Apr 292023
 
Eric Gray, Oklahoma Sooners (October 15, 2022)

Eric Gray – © USA TODAY Sports

FINAL DAY OF 2023 NFL DRAFT; GIANTS SELECT FOUR MORE PLAYERS…
On the third and final day of the 2023 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected:

  • 5th Round: RB Eric Gray, 5’10”, 207lbs, 4.55, University of Oklahoma
  • 6th Round: CB Tre Hawkins III, 6’2”, 188lbs, 4.4, Old Dominion University
  • 7th Round: DL Jordon Riley, 6’5”, 338lbs, 5.31, University of Oregon
  • 7th Round: S Gervarrius Owens, 6’0”, 195lbs, University of Houston

Sy’56’s Scouting Report on Eric Gray: Senior entry. Three-year starter from Memphis, TN. Spent two years at Tennessee before transferring to Oklahoma for his final two seasons. Second team All-Big 12 in 2022. Ended his career with almost double the usage and production of any other season in his career, finishing with the ninth most single-season rushing yards in Oklahoma history. Gray brings a tremendous physical profile and body to the table. He looks like he is manufactured in a running back factory and has the quality tape to back it up. He can fit into any running scheme but will be best suited for action between the tackles. There is where he can truly maximize the plus-burst, balance, and strength. Gray also has proven to carry a pair of elite hands as a receiver. While he may not end up with the best long speed in the group, Gray will create explosive plays with how decisive and violent he can run downhill while always maintaining the ability to abruptly stop and change direction. Gray is an ideally-built, versatile team player that fits into the every-down role at the next level.

*Gray was a favorite of mine when it came to the surface level scouting. He is not a very big guy, but he is huge in the right places. His lower half is put together almost like Saquon. His short limbs work well with the kind of movement we need to see out of running backs. Short, choppy, balanced movements that can get in and out of small spaces in a hurry. When he reaches the open field, he can be caught from behind but do not overlook just how much his burst can create initially. Gray is a guy that, if he hooks up with the right team (SF, PHI, BAL) – he is going to be a 1,000-yard rusher. An overlooked attribute in his game shows up as a receiver. He was targeted a lot (102 times last three years combined) and dropped just two of them, a very good number for anyone let alone a back with power.

Sy’56’s Scouting Report on Tre Hawkins III: Fifth-year senior from Temple, TX. Spent two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College before transferring to Old Dominion. Had his first season there canceled due to Covid-19. He started two years on the outside and produced across the entire stat sheet. He puts together an impressive blend of tools catapulted by elite vertical speed and burst. Once he diagnoses the route, his reactionary skill are sudden, twitchy, and explosive. He does not hesitate against the run and will attack the ball carriers hands, forcing fumbles (six over his career). Hawkins III lacks the feel in zone coverage and is late to notice underneath routes, but the tools are all there to develop him into a quality backup down the road. Priority free agent.

https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1652462769583579136

Sy’56’s Scouting Report on Jordon Riley: Sixth-year senior from New Bern, NC. One-year starter who arrived at Oregon (his fourth stop) after stints at North Carolina, Nebraska, and Garden City Community College. Riley is a mammoth-sized interior defensive lineman who played his best football in his final year of eligibility. The natural bender shows an accurate punch with quality lockout. The ball location skills need work and he does not have much of a pass rush repertoire. He is overly reliant on the bull rush because of past knee issues, there is not much drive behind it. He is a long term-project who is older than the average prospect and will not offer a lot of versatility. FA/Camp Body

Sy’56’s Scouting Report on Gervarrius Owens: Fifth-year senior. Four-year starter from Moore, OK. Spent three seasons at Houston after transferring from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M where he also started and was a JUCO All-American. Owens was a cornerback for a year before transitioning to safety in 2020. His size and movement traits better with what we see in the middle but there is enough speed and fluidity to occasionally play a corner role here and there. Owens is an explosive, well-built missile from the back end that can really put his foot in the ground and go. His closing speed gets him to where he needs to be in a blink. Owens will flash big play ability, but he also flashes big mistake potential. He sells out on his initial read and will get caught by looks-offs and double routes routinely. The missed tackle rate also strengthens the “all or nothing” feel to his game. If he can channel some of the aggression and improve his ability to finish plays, Owens can be a starting caliber safety. If not, he will be a special teamer and quality backup.

*Similar to a player discussed above, Owens passes the initial test but once you watch a lot of his tape, it is easy to tell there is a lot of guessing in his game. If he can truly process the information and play at his highest rate of speed, he can be a player. Watch out for guys like this coming from a program that does not exactly invest in defensive resources. First exposure to high quality coaching could turn a light on. Owens has that kind of untapped upside. I like him a lot as a day three prospect.

Media Q&A with General Manager Joe Schoen and Head Coach Brian Daboll (Video):

Q. Talk about the guys you picked today.

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, so Eric Gray is a guy we liked. He was at the Senior Bowl. Played at Oklahoma and transferred from Tennessee. Super productive. Really good hands out of the backfield. Also has some elusiveness to him inside. Like what he brings. He also has done some returns in his past; he did some at Tennessee, comfortable catching punts at Senior Bowl. So again, he’ll come in and compete with our group. Tre Hawkins, we took him late in the sixth. From Old Dominion corner, height, weight, and speed prospect that has high upside. He’s a physical kid, not afraid to tackle. You see a trend with some of these guys that we took at that position. Good developmental prospect for Wink’s defense and projects well to special teams due to his physical traits and toughness. Jordon Riley, again, big body guy. It’s hard to find these guys. When you get into the 7th round, you are looking for guys that maybe it will be hard to get at different areas. And another guy we spent time with, big run stopper in there, 6’5, 330. He’ll compete for a depth role there. Gervarrius Owens, another guy we like, a tall, long, athletic safety from the University of Houston, was out at the East-West Game. Another physical kid. Projects well to special teams and also compete for a depth role. Excited about the group of guys we have got. All have very good traits. Competing for different roles but excited with the group. Then get the text here soon that the draft is over, and now we’re working on the second draft with free agency, college free agency, which is an exciting time for us.

Q. Can you talk more about Riley? He was not somebody that was listed by too many.

JOE SCHOEN: He’s at Oregon. You walk out to practice and there’s this 6-5, 330-pound guy, who piques your interest right there. Again, some of these guys in different schemes may not have the production, the tackles, the sacks. But for what Wink looks for in terms of size, length, knock back, he possesses those traits.

Q. Can you talk about the whole thing overall, did you fill all the needs you want or are there still things out there?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, we are always going to be looking to continue to improve. We’ll never be satisfied. We’ll continue. Again, right now is another opportunity to add players and depth in competition with the college free agency process. Then we’ll have a rookie mini-camp next weekend, so we’ll have some players that will be here for that. Ideally, we have a bunch of 53 Pro Bowlers, but that’s impossible. We’ll continue to find where we need to add depth or maybe light on a starter or whatever it may be, but we’ll continue to add depth and competition at all times.

Q. As part of the off-season, you talked about how you wanted to add depth along the defensive line, which you’ve done. Do you feel like you have enough depth among edge rushers?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, and that’s something, again, we can continue to look for that. Again, I think we have Elerson (Smith) — showed promise but had an injury last year. (Tomon) Fox is a guy we like. So those guys have all played snaps, and we’re excited about them, and we may add a couple tonight or again, we continue to look at our emergency list. We are all weighing those two things, what’s available post-draft based on how teams drafted over the weekend. There may be a surplus of players that become available next week. We’ll continue to look at all positions and measure where we are if we like our group or not, and again we don’t play until September in terms of the regular season, so if we’re devoid of something somewhere, we’ll continue to look.

Q. Gray was saying he feels he has natural hands. How important is that for you for a running back, for your offense, that seems to project that he could potentially be a 3-down guy?

BRIAN DABOLL: We’ll see. Again, I just go back to — I think the question you asked, we always look to add and improve all the way through the season, from Tuesday when we have off. In terms of Gray, he’s a very mature young player that’s had some production. Does have good hands. How that sorts out, that will be up to him. The cool thing about it is after the rookie weekend, they come back, and we’ll finally have an auditorium full of seats. Coaches will be standing on the side and finally have a full auditorium to start working with.

Q. I wanted to ask you about your process in terms of the trades the first two days because I thought it was interesting. Sometimes you see GMs who might not have the trust of other teams, guys you talked to; you mentioned the deal you have with Trent Baalke. You guys obviously exchanged information. For you how important is that to build relationships where you’re sharing some of your plans, some guys don’t want to give away too much information and feel like it may come back and burn them, but do you feel like that has helped your process?

JOE SCHOEN: Trent and I were area scouts back in the day. We have a long relationship or some of the new GMs, Kwesi (Adofo-Mensah), in Minnesota, and we have become fast friends through this process. We were first-year GMs together. You always try to cultivate those relationships throughout the league because when you’re thinking about, hey, I may trade Player X, my name comes to him first that they are going to call me, whatever it may be. You always want to be in the mix if a team trades a guy. It’s always important to have relationships with the general managers and personnel staff of the other teams because it can lead to deals or maybe it’s easier to get a trade done or whatever it may be.

Definitely in that group where we were picking in specifically Thursday night, I had a good relationship with a lot of those guys. They were easy conversations. We could shoot each other straight and luckily it worked out.

Q. Are you ever fearful of giving up too much information?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, you definitely have to be careful of that. But if a trade was contingent on you giving up the information, you might as well — that’s your only chance to get there. There’s some risk involved if you do that.

Q. Looking back compared to maybe what you thought coming into the Draft, what would you have thought if I told you were going to get Banks, Schmitz, and Hyatt in the first two days of the Draft?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, I would have liked to know how you’re going to do that, probably. You never know how it’s going to fall. We went through a million scenarios. We didn’t know who was going to be there at 25 or we ended up trading up to 24, so you really don’t know. Once you get into that second round, everybody sees things differently and has different flavors for the type of players they like. You may have a guy in the fifth round, he goes in the second; beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As you go through the entire draft, usually the first round goes as planned, the group of players you think are going to go. But I’m thrilled with those guys, and I’m thrilled with some of the prospects we got today. We’ll see. And the coaching staff is motivated to work with all the guys that we drafted, and they are going to come in and assimilate into our culture and work hard and see what happens. Everybody is going to compete for their spots. I’m happy with where we are and it’s a good group of guys to work with and continue to build.

Q. Don’t know when the next time we’ll talk to you will be, do you plan to reengage with negotiations with Saquon?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, we’ll have conversations with him. We have; we had conversations last week.

Q. Would you like — going by the assumption Saquon is going to be here, to play this year, would you like to draft a running back and decrease his snaps? Do you find that sustainable for a running back to play eight plus percent of the snaps, is that part of the reason why you wanted to add to that position?

BRIAN DABOLL: Yeah, I’d say it’s probably a better question during the season. It’s not April 17th, what is it, April what? 29th. So we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Q. Was it important to you that you drafted a running back that could catch?

BRIAN DABOLL: Look, what I tell Joe and the scouts is find good players. You don’t always necessarily agree, whether it’s scout-to-scout, coach-to-scout, coach-to-coach. But you sit down, and you talk about these players. I’m excited about all these players. I think there were a lot of good discussions, and I think you just find good players. And then your job as a coaching staff, I’ll say this until I’m done coaching is to get good players and find a way to use them. You have a playbook, but our playbook really isn’t finished quite yet. We just added some players, and we have to do a good job as a staff of going out there on the practice field and trying different things, seeing how people respond, running different routes, or doing some different blocking schemes. Again, every playbook for me, I’d say the last five or six years has just been a little bit different and that’s based on the players that you have. So as a coach, I tell Joe, find good players, man. These guys have been working their tails off since the start of the last draft at the end of it, and the coaches have been working hard to try to evaluate them. Again, you don’t know what you’re going to get until they are out there doing it, too. So that’s why we’re big on competition. We’re excited about the players we have but we’ll throw them in the mix and let them compete it out.

Q. Where does Gray’s skill set lend the potential to be a passing down option early in his career?

BRIAN DABOLL: We’ll see. Start looking at him in rookie minicamp. Again, I think they all have a good skill set and we have spent a lot of time watching tape and talking to some of these guys. But until they are out there doing things on the grass in front of you; you can tweak things. There are times when you thought you were getting something, one draft with a player, and then all of a sudden, you’re like, man, this guy can do this a little better than I thought, so you start doing that more. They will all have a fair opportunity to go out there and prove what they can do to see if they can help us.

Q. Would you characterize your conversations with Saquon as negotiations or touching base?

JOE SCHOEN: Touching base again. We’ll circle up after the draft. See if it makes sense or not, through dialogue.

There was the contract that was offered originally, the contract was off the table. Would you plan on offering another revised extension to Saquon in the coming week?

JOE SCHOEN: We’ll talk this coming week now that the draft is over. We’ll reconvene and see if it makes sense or not through dialogue with his representative.

Q. Salary-cap-wise, do you need to make a move? Are you good, just to get through, now that the Draft is over?

JOE SCHOEN: If we need to, we have moves that we can make to free up cap space. So yeah, we are working through some things over the next couple of weeks.

Q. Since we’re on the topic of contracts, where do things stand with Dexter and those negotiations?

JOE SCHOEN: Same deal. Let’s get through the draft. His representation had a lot of prospects in the draft, and we were focused on the draft in our meetings. Next week, things will calm down a little bit and we’ll circle back up with everybody.

Q. From your vantage point how unusual is what the Eagles are doing leaning so hard into one program? Can you think of any other time that a team has done this, drafting so many players and acquiring so many players from one team and does that come with risks?

JOE SCHOEN: Well, if you’re going to do it, that’s a good program to do it from. You have to ask them that. I’m not really sure. Sometimes your board just falls that way. They have a lot of Georgia players down the road. I don’t know if they necessarily consciously are doing that, or again, I’m assuming their board fell that way.

Q. Do you feel good about this draft?

JOE SCHOEN: I do. I do. Yeah, it’s not just this draft. This is one piece of the off-season puzzle. I think you tie in free agency and you tie in the draft and I’m excited to go upstairs and see where we are on some undrafted free agents. And kind of how I started, it never stops. We are always looking to upgrade and add depth and competition. Where we are now, I feel good, but again, we still have to get these guys on the field. And all these guys are young. All these draft picks are young. They have come from various spots. Some of them have not been to New York City and some of them have. They are pros. There’s a human element, too, as these guys develop. We are not going to put a lot of pressure on them to be plug-and-play. We’ll let them develop and learn and continue to let them grow in our culture. But yeah, right now I feel good about where we are, and as a staff, we have continuity amongst the staff this off-season, which along with the roster building I think was very important.

Q. There was so much publicity with the draft, how do you feel about the “he killed it” narrative?

JOE SCHOEN: That lasts about two days. You don’t win games in April. The social media rankings and everything like that, you know, it’s about what we do this fall and how we go out there and compete when it matters and how we continue to build this off-season and get bigger, faster, stronger, through our strength program and then how we prepare and execute in August, I think there’s a process. And do I like some of the guys we drafted? Yeah. But still, like Dabs said, you know, in this press conference, every year is different, and the team has got to gel, and we have got to build chemistry. We have to stay healthy. There’s a lot that goes into it.

Q. You’re in this for a long time. When do you think you’ll be able to look at the sheet and look back and say, yeah, I think we killed it?

BRIAN DABOLL: The minute after of that? Are you talking about the minute after the draft?

Q. When would you think you would be able to look back at a sheet?

JOE SCHOEN: I think it’s three or four years when you look back, you look at the play time. But you’re never — you can’t get complacent in this business, ever. You’ll have a lot of trouble if you do that. So again, we are always looking to get better regardless of where it is. We’ll never be complacent. We’ll always strive and there will be a standard of excellence and we’ll continue to strive for that.

Q. You think back to last year —

BRIAN DABOLL: Pick 25 and not five, didn’t want it to carry the magnets around — begged the owners for a new draft room.

Q. Setting it up, you obviously wanted things a certain way and you had ideas last year, I’m curious now after this Draft, one of the things I noticed was it looked like you guys had FaceTime’s with the entire room on screens with your prospects, was that part of it you wanted to make it more of a team thing for everyone in that room?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah it’s a really neat feature and we could use that pre-Draft because you could Zoom with a prospect, so if there was ever a scenario where Dabs, myself, Wink, Jerome wanted to get in there, hey, let’s Zoom with this prospect and talk ball, and we could all be in there and have those type of meetings; and it’s a universal room that we can use for free agency draft, medical meetings, Zooming prospects.

So just trying to upgrade the technology the best we could and make it multi-faceted in terms of how we could utilize it. We did that, and one of the cool things we wanted to do was FaceTime the prospects afterward in the draft room and congratulate them one or time oncoming to the team. Just a cool feature. Nice touch for the players.

Q. Just a couple of you guys that would get a chance to interact with the prospect, scouts, and ownership, is that important to you to make sure that this entire aspect of it is the full team?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, absolutely. Like Dabs was just saying, the scouts are away from their family a lot during the year, a lot of miles on the road, a lot of hotel points and All-Star games and then being here for weeks at a time away from their family. A lot of hard work that goes into it from the medical staff and all the guys that they look at the combine, the calls they make for us, go on and on about it’s really all hands on deck in a true team effort to put this together.

Q. I assume in the next 48 to 72 hours, you get the free agents signed. When do you guys decompress?

JOE SCHOEN: When you come in in the morning and there’s like nothing going on, you’ve got to take advantage of it, because sure enough, something comes through the door at some point, and the day you thought you were going to have all this free time turns into three or four things you’ve got to deal with.

I think now that I’ve actually thought about this, hopefully, next week at some point I can. But it’s a different process for me. I’ve kind of been full circle now, because when I got here, I had already seen 500 prospects, I had a really good feel for the Draft. This year, I had not been through a season as a general manager and trying to watch film and see prospects and all that stuff. Now that I’ve been through the whole thing full circle, I think next week would be a good opportunity for me, I think I’ll be able to decompress a little bit.

Q. Like you said, this year you had other things to worry about. Do you find yourself relying on others on your staff more heavily?

JOE SCHOEN: Oh, absolutely, yeah, you have to be able to delegate in this position and get the right people in the right chairs and let them do their jobs. We have got a good group throughout the building in a lot of seats.

Media Q&A with Eric Gray:

Q. How much do you know about (Head Coach) Brian Daboll and the Giants’ offense and what do you think you can bring as?

ERIC GRAY: I just bring — I’m just going to bring a lot to the offense and be able to run in between the tackles, run outside zone, inside zone, being able to catch the ball out of the backfield. I think I just bring another threat to the offense.

Q. How much contact did you have with them during the pre-draft process?

ERIC GRAY: A pretty good amount. I had a workout with (Running Backs) Coach Nixon, the running backs coach, going into the draft. Early on in the process I had a workout with him, so I would say a pretty good amount of contact with them.

Q. What do you think it’s going to be like to soon be a teammate of (Running Back) Saquon Barkley?

ERIC GRAY: I’ve watched a lot of Saquon, me playing, I’ve watched a lot of his games, so just being able to learn from him, things that he did as a rookie being successful in the league, that’s going to be very important.

Q. Did you play with (Wide Receiver) Jalin Hyatt at Tennessee?

ERIC GRAY: I did. He was a freshman when I was a sophomore.

Q. What can you tell us about him?

ERIC GRAY: Just a great, fast receiver. Very productive. You see what he did this past year bursting on to the scene. Great receiver.

Q. What does it take to be a good receiver out of the backfield? What qualities do you think that you have that make you accomplished in that area?

ERIC GRAY: Being able to, one, just having those natural hands to be able to catch and being able to route run. Me personally, I have a good feel for knowing coverages coming out of the backfield, knowing if it’s man or zone or if I need to break it this way, setting crisp routes, getting to my depth. I would say I’ve been blessed to be a pretty good route runner out of the backfield.

Q. I saw you did some punt returns. Did they talk to you about that?

ERIC GRAY: Yes, I did, I did do some of that in my college years. I did, so that’s just adding more value for myself.

Q. What would you think about early in your career being like a third down, passing down running back?

ERIC GRAY: I’ll do what it takes for the team. I’m a ‘we guy’ not a ‘me guy’ – I’ll do what it takes for the team.

Q. What Giants have you heard from already?

ERIC GRAY: I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to any Giants yet. I’m sure (Wide Receiver) Sterling (Shepard) will call me soon, just him being in Oklahoma, but I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to him yet.

Q. What’s your relationship with him?

ERIC GRAY: I have never talked to Sterling, but somebody just sent me his number — would be a good chance to talk to him.

Q. What does today mean to you to hear your name called and end up in New York?

ERIC GRAY: It’s a dream come true. It’s a dream come true. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time, and for it to be the Giants, it just means a lot to me, being able to, like I said, to learn from the guys that are already in the room, I’ve got a good feel for the coach when he had the private workout, Coach Daboll, I just love the Giants offense. I’m stoked about it. I can’t wait to get to New York.

Q. When you say you got a good feel in that private work out what did you learn from him or why do you think you would mesh really well with Nixon?

ERIC GRAY: Just his mentality in the running back room. He wants guys that are good for the room, that are good fits for the room. He wants guys that are going to work hard and that are going to come in there and give 100 percent every day and not take a day off, and that’s the kind of guy that I am. I’m going to go in there every single day and do as much as I can to help the team win.

Q. Where did you watch the Draft and where did you spend the day? When you got the call from the Giants, can you tell us about the reaction? Seemed like they have been videoing guys, doing FaceTimes. When you have experience with that?

ERIC GRAY: I’m in Nashville with my family. Me and my friends actually went for a drive when I got the call. Trying to just get out of the house for a minute, me and my friends went for a drive, and I got the call. We rushed home, everybody ran out of the house yelling. I got a chance to talk with the entire organization over FaceTime. Just a great FaceTime, for me just an unbelievable moment.

Q. What have the last few days been like for you? What did you think the likelihood that maybe you could get picked in the day two range yesterday and take us through your emotions of this whole thing.

ERIC GRAY: Definitely tried to stay level-headed though, but it was definitely a little roller coaster, thinking I could go – like you said – in day two, but ended up going today. But it’s all a blessing. Now it’s time to get on the field and work.

Q. I was looking at your stats. Did you carry like 549 times and never fumble?

ERIC GRAY: Yes, sir.

Q. What do you attribute that to? What is that about you that you think you have such good ball security?

ERIC GRAY: Just having awareness of the ball, knowing when you get in traffic, put two hands on it, having awareness of the defenders, where the defenders are, knowing that when you’re running, defenders are trying to knock it out. Just having that awareness.

Q. Going to test your memory. When was your last fumble, do you remember?

ERIC GRAY: My last fumble, I don’t know that one.

Q. Will you come with a chip on your shoulder given that you slipped to the third day?

ERIC GRAY: 100 percent. 100 percent going to come with a chip on my shoulder. I feel like I have to go prove it and be the player that I want to be in the league.

Q. Are you going to tell Daniel you know how to throw passes, too?

ERIC GRAY: (Laughs) I’m going to let him throw passes. I’m just going to take my hand offs and catch for him.

Q. What happened on your pass this year?

ERIC GRAY: (inaudible) throw my first touchdown, the route kind of got bumped off if I threw it, but at least I would have made the tackle.

https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1652428946598682625

https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1652451445017559042

https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1652464782899904512

SATURDAY PRESS CONFERENCE WITH JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ…
Center John Michael Schmitz, who the Giants drafted on Day 2 of the NFL Draft, held a press conference at the team’s facility on Saturday. The transcript and video are available in The Corner Forum and on YouTube, respectively.

SATURDAY PRESS CONFERENCE WITH JALIN HYATT…
Wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, who the Giants drafted on Day 2 of the NFL Draft, held a press conference at the team’s facility on Saturday. The transcript and video are available in The Corner Forum and on YouTube, respectively.

Apr 282023
 
John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota Golden Gophers (December 28, 2021)

John Michael Schmitz – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS DRAFT JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ AND JALIN HYATT…
On the second day of the 2023 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected:

  • 2nd Round: OC John Michael Schmitz, 6’4”, 301lbs, 5.35, University of Minnesota
  • 3rd Round: WR Jalin Hyatt, 6’0”, 176lbs, 4.4, University of Tennessee

The Giants traded up in the third round, moving from the 26th spot to 10, giving the Los Angeles Rams their 4th-round selection.

Sy’56’s Scouting Report on John Michael Schmitz: Sixth year senior. Four-year starter from Flossmoor, IL. Named All-Big Ten three straight years including a first team honor in 2022. Also named a first team All-American in his final season. Schmitz is the point guard of the offensive line, fully capable of making all the calls and directing traffic. He does all the little things right and it adds up to consistent, reliable play. He excels in the running game with his combination of heavy contact and excellent footwork. While he is not the most natural athlete, he makes up for a lot of the shortcomings with proper angles, spacing, and timing. He has a great feel for when to peel off to the next man and his hands do a lot of damage. The shortcomings as a pass blocker on an island and occasional lapse in body control can cause some concern, but the floor is high for Schmitz. Schmitz has the mental capacity and reliable run blocking to fit into any situation right away and compete for a starting job, but this is a low ceiling, high-floor kind of player.

*Want a plug and play center that will immediately become the mental leader of your line? Schmitz is your guy. Want a high-upside athlete that is going to eventually be one of the top players at the position in the league? Look elsewhere. Schmitz is a classic “is what he is” type prospect. You know what you are getting, you know what you are not. One negative I could see NYG having on him is the fact he never played a position other than center. In addition, the already-24 year-old simply lacks more area to chew up on the progression curve. Will he likely provide the best OC play this team has had since…O’Hara? Probably. The question is about positional value, and everyone has an opinion on that. I like Schmitz, as do many in the league. But he only becomes an option for me in round 3, and I think he is gone by then.

