Few rookies had such a bad start to their NFL careers as DeAndre Baker did last season with the New York Giants. Through 10 games, he ranked dead last, 113 of 113 according to Pro Football Focus’ rankings, among cornerbacks. He had racked up penalties on a seemingly weekly basis, allowed an almost unheard of 149.9 quarterback passer rating to go along with six touchdowns, and looked absolutely lost at times in James Bettcher’s defense.
Then something clicked and Baker started to perform up to the standards of a first round pick over the last six weeks of the season.
The 2020 season will see Baker as an integral part of the Giants’ defense under Patrick Graham. Baker essentially lines up as the number one corner, assuming no veterans are signed in free agency or better players are drafted in April. He certainly has the talent. He was a first-team AP All-American and won the Jim Thorpe Award for the nation’s best defensive back while at University of Georgia and he was arguably the best man-to-man corner in the 2019 NFL Draft.
One thing that scouting reports always mentioned about Baker was his physical play and his competitive nature. His competitiveness was on full display in the latter half of the 2019 NFL season when Baker didn’t shrink away after a rough start to his inaugural campaign.
In fact, after the Giants released Janoris Jenkins, Baker became the de facto number one corner on the team. His game seemed to elevate with the responsibility.
Against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 14, Baker notched an 87.6 grade from Pro Football Focus with three pass breakups on five targets and allowed only one catch for seven yards. Granted, the Eagles receiving corps was depleted with injuries, but Baker needed to dominate and he did.
The 2020 season should see Baker start as the number one corner and no worse than second on the depth chart depending on additions the Giants make. He should excel in Graham’s defense, which should allow the talent on the defense to play up to their strengths, something that didn’t seem to happen under Bettcher.
New defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, a former player and second-round pick who has experience with working with young players, should be able to allow Baker to reach the next level and live up to the hype.
No matter who the coaches are, however, it will be up to Baker to get the job done. He has the talent. He has the drive. He should continue to develop into a front-line corner and he has the talent and ability to be one of the best corners the Giants have had in over a decade.
Expect Baker to completely shed the “bust” label and emerge as one of the top young corners in the league.