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May 172014
 
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Todd Gurley, Georgia Bulldogs (November 23, 2013)

Todd Gurley – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Early New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Will Allen/Peterson

A few things to start this off…

  • These are not rankings because ranking prospects this far out from the 2015 Draft would be pointless.
  • This article is strictly about draft-eligible RBs.
  • It’s premature for me to allege that next year’s RB class will be the best in a decade. People were talking about how strong the 2014 QB crop would be, but then Oregon QB Marcus Mariota stayed in school, several others saw their stock decline dramatically, and a position that was initially projected to be a major strength in its draft class didn’t come anywhere close to living up to expectations. That being said, the potential is there for the 2015 RB class to be absolutely stacked.

Now let’s get started…

A high ankle sprain suffered against LSU in late September hampered Georgia’s Todd Gurley (6’1”, 232 pounds) throughout his sophomore season, forcing him to miss three games and deleteriously affecting his level of play when he pushed through the pain. Head coach Mark Richt publicly acknowledged that Gurley was not yet 100 percent healthy at the start of spring practices. But reports surfaced in the following weeks that he was completed healed by late March and looked like his old self in the spring game.

Gurley is a violent runner with the power to explode through would-be tacklers and methodically wear down defenses as the game progresses. But what makes him a unique talent is his ability to see the hole, make a decisive cut, and accelerate through the opening with a sudden burst for a back of his size. It would also be unfair to classify his speed as deceptive because he ran 10.7 in the 100m coming out of high school and has shown breakaway speed on numerous occasions in each of the last two years.

To go along with his combination of speed and power, Gurley also flashes a great stiff arm, tremendous balance after absorbing contact to bounce off defenders, underrated agility, and a ton of value as a pass receiver out of the backfield.

The ultimate wild card in next year’s running back class will be Florida State’s Karlos Williams (6’1”, 219 pounds), a freak athlete with tremendous physical tools and unlimited potential who began the 2013 season as a safety before switching to offense in early September.

Williams, the No. 4 overall recruit in the nation in 2011 according to 247 Sports’ composite rankings, struggled to earn playing time in a loaded secondary and failed to live up to the lofty expectations that surrounded him when some compared him to Sean Taylor coming out of high school. However, Williams finally embraced the position switch and went on to have a very productive season in a supporting role as a complimentary back.

With a rare blend of size, power, speed, quick feet, and a lethal jump cut, Williams has as much potential as any running back in the country. Williams will likely be the lead back in a multi-headed attack that will also feature five-star freshman Dalvin Cook and sophomore Ryan Green.

Before he suffered a torn ACL in his right knee last October against Tennessee, Georgia’s Keith Marshall (5’11”, 219 pounds) wasn’t getting enough recognition as one of the best running backs in all of college football. Largely overshadowed by his more heralded running mate, Todd Gurley, Marshall was the lightning to Gurley’s thunder in Georgia’s backfield.

Marshall, an explosive home run hitter who was known for his sudden explosiveness through the hole and breakaway speed in the open field, bulked up to 219 pounds and was running with more power and physicality that added another dimension to his game. The season-ending injury robbed Marshall of an opportunity to seize an expanded workload with Gurley sidelined due to an ankle injury that hampered him throughout the year.

Although Marshall is reportedly ahead of schedule in his recovery, Georgia has not ruled out the possibility of redshirting him for the 2014 season and having him return in 2015 with two years of eligibility remaining. The Bulldogs’ backfield would still be loaded with Gurley, sophomore J.J. Green, and heralded five-star freshmen Nick Chubb and Sony Michel forming an outstanding rotation of backs. But Marshall is a terrific talent to monitor no matter when he returns to action.

A total package runner with a dynamic blend of power and speed, South Carolina’s Mike Davis (5’9”, 216 pounds) has a very strong lower half, runs behind his pads, and flashes relentless leg drive on contact to push the pile and pick up additional yardage. Davis is as tough and competitive as any back in the country, as evidenced by the way he consistently finishes his runs with authority.

Most known for his physical running style, Davis is a deceptively well-rounded back with impressive balance, burst out of his cuts, elusiveness to make defenders miss in space with quick feet, and the ability to break off explosive plays on the ground. He also showed natural hands out of the backfield as a sophomore and should continue to be featured heavily as a pass receiver.

Although Davis runs with a low center of gravity and is often the one delivering punishment in collisions with defenders, nagging shoulder, rib, and ankle injuries had a noticeable effect on him physically down the stretch of his first full season as the Gamecocks’ workhorse back.

Having bulked up this offseason, Davis says he’s fully healthy and ready to continue handling a sizable workload, though he should be complemented nicely by promising redshirt freshman David Williams.

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon (6’1”, 207 pounds) would have easily been the top-rated running back prospect in the 2014 class had he chosen to declare for the draft following his redshirt sophomore season. But Gordon opted to stay in school to continue to develop and chase a Heisman Trophy, despite the fact that the 2014 running back class was considered weak and next year’s has the potential to be the best in years.

A natural slasher whose running style is eerily reminiscent of Jamaal Charles’, Gordon is a very fluid runner and natural home run hitter with impressive burst and top-end speed. The biggest question mark surrounding Gordon is that he is completely unproven as a pass receiver, as he has just three receptions to this point in his college career.

While his decision to stay in school meant that he’ll be competing with several other premier talents as opposed to being the consensus top-rated running back – which he would have been had he declared for the 2014 NFL Draft – Gordon will almost certainly be an early-round selection as long as he avoids injury.

The next running back from the Crimson Tide’s pipeline to the NFL who’s set to attract early-round attention is Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon (6’2”, 218 pounds), a three-down contributor with a gliding style of running who has great vision and a natural feel for the position.

The lead back in what promises to be the deepest and most talented stable of runners in the entire country, Yeldon displays patience when running between the tackles and has great feet for such a big-bodied back. Not only does he possess enough elusiveness to make defenders miss in space on occasion, but he has also become a physical runner who fights for yards after contact. While Yeldon has proven to be a workhorse with dynamic qualities, he also runs very upright and has had serious ball security issues.

Yeldon will be complemented in Alabama’s backfield by a sophomore standout who’s workload should steadily increase as the season progresses (Derrick Henry), an explosive change of pace back with great top-end speed who has also been in the coaching staff’s doghouse for fumbling issues (Kenyan Drake), and a five-star freshman who faces an uphill battle to earn immediate playing time (Bo Scarbrough).

Next year’s draft has the potential to be loaded with productive high-profile running backs from power conferences, many of whom who were once highly recruited and have been in the national spotlight ever since. But Boise State’s Jay Ajayi (6’0”, 215 pounds) is an exception to that rule who has a chance to enter the conversation as one of the premier draft-eligible backs in the country this year.

Ajayi has tremendous acceleration, impressive balance, and quick feet for a 215-pound back. He’s a powerful, physical runner who accumulates yards after contact and also flashes an effective spin move. With former Boise State coach Chris Petersen taking over at Washington, it’s expected that the Broncos will be implementing a new offensive philosophy predicated on more of a power run game.

While he must clean up ball security issues that put him in the doghouse at times during his redshirt sophomore season, Ajayi is expected to be a workhorse and the focal point of Boise State’s offense this season.

A quick, shifty ball carrier who runs with deceptive power for a back his size, Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah (5’9″, 195 pounds) opted to stay in school for his senior season in order to earn his degree before heading to the next level. Abdullah, who led the Big 10 in rushing yards last season, seemed to get stronger as games progressed last year.

A multi-dimensional back who flashed potential as a receiver out of the backfield, Abdullah is a player who should be featured more predominantly in the passing game in 2014. He runs with a low center of gravity and doesn’t go down easily, displaying powerful leg drive to accumulate yards after contact as well as elusiveness in space to make defenders miss.

Abdullah’s lateral agility and acceleration out of his jump cuts are very impressive. But the most glaring weakness in his game is ball security, as he has fumbled 20 times in his first three seasons at Nebraska.

A multidimensional weapon who has changed his style of running over the past couple years is Miami’s Duke Johnson (5’9”, 206 pounds), who’s still recovering from surgery to repair a broken right ankle he suffered last November. Johnson arrived at Miami as a 180-pound scatback who was heavily reliant on speed and quickness, but he’s bulked up to 206 pounds over the past two offseasons and become a different type of runner.

While the added weight has clearly taken away a bit of Johnson’s top-end speed, he flashes a powerful stiff arm and fights for yards after contact as well as anyone in the ACC. Johnson led the conference with an average of 3.3 yards after contact per rush before his season ended prematurely due to injury.

Johnson, who suffers from migraines, must answer questions about his durability and ball security this season. Not only did he play through a nagging foot injury as a freshman when he was in a timeshare with current Bucs RB Mike James, but he was also unable to finish games against South Florida and North Carolina last season. Johnson also had issues protecting the football, as he coughed up the rock twice inside the opposing five-yard line against South Florida and fumbled again a week later against Georgia Tech.

There is no question, however, that Johnson is an invaluable cog of the Hurricanes’ offense and that he’s primed for a big year if he’s able to stay healthy. The arrival of prized recruit Joseph Yearby and hopeful emergence of Gus Edwards (ran 4.54 at 232 pounds during spring workouts in late April) could help to keep Johnson’s workload manageable throughout the season.

Indiana’s Tevin Coleman (6’1”, 210 pounds), who was unable to play in the final three games of the 2013 season due to an ankle injury, is one of the most intriguing and underrated draft-eligible running backs in the country. Guys like Coleman, Melvin Gordon, and Ameer Abdullah are currently breaking the mold and shattering the stereotype of Big 10 running backs from years past that lacked top-end speed and home run ability.

If Coleman manages to stay healthy, there’s a legitimate chance that he could join the two aforementioned runners as well as Jeremy Langford as one of the premier backs in the conference. Coleman, who has said he expects to be more involved in the passing game this season after flashing potential as a receiver out of the backfield last year, is a dangerous space player with impressive burst and outstanding top-end speed.

Coleman is currently ranked by CBS Sports as the 31st-best running back among those eligible to declare in 2016. I believe he’s a much, much better prospect than that ranking indicates.