Sy’56’s Scouting Report on Jalin Hyatt: Junior entry. One year starter from Irmo, SC. First Team All American and SEC honors in addition to winning the Biletnikoff Award. Hyatt was one of the country’s breakout performers in 2022, leading the power five conferences with 15 touchdowns. Coming into the year, he had just 502 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He nearly tripled that in his junior season alone. This is the kind of speed that changes how an opposing defense plays. There is a lot of unknown in his game, however. He is inexperienced in contested situations, he rarely lined up outside, and the route running on anything besides vertical-routes needs a lot of refinement. While the speed is next-level and he will immediately become one of the best deep threats in the NFL early in his career, there is a lot that needs to be gained for Hyatt to be considered a formidable number one threat.

*The one prospect in this group that I would label THE swing for the fence is Hyatt. If you can recall my comparison for him, Will Fuller, and what he did for the Houston offense pre-injury (#1 in NFL in yards per target in 2020, #3 in 2018) you may want to consider taking him in the first round. Even though he is such a one-dimensional guy, his ability within that dimension is potentially special. And that dimension is also what every team in the league wants on offense and fears defensively. Credible deep speed that can get over and stay over the top of the defense. Throw in the fact he tracks and catches the ball at a high level and yes, he could easily end up a first rounder. Personally, I struggle with number of boxes that remain unchecked. The route tree, strength against contact, sudden change of direction, yards after contact. There is a lot to unwind here but I would be lying if I said he doesn’t excite me.

Media Q&A with General Manager Joe Schoen and Head Coach Brian Daboll (Video):

Q. You’re not shy about making these trades. Can you give us your thought process behind it?

JOE SCHOEN: It was a good player that we liked that was kind of sticking out on our board, so at a position that we thought he could help us at receiver. He ran 4-3 and some change, and you could feel his speed on film. That’s legit. Just a player we liked, and we spent some time with, and we thought the value was good for what we had to give up to go get him.

Q. How much of a priority has it been this off-season to make this offense more explosive?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, I would say both sides of the ball, just team speed in general. O(ffense), d(efense) and special teams. I think we did that with some of the free agents we signed: Parris Campbell can roll, Jeff (Smith) can roll, (Bobby) Okereke runs well. We’ve upgraded the speed in general; (Darren) Waller. So yeah, that’s definitely something watching our team last year, we just felt we needed to get faster in all three phases.

Q. Every time you make a pick, you know that means you might have to not get another guy, right. So when you look at the totality of today, you got a center, who we assume will challenge for a starting job, and one of the fastest receivers in this draft, did you think that was feasible to get these two players today?

JOE SCHOEN: Not really. One of those deals, we were joking around after we took the center (John Michael Schmitz) and were like, hey, wonder if we can get them both. I told the guys, just start making calls when it looks like we’re going to do it for our four, when it comes into range, and we made a couple phone calls and some teams were interested in doing it. We’re ecstatic to be able to get him.

Q. How much of a deep threat guy is (Jalin) Hyatt?

JOE SCHOEN: He can roll. I was at that Alabama game. I can’t remember why I came in late, but I was a little bit late. But I was on the field for the first half. I was coming from another game, landed there, and first half I was on the field, and you could really feel his speed. It’s legit 4-3.

Q. Do you typically watch games from the sideline?

JOE SCHOEN: No, but again, sometimes flight delays and everything else. I had some issues with my travel. I was able to get there for pregame but not enough time to see the body type. So I stayed down there and kind of looked at the guys physically and went up to the press box after that. Yeah, you could see more from the press box. I could see it better.

Q. Why do you think he fell as far as he did?

JOE SCHOEN: I’m not sure. I’m glad he was there, though. Josh Heupel, the head coach at Tennessee is a good friend of mine. We go way back. Oklahoma was my area a long time ago when he was a quarterback coach. I’ve known him for a long time, and he was the head coach at Central Florida when we took Gabe Davis, when we were in Buffalo. There’s some history there. I called him at some point today and just checked on Hyatt. We had him in on a visit. Again, I’m not sure why he was there, but we feel good about him and glad he was.

Q. What’s your impression of Hyatt and how important was it to you to get more of that speed around Daniel (Jones)?

BRIAN DABOLL: I think he’s a good player. I think he runs some of the routes that we run here. You can see, a little bit like Gabe, how it might translate. But again, everything is new for him. He’s a young guy. We’ll throw him in the mix with the other receivers and let those guys compete it out. A good visit here. Definitely has some qualities that you like when you’re watching him. Good young man. So, happy we have him.

Q. Quick follow, everybody always is happy with their draft, nobody walks away saying it sucked, right, but when you look at just what you’ve done so far, you’ve kind of hit on three needs in these three first picks here. Is that something you anticipated being able to accomplish going into this?

BRIAN DABOLL: Well, you never know. We have a lot of meetings, I would say, leading up to the draft and then these last few days and you go through a lot of different scenarios. It’s not an inexact science but I’d say there’s a lot of preparation. I think Joe does a fantastic job working the phones and being prepared, along with, I’d say, Tim (McDonnell) and Brandon (Brown) and Dennis (Hickey), rest of the scouts, they have done a great job. So again, you draft these players. You put grades on them. You come in; you coach them up. But you let them compete it out. That’s what we’re all about. So, it’s just adding new pieces just like we did in free agency. We’ll get them out there on the field and see how they do,

Q. Did what the Eagles did yesterday on their defensive line make the center position that much more of a focus for you today?

JOE SCHOEN: Not really. You know, it was a position we were looking, the entire offensive line. Again, we looked across all of them. You’re always look the in the division, it’s important how you match up. I go back to when he was at New England, and they had the two really good tight ends. You are always trying to figure out who can cover Gronk or whoever it may be. You’re always looking at it. But I think being strong in offensive and defensive line, regardless is always going to be a priority of ours. Schmitz is a great guy, I know we haven’t talked about him, but smart, tough, dependable, played a lot of ball. Had a great Senior Bowl. He’s a good player and a great kid.

Q. What do you like about the pairing of Daniel and — those two together?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, we’ll see how it works out. I know we’ve spent time with him. He’s a great kid and he embodies what we want to be about. He’s a good football player. Again, everybody is going to come in here, compete, earn their spot, and, you know, we’ll see how it falls, but he’s wired the right way.

Q. A couple of the knocks on Jalin, a little bit slight, what people are saying. When you look at the frame and his body type what gives you the confidence that maybe he can grow into it, or he can play with that body type in the NFL?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, I think he’s still young. There’s a similar body type down the road that we play twice a year, that’s a good player. (He) was drafted much higher. But again, you look at it, you look at the group, you know, how tall they are, how long they are, thick they are, and you know, I know the offensive staff and Dabs, they do a great job of putting the guys in the best position to succeed; and what are the routes they run best, how can we accentuate what they do well, and then they will kind of formulate the offense around that. I think he’ll be fine.

Q. Schmitz was the one guy you didn’t trade up for. Is that because you felt he was going to fall?

JOE SCHOEN: I wish. I wish. Yeah, I wish I had a crystal ball. It’s hard. Patience, I wouldn’t say is one of my strengths, and I often get tested this time of year because it’s like anything, if you want it and you have the resources to get it, go get it. I’ve been on the other side that when you’re sitting there kicking yourself for not doing something you and don’t like the subsequent result from not doing what you could have done and you were okay with, you know, what it was going to cost you. So yeah, I mean, Chicago jumped up from us, and you thought, okay, who knows what they are going to take. There were a couple of players there that we liked, but you’ve got to be at peace with that if it happens and say, hey, let’s just stay patient and we did that. You know, any type of move-up would have cost us another pick and maybe you don’t end up with Jalin. So, you know, I’m glad it worked out the way it did.

Q. When you say that last year you couldn’t do this to the level you did this year, you needed for picks last year. Is it fair to say you can cherry-pick a little bit more?

JOE SCHOEN: No, that’s a good question. I think we had a little more resources in free agency and so we were able to add more depth pieces in March and April, you know, along with maybe some of that’s practice squad guys we had last year that had developed, or the Isaiah Hodgins’ of the world, so had a little bit more depth. We added some starting pieces in free agency, guys that will compete for starting spots. So maybe you don’t need the depth and the numbers that I felt like we needed last year.

Q. Was Hyatt a guy you considered where you took Schmitz?

JOE SCHOEN: He was in the range.

Q. Just in terms of the complicated nature of the routes you guys run in this offense, for Jalin, I would imagine, he has a diverse game to be able to run what you guys run at different spots in this game?

BRIAN DABOLL: I’d say this: With all the players, particularly, the young ones that come in, you evaluate them on tape, and then you get them here, and you try to do what they do well. You have a good idea watching the tape, but sometimes they come in and they can do a few more things maybe you didn’t want to do as much as you thought you would do with one of them. Our job as a coaching staff, our offensive coaches, whether it’s receivers, tight ends, running backs, is let’s figure out what these guys do well. We have a pretty expansive system, which I’m sure most people do. But once you pare it down and find out who is going to be running those things, you make sure you adapt and make sure there are things your players can do well whether it’s quarterback, receivers, blocking schemes with the line, defensive players. That’s the job of a coaching staff. But yeah, and our other third-round pick was Waller, so we tried to do what we can do with him, too.

JOE SCHOEN: It’s true. Pick’s coming up probably.

Q. I’ll give you the offensive line question then. When you have a young guy coming in like Schmitz, how much of it is, can he handle the physical load but also the mental capacity to be able to do this job?

BRIAN DABOLL: Regardless of if it’s this offense or any other offense, you’re come in from college and you’re playing against grown men up front. I’d say there’s a learning curve mentally, but there’s also a physical curve, too, and we won’t find that out until August. But this guy’s tough. He’s smart. He’s got a good frame. Former wrestler. Good leader. We’ll throw him in the mix, let him compete it out with the other guys and see how it ends up.

Q. Both guys on the offensive line, on Schmitz, when he had him in the conference call, he described himself as “nasty” and he sounded like a polite young man on the telephone. Is that something you have seen on film or noticed when you took him to dinner what’s your take on that?

BRIAN DABOLL: Yeah, you see it on film.

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, you see it on film. Not when you’re sitting across from him but when you turn on the film, you see it.

Q. Nothing bad happened during dinner or anything like that?

BRIAN DABOLL: No. We did a Face Time with him, the whole group and he basically wanted to put his helmet and shoulder pads on that instant, standing with his parents. He loves the game of football and just another good offensive lineman to work with.

Q. So you saw a lot of things where Schmitz and (Joe) Tippmann were almost interchangeable; one could go in front of the — did you like Schmitz more than Tippmann?

JOE SCHOEN: There’s a lot of offensive linemen we liked in this draft, and we went through — I won’t get into how we have them ranked or something. They are both good football players, both in New York and I think they will both have successful careers.

Q. Yesterday we saw Wink (Martindale) give a pretty aggressive hug to the general manager after the cornerback. As the head coach, are you allowed to express that when you get a 4.3 receiver?

BRIAN DABOLL: Sure, I did it with the Tae (Deonte Banks), too. Joe does a great job, like I said, of leading the entire draft. These scouts that are busting their tail and they are gone for six months, they might have, you know, however many people that they want to select, and we don’t select any of them from their area, if you can imagine that, they are gone from their families and working their tails off. They do a great job of setting up the board, communicating with the coaches. It’s a really good process but I’d say this guy leads it up and he does a great job of it.

Q. Asked the wrong question. How did (Mike) Kafka respond to the pick of receiver?

JOE SCHOEN: He’s jacked up, too. Yeah, him, Mike Groh, everybody is excited. Kafka is excited about the center, too.

Q. Schmitz is a center and you guys had talked about maybe having Ben (Bredeson) play a little center, so how does that work? Will Ben compete with Schmitz as center, or do you want Ben as your left guard? How do you see that that? How do you see Ben’s role shaking out now?

BRIAN DABOLL: We’ll find out. Throw them all out there. And again, we haven’t had practice yet. We have selected some new players and some free agents, and we’ll start phase two on Monday, which is a little bit different from phase one, but can’t get out in front of each other until we get to phase three and that’s really a teaching type of camp, if you will.

I don’t think you want to put too much on the rookies early on because, you know, let’s be honest, they have been on the road. Tae has been on the road, however many visits. They have to re-acclimate themselves and you want to be smart with them, and slowly integrate them into the system. But that’s what you do every year. You try to build as much competition for your roster as you can, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Q. How much of a mind game is it when you’re in the draft room and you are picking second round, saying, well, if I take the center now, am I still going to get the wide receiver or how do you play that? Do you just take the best player or what?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, in that case we did. We weren’t even really thinking about that. We weren’t thinking about the subsequent pick. There’s something out there that you want, or you desire, and you’re waiting and waiting, don’t know if it’s going to be there, it’s tough, and it can be stressful. So that’s why again, sometimes you are aggressive and sometimes you move back. Last year in the second round, we moved back twice. Based on the situation, who is there, where you are as a roster, you’re always taking that into account. We met extensively today and went through different scenarios and the roster and kind of wants and needs on the roster, and you know, I think it worked out well for us this evening.

Q. When you’re talking to so many different teams like you were tonight, looking into trades, how many different people are on the phone at once? Are you on the phone? Is Brandon making some of the calls? How is it all working?

JOE SCHOEN: Last night, the first round, it’s a little bit slower. You get more time to turn in your pick. There are so many different scenarios, especially last night. So that was more myself. Then today, it’s a group effort. Dabs, actually, executed his first trade. He initiated the trade with the Rams; so, I congratulate him on that. But no, if you know somebody, hey, why don’t you shoot the Rams a text, or you know, give them a call and again, hey, this is what it looks like it would be, does it make sense and we just call and say, hey, when you’re on the clock, let us know.

Q. Was that a FaceTime trade then?

JOE SCHOEN: That was a test.

BRIAN DABOLL: That was not a Face Time trade.

JOE SCHOEN: We had to type it in his phone for him. He said, “Here, just type it in for me.”

BRIAN DABOLL: I’m a Face Timer, that’s about it.

Media Q&A with John Michael Schmitz:

Q. Do you like being called John Michael? John? What do you prefer?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: Well, I kind of just went along with the flow, but I was always John Michael growing up because I’m a junior and my dad was always John. The name just kind of stuck with me.

Q. John Michael it is. What’s tonight been like for you? What does it mean it get drafted by the Giants?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: Yeah, I mean I’m still shocked right now, just taking it all in with the people that you love and family and friends – it’s been amazing.

Q. What was your experience with (Offensive Line Coach) Bobby Johnson? I know he was at your pro day. What was your vibe with him and your interaction with him in the process?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: I love Coach Johnson. Spent a lot of time with him, obviously with the pro day and a dinner before that. It was amazing to connect with him. He’s a good coach and just what he’s doing with that offensive line, I’m so excited to be a part of it.

Q. What do you feel like your greatest strength is at the position? Do you feel like you’re better at the run, protecting? According to PFF, you only had two sacks allowed in your career.

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: I would just say, my mentality as a whole, my toughness, my grit, the way I finish plays is what sets me apart from other people, so that’s what I’m going to go with.

Q. What did you think when you heard you were going to land with the Giants and how likely did you think it was throughout the process?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: I always thought it was definitely a possibility to go with the Giants, and I’m so happy to be a part of this team. I’m ready to get to work, that’s what I told the coaches when we first talked. I’m so excited.

Q. Were you in Minnesota at all to pay attention to the Giants playoff victory?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: I was actually at the game. That’s the best part, I was at the game.

Q. And? Who were you rooting for?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: You know, I was at the game just watching football, that’s all I’ve got to say (laughs).

Q. Did you know they lost both centers to free agency?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: You know, that’s something that I didn’t really look at. I’m just excited for the 2023 Giants football team and I’m excited to be a part of it and get to work.

Q. (General Manager) Joe Schoen has said recently that this is a complicated offense. What makes you confident that you can come in right away as a rookie and dictate terms on offense?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: Honestly, it’s just my mentality, coming in. (inaudible) good enough, I would just say, I love a challenge, so learning the game even better than I have, and I can’t wait to work with Coach Johnson, pick his brain. I mean, he’s going to help me out a lot. I’m so excited.

Q. How much did you go through some of the intricacies of this offense during your visit with Bobby and the talks that you’ve had with the coaches up until this point?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: They just throw basic things at you here and there, nothing too crazy. So yeah, that’s all I’d say.

Q. Is there anybody you admire at the position?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: What I always said in my interviews with the teams, I really like how (Buccaneers Center) Ryan Jensen plays the game. I mean, he’s one of the nastiest people on the field and just the way he plays, his mentality, you know that he’s going to bring it every play. He’s a tremendous leader, also.

Q. Would you describe yourself as “nasty”?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: Yes, yes, that’s the biggest thing I would say. The nasty, tough, grit factor, definitely.

Q. Has (Quarterback) Daniel Jones reached out to you yet?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: I am not sure if he has.

Q. What do you think that relationship will be like, will you come in here and attach yourself to him at the hip a little bit?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: Yeah, it’s definitely important to have a great relationship with your quarterback, and you guys have to be on the same page. The quarterback and the offensive line, the running back, especially in pass pro, they have to work together. It’s very important to have a great connection with your quarterback.

Q. Some of the scouting reports describe you as, “strong, tough, dependable, his footwork needs work.” How do you respond to that?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: You don’t really listen to everything that’s always out there. You focus on what the guys that I’ve been working with (Guard) Alex Boone, Jeremiah Sirles, my agent, Coach Johnson, and I mean, I’m a very hard ‘critiquer’ of myself. I always want to get better. There’s always stuff to get better at, at the end of the day.

Q. The Giants obviously do need a center. Do you intend to come in here and grab that starting job immediately?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: That’s not my decision. I’m going to be coming in to work and earn the coaches’ and players’ trust to take that role. But that is the coaches’ position to do that.

Q. There was a lot of talk about how you and Joe Tippmann were the top two centers in this draft. What did you think when you saw him get drafted by the Jets and does that — how do you sort of take that in and what’s the thoughts about playing in the same city as him now?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: You always look at other people that got drafted in front of you. I mean, honestly at this point, I’m just focused on the New York Giants and focused on this team and doing everything I can to make this team better and bring it a Super Bowl. I’m so excited.

Q. This division has a lot of strong defensive lines, Eagles, Washington, Dallas. From your vantage point as a center, what does it take to handle an elite defensive line for four quarters?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: I would just say setting the tone from the start. You’ve got to be physical. You’ve got to set the tone from the start, first quarter to fourth quarter. It’s not going to happen right away. We always used to say, if you are going to run the ball, you’re going to have body blows and the body blows turn to like 25, 30-yard touchdowns, and I mean, you just continue to wear those guys down, the defensive linemen, and eventually they’ll break.

Q. What about your personality through the years, it can be intimidating for a rookie to step into a center with a lot of veterans, especially in a big city. Do you relish that opportunity to be able to have that voice in the huddle, have that command when you basically have guys around you who have been in this league and who have done some things in this league, won a playoff game in this league? What’s your expectation from that level?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: I’m very excited to connect with this offensive line group. Just get to know these guys and I feel like I’m a really good leader, a communicator. As a center, you have to be a really good communicator, and a leader position sometimes comes natural to that position because you’re the first one to the line, and you set the calls, you set the protections, and you’re in control of that offense, especially as the center-point of the offensive line. I would just say that.

Q. Do you ever run into (Inside Linebacker) Micah McFadden lately?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: I have not, no.

Q. Where are you, where were you when you found out about the pick?

JOHN MICHAEL SCHMITZ: I was at home in Homewood, Illinois. We’re just with family and friends, about 20-25 people. It was special.

https://twitter.com/Giants/status/1652134463902474240

Media Q&A with Jalin Hyatt:

Q. What was this draft experience like for you? Did you expect to still be on the board in the third round? What have the last two nights been like?

JALIN HYATT: Yeah, you know, definitely something where you’re just waiting for your name to be called. Really for me, I don’t care where it was, what round, what team. I just wanted to be on team. New York came and they really blessed me and my family and I’m forever grateful for it and I just can’t wait to do what I have to do when I get there and meet my new teammates. Get there and be competitive and do what I have to do.

Q. Given your speed, how dangerous of a deep threat are you?

JALIN HYATT: Yeah, I feel like I’m probably the best deep threat receiver in the draft. I really do believe that, and Giants they really got a playmaker, they got a dynamic playmaker, an explosive playmaker – and that’s what I want to bring and add to the team.

Q. Is there part of you that always spends time wanting to show that you’re more than what the speed game is in your arsenal?

JALIN HYATT: Oh, yeah, yes, sir. Yes, sir. I mean, I love it when I’m counted out and the Giants, they took a chance on me. So, I’m forever grateful but at the same time, I know now it’s time to put in the work and now I know it’s time to go. Like I said, I was never picked first for anything. I’m grateful for the Giants giving me an opportunity and I can’t wait to go and show and do what I have to do.

Q. Some scouting reports have mentioned your size and slender build as a possible concern and can you hold up in the NFL, is the question. What’s your response to that?

JALIN HYATT: Like I said, that’s something that I feel comfortable in. Now I’m around 188, 189, getting to where I want to get to my goal weight of 190. I still have a lot of things to work on but at the same time, definitely work on that with the Giants and I definitely know what I can do and what I’m capable of it and what type of player that I am. I really believe the Giants added somebody who can change the game and I can’t wait to do that and show that.

Q. What do you think you can get up to weight-wise?

JALIN HYATT: Yeah, I want to play at 190. I want to play at 190 this year, something I’m now feeling comfortable around just gaining weight and being in the weight room and doing a lot of work after the pro day. I’m really pleased with where I am now as far as training and I can’t wait to go to the Giants, I can’t wait to move and get the show moving.

Q. What did you play on last year?

JALIN HYATT: I played at around 175, 176.

Q. How much do you know about (Quarterback) Daniel Jones and how do you think your game will mesh with his?

JALIN HYATT: Yeah, Daniel, he already texted me. I can already tell he’s the leader of the team. Like I said, by the time I get up there, that’s one of the first things I’m going to meet with to understand what he does, what he likes in games, what his best throws, what’s he wants me to do for him. I think when you build that connection with a quarterback, you can go as far as you want to go.

Like I said, I’m going to be consistent, I’m going to be consistent in the facility and meeting with him and doing what he wants me to do for him, because I’m here to help him out. That’s why I can’t wait to do it.

Q. One of the questions is how the offense you play in college for wide receiver, the transition to the NFL, like when you look at NFL games or what you’ll be asked to do, how different do you think it will be?

JALIN HYATT: We did run a little different things offense, but at the same time, I played in pro-style offense before. It’s not like I always play spread my whole – I’ve played pro-style offense. I understand what I have to do and the roles to it.

But you know, that will be something that I will consistently learn from the playbook, from my old playbook, and I just can’t wait for the journey.

Q. What does it take to score five touchdowns in a game against Alabama and what do you think that did for you?

JALIN HYATT: Yeah, you know what it takes for that, you have to be consistent. You have to be consistent getting open and I really believe that’s one thing I’m very consistent on. When I get to the league, I want to be consistent in getting open and be consistent in the quarterback trusting me and making plays. That’s what I’m here for, so just here to show consistency, show a guy that’s willing to work, show a guy that’s hard worker but at the same time ready to prove his moment.

Q. Were you aware the Giants GM Joe Schoen was at that game?

JALIN HYATT: He told me. I wasn’t aware at first. I think when we went out to dinner or something, he told me about. It’s just crazy, you know how much Tennessee brings and a lot of people that comes to the games. I never thought a person, a guy like that will be at the game and later on down the road he’ll draft me. It’s crazy how things work but like I said, I’m blessed.

Q. What did Daniel say to you in his text?

JALIN HYATT: Yeah, he just said, “Are you ready to go”? Like, are you ready to go. Obviously, the Giants, we already are a playoff team and know what we have to do. I’m just here to add that other asset to it, and I just can’t wait to do what I have to do and meet with him and understand what he likes and what he wants to do. I’m just going to be there with him.

Q. You came up here for your visit, meeting with them, what was that like coming in the facility and everything?

JALIN HYATT: Oh, yeah, it was amazing. Never been to New York before in my life. Came up, my first time in New York was to meet the Giants and I really loved the coaching staff up there. Love everything that they are doing. I just love what they are doing and what I can be a part of, so there are already great players there. I’m here to learn and develop and at the same time prove why the Giants drafted me. I’m ready to do what I have to do.

Q. The Giants fans have looked at the receiver room and said, we don’t really have a target No. 1 receiver here. Do you think you can be an elite No. 1 receiver in the NFL and what gives you that confidence?

JALIN HYATT: Oh, yeah, 100 percent. My confidence comes from my hard work. It doesn’t matter what pick, what round it was going to be; and when I saw the Giants called me, I knew what I had to do and I knew what I’m capable of; I’m going to be learning from the players there, the receivers there, developing a bond with them, understand their style of football, getting plays down, understand the playbook, but at the same time I’m there to show my opportunity and show why I should be here.

Q. Did you mostly play in the slot in college and do you believe you can play outside, or do you think of yourself more as a slot?

