up to ESPN’s projections, contract talks could be even more complicated next offseason.

48. Dexter Lawrence II

He was dominant last season after defensive line coach Andre Patterson and coordinator Wink Martindale decided to make him a nose tackle. Centers can’t guard him one-on-one. Hence the career high 7.5 sacks and his 28 quarterback hits (second among defensive linemen). The Giants signed him to a $90 million deal expecting even more in Year 2.

What they are saying: ”They have some studs on the inside. 97 is a premiere player and needs to probably get some more recognition for the ability that he has. Talking with our interior three, they think he’s one of the top guys in the league for sure. And he played really well for them.” — Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers (last season)

Lawrence comes in at No. 5 among interior defenders. He will once again be the cornerstone of the Giants’ defense after being selected as a second-team All-Pro last year.

56. Andrew Thomas

His pass block win rate has jumped dramatically every season, from 81.0% as a rookie to 92.6% in 2022 when he earned second-team All-Pro honors. Thomas has become a lockdown left tackle who will be protecting Daniel Jones for years to come now that he’s under contract for the next seven seasons. — Jordan Raanan

Thomas is arguably the best player on the Giants and was one of the biggest breakout stars in the NFL last year. Tristan Wirfs, Thomas’ fellow 2020 draftee, placed just a few spots higher at No. 51. Trent Williams is the only tackle ranked above them.

Like Lawrence, Thomas was an All-Pro selection last year. Now he just needs to prove he can maintain that level of play on an offensive line that lacks any other proven stars.

86. Kayvon Thibodeaux

EDGE | Giants

His rookie season started slowly with an injury and he finished with 4.0 sacks. But the 2022 No. 5 pick still finished 16th among edge rushers with a 17.9% pass rush win rate. It’s easy to see the sack number jumping significantly with him in better shape and with more experience in his second season. — Jordan Raanan

Perhaps the only surprising appearance for the Giants on the list, Thibodeaux has been getting all buzz all offseason as someone who could take a big leap in Year 2. With the Giants lacking depth at edge defender, Thibodeaux’s development, along with third-year player Azeez Ojulari, will play a huge role in determining the ceiling of the Giants’ defense.

Thibodeaux will likely be compared to Travon Walker and Aidan Hutchinson all season, the other two edge defenders selected in the top five of last year’s draft. Here, Hutchinson placed at No. 67 but Walker is unranked.