A fourth-string running back until the midseason firing of then-head coach Lane Kiffin, USC’s Javorius Allen (6’1”, 215 pounds) exploded onto the scene when given an opportunity to crack the lineup as a result of injuries to other backs and a recommendation to interim replacement Ed Orgeron from RB coach Tommie Robinson.

Tre Madden suffered a hamstring injury against Arizona in mid-October, causing him to play sparingly down the stretch. And Justin Davis went down for the season with an ankle injury against Notre Dame a week later. While Silas Redd initially became the primary ball carrier in their absence, he also missed time with a knee ailment and was unable to reclaim the starting job when he returned to action against UCLA.

Allen capitalized on the opportunity by becoming a big-play machine in the month of November, surpassing the 120-yard rushing mark in four out of five games and scoring 11 total touchdowns during that span.

A one-cut downhill runner with good speed for his size who was utilized effectively as a pass receiver on screens a year ago, Allen should continue to receive plenty of carries despite improved depth at the position. It’s worth noting that Allen is an older prospect who turns 23 in August.

Texas A&M’s Trey Williams (5’8”, 195 pounds) is an extremely dynamic talent who jumped off the screen every time I watched the Aggies play a year ago. Williams has tremendous feet, excels at making people miss, and flashes an impressive burst as well as top-end speed. His elusiveness and home run ability serve him well on special teams, as he was one of the most dangerous kick returners in the nation as a redshirt freshman.

Former starting running back Ben Malena was the one A&M’s coaching staff trusted the most in pass protection, which is why he saw the most playing time among a group of more talented backs that included Williams, Brandon Williams, and Tra Carson. Now that Malena has graduated, Williams is in line for a much-expanded role. Watch for him to be one of the most exciting skill players to watch in the SEC.

A pair of talented senior running backs in line for expanded workloads should have ample opportunity to audition for the next level in the nation’s most prolific rushing offense. Auburn’s Corey Grant (5’11”, 205 pounds), who originally signed with Alabama back in 2010 before transferring after his freshman season, possesses blazing speed and has shown the ability to turn the corner with ease as an outside runner. But Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has also cited his improvement at running in between the tackles, which projects as a major factor behind the expectation that he’ll be able to handle double-digit carries per game in a timeshare of sorts.

Auburn’s Cameron Artis-Payne (5’11”, 210 pounds), a three-star JUCO transfer who was an effective change of pace back in a limited role last season, will likely do much of the heavy lifting as an inside runner. Artis-Payne, whose running style should complement Grant’s nicely, has quick feet in the hole and sets up his blocks effectively before sprinting to daylight. Running backs coach Tim Horton has said that there is no clear favorite at the moment to fill the void left by Tre Mason. But Grant and Artis-Payne, who split reps with the first-team offense throughout spring practice, are both expected to earn significant roles in the Auburn backfield. However, five-star freshman Roc Thomas may threaten for early playing time.

When Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin were sidelined due to injury, Baylor’s Shock Linwood (5’8”, 200 pounds) proved in two consecutive games that their ground attack wouldn’t skip a beat when the aforementioned backs left the program at the end of the season. Linwood – who posted consecutive 180+ yard outings on the ground against Oklahoma and Texas Tech, respectively, in mid-late November – displayed the potential that he could develop into one of the best backs in the Big 12 as early as this season.

A quicker-than-fast back with a compact build who runs with great balance and a low center of gravity, Linwood is expected to be the primary ball carrier as part of a three-headed attack in Baylor’s backfield. But he’ll have to fend off redshirt freshman Johnny Jefferson, a phenomenal athlete who had a monster spring.

Others to watch…

Oregon RB Byron Marshall (5’10”, 201 pounds) – Faded down the stretch before suffering an ankle injury against Arizona in late November. But Marshall and sophomore Thomas Tyner, both of whom have also been getting reps at wide receiver this spring, should form one of the top 1-2 punches in the country.

Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford (6’0”, 205 pounds) – A model of consistency for the Spartans as a sophomore, Langford surpassed the 100-yard mark on the ground in eight consecutive games to close the regular season. He is a tough, rugged runner who excels at generating yards after contact and possesses underrated speed, though he was more of a chain mover than a home run threat last season.

Texas A&M’s Tra Carson (6’0”, 230 pounds) – The thunder back in the Aggies’ running back rotation, Carson is in line for a much-expanded workload and has reportedly earned the coaching staff’s trust in pass protection more than the others competing for playing time.

Texas A&M’s Brandon Williams (6’0”, 200 pounds) – The Oklahoma transfer saw limited playing time a year ago and was slowed this spring by a minor injury. But he brings an added dimension to the Aggies’ backfield and has a tremendous amount of potential if the light finally comes on.

Alabama’s Kenyan Drake (6’1”, 201 pounds) – Severe ball security issues and the team’s remarkable depth at the position could jeopardize his ability to earn consistent playing time. But Drake, who’s built like a wide receiver, is a nice potential complement to Yeldon and Henry because of his burst, agility, and home run ability.

Washington’s Dwayne Washington (6’2”, 221 pounds) – The possible successor to Bishop Sankey in the Huskies’ backfield, Washington overcame early-season fumbling problems to show flashes late in his redshirt freshman campaign. Shaq Thompson, an elite linebacker prospect who may play on both sides of the ball this season, could also see snaps at running back for Washington.

Texas’ Malcolm Brown (6’0”, 225 pounds) – The former five-star recruit overcame injury setbacks from earlier in his career to be a workhorse in the Longhorns’ offense once Johnathan Gray suffered a torn right Achilles’ tendon against West Virginia in early November. Brown is a between-the-tackles banger who runs with power and finishes consistently.

Louisville’s Michael Dyer (5’9”, 215 pounds) – A once-heralded talent who has run out of second chances because of past off-the-field incidents involving guns and marijuana, Dyer will have to work his way up the depth chart after recovering from a sports hernia injury for which he underwent surgery in December. Dyer still has plenty of ability and potential, but he turns 24 in October and must prove that his baggage is in the past.

Oklahoma State’s Tyreek Hill (5’9”, 185 pounds) – Head coach Mike Gundy says the explosive JUCO transfer is “at a different level, speed-wise, than anybody I’ve ever coached.” Hill, who generated rave reviews this spring, is expected to be a movable chess piece who will receive touches from multiple spots along the formation, including running back.

May 072014
 
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Zack Martin, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (February 22, 2014)

Zack Martin – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: What Will Happen vs What Should Happen

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Now that my positional previews and top 10 grades are out, I’d like to put something together that combines the overall draft approach with what I think will happen. As I have done in recent years, I will make picks for NYG in real time and compare them with analysis following the draft.

Two things I’m really not in to are mock drafts and a ranking order of team needs. I think the overhype of draft media has blown up what the draft process really is. There are far too many “experts” out there spewing out pointless lists of needs and likely destinations for players and it has really clouded the process for fans. What NYG needs here is very plain and very simple; they need better football players on offense and defense. There are spots available for better players all over the place. We need to accept that as a fact and make the decisions from there. This process isn’t as complicated as some fans make it out to be. Simply grade out a lot of players, check your current roster for space available, and find value with every draft pick you make. You need to avoid the situations where you limit yourself to a certain position of players because Mel Kiper considers it to be the top need for a team. Value will be there every time your team is on the clock and it’s foolish to overlook that.

With that off my chest, here is what I think NYG will do, and should do these next few days.

ROUND 1

This is a deeper-than-usual draft and I’m sure a lot of teams will be looking to move down. Staying put is by far the most likely thing we are going to see on Thursday night. I can’t stress enough that this selection needs to be the top player available on the grade board, regardless of position (unless of course we are talking about a QB). I can make a legit case for OT, LB, DT, DE, S, WR, G and even CB. When looking at the current NYG depth chart, there is a spot for a guy at all those positions. So with that in mind, this decision shouldn’t be a difficult one. I place a lot of value in players in the trenches on both sides and I think there is going to be a match when NYG is on the clock. It’s almost impossible and pointless to try and project the top 11 selections, but we can get a general idea here.

What I think NYG will do:

Zack Martin – OT/Notre Dame

They will have a similar outlook/grade on him as they had on Pugh and his skill set is NFL ready for a few spots. With the instability at guard and tackle, Martin could be the smartest selection this team can make. Will he be an All-Pro? I don’t think so. But that isn’t the point of the draft. Just find good players that can get their job done at a high level. The versatility is a plus here. He could start from day one at a few spots and help revamp this offense.

What I think NYG should do:

Aaron Donald – DT/Pittsburgh

I’ve been on team-Donald for a few months now and I won’t change between now and the first round. Donald is a difference maker and will make plays, no question. The lack of weight doesn’t bother me and his short frame with long arms will make him a terror for linemen to deal with. We are talking about one of the best athletes the DT position has ever seen here. Donald will help the players around him because he can’t be handled by one lineman. How long has it been since we’ve seen that here? The impact Geno Atkins has had on the league has strengthened this notion. If he is available, he should be the pick without hesitation.

ROUND 2

Because NYG can go in so many different directions with their first pick, this will be a little more difficult to project, which is fine. Because of where they pick and this being such a strong class, there is a good chance they will have the opportunity to bring in another top 32 talent on their grading board. As I said earlier, they are not in a spot where they can afford to be picky with positions. Find the good football players and bring them in to compete for spots on the roster and/or provide the much needed depth. This WR class has, rightfully so, received a lot of attention. It is the deepest we’ve seen in a long time and I think there is going to be a big time talent available that you wouldn’t see in years past. In addition, I can see the top RB on their board still being there when NYG is on the clock. The demand for them isn’t high this year and we could see the top guys fall an extra 15-20 spots. The value will be there for NYG.

What I think NYG will do:

Cody Latimer – WR/Indiana

I’ve been talking up Latimer for months now, back to the day where the draft media had him as a 3rd/4th rounder. His performance on tape was outstanding in 2013 despite having a low level of talent to play with at Indiana. NYG is going to look to add a WR with size and speed in somewhere in this draft. They really need a guy that can play the outside and bring a physical presence to the passing game. I think they will have a high grade on Latimer because he brings exactly that to the table with a high upside. His movement ability at 210+ pounds is impressive and we aren’t talking about a raw talent. Latimer has a legit set of WR skills to work with that could make an early impact.