JALIN HYATT: Yeah, I played slot in college mostly just based on what we did, a lot of motions and me going left to right side. I’m comfortable wherever they want to put me at. If that’s outside receiver, then that’s something I’ll be comfortable with. If it’s slot, that’s something I’ll be comfortable with.

I’m here for the team. I’m here for the coaches. I’m here for Daniel Jones and what he wants to do. They brought a great asset and I’m just here to prove why I’m here.

FRIDAY PRESS CONFERENCE WITH DEONTE BANKS…
Cornerback Deonte Banks, who the Giants drafted in the 1st round on Thursday, held a press conference at the team’s facility on Friday. The transcript and video are available in The Corner Forum and on YouTube.

Apr 282023
 
Deonte Banks, Maryland Terrapins (October 22, 2022)

Deonte Banks – © USA TODAY Sports

With the 24th pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected cornerback Deonte Banks (University of Maryland). The Giants traded up one spot with the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchanged for their 25th pick in the 1st round, the 160th overall selection in the 5th round, and the 240th overall selection in the 7th round. Banks is 6’0” and 197 pounds. He has run a 4.35 40-yard dash.

Sy’56’s Scouting Report on CB Deonte Banks: Senior entry. Three-year starter but two of those years summed to just five starts combined because of Covid-19 and a shoulder injury that kept him out of all but two games. Honorable Mention All-Big Ten in 2022. Banks is a bit of an unknown when because of the lack of experience over that two-year span. That said, he did start as a true freshman in 2019 and looked fantastic in 2022. The movement traits are nearly off the charts and his aggressive play style will be attractive to defensive schemes that want to use a lot of man coverage. His rapid-fire footwork allows him to stay stick and the long speed pairs with acceleration traits to stay on top of pro deep threats. There are not a lot of plays made on his tape and I’m not sold he completely understands what he is doing yet. Banks is a wildcard that could make a case to be the top corner in the draft because of talent and traits, but there are question marks in a few of the mental areas of the grade sheet.

*Banks tore it up at the Combine and this is a position that everyone wants to see traits at, then gamble. Banks’ movement ability shows up on tape, there is no denying his ability to play against NFL speed. The question will be how quickly he adapts mentally. He simply did not play a lot in college and he was not challenged often enough. Like a lot of these other corners in the group, this will be a big swing for the fence and his shortcoming centers around size/length.

Media Q&A with General Manager Joe Schoen and Head Coach Brian Daboll (Video):

Q. On the decision to trade up to pick 24.

JOE SCHOEN: The way it went down and the way the board fell, we were getting depleted.

So it was the right thing to do for us. We do a lot of research on team needs, and what people need behind us, and including the team that we traded with. So that was a scenario we put together early in the day if we got there, and we were worried about anybody else coming up to that position. We had something in place with Jacksonville and it worked out.

Q. As it was unfolding today, maybe until about pick No. 19, it looked like it was playing out well for you. Even if you were looking at receivers, how tense does that start to get once it got to like 20, 21, 22?

JOE SCHOEN: I would say it got pretty tense. We had a lot of irons in the fire, whether it’s moving up, moving back. We had a lot of opportunities to move out of 25 if we would have stayed there.

So trying to manage phone calls with teams in front of us while also keeping track of options if we decided to move back. Then the other option was staying, make the pick at 25.

Q. The TV shot that caught Wink (Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale), looked like he might tackle you. Can you speak to what that was all about?

JOE SCHOEN: You guys know Wink’s defense and what he likes, and Deonte fits that mold “to a T”. He was ecstatic.

Q. What is it about him specifically that attracted you to him?

JOE SCHOEN: He’s a prototype from a size standpoint. He’s athletic. He’s physical. He can run. He ran 4.32 at the Combine. He has arm length, big hands. He’s been a four-year starter. He was hurt a year ago but he has played a lot of ball there at Maryland and schematically, he’s a good fit. And we spent a lot of time with him. Met with him at the Combine. He’s a guy that, you know, we went down to the pro day, and we spent a good amount of time with him, and again we felt comfortable with him.

Q. Are you surprised, you mentioned you were worrying about teams jumping in front of you. Did you think Jacksonville, maybe they could take him?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, if you look a lot of the mocks and just like you guys track the 30 visits, we track the 30 visits, and the reality is, the last four or five teams in a line there, when things looked like they were lining up for us, he visited a lot of those places. So you take a lot of that into account, risk versus reward. Didn’t want to get greedy. Hey, this is a player we like, we covet, don’t get cute. Let’s just take him, and then we’ll move on to day two of the Draft.

Q. When the receivers started, they were done for a long time, and then bang, bang, bang. How much did that affect this pick here?

JOE SCHOEN: You mean that the receivers started to go?

Q. Like four in a row.

JOE SCHOEN: That was part of it. There’s some receivers that were going off the board and some corners, typically there’s a lot of corners that go, and once Gonzalez went, we were wondering what was going to happen next and Forbes went. Getting Banks is a guy that we liked, we spent a lot of time with and we’re ecstatic to get him.

Q. You talk a lot about the traditional value stuff and knowing premium spots. Were you locked into a couple different positions in that spot? Obviously wide receiver and corner. How important was that for you knowing in that spot that you wanted to take a premium pick rather than lean towards a perceived need in another area?

JOE SCHOEN: In an ideal world, that’s how that works out. You know, on the open market these players are getting at their position, and some of the positions continue to ascend up, and some have went the other way. But corner is one that’s going to continue to ascend. You take that into account.

But when you’re picking at 25, we had multiple, multiple positions and it may not be a popular first round position but best player available we were prepared in different situations, scenarios that we went through that we would take one of those players.

Q. You said you met with him at the Combine; what do you remember about the meeting?

JOE SCHOEN: Just personality. He’s a personable individual. Football intellect was good. Very good understanding of their defense. You know, made a good first impression at the Combine, and I’ll give our scouts the credit, you know he was hurt in 2021 and one of our guys was in there in August, and he wasn’t really on our radar because he didn’t play a lot in 2021 and so our scouts were on him early.

So he is somebody that we were able to get out and see and we had several looks throughout the fall, live looks, whether it was at the school, games or at practice. So you know, we had very good coverage on him.

Q. How much last year as the whole season went on did you get a sense that you — cornerback, you had some guys hurt, Adoree’ (Jackson) got hurt a little bit; that that was a position that you had to manufacture things there?

BRIAN DABOLL: You can never have enough good corners. This is a passing league. We have a tough division and Te, he’s a tall, lengthy, press, man-to-man corner who we had graded high, and happy we have him.

Q. Joe, you were talking about how the variables were a lot different than last year and you knew a handful of guys. Was this, like, something you expected he’d be there? Were you surprised? Did you think about moving up sooner when you saw him maybe falling further than your projection?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, we had a group of players that ended up being in the same range. Again, all the mocks, if it’s a player you covet, you naturally think everybody else may, too. So a lot of mock drafts guys are gone and we went through different scenarios, and it played out pretty darn close to some of the scenarios that we went through. We weren’t sure he’d be there, and we also were surprised maybe a couple other place were still available as the Draft went on. Yeah, you try to go through as many of those scenarios as you can, and you know, you make the phone calls with the other general managers throughout the league and you have good dialogue and conversations, where if you get on the clock and there’s an opportunity. Again, I had talked to Trent Baalke down in Jacksonville earlier today and said, ‘hey, I don’t know if there may be a scenario where I’m worried about somebody coming behind us to this position, would you be open to it, these would be the parameters,’ and we stayed in communication throughout the Draft.

Q. Is this guy a cover corner or is he a press guy or what?

BRIAN DABOLL: Yeah, he’s played a lot of press man-to-man. Again, we play a variety of defenses with our system but he’s played a heavy amount of man-to-man coverage and press and he’s strong. He’s got good length. He’s got good quickness, good speed. And now we’ll just throw him in the mix with our guys and good to have him.

Q. The knock that people seem to have on him was the lack of interceptions. What do you guys make of that, if anything?

BRIAN DABOLL: Look, he was around the ball quite a bit. There was a lot of pass breakups. He can match receivers. Again, it’s new for all these young guys coming in, but I think he’s a good player. I’m glad we got him.

Q. Do you think he’s ready to come in and be a year one starter?

BRIAN DABOLL: We got a lot of work to do, so you know, with us, everybody has got to earn their role. Come in, throw him in the mix. Again we think he’s a good player. Obviously we drafted him in the first round, but everybody here has to earn their role and come in there and compete.

Q. Not too long ago in this league it was the idea of rookie corners weren’t able to come in and make that impact unless they were really that elite guy. Did what happened last year in the league with guys coming in like Sauce (Jets CB Sauce Gardner) and some other guys change maybe the way you think corners can transition maybe a little quicker than they have in the past?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, that’s one of the hardest positions in football. You’re moving backwards, away from the ball, trying to cover elite athlete. So it’s one of the most difficult positions, I think, in the NFL.

Like Dab said, everybody is going to come and compete. Nobody is going to be given anything. So he’s going to have to come in and earn his stripes and he’s got a lot to learn in terms of scheme and our defense. So looking forward to getting here and get to go work.

Q. Does trading the picks make you less likely, or your want to of maybe trading up in, like the second or third round, because now you do have a little less draft capital?

JOE SCHOEN: No. I’d still go up. No, it’s not going to effect. We’ll still move. We still have, like, our premium, second, third, fourth. We are in good shape from that standpoint if we want to move around.

Media Q&A with Deonte Banks:

Q. Can you describe what your interactions were like with the Giants leading up to the Draft, when you met with them and what those meetings were like?

DEONTE BANKS: I met with them a bunch of times. They took me out to dinner when I went out for a visit. I met with all the coaches when I was there and I also met with the db coach (Jerome Henderson) a week after that, he came to me, and we went out to eat. We also met in the meeting room.

Q. What’s your confidence level that you can come in and not only be a Week 1 starter, but do something special, maybe like Sauce Gardner did last year?

DEONTE BANKS: It’s really high. I’m just ready to get to work.

Q. What did you think of the Giants coaching staff, the new guys you’ll be working with when you had those dinners?

DEONTE BANKS: I like them. They cool. They have a unique kind of character. I loved them. It was a great meeting.

Q. How did they pitch you on your fit for the Giants?

DEONTE BANKS: When I came out here, it felt like it was my home. I felt like that. Everybody was cool. It just felt like my home. It felt like family.

Q. When you’re watching all the wide receivers go before you, did you think the Giants were going to be the team, baud they had had some interest in wide receivers, too. Did you think it was a good chance it was going to be the Giants?

DEONTE BANKS: I already knew if I made it to 25, it was going to be the Giants. I already knew.

Q. How likely did you think you were going to go before 25 entering today?

DEONTE BANKS: I wasn’t high on it, but I had a chance to.

Q. How would you describe your game and who are some of the guys that you modelled your game after through the years?

DEONTE BANKS: I like Jalen Ramsey and Marshon Lattimore. I love how they play.

Q. And how would you describe your game and what you bring to the table?

DEONTE BANKS: It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be real fun.

Q. Where are you now and who is with you?

DEONTE BANKS: I’m in Baltimore. I’m in a suite with my family.

Q. How familiar are you with Wink Martindale’s defense?

DEONTE BANKS: I’m very familiar, actually. They talk to me when I was down there for the meeting, so I kind of got a feel for that, and I like it. I love it, actually.

Q. Being from Baltimore, did you watch a lot of the Ravens when Wink was the DC down there?

DEONTE BANKS: Yes, I did.

Q. Did you ever meet Wink while you were at Maryland?

DEONTE BANKS: No, sir.

Q. What do you think of the cornerback room now with Adoree’ (Jackson) and what you can do?

DEONTE BANKS: It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough but we’re going to compete.

Q. Do you think your battles last year when you went up against Ohio State against (Marvin) Harrison (Jr.), it seemed like that opened some eyes for people with you coming back from your injury?

DEONTE BANKS: I think it opened a lot. I played really well against it.

Q. What does today mean for you to get drafted, or tonight, I should say?

DEONTE BANKS: I couldn’t even tell you. Like, I don’t know, it means so much to me. I couldn’t even tell you how much it means to me. That’s how much it means to me. I can’t even express how good this feels.

Q. The Giants general manager mentioned that you had that year with injuries, so you weren’t necessarily high on the radar at that point.

DEONTE BANKS: Right.

Q. How much do you feel like this year, you had a lot to prove to the NFL and to prove to these teams that, you know, you were that top prospect?

DEONTE BANKS: I played against Ohio State. It was a good game to watch from a scouting perspective, and it was a real good year for me personally. I played well and I just got hurt. The injury, it shouldn’t be any problem, you know what I’m saying.

Apr 272023
 

New York Giants 2023 NFL Draft Review

Round Pick in Round Overall Selection Player Selected Video
1 24 24 CB Deonte Banks (Video)
2 26 57 OC John Michael Schmitz (Video)
3 10 73 WR Jalin Hyatt (Video)
5 37 172 RB Eric Gray (Video)
6 32 209 CB Tre Hawkins III (Video)
7 26 243 DL Jordon Riley (Video)
7 37 254 S Gervarrius Owens (Video)

2023 Draft Pick Scouting Reports

1st Round – CB Deonte Banks, 6’0”, 197lbs, 4.35, University of Maryland

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Senior entry. Three-year starter but two of those years summed to just five starts combined because of Covid-19 and a shoulder injury that kept him out of all but two games. Honorable Mention All-Big Ten in 2022. Banks is a bit of an unknown when because of the lack of experience over that two-year span. That said, he did start as a true freshman in 2019 and looked fantastic in 2022. The movement traits are nearly off the charts and his aggressive play style will be attractive to defensive schemes that want to use a lot of man coverage. His rapid-fire footwork allows him to stay stick and the long speed pairs with acceleration traits to stay on top of pro deep threats. There are not a lot of plays made on his tape and I’m not sold he completely understands what he is doing yet. Banks is a wildcard that could make a case to be the top corner in the draft because of talent and traits, but there are question marks in a few of the mental areas of the grade sheet.

*Banks tore it up at the Combine and this is a position that everyone wants to see traits at, then gamble. Banks’ movement ability shows up on tape, there is no denying his ability to play against NFL speed. The question will be how quickly he adapts mentally. He simply did not play a lot in college and he was not challenged often enough. Like a lot of these other corners in the group, this will be a big swing for the fence and his shortcoming centers around size/length.

Joe Schoen’s Take: “You guys know Wink’s defense and what he likes, and Deonte fits that mold “to a T”. He was ecstatic… He’s a prototype from a size standpoint. He’s athletic. He’s physical. He can run. He ran 4.32 at the Combine. He has arm length, big hands. He’s been a four-year starter. He was hurt a year ago but he has played a lot of ball there at Maryland and schematically, he’s a good fit. And we spent a lot of time with him. Met with him at the Combine. He’s a guy that, you know, we went down to the pro day, and we spent a good amount of time with him, and again we felt comfortable with him… Getting Banks is a guy that we liked, we spent a lot of time with and we’re ecstatic to get him… He’s a personable individual. Football intellect was good (at the Combine). Very good understanding of their defense. You know, made a good first impression at the Combine, and I’ll give our scouts the credit, you know he was hurt in 2021 and one of our guys was in there in August, and he wasn’t really on our radar because he didn’t play a lot in 2021 and so our scouts were on him early. So he is somebody that we were able to get out and see and we had several looks throughout the fall, live looks, whether it was at the school, games or at practice. So you know, we had very good coverage on him.”

Brian Daboll’s Take: “You can never have enough good corners. This is a passing league. We have a tough division and Te, he’s a tall, lengthy, press, man-to-man corner who we had graded high, and happy we have him… He’s played a lot of press man-to-man. Again, we play a variety of defenses with our system but he’s played a heavy amount of man-to-man coverage and press and he’s strong. He’s got good length. He’s got good quickness, good speed. And now we’ll just throw him in the mix with our guys and good to have him.”

Media Q&A with Deonte Banks: (Full Transcript)


2nd Round – OC John Michael Schmitz, 6’4”, 301lbs, 5.35, University of Minnesota

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Sixth year senior. Four-year starter from Flossmoor, IL. Named All-Big Ten three straight years including a first team honor in 2022. Also named a first team All-American in his final season. Schmitz is the point guard of the offensive line, fully capable of making all the calls and directing traffic. He does all the little things right and it adds up to consistent, reliable play. He excels in the running game with his combination of heavy contact and excellent footwork. While he is not the most natural athlete, he makes up for a lot of the shortcomings with proper angles, spacing, and timing. He has a great feel for when to peel off to the next man and his hands do a lot of damage. The shortcomings as a pass blocker on an island and occasional lapse in body control can cause some concern, but the floor is high for Schmitz. Schmitz has the mental capacity and reliable run blocking to fit into any situation right away and compete for a starting job, but this is a low ceiling, high-floor kind of player.

*Want a plug and play center that will immediately become the mental leader of your line? Schmitz is your guy. Want a high-upside athlete that is going to eventually be one of the top players at the position in the league? Look elsewhere. Schmitz is a classic “is what he is” type prospect. You know what you are getting, you know what you are not. One negative I could see NYG having on him is the fact he never played a position other than center. In addition, the already-24 year-old simply lacks more area to chew up on the progression curve. Will he likely provide the best OC play this team has had since…O’Hara? Probably. The question is about positional value, and everyone has an opinion on that. I like Schmitz, as do many in the league. But he only becomes an option for me in round 3, and I think he is gone by then.

Joe Schoen’s Take: “Schmitz is a great guy… smart, tough, dependable, played a lot of ball. Had a great Senior Bowl. He’s a good player and a great kid.”

Brian Daboll’s Take: “This guy’s tough. He’s smart. He’s got a good frame. Former wrestler. Good leader. We’ll throw him in the mix, let him compete it out with the other guys and see how it ends up.”

Media Q&A with John Michael Schmitz: (Full Transcript)


3rd Round – WR Jalin Hyatt, 6’0”, 176lbs, 4.4, University of Tennessee

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Junior entry. One year starter from Irmo, SC. First Team All American and SEC honors in addition to winning the Biletnikoff Award. Hyatt was one of the country’s breakout performers in 2022, leading the power five conferences with 15 touchdowns. Coming into the year, he had just 502 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He nearly tripled that in his junior season alone. This is the kind of speed that changes how an opposing defense plays. There is a lot of unknown in his game, however. He is inexperienced in contested situations, he rarely lined up outside, and the route running on anything besides vertical-routes needs a lot of refinement. While the speed is next-level and he will immediately become one of the best deep threats in the NFL early in his career, there is a lot that needs to be gained for Hyatt to be considered a formidable number one threat.

*The one prospect in this group that I would label THE swing for the fence is Hyatt. If you can recall my comparison for him, Will Fuller, and what he did for the Houston offense pre-injury (#1 in NFL in yards per target in 2020, #3 in 2018) you may want to consider taking him in the first round. Even though he is such a one-dimensional guy, his ability within that dimension is potentially special. And that dimension is also what every team in the league wants on offense and fears defensively. Credible deep speed that can get over and stay over the top of the defense. Throw in the fact he tracks and catches the ball at a high level and yes, he could easily end up a first rounder. Personally, I struggle with number of boxes that remain unchecked. The route tree, strength against contact, sudden change of direction, yards after contact. There is a lot to unwind here but I would be lying if I said he doesn’t excite me.

Joe Schoen’s Take: “He ran 4-3 and some change, and you could feel his speed on film. That’s legit. Just a player we liked, and we spent some time with, and we thought the value was good for what we had to give up to go get him… He can roll. I was at that Alabama game… You could really feel his speed. It’s legit 4-3.”

Brian Daboll’s Take: “I think he’s a good player. I think he runs some of the routes that we run here. You can see, a little bit like Gabe, how it might translate. But again, everything is new for him. He’s a young guy. We’ll throw him in the mix with the other receivers and let those guys compete it out. A good visit here. Definitely has some qualities that you like when you’re watching him. Good young man. So, happy we have him.”

Media Q&A with Jalin Hyatt: (Full Transcript)


5th Round – Eric Gray, 5’10”, 207lbs, 4.55, University of Oklahoma

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Senior entry. Three-year starter from Memphis, TN. Spent two years at Tennessee before transferring to Oklahoma for his final two seasons. Second team All-Big 12 in 2022. Ended his career with almost double the usage and production of any other season in his career, finishing with the ninth most single-season rushing yards in Oklahoma history. Gray brings a tremendous physical profile and body to the table. He looks like he is manufactured in a running back factory and has the quality tape to back it up. He can fit into any running scheme but will be best suited for action between the tackles. There is where he can truly maximize the plus-burst, balance, and strength. Gray also has proven to carry a pair of elite hands as a receiver. While he may not end up with the best long speed in the group, Gray will create explosive plays with how decisive and violent he can run downhill while always maintaining the ability to abruptly stop and change direction. Gray is an ideally-built, versatile team player that fits into the every-down role at the next level.

*Gray was a favorite of mine when it came to the surface level scouting. He is not a very big guy, but he is huge in the right places. His lower half is put together almost like Saquon. His short limbs work well with the kind of movement we need to see out of running backs. Short, choppy, balanced movements that can get in and out of small spaces in a hurry. When he reaches the open field, he can be caught from behind but do not overlook just how much his burst can create initially. Gray is a guy that, if he hooks up with the right team (SF, PHI, BAL) – he is going to be a 1,000-yard rusher. An overlooked attribute in his game shows up as a receiver. He was targeted a lot (102 times last three years combined) and dropped just two of them, a very good number for anyone let alone a back with power.

Joe Schoen’s Take: “Eric Gray is a guy we liked. He was at the Senior Bowl. Played at Oklahoma and transferred from Tennessee. Super productive. Really good hands out of the backfield. Also has some elusiveness to him inside. Like what he brings. He also has done some returns in his past; he did some at Tennessee, comfortable catching punts at Senior Bowl. So again, he’ll come in and compete with our group. ”

Media Q&A with Eric Gray: (Full Transcript)


6th Round – CB Tre Hawkins III, 6’2”, 188lbs, 4.4, Old Dominion University

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Fifth-year senior from Temple, TX. Spent two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College before transferring to Old Dominion. Had his first season there canceled due to Covid-19. He started two years on the outside and produced across the entire stat sheet. He puts together an impressive blend of tools catapulted by elite vertical speed and burst. Once he diagnoses the route, his reactionary skill are sudden, twitchy, and explosive. He does not hesitate against the run and will attack the ball carriers hands, forcing fumbles (six over his career). Hawkins III lacks the feel in zone coverage and is late to notice underneath routes, but the tools are all there to develop him into a quality backup down the road. Priority free agent.

Joe Schoen’s Take: “Tre Hawkins, we took him late in the sixth. From Old Dominion corner, height, weight, and speed prospect that has high upside. He’s a physical kid, not afraid to tackle. You see a trend with some of these guys that we took at that position. Good developmental prospect for Wink’s defense and projects well to special teams due to his physical traits and toughness.”


7th Round – DL Jordon Riley, 6’5”, 338lbs, 5.31, University of Oregon

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Sixth-year senior from New Bern, NC. One-year starter who arrived at Oregon (his fourth stop) after stints at North Carolina, Nebraska, and Garden City Community College. Riley is a mammoth-sized interior defensive lineman who played his best football in his final year of eligibility. The natural bender shows an accurate punch with quality lockout. The ball location skills need work and he does not have much of a pass rush repertoire. He is overly reliant on the bull rush because of past knee issues, there is not much drive behind it. He is a long term-project who is older than the average prospect and will not offer a lot of versatility. FA/Camp Body

Joe Schoen’s Take: ” Jordon Riley, again, big body guy. It’s hard to find these guys. When you get into the 7th round, you are looking for guys that maybe it will be hard to get at different areas. And another guy we spent time with, big run stopper in there, 6’5, 330. He’ll compete for a depth role there… He’s at Oregon. You walk out to practice and there’s this 6-5, 330-pound guy, who piques your interest right there. Again, some of these guys in different schemes may not have the production, the tackles, the sacks. But for what Wink looks for in terms of size, length, knock back, he possesses those traits.”


7th Round – S Gervarrius Owens, 6’0”, 195lbs, 4.57, University of Houston

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Fifth-year senior. Four-year starter from Moore, OK. Spent three seasons at Houston after transferring from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M where he also started and was a JUCO All-American. Owens was a cornerback for a year before transitioning to safety in 2020. His size and movement traits better with what we see in the middle but there is enough speed and fluidity to occasionally play a corner role here and there. Owens is an explosive, well-built missile from the back end that can really put his foot in the ground and go. His closing speed gets him to where he needs to be in a blink. Owens will flash big play ability, but he also flashes big mistake potential. He sells out on his initial read and will get caught by looks-offs and double routes routinely. The missed tackle rate also strengthens the “all or nothing” feel to his game. If he can channel some of the aggression and improve his ability to finish plays, Owens can be a starting caliber safety. If not, he will be a special teamer and quality backup.

*Similar to a player discussed above, Owens passes the initial test but once you watch a lot of his tape, it is easy to tell there is a lot of guessing in his game. If he can truly process the information and play at his highest rate of speed, he can be a player. Watch out for guys like this coming from a program that does not exactly invest in defensive resources. First exposure to high quality coaching could turn a light on. Owens has that kind of untapped upside. I like him a lot as a day three prospect.

Joe Schoen’s Take: “Gervarrius Owens, another guy we like, a tall, long, athletic safety from the University of Houston, was out at the East-West Game. Another physical kid. Projects well to special teams and also compete for a depth role.”


