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Cover 4: Players to watch from 2023 draft class


While all eyes are on the 2024 NFL Draft, discusses which members of the 2023 class to watch in Year 2:

John Schmeelk: I want to see where Eric Gray figures into the running back hierarchy. I was fan of him coming out of Oklahoma last year with his ability to impact the game not only as a runner but also a receiver. He isn't that dissimilar to new arrival Devin Singletary. Both players weigh just over 200 pounds and measure only two inches apart at 5-9 and 577, with Gray a bit taller.

The two could be interchangeable as a two-headed monster in the backfield. They have good side-to-side agility and quickness. They have the ability to make players miss in small areas with good contact balance thanks to a low center of gravity. In addition, they can be impactful in the passing game.

I wouldn't mind seeing a different style of running back added in the draft, whether it's a big bruiser or one with a faster top gear (although they did just add Dante Miller, who ran a sub 4.4 at South Carolina's pro day). Either way, Gray should have the chance to prove what he can do.

Dan Salomone: Along with his physical attributes, Deonte Banks became a first-round pick because of what he showed against top receivers like Marvin Harrison Jr. The Maryland and Ohio State products could meet again in the NFL either as teammates or opponents. Either way, Banks showed the mettle necessary to play cornerback in the NFL.

"[He's a player] with rare physical ability," general manager Joe Schoen following Banks' rookie season, which included 64 tackles (two for loss), 11 passes defensed, and two interceptions in 15 starts. "As he continues to grow and mature, what he did against some of the very good receivers in this league as a rookie, I thought was pretty impressive."

View photos of the New York Giants' 2023 rookie class in action.

Lance Medow: John Michael Schmitz is the player to watch as he'll once again be playing next to two new guards and working with a new offensive line coach in his second year in the league. Schmitz isn't completely starting from scratch, but there are plenty of changes around him.

Meanwhile, the NFC East is stacked with dangerous interior defensive linemen. The Giants will also play the AFC North, which showcases strong defensive fronts across the board highlighted by the Ravens, who utilize Justin Madubuike and Michael Pierce. The Browns aren't too shabby with Dalvin Tomlinson and Shelby Harris. JMS will be tested by these behemoth defensive linemen. How he meshes with new personnel next to him will determine not only the outlook of play in the trenches but also the jump he could potentially make on an individual basis.

Matt Citak: Throughout the 2023 season, we saw glimpses of what Jalin Hyatt could bring to an offense. It didn't take long for the young wideout to make an impact in his first NFL season. In just his second NFL game, Hyatt caught two passes for 89 yards, including a 58-yard reception that sparked the team's historic comeback against the Cardinals. A little more than a month later, Hyatt brought in two passes for 75 yards in the Giants' 14-7 victory over the Commanders. But his best performance came in Week 12 when he caught a season-high five passes for 109 yards during the team's win over the New England Patriots, a performance that led to him being voted the Rookie of the Week.

Hyatt has already shown he can be a true deep threat with his seven receptions of 20+ yards and three receptions of 40+ yards last season. His average of 16.2 yards per reception as a rookie was right around where he finished his collegiate career at Tennessee (16.4 yards per reception on 108 catches). Now heading into Year 2 with a full offseason to prepare for an NFL season (instead of preparing for the combine/draft), I'm interested to see how Hyatt's game grows. Whether or not the Giants add another receiver early in the draft, I fully expect the second-year pro to play a larger role in the offense this season. It was less than two years ago when Hyatt registered 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns on his way to winning the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver. While he played a somewhat limited role as a rookie (he was on the field for 51 percent of the team's offensive snaps), big things could be in store for Hyatt in 2024.

View photos of the newest members of the Giants touring the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the first time.