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Jan 062015
 
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Y.A. Tittle, Allie Sherman, and Kyle Rote, New York Giants (1963)

Y.A. Tittle, Allie Sherman, and Kyle Rote, New York Giants (1963)

By Larry Schmitt

Allie Sherman, who was head coach of the New York Giants from 1961-1969, passed away on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. Sherman was 91.

Sherman was a significant figure in New York Giants history over two tenures with the franchise.

Beginning in 1949, he was brought on board as a specialist to transform the young and talented Charlie Conerly from a Single Wing tailback to a T-Formation quarterback. Then Head Coach Steve Owen’s offensive philosophy was deeply rooted in the 1920’s hand-in-the-dirt line-plunging style and he was reluctant to move away from his favored A-formation.

Sherman, an undersized tailback at Brooklyn College, was a coach’s favorite wherever he went. He was always attentive at meetings, asking questions, and providing insightful feedback. He obsessed over the handbook for modern offensive football: “The Modern T-Formation With Man in Motion,” by the influential triumvirate of George Halas, Clark Shaughnessy and Ralph Jones.

Sherman spent five seasons under the tutelage of Earl “Greasy” Neal in Philadelphia. During that time, the Eagles adopted the Bears signature T-Formation and became a formidable force for the first time in franchise history. Sherman’s coaching helped Steve Van Buren become an All-Pro back and eventual Hall of Fame inductee.

Sherman was a great teacher, and his players were his pupils. After spending the 1948 season as a head coach for a minor league team in Paterson, NJ, Sherman received the call to return to the NFL. Conerly slowly transformed from a flashy player who improvised on pass-run options into the field commander of a professional team. The Giants as a team peaked in the 1950 and 1951 seasons, finishing second in the Eastern Conference behind the powerful Cleveland Browns. In 1952 and 1953, the core of the team aged, the offensive line broke down, and Owen never fully committed to the T-Formation. The entire staff was dismissed and Sherman moved to the CFL where he was the head coach for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Canadian style of play with 12-man teams and the larger field allowed Sherman to experiment with new concepts. His teams made the playoffs three consecutive years and were among the league leaders in offense.

Sherman returned to New York as a scout for two seasons. After Vince Lombardi vacated the offensive coordinator position following the 1958 season to coach Green Bay, Sherman was promoted to that position. Conerly’s fortunes were greatly enhanced as the once-successful duo was reunited. Sherman transformed Lombardi’s run-heavy, sweeping offense into a dynamic passing outfit. In 1959, the Giants repeated as Eastern Conference Champions and Conerly won the NFL’s “Most Valuable Player” award following the season.

Sherman assumed the Giants head coaching position in 1961 following Jim Lee Howell’s retirement, and helped resurrect another aging quarterback’s stature. When Y.A. Tittle was traded to New York from San Francisco, little was expected as most people around the league thought we was finished. Instead under Sherman, Tittle led New York to three consecutive Eastern Conference titles, thereby advancing to three consecutive NFL Championship games. Although New York lost all three title games, Tittle won the NFL’s “Most Valuable Player” award twice, following the 1961 and 1963 seasons. And Sherman was awarded the NFL’s “Coach of the Year” award following the 1961 and 1962 seasons, being the first man to win the award twice. Many of the Giants scoring records from this era still stand, despite the team having played 14-game seasons.

Sherman’s career peaked in 1963. The core of the Giants team had aged. Many of the team’s defensive stars were traded, most infamously middle linebacker Sam Huff who held a celebrated grudge against Sherman. A combination of little value received in return for those trades and poor drafting doomed the Giants to a repetitive cycle of mediocrity and inconsistency. Following an 0-5 pre-season in 1969, which included a humbling loss to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Jets, Sherman was relieved of his duties.

Despite the Giants never finishing above .500 over the 1964-1968 seasons, Sherman’s 57-51-4 regular season record placed him second all time in franchise history at the time behind Steve Owen, and has only been surpassed by Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin.

Sherman never coached again, choosing to move into private business and also appeared on locally-produced Giants-related television and radio programs and as an analyst for ESPN’s match-up program.

Jan 022015
 
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Brandon Scherff, Iowa State Hawkeyes (January 1, 2014)

Brandon Scherff – © USA TODAY Sports Images

January 2, 2015 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

HOUSTON

#92 – DT – Joey Mbu – 6’3/310

Not a huge stat sheet guy but he is a very good player. Three year starter. Does a lot of the dirty work inside, good at anchoring his spot. Ideal body for the position, huge lower body. He has some good mobility to him, surprising ability to pursue in space. He’ll be playing at the Senior Bowl as well. 4th pr 5th rounder at this point that has a Barry Cofield type potential.

#50 – Efrem Oliphant – 6’1/220

Two year starter. Led the team in tackles each of the past two seasons. I haven’t scouted him yet but I’ve made a couple notes in passing while scouting Mbu. More physical than his size tells you. He can pop a ball carrier pretty good. Gets lost in traffic a lot but he can wiggle his way to the ball carrier. Not sure he can be a steady LB in the NFL but he can be picked up late.

PITTSBURGH

#68 – RT – TJ Clemmings – 6’5/308

Fifth year senior. Was a top tier defensive end recruit out of high school but made the move to RT prior to the 2013 season. He looks like a completely different player right now in contrast to last year. Clemmings is a fluid athlete that brings a power-style to the line. He is at his best as a run blocker, showing the ability to both drive straight ahead and move laterally with a presence. He has plenty of skill work ahead of him as a pass blocker but the ability is there and he has shown flashes of being a dominant overall lineman. High upside prospect that may need some extra time to smooth his rough edges. 2nd or 3rd rounder right now.

#74 – RG – Matt Rotheram – 6’6/335

Has experience at OT and G. Most likely a G in the NFL. Huge body, carries the weight pretty well and he isn’t as stiff as I originally thought. He reacts well to the defense and he has the strength to hold his ground againdt power players. I’ve seen defenders bounce off him, just has a lot of presence inside. Pitt loves to run behind him. Rotheram doesn’t pass the initial eyeball test but if you watch him a lot, there is something there with him. May need to work on footwork and bending at the knee, but he is worth a day three pick.

Other Notables:

#28 – OLB – Anthony Gonzalez – 6’3/230
#9 – S – Ray Vinopal – 5’10/200
#8 – OLB – Todd Thomas – 6’2/230

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IOWA

#68 – LT – Brandon Scherff – 6’5/320

Considered by many to be the top or one of the top players in this entire class. There is a lot of discussion surrounding Scherff and what he will be in the NFL. There is no mistaking his ability to dominate defenders at the point of attack. He is a punishing run blocker with tremendous hand strength and explosive lower body power. Violent player off the snap, big country strong body. He is a better athlete than people give him credit for. Played tennis and basketball in high school, was also a high school QB for a couple years. I’ve watched him a lot this year and I think he can play LT in the league. He played on a bum knee this year and was still a very good performer athletically. He displays consistent pass protection skills, very balanced with good body control. My only gripe is that he wasn’t really challenged much in the Big 10, rarely faced off against NFL caliber opponents. The Senior Bowl will be huge for him. I still think he can be a top 10 pick and I’ll likely have him graded in the top 20.

#78 – RT – Andrew Donnal – 6’6/305

Overlooked because of Scherff. Donnal has a nice body with room for more weight. He plays an athletic style of football, really sound mechanics. He has stretches where he looks like he really knows what he’s doing out there. May not have ideal strength and power yet but I think he is late round prospect worth trying to develop.

#71 – DT – Carl Davis – 6’5/315

Might be by favorite DT in the nation. Huge body, just always looks bigger than everyone else on the field. Carries the weight very well, most of it is in his lower half. He is the anchor of that defense and there may not be a DT in this class better than him at anchoring his position and demanding attention. Davis doesn’t blow up the stat sheet, but that’s not his role. However when he does get after it, he gets off blocks and shows tremendous short area movement. Big time power presence inside that will be a very good NFL defender. 2nd or 3rd rounder I think but I’ll have him graded higher.

#90 – DT – Louis Trinca-Pasat – 6’3/290

The other DT on this Hawkeyes defense. Different style than Davis but I like him a lot too. More active and productive, he shoots the gaps and moves with late quickness and strength. Might be undersized for the 4-3 but there are schemes that he would fit right in to. 4th or 5th rounder at this point but he is someone I’ll keep a close eye on for late value.

#52 – MLB – Quinton Alston – 6’1/232

Little bit of an unknown but he has a solid year in 2014, his first year as a starter. Was buried on the depth chart behind some really good LBs at Iowa the past few years. He is a crafty defender, gets to the ball. Average athlete and I would say below average power to his game. Late rounder with some potential because he has gotten much better as the season’s progressed.

Other Notables:

#45 – RB – Mark Weisman – 6’0/240
#11 – WR – Kevonte Martin-Manley – 6’0/206
#37 – S – John Lowdermilk – 6’1/210

TENNESSEE

#27 – CB – Justin Coleman – 5’10/188

3 year starter with 4 INTs in 2014. Fluid mover that is undersized and not that physical. Gets pushed around a bit. I can’t say I’ve watched Coleman more than 1 or 2 times this year. Will need to get more information on him in the coming months but nobody I’ve talked to has said he is worth anything more than a late rounder.

#54 – DT – Jordan Williams – 6’5/284

Shot in the dark here but Williams jumped off the screen a couple times against quality opponents. Love the body and he has some good speed to him. Late rounder that hasn’t done much from a production point of view but I think he can be a player.

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KANSAS STATE

#16 – WR – Tyler Lockett – 5’11/175

Some consider him to be the top WR in the Big 12, which is some pretty good praise because there are some quality players there in that conference. Explosive, 0-60 in a couple steps type WR. He is also one of the top return specialists in the country. He could be drafted for special teams alone but he is a legit WR prospect. Elite movement ability, pretty good skill set as well. I’d say he is a 4th or 5th rounder but could bump himself up if he runs a sub 4.4 forty.

#66 – C – CJ Finney – 6’3/303

Four year starter, started off as a walk on. Has been 1st Team All Big 12 for three years in a row. Highly regarded by some people but I haven’t been as impressed. He got man-handled against Auburn, constantly getting pushed back. I’m not sure he can handle DTs by himself. Pretty good foot and hip quickness though, may be a fit for some schemes. 5th or 6th rounder at best.

#85 – TE – Zach Trujillo – 6’5/256

In the games I saw, he didn’t impact the offense too much. But when I see a guy this big with over 20 yards per catch, it gets my attention. I wanna see him more in the coming months. He is a pretty good blocker with wiry strength. Has the frame and length to be an NFL TE. Look for him tonight, he might be a diamond in the rough type.

#21 – MLB – Jonathan Truman – 5’11/219

Will be fighting an uphill battle because of the size issue, but he is a really good player. Reads the action and is always around the ball. Have to like guys that play like him. Late rounder that may make an impact as a special teamer.

Other Notables:

#15 – QB – Jake Waters – 6’1/210
#44 – DE – Ryan Mueller – 6’1/248
#15 – CB – Randall Evans – 6’0/194

UCLA

*#17 – Brett Hundley – 6’3/222

Redshirt junior, hasn’t declared yet but many expect him to. He could have come out last year but made the right decision to go back. He has another year of eligibility and I think he should use it. Still has the same issues he did a year ago. Woefully inconsistent as a passer but has the tools. He has the frame to take hits as a running QB unlike Mariota. He is a great kid off the field unlike Winston. He has a stronger arm than both and at his best, I think he is better than both those guys. He just has Geno Smith-type bad days. Most likealy a top 45 pick if he comes out, don’t rule him out as a potential top 10 guy.

#94 – DE – Owamagbe Odighizuwa – 6’3/270

Led the DL in sacks this year. The 4-3 teams looking for a DE will like this kid a lot. He is tools-rich and I think his upside is a bit untapped much like I thought about Tank Carradine a couple years ago. He came back from a hip injury that forced him to miss all of 2013. Really looks the part. Has a quick first step, plays low and strong. High upside here. 3rd or 4th round.

#6 – MLB – Eric Kendricks – 6’0/230

Has led the Bruins in tackles for 3 years in a row, and was second his freshman year. He is a guy that is constantly in the right position, whether against the run or pass. Lacks some physical talent but he has wiry strength. Reliable tackler. May be restricted to a 3-4 scheme in the NFL but still a 3rd or 4th rounder.

Other Notables:

#23 – S – Anthony Jefferson – 6’1/185

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WASHINGTON

*#7 – OLB – Shaq Thompson – 6’2/225

Hasn’t declared yet but many expect him to. Thompson is viewed as the top 4-3 OLB prospect in the nation by a pretty side margin. Elite athlete and playmaker. Former top tier HS recruit that fulfilled expectations to say the least. Played a lot of RB this year as well, averaging almost 8 yards per carry. Scored 4 defensive TDs this year. There really isn’t much Thompson can’t do to be honest. He is a very good all around player, might be the top overall athlete in this class. Now the question is, can he hang with the power and strength of the NFL? He is undersized for LB, and he isn’t very stout at the point of attack. He is a pursuit-based LB. That’s fine but I question his play to play impact. His style of play and weaknesses can be exposed pretty easily. I think he is a good player but I won’t have an elite grade on him like some do.

#71 – NT – Danny Shelton – 6’2/339

Very unique player here, may be as unique as you will ever find. Initially he looks fat, slow, and out of shape. Watch a few plays and you’ll notice he may be one of the most disruptive defensive linemen in the nation. He broke out in a huge way this year with 16..5 TFL and an amazing 9 sacks. Shelton is a consistent hustler that actually shows sideline type range. He is constantly around the action. Very stout at the point of attack, good power from his legs, active hands. I think he is a 1st rounder if he checks out OK off the field, which I am hearing is questionable.

#8 – Hau’oli Kikaha – 6’3/256

Interesting player here. Made an immediate impact in 2010 but then he tore the same ACL twice, missing half of 2011 and all of 2012. Came back strong in 2013 with 15.5 TFL, 13 sacks and had a monster 2014 with a second best in the nation 24 TFL and second best in the nation 18 sacks. Ultra productive edge rusher here. He has the first step quickness, and dip/bend well, and has really violent hands. He is one of those hyper defenders that OL hate to deal with. The switch is always on for him. Can he play in a 4-3? I’m not sure yet. I think his best fit is in a 3-4 but he could end up being a solid Jason Babin type DE. 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#10 – MLB – John Timu – 6’1/235

Thompson may be the superstar of the defense, but Timu is Mr. Reliable. Four year starter and two time team captain. Might be a little light in the pants but he is a pretty instinctive athlete. He moves well in a phone booth, wiggles his way to the ball. His issue is strength and power. When an OL gets to him, its over. That bothers me when I look at LBs. 5th or 6th rounder I think that has some value to him.

Other Notables:
#72 – LT – Micah Hatchie – 6’5/306
#78 – C – Mike Criste – 6’6/316

OKLAHOMA STATE

*#1 – CB – Kevin Peterson – 5’11/185

Hasn’t declared yet, I think it is 50/50 whether or not he does. I’ve seen him a few times and I really like him. I think he has 1st round potential. Explosive mover, really gets in and out of breaks fast. Can turn and run with anyone. There were times last year where I thought he outplayed Justin Gilbert. I didn’t see him press guys at the line though, so he is still a bit of an unknown to me.

#91 – James Castleman – 6’2/296

Productive player. Plays a couple of roles inside. Gets off the ball well and can play a violent game. Strong hands and active feet. Doesn’t stand out but he doesn’t get beat by lone blockers that often. Late rounder.

#26 – RB – Dennis Roland – 6’2/210

Looks the part. Led the team in rushing the past two years, although that isn’t a huge thing to brag about. In between the tackles runner. Little tight-hipped but he can move downhill with speed and power. I like him as a short yardage back, I think he has more upside than what we see out of him here.

Other Notables:

#58 – LT – Daniel Koenig – 6’6/310
#89 – DE – Sam Wren – 6’2/255

Jan 012015
 
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Amari Cooper, Alabama Crimson Tide (November 8, 2014)

Amari Cooper – © USA TODAY Sports Images

January 1, 2015 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch (Late Games)

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

OREGON

*#8 – QB – Marcus Mariota – 6’4/215

Fourth year junior. Heisman winner. Is probably the favorite to be the #1 overall pick at this point but far from a sure thing. He doesn’t fot the mold of what everyone wants at QB. Better athlete than thrower. Has blazing, Kaepernick-type speed in the open field. He is a quick decision maker, has a really quick release. Very good accuracy from the pocket and on the move. You can do a lot with Mariota. He is developing in to a fine passer but there is still plenty of work to be done. Top tier intangibles. Really hard worker, passionate about the game. I question his durability in the NFL. Guys with his body type can’t take hits as a runner in the NFL for very long. He needs to change his game a little. Do I want to get in to another NYG quarterback debate? Not really. But if Mariota is there at #9 somehow…I have to think hard about it.

#55 – C – Hroniss Grasu – 6’3/300

Fifth year senior with a ton of experience. Has been the top OL on that team for a few years now, might be the top C in this class. Superb athlete for the position. Can pull out laterally and lead block, often found 30 yards downfield throwing blocks. I really like his game. You won’t find a better athlete at C in this draft, but Grasu has added some strength and power to his game as well. 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#75 – LT – Jake Fisher – 6’6/299

Thought very highly of by his coaching staff and teammates. Oregon had some major issues earlier in the year when he was hurt, but when he returned things really stabilized. He isn’t a real wide guy but he plays pretty strong and tough. Known for putting defenders through the ground. He has experience at guard, then to RT, then made the move to LT when Johnstone got hurt. He has some upside if he can pack on some more weight. 3rd or 4th round I think.

#54 – LG – Hamani Stevens – 6’3/312

I didn’t give him any attention until I saw him take Grasu’s spot at C when he got injured. He is a pretty good player that can backup all the interior spots. Has more power to his game that Grasu, but a pretty heavy footed guy. Late rounder that has value.

*#9 – DE – Arik Armstead – 6’7/296

I gotta think he returns to school, but he is worth discussing. He has legit upside. Tools-rich and has plenty of football skill. Started off playing basketball at Oregon, so there is some really good foot speed and agility here. Violent player, can knock the crap out of linemen. He plays low despite his height. I’ve seen flashes where he looks like a Mario Williams type prospect. He fought a nasty ankle injury all year and didn’t produce the way he could have. He can be a top 5 pick in 2016 if he returns to school. Now? Probably a 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#14 – CB – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – 5’10/185

Almost came out last year. Could have been a 1st rounder if he did. 4 year starter with elite movement ability. Has a physical style of play but lacks a presence. He can tackle well, hits hard. Actually struggled a bit in 2014, couldn’t really put a finger on why. He just seemed a step behind mentally in the 4 games I watched this year. I still think he is a top 45 overall talent, I think he goes somewhere in round 2.

#4 – S – Erick Dargan – 5’11/210

Broke out in a big way this year. 6 INTs. Physical run defender that lays the lumber. Quick reaction and good speed when running with WRs. Under the radar a little bit, I think he can sneak in to the 2nd or 3rd round.

