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Apr 252017
 
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Jamal Adams,LSU Tigers (December 31, 2016)

Jamal Adams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Safeties

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WHERE THEY STAND

One of my best value picks of the 2015 NFL Draft, Landon Collins, broke out in a big way in his sophomore season. The two way threat made several All Pro teams and appears to be a cornerstone of this defense moving forward. The spot next to him continues to be a revolving door, however. Darian Thompson, Mykkele Thompson, and Nat Berhe combined for more missed games than actual games on the field. In their absence, UDFA Andrew Adams showed some promise. All four will compete for the starting job this summer but it looks like the 2016 3rd rounder Thompson has the inside track. All in all this group is young and versatile, but also unproven outside of Collins.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Jamal Adams – 6’0/211 – LSU: 91

Summary: Junior entry that was a factor in the loaded Tigers’ backfield from day one of his college career. Adams was an All American in 2016 and may be the top safety prospect to come out in over a decade. His game can factor on any play in any situation against any opponent. He is at his best in the box and in pursuit. There is a natural gravitation towards the action and a rare ability to close and finish. The athletic tools he possesses are rare and very functional on the field. Adams can easily be moved around and his impact will always be felt. The intangibles and leadership qualities in addition give him the franchise player caliber-level.

*Adams can make a case for being the top overall player in this class. He doesn’t have the ideal size but by no means can he be considered small. He has longer arms than some offensive linemen and a frame that will easily add 10 pounds when all is said and done. Adams can fill every role, including nickel CB, based on the situation. I love how he can sniff things out and finish plays off. Very smart, intelligent, hard working. Motor always on. He is a guy a defense can be built around and to be honest, if I am CLE a #1, I would consider him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Eric Berry – KC

2 – Malik Hooker – 6’1/206- Ohio State: 84

Summary: Third year sophomore entry. Just a one year starter that took full advantage of his time in the spotlight, earning 1st Team All American honors. Second in the nation with 7 interceptions and very high quality play in the box. Hooker is still very green in comparison to other prospects. He’s only been playing football for five years which is almost hard to believe because of the high level of instincts and awareness he plays with. One has to believe the arrow is still very much pointing up for him. His issues revolve around the physical presence of the game. He misses more tackles than a safety should and there have been times where he shies from contact. His surgically repaired shoulder shouldn’t decrease his grade much, if at all. There is always risk with one year starters, but his upside is through the roof.

*I have never seen a prospect that reminded me so much of Ed Reed, the guy that I think should be considered the top safety of all time. Hooker has such a natural feel and instinct for anticipating throws and routes. Excellent ball skills with some of the biggest hands you will ever find (yes, that matters to scouts). His issues, however, are a lack of experience and iffy tackling. Despite those issues I still have a high grade on him and even though I see a second coming here, I have to admit Hooker may be one of the bigger risks of the class.

Upside Pro Comparison: Ed Reed – RET

3 – Desmond King – 5’11/200- Iowa: 83

Summary: Four year starter and 2015 Jim Thorpe Award winner. Opposing offenses avoided throwing him the ball in 2016 for the most part, hence the drop in production. However he looked just as good, if not better on tape and will be one of the most versatile defensive backs in this class. King can play a cover 2 cornerback role with his ability to anticipate and react. If a team wants to roam him as a safety, he has more than enough physical presence and versatility on coverage to more than hold his own. The lack of ideal size and speed can limit him, but this kid is a playmaker that will help much more often than a hurt a defense.

*I came in to the year with King right under DE Jonathan Allen as my top senior prospect. Her e we are, the week of the draft, and King is still at or near that spot. The question here is, what position does he play? As a CB, he is graded a tad lower but not much (81). King doesn’t have the ideal size for safety, nor does he have the ideal speed for CB. But at the end of the day I think he can play both in the NFL and would benefit from a nickel, third-safety type role. He is an elite tackler for the defensive backfield and he may be one of the smartest players in this class. I’ll take a kid like this every day and know you have a guy that could actually play both spots at a high level.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jairus Byrd – FA

4 – Budda Baker – 5’10/192 – Washington: 83

Summary: Junior entry and three year starter. 1st Team All Pac 12 two years in a row. The former 100 M state champion was a huge get for Washington in the recruiting process. His career has been on the uptick from the beginning and despite a lack of size and strength, he has had as much impact on the team’s defense as anyone. Baker is a natural lead by example type with his never-off engine and presence all over the field. He can impact the game several ways. There is cornerback-caliber lower body movement in man coverage and a feel for deep zone coverage that is hard to find. He may not be a bruiser in the box, but he’ll get the ball carrier to the ground. He can do it all.

*Hard not to enjoy how this guy plays. We are talking about an all out, all the time versatile threat that, with the right defensive mind calling the shots, can put him in a position to make a deep impact on the game each week. The size is a glaring issue and there no arguing that. While he is a very good tackler, the ability to hold up considering his size is questionable. Baker needs to play a split slot CB/roaming safety role. I’m not sure he would hack it as a traditional safety.

Upside Pro Comparison: Tyrann Mathieu – ARI

5 – Marcus Maye – 6’0/212 – Florida: 81

Summary: Fifth year senior. Three year starter that has quietly been one of the best players on the Gators defense over that span. He was named an All American in 2015 but a broken arm in November ended his senior campaign short. Maye doesn’t have a lone standout trait to his game. However his all around, balanced abilities and skills can give a secondary versatility and reliability. He has plenty of experience in the box, in man coverage, and in deep zone. He is at his best when playing near the line of scrimmage, but he is no slouch in the other areas. Maye can be a starter early in his career.

*I’m not sure how many people have a 1st round grade on Maye, but I don’t really care. He is a versatile threat that tackles as well as anyone. This is the kind of defender you want as your last line of defense. Really intelligent, instinctive player. Pro-ready week 1 and I think he can be a starter for NYG right away if they were able to snag him in round 2 or 3. A lot of these safeties in this class lack a power presence and/or speed. Maye has both and he plays smart.

Upside Pro Comparison: Eric Reid – SF

6 – John Johnson – 6’0/202 – Boston College: 79

Summary: Fourth year senior that blossomed his senior year, showing a versatile skill set that can be used in deep coverage as well as near the line of scrimmage. Johnson isn’t a household name, but he is as quick and instinctive as any of the safeties in this class. Johnson has the athletic ability to match up with receivers in man coverage but also makes an impact as a downhill tackler. He has all the range and easy reactions to factor in zone coverage. For schemes that like to intertwine their safeties, Johnson can be viewed as an early day 2 pick.

*I’m higher on Johnson than anyone I’ve seen out there. I simply believe his arrow is really pointing up at this point and the he can be had before he proves to everyone there is a lot of talent here. Such a fluid mover and quick reaction based player that tackles well. He could use some more meat on those bones and in time, he likely well. Whoever gets him is going to be very happy 3 years from now.

Upside Pro Comparison: Glover Quin – DET

7 – Jabrill Peppers – 5’11/213 – Michigan: 79

Summary: Third year sophomore entry. Had a ton of buzz surrounding him out of high school. Was jostled around position-wise but spent the majority of his snaps at linebacker in 2016. Peppers is a jack-of-all trades prospect, almost to a fault. There is no denying that his ability with the ball in his hands is elite. However, as a defensive prospect, there are several holes in his game. There may not be enough skills and instincts for the defensive backfield, and there aren’t any linebackers at his size. Drafting Peppers will be a risk for a few reasons, the main one being trying to choose what he is best at and let him develop from there.

*Here it is. The most polarizing prospect in the entire draft. So much of me wants to say this kid is a top 5 player and will impact the league multiple ways for a decade. The other side tells me he isn’t a football player. He has been a superior athlete at that’s what made him a quality asset to a team. Now he is entering a league where, to be frank, he is slightly above average athletically. I can speak about Peppers for hours but to sum it up, he is a guy without a true position. That can be a good thing in the right scheme, or a bad thing in the wrong scheme. And I will take this to my grave…he would be a better RB in the league than defensive player. While he doesn’t meet the grade for #23 overall…it would be exciting to see this kid in blue.

Upside Pro Comparison: Keanu Neal – ATL

8 – Obi Melifonwu – 6’4/224 – Connecticut: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior that never left the starting lineup since week one of his redshirt freshman season. A consistently productive and versatile player that ended up on the 1st Team All American Athletic conference list in 2016. Melifonwu is sure to get several scouts and coaches excited about his through the roof upside. The combination of tools may be among the best in the class and he proved that he is more than a model. Melifonwu has a developed skill set and knows how to impact the game several ways. There are some vitals he needs to clean up, mainly tackling, but this kid is pro-ready right away. He can be a starter on most teams.

*This kid is one of those “Greek God” looking guys. He gets off the bus and you wonder how a human being can look like he does. And you know what? He is actually a player. Some teams are actually looking at him as a CB because of how fluid he can move and he showed a ton of promise in press coverage. Very unique player but I still consider him very raw. Borderline hesitant and not secure in his decision making yet. If he blossoms, he can be a star.

Upside Pro Comparison: George Iloka – CIN

9 – Rayshawn Jenkins – 6’1/214 – Miami: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior that missed 2014 while recovering from a back injury that occurred during offseason weight training. Jenkins started for three years. The 3rd Team All SEC safety plays a physical brand and has the size to back it up. He can knock ball carriers in to tomorrow but also shows advanced footwork and awareness in coverage. He wore a lot of hats for that Canes defense. You’ll get a high effort, intense, physical guy here that can be moved around a bit.

*Jenkins is an interesting guy. One of 16 children growing up, he plays the game as hungry and intense as anyone. Leader of the defense type. The former high school running back and track champion will be a special teams demon week 1 and could likely physically start in year one as well. I don’t think he will ever be a star but you may not need him to be. He will be reliable,physical, and fast.

Upside Pro Comparison: Morgan Burnett – GB

10 – Xavier Woods – 5’11/197 – Louisiana Tech: 77

Summary: Four year starter and three time 1st Team All Conference USA member. 17 interceptions over his final three years is the number that stands out from Woods. He has cornerback type traits and could likely fill the nickel role on some teams that want more physical presence at that spot. Woods has some of the best instincts and awareness of all the players in this class. He is always in the right place mentally and his movement ability is near top notch. Woods is overlooked but I bet he gets drafted sooner than some think.

*I like this kid a lot. Some things, mostly his size, tell me not to put him this high on this list but at the end of the day, he isn’t much smaller than most of these fellow safeties. Woods is always moving in the right direction and I think he can fit in to any scheme and wear multiple hats. Maybe never a big time player, but he can contribute early in different roles.

Upside Pro Comparison: Micah Hyde – BUF

11 – Justin Evans – 6’0/199 – Texas A& M: 77

Summary: Fourth year senior that played and started for two years at Texas A& M. The former junior college standout earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2016, displaying an all-over-the-field style of play. Evans is an outstanding athlete for the position that will lay the lumber to oncoming ball carriers but also factor in deep coverage. He can wear multiple hats for a defensive backfield, but must show he can do a better job of reading receivers and quarterbacks before he can be relied on. He takes too many false steps for a position that needs to rely on instincts, feel, and anticipation. If he can harness his aggression and add some bulk, he can be a quality starter.

*Exciting player to watch. Plays with a chip on his shoulder and his presence is bugger than his listed size. That said, I think he is on the very thin side and it always worries me when a player with his frame plays at hard as he does. Will he hold up? We are talking about hitting a different breed of athletes in the NFL. Evans is almost over-aggressive and is often catching up from missed reads. Sometimes it helps, but sometimes it just kills a defense. All or nothing in more ways than one.

Upside Pro Comparison: Quintin Demps – CHI

12 – Josh Jones – 6’1/220 – NC State: 75

Summary: Junior entry. Full time starter for two and a half years that has somewhat flown under the radar. Jones is a productive-across-the-board defender that totaled eight interceptions over his career in addition to be an aggressive run defender that flies all over the field. His tools are top notch, but mentally he shows too many lapses in concentration and an overall lack of instincts. He’ll need to show he can play with more discipline before he can be depended on as a last line of defense.

*For teams that are looking for more size and presence among a safety group that is pretty undersized as a whole, Jones may be higher on their board. He is a great downfield, physical tackler that will react as fast as anyone. He can close that 10-15 yard window as quick as anyone. What Jones consistently did poorly, however, was read quarterbacks and receivers. He got fooled weekly and sometimes, very badly. Does he have instincts? If not, I wouldn’t want him. If he can clean that up, he has a very high ceiling.

Upside Pro Comparison: Reshad Jones – MIA

13 – Nate Gerry – 6’2/218 – Nebraska: 75

Summary: Fourth year senior with three years of starting experience. In each of those three years, he was a part of the Big 10 All Conference team. Gerry played a hybrid LB/S role for this defense but n 2016 he saw more deep coverage duties in which he performed admirably. Gerry will be drafted for his run defending presence, but he has proven he is not a major liability on coverage. Still a limited athlete, Gerry can be a solid compliment to a coverage safety.

*Gerry was suspended for the team’s bowl game this past year because of academics. I wouldn’t call it a character red flag though. Gerry plays the game physical and borderline dirty. He likes to be a bully and some teams will love that about him. He is an enforcer that is athletic enough to carry tight ends up the seam. I wouldn’t trust him in deep coverage or in a matchup against NFL WRs, but he can find a role.

Upside Pro Comparison: JJ Wilcox – TB

14 – Marcus Williams – 6’0/205 – Utah: 75

Summary: Started through all four years of his career, earning all conference honors in 2015 and 2016. Despite missing some time this past season with a knee injury, Williams proved to be one of the top ballhawks in the class. He shows a very advanced skill set when it comes to getting himself in position and making plays on the ball. Even though he has a good reputation of constantly being in or near the action, Williams was too easily fooled and let up a lot of big plays. As a last line of defense in the secondary, he needs to do a better jump of diagnosing what is real and what is not. In addition, his frame needs more meat so that he can add a presence to his tackling rather than getting knocked backwards so often. Developmental, potential starter down the road.

*Most will have this guy as a day 2 pick, but I’m not quite there with him. Williams is very good when the ball is in the air. He can high point the ball and position his body well. What concerns me though is a lack of quick twitch and unplanned movement. He isn’t a good reaction guy and combining that with a lack of tackling presence, I just see too little impact between his turnovers. Sure he can make some plays in specific situations but I just think it is too specific.

Upside Pro Comparison: Mike Mitchell – PIT

BEST OF THE REST (15-29)

15 – Delano Hill – 6’1/216 – Michigan: 75
16 – Tedric Thompson – 6’0/204 – Colorado: 74
17 – Randall Goforth – 5’10/186 – UCLA: 72
18 – Jonathan Ford – 5’11/205 – Auburn: 72
19 – David Jones – 6’1/205 – Richmond: 71
20 – Eddie Jackson – 6’0/201 – Alabama: 71
21 – Lorenzo Jerome – 5’10/204 – St. Francis: 70
22 – Jamal Carter – 6’0/218 – Miami: 70
23 – Derek Barnett – 6’0/192 – Kansas State: 70
24 – Donald Payne – 6’0/217 – Stetson – 70
25 – Montae Nicholson – 6’2/212 – Michigan State: 70
26 – Ahmad Thomas – 6’0/217 – Oklahoma: 69
27 – Shalom Luani – 5’11/202 – Washington State: 68
28 – Josh Harvey-Clemons – 6’4/217 – Louisville: 67
29 – Orion Stewart – 6’0/203 – Baylor: 67

NYG APPROACH

With potential superstar Landon Collins in place for the near future, it’s important this team finds someone to put next to him. If you’re traditional, the ideal battery mate should be able to play the deep centerfield role whole Collins is roaming all over the field and creeping up towards the line of scrimmage often. Darian Thompson looks like he has the proper blend of tools, size, and instincts to at least warrant the opportunity. In addition, it appears he will be fully healthy and ready to rock before summer. However, like I said last year I’m not sure he can hold up with his style of play and lack of a sturdy frame. And is he really that much of a factor in coverage? I don’t see it. This safety class has a few guys that can wear the multiple hats you want a safety to show. I’m looking at a Budda Baker in round 2 or someone like Xavier Woods in round 4. Guys that can play some nickel CB but also the deep cover safety when called upon. In addition, Collins could use a quality backup, a guy that plays the run hard and can move with tight ends. Late day 3 there perhaps.

Apr 232017
 
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Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State Buckeyes (October 15, 2016)

Marshon Lattimore – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WHERE THEY STAND

What used to cause as much stress to an NYG fan as anything, the cornerback group can rightfully be considered the team’s top unit. Janoris Jenkins was worth every penny that Reese spent in free agency. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie may not be the household name of the group anymore but you’re going to have a hard time convincing me there are better #2 CBs in the league than him. Make that two incredible free agent signings by Reese at the position in recent years. To back them up, tools-rich Eli Apple took his rookie lumps in 2016 but he flashed several times. He looks like a keeper but we need to see more in 2017. Behind these three, a case can be made that the rest of the depth is replaceable. I like Antwon Blake (signed from TEN), a signing that I think we will be looking back on about 6 months from now as a solid under the radar move.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Marshon Lattimore – 6’0/192 – Ohio State: 86

Summary: Third year sophomore entry with only one full year of experience. Missed the final five games of 2015 with his chronic hamstring problems but played every 2016 contest, earning 1st Team All Big Ten honors. In most scenarios, the lack of career experience and injury woes would be enough to really bump a player’s grade down quite bit. However the 20 year old Lattimore could make a case that he has the most impressive blend of tools and skills within this deep cornerback class. The size, speed, and ball skills are all top notch and he can fit in to any coverage scheme or role. The upside is through the roof here as long as his hamstrings can be trusted.

*Two red flags here. The hamstring issues that plagued him for 2+ years and a lack of experience. I factored both in to the grade and he still finishes at the top of an unbelievably talented and deep group of CBs. Lattimore is as smooth and instinctive as it gets. Very quick reads, even quicker burst matched with ball skills and enough size. Lattimore has true shutdown capabilities. He is a lock for top 6 overall.

Upside Pro Comparison: Johnathan Joseph – HOU

2 – Kevin King – 6’3/192 – Washington: 85

Summary: Three year starter that has saw a lot of time at safety early in his career before making a shift to cornerback in 2015. Two time Honorable Mention All Pac 12. King fits the mold of what the NFL is looking for in cornerbacks. He is tall, long, and fast. His top tier ability to change direction and burst is just as attractive. King has had some shoulder durability issues on that slight frame of his, but when he is on the field he proved to be a cover corner on the way up. His skill set is starting to catch up with his elite, top tier tools. Enormous upside.

*I always get Washington games early on in the year for whatever reason. I went in to their week 1 matchup against Rutgers ready to scout Baker, Jones, Qualls, and Victor. I came away, in that game alone, with the notion that King was the best prospect on that team. Here we are a week before the draft and that thought never left me. King has superstar potential, probably even more so than Lattimore. This kid’s height, length, easy acceleration, and agility can make him able to cover anybody. My fear with him is a lack of bulk. He is an aggressive tackler and I’d hate to see him break in to pieces when he takes on an NFL downhill power runner. But when it comes to coverage, King is top notch. Needs to refine a few things but I think he is heading to top tier status.

Upside Pro Comparison: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – NYG

3 – Gareon Conley – 6’0/195 – Ohio State: 82

Summary: Fourth year junior with two seasons of starting experience. Ended his career with a 2nd Team All Big 10 nomination. A tall, very long, and more than fast enough cover corner that has the potential to excel on the outside. Conley has as much upside as any cornerback in this class. Very few match-ups give him trouble but he will need to develop the mental side of the game. He can be fooled and he’s shown a consistent struggle defending the deep ball, but if he can shore those up his he has upper tier starter written all over him.