What I think NYG should do:

Joel Bitonio – OT/Nevada

I would take Latimer in a heartbeat in round 2. I have him graded as a top 32 overall guy. But to keep the variety for this piece, I went with someone else. Bitonio is a first round caliber player on my board that can play a few different spots along the line. If there is one attribute I’ve wanted added to this team over the past few years, it is toughness. I always want physical, aggressive, mean guys that want to beat people up on my team. Bitonio brings that approach to the trenches every time he steps on the field. I think he projects best at guard but he could be a factor at tackle if need be. I think Pugh could give NYG more stability at LT and while it’s not my most ideal approach, he would be better than Beatty. That opens things up for Bitonio at RT or at one of the guard spots because I think Schwartz could fare well outside if the team needed. This would really upgrade the NYG line by a lot.

ROUND 3

The start of round three is where I start to get really in to this thing. Rounds 3-5 are where drafts are won and lost. If NYG goes OL/WR with their first two picks, the options are still wide open but they may need to take a harder look at the defensive side of the ball. By no means do they restrict themselves to a few groups of positions, but there needs to be additions made to a defense that has been so up an down over the past few years. In an ideal world, there would be some defensive line talent there but when looking at this class, I don’t see the depth there. It could be slim pickings at this point and they can’t afford to reach for position-based prospects just yet.

What I think NYG will do:

CJ Fiedorowicz – TE/Iowa

NYG hasn’t exactly left the approach of traditional tight ends and I don’t expect them to as long as Coughlin is here. Their TE situation was awful last year and there isn’t anything on this roster that leads one to believe that it will be a formidable group in 2014. FIedorowicz may not be the athletic-based receiver that can take the top off a defense, but he is a reliable pass catcher and a very good run blocker. The Giants OL woes increase the value of a guy like Fiedorowicz. His impact can be felt right away in both the run and passing games, respectively. This is a low risk pick that may not have the enormous upside, but will provide some stability to a position without it as they currently sit.

What I think NYG should do:

Montavious Bryant – WR/Clemson

I think Bryant has as good shot as any WR in this class to be the top guy out of the group in a few years. He has big time ability downfield and there is more wiggle to him underneath with the ball in his hands than given credit. NYG needs a “danger-factor” in this passing game. A guy that can get off the point of attack and knife through the secondary in to the deep route tree. They have some other pieces already in place that will make it a bit easier for a talent like Bryant, and I think he could make an early impact. His potential was a little hidden at Clemson because of the scheme and what was already there. I think this is a serious talent worth going after at this point.

ROUND 4

Day three will be a fun one to watch. This is the area of the draft where you can start going after positions a little bit more because chances are there will be value everywhere. This is where the grading process across the league is really different. At this point of what I think NYG will do, they have gone OL, WR, and DE. There are enough spots of need where the high grade can stand out.

What I think NYG will do:

Anthony Johnson – DT/LSU

Even though I’m not personally high on Johnson, I think NYG is going to like him enough to bring him in day four. He is a tools-rich player that shows flashes of dominance throughout his three years at LSU. NYG will like the blend of size, power, and speed. In his defense, he was put in to different roles along that LSU defensive front, some of which simply didn’t fit his game. He can be the attacking presence inside that this defense really needs. Paired up with Hankins down the road, this could be a nice balance of staying power and upfield penetration that all 4-3 front are looking for. Johnson has upside that remains untapped.

What I think NYG should do:

Travis Swanson – C/Arkansas

From what I can gather, Swanson is going to be available at the beginning of day three. He is my top graded center and this is position that NYG really needs to try and upgrade. The middle of that line has been tossed around for the past few years and it needs to stop. Swanson would be a nice initial presence to have in there. He has a big body with powerful, but light legs which allows him make an impact every down. He’s been the top center in the SEC for a few years now (Barrett Jones included) and I think he can be yet another rookie that makes the early impact.

ROUND 5

There are good players taken in the fifth round every year. Again, this is where the scouts can really make their mark because even though the talent starts to thin out, there are impact guys available. You’ll start to see more small school prospects being taken at this point and Reese has made it a point to scour those markets for NFL-caliber players with the upside. If they are missing out on offensive skill players by this pick, you can be assured they’ll go after one here. Don’t overlook the DB positions either, there are always some available here that nobody expected.

What I think NYG will do:

Bryan Stork – C/Florida State

In what I think NYG will do, this is their second offensive line pick. I think they will look to acquire two players along that line this weekend. Stork is a good athlete in space but showed some impressive power presence against his bigger, tougher opponents. He could definitely come in right away and compete for a center job that appears to be up for grabs. Stork is an NYG type player when it comes to his blue collar approach and consistent level of play. Likely deemed for backup duty, Stork could be the security blanket should Walton not bounce back.

What I think NYG should do:

Jordan Zumwalt – LB/UCLA

Overlooked prospect that would fit the NYG scheme perfectly, Zumwalt was one of the most underrated defenders in the country last year. Physically I love what he brings to the table. There is a good amount of speed and quickness to him in space, but he plays a power game between the tackles. Zumwalt is an old school tough guy that will try to beat guys up. He showed good diagnosing ability and he can cover up the seam while chasing tight ends and backs in pass defense. I think he is going to be a starter down the road.

ROUND 6

The final picks of the draft may not get as much attention from fans as the early selections, but you need to consider it just as important. There are going to be plenty of guys here that will make an impact in the coming years. These can be an experimental picks on an athletes with impressive tools, or it can be a guy that lacks the tool set but was a productive player in college. I just want these pick to be guys that you know will come in with a chip on their shoulders trying to make this team and open up some eyes. I don’t want character concerns here.

Ahmad Dixon – S/Baylor

NYG will be looking to add an athletic safety at some point and even though I’m not high on him, Dixon has ability that could put him in to a contributing role right away. He is really aggressive and physical, showing the consistent ability to close gaps and finish off a ball carrier. He struggled to make good, quick decisions though. He doesn’t read the action around him and was often caught out of position. I think it takes time for him to learn the mental side of the game but I think Reese will see some Will Hill in him when it comes to the ability to fly around and create opportunities for the defense as a whole.

What I think NYG should do:

Marcel Jensen – TE/Fresno State

I’ve spoken about Jensen a few times here. I think he has more upside of any TE in this class outside of Niklas because of the size/speed/power presence combination. He stood out in every Fresno State game I watched. He doesn’t dominate at the point of attack the way someone as big as him should, but the approach is there. He isn’t a soft player, I just think the scheme did not give him the opportunity to develop his blocking ability as much. The NYG TE situation is as bad as its been in awhile and I don’t think the solution is on the current roster. I think this would be a good opportunity for Jensen to come in to and show what he’s got over the next 2-3 seasons.

ROUND 6 (2)

The final pick of the draft may not get as much attention from fans as the early selections, but you need to consider it just as important. There are going to be plenty of guys here that will make an impact in the coming years. This can be an experimental pick on an athlete with impressive tools, or it can be a guy that lacks the tool set but was a productive player in college. I just want this pick to be a guy that you know will come in with a chip on his shoulder trying to make this team and open up some eyes. I don’t want character concerns here.

What I think NYG will do:

Carlos Fields, Jr – LB/Winston-Salem State

Division II player that was a two time conference player of the year. Fields is a violent player that I think the NYG coaching staff thinks they need. There has been a lack of physical, tough play for awhile and I truly think that’s been one of the major downfalls here. Fields has the frame and natural presence to play the strong side down the road. But he can really move as well and may end up being a guy to fill the weak side if need be. Initially he could be a force on special teams which we all know is necessary at this point.

What I think NYG should do:

Travis Carrie – CB/Ohio

Personally, Carrie is my favorite sleeper from a small school in this entire draft class. I’ve seen him play enough to know he can move well enough to play CB at the next level. He can play in any scheme that wants a physical corner, which is where I see most schemes heading if not already there. Carrie is a top-notch intangible type prospect that does all the little things right. He will be a dependable young player that will take the necessary steps to evolve in to an NFL-quality player. I think the talent is a hidden gem here and I would love to see what he can do for NYG.

In short, here are the pre-draft comparisons

What I think WILL happen

1 – Zack Martin – OT/Notre Dame

2 – Cody Latimer – WR/Indiana

3 – CJ Fiedorowicz – TE/Iowa

4 – Anthony Johnson – DT/LSU

5 – Bryan Stork – C/Florida State

6 – Ahmad Dixon – S/Baylor

6 – Carlos Fields, Jr – LB/Winston-Salem State

What I think SHOULD happen

1 – Aaron Donald – DT/Pittsburgh

2 – Joel Bitonio – OT/Nevada

3 – Montavious Bryant – WR/Clemson

4 – Travis Swanson – C/Arkansas

5 – Jordan Zumwalt – LB/UCLA

6 – Marcel Jensen – TE/Fresno State

6 – Travis Carrie – CB/Ohio

There you have it guys….thanks again for contributing to the discussions and I look forward to recapping the mayhem in the coming weeks!

May 062014
 
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Derek Carr, Fresno State Bulldogs (December 21, 2013)

Derek Carr – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Quarterbacks

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

**NOTE** – I altered the format for the QBs.  I don’t see NYG going after one here unless a tremendous value drops to one of their final picks.  I am going to offer a few thoughts on all of my top 10 guys.

Current Quarterbacks on NYG Roster:

Eli Manning – 33 – Signed through 2015

Curtis Painter – 29 – Signed through 2014

Josh Freeman – 26 – Signed through 2014

Ryan Nassib – 24 – Signed through 2016

Rusty Smith – 27 – Signed through 2015

Where They Stand:

There is already a lot of in-house competition for the backup QB spots and it should be a good one to watch.  NYG has guys coming from a bunch of different walks here and at least two of the names above won’t be around come September.  Manning had one of his worst seasons to date in 2013.  By no means does he appear to be done or on the downfall, but one can’t help but be somewhat alarmed.  He consistently made poor decisions with the ball in his hands and no matter how bad the situation around him, an 18:27 TD/INT ratio is simply awful and unacceptable.  The upgrade in OL talent will help and I think the new scheme will breathe new life in to what was a stagnant offense, however.  A replacement for Manning is not needed quite yet but the thought has to be in the back of your mind after watching last season and knowing about a somewhat serious ankle injury that seems to be lingering.  Painter is a below average backup that hasn’t shown anything on game tape that would hand him the backup job.  He’ll have to compete with the newly signed Freeman.  Freeman isn’t far removed from being considered one of the top young signal callers in the league.  Youth and an impressive tool set are still on his side and I look forward to seeing what he can do in a much better surrounding situation with NYG.  Nassib received a pass for his rookie campaign and I can’t say we know enough to make a legit analysis of him.  A lot of his evaluation comes from practice and what he does by himself between practices.  He should have the #3 spot locked down barring a major letdown throughout preseason.  Smith is a training camp body that won’t factor in to the team’s plans from what I can see.

