Revealing the Giants' Most Underrated Player

Patricia Traina

SINow’s Conor Orr recently identified his list of each team’s most underrated player on the roster, and his choice for the Giants is something of a surprise.

According to Orr, linebacker David Mayo is the Giants most underrated player, the justification for the selection as follows:

Pro Football Focus’s second-best run defender among linebackers in 2019, Mayo drastically improved his coverage stats and missed tackle numbers to earn himself more of a regular role on defense last year (and was awarded a contract extension). While the Giants will continue to struggle defending backs and tight ends, Mayo is an example of a true workhorse who is developing his game to fit a changing NFL.

Mayo, whom Giants general manager Dave Gettleman selected in the fifth-round in 2015 draft for the Carolina Panthers, had signed a two-year deal as an unrestricted free agent with the 49ers in March 2019. 

Unfortunately for Mayo, he didn’t make the 49ers 53-man roster, but the Giants wasted no time in scooping him up to add depth to an otherwise shaky-looking inside linebacker unit.

After playing in a handful of snaps in the Giants’ Week 3 game against the Bucs, Mayo saw his workload increase when rookie inside linebacker Ryan Connelly suffered a season-ending torn ACL against Washington in Week 4. 

Mayo’s most productive game was in Week 6 against the Patriots when he recorded a personal season-high 12 tackles (eight against the run) and a half-sack on defense to go along with a solo tackle on special teams.

Mayo finished with 80 tackles (50 solo), second on the Giants defense behind Antoine Bethea, while also adding 2.0 sacks, five tackles for a loss, two passes defensed, and one fumble recovery. All of that was good enough for the soon-to-be 27-year-old to earn a new three-year contract from the Giants.

But is Mayo the best choice as the Giants’ most underrated player? He is a strong candidate for the honor, but my pick for the most underrated Giants player from 2019 would be right guard Kevin Zeitler.

Zeitler was acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns for edge rusher Olivier Vernon. Based on how last year unfolded, the Giants got the better end of the bargain.

Zeitler only missed one game due to a nagging shoulder issue that he otherwise powered through for most of the season. He was also the most consistent offensive linemen for the Giants week in and week out.

Per PFF, he allowed just 22 total pressures, the fewest of all the starting offensive linemen. And if grades mean anything to you, Zeitler was the highest-graded Giants starting offensive lineman in both pass protection and run blocking.

According to the NFL’s official stats, the Giants averaged 5.21 yards per carry running through the right guard hole, the best average on runs between the tackles.

Zeitler was also the least penalized starting offensive lineman. He was flagged in Week 4 for holding, which thankfully didn’t stall the Giants drive. He was also flagged in Week 9 for illegal use of hands, that penalty declined.

Zeitler would get my vote for the Giants’ most underrated player because he not only plays every snap of every game he's active, but he’s also as good in the running and passing game. 

To me, that makes him more of a complete choice than Mayo, who, while solid against the run and on special teams, is pedestrian at best in coverage.

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