It’s always a good idea to wait at least three years before assigning a grade to a team’s draft class in terms of its productivity. But as these young men continue their NFL paths, the positive vibes about that class are still going strong, according to Pro Football Focus.
The New York Giants’ 2021 draft class, which earned a B+ once it was assembled, has earned a similar grade in a one-year re-grade analysis by the popular football analytics site.
The trade the Giants executed to get a top-10 pick in this year’s draft has to be factored in here. That netted them Evan Neal, which should quell the sting of passing on Rashawn Slater. From a talent perspective (wide receiver Kadarius), Toney looked like he could make this class an A-plus when on the field. Unfortunately, he was hurt for most of the year, and the new staff is already reportedly shopping him.
If we’re talking potential, then it's still accurate to say the Giants’ 2021 draft class has a lot of that to offer.
Toney, whom general manager Joe Schoen has repeatedly emphasized that not being actively shopped is expected to be a big part of the new offense.
While that role is still not clear—Toney is currently recovering from an off-season procedure on his knee, and thus his participation in the team’s off-season program has been limited. But the Giants coaches have been encouraged by what they have seen of the second-year player.
“Yeah, he's a dynamic player,” said offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. “He has playmaking ability on the perimeter, inside, downfield, in short area. He's one of those guys you look for to make plays for us.”
Speaking of potential, a lot is expected of last year’s third-round pick Aaron Robinson. Robinson, 6-foot and 193 pounds is thought to be the early favorite to replace James Bradberry in the starting lineup. He is also a player who offers position flexibility thanks to the vast experience he gained in college playing in the slot.
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Landing edge rusher Azeez Ojulari, the Giants’ leader in sacks last season, in the second round was a major steal for New York on a player whom many thought might go in the bottom third of the first round.
WR Kadarius Toney
OLB Azeez Ojulari
CB Aaron Robinson
DE/OLB Elerson Smith
Ojulari and rookie Kayvon Thibodeau, one of the Giants’ 2022 two first-round picks, finally give the Giants a one-two punch on the edges. When teamed up with defensive lineman Leonard Williams, that punch should significantly boost a defense that last year finished 30th (34 percent) in pass-rush win rate.
Speaking of the pass rush, fourth-rounder Elerson Smith has been somewhat of a forgotten factor when people talk about the new schemes defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is implementing, mainly because Smith missed most of his rookie campaign with injuries.
But there could very well be a valuable supporting role for Smith on this defense—think that of Dave Tollefson, who helped the Giants win two Super Bowl championships (2007 and 2011) during his tenure.
Speaking of depth, 6-foot, 193-pound cornerback Rodarius Williams, a sixth-round draft pick, quickly proved himself a reliable addition to the defense last year until he suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 5.
With the Giants' cornerback depth far from being settled, a healthy Williams is undoubtedly someone to pay attention to this summer as the coaches sort through the dozen players they have at that position.
The last of the Giants’ Class of 2021, running back Gary Brightwell's future status is probably the least certain. Last year, Brightwell was touted mainly due to his special teams ability.
His path to a roster spot this year might have become more complicated with the additions of undrafted free agents Jashuan Corbin (Florida State) and Jeremiah Hall (Oklahoma) to a group that also includes Sandro Platzgummer, Antonio Williams, and Matt Breida.