The easiest way to get your franchise back on track in the NFL is to stack multiple high-impact draft classes and the New York Giants appear to have knocked out step one of this process under first-year general manager Dave Gettleman and first-year head coach Pat Shurmur.
The Giants found three players who already project to be 10-year-plus starters for the franchise barring injury in running back Saquon Barkley, left guard Will Hernandez, and defensive lineman B.J. Hill. Some teams go entire draft classes without finding a single 10-year starter. The Giants also appear to have found a keeper in outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter. Although Carter didn’t find his way onto the field as often until the second half of the 2018 season, he earned top rookie grades at his position per Pro Football Focus by doing a little bit of everything — rushing the passer, excelling in coverage, and setting the edge in the run game.
It turns out that longtime talent evaluator — the “Godfather of NFL scouting” — Gil Brandt agrees with this assessment. Recently, Brandt broke down his 2018 All-Rookie team for NFL.com and he named two Giants players to the roster.
Brandt named Barkley and Hill to his All-Rookie team.
Brandt was impressed with just about everything Barkley did during his rookie season but he also pinpointed an unheralded aspect of the running back’s performance that first-year players often struggle with.
Running back: Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Draft position: Round 1, No. 2 overall.
“Barkley had a very good year despite struggles by his O-line, rushing for 1,307 yards, 11 touchdowns and 5.0 yards per carry,” Brandt said, via NFL.com. “He also caught 91 passes, which helped him compile a league-high 2,028 yards from scrimmage. The thing that surprised me the most about him was his willingness to protect the passer — I thought he did a very good job with that. My pre-draft ranking: No. 1.
As for Hill, the rookie defensive lineman was forced to learn multiple positions in his first year. Hill began the season in a rotation at the 5-technique defensive end position. Once the Giants traded defensive tackle Damon Harrison to the Detroit Lions, Hill was able to transition to what Gettleman referred to as his natural position as the 3-technique defensive end and Dalvin Tomlinson to move to his natural position at nose tackle. That’s when the sacks started flowing in for the rookie.
Hill finished 5 1/2 sacks and it was the fourth-most among all rookie defensive players. Hill accomplished this feat despite playing as an interior defensive lineman as the defensive end in Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s 3-4 scheme.
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Interior lineman: B.J. Hill, New York Giants
Draft position: Round 3, No. 69 overall.
“Hill is very strong at the point of attack and has good pass-rush ability, as evidenced by his 5.5 sacks in 16 games (12 starts),” Brandt wrote. “He ranked second in the NFL among rookie defensive linemen with 48 tackles, behind only Payne (56). My pre-draft ranking: No. 94.”
It was a bit surprising to see Hernandez miss the list. Brandt first chose to include Indianapolis Colts offensive guard Quenton Nelson and he was not only the best rookie guard but arguably one of the NFL’s best players at the position overall. He was also the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. However, Hernandez was also passed up for Detroit Lions interior offensive lineman Frank Ragnow. That one was unexpected.
Regardless of how you slice it, the Giants did well with their 2018 rookie class. That’s something they haven’t been able to say about a rookie class for a very long time save for a few standout draft picks like Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins.
Earlier this offseason, Barkley and Hernandez were named to the PFWA’s All-Rookie team.