May 062015
 
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There is a negative way and a positive way to look at the New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft class:

Negative: The Giants drafted a right tackle with a top 10 pick. They desperately drafted two safeties in a very weak draft at that position, actually spending four picks to do so. The team also drafted a defensive end with a bad hip, a wide receiver who had trouble separating from collegiate defensive backs, and a guard who can’t run.

Positive: The Giants drafted three players who many thought could have gone in the first round. In what was widely considered to be a weak draft class, the Giants drafted two immediate starters in offensive tackle Ereck Flowers and strong safety Landon Collins and possible eventual starters in defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa and free safety Mykkele Thompson.

I am going to lean towards the positive interpretation for this draft. If you told me before the draft that the Giants would come out with Flowers, Collins, and Odighizuwa, I would have said you were crazy. Even some of the most critical NYG fans were giving New York an “A” after the first two days of the draft. Day 3 left a bad taste with many, but regardless of how you feel about that day, it should not erase the fact that the Giants drafted three players who should have both an immediate and a long-term impact on the franchise.

Before we get into the pros and cons of the Giants first three players, let’s take a higher-level look at what these three players bring to the table: TOUGHNESS. Whether NYG fans want to admit it or not, the New York Giants since 2011 have not been a very tough or physical team. This is best demonstrated by their shoddy ability to run the ball and stop the run. But really, the issue has been even deeper than that. This is a team that has folded in some games after it got punched in the mouth. Ereck Flowers, Landon Collins, and Owamagbe Odighizuwa won’t put up with that shit. This team just got a lot tougher on both sides of the football. New York Giants are supposed to be tough. End of story.

Also looking at this draft from a more strategic level, two things stand out to me: (1) regardless of what the team says, the Giants drafted almost solely for need, and (2) unless one of the Day 3 picks really surprise, this may turn out to be a three-player draft.

OT Ereck Flowers, 6’6”, 329 pounds, 5.35, University of Miami

To be blunt, the team had to come out of this draft with a rookie starter on the offensive line. That’s why it was almost guaranteed that the Giants were going to draft Brandon Scherff, Ereck Flowers, Andrus Peat, or La’el Collins (pre-off-the-field issue). The Giants were clearly targeting Scherff, but were not surprised to see him drafted before they picked. Unless WR Amari Cooper somehow landed in their lap, it was going to be Scherff or Flowers. Now the big question here is were the Giants forced to reach for Flowers because their desperate need on the offensive line? Many who liked Flowers did not consider him a top 10 pick. Top 20 or 30, but not top 10. These people suggest that the Giants may have been better off drafting RB Todd Gurley, DT Danny Shelton, or WR Devante Parker. A few made a case for CB Trae Waynes. But all four of those players had their warts too: Gurley the ACL, Shelton being one dimensional, Parker’s mental make-up, and the grabiness of Waynes in coverage.

Ereck Flowers, Miami Hurricanes (September 28, 2013)

Ereck Flowers – © USA TODAY Sports Images

For weeks leading up to the draft, I thought that unless wideouts Amari Cooper or Kevin White fell to the Giants, from a value-need perspective, the pick was obviously going to be an offensive lineman. Scherff, Flowers, Peat, and Collins were all widely regarded as being worthy first round draft picks. All signs pointed to one of these four. The question really become, which one? The Redskins took Scherff out of the equation. Tragic circumstances took Collins out of the equation. So it came down to Flowers versus Peat. Each has their advocates. Peat is the smoother, more technically-sound left tackle; Flowers the meaner, more physical one. Most assume Peat will be an NFL left tackle; Flowers may be limited to right tackle (though the Giants don’t share this view). If I were making the pick, it would have been a coin flip between Peat and Flowers. I’m just glad the Giants got one of them. As I said, they needed to come out of this draft with an immediate starter on the offensive line. And they were fortunate that in this case, the value seemed to match up with the need. My only reservation? I do wonder if they missed out on a special player in Gurley. That said, this draft was simply too important for the Giants to screw up. They could not afford to take the risk on Gurley’s knee. The responsible pick was the offensive lineman.

Ereck Flowers brings size, strength, toughness, and nastiness to an offensive line that needed all four of those attributes. He looks born to play right tackle in the NFL and the combination of Flowers and Geoff Schwartz will give the Giants almost 700 pounds of beef on the right side of the line. Flowers’ biggest negative – technique – is correctable. You can’t teach size, athletic ability, or toughness. Moreover, if the Giants are right and Flowers can eventually be a franchise left tackle, then there is no arguing against this pick. But it will be interesting to track the careers of Flowers versus Peat.

