The Giants have selected Alabama DT Dalvin Tomlinson in Round 2:
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants believe they have secured a replacement for the only 2016 defensive starter who will not return this year.
With their second-round choice in the NFL Draft – No. 55 overall – the Giants selected University of Alabama defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. The 6-3, 310-pounder becomes the leading contender to replace Johnathan Hankins, who started every game last season but signed with Indianapolis as a free agent two weeks ago.
"Obviously Hank left, so that created a little bit of a void," general manager Jerry Reese said. "We're just trying to pick good players. We stayed true to our board and he was the next man in line.
"(Tomlinson is a) big guy that we think can come in and compete for a starting job for us. Create a lot of competition at that position. He's a two-gap type player. He can hold the point of attack, has that NFL toughness that we like and the profile that we like. We thought he was a terrific pick right here right now at this point in the draft.
"We lost a good player, Hank moved on," coach Ben McAdoo said. "Dalvin was at the top of the board, so we picked him.
If he earns the starting job, Tomlinson will join All-Pro Tackle Damon Harrison and ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon on the defensive front
"I haven't gotten to meet them personally," Tomlinson said, "but I'm pretty sure when we get there we're going to have a pretty good relationship and build an even stronger brotherhood. They're going to mentor me and become a better defensive line.
Tomlinson played four years for the Crimson Tide after redshirting in 2012. He overcame surgeries to repair both ACLs to become a durable and productive player. As a senior in 2016, he played in all 15 games and totaled 62 tackles, including 5.5 for losses and 3.0 sacks, as well as seven quarterback hits and a forced fumble
"You see him on tape, (he) plays at a high level," McAdoo said. "He's pro-ready, plays with a good pace, uses his hands very well, which is something you don't get with a lot of guys coming out of college and do it very well. He's not just a run-stopper; he has some transition rush skills, which is nice on first and second down. He has some versatility there, too."
The Giants were impressed with Tomlinson after scouting him during the season and before the NFL Combine. Then they interviewed him at the Combine, and were all but ready to make him part of the team
"He was one of the best interviews we thought out of the entire combine," Reese said. "He was one of the best guys we interviewed. He's a New York Giant kind of player.
"Dalvin was one of the best definitely this year, but he will be a guy that you talk about for a long time," said Marc Ross, the Giants' vice president of player evaluation. "He was one of the more memorable ones that we have had. He was just smart, mature, poised, confident, just a man. He walked in the room and he had a commanding presence, and as they say at Alabama, he is a man's man. He was an ultimate leader there, a guy you want in the foxhole and just really a leader for those guys. We hope that he brings some of those same attributes for us.
Tomlinson said of his interview, "I remember just critiquing myself a lot. I told them about my life story and everything. I've been through a lot of adversity in my career at Alabama and also in high school. I always fought through it and just wanted to become one of the best competitors on the team.
Tomlinson has both an interesting and inspirational story. His father passed away when he was five, and his mother died before his senior year at Henry County High School in Georgia. But those tragedies didn't prevent him from becoming a high achiever. Tomlinson was so talented academically he could have attended Harvard. "I was pretty much considered a nerd coming out of high school," he said. "Harvard was in consideration for me because academics was a big thing in my life.
In addition to excelling on the football field, the nerd was a state championship wrestler and an outstanding soccer player – as both a goalie and striker
Football was his favorite game, but he twice had to fight through the pain and disappointment of tearing the ACL in each knee – the first while in high school, the second after playing only one game as a redshirt freshman at Alabama in 2013
"Coming into college with a torn ACL and then also having a second one and still being able to get back onto the field, most defensive linemen probably wouldn't have been able to come back from it the way I did," Tomlinson said. "Also, to fight through it each and every day was tough on me at first. I just kept fighting through it each and every day and it ended up working out in the long run. I'm grateful for it because everything happens for a reason."
Selecting a defensive tackle in the second round has become a relatively common occurrence for the Giants. In 2010, they chose East Carolina's Linval Joseph. He stayed four years before joining the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent. When he departed following the 2013 season, Hankins stepped in a second-year pro and started every game. Now Hankins has left, and Tomlinson is the favorite to replace him.
"That's just the way it's worked out," Reese said. "We would love to keep the player. Sometimes you can and sometimes you can't. With the last two big guys we've had inside, we weren't able to keep them. They moved on to a better situation for them. We've been able to draft some guys that have been able to come in and fill the gap for us."
Ross said "for sure," when asked if Tomlinson can step right in and contribute.
"We kind of talked about the situation where when we had Linval the year we took him we kind of talked about him early, and then he was there in the second for us and filled a void," Ross said. "Linval goes and then (Hankins), we were really high on Hank and we talked about him early, and he was there in the second round and we took Hank and he filled in. Both of those guys became pretty good players for us, so this was kind of a similar situation."
Now they need Tomlinson to give them similar production.
View photos of Alabama DL Dalvin Tomlinson