by Colin Lindsay, Great Blue North Draft Report
September 18, 2012
Ed. Note: Of course, there is still a ton of football to be played in the 2013 season, but our motto here at the Great Blue North is that it is never ever too early to be looking ahead to the draft. And while there is still much sorting out to be done and its way, way too early for guys to be identifying ‘the’ guy for the Giants this year, it certainly isn’t too early to be watching the top prospects for the upcoming draft just like the pros are doing. Again, while there is still much sorting out to be done before next April‘s draft, the early signs are that 2013 should be a pretty good draft year with strength at QB, as well as along both offensive and defensive lines. With that in mind, below is a quick preview of how the 2013 draft is starting to shape up with an emphasis on which positions and players the Giants will likely be looking at over the course of the season. And for those looking for a little more detail, the GBN has published our annual “Pre-season College Football Draft Guide” with profiles of over 200 of the top prospects for the upcoming draft which we are pleased to offer to our friends at BBI for a third off. Just go here to order rather than the regular spot.
Entering the season, the defending Super Bowl champions – sounds good no matter how you phrase it!! – Giants appear primed to get back to the big dance sooner rather than later with one of the deepest rosters in the league. That said, it also appears there are a number of areas that at least need some serious tweaking as we move forward. In no particular order, positions that could be addressed at the 2013 draft and the players Giants’ will be looking hard at this fall likely include the following:
OFFENSIVE LINE: Over the past decade or so the Giants M.O. at the draft has been to use their premium picks on skill/speed players and have tweaked the blue collar/grunt positions with lower round picks and veteran free agents. And that approach has translated, at least in part, into two Super Bowl titles in the past five years. Unfortunately, it has also translated into an offensive line too often have late has looked like it needs a major overhaul.
The biggest issue along the offensive line for the Giants looking ahead to the 2013 draft is whether they feel that Will Beatty is the answer at LT given (a) his bad back, (b) the fact he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year, and (c) he’s never been that good to begin with. The good news for the Giants if there were to decide to let Beatty move on at the end of the year is that it looks like there will be a number of options at the position at the upcoming draft, although the OT class took a huge hit when LSU junior Chris Faulk, a potential top 10 pick this year, was lost for the year with a knee injury. At the same time, though, fellow juniors Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan have mid-round first-round potential, while massive Alabama junior RT D.J. Fluker and Jake Matthews, Joeckel’s junior teammate at A&M currently have later opening round grades, although both nominally play RT. Matthews, though, would appear to have the athleticism to play the left side, while Fluker is a massive road grader who isn’t all that light on his feet and might be better suited to move inside at the next level. And while elite LTs are usually found in the top half of the opening round, there are a number of second-day OTs who could fit the bill including Wisconsin veteran Ricky Wagner, Oday Aboushi of Virginia, North Carolina junior James Hurst, Justin Pugh of Syracuse, Virginia junior Morgan Moses and Florida’s Xavier Nixon. Meanwhile, a couple of smaller-school types to watch include 6-7 Western Michigan LT Dann O’Neill, a one-time highly regarded recruit at Michigan and 6-5, 325-pound Mark Jackson or Glenville State, an Illinois transfer, who will remind folks of former Georgia G/T Cordy Glenn now starting at LT for the Bills.
The 2013 draft should also be relatively strong at OG, although it wouldn‘t surprise us that if the Giants do look to upgrade inside they do it through free agency rather than the draft. However, if they do opt to go the draft route a pretty good case can be made that this year’s OG crop could be one of the best to come along in a while with a number of prospects with at least some late first-round potential including Alabama’s Chance Warmack, Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina, Wisconsin junior Travis Frederick, Baylor junior swingman Cyril Richardson, and Kentucky veteran Larry Warford. There is, however, something of a drop-off at the position after the first half dozen guys or so. On the other hand, there are only a couple of Cs with top 100 potential, although one of those is Barrett Jones of Alabama, arguably the most versatile lineman in the country who could get some serious looks from the Giants. For the record, Jones was an All-American caliber OG early in his career, played LT last fall during Alabama’s run to the national title, but shifted to C this fall.