Top 10 Grades:

1 – Derek Carr – Fresno State – 6’2/214: 82

I love the poise, toughness, and accuracy of Carr.  He has it all between the ears and in a QB class full of prospects with huge question marks when it comes to the intangibles and/or durability, I’m taking Carr above all.  He has the arm talent, he can move well, and he knows the game as well if not better than everyone on this group.  Carr is the kind of guy you trust to lead a team on and off the field.  He elevates others to another level.

2 – Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M – 6’0/207: 81

Love the excitement and danger-factor he brings to every play of every game.  He is more than a scrambler, he is a true playmaker with elite movement in short areas.  My issues with him mainly revolve around his style of play that doesn’t exactly fit with his frame.  Can he play 16 games every year?  Not if he plays like he did in college because he’s no longer taking hits from college kids.  These are angry, aggressive men that will aim to take him out of a ball game.  That combined with questionable maturity prevents him from having a top 10 overall grade on my board.  I have to admit the upside here is intriguing and if I were a team in need of a QB, he would be really hard to pass on.

3 – Blake Bortles – Central Florida – 6’5/232: 75

Bortles has it all minus the big time arm when considering tool sets and upside.  I love how he can move in and out of the pocket.  He’s a big boy but he can really move in a similar way to what we saw out of Big Ben in 2004.  Does he have the arm power though?  I don’t see it.  He doesn’t throw the ball as well as I want when going beyond 20 yards either.  The quick decisions aren’t there as often as they should be and I think there is a lot more progression needed here than most are saying.  I wouldn’t take him in round 1.  There isn’t a big gap between him and the rest of the class.

4 – Aaron Murray – Georgia – 6’1/207: 74

I never liked Murray in college up until this past season.  I think he’s as tough as it gets both mentally and physically.  He has a quick release that is accurate with some underrated power.  Murray is coming off the torn up knee and if that weren’t the case I would have had him above Bortles.  He played at a really high level against his best competition and was rarely the reason they lost some big games.  He was the one that kept them in it despite an awful offensive line and banged up skill position group.  I trust him.

5 – Teddy Bridgewater – Louisville – 6’2/214: 73

I’ve never been high on Bridgewater.  Not so long ago everyone was pointing to him as the top overall guy in this class and I disputed it from the beginning.  Now he may not even go in round 1 despite a handful of teams really needing a franchise QB.  I think he has good intangibles with very good accuracy and average arm strength.  I never liked his throwing motion though.  I also question his ability to take hits in the NFL, he just looks frail to me.  I see a decent amount of comparisons to Sam Bradford here.  He is a 3rd/4th rounder in my books but he’ll go earlier.

6 – Zach Mettenberger – LSU – 6’5/224: 73

There are some off the field things that need to be looked in to with him and he is coming off a knee injury.  But when it comes to throwing talent, Mettenberger might be the top guy in this class.  He has a lot of zip on his short and intermediate passes but he can also rifle the ball downfield with ease.  He showed quicker decision making in 2013 and I think the upside is legit.  He would be a top 45 overall guy  if there wasn’t an injury in the picture and his off-field investigating checked out OK.  Reliable backup that I think will be in demand to start somewhere within a few years.

7 – Jimmy Garoppolo – Eastern Illinois – 6’2/226: 73

I only saw Garoppolo three times, which is about 3 less than I ideally get to watch when it comes to QBs.  With that said, I think he can be a Matt Moore type.  A guy who could be one of the top backups in the league but won’t ever be THE guy for a winning team.  That’s fine if you are taking him on day three as early as round 4 in my book.  Backup QBs have more value than most fans think.  I would trust him as mine.

8 – Tom Savage – Pittsburgh – 6’4/228: 72

Yes, a very good thrower with a nice release and powerful frame that can handle the physical side of the game.  I want to like Savage a lot.  I talked about him last August as a guy who could break in to the first round but I was disappointed in 2013.  He was woefully inconsistent and made some of the worst throws I saw all year out of this group.  Such volatile QBs like this are guys I simply will stay away from unless you are talking about day three.  At that point you can take a flier on him and hope for the best.

9 – AJ McCarron – Alabama – 6’3/220: 72

I’ve always appreciated the way McCarron handled himself at Alabama.  That position at that school during this era had more pressure than some of the NFL programs.  McCarron has some deep ball ability to him and can make safe, sound, quick decisions quickly.  That’s a good combination for a QB to start with in this league.  He may be destined for backup duty his whole career but that’s more than OK with me if we are talking day three.

10 – Jeff Mathews – Cornell – 6’4/223: 72

I am as intrigued as someone can be after watching a QB play three times when it comes to Mathews.  I think he has a big time arm with legit toughness and presence in the pocket.  Mathews is really good at the mental side of the game and will bring other players to another level.  There is a lot of progression that needs to be made with footwork and consistent arm angles, but there is upside here.  He could end up being a top 5 QB from this class and he can be had late day three from what I see.

NYG Approach:

Fans need to realize that they should never say never when it comes time to project what a team will do in the draft.  Anything is possible and that is where the debate ends.  With that said, I don’t think they will take a QB in this draft.  Nassib deserves another year or two to prove his future worth via practice and preseason.  In addition to him, NYG has two veterans battling it out for the spot behind Manning.  They appear to be set for 2014 but if there is a big time value available late day three, it may be worth going after.  I think Manning has a few good enough year left in him but you need to be prepared for the worst.  Having too many quality QBs is a GREAT problem to have.

May 042014
 
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Bishop Sankey, Washington Huskies (December 27, 2013)

Bishop Sankey – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Running Backs on NYG Roster:

Rashad Jennings – 29 – Signed through 2017

David Wilson – 23 – Signed through 2015

Peyton Hillis – 28 – Signed through 2015

Michael Cox – 26 – Signed through 2016

Kendall Gaskins – 24 – Signed through 2015

Where They Stand:

It’s been awhile since NYG has had a deep backfield filled with players that were legit 1,000+ yard caliber backs. While they never were centered around the running game, Coughlin always took pride in being able to control the clock with a reliable power rushing attack. This group really struggled last year. The offensive line took most of the blame but there simply wasn’t a guy that could handle the ball 20+ times per game. Jennings was brought in to provide the offense with an every down guy; one that can run between the tackles, beat defenders to the sideline, and catch the ball on the move. While he is older, Jennings has not spent much time as a feature back. He has a few good years left in him. Wilson continues to be the unknown. There is still legit hope that he can provide the big play ability. His issues with vision, ball security, and now a neck injury have slowed down his progress but there is still hope. He has an elite level of speed, agility, and explosion to work with. Hillis surprised many of us last year with an above average performance. He is a solid between the tackle runner that plays the game hard. Cox was given a few opportunities in 2013 but failed to show any big time upside. He’ll have to perform this offseason if a rookie is brought in if he plans on being in blue the whole year. Gaskins is a training camp body that doesn’t stand out in any one area of the game.

Top 10 Grades:

1 – Tre Mason – Auburn – 5’9/207: 81

2 – Bishop Sankey – Washington – 5’10/209: 79

3 – Carlos Hyde – Ohio State – 6’0/230: 76

4 – Jerick McKinnon – Georgia Southern – 5’9/209: 76

5 – Storm Johnson – Central Florida – 6’0/209: 76

6 – Jeremy Hill – LSU – 6’1/233: 75

7 – Ka’Deem Carey – Arizona – 5’9/207: 75

8 – Andre Williams – Boston College – 5’11/230: 73

9 – Tim Cornett – UNLV – 6’0/209: 73

10 – LaDarius Perkins – Mississippi State – 5’7/195: 72

Day One Target:

Tre Mason – Auburn

By no means do I think NYG should go after a RB in round 1 but for the sake of this preview, I’ll discuss Mason. I think Mason has the ideal frame/body to handle a full load of carries in the NFL. He is really strong and powerful below the waist with really good agility and flexibility. He played in a very run-oriented offense at Auburn which led to big time production on the stat sheet. That isn’t why I like him, however. Mason rarely goes down on initial contact and he can avoid big hits with late movement. He lacks the runaway speed but he is so quick out of the gate and can locate running lanes right away. He is the kind of reliable back you want in your backfield. I think he can be a better back than NYG has had since Barber.

Runner Up: NONE

Day Two Target:

Bishop Sankey – Washington

Sankey is a day back that I really like. I think he is a Barber-type back that looks a tad undersized and may not time out to be the most athletic player, but has the ability to make things happen all over the field. He shows outstanding vision on tape and is constantly making the right decisions. NYG will love his ability to block. He takes a lot of pride in it and was certainly a factor at Washington there. Sankey has every down potential and could be a guy that sneaks his way to the top level of NFL running backs within a few years.

Runner Up: Storm Johnson – Central Florida

I’ve spent a lot of time watching the UCF offense over the past 6 weeks and Johnson stood out to me just as much as Bortles did. There are some vital inconsistencies to his game but he showed big time ability every now and then. I like his running style because he’ll try to run through linebackers but also dance around defensive backs. I think he is a guy that can do it all but just needs to work on consistent pad level and leg drive. I have him graded higher than what I see out there, this grabbing him in round 3 would be a solid value pick.

Day Three Target:

Jerick McKinnon – Georgia Southern

The first time I saw McKinnon was against the Florida defense, a formidable SEC unit with a lot of talent. McKinnon appeared to be the best player on the field by a fairly wide margin. His short area explosion and runaway speed were obvious. McKinnon is powerfully built and he plays even stronger than he looks. If I had to make a list of 3 small school prospects that will make an impact in the NFL, McKinnon would be on it. If I can get him on day three, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Runner Up: Tim Cornett – UNLV

Cornett brings a high level of speed and explosion to the offense that translates well to the next level. He isn’t just a burner that needs the open field. He has an aggressive, almost reckless style to his game that I love to see out of young backs. He makes decisive cuts towards the running lane and can lower his shoulder with balance and power in to defenders. He isn’t a fun guy to play against. The UNLV all time leading rusher can be a factor at the next level as long as his body can hold up with his physical style.

