EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** One of the Giants' goals this offseason is to improve a run defense that ranked 25th in the NFL in 2012. Today, they literally took a big step toward realizing that objective when they selected Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins with their second-round choice in the NFL Draft, the 49thoverall selection.
|PHOTOS: DT JOHNATHAN HANKINS|
Hankins, 6-3 and 325 pounds, is a classic space eater in the middle of the defensive line.
"He shuts people down when they try to run the ball," said Marc Ross, the Giants' director of college scouting. "Whether it is taking on one block, two blocks – he just bangs inside and he holds the point. You need those guys to win. It helps everybody on your defense. It helps your linebackers get free. So we really like that about him. And you don't see that much anymore with the types of defensive tackles that are coming out. You see more of the athletic, quick edge, movement-type of guys. So this guy is kind of a rarity nowadays, somebody that does that dirty work in a big body inside. And he likes it."
In the third round, the Giants got more help for their defensive line when they chose Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore. The Giants' first three draft choices were all linemen, including Syracuse tackle Justin Pugh, who was taken in the first round. Each of the three players left college after his junior season.
"We've got two defensive linemen … two really good football players," general manager Jerry Reese said of the second-day selections. "We've got a big guy that can hold the point inside, tough against the run game - big bodies. Both of these kids are really young players (Moore is 20, Hankins is 21), so you like that about them."
Hankins played in 38 games in his three seasons at Ohio State, including starts in all 25 games the previous two seasons. He finished his career with 138 tackles (58 solo), five sacks for minus-27 yards and 16.5 stops for losses totaling 55 yards.
Although he built his reputation as a run-stuffer, Hanks believes he can be a complete player for the Giants.
"I feel like I can rush the passer," he said. "One of my strong points is stopping the run so I'm working on my pass rushing techniques. I'm working on getting that a lot better so I can be a complete D-tackle."
Hankins had his finest season in 2012 for the 12-0 Buckeyes. Hankins started all 12 games at right defensive tackle and was an All-Big 10 selection after recording 55 tackles (23 solos), a sack and four stops for losses of 22 yards. He helped Ohio State rank second in the league and 14th in the nation in run defense, allowing just 116.08 yards per game.
"We had him identified as a first-round guy," Ross said. "Some people might have been scared off by his lack of sack production. He just had one. Some people might have questions regarding his stamina. The guy is 320 pounds and he plays every snap. So if he wears downs at the end of a 60-play game, I could understand that. You have to look at his body of work. You have to dig deep into who he is. The kid is a great kid. He loves football. He is going to work his butt off. So those concerns that others might have, we didn't have."
"He's a tremendous inside, big, thick young player against the run game and against the pass," Reese said. "I wouldn't call him a pass rusher but he gets some pressure up the middle. He can push the pocket up the middle. He can snap some heads back with his initial contact so he can push that pocket back. We can think he can be a great addition."
Hankins believes he can be more than that; he is confident he is a rare defensive player.
"You don't really see too many big guys running from sideline to sideline making plays," Hankins said. "Just playing defensive end and all of the positions on the defensive front, I feel like I'm probably one of the best and I feel like I'm the best so I'm going to keep working hard to help the team be good."
The Giants allowed 129.1 yards per game on the ground, their highest figure since giving up 134.8 rushing yards per game in 2004.
"For me – I'll speak just for me – that is where it starts, up front," coach Tom Coughlin said. "And you have to continue to develop and build. Be strong up there – competitive. We have good players here. We have just added some players to the mix and hopefully the competition will make our team better."
Hankins is eager to get started learning the defense and tormenting opposing offenses.
"Just to get that call from the New York Giants and just to be able to play for them and the history they have of winning championships," he said. "I'm ready to come along and help as much as I can."
He'll get his chance.