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

Ty Sambrailo – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

NEVADA

#17 – QB – Cody Fajardo – 6’2/215

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

#53 – DE – Brock Hekking – 6’4/255

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

#24 – DB – Charles Garrett – 5’11/205

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

#2 – WR – Richy Turner – 5’11/180

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

LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE

#8 – QB – Terrance Broadway – 6’2/221

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

#67 – RT – Daniel Quave – 6’3/324

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

#46 – RB – Alonzo Harris – 6’1/238

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

#6 – DT – Justin Hamilton – 6’2/310

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

#7 – CB – Corey Trim – 5’11/192

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

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

UTAH STATE

#74 – OT – Kevin Whimpey – 6’5/295

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

#52 – LB – Zach Vigil – 6’/240

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

#99 – DE – BJ Larsen – 6’5/275

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

UTEP

#14 – WR – Ian Hamilton – 6’5/229

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

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

UTAH

#8 – DE – Nate Orchard – 6’4/255

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

#18 – DB – Eric Rowe – 6’1/201

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

#80 – TE – Westlee Tonga – 6’4/244

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

COLORADO STATE

#51 – OT – Ty Sambrailo – 6’5/315

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

#18 – QB – Garrett Grayson – 6’2/220

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

#37 – LB – Aaron Davis – 6’1/221

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

#23 – CB – Bernard Blake – 6’0/185

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

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

Amari Cooper – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct 262014
 
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Perry Fewell, New York Giants (January 8, 2012)

Perry Fewell – © USA TODAY Sports Images

The Outsider’s Report: Special Defensive Pressure Package Edition

By BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Daniel in MI

The warden finally allowed us to watch the tape of the Giants-Cowboys game now that we have been released from the Hole. (Editor’s Note: When your job is in the prison cafeteria, people need to be specific when they ask for a tossed salad. ‘Nuff said.) The Outsider Report (TOSR) staff carefully examined the tape, and then asked to be put back in the Hole. That request denied, we decided to write up our report. As always, although we lack any contacts, inside information, derrière millinery, or media passes, we nevertheless bring you the truth beyond the facts. Although much of what we write is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over pedestrian media in two important ways: 1) it’s free; and 2) we use only the most effervescent fonts.

In our view, the key to this game was the inability of the Giants to get any pass rush. Some observers astutely note that when you give quarterbacks 8-10 minutes in the pocket, they tend to find open WRs. It seemed like no matter what the Giants did, there was little pass rush. This was especially true in the second half when Dallas QB Tony Romo had exactly zero incomplete passes. (This, sadly, negated the usual Giants second half D motto, “It could have been worse!”)

So, it was gratifying for TOSR sources to learn that the league this week launched an investigation into the whereabouts of the Giants LBs and what happens to them when they rush the passer. At a press conference held by Rodger Goodell he said,

It has come to my attention that during games, defensive players for the New York Football Giants seem to be disappearing from the field of play. Our film analysis shows that this is taking place on plays in which Linebackers rush the passer. They leave the defensive backfield toward the opposing Quarterback and then… just, well, vanish. It has happened game after game. Fans have asked us to look into it, and we are responding. We have used the chips embedded in their pads this year to try and track them with telemetry, but the signals just go blank. It’s as if they enter the Bermuda Triangle on the field. Then after the pass is complete, the data begin again as the player appears jogging to the new line of scrimmage, typically 8 or more yards downfield.

To try and learn more, we asked Giants LB Jacquian Williams some incisive questions:

TOSR: What kind of name is Jacquian?

JW: What? I don’t know, it’s just what my parents named me. I thought you wanted to talk about pass rush?

TOSR: Ok, ok. What do you experience when you rush the passer?

JW: It’s very spooky. I begin to rush. I see an offensive player, usually a lineman or back, and then, it all just kind of goes blank. There’s flashes of light, I see sky sometimes, or turf, I hear weird grunting noises. Then, nothing. The play is over and they’ve made another first down. I can’t really remember anything that happened.

TOSR: And, do you think you’ve been abducted? Do you get anal probed at any point?

JW: What?

TOSR: Nothing, never mind. Do you see a QB at any point during this process?

JW: I thought I saw one once. I can’t be sure. It was blurry.

TOSR: Can you show me on this doll where they blocked you?

JW: Here and here. And, sometimes, …here.