SECONDARY: Despite investing premium picks on CBs in each of the past two drafts, the Giants still have major concerns at the position. In fact, at this point in time, the Giants don’t appear have anyone they can really count on down the road at the outside CB slots. They certainly can no longer count on Terrell Thomas who’ll miss a second straight year on IR with a third torn ACL. They also have to be holding their breath on Prince Amukamara, who fell into their laps in the opening round of the 2011 draft, but hasn’t been close to 100% since hurting a foot just a couple of days into his rookie training camp last fall. Meanwhile, the venerable Corey Webster, who has been the Giants’ lock-down cover corner since late in the 2007 season, will be 31 and entering his 9th season next year, an age when even the fittest CBs start to lose a step. And while Jayron Hosley has played well when healthy to date, he looks like a better fit at slot corner.
If nothing else, CB should be one of the more interesting positions to watch in the lead-up to the 2013, On the one hand, there is a lot of talent there, however, the position also has as many question marks as any in the upcoming draft field. North Carolina State David Amerson, who intercepted a remarkable 13 passes last fall, was thought to be the one constant, but he’s struggled through the early going this fall. In fact, many scouts now rate Alabama junior Dee Milliner as the better prospect. Both, though, are considered to be mid-first round types, while Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State and Florida State junior Xavier Rhodes are later first-round candidates. Both have excellent size for a CB, although neither is super fast.
As well, just about every year, a CB or two emerges from the middle of the pack and inserts himself into the opening round discussion and this year may be no exception. Candidates to make that kind of move include Johnny Adams of Michigan State and Texas’ Carrington Byndom, each of whom is projected to run in the low 4.4s at pre-draft testing. In fact, it appears there could again be a lot of depth at the corner position this coming April with a lot of solid players currently figuring in the middle rounds including productive veterans like Micah Hyde of Iowa, Desmond Trufant of Washington, Oklahoma’s Demontre Hurst, and Terry Hawthorne of Illinois, as well as juniors like Logan Ryan of Rutgers, Southern Cal’s Nickell Robey, and Kyle Fuller of Virginia Tech.
The 2013 CB class also has more than its share of sleeper types including UConn’s Blidi Wreh-Wilson who is coming off a knee injury that limited him last fall, but has nice length and speed and is just starting to scratch the surface as he didn’t play football until his senior year in high school. Other second-tier CBs with some upside include undersized, but feisty, Brodrick Brown of Oklahoma State and Nigel Malone of Kansas State ,who picked off 5 and 7 passes respectively last fall, along with Leon McFadden of San Diego State and the UCLA duo of Sheldon Price and Aaron Hester, while Troy Stoudermire of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s Devin Smith are under the radar after missing much of the 2011 season with injuries, but the have the physical tools and work ethic to become factors if healthy. Meanwhile, B.W. Webb of William & Mary and Robert Alford of Southeastern Louisiana are the top true small-school prospects at the position.
The Giants may also will have some major questions to answer this coming off-season at safety. Kenny Phillips will be a free agent and likely will be looking for a big payday, something the front office may be reluctant to commit to given #21‘s somewhat wonky knee. Meanwhile, Antrel Rolle has been a useful player who has been willing to do whatever the team has asked. However, the Giants paid him the big bucks when they signed him as a free agent to come in and make impact plays and he has made precious few, if any of those types of game-changing plays since he arrived. And there really isn’t much depth behind the starters. Tyler Sash is smart, physical and instinctive, but isn’t very fast or athletic, while Will Hill flies around the field, but isn’t all that instinctive and is a very inconsistent tackler.
