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Giants Rookie Class Mid-Season Breakdown

There is a lot of promise in the Giants' 2021 rookie class. And so far, the team has only begun scratching the surface in tapping into all that talent.

As the New York Giants prepare to play the final games on their 2021 regular season, let's take a look at how their rookie class--draft picks, undrafted free agents, and waiver wire pickups--have fared thus far.

WR Kadarius Toney

Stats Through Week 10: 28 receptions for 352 yards; 3 carries for six yards; 1 of 2 passing for 19 yards

Remember how people were wringing their hands over first-round pick Kadarius Toney's slow start to his NFL career?

Yeah, us too, which is why his situation is another stark reminder about not jumping to conclusions.

Once he got his wind back following a bout with COVID and recovered from a hamstring strain suffered late in camp, Toney showed flashes of potential regarding just how much of a weapon he could be on the Giants offense.

And once he gained the coaching staff's trust, the results were amazing--Toney not only excelled as a receiver in his opportunities, but he put his speed and shiftiness on display in jet sweeps and on trick plays.

But if there's one thing that has stood out about Toney's contributions so far, it's been his football IQ. A perfect example of that came in the game against the Las Vegas Raiders, in which he was called upon to execute a gadget play, but instead of putting the ball up for grabs, the former high school quarterback "read" the coverage and wisely held onto the ball.

Toney might still be far from a finished product, but it's certainly fair to say that thus far, he's been a solid addition to a Giants offense that is looking to get as many playmakers on the field for years to come.

Edge Azeez Ojulari

Stats Through Week 10: 25 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 6 TFL, 7 QBH, 1 PBU, 1 FF

There’s a lot to love about the Giants’ second-round draft pick. His 16 stops for zero or negative yardage is second behind Gregory Rousseau (20) among rookie edge rushers with at least 100 snaps played so far this year. He’s also fourth in that same group in total pressures with 21 and is tied for fourth (out of 11 eligible rookies with 100 snaps played) with Jaelan Phillips for win rate percentage (18.6 percent) in true pass set.

Ojulari is also the only one of the Giants 2021 draft class not to miss a game so far. He leads the Giants’ edge rushers with 21 pressures and is third on the defense in that category, behind defensive linemen Leonard Williams (32) and Dexter Lawrence (24).

If that’s all not enough to get you excited about this second-round prospect, whose 5.5 sacks are tied with Williams for the team lead (and which ties B.J. Hill’s franchise mark for most sacks in a season by a rookie), Ojulari also has a respectable 97.9 pass coverage rating.

CB Aaron Robinson

Stats Through Week 10: 1 tackle

The Giants felt strongly enough about UCF cornerback Aaron Robinson that they traded up in the third round to land the young man.

And with good reason. After playing one season with Alabama, Robinson transferred to UCF. By the time his college career was over, he had allowed just 55.8 percent of the pass targets thrown against him to be completed for six touchdowns while recording three interceptions and 15 pass breakups for a 79.7 coverage rating.

The Giants likely envisioned the 6-foot-1, 193-pounder in the slot where his size and physicality would be a better matchup against teams that deployed a bigger receiver or tight end in the slot. Unfortunately, the Giants had to wait to debut Robinson due to a core muscle injury that required surgery, which kept him on the PUP list throughout training camp and into the first several weeks of the 2021 season.

Robinson has since been activated and is trying to get his feet underneath him as he acclimates to the game's speed. Head coach Joe Judge said that the plan is to gradually implement Robinson into the defense, much like the team implemented safety Xavier McKinney last year when McKinney missed most of the year with a broken leg. 

The hope is that Robinson can catch up and be ready to hit the ground running by next season rather than starting from scratch.

DE Elerson G. Smith 

Stats Through Week 10: N/A

Like Robinson, Smith missed most of training camp and the regular season and is just now getting his sea legs back underneath him. 

Smith hasn’t played in a football game since December 2019, so he has a little bit more rust than Robinson, who at least was able to play in a college game last year. 

But as we learned last year about this coaching staff, if they’re able to get a rookie that’s missed a large chunk of time back on the field, they’ll figure out a way to fit him in.

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RB Gary Brightwell 

Stats Through Week 10: 1 carry for 4 yards; 1 reception for 6 yards

The first of the Giants' two sixth-round draft picks hasn’t seen much action on the offense—only ten snaps—but those few snaps he’s given have been encouraging. Brightwell has one rushing attempt for four yards, two of which came after contact. On that attempt, Brightwell did well to stick his foot in the ground and try to push his way ahead.

But where he’s made his mark has been on special teams. The former Arizona Wildcat is on all but the field goal block and field goal kicking units, and he has six total special teams tackles (one solo), the six total being the second-most on the team behind Keion Crossen’s seven.

Giants head coach Joe Judge has said that Brightwell has the potential to be a special teams fixture for a long time, which is why so long as the young man is healthy, he’ll get a game-day uniform.

CB Rodarius Williams 

Stats Through Week 10: 1 tackle

In 50 defensive snaps, Williams logged only one tackle. He carried a 158.3 rating in coverage, allowing all four pass targets against him to be completed, with one of those going for a touchdown.

An aggressive sort who was active in coverage—it speaks volumes that he was able to get on the field ahead of now-former cornerback Sam Beal—Williams was better off playing closer to the line than he was playing off-ball coverage, where his average speed wasn’t enough to keep up with some of the faster receivers he faced.

When it came to wrapping up his man and bringing them down, Williams was solid, and he showed that with more coaching and reps, he could be a good rotational piece in that defensive backfield next year once he recovers from his torn ACL.

Edge Quincy Roche 

Stats Through Week 10: 11 tackles, 1.0 sack, 2 TFL, 3 QBH, 1 FF

Roche is currently ranked as the sixth-best rookie edge rusher among his 2021 draft class peers per Pro Football Focus.

But if you want a little more to justify the glowing reviews for Roche, a sixth-round pick by Pittsburgh whom they tried to sneak onto their practice squad only to lose out to the Giants, how about we start with his tackling?

Sticking with the 2021 draft class but narrowing the list down to the 13 rookie edge defenders who have played in at least 100 snaps, Roche is sixth in missed tackles percentage (9.1 percent).

Among his Giants teammates, Roche, who has gradually siphoned snaps away from Oshane Ximines, a third-year player who in 182 defensive snaps has only managed a disappointing seven pressures and nine tackles

Roche has six pressures (including a sack) in 139 snaps and eight tackles, and in 139 snaps, he’s hot on the heels of Lorenzo Carter (306 snaps) and Ximines (182 snaps) in the tackles department.

DE Raymond Johnson III 

Stats Through Week 10: 1 tackle

One of three undrafted rookie free agents and the only one to make the 53-man roster, Johnson has played sporadically for the Giants but has made the most of his snaps. 

Suiting up for eight of the first nine games, the former Georgia Southern star who these days wears Justin Tuck’s No. 91 has two pressures in his 37 pass-rush snaps and has contributed to two tackles.

ILB Justin Hilliard 

Stats Through Week 10: N/A

Hilliard’s contract was awarded to the Giants off waivers, but unfortunately, an Achilles injury limited the former Ohio State linebacker to just 15 snaps, all on special teams. 

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