Former Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker was drafted with the 30th pick in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft on Thursday by the New York Giants, a team in need of help defending the passing game.
Baker, who finished his Georgia career with 116 tackles and seven interceptions, won the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation’s top defensive back his senior season. Now, he’ll look to help bolster the Giants back into future contention in the NFC East.
The Giants, who finished 4th in the NFC East going 5-11, ranked No. 24 in team defense in 2018, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. New York gave up 371.4 yards per game, with 252.8 of them coming through the air.
In free agency, New York lost safety Landon Collins to the Washington Redskins but acquired another safety, Jabrill Peppers, in a trade that sent star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns.
Baker will likely compete for a starting job at left cornerback on the opposite side of Janoris Jenkins. His competition will potentially come from second-year players Grant Haley, out of Penn State, and Sam Beal, from Western Michigan. Both players are coming off injury issues in 2018. New York also added Antoine Bethea in free agency, who will likely assume the other safety spot opposite of Peppers.
With the value of being drafted in the first round, Baker will have an opportunity to play right away and fight for a starting spot. His advantage comes by way of starting for three years with the Bulldogs, with his last two seasons coming against teams with elite talent like Alabama and Oklahoma.
As far as the Giants go, New York is looking to build its identity after the trade of Beckham. With the league’s focus shifting due to talented quarterbacks on several rosters, attention to the passing game on defense could serve New York well for the future. And Baker figures to be a critical piece for the present and future of the Giants defense.