Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
It’s been a long, strange trip for fifth year Baylor product J.D. Walton. Flashing back to the 2010 NFL Draft, Walton was the first center off the board at pick #80 to Denver. He went on to start his first 36 professional games, grasping onto his gig despite limited blocking efficacy. Let’s take a peek at the advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus from 2010-2013:
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Needless to say, his entrance into NFL football was a hideous affair. But it appeared Walton was finding his sea legs in the early stages of 2012… just when devastating injury decided to strike him down — a broken ankle in week four against the Raiders. Walton was expected to miss the remainder of that season, but ended up sitting out all of 2013 as well due to “complications” during his rehab.
Now fully equipped with a two-year $5 million contract, Walton proclaimed himself 100% and ready to roll entering Organized Team Activities. He served as the first-string center for a healthy and snazzy looking Eli Manning during day one of Giants’ OTA’s, backed up by Dallas Reynolds. Past struggles aside, Walton has a reputation as a strong blocker in the “screen game” thanks to an innate sense of timing. The Giants could choose to adopt screen action in abundance in the modern McAdoo scheme.
It’s widely believed that if Walton performs during training camp and preseason, the job will be his come opening week. However, the presence of well-schooled second rounder Weston Richburg won’t afford him much breathing room. Depending on the sharpness of Chris Snee upon return from hip surgery, Richburg could ultimately find his opening at right guard. He’s already seen traffic there during workouts.
Walton was Denver’s center with Peyton Manning at the helm in 2012. Can he do for Eli what he was able to accomplish with the Broncos? Well, technically he didn’t do much for Manning’s Broncos — contrary to popular, unintentional and misleading opinion, Walton snapped the pigskin to Peyton for only four games.
Additionally, Walton is 6’3″ 299 pounds at the invaluable (and under-appreciated) center spot. It’s important to note 299, because Walton isn’t huge. If Walton and fellow newcomer Geoff Schwartz, who is 6’6″ 340 lbs. of lineman, can mesh… then the Giants will make huge strides in returning to form with the versatility these guys bring on paper. But make no mistake, this is not the second coming of Jeff Saturday and Peyton Manning.