The New York Giants drafted linebacker Ryan Connelly out of Wisconsin with the 143rd overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. As their first of two fifth round draft picks, many were surprised by the move, but when you look at his work ethic and background, it’s easy to see why the Giants wanted him.
Connelly was a quarterback in high school who switched to linebacker upon walking-on at Wisconsin. It was what they needed, and he adapted. This is one of the qualities the Giants liked about Connelly, his versatility.
“I played a lot my first two years, and then my last two years, I was on punt and kickoff. That’s definitely something I’m willing to do,” Connelly told reporters.
On top of that, Connelly says, “I’m more of an off the ball linebacker – a ‘WILL’ (weak side linebacker), a little ‘MIKE’ (middle linebacker). Those were kind of the main things they talked to me about.”
Another thing that adds to his versatility is how the defense was structured at Wisconsin.
“At Wisconsin, we did a little bit of everything – whether it features zone (coverage) or man (coverage), man (coverage) on the tight end, man (coverage) on the running back, we kind of switched it up a lot. Kind of experienced kind of doing all those different things there,” Connelly said.
Connelly’s willingness to move around, his experience with different coverage options at Wisconsin and his work ethic (going from walk-on to starter) show exactly why the Giants picked him up when they did. No matter what the team ends up doing with him, he will make the defense better by simply being part of it and forcing others to work just as hard as he does.