Saquon Barkley not only rookie Giants should feel good about
Throughout a disappointing New York Giants season, there was a bright spot for the future — almost the entire 2018 rookie class. Let’s give one last look to the Giants’ rookie class and how their performance could shape what the Giants do during the offseason.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Second overall (1.02)
Offseason outlook: The Giants certainly don’t need to look at another running back, though there are still more than a few holes on the roster and the future of quarterback is still a question, which were the two arguments (trading back or selecting a quarterback) against taking the back second overall.
Will Hernandez, OL, 34th overall (2.02)
During the offseason, it was unknown whether Hernandez would slot in at left or right guard. He played both in training camp before taking over as the clear starter on the left side next to Nate Solder. Hernandez and Solder were the only two Giants offensive linemen to play 100 percent of the team’s offensive snaps in 2018 and it helped. As the season progressed that side of the line gelled and became the clear strength, though that was more about the veteran tackle getting more comfortable than the rookie guard.
Per Sports Info Solutions, Hernandez had a blown block on less than one percent of his snaps. His 0.93 percent blown block rate ranked 14th among 62 guards with at least 400 snaps. He was one of the best running blocking guards in the league per blown block rate — his 0.56 blown block rate on run plays was ninth among guards. While his pass blocking was technically worse, it was in no way bad — he ranked 22nd among guards a 1.12 percent.
Offseason outlook: While the Giants continue to look to improve other parts of the offensive line, they should be set at left guard for at least the next few years.
Lorenzo Carter, Edge, 66th overall (3.02)
Carter entered the NFL as a super athletic edge rusher, who didn’t really play as an edge rusher in college. That suggested there was going to have to be some development, especially during Carter’s rookie season and splits from the first and second half of the season are promising. After the bye, Carter’s pressure rate improved while he was actually rushing the passer slightly less often.
It should also be noted the second half of the season featured a lot more of Olivier Vernon as the top passer rusher opening things up for Carter opposed to a mixture of Kareem Martin and Connor Barwin over the first half.
There are still some technique issues, like hand usage, that can continue to be refined but having elite athleticism — Carter was first among edge rushers in SPARQ — certainly helps in the meantime.
Offseason outlook: What might have a bigger impact on Carter’s development is how the Giants go about the pass rush in the offseason. Cutting ties with Vernon is on the table — though likely a mistake — and Carter could either be thrust into a No. 1 pass rusher role he’s not ready for or he’ll be next to a highly drafted rookie who would need to make an immediate impact. There could also be option three where he’s working next to Martin and Barwin or another combination of less impactful veteran edge rushers.
B.J. Hill, iDL, 69th overall (3.05)
B.J. Hill was probably the biggest breakout of this rookie class. Almost immediately in training camp, Hill made an impact in the interior of the defensive line and was treated as an unquestioned starter in the preseason. He got more time to play after the trade of Damon Harrison and overall he played 58.2 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.
What really showed up for Hill was his ability to rush the passer from the inside. He was second on the team in sacks (5.5) and fourth in quarterback hits (8). He was also one of the most consistent interior pass rushers in the league. Per Sports Info Solutions, Hill was 11th among 93 defensive tackles with at least 100 pass rushes in sack rate (1.74 percent) and 11th in pressure rate (7.91 percent). If you move the cutoff to 300 pass snaps — 29 defensive tackles qualify — Hill was seventh in both sack rate and pressure rate.
Offseason outlook: There are a few defensive linemen in the draft who have the ability to rush the passer, but some of these numbers show the Giants might already have that covered with Hill.
Kyle Lauletta, QB, 108th overall (4.08)
The Richmond product didn’t have a lot of success on or off the field. There was the in-season arrest in Weehawken that appears to mostly taken care of at this point. Then Lauletta got limited action in one game when he went 0-for-5 with an interception.
Offseason outlook: With Eli Manning likely to be back for another season and the Giants with another high pick in the draft, they could be looking elsewhere for Manning’s eventual replacement. Its hard to see anything publicly that showed Lauletta earned that role during his rookie season.
R.J. McIntosh, iDL, 139th overall (5.02)
McIntosh spent most of the season on the NFI list and played in just six games. He had only five tackles in those appearances, though four were stops before a first down was picked up. There was not really a lot we learned about McIntosh during his rookie season.
Offseason outlook: The Giants want a deep rotation along the defensive line and at best McIntosh projects to be a small piece of that in 2019.
Grant Haley, CB, Undrafted free agent
The Giants made an effort to get Haley in as an undrafted free agent, giving him one of the biggest signing bonuses allowed for undrafted players. Haley worked his way into the secondary rotation and was thrust into a starting spot once Eli Apple was traded. Per Sports Info Solutions, Haley saw 31 targets and allowed 20 completions (64.5 percent) for 259 yards (8.4 yards per target). Football Outsiders had him with a success rate of just 45 percent, which was 71st among 85 qualified cornerbacks.
It was occasionally a rough go for Haley, though he never really seemed overwhelmed, especially early while getting thrown into the lineup as an undrafted rookie.
Offseason outlook: The Giants have a lot to think about in the secondary. Janoris Jenkins struggled this season and releasing him could free up $7.75 million in cap room. B.W. Webb was the best Giants corner by charting metrics, but that was not a high bar in 2018 and he was only on a one-year deal. Sam Beal, a third-round pick of the Supplemental Draft, should be healthy for 2019. All of these decisions are likely to have a bigger impact on Haley’s 2019 role than how Haley played in 2018.
Others of note
- Sean Chandler played 12.9 percent of the team’s defensive snaps and had 15 tackles. None of those attempts were broken, which is not something the Giants could say about every safety on the roster. He’ll likely profile as a special teams player in 2019.
- Tae Davis got some run with the defense and was a pretty good tackler — 3.29 percent broken tackle rate — but struggled in coverage, allowing 16 completions on 22 targets (72.7 percent completions) for 174 yards (7.9 yards per target).