Rookie Free Agent Scouting Reports

QB Tommy DeVito, 6’2”, 210lbs, 4.64, University of Illinois (Video)
Transfer from Syracuse, where he was benched. DeVito lacks height, but he is a physically tough quarterback. However, pressure can bother him and he needs to play with more consistency.

WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton, 6’3”, 224lbs, 4.38, West Virginia University (Video)
Wheaton combines excellent size, speed, and overall athletic ability. He can can high-point a ball and win contested catches. However, he is a poor route runner and should be more productive than he has been. Inconsistent hands.

TE/FB Ryan Jones, 6’3”, 247lbs, 4.78, East Carolina University
Jones caught 41 passes for 413 yards and five touchdowns in his final collegiate season.

OLB Habakkuk Baldonado, 6’5”, 260lbs, 4.78, University of Pittsburgh (Video)
Baldonado was born in Rome, Italy. He played defensive end in a 4-3 defense in college, but projects to edge in Wink Martindale’s defense. His best season was in 2021, when he had 9.5 sacks. Baldonado has good size and strength and he plays hard. However, he lacks ideal quickness as a pass rusher.

ILB Dyontae Johnson, 6’2’’, 230lbs, 4.76, University of Toledo
Johnson had 109 tackles, eight tackles for losses, three pass defenses, three sacks, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries in his final collegiate season. He is productive and instinctive, but lacks ideal size and speed.

ILB Troy Brown, 6’1”, 220, 4.69, University of Mississippi
Brown lacks ideal size and and strength, but he diagnoses well and has proven to be productive (93 tackles in his final collegiate season).

CB Gemon Green, 6’2”, 186lbs, 4.52, University of Michigan (Video)
Green lacks ideal speed for the position, but he has experience in multiple coverages, including man. Green does not make many plays on the football. He plays a physical game but needs to be more consistent in run support.

S Alex Cook, 6’1’’, 196lbs, 4.68, University of Washington
Cook has average size and lacks ideal speed. He is an aggressive player who is better against the run. He does not make many plays on the football in the passing game. Team captain.

LS Cameron Lyons, 6’0’’, 225lbs, 5.00, University of North Carolina-Charlotte

Apr 262023
 
Bryce Young, Alabama Crimson Tide (November 26, 2022)

Bryce Young – © USA TODAY Sports

QUARTERBACKS

Layout of the Preview:

1) Brief Positional Overview
2) Top 10 Prospects. Includes Grade, NFL Comparison, Summary, Extra Thoughts

*Comparisons are more about physical profile and play style, NOT projection

3) Grades only: 11 – 16

*Grading Scale:

90+: All Pro
85+ Pro Bowl
81-84: 1st Round / Year 1 Contributor / Starter
79-80: 2nd Round / Year 1 Contributor / Year 2 Starter
77-78: 3rd Round / Contribute by end of Year 1 / Year 2 Starter
74-76: Early Day 3 / Special Teams / Future Backup / Possible Starter
71-73: Mid-Day 3 / Special Teams / Future backup / Gamble Starter
68-70: Late Day 3 / Back End of Roster / Practice Squad / Developmental
65-67: Preferred UDFA
60-64: UDFA

4) Positional Approach – Draft Weekend

POSITION OVERVIEW

What a difference a year can make. The new leadership of NYG decision makers declined the fifth-year option on Daniel Jones a year ago. It was not punch to the gut, as Jones was drafted by a previous regime and did not have a lot of success in his early years. What it was, however, was a mark in the sand for Jones to get past. He had to prove it the hard way. Even during training camp when I saw some struggles in person, I was already thinking about the 2023 Draft class and what it was going to offer at quarterback. Well, nine months later he is locked into a long-term contract that currently averages top ten in the league when it comes to per-year spending and guaranteed money at signing. While this does not cross off the position from overall draft needs (backup Tyrod Taylor has just one year left on his deal), Jones is the guy for the foreseeable future.

TOP 10 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1) Bryce Young – Alabama – 5’10/204

Grade: 83

NFL Comparison: Russell Wilson / DEN

Junior entry. Two-year starter from Pasadena, CA. 2021 Heisman Trophy Winner, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, and All-American. Two-time first team All-SEC. Young is an elite innovator that has a special ability to create on his own. He knows when to stay within the scheme, makes the right decision to adjust at the right time, and plays his best football in the most difficult moments. The initial hesitation that stems from his diminutive frame is credible. There are almost no long-time quarterbacks that have sustained success in the league at his size. His two years of tape, however, show countless flashes of high-level playmaking, leadership, and productive play. Young is simply the player you want with his hands on the ball in tight games. His versatility is hard to defend, and his maturity is way beyond his years. Young has proven over and over that his brain, unique skill set, and leadership traits can overcome the issues that could come from a lack of sheer size in more ways than one and is fully capable of being the face of a franchise under center.

*Man, what a long process this was. Young has been the quarterback I have spent the most time on since I started scouting professionally. The voice inside my head kept saying “No”. You can’t have a guy this small playing quarterback, you just can’t. But the film says otherwise, the QB coaches I speak with say otherwise, and big moments say otherwise. In a very bizarre quarterback class to say the least, Young is the guy I want with the ball in his hands at the end of the game if my life was reliant on his result. I trust his decision making, I trust his arm talent, I trust his innovation. Young will be fighting an uphill battle his entire career and every time a Dexter Lawrence fall on top of him, I am going to shut my eyes and hold my breath. Every, single, time. He does finish as my QB1 – but man this would be a hard card to hand in if my job relied on it.

2) CJ Stroud – Ohio State – 6’3/214

Grade: 82

NFL Comparison: Derek Carr / NO

Third-year sophomore entry. Two-year starter from Inland Empire, CA. Two-time first team All-Big Ten, two-time All-American, two-time Heisman finalist, and two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Stroud finished first and second respectively in the country in passing efficiency in 2021 and 2022. Ohio State went 21-4 in his starts. He is atop the single game passing records in the historic Rose Bowl. Keep discussing Stroud and you will run out of breath talking about how many things he accomplished in the two years after Justin Fields left for the NFL. Stroud is simply next in line from the program’s productive list of passers to make their way into the NFL. The production is off the charts. He won a lot of games. The question will be how much of these results derived from the system and elite talent at receiver and how much of it came from Stroud? The tools and intangibles pass all the tests and Stroud can make a strong case to be considered the best pure passer Ohio State has ever produced. Stroud is coming from a program that can cause at least some hesitation when it comes to projecting his college success to the NFL, but his ascent and performance on the toughest stages of his career combined with his outstanding arm talent are worth taking a chance on to be a credible, big-time NFL quarterback.

*What gave Stroud a fighting chance to finish as my QB1 was the arm talent. Simply put, I believe his ability to throw the ball is better than everyone in the class. Not just power, not just accuracy, not just touch – but the sum of them all. Stroud is smooth, he is confident, and he got better in big moments when comparing 2021 to 2022. Does the recent history of OSU quarterbacks strike some fear into you? I would not look down on anyone that felt that way. It isn’t just the system – but the receivers and O-Line. You would have a hard time finding a better combination of talent AND a bigger gap between his team and weekly opponents than what Stroud had at his disposal. If he did not elevate his game the way he did in 2022 in big moments – I may have kept him out of round 1.

3) Anthony Richardson – Florida – 6’4/244

Grade: 80

NFL Comparison: Cam Newton / FA

Junior entry. One year starter from Gainesville, FL. A career that started off in the Covid season and the decision to play Emory Jones in front of him in 2021, Richardson had to oddly wait until 2022 to get the full-time starting job for the Gators. It was his lone full season atop the depth chart, thus he enters the league with 13 starts under his belt. When looking at the combination of elite tools that he has put into motion on multiple occasions, it is hard to see just how high the ceiling is from where he currently stands. He has the body of a tight end, the speed of a receiver, and the contact balance of a running back. He complements that with top-shelf arm strength and a lightning-quick release that produces a tight spiral throw after throw. Richardson’s inconsistent ball placement and footwork are fixable indeed, but the near-blank canvas will present a lot of risk. There is a lot of unknown simply because he did not get on the field enough in college and the track record for quarterbacks in this situation is not a good one. The tools are the best in the class at the position and an offense that can build the scheme around him with patience is the most ideal route for him to trek on. Richardson brings to the table but the contrast between his good and bad combined with a lack of experience makes him a tremendous boom or bust prospect.

*What is your detailed plan for him? That is the first question I am asking the Head Coach / Offensive Coordinator prior to drafting him. Baltimore set the template with how they handled Lamar Jackson and the fact they constructed an offense for and around him. The amount of starts he had scares me the most. Sure, the inconsistent ball placement/accuracy woes are frustrating. The turnovers are too many. The adjustment to the NFL will take him some extra time. But since 2010, here is the list of guys that started under 18 games in college: Cam Newton, Mitch Trubisky, Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Trey Lance, Mac Jones. I don’t love the idea of taking him round one but there are generational traits here. I see a lot of Newton by the way. Newton without the weird personality could have been special.

4) Will Levis – Kentucky – 6’4/229

Grade: 80

Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Madison, CT. Began his career at Penn State where he redshirted and started two games, backing up Sean Clifford. Levis, a two-time team captain, played under two NFL offensive coaches. His 2021 coordinator was Liam Coen, who previously coached quarterbacks for the Rams. His 2022 coordinator Rich Scangarello, who previously coached quarterbacks for the Niners. That exposure will give him a slight head start into pro-caliber scheming, game planning, and overall demands. Levis has the prototype profile for today’s quarterback. He is a big, strong, and physical kid that could fit in with the linebackers. His muscle mass if functional. He has a cannon for arm and his base is incredibly thick and strong. The two-time team captain was a brilliant student, one that graduated undergrad in three years and then obtained his masters over the course of his two years at Kentucky. He is a tough kid with intelligence and good leadership traits. All the talent and tools are there but the consistency was not. Levis had such a roller coaster tenure with Kentucky, and he did not win the starting job at Penn State. At some point, the tools need to evolve into dependable play that can be relied upon week to week. He never quite got there. Levis will come into the league with top ten talent for the position, but it will take a quality coach and system to bring him along slowly but surely if they want him to play at a dependable level of consistency.

*Levis was the guy I projected to be number one heading into the 2022 season. A foot injury and poor supporting cast hurt his case in a big way. But we can’t pretend the issues started and ended there. Levis did not play well, he did not make those around him better. He did not elevate his game in big moments. It is hard to ignore the fact he looks, moves, throws like a prototype. The fact he played under two separate NFL offensive minds is a positive. When all is said and done, Levis just has the feel of a first-round pick. What ends up happening with him is a mystery and I have asked myself if I needed a QB in the top 10, do I take him? After a long time scouting his tape, I am a no.

5) Hendon Hooker – Tennessee – 6’3/217

Grade: 79

NFL Comparison: Joshua Dobbs / CLE

Sixth year senior. Four-year starter from Greensboro, NC. Spent four seasons at Virginia Tech and two at Tennessee. 2022 SEC Offensive Player of the Year and Third Team All-American. Hooker took over the starting job for Tennessee a couple weeks into the 2021 season and changed the trajectory of the program. A year later, he took home the SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award and nearly led them to the College Football Playoffs. Playing under the Air Raid scheme, Hooker proved he can drop the ball in a bucket downfield, create with his legs, and play a tough brand of football. A torn ACL late in the year and the fact he is already 25 years old can cause some hesitation when looking at the long-term projection. This is a top-shelf young man with talent and proven success at the highest level of college football. At the very least, he is a great addition to the quarterback room with the upside of a solid starter. Hooker is a mature, battle-tested leader with an equal distribution of talent from his arm and legs with that will be a great addition to a quarterback room with quality starter-upside.

*I like the intangibles of Hooker enough to consider him in round one. The knee and age (combined) are enough to bump him down a notch. He will be 26 when he sees his first NFL action. That is approaching Brandon Weeden territory. But even if you don’t see a starter – he will be important for a team. Remember, one can make an argument the backup QB is more important than some of the starting spots in today’s NFL. He is tough, he is a leader, he is smart. I think someone is going to trade up for him toward the end of round one to let him compete for a job in 2024.

6) Jake Haener – Fresno State – 6’0/207

Grade: 76

NFL Comparison: Taylor Heinicke / ATL

Fifth year senior. Three-year starter from Danville, CA. Spent one season at Washington before transferring to Fresno State in 2019. Three-time All Mountain West including the first team honor in 2022 despite missing four weeks due to injury. Haener falls below the ideal measurables for the position. He barely stands at six feet and further lessens the reach and radius with below average arm length and wingspan. He is going to fight an uphill battle off the snap his entire career. Beyond that, however, this is a tough gamer that can stand figuratively tall and brave in the face of pressure. The lightning-fast release and ability to put some extra RPM’s on the ball from his torque can make up for some of the physical shortcomings. He scored 81 touchdowns and threw just 18 interceptions over his career. The constant ascent in his game is a positive sign of what is to come at the next level. Haener will be a smart and usable presence in the quarterback room even if he does earn a starting job. He brings a noticeable level of energy and leadership to the offense that can hold the ship together if the starter goes down. Do not sleep on his potential to evolve into a quality starter as well. Haener projects as a backup at the next level but there is a sense of intrigue around the combination of talent and intangibles that are worth considering as a starter down the road if the system is friendly to his skill set.

*In a class where the likely #1 overall pick is being heavily scrutinized for a lack of size, not enough is made about Haener and his diminutive frame. I know it is at least somewhat different because Haener is being projected for backup duty, but it still needs to be discussed. His wingspan is smaller than Young’s. His playing weight was under 200 pounds. He tied for the smallest hands among quarterbacks at the combine. I do not want to beat him down further, but these are things that need to be considered if you are at all concerned by the Bryce Young size; it would not make sense otherwise. Anyway, I like the style in which Haener plays with and it reminds me so much of Heinicke. It was one of my favorite comparisons in the class, I saw it instantly.

7) Dorian Thompson-Robinson – UCLA – 6’1/203

Grade: 75

NFL Comparison: Tyrod Taylor / NYG

Fifth year senior. Four-year starter from Las Vegas, NV. Three-time All-Pac 12 honoree. Thompson-Robinson turned his back to the NFL after a strong 2021 season where he led the conference in several passing metrics, including total touchdowns and yards per game. He left his mark on the UCLA program, leaving as the all-time leader in total offense, passing yards, completions, and touchdowns. Over the course of 48 career starts, Thompson-Robinson scored 116 times. This is a dynamic and versatile threat that plays the game with unshakeable passion and toughness. There is a competitive juice to his game that very few can match and if channeled correctly, it can elevate his game. He fits in well with what the league wants out of its quarterbacks. There will be plenty to work on both as a passer and reader of the defense, but the traits are worth a day three gamble. Thompson-Robinson is an athletic, high-powered thrower that can make all the plays both as a runner and passer if he stays on a disciplined path.

*I am higher on DTR than the market and I will tell why. This is not algorithm-based, this is not based on analytics. It is a feeling. NYG would be smart to maintain an athletic presence behind Jones on the depth chart. The QB-running is a big part of the scheme and success. Let’s stay away from a Mike Glennon or Jake Fromm type, even if they look good throwing the ball. They need a competitive gamer behind Jones. Someone that is standing on the sideline, foaming at the mouth waiting to get his shot. They need a good teammate, one that will do things away from the field and on his own to make the team better. And lastly, they need someone that can bring energy to the field should Jones go down. DTR checks all those boxes at adamantly. Again, not the biggest guy, but I am OK with it. The league is shifting toward this kind of quarterback, and I think there are elements to DTR many overlook. I would invest an early day three pick in him even if it meant keeping three quarterbacks on the 53 all year.

8) Clayton Tune – Houston – 6’3/220

Grade: 72

NFL Comparison: Tom Savage / RET

Fifth year senior. Four-year starter from Carrollton, TX. First Team All-AAC in 2022. The three-time team captain set a conference record with 40 touchdowns in his final go-round. He finished his career top five in school history across multiple key categories, including wins. Tune is a sizeable framed, well put together, classic pocket passer that can drop dimes down the field. He has a knack for putting the ball in a bucket on vertical routes with the pocket awareness plus maneuverability to stay alive under pressure. He is not a great athlete and there are a few shortcomings on the move, but if he can be protected just long enough, he has the skill set to move the ball and score points. Tune has the experience and has shown the ability to lead his team to a pile of wins. How smoothly he can morph into an NFL-style offense will dictate a lot when it comes to his trajectory and ceiling. Tune projects to the backup tier of quarterbacks at the next level but there is a wide spectrum of outcomes when transitioning from a Dana Holgorsen scheme to the NFL.

*The classic drop back, downfield thrower has some of the best sustained production in the class. He also threw 10 interceptions each of the past three seasons. He also comes from an offensive scheme that has struggled to produce NFL talent. Tune has his fans, some that think he is the #6 guy in this class. I don’t see anything special, although the arm talent is real, and he is a big, thick kid. The pre-draft meetings for him will be very important when it comes to how well he does on the whiteboard and with interactions between coaches.

9) Jaren Hall – BYU – 6’0/207

Grade: 71

NFL Comparison: Sam Howell / WAS

Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Spanish Fork, UT. Will turn 25 years old before the draft. He is married and has a daughter. Hall comes from an athletic family, as his brothers and parents have played different sports for BYU. Hall himself was a two-sport athlete in college, also playing Baseball for the Cougars for two seasons. He missed 2020 with an injury, the final year Zach Wilson was the starter. Since then, he has scored 54 touchdowns, thrown just 11 interceptions, and went 18-8 as the starter. His arm talent jumps off the screen and he is an excellent scrambler. Hall does some of his best passing work on the move. There are multiple issues with his footwork, and he has multiple shortcomings when it comes to size. The NFL will have to weigh the risk / reward of his consistent glitches found on tape with his plus-talent as both a thrower and runner. Hall’s maturity and intangibles will be a welcomed addition to any quarterback room. Hall makes several NFL-caliber throws look routine and there is a mature competitive mindset here that can maximize his talent. He projects to a backup role but there is something in him that can evolve into much more.

*Similar to the comment about Haener and his lack of size, Hall is in the same discussion. His wingspan is even smaller than Haener (almost 2 inches smaller than Bryce Young). Hall has more thickness to him, however. When I see the best of Hall, there is some Zach Wilson arm talent in him. Very snappy thrower that can change up the angles with ease. He is an underrated athlete, too. Hall can make a strong case for himself but the adjustment to the NFL scheme will be tough (Wilson’s lack of success does not help him) but this is a mature kid that will do the work. I like him as a backup prospect to look at day three if that is a goal of this front office.

10) Aidan O’Connell – Purdue – 6’3/213

Grade: 71

NFL Comparison: Ryan Finley / RET

Sixth year senior from Long Grove, IL. Two-year starter full time, but also started three games in both 2019 and 2020 respectively. Two-time All Big Ten. After beginning his career as a walk on, O’Connell had to scratch and claw his way to the top of the depth chart. He finally got ahold of the starting job during 2021 season and took off. He went over 500 yards twice that year, a first in program history. He also set school records in completion percentage and passing efficiency. The production was paired with turnovers (24 interceptions over his last two years) and a lack of impact in the running game. He is a pure pocket passer that excels at getting the ball out quickly but there are times he doesn’t seem to know what he is throwing into. With a player this old and experienced and one that lacks plus-athleticism, O’Connell simply needed to be better by this point. He projects to a backup role, and nothing more. O’Connell can be a valuable intangible-based asset to a quarterback room, but the below average anticipation and talent put a severe cap on his potential.

*I have been told a couple times by people I trust to re-consider my grade here, that he needs to be higher. I did go back and look at everything – my opinion remained unchanged. O’Connell is an awkward mover in multiple ways. He moves away from pressure like he has cinderblocks tied to his cleats. The throwing motion is inconsistent. Now, if you are looking for intangibles out of your backup more so than talent, I can see it. He will be a nice addition to a QB room, he can be an extra coach. That may even be his future in the league like Kellen Moore.

11 – 16

11) Tanner McKee – Stanford – 6’6/231: 71
12) Stetson Bennett – Georgia – 5’11/192: 70
13) Tyson Bagent – Shepherd – 6’3/213: 70
14) Chase Brice – Appalachian State – 6’2/236: 69
15) Max Duggan – TCU – 6’1/207: 69
16) Adrian Martinez – Kansas State – 6’2/221: 68

NYG APPROACH

There is still a high demand for quarterbacks in the league. I’m not sure everyone understands how big that demand is (it was a key reason why Jones got the contract he did). Add in the fact there are at least two 2024 quarterbacks who are going to grade out higher than everyone in this class (and last class too), the unpredictability of this market is wild right now, maybe an all-time high. I could see four quarterbacks going in the top ten (a first-time ever). I could see just two quarterbacks going in all of round one. Simply put, NYG is fortunate not to be caught up in the mess of trying to find their next franchise guy right now considering where they are picking. Nobody will criticize or feel uneasy if they ignore the position altogether, either. They have a solid backup in Taylor and what they need behind Jones can be found rather easily year-to-year. With that said, if they see a real QB value, the position could be a strong consideration to use a day-three asset on a player. Locking in a backup for below-market value pricing for three to four years can allow more spending elsewhere. The one stipulation would be the fact they would have to use a 53-man roster spot on a third quarterback. When injuries pile up elsewhere on the roster, that can be prohibitive. Drafting a quarterback would be much more about 2024, 2025, and 2026 than it would be about 2023. That is the consideration and then you have to also love the player. Interesting situation to follow here.

Apr 242023
 
A'Shawn Robinson, Los Angeles Rams (December 13, 2021)

A’Shawn Robinson – © USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants have signed unrestricted free agent defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson (Los Angeles Rams). The deal is reportedly a 1-year, $4 million contract that could reach $8 million with incentives.

The 28-year old, 6’4”, 330-pound Robinson was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. After spending four seasons with the Lions, Robinson signed a free agent contract with the Rams in 2020. In seven NFL seasons, Robinson has played in 93 regular-season games with 61 starts, accruing 293 tackles, seven sacks, 17 pass defenses, one interception, five forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. He started all 10 games he played in for the Rams in 2022 before missing the rest of the season with a torn meniscus in his knee. Robinson is a good run defender.

For a listing of the team’s free agents, see the New York Giants 2023 Free Agency Scorecard.

Apr 242023
 
Bijan Robinson, Texas Longhorns (October 2, 2022)

Bijan Robinson – © USA TODAY Sports

RUNNING BACKS

Layout of the Preview:

1) Brief Positional Overview
2) Top 15 Prospects. Includes Grade, NFL Comparison, Summary, Extra Thoughts

*Comparisons are more about physical profile and play style, NOT projection

3) Grades only: 16 – 31

*Grading Scale:

90+: All Pro
85+ Pro Bowl
81-84: 1st Round / Year 1 Contributor / Starter
79-80: 2nd Round / Year 1 Contributor / Year 2 Starter
77-78: 3rd Round / Contribute by end of Year 1 / Year 2 Starter
74-76: Early Day 3 / Special Teams / Future Backup / Possible Starter
71-73: Mid-Day 3 / Special Teams / Future backup / Gamble Starter
68-70: Late Day 3 / Back End of Roster / Practice Squad / Developmental
65-67: Preferred UDFA
60-64: UDFA

4) Positional Approach – Draft Weekend

POSITION OVERVIEW

Saquon Barkley was the #2 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. A much-debated pick because the value of running backs in relation to the economics of production that lead to wins and the usage of salary cap allocation, Barkley played out the five years of his rookie deal. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year and finished as a Pro Bowler. The next three seasons saw 21 missed games and just eight rushing touchdowns. Under his fifth-year option in 2022, Barkley bounced back, playing in 16 games and making his second Pro Bowl. This led to the franchise tag, as the NYG front office has not fully committed to his long term future with the organization. Matt Breida was re-signed to back him up along with the ascending Gary Brightwell. Only Brightwell and the 2022 undrafted free agent, Jashaun Corbin, are under contract beyond 2023. While the group looks strong on paper, the future is very unknown.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1) Bijan Robinson – Texas – 5’11/215

Grade: 88
NFL Comparison: Dalvin Cook / MIN

Junior entry. Three-year starter from Tucson, AZ. 2022 Doak Walker Award winner and unanimous All-American. Two-time first team All-Big 12. Robinson is the factory-made prototype for any offense, any era. His skill set will present weapons for the running and passing games respectively right away. The combination of elusiveness and contact balance makes him a tough ball carrier to get on the ground but then he adds the finishing touch of elite runaway speed and short area quickness to create and lengthen separation from defenders. He has wide receiver-caliber hands, understands how to protect himself, and shows the knack for the big play in big moments. Robinson is a day one starter in any scheme with the ceiling of quickly being one of the top backs in the league. Robinson is an elite playmaker that left the Texas program as one of most productive backs in school history and has every tool in the box to be a superstar at the next level.

*Not much needs to be discussed here. Robinson is one of the best running back prospects I have ever scouted. I still think he is going top 10, but many think he will not. It will be interesting and fun to see what happens because this is not a traditional running back with traditional value. Robinson could grade out as a day two wide receiver if he wanted to. What sets him apart is the ability to break tackles and gain yards after contact. That is the number one trait I look for and he is the best to ever do it. There are a few holes in his game, and he is the typical new age guy that wants every play to be a highlight. If he can do some of the dirty work and always fall forward, he will be a better player. If NYG had a shot at him at #25? I’ll plead the fifth. “Trade down”.

