New York Giants Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Aaron Robinson, CB, Central Florida – Round 3
The Giants entered the offseason needing some cornerback talent to go around James Bradberry, and they were able to pick up some steals in free agency and in the 2021 NFL Draft. Veteran Adoree’ Jackson was a cap cut in Tennessee and could be a big upgrade as the nickel corner for New York. Landing Aaron Robinson in the third round was another steal, as he could have been a late first-round pick and no NFL team would have thought it was a serious reach.

The 6-foot-1, 193-pound Robinson is a smooth cover corner for the next level who has good size, length, speed and athleticism. Many big cornerbacks can’t run as fast as Robinson and lack his fluid athleticism. Robinson, on the other hand, is a loose athlete with the agility to flip his hips. His quick feet and smooth movement skills allow him to run the route and prevent separation. He has the ability to play off-man and press-man coverages. Robinson’s long frame makes him dangerous on 50-50 passes, and he is capable of blanketing big receivers.

Unless the Giants play him in predominantly man coverage, Robinson needs to improve for zone coverage for the NFL. He has vision issues with some paralysis by analysis. While he improves his ability to play zone, it would help Robinson make the transition to the NFL by keeping things simple for him to diagnosis and have him read one receiver only.

In the ground game, Robinson is a willing defender who will lower his shoulder and tackle. He gives a good effort and will run across the field to chase down a back. Robinson has the size and strength to get ball-carriers to the ground, and he will deliver some hard hits. His tackle totals were impressive, and he should be an asset as a run defender in the NFL.

In New York, Robinson can be the third cornerback with James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson. Bradberry will draw the No. 1 receiver, and Jackson can slide inside to the slot in the nickel. That will give Robinson the No. 2 outside receiver and a favorable matchup. Not having to line up in the slot will also help disguise his diagnosis issues and make things simpler for him. With good corners around him, Robinson can rotate and be developed on his pace. In time, Robinson could become a very good starting corner for the Giants, and I believe Robinson was one of the steals of the 2021 NFL Draft.

2020: Xavier McKinney, S
2019: DeAndre Baker, CB
2018: Will Hernandez, G
2017: Dalvin Tomlinson, DT
2016: Sterling Shepard, WR
2015: Owa Odighizuwa, DE
2014: Weston Richburg, C
2013: Justin Pugh, G

Most Likely To Bust

Azeez Ojulari, CB, Georgia – Round 2
I think the Giants had a phenomenal 2021 NFL Draft, and I was tempted to say there is no pick who is most likely to bust. However, I do see some flaws with Ojulari for translating to the NFL even though I think he can overcome them.

As a pass rusher, Ojulari is a mixed bag. He has some good traits that lead to him getting to the quarterback, but also some significant limitations for the NFL. On the negative side, Ojulari (6-2, 240) is not a pure speed demon off the edge who has the explosiveness to run by offensive tackles. He also lacks pass-rushing moves, and there are times when he really struggles to get off blocks. Ojulari can use his arm length to keep tackles away from him, but when they get into his chest and lock onto him, he can really struggle to break free of blocks. His undersized height and length come into play there, and getting off blocks is going to be an issue against NFL offensive tackles.

On the plus side as a pass rusher, Ojulari plays really hard and tough. He has some functional strength and an ability to close when he runs free. Ojulari shows a good motor and doesn’t quit on plays, displaying a relentless attitude.

While Ojulari has some size and length limitations, those could be masked in New York’s 3-4 scheme, where he can line up as a stand-up outside linebacker. Having a five-technique defensive end to eat up tackles will help Ojulari, and playing next to interior forces like Leonard Williams and Dexter Lawrence will help disguise Ojulari’s issues as well. Opponents will focus their double-team attention on Williams, so Ojulari should see a lot of single-block opportunities. I would not be surprised if Ojulari turns into a solid starter, but his lack of speed, moves, size, and ability to get off blocks are what makes me think he has some bust potential.

2020: Darnay Holmes, CB
2019: Oshane Ximines, LB
2018: Lorenzo Carter, LB
2017: Davis Webb, QB
2016: Darian Thompson, S
2015: Landon Collins, S
2014: Jay Bromley, DT
2013: Damontre Moore, DE

Potential Boom Pick

Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida – Round 1
I thought the Giants had the best draft in the NFL and gave them that award afterward. Turning their first-round pick into a playmaker like Toney while also receiving the Chicago Bears’ 2022 first-round pick was a phenomenal opening night of the draft for the Giatns. Toney could be an instant playmaker for Daniel Jones, and that pick from the Bears could turn out to a top-20 selection who could become an impactful player for New York. I would be surprised if this trade down to get that pick and then take Toney is a regrettable move in the years to come.

Toney is a special wideout who is phenomenal at creating separation to get open for his quarterback. There is no doubt that Toney is an explosive playmaker who is a threat to rip off a long gain on any reception. Toney is a truly explosive receiver with mismatch ability for the NFL. Cornerbacks really struggle to run with Toney, who is extremely quick while being extremely sudden and explosive in and out of his breaks. That leads to him easily creating separation, and when Toney gets the ball, he is deadly. With natural running instincts, Toney turns into a running back after the catch, and he has tremendous yards-after-the-catch ability thanks to his elite explosion and elusive moves in the open field.

