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Fact or Fiction: Stacking up best players in NFC East


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

Deonte Banks vs. Malik Nabers will be the top one-on-one matchup to watch in practice.

John Schmeelk: Fact – I could not be more excited about watching these two players go against each other throughout spring practice. It will be a bummer that they can't be physical with each other in the spring due to OTA contact rules because both players are big and physical and will no doubt get after it. Even with those rules, we can see how Banks and Nabers match up against each other athletically. Both are elite athletes, and I will be anxious to see which player outruns the other. They are also extreme competitors and will want to show they are the better player. I can't wait to see them compete.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – Let's stick with the same positions but go with Wan'Dale Robinson vs. Dru Phillips, the Giants' third-round draft choice. They already have history from their days at Kentucky, and what they lack in size, they make up for in competitiveness.

"We've been talking crap for so long, he even just called me," Phillips joked right after he was drafted. "I can't wait to go against a great player like him. He's established himself in a way up there in New York. … We played one year at Kentucky. I was younger, though. He may have had the best of me back then, but I think it's different for me now."

General manager Joe Schoen has even been looking forward to it.

"[I] told Wan'Dale, he's got to be ready for practice because Dru said he was going to be locking him up," Schoen said. "That will be good competition there."

Matt Citak: Fact – The practice battles between the Giants' top wide receiver and top cornerback should be wildly entertaining. Banks showed throughout his rookie season that he's not afraid to be left on an island against an opposing team's wide receiver. Both young players also exude plenty of confidence, so the matchups should certainly be eye-opening.

Banks will lead the Giants in passes defensed and interceptions this season.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – I think Banks will give up the fewest receptions of any Giants cornerback this year, but that's not the question. I just don't think Banks will get the number of targets necessary for him to lead the Giants in these two categories.

Dan Salomone: Fact – It's amazing the Giants were tied for the league lead in turnover differential, but their interception leader had only three (Xavier McKinney). That's because five different players had two apiece, including Banks as a rookie. The 24th overall pick also tied McKinney for the team lead with 11 passes defensed. He's just scratching the surface as he looks to take the next step in his new No. 3 jersey.

Matt Citak: Fiction – As a rookie, Banks tied with Xavier McKinney for the team lead in passes defensed with 11, despite playing two fewer games. Now heading into Year 2, the 23-year-old cornerback should once again lead the team in pass breakups. However, I believe rookie safety Tyler Nubin is going to make an immediate impact on the defense and will end up leading the unit in interceptions this season. After finishing his collegiate career with a Minnesota-record 13 career interceptions, Nubin is going to pick up right where he left off as a rookie.

See all the action from rookie minicamp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.

Safety Tyler Nubin will have at least three interceptions as a rookie.

John Schmeelk: Fact – Nubin had 12 interceptions in his last three years as a starting safety for Minnesota. He is a cerebral safety that anticipates and reads the quarterback very well. With a pass rush up front that should harass opposing quarterbacks into some poor decisions, I think Nubin takes advantage and finishes with exactly three interceptions.

Dan Salomone: Fiction – All-Pro safety Antoine Winfield Jr., one of Nubin's Minnesota mentors and part of the reason why he is wearing No. 31, posted a career-high three interceptions in 2023. And that was his fourth year in the league. The sky is the limit for Nubin, but three is a big number for anyone, especially a rookie. With that said, it wouldn't be surprising to me as a proud member of the Nubin Fan Club.

Matt Citak: Fact – Considering my last answer, this should not come as a surprise. Nubin recorded 13 interceptions in 55 career games with the Golden Gophers. Throughout his time at Minnesota, the young safety showed a strong ability to read opposing quarterbacks' eyes while displaying a high football IQ. He's great at reading routes as they're developing in front of him, and he told Giants reporters the night he was drafted that he is "real comfortable" playing center field and "running under the ball and going to get it." While three or more interceptions as a rookie would be an impressive feat, I believe Nubin will hit this mark and be a true difference-maker for the defense in 2024.

Dexter Lawrence is the most valuable non-quarterback in the NFC East.

John Schmeelk: Fiction – This is EXTREMELY close. Comparing players across positions, especially both sides of the football, can be extremely difficult. There is a fantastic argument that Lawrence is the most valuable non-quarterback in the NFC due to his unique pass rushing skill from nose tackle, where it is tough to garner much pass rush. But I will go with the field here because there are several options that the market has shown positions that are worth more than defensive tackles in general.

Dan Salomone: Fact – Peer voting always fascinates me. It's one thing for professional "Fact or Fiction" players to say something; it's another when it comes from professional football players. The NFL Players Association released the "Players' All-Pro Team" this offseason. It was a vote by players across the league to select who had the most impact. According to the NFLPA, the players were tasked with voting for the best player at their same position and positions they line up against. Dexter Lawrence was voted to the first team at nose tackle. The only other defender in the NFC East to make it was Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland.

Matt Citak: Fiction – It pains me to say "fiction" on this one, as Dexter Lawrence has proven to be one of the league's most talented defensive players over the last two seasons. But if we're discussing the most valuable non-quarterback in the division, that honor belongs to Micah Parsons. Lawrence is one of the best, if not the best, player at his position, but Parsons is in the conversation for the league's most talented player overall.

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