The New York Giants are taking a big risk at the inside linebacker position

New York Giants, Ryan Connelly

The New York Giants invested plenty of draft capital into the linebacker position this offseason; the problem is none of them are high round selections and capable of starting immediately. What does this tell us? The Giants are confident in Ryan Connelly moving forward, but that could be a risky move considering he tore his ACL in week four of the 2019 campaign (his rookie season).

Connelly posted great numbers on such a small sample size: 20 combined tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1.0 sacks, and 2 interceptions.

As a rookie linebacker, Connelly showed the instincts to plug running lanes, and the awareness to diagnose plays a high level. While he did get stuck in no-mans land a few times trying to catch runners on pitch plays, Connelly’s development was promising and deserving of optimism. Nonetheless, instilling faith in a player coming off a torn ACL is always problematic, especially when they only have four games of professional experience under their belt.

As a former fifth-round pick, Connelly will be learning an entirely new defense under Patrick Graham, consisting of different timings and pass-rush schemes. Graham utilizes linebackers and safeties frequently to scheme a pass rush, indicating that Connelly could be heavily involved in those plans. The former Wisconsin standout is also solid in coverage, posting decent numbers in the category. He allowed a 57.1% completion rate against in his first four games, including two passes defended.

Should the New York Giants be putting all their chips in on Connelly?

Overall, Connelly’s worthy of optimism but injecting late-round talent as his depth does not shore up a position of inexperience. The Giants drafted TJ Brunson, Tae Crowder, and Cam Brown, who can all adapt to inside linebacker with the Giants.

Brunson, who’s a decent player with solid athleticism, is very slow with diagnosing plays and can get lost in transition. He’s a fringe-roster player as a seventh-round pick. Crowder was the final pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and while he’s a high-character player, he lacks the playmaking ability to emerge as a starting-level player immediately.

Crowder emerged as a linebacker in college, earning the final scholarship spot on Georgia back in 2015:

“I was just on scout team at practice, just working hard, and my coach ended up noticing it going against the number one defense, making plays,” Crowder said. “He saw that I was an athlete and that I should be on the field. He reached out to me, we had a meeting, and he was like he sees me as a linebacker and stuff like that, as a defensive player. We just had a one-day tryout, and at that tryout I ended up doing pretty good and I stayed there from then.”

While I like Crowder’s work-ethic and mentality, he needs ample development before earning any reps on the Giants’ first-team. Lastly, Big Blue landed Cam Brown out of Penn State in the 6th round. While he acted as an outside linebacker in college, Brown has the size and athleticism to emerge as an inside linebacker. I would expect the Giants to test him out at both positions.