2) Jahmyr Gibbs – Alabama – 5’9/199

Grade: 83

NFL Comparison: James Cook / BUF

Junior entry. Two-year starter from Dalton, GA. Spent two seasons at Georgia Tech where he earned first team All ACC and second team All American honors as an all-purpose player in 2021 before moving on to Alabama, where he earned second team all SEC in 2022. Gibbs chose to take a step up in competition, both in-house and with his opponents. He responded with a career year, leading the Crimson Tide (by over 2x) with 132.3 all-purpose yards per game, second in the conference. He can wear multiple hats on offense and special teams, as the only objective here is to simply get the ball in his hands. Gibbs has such fluid movement patterns below the waist in all directions. It looks like he is on ice skates with how easily he can change direction and explode. He has home-run speed, receiver-caliber hands, and a good feel for where the creases will appear. This is an ideal skill set for today’s pro running back. Gibbs will be an immediate asset to any passing game and has shown the elite movement traits both in crowded areas and in the open field to create explosive plays weekly.

*Gibbs is one of the fastest 12 running backs to run at the combine since 2000. The other names on that list are exciting including the likes of Isiah Pacheco, DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews, Jahvid Best, CJ Spiller, Chris Johnson, Reggie Bush…etc. The smaller guys on that list? They all had durability issues. Even though he was a pretty durable back in college, he’s never had more than 200 touches. Gibbs is a weapon for any offense and if I think he is deserving of a first round slot. Just know he can’t be the guy that gives you 20 touches a game. But his hands, routes, and movement traits are exactly what defensive coaches hate to deal with. Gibbs may see a fall because of positional value and if someone does get him round 2, it will be one of the top values of Friday night.

3) Zach Charbonnet – UCLA – 6’0/214

Grade: 80

Grade: Adrian Peterson / RET

Senior entry. Started games in both years he spent at Michigan before transferring to UCLA in 2021 where he also started for two years. Two-time All-Pac 12, first team in 2022. Charbonnet hit a bump in the road after a strong freshman season in Ann Arbor, where he earned third team All-Big Ten honors. His playing time diminished the next season and it led to the transfer. He was then able to put his full ability on display week to week, getting just under 500 carries over his two seasons under Chip Kelly. Charbonnet’s body and body of work scream NFL. He has well-distributed muscle mass with tremendous thickness around his hips and calves. That size along with precise footwork and forward lean breaks a lot of tackles. He has the look of a guy that can handle a full dosage of carries in addition to providing excellent hands in the passing game and upper tier blocking. He does it all. This is an ideal fit for a starting job in a gap-heavy scheme. Charbonnet is everything a starting caliber back needs to be when looking at the well-balanced skill set, body, and mentality.

*Rewind 15 years ago and I strongly believe Charbonnet is a first-round pick. I think he played closer to 225 pounds by the way but likely shed some weight for the sake of his workout. Just above I wrote that Gibbs may be the ideal fit for today’s running back. While Charbonnet may be a decade too late to be considered a top-notch prospect, there is still a place for a guy like this. 566 carries, 2 fumbles. Targeted 90 times, just 5 drops as a receiver. His footwork is so precise and the way he breaks through cheap contact and will constantly “fall forward” leads me to believe he can be the leading ball carrier on a team right away. This is as pro-ready as possible no matter what role you need a back to do. Will also be one of the top pass blockers at the position in the league right away.

4) Tank Bigsby – Auburn – 6’0/210

Grade: 78

NFL Comparison: Isaiah Crowell / RET

Junior entry from LaGrange, GA. 2020 SEC Freshman of the Year and second team all-conference. Bigsby exploded on to the scene right away with 834 yards, second most in program history by a true freshman. Even though the team around him went backwards, especially up front on the offensive line, Bigsby continued to evolve and make plays. He has explosive movement traits on a well-sized frame that can break through cheap tackle attempts and get away from defenders in space. When things are timed well, Bigsby can break off big plays as both a rusher and receiver. He is a high-upside player that brings some extra unknown because of the lack of talent he played with over his career. Bigsby has enough potential to be labeled a dynamic threat at the next level but there are concerns about his vision, ball security, and consistency of effort.

*Ball security and overall impact as a receiver. Those are the two red flags that bumped him down a few notches. Beyond that, I am a high on Bigsby. It took me some time to finally get to him but after doing the deep dive, I see the vision and aggressive run-style that can make big difference at the next level. Bigsby will be line-dependent more than most backs. He is not overly explosive or shifty when it comes to reactions. He simply just gets the ball and runs to his point as fast as he can. Fun kid to watch with big upside if he cleans up his issues. Quietly left Auburn as one of best backs from a program with a storied tradition at the position.

5) Kendre Miller – TCU – 5’11/215

Grade: 78

NFL Comparison: Alvin Kamara / NO

Junior entry. One-year starter from Mount Enterprise, TX. First team All-Big 12 honors in 2022. His third year with the program was the first and only time Miller was the team’s top used back. He responded with the fifth most single season rushing yards in program history. Miller has the NFL body and run style to adjust smoothly into the NFL. He carries most of his weight above the waist, promoting his sudden quickness and ability to play shifty in traffic. He is a physical player that welcomes violence and knows how to stay centered against it. Miller gains plenty of yards after contact and shows the gear to get away in space. He is an every-down back that will favor a physical downhill attack preferably with zone tendencies. Miller brings a well-balanced skill set to the table and was a consistent force after contact throughout his entire career, a trait that translates well to the NFL.

*The Kamara comparison is more about measurables and running style. Miller’s contact balance and vision are special and that is a big reason why Kamara has had success. The other half of Kamara’s game that is elite shows up in the passing game. I’m not sure I see that with Miller. Just as a pure runner, Miller is one of my favorite backs in the class. He will not be a big play guy, but he is going to annoy the heck out of defenses. Broken tackles, excellent vision, and yards after contact. This is a guy that presents starter-value possibly in round four, which is where I project him to go.

6) Zach Evans – Mississippi – 5’11/202

Grade: 77

NFL Comparison: Chuba Hubbard / CAR

Junior entry. Spent two seasons at TCU where he started games both years. Transferred to Mississippi for 2022 where he was also split starting duties. Evans is a complete package back with the prototype combination of speed and size to immediately contribute in the NFL. He has elite movement traits across the board that look loose and flexible, but twitchy and explosive. He is a home-run hitter (6.9 yards per carry over career) with the right mentality. While his greatest attributes are movement-based, Evans shows plenty of toughness and grit. He opted to challenge his skill set in the SEC by transferring, showing the inherent competitive mindset. He only improved his stock with how he played against the country’s top week to week talent. Evans flashed superstar potential but needs to clean up specific components to his skill set before being relied upon as a top back. Evans was never the focal point of a running game, but it could work in his favor. He comes into the league with plenty of tread left on the tires in addition to his combination of size and speed complementing his running style well.

*Evans is a little shaky when it comes to character and maturity. There will need to be some extra digging into off-field habits. On the field, I sometimes use the work “unique” and “stand-out”. Evans averaged 7 yards per carry with just under 300 carries in his career. That really is an amazing number. The 3 fumbles in 2022 bothered me a bit and there are some holes when it comes to vision. But when it comes to pure running, acceleration, and upside, Evans is one of the top three in this class.

7) Tyjae Spears – Tulane – 5’10/201

Grade: 77

NFL Comparison: Shane Vereen / RET

Fourth year junior entry. First team All-AAC in 2022 and won the Conference’s Player of the Year award, the first time a non-quarterback has taken home the hardware. Spears missed most of the 2020 season with a torn ACL and then bounced back with just under 2,500 yards on just 360 carries (6.8 avg) in two years. This is a big play back with elite burst, balance, and runaway speed. The size and bendiness make him a weapon after contact, and he was among the nation’s leaders in explosive runs. Spears is an ideal complement to a power back that can fit into any scheme that will excel in space, but will not be big enough to carry an every down load. Spears will be a good secondary threat in the backfield, one that specializes in explosive plays in space.

*Spears is a kid I boosted up quite a bit later in the process. The combination of his Senior Bowl and bowl game against USC is not a huge sample size, but there were a lot of “wow” moments. I love this kid’s running style. He is aggressively patient, tough, and wants every inch. He has a lot of dog in him. Can he hold up at that size with this style? That will be the question. A kid that tore his ACL in 2020 came back and produced just under 7 yards per carry over the following two season, Spears simply has the natural traits that will show up when opportunities are there. Get him a #2 job and be ready to hear his name called.

8) Deuce Vaughn – Kansas State – 5’5/179

Grade: 76

NFL Comparison: Tarik Cohen / CHI

Junior entry. Two-year starter from Round Rock, TX. Three time All Big 12 and two-time first team All American as an all-purpose player. The 2020 Big 12 Freshman of the Year is the son of Cowboys Assistant Director of College Scouting, Chris Vaughn. Deuce exploded on to the scene right away as a true freshman and never looked back. He ranked sixth in the country in all-purpose yards in both 2021 and 2022 respectively. While his frame is nearly off the charts in the wrong direction, Vaughn is one of the few that can play running back in the NFL at the diminutive size. He is hard to find in traffic and moves with tremendous agility, burst, and long speed. His greatest impact will likely come as a pass catcher, but do not sleep on what he can do as a rusher. Vaughn will need a specific role and scheme to be most effective, but the unique skill set and impact on the passing game will be viewed as a hard-to-defend weapon in the passing game especially.

*I bet grades on this kid will be all over the place. But if you remember what the Patriots did with Dion Lewis and James White or the Eagles did with Darren Sproles and Brian Westbrook, that is where I envision Vaughn. He is not the number one of number two back, he simply has his own position. A scat-back that will destroy linebackers in the passing game. He carried the ball 293 times in 2022, 235 times in 2021. In a 17-game season, I would not expect him to see even half that load. But what he can do in the passing game can be such a big-time asset. I am saying it right now – if NYG can get him day three I will be all over it.

9) Roschon Johnson – Texas – 6’0/219

Grade: 76

NFL Comparison: Chris Carson / SEA

Senior entry from Port Neches, TX. Started games each of his last three seasons but was never considered the number one back. Earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2022. Was a dual threat quarterback recruit out of high school. Moved to running back because of injuries at Texas and never looked back. Johnson is a football player above all else. He can make things happen as a runner, receiver, blocker, and a tackler on special teams. He shows all-out effort all the time. He packed on weight after making the transition to the backfield and special teams but was able to maintain his plus-speed. Paired with the aggression and power, Johnson makes his presence felt weekly. He is not the most graceful runner with the ball and his style highly favors gap over zone schemes. But if a team gets him on the back end of a depth chart and finds ways to use the skill set and mentality, Johnson is going to create the hidden elements that win games. Johnson is the ideal teammate and 48th gameday player that will wear several hats, and wear them dependably.

*When a program has an absolute star at a position from the beginning of his career, always give the backup an extra look. That is principle of mine every cycle. Bijan has been a star at Texas from day one. Add in the fact Johnson was a quarterback until 2019 (and in high school), one can only wonder just how early on the progression curve he is. Johnson lacks polish and feel as a runner, but this dude can pick up yards in an NFL offense. His value as a top-notch cover man on special teams and the fact he is incredibly smart/coachable will get him extra looks draft weekend. This is a high-floor player with the mindset everyone wants in the locker room.

10) Eric Gray – Oklahoma – 5’10/207

Grade: 76

NFL Comparison: Mark Ingram / NO

Senior entry. Three-year starter from Memphis, TN. Spent two years at Tennessee before transferring to Oklahoma for his final two seasons. Second team All-Big 12 in 2022. Ended his career with almost double the usage and production of any other season in his career, finishing with the ninth most single-season rushing yards in Oklahoma history. Gray brings a tremendous physical profile and body to the table. He looks like he is manufactured in a running back factory and has the quality tape to back it up. He can fit into any running scheme but will be best suited for action between the tackles. There is where he can truly maximize the plus-burst, balance, and strength. Gray also has proven to carry a pair of elite hands as a receiver. While he may not end up with the best long speed in the group, Gray will create explosive plays with how decisive and violent he can run downhill while always maintaining the ability to abruptly stop and change direction. Gray is an ideally-built, versatile team player that fits into the every-down role at the next level.

*Gray was a favorite of mine when it came to the surface level scouting. He is not a very big guy, but he is huge in the right places. His lower half is put together almost like Saquon. His short limbs work well with the kind of movement we need to see out of running backs. Short, choppy, balanced movements that can get in and out of small spaces in a hurry. When he reaches the open field, he can be caught from behind but do not overlook just how much his burst can create initially. Gray is a guy that, if he hooks up with the right team (SF, PHI, BAL) – he is going to be a 1,000-yard rusher. An overlooked attribute in his game shows up as a receiver. He was targeted a lot (102 times last three years combined) and dropped just two of them, a very good number for anyone let alone a back with power.

11) Devon Achane – Texas A&M – 5’8/188

Grade: 76

NFL Comparison: Trenton Cannon / TEN

Junior entry. One-year starter from Missouri City, TX. Earned first team All-SEC honors in 2022. Also a member of the Texas A&M track and field team, running short distance races and posting some of the fastest times in school history. Achane is near the Olympic level when it comes to speed, and it shows up on film. The easy burst and next gear are always enough to outrun angles. He is not a player that will be caught from behind. His play style fights the stereotype of track athletes that put the pads on. He is tough and hard-nosed. He puts his shoulder down into a pile of tacklers. And he succeeds between the tackles. Achane is an elite, explosive athlete that can show up in the passing game, obviously in the running game, and on special teams. While there are a few physical restrictions that come with a frame this size, the right usage is going to inject explosive plays into the offense and points on to the scoreboard. Achane’s game is built on speed and burst that can be used in more ways than one but should not be the feature back early in his career.

*The speed is Chris Johnson-caliber. The kind of speed that can change an offense in a hurry. But how many backs were drafted and sustained a 5+ year career at running back that weighed in under 190 pounds at the combine since 2000? Besides the 5’6” Darren Sproles? Zero. You need to consider that when deciding whether to draft him. Is the idea of him realistic? It is fun, but what are the odds he can hold up? Of course, he can put some weight on and I am sure he will, but most backs do. And how much does that eat into his movement traits? And it’s not like his shuttle/3-cone times are great. Achane is worth a gamble at some point, I agree. Day three is the only time I think about it.

12) Israel Abanikanda – Pittsburgh – 5’10/216

Grade: 75

NFL Comparison: Jay Ajayi / RET

Junior entry. Two-year starter from Brooklyn, NY. First Team All-ACC and a consensus All-American in 2022 after leading the country with 11.6 points per game and finishing second in all-purpose yards per game. The former high school track star (100 M) plays an explosive brand of football attached to a credible NFL-dimensioned body and advanced vision. He has the kind of do-it-all skill set that screams number one back in specific schemes. Abanikanda is a little thin below the waist, but he can accelerate in such a hurry that is transforms into power. He can run with force between the tackles but what makes him a true threat is what happens in the open field. He erases angles of pursuers and only lengthens the gap between him and the other team the further into space they get. Abanikanda will bring life to any backfield with a bias toward a zone scheme and there is icing on the cake with is kick return value. Abanikanda will not be a fit for every scheme, but his size/speed combination will be among the best in the class, and he has true home-run ability every time he gets the ball.

*I am surprised there is not more chatter about this kid. We did not see a full exposure of him during the Kenny Pickett era. Pickett (and Addison) leave town and Abanikanda breaks out, leading the ACC in rushing and finishing as an All-American. He is such an aggressive downhill runner that turns that plus-speed into power. Maybe he doesn’t always know what he is doing or where to go, but what he showed in one year of being a feature guy behind a shaky-at-best offensive line and no other talent to speak of on offense? This may be one of the top five sleepers in the class.

13) Chase Brown – Illinois – 5’10/209

Grade: 75

NFL Comparison: Chris Evans / CIN

Fifth year senior. Three-year starter from Ontario, Canada. Three-time All-Big Ten and a consensus second team All-American. Son of Darren Issac, a running back that played in the CFL. Brother, Sydney, is also a 2023 draft prospect on the defensive side of the ball. Chase transferred to the Illinois from Western Michigan following the 2018 season. The high school track star redshirted after barely seeing the field in 2019 and then became their feature back from there. His usage was brought to another level in 2022, nearly doubling his career touches to that point. He ended up a Doak Walker finalist, the first in school history. Brown is a hard-nosed blazer with the kind of home-run ability that can change an offense in an instant. He was among the nation’s leaders in runs over ten and fifteen yards. He is best suited for a zone-running scheme where he can search for the crease and turn on the jets to beat defenders to a spot. The fumbles need to be cleaned up (he had a nation-high five in 2022 alone) and he may not be an every-down guy between the tackles. As a part of a committee though, Brown is the explosive threatBrown is at his best in space where he can fully utilize his plus-speed and sharp cutting ability to create big plays.

*Production played a huge part in his evaluation by the media and public. The All-American finished third in the nation in yards, second in the nation in carries. He has the look of what a back needs to look like. Thick but also fast explosive enough to create big plays. The fumbles bothered me and what he did in the passing game both as a receiver and blocker left me a bit underwhelmed. His ideal spot is a #2 or #3 behind a back or a dual-back system. He does not have a specialty, but he can play football. He can do a lot of things well enough. You need a guy like this somewhere on depth chart.

14) Sean Tucker – Syracuse – 5’9/207

Grade: 75

NFL Comparison: Chase Edmonds / MIA

Junior entry. Three-year starter from Owing Mills, MD. Two-time All ACC, including first team honors in 2021 after setting the program single season rushing yards record, a season that also earned him All-American honors. Tucker has elite athleticism in every sense of the word. The former state champion sprinter is a danger to the defense every time he is in space. All of the necessary movement traits are there both as a rusher and receiver. He has the size and pad level to hide in the shadows of his blockers just long enough to wait for a crease to open up before he shoots out of the cannon. Tucker is an advanced route runner and shows an understanding of timing and tempo to maximize the space he can create from defenders. This is a big play threat that is reliable with the ball in his hands and will work like a blue collar, seasoned veteran right away. Tucker has the traits to be an explosive playmaker and enough versatility to stay on the field in all situations, but is best suited for a number two, complementary job.

*It has not been a great pre-draft process for Tucker. He did not workout for scouts at the Combine or Pro Day due to a medical issue. The workouts are where he was supposed to shine. The former track standout had 112 carries of 10+ yards in the last two years alone, an amazing number. At his size, he had some workhorse in him. Tougher than you would think but maybe not the receiver you would think. Tucker is a nice guy to have on the back end of a depth chart because he is dangerous with the ball if he gets some space to work with. Also, a guy that won’t hurt you. Medicals will be big.

15) Mohamed Ibrahim – Minnesota – 5’8/203

Grade: 73

NFL Comparison: Giovani Bernard / TB

Six-year senior. Redshirt in 2017 and used the extra Covid year. Starter all five seasons he was on the field but missed nearly all of 2021 with a torn achilles. Two-time All American and three time All-Big Ten (’18, ’20, ’22). The 2020 Big Ten Running Back of the year left Minnesota as second all-time leading rusher and atop the career touchdown list. Because of multiple injuries below the knee, he played in just 40 games over the course of five seasons. His production and consistency were vital components to the program that was turned around by Head Coach PJ Fleck. He is simply a back that understands the nuances of the position inside and out. He displays great vision and toughness in addition to elite ball security. He always picks up the sure yards and gains yards after contact on a consistent basis. The question with him will revolve around past injuries and the amount of tread left on the tires. Ibrahim plays the position the way it should be played, a lot of teach-tape can come from his film. Whether or not he can hold up at the next level is the question.

*If one could guarantee me Ibrahim will hold up physically, he is the kind of back I am taking a chance on. I love his play-style and toughness. This kid’s picture is next to the word “gamer” in the football dictionary. The injury history, volume of touches in college, and diminutive frame do not add up to strong odds there. But for my money if this kid is there toward the end of the draft, this is a risk that is worth taking. He plays running back at a higher level right now than 90% of the backs in this class.

16 – 31

16 – Kenny McIntosh – Georgia – 6’0/204: 73
17 – Keaton Mitchell – East Carolina – 5’8/179: 72
18 – Travis Dye – USC – 5’10/201: 72
19 – Tyron Evans – Louisville – 5’10/225: 72
20 – Chris Rodriguez – Kentucky – 6’0/217: 71
21 – Camerun Peoples – Appalachian State – 6’1/213: 71
22 – Dewayne McBride – UAB – 5’10/209: 71
23 – Deneric Prince – Tulsa – 6’0/216: 71
24 – Evan Hull – Northwestern – 5’10/209: 70
25 – Hunter Luepke – North Dakota State – 6’1/230: 70
26 – Xazavian Valladay – Arizona State – 5’11/204: 69
27 – Lew Nichols III – Central Michigan – 5’10/220: 68
28 – SaRodorick Thompson – Texas Tech – 5’11/204: 68
29 – Jordan Mims – Fresno State – 5’10/206: 68
30 – Emari Demercado – TCU – 5’9/213: 68
31 – Isaiah Bowser – Central Florida – 6’0/217

NYG APPROACH

This is a running back class that I like a lot. I was asked during the season which position groups were the strongest/deepest. My answer was EDGE, TE, and RB. I have not answered with RB in a quite some time. There are different flavors of backs to the point where I have a hard time projecting where guys go. It will likely come down to when teams want to pull the trigger on a position that is now becoming undervalued by the public. A good running back room is still ultra-important to offensive success in today’s NFL. If your guy is there in round one, so be it. You can find a good one day three, but then again, we can say that about every position including Brock Purdy and quarterback.

NYG should use one of their day three picks on the position. Create some competition and depth for Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell. But the elephant in the room – Saquon Barkley’s long-term future – needs to be considered. If you know he will not be here in 2024, does it change your outlook on this year’s draft? Or do you simply push this to the side and leave this position alone for a year and maybe add a piece or two in undrafted free agency? I can go either way. If a back is drafted, he needs to have a specialty whether it is special teams and/or receiving. If a big-time value present itself day two, do you bite? This offense needs playmakers and because of that, yes I take a hard look if the value is right. Everything is on the table.

Apr 222023
 
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State Buckeyes (January 1, 2022)

Jaxon Smith-Njigba – © USA TODAY Sports

WIDE RECEIVERS

Layout of the Preview:

1) Brief Positional Overview
2) Top 20 Prospects. Includes Grade, NFL Comparison, Summary, Extra Thoughts

*Comparisons are more about physical profile and play style, NOT projection

3) Grades only: 21-49

*Grading Scale:

90+: All Pro
85+ Pro Bowl
81-84: 1st Round / Year 1 Contributor / Starter
79-80: 2nd Round / Year 1 Contributor / Year 2 Starter
77-78: 3rd Round / Contribute by end of Year 1 / Year 2 Starter
74-76: Early Day 3 / Special Teams / Future Backup / Possible Starter
71-73: Mid-Day 3 / Special Teams / Future backup / Gamble Starter
68-70: Late Day 3 / Back End of Roster / Practice Squad / Developmental
65-67: Preferred UDFA
60-64: UDFA

4) Positional Approach – Draft Weekend

POSITION OVERVIEW

The November waiver claim of Isaiah Hodgins saved the 2022 outlook of this group. Had it not been for him, who knows where this offense would have ended up? Not bad for a guy Buffalo waived in the third year of his career after being a sixth round draft pick from Oregon State with four catches to his name. Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson were both on injured reserve by Thanksgiving (they combined for 9 games played and 36 catches), the duo of Darius Slayton + Richie James lacked any sort of consistency, Kadarius Toney was traded to Kansas City, and Kenny Golladay…well you know. Simply put, this was arguably the worst receiver group in football. Slayton was re-signed, Golladay was released, and James left for Kansas City. The team brought back Shepard and Slayton, signed Paris Campbell, and will let Jamison Crowder compete for a roster spot. The new faces in town can lead one to the notion things look improved, and perhaps they are. Time will tell. But the needle has not been moved, NYG still has one of the worst groups of wide receivers in football until proven otherwise.

TOP 20 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1. Jaxon Smith-Njigba – Ohio State – 6’1/196

Grade: 87

NFL Comparison: Julian Edelman / RET

Junior entry. Two-year starter from Rockwall, TX. Played in just three games (62 snaps) in 2022 because of a hamstring injury and the Covid-shortened season led to just seven games (162 snaps). Thus, 2021 was his lone full year of action. He set the Big Ten single season receiving record, leading the Buckeyes in both catches and yards on a team that included eventual first rounders Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, landing him third team All American honors. Smith-Njigba entered the 2022 season with high expectations after leading all power five programs with 1,606 yards and finishing number one in the nation with an 84.8% reception percentage in 2021. The Big Ten record-setter lined up primarily in the slot and showed advanced route running and ball skills. The standout attribute, however, is the ability to create extra yards after the catch. He is a stocky receiver with some running back-flavor to his game when working against defenders in space once he has the ball. The vision, body control, and incredible balance make him incredibly tough to take down. That physical nature shows up in contested situations as well, another area he ranked number one in the country in by a wide margin. While his soft tissue concerns will need extra screening, Smith-Njigba is a pro-ready slot receiver day one that will be a dangerous weapon in offenses that scheme yard-after-catch opportunities. Smith-Njigba carries concerns into the league that center around a lack of experience and a nagging hamstring injury but there is no denying the ability shown on tape when projecting how quickly he can make a big impact at the next level.

