The New York Giants went into the 2020 NFL Draft with a clear plan in mind. The plan was to fix and fortify the offensive line once and for all, add speed and toughness to the linebacker corps, and to further add young talent to the secondary. The Giants had 10 picks and used all of them to add depth and talent to a young team that will be led by new Head Coach Joe Judge.
Dave Gettleman is still trying to overcome years of mistakes and failed draft picks from the Jerry Reese era. It has been a long and painful two seasons with Gettleman in charge of Giants personnel decisions. This was a make-or-break off-season for Gettleman and it seems like he finally has this team headed in the right direction again.
The Giants picked 10 players in this draft. They took four guys from the SEC, three Big Ten players, two more from the Pac-12, and one from the AAC. They are a talented group of individuals that will be relied upon to mature early and become a long term part of the Giants core players.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has rocked our world and this football season. The rookies will have a much-abbreviated off-season and will be expected to learn and understand the nuances of NFL football quicker than ever before. With that, let’s look at the rookies and their expected roles and contributions for the 2020 season.
Predicting the New York Giants Rookie Contributions
Andrew Thomas, Offensive Tackle, Georgia Bulldogs
After months of speculation on who the Giants first-round pick would be it became clear that the team was focused on adding lineman early in the draft. There was much talk about which tackle the team should take out of the draft’s “Big Four”.
They decided on the All-American Andrew Thomas from Georgia. Big Blue took what they saw as the best, most natural long-term left tackle in this class.
They loved Thomas’s combination of size, speed, and toughness along with his history of playing in CFB’s biggest games and matching up against some of the best pass rushers in college football from Josh Allen to K’Lavon Chaisson.
It is no secret that Gettleman has always had an infatuation with his hog mollies on both sides of the ball. He stuck with his gut and took Thomas to anchor Daniel Jones’ blindside for the next decade.
Thomas will have to compete for a job to start this year whether it be at left or right tackle. The Giants’ best bet would be to play him at left tackle as he finished his last two seasons in college on the left side and the Giants took him at #4 overall to be the team’s long term left tackle. It would be a disservice to Thomas and the team to put him on the right side and keep Nate Solder on the left who badly struggled last season.
Expect Thomas to come in right away and start at left tackle as he is the clear future at the position. Thomas will be relied upon heavily to improve the team’s running game and pass protection to open up holes for Saquon Barkley and give Jones time to throw the ball downfield.
Xavier McKinney, Defensive Back, Alabama Crimson Tide
With the #36th pick in the draft, the Giants nabbed first-round talent Xavier McKinney from Alabama. The team had some offers to trade back in the 2nd round but they didn’t want to pass up on a player like the All-SEC defensive back.
McKinney was widely seen as the most talented, all-around safety in this draft class. He is heralded for his versatility to line up in the box, the slot, and as a deep half coverage safety. McKinney is an intelligent player with the ability to make plays all over the field.
His combination of high football IQ along with his athleticism will allow him to be a great weapon to deploy in Patrick Graham’s multiple defensive scheme. Expect McKinney to start at safety alongside former first-round pick Jabrill Peppers. Both players are able to move around the field, make calls from the secondary as leaders, and will be used in many different ways to confuse offenses and provide several different looks for the Giants.
McKinney is a high-intensity player who plays with an abundance of passion and energy and he will be counted on improving the secondary’s play from last season.
Matt Peart, Offensive Tackle, UCONN Huskies
The Giants had a long wait between rounds two and three in 2020. They waited 63 picks on day two of the draft and had several options to choose from with the 99th pick. The team took Matt Peart from UCONN, the first tackle from Connecticut picked in the draft since ex-Giant himself, Will Beatty in 2009.
Peart is a massive figure at 6’7, 320 pounds. The Giants were in love with his arm length, the best in this rookie class with an enticing 36 and ⅝ inches that will allow him to grab and neutralize any defender he latches onto.
Peart is seen as a raw but talented player that will require a more refined technique to be a long term tackle in the NFL. He has all the tools in place to become a starting tackle for the Giants and is projected as the team’s future at right tackle. Offensive line coach Mark Colombo will need to coach him up and get him ready for the change in size and speed he will face off the edge in the NFL compared to the AAC.
Expect Peart to compete right away for the starting right tackle job left open from Mike Remmers’ departure to the Kansas City Chiefs. He will compete with Nate Solder, Nick Gates, and Cameron Fleming for a shot to start or be the team’s swing tackle on the left and the right. At worst, he will be the team’s developmental tackle with high upside and will likely start by 2021 at worst or be the team’s 3rd tackle and the first off the bench.
Darnay Holmes, Cornerback, UCLA Bruins
To start off Day 3 of the draft, the Giants nabbed Darnay Holmes from UCLA. Holmes shined at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama showcasing an ability to blanket receivers and stay glued to their hips. He is only 5’9 but plays with exceptional heart and athleticism to stay with receivers and knock down passes.