*Every time I scouted Apple last year, Conley flashed. He jumped off the screen as much as, if not more. I think he has more natural coverage ability and instincts than Apple did. Slightly less talent, but he was more consistent (if that makes any sense I know). Conley excels in man coverage, especially on the short and intermediate routes. I think he will need some work before you can toss him on an island against speed, but the upside warrants a 1st round pick. He is a possible top 10 pick.

Upside Pro Comparison: Byron Maxwell – MIA

4 – Quincy Wilson – 6’1/213 – Florida: 81

Summary: Junior entry with two years of starting experience, the latter of which he earned 2nd Team All SEC honors. When looking for the current era’s ideal cornerback, the image of Wilson comes up. Very big, tall, long, strong, and fast. These are all physical traits on Wilson’s sheet and he proved that there are football skills to go with them. Even though he appears raw and borderline reckless at times, Wilson has the goods that most cornerbacks will never have. The ability and skills are there, but the consistency is not. If he takes to NFL coaching and pays attention to details, he can be a star.

*You want upside? I feel like a broken record here…but Wilson is another guy that could easily be the top CB in this class. He is a little on the non-traditional side, but the kid gets it done. Really physical as a press corner, probably the most aggressive cover man in the class. He is ultra-confident, has the short memory you want, and the talent just drips off him. There is some rawness to his techniques and he is going to need to know that his ability won’t be enough against NFL WRs. If he applies himself and takes in coaching, watch out.

Upside Pro Comparison: Aqib Talib – DEN

5 – Ahkello Witherspoon – 6’2/190 – Colorado: 80

Summary: Under the radar high school recruit. Started off as a 5-foot-8 junior college corner but then grew 5 inches prior to joining the Colorado roster. In his senior season, Witherspoon led the nation with 23 passes defended and earned 2nd Team All Pac 12 honors. The arrow is pointing up for this kid as much as any player in the draft. His tools and ball production were top notch all season and there are plenty of reasons to believe his upside is through the roof. As long he takes in NF coaching and improves his techniques, Witherspoon is headed towards being a household name.

*A name that wasn’t on my radar prior to the season, he abruptly climbed to my top 10 of the group by midseason. The height, length, speed, and ball skills are enough to get anyone high on him. But I saw a level of competitiveness that few players have. He relishes the role of being matched up on an island and I love that about him. He can be a star. There are some very important things he needs to work, like maintaining speed and body control on deep balls. He is a day 2 name NYG would have to think about.

Upside Pro Comparison: Richard Sherman – SEA

6 – Tre-Davious White – 6’0/197 – LSU: 80

Summary: Four year starter on a defense that breeds NFL defensive backs every season. He capped his career off with a 1st Team All SEC nomination while wearing the honorable #18 jersey, given to the team’s leader. A four year starter in the SEC with his kind of production, versatility, and consistency says a lot about what he can offer in the NFL. He won’t ‘wow’ anyone with tools, but his ability to stay on the hip pocket and play with proper techniques will get him on the field early in his career. His best fit may be defending the slot, but he can easily be moved around depending on the situation.

*In this high ceiling CB class, I think White gets overlooked. While he may not have the top tier measurables (he’s no slouch there) in comparison to the others, White can make the case that he accomplished more than any of these guys over his college career in the SEC from a school known for producing NFL talent at defensive back. White is a “know what you’re getting” prospect. Very solid player that can fit in to any coverage role right away.

Upside Pro Comparison: Casey Hayward – LAC

7 – Fabian Moreau – 6’0/206 – UCLA: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior that came to UCLA as a running back before making a switch to cornerback during his first year. He went on to become a four year starter and earned All Conference honors 3 out of those 4 years, the only not being 2015 where he suffered a season ending foot injury. Moreau is one of the best pure athletes in the entire class. His development is ongoing and if he can reach his upside, he could be the top corner in the class. He has a rare blend of tools and a skill set that appears to be catching up. The lack of feel and instincts is worrisome and could expose him early on, but in the right role he can be a difference maker while he develops.

*Every now and then, you actually see the top tier athlete develop in to a high quality, skilled player. That is Moreau. He’s always been an eye-popping athlete but in 2016 he showed a different level of skills and instincts. He is a nicely built, smooth operator that can still evolve in to an even better player. Very high upside and yes, you guessed it, could be the top guy in this group a few years from now.

Upside Pro Comparison: Patrick Peterson – ARI

8 – Jourdan Lewis – 5’10/186 – Michigan: 79

Summary: Three year starter that, after missing the first 3 games with an injury, capped his career with a 1st Team All Conference nomination, winner of the Big 10 Conference Defensive Back of the Year Award, and Jim Thorpe Award finalist performance. Lewis had an ultra-productive career and seems to be ready for an NFL role week 1. His abilities are best suited to defend the slot because of his seamless transitions out of his breaks and ability to cut off routes. If he gets matched up against bigger receivers, he can be pushed around easily. However his performance inside could be top tier.

*It took 8 guys to find a corner under 6 feet and below a 1st round grade. Lewis, who just missed a 1st round grade in my book, is more than a slot corner. He can play outside as well. I think he is one of the top corners in the class when it comes to playing the ball and maintaining his body control downfield. That can certainly make up for some of the size deficiencies. Lewis is a little under the radar but I think he is almost a sure thing to factor in the league at a high level.

Upside Pro Comparison: Brent Grimes – TB

9 – Adoree Jackson – 5’10/186 – USC: 79

Summary: A four year starter that has as many accolades and awards on his mantle as anyone. Jackson has played all over the field for the Trojans and no matter where he was, he excelled. Jackson will enter the league as a cornerback, where he won the 2015 Jim Thorpe Award and earned All American honors, but his quality tape as a receiver and running back will give NFL coaches some ideas to try out. In addition, the All American track and field star will immediately become one of the league’s top return specialists. Now that he can fully focus on football, Jackson’s arrow is pointing up as much as anyone.

*Watch this kid’s highlight reel and you may wonder why he plays cornerback because he has some big time, legit ability with the ball in his hands. As a CB alone, he may not be graded this high but because of what he can offer on special teams and a special offensive package, he is borderline round 1 for me. He was an accomplished collegiate track and field athlete but now that his training is solely on football, I think you may see an uptick in his skill set as a cover man. Jackson has some holes and lacks some instincts, but he can be a starting corner in the league for sure. If not, you have one of the most dynamic playmakers with the ball in his hands in this class.

Upside Pro Comparison: Robert Alford – ATL

10 – Chidobe Awuzie – 6’0/202 – Colorado: 78

Summary: Four year starter that finished his career as a 1st Team All Pac 12 honoree after being named to the 2nd Team in 2015. Co-recipient of the team’s MVP Award in 2016, as well. The Colorado secondary was among the best in college football this past season and it was Awuzie that led the way. The quick twitched, physical corner can excel from the slot and in most outside coverage responsibilities. He may not have the confidence in his deep speed to man up the NFL’s fastest downfield threats, but everywhere else this kid can be a factor. He plays with an excellent combination of technique, instincts, and quick-twitch reaction. He can play week 1.

*The best tackler and the toughest competitor in this group. Don’t be fooled by the #10 ranking of the group, I think this kid can be a fan favorite and integral piece to a good defense. He may need a specific scheme, one that is more zone based. But I love the way this kid plays and he is a quiet leader that plays as hard as anyone. Smart, instinctive, and quick to react. Someone is going to get a great player here if they put him in the right role.

Upside Pro Comparison: Darrelle Revis – FA

11 – Marlon Humphrey – 6’1/198 – Alabama: 77

Summary: Third year sophomore entry and two year starter. A former high school state champion sprinter and son of former 1st round pick Bobby Humphrey. An overly aggressive, talent-filled cover corner that was among the best players on the best defense in the country. Humphrey is ready to start in the NFL week one and he won’t show an ounce of fear. He is an overly confident, overly aggressive defender. He needs to improve his consistency from a skill ad technique perspective, however. Talent can only take you so far at cornerback. If he can learn to trust his footwork and track the ball better, Humphrey can be a quality starter.

*I wouldn’t go as far as saying I don’t like Humphrey, I just simply believe there is a lot of work to be done. I hate to see that his weaknesses are the in the same place as they were in 2015. He has talent, he has the mindset to play the second toughest position in football, but there are too many inconsistencies with his technique. He has a high ceiling but in such a stacked CB class, I could see him falling deep in to day 2.

Upside Pro Comparison: Stephon Gilmore- NE

12 – Sidney Jones – 6’0/186 – Washington: 77

Summary: Junior entry that started all three years and finished with two straight 1st Team All Pac 12 nominations. Jones came in to 2016 with very high expectations after a breakout sophomore campaign in 2015. The size, speed, and physical style led some to compare to him to former Huskie and current Chiefs star Marcus Peters. Jones isn’t quite on that level, but his upside can scratch that surface. He knows how to play the ball once in the air and he forecasts well. The issues with him are very correctable but they’ve been there for awhile now with little-to-no progress. He needs to clean up vital techniques to the position. If he does, he has star written all over him. If not, he will be a major liability. High risk, high reward.

*Since my report was filed, Jones went through arguably the worst situation imaginable during the pre draft process. He ruptured his Achilles during the Washington Pro Day on a simple cut in DB drills. He will more than likely be out for all of 2017. So anyone that spends on a pick on him will be deferring that selection to next year AND dealing with an injury that is not easy to bounce back from. That said, Jones was a top 5 CB in this class no doubt. The upside is enough and you know what? NYG could be a landing spot for him considering their need at CB at this time next year could be much stronger. If he is there in round 4, it’s an easy decision. Before that….flip of the coin.

Upside Pro Comparison: Josh Norman – WAS

13 – Corn Elder – 5’10/183 – Miami: 77

Summary: Former top tier running back recruit made the move to cornerback his freshman year. Elder has a lot of athletic and style of play traits that can make him a defensive weapon in the league. His issue may be that he is too small for every down outside duty and not quick enough for nickel duty. If he can be put in to the right scheme, Elder will make a team very happy. While the desired measurables aren’t quite there, he has shown he can make up for them with his aggression, toughness, and instincts.

*The first corner in the group that I think purely a slot guy. He has the short area quickness and reads routes as well as anyone. Very instinctive and smart. In addition, Elder can give Awuzie a run for his money as the top tackler in this group and that is always a plus for guys that play the slot.

Upside Pro Comparison: Chris Harris – DEN

14 – Brian Allen – 6’3/215 – Utah: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior that began his career as a wide receiver. After making the switch, Allen started just 13 games over the course of four seasons. The size and speed to go along with his ball skills create a sense of potential and high ceiling here, but at the end of the day is was too easily beaten by receivers that knew that there were doing. He is a long term project .

*I’m likely waiting until day 3 for Allen, as I just don’t see the early impact from this guy and there is a lot of risk associated with a prospect like this. I love the size, speed, and aggression as much as the next guy but he looks overly raw to me at times. A terrible tackler and he gets fooled easily. Gamble worth considering if you have enough short term security at CB.

Upside Pro Comparison: Sean Smith – OAK

15 – Channing Stribling – 6’1/188 – Michigan: 76

Summary: Fourth year senior with a year and a half of starting experience. A former Division I basketball recruit ended his career with a 2nd Team All Big 10 season. Stribling initially comes across as too frail and thin, but it won’t take long to realize he has all the aggression and playing strength a cornerback needs. He is a tough, hard nosed player that will not hesitate to get dirty in oncoming traffic. Stribling showed top tier ball skills and paired with his length, it could make up for a lack of long speed.

*The Michigan defense was so stacked. It took forever to get a hold of all their guys in the scouting process and for no particular reason, Stribling was one of the last guys I really zeroed in on. I was very impressed with how consistently well he played the ball in the air. I love his competitiveness and knack for being in the right place at the right time. I don’t see a high ceiling here because his speed can be beat and he still plays with a light presence at times, but I think he can be a top tier backup that gets on the field in nickel/dime situations.

Upside Pro Comparison: Dre Kirkpatrick – CIN

BEST OF THE REST (16-30)

16 – Jalen Myrick – 5’10/200: 75
17 – Shaquil Griffin – 6’0/194 – Central Florida: 75
18 – Damontae Kazee – 5’10/184 – San Diego State: 75
19 – Ryan Lewis – 5’11/192 – Pittsburgh: 74
20 – Cameron Sutton – 5’11/188 – Tennessee: 74
21 – Teez Tabor – 6’0/201 – Florida: 74
22 – Nate Hairston – 6’0/196 – Temple – 74
23 – Cordrea Tankersley – 6’1/199 – Clemson: 74
24 – Aarion Penton – 5’9/177 – Missouri: 73
25 – JR Nelson – 6’1/187 – Montana: 73
26 – Howard Wilson – 5’11/200 – Houston: 73
27 – William Likely – 5’7/180 – Maryland: 73
28 – Jeremy Clark – 6’3/220 – Michigan: 72
29 – Rasul Douglas – 6’2/209 – West Virginia: 71
30 – Treston Decoud – 6’2/206 – Oregon State: 71

NYG APPROACH

This is the deepest AND most top heavy CB I’ve seen. For any teams looking for secondary help, this is the year to get stocked. Throw in the safety class and you could make the argument this is the best DB class ever. Even though the NYG top three corners can be called the best in the NFL, there is without a doubt room for another guy in there. The position has been hit by injuries every year and we’ve seen in the past that weak backups at corner can ruin a defense. Might as well use one of these picks to stock the shelves for depth and future reasoning. Round 1 is likely out of the question, but after that I think all bets are off. This class is so deep, I’m confident the right value will be there almost every time NYG is on the clock. When you actually take one can be debated but let’s not forget how quickly this position as a whole can get ugly.

Apr 212017
 
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Jarrad Davis, Florida Gators (September 17, 2016)

Jarrad Davis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Linebackers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WHERE THEY STAND

For the first time in awhile, it doesn’t come across that NYG is in desperate need of new talent at the LB group. It was getting bad in there for awhile and I have always been critical of the approach that “4-3 linebackers aren’t that important” type approach. NYG hasn’t seen a trio of truly effective LBs in such a long time that they have failed to realize how much better this defense could be with better players at this spot. Keenan Robinson was an important piece to their defensive success and Devon Kennard has been quietly very good. There seems to be a spot up for grabs in the middle, as last year’s BJ Goodson should get a shot. While the starters appear set, there is still a lack of overall talent and depth here. None of them are particularly good pass rushers and there isn’t a playmaker within the group.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Jarrad Davis – 6’2/230 – Florida: 84

Summary: Four year contributor with enough speed and explosion to get anyone excited. Tough hard nosed leader that takes pride in the role of a linebacker. Davis brings the attitude and physical prowess you want in the middle of your defense. His violent presence as a tackler and aggressive nature in pursuit makes him a legit sideline to sideline threat against the run. He has all the range and tackling ability in the world, but Davis will need to show more discipline and awareness in the NFL, however.

*If it weren’t for some durability issues, Davis would be a couple points higher and ultimately end up in the top 6 overall in this class for me. He entered the year as my favorite LB and has since been passed by a couple guys, just to have Davis end up back on top right before the draft. This is an almost-perfect blend of speed, power, quickness, and intelligence. Davis can think AND move his way in to production. Very effective in coverage. Effective blitzer. He is an every down threat that has top tier talent and a blue collar approach. In NYG’s scheme, he would be a perfect weak side fit.

Upside Pro Comparison: CJ Mosley – BAL

2 – Reuben Foster – 6’0/229 – Alabama: 79

Summary: Two year starter that lost about 20 pounds prior to the 2016 season which helped bring his game to another level. The 2016 Butkus Award winner and 1st Team All American proved that he could sustain his elite level power and functional strength at a lighter weight, enabling him to be a guy that never comes out of the game and factors all over the field. Foster has presence, aggression, and reaction that will make a difference on any defense right away. His main concern revolves around shoulder problems he had earlier in his career.

*I like Foster as a player a lot. Incredibly quick twitched, instinctive, explosive, violent. He dropped some weight prior to the season and it was a great move, as his range improved but his power presence remained. How come I have him as a borderline first rounder? The shoulder issue is worrisome. Potentially very worrisome. And there is now a good amount of smoke surrounding him off the field. Lastly, if you really spend time watching all of the Alabama tape, you’ll notice there wasn’t a LB in this class that went untouched more than Foster. There was such an unreal amount of talent on that unit and I hate to say it, but there were weeks where it was easy for Foster to produce. Health and off field stuff aside, Foster could have been around an 81/82 overall. But I don’t see the top 10 talent that most will talk about with him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Lawrence Timmons – MIA

3 – Haason Reddick – 6’1/237 – Temple: 79

Summary: Former high school running back blossomed from defensive end project to a 1st Team All Athletic Conference honors in 2016 after finishing third in the nation with 22.5 tackles for loss. Reddick played a defensive end type role for the Owls, but will likely project as a 4-3 SAM or WILL in the league. His athletic traits ans very solid week at the Senior Bowl lead to the notion that the move shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Reddick has a natural nose for the ball and can beat blockers several ways. He can be a swiss army knife for a creative defensive scheme that produces in any situation multiple ways.

*One of the guys I have spent the most time scouting over the past few months. I didn’t have a great read on him late in the season. Initially I labeled him a day 2 talent but when I saw how well he moved in coverage and in pursuit at the Senior Bowl, I was thinking round 1 for awhile. He is a big time athlete with all of the versatility you want in today’s NFL linebacker. That said, I still think he is a 2nd rounder if you put a gun to my head. I’ve noticed he isn’t overly physical at the point of attack and he doesn’t tackle well. He can be pushed around by big, physical blockers. Gets locked on to and doesn’t quite have that presence I look for in traffic. In the right role, he can be a stud. But you are gonna need to really protect him and try to hide is weaknesses.

Upside Pro Comparison: Thomas Davis – Panthers

4 – Tyus Bowser – 6’3/247 – Houston: 78

Summary: Two year starter that was positioned to break on to the national scene in 2016 before breaking an orbital bone (face), forcing him to miss 5 games. Still, Bowser finished the year with 2nd Team All Conference honors. The movement in traffic and space are both top tier, as he has the phone booth quickness to miss blockers and the long speed to cover tight ends up the seam. His role within the Houston 3-4 defense saw him wear many hats, showing NFL coaches and GMs that he can do it all. Versatility and athletic ability are key for Bowser. Through the roof upside.

*Bowser is a freak athlete that can rush the edge and cover as well as anyone when it comes to the combination of the two skill sets. He can really bend and get under blockers. Outstanding physical traits with a frame that can likely handle more weight. Coaches have every right to get really excited about a player like this. My downfall on him is he doesn’t play overly aggressive and seems hesitant at times. Runs around blockers too much and doesn’t seem willing or effective to really attack a blocker head on. Perhaps that can come with time. I don’t see round 1, but as a round 2 prospect he fits the bill for NYG has been looking to do at OLB for years.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jamie Collins – CLE

5 – TJ Watt – 6’4/252 – Wisconsin: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior. Initially came to Wisconsin as a tight end and redshirted his freshman year. Watt then missed all of 2014 with a knee injury and was limited throughout the 2015 offseason with another injury to his opposite knee. 2016 was his only real full season as a starter for the Badgers. The brother of All-Pro JJ, TJ earned 2nd Team All American and 1st Team All Big 10. His frame and style of play screams 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end as long as he can put on the weight he needs. He is short on talent but as advanced as a college player can be when it comes to technique, smarts, and phone booth-movement. Dark horse prospect.

*I wonder if some 4-3 teams are looking at Watt as a DE. Part of me thinks that is where he should end up, because I think he easily adds 10-15 pounds to his frame. No matter what he ends up doing, he is a guy that I would be very secure with in round 2. He is as good as anyone at defeating blockers and making plays. He can be an extra edge rusher on passing downs and an elite run defender elsewhere. He isn’t a very fluid athlete and I wouldn’t want him in certain coverage roles, but there is a ton to his game that would help the NYG defense. May have to get a little creative here but I feel like NYG has been looking for this kind of player for years.

