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Fact or Fiction: Most intriguing young players on Giants' roster


The crew is presented with four statements and must decide whether they are Fact or Fiction.

Cornerback Deonte Banks is the defensive player you're most interested to see develop next season.

John Schmeelk: Fact – While covering some of the NFL's best receivers over the course of the season, I loved what I saw from the rookie. He looked exactly like the player he did at Maryland in terms of his traits. He was fast and physical, and looked like a top-tier athlete next to the most dangerous offensive weapons in the sport. He never backed down from a challenge and instead embraced them by preferring to follow the opponent's top receiver around the field. He flashed ball skills when he was able to locate the ball in the air. Even on the plays where he got beat, he was often close to the receiver and close to making a play. With some refinement to his technique, he can quickly become one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Even in training camp you could see that Banks is just built differently. He has rare physical ability, and when that is matched with fearlessness, you have described the ideal cornerback. Hitting on a pick, especially 24th overall, at a premier position is how good teams get constructed.

Lance Medow: Fiction – Deonte Banks is the low-hanging fruit because he's the team's 2023 first-round pick and is coming off a productive rookie campaign … but that's too easy of a choice.  I think Micah McFadden is far more interesting to monitor.  In his second year with the Giants, he had a breakout campaign as he finished third on the team in tackles with 101 while recovering four fumbles and collecting his first career interception.

Matt Citak: Fact – The Giants wasted no time throwing Banks right into the fire. As soon as the season kicked off, the rookie cornerback was matching up against the opposing team's top wide receiver each and every week. The list of wideouts he faced included the likes of D.K. Metcalf, Stefon Diggs, Terry McLaurin, and A.J. Brown, just to name a few. He may not have completely shut down each of those receivers, but Banks certainly showed flashes of his potential throughout a solid rookie campaign. In Week 18, Banks told reporters he will be selected to the Pro Bowl next year, an accomplishment I think the young corner can reach. With an entire offseason to now focus on training for the upcoming season rather than the combine, Banks is easily the defensive player I'm most interested to see develop next year.

Center John Michael Schmitz is the offensive player you're most interested to see develop next season.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I will be watching Evan Neal. His size, length, and strength are all the elements a player needs to be a good offensive lineman in the NFL. Like Banks, he needs to continue to refine his technique, which should improve his balance and his overall pass protection consistency. Despite being in the league for two seasons, Neal has only played in 20 regular season games, barely more than a full season slate of 17 games. The developmental path for offensive linemen can sometimes be longer than other positions. If he can improve and show he can be a strong NFL right tackle, it could mean a lot for the franchise moving forward in terms of building the talent base.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The center position is as much about intangibles as it is about physical traits, and according to Joe Schoen, they are "off the charts." Schoen took it a step further in his end-of-season press conference and said he would be "surprised if he's not a captain down the road."

Lance Medow: Fiction – I'm taking a similar approach to this statement as I did with the previous one pertaining to the defensive side of the ball.  John Michael Schmitz is certainly a player to keep close tabs on as he looks to take a step forward in his development, but a bit more interesting is Wan'Dale Robinson. The wide receiver suffered a torn ACL during his rookie campaign in 2022 and didn't start to show flashes of his old self until the second half of 2023.  With another offseason under his belt and more time removed from a significant knee injury, Robinson could become a consistent weapon for the Giants in his third year in the league, making him the offense player to watch.

Matt Citak: Fiction – Schmitz or Evan Neal could have been the pick here, as the development of those two might determine how successful the offensive line performs next season. But instead I'm going to go with another one of the team's young wide receivers in Jalin Hyatt. One year after taking home the Biletnikoff Award as college football's top wide receiver, Hyatt played just 51 percent of the Giants' offensive snaps as a rookie. Despite the limited playing time, the 22-year-old showed the type of weapon he can be on several occasions. His five receptions for 109 yards against the Patriots, a performance that led to him being voted the Rookie of the Week, was just a small taste of what Hyatt could accomplish in the NFL. If Hyatt can take the next step in his development this offseason, he and Darius Slayton will provide quite the one-two punch on deep routes next season.

View photos of the previous 25 players selected with the No. 6 pick in the NFL Draft.