TOSR: So, shoulders, chest, and sometimes legs?

JW: I think so. I like I said, it’s all sort of a blur. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.

TOSR: And, do you ever try and avoid these blocks? How do we know you’re really trying to get to the QB?

JW: What are you saying? That I’m ‘asking for it’ by the way I rush? That it didn’t really happen? Look, I don’t know what happens out there! It’s not my fault. IT’S NOT MY FAULT!

TOSR: Just one more question. Seriously, what kind of name is Jacquian? Do we pronounce the “i” or…

JW: I’m outta here.

Looking to go more in depth, we caught up with Giants DC Perry Fewell to ask him more about this mystery. We asked him whether he had any insight into the disappearance of his pass rushing LBs. “We had veteran players. We run a sophisticated pass rush scheme. You have to take into account and communicate a lot out there — the down, distance, game clock, opponent tendencies, the QB, the personnel package, the field conditions, the strong side of the formation, wind speed, barometric pressure, biorhythms, astrological charts, whether there’s an ebb tide, polling results, electrical resistance, shear stress, the partial pressure of nitrogen, hydrostatic pressure, ovulation, market fluctuation, centripetal force, and charmed quarks.” We suggested that it seemed complex. He responded, “It is! It’s much harder than rocket science, it’s football. But, as a coach you simplify it for the players to help them understand. I have boiled it all down to easy to understand three point schemes for pass and run pressures.”

To validate this information, I got my hacker roommate who is part of the mysterious group known only as Anonymous — but whose name is Ed Tergarian, and he lives in his mom’s basement in West Caldwell — to hack Coach Fewell’s computer, and steal a copy of the defensive playbook. (Editor’s note: “password123” is not a secure password, Perry) In a TOSR exclusive, here for the first time is the Giants LB blitz package reproduced in its entirety. We ask you to PLEASE do not share this information for obvious reasons, to avoid giving away our strategies. Once this is published, our sources will leave for Russia like that NSA leaker guy. (Although, in this case, it’s just to pick up the mail-order bride. Welcome, Anastasia!)

NY Football Giants Pressure Packages for SAM, MIKE, and WILL

Passing Pressure Package: Three-Step Plan
A) Directly engage opposing blockers
B) ???
C) Really big sacks!

Run Blitz: Three-Step Plan
A) Synergy
B) Think Outside the Box
C) Empowerment!

That’s it. That’s the whole damn thing. Well, he definitely boiled it down. I see why they disappear now. I want to disappear now, too.

Tune in next week when we examine the Giants run blocking scheme. Spoiler alert: “Just kinda get in the way of someone if you can” could be in there! Until then, thank goodness it’s a bye week so we can pretend we’re fans of a functional football team. “They just look like the Broncos, but really that was the Giants. See? Manning is the QB.”

Sep 302014
 
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Todd Gurley, Georgia Bulldogs (September 27, 2014)

Todd Gurley – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft: Quarter-Point Thoughts

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

What have we learned so far… Truth is we may not have actually learned a whole lot through the New York Giants first four games of the year. We did learn that the weeks after wins are a whole lot more fun than the weeks after losses.  We also learned that if the Giants are plus multiple turnovers (Houston, Washington) they probably win, but if they are a net minus multiple turnovers (Detroit, Arizona) they most likely lose.  Now the test for the Giants will be can win their share of games where there is no real difference in the turnovers.

And it is going to be a test because there are no gimmies over the next 7-8 weeks on the Giants’ schedule. However, with a offense that appears to be getting into sync – although they’d probably still like to see a few more big plays – and a defense that has guys who can rush the passer and other guys that can cover – although they’ll likely be having to paper over weaknesses at both linebacker and safety – the Giants figure to be reasonably competitive the rest of the way, again assuming they don’t end up -2 or more too many weeks in turnovers. At the same time, they may have just a few too many deficiencies (see above), not to mention the SOS difficulty, to win more than 9-10 games.

As such we are kind of thinking the Giants currently look like a team that will end up with a mid-round pick at the 2015 NFL Draft – say somewhere between 14 and 18 – although that’s why they actually play the games. We also note the qualifiers that (a) team needs can change quite literally from week to week, and (b) that the ultimate quality of the upcoming draft is still to be determined based on a number of factors including how many underclassmen opt to turn pro this winter. However, the draft is a process and to paraphrase “we are where we are!”