#91 – OLB – Tony Washington – 6’3/250

Good NFL body here, has experience in a few different roles. Good edge rusher, can play with the presence to mix it up with the OL. But also has shown he can play in space with wide receivers. He is a good reaction type athlete. May not be that fast or agile, but he is rarely fooled. Consistently around the action. 4th or 5th rounder that can fit in to any scheme.

#13 – CB – Troy Hill – 5’11/175

Elite mover and ball skill guy. He can sneak up boards in the coming months with a few good workout times. Not the physical corner I like but he can still play. 4th or 5th rounder right now.

#22 – OLB – Derrick Malone – 6’2/222

I need to see some more of him, but he was pretty productive late in the year when I saw him. Fast and rangy. Good cover LB. Lacks presence and strength but he knows how to play around it a little. Late rounder.

FLORIDA STATE

#5 – QB – Jameis Winston – 6’4/230

Has never lost a game as the starting QB heading in to the playoffs. A true winner that brings the best out of himself when the game is on the line. Deeply respected and loved by his teammates. Gets the most out of other players. Winston’s struggles off the field have been documented and it will cause some teams to cross him off their board. With that said, his talent and ability to lead an offense cannot be overlooked.. He is a big, physical player that can handle the speed of the NFL game. If he can get rid of his early game blunders and play like he does in the second half of games, he can be a star at the next level. His first order of business needs to be an upgrade in maturity off the field, however. Has a shot at being a top 3 pick if he comes out.

#70 – LG – Josue Matias – 6’6/325

One of my favorite guards in the class. Will be the first Dominican Republic native to ever play in the NFL. Was brought to the United States when he was 6 years old. Three year starter who has never missed a game. Matias has raw tools and a developing skill set that can fit in to most NFL blocking schemes. His wingspan and girth are about as good as it gets. His footwork needs to be improved; however the athleticism and ability to move are there. He can be a dominant guard at the next level once he fine-tunes those small but vital aspects of the position.

#75 – C – Cameron Erving – 6’6/308

Erving redshirted his first season at FSU because of a back injury. In 2012 he was one of the team’s primary run stuffing defensive tackles until he made the move to left tackle prior to the 2012 season. He’s been locked in as a starter ever since and has made several All-American teams. His performance as a pass blocker held him back from the elite grade. He struggled against some of his toughest competition, allowing too much pressure to the outside speed rush and double moves inside. His pad level and road-grading style was always best suited inside. He showed his versatility in 2014, moving to center and playing at a very high level. Best suited at center or guard where his weakness as a lateral mover in pass protection can be hidden. His raw strength and power is NFL ready and versatile linemen like this are always in high demand. 2nd rounder I think.

#80 – WR – Rashad Greene – 5’11/180

Leaves FSU as one of the all time leading receivers in school history. Led the Seminoles in receptions and receiving yards all four years of his career. Smooth mover and pass catcher that is very QB-friendly. Consistently runs himself open and will catch passes all over the route tree. High effort player that makes good decisions with and without the ball. His combination of speed, agility, and ball skills will fit the NFL game very well. Only his lack of size and physicality will hurt his final grade. He is a dependable receiver no matter where he lines up. While he lacks star power, he is sure bet to be a productive player at the next level. 2nd or 3rdrounder.

#35 – TE – Nick O’Leary – 6’3/247

My favorite TE prospect in the nation. The former high school #1 tight end recruit and grandson of Jack Nicklaus is favored to with the Mackey Award. An old school football player that shows a complete and versatile style. O’Leary is an all-out hustler that does all of the little things well. His less-than-ideal size and speed rarely show up on tape. He has elite ball skills and might be the most dependable blocker of any tight end in the class. A gritty gamer with the ability to fit in to any scheme right away as a starter. 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#54 – RG – Tre Jackson – 6’4/330

Three year starter at Right Guard that has never missed a game since earning that spot. Received a 3rd round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board in the winter of 2014. Jackson may be the top RG in the nation after displaying his ability to produce equally as a run and pass blocker. He can handle the power game of the NFL right away, but may struggle with the speed/quickness/complexity of blitzing and stunting fronts. Jackson is not a fit for every scheme because he appears uncomfortable in space and on the move. In a power scheme however, Jackson can be a day one starter at the next level.

#50 – RT – Bobby Hart – 6’4/320

Three year starter. Will be 20 years old when drafted. May have been out of position at right tackle. He has the ideal frame and style for a guard but was likely moved outside because of the amount of talent they already had inside. Hart was a quality wrestler and basketball player in high school and that kind of athleticism shows up on tape. His issues as a blocker are more technique based than anything. Has the tools to be a quality backup and eventual starter in the NFL. Just needs to shore up his feet and hands and may have to make a move to the inside. 5th or 6th rounder.

#9 – RB – Karlos Williams – 6’1/225

Williams was a top tier recruit out of high school at the safety position. He played two years on the defensive side of the ball prior to being moved to running back after the first two games of the 2013 season. He has the physical tools that can create a quality running back. Size and speed are there but he doesn’t show the skill set out of a top tier running back prospect. 2014 was a down year after a solid 2013. He doesn’t have a natural feel for the position or what to do with the ball inhis hands. He is a powerful downhill force that could be a short yardage contributor. But his running style and lack of vision and reaction will hold him back at the next level when considering him as an every down back. 6th or 7th rounder.

*#15 – DE – Mario Edwards – 6’3/294

The former 5 star recruit has been used in a wide variety of ways. He can play with his hand in the dirt outside the tackle or across from the guard. He can play standing up. He has shown ability in coverage against tight ends. He has been used a lead blocker near the goal line and even been given the ball on fake punts. Athletes like this are rare to come by and if a coach can be creative with him, Edwards will be a difference maker. He isn’t a clear cut fit for the vanilla defensive schemes but a creative coach can give him multiple roles based on packages. The power he shows on the field is top tier. Very functional strength and surprising ability to cover ground in a short space.

*#90 – DT – Eddie Goldman – 6’4/314

Former top tier HS recruit. Injured in the ACC Championship but should be in pads tonight. Some view him as a top 15 pick but I’m not there yet with him. He has all the talent. Moves well, strong hands. He can beat blockers a few different ways. Goldman doesn’t produces the power I want from his legs though. Not saying he is weak, but he doesn’t anchor well, gets pushed back too often. An elite DT prospect shouldn’t get pushed around the way he does. He should go back for another year but I am sure someone spends a top 45 pick on him if he comes out.

#26 – CB – PJ Williams – 6’0/196

2nd Team All ACC and 2014 National Championship game MVP. Williams has the physical goods to play cornerback at a high level in the NFL. He has the size, strength, and physical style of play to handle any role thrown his way. His ability to beat up a receiver at the line of scrimmage as well as stay in their hip pocket all over the field is heavily sought after. In addition, he can defend with a presence against the outside run. His aggression and ability to move with balance and precision is the exact combination the NFL looks for in cornerbacks. Top 45 pick, maybe a top 20 guy.

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ALABAMA

*#9 – WR – Amari Cooper – 6’1/202

All American. Record setting WR that was NFL ready last year. Top tier ball skills and route running. Has 4.4 speed and is really tough after the catch. Cooper does everything at a really high level. I wouldn’t call him a rare prospect but he is going to be a very good player in the NFL. His game translates well. Larry Fitzgerald type receiver. He gets nicked up a lot, that is my biggest concern with him. Still a first rounder and will end up in the top 12 on my board at least.

*#4 – RB – TJ Yeldon – 6’2/218

Junior that hasn’t declared yet but I think he will. He has been very involved in that offense since his freshman year. He looked like an NFL back two years ago. Big, thick, and really athletic. Patient runner that may be a bit too patient. He really trusts his last second quickness and agility. Yeldon hasn’t been the star I thought he would be, but he can be a very good NFL back. There are some ball security issues here and he tends to be too slow to react to the action in front of him. Might be a 3rd rounder but I like him.

#77 – LG – Arie Kouandijo – 6’5/318

Might be by favorite G prospect in the country. Really turned it on in the second half of the year and we started to see that dominant potential be fulfilled. He has a huge frame, really long arms and strong upper body. Little weak on the lower half. Had a nasty injury history early on in his career at Alabama, almost ended before it started. That knee needs to check out but has been starting since week 1 of 2013 and hasn’t looked back. If the knee looks clean, he can be a 2nd rounder.

#2 – WR DeAndrew White – 6’0/190

I’ve always liked White but he was under the shadow of some of the other elite players on this offense. I like his short area explosion and he has some solid ball skills downfield. Tracks the deep ball well. Good after the catch. Underrated WR that can be had on day 3.

#45 – FB – Jalston Fowler – 6’1/248

Yes he is a fullback but I’ve always thought some teams will see him as a RB. Fowler has some solid RB traits. Vision, short area quickness. Body lean, pad level. I thoink if he went somewhere else, he’d be a 3rd or 4th round prospect. I think he gets taken in the 5th or 6th.

#79 – RT – Austin Shepherd – 6’5/316

Two year starter. Has good body control and a strong upper body. Lacks the movement ability, bends at the waist a lot. He has an NFL frame and good power, I think someone will give him a look as a backup type. Late rounder.

*#26 – S – Landon Collins – 6’0/215

Widely considered the top safety in the class, might be a top 10 caliber player. I like Collins a lot but I’m not sure he fits in to the elite tier. He is at his best near the line of scrimmage. Really physical and a sound tackler. He is a reliable last level of a defense type guy. Is he elite in coverage? I don’t think so. He can shadow receivers but he doesn’t have the reaction and awareness in zone coverage that I look for. Top 32 talent? Yes. Top 10? I don’t think so.

#33 – ILB – Trey DePriest – 6’1/245

Classic 3-4 thumper. 3 year starter that needs to be between the tackles. Not a good athlete when he gets outside. Physical guy that blitzes well, but only fits in to a few schemes.

Other Notables:

#22 – WR – Christian Jones – 5’11/187
#72 – RG – Leon Brown – 6’6/320
#84 – TE – Brian Vogler – 6’7/265
#6 – QB – Blake Sims – 6’0/208
#27 – S – Nick Perry – 6’1/212

OHIO STATE

#63 – DT – Michael Bennett – 6’2/288

Viewed as one of the top pass rushing DTs in the country. 13.5 sacks over the past two years. Explosive out of his stance, constantly in the backfield. Really quick and active hands, can get off blocks. Swallows a 5-10 yard gap when he’s in space like a DE. Can he anchor against the run? Probably not but he won’t need to if he gets drafted in to the right scheme. Not a fit for everyone but some will view him as a top 45 overall guy.

#12 – CB – Doran Grant – 5’11/191

I don’t have much on Grant yet. I haven’t scouted him yet. Two year starter with marginal production. Did have 5 INTs in 2014. Looking forward to his matchup for him.

#14 – MLB – Curtis Grant – 6’2/243

Former top tier recruit, hasn’t lived up to the hype. Looks the part but he is a better athlete than he is a football player, a combination that usually doesn’t work outwell for LBs. Doesn’t read the players in front of him, but will chase guys down and packs a punch. Could be a solid special teamer and backup LB. Late rounder.

#5 – TE – Jeff Heuerman – 6’5/255

Some say he is the top TE in the class when it comes to being a balanced tool/skill set guy. He can block well, runs the seam. Soft and reliable hands. There is some ability in space with the ball in his hands as well. He wasn’t used much in this offense but there is still a lot to like. 4th or 5th rounder maybe.

#9 – WR – Devin Smith – 6’1/199

One of the fastest WRs in the country, might run a sub 4.3 forty. OSU is undefeated when he scores a TD (over 20 wins). He averaged over 26 yards per catch in 2014. He can run by anyone, and I mean anyone. Good ball skills and has some good route running ability underneath. He more than just a speed guy. He may be a guy I look in to more in the coming weeks.

Other Notables:

#6 – WR – Evan Spencer – 6’1/212

Jan 012015
 
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Shane Ray, Missouri Tigers (September 27, 2014)

Shane Ray – © USA TODAY Sports Images

January 1, 2015 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch (Early Games)

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

AUBURN

*#18 – WR – Sammie Coates – 6’2/201

Junior that has already declared for the draft. Big time speed and can get downfield behind a defense about as fast as anyone. Has the size and strength as well to be a factor in traffic. Averaged over 22 yards per catch over the past two seasons. I always get weary of giving high grades to guys that appear to be better athletes than football players, but I might make an exception for Coates. He could have been a more productive player in a different scheme. This guy has all the tools but he can really catch the ball as well. Couple minor injuries to look at but he could be another Torrey Smith or Nate Washington type. 2nd or 3rd round.

#50 – C – Reese Dismukes – 6’3/296

Will end his career with 50 starts. Highly recruited out of HS. Could have been the top C in the 2014 Draft. Dismukes has the typical squatty frame that fits well inside. Really good presence as a run blocker. Quick lower half, strong upper body. Always in control, always sticking to his man. Quietly, he just doesn’t get beat. I don’t see any dominant traits to his game but he will be a good starter in the NFL. 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#44 – RB – Cameron Artis-Payne – 5’10/210

Came in to the year as part of a RB duo, but he absolutely took off. Led the SEC in rushing this season. Numbers are a little inflated because of the favorable scheme to RBs but he is still a solid prospect. Good inside runner, patient but quick reaction type. He can miss contact in a phone booth and explode for 5-10 yards. May not have great top end speed but he doesn’t need it. Quality rusher, may lack some receiving and blocking ability. 4th-5th rounder.

#81 – TE – CJ Uzomah – 6’4/264

Upside type guy that has never really produced the way he could have. Maybe it is a scheme thing. He carries 260+ pounds with ease and he moves really well. Even takes some snaps at WR. He’s made a couple catches where you just have to raise your eyebrows and wonder. Late round project.

*#8 – MLB – Cassanova McKinzy – 6’3/249

Junior that hasn’t declared yet. Only scouted him once but I’ve seen him in passing a couple times. Very good athlete with range to get to the sidelines. I like his game speed and aggression. Can tackle with presence. Enforcer inside. Not much of a pass defender, loses a lot of his foot quickness there. Might be a 3-4 type but I’ll need to see more. Has a shot at being a 2nd rounder.

#9 – S – Jermaine Whitehead – 5’11/193

Under the radar safety with a lot of starting experience and good ball skills. Reads and flows really well. I want to see him another 1 or 2 times to get a better read on his ability to tackle and play physical though. Not sure where to peg him yet.

#90 – DT – Gabe Wright – 6’2/285

Has dropped weight for 2014 because he plays outside a lot. I think he projects as a 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT in certain schemes. Has a solid but unspectacular speed/power to his game. Nothing special, late rounder that I know some guys like.

Other Notables:

#14 – QB – Nick Marshall – 6’1/210
#62 – RG – Chad Slade – 6’5/313
#20 – RB – Corey Grant – 5’10/205
#6 – CB – Jonathan Mincy – 5’10/192

WISCONSIN

#25 – RB – Melvin Gordon – 6’1/207

Already declared. Very well known and some consider him the best RB in this class. Very explosive and has more size than people think. Wiry strength. His game is built on the ability to get out in space, make guys miss, and runaway. But he added some strength to his game. He shows great vision, and I mean GREAT vision. He sees things in space that other good backs simply don’t, kind of like McCoy. Good blocker, average pass catcher. I question if he can be an every down back, if he can hold up. Little thin on the lower half but some scouts see a top 10 guy here. Not sure about that but I think he’ll be a first rounder. I’m still trying to figure him out.

*#61 – LT – Tyler Marz – 6’5/321

Junior that hasn’t declared and I think he is leaning towards going back to school but I wanted to discuss him. Marz is a smooth player with plenty of violence and size to his game. Not saying he is Joe Thomas but he does have an awfully similar style. Bose, the outstanding DE from Ohio State, said Marz was the best he faced all year. I saw him in September and labeled him a top tier OT nationally. He did, however, take a couple step backs when I saw him twice in November. Curious to see what he decides, he could be a sleeper top 15 guy if he comes out.

#78 – RT – Rob Havenstein – 6’7/327

Over 40 career starts after this game. He isn’t much of a space guy but he is pretty consistent and reliable. Gets the job done. Isn’t pretty and he is probably a limited pass blocker, but he can play. He knows how to use his size and length. Maybe a 5th or 6th rounder that projects as a backup initially.

#45 – DT – Warren Herring – 6’2/294

Was a career backup heading in to 2014, didn’t give him a lot of attention early on. But I liked what I saw in November and watched a couple hames from October. This guy can play. Not a scheme fit everywhere but he is consistently disruptive. Really good hand work and leverage. Gets off the ball well, constantly forcing his man to react. I like guys like this. Very poor man’s Aaron Donald. Late rounder but I guarantee a few teams will like him a lot.

Other Notables:

#49 – TE – Sam Arneson – 6’4/244
#73 – LG – Dallas Lewallen – 6’5/322
#54 – RG – Kyle Costigan – 6’4/315
#91 – DT – Konrad Zagzebski – 6’3/285
#30 – MLB – Derek Landisch – 5’11/230

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MICHIGAN STATE

*#15 – CB – Trae Waynes – 6’1/185

Fourth year junior. Widely considered to be one of the top three corners in this draft class if he comes out. He always stood out to me last year when I was scouting Drummond, the 2014 first rounder by Cincinnati. He moves better and has a longer frame. Fits the mold of the new mold of tall, long cover corners that the deep speed and physical nature that the NFL loves. He can stick to a WR all over the field. Love the agility and deep speed. Good test for him today. Top 45 pick, maybe a 1st rounder.

#89 – DE – Shilique Calhoun – 6’5/256

Fourth year junior, hasn’t declared yet. Some thought he could have come out last year and been a top 45 pick. I haven’t seen that side of him yet. He doesn’t have that short area explosion that I want out of a 1st round DE. He is tough and physical though, certainly has the body for it. Can be a strong DE that plays the run and pass equally well. 2nd or 3rd rounder, I tend to think he is more of a 3rd rounder.

#27 – S – Kurtis Drummond – 6’1/200

First team All American. Actually a guy I need to scout more. I haven’t been able to get the looks at him to make a real judgment. He is a well balanced player, a guy that can play in the box or in deep coverage on any given play. Led the team in tackles, led the conference in passes defended. Drummond is not a superior athlete and I’ve seen hin out run a few times already, but I think he can get by with heady play and good reaction times. I still need to see more but some label him a 2nd/3rd round pick.

#34 – MLB – Taiwan Jones – 6’3/250

Solid but unspectacular 2+ year starter for the Spartans. Leader of the front seven that makes all the checks and audibles. Coach on the field type. He looks like he has the goods but he doesn’t react the way you want a MLB to. He can be drafted late but I wouldn’t expect more than a backup/special teamer down the road here.

