How Johnathan Hankins' departure impacts Giants' defense
On Thursday, Johnathan Hankins reportedly inked a three-year, $30 million ($14.5 million guaranteed) with the Indianapolis Colts. The Giants had offered Hankins a four-year contract with an average of just $7 million per year.
A traditional nose tackle selected in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Hankins has been one of the league’s more underrated interior defenders for the past few seasons. Last offseason, the Giants added Damon “Snacks” Harrison from the Jets, a monster run-stopper on the defensive interior. As a result, the Giants’ defense was one of the most formidable in 2016, and ended in a return to the postseason for the first time since Super Bowl XLVI.
With the addition of Harrison, Hankins was moved from NT—playing a lot of 1-technique over the center (36.7 percent in 2015)—to 3-technique primarily over the shoulder of the guard (80.1 percent of snaps) this past season. The result was a lack of production that saw Hankins go from one of the team’s better run defenders to a poor overall 2016 grade.
Hankins generated just 22 QB pressures in 398 pass-rushing snaps in 2016 (4.5 pass-rushing productivity, 39th among DTs) and finished with the lowest PFF overall grade of his career (47.1, see image above).
A once-emerging young player (Hankins turned 25 years old on March 29) was taken out of his best position in 2016 and forced to play a spot that does not tailor to his strengths. With the Colts, he will likely be playing over the center once again at 0- or 1-technique.
To replace Hankins, the Giants may draft a young defensive tackle that can provide value rushing the passer. Jay Bromley (43.2 overall grade in 2016) and Robert Thomas (43.6) have not shown that they can play primary roles. If 2016 was any indication, however, the Giants’ run defense is still in good hands with Harrison, Olivier Vernon, and Jason Pierre-Paul—the unit ranked third overall in PFF cumulative run-defense grade last season.
While Alabama’s Jonathan Allen may be far gone by the time New York picks at No. 23, Malik McDowell from Michigan State and Caleb Brantley from Florida may be intriguing options if they are still on the board. Historically, the Giants love to draft defensive lineman, so there’s certainly a possibility that the defense that carried them to the playoffs in 2016 could be upgraded come draft night.