Countdown to Camp: Who is the Biggest Undrafted Rookie on the Giants Defense?
The Giants selected Xavier McKinney, Darnay Holmes, Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin, T.J. Brunson, and Tae Crowder in the draft, but did they find anyone of value in the undrafted free agent market?
I would argue that they did in a young man who is a sturdy 6’5", 268-pound, defensive end who is more of a 3-4 base, 5-technique, and lacks the bend to corner the edge against solid tackles in the league.
His name is Niko Lalos, and he comes from the Ivy League school of Dartmouth. His skill set has tweener vibes between a defensive tackle and an edge, and I question how his athletic ability stacks up at the NFL level.
Olawale Betiku (Illinois) and Dana Levine (Temple) are two edge rushers with a chance to make a difference on the Giants’ roster.
Betiku is a USC transfer who dealt with injuries throughout college but has the burst, size, and athletic ability.
Levine is a bit leaner and has similar athletic upside, maybe a bit more, but he needs to continue to grow as a pass rusher, while also adding a bit more strength. He made a substantial statistical jump in play from his junior to senior season, so it’s plausible to think he can continue to grow.
Christian Angulo (Hampton) and Malcolm Elmore (Central Methodist) are solid secondary pieces stuck in a very crowded situation.
Angulo was a transfer from Cincinnati, who dominated the lower level of competition at the FCS level. Offenses tended not to throw in his direction, due to his size and athletic skills, but he still managed to record three interceptions and 14 passes defended.
Elmore (5’11", 185 pounds) is a bit smaller than Angulo (6’2", 205 pounds), and he was a scholar-athlete, but his lack of length is going to hurt his chances.
The Giants also signed Jaquarius Landrews, a safety from Mississippi State. Landrews is a bit gangly, despite him only being 5’11, 197 pounds, but his thin frame showed up in run support, and he’s not an overly fluid athlete in space.
His chances are hurt by the presence of three very talented safeties and other players like Montre Hartage, his former teammate in college Mark McLaurin (hybrid linebacker), and Dravon Askew-Henry.
This leads me to Dominique Ross, a 6’4", 228-pound linebacker, who recorded 126 tackles, 11 for a loss, 4 sacks, one interception, one forced fumble, and ten passes defended as a Tar Heel, but 60 of those tackles, 6 of them for a loss, 2.5 of the sacks, and 5 of the passes defended were in his final season.
Ross is explosive; the perfect hybrid linebacker type that can cover in space, man cover opponents of solid athletic ability, blitz effectively, and play the run well. He’s a bit raw with diagnosing and can be wild at times, but he’s incredibly tough, hits hard, and his presence is felt on the defense.
Ross’ burst to close jump out more than that of Tae Crowder and TJ Brunson, albeit the latter two have a bit more development in the box in terms of reading keys and reacting. Ross may get to showcase his versatile skill-set if the Giants suffer an injury to their linebacking corps.
The ability needs to be refined, but the size and athletic capabilities can’t be taught. I would feel more comfortable about his impact if this was a “normal” off-season, but I can see him earning some snaps in Graham’s more hybrid defense towards the end of the season.
We won’t see him early, other than some special teams. But if his athleticism is on display, and he matures in terms of mental processing, then I wouldn’t be shocked to see him on the field over Brunson or Crowder.