Finding the Fits: B.J. Hill toughens up Giants' run defense

B.J. Hill had 23.5 career tackles for loss at N.C. State.North Carolina State Athletics

By Rob Rang,

This is part of a series -- Finding the Fits -- in which will review the more intriguing picks made during the 2018 NFL Draft. The goal is to identify one relatively unheralded player per team who appears to be a good schematic fit and, therefore, more likely to be a surprise contributor early in his pro career.

New York Giants' best fit: B.J. Hill, DT, North Carolina State, selected No. 69 overall (third round)

The NFL is a big man's game, and few subscribe to that theory more fervently than Giants' general manager Dave Gettleman.

Not only is the longtime talent evaluator unofficially credited with coining the pet term "hog mollies" as a show of his appreciation of the massive athletes along the scrimmage, Gettleman put his picks where his passion lies in 2018, investing half of New York's six draft picks on interior linemen.

With the No. 34 overall pick, he took Senior Bowl standout Will Hernandez, who earned All-American honors at left guard last season for a winless Texas-El Paso team. His personal success earned Hernandez more positive press than most offensive linemen.

Hill, on the other hand, was often overshadowed on his own team -- not surprising given that all four of North Carolina State's starting defensive linemen from last season were drafted, starting with star edge rusher Bradley Chubb going fifth overall to the Denver Broncos.

Hill created momentum for his draft stock by opting to compete at the Senior Bowl, which Gettlemen and new Giants head coach Pat Shurmur attended. There, Hill showed an exciting combination of initial burst and raw power that helped him blow past several highly regarded blockers, including Hernandez on occasion.

"That game inside between those hog mollies, that is a violent, violent workplace," Gettleman said. "If those guys aren't tough, you've got no chance. And that's B.J. He's a tough kid, just like Hernandez is a tough kid. At some point in your season, lack of toughness will catch up to you."

The Giants drafted Hill with the pick acquired from Tampa Bay in the trade for longtime star Jason Pierre-Paul.

"He's tough to block," coach Pat Shurmur said of Hill. "He's good against the run. He's kind of a little bit sneaky getting his pass rush, so we'll get a little pass rush out of him as well. He was a very, very productive guy."

The 6-foot-3, 311-pound Hill's versatility should help him fit in on a defense that does not lack for talent or big names -- but could use a spark in terms of production. For what it's worth, few defensive tackles in this year's class can match the statistics Hill put up at North Carolina State, which includes 183 career tackles, including 23.5 for loss and eight sacks.

The Giants already boast one of the league's elite run-stuffers in Damon Harrison, and former Alabama standout Dalvin Tomlinson is expected to take on a larger role in 2018 but the Giants still finished a disappointing 27th in the NFL in run defense a year ago, allowing an average of 120.8 yards per game.

Defending the run in the NFC East is that much more important, given that Washington added talented rookie runner Derrius Guice, and Dallas is expecting to have Ezekiel Elliott for a full season after he missed six games last year due to suspension. Though their quarterbacks got most of the attention, the Super Bowl-defending Philadelphia Eagles finished third in the NFL in rushing last season, averaging 132.2 yards per game.

Other thoughts on the Giants' 2018 draft class:

Given that Eli Manning is entering his 16th NFL season, one certainly could not have blamed Gettleman and Shurmur had they opted to draft a young quarterback with the second overall pick. But the decision in free agency to sign former Patriots' left tackle Nate Solder to the biggest deal in NFL history for an offensive lineman signaled that the Giants were looking to win now ... so, the selection of the exceptionally gifted Saquon Barkley only reinforced this strategy.

You can quibble with the financial sense of investing the No. 2 pick in any running back, but the immediate success enjoyed by recent top 10 picks in Jacksonville (Leonard Fournette), Dallas (Elliott) and Los Angeles (Todd Gurley) suggests Gettleman and Shurmur could be laughing all the way to the playoffs.

Barkley's value lies not just with his size and speed as a runner but with his marvelous hands out of the backfield. Due to his talent (as well as that surrounding and protecting him at receiver), Barkley should immediately post eye-popping numbers. He is the clear-cut favorite for Rookie of the Year.

As one of the captains of "Rang's Gang," a collection of my favorite prospects in the class, it goes without saying that I love the addition of Hernandez to the Giants' offensive line. While slightly shorter than most NFL offensive linemen at 6-2, Hernandez is perfectly built for blocking with broad shoulders and a powerful lower half. Hernandez is the kind of old school road-grader that the Giants have been missing for years.

It will be interesting to see how the Giants use their first third-round pick, Lorenzo Carter, who has been turning heads in mini-camp.

The 6-5, 250-pound Carter was asked to play multiple roles at Georgia, which may have capped his statistics but also hints at untapped potential. With Pierre-Paul traded away and fellow edge rusher Olivier Vernon expected to play more outside linebacker in 2018, Carter's speed and strength could get him onto the field, making him an intriguing wildcard for what looks like one of the better, if smaller draft classes this year.

New York Giants' 2018 draft class:

1st Round, No. 2 overall: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State

2nd Round, No. 34 overall: OG Will Hernandez, UTEP

3rd Round, No. 66 overall: OLB/DE Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

3rd Round, No. 69 overall: DT B.J. Hill, North Carolina State

4th Round, No. 108 overall: QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond

5th Round, No. 139 overall: DT R.J. McIntosh, Miami

Key Undrafted Free Agents Signed:

Aaron Davis, CB, Georgia

Tyler Howell, OT, Missouri

Mike Jones, CB, Temple


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