Upside Pro Comparison: Anthony Barr – MIN

6 – Samson Ebukam – 6’2/240 – Eastern Washington: 78

Summary: Three year starter that steadily improved from athletic freak to football player each year. Earned 3rd Team All American honors in 2016. The hybrid OLB/DE has a unique combination of speed, explosion, and short area power that can give any blocker a handful. His football intelligence and hustle are top notch and the coaches speak volumes about his leadership and character traits. Ebukam isn’t a household name because of where he went to school, but when considering everything he can do, he has to be considered one the highest upside prospects in the class.

*Here you have it. Ebukam is my top sleeper in the draft and I have him graded as a legit 2nd rounder and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to see him outperform both Reddick and Bowser. They are all very similar prospects, yet Ebukam is rarely discussed. Athletically, he tested out as well as any LB in the entire class and on the field this kid is a terror. He mostly rushed the passer but in limited opportunities, he showed natural and easy movement when dropping back. I think we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg here. Combing the talent with his approach, I see a potential star here.

Upside Pro Comparison: Bruce Irvin – OAK

7 – Brooks Ellis – 6’2/240 – Arkansas: 77

Summary: Four year contributor for the Razorbacks that led the team in tackles in both 2015 and 2016 respectively. Ellis won’t jump off the screen athletically, but his ability to almost always be in the right place at the right time covers that weakness for the most part. He can’t fit in to every scheme but at a position where instincts and anticipation trump all, Ellis has enough there to be a quality backup at least.

*You want a smart, reliable, consistent performer in the middle? Ellis is your guy. Nobody is going to confuse him with Luke Kuechly, but Ellis is going to be a solid presence on all three downs in any scheme. He is more athletic than you think and combining that with his quick reads and anticipation, you know this guy is going to rack up the tackles. Not a star but he doesn’t need to be. He will get the job done each week.

Upside Pro Comparison: Chad Greenway – RET

8 – Ben Boulware – 6’0/238 – Clemson: 76

Summary: Fourth year senior. Team captain that has been the signal caller of the Clemson defense for two years. Boulware is an old school, blue collar linebacker that lacks ideal tools but more than makes up for them with his instincts and repeatable techniques. He does all the little things right and can be a major difference maker in any defensive scheme. His role should be best suited inside where he can make the calls and sniff things out. He is not a space player and he won’t be a major factor against the pass. However his value could be through the roof between the tackles.

*While I don’t like this guy the way I liked Chris Borland a few years ago, I do think Boulware is the kind of prospect that can come in year one and lead your team in tackles. He isn’t the same kind of athlete and there is some lack of power presence, but he can simply think his way in to a lot of production. Such a smart player that can play the role of quarterback on your defense. He sniffs plays out with the best of them. He may be a guy that comes off the field in certain situations, but for a 3rd or 4th rounder you could do much worse.

Upside Pro Comparison: Denzel Perryman – LAC

9 – Jalen Reeves-Maybin – 6’0/230 – Tennessee: 75

Summary: Fourth year senior that started for three years, leading the team in tackles in both 2014 and 2015. After missing most of 2016 with a shoulder injury, Reeves-Maybin opted to enter the draft rather than apply for a medical redshirt. Reeves-Maybin is one of the best short area movers in this class. He understands how to use his lack of ideal size to his advantage, shifting through traffic with ease. He is a hard guy to get a hold of and he knows how to finish. Reeves-Maybin will have to prove his shoulder is stable but if all checks out, he could be a weak side starter week 1.

*Interesting prospect here. Reeves-Maybin does look smallish initially, but this guy has an incredibly strong and quick-twitched lower body. That is a nice combination to have. He is an excellent open field tackler and there aren’t many guys that can pursue as well as he does. In addition, we are talking about an excellent cover linebacker and in today’s NFL, this is the kind of guy that can really excel on all three downs.

Upside Pro Comparison: Wesley Woodyard – TEN

10 – Raekwon McMillan – 6’2/240: Ohio State: 75

Summary: Junior entry. Team leader in tackles two years straight. Butkus Award Finalist in 2015 along with 2nd Team All Big 10 honors. Earned a spot on the 1st team in 2016. McMillan is an old school between the tackles force that can own the opposing inside running game. He is very stout and physical downhill player that can make the tough tackles in traffic. His point A to point B burst us underrated, but nobody can say he is a top tier athlete. He needs a specific inside role but in there, he can be a big time difference maker.

*If you are a fan of David Harris from NYJ, you’re gonna have to like McMillan. Very tough and stout in the middle. Can sniff out plays and knows how to finish. He can close that 10-15 yard gap downhill as fast as anyone and when he gets there, watch out. He isn’t a great lateral mover and he does struggles to change direction and adjust his weight. 3-4 teams may have a higher grade on him.

Upside Pro Comparison: David Harris – NYJ

11 – Duke Riley – 6’1/230 – LSU: 75

Summary: One year starter that took full advantage of his opportunity. Riley led the Tigers in tackles and proved he can make plays despite being undersized. His speed and aggression are big time factors. He projects as a weak side-only type but can be a weapon on special teams and eventual starter in the NFL. If Riley is in the right scheme with the right players around him, he can be a force.

*Speed is the name of the game for Riley, as he struggles to make the impact between the tackles and won’t get off a ton of blockers. But get this kid in space and tell him to chase the action, you may have yourself an elite playmaker. He needs to be protected but if you can keep him clean and out of traffic between the tackles, watch out.

Upside Pro Comparison: Kwon Alexander – TB

12 – Zach Cunningham – 6’3/234 – Vanderbilt: 75

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Overlooked high school recruit that evolved in to a two time 1st Team All SEC linebacker, while adding a 1st Team All American honor to his wall. In a league speed and versatility is the name of the game, Cunningham is going to raise a lot of eyebrows. Despite the less than ideal frame for physical play, his ability to play sideline to sideline and run like the wind will potentially be in high demand. Cunningham stood out weekly on a defense with very little talent. He is a playmaker that, if used correctly, can be an immediate impact. There are holes in his game that could be significant in the NFL. High risk, high reward.

*I have never quite seen it with Cunningham. I just hate the slender build and straight-line-only athleticism. Everything want in a LB, Cunningham basically can only project to. He has tools that some others don’t, but he isn’t Barr from MIN. He gets pushed around too much and won’t impact the game between the tackles well enough. You can gamble on his upside, but in round 1 or 2? I say no way.

Upside Pro Comparison: Thurston Armbrister – DET

13 – Jordan Evans – 6’3/232 – Oklahoma: 74

Summary: Three year starter that was second on the team in tackles in both 2014 and 2015 before leading the team in 2016. Two time 2nd Team All Big 12. The leader of the Sooners defense was a big time high school running back as well. His athleticism is more than noteworthy, as his ability gets him involved in the action often. He is a reaction-based player that can beat blockers and ball carriers to a spot, but he has struggled to show he can anticipate running lanes and read blockers. He will need to start off as a special teamer, where he could excel, while he develops the mental side of the game. If he can do that, he has a very high ceiling.

*You have the like the package you are getting with Evans. He is a guy that comes on to your team and immediately becomes the best cover LB in all likelihood. That’s how he can get on the field right away and from there, we’ll see if he can develop in to every down duty. Evans needs to get stronger and tackle better. He is a reaction player rather than an anticipation player, which can always backfire. But I like the upside if we are talking day 3.

Upside Pro Comparison: KJ Wright – SEA

14 – Connor Harris – 5’11/242 – Lindenwood: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior that missed the majority of his true sophomore season with a shoulder injury. The three time team captain is the all time, all-NCAA career tackle leader with a total of 633. His production would have been high at any level, not just Division II. Harris is a smart, instinctive, powerful, fit-into-any-crease type defender that is always around the ball. He was born to play linebacker. His physical limitations will have an impact on his versatility in the NFL, but there is a place for him in most defensive schemes. Harris should not be overlooked. In fact, he should be considered one of the safer picks in the class.

*If you like Boulware, you have to at least Harris a little bit Very similar players when it comes to instincts and reaction. Very similar players when you stack their measurables next to each other. I actually think Harris is better put together and can handle NFL blockers easier. He is an absolute rock. He plays a little stiff and likely needs to be taken off the field more than some of these other guys, but he will be productive in the right role. Coaches love these guys inside.

Upside Pro Comparison: Mychal Kendricks – PHI

15 – Vince Biegel – 6’3/246 – Wisconsin: 73

Summary: Four year contributor for the Badgers, earning a spot on the All Big 10 Football squad twice. Biegel hails from a football family and his passion for the game is obvious. He is a worker bee that relishes his opportunity. He is a limited impact type guy, but it’s safe to assume he can at least fit in as a quality backup as a 4-3 SAM or 3-4 rush ‘backer. Medicals need to be looked in to concerning his foot which has been a recurring issue.

*There are some issues here, mainly with his foot and the fact he essentially played 3-4 OLB in college. He is such a smart player though that understands hustle and reading offenses. Good combination. Better athlete that people think too and if they strike out on the some of the outside guys we talked about above, Biegel is a nice fallback option.

Upside Pro Comparison: Rob Ninkovich – NE

BEST OF THE REST (16-30)

16 – Cole Langer – 6’0/239 – Missouri State: 73
17 – Jayon Brown – 6’0/231 – UCLA: 73
18 – Kendell Beckwith – 6’2/243 – LSU: 73
19 – Alex Anzalone – 6’3/241 – Florida: 72
20 – Anthony Walker – 6’1/235 – Northwestern: 72
21 – Ryan Anderson – 6’2/253 – Alabama: 72
22 – Brandon Bell – 6’1/233 – Penn State: 71
23 – Ukeme Eligwe – 6’2/234 – Georgia Southern: 71
24 – Carroll Phillips – 6’3/243 – Illinois: 70
25 – Steven Taylor – 6’0/228 – Houston: 70
26 – Riley Bullough – 6’2/226- Michigan State: 69
27 – Charmeachealle Moore – 5’11/223 – Kansas State: 69
28 – Ben Gedeon – 6’2/244 – Michigan: 69
29 – Marquel Lee – 6’3/240 – Wake Forest: 69
30 – Tanner Vallejo – 6’1/223 – Boise State: 69

NYG APPROACH

The linebackers are good enough to get the job done for a quality defense. And this may be the first time I have gone in to the draft saying that in quite some time. But in no way am I crossing these guys off the list if the value is right, and that is starting with Jarrad Davis in round 1. I have had my eye on this kid for 2 years now and I am as sure about him as any player in this class. He is going to be a difference maker, a rock for a decade if he stays healthy. He represents everything I want in a LB. Besides him, I can understand the desire for the edge rushing 4-3 guy that can play the run and drop in to coverage. Very hard to find, but if there are a few in this class that can fit that mold. I simply don’t want to use the 23rd pick on any of them because I just don’t see the value grade wise and I think there will be better talent available. Reddick and Foster will likely be gone before I think they are worth taking. But a solid round 2 target could be Watt or Bowser. After that the players are very similar grade wise and it will depend on what you want out of the position. There will be quarterback of the defense types there as well as the athletes with upside. Either way, I think a pick should be used on one. Keep your eye on Ebukam!

Apr 202017
 
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Chris Wormley, Michigan Wolverines (October 29, 2016)

Chris Wormley – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Tackles

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WHERE THEY STAND

After the departure of Hankins for IND, we can now label this group the significant hole on the team. Last year’s free agent signing Damon Harrison is a Pro Bowl talent that will be locked in for the next few years. Big time player. Next to, and behind, him is a whole lot of nothing. NYG was pretty fortunate last year with Harrison and Hankins playing so many snaps. One injury and thus group becomes one that could lose games. I’m sure NYG will sign a veteran free agent between now and training camp but there is a reason those guys are still available. I don’t see Jay Bromley as a difference maker, although it appears we will find out this year what he’s got.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Chris Wormley – Michigan – 6’5/298: 84

Summary: Fifth year senior, four year letterman. First team All Big 10 selection in 2016. One of the most versatile defensive linemen in this class that could fit in to any scheme. Wormley has the size, power, and flexibility combination that simply won’t come around very often. His NFL-ready technique and high on-field IQ will get him on the field early and often. He is an assignment-based player that may not make a lot of plays on his own, but he will be an-ever reliable presence that can be moved around based on the situation and matchups.

*Like Demarcus Walker, some are saying Wormley can be considered in round 2. For me, he is a very real option for the pick at #23 overall. Wormley is a freak and nobody talks about it. Baffling. This guy has the frame you dream for and lower body flexibility that you won’t see in most defensive ends. He is a naturally big, powerful presence that can play assignment football exceptionally well. He can do multiple things for a defense, including shifting outside to LDE in certain situations. First class individual that pays attention to details. You know what you are getting from a guy like this.

Upside Pro Comparison: Richard Seymour – RET

2 – Caleb Brantley – 6’3/307 – Florida: 80

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Two year starter that was more disruptive than the stat sheet suggests. Brantley lost about 15-20 pounds prior to his senior season and showed he can be a disruptive three technique in the league. He is very quick and borderline hard to touch for some interior blockers. His hustle and short area pop can be a difference maker in some 4 man fronts. His limitations as a stay at home, space and blocker eater defender are apparent, though.

*Brantley used to play heavier He was 315+ in 2015 and played a little more of a run stuffing role. He can do that well, but the 10-15 pounds he lost prior to 2016 made a huge difference in his burst off the snap. He is a really disruptive guy but also shows the staying power to handle double teams and keep linebackers clean. He is a true every down threat that will contribute early. There is a strong chance he goes in round 1.

Upside Pro Comparison: Kawann Short – CAR

3 – Dalvin Tomlinson – 6’3/310 – Alabama: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior. Tore one ACL in 2011 and the other in 2013. One year of starting experience for the Tide, but has been a steady rotational contributor since 2014. Tomlinson is not your average kid off the field. He’s been through more adversity than most, losing both parents before he turned 18. He is very accomplished in the classroom and actually had an opportunity to go to Harvard, but chose Alabama instead. The former three-time state champion wrestler has the ideal size and power to play inside in any scheme. While he may be limited, his ability to control inside gaps will be there right away.

*One of the more interesting and impressive kids in the class when it comes to the off the field story. Tomlinson doesn’t have standout physical traits but you know you are getting a guy that will get the job done. While he is a different sized player than Linval Joseph, I feel he will have a similar impact early in his career. Just a reliable presence inside that makes guys around him better with the potential to blossom in to more. Really watch some Alabama tape and you’ll see him do things you didn’t think he could do. 2nd round is where I strongly consider him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Ahtyba Rubin – SEA

4 – Montravius Adams – 6’4/304 – Auburn: 78

Summary: Four year contributor, three year starter. First Team All SEC and Second Team All American in his senior season. Adams was always a talented player but he didn’t take in coaching very well until his final offseason. That resulted in him being a consistent week to week dominant force rather than the occasional flash in a pan. His experience in multiple fronts and roles will only help his overall outlook around the league. He can be a factor in any defensive scheme. His man strength is already here and despite not having ideal measurables, Adams will be a more-than-solid player in the NFL.

*From early on in the season, Adams has been a favorite of mine. He was a fun dude to watch, pure gamer. He played the role of bully week in, week out and purely relished it. Adams doesn’t have top tier talent or tools, but he gets off the ball looking to physically dominate his opponent. Really good assignment guy that will also make plays far away from the point of attack. Hustler that is constantly on. The light switch turned on for him in 2016 and it put him in to day 32 territory and I would strongly consider him in the 2nd.

Upside Pro Comparison: Cedric Thornton – DAL

5 – Carlos Watkins – 6’3/309 – Clemson: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior. Missed all of 2013 because of injuries sustained in a fatal car accident and didn’t make much of an impact in 2014. He started to blossom in 2015, earning 2nd Team All ACC honors but really turned it on his senior season. The 1st Team All ACC and 2nd Team All American showed what he can do on any down, any situation. He presence in the middle was too much for almost every lone opponent he faced up against. Not only did blockers have a hard time moving him, but he showed he could make an impact behind the line of scrimmage. He may not win athletically and there are technique flaws, but Watkins is a brute-force champion. He is a difference maker.

*If a team is looking for a guy that can press the pocket and occupy double teams, Watkins may be their guy. Even though I have a borderline day 2/3 grade on him, I think he can be a 2nd rounder because his specialty is near top tier. Watkins was simply stronger and more powerful than everyone he played against. He isn’t a dynamic athlete and there are some long term injury red flags, but this guy is a plug and play force that can compliment a pass rushing DT very well.

Upside Pro Comparison: Chris Baker – TB

6 – Larry Ogunjobi – 6’3/305 – Charlotte: 75

Summary: Four year starter and the poster boy for a program that was brought in to college football his freshman season. He has been the team’s top player from the beginning, never missing a start and repeatedly producing behind the line of scrimmage. The 1st Team All Conference USA honoree has excellent short area quickness and easy change of direction. In the right role he can be a solid rotational tackle. He shows some serious pass rush potential but won’t be an every down player.

*I wasn’t really turned on to this kid until the Senior Bowl, actually. He immediately jumped out to me during the practices and I found out some guys were talking day 2 on him. I’m not quite there with him, but I’m close. He moves really well off the snap and I think there is still some rawness to his game that a quality coach and situation can really work with.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jay Ratliff – FA

7 – Ryan Glasgow – 6’3/302 – Michigan: 74

Summary; Fifth year senior. 2nd team all Big Ten in 2016. Brother, Ryan, is a starting guard for the Lions. After missing some time in 2015 with a torn pectoral muscle, Galsgow came back strong and won Michigan’s Defensive Lineman of the Year award. He is a blue collar, dirty work guy that will play to his assignment and make a lot of hustle plays He may be a little short on talent, but he can be part of a rotation in most schemes.

*You know those prospects that you really like, through the grading process you can’t really justify a high grade? Guys that you know will impact the team they are drafted by and will out-play several plays drafted head of them? That is Glasgow. He doesn’t have a ton of talent and he won’t ‘wow’ you, but he is such a steady, consistent blue collar type. Draft him and at worst you have a #3 DT that will play his heart out when a starter needs a blow.

Upside Pro Comparison: Nick Hayden – CLE

8 – Nazair Jones – 6’5/304 – North Carolina: 74

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Football career was almost ended his junior year of high school, as he suffered from complex regional pan syndrome. Under the radar high school recruit that managed his disease and gained over 40 pounds in his redshirt year. Jones is a naturally gifted player that has a high ceiling. He proved he can be a disruptive interior force but needs to clean up his technique in time.

*For what it’s worth, I’ve been told Jones is a guy NYG has zeroed in on. When? Not sure. I would imagine the round 3-4 area. He fits the profile of what they have been chasing off the street lately and what they have drafted in the past. Tall, long, and a frame that can handle more weight with ease. Jones is raw but when he’s on, he can be very hard to move. I’m not sure I see a starter type, but you can’t deny the tools and upside.

Upside Pro Comparison: Michael Brockers – LAR

9 – Malik McDowell – 6’6/295 – Michigan State: 73

Summary: Third year junior entry. 1st Team All Big 10 defender in 2016 despite missing 3 games with an ankle injury. Has seen starting experience at DT and DE. Freakish physical traits and abilities that can take over games for stretches but marked down by inconsistency. McDowell is a gifted athlete that, when playing hard, can dominate. His speed, quickness, and aggression off the snap is a weapon that any team could use along their line. However his motor isn’t always on and the technique issues can make him a very beatable player. High upside, low floor prospect.

*I’ll be the first to tell you this is a guy that has first round talent and could be a major factor in the league. At his size, his movement off the ball is rare and when he has everything on, he can slip through small creases and really disrupt a passing game. However his inconsistency from an effort point of view really bothers me and when he’s not on, he can absolutely kill a defense. He needs to clean up a lot of techniques and I’ve been told his interviews were among the worst. Immature but woefully talented.