#33 – RB – Jeremy Langford – 5’11/206

Every year there are senior running backs like this. Not overly athletic, nothing stands out about their size. But he was consistently productive and a big senior season. Solid between the tackles, breaks off defenders. Smart runner, very aware of the defense and game situations. He can be a quality back in the NFL, at least a backup. 5th or 6th rounder.

#14 – WR – Tony Lippett – 6’2/191

Interesting player here. He started off as a CB, but ended up moving to WR and led the team the past two years by a wide margin. Was a big play threat in 2014, opened a lot of eyes. However in addition to being a solid WR prospect, Lippett played plenty of CB in 2014 as well and actually looked really good. Rare two way prospect and I actually think his long term upside is higher on defense. 5th or 6th rounder that could shoot up draft boards.

Other Notables:

#44 – DE – Marcus Rush – 6’2/245
#63 – LG – Travis Jackson – 6’3/286
#25 – WR – Keith Mumphrey – 6’1/211

BAYLOR

#14 – QB – Bryce Petty – 6’2/214

QB friendly spread attack, has inflated numbers. Tools wise Petty is average. He can make all the throws, decent athlete. I like his toughness. He stands tall in the pocket and will take all the hits and he won’t get rattled. Smart guy as well. Petty has these weired stretches throughout games though where he can’t hit the side of a barn if it was 10 yards in front of him. Very inconsistent accuracy. I like what he has going on between the ears but I don’t think he is a starter in the NFL. 3rd or 4th rounder.

#5 – WR – Antwan Goodley – 5’10/225

Saw him last year thinking there was a shot he would come out early after a team leading 71 catch/1,339 yard season. Fifth year senior that has a weird body type for the position, looks more like a RB. Unique player. There is more deep speed to his game than you think. Really explosive in a short space. Plays the game hard and does a lot of little things right. Might be a Golden Tate type player in the NFL. 3rd rounder I would say that could bump up a lot if he runs fast.

#42 – WR – Levi Norwood – 6’1/195

More traditional WR than Goodley but wasn’t as productive. Easy mover and really fluid in and out of breaks. Good route runner, good hands. Some teams may actually prefer him to Goodley. He has some decent return ability as well. I think he is a day 3 guy.

#44 – MLB – Bryce Hager – 6’2/235

Leading tackler in 2014 and 2012. Heady linebacker that plays within the tackle box really well. Limited athlete though, gets exposed on space. 3-4 ILB prospect I think that could be drafted day 3.

***********************************************************************

MISSOURI

*#56 – DE – Shane Ray – 6’3/245

Junior that hasn’t declared yet but I would be surprised he he didn’t. Could be the top edge rusher in this class. I don’t think there is anyone that is as explosive as him in this class. He gets out of his stance and turns the corner as well, if not better, than anyone. He is a little light in the pants, may not have the power presence to play DE in a 4-3. I’ve seen him a lot this year and I think he could do it down the road. Right away he offers elite-caliber edge rushing ability.

#33 – DE – Markus Golden – 6’2/255

One of my favorite DE prospects in the nation. Has a thicker build and stronger game than Ray, but may not have the height and length some teams want. Golden plays as hard as any defender in the country. Always running to the action. Has talent though as well, good explosion out of his stance and a variety of rush moves. Plays low and fast. He is plenty big enough for me, I think he is a 1st round caliber guy that you can get in round 2.

#65 – LT – Mitch Morse – 6’5/305

Another one of my favorites. Morse is a very good LT prospect that shows elite footwork and body control. I talked up Justin Britt this time last year while everyone had him labeled as a late rounder. Britt went on to start at RT for #1 seed Seattle this year. I think Morse is just as good as Britt, may be even better. If NYG needs to wait on bringing in a LT, Morse should be the target starting in round 4. I really like him.

#21 – WR – Bud Sasser – 6’2/210

Overlooked WR prospect here. Didn’t do much until 2013, Was the team’s leading receiver in 2014. Really smooth hands catcher with body control. Stronger than your typical college WR. He is an underneath threat but showed some ability to get behind a defense. Reliable 3rd down guy with some untapped upside. 5th or 6th rounder.

#32 – RB – Marcus Murphy – 5’9/195

Might be the top KR prospect in the country. I don’t say this often, but I think he has Devin Hester-type potential. Goes from 0-60 in a few steps. Changes direction at full speed, good vision. Consistently out-ran angles that defenders had on him. A decent RB prospect as well but he is a special teams guy before anything. Late rounder I wouldn’t mind spending a pick on to see if he can be that next elite KR.

Other Notables:

#88 – WR – Jimmie Hunt – 6’0/215
#9 – SS – Braylon Webb – 5’11/207
#89 – DT – Matt Hoch – 6’5/295

MINNESOTA

*#88 – TE – Maxx Williams – 6’4/250

Redshirt sophomore, has already declared for the draft. May be the top TE prospect in this class. Didn’t exactly have a dominant season and I was surprised to see him come out, but he does have talent. Really good athlete in space, carries that weight well. Can be a traditional TE that blocks, not just a receiver. I’ll need to do some more work on him in the coming weeks but he is top 45 caliber from what I have seen to this point.

#27 – RB – David Cobb – 5’11/220

Caught the nation off guard with is 2014 season. Rarely gets talked about but he rushed for 1,548 yards this year. He can run between and outside the tackles. Almost never goes down on initial contact, breaks a lot of tackles and that is what I look for the most in backs. He can get the job done. Might be a limited athlete but I can see him being a 4tth or 5th round pick.

#2 – S – Cedric Thompson – 6’2/208

Love the game speed here. He is all over the field, constantly around the action. I want this top of guy at safety. Aggressive and strong, tackles well, not a liability in coverage. May not be a great awareness guy in deep zone coverage, but he can run with WRs. Day three guy.

#5 – LB – Damien Wilson – 6’2/240

Superior athlete, can run laterally as fast as any LB I’ve seen this year. Loves to pursue and catch plays from behind. Doesn’t read the action though, struggles when the action is in front of him. Won’t fill the lanes, take on blocks. He can be a great special teams LB that a team will try to develop in to a quality LB down the road. Day 3 guy.

Other Notables:

#52 – LG – Zac Epping – 6’2/318
#58 – C – Tommy Olson – 6’4/308
#48 – DT – Cameron Botticelli – 6’4/286

Dec 312014
 
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Don Chandler, New York Giants (1963)

Don Chandler, New York Giants (1963)

By Larry Schmitt with contributions from Daniel Franck and Rev. Mike Moran

When most Giants fans think about a kicker making a clutch kick in a pressure situation, they most likely recall Matt Bahr or Lawrence Tynes kicking the Giants to the Super Bowl. There was a time when the odds would have been against those seemingly effortless kicks being successful. The game of football has evolved most significantly in the way goals are scored from the field. When the American Professional Football Association (APFA) was formed in 1920, the ball was larger and drop kicks were the favored method for field goals, while placements were typical for most points-after–touchdowns. Misses were common though, teams would often make just a few field goals over the course of a season and point-afters were never taken for granted.

The players who attempted these kicks did not come in off the bench. They were four-down players who played on both sides of the ball. When an offense was stopped on third down, one of the backs, or even a lineman, dropped back for a punt or field goal attempt. If the field goal was missed, he did not sulk back to the sideline; he lined up in his defensive position and continued to play.

The Giants entered the NFL in 1925 with Jim Thorpe, one of the most famous football players of his day, on the roster. Aside from his exploits as an athletic runner and fierce tackler, Thorpe was a legendary drop kicker. Thorpe’s tenure with the Giants was brief, being aged and out of shape, he lasted only three games before being released. New Yorkers never saw him attempt any of his famous drop kicking exploits in the Giants red and blue. But they were once treated to a drop kicking exhibition between Thorpe, then of the Cleveland Indians, against Charles Brickley of the New York Brickley Giants at the Polo Grounds in December 1921 four years before the NFL’s New York Giants were formed.

Charles Brickley and Jim Thorpe, New York Brickley Giants (December 3, 1921)

Charles Brickley and Jim Thorpe – Courtesy of Rev. Mike Moran

The occasion marked the first professional football contest in New York City and took place at halftime. Each man was good on six of twelve attempts. Brickley took the honors of the longest successful attempt from an impressive 60-yards out. In the actual game, Thorpe was good on a 40-yard attempt and also drop-kicked a point-after in the Indians’ 17-0 triumph. Unfortunately, the added attraction of Thorpe’s drop kicks was not enough to keep the fledgling New York franchise afloat, and Brickley’s Giants disbanded after the game.

The APFA/NFL followed the college football rulebook for its first 12 seasons. In college, placements were required for point-after attempts through 1922. Beginning in 1923, a player could choose between a drop kick or placement attempt. Place kicks could only take place behind the line of scrimmage while a drop kick could take place from anywhere on the field (the NFL abolished this seemingly obsolete rule in 1998.) The ball at this time was much broader around its circumference and closely resembled a rugby ball. This facilitated drop kicking as the ball bounced true as it descended on end to the ground, and also allowed for a greater surface area for contact on the kicking foot. The kicker would either kick the ball with the top of his foot or instep as it hit the ground or just after it bounced.

From 1920 through 1926, the goal posts were on the goal line in front of the end zone and there were no in-bounds lines (later known as hash marks) on the field. This combination often caused attempts to be made from wide angles, greatly increasing their difficulty. To help alleviate this, the goal posts were moved to the end line at the back of the end zone in 1927, but the added distance proved to be nothing more than a different challenge. Drop kicking for distance was never an issue, controlling the flight of the ball was the premier challenge.

The goal posts themselves had the same dimensions as today. The crossbar was 10 feet above the ground and 18 feet, four inches in width. Missed field goals resulted in the defensive team taking over possession of the ball on the 20-yard line, regardless of where the ball was kicked or the previous line of scrimmage (essentially a touchback.) Kickoffs were off a tee from the 40-yard line.

The record for the longest drop kick field goal is 45 yards by the Canton Bulldogs’ Wilbur “Pete” Henry, who connected on two in a game against the Toledo Maroons on December 19, 1922. However, there are three unofficial 50-yard drop kicks that remain off the books because they could not be verified. The first was by Henry in November 1922. Then John “Paddy” Driscoll of the Chicago Cardinals had one in September 1924 and another in November 1925. Henry’s official record of 45 yards remained the longest successful kick of any kind in professional football for 12 years.

Mixed Styles, Unpredictable Results

The very first points in New York Football Giants history (the Giants owned by Tim Mara) came via a drop kick field goal off the foot of Matt Brennan on October 15, 1925 at Frankford Stadium. The 15-yard kick gave the Giants a 3-2 second quarter lead over the Yellowjackets, but the Giants went on to lose 5-3. The next day at the Polo Grounds, Thorpe missed a 48-yard drop kick field goal in the third quarter of a 14-0 loss to the Yellowjackets. Thorpe was released later in the week and then played two games with the Rock Island Independents where he failed to register any points.

The Giants first win came two weeks later, a 19-0 triumph at the Polo Grounds over the Cleveland Bulldogs. Dutch Hendrian registered the first successful point-after for New York, a second quarter drop kick. This was somewhat unique in that most point-after attempts were from placement, a tendency that endured from the early college rules. Hendrian had the first multi-field goal game for the Giants on November 11 versus the Rochester Jeffersons at the Polo Grounds. He drop-kicked two goals over in the first half from 35 and 25 yards out.

The Giants fielded a competitive team their inaugural season, and finished fourth overall with an 8-4 record. As was the case with most teams, the kicking duties were handled by a group of players. Small rosters and restricted substitution demanded versatility by all team members; specialized talents were a luxury decades in the future. The more a player could do well, the more valuable he was to his team.

The most valuable player of the 1925 Giants was fullback Jack McBride. Although official statistics were not recorded until 1932, game accounts indicate McBride was usually New York’s leading passer, and either first or second in rushing along with fleet- footed halfback Hinkey Haines. McBride handled the bulk of the Giants kicking. His point-after in the 7-0 win over the Buffalo Bisons on November 3 at the Polo Grounds was the first successful placement for the Giants, and his 30-yard field goal versus the Dayton Triangles on November 29 was New York’s first placement from the field. McBride led the Giants with seven point-after conversions during their inaugural season.

The early part of the 1926 season highlighted how no kicks, whether dropped or placed, were ever sure things during this era. The season opener saw McBride good on two placement point-afters and Paul Hogan good on a drop kick point-after in a 21-0 win at the Hartford Blues on September 26. The Giants 7-6 win the following week at Providence on October 3 versus the Steamroller was preserved by a blocked drop kick point-after attempt in the third quarter. New York suffered back-to-back 6-0 losses to Frankford on October 16 and 17 that featured 42- and 32-yard placement field goals by Johnny Budd at Frankford Field, but the next day at the Polo Grounds he failed on his point-after try.

The early NFL record for consecutive point-afters made was by Henry, who converted 49 straight attempts from 1920 through 1928 while playing for three teams that included a brief tenure with the Giants in 1927, although he did not register a kick while with New York. The second longest streak was 26 straight by Elmer Oliphant of the Buffalo All-Americans in 1921. Although McBride never had a streak approaching those two, he did convert 15 point after placements during the 1926 season while Hogan drop-kicked three more. McBride also converted New York’s only field goal, a 25-yard placement at Ebbets Field against the Brooklion Horsemen – an amalgam of the NFL’s Brooklyn Lions and the AFL’s Brooklyn Horsemen – on November 25.

The shape of the ball gradually changed over the course of the decade. Drop kicks became increasingly rare as the circumference of the ball narrowed to facilitate the nascent passing game. The college football rulebook listed a circumference around the middle of 22.5 inches and 23 inches in length for 1928. The size was reduced to 22 inches around the middle and 22.5 inches in length in 1931. This change greatly impacted drop kicking as the end became more pointed. Not only was the required true bounce more difficult to obtain, the spin of the ball coming off the foot changed, which negatively impacted accuracy.

McBride handled the bulk of the kicking chores for New York the next two seasons. The Giants lone field goal in 1928 was Bruce Caldwell’s drop kick on October 28 at Yankee Stadium, providing the margin of victory in a 10-7 decision over the rival New York Yankees.

The most sought after players in the single platoon era were known as Triple Threats, a player who could run, pass and kick (tackling on defense was a given, calling them a quadruple threat would’ve been redundant.) Two players who fit this rare mold were fullback Ernie Nevers and tailback Benny Friedman.

The Giants obtained Friedman in 1928 when Mara purchased the entire Detroit Wolverines franchise, and immediately installed him as the face of the Football Giants and centerpiece of the team. Friedman was deservedly renowned for his ability to manipulate the bloated ball of its day through the air, but he was the Giants primary kicker as well. He passed for a professional record 20 touchdown passes in 1929, ran for two others and kicked 20 point-afters from placement.

Tony Plansky converted an extra point on November 3 at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Bears, and a drop-kick field goal on December 1 at the Polo Grounds versus Nevers and the Chicago Cardinals. This game at the Polo Grounds took place three days after the oldest record standing in the NFL record book was established. On Thanksgiving Day at Wrigley Field, Nevers ran for six touchdowns, a standard that has been tied twice. The mark that has proved unattainable though was the total points of 40, as Nevers drop kicked four point-afters. He accounted for all the point in the Cardinals 40-6 win over the Bears.

Nevers scored two touchdowns and dropped a point over in the game at New York, but Planksy dropped the decisive kick over from 42-yards as time expired for a 24-21 Giants win, and in the process also set the mark for the longest field goal in franchise history at the time. Planksy’s 1929 conversions are the last recorded drop kicks in Giants history. Friedman led New York in point-afters again in 1930, and also registered New York’s only successful field goal of the season. The last minute placement from 42 yards gave the Giants a 9-7 win versus the Stapletons at Staten Island on November 2, and also tied Plansky’s record for length.

Friedman suffered a severe knee injury in 1931 and missed the second half of the season. He left the Giants during the off season after a contract dispute to play and coach for the upstart Brooklyn Dodgers. Versatile wingback Hap Moran assumed the role of place kicker for the Giants, leading the team with eight point-afters and the team’s only field goal of 1931.

Hints of Specialty

The Giants found another versatile back to help fill the void left by Friedman in 1932, and he was very familiar to the Giants, having lost him in a recruitment competition to Staten Island a few seasons earlier. Ken Strong was a phenomenal talent – he was once compared to Thorpe and Nevers by Grantland Rice – and was one of the last pure Triple Threats. As a whole, New York had a down year in 1932. There were a mere seven point-afters registered on the season and not a single field goal – they were shut out from the scoreboard entirely four times.

The NFL created its own rule book in 1933. In addition to relocating the goal posts forward to the goal line, in bounds lines were placed 10 yards in from the sidelines. This assured plays from scrimmage would originate closer to the center of the field and reduced the instances of downs being wasted merely to move the ball away from the boundaries.

That season Strong recorded the first free kick field goal in Giants history. On November 26, at the Polo Grounds against Green Bay, Dale Burnett made a fair catch of a short punt by the Packers on the 30-yard line. Knowing of the rarely-used rule, and unable to resist the opportunity for an uncontested attempt by a skilled kicker, Coach Steve Owen immediately called for a free-kick field goal. Strong’s attempt was true and through the upright, giving the Giants their final points in a 17-6 win. Strong’s kick was believed to be the first-known free-kick field goal for many years until it was recently discovered that George Abramson of the Packers made a 35-yard free-kick field goal at Comiskey Park against the Chicago Cardinals on November 8, 1925. Strong’s kick is now recognized as the second free-kick field goal in NFL history and remains the only one converted in Giants history.

In 1934 the ball also shrank to its final dimensions: 21.25 inches in circumference and 21.5 inches in length. This prolate spheroid was aerodynamically designed for passing, and inadvertently caused a significant shift in the kicking game.

With drop kicking now all but gone, save for a very few holdovers, the preferred method of place kicking was the straight-ahead approach. This featured similar leg mechanics as the drop kick, and likewise provided comparable accuracy and distance. The major difference between the two methods is that in the placement kick, the foot is pointed upward when contact is made with the ball. In the drop kick, the foot is pointed downward (essentially the same motion and alignment as a punt). Strong, who exclusively placekicked in the NFL but occasionally drop kicked in college, noted his thoughts on the differences between the styles in his 1950 book “Football Kicking Techniques”. He said the shape of the ball was an overrated argument against the drop kick. In fact, he said drop kicking provided the offensive team the advantage of a tenth blocker, who was lost as the holder for placements. Strong said placements were the preferable method in inclement weather.

The changes had an impact on the field. The improved distance aspect was proven without a doubt on October 7, 1934 when Detroit’s Glenn Presnell set the NFL’s new distance record with a 54-yard field goal in a 3-0 win at Green Bay’s City Stadium. He led the NFL with 13 point-afters and 64 total points (boosted by five touch downs) that season.

New York tailback Harry Newman shared the kicking responsibilities with Strong for two seasons, and set a team record that would stand for nearly 30 years when he connected on three field goal attempts at Fenway Park against the Boston Redskins on October 7. Newman’s performance was clutch as well. He tied the game 13-13 early in the fourth quarter, and then sent the winner through with less than four minutes to play for the Giants 16-13 victory.

