Versatility is a common theme among many of the Giants' 2022 draft picks, and no member of the draft class encompasses that more than linebacker Darrian Beavers.
Following five seasons of collegiate ball, Beavers was the Giants' final selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, taken in the sixth round (No. 182 overall). His last three years were spent at the University of Cincinnati, where he played under head coach Luke Fickell.
Fickell recently joined Lance Medow on the Giants Huddle podcast to discuss Beavers and how the young linebacker may succeed at the next level.
"I think he's a really intelligent football player. He's a smart kid," the Cincinnati head coach said. "You always kind of worry about the jack of all trades, the master of none at times. But I'm sure they'll get a good feel for how well he can handle some things, and where is kind of the best fit for not just a position, but how much he can handle because you're right, he can be a guy that can be a really good edge and a rush guy. But I think where he's going to grow even more at the pro level is being a really, really good pass defender in a passing league. Maybe he wasn't challenged as much in college and in our system as he will be at the next level. But I think that's where he'll excel."
Throughout his time at Cincinnati, Beavers was used all over the field. During the 2021 season, he saw snaps at four positions, including 30+ snaps at three different spots.
He finished the season with 102 total tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss, adding 4.5 sacks, an interception, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. His performance earned him a selection as First-Team All-AAC, in addition to being named a finalist for the Dick Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker.
It's been clear since the draft that Beavers' ability to line up in multiple spots was something the Giants valued.
"Darrian Beavers is another guy that we really liked, versatile piece, he played inside and he played outside," GM Joe Schoen following Day 3 of the draft. "I was at his pro day. He did some stuff as an outside rusher and that looks like something that may be part of the package. Like his versatility to be inside, outside, and play on special teams."
Not only has Beavers gotten plenty of experience at a variety of positions over the last few years, but according to Pro Football Focus, he has also played well in all aspects of his game.
In his 14 starts this past season, Beavers received PFF grades of 86.1 in pass rush, 73.7 in run defense and 68.0 in coverage, helping him earn an overall grade of 77.7.
No matter where he lines up, the rookie linebacker is confident in his ability to succeed at the professional level, due in part to his high football IQ.
"I'd say that I'm very intelligent when it comes to knowing what the offense is going to do, picking up on plays, picking up on anything, so I feel like I can bring that to the table right away…" Beavers said after being drafted. "I can be very successful in any defense and any position out there, you put me in a 3-4, outside or inside, I'll be very successful. If you put me in a 4-3 inside backer, I'd be fine with that, too."
View photos from sixth round pick and former Cincinnati linebacker Darrian Beavers.
The Ohio native spent his first two years at Connecticut, where he played in all 12 games in each season. In his sophomore campaign back in 2018, Beavers led the Huskies with 4.0 sacks, despite starting only half of their games.
After transferring to Cincinnati in the spring of 2019, Beavers went on to play in all 14 games, with 10 starts, for the Bearcats that fall. Although it was Beavers' final two seasons with the Bearcats that put him on the NFL's radar, Fickell said it was a conversation prior to the 2020 season that led the coach to truly believe that the linebacker had a future at the next level.
"Everybody has a dream to be a pro, right? But there's only a few guys that have the actual passion to be a pro. He kind of made that transformation in 2020 when he sat down with us and talked to us about possibly redshirting in 2020, knowing that he had a passion to play at the next level, and he realized the gap that he had to make up," Fickell exclaimed. "The good fortune is with the COVID stuff, they kind of said that everyone was going to have another year, so he was able to play the whole 2020 season. But it really kind of showed me he's willing and ready to take that next step to being a pro because he has a passion to play at the next level.
"I think it really showed this past year in his ability to play every snap, his ability to play as a third-down rush guy, as a first- and second-down guy inside the box, when actually his strength might be a little bit more of being an edge guy and be really, really good in pass coverage. The evolution of where he came from as a safety to a linebacker to a defensive end back into a real kind of hybrid player, it all kind of came, to me, full circle when he kind of made that decision that he has a passion to play at the next level."
As a sixth-round pick, Beavers' path to seeing a lot of playing time in his rookie season may be challenging. However, one area in which he could earn a spot on the field right away is on special teams, where Fickell says Beavers excelled while at Cincinnati.
"I had him for two years starting for us on the punt team, which is as high as you can get in our program," said the Bearcats coach. "So, he understands the importance of it. He has done it, he's been very good at it. When he realizes as you go to camp that the best way to be able to make that team is to be able to excel in the special teams, he'll have a lot of things that he's already done… The [players] we trust the most are going to be the ones on the punt team, and he's been there for two years."
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