Giants rookie report card: Checking in on the Giants’ draft class

The New York Giants’ training camp and preseason are in the books.

And with the 2022 preseason, we finally got our first look at the Giants’ 2022 draft class in action. The Giants made 11 selections in the draft, with multiple picks in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th rounds. It goes without saying that they have a lot of rookies on their roster.

Even with injuries forcing “incomplete” grades for five of the Giants’ draft selections, there are still six players who have enough tape to grade honestly, and that’s more than some teams’ whole draft classes.

So how did the Giants’ draft picks play over the course of the preseason? Let’s see which ones stood out and which ones showed issues they need to address in the coming weeks and months.

Incomplete

  • Kayvon Thibodeaux
  • Joshua Ezeudu
  • Dane Belton
  • Marcus McKethan
  • Darrian Beavers

I ultimately decided that giving all of these players together an “Incomplete” grade was the most fair way of assessing them through the end of August. Each of them has lost significant time to injury, limiting just how well we can evaluate them.

I’m not going to give anyone a poor evaluation because of an injury; this is football and those things happen.

The bad news is that the Giants will go into the season without three or four young players they were counting in their plans. The good news is that the team should be getting Thibodeaux (knee), Ezeudu (unknown), and Belton (arm) back fairly early on in the season. If so, we’ll at least have a mostly-complete rookie season with which to evaluate them.

Unfortunately, McKethan (Knee, IR) and Beavers (knee, IR) are both done for the season and are now focused on getting healthy for 2023.

So with those players out of the way, let’s get to the players we an evaluate.

[Before I get started, I want to establish that I’m grading on a curve. Not only did the Giants’ rookies each face different levels of competition throughout the preseason, but they were all drafted in different rounds. There are just different expectations for the 7th overall pick than 147th overall pick.]

Evan Neal – B

There was elation when Neal was drafted, and that quickly gave way to trepidation when he struggled in one-on-one drills in training camp. However, things happened once he got onto the field in preseason.

While Neal was a highly regarded (and drafted) prospect, he isn’t a finished product. There are obviously things that need to be addressed over the coming months. In particular, he needs to get more consistent with his footwork and pad level. Likewise, there was a tendency to lunge in preseason, bending at the waist or otherwise getting out over his toes. That got Neal into trouble on occasion and he gave up some pressure. Those are things the Giants will have to watch in the regular season, particularly considering the Giants’ starting offense hasn’t faced any starting defenses.

However, Neal also had some impressive blocks in pass protection, as well as in the running game. He also showed impressive athleticism in space, which gives confidence that he can get his feet sorted out.

Wan’Dale Robinson – C

The Giants’ second-round pick didn’t really do much in the preseason. However, that has less to do with him and more with the circumstances.

The Giants used him a lot behind the line of scrimmage, and defense sniffed those plays out pretty quickly. He had one run for 11 yards and 4 receptions (5 targets) for 1 yard. It seems likely that the Giants are holding a lot of their offensive concepts designed for Kadarius Toney and Robinson in reserve. We’ll (hopefully) see more variety and dynamic play from them when the games count for real.

One thing dragging Robinson’s grade down a bit was a slight tendency to bobble or double-catch the ball (even on pitches). While that might not be a huge concern for a rookie in preseason, it being his first NFL action and all, Robinson also had a bit of a tendency to double-catch the ball in college as well. Ball security is incredibly important, and Robinson will need to be more sure with his hands once he’s playing first-team defenders who have been studying his tape.

Cor’Dale Flott – B

Flott had a pretty big missed tackle in the final preseason game, but I’m not going to hold that against him too much.

He looked solid for a rookie who’s expected to be a reserve slot corner. I was impressed with his footwork and fluid hips in coverage. He didn’t seem overwhelmed at the NFL level, was calm in coverage, and was faithful to his assignments. Flott will need to improve his tackling going forward, which could be tricky. While he has plenty of length to play with bigger receivers, he is very slightly built. His lack of mass could show up against starting receivers, particularly as teams move “number one” receivers into the slot to take advantage of the free releases.

Given the rate at which we expect the Giants to use sub-packages, it’s likely we’ll see Flott on the field a fair amount this season.

Daniel Bellinger – A

Bellinger pretty much rocketed to the top of the Giants’ tight end depth chart immediately after camp opened. Part of that was due to the rest of the tight end position either falling apart or not playing well. But a larger part of his meteoric rise was Bellinger’s play. He has proven to be a reliable-enough option as both a receiver and as a blocker. That should allow him to be an every-down tight end in 11-personnel packages.

The Giants’ injuries and lack of depth at the tight end position forced Bellinger to play more than they might have preferred. Likewise, his concussion is concerning given the lack of depth at the position. However, the extra work may have helped Bellinger acclimate to his sizable role more quickly than he otherwise would have.

So far he has played well above expectations for a fourth round rookie.

Micah McFadden – A

McFadden was a widely overlooked linebacker for Indiana, but in hindsight it’s obvious to see why he caught the Giants’ eye.

He’s athletic and versatile, with good discipline in the run game and plenty of experience as a blitzer. McFadden made good on those traits and flashed throughout the preseason. He was always going to make the roster, but the question now is how high up the depth chart he could rise over the course of the upcoming season. It seems likely that we’ll see a fair bit of him in longer down and distance situations throughout the regular season.

DJ Davidson – B

It’s something of a surprise to see that DJ Davidson played 87 snaps over the course of the preseason.

The fifth round pick was somewhat invisible out on the field. But while that might be a warning sign for a wide receiver or a pass rusher, it’s not a terrible quality in a nose tackle. Highlight reel plays from nose tackles are rare, and teams would probably prefer if they weren’t in position to make spectacular plays often. Instead, it’s Davidson’s position to hold the guard-center double team, control his gaps, and not give ground.

And for the most part, that’s what he did.

The Giants may have given up yards on the ground while Davidson was in the game, they didn’t give up too many in the areas he was defending, which is good to see. We don’t know how heavily the nose tackle position will figure into Wink Martindale’s schemes. However, Davidson at least looked like a valuable role player who can do his job when he’s on the field. That’s about all you can ask of a fifth round rookie.

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