BBI New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Linebackers
by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56
*DISCLAIMER: Grading linebackers is arguably the most difficult thing to do because of the different schemes and roles across the league. These grades are purely based on NYG’s 4-3 front. Some teams have a scheme that could use an edge rushing linebacker and grade him out very high while a team like NYG would view him as a middle rounder at best. So please keep that in mind….
Current Linebackers on NYG Roster
Jon Beason – Signed through 2016
Spencer Paysinger – Signed through 2014
Jacquian Williams – Signed through 2014
Jameel McClain – Signed through 2015
Mark Herzlich – Signed through 2014
Allen Bradford – Signed through 2015
Spencer Adkins – Signed through 2014
Where They Stand:
The NYG front office and coaching staff has had their share of troubles over the years when trying to piece together their LB group via every avenue possible when it comes to play acquisition. The Draft, free agency, trades, waiver wire, in-season street free agents – they’ve attacked it from everywhere. Personally, I think this has been a below average group for years and there is a direct correlation between that and their extreme inconsistency on the defensive side of the ball. While the passing era of football has forced teams to only play one or two linebackers at a time for a lot of plays, I still think the value of quality guys in the middle of the defense is vital. Since I’ve been drafting for NYG in real time to compare years down the road, I’ve been calling for names like Curtis Lofton (2008), Sean Lee (2010), Mason Foster (2011), and Devonte Holloman (2013). The impact of these guys against BOTH the run and pass is enormous and I am consistently noticing a lack talent at the position hurting this team every year. The trade for Beason was a nice start, but this group is still starving for another talented player.
Top 10 Grades:
CJ Mosley – Alabama – 6’2/234: 81
Chris Borland – Wisconsin – 6’0/248: 81
Khalil Mack – Buffalo – 6’3/251: 81
Anthony Barr – UCLA – 6’5/255: 80
Jordan Tripp – Montana – 6’3/234: 79
Ryan Shazier – Ohio State – 6’1/237: 77
Jordan Zumwalt – UCLA – 6’4/235: 75
Christian Kirksey – Iowa – 6’2/233: 74
Trevor Reilly – Utah – 6’5/245: 74
Yawin Smallwood – Connecticut – 6’2/246: 73
Day One Target:
CJ Mosley – Alabama
I should be a bit of an asterisk on this one because I don’t have any of these linebackers graded in the top 12 overall. But should NYG trade back a bit, Mosley could come in to play. This is a player that earned a first round grade, but I have been a little let down on his lack of progression the past few years. I thought he was going to be a ‘special’ player that ended up with a grade above 90; however he never really took the next step. Despite that, I still think highly of him and believe he is one of the safer bets to be a quality difference maker for a decade in the NFL. Mosley is a guy that does it all physically but will also elevate the play of his teammates with his high on-field IQ. Mosley is a great mover in tight spaces as well as in pursuit to the sidelines. He is also one of the better coverage LBs in this class. He fits in well with what they want to do with the NYG LBs and he would fill a major hole in this defense. A true three down linebacker here.
Runner Up: Khalil Mack – Buffalo
Day Two Target:
Chris Borland – Wisconsin
I’ve been raving about Borland for over a year now and I’ve yet to take a step back. He earned a legit first round grade on my board despite the lack of ideal size. He is one of the most instinctive LBs I have ever seen and his ability to move in traffic is second to none. Watch any Wisconsin game, against any kind of offense, against any level of speed and you will see #44 in the frame on almost every play. Borland is a quality tackler and quality cover man. He consistently beats blockers to a spot, putting himself in position to impact the play. He lacks the physical gifts that some of these guys have at the position, but Borland will be a productive player no matter what. He is a great value pick in round 2, and could be an option for end of round 1 if NYG ends up there via trade.
Runner Up: Ryan Shazier – Ohio State
Day Three Target:
Jordan Tripp – Montana
Tripp comes from a slightly lower level of college football, but he has shined against better competition in his limited opportunities. He has the wiry frame, movement ability, and power presence that I saw out of Kiko Alonso last year. He may not be on that level right away, but I think Tripp will eventually be that same kind of defender in the league. He can fly all over the field, but also has the presence to take on linemen and deliver a violent jolt when taking on their blocks.
Runner Up: Jordan Zumwalt – UCLA
Kyle Van Noy – BYU (72)
Van Noy has one of the more productive resumes to look at when considering statistical compilation. But I’ve seen him play almost 10 times and I notice a lack of consistent presence against blockers coming straight at him. He doesn’t play strong enough at the point of attack; too often he is dancing around contact or even worse, giving up on plays. His ability to pursue and rush the edge can get him drafted, but I don’t think he warrants anything within the top 4-5 rounds. There is too much not to like here.
Runner Up: Shayne Skov (64)
As I previously stated, this defense needs an upgrade in talent at the LB group. The addition and resigning of Beason decreased the level of importance a bit, but the issue is still there. While the likes of Paysinger, Williams, and McClain can instill enough confidence to be a good-enough core at the start, there isn’t enough on the depth chart. Injuries are inevitable and NYG is just one away here from having yet another year of LB liability. There won’t be a player worth taking at #12 overall here, so I think they are looking at rounds 2-5 to bring in a quality rookie. I would prefer one of those day two picks to be spent on one, but not to a point where the value isn’t matched up. With that said, I think they can grab Borland in round 2, Tripp or Shazier in round 3, or even Zumwalt on day 3. There can be a lot of debate on just how important this is, but I won’t budge on my stance. The lack of talent and development at the LB position has held this team back more than most believe.