Upside Pro Comparison: DeForest Buckner – SF

10 – Jaleel Johnson – 6’3/316 – Iowa: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior, two year starter. Named to the First Team All Big 10 team after a strong 2016 performance. Johnson shows solid one-gap penetration as a pass rusher. His 7.5 sacks were among the nation’s leaders from interior defensive linemen. Johnson shows flashes of dominance that can wreck havoc from the inside. He has a quick first step and developed hand moves that can prevent blockers from gaining inside position. He will need to work on play-to-play stoutness and awareness before he can be considered an every down player, however.

*Here is another role-guy that could warrant a higher draft position if a team is looking for an extra stout guy for their interior. Johnson stands out as a guy that won’t be pushed back. He is always at the point of attack and he showed more promise as a pass rusher in 2016. I think he has a high floor.

Upside Pro Comparison: Brandon Williams – BAL

11 – Charles Walker – 6’2/310 – Oklahoma: 73

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Did not start until 2016 but he was still a 2nd team All Big 12 player in 2015, as he proved to be a penetrating force that could be moved inside/outside. Walker only played in 4 games in 2016 before suffering a concussion. In a somewhat controversial move, Walker opted to not return for the rest of the season despite being recovered because he wanted to prep for his NFL career. Walker doesn’t have a ton of tape to show scouts and coaches, so teams will be forced in to projecting him more so than others. He can fit in to any scheme.

*What I like about Walker is that you can pretty much do anything you want with him. He is a very solid, very versatile presence that can expose different matchup problems. The lack of experience has to worry anyone at least a little, and there seems to be some smoke off the field with him. He’s a major mystery but one with a big potential reward.

Upside Pro Comparison: Corey Peters – ARI

12 – Tanzel Smart – 6’1/296 – Tulane: 73

Summary: Three year starter. Two time 1st team all American Conference selection. Can use his low to the ground frame and initial quickness to his advantage consistently against blockers that have a hard time bending well. Smart may not be the most physically imposing player on the field, but he can make a difference as a rotational tackle. He is a hard guy to lock up at times and knows what to do when he is free within the tackle box.

*Some smaller DTs play to their size very well without losing out too much on presence. Smart is one of those guys. He can be borderline annoying for some of the more sizable blockers in the league. He has powerful legs and a quick first step. In addition he has some wrestler in him, meaning he fully understands leverage and angles to take advantage of a blocker that won’t bend well. Smart is a rotational guy at best but one that can make a difference.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jerrell Casey – TEN

13 – Isaac Rochell – 6’4/280 – Notre Dame: 72

Summary: Three year starter for the Irish and has played multiple roles along the defensive front. Team captain in 2016. Rochell recovered from an offseason back injury leading up to 2016 and didn’t get a lot of strength work. It appears that may still be his downfall. He has power off the snap but lacks the mass and strength to factor post-engagement. The tools and natural ability are there, but there is a lot of physical and skill development that need to be done.

*At his size, Rochell needs to be a better pass rusher if he is going to make a high grade. I do like his style, he does a lot of little things right and he has a very heavy pair of hands. He can stifle guys. But he isn’t a very powerful guy and he may be too much of a tweener to consider using anything more than a day 3 pick on him, more likely towards the 5th/6th round. There are better fits around the league for him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Mitch Unrein – CHI

14 – Deangelo Brown – 6’0/312 – Louisville: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior. Missed 2013 with an Achilles injury. Brown will be overlooked initially by any because he doesn’t have the ideal measurables. However after watching what he can do on a consistent basis when it comes to winning the line of scrimmage and doing a lot of dirty work, Brown can be viewed as a difference maker. He is a nightmare to block because of his elite playing strength and extremely low center of gravity. He may not be an every down player, but he is a guy that forces the offense to game plan around.

*Once again, Brown as an overall DT won’t grade out very high on anyone’s board. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take him until the guys above are gone. As a short term run stuffer, Brown is among the best in this class. He isn’t a guy you want on the field for a long time, as his conditioning is poor and his pass rush skills are below average. But as a guy that sits over the center and creates a new line of scrimmage, Brown is a difference maker. If you need a run defending presence, Brown can be worth taking early day 3.

Upside Pro Comparison: Brandon Mebane – LAC

15 – Ralph Green III – 6’5/315 – Indiana: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior. A raging force inside with the mindset of a bully, Green can make an immediate impact as a rotational defender. His ability to fire off the snap and deliver a violent blow can be used in any scheme. If he wants to be a mainstay however, he needs to show more discipline on and off the field. If he can improve technique, Green has the tools to be a starter.

*If he checks out OK off the field, NYG is going to like this guy He fits the profile of what they have been going after at DT lately. Big, mean, physical. He occupies a lot of space and multiple blockers. He was one of the best players at the Shrine Game. He can be a solid backup that can get on the field in short running situations right away.

Upside Pro Comparison: Alan Branch – NE

BEST OF THE REST (16-25)

16 – Jarron Jones – 6’5/315 – Notre Dame: 71
17 – Grover Stewart – 6’4/347 – Albany State: 70
18 – Eddie Vanderdoes – 6’3/301 – UCLA: 70
19 – Josh Tupou – 6’3/353 – Colorado: 70
20 – Vincent Taylor – 6’3/310 – Oklahoma State: 69
21 – Davon Godchaux – 6’4/299 – LSU: 68
22 – Phil Ivie – 6’3/301 – Florida: 68
23 – Nick James – Mississippi State: 6’4/328: 67
24 – Stevie Tu’ikolovatu – 6’1/350 – USC: 66
25 – Cole Langer – 6’1/314 – South Dakota State: 65

NYG APPROACH

As I said earlier, this is the one glaring hole on the roster and I think there needs to be a sense of urgency here. Obviously I am not saying to reach for a guy and neglect the grading process, but because of how the DT spot was approached this offseason, some of the NYG’s cards are out on the table. They will need to find a guy that can contribute in 2017. With that said, it doesn’t need to be an every down threat and considering how much easier it is to move a DE inside on passing downs, I would lead towards bringing in a run defender with one of the first 3-4 picks. Some names I am looking at are Wormley, Tomlinson, Watkins, Brown, and Johnson.

Apr 192017
 
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Myles Garrett, Texas A&M Aggies (October 8, 2016)

Myles Garrett – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Ends

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WHERE THEY STAND

With the two bookends locked up for the long term, NYG appears to be mostly set at the position. They have young backups that have shown flashes in limited opportunities but is it enough to neglect the position as a whole? Odighizuwa and Okwara are tools-rich but at the end of the day, they haven’t proven much. Kerry Wynn is a hybrid DE/DT that can easily be replaced, but he does make an impact on specials. With the amount of pass rushers this defense tries to get on the field on 3rd downs, you could make the argument that there is a need for another young, fresh pass rusher.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Myles Garrett – 6’5/262 – Texas A& M: 92

Summary: Third year junior entry. Unanimous All American. Initially called the next Von Miller but will likely finish the grading process regarded higher. If you manufactured an edge defender in a factory it would look and move like Garrett. His tool set is matched with a developed skill set that led to 48.5 tackles for loss and 32.5 sacks over his three-year career. Garrett is widely considered the top prospect in this class and will be a high impact edge defender day one.

*Not much else to say with this kid. He is as talented and possesses as much upside as any defensive prospect I’ve seen. The ability is through the roof and he’s only going to get bigger and stronger. If I had to discuss something negative with him, it would be the fact that he was hampered by lower body injuries a few times and it is a result of not protecting his legs. He can get a little lackadaisical out there and go through the motions. That won’t fly in the NFL. Whatever, this kid needs to be the #1 pick in the draft.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jadeveon Clowney – HOU

2 – Solomon Thomas – 6’3/273 – Stanford: 88

Summary: Third year sophomore entry. Former fie star recruit evolved in to a one man wrecking crew for the Cardinal defensive line. He earned 1st Team All Pac 12 honors in 2016, leading the team with 15 tackles for loss. A plus-plus run defender that shows enormous upside as an interior pass rusher, Thomas has the look of a guy that can be moved around the line to exploit matchups. His best role may be in a 3-4 scheme at defensive end, but his style of play can be used all over. A creative defensive mind could do wonders with him.

*Man I fell in love with this kid in October. Part of me knew back then it was foolish to think he could fall in to the NYG draft plans, and that will be the case. Thomas is actually in the running for #2 overall from what I have heard. He is the ideal outside/inside guy that can take advantage of matchups. He is extremely quick and powerful and plays the game like a pro already with his techniques and awareness. Thomas will work his tail off 24/7/365 for the team that hires him. He might be a special player.

Upside Pro Comparison: Lamaar Houston – CHI

3 – Jonathan Allen – 6’3/286 – Alabama: 85

Summary: Fourth year senior that ended his career with a bang, winning All American honors as well as both the 2016 Chuck Bednarik and Bronco Nagurski Awards. In a league where matchups are constantly trying to be exploited by defensive coordinators, Allen can be a fit in to any scheme. His short area quickness, power, and overall awareness can win most one on one situations. He can do the dirty work but also get plenty done behind the line of scrimmage. Allen is not a traditional edge rusher or interior defender, thus he shouldn’t be treated as one. With the right coach, Allen can be a star.

*I graded Allen out at both DE and DT and he ended up with an 84 at both, so you can put him in either. Allen needs to be watched from start to finish in a game numerous times to get a true appreciation. His ability to move inside and out and be equally effective is something every defensive coordinator wants. He can fill two desired roster spots by himself, very rare. Allen won’t wow anyone with athletic ability and I wonder if it will cause him to drop a little. If there is one guy that I could see dropping out of the top 15, it is him. NYG would be a perfect landing spot for him if that somehow happened.

Upside Pro Comparison: Malik Jackson – JAC

4 – Demarcus Walker – 6’4/280 – Florida State: 84

Summary: Four year senior that started games every season of his career. Capped it off with an All American campaign in 2016, finishing second in the nation with 16 sacks. Walker’s impact was felt both inside and outside, as the FSU coaching staff loved to move him around to exploit matchups and use his high on-field IQ to disrupt the opposing offense. Walker may not have a true every down position, but in a scheme that likes to move guys around, his potential is sky high. He may not thrive as well if someone puts him in one spot every down.

*A very similar version to what we see in Allen. Early in the year, Walker was put on my list of guys that I wanted for NYG. He has some of the most dominating tape of all the defensive linemen line in the class. He had stretches where no lone blocker, guard or tackle, could stick to him. Walker can beat guys so many different ways and the attention to detail is what will make him a productive player in the league. His arsenal is huge. Some say NYG should look at him in round 2. Well I think they should be looking at him in round 1.

Upside Pro Comparison: Derrick Morgan – TEN

5 – Jordan Willis – 6’5/250 – Kansas State: 84

Summary: Three year starter and team captain. Lauded for his intangibles by long time Head Coach Bill Snyder. Winner of the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2016. Willis does a lot of the little things right and his top tier intangibles are what every coach wants to work with. He playing strength and power presence are a notch below NFL caliber right now. His relentless pursuit of the ball and ability to get to the action consistently can get him on the field, however. In time he will need to show strength and size gains to hack it as an every down player in the 4-3 scheme. As a 3-4 outside rusher, his talent may not be enough to warrant starting roles.

*Like Walker, Willis is a guy I think NYG should be looking at with the 23rd pick. His upside is bigger, as I think he is a guy that will add 15+ pounds to his frame pretty quickly. Willis is such an all around, diversely talented defender that also carries all the intangibles you want in a young player. I think this would be a nice stop for him because he won’t be forced in to action right away. Let him add some weight to take on NFL blockers and refine some moves, and in time his presence will be felt. Remember, a third DE is borderline vital to a defense’s success.

Upside Pro Comparison: Demarcus Ware – RET

6 – Derek Barnett – 6’3/259 – Tennessee: 83

Summary: Third year junior entry. Only player in SEC history with three straight 10 sack seasons. 29 of his 33 career sacks came against SEC opponents. Barnett takes over games for stretches and seems unblockable at times. His hand power and lower body strength consistently give him the initial advantage over blockers and he can finish them in multiple ways. Barnett won’t win any awards in workouts nor does he look the part of your typical top tier defensive end prospect. He lacks the length and speed, but his on-field IQ and well-developed technique can make up for any physical shortcomings that he may have. He is a consistent three-down threat that shows passion and fire for the game. He will find ways to impact the game weekly.

*If any f you have kids that play football, show them some Barnett tape. He plays the game as hard as anyone from start to finish each week. He is short on tools and talent when it comes to comparisons to the other top guys in this class, but he gets the most out of himself. A case can be made that this kid is going to struggle against the sheer size and speed of NFL tackles. Effort helps, but we are talking about different breeds of pass blockers in the league. Even with that in mind, Barnett is a guy worth looking at should he fall in to the Giants lap.

Upside Pro Comparison: Terrell Suggs – BAL

7 – Tanoh Kpassagnon – 6’7/289 – Villanova – 78

Summary: Fifth year senior. Top tier intangibles and off field intelligence with an educational background that is rare. On the field, Kpassagnon showed steady improvement throughout all five years at Villanova. After tearing his MCL in 2014, the light clicked and he was named to the 1st Team All Colonial Athletic Conference Team. In 2016, he took it to another level and was named an FCS All American. His blend of tools and intangibles don’t come around often. Plain and simple, he may be a risk but he offers a level of upside that very few do in this entire class at a premium position.

*It’s hard not to fall in love with this kid when you initially watch him. He is a very rare prospect. The tools are top tier, his intangibles are there, and he had some dominant stretches at the Senior Bowl. If he can take in NFL coaching and strengthen his core up a bit, he’ll be a difference maker. I still think there is an outside shot at him sneaking in to round 1 because of he hits the upside, watch out.

Upside Pro Comparison: Carlos Dunlap – CIN

8 – Daeshon Hall – 6’6/260 – Texas A& M: 78

Summary: Four year contributor that made a full time position move from outside linebacker to defensive end in 2015. Hall still has some rawness to his game but the tools and ability cannot be overlooked. He has some of the best natural talent and overall upside in the entire class. His strength needs to catch up to his weight gain but when it does, every other trait is ready to go. Hall has uncanny bend-ability and straight line explosion, making him a nightmare for any blocker. His versatility as an inside-outside rusher could really get a defensive coordinator excited. Enormous upside.

*I’ve been back and forth on Hall a few times. Whenever I would scout Garrett, I kept noting that the guy on the other side of the line was quite the tools-rich prospect himself. They looked like two NFL DEs playing against college kids. Upon further review, I noticed that Hall lacked a physical presence when engaged with blockers. He didn’t get much push and struggled to disengage from quality players. I really saw this at the Senior Bowl. Re-watching some of his game tapes I noticed some of the same things. His talent and upside are high, but I wish I saw some more physical play from him. This is a guy NYG will have a high grade on.

Upside Pro Comparison: Michael Johnson – CIN

9 – Taco Charlton – Michigan – 6’6/272: 76

Summary: Charlton was a rotational, situational player up until his senior season. He was a late bloomer but took full advantage of his opportunities as a senior, finishing third in the Big Ten with 10 sacks, earning 1st Team All Conference honors. It’s hard to believe that a player with this tool set took this long to make the impact. His triangle numbers are some of the best in the class and the skill set is on the way up. The upside here is enormous and he could see more progress than most, as his uptick has only just begun.

*One year starters always have to worry you, but there were a few stretches during the season where I was going to have Charlton with the top 3-4 guys in the class at DE. If you are looking at these guys in pads and watching them get off the ball, Charlton has the goods. He looks like JPP and even showed some flashes of playing like him as well. There is some information that he wasn’t a hard worker, wasn’t very coachable. Little bit of a red flag but at some point you have to give in to the upside he presents.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jason Pierre-Paul – NYG

10 – Ifeadi Odenigbo – Northwestern – 6’3/258: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior that was forced in to a redshirt n 2012 because of a shoulder injury. Over the next three seasons, Odenigbo was a pass rush specialist that showed flashes, but he never quite took over every down duties. He added 15 pounds prior to his senior season and broke out, finishing 2nd in the Big 10 with 12 sacks. There is a blend of strength, quickness, and pro-caliber technique here that coaches will love when scouting him. He has day 2 potential.

*It took me awhile to get around to Odenigbo, as he never quite stood out when I scouted Anthony Walker (LB). But as the pre-draft process transpired, I noticed a guy that was very controlling of blockers and athletic enough to out-move his opponents. He is a very smart, very effective every down player. He looks like a solid rotational DE that can evolve in to a starter.

Upside Pro Comparison: Olivier Vernon – NYG

11 – Takkarist McKinley – UCLA – 6’2/250: 75

Summary: Two year starter for the Bruins after spending a year in junior college then a year as a backup. Earned 1st Team All Pac 12 honors in 2016 after finishing second in the conference in both tackles for loss and sacks. High upside prospect that shows glimpses of tools that are tough to come by. McKinkley is a plus-straight line athlete that has some of the best speed of all pass rushers in the class in addition to the strength to play a stout role against the run. A true every down impact type player. There is a skill set that needs to be developed though, as he shows several inconsistencies from a technique point of view. He needs to prove he can stay healthy, as well.

*He is a hot name but I think his better fit is in the 3-4 scheme. I don’t think he is a guy that will come in and make the every down impact as a 4-3 DE, nor do I think he warrants a high pick as a specialty player. He has some good get off and uses leverage to turn the edge, but he is a very beatable player. He’ll be gone before I would consider him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Demarcus Lawrence – DAL

12 – Derek Rivers – 6’4/248 – Youngstown State: 74

Summary: Three time 1st Team All Missouri Valley Conference defender. Leaves Youngstown State as the program’s career sack leader with 38.5. Rivers is a high upside prospect but will need time to mature his body. He needs more weight and strength so that he can deal with NFL tackles and avoid simply getting locked on to upon contact. There is a combination of tools and skills here, however, that is difficult to find. His ability to play low, fast, quick, and explosive can make a tackle think twice about being a step late out of his stance. Rivers is a top notch kid that will bring a chip on his shoulder in to the league. 3-4 teams will especially be interested.

*Again, a guy that needs to be graded much higher if you are a team looking for a 3-4 OLB. Rivers isn’t the ideal fit for NYG but this is a guy that plays more physical than his size but also has the short area burst to put any blocker on his heels. This is one of my favorite early day 3 options but recently heard some teams have a top 32 overall grade on him. I can see why, but very dependent on scheme.

Upside Pro Comparison: Whitney Mercilus – HOU

13 – Tim Williams – 6’4/244 – Alabama: 74

Summary: Played four seasons for Nick Saban, really contributing for his final two. 2nd Team All American in 2016 and was the top edge rushing threat for the nation’s top defense. Williams has the straight line burst and agility to make him a nightmare for tackles to get their hands on. He showed that he is more than an athlete in 2016, however. His rush move repertoire took a step up as he diversified his approach to reaching the passer. His ideal fit would be a 3-4 rush linebacker. The drug and gun issues are major red flags however, thus he will have a lot to answer in the pre-draft process.

*I had a higher grade on Williams, but point blank this guy is gonna have trouble staying away from failed drug tests. I hope I’m wrong because he has the kind of talent every team, no matter the scheme, is looking for on the edge. He can burst and bend with the best in this class and we aren’t talking about a string bean. Williams was one of the most powerful lower body lifters at Alabama. He can be a big time impact player in the right role if he stays clean.

Upside Pro Comparison: Bruce Irvin – OAK

14 – Ejuan Price – 5’11/241 – Pittsburgh: 73

Summary: Sixth year senior. Began his career as an inside linebacker but then missed serious time with multiple chest and back injuries. He missed the entire 2012 and 2014 seasons, respectively. After a move to defensive end, Price became one of the most productive defenders in the country over the past two seasons. He ended up on multiple All American teams in 2016 in addition to two straight 1st Team All SEC placements. Price will be overlooked by many because he lacks some of the “vital” tools. However he is OCD about his technique and understands how both mentally and physically beat a blocker. He is a nightmare for tackles to handle. There are lot of tricks up his sleeve and he understands how and when to use him.