NYG Approach:

There are a lot of holes on the NYG roster and I can’t see anyone coming up with the idea that it is near the top of the priority list. They have enough talent and diversity in their current group to get through the next couple of seasons. If they didn’t address the position, I wouldn’t have any problem with it. With that said, I think there is going to be some enormous opportunity for a value grab on day three. This RB class is actually pretty deep but the demand across the league is lower than its been in awhile. With that in mind, I would make it a point to see what is available at the position in round 6 and scoop someone up. While the confidence is there with the current NYG group, there is room for one more pair of fresh legs with the upside of one day being an steady contributor.

Apr 282014
 
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Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt Commodores (October 5, 2013)

Jordan Matthews – © USA TODAY Sports Images

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*NOTE: I lengthened and changed the format of this piece for a few reasons….mainly because this is the deepest WR group I’ve ever seen and NYG needs to bring someone in at the position. There are so many directions they can go with this talented, deep group. A few of you have requested this, and here you go….

Current Wide Receivers on NYG Roster:

Victor Cruz – 28 – Signed through 2018

Rueben Randle – 23 – Signed through 2015

Jerrel Jernigan – 25 – Signed through 2014

Mario Manningham – 28 – Signed through 2014

Trindon Holliday – 28 – Signed through 2014

Julian Talley – 25 – Signed through 2015

Marcus Harris – 25 – Signed through 2015

Kris Adams – 27 – Signed through 2014

Preston Parker – 27 – Signed through 2015

Travis Harvey – 24 – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

The loss of Hakeem Nicks to free agency was something I personally didn’t even give a second thought to. He underachieved for the past two seasons and his weekly approach wasn’t something you want on a winning team, plain and simple. With his departure opens up a spot for a lot of targets in the passing game. There are in-house options in Randle and Jernigan, both of whom have at least shown flashes of being productive. They are battle tested to an extent and they will receive the opportunity to be go-to guys for Manning. The signing of Manningham is a hopeful shot in the dark that he could rekindle his level of play now that he is back in a familiar setting. Holliday is almost completely a return specialist that may see some action for trick plays. Beyond that, the rest of those names are bodies for training camp. Could one of them break through and be part of the rotation? Sure. I actually like Talley and/or Parker to potentially make this team. While there are worse groups of WRs in the league, I’m not overly confident that these guys are going to scare anyone. There isn’t a real speed/deep threat, nor is there a guy that will win one-on-one battles against quality corners outside of Cruz. They could really use someone for the outside that can get downfield and catch the ball in traffic.

Top 20 Grades

1 – Sammy Watkins – Clemson – 6’1/211: 85

2 – Jordan Matthews – Vanderbilt – 6’3/212: 85

3 – Brandin Cooks – Oregon State – 5’10/189: 83

4 – Odell Beckham – LSU – 5’11/198: 81

5 – Corey Latimer – Indiana – 6’3/215: 79

6 – Martavis Bryant – Clemson – 6’4/211: 79

7 – Mike Evans – Texas A&M – 6’5/231: 78

8 – Marqise Lee – USC – 6’0/192: 78

9 – Kevin Norwood – Alabama – 6’2/198: 77

10 – DaVante Adams – Fresno State – 6’1/212” 75

11 – Josh Huff – Oregon – 5’11/206: 75

12 – Robert Herron – Wyoming – 5’9/193: 75

13 – Jarvis Landry – LSU – 6’0/205: 75

14 – Jared Abbrederis – Wisconsin – 6’1/195: 74

15 – Bruce Ellington – South Carolina – 5’9/197: 74

16 – Allen Robinson – Penn State – 6’3/220: 74

17 – Kelvin Benjamin – Florida State – 6’5/240: 73

18 – Devin Street – Pittsburgh – 6’3/198: 73

19 – Jeremy Gallon – Michigan – 5’8/185: 73

20 – Damian Copeland – Louisville – 5’11/184: 73

Day One Target:

Sammy Watkins – Clemson (85)

Watkins is widely considered the top WR in this draft. He is an explosive playmaker with tremendous ability once he gets the ball in his hands. There isn’t an elite, blue chip receiver in this class but Watkins is pretty close. He lacks the ideal size you look for in a number one guy, but he can’t be considered small by any means. What I like most here is the ability to make things happen after the catch. He looks and moves like a running back, breaking tackles and finding the cutback lanes to gain extra yards. While I would bet he’ll end up in the top 5 overall, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him slip a bit. This WR group is so strong and deep which could force teams in to attacking their other needs at the top of the draft. Trading up for Watkins from the #12 slot may be over-aggressive, but he may be worth sending a day three pick over to someone if he falls near the #10 slot.

Runner Up: Jordan Matthews – Vanderbilt (85)

I actually started off cold on Matthews, thinking he was a product of easy statistics via a friendly offensive scheme. But the more I watched, the more tools I saw to work with. Matthews has the height and length to go with a thick, strong frame that leads me to believe he’ll be one of the more physical receivers in the game. He too plays with the aggressive style that will make defensive backs alter their game. Matthews is an outstanding route runner that can get himself open no matter where on the route tree he is placed. I love the short area burst and ability to change direction. I realize I have a higher grade on Matthews than most, but I think we are talking about a first round pick here that has a high floor/high ceiling type status. His game will translate very well to the next level.

Runner up #2: Brandin Cooks – Oregon State (83)

I’ve been calling Cooks a first rounder since last September. He was better than Markus Wheaton in 2012 and after a year of gaining some weight while maintaining his elite movement ability, Cooks performed his way in to potential top 15 talk. If you liked Tavon Austin last year, you have to see the high ceiling in Cooks. Where he fits with NYG is the only question, though. I think he works best out of the slot, where Cruz and Jernigan will be playing. He has some very accomplished tape playing on the outside, however. He can run by anyone and he’s a big time competitor in traffic. He’ll come down with more balls than you think. Simply put, the NYG offense needs more athletes that can run themselves open, giving Manning space to work with. There may not be a better WR in this class at doing it than Cooks.

Day Two Target:

Corey Latimer – Indiana (79)

Latimer caught my eye the first time I watched Indiana in October. His size and movement ability are easy to notice, as he can run away from some defensive backs but bull over others. He is a matchup problem for a lot of defenses. In addition, Latimer does a lot of the little things right. He sees the ball in to his hands, rarely using his body to bring the ball in. He runs crisp routes and understands how to use the field to his advantage. Often I would see Latimer be the guy to come to the rescue on broken plays, working towards his quarterback and finding the vacant areas of a defense. On top of all that, Latimer is a high-effort blocker. He is a borderline first round talent that can be had on day two, perhaps even in round 3.

Runner Up: Montavious Bryant – Clemson (79)

Bryant is a high risk/high reward prospect that I gave a really high grade to considering that kind of status. I think he was overshadowed the past two seasons at Clemson because of Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. Those two were outstanding receivers for the Tigers, but Bryant may be the best pro of them all. His height and length are assets that every QB wants to have to work with when throwing their receivers the ball. Bryant is a much better mover in space and in short areas than you would think. There is some legit explosion to this kid and I think he could be a big time downfield threat in the league. NYG could really use a receiver like this on the outside. I think there are some raw parts to his game, thus it might take some extra time for him to evolve in to am every down threat. But would be a great value grab in round 3.

Marquis Lee – USC (78)

I’m not sure where to put Lee in relation to where he will actually be drafted. I think he can be a first rounder, but he had a rough 2013 injury-wise and a lot of people will question how well his frame can hold up in the NFL. That said, there is some hidden value here. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him being the top WR in this class a few years from now. Lee is as explosive as you’ll find in the open field. He is smart, tough, and savvy. He can wear a few hats in the passing game, making him a guy that can exploit matchup problems against every defense in the league. A quality offensive scheme can get him 100+ receptions every year if he can stay on the field. Let’s not forget what he did in 2012 as a WR and return man.

Day Three Target:

Kevin Norwood – Alabama (77)

This kid could be one of the top draft weekend steals because of where you can get him. I wouldn’t classify Norwood as an elite receiver by any means, but a lot of people don’t give him credit for what he is. He is a big, physical receiver that runs great routes and will come down with a lot of balls in traffic. The Alabama offense is so stacked with young receivers and running backs to a point where Norwood was almost being forgotten about. I think his game translates very well to the next level, especially for a team that needs someone for the outside.

Runner Up: Josh Huff – Oregon (75)

It can be easy to lose track of Huff when watching the Oregon offense. That unit was so strong and so diverse with a lot of individual star power. But if you watched closely, Huff was one of the more reliable and consistent parts to that group. He doesn’t have the elite size, nor will be blaze by anyone. But Huff is tougher than nails and can do a lot of the little things for an offense. He somewhat reminds be of a young, undrafted Victor Cruz. He has the short area burst the separate himself from defensive backs and he’ll catch anything near his body. After the catch, Huff has a elite burst and quickness. I think he can be had mid-day 3 and considering everything he can do for a team, that’s a steal.

Jared Abbrederis – Wisconsin (74)

Abbrederis broke out a couple seasons ago when he was the go-to guy for Russell Wilson. He evolved in to a deep threat for him that made a lot of big plays. What intrigues me the most here however, is the ability to get open and consistently catch the ball whenever his hands can get to it. He may have some of the best hands in the draft. His routes are always clean and crisp and there is some underrated movement ability here. His performance against Bradley Roby (Ohio State) was one of the best ones I saw all year. He abused him all over the field despite having less physical ability. I think you are talking about a limited upside prospect here, but one that will be dependable. Sometimes that’s all you need.

Most Overrated:

Donte Moncrief: Ole Miss (72)

I want to like a WR like Moncrief because of the size and timed speed, but I just can’t get past the lack of ability to get himself open. Moncrief is a poor route runner that takes too long to change direction. The weaknesses in his game are the ones I don’t want to see when scouting receivers. He has trouble locating the ball when running downfield with a defensive back, and he won’t run away from anybody on game day. The size and after-the-catch toughness are intriguing, which is mainly why he still earned a 3rd/4th round grade from me. But round 2 is where I see most projecting him, and I just don’t see it.