What really sets Toney apart is he is very dangerous with the ball in his hands. He demonstrates excellent vision to weave around defenders and uses his speed to rip off yards in chunks. Along with a quick first-step, Toney has a second gear and a burst in the open field with some serious explosion. He has quick feet and the cutting ability to stop-start, stutter step and contact balance, plus he runs tough to pick up yards after contact. When the ball hits Toney on the run, he is a big problem for defenders because he is tough to grab in the open field due to his shifty moves. Toney has enough speed to run away from defenders and take a catch the distance. Toney is superb on screens and jet sweeps to race through the defense.

For the NFL, Toney is very versatile. He can line up as an outside receiver and play the X – split end – role to challenge teams vertically. Toney also is dangerous out of the slot and could be a tough receiver to defend on underneath routes. With his natural ability as a runner, Toney also can take some carries out of the backfield, but given his size and durability, that will need to be limited in the NFL. On top of his offensive skills, Toney is a dynamic returner who could contribute on special teams but the Giants will probably use him very selectively as a returner to protect his health.

The only real concern for Toney (5-11, 189) in the NFL is durability. He had injury issues prior to his senior year and is undersized. That could lead to him having issues staying healthy and avoid getting dinged up.

Toney also landed in a great landing spot, and with his playmaking ability, I think he could be an instant contributor. Kenny Golladay will command the No. 1 cornerbacks, while safeties are going to be concerned with running back Saquaon Barkley and tight end Evan Engram. Toney should see a lot of single coverage from No. 2 corners, and I think he could exploit that as soon as this coming season. If Toney stays healthy, I think he as serious boom-pick potential for New York.

2020: Andrew Thomas, OT
2019: Dexter Lawrence, DT
2018: Saquon Barkley, RB
2017: Evan Engram, TE
2016: Eli Apple, CB
2015: Ereck Flowers, OT
2014: Odell Beckham Jr., WR
2013: Johnathan Hankins, DT

Future Depth Player

Elerson Smith, DE, Northern Iowa – Round 5
The Giants needed to improve their edge-rush talent in the 2021 NFL Draft. They addressed it in the second round with Azeez Ojulari, but depth was an issue as well. The Giants could use more rotational pass rush across from Ojuarli, as Ryan Anderson and Oshane Ximines have yet to break out as pros. Smith was a solid selection in the fourth round and could end up being a nice sleeper for New York. The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder has a long frame along with surprising quickness. Smith developed well at Northern Iowa, putting in a lot of hard work to gain weight. He has upside to turn into a solid rotational rusher who could be a quality backup for the Giants.

2020: Shane Lemieux, G
2019: Darius Slayton, WR
2018: Kyle Lauletta, QB
2017: Wayne Gallman, RB
2016: Paul Perkins, RB
2015: Bobby Hart, G
2014: Andre Williams, RB
2013: Ryan Nassib, QB

Walt’s 2021 NFL Draft Grades:

20. Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida – B Grade
The Eagles broke the Giants’ heart when they traded ahead of them for Devonta Smith. This prompted the Giants to trade down to No. 20, where they got the next-best receiver in the class. I had Toney going to the Titans at No. 22, so this range is right for him, and New York is getting good value when the trade is considered. Toney seems like a great complement for Kenny Golladay, so I like this pick, as the Giants needed to give Daniel Jones one more weapon.

50. Azeez Ojulari, DE/OLB, Georgia – A Grade
Azeez Ojulari was someone people mocked in the first round. We did as well, at least until we got some news that teams flagged him for an injury, which would explain his fall. However, he’s well worth the risk here, especially after a trade down in which the Giants secured a third-round pick in 2022. I mocked Ojulari to the Giants with their natural second-round choice, so this deserves a high grade.

71. Aaron Robinson, CB, Central Florida – A+ Grade
The Giants added Adoree Jackson to James Bradberry, but they still needed one more cornerback. Aaron Robinson addresses that void, providing great value in the process. I’ve had Robinson in the first round of some of my updates, so I absolutely love this pick.

116. Elerson Smith, DE/OLB, Northern Iowa – B- Grade
The Giants have maintained a lackluster pass rush for several years now, which is a departure from how they won the Super Bowl twice with Eli Manning. They needed players who can get after the quarterback, and Elerson Smith certainly has the athletic upside. This is a bit of a reach, but Smith’s potential can’t be ignored.

196. Gary Brightwell, RB, Arizona – C- Grade
I get picking a running back after what transpired last year. The Giants’ offense looked like a shell of itself without Saquon Barkley. However, this pick won’t move the needle at all. I never even considered mocking Gary Brightwell anywhere, so the Giants could have done better.

201. Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma State – A+ Grade
I’m shocked Rodarius Williams lasted this long. I had him in the third round of my mock draft, thanks to a great 2020 season. This is a great value pick, and Williams could potentially fill a position of need.

2021 NFL Draft Team Grade: B. Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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