*I don’t think I have ever graded a sub 6-foot defensive higher than the UDFA tier. But I’ve seen Price as much as any prospect in the class I think he is probably the most consistent player on this list.. Sure, there will be limitations and he may struggle to be an every down player, but for where you can get him in the draft and what he can do in specific situations, I think he is worth looking hard at day 3. Price is powerful, hard to get a hold of, and incredibly advanced when it comes to pass rush techniques. I can see a lot of production with him if he lands in the right spot. 4-3 DE may not be that spot, but I wouldn’t hesitate to give him hard look.

Upside Pro Comparison: James Harrison – PIT

15 – Tarrell Basham – 6’4/269 – Ohio: 73

Summary: Was having a very solid career until he really blossomed as a senior, winning MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors in addition to setting Ohio’s all time career sack record with 29.5. Basham has a lot of tools and skills, in addition on-field aggression, that every team wants in their pass rush repertoire. He needs to develop certain vital components, namely agility and flexibility, before he can be labeled a difference maker in the NFL. His top tier intangibles, glimpses of dominant tape, and a solid Senior Bowl week should give the notion he is heading in that direction.

*There were some whispers early in the pre draft process that Basham was going to be a first rounder. Those talks have been tempered but I still think he will end up in the second day. I’m not as high n him, as he really just beat up on mediocre talent. Some of the tools are there but when you put him on the field as the other legit prospects, he looks pretty average. I think he is a solid option for a rotational defensive end.

Upside Pro Comparison: Ryan Kerrigan – WAS

BEST OF THE REST (15-30)

15 – Dawuane Smoot – 6’3/265 – Illinois: 73
16 – Hunter Dimick – 6’3/272 – Utah: 72
17 – Charles Harris – 6’3/253 – Missouri: 72
18 – Carl Lawson – 6’2/261 – Auburn: 72
19 – Trey Hendrickson – 6’4/266 – Florida Atlantic: 72
20 – Deatrich Wise Jr – 6’5/273 – Arkansas: 69
21 – Fadol Brown – 6’4/276 – Ole Miss: 68
22 – Josh Carraway – 6’3/242 – TCU: 68
23 – Keionta Davis – 6’4/270 – Chattanooga: 68
24 – Al-Quadin Muhammed – 6’3/253 – Miami: 68
25 – Bryan Cox – 6’3/265 – Florida: 68
26 – Collin Bevins – 6’6/285 – Northwest Missouri State: 67
27 – Garret Sickels – 6’3/261 – Penn State: 67
28 – Ken Ekanem – 6’3/257 – Virginia Tech: 66
29 – Tashawn Bower – 6’5/250 – LSU: 66
30 – Avery Moss – 6’3/264 – Youngston State – 66

NYG APPROACH

I am split on what NYG should do with the position. Part of me says they have their two starters locked in long term, they have upside-based, talented backups and a guy that can move around a bit. With that in mind, use their picks to build other areas of their roster that lack depth. But man, I look at this DE class and I see so much talent that I want on this roster. There are a handful of guys that bring the kind of versatility that Spags loves to use on passing downs. I ask myself the question, if one of the starters goes down with an injury, what’s the outlook? I have a negative perception at that point and because of that, I think NYG can look for the DE value at any point in the draft and if its right, go for it.

Apr 182017
 
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Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (October 15, 2015)

Forrest Lamp – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Guards/Centers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WHERE THEY STAND

As I said in my OT preview, serious resources have been put in to this group. When it comes to the interior guys, Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg were 1st and 2nd round picks respectively. The former will be a free agent next offseason and the latter has been more down than up so far in his career. At right guard, John Jerry was brought back on a 3-year deal but with that said, it’s an easy contract for the team to get out of after one season. As I said when he was signed, I think the signing of DJ Fluker to a one year deal had more RT intentions as Bobby Hart isn’t a guy you want in the starting lineup. The long term future of the interior is very much up in the air and you could make the argument none of these guys will be here next year. Pugh is worth keeping around but the contracts guards have been getting free agency have to make you think.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Forrest Lamp – 6’4/309 – Western Kentucky: 84

Summary: Fifth year senior that started all four years. Has been their left tackle almost from the beginning of his career, capping it off with two straight First Team All Conference USA nominations. Lamp will likely have to move inside at the next level, where his size won’t be as much of an issue. His style of play may not be ideally suited in there because of a lack of moving power, but he proved against some of the best competition college football had to offer that he can simply get it done. Maybe never a star, but Lamp will be a solid starting caliber interior lineman for a long time.

*There may not have been an OL that performed better against Alabama than Lamp all year, and I mean that. He dominated Jonathan Allen, a guy that is destined to be a top 10 pick. His body control and consistency are as impressive as it gets in this draft class. Upside? Well he may not be an All Pro type, but I think he is as safe as you will find at the position. Can he shift outside in a pinch? I think so but I believe you are drafting this guy to be a rock inside for 10 years. NYG should consider him at 23.

Upside Pro Comparison: Zack Martin – DAL

2 – Cam Robinson – 6’5/328 – Alabama: 83

Summary: Junior entry. Nick Saban’s first ever true freshman full time starter at left tackle in 2014 never looked back and ended his career with unanimous All American Honors in addition to being the winner of the Outland Trophy (Nation’s top lineman) and Jacobs Blocking Trophy (SEC’S top lineman) respectively. If he can shore up some lower body technique issues, he is a top grade starter in the NFL. There could be some debate he is better suited for guard at the next level, but either way he is an immediate upgrade to almost every offensive line in football.

*The debate with Robinson is OT or OG and after all the hours I’ve spent on him, I still don’t have a hard answer. In terms of NYG, this is what I think. He is worth considering at #23 and he could be a week 1 starter at RG. I think NYG fans underrate Jerry but I’ve always thought Robinson has the upside of an All Pro, yes All Pro OG. He has things that NEED to be cleaned up though and I did take a few points off his grade for the gun issue last year. From all accounts I’m told he’s not a bad kid, but the gun stuff is almost no tolerance for me. Anyway, if Robinson dominates at guard, you’re set. But I do still believe there is high upside here at left tackle should NYG be looking for a new one in 2018. His balance in space is worrisome, but it can be corrected I think. That said, I wouldn’t draft him in round 1 to start at LT in 2017. RG? Sure.

Upside Pro Comparison: Kelechi Osemele – OAK

3 – Dion Dawkins – 6’4/314 – Temple: 81

Summary: Three year starter, mainly at left tackle, that ended his career with a First Team All-American Athletic Conference season. Dawkins has a little bit of raw still found in small areas of his game, but he has steadily improved each season of his career. Showing that he is very coachable and still very much on the rise. He has a natural and always-present level of power that you simply cannot teach. His future is likely at guard or right tackle in the league. If his technique continues to improve, he is a quality starter with some dominant traits.

*Some people see a left tackle here, I don’t. I think he is too sloppy and gets too top heavy. I think Dawkins has the upside of a Pro Bowl guard, year in and year out. What I want to see is a guy that has more consistency from quarter to quarter, as almost every one of my game notes have remarks concerning his difference in technique within the same contest. Conditioning may be his biggest issue and that can be corrected. Power, coachability, and short area athletic ability are all NFL-ready. Dawkins is another guy that could compete for a starting job week 1 at RG for NYG. And yes, there is some RT potential here as well, although I think his best fit is inside.

Upside Pro Comparison: Joel Bitonio – CLE

4 – Isaac Asiata – 6’3/335 – Utah: 80

Summary: Sixth year senior. Put his career on hold for a church mission trip in 2012. Finished his career with a 2nd Team All Pac 12 nomination. Cousin to Minnesota running Matt Asiata. When looking at the more physically imposing linemen in this draft, Asiata’s name is near the top of the list. He can move guys like few can and his experience at right tackle as well as both guard spots will only increase his grade. His struggles are athletically based but he has shown enough there to convince teams he can at least be a credible, versatile backup early on.

*I’m not sure we are looking at an elite-upside player here, but I think he can start early in his career and be a rock inside for years. Asiata will handle NFL power presence the second he steps on the field and for the rest of the guys below his name on this list, that will be the issue for most of them. It is an overlooked part of scouting interior guys in my opinion. They need to be able to anchor and not give up ground. Asiata will do that right away and he is a good enough mover to be a factor on trap blocks. Can he be a weapon in space? I’m not as confident but that’s not a factor the way it used to be.

Upside Pro Comparison: Mike Iupati – ARI

5 – Dan Feeney – 6’4/305 – Indiana: 79

Summary: After making several Freshman All American teams in 2012, Feeney sat out 2013 with a foot injury. After that, he went on to become a two time team captain, All American, and anchor of the Hoosiers offensive line. Hs future is inside in the NFL, but he did fill in a right tackle when the team needed him to in 2016. Feeney gets by on good initial contact and high on-field IQ. He understands important nuances to protecting the passer and staying on his man as a run blocker. His best fit is in a zone blocking scheme where a team can let him move laterally and not have to drive defenders backward.

*Feeney may not be the ideal fit for every scheme, but I think some teams will end up with a 1st round grade on him. He gets out of stance exceptionally well and shows proper mechanics/technique consistently. He came in to the year as my top guard, and the only guys that “passed” him weren’t on my guard board entering the year other than Asiata. Classic blue collar prospect that won’t ever be a star blocker, but you know what you are getting.

Upside Pro Comparison: Andy Levitre – ATL

6 – Dorian Johnson – 6’5/300 – Pittsburgh: 78

Summary: Former blue chip recruit began his career as a tackle, but was moved inside and blossomed in to a First Team All American by the end of his career. Johnson is the frame and foot quickness to excite anyone when pondering is long term potential. He has all the tools and more than enough quality tape to be the top guard in the class. He showed several glimpses of dominance across the board and proved he could be the guy a team relies on week in, week out. With some added man-strength and power, he could be a perennial Pro Bowler.

*For most of the year, Johnson was my top rated guard without the official grading process. From the naked eye, he has it all. A nice frame, excellent footwork, and a pair of hands that can control blockers. I do wonder if some teams are looking at him as a potential RT because he does have experience on the outside and his frame suggests he can hack it out there. I will say the pre-draft process hasn’t been great for Johnson, however. His workouts have been less than what I thought and he was one of those guys that you have to go back and re-watch tapes. He does struggle with some movement basics but not enough for me to bump him out of the day 2 area. He needs more core strength as well. A nice guy to have on the bench for a year and I think he can be a starter within a couple seasons.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jermon Bushrod – MIA

7 – Ethan Pocic – 6’6/310 – LSU: 75

Summary: 1st Team All SEC center that has also played guard and tackle throughout his career at LSU. Very natural athlete and leader for the position. Pocic won’t ever be a dominant force inside but he can hold his own and make a plus-impact as a lateral blocker. Teams with zone blocking schemes will have a good outlook on him.

*Probably the thing I like the most here is Pocic could likely play all over the line. I’m not sure I would want to enter the season with him starting right away, as he needs to add some strength to his game, but he would ease some confidence in the picture as a versatile backup. Pocic moves very well and he is really smart. Two traits you want to see at center. Can he handle an NFL bull rush? Maybe next year.

Upside Pro Comparison: Matt Birk – RET

8 – JJ Dielman – 6’5/309 – Utah: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior. Cousin to former Pro Bowl guard Kris Dielman. Dielman was the team’s starting right tackle in 2014 and 2015, earning 2nd team All Pac 12 honors as a junior. For the sake of the team and because of what was on Utah’s roster, Dielman made the move to center for his senior year. He accepted the role nicely and played a solid 5 games before suffering a season ending leg injury. He appears ready for action and could be viewed as a starting caliber center prospect.

*Dielman was catching my eye early in the year every time I watched Asiata. He got off the exceptionally well and did a nice job with his hands. He wasn’t a guy that was really moving people, but he was able to stick to defenders and the dude played really hard. I like his ability as a mobile center but he may struggle against NFL power.

Upside Pro Comparison: Weston Richburg – NYG

9 – Danny Isidora – 6’3/306 – Miami: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior. Ended his career on a 39 consecutive start streak. Lacks some of the ideal physical traits and abilities, but Isidora was a guy that constantly got the job done. He didn’t always make it look pretty, but he’s a fighter will NFL caliber power right now. Limited upside but has some starter potential down the road.

*Not much to say about Isidora other than the fact he was a guy that just almost never got beat. The catch is, it rarely looked pretty. And I know, who cares what the bug uglies look like and to a point I agree. But I think there may be some technique issues that NFL defensive linemen will be able to constantly take advantage of, whereas in college the kids didn’t know the game well enough. He would be a depth upgrade for most teams, but you aren’t getting a starter right away here.

Upside Pro Comparison: John Miller – BUF

10 – Kent Perkins – 6’5/326 – Texas: 73

Summary: Three year starter that finished his career with a 2nd Team All Big 12 honor. Perkins split time between right tackle and right guard, shown the kind of versatility teams look for in the middle of the draft. His power presence and surprising foot speed could get him on the field sooner that players drafted ahead of him. Perkins has serious short area pop but lacks consistency when it comes to technique and balance. The two are tied together and with proper coaching and progression, he could be a starter early in his career. His ideal fit is likely at guard but could be a backup to the outside spots as well.

*His 2015 tape was much better than what I saw in most of 2016, but I think he dealt with some lower body injuries and his size, it really hampered his play. Perkins is a JV version of what we see out of Dawkins and Robinson. Doesn’t match their upside but I do think he is worth taking a chance on day 3. He has the ability to be a starter, a good one, if things fall right and he applies himself.

Upside Pro Comparison: Quinton Spain – TEN

11 – Pat Elflein – 6’3/303 – Ohio State: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior. Two year starter at guard and finished his career off with a season full of starts at center, a position he was an All American at. The three time 1st Team All Big 10 lineman is a terror to deal with when he gets his hands inside. He is very powerful and efficient when engaged. He was a high level wrestler in high school and he plays the game like one. He doesn’t excel athletically in space, as there is plenty of tightness in his hips when he moves laterally, but if you can keep him at center he will get the job done much more often than not.

*He’s the top center on most boards from what I’ve heard but that won’t impact by day 3 vie of him. He is really solid in tight spaces but more and more we see centers having to move around a bit. I don’t think he can handle NFL speed and quickness. He does play stronger than his listed size but if power is one of his strengths, it’s not strong enough.

Upside Pro Comparison: Corey Linsley – GB

12 – Jordan Morgan – 6’3/320 – Kutztown: 73

Summary: Former walk on for a Division II program. Played left tackle and earned All American honors two straight years. Winner of the Gene Upshaw Award, given to Division II’s top blocker. Morgan is making a huge jump in competition, but his if his day to day improvement in Mobile is any indicator, he is a diamond in the rough once he adjusts to the playing speed in the NFL. The tools are there, he will simply need time to take in coaching and experience.

*If there was one player that I felt had the biggest progression from Tuesday to Saturday at the Senior Bowl, it’s Morgan. His power presence and ability to pop a defender off the ball was always present, but early on his couldn’t stick to anyone and kept losing his balance. Fast forward to later in the week, including the game, and we saw a kid that was able to beat anyone in one on one matchups. There is a ton of margin for this kid to gain. Day three pick because he won’t help out year one, but I think there is some starter in him down the road.

Upside Pro Comparison: Gabe Jackson – OAK

13 – Nico Siragusa – 6’4/319 – San Diego State: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior. Two time First Team All Mount West selection. Road grader that can excel in a power run scheme. Showed that he can handle strength and power with a natural ease but struggles with any sort of quick twitch defenders that can play low and fast. Siragusa projects as a backup that needs work on foot quickness and mechanics.

*Again, some people really like this guy and consider him a day 2 pick. Teams looking for a road grading type (NYG) may be looking hard at him. Siragusa can hack it as a run blocker week 1, but there are too many holes in his game as a pass blocker for me to consider him anything more than a day 3 backup.

Upside Pro Comparison: Ronald Leary – DEN

14 – Chase Roullier – 6’4/312 – Wyoming: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior that played two seasons at guard before making the transition to center for his senior season. The team captain earned 1st Team All Mountain West honors in 2016. Roullier gets the job done inside against any kind of defender. He is very effective in a phone booth. With his combination of lower body strength and quick hands, he has the potential to start at center down the road.

*I got to see a lot of Wyoming this year and Roullier was one of the more consistent blockers, albeit against a lower level of competition. He plays really aggressive and smart, two things you want from a center. He will have a hard time early on adjusting to the size and strength of NFL DTs, but in time he may be able to hack it.

Upside Pro Comparison: Russell Bodine – CIN

15 – Ben Braden – 6’6/329 – Michigan: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior with starting experience at both tackle spots and left guard. His size and athletic ability can be suited for inside and outside spots in the NFL, although he was most comfortable at guard. The 2nd Team All Big 10, blue collar blocker has a limited but high floor type ability. He doesn’t take over any one on one matchups, but he does consistently get the job done. Versatile backup that could give some potential as a starter down the road.

*I like Braden because I feel you know what you will get. I scouted the Michigan offensive line as much as any in 2016, and Braden was the most consistent. Never the best, never dominating, but he was the same guy every week. That is a nice trait to a player when teams are looking for backups. He has a great frame and could likely be a #7 OL on a team week 1.

Upside Pro Comparison: David Diehl – RET

BEST OF THE REST (15-30)

16 – Jon Toth – 6’5/305 – Kentucky: 71
17 – Max Halpin – 6’3/295 – Western Kentucky: 71
18 – Travis Averill – 6’3/304 – Boise State: 71
19 – Collin Buchanan – 6’5/316 – Miami (OH): 71
20 – Kareem Are – 6’6/325 – Florida State: 70
21 – Geoff Gray – Manitoba – 6’5/319: 69
22 – Sean Harlow – Oregon State – 6’4/303: 69
23 – Tyler Orlosky – 6’3/298: 69
24 – Jermaine Eluemunor – 6’4/332 – Texas A& M: 68
25 – Adam Pankey – 6’5/316 – West Virginia: 68
26 – Erik Magnuson – 6’4/303 – Michigan: 67
27 – Zack Johnson – North Dakota State: 67
28 – Nate Theaker – 6’5/315 – Wayne State: 67
29 – Kyle Fuller – 6’5/315 – Baylor: 66
30 – Damien Mama – 6’4/325 – USC: 65

NYG APPROACH

The closer the draft gets, the more I think NYG is strongly considering using #23 overall on a starting right guard. Yes, it would be yet another 1st/2nd round pick on the OL, but when looking at what this is struggling with the most, it may be necessary. If Lamp or Robinson is there, I wouldn’t be at all surprised or disappointed if NYG went in that direction. Jerry, although liked by the coaching staff, is really only locked up for one year when considering the buyout option. In addition, drafting someone like Robinson or Lamp (or even Dawkins) gives them options. They can play guard or tackle if need be, and who knows what the Justin Pugh contract situation will be like next offseason. As I always say, a bad O-line can absolutely ruin an otherwise fine team. The interior needs to be addressed with one of the first 3-4 picks.

Apr 172017
 
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Conor McDermott, UCLA Bruins (October 8, 2016)

Conor McDermott – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Tackles

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*Please Note Cam Robinson (OT grade 81) and Forrest Lamp (OT grade 80) will be in the OG/C post.

WHERE THEY STAND

A first round pick at left tackle. A first round pick at left guard. And a 2nd round pick at center. All since 2014 with some considerable money thrown in to the free agency pool as well. All of those resources and the NYG offensive line played like a bottom third unit in 2016. The running lanes weren’t there and Manning’s mental security in the pocket was never quite there, and rightfully so. Even though the offense is host to a bevy of short passes with 3-5 step drop backs, he was too often scrambling for his life or even worse, rushing himself in to poor throws. I have been very critical of how this line has been built and I still believe it is the one thing that will hold this team back as a whole.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Conor McDermott – 6’8/307 – UCLA: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior. Two time 2nd team all Pac 12 selection and 2-plus year starter. Was a big time high school basketball player, winning a Mr. Basketball award in 2011 as a senior. McDermott has tools that don’t come around very often. He is a better athlete that he is on tape, but lacks the confidence to trust it. He bails on his technique too often and will make him look horrific at times. If he can be put in to the right system and really hone in on strength gains, there is a potential here that most tackles simply do not have. He is a risk, but one with a high potential reward.