*Last year I graded Garrett Wilson at 85, the top WR in the class. During my real-time draft selections I do every year for NYG – I picked him for NYG at #7 overall. Smith-Njigba is the better player. They are very different, but gun to my head I am taking this kid every time. After I decided on that, I hear that Ohio State coaching staff (including great WR coach Brian Hartline) proclaim the same thing. Then I hear Wilson himself (and Chris Olave) agree that Smith-Njigba is the best of them three. Then quarterback CJ Stroud piled on. Maybe some get weary of the average (at best) forty time, I get that. But did you pay attention to the 3-Cone and Short Shuttle? They are Odell Beckham caliber, and it shows up on the field. They are all-time great. Throw in the power/strength he runs with after the catch, throw in the elite feel he shows as a route runner. This is a player I would strongly consider trading up for if he somehow got out of the top 12 and I mean it. It would likely cost the NYG 1st and 2nd rounder. This guy could change how NYG plays football.

2) Zay Flowers – Boston College – 5’9/182

Grade: 83

NFL Comparison: Jaylen Waddle / MIA

Fourth year senior entry. Four-year starter from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Three time All-ACC and a third team All-American in 2022. Flowers re-wrote the program’s record book, leaving school as the all-time leader in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. He plays in fast forward mode when comparing him to everyone else on the field. His movement traits are elite in all directions, all situations. Flowers creates separation both with and without the ball and a sense of sudden explosion. The ability to sharply change direction without any loss of speed and full balance is rare. A creative offensive mind will be able to use him on dump and runs, vertical routes, and underneath crossers at the snap of a finger. The lack of size and power against contact will need to be schemed around a bit, but that should not be a major hurdle between him and his playmaking ability. Flowers is an ideal fit for specific offenses that understand how to use the skill set he brings to the table and will create explosive plays from any and all angles.

*Flowers comes with some risk. That risk may be increased even further because of the NYG receiver group. He is nearly off the charts when considering weight, wingspan, and height. But let’s not make the mistake of calling him a slot-only. He lined up wide almost twice as often as he did in the slot. He knows both spots – something I have heard Daboll speak of multiple times with NYG and BUF. I have put together multiple projections of round 1 (mock drafts) – and Flowers has been the guy at #25 in almost all of them. Would it be more ideal to use a pick on a guy with more size? Yes. Is it a requirement with the Kafka/Daboll duo? Absolutely not. In some ways, this could be the identity of their passing game. A bunch of hard-to-touch guys that are impossible to cover with one defensive back and will create after the catch. Perhaps that is most ideal for a Daniel Jones-led offense, as we are a bit unsure about his deep vertical passing ability. If I had to make a bet on who NYG ends up with if they go WR, it is Flowers.

3) Quentin Johnston – TCU – 6’3/208

Grade: 83

NFL Comparison: AJ Green / ARI

Junior entry. Three-year starter from Temple, TX. Earned All Big 12 honors all three seasons, first team in both 2021 and 2022. Johnston is a long, strong, explosive talent that has the kind of presence that changes how a defense approaches the passing game. The long strider with elite build-up speed and leaping ability is more than just a physical marvel. Johnston is a tough, hard-nosed, physical gamer that plays bigger than his already-big frame. He is a menace to tackle, he has a credible runaway gear, and there isn’t a group of defenders or space on the field where he feels too vulnerable heading into. Johnston lacks some of the experience needed to run a quality route tree right away and he has had some ugly concentration drops but match the top-notch intangibles with the top-notch physical gifts and set them up next to the glimpses of domination and production, Johnston has superstar potential. Johnston has credible number one receiver upside both physically and mentally, but his ascent will require patience as there is still considerable rawness in his game.

*A swing for the fence that has the more-than-normal chance of ending up in a strikeout. On one end, Johnston is in very rare territory historically when matching the radius, leaping ability, and production together. Of over 800 receivers since the 2010 combine, Johnston is almost in a tier of his own when matching up all of the above. But one look at his tape and one can easily pick up on the fact he just isn’t there yet. Whether it is the above average drop rate or the fact the TCU scheme had these guys line up on the same side of the ball almost EVERY snap, there are simply a ton of boxes that remain unchecked. The one receiver that played under Sonny Dykes that fits this profile, and has had some success in the league, is Courtland Sutton. Johnston’s ceiling is special, and his skill set would be an ideal complement to what NYG has on the roster right now, absolutely ideal. Whether or not he is the guy at #25 will largely depend on the value of risk/reward when it comes to the final grading process.

4) Cedric Tillman – Tennessee – 6’3/213

Grade: 81

NFL Comparison: Tee Higgins / CIN

Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Las Vegas, NV. Father played four seasons in the NFL in the mid-1990’s. Tillman’s initial standout trait revolves around his physical presence and play strength. He measures big and plays even bigger. He has the NFL body, and it is paired with quality movement traits that show up as a route runner across all levels of the route tree. He is a powerful and aggressive player that will pick fights on the field week after week. While receivers do not get drafted to block on the perimeter, Tillman is going to impact the game with how hard he works and how reliable he is in that department. As a pass catcher, he checks a lot of boxes when it comes to running routes and ball skills. The width of his radius and competitive nature will create an attractive target for passers. Tillman fought through an ankle injury that impeded his 2022 impact. His rehab will be important to monitor and if he bounces back fully, this is a starting outside receiver in the NFL early on. Tillman did not respond well to a strong 2021 season but part of that was injury-based, he still presents a strong offer that is derived from size, speed, and a fiery competitive nature.

*If there is a receiver that comes out of nowhere and ends up being the second one taken behind Smith-Njigba, it is this guy. Watch the 2021 tape and an argument can be made it is better than both Flowers and Johnston in addition to everyone behind him on this list. What I like the most about a guy that may not have the elite gear downfield is the fact he is dominant when he gets his hands on the ball. His drop rate is low, he attacks the ball with his hands, and his contact is strong against defensive backs. This is another guy that lined up near exclusively on the right side of the line. There may be some adjustment time needed as he gets inserted into an NFL offense. One other thing that may not make him an ideal fit here is the lack of ability after the catch. He has never been very good there. It did not impact his grade much – but it may be something this coaching staff looks down upon.

5) Jordan Addison – USC – 5’11/173

Grade: 80

NFL Comparison: Diontae Johnson / PIT

Junior entry. Three-year starter from Frederick, MD. Spent two years at Pittsburgh where he led the team in catches and yards, capping off 2021 by setting a program record with 100 receptions on his way to earning first team All American honors and winning the Biletnikoff Award. Even though the second half of his 2022 season at USC was hindered by a lower body injury, Addison showed improvement across multiple components of the position. He saw more snaps outside after lining up primarily in the slot at Pittsburgh and showed notable improvements with his ball skills. Addison is an elite route runner, showing precise and explosive cuts in and out of breaks. He understands spacing, timing, and how to keep defenders from anticipating his direction. A reliable underneath threat and excellent downfield pass tracker, there is not one level of the route tree he cannot be effective. Addison is an elite, sudden, and explosive route runner with snappy hands that will be an excellent security blanket for any passing game.

*I’m not sure where I fall in line of being “old” or “young” compared to most of you. But the name that jumps out to me the most when it comes to projecting Addison to the NFL is Marvin Harrison Sr (IND). I did not put him in the comparison slot above – but for those of you that remember watching him, there you go. Addison may have been the victim of having the bar set too high for him after winning the Biletnikoff Award and then transferring to such a high-profile situation. Anyway – this kid is an easy pro and will be around for a while. But it is hard for me to project anything special here for a guy that is slender, lacks length, has had drop issues, and may have a hard time holding up physically. The skill set is there, no question. Like Harrison, if he has the right system and quarterback, he will be very productive. But I don’t see him being someone that produces a ton on his own. Addison feels safe and I could still see him being the guy at #25 if he does well in interviews. That is one area I have not heard great things about, though.

6) Marvin Mims Jr. – Oklahoma – 5’11/183

Grade: 79

NFL Comparison: Mecole Hardman / NYJ

Junior entry. Two-year starter from Frisco, TX. Led team in receiving and earned All-Big 12 honors all three seasons including first in 2022. Set a Texas state high school record for most career and single season yards. Mims is a production-machine with home-run ability. His explosive-play potential shows up in multiple ways week to week. He can and did line up anywhere on the field, including the backfield and runs the entire route tree like an established veteran. His smooth, but sudden acceleration creates and builds separation that very few lone corners can stick with. Mims will give an offense plenty of options when it comes to alignment and play design. He simply creates production via big plays and has several pro-ready traits. Mims will be a consistent big play threat on offense and as a punt returner that can be used in a variety of ways.

*Yet another receiver that may be considered undersized, especially if you want to use him outside, near the top of the WR stack. Mims does not have many differences in his game from the guys listed above him. The area I think he stands out among them is the vertical speed and ball tracking. He gets to his top speed in a hurry and has a way of avoiding contact by defensive backs. The area I think he falls short is with the change of direction and the ability to break tackles. He does not have a power trait to his game. I like my Hardman comparison – but I think Mims is cleaner with the skill set – but there is also some Richie James I see in his game when it comes to body type and sheer strength. When a guy does not play strong (or physical) – there need to be some key components to make up for it. That is the unknown with Mims. A second rounder all day that I would feel pretty good about if increase explosive play frequency was the goal.

7) Josh Downs – North Carolina – 5’9/171

Grade: 79

NFL Comparison: Elijah Moore / CLE

Junior entry. Two-year starter from Suwanee, GA. Earned first team All-ACC honors in both 2021 and 2022. Left North Carolina as the program’s all-time single season reception and receiving yards leader after set as a sophomore. Downs is a slot-only that can run himself open on all levels of the route tree. The accomplished triple and long jumper in high school moves with tremendous short area burst underneath and couples that with the final gear to run away from cover men downfield. While the diminutive frame can pop up in traffic, Downs plays a strong and stable game which stems from his thick hips and thighs. He is the kind of underneath threat that an accurate passer can consistently rely on and one that will do more than his fair share of damage after the catch. Downs is the prototypical slot receiver that has all of the movement traits, toughness, and ability after the catch to come into the league right away and provide the much-needed third down security blanket.

*Downs is in a cluster of receivers in this class. He could be at the top or bottom of it based on what a specific team needs. You want a traditional slot? You probably will not find a better option than him. You want someone that can line up outside in certain looks and can win in contested situations? I would advise going with him last. I do not want to get too repetitive here with all of this small receiver talk, but Downs is more of what NYG currently has on the roster. The difference between him and a guy like Flowers is the fact Downs lined up outside under 8% of the snaps in college. This truly is a “slot only” that you may not want to force into an outside role.

8) Jalin Hyatt – Tennessee – 6’0/176

Grade: 79

NFL Comparison: Will Fuller / RET

Junior entry. One year starter from Irmo, SC. First Team All American and SEC honors in addition to winning the Biletnikoff Award. Hyatt was one of the country’s breakout performers in 2022, leading the power five conferences with 15 touchdowns. Coming into the year, he had just 502 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He nearly tripled that in his junior season alone. This is the kind of speed that changes how an opposing defense plays. There is a lot of unknown in his game, however. He is inexperienced in contested situations, he rarely lined up outside, and the route running on anything besides vertical-routes needs a lot of refinement. While the speed is next-level and he will immediately become one of the best deep threats in the NFL early in his career, there is a lot that needs to be gained for Hyatt to be considered a formidable number one threat.

*The one prospect in this group that I would label THE swing for the fence is Hyatt. If you can recall my comparison for him, Will Fuller, and what he did for the Houston offense pre-injury (#1 in NFL in yards per target in 2020, #3 in 2018) you may want to consider taking him in the first round. Even though he is such a one-dimensional guy, his ability within that dimension is potentially special. And that dimension is also what every team in the league wants on offense and fears defensively. Credible deep speed that can get over and stay over the top of the defense. Throw in the fact he tracks and catches the ball at a high level and yes, he could easily end up a first rounder. Personally, I struggle with number of boxes that remain unchecked. The route tree, strength against contact, sudden change of direction, yards after contact. There is a lot to unwind here but I would be lying if I said he doesn’t excite me.

9) Jonathan Mingo – Mississippi – 6’2/220

Grade: 78

NFL Comparison: AJ Brown / PHI

Senior entry. Four-year starter from Brandon, MS. Missed seven games in 2021 because of a broken foot suffered in practice midseason. Mingo is the next pro receiver coming from this program with a standout frame. His has the thickness of a running back but enough speed and juice to create plays down the field and after the catch. There is a uniqueness to his game that many other receivers do not bring to the table. Mingo’s physical nature and experience both from the slot and outside will only open more doors to his potential impact at the next level. This is the kind of player that can be used on all levels of the route tree according to matchups and situations. Mingo will have the ability to play all receiver roles for an offense that likes to move their targets around. His versatile skill set will provide options.

*It is almost scary how similar Mingo is to Brown. Both from Mississippi, height/weight almost identical, near-matching workout numbers, and similar play style. Brown was a bit more polished and productive – but I can see it with Mingo. He has a few traits this small receiver filled class do not. He stands out and whenever we see standouts that can play football well, you must consider them going high. If NYG goes into day 2 looking for size to balance out their current pass catchers, keep him in mind. There is some domination in his game – the kind of guy that can take over a game.

10) Jayden Reed – Michigan State – 5’11/187

Grade: 77

NFL Comparison: Anthony Miller / PIT

Fifth year senior from Naperville, IL. Spent one season at Western Michigan before transferring to Michigan State for the duration of his career. Four-year starter. Career has been filled with production both as a receiver and returner respectively. Freshman All-American in 2018. Two-time All-Big Ten and a 2021 All-American as an all-purpose player. Reed is an ultra-quick, ultra-explosive threat that can produce in a variety of ways. The ability to put his foot in the ground and burst into any direction at any given moment is a headache for cover men to deal with. That same loose, but assertive speed shows up with the ball in his hands both after the catch and as a returner as well. The competitive spirit is high. He is a gamer that makes big plays in big moments, coming across as a guy that is bigger than he is listed. This inside-out threat can line up and be used all over the offense and special teams. Get him the ball, enjoy the touchdowns. Reed is a dynamic playmaker with toughness that will give an offense multiple options in addition to a weapon in the return game.

*The good tape on Reed is right up there with some of the top guys in this class. He has a lot of snappy movement to his game and a tough, competitive style of play. He was not very consistent though. Some will say it was the offense he played in, which I somewhat agree with. But the drops and lack of ball security showed a lack of concentration. Add in the fact he isn’t very big, and the movement traits are rather average – some are going to struggle to see the true pro upside. Others are going to say the gap between him, and a Jordan Addison is so minuscule that it makes them feel better about passing on WR early.

11) Rashee Rice – SMU – 6’0/204

Grade: 77

NFL Comparison: Russell Gage / TB

Senior entry. Three-year starter from Richland Hills, TX. Two-time All AAC and a 2022 All-American. Set the all-time school record for single season receiving yards in 2022. Rice has been the number one pass catcher on this team for three straight years. But it was his final run that stood out the most. Playing on a bad foot for most of the year, Rice was used in a different way, seeing more downfield looks, and he nearly doubled his previous single season high in yards. Rice specializes in ball skills and making the difficult look easy. The body control and contact-strength he shows in traffic with the ball in the air is special. There are issues with some of the other skill-components to his game, mainly route running. He is far from a finished product and there is a boom or bust feel to his game. The right coach can mold him into a solid number two receiver that can impact every level of the route tree. Rice has the ability to make plays on the ball at a high level with a blend of size and toughness, but he has a long way to go before he can be considered dependable every-down player.

*Always a bit of a risk taking a receiver from an offensive system like this. Some are going to make the mistake of saying his 4.51 at the combine will make his speed questionable. His 10-yard split (1.49) was third best of every WR there and his 41” vertical tied for the best mark. On the field, Rice had a spurt during the season that put him in round 1 discussions. The size (just under 33” arms, one of the longest in class) in combination with his burst and ability in traffic to go up and get it is an attractive combination of traits. The sloppiness in his game screams need for development. In addition, there were some maturity question marks a couple years ago. A lot to unwind here but a guy that has exciting upside.

12) Tyler Scott – Cincinnati – 5’10/177

Grade: 77

NFL Comparison: TY Hilton / FA

Junior entry. Two-year starter from Norton, OH. Second team All-AAC in 2022. Scott, a multi-sport star in high school, plays with top-shelf speed and fluidity. He has the kind of straight-line burst and final Mach 3 gear to get and stay over the top of the secondary. There is more to his weaponry as an athlete, however. Scott has loose and bendy lower body joints that allow him to play free, light, and easy. He should be able to get himself open on all portions of the route tree and he excels at tracking the football. Combine those traits, mix it in with a sense of competitiveness, and a receiver that ranked top four in the AAC in his two seasons as a starter respectively comes out. Scott needs to strengthen his hand-catching and smooth out the inconsistencies, but he will immediately become one of the more explosive threats in the league. Scott brings the kind of explosion that immediately changes how the opposing defense plays and if he can strengthen his ball skills, he will be a credible deep threat.

*Are we not hearing enough about Scott? Take the timed speed out of the picture for a moment. Scott may be the fastest game-receiver in the group. Add in the fact he did not play receiver until he got to college, the former running back and track star is still early on the progression curve. The track speed is functional, he brings a lot of upside for post-catch ability, and was an effective gunner on special teams. That should give you an idea on about his toughness. Scott dropped too many balls and there are concerns about his ability to hold with his style of play. But this is the kind of speed you cannot teach and there is a credible reason to believe he still has a lot to chew off when it comes to development. Sneaky prospect that is going aa little under the radar.

13) AT Perry – Wake Forest – 6’4/198

Grade: 76

NFL Comparison: Marquez Valdes-Scantling / KC

Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Lake Worth, FL. Two-time first team All-ACC. The former high school basketball player and long jumper left Wake Forest atop the single season and career touchdown reception rankings. His 1,293 yards in 2021 and 1,096 in 2022 rank second and third among single season highs in program history. When it comes to on-field impact, Perry was a bit of a late bloomer but once he got going, the train never slowed down. Perry has an incredibly unique athlete with a rare combination of size, bend, and balance. He does not jump off the screen when it comes to speed, but the suddenness and agility he can play with, and elite-level catch radius can do serious damage short and intermediate. He needs a well-timed passing game and there is a cap on his potential impact but in a league that favors the passing game in that 7-10 yard window, Perry can do damage. Perry has a few traits that can be considered high-end, but he does not play through contact well and struggled to get over the top of college secondaries.

*If a team wants size at WR and they strike out days 1 and 2 – Perry will be the focal point in round 3. His radius is huge (right there with Johnston and bigger than Tillman), he can jump out of the building, and his body control is top-notch. Perry has such a unique blend of traits that are hard to find. Part of the reason I do not always like giving out comparisons is that it can eat up time. I am a perfectionist with them, and it took me awhile to find the ideal fit for Perry. There just aren’t many guys with his blend of length, speed, jumping and most importantly, bendy lower half joints. The way he can move is rare. It can set him up to be an elite route runner, but he needs to clean up the drops and he isn’t a tough guy at all. Perry has some softness in him. Not a fit for every team but he has things most of the guys in this class do not.

14) Nathaniel Dell – Houston – 5’8/165

Grade: 75

NFL Comparison: Greg Dortch / PHI

Fifth-year senior. Three-year starter at Houston after playing his first two seasons at Alabama A&M and then Independence Community College. Two-time first team All-AAC and earned All-American honors in 2022 after leading the country in receiving yards and touchdowns. Dell is an elite mover in all forms of the word. The joystick quickness, burst, and agility enables him to get all open all areas of the route tree. With the ball in his hands, he creates and lengthens separation from defenders with those movement traits but he also exudes toughness and high-IQ. Dell will need every ounce of those physical and mental strengths to overcome his diminutive frame. Playing and consistently producing at under 170 pounds in the NFL is a rarity, no matter what other tools are in the shed Dell is the best slot receiver Dana Holgorsen has worked with according to the coach himself, a group that includes former top ten pick Tavon Austin. If a team with an accurate passer gets their hands on Dell, he will be an immediate weapon out of the slot.

*I liked Dell enough to put him in round 3 consideration throughout most of the process. The movement is so dynamic on tape. The kind of joystick-change of direction we would occasionally see from Kadarius Toney? Dell has that, maybe even better. But I can’t get away from the size. Since 2010, 13 out of 826 combine receivers weighed in as light as Dell or less. The guys in that size-tier that did make an impact in the league were blazers. Dell is quick and explosive, but he is not a blazer. There just aren’t good odds of this kid holding up in the NFL and there are also a few boxes that remain unchecked from a skill set perspective. I like him day three because the risk is not as high. There are things he can do movement-wise that almost nobody else can.

15) Ronnie Bell – Michigan – 6’0/191

Grade: 75

NFL Comparison: Robert Woods / HOU

Fifth year senior. Four-year starter from Kansas City, MO. Missed all but one game in 2021 because of a torn ACL. Came back to lead the team in both catches and yards for the third time, earning third team All-Big Ten honors. Was the team offensive skill player of the year in both 2019 and 2022. Bell is a player that is greater than the sum of his parts. He has average size and speed but tremendous competitive spirit and smarts. He knows both slot and outside receiver roles well and shows the ability to impact games both on and off the traditional box score. Bell is tough and dependable, albeit with a limited tool set. He fits well on the bottom half of a depth chart where he can backup multiple receiver positions, add some return value, and increase the needed competitive intangibles of a football team. Bell will create more than what his tools provide and has value as a back-end roster player that can wear a lot of hats and increase the energy of a team.

*Bell is my guy for day three if he is there and NYG goes elsewhere in the draft with their first four-five picks. I think this is a reliable, versatile, team-guy that will find ways to contribute week to week. His measurables ended up better than I thought they would. Remember that 2022 was a year away from his ACL injury and the notion is still out there it takes 12+ months before a guy can be considered fully back. He is not a burner, but he knows how to play fast and sudden. The fact his best seasons were in 2019 and 2022 with the turmoil in between (Covid Year / ACL year) tells me a lot about the kid’s character. A kid that originally was going to play college basketball and ended up one of the lowest-rated recruits in the Michigan program.

16) Kayshon Boutte – LSU – 5’11/195

Grade: 75

NFL Comparison: Jarvis Landry / NO

Junior entry. Three-year starter from New Iberia, LA. After earning Freshman All-American honors in 2020, Boutte continued to flash but never quite put it all together on a consistent basis. The explosive, well-proportioned receiver had his 2021 season cut short because of an ankle injury that required two surgeries. He then had a baby in September 2022. His final season on Baton Rouge was the worst of his career on a per-game basis despite seeing a major uptick in quarterback-quality. His drop rate increased, his effort looked questionable, and he was back and forth on commitment to his future at LSU and the Draft. Boutte has the talent, body, and past tape that can create long term hope for a successful career, but there is a lot that needs to be answered for. Boutte’s talent and upside are undeniable, but the lack of consistency and versatility give him a high-risk label that will cause teams screen him extra and make a decision if he is worth spending the much-needed time on trying to develop him.

*Boutte recorded a vertical of 29” at the combine. Of the 825 names I have in by database since 2010, only 11 of them put up a lower number. He also ran a below average 4.50 forty and a below average 7.14 three-cone among drafted receivers. I do not obsess over workout numbers, but I do want it to be known when we have an outlier. Boutte was a top three receiver in my stack at the start of the year. It did not last long. His effort looked poor on tape, he was dropping balls left and right, and some information came my way about his maturity. Boutte also had a rough recovery from a 2021 ankle injury that required two surgeries and then he had a baby in September. The apologists will say life got in the way of his ascent to the next start receiver from the program. Others will call it true colors. This is a kid that opted to return to school for 2023 – but an off-field incident would have likely led to a suspension. So he pulled the plug and declared for the draft. His pre-draft process has been poor. One can only make so many excuses until you just move on. I suspect some teams will cross him off the board, but others will look at the tape from early in his career and see the next Jarvis Landry.

17) Charlie Jones – Purdue – 5’11/175

Grade: 75

NFL Comparison: Dede Westbrook / GB

Sixth year senior from Deerfield, IL. Spent two seasons at Buffalo, three at Iowa, and one at Purdue. One year starter, his final year. In that final year, Jones went from obscurity to All-American and first team All-Big Ten. He led the nation with 110 receptions after totaling just 39 from 2018-2021. This was a breakout performance of epic proportions. Jones left the anemic Iowa offense to play in high octane, spread attack. He re-kindled the chemistry with fellow draft prospect, quarterback Aidan O’Connell, as the two played youth football and baseball together. Jones’ program single season record setting year showed the NFL what he can do if the looks are there. The routes and sure hands will be the attractive traits but there will be questions around his talent upside. He measures below average when it comes to both size and speed and even though 2022 was dynamite, the overall career production is low. He may need to permanently move inside to slot at the next level while offering return value. Jones deserves a back-end spot on the roster, one that can also add return value, but he will fight an uphill battle based on tool set.

*Jones is a guy worth gambling on. The fact he bounced around, stuck with it, and absolutely dominated in a way very few have in the history of the Big Ten is worth something. Jones played against Joey Porter Jr (Penn State), Garrett Williams (Syracuse), and Devon Witherspoon (Illinois). All three will be in the NFL next year. The snaps he matched up against them? Jones won. That means something even if you feel his production was manufactured via scheme. Get this guy a shot.

18) Parker Washington – Penn State – 5’10/204

Grade: 74

NFL Comparison: Amari Rodgers / HOU

Junior entry. Three-year starter from Sugar Land, TX. Earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in his final season. Cousin of 2022 Titans quarterback Josh Dobbs. Washington is a uniquely built slot receiver that looks like be belongs in the running back room. He carries evenly distributed muscle mass that is used effectively to break tackles after the catch and remain balanced through traffic. While the reach radius is small, Washington has proven over and over that he can make contested catches and get to balls away from his body. He is tough, hard-nosed, and creates big plays on his own. Washington is a slot-only prospect that has a unique body and play style for the position which may need the right system to be effective, but has the ability to create on his own consistently.

