After forgoing his senior season at South Carolina, Kelcy Quarles was expected to be a early-round pick in last weekend’s NFL Draft. Instead, the former Gamecock dropped all the way out of the draft before being picked up by the New York Giants.
The Giants were looking to solidify their defensive interior after losing DT Linval Joseph to the Minnesota Vikings in free agency. New York is also building a defensive line that could become formidable in the coming years; five of the seven defensive tackles on the roster have been in the NFL less than four seasons. However, whether Quarles will become an integral part of the defensive front is uncertain.
As a player who was expected to be off the draft board as early as the second round, Quarles has a solid shot at making the team as an undrafted free agent. The Giants also picked up BYU’s Eathyn Manumaleuna after the draft, but the former Cougar is already 25 years old and the smallest defensive tackle on the roster. Instead, Quarles’ biggest competition for playing time will likely come from Jay Bromley, a third-round selection out of Syracuse.
New York’s defensive tackles going into 2014 are slated to be Cullen Jenkins and Johnathan Hankins, with Markus Kuhn and Mike Patterson serving as backups. Those four players have a combined 22 years of NFL experience under their belts, meaning the three rookies will probably not find themselves in starting roles this season. Bromley would likely get the first shot at playing time, since the Giants spent a third-round pick on him. However, if Quarles can make the 53-man roster and outperform the Syracuse standout, he could be the first rookie up if the injury bug bites New York’s defensive front.
After a senior season that saw him post career highs in total tackles (39), tackles for loss (13.5), and sacks (9.5), Quarles was virtually non-existent in the Capital One Bowl and suffered a huge disappointment in the draft. If the Greenwood native uses his recent setbacks as motivation, Quarles could find himself pushing for a spot on the two-deep late in the 2014 season.