We examine the current state of the NY Giants cornerback position and what the team could do to improve heading into next season.
The NY Giants are currently heading into the 2020 season with Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine, and Grant Haley as the only cornerbacks on their roster. Haley represents the veteran of the group, having played two seasons now versus the one season that the other three have played.
Of the remaining cornerbacks on the NY Giants roster, not one of them registered a single interception last season. Last year’s first-round draft pick Deandre Baker struggled significantly throughout most of the season, although some of that may be attributed to being misused in a soft zone scheme that did not properly utilize his abilities.
After Big Blue traded up to select Baker in the first round over other cornerbacks who received a great deal more buzz heading into the draft, he was under immense pressure to perform immediately as a starting cornerback learning a completely new defensive scheme.
If that wasn’t enough of a hindrance, Baker also dealt with a nagging knee injury though most of the season. Despite his struggles, Baker would look exponentially better as the season progressed.
The Giants used a sixth-round pick last year to select Corey Ballentine out of Washburn University. The night that he was drafted, Ballentine and a teammate were involved in a shooting that claimed the life of Ballentine’s good friend and left the rookie wounded.
As a result, Ballentine would miss a large chunk of time leading up to the preseason. However, he would be a standout in the preseason and with his excellent size and speed and looked like a legitimate option for the Giants at the cornerback position.
Following the Giants’ decision to cut Janoris Jenkins, Ballentine was thrust primarily into a role as a slot cornerback, something that proved extremely difficult for the young rookie out of a small school. With a build that may be better suited for an outside cornerback position, the new coaching staff may determine to shift his role with the team.
After using a 2018 supplemental draft pick on Sam Beal that cost the Giants a third-round pick in the 2019 draft, Beal would suffer a season-ending shoulder injury in his first practice last season. He would remain on the injured reserve until midway through this season.
Upon his return, Beal looked solid as the strong-side cornerback for New York. He was seen as a potential steal in the supplemental draft when Western Michigan denied him another year of eligibility following the draft. Many felt that he had first-round potential if he had been able to return to college for an additional year.
Beal is a confident corner who is not afraid to get physical and has the ideal size and speed to match up against bigger opposing wide receivers. He has all the attributes to be a strong contributor for the Giants if he can remain healthy, which given his past injury history remains a rather large if.
Beal also seemed to struggle with the complex defensive zone schemes of James Bettcher’s defense. Much like fellow rookies Baker and Ballentine, Beal seemed confused as to his assignments in certain zone packages. The complexity of Bettcher’s schemes was routinely called into question, especially in regard to their difficulty for young players to comprehend.
With any luck, Joe Judge and his coaching staff will be able to design a scheme for their young corners to understand more effectively than the past regime. It will also be beneficial if the three corners can remain healthy, as Baker’s knee, Beal’s shoulder and the gunshot wound suffered by Ballentine caused each of them to miss significant time and reps in practice and game situations last season. As a result, it likely stunted their growth in their rookie seasons.
Who could Big Blue target for help?
Due to the fact that the NY Giants are so young, inexperienced and thin at the cornerback position, the team could decide to add to the position either through free agency, by adding one of the top veteran available cornerbacks such as Byron Jones, Chris Harris, Bradley Roby, Logan Ryan or James Bradberry.
The Giants are likely to have over $80 million available in cap space after they make cuts to a number of veterans who are salary-cap casualty options. Adding a veteran lockdown cornerback to supplement their young core of players at the position is extremely plausible.
They could also decide to go the route of trading the Detroit Lions for Darius Slay. The asking price of the Lions is said to be a second-round pick in exchange for the talented veteran, who is arguably one of the best cornerbacks in the league.
The team acquiring Slay will likely have to pay him north of $15 million per year in a contract extension. The Giants certainly have the cap space available to sign Slay if they were to trade for him.
The issue becomes parting with draft picks after Dave Gettleman already inexplicably traded away two picks to bring pending free agent defensive tackle Leonard Williams to a then 2-6 Giants team last season.
The Giants could also decide to shore up their cornerback position by selecting Jeff Okudah with the fourth overall pick in the draft. Okudah, who played at Ohio State University, is widely viewed as one of the best cornerback prospects to enter the draft since Patrick Peterson or Jalen Ramsey.
After spending so much draft capital last season on the cornerback position, coupled with having a vast amount of holes to fill on the roster, it makes it extremely difficult to spend such a high draft pick in this year’s draft on Okudah, regardless of his talent level.
Additionally, the Giants could decide that their cornerback corps is solid as is and may decide to simply add depth later in the draft or via free agency with lesser sought after depth players at cornerback.
The NY Giants certainly have a number of options at their disposal. Currently, the Giants have nine draft picks in the upcoming draft, which should allow them to add to the cornerback position at any level of the draft should they choose to do so.
With a solid crop of free agents and a draft deep with cornerback talent, the Giants have a plethora of options at their disposal. Clearly, it is positive to have so many various options at their disposal and it represents a stark contrast to situations of years past.