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2023 NFL Draft

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Giants excited, but draft is one piece to puzzle


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Whether he looks at the players acquired in the three-day NFL Draft, or he views the Giants' offseason through a larger prism, Joe Schoen likes what he sees.

"I do," the team's general manager said after the Giants selected their seventh and final player in the draft. "It's not just this draft. This is one piece of the off-season puzzle. I think you tie in free agency and you tie in the draft and I'm excited to go upstairs and see where we are on some undrafted free agents.

"And kind of how I started, it never stops. We are always looking to upgrade and add depth and competition. Where we are now, I feel good, but again, we still have to get these guys on the field."

That will happen next weekend when the Giants hold a rookie minicamp. The attendees will include the four defensive and three offensive players the Giants acquired in the draft. They began the draft with 10 choices but traded two to move up one spot in the first round and another to rise 16 spots in the third.

"All these guys are young," Schoen said. "All these draft picks are young. They have come from various spots. Some of them have not been to New York City and some of them have. They are pros. There's a human element, too, as these guys develop. We are not going to put a lot of pressure on them to be plug-and-play. We'll let them develop and learn and continue to let them grow in our culture.

"But yeah, right now I feel good about where we are, and as a staff, we have continuity amongst the staff this off-season, which along with the roster building I think that was very important."

Coach Brian Daboll also emerged from the draft with a positive outlook on his new additions.

"What I tell Joe and the scouts is find good players," Daboll said. "You don't always necessarily agree, whether it's scout-to-scout, coach-to-scout, coach-to-coach. But you sit down, and you talk about these players.

"I'm excited about all these players. I think there was a lot of good discussions, and I think you just find good players. And then your job as a coaching staff, I'll say this when I'm done coaching is get good players and find a way to use them. … We're excited about the players we have but we'll throw them in the mix and let them compete it out."

View photos of the Giants' draft picks touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

The Giants acquired four players on the third and final day of the draft.

With their fifth-round choice, No. 172 overall, the Giants took Oklahoma running back Eric Gray, who began his career at Tennessee and totaled 3,089 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns in four collegiate seasons.

In the sixth round, the Giants selected cornerback Tre Hawkins III from Old Dominion at No. 209 overall. Hawkins, 6-3 and 195 pounds, started all 25 games for the Monarchs the last two seasons after beginning his career at Trinity Valley Community College in Texas.

With the first of their two seventh-round picks, No. 243, the Giants selected defensive tackle Jordon Riley, who played the 2022 season at Oregon after previous stints at Nebraska, Garden City Community College in Kansas and North Carolina. Eleven selections later, they drafted safety Gervarrius Owens of Houston.

They join the players the Giants selected in the first two days of the draft: cornerback Deonte Banks of Maryland in the first round, center John Michael Schmitz of Minnesota in the second, and wide receiver Jalin Hyatt of Tennessee in the third.

"Excited with the group of guys we got," Schoen said. "All have very good traits. Competing for different roles but excited with the group."

Schmitz and Hyatt got their first looks at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center and the latter was asked what he will bring to the Giants' offense.

"…I'm dynamic and explosive. I want to play everywhere. Wherever Coach wants me at, that's where I'm going to play at and I'm going to do what I have to do," he said.

Hyatt was the 10th receiver selected in the draft, but that is nowhere near where he believes he belongs on the wideout hierarchy.

"There's a lot of good receivers in this draft, a lot of good friends I've made over time, just combine prep and pro day prep," Hyatt said. "But I'm very confident in myself and where my game is. I really believe I'm the best receiver in the draft. Doesn't matter where I was slotted at, but now I'm here, I'm here in New York and it's time to get to work."

Schmitz could end up starting in the middle of an offense line that will otherwise be staffed by veterans.

"You've got to earn their trust and that's by how hard you work," he said. "When you come in every day with a mindset that you're going to get better and at the end of the day, trust is earned over time – with time, consistency and proof. Those three things don't happen overnight, so it's going to - obviously hard work on the field and in your playbook, with your body, taking care of yourself and just honestly being a part of that team and getting close with one another."

View photos of the New York Giants' seven-member draft class.

