A final grade won't be awarded for several seasons, but the early returns indicate the Giants' 2014 draft class will be one of the best in franchise history. Six of the group's seven members contributed in the season, three became regular starters and one played so well he is a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate despite missing the season's first four games.
The seven draftees joined the organization with various degrees of confidence, excitement, nervousness, anxiety and readiness to contribute. Each has confronted the challenges faced by all rookies, including learning to be a professional, memorizing the playbook, integrating himself into a veteran team, finding a place to live and getting accustomed to living in the nation's largest metropolitan area.
We recently gave each member of the 2014 draft class an opportunity to talk about their first NFL season.
Check out photos of Giants rookie RB Andre Williams
Running BackBoston CollegeFourth Round, 113th Overall Selection**
Because Rashad Jennings (sprained ankle) missed four games and was limited in at least two others, Williams carried a heavier load than anticipated in the Giants' rushing attack. He had team-high totals of 217 carries and seven rushing touchdowns. He led the team with 721 yards, including a 131-yard outing in a victory at Tennessee, where he had a 50-yard touchdown run.
Williams arrived here with questions about his ability to catch the ball, largely because he had just 10 receptions in four years at Boston College, including zero in 2013. But he had 15 receptions for 111 yards entering the season's final two games.
"I feel really comfortable in my position, where I'm at with the team," Williams said. "The success that I was able to have (at Tennessee) was a confidence booster. But I know it came from hard work and experience. It's not just something that happens. I'm just going to continue to keep working and getting better."
Williams also had to prove he could the most important function demanded of a Giants running back, protecting Eli Manning.
"It really bothered me trying to catch the ball," he said. "In pass protection, it was trying to understand who I had. But the more I played the easier it got. I was also worried about my shoulders and my health and whether I was going to be able to last the season. But I realized that we have so much time at this level to invest in ourselves and our bodies if something's going on. Part of that might not be in your control, but a lot of it is. So I just started taking my time and working on the maintenance plan."
Williams was pretty much the entire offense at B.C. in 2013, when he had 355 carries (27.3 a game) for 2,177 yards (the fifth-highest total in FBS history), and 18 touchdowns. Upon joining the Giants had to get accustomed to a sharply reduced workload. With two games remaining, he was averaging 11.3 attempts per contest.
"I don't really think it's much of an adjustment physically," Williams said. "I feel like I'm on a level with my peers. Mentally, it's a big adjustment. I feel like, honestly, at the beginning of the season I was dealing with a little bit of performance anxiety. I wasn't calm enough to be able to perform at the highest level when I got on the field, whether it was practice or in a game. In a game it's a little bit easier, because you're at the point where you want to compete and have fun. But in practice it's more work, so you're under pressure from the coaches trying to figure out, 'Can I line up against these guys that have been in the league for years and be successful?'"
That question has been answered affirmatively. Off the field, Williams had an easy transition, because he lived in nearby Plainfield and South Plainfield until he was 13 years old.
"I'm from the area," Williams said. "The culture is not something new to me, it's something that I'm used to. I'm used to the northeast. It feels good to be here, because this is where I'm from. My family is not too far away. Now my in-laws are not too far away. They live in Connecticut, so I'm surrounded on all sides by family and I feel like I'm right where in need to be."