Three Giants make ESPN's best college defenders of 2000s
ESPN ranked the top 80 college football defenders of the 2000s, and as a surprise to no one, several Giants landed on the list.
First up is two-time Super Bowl Champion corner Corey Webster, who put together a phenomenal career at LSU and landed at No. 60 in ESPN's rankings. After playing wide receiver as a freshman, Webster converted to cornerback for the Tigers' 2002 season and went on to register seven interceptions and was named First-Team All-SEC. He picked off another seven passes the following year, once again earning First-Team All-SEC honors while also being selected First-Team All-American, and helped lead LSU to a BCS National Championship. Webster's 16 career interceptions ranks second in LSU history, while his three interceptions against Florida during the 2002 season is tied for the most in a single game in school history.
As ESPN's Bill Connelly writes, "Recruited as a wide receiver, Webster flipped to the other side of the ball as a sophomore. Good idea. He picked off seven passes in both 2002 and 2003 and served as one of the best players on LSU's first national title squad in more than 40 years."
Next on the list is safety Jabrill Peppers, who comes in at No. 53 on ESPN's list. Peppers was a versatile weapon for Michigan, starring on defense while also contributing significantly on special teams. As a sophomore in 2015, he had 5.5 tackles for loss and 10 passes defensed on his way to being named First-Team All-Big Ten by both the media and the conference's coaches. Peppers really stood out as a junior, picking up three sacks, 13.0 tackles for loss, one interception and one pass defended. He earned numerous accolades that season, including First-Team All-Big Ten, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Big Ten Linebacker of the Year, the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile college football player, the Lott Trophy, Unanimous All-American and was named a Heisman Trophy finalist.
"Don Brown was an immediate hit as Michigan's defensive coordinator, but he had a cheat code in Peppers, an early nickelback/outside linebacker prototype who recorded 13 TFLs and finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 2016," writes Connelly.
The final Giant to make the list is defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who was ranked No. 41 by ESPN. Kiwanuka was nothing short of amazing at Boston College, finishing his four-year collegiate career with a school-record 37.5 sacks. His 3.5 sacks against North Carolina State in 2005 are also tied for the most in a single game in school history. Kiwanuka's totals over his four years with the Eagles include the 37.5 sacks along with 245 tackles (157 solo), 65.5 tackles for loss, 13 pass breakups, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions. Kiwanuka was selected as First-Team All-Big East in both 2003 and 2004, while also being named First-Team All-American and Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2004. In his fourth and final season, after Boston College moved to the ACC, he was once again named First-Team All-American while also taking home the honor of First-Team All-ACC. Kiwanuka went on to win two Super Bowls with the Giants in his nine seasons with the team.
"At a school that produced Mike Mamula, Harold Landry and countless great linebackers, Kiwanuka was by far Boston College's most productive pass-rusher, recording 37.5 sacks over four seasons and earning first-team All-America honors twice," says Connelly.
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft for the final time before the start of the draft.
Giants sign veteran offensive lineman Zach Fulton
The Giants today continued their flurry of offseason acquisitions when they signed veteran offensive lineman Zach Fulton.
Fulton, 29, brings skill and experience to the Giants' young offensive line. He started 44 games at right guard the previous three seasons for the Houston Texans, including all 16 contests in 2019. Fulton was released by Houston on March 15.
In his career, Fulton has played in 170 regular-regular season games with 90 starts and started all seven postseason games in which he played for the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston. He has started 65 games at right guard, 16 at left guard and nine at center in the regular season and three each at right guard and center and one at left guard in the playoffs. Fulton has played all 16 games four times in seven years and never missed more than three games in a season.
Fulton, 6-5 and 321 pounds, was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 Draft (193rd overall) by the Chiefs. As a rookie, he started all 16 games at right guard. Fulton started six, 12 and 12 games in his final three seasons in Kansas City before joining the Texans as a free agent in 2018. In his first season with the Texans, he missed two games with an ankle injury and one with a hand injury and in 2019 he was inactive for one game with a back injury.
At the University of Tennessee, Fulton played in 47 games from 2010-13. He started 40 of his last 42 games at right guard.
View photos of new Giants offensive lineman Zach Fulton.
Kyle Rudolph 1-on-1: Why he chose Giants
New tight end and two-time Pro Bowler Kyle Rudolph joined Giants.com's John Schmeelk to discuss what led him to Big Blue.
Check out the video below to view Rudolph's full conversation with Schmeelk.