Trying to Unearth Giant Gems

This year's college FA crop numbers 11, slightly lower than usual. The goal of the players, however, is the same. Shock the world and make an NFL roster despite being passed over 255 times in the NFL Draft. Each year, at least a few players pull off the unthinkable. Of last year's 16-player group, shockingly six are currently on Big Blue's roster. Here's a closer look at this year's hopefuls.

Rob Austin, OT, Troy State, 6-5, 265

Bio: Was a two-year starter at tackle and tight end, switching to OT during his senior year…Caught six passes for 42 yards and a touchdown while at tight end…Played both TE and DE at Fort Payne (Ala.) High School

Analysis: Intriguing, but raw prospect could be headed to the practice squad

Craig Dahl, S, North Dakota, 6-1, 207

Bio: Played 43 games for the Bison and posted 238 tackles (134 solo), eight pass break-ups, seven interceptions and two sacks…As a senior, recorded 61 tackles (32 solo), two INTs and a sack

Analysis: It appears as if Dahl is among the better rookie free agents and very well could land himself on the roster with a strong training camp

Marquies Gunn, DE, Auburn, 6-4, 264

Bio: Played in 46 games with 23 starts for the Tigers…Finished with 96 tackles (54 solo), 12 sacks and six pass break-ups…As a senior, Gunn had 35 tackles, including nine for losses and four sacks

Analysis: Strong athlete could force his way onto the roster, if not the practice squad

Gabe Hall, OT, Texas Tech, 6-4, 293

Bio: Was a two-year starter for the Red Raiders…Became a full-time starter for the first time in 2005…Originally signed as a tight end, but made the transition to tackle in 2004

Analysis: With the Giants' uncertainty at tackle, Hall might just make a run at a roster spot

Travonti Johnson, CB, Central Florida, 6-2, 290

Bio: Finished his final season with 24 tackles (20 solo), a half-sack and an interception…Played in six games as a senior…Played in 12 games with a start as a junior and tied for second on the team with three INTs…Also had 27 tackles (21 solo)

Analysis: One of the very few players GM Jerry Reese mentioned by name when asked about RFAs; wouldn't be a surprise at all if he stuck

Ryan Keenan, G, Northwestern, 6-5, 295

Bio: As a senior, started every game at tackle after starting every game at guard as a junior in 2005…Earned Academic All-Big Ten and was a co-recipient of the team's Randy Walker Wildcat Warrior Award, which is given for work ethic, toughness and having the attitude of a warrior

Analysis: You can never rule out a Big Ten lineman, especially with the Giants

Brandon London, WR, Massachusetts, 6-4, 210

Bio: Played in 48 games with 31 starts and finished his career with 144 catches for 1,991 yards and 15 touchdowns…The 144 receptions place him second in school history, the 1,991 yards rank him third…Was named Atlantic 10 First Team

Analysis: Anyone that tall and that productive has to be given a serious look

Michael Matthews, TE, Georgia Tech, 6-4, 270

Bio: Played 35 games with 14 starts…Caught nine passes for 101 yards…Shared tight end duties and was primarily a blocker, catching only four passes for 43 yards as a senior

Analysis: A blocking tight end? Now wouldn't that be a nice addition to the Giants offense?

Charrod Taylor, DE, Georgia Southern, 6-2, 286

Bio: Played in 33 games and finished his career with 95 tackles and 5.5 sacks…As a senior, was named First Team All-Southern Conference after recording 48 tackles and two sacks in 10 starts…Enlisted in Navy upon graduation of high school and served a total of four years, earning a final rank of E5, Petty Officer Second Class

Analysis: How can you rule out a guy that spent four years in the Navy?

Marco Thomas, WR, Western Illinois, 6-1, 175

Bio: Played in 43 games and caught 109 passes for 1,691 yards and 11 touchdowns…As a senior, earned First Team All-Gateway Conference honors as his school's leading receiver with 58 receptions for 738 yards and four TDs

Analysis: He has an awful lot of folks to pass on the depth chart to stick

Justin Jones, OT, Central Arkansas, 6-6, 304

Bio: Was a three-year starter at tackle…Named First Team All-Gulf South Conference in 2005, when he helped the Bears average 437.3 yards and 40.2 points per game…Helped his club to an 8-3 record in its first year in Division I-AA, but was not eligible for All-Southland Conference honors because of the school's transition

Analysis: Size and position should both work in his favor

* * *

The Giants also signed three players they hosted for tryouts. The lucky trio out of the 21-man tryout group consisted of defensive lineman Dek Bake from Texas Tech, guard Matt Maddox of Illinois and cornerback Darren Barnett of Missouri State.

Bake – whose real first name is Donald – is a 6-5, 272-pounder who transferred to Texas Tech in 2004 after playing at Fresno City Junior College. In 2004, he started two games and had 27 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He sat out the 2005 season with a knee injury. As a senior last year, Bake played in all 13 games and finished with 47 tackles (24 solo) and 5.5 sacks.

Maddox is a 6-3, 310-pounder who attended Manasquan High School, about 40 minutes from Giants Stadium. He started the last 44 games of his career for the Illini, splitting his time between guard and center. In 2005, he was named the team's outstanding offensive lineman.

Barnett, 6-0, 181, played in 16 games with 12 starts as a freshman and sophomore at Michigan State in 2002 and 2003. He recorded a total of 45 tackles and two interceptions. Barnett transferred to Missouri State and played there in 2004, but did not play in 2005 and 2006.

The Giants also waived one of the rookie free agents they signed right after the draft: wide receiver Brandon Myles of West Virginia.

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