All that could have the Giants looking at the position at the 2013 draft, although safety is a position that one can upgrade through free agency more easily than some others. At one point it was thought that the safety class for the 2013 draft would be one of the strongest ever, but the position has taken some hits. Former Miami FS Ray-Ray Armstrong, for example, has the physical tools to be a factor in the latter part of the opening round, but he isn’t eligible this fall after being kicked off the Miami team following a third incident involving potential improper benefits contact. On the other hand, Bacarri Rambo of Georgia, who some have compared at least physically to former Alabama FS Mark Barron, the 7th player taken at the 2012 draft, will at least eventually play this year, but will sit out the first 4 games of the season for violating the school’s drug policy, although he claims its all a misunderstanding that resulted when he inadvertently ate a brownie with pot in it. Meanwhile, Oregon’s John Boyett, a steady mid-round prospect won’t play this fall because of a knee injury that could be chronic, while Maryland’s Kenny Tate, who has also had his career derailed at least to some extent by a knee issue, will again play LB this fall for the Terps.
However, even with these issues, there is still some talent at the position. Both T.J. McDonald of Southern Cal and LSU junior Eric Reid are considered to be mid-to-late first round prospects, while Rambo, Kenny Vaccaro of Texas, and Oklahoma junior Tony Jefferson, Shawn Williams of Georgia, and juniors C.J. Barnett of Ohio State and Matt Elam of Florida all have mid-to-late second day or early third-day potential.
DEFENSIVE LINE: The Giants will have something of a void at DE with the expected departure of Osi Umenyiora in free agency this winter. Management may also have some long-term concerns about veteran Justin Tuck who has played so far like he may be banged up again. All that could have the Giants thinking about using a premium pick this coming April an the position as ‘one can never have enough pass rushers!’ However, that may not necessarily be a lock. Fact is that the Giants already have a pretty good #3 DE in Mathias Kiwanuka who is playing LB but probably could start at DE on a lot of teams around the league. The Giants may also be willing to wait and see actually what they have in young edge rushers Adrian Tracy and Adewale Ojomo who showed a lot of potential in training camp.
And if the Giants do opt to use a premium pick on a DE, they’ll almost certainly have some intriguing options. Indeed, it’s possible that DE could ultimately be the strongest position at the upcoming draft. Junior tweeners like Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo of LSU and Georgia’s Jarvis Jones are projected to be top 10 picks next April if they opt to enter the 2013 draft and likely will be out of range for the Giants. However, there will also likely will be plenty of choices at DE later in the opening round including 6-7, 275-pound Margus Hunt of SMU and Florida State junior Bjoern Werner who are also likely to be two of the most talked about story lines in the upcoming draft. Hunt, for example, is an athletic freak who originally came to the US from Estonia as a world-ranked shot putter and discus thrower before morphing into a top NFL prospect with an imposing wingspan and elite weight room strength, although he is still raw around the edges and has yet to dominate at the collegiate level. There’s a similar storyline for Werner who didn’t start playing football until his junior year in high school when he took up the game as an exchange student from Germany. Like Hunt, Werner is still very raw and lacks elite closing speed, but he has long arms, exceptional power and strength and a terrific motor and passion for the game. Then there is Ohio State dynamo John Simon who is a bit of an odd shape, but redefines the notions of workout warrior, and non-stop motor. Meanwhile, Michigan State junior William Gholston will have to deal with comparisons to his cousin Vernon Gholston, the former Ohio State DE who ended up being one of the biggest draft busts of the decade after being selected 6th overall by the Jets in 2008. Whatever the story lines, each of these guys are solid prospects for the upcoming draft with more than a modicum of potential to work their way into the later first-round mix, while Michael Buchanon of Illinois, Dion Jordan of Oregon, Auburn junior Corey Lemonier, South Carolina’s Devin Taylor and Virginia Tech junior James Gayle are promising second-day types.
