The New York Giants spent a good chunk of their 2023 NFL Draft capital retooling their secondary, with first-rounder Deonte Banks at the center of the transformation. What do Banks and the Giants’ other draft selections at DB add to their attack?
New York Giants Bolster Secondary in the 2023 NFL Draft
The Giants had seven total selections in the 2023 NFL Draft. Three of those picks — nearly half — were spent on defensive backs.
Even since before Joe Schoen came to the fold as New York’s general manager, the Giants have placed added importance on drafting and developing talent in the secondary. Players like Julian Love, Xavier McKinney, Darnay Holmes, Dane Belton, and Cordale Flott were all homegrown contributors in 2022, added between the 2019 and 2022 cycles.
The Giants’ secondary wasn’t actually a bad unit in 2022. They allowed 214 passing yards per game, the 14th-lowest figure in the league. But New York did lose boundary CB Fabian Moreau in free agency, who started 11 games and ultimately signed with the Saints. They also lost Love to the Seahawks, who provided value with his versatility.
Couple in the fact that Adoree’ Jackson, Holmes, and McKinney are all scheduled to be free agents in 2024, and it was right for the Giants to put such a focus on the defensive backfield in the 2023 NFL Draft.
In Round 6, New York added Old Dominion CB Tre Hawkins III and Houston S Gervarrius Owens in the seventh round. But the headliner of the class was undoubtedly Maryland CB Deonte Banks, whom the Giants took with the 24th overall pick.
Deonte Banks Brings Tone-Setting Toughness and Elite Traits
When you think of a Don “Wink” Martindale CB, the ideal profile that comes up looks a lot like Banks’. Banks is tailor-made to play defense in Martindale’s scheme, so it’s no surprise that the Giants targeted him in Round 1.
First and foremost, Banks has the physical tools to the highest degree. He recorded a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 9.99 in the 2023 NFL Draft cycle. And though he didn’t have any agility testing numbers, his 4.35 40-yard dash, 1.45 10-yard split, 42″ vertical, and 11’4″ broad jump at 6’0″, 200 pounds all speak to hyper-elite athletic talent.
On tape, that talent rings true for Banks. Not only is he an incredibly explosive mover heading upfield to run with receivers, but he also has the fluidity to sustain acceleration through transitions, the short-area twitch to recover leverage, and the recovery speed to close gaps and engulf passing windows.
Banks can still improve as a playmaker when the ball comes his way, but Giants head coach Brian Daboll isn’t too concerned about that knock. In a press conference after the draft, when asked about Banks’ lack of ball production, Daboll stated that “he was around the ball quite a bit,” regardless.
Daboll also expanded on Banks’ tool chest and what he brings to the Giants’ defense: “He’s strong. He’s got good length. He’s got good quickness, good speed. And now we’ll just throw him in the mix with our guys, and it’ll be good to have him.”
Size and athleticism are where it starts with Banks. But ultimately, his defining trait in Martindale’s scheme is his toughness and physicality at the line. As a press-man cornerback, Banks has no reservations toward jamming receivers with maximum force and making his mark early in reps.
Banks has room to clean up his technique and play more patiently, to be sure. But when you think about boundary cornerbacks who can suffocate receivers on releases, both with their sticky athleticism and their stubborn competitive edge, Banks is at the top of the list.
At his maximum potential, Banks has the physical proactivity and the all-encompassing talent to erase the boundary. That ability to delay releases and take away options for QBs allows Martindale to get creative with his attacking blitz concepts in the box. It’s all a symbiotic relationship, and Banks helps it hum.
Hawkins and Owens Also Have Intriguing Upside
As his capital implies, Banks will be relied upon much more heavily than the others on Day 1, but don’t be surprised if Hawkins and Owens eventually start to contribute on defense.
Early on, special teams will be big for both Hawkins and Owens. Schoen is on the record saying that both players have the physical talent and edge that projects well to special teams. And with a deep DB rotation, teams might ultimately be where Hawkins and Owens have the most room to provide value.
Nevertheless, there is some potential to unearth for both players on defense. Hawkins has already proven his mettle as a support player — he had five tackles for loss in 2021 — and he also had two interceptions and six pass deflections in 2022.
Hawkins is tough, physical, and incredibly talented as an athlete. He scored a 9.82 RAS — a top 50 figure among all CBs ever to have testing data. At 6’2″, 188 pounds, with arms over 32″ long, Hawkins put up a 4.42 40-yard dash, a 37.5″ vertical, a 10’9″ broad, and a blazing 6.74 three-cone.
Those numbers do well to encapsulate the all-encompassing athleticism that Hawkins shows on tape. He’s fast, explosive, athletic, and incredibly rangy as a playmaker with his reach. As he continues to hone his technique and NFL IQ, Hawkins has the athletic foundation to become a gem on defense.
In a press conference, Schoen echoed those exact sentiments on Hawkins: “Height, weight, and speed prospect that has high upside. He’s a physical kid, not afraid to tackle. You see a trend with some of these guys that we took at that position. Good developmental prospect for Wink’s defense and projects well to special teams due to his physical traits and toughness.”
Owens is another player who tested very well, athletically. At 6’0″, 193 pounds, with 32″ arms, he logged a 37.5″ vertical, a 10’5″ broad, and a 6.75 three-cone in the 94th percentile among safeties.
Owens’ 4.57 speed was the only blemish on his profile, but he shows off competent playmaking range on tape. His physicality coming downhill, along with his versatility playing single-high, two-high, and box safety, provides Day 1 value for the Giants as a depth DB.