After playing for the New York Giants since 2010, Jason Pierre-Paul is joining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. JPP has been one of the Giants’ main pass rushers during his time with the team, and replacing his impact isn’t going to be a simple task.
Quality pass rushers aren’t easy to acquire in the NFL, and when teams find good ones, they usually try to lock them down long-term. Because of that dynamic, the draft is sometimes the way to go when a team needs to find a star pass rusher.
Here’s a look at who the Giants might target in this year’s draft:
Sam Hubbard is projected to go in the first-second round, and could be a target at No. 34. He has the typical size that you expect from a defensive end prospect, at 6’5 and 270 pounds, and he helped to lead a Ohio State Buckeyes defensive line that was one of the best in the country. In fact, I saw him play in person when Ohio State took on Penn State last year, and his impact on the game wasn’t exaggerated at all.
He’s a disruptive player that can get into the backfield and look for sacks or tackles for losses, and while his burst and speed have been criticized, all of the potential to become a star edge rusher is there. He’s not going to become a Jason Pierre-Paul replacement right away, but given time? It’s not out of the question.
His high work rate and his good rushing technique are more valuable than pure speed or athleticism, and his 4.78 40 yard dash time doesn’t tell the whole story about his game.
It’s also worth noting that during the NFL Combine, he claimed that he can play anywhere, whether it’s in a 4-3 or a 3-4. With a new defensive coordinator joining the Giants, that could be invaluable.
Another prospect worth looking at is Josh Sweat, from Florida State. Sweat is the smaller player, at 6’5 and 251 lbs, but that’s not to say that he’s weaker. He’s also faster than Hubbard and ran a 4.53 on the 40 yard dash, and he’s great at getting off of blocks to the outside when he’s at his best.
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However, he’s not as consistent of a prospect and instead of being a first round bubble prospect, he could be a third round steal for a team that takes a chance on him.
If Sweat does adapt well to the NFL, you can expect him to penetrate the backfield and chase after the quarterback or running back. His style of rushing is the kind of thing that the fans like to see, and he can be a dangerous player on blitzing plays.
In fact, his status as a third round prospect doesn’t completely have to do with his play. It’s partially because of concerns with his knee dating back to high school, making him more of a gamble than a player like Hubbard.
The Giants should consider drafting one of them. Hubbard is the safer option and has a high ceiling, but will likely be drafted in the first/early second round. In the scenarios where the Giants trade down and draft later in the first round, he’s a potential target.
Sweat, on the other hand, can be acquired without trading down. He shouldn’t be off of the board until the third round, but his knee makes him more of a risk and his game might not translate as well against NFL tackles.
In either scenario, the Giants would have a new player to hopefully mold into someone who can fill the void left by Jason Pierre-Paul.