*In a receiver class saturated with small, shift, and speedy guys Washington is a standout. No, he does not move like some of the guys higher on the list. But this dude is a thick 204 pounds and could pass as a running back. He has 20-30 pounds on some of these other guys. Maybe not a fit for everyone, but he is unique. The biggest question mark on him is speed and agility. I saw some tightness and we rarely saw him gain any vertical separation. The ankle injury that ended his 2022 season lingered and he does not have any testing data for teams to objectify. That could cause a big drop draft weekend. Stay tuned. This is a guy I would give a look to late.

19) Rakim Jarrett – Maryland – 6’0/192

Grade: 74

NFL Comparison: Jalen Reagor / MIN

Junior entry. Three-year starter from Palmer Park, MD. Three-time Honorable Mention All-Big 10. Jarrett is an elite athlete whose game centers around explosion and toughness. His burst off the line is next level but he brings more to the table than speed alone. Jarrett shows the feel for finding available creases with the ball in his hands and he has tremendous grit against tacklers. He welcomes contact and borderline looks for it. This is a physical, aggressive football player capable of creating the big play on multiple fronts. There are some rough edges to his game when it comes to skill set and knowing when to take the gamble on the tools will determine where he goes in the draft. Jarrett is a swing for the fence type prospect with game breaking speed and burst, but has a lot to clean up as a pass catcher and route runner before he can be an every-down asset.

*I’ll tell you what. In a scenario where NYG ignores receiver for 4-5 picks (I would be surprised, but you never know), Jarrett is a guy I am intrigued by. This is a credible vertical threat but also a thick, strong, tough dude that can be a weapon on reverses and in the return game. He plays with some swagger, the kind of guy that just catches your attention every time he is on the tape. There is some DJ Moore here (a former Terp) but I felt like Jarrett was not used correctly. The drops bother me enough and I know there is quite the learning curve after being a slot only and his skill set does not match up there. But there are very few receivers this far down with his upside.

20) Xavier Hutchinson – Iowa State – 6’2/203

Grade: 74

NFL Comparison: Jakobi Meyers / LV

Fifth year senior from Jacksonville, FL. Three-year starter at Iowa State after transferring from Blinn Junior College. Burst onto the scene right away in 2020, winning Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. First Team All-Big 12 all three seasons and a 2022 First Team All-American. Hutchinson led the Big 12 in receptions all three years, a first in conference history. His 254 receptions set a program record and were the most ever in Big 12 history among receivers that spent just three seasons in school. To sum that up simply, Hutchinson was Mr. Automatic and had stretches of play where he appeared to be a man among boys. He did all of this despite not having any standout, dominant physical traits. He is an example of a guy that can win over and over by doing things right. Route running, attacking the ball with his hands, coordination, and awareness are lasting qualities that will continue into the future. Hutchinson is not a true number one, but he has the game that enables him to stick as a quality number two for a decade. Hutchinson is a quarterback’s best friend that will make the touch catches in traffic, get open underneath, and get the most out of himself but the lack of speed and length will limit his impact that matches up with a number two-caliber receiver.

*There is a good chance Hutchinson outlasts multiple guys ahead of him on this list. He needs the right scheme/system and make sure you know what you’re getting. He is big and he is polished. He comes across as a guy that just knows what to do. Can every offense take advantage of that? No. But an offense with a quarterback that can manipulate space, time things well, and accurately put the ball where it needs to be on a consistent basis will get a lot from Hutchinson.

21-49

21) Elijah Higgins – Stanford – 6’3/235: 73
22) Andrei Iosivas – Princeton – 6’3/205: 73
23) Michael Wilson – Stanford – 6’2/213: 72
24) Trey Palmer – Nebraska – 6’0/192: 72
25) Malik Knowles – Kansas State – 6’2/196: 72
26) Bryce Ford-Wheaton – West Virginia – 6’4/221: 72
27) Tre Tucker – Cincinnati – 5’9/182: 72
28) Jalen Moreno-Cropper – Fresno State – 5’11/172: 72
29) Justin Shorter – Florida – 6’4/229: 71
30) Deuce Watts – Tulane – 6’1/196: 71
31) Dontayvion Wicks – Virginia – 6’1/206: 70
32) Jadon Haselwood – Arkansas – 6’2/215: 70
33) Demario Douglas – Liberty – 5’8/179
34) Jake Bobo – UCLA -6’4/206: 70
35) Grant DuBose – Charlotte – 6’2/201: 70
36) Aron Cruikshank – Rutgers – 5’9/165: 69
37) Derius Davis – TCU – 5’8/165: 69
38) Joseph Ngata – Clemson – 6’3/217: 69
39) Matt Landers – Arkansas – 6’4/200: 69
40) Jacob Copeland – Maryland – 5’11/201: 69
41) Antoine Green – North Carolina – 6’2/199: 69
42) Michael Jefferson – Louisiana – 6’4/199: 69
43) Jalen Wayne – South Alabama – 6’2/210: 68
44) Dontay Demus – Maryland – 6’3/212: 68
45) Kearis Jackson – Georgia – 5’11/196: 68
46) Malik Heath – Mississippi – 6’2/213: 68
47) CJ Johnson – East Carolina – 6’1/224: 68
48) Jason Brownlee – Southern Miss – 6’2/198: 68
49) Xavier Smith – Florida A&M – 5’9/174: 68

NYG APPROACH

Maybe the most interesting position group to discuss in regard to NYG and the 2023 NFL Draft. A unit that left the 2022 season hanging on by a thread did see multiple changes (in addition to a high-end receiving tight end). Were the changes good enough? Are the additions of Paris Campbell and Jamison Crowder and the return from injuries by Sterling Shepard and Wan’Dale Robinson going to move the needle? This was a group that was starving for more big plays. Did NYG truly get better here? Or did they shuffle around personnel and simply find a new way to bake the same pie? Time will tell but there is no disputing the fact there is a shortage within this receiver group (no pun intended). In a league, and in an era, where exciting talent is plentiful at receiver, NYG has several question marks and very few answers.

NYG is in play for a receiver at #25. I think they could even be in play for a trade up for someone like Smith-Njigba if he falls. “They do not need another slot” is a tired argument. “They need more size” is another one. Sure, in a perfect world there is big, physical, vertically fast guy there at some point that can round out the group but by no means is a deal breaker. What NYG needs is a guy that will create more explosive plays for an offense that ranked dead last in that category in 2022. If he is small, he is small. If he is big, he is big. Beggars can’t be choosers in this scenario. The one question I have a hard time figuring out is when to draft a receiver. It is a must-get for this team, but a strong argument can be made the more necessary-get is at cornerback.

I have been on quite a few shows lately and this topic has come up often. The more I talk about it and the more I get into projecting what will happen, it is becoming more and more clear they may be best suited taking the risk of waiting until day two to get their playmaker. The gap between the top receivers in this class and the next tier is there, no question. But how big is it? And look at how many guys fit within that cluster (tiers 2 and 3). Now the longer you wait, the stronger the odds are you don’t get the difference maker you are looking for. It is a dangerous game, one that may require some draft weekend maneuvering via trades. After much debate and after going back and forth, I believe NYG will end up passing on WR at #25 overall, beef up the defense (up front or in the defensive backfield), and pursue their WR day 2. Also consider the fact that day three will be loaded with the big receivers. Look at the sizes I have on guys in that 21-49 listing. One after the other has the desired size but drafting two guys is going to cause an over-crowded receiver room. Don’t forget about Colin Johnson – he is going to get a shot at that size spot.

Apr 202023
 
Joe Schoen, New York Giants (December 4, 2023)

Joe Schoen – © USA TODAY Sports

GENERAL MANAGER JOE SCHOEN 2023 PRE-DRAFT PRESS CONFERENCE…
New York Giants General Manager Joe Schoen held the team’s annual pre-draft press conference on Thursday. The following is the transcript from the event (the VIDEO is also available courtesy of Giants.com):

JOE SCHOEN: Go ahead and fire away. I’ll let you know if there’s anything new.

Q. Just tell us who you’re drafting, and we’ll leave.

JOE SCHOEN: I wish I knew. I’m trying to figure out. 25 it’s a little bit harder than 5 and 7 to come up with names.

Q. What position group?

JOE SCHOEN: That’s a good question. I mean, there’s depth at different parts throughout the draft at all positions, so it’s hard to pinpoint one.

Again, based on where you’re picking, like if you’re at a certain part of the draft, there may be a run on four or five players in that draft. So, the top of the draft at a certain position, then it’s gone, and now there’s no longer depth at that position. I think there’s position and value across all positions throughout the draft just depending on where you’re picking, but I’m not going to identify one being stronger than the other. Just where the value matches up with where you have them on the board.

Q. What do you think about the idea that especially — in the first round and you don’t have an exorbitant number of first rounders compared to the past?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, again, I don’t know where everybody else has people on their board. I know we’re going through the process now of who may or may not be there, and we’re pretty confident that there will be a player there that we like.

Q. Do you have 25 first round grades?

JOE SCHOEN: I’m not going to get into how many first-round grades that we have. We have guys in the first round that we like, and we are pretty confident that there will be somebody there when we pick at 25 that we’ll be happy with.

Q. Looking at COVID, an extra year of eligibility, does that help or hurt this draft, given some of these guys are now older prospects?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, there are more players when we were going through it that are 24, 25 years old that we don’t usually see. You see it sometimes at certain schools. But there are more of those players. We look at each individual case-by-case basis, and if there’s an injury history or they are a smaller school or whatever it may be on the player and does that affect their age or their position. We look at them on an individual basis. Rarely does that come into play and deter us from drafting somebody.

Q. Where do things stand with Saquon (Barkley)? are you still negotiating?

JOE SCHOEN: No, nothing has changed since we talked, whatever that was, three weeks ago, four weeks ago. Nothing has changed since we talked at the owner’s meetings.

Q. How about with Dexter (Lawrence II)?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, after I talked to Dexter’s representatives this week, dialogue’s good there. So yeah, I’ve talked to him. Again, it’s hard this time of year. We’re deep into the draft and the draft prep so — but yeah, we have had good conversations with Dexter’s representatives, and we’ll see where that stands moving forward.

Q. With Saquon, do you have a next contract offer in your head?

JOE SCHOEN: I’m just going to get through the draft right now. Again, my focus right now is totally on that. So, there’s no rush right now. I just want to get through the draft and step back after that and see what the roster looks like, and then go from there.

Q. Knowing that you’ve said on the record that you want to get something done and you’re negotiating, is it disappointing at all that Dexter chose not to come here, or are you fine with that and that you would rather not be here when you’re going through this?

JOE SCHOEN: What was the quote, “it’s April 17th”? I’m not going to give you that. It’s voluntary. If Dexter chooses not to be there, that’s his decision. Dexter knows how we feel about him, and he knows he’s an important part of the organization, and there’s a business side to it, too. But him showing up for the off-season program is voluntary.

Q. You guys have obviously discussions with Saquon previously and there have been numbers widely reported, and free agency seems to have changed the running back market dramatically. Does that then alter your approach in terms of how much you may or may not be willing to devote to that position in terms of finances?

JOE SCHOEN: When we had the conversations with Saquon, it was known that we were going to get to a certain point, and then we were going to move on and regroup at some other time. So it was before free agency started, so no, that has not really affected anything we talked about.

Q. The tag is obviously a one-year deal — does that impact how you approach running backs in the draft?

JOE SCHOEN: No. There are players at all positions that are in the mix at 25, and I’m not going to rule any position out.

Q. Can you add realistically, add ten more, at least, rookies to your roster or would you like to package some of those to move up, so you have less than ten picks or trade a pick for a veteran player rather than have ten more young guys on an already young roster?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, that’s a good question, and we’ll see how the draft plays out. I mean, right now we have ten. So, we have go through it, and if there’s somebody we want to move up for we have some extra draft capital to do that. If we want to move back and collect some, we can do that, too. Again, you have to look at the roster, not just today but 2024, 2025, who is coming up. Again, financially there are players making a pretty good chunk of money on our team and some contracts on the horizon potentially. So yeah, those young cost-controlled players for four years that can be contributors, whether that’s a role on offense or defense, four core special teams guys. I think it’s important to continue to build depth and competition, and that’s what we’ll try to do with those picks.

Q. Will you try to trade for a veteran guy like you did with (Darren) Waller?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, we’ll always pursue any type of opportunity to better the roster, whether it’s trade, draft, late-round, college, free agency, whatever it is, definitely.

Q. How important is it when you look at the roster and the draft, when you look at roster duplication, where you think, for example: We have a smaller slot receiver, we don’t need to get another one; we have this kind of a slot cornerback, we don’t need to get another one; or do you say, no, no, we are just going to get the guys in and we’ll figure it out?

JOE SCHOEN: There’s a little bit of that on offense. I think Dabs, that’s one of his strengths and Mike Kafka, taking the pieces that you have and trying to accentuate what they do best. We have had a really good dialogue with the coaches all week. We’re still doing it. We did it all morning. Certain players, and just going through what their role and utilization will be on the roster, first-down, second-down, third, what’s their fourth-down value. If there’s any discrepancies or questions from our part on what their role will be, we try to clear the air now on that. So come Draft day, we’ve had all these conversations, and again, it’ there’s a certain value, how they will be utilized. They come in different size, shapes, speeds, but we are going through all those conversations right now.

Q. As far as like receivers and things like that, there’s a big group of them — is that somewhere where you say, look, let’s bring them all in and we’ll figure it out?

JOE SCHOEN: Yes, the offense has a very defined plan on how they are going to utilize certain positions, and it makes it easy to go scout players for them. Again, we are going through all those players that you’re talking about regardless of position, regardless of what they look like physically, and trying to figure out what their fit would be with the team and what their role would be.

Q. Knowing that you had the coaches going out and actually getting the pro days, whereas a lot of the last year, Brian was getting the staff together and they weren’t able to get out as much?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, the coaches have done a tremendous job. They are a big help and big part of the process. I think it’s important to consensus-build throughout the building and again when you draft a player, if the coaches don’t want him, the chances of success a lot of times are slim.

So we like to do our due diligence in all the prospects, and the more you can be around them, I think it puts you at ease when you turn in the card for those prospects that you’ve been around them a lot and you know exactly what you’re getting with your investment.

Q. What about your staff? Again, you were just coming in and getting everything together and making changes, how much more comfortable are you with the changes that you’ve made and are they that much different than what you did last year?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, it’s great, more time on task. Going through more situations with these — some of the personnel, whether it’s Brandon Brown (Assistant GM), Tim McDonnell (Director of Player Personnel), Dennis Hickey (Assistant director of player personnel); Chris Rossetti, our pro (scouting) director came in from Miami. So going through kind of a cycle, a personnel cycle whether it was draft, free agency or whatever it may be, you kind of get to know strengths and weaknesses of your scouts. So yeah, again, after going through it for a year, I definitely feel more comfortable this year going into it than a year ago.

Q. Going back to Buffalo for a second, in 2020 when you drafted Gabe Davis what traits did you prioritize and how did you protect a fourth-round receiver to be a starter in the league?

JOE SCHOEN: With Gabe it started with his makeup. He was off the charts with the way he learned, the ability to move him around, his work ethic, checked all those boxes, and he was a very productive receiver at Central Florida. Again, that was the COVID draft. I remember I was in my basement when that happened. It’s not always what you can see on film, and I think that’s why we go and spend so much time with these kids is to try to figure out what’s the makeup. Because when you get to this level everybody’s good; what’s going to give you the competitive advantage. Why is a fourth- or fifth-round player going to make it: Is it their work ethic; is their tireless pursuit of being great, whatever it may be, you try to identify those traits through this process, whether it’s bringing them in on 30 visits, going and seeing them. We talked to a bunch of coaches this week around the country, whether head coaches, position coaches or coordinators and getting as much information as you can on why this kid can be successful, and Gabe was one of those players.

Q. What have you learned about the top of this wide receiver class throughout this process and those interactions?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, it’s a good group of receivers draft the top of the draft, depending how you have them ranked. Everybody’s got different strengths and weaknesses, and again I think there’s a lot of talented players in the draft. And it goes back to what I was just saying with Pat’s question is identify what’s going to separate those guys from the pack and what makes them great. Again, every year I think there’s 20-plus receivers that are drafted, and how many truly go on to have success, you know, that’s what we’re trying to figure out.

Q. How do you determine who you bring in for Top 30 visits and what’s the value of that to you?

JOE SCHOEN: Some of its elimination. Maybe we need to confirm there’s some uneasiness with a player and confirm they are not a fit, or how will they pick up our system; our offense is very complicated. Or sometimes it can be medical; if they are non-combine to get the medical. There are varying reasons for why we bring players in. But again, it’s a great opportunity not to just to get them around myself and Daboll and the coaches, but the rest of our support staff, training staff, strength staff, nutrition, whatever it may be. It’s just good to be around these players as much as you can.

Q. You talk a lot about the alignment for a full year with the coaches and scouts and the division. How different is your board this year because of that alignment than maybe a year ago where you didn’t have that hundred percent alignment? Do you think about that and how much does that shape where you guys are going forward?

JOE SCHOEN: I wouldn’t say we weren’t aligned a year ago. It was just trying to get a grasp on how the players were going to be utilized in Wink’s system. So, I wouldn’t say we weren’t aligned. We ended up, there’s consensus building, but there’s definitely after going through a full season and a training camp and seeing it applied, how he’s going to utilize players. There’s a better comfort level, not just myself but even Dabs. Dabs had never worked with Wink, either; as we’re going through it, how he’s going to utilize players first down, second down, third down. So yeah, there’s definitely a better comfort level this year, but I wouldn’t say we weren’t necessarily aligned last year.

Q. I didn’t mean that necessarily. You’ve talked about Wink and knowing what Wink and just knowing what Wink wants and how that changes maybe the way you scout players.

JOE SCHOEN: Absolutely.

Q. So for you as a scout at heart, how does that change what you’re looking for you may look at a certain guy because you — have what you may think overall?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, we’ve had to retrain a little bit how we look at different positions or the value we put on them based off Wink’s system, and I think that’s what’s most important is what is the value for the Giants and how do we see them and how they are going to be utilized, which we are still having those conversations. We definitely had to retrain how we think about some things at different positions and what the value of those traits are that we covet and where those align in the draft. But definitely feel better going into it this year in terms of what exactly he’s looking for.

Q. Where in this process have you spoken directly with Saquon?

JOE SCHOEN: Nothing’s changed since we talked at the owner’s meetings. There’s nothing new. I haven’t talked to him.

Q. When you draft at the back of the draft, where you are this time, how do you define what a successful draft pick, five years from now when you look at a player, how would you define success?

JOE SCHOEN: We like to look at the play time over three years. Usually, it’s over three years what their play time is, their contribution, whether they developed into a starter, that’s obviously a hit; if they turn into a good starter, that’s good. That’s what you strive for. But there’s also role players and there’s really good special teams players that you value.

So again, it’s their role. It’s their fit on the team, their contribution over that four-year period, but usually after three years you know if they are a contributor or not and there’s going to be different types of contributions.

Q. You mentioned changing positions — what position have you personally changed your outlook the most on the way you evaluate?

JOE SCHOEN: It’s really the front seven. It’s just a different defense than I’ve been in. It’s really the front seven.

Q. Is there a danger to that? You’re building a team for the next three, four, five, six, seven years. Wink may not be here; he almost went this off-season. Is there a danger to drafting for a coach?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, it’s actually something that Coach Parcells told me a long time ago. He told me, “Coaches come and go. You need to draft good football players.” Yeah, you don’t want to get too pigeonholed into scheme-specific, because then, you’re right, if Wink gets a head job a year from now and you bring somebody else in that runs a totally different defense, you a scheme-specific player. Part of our job is to balance that. Like is this guy, again, add value. Like, he’s only going to fit this one scheme. And yeah, Wink’s got a really good chance to get a head coaching job. If he moves on and we change things up, then yeah, you definitely have to balance that and be aware of that.

Q. You obviously have your starting quarterback locked up but are you somebody who would like to have a young developmental quarterback on the team and also, I say that because there seems to be a thought around the league that Brock Purdy has changed, maybe reemphasized the idea that teams — you pick day three quarterback and see what happens going forward?

JOE SCHOEN: I would just say right now we are happy with Tyrod. Tyrod is the backup. I think we are in good shape right there.

Q. You don’t have a third quarterback, right?

JOE SCHOEN: We had Davis Webb last year. We’ll continue to look whether it’s a veteran free agent or somebody in the draft or post-draft, whoever it may be. Yeah, we’ll have three quarterbacks in camp.

Q. Where do you see your O-Line? Are you comfortable where that is right now?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, I think we have 14 offensive linemen under contract right now. So no different than the owner’s meetings, what I told you guys.

Q. Do you remain optimistic that Saquon will be on the field for you at the start of the season? From the outside looking in, it doesn’t seem like an obvious resolution.

JOE SCHOEN: You have to ask him. I’m not sure. I don’t know what his plan is. I haven’t talked to him in probably three weeks.

Q. From your experience before you got here, talking about Buffalo, you were on the road a lot there, scouting prospects, and I know when you go to pro days and stuff, you’re not just looking at guys who are in that current draft. Curious, now, in this process, are there guys, do you go back to your notes from two years ago where guys may have stood out to you when you were on campus, someone may have said something to you, and has that factored into your evaluation of guys that are now available to be drafted?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, for sure. I actually went through some of my books. There are some guys in this draft that I know I wrote in Buffalo. I meant to call Brandon and get some of those. I can’t find them. Yeah, definitely, I was on the road a lot more. Probably see 50 schools a year when I was in Buffalo. When players do go back to school that are now in this draft it is helpful because you have a previous exposure to the player if I wasn’t able to get out and see them this year. There were definitely some definite benefits to the amount of work that I was able to do in Buffalo. It’s still paying off.

Q. On Dexter, when a position’s market keeps resetting in the off-season, how do you balance as a GM not letting that dictate what you pay but also trying to properly pay the player?

JOE SCHOEN: We have a formula that we have in place in terms of coming up with the value of players based on various factors. So, you know we stay true to that when we are coming up with value, whether that’s free agency, contract extensions, whatever it may be. We have a formula that we like to stick to.

Q. Enter that equation —

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, same deal. Any time you’re paying a player, whether it’s inside the building or outside the building, we come up with a value of what we think is fair. You create a case on why you see the value is where it is. Again, takes two to get a deal done.

Q. Is Bijan Robinson the best back in this class, and how do you feel about running backs in the first round?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, I think there are several good backs in the draft. And again, if it’s a good player and a team decides to take them, and they have success for their system, then I don’t think you can go wrong with taking good football players. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into saying I would never take a certain position in the first round. It’s a good running back class. It’s got some depth to it, and Bijan is a good player.

Q. When you’re constructing your roster, how much of your decision-making is impacted by your own system but combating what division rivals and competitors do well?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, I think you always have to look at that because that’s the ultimate goal is to win the division. When you are building your team, you obviously want to give the coaches what they want in order to run their schemes and execute their schemes at a high level. But you also have to look at the division, I reflect on when I was in Miami, and they had Gronk all those years. You’re looking for some sort of linebacker that can match up and cover Gronk, and it was just impossible to find somebody that could do that. So, if there are players or schemes, or whatever it may be throughout the division, you’re always looking at that and studying and seeing how you can maybe counter one of their strengths.

Q. One of your traits is you’re able to separate emotion from team building, but when you have a player that’s been a good Giant but maybe financially or when team building resources, it doesn’t make sense, do you find you’re good at separating those two things, and if so, where did you learn that trait?

JOE SCHOEN: Not really. No, it’s tough. Again, these guys are around, they work hard, and we had a heck of a season last year and you become close with them, and it’s hard. But there is — you have to separate it. I’m not going to say I’m good at it there’s a human element on both sides, for them and myself. But there is a business side to it. And yeah, again, in a perfect world there’s no salary cap, and you can make everybody happy and pay everybody. But you know, that’s something I haven’t been through before. Last year, we didn’t extend anybody from our roster. It was signing some people outside the building. After going through a season with the players, and then this next step of the process whether it’s extending or players leaving the organization, yeah, the human element, that part stinks because you do like all these guys, and you know they put in a lot of work for you, and you know, again starting this time last year. So it’s tough to separate the business end and the human element. The way Dabs and I are around the building and getting to know the players, maybe we do that more than most. But you do become attached for sure.

Q. Your philosophy on trading up, curious what your philosophy on that is? Would you be hesitant to dip into next year’s draft class?

JOE SCHOEN: I’d be open to any of that. I’m never going to rule it out. If it’s the right player and the value aligns, I’d move up. If it was a future pick, I would do that, too. Last year, just where we were financially, we needed as many depth pieces as we can. So, moving back a couple times last year just made sense. It got us some more bodies that — so that was a little bit of the thought process that went into that.

Q. How much has the big play receiver changed in the sense that when I was younger, it was a big guy who could run fast and catch a 40-yard pass. Now is it somebody who can attach 15-yard pass and make it a 40-yard pass?