*I’m aware there isn’t anyone out there with a #1 ranking on McDermott. While I do like him and the upside, it is likely more a result of just not liking this OT class as a whole. For the record, Robinson and Lamp were graded out above him, but I am keeping them in the OG group. McDermott had an awful, awful game against a healthy Myles Garrett and I think that performance unfairly stuck to him in some peoples eyes. What I saw late in the year was an enormous frame with plenty of room for growth that had a violent initial punch and really athletic footwork. In time, I think he is a quality starting LT.

Upside Pro Comparison: Nate Solder – NE

2 – Garrett Bolles – 6’5/297 – Utah: 79

Summary: Spent one year at the FBS level after a dominating two-year junior college run. Bolles had a very rocky teenage stage of his life, but is more than a few years removed from it and appears to be on track. His athleticism and hand strength are among the best in this class, respectively. His progression will need to come once he gets in to an NFL strength and conditioning program and that does take time, something that may go against the soon to be 25 year old. In a weak tackle class, however, Bolles could be the top prospect.

*This is an interesting situation, on that carries an equal amount of risk and potential reward. Bolles certainly appears to have his head on straight enough. The issues he has had off the field don’t bother me too much nor does his age. He has the tools you want to work with and there may not be a more aggressive, angry player in this entire group. But there is a ton of sloppiness to his game that will be exploited in the league and he simply needs to get more core strength. He’s a gamble, that’s for sure.

Upside Pro Comparison: Joe Staley – SF

3 – Ryan Ramczyk – 6’6/310 – Wisconsin: 79

Summary: Fourth year senior that sat out the 2015 season because of transferring to Wisconsin from Division III Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Started every 2016 contest and earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors. In his one season at the FBS level, Ramczyk played at a level that may very well put him at the top of this year’s offensive line class. He will have to prove his hip is fully healed and ready to go, however. If those medicals check out, the body control, size, and fluid technique is enough to label him a potential week one starter.

*The fact this kid only played for one year at the Division I level is bothering me. The fact he has a bad hip AND shoulder coming in to the league is bothering me. It’s hard to ignore those two when considering his upside. Ramczyk is such a smooth operator and with the uniform he wore in college, it’s hard not to think about Joe Thomas when scouting him. While I don’t see the physical upside of an elite tackle, there is a natural sense of ability with him that makes you feel comfortable despite the red flags. Probably a safer pick than Bolles, but with less potential.

Upside Pro Comparison: Joe Thomas – CLE

4 – Will Holden – 6’7/311 – Vanderbilt: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior ended his career with 37 consecutive starts and a 2nd team all SEC nomination. Has experience at both tackle spots and could likely offer something as a guard in the NFL. While his strength is questionable at times, Holden showed the ability to anchor and stay on his man more often than not. He can handle any version of a defensive lineman. He may not have ideal measureables or athleticism, but he is a guy that plays with reliable technique that will add the needed strength to his large frame in time. Holden will be a starter sooner rather than later.

*One of my favorite day 2 prospects in the class that some people are considering a day 3 guy. Holden quietly but consistently was one of the top OL in the SEC over the past two seasons. Like Ramczyk, I think there is a lack of top tier physical ability and potential but you know what you’re getting. Very smart, very repeatable player that can be the immediate 6th lineman on a team with versatility and the upside of being a starter anywhere within a year.

Upside Pro Comparison: Ja’Wuan James – MIA

5 – Taylor Moton – 6’5/319 – Western Michigan: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior with four years of starting experience. Primarily a right tackle, but did start for the entire 2015 season at right guard. Earned a First Team All MAC honors after he made the move back to right tackle in 2016. Moton may not have the ideal footwork and fluidity to play outside in the NFL, but his power presence and hand strength can make up for some shortcomings. It’s possible his ideal future is inside at guard, where a team can take advantage of his elite power and strength. He will need to continue to work on his foot speed and reaction time before he can be trusted.

*I graded Moton as both a guard and tackle and he ended up with the same number at both. I can understand those that say he is a guard-only, but there are certain things he can’t do well enough inside that would bother me. As a tackle, Moton has the ability but doesn’t seem to always trust it. When he has ducks lined up, Moton is as dominating as anyone in this class. He has some of the strongest hands and can anchor against NFL power right now. The foot speed won’t ever be a strength but he can hide it well enough.

Upside Pro Comparison: Andrew Whitworth – LAR

6 – Andreas Knappe – 6’8/325 – Connecticut: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior that took over the starting right tackle job halfway through 2014 and never looked back. Despite not earning any postseason accolades, Knappe was one of the most consistent offensive linemen in the conference in 2016. He originally came from Denmark and was put on a fast learning and adjustment curve during his redshirt season. His upside was always something that jumped off the screen but it looked like it really started to come together in 2016. Knappe has all the measureables you want in a tackle. His techniques and body control appear to be easy and repeatable. He is a smart, hard working kid. Everything is lined up for this kid to start in the league within a year or two with big upside.

*One of the most overlooked, underrated players in the class when considering his long term upside. Knappe is more raw in comparison to a lot of the players in this group, but I think there is more to come from him than most. His arrow is pointing straight up. There were games last year where I thought he could make the case for being on the same level as the top guys in this class. Consistency isn’t quite there but if you watch him at the end of 2016 as opposed to the beginning of 2015 and you’ll notice the big improvement. I think that path will continue.

Upside Pro Comparison: Marcus Gilbert – PIT

7 – Justin Senior – 6’5/331 – Mississippi State: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior with three years of starting experience, primarily at right tackle. Very bright kid off the field. Hails from Canada and is projected as their top prospect as of right now. Senior will more than likely opt for NFL, at least for the start of his pro career. He is an overlooked tackle in this class that does all the little things right and has succeeded against some of the toughest edge talent the nation had to offer. While he does need to improve his lower body and core strength, there are plenty of reasons to state why he is a starting caliber right tackle.

*I don’t think he would ever pass up on the NFL for Canada, but I guess it is something that needs to be looked in to. Senior caught my eye hard this year. He has THE body of a right tackle and we aren’t talking about a guy that couldn’t handle SEC athleticism. He is an all around, very well balanced player. I liked him in Mobile, too. There is a part of me that wanted to throw him higher up, but the grade is the grade. He can be a starter at RT early, in my opinion. Some teams are looking at him as a RG too.

Upside Pro Comparison: Mitchell Schwartz – KC

8 – Adam Bisnowaty – 6’5/305 – Pittsburgh: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior that started all four years after his redshirt. Missed some time early in his career. Manned the left tackle spot and was named 1st Team All ACC in 2015 and 2016. Bisnowaty is an interesting case because he showed flashes of both top and bottom tier over the past two seasons. He passed a few of the eyeball tests weekly when it came to knee bend, aggression, and run blocking. However his up and down execution as a pass blocker gives off the notion he may be best suited inside in a zone blocking scheme at either guard or center. He has a style of play that could excel in that role.

*Early in the 2016 season, scouts were talking about Bisnowaty as being the top guy in this class. Potential top 10 overall type. It’s easy to see why because of his easy movement out of his stance and ability to mirror a defender with excellent lower half balance and quickness. He did suffer an injury somewhere around the midpoint of the season that made his tape look weak in the second half, but even at full strength I never quite saw it from him. He didn’t move guys. More of an absorber rather than an attacker. Too easily thrown around. Those things bother me as much as a guy with really slow feet. I think he may be best suited for backup swing duty.

Upside Pro Comparison: Justin Britt – SEA

9 – David Sharpe – 6’6/343 – Florida: 74

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter at left tackle for the Gators that may need to make a move inside in the NFL. His size and easy power are very attractive, ever-present traits. His foot speed and leverage issues will be exposed on a play by play basis however if he doesn’t get them corrected.

*The initial look at Sharpe and you start to think Jonathan Ogden. Just so massive and so powerful that it seems impossible for anyone to simply move around him. Then the initial look at his foot speed and you wonder if he could ever hack it during a preseason game. Sharpe is going to be a bit of a project but there is some natural ability and talent here that you won’t find often. And in the SEC, he was more than OK. If he can develop some understanding and consistency with his lower half, he can be a dominant RT.

Upside Pro Comparison: Moses Morgan – WAS

10 – Antonio Garcia – 6’6/302 – Troy: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior with four years of starting experience. An ever-improving left tackle-caliber athlete that did not allow a sack in over 900 snaps his senior season. Garcia brings it every play from an effort and intensity approach, but his execution is very shaky. He is a developmental type player that has attractive tools and tape, but is simply behind the curve when it comes to core strength and technique.

*In an offensive tackle class that is overall just so weak, there are some people that have Garcia near the top of the group. This year more than ever, it simply seems like depending on the team, it could be one of 5-6 guys that are selected as the top tackle. Garcia is mean, nasty, and athletic. A gamer. He just needs to be tuned up and strengthened. Maybe a year or two away from competing.

Upside Pro Comparison: Matt Kalil – CAR

11 – Joseph Dieugot – 6’6/294 – Florida International: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior and three year starter. Earned Honorable Mention All Conference USA honors in 2016. Joseph is a raw talent that still has a ways to go when it comes to strength development, but there are tools here worth taking a second look at. He has the length and foot speed to go with quality technique and level of play. His arrow is pointing up.

*My favorite under the radar tackle. Still being graded out as a day 3 prospect and if I had to make a prediction on where he goes, it’s likely undrafted. I helped get him to the Shrine game and he was the most impressive left tackle there by a long shot. I bet he would have performed well at the Senior Bowl as well. Tall and lanky, needing of more bulk, Joseph moves with a sense of control and understanding that you won’t see from a lot of project-tackles. He isn’t powerful, but I wouldn’t call him a push over. I think he has starter potential down the road.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jason Peters – PHI

12 – Roderick Johnson – 6’7/299 – Florida State: 72

Summary: Junior entry. 31 straight starts and the two time winner of the Jacobs Blocking Trophy, given to the ACC’s top offensive lineman. Johnson has the frame and tool set to excite coaches and scouts alike, but his performance was so up and down, back and forth. His main issues revolve around strength and technique, two things that can be developed. There is upside with him, but also many holes.

*Again, another guy that some scouts love. Nobody is going to tell you he is pro-ready, it’s simply not true. He has some game tape that is up there with some of the worst in the class. But there are also stretches where he appears to be ready for NFL left tackle duty tomorrow. His tools are solid, but he needs to be honed in a bit. The lack of body control and balance after starting for 3 years is alarming.

Upside Pro Comparison: Manelik Watson – DEN

13 – Dan Skipper – 6’10/309 – Arkansas: 71

Summary: Four year starter with experience at both tackle spots and guard. Ended his career with First Team All SEC and 2nd Team All American honors. Has been the leader of that offensive line for two years and was known as Mr. Reliable. Consistent techniques and awareness led him to rarely being flagged. While his ability won’t jump off the screen, the fact that he wins much more often than he loses will grab attention. Also blocked several field goals over his career. Projects as a versatile backup.

*He may never be a starter, but Skipper would be a great guy to have backing up all four spots (not center). He is a technician that plays smart, but angry. Blue collar guy that you know will work hard and take on whatever is thrown at him. He is an interesting athlete that will always have to struggle with leverage, but he proved he could get the job done for 4 seasons in the SEC. Pro style offense. Something needs to be said for that. I’ll take a Skipper as my 6th OL any day even though I know the upside is limited.

Upside Pro Comparison: David Diehl – RET

14 – Nick Callender – 6’5/325 – Colorado State: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior, 2+ years of starting experience at left tackle. Honorable Mention All Pac 12. The body control and knee bend that I look for are there, just lacks some of the power presence. Somewhat reminiscent of Ty Sambrailo from a couple years ago that many liked, except I think Callender has more upside. Some can view him as a tackle, some as a guard. But as his size with his foot speed and easy knee bend, he should be given a shot at backup LT duty.

*Another one of my day three sleepers. Callender does a lot of little things right and well. Very repeatable movement and technique, strong hands. Smart player that I think can make a roster early as a versatile backup and if he develops in to what I think he can, you could have yourself a starting left tackle here.

Upside Pro Comparison: David Bakhtiari – GB

15 – Zach Banner – 6’8/353 – USC: 69

Summary: Fifth year senior. Also spent a year on the USC basketball team. Capped his career off with a First Team All Pac 12 honor. Three year starter with experience at both tackle spots. Struggles with speed and leverage defenders, but the frame alone is enough to get Banner a second look. If his lower body flexibility and agility can improve just a little, there is a high upside here.

*You can make the argument this guy is so big, that it won’t matter how slow and heavy his feet are. Getting around him is a chore. However in the NFL, we know better. Banner has some pro-traits already. If he really gets his hands on you, its over. But man, he is a bad mover and he comes in to the league with hips that are about 10 years older than him. Maybe willing to take a shot on him very late because of the upside should his footwork and speed improve.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jon Runyan – RET

BEST OF THE REST

16 – Sam Tevi – 6’5/311 – Utah: 69
17 – Javarius Leamon – 6’7/332 – South Carolina State:68
18 – Chad Wheeler – 6’7/306: 68
19 – Jerry Ugokwe – 6’7/321 – William & Mary: 68
20 – Jylan Ware – 6’8/295 – Alabama State: 65
21 – Julie’n Davenport – 6’7/318 – Bucknell: 66
22 – Jon Heck – 6’7/300 – North Carolina: 65
23 – Brad Seaton – 6’7/310 – Villanova: 64
24 – Jonah Pirsig – 6’9/326 – Minnesota: 64
25 – Daniel Brunskill – 6’5/273 – San Diego State: 63

NYG APPROACH

As I have said for awhile now, none of the names on this list are worth considering at #23. When I post the rest of the OL grades, there are a couple of guys in there worth discussing. But adding any of the names on this list early is simply adding what NYG already has plenty of, question marks along the OL. I don’t think OT should be completely ignored, but I think it would be wise to wait until day three to approach any of the names on this list. There are some sleepers here that I am confident can out-perform names that will be chosen in front of them if they get enough time. The one guy I would consider strongly AND a guy that I think will be there in rounds 3-4 is McDermott. He has tools, footwork, technique and played in a scheme that asked him to do a lot. Drafting him in that area would not put any pressure of him competing for a spot right away, as I think he needs a year to bulk up. He would be a nice safety net should Flowers prove in year 3 he can’t hack it outside. In addition, it may be nice to see what happens to Flowers if someone was brought in and put on his heels in line.

Apr 132017
 
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David Njoku, Miami Hurricanes (December 28, 2016)

David Njoku – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WHERE THEY STAND

Since his rookie season, Eli Manning has always liked to use the tight end. He’s been through several that have achieved more here than in other places. No matter who is there, there are a lot of targets heading their way. Will Tye was the primary starter in 2016 but to no one’s surprise, he averaged 8.2 yards per reception with just 1 touchdown despite getting the third most passes thrown his way on the team. Jerell Adams showed something in his rookie year, albeit limited opportunities. I still like his potential as an extra receiving threat if he can learn the playbook. Rhett Ellison was signed to a long term deal but I’m not sure what their plan is. Fullback/tight end/H-Back? We’ll see.

TOP 10 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – David Njoku – 6’4/246 – Miami: 85

Summary: Third year sophomore entry. Former national champion high jumper in high school that actually participated on the Miami track and field squad. Elite level athlete that will wow anyone and everyone in workouts. Njoku is more than a freakish athlete. He performs overly well on the field with pads on and has the makings of a big time playmaker at the next level. The former high school wide receiver is still learning the position, mainly the blocking components, and will need time before he is a factor in NFL trenches. What he can add to a passing game, however, very few in this class can.

*I’ve been on this kid since the fall of 2015. His size and movement jumped off the screen and I followed him very closely throughout 2016. I won’t sit here and tell you he is going to be a good blocker, but I will tell you I think he will be good enough. The reason for drafting someone like Njoku is fully because of his ability to create mismatches as a receiver. He is an incredibly gifted athlete that has shown more than enough skills to warrant high first round draft pick. This kid has some special in him, and I really mean that. He would be the ideal fit for NYG because thy can ease him in to blocking roles while creating the matchup problems from a position Manning loves to throw to.

Upside Pro Comparison: Antonio Gates – LAC

2 – Evan Engram – 6’3/234 – Ole Miss: 84

Summary: Three time 1st Team All SEC tight end and the program’s all time leader in receptions and yards at the position. Ended his career with a 1st Team All American honor. Engram fits the mold of a hybrid tight end/wide receiver that can be moved around in to different starting positions to keep a defense on its heels. His quickness off the like and near-top level ball skills will make him a quarterback’s best friend on third and reasonable. While his blocking impact may not be as high as some of the others, he is no slouch. The two time team captain leaves it all out on the field each week and his weaknesses can be somewhat hidden in most situations.

*During the grading process, I thought there was a legit shot Engram would finish atop this list. He was close and to be honest, these two may be back to back on the overall big board. If Njoku is gone and Engram ends up being the pick, I wouldn’t be disappointed one bit. Engram is essentially a top tier speed WR that weighs 234 pounds. While he is a notch or two below as a blocker from most of these guys, he still got the job done in the SEC against linebackers consistently. In terms of what his role would be long term, think of how the Redskins use Jordan Reed. He has that kind of ability, if not more.

Upside Pro Comparison: Aaron Hernandez – JAIL

3 – OJ Howard – 6’6/251 – Alabama: 82

Summary: Former top tier high school recruit that has been starting since his freshman season. Tools-rich, hard working player that comes from a pro-style offense that saw plenty of time blocking and running routes. Howard has the physical ability and upside to excite anyone and everyone. He poses as a matchup nightmare for defenses because of the size and speed, but also showed flashes of being a capable blocker. He was often overlooked by the Alabama offense and lacked the consistent dose of opportunities to shine. If he can gain strength and power, ultimately leading to an increase in confidence as a blocker, Howard could be a rare weapon in the NFL.

*I’ll likely go in to draft weekend with the same thought I’ve had for awhile, NYG is going to take Howard if he is there. But he’s visited with a few teams in the top 15 and I’d put the odds at 50% or less of him being there. He is a more traditional TE, yes. The size, speed, experience at Alabama are all plus marks. But I have always thought this kid was a bit of an underachiever, like he just didn’t play at the level you would assume he could. I feel this way as both a blocker and receiver. That said, I still have a 1st round grade on him but I’m not sure he will be in my top 23 overall. Upside is there. Talent is there. But does he play like he really wants it? I don’t think so.

Upside Pro Comparison: Travis Kelce – KC

4 – Jordan Leggett – 6’5/258 – Clemson: 78

Summary: Fourth year senior. First Team All ACC in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Mackey Award Finalist in 2015. Leggett leaves Clemson has one of the top tight ends in the storied program’s history. He is a more-than-solid all around player that can offer presence as both a blocker and receiver day one. His strength is currently more present as a weapon in the passing game with his blend of size, speed, and ball skills. The blocking remains a work in progress, but the tools are there and he did show a good amount of improvement over the past year. High ceiling prospect.