Runner Up: Kelvin Benjamin – Florida State (73)

I spoke highly of Benjamin throughout the fall. I even labeled him a potential top 15 pick after watching him in passing. He makes some of the most difficult catches you’ll ever see and there is some ability with the ball in his hands that has to intrigue you. But on closer examination, Benjamin does a lot of little things wrong. His route tree was so limited at FSU and his quick-twitch just isn’t there when trying to get open. Now, a receiver his size doesn’t need to excel at running himself open which is why he still earned a late 3rd/4th grade. I can see and understand the upside, but Benjamin seems to be one of those one-trick ponies that someone will overdraft based on upside. Receivers like this exist in every draft and they rarely work out. I always prefer speed/agility/smarts over size and length. There is more to the position that jump balls in the red zone.

NYG Approach

I am very interested to see how NYG will handle this position in the draft. There isn’t a right or wrong way, so let me get that out there. Part of me says, wait a couple rounds because with such a deep group, it’s almost a sure thing that a great value will be around in the middle rounds, allowing them to address other areas with their high picks. The other part of me would really struggle to pass on a Watkins, Matthews, or Cooks. This offense has lost it’s big play ability and there isn’t anyone outside of Cruz that will scare the defense. The quickest way to change that is bringing in a WR that can torch a defense all over field; short, intermediate, and deep. I wouldn’t go in to the weekend restricting myself to taking a WR early, or ignoring the position early. Let the board play out and see what happens. But I would say one of these top 10-15 WRs needs to be brought in. The opportunity will be there.

Apr 232014
 
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Kony Ealy, Missouri Tigers (January 3, 2014)

Kony Ealy – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Ends

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*DISCLAIMER: These are Defensive End grades/rankings for the NYG 4-3 scheme. Barr and Mack are NOT included, as I have put them in my LB preview.

Current Defensive Ends on NYG Roster:

Jason Pierre-Paul – 25 – Signed through 2015

Mathias Kiwanuka – 31 – Signed through 2015

Damontre Moore – 21 – Signed through 2016

Robert Ayers – 29 – Signed through 2015

Kendrick Adams – 26 – Signed through 2015

Where They Stand:

Long gone are the days of NYG defensive ends wrecking havoc on opposing offenses week in, week out. 2013 was a rough year for this group and their leading sack artist (Justin Tuck) is no longer a part of it. The five players listed above combined for 11.5 sacks last season (Adams did not play in any games) and they are going to be counted on to all reverse their production in the right direction. Pierre-Paul may get a little pass because of his back injury that certainly lingered and prohibited him from ever playing at 100%. His talent and upside are still up there. Kiwanuka and Ayers are reliable veterans that play a physical style, but won’t scare anyone off the edge. They don’t have the explosion and neither will demand double teams. Moore could be the wildcard here. His combination of youth and tools will get him the chance to make consistent contributions to this defense. Can he handle the physical side of the game well enough? We’ll find out. He could be the guy that makes this group as a whole much better. These five guys can get the job done but as I said earlier, they are nowhere near the echelon of domination NYG fans were watching just a few years ago.

Top 10 Grades:

1 – JaDeveon Clowney – South Carolina – 6’5/266: 93

2 – Kony Ealy – Missouri – 6’4/273: 80

3 – Aaron Lynch – South Florida – 6’5/249: 76

4 – Will Clarke – West Virginia – 6’6/271: 76

5 – Marcus Smith – Louisville – 6’3/251: 76

6 – Jeremiah Attaochu – Georgia Tech – 6’5/252: 75

7 – Trent Murphy – Stanford – 6’5/250: 74

8 – Adrian Hubbard – Alabama – 6’6/257: 74

9 – Dee Ford – Auburn – 6’2/252: 70

10 – Kareem Martin – North Carolina – 6’6/272: 70

Day One Target:

JaDeveon Clowney – South Carolina

I don’t think there is any DE worthy of taking in round one other than Clowney, although I understand this is completely unrealistic, I didn’t want to leave this blank. Clowney is one of a few prospects that I would make an aggressive trade up for. However the price for NYG to move up in to the top 5, let alone top 3, will likely be astronomical and likely counterproductive. That said, if he somehow slips to the 6-8 area, I would make an aggressive move up for him. He is a once-in-a-generation type talent that could be one of the top defenders in the NFL within two years. NYG could really use a guy like this but I am fully aware the chances of this happening are almost zero.

Runner Up: Kony Ealy – Missouri

Ealy is a borderline first rounder on my board and even that may be a bit high. His grade is based purely on upside because of his size and movement ability. He looked raw in a lot of games I saw. Just unaware of the action around him and showed inability to get off blocks effectively. He is a top-notch kid though with some tools to work with and he plays really hard. I think he can mold himself in to a fine player.

Day Two Target:

Will Clarke – West Virginia

Clarke comes from a different kind of scheme but I think he is a guy that moves well enough to play DE in this scheme. He doesn’t have the elite burst but he does have short area quickness and he plays a physical brand. Clarke consistently showed the ability to get off blocks and make plays. His size appears to be NFL ready and I think he gives NYG a better version of what they have in Kiwanuka right away. If he can be had in the third round, you are talking about a big time value grab.

Runner Up: Marcus Smith – Louisville

I have a higher grade on Smith than most do. His lack of height and length hurt his grade a bit, but this versatile pass rusher plays fast and strong. He is a tough guy to block because of his relentless pursuit and incredibly strong and balanced lower half. I think he’ll prove to be a consistent 7-9 sack per year guy that also defends the run.

Day Three Target:

Aaron Lynch – South Florida

Lynch may be one of the most polarizing prospects in this entire class. Talent wise, he may be the number two guy in this class. He can make some impressive plays in a variety of ways, using his short area burst and length to gain an advantage over the blocker. When he plays hard and focused, he can change a game by himself. Not many defensive ends can say that in college. His issues off the field downgraded him quite a bit, but his potential is too high to pass on throughout day three. He is a year or two away from playing with dominant ability in the league much like Greg Hardy from the Panthers.

Runner Up: Adrian Hubbard – Alabama

Hubbard played a hybrid rush linebacker role but I have always seen him as a potential DE in a traditional 4-3 scheme. He can explode off the edge and play a low, strong game using his length and power to keep blockers from locking on to him. He could take an extra year or two to get acclimated to the position, but that’s ok for NYG. They have enough on depth chart to allow a player to develop properly.

Most Overrated:

Scott Crichton – Oregon State (63)

I’ve watched and re-watched a few Oregon State games and I still don’t see what there is to like about Crichton. He plays hard but he doesn’t make the impact I want out of a DE. He can’t get off the good blockers and he won’t burst by anybody. Crichton is an average player across the board that you can find in the later rounds, if not undrafted free agency. By no means do I think he should be a day 2 pick.

Runner Up: Kareem Martin

The height, length and workout numbers have led some to believe that Martin is the perfect prospect for a team looking for a 4-3 DE. But when you really watch him, you see a guy that struggles to read the action and react. He is a slower mover on the field than you think and he won’t push anyone around. Martin really struggles to make a physical impact on the game and I think he’s a guy that will be doomed for permanent backup duty. Don’t spend a day two pick on that.

NYG Approach:

One look at the current depth chart and one could make the statement that bringing in a new DE to the group is not high on the priority list. I can understand that opinion but lets not forget just how valuable the abundance of pass rushing talent is for a team. That was such a major factor in the Giants past two Super Bowls. This DE class as a whole doesn’t impress me at all outside of the Clowney. A lot of these guys have a lot of potential bust factor to them. Some have glaring size issues and others simply don’t have the speed and/or quick movement ability. With that said, there will be some opportunity to bring in a guy between rounds 3-5 that present good enough value. Defensive End is NOT a position where you want to be thin on the depth chart. It can end up breaking a defense. Without a sense of urgency, NYG can be patient here but somewhere in the draft I think one of these guys should be brought in.

Apr 212014
 
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Troy Niklas, New York Giants (November 2, 2013)

Troy Niklas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Tight Ends on NYG Roster:

Kellen Davis – 29 – Signed through 2014

Adrien Robinson – 26 – Signed through 2015

Larry Donnell – 26 – Signed through 2014

Daniel Fells – 31 – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

Jerry Reese has made a few attempts to increase the quality of the group over the years without a high level of aggression. The one time he went after a quality free agent in Martellus Bennett, their passing game was elevated to another level. However both prior to him and in 2013 with Brandon Myers, there was little-to-no threat of a pass catching presence at the position. It has held the passing game back from taking a step up to the next level. Davis and Fells were signed as veteran stop gaps. Neither pose as a threat to the defense but both can be serviceable backup types that block well. Davis is the one with starting potential; as he came in to the league with a high ceiling and he’s proven to be an OK player that can be depended on to do some of the little things well. Robinson has yet to live up to even half the hype that we’ve been led to believe. He may be gifted physically, but he’s had issues staying healthy and has shown nothing that should impact the Giants approach to the position in the draft. Donnell is a name I still have some hope for, as I think he has some more football skills to work with. All in all, this is a poor group of tight ends that needs an upgrade as soon as possible.

Top 10 Grades:

1 – Troy Niklas – Notre Dame – 6’7/270: 81

2 – Jace Amaro – Texas Tech – 6’5/265: 79

3 – Eric Ebron – North Carolina – 6’4/250: 79

4 – CJ Fiedorwicz – Iowa – 6’6/265: 76

5 – Marcel Jensen – Fresno State – 6’6/259: 75

6 – Crockett Gilmore – Colorado State – 6’6/260: 74

7 – Alex Bayer – Bowling Green – 6’4/257: 71

8 – Arthur Lynch – Georgia – 6’5/258: 70

9 – Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Washington – 6’6/262: 69

10 – Colt Lylerla – Oregon – 6’4/242: 67

Day One Target:

Troy Niklas – Notre Dame

There aren’t any tight ends worthy of the #12 overall pick on my board. But if NYG somehow trades back towards the end of round one, Niklas should be a thought. Niklas if a former defensive player that came on strong at TE this year. I think his upside is limitless, as I think he is already the best at the position in this class despite not having a lot of experience there. I think his floor is very high as well because he is going to be a dominant blocker in the NFL. He is violent, strong, and agile. He can man up defensive ends or get out in to space and stick with linebackers/safeties. Niklas’ size and ball skills are something that will present major matchup problems for opposing defenses and when it comes down to building up an offense, that’s what it is all about. I think we are talking about an early contributor that could turn himself in to one of the top dual threat TEs in the game.

