Grading the New York Giants 2019 Draft Class

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The 2021 season will be a pivotal one for the New York Giants 2019 draft class. Heading into his third season, former first-round pick Daniel Jones needs to convince Dave Gettleman to pick up his fifth-year option next May. Later picks such as Darius Slayton and Julian Love will have opportunities to prove that they are good enough to be part of New York’s long-term plans. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the Giants 2019 draft class has fared after two years in the NFL.

Grading the New York Giants 2019 Draft Class

Daniel Jones, Quarterback (Round 1, Pick 6)

Most people were shocked when Gettleman selected Jones to be Eli Manning’s successor with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. With Jacksonville Jaguars edge rusher Josh Allen still on the board and another Giants first-round pick at No. 17, it was hard to believe that picking Daniel Jones that early was the right move. Many Giants fans instantly labeled Jones a bust on draft night.

So far, it looks like they’ve been wrong — to some extent. Jones has thrown for 5,970 yards, 35 touchdowns, and 22 interceptions in 27 games. He’s shown flashes of great potential. Yet his mistakes often offset those sound decisions. Jones has turned the ball over 39 times since 2019, which is the most in the NFL. He lacks the awareness to establish a steady presence in the pocket at times, which has led to crucial giveaways.

To be fair to Jones, though, the Giants haven’t given him much to work with. He’s only played in 11 games with star running back Saquon Barkley, and his receiving core has struggled to create separation. He’s also been sacked 83 times in just two seasons. And considering how Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock have struggled, it looks like Jones really was the best quarterback available. 

So the jury is out on Jones. But with Kenny Golladay now in the fold, the third-year quarterback has to make a serious leap in 2021 to become New York’s franchise quarterback. 

Grade: C+

Dexter Lawrence, Defensive Tackle (Round 1, Pick 17)

The Giants used the first-round selection they acquired in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade to pick Dexter Lawrence. Because of that, there was some added pressure for Lawrence to thrive. 

In his first two years with the Giants, Lawrence has done almost everything anyone could have asked of him. He has played in every game, racking up 90 career tackles and 6.5 sacks. Those are good numbers, but Lawrence has been most impressive against the run. His 79.7 Pro Football Focus grade in 2020 was 17th among all interior defensive linemen. He is a key anchor on New York’s stout defense.

With Dalvin Tomlinson leaving in free agency, it will be interesting to see if Lawrence can keep up his solid production against the increased attention that should come his way next season. But for now, the Giants should be ecstatic with how quickly Lawrence has developed. He’s likely the best player in the Giants 2019 draft class, and he should be a staple on New York’s defensive line for years to come.

Grade: A

Deandre Baker, Cornerback (Round 1, Pick 30)

The Giants traded up to get Deandre Baker in 2019. Looking back, it wasn’t worth it. Baker struggled in his rookie year as an outside cornerback on a Giants team that severely lacked in secondary depth. But he showed some promise in the latter half of the year, ultimately finishing with eight passes defended.

During that offseason, however, everything went downhill. In May 2020, Baker was charged with armed robbery, and was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list by August. Although all charges were eventually dropped, the Giants released the former Georgia cornerback right before the 2020 season began.

Baker now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs, where he hopes to get his career back on track. But he hasn’t done much — let alone in New York — to justify his first-round status.

Grade: F

Oshane Ximines, EDGE (Round 3, Pick 95)

Oshane Ximines has provided depth for the Giants pass rush when he has seen the field. While he only started two games in his rookie year, he still totaled nine quarterback hits and 4.5 sacks. Ximines was a force on third-down blitzes, convincing the coaches to make him a starter going into 2020. But after a Week 4 shoulder injury against the Los Angeles Rams, he had to undergo season-ending surgery.

The Giants made many additions to their pass-rushing corps this offseason, so Ximines has a lot to prove. He’s done a decent job thus far though. If Ximines can stay on the field, he can solidify himself as a key depth piece on an improved Giants defense.

Grade: B-

Julian Love, Safety (Round 4, Pick 108)

Like Ximines, Love has also been a quality role player on the Giants defense. The coaching staff has shifted him around the secondary. Love entered the league as a slot cornerback, but he now mostly plays as a safety.

Love’s versatility makes him a valuable depth piece, but he did struggle at the start of his second season. When Logan Ryan blossomed into a defensive leader and then-rookie Xavier McKinney returned from injury, Love took on a reduced role. Heading into year three, he needs to improve his technique and footwork to earn consistent playing time.

Nevertheless, Love has contributed to Big Blue these past two years. For a mid-round draft pick, that’s not awful.

Grade: C+

Ryan Connelly, Linebacker (Round 5, Pick 143)

In just four games as a rookie, Ryan Connelly seemed to establish himself as a defensive force. He accumulated 20 tackles and two key interceptions before tearing his ACL in Week 4. While the Wisconsin product did miss the rest of the season, he was projected to be the starter at inside linebacker going into 2020.

That’s what made Dave Gettleman’s decision to waive Connelly during final cuts so shocking. The Minnesota Vikings picked him up the day after the Giants released him. Connelly hasn’t done much in Minnesota as a backup so far, but he’s in contention for a starting role as a weak-side linebacker in 2021.

Grading Connelly is a tough task simply because his NFL story is one with so many what-ifs. Should Gettleman have cut him? Could he have thrived next to Blake Martinez in New York? Has he regressed because of his ACL injury? Although we won’t know the answers to those questions until at least September, it’s clear that Gettleman drafted a player with a ton of potential. That’s about all you can ask for in the fifth round, but Connelly isn’t with the team anymore.

Grade: C

Darius Slayton, Wide Receiver (Round 5, Pick 171)

Slayton has been a dangerous deep threat for Daniel Jones. In 30 games with the Giants, he’s totaled 1,491 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. Increased attention from defenses in 2020 led to some inconsistency as an outside receiver, but Slayton has performed well overall.

Coming into 2021, Slayton could play a role similar to the one he thrived in during his rookie year. With Kenny Golladay now leading the Giants receiving corps, defenses will likely put less pressure on Slayton than they did last year. That should open up more deep-ball, shot play opportunities for the third-year wideout to burn defenses. Regardless of whether Slayton develops into one of the league’s premier secondary options, he’s already exceeded all expectations as a sixth-round pick. 

Grade: A-

Corey Ballentine, Cornerback (Round 6, Pick 180)

Due to injuries and a lack of secondary depth, the Giants threw Corey Ballentine into the fire during his rookie year. While he only started two games that year, he spent a lot of time on the outside at cornerback. As expected, defenses took advantage of him early and often. Quarterbacks passed for a staggering rating of 126.4 when targeting Ballentine in 2019.

In 2020, Ballentine’s playing time dwindled before the Giants released him in November. He then signed with the New York Jets

It’s difficult to label late-round draft picks as disappointments. Still, Ballentine hasn’t yet made a positive impact as a pro.

Grade: D

George Asafo-Adjei, Offensive Tackle (Round 7, Pick 232)

George Asafo-Adjei suffered a concussion in August 2019. The Giants placed him on injured reserve and released him in the offseason after he failed a physical. Since then, Asafo-Adjei has been a free agent.

Grade: D-

Chris Slayton, Defensive Tackle (Round 7, Pick 245)

A former Syracuse tackle, Chris Slayton spent the 2019 season on the practice squad before the Giants cut him the next year. He appeared in a game for the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6 of 2020, but that’s all the action he’s seen thus far. But that’s to be expected for a seventh-round pick.

Grade: D

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