Strong reset New York’s longest field goal standard by two yards on October 21 in a 17-7 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at the Polo Grounds with a 44-yard placement. However, his signature performance came two months later in the NFL Championship Game on December 2. Strong’s 17 points (two touchdowns, two point-afters and a field goal) were a critical factor in the Giants upset of the 13-0 Bears for the Giants second NFL title, and was the franchise post-season standard for 69 years.

Strong did the Bears in again the following season. In the middle of the third quarter at a rainy Wrigley Field, New York and Chicago were tied 0-0. Strong exhibited composure repeatedly under challenging circumstances, while also nursing a separated shoulder. The Giants mustered a drive on the sloppy field, but stalled at the Chicago 15-yard line. Strong’s initial field goal attempt from 22 yards hit the left upright, but the Bears jumped offside and the Giants received a new set of downs on the 10-yard line.

The Chicago Daily Tribune described the sequence that began with a fourth-and-goal from the six: “Strong went back to the 14-yard line and made a place kick, but both lines jumped offside and the field goal did not count. Strong again stood on the 14 and kicked. Both sides were again offside and his perfect placement was wasted. On the next attempt Strong barely got the ball over the bar. His teammates had been considerate enough to stay onside this time, however, although the Bears were pushing them around when the ball was snapped.” Once in the lead, Giants head Coach Steve Owen depended on Strong’s leg for punting, as the Giants engaged in a field position battle with Chicago and prevailed 3-0. Most surprisingly, Strong outdueled the NFL’s most highly regarded kicker of the time, “Automatic” Jack Manders, who missed all three of his field goal attempts.

After the 1935 season, Strong left the Giants for the New York Yankees of the new rival AFL. During that period, with their own kicking situation in flux, the Giants were victimized by one of the all-time great drop-kickers, Earl “Dutch” Clark. On November 18, 1936 at the University of Detroit Stadium, Clark drop-kicked a field goal and three point-afters in the 38-0 Lions victory. These were the last successful drop kicks against the Giants in the regular season.

Tillie Manton was one of three New York players to kick field goals in 1937. The one he made on September 26, 1937 at Forbes Field ranks among the highest in degree of difficulty in team history. In the middle of the fourth quarter of a 7-7 game, the Giants embarked on a 68-yard drive that stalled on Pittsburgh’s 5-yard line. The ball was set for play on the in-bounds line, which were only 15-yards in from the sideline. On third down New York attempted a play to move the ball toward the center of the field, but the Pirates overloaded their defense and forced a field goal attempt at an acute angle, as the goal posts were located on the goal line. The New York Times game summary described the situation: “Manton had to try for his winning field goal from far over on the side of the field. Had it been much farther over, Tillie would have had to boot from the Pittsburgh bench. The angle was simply horrible, and when the Giants craftily went off side to lessen the angle by bringing the ball back, Pittsburgh just as craftily refused to accept the penalty. The Manton kick had to be perfect and straight as a die to click. Fortunately it was.” This impressive kick would be New York’s last fourth quarter game winner for 13 seasons.

Ultimately, the heir apparent to Strong proved to be another multi-talented back. Ward Cuff came to the Giants in 1937 with no prior kicking experience, but he was tutored personally by Owen. Cuff only kicked two field goals his rookie season while he fine-tuned his new skill. A milestone was set by a member of the old guard that year. On September 19 Detroit’s Clark made the last recorded drop kick field goal in professional football history – a 17-yard attempt in the second quarter of a 16-7 win over the Cardinals.

The next season, Ralph Kerchival of the Brooklyn Dodgers registered the final regular season drop kick point-afters on November 13 against Philadelphia at Ebbets Field. Kerchival registered six total points in the Dodgers 32-14 win with three point-afters and a field goal. Interestingly, Kerchival converted the field goal and first two point-afters as placements, but drop kicked the third point-after. The New York Times speculated Kerchival drop-kicked the final point “just to prove his versatility.”

Cuff assumed the role as the Giants primary kicker in 1938, and he led the league with five field goals and 19 point-afters as the Giants won the Eastern Division title. His two field goals and two point-afters provided the edge as the Giants won their third overall championship, and became the first team two win two NFL Championship games, 23-17 over Green Bay in a hard fought contest.

Ward Cuff (14) and Ken Strong, New York Giants (1939)

Ward Cuff (14) and Ken Strong, New York Giants (1939)

Cuff shared the kicking duties with Strong in 1939, who returned to the Giants from exile for one season. The AFL folded after the 1937 season. Strong was barred from the NFL but played for the Giants farm team in Jersey City in 1938, then rejoined the big-league Giants for the 1939 campaign. He suffered a back injury early in the season at Washington and remained a kicking specialist the remainder of the year. Once one of pro football’s last Triple Threats, Strong emerged as one of the very first specialists. (Christian “Mose” Kelsch of the 1933-34 Pittsburgh Pirates is the first documented kicking specialist, although he did occasionally perform as a back and had 11 carries over two seasons.)

Cuff’s biggest day took place at the Polo Grounds on October 22 in front of the second-largest crowd in pro football history at the time. He was three-for-three on field goals and added a point-after, to give the Giants a seemingly comfortable 16-0 fourth quarter advantage over the Bears. However, Sid Luckman shredded the Giants normally stout defense. Nevertheless, while Chicago scored two quick touchdowns on only four plays, the Giants held on for the 16-13 win.

The 1939 Eastern Division Champion Giants were known as a “money team,” who pulled out close games with big plays at crucial moments. Cuff was one of Owen’s “money men,” and his seven successful field goals that season established a franchise high and helped further that reputation. Bears Owner and Head Coach George Halas later recognized Owen’s early emphasis on specialty as an important influence on overall strategy, “Steve was the first to stress the importance of defense and the advantage of settling for field goals instead of touchdowns. Every team strives today to do what Owen was doing twenty years ago.”

The new mark for the Giants longest field goal surprisingly came off the foot of Len Barnum. His 47-yard kick at the Polo Grounds against the Cardinals on November 11 eclipsed the standard twice set by Strong in 1934 and 1935 by three yards, and was the longest kick in the NFL in 1939.

Cuff led the NFL in field goals two more times in his career as a Giant, and broke Friedman’s point-after mark with 26 in 1943. Cuff was traded to the Cardinals after the 1945 season, and left as New York’s all-time leading scorer. The Giants retired Cuff’s #14 in 1946 [though it was temporarily brought back into service in 1961 for Y.A. Tittle.]

The NFL’s final successful drop-kick took place in the NFL Championship Game at Wrigley field on December 21. Ray McLean of the Bears tallied Chicago’s final point in a 37-9 win over the Giants when he drop-kicked the point after. The last drop-kick in pro football until the 2005 season took place on November 28, 1948 in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), but it was not by design. San Francisco’s Joe Vetrano lined up for a placement point-after in Kezar Stadium against Cleveland. The snap was low and the holder lost control of the ball. Amid the chaos, Vetrano scooped the ball, evaded the rush and successfully drop-kicked the ball through the uprights, a magnificent ad-lib performance.

Owen and the Giants took advantage of the war era’s relaxed substitution rules and lured Strong out of retirement in time for the 1944 season. It proved to be a fortuitous move for both sides. Strong led the NFL in field goals and the Giants won the Eastern Conference. Perhaps to underscore his intended role as a specialist, Strong insisted on not wearing shoulder pads or a helmet during games. Strong set the franchise record for point-afters with 32 in 1946 as the Giants again won the Eastern Conference. Strong retired for good after the 1947 season. Over the course of his final four seasons as a kicking specialist, he converted 102 of 104 point-after attempts in an era when misses were still commonplace. Strong’s #50 was retired in 1947 and he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.

On October 7, 1945, a record that may prove unbreakable was set by Green Bay’s Don Hutson. In the second quarter of a game against Detroit at the Wisconsin State Fair Grounds, Hutson caught four touchdown passes and kicked five point-afters. The record 29 total points scored in one quarter still stands today. Hutson added two more point afters in the second half, bringing his total to 31 points on the day, which at the time was the second most points scored by an individual in a game after Never’s 40 point game.

Len Younce, an All-Pro tackle, was New York’s primary kicker in 1948. He struggled on field goals, converting just one of seven, but was 36 for 37 on point-afters which broke Strong’s record. Looking to improve in the field goal department, a unique specialist joined the Giants in 1949.

Perceived Handicaps as an Advantage

“The Toeless Wonder” Ben Agajanian is one of the most unique and influential kickers in pro football history. After losing four toes on his right foot in an elevator accident when he was in college, Agajanian had a cobbler fabricate a squared-off cleat for kicking. This actually may have provided an advantage for him as with the straight-ahead style he was able to get more surface area of his kicking foot onto the ball than other kickers. Agajanian broke his arm in a 1945 preseason game with Pittsburgh and became a kicking specialist for the remainder of his career. He spent two seasons with the Los Angeles Dons of the AAFC before joining the 1949 Giants.

Agajanian had an excellent first season in New York. He set the Giants field goal record with eight, and his 35 point-afters were just one short of tying Younce’s 36 from the previous season. However, he was released after the season. A kicking specialist was considered an impractical luxury on a 32-man roster. Versatility was still the rule of the day.

End Ray Poole filled the role capably for the next three seasons. Being a lineman, he had good range off his strong right leg, but he endured accuracy issues his first season. He did, however, prove himself to be reliable under pressure. On November 5, 1950, Poole capped off a furious come-from-behind effort at the Polo Grounds against Washington. New York trailed 21-14 late in the fourth quarter when they mounted an 89-yard march to a touchdown. Poole’s point-after tied the game at 21-21 with two minutes to play. Poole kicked off, and the Redskins made an ill-fated attempt at a razzle-dazzle play. Tom Landry intercepted a lateral following a pass completion on the Washington 41-yard line. Charlie Conerly completed a pass to the 33-yard line and Poole made the winning kick from 40 yards with four seconds on the clock.

Poole’s field goal accuracy greatly improved in 1951 and the Giants reaped the benefits. He established the new team mark for field goals in a season with 12, while tying the record for three field goals in a game twice during the season, and a third time in 1952 before retiring.

New York’s kicking duties in 1953 were shared by multi-purpose backs Randy Clay and Frank Gifford, who combined to covert three of 12 field goal attempts. A new coaching staff, headed by Jim Lee Howell, and rosters expanding to 33 created another opportunity for the specialist Agajanian, who had returned from retirement to kick for the Los Angeles Rams in 1953. During that season, Baltimore Colts Bert Rechichar set a new record for field goal length when he connected on a 56-yarder at Memorial Stadium against the Bears.

Agajanian seemed determined to redefine exactly what it meant to be a specialist. He maintained a house in California and wanted to be with his family and keep an eye on his private business interests as much as possible. Agajanian proposed to Howell that as a pure kicker he did not need to be present for the full week of practice. Howell complied, and Agajanian flew home on Sunday nights and returned to New York on Thursdays throughout the regular season.

No one had ever seen anyone as meticulous with his craft as Agajanian, which is probably why he was befriended by the analytical Landry. Agajanian broke down every aspect of kicking to a science. He was the first to insist the center snap the ball to the holder with the laces facing forward, even noting the number of revolutions the ball should make during its flight. He instructed holders on how to simultaneously turn the ball as they set it to the ground, straight up-and-down. Agajanian would only have the holder set the ball on an angle if there was a strong wind.

He also designed the bowed-line formation, with the outside blockers at the wing position, to kick-protect. Later, during his 24-year career as a kicking coach, Agajanian would develop the three-steps-back, two-steps-to-the-side set for the sidewinder approach to the ball. Landry said Agajanian did more to advance kicking than any other individual in history.

The acquisition of Agajanian in 1954 paid immediate dividends for New York. Agajanian advanced the Giants single-season field goal record to 13, and he twice kicked three in a game. Prior to the 1956 season, team management became disenchanted with his absence during the week and rescinded his traveling privileges. Agajanian retired from kicking, but agreed to coach his potential replacements Gifford and rookie punter Don Chandler during training camp. They struggled with the additional responsibilities during the first three weeks of the regular season and the Giants acquiesced on Agajanian’s demands and brought him back to New York. Not only did Agajanian retain his special dispensation to leave for the West Coast during the week, but he was reprieved during games as well. Chandler continued to handle kickoffs, as he possessed had a powerful leg. Agajanian’s role was refined to handling only field goals and point-afters.

Agajanian wore a tennis shoe on his planting foot and removed the cleats from his specialized kicking shoe to neutralize the effects of the frozen Yankee Stadium field during the NFL Championship Game against the Bears on December 30. His two first quarter field goals gave the Giants a 13-0 advantage on their way to a 47-7 rout, New York’s fourth championship and first in 18 years. He was cited in The New York Times game summary for his performance: “Then, too, there was 38-year old Ben Agajanian, whose exclusive assignment with the Giants is place-kicking. His talented toe accounted for 11 points. He booted five of six conversions – the lone failure was his first as a Giant – and two field goals.”

Ben Agajanian, New York Giants (1957)

Ben Agajanian, New York Giants (1957)

During his final year with New York in 1957, Agajanian kicked the franchise’s first 50-yard field goal. The fourth quarter kick on October 13 not only broke Strong’s 17-year old record for the Giants longest field goal, it proved to be the longest field goal ever made in Washington’s Griffith Stadium. Agajanian retired to the West Coast after the season. He left the Giants with two team records aside from the longest field goal: the most point-afters with 160 and the most consecutive point-afters with 80. Agajanian was New York’s third highest career scorer with 295 points, after Strong’s 351 and Cuff’s 319.

Agajanian was again lured from retirement, this time by the Los Angeles Chargers in 1960. He kicked for five more teams until retiring for good in 1965, where he then embarked on a long coaching career. There have been several earnest attempts to get Agajanian elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in recent years, but he has yet to receive the honor.

There were big shoes to fill following Agajanian’s departure. It was appropriate that they were filled by another kicker who wore a square-toed cleat.

A Star is Born

Pat Summerall was born with his right foot backward. Doctors performed an operation where the foot was broken, turned around and reset. It seemed unlikely that Summerall would become pro football’s first universally-celebrated kicking specialist when he was included in a trade with defensive back Linden Crow between the Chicago Cardinals and the Giants. Summerall was a two-way end who also had some kicking ability, but was erratic. He had never had a season where he converted 50% of his field goal attempts and often missed point-afters.

His mentor was Landry, who while serving as the Giants punter had spent time on the practice field with Agajanian. He observed Agajanian and engaged in discussions dealing with their respective crafts. Landry mentored Summerall his first camp with New York, and the new kicker acknowledged that as the turning point of his career. “Landry made sure that the center knew exactly how many times the ball had to spin between leaving his hand and being caught by the quarterback, so that when he put it on the ground, the laces would be facing away from me. That was the level of precision, and professionalism between teammates, that we were held to. Landry paid attention to every kick and every detail of what I was doing. He said if you miss to the right, this is what you’re doing wrong. If you miss to left, this is what you’re doing wrong. And when you practice, make sure you have someone who knows what’s going on because it doesn’t do any good to practice bad habits.”

The attention to detail paid off, as Summerall became a household name making big kicks in pressure situations, even if it was a role he did not necessarily relish. “I’m thinking if we keep making first downs they won’t have to call on me. Sometimes the pressure is terrible. If you miss, there’s no second chance. It’s as tough as being a pinch hitter in baseball.”

Summerall’s first climactic field goal served as an overture for New York’s now legendary 1958 season. At Yankee Stadium on November 9, the Giants engaged in a back-and-forth battle with the Colts, who were without Johnny Unitas. Having just yielded a touchdown that tied the game 21-21 in the middle of the fourth quarter, the Giants advanced. A mix of Gifford rushes and Conerly passes set the ball, 4th-and-3, at the Baltimore 21-yard line. The snap and placement were imperfect, but Summerall delivered. “When I saw the laces were facing the right sideline I knew I had to kick the ball a little to the left,” said Summerall. “The ball always fades to the side with the laces.” The kick went through at 2:40 and the Giants defense held on for the win.

This just set the stage for the dramatic season finale on a snow-covered field against the Browns (story here).

Summerall had one of the great seasons for a kicker in 1959. He had five games where he kicked three field goals, including a 9-3 win over the Cardinals where he accounted for all the Giants points. He also had another occasion where he was relied upon to finish a come-from-behind surge. On September 23 at the Los Angeles Coliseum, New York trailed the Rams 21-17 entering the final period. Summerall’s 14-yard field goal cut the lead to 21-20 with 13:30 left to play. The teams traded punts for the rest of the period before the Giants began their final advance. Conerly passed New York to the Los Angeles 11-yard line where the drive stalled with under two minutes on the clock. Summerall was good on his 18-yard attempt and the defense preserved the 23-21 victory.

Charlie Conerly (42) and Pat Summerall (88)

Charlie Conerly (42) and Pat Summerall (88)

In 1959, Summerall became the first Giant to lead the NFL in field goals (20) since Strong in 1944. He also established a team record with 90 total points by a kicker. Summerall’s final season in 1961 saw him set a new franchise mark with 46 point-afters, of which the final 129 point-afters were made consecutively without a miss.

Double Duty

As is their tradition, the Giants looked to the familiar as they embarked upon a new era. Strong was brought in to mentor Chandler and Jerry Hillebrand during training camp. Typically, the straight-ahead kicker would line himself up approximately one-and-a-half yards behind the holder. On the approach, the kicker would take a short step forward with the kicking foot, a long, hopping step with the plant foot to generate forward momentum, then swing the kicking foot at the ball with the ankle locked and the foot in an upward facing position.

There was some frustration on Strong’s behalf as Chandler refused to lock his ankle, yet he repeatedly was good on his attempts, even from long distances. Despite his unorthodox style, Chandler was awarded the job, possibly to Strong’s consternation. Chandler said later, “Basically my technique is all wrong, I cut across the ball too much. They pointed it out to me when I was a rookie, but decided not to change me because I was getting good results.”

Ken Strong, New York Giants (1962)

Ken Strong, New York Giants (1962)

Strong said, “Don has the most powerful leg drive I’ve ever seen. The most important thing I had to do was help him build confidence. Some years ago some other coach told him he would never become a good place-kicker because of the way he whips his foot across the ball. We had to get that idea out of his mind. After that it was just a matter of showing him the right steps and follow through.”

As punter and kicker, Chandler helped to save one of the Giants 36 roster spots. But he did more than that as his success as a kicker was both immediate and profound. He tied the Giants record for three field goals in a 29-13 win at Franklin Field in Philadelphia on September 23. In the rematch with the Eagles at Yankee Stadium on November 18, Chandler eclipsed the record when he made four field goals in a 19-14 win. Chandler kicked four more field goals in the Eastern Division clinching 26-24 win at Wrigley Field against the Bears.

Chandler became the first New York kicker to surpass 100 total points with 104 in 1962. He set a team record with 47 point-afters and added 17 field goals. As impressive as those marks were, they did not last long. In 1963 Chandler had 106 total points on 18 field goals and 52 point-afters, a franchise standard which still stands today.

