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Giants’ rookie report card: Grading Joe Schoen’s 2023 draft class

There are several players to feel good about going forward

NFL: Washington Commanders at New York Giants Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants turn the page to the 2024 offseason after a disappointing season rife with mistakes and misfortune.

Let’s look back at GM Joe Schoen’s 2023 draft class, and add some thoughts on undrafted free agent quarterback Tommy DeVito.

The grades below do not reflect how I feel about the players moving forward; they’re only indicative of how they played during their rookie season. The grades are also relative to their draft value. Let’s get to it.

CB Deonte Banks – Round 1, Pick No. 24

The hug seen around the world seems moot after the resignation of Wink Martindale at defensive coordinator, but, luckily, the presence of a more developed Deonte Banks remains entrenched as the number one cornerback moving forward.

Banks played 840 defensive snaps for the Giants, recording 56 tackles, two interceptions, six passes defended, and a solid 57.6% reception rate. He did, however, commit 8 penalties, which was 13th-highest of all cornerbacks. He missed the final two games of the season.

Here are his two career interceptions:

Banks ranked 23rd best in reception rate of cornerbacks who played at least 50% of their team’s defensive plays. Joe Schoen spoke highly of Banks on Monday:

“Tae Banks with rare physical ability, and as he continues to grow and mature; what he did against some of the very good receivers in this league, as a rookie, I thought was pretty impressive.”

Banks has all the necessary athletic traits to thrive in man coverage, and he had a good overall rookie season, by my estimation. He also displayed very good awareness with zone and match principles.

Whoever replaces Martindale as defensive coordinator will approve of having Banks on the roster. With the retention of Jerome Henderson, I expect Banks to continue his development as a number one corner in the league.

GRADE: B+

C John Michael Schmitz – Round 2, Pick No. 57

The Giants have added several young offensive linemen over the last few drafts, yet development hasn’t progressed as many hoped. This is one reason why offensive line coach Bobby Johnson was fired.

Second-round pick John Michael Schmitz flashed his upside but was inconsistent overall. He allowed five sacks and 30 pressures in his 484 offensive snaps. He surrendered the fifth most sacks and pressures at the position.

Here are Joe Schoen’s comments on John Michael Schmitz’s rookie season:

“John Michael Schmitz is going to be a good center,” Schoen said. “The intangibles are off the charts, he’s got leadership potential. I’d be surprised if he’s not a captain down the road.”

I’m not in the building, but Schoen’s comments about his leadership make sense. Schmitz’s toughness is palpable, and his movement skills, and ability at the second level, were solid through his rookie season. I love the leverage he plays with, and his wrestling background was perceptible on tape.

The interior parts of the line had a turbulent time executing twist pickups. I’m not going to assign full blame to the rookie center for the struggles, but I was pleased to see how effortless it was for Schmitz to open and close his hips.

Overall, Schmitz was adequate along an imperfect offensive line. There’s room for growth, but the foundation is solid.

GRADE: C

WR Jalin Hyatt – Round 3, Pick No. 71

Hyatt’s do not necessarily define my excitement for his future. He caught 23 of 40 targets for 373 scoreless yards on 557 offensive snaps. 109 of those yards were against the Patriots in Week 12. He caught 57.5% of his passes with four drops and an average of 16.2 yards per catch on the season.

Although the statistics are modest, Hyatt’s ability to stretch the field adds a dynamic element that was so desperately missed in previous years. The combination of Hyatt and fellow wide receiver Darius Slayton give the Giants two speed-options to maximize their two-man route concepts off play action (Yankee, Mills, etc.).

Here are Joe Schoen’s comments on Jalin Hyatt’s rookie season:

“Hyatt is going to be a good receiver,” Schoen said. “I think you saw with Jalin the explosive play ability.”

It’s difficult to not see Hyatt’s explosiveness, and how that can be leveraged with better protection up front and a quarterback who is willing to throw the football down the field. The Giants incorporated simple Air Raid concepts in the preseason that we saw in the later parts of the season (3x1 lone drag route to Hyatt).

The 22-year-old is still growing as a route runner. The nuances of uncovering against zone and being on the same page as the quarterback are two aspects of his game that can improve. His 14.8% drop rate was not ideal, but his ability to track, concentrate, adjust, and secure still popped on tape. It’s not something that concerns me...yet.

Hyatt mostly ran go routes and hitches. His top timed speed was 21.4 miles per hour in 2023, and he had seven explosive plays on the season. Hyatt aligned on the outside 88.3% of the time, 48% of that was on the left side.

He’s not fully refined, but the explosive traits he currently possesses are difficult to find. I expect his role to increase significantly next season.

GRADE: C+

RB Eric Gray – Round 5, Pick No. 172

Gray appeared in 13 games, and spent Weeks 8-11 on Injured Reserve with a calf injury. He was mostly a special teamer with 88 snaps under Thomas McGaughey, who also fired on Monday. Gray had four kickoff returns that avenged 14.5 yards and seven punt returns with two muffs.

