DeAndre Baker’s playing status to start the 2020 NFL season is currently up in the air. While the defensive back’s lawyer claims that his client’s charges could be dropped as soon as the end of the week, a suspension handed down from league offices is still looming large.
There’s no denying that the New York Giants would prefer to have their 2019 1st-round pick on the field come Week 1. However, a hinted-at move for Julian Love back to his natural position of cornerback will certainly help soften the blow, if not make up for Baker’s potential absence altogether.
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Julian Love Voted Giants’ Most Underrated Player
Big Blue’s selection of Xavier McKinney in the 2nd-round of late-April’s NFL Draft has all but certainly ended Love’s hopes of being the “safety of the future for the Giants.”
However, his flashes of brilliance over the final five games of 2019 have not gone unnoticed. In return, the former Fighting Irish cornerback has earned the status of New York’s most underrated player, per Pro Football Focus.
The Giants’ secondary has some definite question marks with DeAndre Baker facing possible legal trouble and an unproven group at cornerback behind free agent acquisition James Bradberry. But Julian Love is someone they should feel pretty good about after a promising start to his NFL career as a rookie last season. Love is a guy who graded extremely well at the college ranks as an outside cornerback for the Fighting Irish, earning coverage grades of 83.7 and 90.9 during his final two seasons with Notre Dame. Love followed that up by coming away from the 2019 season with an encouraging 70.5 overall grade despite being a 21-year-old rookie playing a new position. Whether he remains at safety or moves back to cornerback to potentially fill in for Baker outside, Love is a player to watch as he enters his second season.
Comparing Love & Baker
DeAndre Baker has not done himself many favors since entering the league as the 30th-overall pick back in 2019. The former Jim Thorpe Award winner is essentially riding on draft status and potential at the moment.
His final stretch of play to close out last year has given Giants fans a glimpse of promise. However, an overall 48.4 PFF Grade on the season shouldn’t guarantee him a starting spot when and if he returns to the Giants’ lineup.
In terms of Love, many expect him to function mostly out of the slot position this season. Yet, Love’s ability to play on the outside should not be written off.
His 90.7 PFF coverage grade during his final season at Notre Dame ranked 3rd best among eligible cornerbacks in his draft class. A quick look back at his college film shows a corner who excels in man-to-man, using his aggressive playstyle to reroute receivers regularly in bump and run coverage.
The biggest knock on Love is his long speed, or lack thereof. This is a major reason why he slipped to the 4th-round after being projected as a 1st-to-2nd-round lock prior to his combine performance.
However, it’s not like Baker is any sort of a blazer himself. Baker’s 4.52 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine was a meager 0.02-seconds faster than Love’s. In many ways, Love’s and Baker’s pros and cons (on the football field) are very similar. Yet, while Baker may possess the higher ceiling, Love simply appears to be a bit more refined.
4th-round pick and projected nickel corner Darnay Holmes should allow New York to be flexible with Love’s versatile skill set, and work him in a slew of positions. If he just so happens to find a home working on the boundary, then so be it.