*If someone told me Leggett was their top TE in this class, I wouldn’t dispute it. He has the dream tools, the experience, and has made a ton of plays against top tier competition. I’ve always left the Clemson games wishing he had shown more, however. He doesn’t move guys as a blocker despite weighing just under 260 pounds. He has below average strength and presence and simply seems like a guy that doesn’t really get after it. He shows a high ceiling as a pass catcher though. I just can’t shake the thought of Jace Amaro when I watch him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Kyle Rudolph – MIN

5 – Adam Shaheen – 6’6/278 – Ashland: 76

Summary: Fourth year senior that has split his time between two different Division II schools. Shaheen began his career as a basketball player but one year in he transferred to Ashland to play football. Over his final two years, he set several school and national records for the tight end position. He ended his career with a 16-touchdown season. Shaheen has a dream body that moves exceptionally well. He truly does look like someone that came right ff the hardwood. His physical presence and blocking abilities are a step behind, however. He has a tremendous learning curve heading his way but this is a kid that can get you excited.

*I wasn’t turned on to Shaheen until late in the year but once I saw him play once, I got pretty excited. He looked like Gronkowski with his dominating size and soft hands. He was so good at catching the ball in traffic that it didn’t really matter if he could separate or not. Now, that may be a different story in the NFL but the baseline here is higher than almost every TE. If he can develop, he will be a stud. Guys like this are hard to find.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jermaine Gresham – ARI

6 – Jeremy Sprinkle – 6’5/252 – Arkansas: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior that had to wait his turn to really shine, playing behind current Chargers tight end Hunter Henry on the depth chart until 2016. Sprinkle proved to be a very solid prospect himself, especially over the past two seasons. His unique combination of tools give him an upside very few at the position possess. Sprinkle’s size alone make him a friendly target to throw to. Add in the dependable ball skills and long strides, he is a threat that defenses will have to plan around. The blocking is a developing plus.

*I came in to the 2016 season with Sprinkle at the top of my board for the position. He jumped off the screen almost every time I scouted Henry last year with his length, speed, and ball skills. I was hoping for more progression than what he showed, however. Sprinkle has tools but still has a ton of awkward, unbalanced movement to him. He also didn’t always catch the ball with his hands, too often trapping it against his body. All in all I still see the upside but he won’t warrant anything more than a 3rd or 4th round consideration.

Upside Pro Comparison: Martellus Bennett – GB

7 – Bucky Hodges – 6’6/257 – Virginia Tech: 75

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Originally signed with the Hokies as a tight end, but made the full time move to tight end during his redshirt year. Despite being listed by most at tight end, Hodges essentially played a wide receiver type role in 2016. His experience as an inline blocker is limited and doesn’t grade out well. However what he can do with the combination of athletic ability and size can be a major difference maker in the NFL. He is a potential matchup nightmare for opposing defenses that needs a specific role.

*I’ve been in the discussion with a few of you over the past few months on whether Hodges was a TE or a WR. Things like this happen every year, and what I do is grade the player at both spots and take the higher one. I graded Hodges as a 74 at WR, and a 75 at TE. He has tremendous ball skills and any defender could be in a bad spot for having to cover him. However the fact that he hasn’t lined up with his hand in the dirt at all and that he had trouble blocking cornerbacks, I had to give him the minimum grades when it came to the physical part of the position. The frame is there to improve, but he simply is a guy that doesn’t like contact. The receiving ability is very good though.

Upside Pro Comparison: Ladarius Green – PIT

8 – Eric Saubert – 6’5/253 – Drake: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior that went from an overlooked 185 pound, under-recruited high school senior to arguably one of the top size/speed specimens at the tight end group in this draft class. Saubert, a two time FCS All American, has matchup problem written all over him. If he can learn to hone in his concentration and clean up some technique, his impact will be felt on the passing game. In addition, his approach and effort are already there for the blocking game, just needs to get stronger.

*Saubert may need more time than some of these other prospects in terms of strength and skill development, but his upside rivals everyone above him on this list and I mean that. He can really run and track the ball well. His consistency isn’t there yet as a pass catcher, just dropping too many balls in traffic. That will have to change as does his strength in the trenches. He didn’t stand out in that department among college kids that won’t ever play pro football. Now that he is making the move to playing against grown men, it’s gonna be a lengthy ride to a starting position but he can do it over time.

Upside Pro Comparison: Gary Barnidge – CLE

9 – Jake Butt – 6’5/246 – Michigan: 74

Summary: Four year contributor that found himself on the 2nd Team All American squads in both 2015 and 2016. The team captain was an every down player that is coming from a pro style offense. The torn ACL may delay the start of his pro career, but not by much. Butt’s frame and toughness make him an every down threat once he gets back on the field. While he doesn’t exactly grade out at the top of any particular category of the position, his above average level across the board will get him on the field early and keep him there. Low ceiling, but a higher than normal floor prospect.

*The injury was very unfortunate for Butt, obviously. I think he was heading towards being a top 50 pick. That said, I never had a high grade on him. Without the injury Butt may have been a few spots higher than this, but he wouldn’t have been with Engram/Njoku/Howard. He didn’t impress me as an athlete in space, nor did I think he was plus blocker. When I charted him, he almost always came out with negative blocking scores and for a guy that is considered an every down player and that being one his strengths, that bothered me. I think he is serviceable and will likely fit in somewhere as a 1B type tight end, but I don’t see a very high upside with him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jack Doyle – IND

10 – Gerald Everett – 6’3/239 – South Alabama: 74

Former basketball player that spent just one year in high school on the gridiron. He spent year in community college before getting noticed by UAB where he had a promising first season with the school. When the program shut down, he transferred yet again to South Alabama where he took off, earning 1st Team All Sun Belt honors two straight years. Everett is a dynamic athlete that is at his best running up and across the intermediate portion of the defense. He catches the ball on the move exceptionally well and can make things happen with the ball in his hands. He is undersized and very raw as a blocker, but he will pose as a threat to any defender covering him right away. High ceiling prospect.

*Everett is very well liked by a lot of scouts. Coaches will see him run routes and catch the ball and start to salivate over what he can be. I’ve seen him 10 times now and I still can’t shake the notion that he is simply a poor man’s Evan Engram. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but when you compare the two, Everett doesn’t do anything on the same level. They aren’t in the same league. What I do like with Everett is that he as moved around a lot in college and he was asked to block often. So there is a baseline to work with there, but I simply don’t see him being more than a situational pass catcher.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jordan Reed – WAS

BEST OF THE REST

11 – Jonnu Smith – 6’3/248 – Florida International: 71
12 – Michael Roberts – 6’4/270 – Toledo: 71
13 – Cole Hikutini – 6’4/247 – Louisville: 71
14 – George Kittle – 6’4/247 – Iowa: 71
15 – Phazahn Odom – 6’8/250 – Fordham: 69
16 – Anthony Auclair – 6’6/254 – Laval: 68
17 – Hayden Pinke – 6’4/264 – UTEP: 67
18 – Blake Jarwin – 6’5/248 – Oklahoma State: 66
19 – Pharoah Brown – 6’6/255 – Oregon: 66
20 – Cethan Carter – 6’3/241 – Nebraska: 66

NYG APPROACH

The biggest hole at the NYG skill positions is at tight end. The receivers are solid, the running backs can get by, and the quarterback shouldn’t be worried about for this season. The lack of talent at tight end has made it a much simpler process to game plan around Beckham. There is no threat of someone bursting up the seam, splitting the safeties, and coming up with a big play. They have been trying to piece together the production from this position with a handful of mediocre talents that simply never sacred anyone. With what they have in-house right now, this team should absolutely draft one of the top guys if they are available. Njoku and Engram would present proper value at 23 and a case could be made for Howard as well. The difference those guys could make in the passing game far outweighs some of the struggles they may have as blockers early on. What I think they should avoid is spending another late pick on a developmental player because they already have Adams here for that. So basically…round 1-2 or avoid the position altogether.

Apr 122017
 
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Corey Davis, Western Michigan Broncos (December 2, 2016)

Corey Davis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WHERE THEY STAND

This is a pretty simple group to label and breakdown. They have one of the league’s top young playmakers in Odell Beckham. He is off to a historic start to his career and while there have been several maturity-based hiccups, one has to think he is going to be here long term. At this time next year, I believe we will be discussing a long term contract between NYG and ODB. Sterling Shepard finished second among rookie WRs in catches, yards, and touchdowns respectively. He gave NYG exactly what was expected and maybe some more. An overly reliable slot presence that can make plays against one on one coverage downfield. The signing of Brandon Marshall was low risk and at two years, short term. The big-bodied, physical pass catcher could have been very useful at several points in 2016. Beyond them, the youngsters such as Tavarres King and Roger Lewis are solid and deserve opportunities should one of the top 3 go down. I have always liked King since his days at Georgia and Lewis looked raw but was effective in bursts. This team is set up well for the long term but there is room for more competition.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Corey Davis – 6’3/209 – Western Michigan – 84

Summary: Four year starter that has almost too-many-to-name accolades for his mantle. Davis is an All-American, MAC Offensive Player of the Year, and a three time 1st Team All Conference receiver. In addition, he is the major college football All Time Leading Receiver with 5,285 career yards. Davis did everything he could to prove he was on another level than his MAC opponents, and that he was. His blend of size and speed in combination with his ball skills and toughness make him a threat to be the first wide receiver selected this April. There are some things he needs to be coached up on but the intangibles are off the chart. He will be successful.

*There is still some up in the air for Davis, as he didn’t workout at the NFL Combine or the WMU pro day because of an ankle surgery he underwent in late January. It’s been reported that the surgery will not prevent him from being ready for team OTA’s. Davis brings so much to the table and I think he still has more “rawness” to him than any of these top WRs. He still has a ways to go in terms if progression and if he reaches his upside, he’ll be a top tier WR in the league. Great kid with a great approach and work ethic. I know NYG won’t be looking WR at #23 but this would be a nice spot for him. Sit and learn for a year, which he will get a lot out of because of his maturity, and be ready to rock in 2018. I think he will end up being a top 15 pick though.

Upside Pro Comparison: Allen Robinson – JAC

2 – Mike Williams – 6’4/218 – Clemson: 83

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. 1st Team all ACC a year after breaking his neck week 1 of 2015 after running in to the goal post on a touchdown. After sitting the rest of the season out, Williams came back and proved he was one of the nations top receivers in the country. His standout traits revolve around what he can do in traffic. Williams can beat anyone in the 50/50 situations with his combination of size, strength, and ball skills. He is an asset to any offense immediately but will need to shore up his route running if he every wants to be a true number one.

*It’s easy to see why Williams is so well liked by everyone. Tall, fast, catches the ball in traffic. Playmaker near the end zone. Good route runner for someone that is long limbed. But what you may not know, or even notice, about his game is how well he does after the catch. Williams breaks tackles of smaller, poor tackling defensive backs with ease. He is hungry for more yards and will show surprising quickness in and out of traffic. Williams has the upside of a true #1 WR. At worst, he is a high quality possession WR that can win in traffic more often than not.

Upside Pro Comparison: Brandon Marshall – NYG

3 – Zay Jones – 6’2/201 – East Carolina: 83

Summary: Fourth year senior that has been piling up the catches since day one. The NCAA all time leader in career (399) and single season (158) receptions. The All American and All AAC Conference receiver comes from football blood, with his father, Robert, playing linebacker for the three time Super Bowl Champion Dallas Cowboys and his uncle, Jeff Blake, playing quarterback in the league for 14 seasons. Everyone that has either interacted and/or coached Jones raves about his professionalism and far-along football knowledge. He is not blessed with top end tools but he simply knows how to get the job done in the right role. Maybe never a superstar but he is one of the safest picks in the class.

*Not only do I have Jones pretty high up, but I have him on the same level as Williams and just under Davis. I am a believer. Looking beyond his unreal stat lines (helped very much by the offensive scheme), Jones has most of the traits I look for in receivers. He can get himself open, he has exceptional ball skills, he takes in coaching, and he is tough in traffic. Jones is a favorite of many scouts I have spoken with because of how much he loves the game. He is a practice-all-out kind of kid and we saw at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine that this kid has more than enough talent to be considered this high. While NYG doesn’t need a WR, if he is there on day 2 he would be hard to pass on.

Upside Pro Comparison: Amari Cooper – OAK

4 – Cooper Kupp – 6’2/204 – Eastern Washington: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior that has more accolades and awards than room on his wall. All time leader at the FCS level in career catches, yards, and receiving touchdowns. Kupp comes from a football family with both his father and grandfather having their own careers in the NFL. Kupp is next and may be set up for a career like is grandfather which included multiple pro bowls. The student of the game that is obsessed with details has the makings of an elite slot receiver. He does all the little things right and he is as tough as anyone. If he can get in to the right system, watch out.

*This kid was a secret of mine for 2+ years now but he is out in the public eye now. Kupp is a favorite of many because of how reliable and sure handed he is. I think he is born to play the slot WR in the NFL and at just under 6’2, that can be a problem for the generic NFL nickel corner. He plays strong and exceptionally quick with a next-level IQ. If Kupp is paired with the right QB in the right system, you are talking about a year in, year out 90+ catch player that will make plays with the ball in his hands.

Upside Pro Comparison: Willie Snead – NO

5 – ArDarius Stewart – 5’11/204 – Alabama: 80

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Came to Alabama under the “athlete” category after an elite running back high school career. He made the full time move to wide receiver and progressed his way in to the team’s top receiver in 2016, earning 1st Team All SEC honors. Stewart plays the game like an animal that was just let free from a cage. He has all the talent and hustle to impact the game in multiple ways. Stewart plays hungry for more and now that his skill set is catching up, he has the makings of a potential star. He can be used as a traditional receiver and gimmick playmaker. Get the ball in his hands and watch out.

*Very few players helped themselves this season via their play on the field as much as Stewart. He started to blossom from athlete to skilled receiver although he still has a ways to go. Stewart didn’t measure in the way I was hoping, but he is an explosive, aggressive football player that could make a case for himself as the best receiver on Alabama in 2016. For an outside receiver, he may be a on the small side but if the right offensive mind gets his hands on Stewart, his versatile ability can be showcased in several ways.

Upside Pro Comparison: Randall Cobb – GB

6 – John Ross – 5’10/188 – Washington: 80

Fourth year junior entry. Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year. Had a top-tier grade as a return specialist coming in to the 2016 season, having already returned 3 for touchdowns. He was considered a two way prospect as well, having started at CB and WR in 2014, proving to be equally effective on both sides of the ball. After missing 2015 with knee injuries, he came back strong in 2016 and proved to be one of the most explosive, exciting players in the nation. He has sub 4.3 speed that’s shows up on tape. His size may limit him in some areas, but Ross has game changing ability and everyone is always looking for the things he can offer.

*While I am not in love with Ross as a WR from a skill set perspective, his world class speed and proven production is worth the risk. This is the kind of player that can change a defensive scheme with his mere presence. Ross, at worst, will be one of the more dangerous return specialists in the league. He can be a DeSean Jackson kind of impact player without the attitude problems. Think about that.

Upside Pro Comparison: TY Hilton – IND

7 – Chad Hansen – 6’2/202 – California: 79

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Began his career at Idaho, the only FBS school to offer him a scholarship, before transferring to California in 2015. Entering this past season, Hansen was not well known. However he finished third in the nation in catches per game and fourth in yards per game. He has plenty of pro-ready traits that could fit in to any NFL system inside and outside. His ball skills are top tier and matched with the size and aggression, he could be an early factor for a team if he is put in to the right spot. He may need some time to expand his knowledge of the route running tree, but the arrow is pointing up for this underrated receiver.

*I was a little late to the scouting game on Hansen but once I got two of his games done, I was very intrigued. After getting the next 3 in, I considered him a borderline first rounder. I always get a little nervous with the guys that have just one year of production from the spread offenses, but Hansen has so many traits I look for. He is almost the same prospect as Cooper Kupp across the board, yet I think he can be had a round or two later. I recently spoke with a scout that has him as his top WR in the class, for what it’s worth.

Upside Pro Comparison: Keenan Allen – LAC

8 – JuJu Smith Schuster – 6’1/213 – USC: 79

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter. After an All American sophomore season in 2015, Smith-Schuster took a step back production wise due to poor quarterback play as a junior. His size and strength make him a tough matchup for anyone at the point of attack and in traffic. When his switch is on, the aggression and power can be dominant traits. The 20 year old is as tough as they come, shown when he broke his hand in 2015 that required surgery two days later, eight inserted screws which did not force him to miss any time. His ability has shown flashes, but his consistency has been very back and forth. High risk, high reward.

*Man, at this time last year I was ready to put this kid at the top of the WR list. He has something special with Kessler last year. The whole process of breaking bones in his hand, getting pins inserted and then never missing a game was something that stood out to me. He is a gamer. However I was disappointed several times this season. I felt like he started to dog it, showing some diva as the USC QB play was suffering early in the year. He proved to be a fairly average athlete as well. All in all, he is still one of the more physical WRs that has come out in the past few years and looks to be a very solid possession receiver type that can make plays after the catch.

Upside Pro Comparison: Anquan Boldin – FA

9 – Dede Westbrook – 6’0/176 – Oklahoma: 78

Summary: Spent two years with the Sooners after two years in junior college. Won Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2015 but took things to a new level as a senior. Westbrook took home the Biletnikoff Award and was a unanimous All American. Westbrook’s top tier agility and acceleration combined with his toughness and reliable hands can make him a serious threat from the slot. Once he gets his hands on the ball, watch out. His dominance from October through the end of the season was one of the best stretches we have ever seen at the position. In the right scheme, he is an immediate impact player.

*The question here will be surrounding his ability to adjust to the NFL route tree and complexity of offensive schemes. If that is a smooth transition for him, he can be an immediate factor. Westbrook as the kind of easy burst and agility that makes him a hard guy to touch, let alone cover. I think his upside is through the roof but there is always a concern with me and WRs that are this slight. He may need a specific role and scheme.

Upside Pro Comparison: Emmanuel Sanders – DEN

10 – Josh Reynolds – 6’4/195 – Texas A& M: 77

Summary: Fourth year senior that spent his freshman year at Tyler Junior College. In year one at Texas A& M, he broke on to the scene with 13 touchdown catches, setting a single season school record. Throughout the rest of his career Reynolds proved to be one of the scariest deep threats in the SEC. His downfield speed, body control, and ball skills on the vertical move make him a weapon in any offense right away. His slender body type may not be able to handle NFL hits over the middle, an area he is already weak at, but his vertical presence could be considered elite. If he can shore up some concentration and discipline issues, Reynolds can be one of the best WRs in this class.

*Towards the end of the season, I was asked by Ourlads for an unofficial top 5 at every position to get the ball rolling on the pre-draft process. I put Reynolds at the top of it (the list was seniors-only). He has since been passed by a few guys as the grading process transpired, but I still think there is talent here that could be a major factor in the NFL. His ball skills are top notch in traffic. He drops some easy balls but when he is challenged downfield, few DBs can beat him. Reynolds has such a light frame and is a bit of a long strider, but I still a starting caliber receiver that will pose as a deep threat. He averaged 17 yards per catch and scored 30 TDs over three years and I think the best is ahead. Best part? I think he may be available on day 3.

Upside Pro Comparison: AJ Green – CIN

11 – Amara Darboh – 6’2/214 – Michigan: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior that was forced to redshirt in 2013 because of a foot injury. Darboh has had an unconventional path to the NFL, coming from Africa at the age of 7 before being orphaned. The tools here are what will attract coaches and scouts alike. He is big and tall with all the length and hand size. The mental side of the game began to click for him and he proved he can be a solid all around contributor.

*Athletically, Darboh doesn’t jump off the screen. But at a solid 6’2/214 and combining that with his style, he has reliable possession receiver written all over him. These guys are very valuable in established offenses with dynamic playmakers on the outside. This is a fit that I can very much see happening with NYG if they wait until day 3, where I think he presents solid value.