Runner Up: Eric Ebron – North Carolina

Day Two Target:

Jace Amaro – Texas Tech

I think Ebron will be a first round pick, thus why I put his name above and not here. Amaro is likely going to slip in to round two and I think he will present good value there. He is another big-bodied pass catcher that plays the game with a toughness that NYG has been missing out on for awhile. He put up enormous numbers within a pass-friendly offense but has limited experience as an in-line blocker. That’s an issue when it comes to being brought in to the NYG offense. That did hurt his grade quite a bit but he is still an option for this team. He built up a reputation of being one of the toughest guys in the Big 12 conference and their coaching staff raved about his leadership. I think Amaro is a guy that will find a way to make it work as a blocker. As a receiver, Amaro is another guy that creates the much needed matchup problems. In addition, he has ability with the ball on his hands to pick up extra yards. There is some sneaky athleticism to this kid and I think he is gonna be a productive player in the NFL.

Runner Up: CJ Fiedorwicz – Iowa

Day Three Target:

Marcel Jensen – Fresno State

I went in to a session looking to scout Derek Carr and DaVante Adams in October. Halfway through I was writing more notes on Jensen than both combined. Jensen is a huge frame that moves surprisingly well. Even more, he is a soft hands catcher that can change direction with ease. I think Jensen’s game will be taken to another level in the NFL and when considering he will likely be a day three pick, there is an opportunity for a big value grab here. There are some fine points to his game that need work. He isn’t a good blocker mechanically, but he does show effort. He also needs better route running underneath. But all that in mind, I think he immediately becomes the tight end of the future for NYG more so than Donnell and Robinson.

Runner Up: Nic Jacobs – McNeese State (66)

Most Overrated:

Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Washington

I saw Jenkins play a few times in passing back in 2012 and was somewhat impressed. He was definitely a name I had circled heading in to 2013 but he was deeply underwhelming in every tape I saw. The size and movement ability are there and he has shown some impressive ball skills. But when I watch an entire game of his, I can’t help but worry about the fact that he is just another guy for almost the entire game. A highlight here and there won’t do anything for this team. Jenkins shows almost no urgency as a route runner or as a blocker. He doesn’t show the toughness in traffic either. For a guy this big, he is a softy. I don’t want guys like that unless we are talking about day three. I can see the upside but I saw too much bad tape to give him a grade anywhere higher than round 5.

Runner Up: Xavier Grimble – USC (64)

NYG Approach:

There is an issue here with this class. NYG could use a fresh talent early on at the position, someone that could come in right away and make a contribution. The issue however is that the TE class as a whole lacks star power and depth. In addition, I keep track of every NFL roster and it appears to me that there will be several teams in the hunt for a quality tight end. That is going to make it tough for NYG to bring in the right value at the position considering there are several spots that need to be filled on this team via the draft. If NYG can’t find the right value in the first 3-4 rounds, I would ignore the position altogether. The last thing they should want is yet another experiment at tight end soaking up another roster spot. But if there is a chance to bring in one of those top 5-6 guys where the value is right, I would strongly consider doing it. This is a position that could really change things offensively if the right guy is brought in. As it currently stands, their current tight ends are going to struggle to make the much-needed impact.

Apr 172014
 
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Joel Bitonio, Nevada Wolf Pack (February 20, 2014)

Joel Bitonio – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Tackles

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

DISCLCAIMER:  I broke the OL previews in to two categories, guards/centers and tackles.  This can be difficult to organize because a few of these guys have the skill set to play different positions.  But keep in mind that versatility is part of their grade and I am grading these guys where I think they would best fit for NYG.

Current OT on the NYG Roster:

William Beatty – 29 – Signed through 2017

Justin Pugh – 24 – Signed through 2016

Charles Brown – 27 – Signed through 2014

Steven Baker – 26 – Signed through 2015

Tony Kropog – 28 – Signed through 2015

Where They Stand:

The Giants have a lot of question marks along the outside of the line.  However, the performance of Pugh throughout his rookie season was admirable to say the least.  He locked down the RT position and appears to already be the most reliable tackle this team has.  The question surrounding him is, does he stay at RT?  Or would NYG consider moving him over to the position he played in college, left tackle.  Part of that discussion revolves around the healthy of Beatty, who is recovering from a broken leg that could linger in to the summer.  Even if he does return healthy, has Beatty done enough to possess the most important position on this OL?  He is locked up long term but that can’t sway the coaches in to putting him back in the starting lineup.  He was a low level starter in 2013 and he could put a strict limit on how good this team can be.  Beyond the two starters, NYG has little-to-no long term promise.  Brown, Baker, and Kropog are replaceable right now.  They shouldn’t sway NYG from making any draft weekend decisions at this position.

Top 10 Grades:

1 – Greg Robinson – Auburn – 6’5/332: 84

2 – Jake Matthews – Texas A&M – 6’6/308: 83

3 – Taylor Lewan – Michigan – 6’7/309: 82

4 – Zach Martin – Notre Dame – 6’4/308: 81

5 – Joel Bitonio – Nevada – 6’4/302: 80

6 – Cyrus Kouandijo – Alabama – 6’7/322: 77

7 – Morgan Moses – Virginia – 6’6/314: 77

8 – Wesley Johnson – Vanderbilt – 6’5/297: 73

9 – Antonio Richardson – Tennessee – 6’6/336: 72

10 – Ju’waun James – Tennessee – 6’6/311: 72

Day One Target:

Greg Robinson – Auburn

I would put the chances of Robinson falling outside of the top 8 at less than 50%, but I think the view on him around the league is very mixed.  His top 5 potential didn’t really catch on until halfway through the college 2013 season, but scouts have been talking about him for a couple years now.  When looking for the “blue goose” left tackle prospect, Robinson is the kind of guy that coaches/GMs want.  He has the size and movement ability of the elite, once-every-three-or-four years guy.  My issue with him is there will be a lot of development and learning that needs to be done prior to him being put outside.  The Auburn scheme was VERY friendly to him, in that they ran the ball a ton and rarely asked him to play in a traditional pass blocking set up.  When it comes to how he fits in with NYG, I actually think he could be an elite guard.  Down the road he could make the move to left tackle, but that could take a year or two.  If Robinson somehow drops to NYG, they could have themselves an All-Pro caliber guard right away as well as a future left tackle.

Runner Up: Jake Matthews – Texas A&M

Day Two Target:

Joel Bitonio – Nevada

The more tape I have seen of Bitonio over the best two months, the more I believe he can be a very good starter in the NFL.  NYG needs to increase their power presence up front.  They simply need the blue collar guys that want to beat people up and drive them through the ground, which is the approach I see out of Bitonio every time I put his tape on.  There is some underrated athleticism to his game as well.  His feet are light, he can easily bend at the knees while keeping himself upright, and he has a pair of heavy hands.  Bitonio graded out as a first rounder for me, but I think he could be had in round 2.  He would provide some position-versatility for a unit that has questions across the board.  I am thinking NYG could have another Justin Pugh-type guy here, possibly even with more upside.

Runner Up: Morgan Moses – Virginia

Day Three Target:

Wesley Johnson – Vanderbilt

I’ve watched a lot of SEC football over the past few months.  One tackle stands out every time he is on the screen, and it is Johnson.  He won’t wow anyone with his movement or power, and he is a little undersized when it comes to his girth.  But Johnson was as productive as any offensive tackle in the conference outside of Matthews/Robinson.  There is some talk of him moving inside, but I don’t see why.  He outplayed Clowney and Ealy by a landslide.  He has 51 straights starts to his name, majority of which were at left tackle.  He is a guy that knows the game, works hard, and consistently does the little things right.  I think he can be a starter down the road once he adds some strength to his game.

Runner Up: Parker Graham – Oklahoma State

Most Overrated:

Billy Turner – North Dakota State

I think there are a lot of analysts that try too hard to label the diamond in the rough of a group from a small school.  Many have been all over Turner because of his size/movement combination.  But truth be told, Turner is a really bad lineman.  He has minimal use technique with poor footwork and light hands.  He is constantly chasing after pass rushers, rarely do you see him sit and anchor a position.  I’ve seen his name in some 2nd round talk, and I don’t think he is a guy you take before round 6.

Runner Up: Antonio Richardson

NYG Approach:

Like the guards/centers, there is instability at offensive tackle right now.  Pugh is solid, but I’ve never been a Beatty guy and last year almost shut the door on him.  He may be the starter though simply because there is nothing else on the roster than could upgrade the position.  I think his contract was very short-sighted and may have been one of the worst moves this front office has made in a long time.  Despite him being signed long term, I think NYG needs to address this position early on.  They can’t have any more repeats of what happened last year.  Their entire offense was dragged down to a lower level because of the poor play up front.  There will be an opportunity with one of their first three picks to bring in a nice value pick that could potentially contribute right away.  In this deep overall draft class, I think we are going to see a tackle drop way beyond his actual ranking.  NYG would be foolish to pass on him at that point.  This unit needs to get back to dominant, consistent, reliable football.  Their starting personnel and back ups can be replaced right now with some of these rookies. 

Apr 152014
 
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Travis Swanon, Arkansas Razorbacks (November 17, 2012)

Travis Swanson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Guards and Centers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

DISCLCAIMER:  I broke the OL previews in to two categories, guards/centers and tackles.  This can be difficult to organize because a few of these guys have the skill set to play different positions.  But keep in mind that versatility is part of their grade and I am grading these guys where I think they would best fit for NYG.