For starters, it certainly appears that much of the doom and gloom about Eli, the TEs and the offensive line – not that some of it wasn’t warranted at the time – may have been somewhat overblown hysteria. Certainly, the emergence of Larry Donnell as a legitimate receiving threat – for the record, he’s on pace to catch over 100 passes this season – has arguably been the best storyline for the Giants so far this season. If nothing else, should the emergence of Donnell continue the rest of the season, it will almost certainly take TE off the board for the Giants early at the 2015 Draft, although it is still possible the team could address the position in later rounds this coming May.

There is something of a similar story along the offensive line. Indeed, heading into the season it appeared that the Giants #1 priority heading into the 2015 off-season would be to figure out to do at LT with incumbent starter Will Beatty continuing to struggle through the pre-season. However, after a somewhat rocky start in the season opener against Detroit, Beatty has been pitching shutouts. And breaking down the game tape suggests that there are indeed some things Beatty appears to be doing differently of late. For starters, Beatty appears to be getting off the snap much more crisply that he did last year and in the pre-season. In particular, Beatty had been tending to just stand up off the snap before moving toward his assignment, whereas this year he‘s coming off the snap much lower and more assertively toward the point of attack. Beatty also appears to be taking somewhat better angles in the pocket. In the past, for example, Beatty has tended to drift out toward the DE when the latter takes a wide route, which in effect shortened the distance the DE had to go to get around him; this year, though, Beatty has been staying tighter to the pocket and has been letting the DE come to him. It also appears that Beatty has simply been battling harder his year. Against Washington, for example, he had his knees buckled on 2-3 occasions, but he still managed to throw his body between the rusher and the QB and disrupt the rush.

At the same time, though, Beatty still displays some really labored footwork, especially when back-peddling. Indeed, Beatty’s feet look like a couple of pistons when he’s moving in reverse; in particular, there’s just way too much up and down movement in his footwork which tends to limit his lateral range. And because he lifts his feet so far off the ground when back-peddling, Beatty struggles to maintain his balance when he has to absorb contact from a defensive linemen when one of his feet is off the ground. Meanwhile, anyone who wants to see how its supposed to be done only needs to look down the line at RT Justin Pugh who has a smooth, easy slide step and really does kind of glide around the pocket without a whole lot of wasted motion.

What it all may mean is that OT may not be quite the priority at the 2015 draft that it appeared to be at the start of the season. While he’s far from the most polished guy at the position, Beatty likely won’t be going anywhere – at least in the short term – this off-season, and even if the Giants did decide that #65 wasn’t worth the cap figure, it appears that Pugh is likely the LT in waiting. That doesn’t mean the Giants won’t address the position at the 2015 draft, it just may mean that it may be more a RT/depth type player rather than a pure LT with a premium pick. And that may be a good thing because the 2015 OT draft class hasn’t developed as well had been expected. Its still likely that the top LT prospects like Ogbuehi, Scherff and Peat will be off the board by the middle of the opening round, but there is something of a drop-off to the next level. And that may have the Giants looking at RT prospects like Corey Robinson of South Carolina, Oklahoma‘s Tyrus Thompson or Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State in the 3rd or 4th rounds. (And for anyone actually checking out Robinson, #50 next to him is A.J. Cann, arguably the best OG prospect in this year’s draft, who’d bring a little of that old Chris Snee intensity to the unit were he still there in the second round, although that’s probably a longshot.)

In fact, assuming that the Giants pick somewhere toward the middle of this year’s opening round, its not clear that there will necessarily be a great match between their needs and the talent available. Of course, the one thing about the draft is that its hardly static and a whole bunch can and likely will change between now and May. Right now, though, it also looks like there won’t be any mid-first round locks at DE to fill the Giants other big need for a quality edge rusher to pair with Jason Pierre-Paul. Again the elite DE prospects like Leonard Williams and Randy Gregory look like they will be long gone by the time the Giants get on the clock, and while the second tier group has some talent including guys like Mario Edwards of Florida State, Florida’s Dante Fowler or Shilique Calhoun of Michigan State there are no locks at the position outside the top 2-3 guys and the team might be just as well served looking at one of several underrated emerging prospects at the position rising like BYU junior or Alvin Dupree of Kentucky.