This may be unfair but Gray did not seem like the desired initial choice to be the punt returner. He hadn’t returned punts since 2021, where he returned two, and muffed both of them. He only had nine total punt returns in college.

However, the Giants decided to roll the dice with Gray as punt returner at final cuts, which proved to be one of the many calculated risks that failed to work out. I’m sure the Giants did not want to subject Gray to the practice squad, for he would have quickly been scooped up.

Gray rarely saw the offense with Saquon Barkley on the roster. Gray had 17 carries for 48 yards (2.8 YPC) with one fumble. He caught six of seven passes for 22 yards (3.7 yards per catch). His season was not desirable, but he does run low, behind his pads, and he does possess solid contact balance:

“I thought Eric Gray had a good game last night when he was given opportunities,” Schoen said on Monday. “He probably didn’t get as many opportunities this year as he would’ve liked but that’s a testament to Saquon and his availability.”

The jury is still out on the 24-year-old, but the young back didn’t receive the opportunity to make Giants fans comfortable as the lone back if Barkley leaves in free agency.

GRADE: D+

CB Tre Hawkins III – Round 6, Pick No. 209

No hype train was louder during Giants’ training camp than Tre Hawkins III. He made such an impactful and early impression that the Giants used Adoree’ Jackson as a slot defender to start the season to get Hawkins on the field. Unfortunately, it did not yield positive results.

Hawkins had several missed tackles against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3, which led to zero defensive snaps against Seattle in Week 4. Against Miami in Week 5, Hawkins III ran on the field for Jackson, and Tua Tagovailoa found Tyreek Hill for a 69-yard touchdown.

Hawkins stuck to special teams for most of the season after the Miami game, other than the two Washington games, the second Dallas game, and the final week of the season when Banks was out with injury. He surrendered a touchdown against Dallas and Philadelphia.

He allowed an 80.8% catch rate for 330 yards and three touchdowns with two passes defended and 26 tackles. He also committed four penalties.

Hawkins III struggled in his rookie season, which is to be expected from a sixth-round pick. The razzmatazz of training camp did not translate to the regular season - c’est la vie.

Hawkins III did show exceptional physicality on certain hits, which was one of the primary traits that stuck out to me when he was at Old Dominion. He should be considered a developmental depth piece.

GRADE: D+

DT Jordon Riley – Round 7, Pick No. 243

The massive nose tackle played 135 defensive snaps for the Giants in his rookie season. He flashed down the stretch of the season, which was detailed by yours truly in this article. Riley had seven tackles and four stops during the season with some quality reps against Jason Kelce in Week 16.

Giants defensive line coach Andre Patterson extracted massive potential out of Dexter Lawrence, and Riley flashed; but Coach Patterson admitted Riley still has a lot to work on. The Giants enter the offseason with less depth behind Lawrence after the trade of Leonard Williams - something Giants’ fans welcome along with the 47th pick in the draft (thanks, Seattle!).

The Giants currently have Riley, DJ Davidson, and Rakeem Nunez-Roches behind their only Pro Bowler, Dexter Lawrence. The Giants may add another defensive linemen in the off-season. Even if they do, Riley will have an opportunity to earn snaps in the rotation, provided the new defensive coordinator employs a nose tackle.

GRADE: B-

S Gervarrius Owens – Round 7, Pick No. 254

Owens failed to find the defensive football field during his rookie season. He played in 37 special teams snaps with one assisted tackle. He did have success during the preseason. Owens recorded nine pressures, five stops, three pressures, and two passes defended. He had little impact in 2023, and will be learning a new defense in 2024.

GRADE: N/A

QB Tommy DeVito - Undrafted free agent

DeVito took the football world by storm with Italian cliches and a three-game winning streak. He was the only Giants’ undrafted free agent to see the football field on offense or defense (Jaylon Thomas was a Ravens’ UDFA).

The passing paisano threw for 1,101 yards on 114 completions (6.2 yards per attempt) with a 64% completion rate for eight touchdowns and three interceptions. DeVito had a penchant to let it rip down the sideline from the pocket, and that aggressiveness was a welcomed sight for Giants’ fans.

However, as one would expect, DeVito’s processing would get laborious. He was sacked 37 times, and many of those sacks were his fault. Yes, he held onto the football a bit long; yes, he had limitations; still, he overachieved and proved worthy of future conversations as a backup quarterback.

Giant fans may be conflicted on DeVito who helped spark a three-game winning streak that ultimately led the Giants to the sixth pick, rather than the second. I understand that feeling, of course, but obviously players don’t adhere to such concepts. For that fact, I’m happy DeVito was able to briefly cash in on his unlikely opportunity.

GRADE: B