Last season, the safety position was one of the stronger units for the New York Giants. Even with Stevie Brown going down with a torn ACL prior to the season starting, the Giants still got production out of the players they have. Antrel Rolle and Will Hill were one of the best tandems in the NFL. That didn’t stop the Giants from adding safeties this offseason, signing Quinton Demps and then drafting Nat Berhe in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Berhe fit the profile of everything the Giants were looking for in their draftees; he was a multiple year starter with outstanding football intelligence and character. He was a great leader at San Diego State, being named captain and producing exceptionally on the field stats wise. He recorded 96 and 99 tackles the last two seasons, an extremely high and productive number for a college player, let alone a safety. Some will say he was an overachiever in college, but there is a reason why he produced the way he did.
He has outstanding play recognition, diagnosing what is going on very quickly to help get him into the right position. It helps him make up for where he is lacking, such as his slower top-end speed and marginal size. He isn’t the biggest guy at 5-foot-10 ½ inches tall and 193 pounds with hands on the small size (8 ½ inches) and short arms (30 5/8 inches). But stats like he put up speak for themselves, no matter how poor some of his measurables may be.
Even with his small stature, Berhe was extremely durable during his time with the Aztecs. Another thing he will help the Giants with is shoring up their run defense. Much like Bennett Jackson, Berhe is much more comfortable in a zone scheme, which defensive coordinator Perry Fewell likes running. He plays the run game well, with the instincts of a linebacker, and plays bigger than his size would suggest. The ability he has locating and reacting to the ball in the air is also better suited for a zone defense.
Berhe will have a chance to make an impact on the defensive side of the ball. His outlook was brightened when Hill was suspended and subsequently released by the Giants, even though there are still four players ahead of him on the depth chart currently. He is still behind expected starters Brown and Rolle, as well as Demps and last year’s fifth round pick Cooper Taylor.
There was early talk of Berhe sliding into the ‘Deon Grant’ role that Fewell deployed often when the Giants were making their Super Bowl run. It is a three-safety look in which Fewell replaces one of his linebackers with a safety. It helps the Giants immensely in pass defense, and when you have safeties who are comfortable close to the line of scrimmage like Rolle and Berhe, it gives Fewell options.
Where you can definitely expect Berhe to make an impact right away is on special teams. Like fellow draft picks Jackson and Devon Kennard, Berhe may not have the highest ceiling but is definitely more NFL-ready. All three should make an impact right from the start on special teams with their eyes on raising up the defensive depth chart with good play.
While Berhe does not look like a typical NFL safety, he is a player that can help the Giants right away. The Giants need to start getting better production from their rookies in some way, and Berhe looks to fit that bill.