Current G/C on NYG Roster:

Geoff Schwartz – 28 – Signed through 2017

Chris Snee – 32 – Signed through 2014

John Jerry – 28 – Signed through 2014

James Brewer – 27 – Signed through 2014

Brandon Mosley – 26 – Signed through 2015

Stephen Goodin – 26 – Signed through 2014

Eric Herman – 25 – Signed through 2015

JD Walton – 27 – Signed through 2015

Dallas Reynolds – 30 – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

Not so long ago, the inside of the NYG offensive line was a major strength that paved the way for a powerful, reliable unit.  While they lacked the superstars, their presence was often overlooked by many, even fans.  Last season’s struggle on offense was largely because of poor performance inside.  The signing of Schwartz and hopeful resurgence of Snee could lead to the needed confidence of the starting pair of guards.  However the issue resides behind them on the depth chart and between them at the starting center spot.  JD Walton has some impressive tape attached to his name and I think he could be the guy in the middle, but there needs to be a better secondary option should his injuries arise or his level of play doesn’t return.  When it comes to the depth, NYG has a bunch of guys with limited upside.  It would be a major gamble to go in to the season with this current group.  They have enough bodies for sure, but is the quality there?  I don’t think so.

Top 10 Grades:

1 – David Yankey – Stanford – 6’6/315: 79

2 – Travis Swanson – Arkansas: 6’5/312: 78

3 – Cyril Richardson – Baylor – 6’5/329: 77

4 – Trai Turner – LSU – 6’3/310: 77

5 – Xavier Su’a-Filo – UCLA – 6’4/307: 77

6 – Gabe Jackson – Mississippi State – 6’3/336: 76

7 – Conor Boffeli – Iowa – 6’4/298: 76

8 – Dakota Dozier – Furman – 6’4/313: 76

9 – Gabe Ikard – Oklahoma – 6’4/304: 75

10 – Weston Richburg – Colorado State – 6’3/298: 74

Day One Target:

David Yankey – Stanford

Before I discuss Yankey, just know that I don’t have any guards or centers with a first round grade.  I would only support a selection here after a trade down in to the late 20s.  But that aside, I do really like Yankey for the Giants offense.  His versatility is a plus, as he played tackle and guard at a really high level.  Yankey’s greatest trait is his straight and run blocking.  He is a well-put-together 315 pounds with a strong base and heavy hands.  He was heading towards a first round grade late in the year, but I noticed a deficiency in his pass blocking on closer examination.  He struggles to keep his balance and his feet will get stagnant.  Yankey may not be the day one starter that I initially thought he would be, but the high ceiling is certainly there.  If he can be had, one way or another via trade, at the end of round 1, it may be worth it down the road.

Runner Up: Cyril Richardson

Day Two Target:

Travis Swanson – Arkansas

I have a much higher grade on Swanson than most.  Although he graded out as a 2nd rounder, I think he could be there for the Giants 3rd pick.  He is a huge body inside that moves exceptionally well at the second level against linebackers.  I am most impressed by his ability to neutralize pass rushers up the middle though.  That was a major problem for NYG this past year and I’m not so sure it has been solved.  Swanson could make a move to guard, as he showed the movement ability necessary to do so at the Senior Bowl.  If NYG wants to get bigger up front, Swanson would be the ideal center to bring in.

Runner Up: Trai Turner – LSU

Day Three Target:

Conor Boffeli – Iowa

I recently finished up my scouting of Boffeli; he almost slipped under the radar.  I was really impressed with his ability to both anchor his position against bigger defensive linemen as well as move in space in a zone blocking scheme.  His performance against Minnesota’s Rashede Hageman left an impression on me.  He is a blue collar guy that I think would have fit in perfectly with the NYG offensive line a few years ago when it was considered one of the best in football.  He is undersized and may need some extra time before he can be thrown in to the mix.  That said, I would want a guy like him developing behind the starters more so than Brewer or Mosley.

Runner Up: Trey Hopkins – G – Texas (74)

Most Overrated:

Marcus Martin – C – USC (66)

I’ve seen it in a few different places that Martin is being considered the top center in this class.  I didn’t see much of him during the season, but I have seen 4 games of his in the past two months.  I don’t see a guy that can handle the NFL speed or power.  He gets stood up way too easily and his feet are very heavy.  Martin is not an impact run blocker, but merely a guy that just tries to get in the way.  It worked at USC, but I think he’ll struggle to succeed that way in the league.  Poor center play can be exploited really fast.  I have him graded as a day three guy, round 5 or 6.

Runner Up: Jon Hilapio – Florida (52)

NYG Approach:

As I stated earlier, I don’t see a round one value with any of these guys.  By no means does that mean I am down on this group though, as I see a lot of potential value throughout the draft here.  NYG needs to bring in another interior guy from what I can see.  I understand they are trying to develop Mosley, Brewer, and Herman but I would be fine with one of them getting the boot after training camp if a rookie comes in a shows more upside.  The center position would be a main focus here if the value presents itself, as there talent there is questionable at best.  If NYG wants to get back to a quality rushing attack as well as keep Manning upright for the back nine of his career, the situation inside needs to be addressed.  Waiting too long could end up being a major limiting factor for this team.

Apr 102014
 
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Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh Panthers (September 28, 2013)

Aaron Donald – © USA TODAY Sports Images

BBI New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Tackles

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Defensive Tackles on the NYG Roster:

Cullen Jenkins – 33 – Signed through 2015

Mike Patterson – 31 – Signed through 2014

Jonathan Hankins – 22 – Signed through 2016

Markus Kuhn – 28 – Signed through 2015

Where They Stand:

While the free agent acquisition period is not over yet, this appears to be the group that NYG will enter draft weekend with.  It’s a very thin group that will hold this team back as it currently stands.  Jenkins and Patterson are both overachieving, reliable veterans that can wear a few hats for their front.  While I wouldn’t call them difference makers, they are at the very least guys that can be counted on.  Hankins and Kuhn are the wildcards here, as they will be given the opportunity to fill the shoes of the departed Linval Joseph.  I don’t have confidence in either of them to be the guy that needs to be in there for 80%+ of the defensive snaps, making opponents game plan around them.  This group as a whole needs a fresh body or two that can contribute right away.

Top 10 Grades:

1 – Aaron Donald – Pittsburgh – 6’1/285: 85

2 – Rashede Hageman – Minnesota – 6’6/310: 80

3 – Stephon Tuitt – Notre Dame – 6’6/304: 79

4 – Brent Urban – Virginia – 6’7/295: 79

5 – DaQuan Jones – Penn State – 6’4/322:  78

6 – Timmy Jernigan – Florida State – 6’2/299: 78

7– Louis Nix III – Notre Dame – 6’2/331: 78

8 – Dominique Easley – Florida – 6’2/288: 76

9 – Taylor Hart – Oregon – 6’6/281: 76

10 – Kelcy Quarles – South Carolina – 6’4/297: 73

Day One Target:

Aaron Donald – Pittsburgh

I had a hard time accepting the fact that Donald was indeed one of the top players in the draft.  I usually want guys with size inside, guys with consistent power presence that cannot be moved.  But after watching almost 10+ games of Pittsburgh dating back to last year, I’m convinced Donald will be a star.  He is the pass rushing presence that NYG has lacked inside for a long time and I think he is a better run defender than most will give him credit for.  It’s easy to look at his size and say he can’t handle the physical power needed to anchor a position against the run.  But when I scout him, I see a guy that can not only maintain position, but push linemen back, get off their blocks, and chase down the ball carrier like a linebacker.  Donald will likely be my pick for NYG should be available at #12.

Runner Up: Rashede Hageman – Minnesota

Day Two Target:

Stephon Tuitt – Notre Dame

Tuitt could easily grade out as a first rounder if you go by is 2012 tape.  He’s had a few physical issues over the past year and I did factor them in to his grade.  Now with that said, I only have so much access to his medical information but from everyone I have spoken with and everything I have read, he should be at 100% by this summer.  Tuitt played outside in ND’s 3-4 front, but I think he can easily move inside and play a Chris Canty-type role in a 4-3.  He is enormous and very hard to move but also shows the short area quickness to beat blockers one on one.  He is certainly a matchup problem because he can beat you a few different ways.  If NYG ignores the defensive line in round one, Tuitt will likely be the guy I want in round two if he is still there.

Runner Up: DaQuan Jones – Penn State

Day Three Target:

Brent Urban – Virginia

Some view Urban as a 3-4 only player, but I disagree.  When looking for defensive linemen, I am always looking for versatility.  Urban can play outside in certain looks, even in a 4-3, but he can also play a three-technique role and control a couple inside gaps.  I’ve even seen him play the A gap and make a difference.  Urban plays a similar role and style as JJ Watt.  While I don’t think he has the same upside, Urban could be a day three steal and I think he’ll be available early round 4.  I love his ability to bend and pursue.  He uses his hands and long arms to control blockers and he can get off them consistently.  I can see him doing well here right away as a rotational defender and eventually becoming an every down difference maker because of his size, movement, and versatility.

Runner Up: Taylor Hart – Oregon

Most Overrated:

Anthony Johnson – LSU (59)

Johnson was one of the top recruits out of high school a few years ago, and rightfully so.  I can remember watching his first college game and thinking he would eventually be a top 5 lock.  But Johnson has failed to progress and if anything, he’s gone backwards since that first game.  He looks the part and he’ll deliver some bone jarring hits here and there, but he is a poor defender play-to-play.  He doesn’t anchor against single, straight blockers let alone double teams.  He can’t reach the QB consistently, and he doesn’t have a long enough lasting motor.  Nothing about his game is appealing to me, and I have him graded in the 7th/UDFA area.  I see some labeling him a possible 2nd round pick and I question if that is simply a result of him being a top tier recruit years ago.

Runner Up: Daniel McCullers – Tennessee (64)

NYG Approach:

When looking at what is currently on the roster, I can’t see how anybody can refute the enormous need for another able body inside.  NYG needs one of these rookies that can come in and contribute right away, and that’s not even accounting for any injuries to their current tackles.  While they have a couple of serviceable, able bodies in there, none of these guys will alter the game plan of any offense.  There is a severe lack of presence inside.  This is not a group that linebackers will want to play behind nor will they take pressure of the ends against the pass.  This class is a solid group of defensive tackles for days 1 and 2 of the draft and I am confident the right value will be there with one of their first three picks.  The sooner the better, as I would put the need for a DT right up there with the offensive line as the top targets for the weekend.