Most of the buzz around the Giants' 2019 draft class has centered around quarterback Daniel Jones, and with good reason. However, the Giants' next five picks were all on the defensive side of the ball, and all are anticipated to contribute from Week 1.
With rookies reporting to camp today, here are five Giants rookies who could be starters by the end of the season...
Selected with the first-round draft pick acquired in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade, Lawrence is already set as a starter on the defensive line. At 6-foot-4 and 342 pounds, it'd be easy to assume that Lawrence is strictly a nose tackle and a run-stuffing plugger. However, the Giants think there's more to Lawrence than meets the eye.
Lawrence has received first-team reps at defensive end, with Dalvin Tomlinson manning the middle. This puts pressure on Lawrence to contribute as a pass rusher, a role he proved capable of at Clemson, where he recorded 10 sacks over three years. He doesn't look like a traditional defensive end, but Lawrence is dying to prove his pass-rush doubters wrong.
Lawrence isn't going to be a flashy, attention-grabbing rookie. He will, however, be a player that the Giants can count on as a three-down defender from the get-go.
The Giants traded up to draft Baker in the first round, which should tell you all you need to know about what they think of him. Baker profiles best as a pesky, man-to-man matchup corner, which is more necessary now than ever in the pass-heavy NFL.
The Giants have a lot of competition at cornerback behind No. 1 corner Janoris Jenkins, and they're all young players - Sam Beal, Julian Love, Corey Ballentine. Baker is the only one with a first-round pedigree, though, which means he will likely get the first crack at the starting spot opposite Jenkins.
The Giants waited until the third round to draft an edge rusher, but that doesn't mean Ximines won't get the opportunity to contribute this season. Markus Golden, Lorenzo Carter and Kareem Martin are ahead of him on the depth chart, but Ximines' raw gifts might be too much for the Giants to pass up. He is the all-time leader in sacks at Old Dominion with 32.5, including 11.5 last year.
Old Dominion is far from the NFL, though. Ximines won't be expected to start right away, but he could play a similar role that Carter did last year - a situational pass rusher who comes in on sub packages. Add in some special teams responsibilities and you've got a player who could see his time on the field increase as the season goes on.
It's not often that a fourth-round draft pick is talked about as a potential rookie starter, but Love's versatility will make him impossible to keep off the field. He is already dueling with Grant Haley for the starting slot cornerback position, and he also has experience playing outside at Notre Dame. There's even been talk of letting him try out the free safety position, where 35-year-old Antoine Bethea is a good short-term fix but not a long-term solution.
The Giants need an outside corner, a slot corner and a free safety, and Love can play all those positions. Given his incredible versatility, Love will be a starter at some position in the secondary by the end of the year.
This one may seem like a bit of a stretch, but it is definitely possible. The Giants' linebacker corps is paper-thin. Alec Ogletree is the captain, but there is a hole next to him. With B.J. Goodson entering a contract year and not quite an every-down linebacker, it could come down to second-year player Tae Davis or Connelly to man the middle moving forward, barring an external acquisition.
Fifth-round draft picks don't usually have high expectations, and Connelly might not even see time on the defense early on, instead playing more special teams. However, he's already caught defensive coordinator James Bettcher's eye, and has also been compared to beloved ex-Giants Mark Herzlich and Chase Blackburn.
It's an underdog pick, but Connelly is a name worth keeping an eye on for an extremely young Giants defense that is willing to try anything to find a long-term middle linebacker.