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Giants take Minnesota S Tyler Nubin, Kentucky CB Andru Phillips to help secondary on Day 2 of NFL Draft

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Joe Schoen continued to replace players he lost in free agency on Day 2 of the 2024 NFL Draft, shifting to upgrades for his defense’s secondary.

The Giants GM selected Minnesota safety Tyler Nubin at No. 47 overall in the second round after letting Xavier McKinney walk to the Green Bay Packers in free agency this March. Then he added Kentucky corner Andru Phillips at No. 70 overall in the third.

That followed Thursday’s first round selection of LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers, which added a new No. 1 playmaker to an offense that lost Saquon Barkley to the Philadelphia Eagles on the open market.

“Losing ‘X’ in the offseason to get Nubin at that value, with high character, leadership, a good football player,” Schoen said. “He takes the ball away — ball hawk. He was a culture changer at the University of Minnesota, and he’s gonna bring that type of mentality here. He’s a really special kid.”

Nubin, who turns 23 in June, played 55 games with 43 starts across five seasons for the Golden Gophers. The second-team All-American’s 13 career interceptions were the most in program history.

And he wore his heart on his sleeve Friday night.

“Oh man, I’ve been crying for the last 35 minutes,” Nubin said on a conference call. “Not even thinking about the work I put in. It’s the work everyone around me put in. My parents have been working so hard for me all my life. There are so many people and so many sacrifices that were made leading up to this moment. It all came out. That’s what it was.”

Nubin was a four-year starter at Minnesota, and his stats were extremely consistent from 2021-2023 after the pandemic-shortened 2020 year:

He made between 52 and 55 tackles in all three seasons from 2021-23. He recorded between five to nine passes defended each year. And he intercepted three to five balls each season, including a career-high five in his final year.

“I’m an everything player,” Nubin said. “I feel like I’m a guy that can do it all on the field. I like to call myself a Swiss-Army knife. I can move around everywhere. I can blitz. I can come down and hit in the box. I can play over top. So anywhere on the field I’m comfortable.”

Phillips, 22, showed well at the Senior Bowl, Schoen said, and profiles as a likely slot corner but has the flexibility to play outside, too.

He never intercepted a pass in 38 college games. But he described himself as a “sticky” player. And head coach Brian Daboll raved about the corner’s toughness and tackling.

“Dru, he’ll bring the wood now,” Daboll said of Phillips, who played one year with Giants receiver Wan’Dale Robinson at Kentucky.

Nubin, a former Minnesota teammate of Giants center John Michael Schmitz and linebacker Carter Coughlin, said he had arthroscopic knee surgery at the end of this past season but had a private workout during the pre-draft process with Giants safeties coach Mike Treier and assistant GM Brandon Brown.

“I played like six games on a torn meniscus last year, got it scoped at the end of the season,” he said. “I wouldn’t do anything differently than what I did, because I wanted to compete.”

Schoen has let a starting safety walk in free agency in consecutive offseasons, with Julian Love going to the Seattle Seahawks in 2023 and McKinney leaving for Green Bay this spring. Nubin’s rookie contract is dramatically cheaper, although the GM used a significant NFL Draft asset to acquire him Friday.

Schoen traded away the Giants’ original second-round pick at No. 39 overall to the Carolina Panthers to acquire pass rusher Brian Burns in March. But he still had the No. 47 overall pick, which he obtained in last fall’s Leonard Williams trade to Seattle.

On Friday night, the Panthers interestingly traded over the Giants to the No. 46 slot at the last minute to select Texas running back Jonathon Brooks. It wasn’t clear if Carolina did that because they believed New York was going to take the Longhorns’ bell cow back.

“[Panthers GM] Dan Morgan’s one of my best friends in the world. We didn’t talk much about that,” Schoen said. “They called us, as well, like ‘Hey, do you want to move back?’ So I don’t know if he just got antsy.

“In some of those situations, it’s not always just us,” Schoen added. “Maybe there’s other teams trying to trade up with the team in front of us, so you don’t know. When you find somebody you like and they’re in range, you try to pull the trigger.”

A ton of defensive tackles and corners already had come off the board in the early second round at other Giants positions of need. And they opted not to take a quarterback at No. 47, even after trying to trade up on Thursday night for North Carolina QB Drake Maye.

So Schoen took Nubin, who projects as a deep-half starter alongside Jason Pinnock, with Dane Belton and veteran signing Jalen Mills in the mix. Although the GM did admit he may be in the running back market in later rounds.

“We won’t rule that out,” he said.

Phillips was one of six Kentucky players charged with first-degree burglary in Aug. 2021, in connection with an incident at a fraternity house party. But a grand jury quickly cleared the players of charges, and the players involved filed a civil suit that was later dropped.

Schoen said “there’s nothing there” that concerns him regarding that incident.

The Giants own three more picks in the draft on Saturday: No. 107 in the fourth round, No. 166 in the fifth round and No. 183 in the sixth round.

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