Dave Gettleman believed in DeAndre Baker so staunchly that the Giants traded up into the first round of the 2019 draft to get the cornerback from Georgia.
As it turns out, Gettleman’s belief in a different cornerback might have to be the saving grace for the Giants’ defense in 2020, given Baker’s serious legal issues, as he sits in a jail in Broward County, Fla., awaiting arraignment on four counts of armed robbery and four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.
Gettleman in July 2018 waded into the waters of the supplemental draft, taking Sam Beal, a cornerback from Western Michigan. It was a calculated risk, as selecting Beal meant the Giants forfeited a third-round pick in the 2019 draft.
Prior to the 2019 draft, Gettleman said, “For what it’s worth, we really feel strongly that if Sam were in this draft he’d be a second-round pick.’’
At the time, Beal was characterized as perhaps the best prospect to ever come out of the supplemental draft.
The time will soon come for the Giants to see what Beal can do for them. There can be little expectation Baker will be available whenever training camp gets underway this summer, and there is certainly a chance Baker never plays for the Giants, or in the NFL, again. The legal system in Florida will have its say on this.
Meanwhile, the Giants must move on without Baker. The original plan was to pair Baker, coming off a difficult rookie year, with James Bradberry, the $45 million prize signed in free agency, as the starting outside cornerbacks. Beal, Corey Ballentine, Grant Haley and rookie Darnay Holmes would vie for the slot corner role, with rookie safety Xavier McKinney possibly able to fill that spot from time to time.
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Of the young group, Beal is by far the most physically capable of handling Baker’s outside corner job. He is 6-foot-1 and 192 pounds, one of those athletes coming off the bus you look at and say, “I’ll take him.’’
Logan Ryan, 29, is a proven cornerback available on the market, but he is more of a nickel corner and would not immediately address Baker’s absence. Beal’s length and speed — he clocked in at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day — is ideal for a player tasked with dealing with top receivers on the boundaries.
Beal’s rookie season was spent on injured reserve following shoulder surgery and his second season was delayed by a strained hamstring, making it a bumpy and frustrating start to his NFL career. He made his NFL debut in Week 10 last year against the Jets and, with veteran Janoris Jenkins waived with an ankle injury, ended up starting three of the six games he appeared in, finishing with 26 tackles. His early struggles gave way to more than glimpses that he can be a productive player.
As he sat out, Beal maintained a low profile but it was not hard to notice confidence oozed out of him. He was asked what his best attribute is and he said, “Can’t name it. I have too many of them.’’
Beal also said he would have been worth a first-round pick.
“I’m different,’’ he said last season. “I’m smart, I’m quick, and I’m fast at the same time. You can be quick, you can be fast, but I’m quick and I’m fast. And I’m a physical corner. If they put me anywhere, I can play it. I got range out the door. I can get sideline to sideline just as fast as anybody else.”
The new Giants coaching staff has not yet been able to see what Beal can do live, in front of them, on the field, with players participating remotely in the voluntary offseason program.
New head coach Joe Judge insists there is no official depth chart, but there are plans for players and initial thoughts as to who fits where. With those plans forced to continue without Baker, Beal is next in line.
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