Of course, its almost impossible to project what other general goals a team like the Giants might have entering an off-season that is still months away. However, it would not be a surprise at all here if the Giants head into 2015 looking to upgrade both the speed and athleticism in the back seven, especially at WLB and at safety, on defense, as well as continue to add impact players on offense. Unfortunately, for a team like the Giants, it does not look like 2015 is going to be a very good year at all at either safety or linebacker. Alabama’s Landen Collins is a potential top ten pick at safety, but he’s another player likely to be off the board when the Giants make their opening round pick and there is a real drop-off at the position after that, although a team could get lucky  in the 3rd round with someone like Derron Smith of Fresno State, Ole Miss’ Cody Prewitt, Kurt Drummond of Michigan State or Syracuse junior Durrell Eskridge. Meanwhile, there’s a better than even chance no LB will be chosen at all in this year’s opening round, although Washington WLB Shaq Thompson and Miami ILB Denzel Perryman look to be good value in the middle of the second round.

On the other hand, the 2015 Draft looks like it will be very deep at the offensive skill positions. Indeed, WR is quietly emerging as the deepest position in this year’s draft. And while the Giants did select Odell Beckham with their #1 pick this past May, they are hardly set at the position behind Beckham and Cruz. In fact, if there is a player who could be described as a perfect fit for the Giants’ offensive scheme it could very well be Stanford WR Ty Montgomery, a bigger (6-1, 215), faster version of what the Giants had hoped they’d get in Jerrel Jernigan. For the record, Montgomery has already scored receiving, rushing and return TDs this fall, after catching 61 passes in 2013 when he also was #2 in the country in KO returns with an average of over 30 yards per pop. Like last ear, though, the 2015 draft looks like it will be rich with receivers such that teams should be able to get players who can contribute right through the second day and into the 4th round.

Meanwhile, the $64K question for the Giants at the 2015 draft just might be whether they pull the trigger if Georgia RB Todd Gurley were still available when they make their opening round pick. For those that don’t follow college football, Gurley is being described as the best player in all of college football this fall with AP type ability (as a football player not a parent!). Its possible, however, that he slips out of the top 10 because of the position he plays. You’d have to figure, though, that while Rashad Jennings has been solid enough this year, new OC Ben McAdoo would just love to get his hands on a big back like Gurley who can break tackles in the open field and really put pressure on opposing defenses to really have to think about devoting extra resources to stopping the Giants running game, in the process hopefully opening things up even more for the passing attack. And while ending up with a stud like Gurley is probably still something of a longshot, we’d still expect the Giants to look to add another back with a premium pick next year from a draft that like the situation at WR. is exceptionally deep at the position.

Aug 282014
 
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Brandon Scherff, Iowa State Hawkeyes (January 1, 2014)

Brandon Scherff – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Early New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview

By Colin Lindsay (Great Blue North Draft Report)

The college football season kicks off this weekend, and while it is way to soon – like by about 5-6 months – for people to start saying ’this is THE guy I want for the Giants in 2015,’ it is never too early to start watching the top prospects for the upcoming draft. And while there is still much sorting out to be done before next spring‘s draft, the early signs are that the strengths of the 2015 draft could match up reasonably well with the primary needs the Giants are likely to be trying to fill this coming off-season.

Offensive Line

For starters, it certainly appears that it could be yet another banner at OT, which could be good news for the Giants if LT Will Beatty continues to struggle this fall and the Giants feel they need to go in another direction at the position. Indeed, there are as many as 4-5 potential top-10 left tackles, including Cedric Ogbuehi of Texas A&M, Cameron Erving of Florida State, Iowa’s Brandon Scherff and La’el Collins of LSU. All four had expected to enter the 2014 draft where each was projected to be at least a first-round prospect, but they ultimately opted to return to class for one more year. Ogbuehi, for example, is a better overall athlete than former teammate Jake Matthews, the 6th player picked this past May, while the Hawkeyes’ Scherff is a little ragged around the edges, but he’s a huge guy with freakish strength and athleticism. Meanwhile LSU’s Collins is a rugged run blocker who could ultimately play inside at the next level, but he also has the long arms, light feet and surprising agility of a prototype left tackle. FSU’s Erving, who has played only one year at LT after converting from DT, may have the most upside of the bunch. In the end, though, the top OT prospect this year may end up being Stanford junior Andrus Peat, who hasn’t received as much national ink to date, but who has remarkable size and strength, along with excellent agility and a nasty disposition.