A game ball was awarded to Chandler after his four-field goal effort in a 33-6 win at Cleveland on October 27. His workload on the day – aside from the four field goals – included three point-afters, eight kickoffs and two punts. On December 1 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Chandler set another team record with a 53-yard field goal. The kick came midway through the fourth quarter and tied the game with the Cowboys at 27-27. It also tied for the third longest field goal in NFL history at the time. New York went on to win 34-27. Chandler said, “I could have kicked a field goal from 60 yards today. The wind was that strong. My kick was good by at least 10 yards.”

Chandler slumped in 1964 after his back-to-back great seasons. He missed more field goals than he made and totaled just 54 points. After the season, Chandler requested a similar travel allowance for 1965 that had been granted Agajanian in the past. Chandler wanted time during the week to be at home in Oklahoma to attend his insurance business. Instead he was traded to Green Bay.

The Giants kicking situation in the 1965 season was an unmitigated disaster. Four players combined to convert four field goals in 25 attempts – a 16% success rate that wouldn’t even be considered adequate in the 1920’s. The step New York took to rectify the situation was a bold one, and it changed pro football forever.

The Catalyst for Revolution

Pete Gogolak was already a player of significant renown. He was an innovative place kicker on the Buffalo Bills AFL championship teams in 1964 and 1965. He led the AFL in field goals in 1965 and converted nearly 63% of his field goals overall. What distinguished him though was his angular approach to the ball. He became known as the first “sidewinder.”

However, Gogolak was not the first sidewinder in football. There were a handful of college players with a soccer background (as did Gogolak) in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s who experimented with the style, but they were mostly regarded as an eccentric curiosity and none advanced to the pro level.

After playing out his option with the Bills, Gogolak became a free agent. The AFL teams had a gentleman’s agreement not to sign one another’s players, but there was no such agreement between the rival leagues themselves. The Giants were the first team to contact Gogolak, and they offered him a contract that more than doubled his previous season’s salary, while the Bills offered just a modest raise. “I signed with the Giants and made three times as much as I made with the Bills. I signed for $35,000. They gave me a four-year, no-cut contract. Then you know what happened. The AFL started calling NFL players and the war started, and basically a few months later the two leagues merged. So maybe I started something. I not only started the soccer-style kick, but maybe I started the merger.”

Gogolak’s contract was the highest salary ever paid to a kicking specialist at that time. Wellington Mara stated that Gogolak’s agent assured the Giants that Gogolak was indeed able to be signed without any complication. Mara said, “We honor contracts of other organizations just like we honor the ones in our own league. We would not have talked to Gogolak, or any other player, without his becoming a free agent.”

Outrage from the AFL was expected, but not all within the NFL were congratulating the Giants on their coup. The Bears influential owner George Halas carefully stated his thoughts: “Legally there’s no question that the Giants had the right to sign Gogolak. But I think it was a mistake in judgment because of what it’s leading to [inferring a salary-escalating competition between the leagues]. But I also think this can be corrected in the future.” When asked if a mutual agreement could be established between the leagues, Halas said, “I don’t know, but I think it’s the logical thing to anticipate.”

Contrary to popular belief, Gogolak was not the first player to change leagues. In 1961, end Willard Dewvall left the Bears and signed with the Houston Oilers, but that move received little attention as Dewvall was not a player of Gogolak’s stature. Also, a player leaving the established NFL to an upstart league was not a new phenomenon. Many NFL players jumped to the AAFC in the 1940’s and to the Canadian Football League (CFL) in the 1950’s during bidding wars. The 1960’s NFL was still dominated by owners who had survived the hardships of the Great Depression and World War II by being frugal. But this unprecedented transaction of the NFL taking a player from a rival league at a significantly higher salary implied an acknowledgement of legitimacy toward the AFL. A future movement toward integration had become inevitable.

Political and business implications aside, Gogolak’s contributions to the game on the field are no less important. He was clearly a different breed. During practices he was segregated from the rest of the squad, and used a soccer ball as well as a football during warm ups. As a pure specialist with no other positional responsibilities, he admitted he often felt like an outsider. “It’s the way it’s always been for me,” he said. Head coach Allie Sherman was unconcerned. “He knows what it takes to get ready, that’s good enough for me,” said Sherman.

Part of his routine was refining the “touch” he felt was required by his craft, rather than lifting weights and running drills as other kickers in the past had done. Gogolak differed from contemporary kickers physically as well. He had a small frame that some perceived as frail. They thought he might be snapped in half if he ever attempted to make a tackle. Plus nobody understood how a little guy like that would be able to kick a ball as far as a larger man like Lou Groza, who had been an All-Pro tackle for the Browns early in his career.

Initially, scouts and coaches were skeptical of Gogolak and those who soon followed his path. Many doubted that these smaller men would be able to hold up over the course of a season or meet the demands of kicking off and making long-range field goals. In the traditional straight-ahead kicking style, with the toe of the kicking foot strikes the ball, the velocity behind the launch comes from the strength of the kicking leg, specifically the quadriceps muscle. This in part explains why larger men were successful at straight-ahead place kicking. It required minimal mobility in the direct approach to the ball, and it maximized their power potential.

The sidewinder approach (today known as soccer-style) offers two differences that over time became recognized as advantages: surface area and angular momentum. Gogolak explained his sidewinder style as being analogous to swinging a golf club. The sidewinder contacts the ball with the instep of his kicking foot. This gives him more ability to control the initial trajectory of the ball as it leaves his foot, a desirable effect when kicking through the wind. He also is afforded more margin for error in the event of a mis-strike or a last second adjustment if there is an errant snap or unstable hold. This explains the sidewinders’ superior accuracy.

The greater range might initially seem like a paradox, but it too is grounded in physics. The power originates from the torque created at the hip socket. This is where the golf club analogy applies. As the sidewinder approaches the ball from an angle, his first step toward the ball is with his kicking leg. His second step is a long stride with his plant leg. As the plant foot is set, the hip of the kicking leg is fully opened (externally rotated) with the knee deeply bent and the heel of the kicking foot pulled back. As he swings the foot toward the ball, the hip closes as the knee straightens, creating tremendous angular (or rotational) momentum from the full weight of the leg directed at the ball. This phenomenon is termed foot velocity.

With the increased surface area of the instep contacting the ball, the impact creates more force being directed into the ball. More directional control also creates more potential power. More muscle mass would ultimately detract from a sidewinder’s kicking ability. A minimal amount of strength is required; mobility and flexibility are maximized with this style.

Superior kicking ability did not often translate to more wins for the Giants during Gogolak’s tenure. Gogolak has more games played than any other Giants kicker, is the Giants all-time leading scorer and is first in the categories of point-afters and field goals made. Yet, he has only two game-winning kicks to his credit. The Giants teams of his era ranged mostly between mediocre and terrible.

Regardless of the team’s performance, Gogolak’s impact rippled through pro football quickly. After his first season in New York, his brother Charlie Gogolak was signed by Washington and Jan Stenerud by Kansas City. The sidewinder style of place kicking had taken root and in less than 10 years the straight-ahead style would be rendered near obsolete, with only a few aged veterans lasting into the 1980’s. All the kickers coming up from college used the new approach and were highly effective.

Gogolak was inducted into the Army in 1967, but was granted dispensation to have the weekends during the season off duty to play for the Giants. Once out of the Army in 1969, New York experimented with him as a dual specialist, as Chandler once had, as both the punter and place kicker. Gogolak’s kicking accuracy declined. After a Week 2 loss in Detroit where Gogolak missed two field goals, he was relieved of punting duties and New York spent the year rotating four different players at punter.

Tom Dempsey, a straight-ahead kicker for New Orleans, kicked a 63-yard field goal at Tulane Stadium on the game’s final play for a 19-17 win over Detroit on November 8, 1970. His record was considered unbreakable for many years. It was not tied until 1998 and was eventually eclipsed by one yard in 2013.

In 1970, Gogolak broke Summerall’s team record for field goals in a season when he connected on 25 attempts. He also recorded his first game-winning field goal when he broke a 24-24 tie at RFK Stadium with 1:52 to play for a 27-24 win over the Redskins on November 29.

Pete Gogolak, New York Giants (September 19, 1970)

Pete Gogolak, New York Giants (September 19, 1970)

During the 1972 season, his running streak of 133 consecutive point-after conversions came to an end. It was a franchise record and the fourth longest streak in pro football at the time. He also set a team record with eight point-afters in a 62-10 win over Philadelphia at Yankee Stadium on November 26.

Gogolak had another game winner that season in Yankee Stadium against the Cardinals, but his most pressure-packed kick came the next year in a game the Giants did not win. It was also the franchise’s last appearance in Yankee Stadium.

New York’s defense yielded a touchdown to the Eagles and trailed 23-20 with 1:52 to play on September 23. The Giants quickly advanced from their 15-yard line to Philadelphia’s 11-yard line on four pass completions, and used their final time out in the process. Two incompletions preceded a pass caught at the six-yard line with the clock running and the team scrambling. Center Greg Larson told The New York Times, “When I got to the line there were 14 seconds left but the Philadelphia players were taking forever to get back.” Gogolak saw four seconds on the clock “and got scared,” he said, as he set. The 14-yard kick salvaged a tie as time expired [there was no overtime in regular season play until 1974]. “It was a short kick, but it was a pressure kick. It’s the first time I’ve ever kicked a field goal on the last play of a game.”

Gogolak received the ultimate acknowledgement from the NFL prior to his final season in 1974 – they adopted new rules in attempt to minimize the soccer style of kicking he brought to pro football. The goal posts were returned to their pre-1933 location on the end line. Now that the hash marks were lined up with the uprights, field goals were becoming too commonplace and it was deemed necessary by the rules committee that the degree of difficulty needed to be increased. This was also true for kickoffs, which were moved back from the 40-yard line to the 35 to reduce the number of touchbacks.

After a 1974 season where his percentages dipped, Gogolak was released by the Giants during the 1975 training camp in favor of the younger, and cheaper, George Hunt. Gogolak said the rule changes did not directly affect his on-field performance, and that he had opportunities to play for other teams. But he said if the Giants cut him, he would simply retire and pursue the next phase of his career, rather than continue football.

The straight-ahead style of place kicking officially came to a close when Mark Mosely retired from the Browns after the 1986 season. The last straight-ahead kicks in the NFL occurred on September 13, 1987 at RFK Stadium. The Redskins starting kicker Jess Atkinson was injured during a first quarter point-after attempt. He was relieved by punter Steve Cox, who sometimes substituted on kickoffs and long range field goals. Kicking straight ahead, Cox was three-for-three on point afters in the game and also added a 40-yard field goal.

Every field goal and point-after in the NFL has been made with the sidewinder approach ever since, including Dough Flutie’s drop kick point-after made on January 1, 2006. Flutie used a never before seen hybrid technique on the attempt. After receiving the snap, he used the traditional three-step approach to the point of the kick, but did so diagonally and booted the ball over the crossbar with his instep. It was the perfect blend of Thorpe and Gogolak. The kicking game, for one poignant moment in time, had come full circle.

Dec 302014
 
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Andrus Peat, Stanford Cardinal (October 18, 2014)

Andrus Peat – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 30, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

NOTRE DAME

*#78 – LT – Ronnie Stanley – 6’5/315

Two year starter. One year at RT, one year at LT. Similar situation to Greg Robinson last year, an underclassman that has not been talked up much by the main talking heads this year but also a guy that scouts have been raving about. Stanley, if he comes out, has a legit shot at being the first OT taken in this draft. Potential top 3 overall grade here. He is a great run blocker with a powerful first few steps. Looks unbeatable at times when you consider the strength and movement skills. Gets sloppy with his footwork and hand placement but his weaknesses are little things that can be corrected. He is an elite prospect if he comes out.

#18 – TE – Ben Koyack – 6’4/261

Was primarily a blocking TE over his first three years. Used as a TE, FB, H-Back. I like his ability to be a complete TE in the NFL. The physical side is there. Really good effort blocker with plenty of strength to his game. Shows soft hands, long arms, toughness as a receiver. Limited upside and he isn’t the prospect that Niklas was last year but he can stick in the NFL for sure. 4th or 5th rounder that can be depended on to fill a role.

#74 – RT – Christian Lombard – 6’5/315

Has played plenty of RT, RG, even a little bit of LT over his career. Had an injury shortened 2013 (back). Came back strong in 2014 and cemented himself as a classic ND offensive line prospect. Quality run blocker that shows limited athletcism as a pass blocker. I think his future is inside, the foot quickness just isn’t there for him to play OT. The issue with him inside however is a lack of quality knee bend. He does’t play a low game. I don’t like his potential but we can get drafted late.

*#91 – DT – Sheldon Day – 6’2/285

Junior that hasn’t declared. I expect him to return, he had a rough 2014. He played DE in the old 3-4 scheme, made gthe switch to 4-3 DT this year. Many thought he would break out in to a pass rush machine but it didn’t happen. He gets overwhelmed and controlled at the point of attack too easily. He is an interesting player, can show signs of being a guy that OL have a hard time blocking with his quickness and low center of gravity but he is a one trick pony at this point. He sprained his MCL in November as well. Overall a disappointing year for him and I can’t imagine his grade being anything better than a 4th rounder.

#2 – CB – Cody Riggs – 5’9/185

Undersized and lack of presence in man coverage. Has some good movement ablilty. Light feet and can change direction well with the action in front of him. Limited cover man when he has to turn his backs, a little too tight-hipped for a player his size. Late rounder that has been unspectacular his whole career.

Other Notables:

#33 – RB – Cam McDaniel – 5’9/194
#77 – C – Matt Hegarty – 6’4/300

LSU

#70 LT – La’el Collins – 6’5/315

One of my favorite OL prospects in the nation. Could have come out last year and I would have had a top 20 grade on him. Former LG, made move to LT prior to 2013 season. He is a punishing, controlling OL. He looks a lot leaner this year and moves a lot better, but still has the road grader mentality. He can beat defenders multiple ways. Really adjusts well, good reaction. He is a true leader, looks out for teammates and takes a lot of pride in being the enforcer. I love guys like that and he has all the ability. He may finish in my top 10 overall. Should be a top 20 pick when all is said and done at worst.

*#59 – DE – Jermauria Rasco – 6’3/247

Disruptive two year starter. Was constantly around the action in the two games I saw. Would like to see more of this kid. Reminds me of the other edeg rushers we’ve seen out of LSU over the past few years that have been OK at best in the NFL. May not have the frame for a 4-3 DE. The first step quickness is there but he doesn’t do much afterward to beat a blocker consistently. I like the hustle though. 5th or 6th rounder.

#26 – S – Ronald Martin – 6’2/220

Physical, versatile safety. Can fly in to the box and make the tackle. But also a much better cover safety than you would think. Showed the range to play in deep coverage. Fast reaction and makes plays on the ball. Little under the radar safety here that I think could work his way in to the first 5 or 6 rounds.

Other Notables:

#18 – RB – Terrence Magee – 5’9/217
#27 – RB – Kenny Hilliard – 6’0/232
#43 – FB – Connor Neighbors – 5’11/229

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GEORGIA

#51 – ILB – Ramik Wilson – 6’2/232

One of my favorite MLB prospects in the nation. 235 tackles, 17 TFL, 5 sacks over past two years. He isn’t a compiler by any means. Wilson is all over the field and I think he may be one of the best athletes in this LB class. He shows a big time presence as tackler, consistently delivers a violent pop to the ball carrier. Shows a lot of range to the sidelines, he can run with anyone. He does struggle in coverage, not the same athlete when dropping back as he is when playing the run. But for a 4-3 LB prospect, Wilson is a good one. Possible 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#5 – CB – Damian Swann – 5’11/178

2 year starter, has a knack for being involved in big plays. 11 INT, 10 FF, 5 FR over past three seasons. Play to play, Swann is an average CB prospect. He moves well but doesn’t do some of the smaller but important things. High and sloppy backpedal, gambles too much, won’t read the action. Still an interesting prospect that can likely be had on day three. There is something about him that I like. Defenders that are constantly around the action can end up being good players in the league. Swann fits in to that discussion.

#52 – ILB – Amario Herrera – 6’2/231

Four year contributor, solid inside linebacker. Limited range though and he just seems to be a step behind anything outside of the tackle box. Could be a very good 3-4 ILB prospect but I think he is limited otherwise. Sound tackler, led UGA in 2014 with 112. Not a 3 down guy. Late rounder.

#31 – WR – Chris Conley – 6’2/206

Leading receiver in 2014. Not a special athlete by any means but it’s hard not to appreciate how smooth he is. Very reliable hands, good body control. Excels near the sidelines and in the end zone. Has some sneaky speed to him too. Comparible to a WR I really liked in the 2014 Class that flew under the radar, Kevin Norwood, whom is making his way up the depth chart in Seattle right now. Conley is a guy that gets it, quality football player and really good kid off the field.

#82 – Michael Bennett – 6’3/202

Another less than stellar athlete that is a smart enough receiver to make an impact. Led UGA in receptions in 2014. Tough as nails over the middle. Struggles to separate but he has a good chance of coming down with the ball in traffic. Physical guy that will out-perform guys drafted ahead of him. Late rounder but a guy that can be reliable to find a role for himself and perform it well.

#61 – C – David Andrews – 6’2/295

Third year starter, leader of the OL. Makes all the line calls. Smart and a hard worker. Talent wise I don’t see anything here to warrant much. The coaches rave about him and his quiet but vital impact on their running game. I have failed a few years in a row with a few centers that were a lot better than where I had them graded, so I want to put him in here. Andrews Can swing his hips in to the hole well, always appears balanced and strong. But there aren’t any overly impressive traits to his game.

Other Notables:

#61 – DE – Ray Drew – 6’4/276
#14 – QB – Hutson Mason – 6’3/202

LOUISVILLE

#9 – WR – DeVante Parker – 6’3/209

The best player in this game. First round caliber WR, some say he should be a top 15 guy. I don’t have him in the same breath as Strong/Cooper/White but he’s a quality prospect. Missed 6 games in 2014 but still finished as the team’s leading receiver with 35 catches for 735 yards. Had a couple dominant performances. Big play threat. Long and lean but strong upper body.

#70 – LG – John Miller – 6’2/325

Over 40 career starts. Team captain. Thumper that is at his best as a straight ahead run blocker. Miller has the typical body of a guard, bowling ball type that packs a lot of power. Shows signs of dominance here and there. Doesn’t move to his left very well. He can react well but the foot quickness isn’t always there. 4th-5th rounder at best.

#79 – LT – Jamon Brown – 6’5/326

Mammoth left tackle that has played some at RT as well. Lost weight prior to the 2014 season and it certainly made a difference as a pass blocker. He appears to be more fluid moving to the outside, he can move pretty well. The power presence is there, strong hands and a long reach. Brown is a guy that looks worse the longer the play goes but he is good right off the snap. I think he is a RT in the pros but he can be a good one, starting caliber eventually. 4th or 5th rounder.

