Pro Football Focus' "Secret Superstars" series takes a look today at New York Giants defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, and the possibility that he could keep them from feeling the free-agent departure of Linval Joseph. PFF loves Hankins as a run-stopping defensive tackle, having given him a better grade than they gave Joseph last year (albeit over far fewer games) and noting that, "If you factor in playing time, Hankins had the third-highest grade per run defense snap of any defensive tackle in the entire league."
In the Giants final five weeks, Hankins posted a +6.9 grade with six stops in the run game, despite playing on just 26.4% of the team’s defensive snaps.
All the scouting reports about Hankins’ excellent run defense coming out of Ohio State held true. He was so quick, asking an offensive lineman to reach block him was asking to lose. With 4:08 left in the first quarter against the Seahawks, left guard James Carpenter attempted such a move against the rookie, who merely dodged him and enveloped Marshawn Lynch in the hole. But being so large, Hankins also was an immovable object at the point of attack. At the 7:49 mark of the second quarter against the Lions, he held his ground against a double-team and pounced in for the tackle once one blocker left him. He also proved to be an excellent finisher, missing just one tackle all season.
This would obviously be welcome news for those worried about the Giants' defensive line following the losses of Joseph and Justin Tuck. As the article points out, the Giants knew Joseph was entering a contract year when they spent a mid-second-round pick on Hankins in 2013, and they likely saw enough that they liked to feel comfortable letting Joseph go and replacing him with Hankins.
It remains to be seen whether Hankins can hold up over the course of a full season, whether he can maintain a high level of production over the course of a full season and whether players like Markus Kuhn and 2014 third-round pick Jay Bromley can play enough of a role in the defensive tackle rotation to keep Hankins fresh. But he's obviously a high-level talent from whom the Giants are expecting a lot in his second season in the NFL.