By Michael Stewart
Introduction: Mini Rookie Camp is always fun to observe and report on as many UDFA players and draft picks showcase themselves hoping to catch the eye of coaches and GM’s. Thus far, aside from the draft picks; there are 6 UDFA players who have been getting notice at Giant camp and impressing the coaching staff. Of the 6 players, 3 are offensive linemen and 3 are defensive backs; which happens to be two positions the Giants lacked in depth and talent at the end of last season. Has Dave Gettleman possibly found the next Andrew Norwell or perhaps the next Donnie Shell.
OC/OG: Evan Brown: (6’3/330) SMU: Brown played at SMU and was a 4 year starter and earned one of PFF’s top grades among centers in the 2018 draft. Brown turned some heads at his pro day with a 36 inch vertical jump; which is impressive for a man of his size. After watching Brown on film, the first thing you notice is his tenacity as a blocker; playing until the whistle. Brown may be a long to make the roster, however; he is currently the only other natural center on the Giants roster other than starter Brett Jones.
OT: Tyler Howell: (6’8/320) Missouri: Howell played at Missouri and came into his own in 2017 and has the size and strength many NFL teams covert. Howell surprisingly has quick feet for his size, but needs to refine his overall technique to take the next step. On file, Howell over powered his opponents at the point of attack, but will need time to adjust to the speed and talent level of the NFL. Howell has a high ceiling and a ton of potential; the Giants would like to see more of him and perhaps place him the practice squad for more development if they feel he’s not ready.
OT/OG: Nick Gates: (6’5/305) Nebraska: Gates is already being compared to Andrew Norwell, not by talent but the fact that both played in the Big Ten and both had similar draft grades (projected 3rd/4th round). Gates started three years at Nebraska before declaring himself for the NFL draft as a junior. On film, Gates stays on his block and keeps a low center of gravity. Gates is not going to overpower his opponent, but rather put himself in a solid position with his technique. Look for Gates to move inside at guard if he wants to win a spot with the Giants.
S: Aaron Davis: (6’1/195) Georgia: Davis not being drafted was a little surprising as I had him projected as a 5th or 6th round selection. However; Davis has the size and speed to excel in the NFL not as a corner, but rather at safety. Davis should be given every chance to win a spot among the other safeties (Thompson, Adams and Thomas). Watching Davis on film, the most glaring part of his game is his willingness to be a battery ram on opposing players. Davis is fearless and enjoys the physical part of the game. Davis lacks the explosive speed to defend on the outside; which is why I believe he will excel as a safety.
CB: Grant Haley: (5’9/190) Penn State: Haley may be big in football standard, but someone forgot to tell Haley. Haley uses every bit of his size on the opposition and is an extreme competitor. Haley would be an ideal slot corner at the next level with exceptional speed (4.44) and a 3.94 20-yard shuttle; which was tops among cornerbacks. Haley is athletic and was showcase during mini-camp; which caught the eye of Head Coach Pat Shurmur. The fact that the Giants didn’t draft a cornerback it a bit surprising, with only Jenkins and Apple currently on the roster with extensive playing time. Haley has the opportunity along with the many other cornerbacks brought in through free agency to compete for a spot on the roster.
S-Sean Chandler: (6’0/200) Temple: Chandler was a 4 year starter at Temple and was a solid tackler and ball hawk. Chandler has a high football IQ and does what needs to be done to help his team win. The Giants believe in Chandler as they gave him a $35k signing bonus to avoid another team from signing him. Chandler has some experience at corner; which will only benefit him to secure a roster spot.
Final Thoughts: Through free agency, the draft and the UDFA signings, GM Dave Gettleman arguably had the best overall off season since former GM Ernie Accorsi. Gettleman hopes that he’s found a diamond in the rough among the names mentioned above. Only time will tell on whether any of these players will develop into solid NFL players. Thus far, all six have looked good and maybe, just maybe there’s a future Pro Bowler among them.