The bad news part of the OT story for the Giants, if in fact they head into the 2015 draft in search of an elite pass-blocker OT to pair with Justin Pugh, is that all the best ones could come off the board early and there is something of a drop-off to the next level at the position. However, there are several second-tier OTs this year who will be worth a look on the second day including 6-7, 350-pound Corey Robinson of South Carolina, along with Sean Hickey of Syracuse, Cincinnati’s Eric Lefeld, Daryl Williams and Tyrus Thompson of Oklahoma, Rob Havenstein of Wisconsin, Oregon’s Jake Fisher and unheralded Ty Sambrailo of Colorado State, who could just be the best prospect in the country nobody has heard of! And the depth at OT this year could be augmented if any of a small army of good, solid, although not yet elite, junior OT prospects enter the draft, including Spencer Drango of Baylor, D.J. Humpries of Florida, Le’Raven Clark of Texas Tech, Brandon Shell of South Carolina, Donovan Smith of Penn State, Miami’s Ereck Flowers, Jason Spriggs of Indiana, Taylor Decker of Ohio State, Tyler Marz of Wisconsin and Georgia’s John Theus.

Needless to say, the Giants also still have issues at OG, although they are probably less likely to use an early pick on the position than say at OT. Which is probably just as well as it does not look like there will be many, if any, OGs who are locks to be opening round picks next spring anyway, although Tre Jackson of Florida State and South Carolina’s A.J. Cann could be close. Jackson is a wide-body road-grader who is a dominating drive blocker with some short-area quickness, but isn‘t necessarily a great athlete, while Cann isn’t as big or physical, but is a better athlete and more polished technician. Meanwhile, there are some solid later second-day candidates at the position including Jackson’s FSU teammate Josue Matias and Alabama’s Arie Kouandjio, the brother of Cyrus Kouandjio who was considered to be a near-elite OT prospect last year, before a balky knee bumped him into the second round where he was selected by Buffalo. That second-day second-tier group could also get a boost if junior OGs Vadal Alexander of LSU and/or Landen Turner of North Carolina opt to enter the 2015 draft. However, even without much input from the underclassmen, there is some impressive depth at OG including the Miami’s Jon Feliciano, former teammate Malcolm Bunche who‘ll line up with UCLA this fall, 345-pound Quinton Spain of West Virginia, underrated Laken Tomlinson of Duke, John Miller of Louisville and Notre Dame’s Christian Lombard among others. Bottom line is that there could be potentially useful options at OG come next April/May well into the third day of the draft.

Defensive End

The Giants could also very well head to the 2015 draft looking to upgrade at DE if (1) Jason Pierre-Paul does not have a bounce back year this fall and/or (2) nobody really emerges to replace Justin Tuck on the other side. And like the situation at OT, defensive end looks like it will be one of the real strengths at the upcoming draft, although a lot will be depend on how many of this year’s top underclassmen ultimately opt to turn pro this winter. There are, for example, at least three junior DEs – Shilique Calhoun of Michigan State, Southern Cal’s Leonard Williams and Randy Gregory of Nebraska – with the top 5-10 potential, although they are very different players. USC’s Williams, for example, at 6-5, 295, is built more like a DT – and could ultimately play there in the NFL – but for now looks like a prototype 5-technique 3-4 DE in the J.J. Watt mold. The Huskers’ Gregory is a long, lean edge rusher who needs to add some bulk to better play the run – and at 6-6 has the frame to do so – but who has freakish athleticism and may have the most upside of the trio. Meanwhile, Calhoun won’t blow away anyone with his measurables, but he’s strong, quick, and relentless coming off the edge.

There is also some really intriguing potential depth at DE in this year’s draft class. Florida State’s Mario Edwards, for example, could ultimately challenge USC’s Williams for the top-grade among 5-technique DEs, while juniors Dante Fowler of Florida and Ohio State’s Noah Spence and Trey Flowers of Arkansas are solid second-day types. So is 6-8 Baylor junior Shawn Oakman, the former Penn State transfer who is still learning the game, but who has a really unique size/speed combination. However, no DE is likely to draw as much attention through the pre-draft process as former TCU redshirt sophomore DeVonte Fields, who won’t play at all this fall. Fields looked all of the part of an emerging pass-rushing star as a true freshman two years, but played little last fall because of a foot injury and then got suspended this year when he allegedly threatened an ex-girlfriend. Meanwhile, other solid DEs to watch include James Rouse of Marshall, Ray Drew of Georgia, Jermauria Rasco of LSU and Nate Orchard of Utah, while other juniors that could have an early impact at the upcoming draft include Danielle Hunter of LSU, Charles Tapper of Oklahoma, Eli Harold of Virginia, BYU‘s Bronson Kaufusi and Missouri’s Shane Ray.