JOE SCHOEN: That can be part of it. I think both of your comments are correct. If you have got a guy that can take the top off and throw the ball down the field and goes up and gets it like a Randy Moss, then you’d love to have that; or if it’s Steve Smith in Carolina, you throw a slant, and he can take it 80. Any time you can generate yards after a catch, I think that helps you. You don’t have to do the 15, 16-play drives. Maybe now it’s six because a guy had a 50-yarder in there. I think all those things are important when you’re looking at the receiver.

Q. The center better position in this draft — you don’t have anybody on your roster that has extensive experience as a starter. How important is it for you to add to that position in the draft whether, whatever portion of the draft and what do you think of that group in particular?

JOE SCHOEN: Yeah, I think there’s some depth in the draft, but I don’t think we have to. Again, we have these meetings. As soon as the Eagles game was over, that week, we had meetings and we went into the off-season: If we can’t get Nick (Gates) back; if we didn’t get (Jon) Feliciano back, what does it look like. You know, talking with the coaching staff and the personnel staff, there’s people in house third page are available candidates for that: You know, Ben Bredeson, Jack (Anderson), Shane Lemieux, JC Hassenauer we just signed a week ago. So there’s guys that there that have played center, have played games, and you know, it will be good competition.

Apr 192023
 
Dalton Kincaid, Utah Utes (October 27, 2022)

Dalton Kincaid – © USA TODAY Sports

TIGHT ENDS

Layout of the Preview:

1) Brief Positional Overview
2) Top 15 Prospects. Includes Grade, NFL Comparison, Summary, Extra Thoughts

*Comparisons are more about physical profile and play style, NOT projection

3) Grades only: 16-23

*Grading Scale:

90+: All Pro
85+ Pro Bowl
81-84: 1st Round / Year 1 Contributor / Starter
79-80: 2nd Round / Year 1 Contributor / Year 2 Starter
77-78: 3rd Round / Contribute by end of Year 1 / Year 2 Starter
74-76: Early Day 3 / Special Teams / Future Backup / Possible Starter
71-73: Mid-Day 3 / Special Teams / Future backup / Gamble Starter
68-70: Late Day 3 / Back End of Roster / Practice Squad / Developmental
65-67: Preferred UDFA
60-64: UDFA

4) Positional Approach – Draft Weekend

POSITION OVERVIEW

After the failed experiment that came from selecting Evan Engram #23 overall in the first round of the 2017 Draft, this position group was on a trajectory toward being a top need on the roster. They struck gold on day three of the 2022 Draft, grabbing one of the top values of the weekend in fourth rounder Daniel Bellinger. Besides missing five games with a freak eye-injury, Bellinger provided the prototypical “high-floor, low-ceiling” presence to the lineup. The every-down value he brought to the field was easy to overlook but the team went 1-3 in the games he spent on the sideline. The lack of proven NFL-caliber, quality depth did create the clear path toward Bellinger grabbing ahold of the starting job right away. The notion was further solidified after his injury and for the balance of the season that this group, from a macro perspective, simply was not good enough. Cue the trade for Darren Waller. Offensive Coordinator Mike Kafka, previously of Kansas City, got his Travis Kelce-type weapon (not caliber). Now, they offer a more-than-solid 1-2 punch at the position that will give the offense a lot of options. Free agent signing Tommy Sweeney has experience with Brian Daboll from their days in Buffalo and Lawrence Cager, an in-season pickup from last year, did flash as a pass catcher. Chris Myarick returns to fight for a job as a backup.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1) Dalton Kincaid – Utah – 6’4/246

Grade: 85

NFL Comparison: Greg Dulcich / DEN

Fifth year senior. Three-year starter from Las Vegas, NV. Spent two years at San Diego University before transferring to Utah in 2020. FCS All-American in 2019, FBS All-American in 2022 in addition to two-time honoree All-Pac 12. Kincaid is a fast forward athlete when considering his size. He explodes out of his breaks and hits his top gear in a blink after the catch. The sudden movement traits are rare for a player this tall and long. The athleticism is going to be a menace to deal with at the next level. Combine that with the top tier ball skills, sure hands, and toughness, Kincaid has the makings to be one of the more unique pass game weapons in the entire class, however he will not offer much as a blocker in-line. He must be used correctly. Kincaid has special traits that can elevate a passing game led by a creative mind right away, but will need to be kept out of in-line blocking roles as much as possible.

*There are a couple speed bumps that teams have more information on than I do that center around a potential back issue. Something to keep in mind draft weekend if he starts to fall a bit. The last sentence in my summary above is key; “…can elevate a passing game led by a creative mind…”. This is where I have always seen the fit with NYG. The duo of Kafka/Daboll have proven to be both innovative and creative, carryover traits from their days prior to being a part of NYG. The trade for Waller all-but wipes out the idea of Kincaid being drafted high, however. Tight End most likely will not be considered early, thus a guy like Kincaid (who could go top 20) really does not need to be discussed much in relation to this team. I will be keeping close track of him, however. I think he is the best passing game weapon at the position in the class.

2) Luke Musgrave – Oregon State – 6’6/253

Grade: 83

NFL Comparison: Mark Andrews / BAL

Senior entry. Two-year starter from Bend, OR. Nephew of former NFL quarterback and longtime Offensive Coordinator at both the NCAA and NFL levels. Musgrave’s sports background screams elite athlete to the highest of levels. In high school he was an all-state football, lacrosse, and alpine skiing. The rare blend of tools show up on tape. He is a quick burst, high speed, bendy mover that can go up and get it. The understanding of the game shows up across the board whether he is running routes, catching the ball, and blocking. There isn’t a box he leaves unchecked other than experience. Musgrave missed all but two games in 2022 with a knee injury and he played in just seven games in 2020 because of Covid-19. He enters the league with just 15 starts and 47 catches under his belt. As attractive as he looks on paper, there is a lot of unknown to his game on the field. The upside, however, is credibly as high as any pass catcher in the entire class.

*Musgrave is a guy I know I am taking a bit of a risk on. Normally to finish with a grade of 83 or higher, I need to see more experience. Covid and injuries left a lot of his projection in the dark, more so than others. I am going to trust the NFL lineage and understanding of how things work will be a strong enough complement to his top-shelf tool set. Musgrave really is the prototype of the new-age tight end. He is the best blend of size and speed and I’m not sure everyone knows just how good this combination of skills/tools can be. I don’t think there is a team in the league that overlooks the ceiling this kid has.

3) Darnell Washington – Georgia – 6’7/264

Grade: 83

NFL Comparison: Adam Shaheen / MIA

Junior entry. Three-year starter from Las Vegas, NV. Second team All-SEC in 2022. Washington has rare, standout physical traits. His size is off the charts from all angles with a gigantism-type look. Washington also grades well above-average as straight-line mover. The long strides and aggressive nature make him a handful and a half to try and bring down after the catch. He creates tremendous force as a blocker and could come across as a sixth lineman. He shows advanced tactics when it comes to getting to the ball with defenders draped all over him. Washington’s short-area game may not be the flashiest, but the rare size/speed combination and bully-style approach he brings to the table can be a dangerous and versatile weapon at the next level from the Y tight end spot. As tall, as long, and as densely built as it gets for the position. Washington brings a high ceiling/low floor label into the league because while he has such a rare blend of tools, there is a lack of fluidity to his game and he simply did not get enough snaps in college to firm up who he really is as a football player.

*Incredibly tough guy to come up with a comparison for. Three names came to mind based on looking at some size/athleticism traits. Adam Shaheen, Marcedes Lewis, Rob Gronkowski. Quite the range of quality NFL players, isn’t it? And that is exactly the feel I have on Washington coming into the league. I graded him as a round one talent because of how unique he is and the fact he is going to be a better blocker than several offensive linemen in the NFL. Even if he bottoms out as a passing game threat, his impact in the trenches is going to be noticeable every week. The risk with Washington revolves around sudden movement and is ability to play quick. To be a big-time asset to a passing game from tight end, there must be more twitch than what Washington shows. I don’t care about the forty time that much. We can count on one hand how many times that mattered over his career at Georgia. That size though, man it is something else.

4) Michael Mayer – Notre Dame

Grade: 80

NFL COMPARISON: Hayden Hurst / CAR

Junior entry. Three-year starter from Independence, KY. A two-time All American that re-wrote the Notre Dame record book, finishing atop the program’s all-time tight end ranking list in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. An every down threat, Mayer possesses every tool in the box to fit into the prototypical Y tight end role. His specialty will undoubtedly reside in the passing game where he can pose as a major matchup problem for defenses. He has the length, bulk, and coordination to win in contested situations and enough size to break through cheap tackle attempts after the catch. Mayer is a safe week one starter at the next level with as much upside as we have seen out of any tight end from the historic program. Mayer is a reliable player that brings a high floor to the position and will be a quality, versatile starter early in his career if not right away.

*Interesting situation here. The strength of this tight end class gives the image that I do not like Mayer. Look at my game notes and even my report on him and the image that I love him appears. As most debatable topics in this world, the answer is right in the middle. I graded Hayden Hurst at 80 back in 2018. He is now on his fourth team since that time, but still a good player that many teams would want on their roster. There is a safe and reliable level of play there that I think Mayer brings to the table. I do not see much more than that, however. He is not a special athlete. He is actually undersized (very few talk about that). He cannot sustain good contact as a blocker. A lot of his production was manufactured (easy routes/passes). If you know you are not getting elite from Mayer, I am fine with end-of-round-1 talk. But the quick ascent from recruit to Notre Dame stud inflated the view quite a bit. And if it were me, I am taking the other three guys in this class before him even if Mayer has the higher floor.

5) Sam LaPorta – Iowa – 6’3/245

Grade: 78

NFL Comparison: Gerald Everett / LAC

Senior entry. Three-year starter from Highland, IL. Three-time All Big Ten including a first team honor in 2022. Has a suitcase full of team awards that center around production, offseason work, and leadership. LaPorta is a natural football player in every sense, every situation. He excels at getting open and catching the ball when it is within his grasp. The dependability and versatility he brings to the position will make him a fit in every scheme. Whether he is the number one or two guy, LaPorta is going to help a team win games, plain and simple. The former high school wide receiver does not have enough size and core strength to play with his hand in the dirt every down. But a scheme that can find a move-role for him, he will create for himself and others on a consistent basis. His body control and smooth speed are stand out traits in the passing game. He is a finisher that gets the job done and his full skill set was never put on fill display being a part of the poor Iowa offense. LaPorta simply needs to be kept out of consistent in-line duties but anything else that is needed by the offense, he will be able to give a starter-caliber performance.

*While I see a distinct difference between the top four and the rest of the group, a very deep group, LaPorta is the guy that could be the surprise. He is such a good football player and part of me thinks he could be in line for a much more productive pro career than what his 46-game career at Iowa. That offense was tough to watch the past two years. Such bad quarterback play and they were simply overmatched nearly everywhere. The fact he walked away with 111 catches / 1,327 yards / 4 TD says something about him, it really does.

6) Davis Allen – Clemson – 6’5/245

Grade: 77

Senior entry. Two-year starter from Calhoun, GA. Third team All-ACC in 2022. Allen lined up all over the Clemson offense. Their version of the H-Back saw snaps split out wide, in the slot, with his hand in the ground, and from the backfield over his career. The coaching staff lauded his ability as a blocker, calling him the best they’ve had at the position in that department. He took his game to another level as a receiver in 2022, however. He set career highs in targets, catches, and yards all while continuing to improve his drop rate for the third straight season. Allen has reliable hands with sneaky-strong ball skills once the pass is in the air. This is a player with a great feel for the game no matter the role he plays. He has the ceiling of a starter but the basement of a solid number two that will do a lot of positive things that do not show up in the box score. Allen is an underrated receiver that will make the plays he can get near, but his real value will be as a blocker where he can be moved around and thrown into the line of fire.

*I believe I am, and have been, higher on Allen than the market. He is not an impressive athlete and has just one season of notable production as a receiver. His 12 touchdowns over the course of three seasons (83 catches) does stand out. I saw most of those on tape and most of them were hard-earned. Allen is arguably the top contested catch guy in this group when watching the film and the numbers back it up. While I don’t see NYG going tight end day one or two, if Allen slips through the cracks, I feel good about what he can offer this offense from a backup role. This is the kind of guy that outlasts several players drafted ahead of him.

7) Tucker Kraft – South Dakota State – 6’5/254

Grade: 77

NFL Comparison: Mark Andrews / BAL

Fourth year junior entry. Three-year starter from Timber Lake, SD. Two-time First Team All-MVFC and two-time All-American, First Team in 2021. After almost going unrecruited out of high school and turning his back on college basketball, Kraft turned into a classic example of a raw late bloomer that we often see from the northern portion of America’s Great Plains. He was an oversized high school running back that turned his back on transfer opportunities to several top-notch programs over the past two years. Kraft’s size and speed is hard to match, but what makes him standout is the toughness in traffic and after the catch. The physical nature does not seem pro-ready for blocking in the trenches, but the potential is there to be a starting Y tight end. His ankle injury somewhat hindered his final season, but he fought his way back and still contributed to a team that made the FCS National Championship. Kraft has all of the tools to be an every down contributor with a high enough ceiling to warrant a day two pick.

*There is a good chance that if Kraft played all of 2022, he could have cracked the top 5 in this group. His tools are legit and watching him attack the ball is fun. Kraft has dominant tape, a lot of it. Coming from FCS, you borderline need that to be considered anywhere day two. This is a guy that could match the upside of the top four in the class, but because of the unknown and the fact he has to smooth out the edges means he comes in with a lower floor. Gotta think the success of Dallas Goedert is going to help him out draft weekend.

8) Josh Whyle – Cincinnati – 6’7/248

Grade: 77

NFL Comparison: Coby Fleener / RET

Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Cincinnati, OH. Also led the team in receiving one season where he was not the starter. Two-time All AAC, first team in 2022. Whyle came on the radar in the shortened-2020 season. His height/speed combination turned into production, catching 28 of 33 targets and scoring six touchdowns. Since then, the program had multiple pro-caliber receivers emerge, slightly hindering Whyle’s opportunities in the passing game. Make no mistake, this is a potential matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He gets north in a hurry and attacks the ball with precise coordination and body control. The short area footwork and change of direction will widen his ability to run the full route tree and impact all passing situations. Whyle is best suited for a motion-type role or in a scheme where a tight end is used as a big slot receiver most snaps. Whyle may not be a true number one, but his tool set and ability to impact the passing game from the F role will be highly sought after by specific teams.

*In a normal year, Whyle could easily be a top five tight end in a group. His height/speed combination is rare. Since 2010, there have been 25 tight ends that measured in at 6’6 and a half at the scouting combine. Only two of them ran a forty under 4.7, Whyle ran a 4.69. If that isn’t good enough for you, Whyle has a below average drop rate for the position (just 1 drop in 2022) and is a menace after the catch with running back-caliber feel and vision. Even if I have a couple of capable tight ends on my roster, Whyle is a guy you make room for. If NYG wants a Waller-type in the room for backup/future purposes, this kid makes sense.

9) Luke Schoonmaker – Michigan – 6’5/251

Grade: 76

NFL Comparison: Daniel Bellinger / NYG

Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Hamden, CT. Two-time All-Big Ten. Schoonmaker was a high school quarterback that had a slow start to his career as a tight end at Michigan. As time went on, his size/speed combination to go along with a soft pair of hands kept on getting the coaching staff’s attention despite a crowded tight end room. He put his best season on display in 2022, more-than doubling his previous single season highs in catches and yards. The traditional Y tight end will make his money as a receiver, one that still needs to shore up some areas of his route running and ball skills. He does not have enough power to get movement as a blocker, but he competes hard consistently and knows the game well. Schoonmaker has enough in his tool set to start in the NFL, but will be best suited for a split-role with another tight end.

*Erik All is a tight end for Michigan that I liked more coming into the 2022 season. This was set to be quite the duo, but an injury to All’s back kept him out most of the year (he went back to school for the 2023 season and transferred to Iowa). This opened the door for Schoonmaker and he took full advantage. My games notes on him are full of “looks like a pro” type comments. He looks like a guy that will need time in a pro weight room and don’t overlook he is almost 25-years old already. But guys with soft hands, this kind of radius, and this kind of speed can be hard to find. Worth a shot day three if he is there but he won’t be ready right away.

10) Brenton Strange – Penn State – 6’4/253

Grade: 75

NFL Comparison: Josiah Deguara / GB

Fourth year junior entry. Three-year starter from Parkersburg, WV. Third Team All-Big Ten in 2022. Strange has never been the focal point of the passing game, but he did show steady progression, production, and involvement over the course of his career. He also brings value as a move-blocker and special teamer. The undersized, but tough and powerful gamer showed a knack for big plays in big moments against his best competition. He should fit in well as a backup that can be a steady part of the rotation lining up in different spots. He does not have the ceiling as an every down player, but there are multiple usages he brings to a team. Strange will be attractive to both offensive and special team coaches to the point it could get him drafted a round earlier than what his tape grade would suggest.

*Strange does not meet some of the minimums some teams have for the tight end position. He may be most attractive to teams that use a hybrid for fullback/tight end roles that can interchange. His most consistent trait is the ability to block on the move; he is very effective there. Add in the fact he can make a name for himself as a special teamer because of his competitive nature and size, Strange will find a home as a versatile backup that wears a lot of hats. Seems like a Patriot-type.

11) Will Mallory – Miami – 6’5/239

Grade: 75

NFL Comparison: Brycen Hopkins / LAR

Fifth year senior. Four-year starter from Jacksonville, FL. Second Team All-ACC in 2022. Son of Coach Mike Mallory who has been a Special Teams Coach in the NFL for ten seasons and is currently rumored to be heading to Michigan for the 2023 season. Will comes from a football family, to say the least. In addition to his father, both of his uncles and his grandfather are/have been coaches/Head Coaches at the college level. Will grew up as a highly sought-after recruit and accomplished track athlete. He has been a steady contributor as a receiver but does not have the power or mass to handle blocking duties. He will need a specialty-type role, one that primarily lines up away from the line. Mallory brings a credible vertical threat to the passing game with ability to create after the catch as a backup.

*Mallory will have his fair share of fans. We are talking about real, functional speed and an obvious level of football intelligence considering his background. He also brings some swagger to the field that I was drawn to. His success in the NFL will very much be about scheme and fit, but do not look past him if the right play caller/designer gets ahold of him.

12) Cameron Latu – Alabama – 6’4/242

Grade: 74

NFL Comparison: Grant Calcaterra / PHI

Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Salt Lake City, UT. Originally recruited as an edge defender, Latu made the move to tight end in his second year at Alabama. He put himself on the radar in 2021 with a breakout year, setting a program record for tight ends with eight touchdowns while also averaging just under 16 yards per catch. Latu does not have a standout trait to his game, but he does enough things well to be considered a solid backup at the next level. The hope with him will center around the fact he did not play a ton of tight end compared to others. He needs to improve his ball skills and blocking techniques while also trying to pack on some weight. He will not be athletic enough to warrant extra looks as a slot receiver. Latu will bring special teams and depth value early on in his career with a limited, but very attainable ceiling.

*Latu would be an interesting day three pick. One of the negatives some have on Alabama prospects is that many of them are so well trained on and off the field, that they’re almost at their peak. Some of them just don’t have another step up the ladder to go. Latu, I don’t feel that way about. He is a solid football player that is rough around the edges of his skill set. Maybe the transition to tight end will simply take him a bit longer. At the very least, I can see the former defender contribute on special teams at a high level.

13) Brayden Willis – Oklahoma – 6’4/241

Grade: 74

NFL Comparison: Noah Gray / KC

Fifth year senior. Three-year starter from Arlington, TX. Second Team All-Big 12 in 2022. Willis lined up all over the Sooners offense and has all of the respect from the coaching staff. They label him an ideal representative of the program. His best tape is found as a blocker on the move, further strengthening the idea he can play fullback for teams that still use one. Willis does have enough size to play tight end line, both F and Y roles. He plays bigger than his size. Do not sleep on his ability as a pass catcher underneath, either. He is sudden and instinctive and will find a way to find the crease. He does not have a standout physical trait, but he is a tough guy that will wear many hats on gameday.

*Willis could go a lot higher than where I have him. He has been hampered by a hamstring injury throughout most of the pre-draft process. If a team (likely one that uses a fullback) can find the right usage, he is simply an economic presence to have. He will be reliable, yet unspectacular.

14) Payne Durham – Purdue – 6’6/253

Grade: 72

NFL Comparison: Jesse James / CLE

Fifth year senior. Four-year starter from Suwanee, GA. Three-time All-Big Ten. Durham was an accomplished high school lacrosse player that was on a trajectory to play in college. A late pivot back to the gridiron after not playing grades 9-11 led him to Purdue, where he redshirted and then quickly became the team’s top tight end. Durham has a unique body type for the position. He is long and top heavy, but lacks the lower body thickness to factor as an in-line blocker against defensive ends and tackles. That said, he is a physical, try-hard player that will make things happen through grit and hustle. His greatest impact will be felt as a receiver. He can use his radius well to out-reach defenders and there is some sneaky athleticism he shows after the catch. Durham projects to the back end of a depth chart while he enhances his power and strength with the upside of being a rotational, versatile chess piece.

*Durham turned some heads at the Senior Bowl. He won the National Team’s Player of the Week, an award given out from the practices. He is a coachable player with plus size and underrated straight-line speed. The short area movement and lack of stability that comes from his lower half worries me a bit. There just isn’t a ton of margin to work with, thus he needs to clean a bunch of things up. I like the long-term upside, but a lot of boxes will need to get checked.

15) Zack Kuntz – Old Dominion – 6’7/255

Grade: 72

NFL Comparison: Donald Parham / IND

Fifth year senior. Two-year starter from Camp Hill, PA. First-Team All-Conference USA in 2021. After spending three seasons at Penn State where he played 17 snaps and caught three passes, Kuntz moved on to Old Dominion. The high school state champion hurdler and district title high jumper brings a rare blend of size, speed, and explosion to the table that does not come around often. He can use the tools as a vertical route runner and contested situations at a high level. He screams matchup nightmare for the defense. As good as Kuntz looks on paper, he never quite evolved into a quality short space mover. He does not play sudden as a route runner or ball carrier. Separating from defenders is unlikely unless it is a simple route up the seam. There is also no impact as a blocker in the trenches. The initial punch is soft and there is a lack of lower body and core strength to sustain good contact on to his man. Kuntz will give the perception of a guy that has the ceiling of taking over games on third down and near the end zone, but the natural skills and fluidity have not arrived yet. He is a risky project.

*Above, I mentioned Josh Whyle and how rare his size/speed combination was. Well, Kuntz takes the cake there because there has never been a combine invite at tight that ran a 4.55 while also measuring in over 6’6. Add in the elite leaping ability, massive hands, and long arms and this kid is full-blown unicorn status. A historic prospect. Because of that, we could see someone take a chance on him as early as round 4. My initial look at him had a top 5 grade. The tape against Virginia (a team with multiple future pros) was very good. The deeper dive saw a lot of the issues that come from a guy with this body type. He lacked twitchy change of direction, and he was a liability as a blocker. There are options he brings to the table that others will not. He can be a solid package player, but I wouldn’t even label him second string caliber. Interesting prospect to say the least.

16-23

16) Blake Whiteheart – Wake Forest – 6’4/247: 70
17) Leonard Taylor – Cincinnati – 6’5/250: 70
18) Jahleel Billingsley – Texas – 6’4/224: 70
19) Noah Gindorff – North Dakota State – 6’6/263: 70
20) Ben Sims – Baylor – 6’5/250: 69
21) Travis Vokolek – Nebraska – 6’6/259: 69
22) Ryan Jones – East Carolina – 6’1/240: 68
23) Camren McDonald – Florida State – 6’4/237: 68

NYG APPROACH

If I had to choose one position on this roster that NYG will ignore in the 2023 NFL Draft, tight end is it. Even more so than quarterback. The irony? This my personal favorite tight end group I have ever scouted. It is both strong at the top, and deep through the end. I bet there is some chatter out there proclaiming this was THE year NOT to trade a draft pick for a veteran tight end that chews up an above average portion of the salary cap. I do not agree with the sentiment. One look at the database of tight ends I have for the sake of historic measurements, and some draft weekend analytics I use quite often, it is easy to see how volatile this position is. There are absolute freaks drafted at tight end every year. There are guys who had elite production in college. There are receivers, there are blockers. The amount of tight ends who do not pan out at the next level is more than people think. Simply put, as a coach once told me, tight end is the hardest position to adjust to in the NFL from college other than quarterback. The decision to cross off the tight end need by trading for Waller was a good decision. The one note that sticks in the back of my mind? He is essentially playing on a few one-year option deals that NYG can get out of in a hurry at minimal cost. Waller is not locked into this spot for a long time contractually by any means.

This brings me to the burning question. If (more likely, when) a big-time value is available for NYG at tight end on day three, do you use a pick on one? Waller and Bellinger are the unquestioned 1-2 punch. Tommy Sweeney was hand-picked by this Head Coach/General Manager duo after working together in Buffalo. Lawrence Cager showed us a few things down the stretch last season that I know this front office likes and personally, I think can be a weapon at some point. Four tight ends (plus Chris Myarick) simply mean the van is full. No more seats. I stand pat with the projection they will not draft, nor should they, unless there is a special teams/fullback type weapon in his arsenal. The other reason would be that they feel they can stash him on the practice squad which can always be tough because he would then be there for the taking all year by the other 31 teams. As much as I like the class – it is the year to look away. Something tells me this isn’t the last time we are going to see a tight end class like this anyway.