#18 – TE – Gerald Christian – 6’3/242

Started off at Florida, played for Lousiville in 2013 for the first time. Has some really explosive traits to his game, can be a big play threat from the TE spot. Aggressive blocker, may need more strength. I think he can be an important piece to a passing game in the league. A lot of talent but some quality football skills as well. Late rounder worth going after for sure.

#10 – RB – Dominique Brown – 6’2/216

One of my favorite under the radar RBs in the nation. Really explosive downhill speed. Missed 2012 with a knee, came back strong in 2013. He has tools to work wth and a nice skill set that looks pretty far developed when it comes to pad level, lean, and ball security. Maybe doesn’t have the vision/awareness yet. Late rounder I would gamble on.

#94 – OLB – Lorenzo Mauldin – 6’4/244

Was a 4-3 DE prior to the 2014 season. Team made a switch to the 3-4 and he is now at OLB, a better spot for him in the NFL. He can change direction with ease, really athletic lower body from a flexibility and quickness perspective. He has a high ceiling and I think he has an outside shot at being a 1st rounder. May not be as strong as some teams want but he can rush the edge. High potential here, I’ll have him graded out in the top 50 overall.

*#8 – S – Gerod Holliman – 6’2/213

Nation’s leader in INTs with a stunning 14 in just 12 games. Some will look at the stats and say he is up there with Landon Collins as the top S in this class. I don’t think he’s that good. We see several prospects over the years with big INT numbers that simply aren’t that good. He obviously has the ball skills and he can play to his size in coverage. But he isn’t a physical guy and his tackling is poor in every game I watch. He may be a 1st rounder but hell be a 3rd rounder on my board. Still a solid prospect, just not elite at all.

*#3 – CB – Charles Gaines – 5’11/174

Hasn’t declared yet. Haven’t heard anything but I think he is worth talking about. One of the best movers of the CB class. Looks like he plays on ice skates. Really easy change of direction guy with the deep speed as well. There is a physical style to him but teams will question if he is strong enough, and rightfully so. I like Gaines but will need to see more before I label him a 1st rounder.

Other Notables:

#26 – RB – Michael Dyer – 5’9/215
#53 – RG – Jake Smith – 6’3/305
#6 – WR – Eli Rogers – 5’10/182
#11 – DE – BJ Dubose – 6’5/263
#48 – OLB – Deiontre Mount – 6’5/243

*****************************************************************

MARYLAND

#97 – DT – Darius Kilgo – 6’2/310

3-4 Nose Tackle type. Has some sneaky short area quickness to him, can be an anchor. Limited player though, 5th or 6th rounder for specific schemes.

#6 Deon Long – WR – 6’0/195

Hidden weapon here that has good movement. Can run himself open and catch the tough passes. Circuitious route to where he is now but there is some hidden talent here.

Other Notables:

#40 – OLB – Matt Robinson – 6’2/240
#47 – ILB – Cole Farrand – 6’3/245
#14 – CB – Jeremiah Johnson – 5’11/195

STANFORD

*#70 – LT – Andrus Peat – 6’6/312

My favorite LT prospect in the nation. Hasn’t declared yet Has true “Blue Goose” potential Dominant physical guy but has the feet to skate his way to the edge. He can block anyone the league throws at him.

#7 – WR – Ty Montgomery – 6’2/220

Versatile player with a tool set that scouts drool over. Great speed and quickness. Has elite yard after the catch potential, good return man. Underwhelming 2014 season will knock his grade down. Inconsistent hands. Could be one of the bargains of the 2015 class if he can be had in round 3.

#58 – NT – David Parry – 6’2/303

Noticed him early in the year and is one my favorite DT prospects in the nation. Wrestler-type with his low center of gravity and easy quickness. Tough guy to block that can make a big impact in any scheme. Might be a late rounder be he may make my top 75 overall.

#9 – OLB – James Vaughters – 6’2/258

May be resticted to the 3-4. Power player with a long frame, a lot of muscle. Smart player that can move quick in a phone booth. Could be an impact guy in the NFL.

Other Notables:

#91 – DE – Henry Anderson – 6’5/295
#8 – S – Jordan Richards – 5’11/210
#2 – CB – Wayne Lyons – 6’1/196
#17 – ILB – AJ Tarpley – 6’1/238

Dec 292014
 
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Kevin White, West Virginia Mountaineers (November 29, 2014)

Kevin White – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 29, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

TEXAS A& M

#70 – RT – Cedric Ogbuehi – 6’5/305

The next Aggie left tackle that will end up in the first round, making it three in a row for the program. Has played RG, RT, and LT. Surprisingly, he showed the biggest signs of struggle this year at LT. Because of injuries to the OL, they moved him back to his more natural position, RT a few weeks ago. He struggled with a couple vital components to the position, mainly being body control and hand strength. He isn’t the top 5 prospect that many thought he would be prior to the season, but we are still talking about a top 25 guy. Teams still draft right tackles in the first round and rightfully so. All said and done I still think he’ll be called at some point in round 1 and play a Michael Oher type RT.

#51 – LT – Jarvis Harrison – 6’4/325

Interesting story here. Has been moved to LT from his guard spot. Coaches say it was because of injuries elsewhere on the OL but Harrison appears to be a better LT than Ogbuehi. He is a very good athlete, better than Ogbuehi. May not be that tall but he has length. All said and done I think he plays LG in the NFL but wouldn’t surprised if a few teams like him at LT. I only saw him in the beginning of the year and at the end. He was night and day different because his offseason was hampered by calf/shoulder issues. I just think he was out of shape when I first saw him. He looked great late in the year and I look forward to a tough matchup for him here.

#84 – WR – Malcome Kennedy – 6’0/205

Slot receiver, didn’t have the 2014 that many were hoping for. I don’t see the high upside here althought a lot of guys think he’ll be drafted somewhere in the top 150 overall. He is a quick twitch athlete that catches the ball in traffic. Gets open quickly. I just don’t see the route running ability. Better athlete than football player type. Had it easy in that offensive scheme. Maybe a top 250 overall guy on my board.

#85 – TE – Cameron Clear – 6’6/270

Quite the opposite of Kennedy. I think he has the potential to be a much better NFL player than college player. He was mainly a blocker in their scheme and a very good one at that. Problem for him is that the A& M offense is sp spread-heavy that his role wasn’t used a lot. But when he is on the field. Clear played at a high level. There are some ball skills and movement ability to his game that is hidden. I think he can be a player. Late rounder worth taking a shot on because at the very least, he will be a good blocking TE.

#29 – CB – Deshazor Everett – 6’0/193
Under the radar cover corner, three year starter. Has the height/length/speed that teams love to gamble on at the position. Has a lot of experience in man coverage, can hang with anyone downfield. Tighter hips than you would think for such a good athlete. Needs work on skill aspects of the position but the top tier athleticism is there. He is the kind of guy that will workout well and boost his stock a couple rounds. Still more of a 4th/5th round type at best but there is a lot of upside there.

Other Notables:

#31 – S – Howard Matthews – 6’1/215
#5 – S – Floyd Raven – 6’2/200

WEST VIRGINIA

#11 – WR – Kevin White – 6’3/211

If I had to pick one prospect that boosted his stock the most via level of play this season, it’s this guy. He has height, length, and ridiculous hand size. He is one of those guys that you watch over the course of a few weeks and find it really difficult to pinpoint an actual weakness in his game. White is every part of an elite WR prospect and should be taken in the top 15 overall, if not top 10. He had a pretty indirect path to where he stands now but if anything, it may help his draft outlook across the league. His size as I noted is near a top tier grade. But White shows tremendous ball skills and ability after the catch as well. May not have the elite speed, but he always seems to play faster than the defense, including Alabama week 1. White is one of my favorite WRs in this class and still has a shot at finishing at the top.

#5 – WR – Mario Alford – 5’9/177

The other half of the WR duo. Not the prospect that White is obviously, but Alford is a very good player himself. Undersized but very fast and explosive. Some are comparing him to Stedman Bailey but he isn’t as polished. Needs to run better routes and catch the ball better. I actually think he compares more to Tavon Austin with his movement ability. Not a first rounder but still a guy that can do a lot for an offense based purely on his speed/quickness/agility. 4th or 5th rounder.

#67 – LG – Quinton Spain – 6’5/335

Under the radar OL that I’ve been talking up since the beginning of the season. Fifth year senior. Huge frame. Has plenty of experience at LT and LG. I think his NFL future will be inside where he just seems more comfortable. His weaknesses are exposed in space. Classic road grader that can make a lengthy highlight film full of knockdown blocks. Drives guys through the ground. Really good at getting his paws inside and locking on. He is a quick decision maker, reacts well to the blitz and stunt games. His biggest issues derive from being out of shape, which is a bg concern for me. He needs to be lighter. He is rotated in and out of the game a lot. He also gets top heavy and will get lazy with his technique. Still a guy that may be worth a gamble late in the draft. He can be a good one.

#4 – DE – Shaquille Riddick – 6’6/242

Potential diamond in the rough here. Played his whole career at Gardner-Webb until 2014. Had 6 sacks and 9 TFL. Nothing dominant by any means but he is tools-rich and plays the game hard. He can bend well and cut the corner, plays with strong hands. Good tackler, good pursuit. His issue is body related. He has gained 75 pounds since high school but there is still more that he needs to put on. He has wide receiver legs, definitely needs more girth there. Can his frame handle another 20+ pounds. Interesting edge athlete here that I would think should be taken in the top 200 picks.

Other Notables:

#64 – RG – Mark Glowinski – 6’5/305
________________________________________________________________

OKLAHOMA

*#3 – WR – Sterling Shepard – 5’10/195

Junior that has not yet declared. Someone told me is going, someone told me he is staying. I trust both guys so I really have no idea. He is worth talking about though. Really explosive route runner with good top end speed. Will remind Giants fans of Victor Cruz. He is a shorter guy but there is some thickness to him. Big play threat that can get behind a defense and compete for the ball. Love his ability to get open. Really quick mover and fearless in traffic. If he comes out he has a shot to be a 2nd or 3rd rounder.

#79 – RT – Daryl Williams – 6’5/325

Huge frame. One of my favorite RT prospects in the nation. I think he is made for the NFL. Big and tough, a lot of functional power to his game. He can get low enough and really drive block. Defenders are tossed around by Williams when the body control and balance are there. Effective against linebackers in space. His wide-ness certainly helps. Sure he struggles with some speed to the outside but nothing that should kill his grade. I like him a lot…similar to Phil Loadholt who I loved years back. I’ll have him graded higher than most, somewhere in the top 60-90 overall.

#71 – LT – Tyrus Thompson – 6’5/320

Most like Thompson more than Williams, calling him a potential rise between now and the draft. I’m not huge on him. He does have the size/length/foot speed to play LT. Very athletically gifted. I just don’t like the lack of power and strength to his game. Too often I saw him driven back by bigger defenders. Really thin lower half that I think limits his potential power output. I would label him a 6th or 7th rounder at this point. Not sure what I am not seeing that others do.

#10 – TE – Blake Bell – 6’5/252

You may remember Bell as a rushing QB for the Sooners. Very popular with the fans. He was a short yardage back that could throw a little. He switched over to TE to help the team out and may have carved himself a spot in the NFL. Good power and functional strength. Doesn’t offer much speed wise but he does a lot of little things well. If he gets drafted it will be late. Late rounder with limited upside but a lot of teams, including NYG, like guys that made a position change late in their career.

*#19 Eric Striker – OLB – 6’0/221

Junior that hasn’t declared yet. He gets a lot of national hype but when you really sit down and grade him, he’s not much of an NFL prospect. He blew on to the national scene against Alabama last year in the bowl game where he abused Kouandijo for 3 sacks and more QB hurries. I think that was simply a tough matchup for Kouandijo more than anything. You don’t see edge rushers in the NFL playing at 220 pounds. Striker is an OK prospect and I think he can contribute, but he isn’t nearly the star that some make him out to be. If he comes out I think he is looking at a mid-round slot. Just not sure teams would know what to do with him.

#98 – DE – Chuka Ndulue – 6’3/289

Steady contributor over the years with over 30 starts. Not a big guy but does a lot of the dirty work really well. Most likely a 3-4 DE prospect but could possibly slip inside the 4-3 scheme. He is really quick in short spaces. Really strong, low center of gravity. These guys are a headache for blockers. Ndulue won’t ever be an elite guy but he can be a contributor to a good NFL defense is the scheme is right. 6th or 7th rounder that I like a lot for some teams.

Other Notables:

#48 – FB – Aaron Ripkowski – 6’1/257
#74 – LG – Adam Shead – 6’4/339
#77 – RG – Dionte Savage – 6’4/335
#10 – SS – Quentin Hayes – 6’0/193

CLEMSON

#3 – OLB – Vic Beasley – 6’2/235

Fifth year senior. One of the top defensive players in the country. Has a legit shot at being a top 10 pick. Incredible first step and ability to bend and turn the corner. 41.5 TFL over the past two years. Almost always gets the initial advantage off the snap because of the explosion and underrated strength. Beasley needs to add more weight and by the look of his frame, he may be close to maxing out. We’ll see though. Not a fit for every scheme and he might be a situational player in the NFL. Not sure he can play all three downs. That said, his pass rush potential is really high and in this league, he’ll get taken early because of that. 1st rounder for sure, maybe top 10 but I will have him somewhere in the 20-25 range I think.

#50 – DT – Grady Jarrett – 6’1/295

This 1st Team All ACC defender won’t get the attention while walking off the bus because of his lack of size and length. Jarrett may stand close to under 6 feet tall with short arms but has been a consistently productive player for three years in a row. He is a bowling ball inside that can be a horror to deal with for linemen throughout a game. His low center of gravity and good usage of knee bend and power from his base can be a handful for blockers to deal with. His best fit is in a scheme where he can penetrate the inside gaps with minimal anchor responsibilities. 4th or 5th round.

#43 – MLB – Stephone Anthony – 6’2/245

1st Team All ACC defender that builds his game off of awareness, strength, and tackling ability. Anthony is a quality inside run defender with quick, powerful downhill ability. While he is athletic enough to play in the NFL, he may not be considered a 3 down linebacker. This brand of NFL defense has taken a slight step backward but he can still carve a nice niche for himself at the next level. Smart defenders with strength, power, and downhill ability will always be in demand. Possible starter for some schemes but most likely a special teamer and situational defender. Guys like this are usually taken in the 5th or 6th round.

#26 – CB – Garry Peters – 6’0/190

Had a strong 2012 season and created some hype, but injury riddled 2013 set him back. 2014 treated him well, earning 1st Team All ACC over the likes of PJ Wlliams (FSU) and Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest). Peters is as smooth as it gets. Really good awareness and reaction time. Has the length and height to factor. My question is speed and physicality. Can be match up one on one in man coverage? I think he may be a zone-only corner but I’ll be curious to see how well he runs. 5th or 6th rounder that could get in to day 2 with a few good workouts.

#93 – DE – Corey Crawford

More traditional DE prospect than Beasley, but doesn’t have half the potential. Height/length/strength are all there but he isn’t explosive off the snap. He doesn’t play the game with any sort of skill set. Kind of slow reacting, unaware. He does get his fair share of QB pressures though and he can anchor his position against the run. Not a bad prospect but I don’t see the upside. 6th or 7th rounder.

Other Notables:

#67 – RT – Kalon Davis – 6’5/340
#68 – LG – David Beasley – 6’4/329
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ARKANSAS

#86 – DE – Trey Flowers – 6’4/268

A coach-favorite type guy. Really clean off the field, team captain type. Gets a decent amount of attention nationally but lacks the superstar ability. He doesn’t have the quick pop out of his stance, struggles to reach the corner and get by a good OT. Flowers does play the game low and strong with good mechanics though. He is really consistent and reliable. One of the better run defending DEs that I’ve seen this year, something that is still really important to NFL coaches. Flowers won’t be a star but I guarantee he out-performs a few DL that get drafted ahead of him. Most likely a top 100 guy, maybe a little lower but not much.

#47 – MLB – Martrell Spaight – 6’0/228

Every year I get sort of attached to a LB prospect before his name gets out there. This year, it’s been Spaight, the SEC’s leader in tackles. He was a JUCO All American in 2011 and 2012, and spent most of 2013 as a backup and rotational LB. He broke in 2014 and I still think people overlook him. Not that tall, not that fast, not that big. But Spaight plays the game with his eyes as good as any LB in the country. He is always moving in the right direction with balance and power. He consistently finds his way to the action. Spaight is a limited athlete that shows weakness in coverage but I’ve noticed an improvement from September to now. He is a football player, plain and simple. He may go 5 rounds without hearing his name called but I’ll have him in the top 100 overall, maybe top 65.

#23 – CB – Tevin Mitchel – 6’0/188

Has been in and out of the starting lineup for a few years, but emerged as their top CB in 2013 and some things have clicked for him. He moves well with the action in front of him. Quick reaction, good eyes. Doesn’t have the deep speed to hang with the fast WRs. Limited scheme wise but he can play. Late rounder.

#74 – RT – Brey Cook – 6’7/328

Mammoth right tackle with almost 30 career starts. Already has the NFL body from head to toe. Really strong hands. Sound technique and skill set. His feet are made for the RT spot only but they move well enough. He has such a long reach and good balance, he can get away with being on the slow side. He delivers a powerful punch and his hips are quick as a run blocker. I like him more than most. He’ll go somewhere day 3, might finish top 150 on my board.

#11 – TE – AJ Derby – 6’5/245

One of my favorite darkhorse, diamond in the rough prospects. Former QB at Iowa and JUCO. Started 1 game at QB for Arkansas in 2013. Made the move to TE in 2014 and his athletic ability caught my eye. Showed some big time speed and accleration on a TD against Alabama that stands out. He can play strong when blocking but is obviously still rough around the edges. Late round project that I think will pay off for someone.

Other Notables:

#34 – OLB – Braylon Mitchell – 6’3/231
#27 – S – Alan Turner – 6’0/205

TEXAS

*#90 – DT – Malcom Brown – 6’3/320

Junior that hasn’t declared yet. Many expect him to. He is married with 2 kids. Might be the top prospect in this game. Brown shows dominant traits to his game. Really powerful and explosive off the ball and he can toss guys aside with ease at times. Plays a little hot and cold but his upside can’t be denied. All around DT that can fit in to any scheme.

#3 – OLB – Jordan Hicks – 6’1/234

Finally Hicks tapped in to his sky high potential in 2014. Has always been a source of excitement and disappointment for the Longhorns. Physically gifted, former top tier HS recruit. Showed all the football skills you want out of a LB with Strong calling the shots. He can do everything. Pursue the run, blitz, pass rush, cover. A true 3 down LB. Struggles a bit with the action coming right at him but he played his way to a top 100 pick, maybe even top 75.

