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2024 NFL Draft

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Giants bolster secondary for new-look defense


EAST RUTHEFORD, N.J. – The Giants upgraded several positions and tackled multiple needs with the 15 veteran players they signed this offseason. But not one of them plays in the secondary, where safety Xavier McKinney, who played every snap last season, moved to Green Bay as a free agent and cornerback Adoree' Jackson remains unsigned.

On Thursday, the Giants addressed the back of their defense in a big way in the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft.

Their selections on the second night of the draft were both defensive backs. In the second round, No. 47 overall, they chose Minnesota safety Tyler Nubin, who immediately becomes a candidate to replace McKinney. Nubin was the first safety taken in the draft.

A short time later, they drafted cornerback Andru Phillips of Kentucky in the third round, No. 70 on the big board. Phillips will get a look at both slot corner and on the outside.

The two defensive backs join wide receiver Malik Nabers of LSU, secured with the sixth pick in the first round Thursday, in the Giants' rookie class.

"We were very, very fortunate to get Nubin there, a guy that we spent a lot of time with," general manager Joe Schoen said. "He had an injury (knee). We went out to his pro day when he was healthy to see him out there. Obviously losing X in the off-season, to get Nubin at that value, a guy with high character, leadership, smart, tough, dependable and then the 13 career interceptions. Just a good football player.

"Culture changer at the University of Minnesota and he's going to bring that type of mentality here. … Just a really special kid that's a good football player."

View the best photos from the collegiate career of Minnesota safety Tyler Nubin.

Nubin, 6-2 and 210 pounds, played in 55 games with 43 starts in five seasons at Minnesota. He intercepted a program-record 13 passes and led the Gophers in picks in each of his final four years, including a career-high five in 2023. Nubin was credited with 207 tackles (143 solo), 4.5 stops for loss, 2.0 sacks, 24 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

"He's a ball hawk." Schoen said. "To me, the leadership, the character, the smarts, safety, the ability to communicate out there. To get guys to line up I think is very important, and this kid is elite at those type of things."

Nubin was a four-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and graduated with a degree in business, management, marketing, and related services.

"I'm an everything player." Nubin said. "I feel like I'm a guy that can do it all on the field. I like to call myself a Swiss Army knife. I can move around everywhere. I can blitz. I come down and hit the box, I can play over the top. Anywhere on the field I'm comfortable."

Despite his injured knee, Nubin started all 12 regular-season games and recorded 53 tackles (34 solo) and intercepted the five passes last season, when he was a second-team AP All-America and first-team all-Big Ten selection.

"I played like six games on a torn meniscus last year," Nubin said. "Got it scoped at the end of the season. I kind of accelerated my recovery process to get myself ready for the Combine, because I really wanted to compete at the Combine and pro day. So, that kind of bit me in the butt a little bit. It affected me, but honestly, I wouldn't do anything differently than I did because I really just wanted to compete."

Phillips, 5-11 and 180 pounds, played in 38 games with 16 starts at Kentucky, including starts in all 12 regular-season games in 2023. His career totals include 82 tackles (55 solo), 3 stops for loss and 10 passes defensed. He did not have an interception.

"I was asked about it but in the grand scheme of everything, everybody knows, I'm sticky," Phillips said of the lack of interceptions. "In coverage, I'm sticky. I'm going to get the ball up, dudes. I'm going to do my job in that back end. At the same time, they understand who I am. … I'm doing my job, I'm doing it at a very high level. So, they trust me."

Schoen concurred with Phillips' assessment, though he would like to see him pick off some passes in a Giants uniform.

"Some of these guys that are 5-11, 200, run 4.4 would be playing receiver if they had really good ball skills, unfortunately," Schoen said. "But he's sticky. In terms of coverage, he's around the football a lot. And watching him down at the Senior Bowl in one-on-ones, he has a lot of traits and those are things we are going to obviously work on. He's in position, but he just has to finish a little bit better."

Phillips and third-year pro Cor'Dale Flott can play inside or outside. So, where will Phillips get his first reps?

"We just drafted this young man," coach Brian Daboll said. "We'll figure all that stuff out when we get into practice. We'll be able to play both those guys at different spots and see how it all unfolds."

Toughness is an attribute the Giants admire in their first three draft choices. Nabers injured his shoulder last season but did not miss a game. Nubin played half the season with a knee injury that required postseason surgery. And Phillips is a willing hitter.

"I'd say the college scouts, Joe, his staff, have done a really good job of identifying these traits that we covet," Daboll said. "Toughness being probably near the top. And all three of the players that we've acquired so far, really fit that mold in terms of, I'd say mentally tough and physically tough. I think that's important.

"Defensively, tough tacklers. Dru, he'll bring the wood now. And Malik's mentality, how he is, and then … both Tyler and Dru, they were pretty emotional when we called them. They care about the game. They have the right mindset, and it's a credit to our college scouts, Joe, his staff, of really identifying some of those traits and we're happy to have both of them."

*Daboll began his news conference with Schoen by remembering former Giants tackle Korey Cunningham, who passed away on Thursday.

"Terrible," Daboll said. "Korey Cunningham, our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Not much to add on it. Just unfortunate circumstance that happened, and it's tough. Tough on the coaches. Tough on the players. And we're just praying for everybody involved."

*The Giants currently own three selections on the third and final day of the draft tomorrow: No. 107 overall in the fourth round, No. 166 in the fifth round and No. 183 in the sixth round. They do not have a seventh-round choice, which was sent to Arizona last year for linebacker Isaiah Simmons.

View the best photos from the collegiate career of Kentucky cornerback Andru Phillips.


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