A look at the four players the Giants selected on the third day of the NFL Draft:

Eric Gray, Running Back, Oklahoma, 5-10, 210, fifth round, No. 172 overall (compensatory selection).

Gray played two years for Tennessee before transferring to Oklahoma. In 4 seasons, he played in 47 games with 24 starts and had 549 carries for 3,089 yards (5.6-yard avg.) and 21 touchdowns, plus 99 receptions for 827 yards and five scores. Last season, he started all 12 regular-season games for the Sooners before opting out of the Cheez-It Bowl. Gray was selected second-team All-Big 12. He had career-high totals of 213 carries for 1,336 yards – the ninth-highest total in Oklahoma history – and his 6.4-yard average led the conference. Gray added 30 receptions for 229 yards.

"Eric Gray is a guy we liked," Schoen said. "Super productive. Really good hands out of the backfield. Also has some elusiveness to him inside. Like what he brings. He also has done some returns in his past; he did some at Tennessee, comfortable catching punts at Senior Bowl. So he'll come in and compete with our group."

A native of Memphis, Gray was the Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year in 2017 and 2018. He set the Tennessee state record with 138 career touchdowns.

"I'm just going to bring a lot to the offense and be able to run in between the tackles, run outside zone, inside zone, being able to catch the ball out of the backfield," Gray said. "I think I just bring another threat to the offense."

Daboll said of Gray, "he's a very mature young player that's had some production. Does have good hands. How that sorts out, that will be up to him. The cool thing about it is after the rookie weekend, they come back, and we'll finally have an auditorium full of seats. So, coaches will be standing on the side and finally have a full auditorium to start working with."

Tre Hawkins III, CB, Old Dominion, 6-3, 195, sixth round, No. 209 overall (choice obtained in a trade with Kansas City).

Hawkins played two years at Trinity Valley Community College in his native Texas before transferring to Old Dominion in 2020. After the Monarchs canceled their season due to the pandemic, Hawkins started all 25 games the last two years. He totaled 133 tackles (98 solo), including five stops for loss, two interceptions, 13 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. His 76 tackles in 2021 were a school record for a cornerback. Last year, he was named the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week after recording a career-high 10 tackles (eight solo) and forced and recovered a fumble vs. Coastal Carolina.

"(Hawkins is a) height, weight, speed prospect that has high upside," Schoen said. "He's a physical kid, not afraid to tackle. You see a trend with some of these guys that we took at that position."

Jordon Riley, Defensive Tackle, Oregon, 6-5, 330, seventh round, No. 243 overall.

Riley is well-traveled, having begun his collegiate career at North Carolina before moving on to Garden City Community College, Nebraska, and Oregon. He spent the 2022 season with the Ducks, for whom he played 13 games and was credited with 21 tackles (seven solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, a half-sack and one pass defensed.

"Big body guy," Schoen said. "It's hard to find these guys. When you get into the seventh round, you are looking for guys that maybe it will be hard to get at different areas. And another guy we spent time with, big run stopper in there, 6-5, 330. He'll compete for a depth role there.

"You walk out to practice and there's this 6-5, 330-pound guy, piques your interest right there. Again, some of these guys in different schemes may not have the production, the tackles, the sacks. But for what Wink (Martindale, the defensive coordinator) looks for in terms of size, length, knock back, he possesses those traits."

Gervarrius Owens, Safety, Houston, 6-0, 200, seventh round, No. 254 overall (compensatory selection).

After spending one season at Northeast Oklahoma A&M, Owens played in 46 games with 42 starts at Houston, where he totaled 195 tackles (132 solo), 6.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, 21 passes defensed, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and two blocked kicks. He was selected first-team All-AAC as a junior and second team as a senior. In 2022, he started all 12 games in which he played – and miss one with a concussion – and logged a career-high 74 tackles (54 solo), one interception and nine passes defensed.

"Gervarrius Owens, another guy we like, tall, long, athletic safety from University of Houston, was out at the East-West Game," Schoen said. "Another physical kid. Projects well to special teams and also compete for a depth role."

*Schoen was asked about Saquon Barkley, who has not signed his franchise tender and cannot participate in the team's offseason conditioning program.

"We'll have conversations with him," Schoen said. "We have; we had conversations last week."

Step into the new draft room as the Giants make their picks for the 2023 class.


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