S Landon Collins, 6’0”, 228 pounds, 4.48, University of Alabama

The inability to sign Devin McCourty from the Patriots and the departure of Antrel Rolle in free agency left the Giants desperately thin at safety, both in terms of numbers and talent. While Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor may end up being very good NFL players, they are relative unknowns. The problem for the Giants was the 2015 NFL Draft was obviously weak at safety. There were some suggesting that the Giants should consider drafting the consensus #1 safety in the draft – Landon Collins – in the first round, either at the #9 pick or after trading down. I was not among those people as I saw Collins as more of a strong safety-type and drafting him in the top 20 would have been a reach. But drafting Collins at the top of the second round is almost a no-brainer, again from a need-value perspective.

Landon Collins, Alabama Crimson Tide (October 18, 2014)

Landon Collins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Collins is a big, physical, tough strong safety type who hits and tackles well. He was a team leader and versatile, having played strong safety, free safety, slot nickel, and probably even some linebacker in Nick Saban’s pro-style defense. After meeting with Collins before the draft, New York Giants Safeties Coach David Merritt told Tom Coughlin that Collins could orchestrate and direct traffic in an NFL defense from day one as a 21-year old rookie. Let that set in for a moment! Collins will bring leadership, stability, gravitas, and a physical presence to the secondary, middle of the field, and defense as a whole.

There are still detractors about the decision to surrender a 4th and 7th round pick to move up just seven spots in the second round. It may very well be there were better options for the Giants – with or without the trade up. A few names mentioned at the time included DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa (ironically taken by the Giants a round later), DE Preston Smith (taken five picks later by Redskins), DT Eddie Goldman (taken six picks later), CB Jalen Collins (taken nine picks later), LB Eric Kendricks (taken 12 picks later), CB/S Eric Rowe (taken 14 picks later by Eagles), and DE Randy Gregory (taken 27 picks later by Cowboys). Others will point to Collins’ stiffness/lack of range in coverage (though the Giants insist he is not just a strong safety). Nevertheless, it’s hard to argue against the Collins pick. And another team known for drafting good defensive players, the Pittsburgh Steelers, was supposedly also trying to trade up to draft Collins. I don’t like giving up draft picks, but Collins should have a MAJOR impact on the Giants defense immediately and the foreseeable future.

DE Owamagbe Odighizuwa, 6’4”, 267 pounds, 4.59, UCLA

To me, Owamagbe Odighizuwa was one of the steals of the draft for where the Giants selected him. Of course, this assumes his the twice-surgically repaired torn labrum in his hip is fine. The Giants doctors cleared him, but some teams reportedly took him off their draft boards. Three weeks ago I told my wife the Giants would draft Odighizuwa simply because it would be another pain-in-the-ass name I would have to repeatedly type in the tradition of Umenyiora, Kiwanuka, and Amukamara. Thanks Giants!

Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA Bruins (August 30, 2014)

Owamagbe Odighizuwa – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Odighizuwa is one of the rare collegiate defensive end prospects who can play the run from the left (strongside) defensive end position AND rush the passer. In fact, of all of the defensive end prospects in this draft, he is the one who interested me the most. The icing on the cake is he is one of those 100 percent motor-is-always-running guys. He’s no dummy either. Minutes after he was selected, Odighizuwa was regaling the New York media about his admiration and knowledge of Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul. “I studied everything about the Giants defensive line,” said Double-O.

I agree with former Redskins and Texans General Manager Charlie Casserly in saying that Odighizuwa may be a better pro than college player. In college, he played more of a 5-technique in a 3-4 defense, meaning his primary role was to two-gap and occupy blockers to allow the linebackers to make the play. In New York, Odighizuwa will have his superb athleticism unleashed as he will be allowed to immediately attack up the field. If the Giants wanted to keep Jason Pierre-Paul at right end, they needed to draft a potential impact two-way, strongside end. The fact that they may have gotten that guy in the third round is astounding. Talk about need meeting value.

S Mykkele Thompson, 6’2”, 191 pounds, 4.48, University of Texas

Before Day 3 began, I posted in The Corner Forum that this class had the look of a three-player draft. I still stand by that as the three players taken on Day 3 in rounds 5 (safety Mykkele Thompson), 6 (wide receiver Geremy Davis), and 7 (offensive guard Bobby Hart) were not highly regarded prospects by most. Now, if one of these guys or more proves the experts wrong, then New York deserves a tremendous amount of respect for its effort in a very shallow NFL draft.