Upside Pro Comparison: Mohamed Sanu – ATL

12 – Isaiah Ford – 6’1/194 – Virginia Tech: 75

Summary: Junior entry. 1st Team All ACC receiver that has been the go-to guy for the Hokies over the past two years, both of which he finished with over 1,000 yards. Ford is deep threat that combines speed, leaping ability, and ball skills. He makes cornerbacks think twice about getting too close at the point of attack because of his long, track-type speed and explosion. Ford struggles to move with the same fluidity in short space, and may be a bit of a one trick pony at this point. He needs a lot of skill work on the little things, such as getting off press coverage and seeing the ball in to his hands underneath.

*I really thought Ford was going to test better in workouts, but a 4.64 at the combine hurt him a bit. It may not kill him, however, because of how productive he is in traffic. He has great ball skills, leaping ability, and length. He knows how to use all the above and there is just a lot of natural receiver to him. Early day 3 target.

Upside Pro Comparison: Allen Hurns – JAC

13 – Austin Carr – 6’0/200 – Northwestern: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior that began his career as a running back. Wasn’t much of a factor until he exploded on to the scene in 2016, leading the conference cross the board in receiving statistics. The Big 10 Wide Receiver of the Year Award winner truly is a one year wonder but it should be enough for the teams looking to add a slot receiver. He has a lot of pro-ready traits, although limited upside-wise.

*Carr is a favorite of Dan Shonka, director of Ourlads. While the fact he only produced for one year is a red flag, Carr has all the makings of a high level slot receiver. Very smart, quick, and reliable. Has more size to him than some of the other slots. One has to think what his outlook would be if he had gone to a higher-level football program. I bet he out-produces half the receivers taken in front of him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Adam Humphries – TB

14 – Malachi Dupre – 6’2/196 – LSU: 74

Summary: Junior entry. Former blue chip recruit and former triple, long, and high jump state champion. Dupre has deep threat tools dripping off him and showed several glimpses of being a game changer during his career at LSU. Poor quarterback play hampered his consistency and progress, however. He still has some skill work to do and could use more strength on that frame, but the tools are there. High upside prospect.

*One of those guys that jumped off the screen multiple times throughout the year. I never quite saw enough consistency but one has to consider the mess LSU has been dealing with at QB for years. I think Dupre can be a nice deep threat in the league. Long strider that takes a bit to really get moving but he excels at tracking the ball and getting to it at the apex of his jump. Very good leaper.

Upside Pro Comparison: Terrence Williams – DAL

15 – Curtis Samuel – 5’11/197 – Ohio State: 73

Some are labeling Samuel a first rounder. I can see why simply because of the versatility and top shelf speed. Samuel has legit 4.3 speed and I know for a fact some teams are looking at him as a RB and some are looking at him as a WR. Samuel has a ways to go in terms of skill progression and refinement, but he has the kind of baseline anyone would be fortunate to work with. I fear he may be one of those guys that fails to find a true position, however. He is more of an athlete than a football player to me, the kind that have thrived in the Urban Meyer system but not in the NFL.

Upside Pro Comparison: Percy Harvin – FA

BEST OF THE REST

16 – Chris Godwin – 6’1/209 – Penn State: 73
17 – Taywan Taylor – 5’11/203 – Western Kentucky: 73
18 – Stacy Coley – 6’0/195 – Miami: 73
19 – Ryan Switzer – 5’8/181 – North Carolina: 73
20 – Trent Taylor – 5’8/181 – Louisiana Tech: 72
21 – Michael Rector – 6’0/193 – Stanford: 71
22 – Keevan Lucas – Tulsa – 5’9/192: 71
23 – Rodney Adams – 6’1/190 – South Florida: 70
24 – Josh Malone – 6’3/208 – Tennessee: 70
25 – Kendrick Bourne – Eastern Washington – 6’1/203: 69
26 – Fred Ross – 6’1/213 – Mississippi State: 69
27 – Carlos Henderson – 5’11/199 – Louisiana Tech: 69
28 – Speedy Noil – 5’11/199 – Texas A& M: 68
29 – Travis Rudolph – 6’0/189 – Florida State: 68
30 – Kermit Whitfield – 5’8/185 – Florida State: 68

NYG APPROACH

The case can be made there are several needs ahead of the WR group, and I won’t argue against it. However I am not willing to cross off the WRs in this class should a value present itself. 1st round? Most likely not, but after that I think all bets are off. WR can certainly be a spot this team looks to improve. While the top 3 are more than set in stone, one injury separates NYG from being a team in need of more weapons to throw to and in my opinion, that is a spot that can warrant a pick on a new pass catcher. Really what you’re doing is bringing in a body to compete with King, Lewis, and Harris for 5-10 snaps per game and the spot that will replace an injury to one of the top 3. I think you can look at the round 4/5 region and be confident a very good value will be there.

Apr 102017
 
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Dalvin Cook, Florida State Seminoles (December 30, 2016)

Dalvin Cook – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

WHERE THEY STAND

After a solid but unspectacular three year tenure with NYG, the team cut ties with Rashad Jennings. The league’s 29th ranked rushing attack can at least be partially blamed on the offensive line, but the talent running with the ball in their hands wasn’t inspiring to say the least. Paul Perkins flashed in the second half of his rookie season and Shane Vereen averaged almost 5 yards per carry in his limited opportunities. Shaun Draughn and Orleans Darkwa are solid bodies to have on the depth chart. This team lacks power presence in the backfield.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Dalvin Cook – 5’10/210 – Florida State: 83

Summary: Junior entry. All time leading rusher in Florida State history. 2nd all time in the ACC conference. Unanimous All American in 2016. Cook is a dangerous threat to take it to the house each time he touches the ball. He is explosive in and out of traffic, runs hard through contact, and shows the on-field IQ you want out of an every down ball carrier. His potential his as high as any player in this class. He is an immediate upgrade to most starting running backs in the league.

*Ignore the naysayers that want to tell you he didn’t have a good workout and lacks the ability to be an elite back. Cook was almost always the best athlete in the field when he had the ball in his hand in college, period. The concern with potentially drafting him at 23 if he is there however, is two-fold. One, he is a similar styled-back to Paul Perkins. More talented, yes. But very similar and it’s nice to have some diversity back there. In addition, and more important, is the fact there are some off field concerns with him. He’s had a few run-ins and while nobody can point to a conviction or anything concrete, he isn’t clean away from the field. That said, there is a very small list of players I would take in front of Cook.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jamaal Charles – FA

2 – Christian McCaffrey – 5’11/202 – Stanford: 80

Summary: Junior entry. Son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey and comes from a family full of high-level athletes. Consensus All American in 2015 after setting an NCAA all time single season record with 3,854 all purpose yards. Saw a slight dip in production in 2016, but still finished second in the country in yards from scrimmage per game. McCaffrey will specialize as a third down back type and return specialist in the NFL. He is as dangerous as it gets in the open field and brings the versatility to fill multiple roles for any offense. He may be limited as an inside runner, but otherwise McCaffrey is a threat that defenses need to think about every time he is on the field.

*I don’t like using the term “sure-thing” too often, but I’m confident McCaffrey is going to be a very productive player in the league. His receiving skill set is better than most of the wide receivers and the ability in space is some of the best we have in this class. The lineage and football IQ helps assure that as well. Whoever drafts him needs to make sure they aren’t going to turn him in to a 20 carry, inside the tackles type back. That’s not what he is. A creative playcaller and scheme can make a Pro Bowler out of this kid in year one.

Upside Pro Comparison: Dion Lewis – NE

3 – Leonard Fournette – 6’0/240 – LSU: 80

Summary: Junior entry. After a 2015 1st Team All American season, Fournette came back down to earth partially because of an ankle problem that was pretty much there all year. Running against loaded boxes behind a below average offensive line, his 2016 did not go well to say the least. Fournette has freakish tools and ability, but there are questions revolving around his skill set, quickness, and passion for the game in addition to the lower body injuries. His size and speed will be NFL ready week one, but there is a large gap between his floor and ceiling. Risky prospect from a few different angles.

*Coming in to the year, everyone I knew had Fournette atop this list and in some cases, atop the overall class. I never saw it and as a matter of fact always viewed him as a borderline first rounder. Don’t get me wrong, I still think he is a quality prospect with the upside of being an immediate force. However too often I’ve seen him being that guy that doesn’t create enough on his own, lacks quick change of pace and direction in the backfield, and a guy that doesn’t always play to his true power potential. Fournette just seemed like a guy that didn’t have the consistent motor and effort. Was he protecting himself? Maybe. But I won’t have him as a top 20 player in my class.

Upside Pro Comparison: Carlos Hyde – SF

4 – Kareem Hunt – 5’11/216 – Toledo: 80

Summary: Four year contributor and two time 1st Team All MAC back that leaves Toledo as the program’s all time leading rusher. Hunt has had a bit of an up and down career that included leasing the MAC in rushing despite missing three games in 2014, missing time with nagging injuries and a suspension in 2015, and back to the top of the conference’s rushing ranks in 2016. What is most attractive about Hunt is the ability to change his running style based on situations at the drop of a hat; all of which are at a very high level. Hunt’s greatest trait is the ability to break tackles and with his recent 15 pound weight loss, the athletic ability has taken a step up. He is as complete back as any in this class.

*I’ll tell you what. Gun to my head, I’d have a hard time choosing between Hunt and Fournette. I have had a thing for Hunt all year and once the grading process was over, I realized that Hunt brings to the table what I want out of a back almost across the board. He may not have the athletic upside and he was used a ton in college, but there may not be a back in the class who is better at breaking tackles than Hunt. His balance and lower body strength/stability is on the “rare” level. Considering you can probably get this kid day 2 (maybe even early day 3)…this is someone I want NYG to zero in on. He would be the ideal compliment to add to this backfield. His greatest trait? 1 fumble in 856 carries

Upside Pro Comparison: Mark Ingram – NO

5 – Alvin Kamara – 5’10/214 – Tennessee: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Began his career at Alabama but after a year of being in the Nick Saban doghouse and looking up the depth chart at current NFL running backs Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, Kamara opted to transfer. In his two seasons on the field with the Vols, he displayed excellent ability in space as a rusher and receiver. He has some of the best hands in the class at the position and his easy moving lower body and burst at 215+ pounds will attract teams looking for a third down back. If he can block better, Kamara is an under the radar candidate for major contributions as a rookie.

*There are more than a few people that say Kamara is the most talented rusher in the class. His smooth movement makes him look like he is on ice skates. He is one of the guys that can make difficult things look easy, just such a natural athlete. The charater red flags factored in a little, but not too much.

Upside Pro Comparison: Melvin Gordon – LAC

6 – Marlon Mack – 5’11/213 – South Florida: 78

Summary: Junior entry. All time leading rusher in South Florida history. Rushed for 1,000+ yards all three years of his career. Mack is a big-play threat that can break off the long run if he reaches space. His size and strength can be a tough task to deal with for second and third level defenders. While he isn’t an every down, between the tackles runner, he will own a roster spot and contribute if he can learn how to carry the ball tighter to his body.

*The more I saw, the more I liked with Mack. He did played in a RB friendly offense with a lot of space, but I think he can translate well to the NFL. Lesean McCoy is my pick for top RB these days, and Mack has some of that in him. Almost unreal stop and go ability with natural instincts. If he can be had day 3 you are talking big time value.

Upside Pro Comparison: Lesean McCoy – BUF

7 – Samaje Perine – 5’10/235 – Oklahoma: 77

Summary: Junior entry. All time leading rusher at Oklahoma. Burst on to the scene right away in 2014, rushing for a Big 12 leading 1,713 yards and 21 TDs. His production steadily declined each season from there, partially because of injuries and partially because of the emergence of teammate Joe Mixon. Perine has had the NFL body since his freshman season. His power and strength between the tackles will be NFL-ready week one. He protects the ball well, blocks well, and has top tier intangibles. You know what you’re getting Perine. Limited, but effective in the right role.

*Since the middle of the season, Perine has been on my short list of guys that I think NYG is going to look hard at. He is probably the best fit for what NYG needs to add to their backfield. Good short area pop, tremendous power, quality blocking. Perine is a top notch kid and I feel like NYG will like the fact that you know what you are getting with him.

Upside Pro Comparison: Eddie Lacy – SEA

8 – D’Onta Foreman – 6’0/233 – Texas: 77

Summary: Junior entry. Striking the iron whiles it’s hot after leading the nation in rushing yards per game and taking home the Doak Walker Award. The All American has a rare blend of size and speed that teams will love to use between the tackles. His burst and ability to run away from defenders in space within that frame just screams upside. Foreman isn’t nearly as physical as his frame would suggest and he is very one dimensional. However with just 10 career starts and just half, if not less, the career touches as most other prospects, one has to think the ceiling here is as high as any back in the class.

*One look at Foreman and you’ll think this is the power back that NYG needs. But after watching him as much as I did, I noticed he is lighter on his feet and looks to avoid contact rather than deliver it. One of the biggest draws here is that he still has a lot of progressing to do and if he can figure it out, the upside is as high as anyone. He has every down potential.

Upside Pro Comparison: Jeremy Hill – CIN

9 – Jeremy McNichols – 5’9/214 – Boise State: 77

Summary: Junior entry. His 43 rushing touchdowns over the past two years combined leads the nation. Every down back that has wide receiver-caliber ball skills and plus-blocking ability. Has the frame to handle a lot of hits. Very smart, savvy back that will see things before they appear. McNichols has been the guy for two years now and proved he can help a team in several ways. His hands, return ability, and blocking alone are worth considering for a roster spot. Add in the production and skill set as an interior rusher and McNichols can make a case for being the most well rounded back in this class.

*The more I saw of him, the more saw former Boise State RB Doug Martin. He is a little stiffer, but I think he is a tougher back to take down and he offers more as a r receiver. Some people have told me my outlook on him is too high, but I am keeping him here. He doesn’t have a lot of sexy” to him but he gets it done and offers a lot of versatility.

Upside Pro Comparison: Doug Martin – TB

10 – Tarik Cohen – 5’6/179 – North Carolina A& T: 76

Summary: Four year contributor, three time MEAC Offensive Player of the Year and the conference’s all time leading rusher. Cohen’s production and accolades fills up the wall. His jump in level of competition will be an enormous one. The quickness and burst on someone that is built so low to the ground screams Darren Sproles. Can he pack on some weight and handle NFL tackling? That’s the question but nobody can doubt the danger he presents when he gets the ball in his hands

*You know, we see this kind of prospect pretty often. Unreal production but very undersized and simply under the minimum requirements for what teams look for at the position. I don’t believe in “minimums” though and Cohen is a guy that I consider a legit 3rd/4th rounder. I haven’t see a guy move like this since Tavon Austin and I think Cohen has more football IQ to him. He needs the right system and role but he can be a game changer.

Upside Pro Comparison: Darren Sproles – PHI

11 –Joe Mixon – Oklahoma – 6’1/226: 74

Summary: Third year sophomore entry. Suspended for the 2014 season after he was arrested for hitting a female student. Whichever team drafts him will have to deal with an abundance of PR-related issues. On the field, Mixon can be called one of the top backs in this class. He has rare movement ability for a back his size and there is some natural vision and reaction ability here that you won’t see very often. He is an every down back that has some questions to answer, but as a player, he can be big time.

*This will be one of the more interesting situations to watch over draft weekend. I do think teams are worried about the PR situation if they draft him but I would be surprised if he got bumped down past the 4th/5th round area. And I still think there is a shot he is a top 100 overall guy. The fact his situation happened years ago when he was early in his college career will help his image a tad. On the field Mixon was my third rated back. I think he can be a very good, every down back. He has it all when it comes to talent and tools.

Upside Pro Comparison: Arian Foster – RET

12 – Wayne Gallman – 5’11/205 – Clemson: 73

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. He could have come out last year after setting the single season rushing record at Clemson, but he opted to come back for his redshirt junior season. Gallman’s overall production dipped, but he proved to be a more complete back. His blocking and receiving skill set were taken to the next level and he further developed his ability to read a defense post-snap. His game is based on speed and aggression, something every team is looking for in their backfield. He can be a valuable part to a committee approach right away.

*Gallman is a pro ready back but I don’t think he is ever going to be a feature guy, which is fine. His ability to plant his foot and burst combined with his toughness can make him a dangerous player. He became a much better blocker and receiver this season as well. I wish he could hold on to more weight and protect the ball better, but you could do much worse than having him as your number two back.

Upside Pro Comparison: Fozzy Whitaker – CAR

13 – Deveon Smith – 5’11/223 – Michigan: 73

Summary: Michigan’s leading rusher each of the past two seasons. Smith is a between the tackles specialist that can provide short yardage presence and plus-blocking. His upside is limited, as he simply won’t make a lot of plays in space or create on his own. A team will know exactly what they are getting with him.

*Smith showed me some things in the pre-draft process that Michigan never really put on display. First of all, he is a better pass catcher than most give him credit for and he might be the best blocker in this entire group. Those two things in addition to his power running will get him a lot of looks. What he does with them early in his career will be huge.

Upside Pro Comparison: Christine Michael – GB

14 – Brian Hill – 6’1/219 – Wyoming: 73

Summary: Junior entry. Leaves Wyoming after re-writing the single season and career rushing records across the board. His 4.287 yards over three years trails only Dalvin Cook (Florida State) and Donnell Pumphrey (San Diego State) nationally. The production and notable feel for shifting his way through traffic will get everyone’s attention. His biggest question is, and will be, can he break tackles in the NFL? His lower body needs more power and there are some maturity issues that need to be looked in to.

*A few people I spoke with told me back in October that Hill was going to be a top 5 back in this class. He has impressive vision and feel with the ball in his hands. Can run away from a defense, yes, but what I look for the most in college backs is consistent ability to break tackles. He didn’t do that well enough for my liking but I can see why people like him. He has an impressive frame and was uber-productive. I think he’s off the board before I consider him. Also has some off field problems.

Upside Pro Comparison: Taiwan Jones – OAK

15 – Corey Clement – 5’10/220 – Wisconsin: 72

Summary: Four year contributor that finished his career with a 2nd Team All Big Ten performance after a 2015 that included more lows and than highs. Clement has some durability issues in addition to a questionable off-field reputation. Between the lines he has the upside of an effective inside runner but nothing more. The lack of fluid movement and speed in addition to poor vision may prevent him from any consistent role.

*I was curious to see how this kid would respond to taking over for Melvin Gordon back in 2015. A few things didn’t go his way and he became a poor sport, showing some immaturity that stayed in my mind while evaluating him. Clement is a very good back. Breaks tackles, does a lot of little things well. He is limited to specific duties but I think he can get it done in the right role. Don’t expect every an every down back but give him a short yardage role and I think he will thrive if he can keep his focus.

Upside Pro Comparison: Rex Burkhead – NE

BEST OF THE REST

16 – Christopher Carson – 5’11/218 – Oklahoma State: 72
17 – Donnell Pumphrey – 5’8/176 – San Diego State: 72
18 – Elijah McGuire – 5’9/214 – Louisiana-Lafayette: 72
19 – Anthony Wales – 5’10/195 – Western Kentucky: 72
20 – James Conner – 6’1/233 – Pittsburgh: 70
21 – Jamaal Williams – 6’0/212 – BYU: 70
22 – Matt Breida – 5’10/190 – Georgia Southern: 70
23 – Justin Davis – 6’1/208 – USC: 70
24 – Matthew Dayes – 5’9/205 – NC State: 70
25 – Elijah Hood – 6’0/232 – North Carolina: 69

NYG APPROACH

To be blunt, I think NYG needs to bring in a fresh back somewhere in the draft. The need isn’t immediate or large, but I think it is necessary to bring a new back in. They can be patient and wait for the right value, as I would put a lot of money on someone graded highly will be there in round 4/5. That said, I am taking Dalvin Cook at 23 if he is there and won’t think about it unless one of the few guys I have graded above him are there, which isn’t likely. Ideally NYG brings in a power back so they don’t have to put that role on Perkins shoulders or rely on a Draughn type back. All in all, the OL needs to perform better if any of these backs will be effective, but the overall talent in this draft class is too high for a team that has very little talent in their backfield to pass on.