Linebacker Bobby Okereke and safety Xavier McKinney being the only two players in the NFL to play every defensive snap is the best statistical achievement from the Giants' 2023 season.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I return to Dexter Lawrence, the Giants' best player. While his sack numbers do not pop, his underlying pressure numbers do. According to Pro Football Focus, Lawrence's 20.8% pass rush win rate is second among defensive tackles, trailing only Aaron Donald. He maintained his efficient play despite battling a bad hamstring the final quarter of the season. Lawrence is a dominant force and will be the cornerstone of the Giants' defense for years to come.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The snap streak has always incredible to me. Obviously the season is a grind from a health standpoint, but there wasn't even one instance of a cleat coming off or the need for a quick helmet adjustment that would have cost one innocuous snap in the middle of a game? They need to make some sort of availability award in the NFL because it's just as important as any Pro Bowl nod or anything else you can put on a resume.

Lance Medow: Fact – What exactly would top that? Thirty-one takeaways are impressive as it was the first time since 2012 the Giants surpassed 30 in that department. You can also highlight three defensive touchdowns or four non-offensive scores thanks to Gunner Olszewski's 94-yard punt return against the Rams. However, those achievements pale in comparison to two players on the same team not missing a snap the entire season. It's hard enough to suit up for all 17 games so to play every single contest and not watch one snap from the sideline is some feat and one that shouldn't be overlooked because of flashier numbers.

Matt Citak: Fact – An argument could be made for the defense's 31 takeaways, which tied the Ravens for the most in the NFL, being the best statistical achievement from the Giants' 2023 season. However, the unit likely would not have been able to reach that number without Okereke and McKinney being on the field for every defensive snap. For starters, Okereke intercepted two passes and forced four fumbles, while McKinney had three interceptions, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. But more importantly, as the prompt states, the two of them were the only players to be on the field for every single one of their team's defensive snaps. Given the nature of the NFL today and how often guys get hurt, the fact that they played every snap is incredibly impressive and cannot be understated.

Quarterback Tommy DeVito was the biggest surprise of last season.

John Schmeelk: Fact – If you would have told me that Tommy DeVito would have led the Giants to three consecutive victories as their starting quarterback when the team broke for summer break after their mandatory minicamp, I would have called you a madman. The improvement he showed over the following months, beginning with training camp and continuing with preseason, and then regular season games was astounding. I've never seen a quarterback make so much progress in such a short period of time. Nothing else comes close.

Dan Salomone: Fact – The last Giants quarterback with three straight games with 20+ attempts and 100+ passer rating was Eli Manning in 2014 (DeVito was the first Giants rookie quarterback to do it). DeVito was also the first Giants rookie quarterback to win three consecutive starts since Phil Simms won four in a row in 1979. That's some pretty good company for an undrafted rookie next to two Giants legends, one the first overall pick and the other seventh.

Lance Medow: Fiction – DeVitomania proved to be an entertaining stretch of the season, but I wouldn't classify it as a major surprise given it didn't last for the entire campaign. Plus, in NFL history, we've seen some young backup quarterbacks take the league by storm because of the lack of film on that player and a bit of the unknown. That's why I think it's far more surprising the volume of signal callers (three) and kickers (four) the Giants used this season as well as ten different offensive line combinations. Injuries are a big part of the NFL, but New York took the game of musical chairs to an extreme in 2023.

Matt Citak: Fact – This one is easy. DeVito began the season as an undrafted rookie on the practice squad, which is where he stayed until late October. Then in a matter of seven days, Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor both suffered injuries that landed them on injured reserve, with the former out for the season, which led to DeVito being thrust into a starting role. Following a rough debut against the Cowboys, the rookie proceeded to lead the Giants to three consecutive victories, finishing with a 100+ passer rating in each game, while catapulting the team back into playoff contention. He was twice voted Rookie of the Week during this stretch, in addition to being named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. DeVito had everyone doing his touchdown celebration for a few weeks, a span in which the entire country seemed to be rooting for the undrafted rookie. DeVitomania rivaled the craziness of Linsanity from 2012, something we hadn't seen in over a decade. This was easily the biggest surprise of the season.

View photos of every move made by the Giants during the 2024 cycle.

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