EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — After providing No. 2 overall draft pick Saquon Barkley with a big road grader to open some holes for the running game, the New York Giants went to work to improve their pass rush and stop the run.
The Giants grabbed mammoth guard Will Hernandez of UTEP with the second pick of the second round on Friday night, a 345-pounder who moved into the Miners starting lineup as a redshirt freshman and started all 49 games at left guard.
New York switched to defense in the third round, taking edge-rushing linebacker Lorenzo Carter of Georgia with the 66th pick overall and bullish tackle B.J. Hill of North Carolina State three selections later.
The second choice came from Tampa Bay in the deal that sent defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers.
In all three cases — four, if you count the Giants taking Barkley in the first round — general manager Dave Gettleman said it was value meeting need. That’s something the Giants desperately needed coming off a 3-13 season.
“Dave and I were talking leading up to the draft, and I really believed we were going to get a lot better,” new coach Pat Shurmur said. “I can tell you with the four picks, we have gotten a lot better.”
The Giants considered Hernandez a first-round choice, and they felt Carter and Hill had second-round grades, said Gettleman, who felt Barkley was the best player in the draft.
Gettleman said Hernandez was the top player on the Giants’ board when the second day started.
“You know I love the hog mollies and this guy really has a lot of talent,” Gettleman said of Hernandez. “He is a very athletic kid for his size. He can run, he can pull and he plays very smart.”
Shurmur said that Hernandez will give the Giants strength in the middle and he is good in both the run and pass games.
“This is a guy who has a really good chance to play very early in his career,” Shurmur said, adding he will be tested at both left and right guard.
Hernandez also has a mean streak the Giants like. Gettleman described him as “cranky.”
Hernandez believes he can step in and play right away. He laughed when asked about his on-field demeanor.
“On the field I am a completely different person than I am off the field,” Hernandez said. “I take football very serious. It’s more than a game to me. It’s who I am. So whenever I get on that field I take it with all seriousness.”
The Giants offensive line struggled last season with injuries and poor play. The team ranked No. 26 in the league in rushing, averaging 96.8 yards and finishing 31st in points scored.
New York lost center Weston Richburg and left guard Justin Pugh to free agency. Gettleman signed New England Patriots left tackle Nate Solder and Jacksonville guard Patrick Omameh as free agents and planned to move 2015 first-round pick Ereck Flowers from left tackle to right tackle.
Flowers, however, is not taking part in the organized team activities and the recent minicamp, both voluntary events.
Brett Jones played well at center after Richburg was sidelined by a concussion. The guard positions are wide open with John Jerry, Jon Halapio and John Greco all returning to challenge Hernandez and Omameh.
The 6-foot-5 Carter had 165 tackles and 14½ sacks in 54 games with the Bulldogs. He forced seven fumbles, recovered six and had 54 pressures.
“He played his best football in his biggest games,” Shurmur said. “That’s what really showed up. Special teams, he’ll have an immediate impact there.”
Gettleman said the Giants tried to trade up to get him and could not get a deal done. They still got him.
Hill had his best season in 2017, recording a career-high 57 tackles. He finished his career with 26½ tackles for losses and nine sacks.
“B.J. Hill, he’s tough to block,” Shurmur said. “He is good against the run. He is kind of a little bit sneaky getting his pass rush, so we’ll get a pass rush out of him as well.”
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