That's why, for the most part, the 6-2, 320-pound Hankins spent last season learning behind them, suiting up for 11 games and recording 16 combined tackles. But with veterans such as Shaun Rogers and Linval Joseph no longer on the team, Hankins has an opportunity to step up in 2014 and build on the flashes he showed in his limited playing time.
That's why Pro Football Focus named him the Giants' "Secret Superstar" of 2014. The website, which focuses on grading and analysis, has been revealing one secret superstar for each team.
"All the scouting reports about Hankins' excellent run defense coming out of Ohio State held true," wrote Peter Damilatis, who this morning joined the "Big Blue Kickoff Live" radio show on Giants.com. "He was so quick, asking an offensive lineman to reach block him was asking to lose. With 4:08 left in the first quarter against the Seahawks, left guard James Carpenter attempted such a move against the rookie, who merely dodged him and enveloped Marshawn Lynch in the hole. But being so large, Hankins also was an immovable object at the point of attack. At the 7:49 mark of the second quarter against the Lions, he held his ground against a double-team and pounced in for the tackle once one blocker left him. He also proved to be an excellent finisher, missing just one tackle all season."
Damilatis went on to assess Hankins' role in the upcoming season, his second in the NFL.
"The Giants front office always drafts with a long-term plan in mind, and certainly they were cognizant of Joseph's contract year when they selected Hankins," Damilatis said. "No team likes to lose a 25-year-old durable player in his prime, but paying a hefty price for a run-stopping defensive tackle isn't a necessity when there's a potentially better one waiting in the wings. Now that Joseph is gone, Hankins is a projected starter and will no longer have to wait for playing time. If his rookie year is any indication, the Giants will wonder why they were so patient in the first place."