Mykkele Thompson, Texas Longhorns (October 27, 2012)

Mykkele Thompson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Thompson is not without talent. He has a good combination of size and athleticism. He’s a corner-safety ‘tweener, but that appears the direction the free safety position is heading in today’s NFL. Thompson is also versatile, having the ability to play nickel slot corner or outside corner in a pinch. He has good speed and reportedly made big strides as senior after converting from quarterback and wide receiver to cornerback and safety. The knock against this pick is that many argue he would have been available later in the draft or after the draft. How anyone can know that is beyond me, but Thompson himself was somewhat surprised he was drafted. Also, more importantly, those who followed the Texas Longhorns say that Thompson never really stood out to them as a collegiate player. He certainly wasn’t a play-maker with the ball in the air (only two career interceptions). The keys with him will be his tackling (Giants say he is a good tackler) and his intelligence (Giants say he is smart). It seems as if the Giants are betting that the arrow is really pointing up with Thompson and that he has only scratched the surface given his late conversion to safety. I will say this, he has one of the stranger builds I’ve seen on an NFL defensive back…he has very, very long and thin legs…I would imagine that it is difficult for him to make sharp, quick cuts, hence the reason he was probably moved to safety by the coaching staff of the Longhorns. After the draft, the Giants remarked that Thompson would be a nice complement to Collins…so they clearly think he has starting potential.

WR Geremy Davis, 6’2”, 216 pounds, 4.47, University of Connecticut

Unless Geremy Davis is a kick-ass special teams player along the lines of Larry Flowers, Reyna Thompson, and David Tyree, his selection made the least sense to me. And worse, Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Chris Mara said the team almost drafted Davis in the 5th round. Davis has good size, strength, and excellent hands. My problem is that he simply is not very quick or fast. And while he doesn’t play to his timed speed (sub-4.5), the quickness issue is more disconcerting. How is a receiver who had issues separating from collegiate defensive backs going to separate from NFL defensive backs?

Geremy Davis, Connecticut Huskies (September 6, 2014)

Geremy Davis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

“He doesn’t play to that time speed as much,” said Jerry Reese.

“A big guy like that is going to make it as your fourth receiver,” said Marc Ross.

“I don’t know if he is going to separate the way some of people that we have would,” said Tom Coughlin.

Talk about setting a low bar. I don’t get it. These types of guys are a dime-a-dozen and you can sign them usually after the draft. Either this was an exceptionally weak draft class or Davis is quicker than advertised or the Giants screwed up. On the surface, this feels like a lazy pick. If he turns out to be Reyna Thompson, good pick. But that’s a really high bar.

OG Bobby Hart, 6’5”, 329 pounds, 5.67, Florida State University

Bobby Hart, Florida State Seminoles (August 30, 2014)

Bobby Hart – © USA TODAY Sports Images

I have no problem with the last pick. Bobby Hart played right tackle at Florida State but is strictly a guard at the NFL level. For a 20-year old, he has a ton of experience, having started nine games as a 17-year old freshman and starting all 28 games for FSU as a junior and senior. He’s another huge 330 pounder who can maul you in the run game. He started three years at tackle on one of the best teams in college football. The question with him is does he have the feet/mobility to play guard at the NFL level? He ran in the 5.6 range – which is really bad. But I think he’s good value for a 7th round selection. And Heaven knows the Giants can certainly use some quality offensive line depth.

Summary

Six players. On paper, three “good picks” and three “questionable” ones. Usually that sounds like a “C” grade for a team. But you have to give much higher value to the the top three picks. The Giants may have come out of this draft with three of the top 50 players available. If true, and they can get any serious contribution from Thompson, Davis, or Hart, this draft is a home run.

What the Giants Didn’t Accomplish

You can only do so much, especially with only eight picks (which turned into six after the Collins trade). The talent/depth situation at cornerback makes me nervous. While Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and the injury-prone Prince Amukamara look very strong, Trumaine McBride is a de facto starter as the nickel back. And depth is VERY thin unless you believe in Mike Harris, Chykie Brown, Chandler Fenner, Jayron Hosley, Trevin Wade, or Bennett Jackson.

Pray Victor Cruz rebounds near 100 percent because right now there is Odell Beckham and a whole lot of questions marks (yes, that includes Rueben Randle in my eyes). Adrien Robinson may be safe another year at tight end. It looks like the Giants are counting on the winner of the Cullen Jenkins/Kenrick Ellis/Jay Bromley/Markus Kuhn competition to become a viable starter alongside Johnathan Hankins. The Giants also did not draft a linebacker, although Cole Farrand, who they signed after the draft, is a very interesting pick-up.

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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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