#6 – DB – Quandre Diggs – 5’10/195

I had high hopes for Diggs in 2013 as he was replacing Kenny Vaccaro after showing gamebreaking ability in 2012. He hasn’t gotten to the level I thought he would but I still think be an impact guy. He is a really quick mover that plays zone and man equally well. Really aggressive player. Diggs doesn’t tackle well and he is constantly guessing/gambling. Easily fooled. I’m not sure where he plays in the NFL but he’ll be drafted somewhere day 3.

#88 – DE – Cedric Reed – 6’5/272

Quality edge rusher, has had a productive career. Lacks the quick twitch you want and there isn’t a lot of staying power to his game. He is crafty with refined rush moves but there isn’t anything about him that stands out. Most likely drafted but late.
#9 – WR – John Harris – 6’2/218

This will be my first time scouting Harris. Led Texas with 64 catches/1,015 yards. Size and long speed are both there. Had a couple games where he took over.

#28 – RB – Malcolm Brown – 5’11/225

Part of the Texas loaded backfield. Hasn’t lived up to the hype but he always showes glimpses. He has all the ability as a rusher. Big, strong, fast. Runs high and doesn’t see the running lanes well though. He’ll get drafted late but needs to show he can do more than run the inside gaps if he wants anything in the first 5 rounds.

Other Notables:

#8 – WR – Jaxon Shipley – 6’0/190
#80 – TE – Geoff Swaim – 6’4/250
#33 – LB – Steve Edmond – 6’2/258

Dec 272014
 
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Jaelen Strong, Arizona State Sun Sun Devils (November 28, 2014)

Jaelen Strong – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 27, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

CINCINNATI

#71 – LT – Eric Lefeld – 6’5/309

Long time starter and underrated player. Has been 1st Team All conference three years in a row. Lefeld is an average athlete in pass protection, but does a good job of staying square to the defender. Gets his hands on you quick. Can stick to a guy. Nice frame for the position. All around solid player that should be drafted day 3.

#1 – MLB – Jeff Luc – 6’1/253

1st Team All AAC. Really thick, physical run defender that can make his presence known every week. He is really quick between the tackles and can actually do a nice job of making himself small to blockers and sneak in to running lanes. Physically he can lay the lumber every play. He is the kind of guy that backs look out for and that linemen can get beat up by. Strictly a run defender though, as he has trouble performing well in space, especially coverage. Limited player but one that could be worked with in a blitz heavy scheme. 6th/7th rounder.

Other Notables:

#93 – DT – Brad Harrah – 6’3/260
#43 – LB – Nick Temple – 5’10/218

VIRGINIA TECH

#34 – S – Kyshoen Jarrett – 5’11/192

Versatile defensive back, almost entered the 2014 Draft. Plays all over the field. If he were just a little bigger he could have been a top 45 overall prospect. I love the game speed here. He has the quickness to cover slot receivers man to man, the rangy speed to play a CF role in deep coverage, and the explosion to fly in to the box and defend the run. I see him as a 3rd or 4th rounder that every team will be interested in. He can do so many different things.

#8 – S – Detrick Bonner – 6’0/194

The other safety on this defense. Some actually view him as a better prospect than Jarrett, but not me. He has more size and more straight line speed, but he doesn’t move with instincts directing the way. He doesn’t react the way I wan a safety to. Poor tackler in space, doesn’t cover well at all. All he has is superb straight line speed. Maybe he gets drafted late because of it.

*#90 – DE – Dadi Nicolas – 6’4/231

Fourth year junior that has not yet declared. Workout warrior that has run a 4.4 40 and set records for vertical jump and broad jump. Broke out in a big way this year with 17 TFL. Has 10 TFL since Oct 23 (5 games). I watch him and see a guy that needs another year of college. He needs to fill out if he is going to play any pass rushing role at the next level. More of an athlete than a football player…a trend I’ve seen with Virginia Tech players.

Other Notables:

#63 – LT – Laurence Gibson – 6’6/297
#79 – RG – Caleb Farris – 6’3/307
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ARIZONA STATE

#21 – WR – Jaelen Strong – 6’4/212

The best prospect of the day if you ask me. Consider me in the small group of people that think Strong has a shot at the top 10 overall. Of the top WRs in this class, Strong has the best size factor. He is tall and long with big hands. I see some Brandon Marshall in him. He can dominate underneath with his strength, getting off the ohysical corners and putting himself between them and the ball. Really good at positioning his body and getting to the ball first. He can also get behind a defense and burn them for a long TD. Very reliable 3rd down and red zone target. I think he is still very much in the learning phase of the game and if/when he figures it out, he can be a star in the NFL. 1st rounder for sure, maybe top 10 if he runs well.

#74 – LT – Jamil Douglas – 6’4/300

Versatile lineman that has a ton of experience. He played LT for all of 2014 but I think his future is inside at guard. He struggles to maintain speed and balance when he is out in space. However he can drive straight ahead really well. Has the combination of foot quickness and hand power to mix it up with bigger defenders. I always think Oniel Cousins when I watch him. A solid backup that could play a few spots in a pinch and not kill an OL. 4th/5th rounder.

#1 – DE – Marcus Hardison – 6’4/300

Really interesting player here. Was a JUCO transfer prior to 2013, was heavily sought after. Plays mostly DE but will shift inside from time to time. Has a different body type, really short and stocky torso but thinner legs than you think. He is a legit 300 pound athlete that runs a 4.7, which is pretty rare. He is a hustler that likes tp pursue across the field. Can pack a punch. He had a strong finish to his season and in the 4 games I saw, he always did something that raised my eyebrows. I think a 3-4 or hybrid defensive front scheme could do wonders with this kid. Hard to project, but could see him going as early as round 2 if he works out well.

Other Notables:

#10 – QB – Taylor Kelly – 6’2/211
#3 – S – Damarious Randall – 6’0/189

DUKE

*#16 – S – Jeremy Cash – 6’2/203

Junior that hasn’t declared, been in school 4 years though. Transfer from Ohio State in 2012, led Duke in tackles last season. I only scouted him once in 2014 because I didn’t really notice his production until halfway through the year. Cash is a S/LB hybrid for Duke, hence all the TFL and Sack numbers. He uses his speed and quickness to beat the OL in space. Good tackler and pretty smart with quick reaction. But I want to see what he can do in coverage. He can’t play LB in the NFL at that size. Sounds like he will return to school but he is seeking a grade from the Advisory Board. Maybe a top 100 guy if he comes out.

#77 – RG – Laken Tomlinson – 6’3/320

One of my favorite guard prospects in the nation. Has the body and power presence I want. Bends pretty well. Has over 50 career starts. Because he is on Duke, he won’t get the media attention that the guys from FSU get, but Tomlinson is just as good as them. He is strong from head to toe and his feet are really active. I’ll have him graded somewhere in the top 75 overall.

#3 – WR – Jamison Crowder – 5’9/175

Record setting WR. Obviously there is a size deficiency here but Crowder is one of the few slot guys that I think can really make it at the next level. Every year we see ultra-productive WRs come out that are under 5’10 and end up fading out in the NFL. I think Crowder sticks. He is one of the best route runners you’ll find. Sets defenders up and explodes by them. Will catch anything within arms distance. Strong and tough with the ball in his hands. There is some top tier return ability here as well and it will only enhance his grade. I think he has a good shot at being a top 100 overall player.

#17 – WR – Issac Blakeney – 6’6/225

High upside prospect here that hasn’t made a ton of plays at Duke over his career. But a WR with this size and speed will always get attention from scouts. He moves in and out of breaks better than you would think, and can probably run his 40 in the 4.5-4.6 range. There are a lot of raw/rough edges to his skill game though. Late rounder if he gets drafted at all.

Other Notables:

#7 – QB – Anthony Boone – 6’0/225
#73 – LT – Takoby Cofield – 6’4/310
#47 – MLB – David Helton – 6’4/240
_______________________________________________________________________

MIAMI

#52 – LB – Denzel Perryman – 5’11/242

Ultra productive weak side/middle linebacker. Will likely finish as my top graded LB (3-4 OLBs excluded) in this class. Might be shorter than the ideal prospect but he is a pure football player. Very smart and good instincts. Gets himself in to the right position after the snap to make plays. Incredible power as a tackler between the tackles and in space. Really send a violent jolt to the ball carrier. Gets lost in traffic though and has had stretches where he couldn’t make even a small impact on the game. I like Perryman, he can fit in to any scheme and give you 100+ tackles every year. Is he a guy that leads the NFL in tackles every year? Probably not. But he can be a very good 2nd or 3rd round pick.

#37 – CB – LaDarius Gunter – 6’2/198

One of the more underrated corners in the nation. Gunter is a tall and long with really good movement. He can turn and run with the fastest receivers, but also showed a physical side in 2014. He can beat guys up at the line of scrimmage. Not a very good tackler and will struggle to make reads. But ask him to sit on an island and cover a WR man to man, he can do it. 3rd rounder right now that could sneak his way in to the top 45.

#34 – OLB – Thurston Armbister – 6’3/241

Solid LB prospect that probably doesn’t get the attention he deserves. Good measurables, the height/speed/agility are all there. Might be a better athlete than football player at the moment but he offers some high upside. Had a few nice games in 2014.

#91 – Olsen Pierre – DT – 6’5/305

There isn’t a lot of production here but Pierre has some tools that the NFL scouts love. He is really long. Holds 300+ pounds really well. Has the quick twitch, sudden-ness to his game. He can be a versatile guy that wears a couple hats for a DL. Late rounder.

#71 – DE – Anthony Chickillo – 6’4/282

Fourth year senior, was a top tier recruit out of high school. Played right away, has a ton of experience. Didn’t have the career that most thought he would, but was still a solid player. Versatile, can fit in to multiple schemes. He is a relentless hustler, motor is always on. I think he is a limited athlete though, that popped off the screen multiple times. He is pretty strong though, could be a guy that adds some weight and stars as a 3-4 DE. 5th-6th round.

*#8 – RB – Duke Johnson – 5’9/206

Junior that hasn’t made the declaration yet. I’ve given a lot of extra attention to Johnson over the past month. He will finish as one of the top backs on my board, right up there with Gurley and Coleman. He is incredibly explosive and agile. Such a good change of direction mover, shows you signs of McCoy really. He put 10 punds on from last year which was a good move for him, backs need to be 200+ in the NFL. Johnson can be a starter at the next level, no question. He is a great ball carrier, great pass catcher, great blocker. I think the 2nd or 3rd round here.

*#74 – LT – Ereck Flowers – 6’6/334

Junior, hasn’t made a decision yet. Interesting prospect here. A lot of people think he could be a top 15 overall pick if he comes out. Tore his meniscus in October (nothing serious) but came back and played really well. Mammoth OT that has experience on both sides. Flowers needs another year in college I think. He has a lot of sloppy parts to his game that simply need seasoning. Loses his center of gravity/balance too often. Doesn’t get his hands inside. Crosses his feet when moving laterally. Everything can be coached up so there will still be plenty of teams with a high grade on him. There is a big time power presence and he plays a mean style. The upside is big, this I could see him being a top 45 pick if he comes out. I just won’t have him graded up there.

#4 – WR – Phillip Dorsett – 5’10/195

Might be the fastest player at the combine this year. Rumor has it he may run in the 4.2 5 range. He plays fast too, he isn’t just track star. I can remember watching him play in 2013, thinking he was a definite early declaration guy. He then tore up his knee. Came back strong in 2014, led Miami in receiving yards. Had an amazing 26+ yards per catch. He has legit deep speed but also a good change of direction guy. He may not make the play to play impact, but that speed is a weapon. Decent ball skills, has some return ability. Could be a 4th/5th rounder but watch out if he actually does run a 4.25 forty.

Other Notables:

#62 – C – Shane McDermott – 6’4/300

SOUTH CAROLINA

#50 – LG – AJ Cann – 6’3/318

Fifth year senior. All American. Hs started 50 of 51 games since his redshirt season in 2010. Will likely finish as one of my top 2 or 3 guards in this class. Classic road grader with big power and short area explosion. SC loved to run behind him the past two years. Very rarely do you see his man make a tackle. There are a couple holes in his game s a pass blocker, but most college guards are that way. He’ll be a starter in the NFL. Top 45 pick, good shot at being the first guard taken.

*#28 – RB – Mike Davis – 5’9/220

Junior that has said he plans to declare for the draft. Some view him as a big time back that could land somewhere in the top 45 overall. He had a huge 2013, finally being out of the Lattimore shadow. Davis is a little like Ed Lacy. He is built low to the ground, has a power approach to the game but can be sneaky fast. I see him as a grinder like Lacy. Just a guy that continues to pick up positive yards, pushes the pike forward. But when you don’t expect it, he’ll break off a big run. I’ve felt a few times that he could benefit from losing some weight and adding more quickness to his game. Most likely a 2nd or 3rd round pick.

#53 – LT – Corey Robinson – 6’7/348

Mammoth three year starter that started of his career bouncing back and forth between the OL/DL. Robinson moves a lot like a RT prospect. He can swallow up a lot of space but his feet and knee bend are sub-par for the position. He is a powerful kid though that excels as a run blocker. He has the ability to start in the NFL but will need to be coached up on his technique. I could see him being a top 100 overall guy at best.

#81 – TE Rory Anderson – 6’5/232

Athletic pass catcher that will remind some of former Gamecock Jared Cook. He is really athletic when going after the ball in traffic. He can turn his body and reach the ball at the apex of his leap. Really good ball skills. There isn’t much of a power presence here but he loves to hit. He is a physical guy. Anderson never really got to the level that some thought he could but he fought some injuries and poor QB play. Late rounder that could get his name called in the 4th/5th round he if works out well.

#97 – DT – JT Surratt – 6’2/305

One of the more consistent DTs I have seen this year. Not a star and won’t be one in the NFL, but he can be a reliable, Barry Cofield type guy for a 4-3 defense. Very emotional/passionate player that delivers a punch at the point of attack. Violent hands, strong tree trunk legs. He can swallow up space and blockers but will hustle to the sidelines. Limited upside but again, he’ll be a reliable player. 4th-5th round.

Other Notables:

#17 – QB – Dylan Thompson – 6’3/218
#12 – SS – Brison Williams – 5’11/208
#3 – WR – Nick Jones – 5’6/168
_______________________________________________________________________

BOSTON COLLEGE

#59 – C – Andy Gallik – 6’3/299

Has a shot at being the first center taken. Will finish as one of my top 2 guys at the position I think. 4 year starter. Technically sound, uses his feet and hips really well. Really good bender, can produce a lot of power from a low position. Gallik is one of those super-centers that pulls out in to space and leads the running back outside of the tight ends. Really good athlete. Overall a very good player here that teams will look to towards the back end of round 2.

#75 – RT – Ian Silberman – 6’5/293

Former Florida Gator. Played just one year at BC after a backup-duty career at Florida. I liked Silberman every time I watched BC play. He has a nice frame. A little undersized girth wise but he has the height and length. I like how he moves. Quick feet, can explode out of his stance. Really well balanced. There is a power deficit here as you would probably expect. He cant lock on to guys. The better DL he faced off against got off his blocks with ease. Late round project with more upside that people think.

#25 – OLB – Josh Keyes – 6’2/223

Every year I have a grade on a few guys that is much higher than what we see out there. Keyes will be one of those guys this season. He was a backup until this season. He was put in to an edge rushing role and thrived. He finished with 11.5 TFL and 4 sacks. Nothing eye popping but I watched his game against USC where he had 5.5 TFL. I loved how easily he changed direction. He is technically sound, finishes tackles. There is a size/strength issue and it will likely keep him as a late day three prospect, but he is a guy I would take a flyer on. There is some hidden talent here.

Other Notables:

#2 – QB – Tyler Murphy – 6’2/214
#67 – LT – Seth Betancourt – 6’5/300
#99 – DE – Brian Mihalik – 6’9/288

PENN STATE

#65 – LG – Miles Deiffenbach – 6’3/303

3 year starter. Nothing special about his game but he gets the job done. He isn’t a pretty prospect, but he can be reliable interior guy. Could likely play some center as well. Not sure he has the quick twitch to start in the NFL, but could be a backup type for most schemes. Late rounder.

#1 – RB – Bill Belton – 5’10/205

Won’t jump off the stat sheet and I really don’t know if he will even get drafted. But I liked him every time I saw PSU play. He is really good change of direction ball carrier. Plays pretty tough, bigger than his frame would indicate. Good receiver good blocker. For where you can get him, I think Belton can be one of the better values at RB in this class.

#43 – MLB – Josh Hull – 6’0/227

Another season, another PSU linebacker in the conversation. 4th year senior with some big tackle numbers. I saw him a few times, but I was so impressed with her performance against Ohio State (19 tack/2.5 TFL/1 INT). He is an average athlete to the outside but he can be explosive between the tackles. Closes a gap real fast. He is one of those LBs that appear slippery to blockers. Really good movement after the snap and gets himself in position. Strong and powerful tackler that can really stone a ball carrier. May not be on the same level as some of the other PSU linebackers in the NFL but he can get drafted in the round 4-6 area.

#86 – DE – CJ Olaniyan – 6’3/244

Second year starter. Has long limbs and a frame that hand handle more weight. Average movement in space but he shows some pop out of his stance. Really good at playing with his hands. Shows some pass rushing potential from both a tools and skills perspective. PSU likes to move him around a little. Late rounder at best.

____________________________________________________________________

NEBRASKA

#8 – RB – Ameer Abdullah -5’9/200

One of the more underrated players overall in this draft class. Ultra-productive back that showed the ability to do it all. Will be viewed as an undersized back but Abdullah spent the past two years putting on some quality weight. He is a lot stronger and tougher than you think. He can run with a violent style when he needs to. Hard guy for a lone tackler to being down. He runs with such a low pad level and his late movement is top tier. Showed plenty of ability to block and catch the ball over the past two years. I see a Pierre Thomas type player here. I view him as a top 45 guy, but may last until the 3rd round.

#68 – LG – Jake Cotton – 6’6/305

One of my favorite under the radar OL in the nation. Excellent athlete, moves like a tight end. He can deliver plenty of pop on the move, could be a perfect fit for teams that have some zone blocking schemes. There is some strength needed though. He doesn’t lock on to guys, won’t control bigger defenders. The athleticism is something to watch though. Late rounder with a lot of upside if he can get stronger.

#80 – WR – Kenny Bell – 6’1/185

One of the top WRs in Nebraska history. 4 year starter. Led the Cornhuskers in either catches or yards every year of his career. Run-heavy program though. Bell is a little bit of a compiler and may not be the best NFL receiver prospect. He has decent speed and acceleration, OK route runner. His ball skills are the best part of his game. He has strong, big hands. I question his toughness in traffic over the middle. His game may be limited downfield. Seems like the kind of guy that is good enough at everything to be a factor on college, but doesn’t have the ability to translate the success to the NFL. Day three guy.