Holmes will join a very crowded and young cornerback group with the Giants. They drafted three cornerbacks in 2019, spent a 2018 supplemental pick on Sam Beal, and signed James Bradberry to be their number one corner this season. Holmes will fight the competition to be the team’s nickelback and get reps primarily in the slot this season. Look for him to compete directly against Corey Ballentine, Julian Love, and Grant Haley to see time in passing situations. Holmes will need to put together a huge training camp in order to see significant minutes this season. He is a talented player with good ball skills and will need to show his worth on special teams to see snaps on defense in 2020. Especially with Joe Judge’s history as a Special Teams Coordinator, the special team duties will be a focus for the team this season. Expect Holmes to be a core special teamer and make plays on the field using his high intensity and maximum effort.
Shane Lemieux, Guard/Center, Oregon Ducks
Adding to the theme of toughness and leadership, the Giants took Shane Lemieux in the fifth round. Lemieux is a bit of a throwback linemen, an absolute mauler in the trenches who uses his physicality and toughness to neutralize defensive linemen.
Lemieux played primarily guard in college but may project at playing all three interior offensive line positions in the NFL. The Giants seem set at guard for 2020 with Will Hernandez holding down the left side and Kevin Zeitler at right guard. Zeitler is aging at 30 but is still a good player while Hernandez has been pegged to be a long-term player at guard.
Lemieux may not necessarily be a plug-and-play guard or center but with a few years of development, he can hopefully mold into a starting-caliber player. The Giants have a massive hole at center where they are in dire need of a reliable center who won’t allow interior pressure right in Daniel Jones’ face.
Lemieux didn’t play center in college but worked on his snapping ability and playing center in his pre-draft preparations. Big Blue has already stated they plan on “cross-training” Lemieux and working him at both center and guard. He has a much better chance of seeing the field at center and if he can improve and develop his ability to snap and then block, the Giants will have found a diamond in the rough in the fifth round.
Lemieux’s role for 2020 will be to compete for the starting center job along with providing good depth at both guard positions. He will be a solid player for the future who will be versatile along the offensive line.
Cam Brown, Inside Linebacker, Penn State Nittany Lions
The Giants took Cam Brown with their sixth round pick. Brown was a Third Team All-Big Ten honors in 2019, racking up 72 tackles, 5.5 tackles for a loss, and two sacks. He was the glue guy for the Penn State defense, keeping everything together and making sure the defense was on the same page.
Cam Brown will enter a new-look linebacker group for the Giants in 2020. This position group underwent a massive overhaul this off-season and Brown will look to contribute quality snaps in a reserve role on defense. He will be expected to contribute greatly on special teams using his unique blend of size and speed to stop returners from making big plays in the return game.
Carter Coughlin, EDGE Defender, Minnesota Golden Gophers
In need of pass rush help, the Giants focused on adding the talented Carter Coughlin with the first of their four 7th round picks. Coughlin’s ties to his hometown school, University of Minnesota, ran deep as his dad played for the Golden Gophers as did his grandfather who later went onto to become the school’s athletic director.
Coughlin was recognized with Big Ten postseason honors in his last three seasons in school. He is a talented pass rusher who racked up 22.5 sacks in four seasons. The Giants have lacked a #1 pass rusher since dumping Olivier Vernon and Jason-Pierre Paul in separate trades. Look for Coughlin to get opportunities on third downs and obvious pass-rushing situations to help generate pressure and sacks for Big Blue’s defense.
TJ Brunson, Inside Linebacker, South Carolina Gamecocks
The Giants further added depth to the linebacker group with TJ Brunson in the 7th round. Brunson was a two-year team captain and won the Gamecocks Co-MVP award in 2018. He ended his career with 164 tackles, 21 tackles for a loss, and four sacks.
Brunson will face stiff competition to make the team this season. Expect him to fight for a job as a core special teamer who will need development to see reps at linebacker. He is a bit of a developmental project who will need to improve his ability to run sideline-to-sideline and play in pass coverage. He is a prime practice squad candidate that may help contribute in a few years for Big Blue.
Chris Williamson, Cornerback, Minnesota Golden Gophers
Chris Williamson is another piece of the youth movement in the Giants cornerback room. Williamson is from Florida and started his college career at UF before transferring to Minnesota in 2018. He has the unique advantage of playing in college football’s two toughest conferences in the SEC and the Big Ten.
Williamson projects at best to be a reserve cornerback and special teamer. He is likely another player headed for the 2020 practice squad barring an extraordinary training camp as he seemingly doesn’t have a role on the current roster. Williamson will need to bring his best every day on the practice squad and scout team to give the Giants’ offense tough looks and he must make plays to catch the coaches’ eyes.
Tae Crowder, Linebacker, Georgia Bulldogs
With the last pick in the 2020 draft, the Giants named Tae Crowder as “Mr. Irrelevant”. Crowder will look to be relevant by showcasing his speed and toughness at the linebacker position and on special teams.
Crowder is a former high school running back who was recruited to play at Georgia. He was buried behind a very talented running back group and the coaches asked him to move to linebacker. He took the switch in stride and made plays for the nation’s best defense in 2019.
Crowder was second on the team in tackles in 2019 and had a knack for using his speed to sniff out ball-carriers and make plays near the line of scrimmage. He is an instinctive player with a knack for finding the football. Look for him to intrigue the team’s coaches with his speed and hopefully they will further develop and enhance his skills at a position he’s relatively still new to learning. He projects as a borderline player to make the team’s 55 man roster and will see special team reps if he makes the team otherwise will latch onto the team’s practice squad.
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