The New York Giants are struggling right now at multiple key positions that are preventing their team from potentially having more than one win. One of those positions is the second cornerback position.
The second cornerback position needed to be filled many years ago. Jerry Reese drafted Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple with the 10th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Apple spent two and a half seasons with the team before being traded to the New Orleans Saints for two draft picks.
Dave Gettleman tried to solve the same issue by drafting Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker 30th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Baker struggled more than any first-round rookie in the league. He allowed 54 completed passes on 88 targets, a 61.4 completion percentage, 850 yards, 15.7 yards per completion, 9.7 yards per target, six touchdowns, and a 116.2 passer rating. Baker got in trouble in May after being involved in an armed robbery with Seattle Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar. The Giants released him during roster cutdowns in September.
So far in 2020, the Giants have had a revolving door at the second cornerback position. Corey Ballentine started the first two games there, Isaac Yiadom started the next two with Ryan Lewis starting up to Week 8.
It is evident the Giants need help at the CB2 position. Here are ways to fill that position:
Drafting A Cornerback
This option fits to be the long-term path if the Giants want to head that way. However, Big Blue traveled down this way before. Incoming flashbacks of Eli Apple and Deandre Baker.
The Giants drafted Darnay Holmes in the fourth round of April’s draft. He’s struggled thus far, through six games. However, if he pans out and shakes his rookie struggles, he will likely be used in the slot. Not on the outside. Logan Ryan is not a long-term option, as he already is 29 years old.
Patrick Surtain II
Surtain II played well for the Alabama Crimson Tide in 2019 recording two interceptions, three forced fumbles, eight pass deflections, and 42 tackles. According to scouts, he has good size and tons of upside. According to WalterFootball.com, “He is big, quick, physical, and has good ball skills. Surtain projects well as a press-man corner.” Surtain is not a fit in zone-schemes. However, when it comes to a man coverage scheme, he plays well. If the Giants invest in the young cornerback, he could be a good fit in Patrick Graham’s defense.
Wade is another young buck that could be on the Giants’ radar, in search of another outside cornerback. That is if Ohio State moves him out of the slot, with Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette in the NFL. Wade recorded one interception, two forced fumbles, one sack, 25 tackles with eight pass deflections in 2019. He also includes some versatility as well, which would fit well for Patrick Graham’s defense. He also plays slot cornerback and safety as well as the outside.
Though these two and other prospects are mouth-watering, the Giants may not choose the cornerback route in the first round. Wide receiver, quarterback, defensive end, and possibly offensive line could be on the shopping list for Spring 2021. If the Giants looked into drafting a mid to late-round cornerback, prospects like Thomas Graham Jr. Sevyn Banks, and others should be available. If Big Blue does not like the cards on the table before April, they’ll need to find another way to fill the CB2 hole.
2021 Free Agency
Filling a simple hole with free agents may be a difficult task. Especially if the options are not very good. The Giants would likely look at someone who is coming off a rookie contract rather than a stop-gap veteran. Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman are both slowly aging veterans, who are in their 30s. Jimmy Smith could finish his career in Baltimore. D.J. Hayden and Josh Norman are having horrible seasons with their respective teams.
Jason Verrett is having an impeccable season to start off the season with the San Francisco 49ers. Verrett has allowed a 42.7 completion percentage for 70 yards, which ranks one of the best among NFL cornerbacks. He has also allowed 8.8 yards per completion, 3.7 yards per target, and a 30.6 passer rating.
One of the cons with Verrett is his injury-riddled past. Verrett has missed over 50 games in his seven-year career (including the 49ers’ 2019 Playoff Run). It would be a joke if Verrett commanded Jalen Ramsey-type money, considering his injury past. Nonetheless, Verrett could be a cheaper option because of his past, which would be to the Giants’ advantage. Especially if he is coming off of a career season with one of the best defensive teams.
Taking from a rival in free agency has been done before. Chidobe Awuzie is another solid option if the Giants head in the 2021 Free Agent route. Awuzie could be looking to escape Dallas, considering the disconnect between Mike McCarthy, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, and the coaching staff.
Awuzie replaced Byron Jones as the primary cornerback in Dallas this season. Jones departed to the Miami Dolphins in free agency.
Despite the horrendous Cowboys’ defense, Awuzie has been putting up decent stats, much like most of his young career. That was before he landed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. Awuzie in his first two games, recorded one interception, two pass deflections, three tackles, five completions on nine targets, a 55.6 completion percentage, 69 yards, 13.8 yards per completion, 7.7 yards per target, and an 80.3 passer rating.
Awuzie, like other cornerbacks, could command big money. However, it also depends on how the market tone is set for free agency since NFL teams could see a reduction in cap space due to the ongoing COVID pandemic. If the Giants elected to take their chances with a free-agent, there is no doubt Awuzie could fill the hole.
The Giants could attempt to go after Texans’ cornerback Gareon Conley. Conley is only 25 years-old. He went on season-ending injured reserve in September but came off a nice season statistically with the Houston Texans, after being traded from Oakland. Conley, after being traded to Houston, allowed 24 completions on 46 targets (52.2% completion), 299 yards, 12.5 yards per completion, 6.5 yards per target, and an 87.1 passer rating.
Conley may easily command big-money, so the Giants will have to watch their cap spending in the offseason. That is if they intend on pursuing Conley or any other solid cornerback.
Another option is Chargers’ cornerback Desmond King. King is not just a good defender, but also good as a kick returner. King has been rather impressive to start the season, allowing 11 completions on 17 targets for 77 yards and a 64.7 completion percentage. He also has allowed only seven yards per completion.
King has been overlooked in the first couple of seasons in the NFL. He could command big money, depending on how other cornerbacks set the market. King is also 25 and has a bright future ahead of him. The Giants could get lucky with this pickup on special teams and in the secondary, if they can get him cheap.
Some other 2021 FA options include Ronald Darby, P.J. Williams, Bashaud Breeland, and William Jackson. The Giants will have approximately $21.15M in cap space next year. So if they take the wide receiver, offensive line, and edge rusher positions as higher priorities, a free-agent cornerback will need to be a cheap and short-term option.
Filling The Hole
The New York Giants cannot fill the hole by making it deeper. Poor free-agent decisions and draft choices on both sides of the ball have set this valuable franchise back for many years. Whether Dave Gettleman is trying to save his job or the new general manager is trying to make a good first impression, the CB2 problem needs to be solved.
Both free agency and the draft can work. Free agency will likely cost more money, while it could take years for a rookie to develop into a good defender. Whatever the decision is or however they fill it, it will need to be effective for this team to win games.