*#4 – DE – Randy Gregory – 6’5/245

Widely considered the top edge talent in this class. Gregory has all tools that every scout looks for. He’s long and lean with explosive movement and functional strength. He bends so well, it is almost freaky, and it allows him to get under the blocker’s pads and win the leverage battle. He had a rough 2014 injury wise, they really piled up (knee, foot, toe, concussion). But many of the scouts that have seen him play label him the top edge guy by a wide margin. I am a little hesitant because of his body type. Like Barkevious Mingo a few years back, I question his strength and power presence. I don’t care how fast you are, you need to have a power element to your game. I’m not sure Gregory can anchor a spot or do anything with his inside shoulder. I’ll have him in the top 20 overall just not sure about top 5.

#13 – OLB – Zaire Anderson – 5’11/220

Leading tackler. Squatty frame that delivers a violent pop to ball carriers and blockers. Very strong. Good instincts, gets in to position. He has a natural flow to the ball and that is the top thing I look for in linebackers. Probably a limited athlete in space and may be too small for some schemes. But I like this guy a lot. Late rounder that could end up working his way up to a starting spot down the road a la Chase Blackburn.

Other Notables:

#74 – RT – Mike Moudy – 6’5/305
#6 – S – Corey Cooper – 6’0/216

USC

*#94 – DT – Leonard Williams – 6’4/290

The top prospect in this game. Might be the top overall prospect in the nation. Freak of nature type guy when you consider his size/strength/speed. Has some football skills too, not just an athlete. All American that could probably play 4-3 DT or DE. Played a 3-4 DE type role at USC but he was moved around a lot. Started 2014 off with an ankle injury that hampered him quite a bit. Finished with a few strong performances. He has elite power from his legs and hands. He really is a matchup nightmare for any kind of blocker. Williams can beat you in so many ways. I have a hard time finding a comparison for him, but I could see a Mario Williams or JJ Watt type. Top 5 pick I think.

#10 – MLB – Hayes Pullard – 6’1/235

Fifth year senior. Really productive career. Has been the leading or 2nd leading tackler all four years. Can be a MLB or WLB prospect for 4-3 teams. Really good speed from sideline to sideline but also explosive downhill in to traffic. He can lay the lumber. He is a quick thinker, plays the game with his eyes, beats blockers to a spot. He can really be swallowed up by OL though. When a blocker reaches him, he can’t get off without running out of position. Not a dominant LB by any means but he can play in the NFL. Maybe similar to Jonathan Casillas, a guy I’ve always liked as a rotational LB. 4th or 5th round.

#58 – OLB – JR Tavai – 6’2/250

Rush LB with plenty of versatility and experience. Hyper player, gets by on constant effort and a non stop motor. Led the team with 7 sacks. Will drop in to coverage and play the run well. Solid all around player. Most likely a 3-4 guy. Few injuries to ankles/feet but nothing too serious. Most likely a 6th or 7th rounder.

*#15 – WR – Nelson Agholor – 6’0/185

Junior that has not yet declared. Was one of my favorite WRs coming in to 2014. When Marquis Lee was hampered with injuries in 2013, it was Agholor that stepped up and showed glimpses of domination. Agholor is a god athlete, but his best feature is between the ears. Really good at reading the defense and wiggling his way open. Really good after the catch. Has the late quickness and agility to miss tacklers. He has elite skills and above average tools. Might not run that fast or measure that tall/long, but he is a player. I might have him in my top 5 WR, but he will most likely be drafted somewhere around #75 overall.

*#6 – QB – Cody Kessler – 6’1/215

I talked about Kessler in November as a guy that people should watch for as a potential QB that shoots up the board in the coming months. There are questions with Winston and Mariota, serious ones. After them, the QB class is pretty bad. Kessler could swoop in and sneak in to the 1st round. He lacks the height that most want but you know what, I really see some Drew Brees type throwing ability here. Tough as nails. Really accurate no matter where he is or where he is throwing the ball. Quick decisions, quick release. Kessler played in an NFL type offense, threw almost 40 TDs with just 4 INTs while completing 70+% of his passes. If I had to guess, I say he goes back to school but he is a guy you should watch out for.

*#37 – RB – Javarious Allen – 6’1/220

I have to be honest. Even though I’ve seen USC plenty this year, I only scouted Allen once. It wasn’t a very good game for him. I don’t have a good feel for him yet other than what some guys have told me. A lot of people like Allen as much as Coleman and Yeldon. He is a junior that may not declare though, so we’ll see. He is a physical back with surprising speed on the open field. He can run away from a defense. I noticed tight hips and lack of ability to miss contact. Runs a little too high. Really good pass catcher though with good skills. Some say he could be a 1st rounder, but I would peg him somewhere in the 3rd.

Dec 202014
 
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Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State Rams (October 11, 2014)

Ty Sambrailo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

December 20, 2014 Bowl Games: 2015 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

NEVADA

#17 – QB – Cody Fajardo – 6’2/215

Fifth year senior that has been starting since his redshirt freshman season. Dual threat type with a really strong arm. Led the team in rushing. Runs the ball a lot. A very cheap version of Kaepernick. Only saw him once and that was against Arizona. He played really well in that game, showing some toughness/grit/comeback ability. Projects to be a late rounder but he should get drafted. He is a runner because the scheme called him to be, but there is legit arm talent there. Not just a gimmick guy.

#53 – DE – Brock Hekking – 6’4/255

Probably mostly know because of his WWF type hair style. Not the prospect that some labeled him to be earlier in the year. Lacks some of the more important tools that you look for in a 4-3 DE. Had a down year in 2014 after leading this team in sacks and TFL in 2012 and 2013. His game is based purely on energy/hustle/aggression. Saw some tape against Colorado State’s 1st round caliber OT. His lack of physical talent was apparent but he brings it every play. Doesn’t stop until that whistle blows and can make plays based on effort alone every game. Late round prospect at best but he will be in demand. Coaches like this kind of guy.

#24 – DB – Charles Garrett – 5’11/205

Versatile DB that has a lot of experience split between S and CB. May be too thick for the CB spot in the NFL, lacks that quick twitch and reaction. I actually have some intrigue here with Garrett, I want to see more of him. He plays a fast and aggressive game, physical player. Wore a fee hats for this team and performed well across the board. Does he have the movement ability? There is some trouble off the field that needs to be looked in to as well.

#2 – WR – Richy Turner – 5’11/180

Slot receiver prospect with good quickness in and out of his breaks. Really smooth catcher and route runner. Unspectacular prospect but does enough of the little things well to get a late round look. He will likely test out well athletically. Would have liked to see more production but he can play. Limited player but a lot of good slot WRs in the NFL looked like this guy in college.

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

#8 – QB – Terrance Broadway – 6’2/221

Only saw Broadway once in 2014, wasn’t really impressed. Another dual threat QB that has some arm talent to him. Strong player that can run with some power but wouldn’t call him a guy that keeps opposing coaches up at night. Inaccurate on simple throws. Sloppy mechanics. Will leave school near or at the top of many all time passing records. Not really interested in him but will put an eyeball on him tonight.

#67 – RT – Daniel Quave – 6’3/324

Fifth year senior that has started every game of his career. Has played RG and RT. Projects to be a G at the next level. Only have one look at him on my sheet so I need to see more. Typical squatty guard that packs a punch but struggles to move with faster defenders at a lower level of college football. Really strong upper body. Could project to be a late day three guy.

#46 – RB – Alonzo Harris – 6’1/238

In between the tackles runner that needs to be a downhill guy in the NFL. Can’t be an outside runner. Most likely limited to short yardage/goal line duty. Will struggle to make it at the next level, just doesn’t have that quick twitch and vision to make things happen. Pretty basic player and athlete that lost carries to a talented sophomore they have. Doesn’t catch a lot of balls. Unspectacular guy that will likely get a look late in the draft or in free agency from a team that wants a power back.

#6 – DT – Justin Hamilton – 6’2/310

First team all Sun Belt. Probably the highest upside player in this game. Hamilton carries 300+ pounds with ease. Athletic mover in space but also plays a violent game. Angry player that beats guys up, plain and simple. I think he could be a solid 3-4 DE and/or 4-3 DT. The hybrid defensive schemes will love him.

#7 – CB – Corey Trim – 5’11/192

Again, I have not gotten a lot of looks at Trim. He is a good sized corner that was avoided for the most part in the game I saw. Looking forward to seeing if he has a physical side to him because he isn’t much of a speed guy.

****************************

UTAH STATE

#74 – OT – Kevin Whimpey – 6’5/295

Fifth year senior. Wide-shouldered team captain with a lot of strength. Needs to gain mass. Has the feet to play in the NFL but lacks the technique. His feet get stuck too often and his hand placement is too high. Late rounder at best here but I think he gets a look from someone based on his frame and experience.

#52 – LB – Zach Vigil – 6’/240

Probably the top prospect in this game. Productive and experienced leader. Fun guy to watch because he’ll do anything. Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year (19.5 TFL and 9.5 sacks) He shows ability to run with tight ends down the seam that are more athletic than him. But he can also blitz inside/out and push linemen through the pocket. Just a quality football guy that teams like to have on their team. I think he has an outside shot at being a top 100 pick if he can grade out well in workouts.

#99 – DE – BJ Larsen – 6’5/275

Another guy I like based on frame/speed alone. Larsen is a strong presence outside with a violent style. He shows some intriguing athletic ability as well. Reads and flows towards the action. Demands a lot of attention from the opposition but still makes an impact. Guys at this size with his movement ability almost always get drafted. I think he could be a 5th rounder.

UTEP

#14 – WR – Ian Hamilton – 6’5/229

Team’s leading receiver in 2014. Upside guy that will draw the attention of scouts based purely on long term upside. He has the tools. Big, tall, and long with some speed. Averaged over 20 yards per catch in 2014. I want to get another look at him, looking forward to looking at more position-specific traits here.

*******************************************

UTAH

#8 – DE – Nate Orchard – 6’4/255

All American. Led the nation in sacks per game, finished with a total of 17.5. Not just a pass risher though, he has a complete game to him. Initially came to Utah as a WR, has added 60 pounds since high school. He won’t test out in the top tier athletically, but he is a football player. Does so many things really well. Gravitates towards the action better than most pass rushers. Functionally strong. Uses his long arms and strong hands well. He could be a sneaky 4-3 DE prospect. He was considered a raw guy with upside heading in to 2014 and then he blew up. Tough matchup against the Colorado State LT, huge game for his draft grade. Could be a 3rd rounder.

#18 – DB – Eric Rowe – 6’1/201

4 year starter. Over 45 career starts on his resume, most of them at FS. Played CB this year and I think it really increased his draft grade. He has the height/length that the NFL looks for, but also legit sub 4.4 speed. Ball skills are there, as are the reaction times and instincts. Get involved often. Active player with a lot of aggression. Not sure he has the functional speed downfield, he’ll be tested by an All American WR in this game. Probably a round 3 or 4 guy.

#80 – TE – Westlee Tonga – 6’4/244

Will be an old rookie (27). Has a laundry list of injuries over his college career. Missed all of 2013 with a knee. He was a question mark for 2014 but he played really well. I saw him against USC and he was able to get open against their athletic LBs. Quick twitch guy in fort and intermediate routes that catches the ball when it’s near him. Physical guy with a lot of effort to his game. Works hard as a blocker, can control guys and at the very least stay between them and the ball carrier. Late round prospect that would be drafted if it weren’t for his age.

COLORADO STATE

#51 – OT – Ty Sambrailo – 6’5/315

The top prospect in this game. Big matchup for him being against Orchard for most of the game. Sambrallo has 1st round tools, traits, and skills but he isn’t mentioned with the top guys. I can remember seeing him whole scouting Richburg last year and thinking he had 1st round ability. His game is all about consistent body control and technique. He isn’t a power guy, but he is powerfull/strong enough. Easy mover that always looks balanced. You see some left tackles that lack body control when going after a blocker, not this guy. Sambrailo has the size and movement to be a 1st rounder. Just a consistent, no-nonsense kind of blocker that you rarely see make mistakes. NYG should be giving him a hard look.

#18 – QB – Garrett Grayson – 6’2/220

One of the day 2 or 3 QBs that could shoot up the draft boards in the coming months. Mountain West Conference Player of the Year. Very strong arm, good decision maker and can make all the throws. Footwork and throwing mechanics are all there. Would love to see what he can do at the Senior Bowl. I think he is just as talented as Ryan Nassib but with more upside.

#37 – LB – Aaron Davis – 6’1/221

A lot of guys like Davis, but I haven’t seen a good game yet. He is a poor tackler that doesn’t have a major physical impact on the game. There is a lack of size and power here and he doesn’t exactly have superb athletic ability. At best I see him as a late rounder.

#23 – CB – Bernard Blake – 6’0/185

Average corner with some height and length. Gets thrown at a lot, hence why he has some quality pass break up numbers. He isn’t a guy that strikes fear in to the opposing offense. Just another guy that could be drafted somewhere on day 3.

Nov 262014
 
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Amari Cooper, Alabama Crimson Tide (November 8, 2014)

Amari Cooper – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft – November 26, 2014 Report

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

After posting some draft comments last weekend, a couple of erstwhile, not to mention discerning, BigBlueInteractive.com regulars asked if I would consider posting some draft thoughts based on where the Giants stood regarding the 2015 draft between now and the end of the season given there isn’t much else to really get excited about in Big Blue land. Along the way, I’d also hope that at least when it comes to the draft that folks really try and think like a pro rather than carry on like a pampered frat house sophomore or a drunk hollering in a bar.

First off, people just have to stop talking about Jerry Reese’s draft picks. JERRY REESE DOESN’T MAKE THE PICKS! Neither does Marc Ross for that matter. The fact is that the Giants invest literally millions of dollars and hundred of man hours putting a grade on every draft eligible player out there and then coalescing as a collective around the guys they like.

Second, if guys are going to talk about the draft, it would be nice if they understood how it really works. In particular, when people say the it’s a lottery or a crapshoot what they mean is that the draft IS a lottery or a crapshoot. It is like flipping coins. George Young probably said it best when he said that when it comes to the draft you gather as much information as you can get, make the best picks you can, and then you cross your fingers. Hit a bunch of heads and they call you a genius; hit too many tails and they start calling your 4th round picks – that only had a 25% or so probability of ever working out in the first place – that don’t work out BLUNDERS!

Thirdly, folks could really humor this old draft guy by not posting who they’d take. Trust me, nobody cares! Fact is nobody should care who I’d take. Folks might care a tad, though, who I think the Giants might be looking because I have a pretty good track record of dissecting and predicting what they might be thinking, although nobody’s perfect!

Where we stand … If the draft were held this week the Giants would have the 7th pick in the opening round, the same as last week as each of the team’s just ahead of the Giants also lost. Of course, the lay of the land could change for the Giants as the next couple of weeks as they head into what can only be described as the ‘easy’ part of the schedule. Indeed, the Giants next four opponents have a combined record of 10-34, whereas during the current 6-game losing streak the opponents combined W-L record was 45-21. In fact, if its any small consolation to Giants’ fans, the 8 losses so far this year came against teams with a combined winning % of almost 70%; indeed, even throw out the wins against the Giants and they are still 53-27 or 66% against the rest of the league.

The good news for the Giants is that even if they are able to win the majority of their remaining games, although that’s hardly a given, they won’t lose all that many draft spots as there are just aren’t a whole lot of teams within striking distance ahead of them in the standings. In fact, even were the Giants able to run the table the rest of the year, they aren’t likely to draft much higher than the 13-14 range.

The less good news for the Giants if indeed their 2015 first round pick is to be in the #7 range is, at least how looks right now (although of course a whole bunch is going to change between now and April 30), that it appears that there is a major drop-off after the top 4-5  players in this year’s draft which right now look to be QBs Mariota and Winston (assuming he doesn’t get red-flagged), DEs Williams and Gregory and WR Cooper. Of that group, Alabama WR Amari Cooper is the most likely to somehow slip down to the 7th spot – and it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise that if the Giants had their druthers they would love to add a big-play receiver like Cooper to pair with Beckham and hopefully Cruz, but it could very well take a trade up to guarantee getting the Tide star.

At the same time, again at least at this point in time, it does not appear as if there would be a particularly neat match between the top players available and the Giants’ draft priorities. The next best guys, at least on a consensus NFL board, for example, look like Alabama SS Landon Collins and OTs Brandon Scherff of Iowa and A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi. Each would fill a need, but none is the kind of real impact player that a team like the Giants would likely like to add if they were to get a top 10 pick this year. Collins, for example, is more an in-the-box type SS and the Giants would almost certainly prefer a rangy FS type. Of course, the Giants would be very intrigued by a so-called Blue Goose-can’t miss OT, but I am not sure there is such an animal in this year’s draft. Scherff, who has been described as this year’s Zach Martin, might be the most interesting OL option if it came to that. He’s not that athletic, but is a big, really tough, physical guy who you could start out at OG, but ultimately move to either OT if the need arose.

That said, I don’t see the Giants entering the draft with the OL the #1 priority. The one real gap they have is RG and there other ways to address that than use the highest pick you have had in almost two decades. My best guess is that heading into the 2015 draft the Giants top priorities will be a) upgrading the pass rush; b) adding some more weapons on offense including another WR and RB; and c) adding some speed and athleticism to the defensive back 7, along with the OL. Obviously, they likely won’t be able to accomplish everything with just three premium picks, but obviously some of those issues can be addressed just as well in free agency.

In fact, in the end, if the Giants were ultimately to pick around #7, there is a very good chance that the player they take isn’t rated quite in that area at this time as there are a bunch of players hovering just outside the top 10-15 right now with the upside to go higher. That group includes WRs Kevin White of West Virginia, Michigan tweener Devin Funchess, Davante Parker of Louisville, Jaelen Strong of Arizona State, along with enigmatic 6-5 Dorial Green-Beckham of Oklahoma, 6-9 Baylor DE Shawn Oakman, and dynamic Washington OLB Shaq Thompson. Time will tell.

Of course, the draft runs more than one round and if the draft were held this week the Giants would also have the 38th and 71st picks. And if there is some good 2015 draft news for the Giants its that it appears there will be excellent depth at several positions of interest including RB, WR, and safety, while there should also be some decent depth at positions like OG, OT and MLB. There could also be a couple or three DE prospects available in the second round, including Nate Orchard of Utah, Kentucky’s Bud Dupree and LSU junior Danielle Hunter; however, DE does not look like it will be particularly strong at the 2015 draft and any team that wants to upgrade at the position won‘t want to dawdle.

Meanwhile, the list of other players that could be on the Giants’ radar in the second round include RBs Tevin Coleman of Indiana, Miami’s Duke Johnson and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska; WRs Sammie Coates of Auburn and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery, South Carolina OG A.J. Cann; and safeties Gerod Hollimon of Lousiville, Cody Prewitt of Ole Miss and Derron Smith of Fresno State. For the record, there could also be a number of very good OT candidates in the 2nd round including Tyrus Thompson of Oklahoma, Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State, Ereck Flowers of Miami, and Spencer Drango of Baylor.