Giants: 3 under-the-radar rookies primed to lock down roster spots

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Danielle Parhizkaran / USA TODAY NETWORK

The New York Giants are exuding optimism as they enjoy an outstanding training camp and preseason, thanks in part to an influx of young and dynamic talent. Key veterans, like quarterback Daniel Jones, seem increasingly comfortable, while new acquisitions like Darren Waller are already showing their worth. Building on their 2022 successes, the Giants aim to make significant strides in both offense and defense.

The Draft: The Giants are Building a Solid Foundation

It’s a truism in football: A successful team is built through the draft. Among the Giants’ rookies fighting for roster spots, three under-the-radar players have emerged as strong contenders for meaningful roles in the upcoming 2023 season.

Low-Key Rookies in the Spotlight

CB: Tre Hawkins

Old Dominion standout Tre Hawkins has been a revelation this off-season. Selected in the sixth round, Hawkins displayed remarkable physical skills but lacked exposure against top-tier opponents. Simply put, he needed more game-time experience. And it seems he’s getting it, already securing first-team reps with the regular season looming.

“You look at Tre, look no further than the physical traits,” assistant general manager Brandon Brown said. “Wink is very particular of what plays in the system and what’s at a premium.

In the preseason, Hawkins has been on the field for 61 snaps, yielding just four receptions for 30 yards. He’s also amassed five tackles, showing proficiency in the run game and maintaining solid coverage. It’s highly likely he’ll start Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys, opposite first-round pick Deonte Banks, with Adoree Jackson covering the slot—a significant advancement for the Giants’ secondary.

“He’s had a good camp,” head coach Brian Daboll said. “He has been consistent, which is what you look for [along with] the discipline that you need to improve every day. It’s not always perfect — there is a lot of things that he can do better — but he’s had the right approach to his job.” 

DL: Jordon Riley

Seventh-round rookie Jordon Riley has made waves as an impactful interior run defender, mentored by one of the game’s best—Dexter Lawrence. During his 78 preseason snaps, the 6’5″, 325-pound interior defender has collected three tackles, including several for a loss.

Riley shows promise, particularly with his knack for plugging gaps and absorbing contact, making way for his teammates. As he continues to refine his technique and pass-rushing skills, it’s evident he’s vying for a spot on the roster.

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WR: Bryce Ford-Wheaton

Undrafted free agent Bryce Ford-Wheaton has caught the eye of the Giants’ coaching staff, particularly due to his athletic potential.

“The obvious with Bryce is just size, speed. He’s 6-foot-4, he’s 225 pounds, or 230, whatever he is, and runs 4.40,” Giants special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey told reporters on Wednesday.

Ford-Wheaton has also impressed as a gunner on the punt team. While the wide receiver position is crowded, many of those battling for a spot lack his special teams skills. If Ford-Wheaton secures a gunner role, he has a strong shot at making the 53-man roster.

“Those measurables are pretty special. Whenever you can get — and with him, he’s a very mature rookie. He goes about his business very professionally, he comes into meetings, he works his tail off, he’s attentive, and he wants to learn. So, when you have those qualities — smart, tough, dependable — and just those physical attributes, he has a really, really big upside, I think.”

With only one preseason game left, Ford-Wheaton is showing that he has what it takes but could use more seasoning to fully develop his skills. Making an impact on special teams can be an excellent pathway for late-round and undrafted players to earn their keep, and he appears to be mastering that challenge.