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Cover 4: Giants players to keep an eye on this spring


With the offseason workout program underway, the crew discusses players to watch this spring:

John Schmeelk: I give Dan credit for trying to come up with a non-draft question this week, but sorry, I'm going in that direction. I'll be watching the draft and how those picks fit into the Giants' schemes on both sides of the ball.

I do wonder how the Giants are going to attack this draft from a strategic standpoint. The goal is always to select the best player, preferably at a premium position of need, but there is some projection of future rounds that happens every year. For example, a team might bypass a cornerback in favor of an offensive guard in round two because they think there will be plenty of corners left on the board in Round 3.

I wonder where the Giants think the depth and strength of these groups show up in the draft. The signing of Jordan Phillips this week could indicate they don't love the one-technique options in the draft class, but they might see more opportunities drafting a pass-rushing, three-technique type. There are players in the second and third rounds that fit that description.

The cornerback class in the second and third rounds is also interesting. There are not a lot of big-time testers that point to a high upside, but there are plenty that fit into different roles.

There might not be a safety or running back taken in the first 50 picks, but the end of the second round and start of the third round will be filled with players at both positions. At safety there are players that can play deep or slot.

There are some bigger running backs north of 215 pounds. Then there are shorter running backs without great top speeds. There could be as many as a dozen running backs taken between picks 50-130.

Finally, if the Giants want to draft a guard, they can find a good player in the middle rounds.

If the Giants don't pick a wide receiver at 6th overall, there could be a dozen that get picked in rounds two and three that have different skillsets.

All of those positions are needs for the Giants, but after their first-round pick at No. 6, they have only five other picks. How will the Giants decide what positions to pick in each round? It will depend on how their board falls with grades at different positions, and they'll use those grades to determine how to slot their players on draft night. It will be tough to fill all the needs the team has.

Dan Salomone: One way or the other, all eyes will be on the quarterback. The Giants have five weeks to ramp up to OTA No. 1 on May 20, but the lens through which we see the most important position in all of sports could change between now and then. Or it could not.

Daniel Jones is on track to be ready for training camp. That leaves 10 spring practices and a three-day minicamp to be divvied up between Drew Lock, Tommy DeVito, and possibly a rookie draft pick. Joe Schoen was clear from the beginning about the need to address the position through the draft or free agency. The general manager also left the door open for both.

Players have returned to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the offseason workout program.

Lance Medow: If you're going to watch any players during the spring, it would be from the following position groups: wide receiver, tight end, cornerback, and safety. There are no pads or contact allowed during this period, so you can only read so much into the trenches. But with some of the other groups, they can still simulate action without the physical component. My eyes will be focused on Dane Belton. With Xavier McKinney leaving in free agency, there's a safety spot up for grabs, and given there's a new defensive coordinator and scheme, no player from last season can take his role for granted.

Through two seasons, Belton's sample size is still very small. He played 39 percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie in 2022 after breaking his collarbone during training camp and only 26 percent last season, mainly a product of starting the last two games of the season when Jason Pinnock was sidelined due to injury. In those two contests, Belton was extremely active as he recorded eight tackles (two for loss), two interceptions, a quarterback hit, and fumble recovery. Now, imagine what he can potentially do with an expanded role over the course of a full season. He seems to have a knack for being around the football at the right time. Belton, Pinnock, new free agent addition Jalen Mills, and second-year pro Gervarrius Owens are the four safeties on the roster. The opportunity is there for Belton to earn more playing time this spring.

Matt Citak: There are two players I'll be watching closely this spring, and they both could play crucial roles in the Giants' offense this season: receivers Wan'Dale Robinson and Jalin Hyatt. Over the last two drafts, the front office has spent a second-round pick on Robinson and a third-round pick on Hyatt (along with a fourth-round pick the Giants used in order to trade up to select him). That is some serious draft capital. After seeing flashes from both young players last season, I'm expecting big things from Robinson and Hyatt in 2024, and it all starts this spring.

After missing the first two outings as he finished his recovery from last year's torn ACL, Robinson played the final 15 games of the season. He led the team with 60 receptions, while his 525 receiving yards ranked third. Of those 60 receptions, 29 resulted in a first down, which was tied with Darius Slayton for the most through the air on the team. The 5-foot-8 wideout was also efficient as a runner. Robinson took nine rush attempts for 87 yards, good for an average of 9.7 yards per carry, and scored a touchdown on the ground. The 23-year-old really got going in the second half of the season, finishing with at least five receptions in three of the team's last five games in addition to topping 75 yards from scrimmage in the same three contests. He recorded a career-best 115 total yards of offense in the Week 14 game against the Packers as he caught six of seven targets for 79 yards and added another 36 yards on two carries.

Hyatt has already shown he can be a true deep threat with his seven receptions of 20+ yards and three receptions of 40+ yards last season. His 16.2 yards per reception ranked 11th in the NFL among players with 20 or more catches, finishing just behind Houston's Nico Collins. Hyatt was voted the Rookie of the Week after catching a season-high five passes for 109 yards against the New England Patriots, and he also had games with 89 yards and 75 yards. Now with a full offseason to prepare for Year 2 in the NFL, Hyatt should carve out a larger role in the Giants' offense.

The two young receivers also complement each other quite well. Robinson primarily plays out of the slot, running routes across the middle of the field and catching everything thrown his way. His 78.9 percent catch rate was the fourth-highest among the league's wide receivers last year (minimum of 20 percent of targets). Meanwhile, Hyatt can take the top off a defense as a legit deep threat. While the team's 2024 WR room is possibly not yet complete, Robinson and Hyatt are two strong, foundational pieces.

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah released his updated ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft.


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