The Giants may also have something of an issue at DT where Chris Canty will be 31 at the start of the 2013 season, has a bad knee and a huge salary cap number. Of course, Canty was an integral part of the Giants’ Super Bowl run last year and his presence has been missed this fall while he heals on PUP, but he may ultimately be too costly to retain, especially with Linval Joseph quietly emerging as one of the top interior defenders in the league. The Giants also have some interior pass-rush potential in Marvin Austin and Markus Kuhn, but could be in the market for another big-body DT at the upcoming draft if Canty is allowed to walk, although again it may be more likely to be a mid-rounder for depth.
Certainly, the Giants aren’t likely to get much of a sniff of either of DTs Star Lotulelei of Utah or Ohio State junior Johnthan Hankins, a pair of huge, physical interior defenders with surprising athleticism and agility who are both currently are considered to have top 5 potential. At the same time, Kawann Short of Purdue and 355-pound Georgia NT John Jenkins are currently rated as more later first round prospects, but both have the physical tools to move up draft boards across the leagues. In particular, scouts are looking for a little more consistent intensity from Short, while weight control and conditioning are issues with Jenkins. Meanwhile, Jesse Williams of Alabama, a one-time rugby player who is built like a NT, but plays a 5-tech DE with the Tide, and Sylvester Williams of North Carolina head a solid group of second-day DT prospects that also includes Jordan Hill of Penn State, Illinois junior Akeem Spence, and Baker Steinkuhler of Nebraska, if he can stay healthy, along with Florida junior Sharrif Floyd; there are also several solid second-tier DT prospects including Sheldon Richardson of Missouri and Everett Dawkins of Florida State, although for the most part, there is a substantial drop-off in talent at DT after the top 10 or so guys.
TIGHT ENDS: The Giants revamped their TE situation this off-season signing Martellus Bennett from Dallas and selecting Adrien Robinson in the 4th round of the 2012 draft. Bennett, though, is only signed for a the year and if he is not re-upped, the Giants will need to again find a #1 TE who can block as well as catch a few passes. The Giants, of course, could simply go back to the free agent well, however, the 2013 draft should offer some interesting options at the position. Indeed, unlike recent years when most of the top TE prospects have been more bulked up WRs who can’t really block, there could be a number of quality two-way TEs available this year, although none is necessarily a lock to be a first selection. Guys who fit the Giants bill at TE include Notre Dame junior Tyler Eifert, a solid all-around player who is generally considered to be the top-rated prospect at the position, UCLA’s Joseph Fauria and Stanford junior Zach Ertz, while Alabama’s Michael Williams and Michigan State junior Dion Sims are physical drive blockers who are also decent receivers. Meanwhile, Jake Stoneburner of Ohio State, Auburn’s Philip Lutzenkirchen, and San Diego State junior Gavin Escobar are more receiver types that will at least put a hat on people. At the same time, arguably the most intriguing prospect at the position is Iowa junior C.J. Fiedorowisc, who hasn’t played much in his first two years, but has the tools to be the next great player at the position.
MIDDLE LINEBACKER: Hard to see the Giants using an early pick to finally address the MLB position, however, at least on paper, this year could be one of the better drafts in a long while for the position. For starters, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, a one-time superstar recruit who has more than lived up to the hype, is currently rated as a mid-first round prospect for the upcoming draft. The Irish star is a real thumper who has amassed over 300 career tackles although some pro scouts still aren’t totally sold on Te’o as an elite prospect because of questions about his agility and overall athleticism, plus the fact while he is a prototype tackling machine, he has never been all that productive in coverage. Meanwhile, Shane Skov of Stanford, who is probably a better athlete than Te’o, could also figure in the late first round discussion next April, but he has some things to prove this year after he tore up a knee early last season and then was arrested on a DUI charge in February. Indeed, Skov likely will slip into the second day pickings where he should head up a strong group of second-tier MLBs that could include Kevin Reddick of North Carolina, the Alabama duo of Nico Johnson and junior C.J. Mosely, and Kansas State’s Arthur Brown. And that group could get downright crowded if Bruce Taylor of Virginia Tech and/or Penn State’s Michael Mauti are healthy and/or stumpy Wisconsin junior Chris Borland opts to enter the upcoming draft.