Tight End

It is hard to imagine that the Giants won’t want to do something at TE this coming off season. (In fact its hard to imagine that the Giants wouldn’t really like to do something at the position this week!) Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t appear that 2015 will be a banner year at the position. Florida State’s Nick O’Leary, for example, is currently the only tight end even remotely close to carrying a first-round grade and even he’s no lock to be taken all that early. O’Leary, the grandson of legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus, is something of a throwback type in that he’s a willing blocker with nice hands and that 6th sense to get open. But he isn’t all that big at around 6-3, 240, and he lacks the explosive speed and athleticism to be a true field-stretching receiving threat. Plus, there are going to be health concerns after O’Leary was involved in a second serious motorcycle accident this past spring. Meanwhile, Ben Koyack of Notre Dame and Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman are both solid two-way TE prospects with prototype size and decent athleticism, although neither has been all that consistently productive to date in their college careers. Moreover, neither brings the skill set that the Giants are now looking for at the position. And there is another drop-off to the next level of TEs which includes pass-receiving specialists like Rutgers junior Tyler Kraft, unheralded Wes Saxton of South Alabama, Rory Anderson of South Carolina, MyCole Pruitt of FCS Southern Illinois, Clive Walford of Miami and Gerald Christian of Louisville. E.J. Bibbs of Iowa State and USC’s Randall Telfer are the next best two-way type TEs.

Quarterback

For the record, the other real strong position at the 2015 draft will be QB with as many another 4-5 possible top-10 candidates including juniors Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Brett Hundley of UCLA, and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan leading the way, along with Florida State redshirt sophomore Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, and senior Bryce Petty of Baylor. Let’s hope the Giants aren’t interested as it would mean Eli had another bad year, but throw 27 picks again and all best just might be off. Just saying …

The Rest

Meanwhile, other positions that appear that they could be relatively strong in 2015 include running back with Todd Gurley of Georgia, Wisconsin’s Mel Gordon and T.J. Yeldon of Alabama leading the way. Safety could also be something of a strength with a deep class headed by juniors Landen Collins of Alabama and LSU’s Jalen Mills, as well as underrated Derron Smith of Fresno State. There is also some real talent at outside linebacker, although many of the top guys there including Vic Beasley of Clemson and rising star Benardrick McKinney of Mississippi State are more 3-4 edge rushers. Juniors Shaq Thompson of Washington and Oklahoma‘s Eric Striker, though, do have more than a little Ryan Shazier-type speed and explosion. There should also be a relatively strong middle linebacker group, although the top guys – including Denzel Perryman of Miami, UCLA‘s Eric Kendricks, Ramik Wilson of Georgia and A.J. Johnson of Tennessee – all look more like second-day types.

On the other hand, it may be a down year at wide receiver, cornerback and defensive tackle, although there will certainly be some good players at those positions this year. The top wide receivers, for example, should include juniors Amari Cooper of Alabama, Nelson Agholor of USC, Jaelen Strong of Arizona State and Maryland’s Stefon Diggs, along with seniors Rashad Greene of Florida State, Davante Parker of Louisville (if healthy), Antwan Goodley of Baylor and Stanford’s Ty Montgomery. Meanwhile, Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a potential top-10 cornerback, although he’s not overly long at just 5-9, while Florida State junior P.J. Williams also has mid-to-late first round potential. At the same time, Michael Bennett of Ohio State, appears to be the consensus #1 defensive tackle prospect this year, although he’s still not considered to be more of an early-to-mid second round prospect as he is somewhat undersized at barely 290 pounds and has limited upside. Indeed, if any defensive tackles are likely to have an opening round breakthrough this coming spring, it may come from one or more of a solid second-tier group at the position including rising juniors Ellis McCarthy of UCLA (an imposing 6-5 330-pound specimen), Arik Armstead of Oregon (who at 6-8 is also physically imposing), Rice’s Christian Covington, and Malcolm Brown of Texas, along with seniors Carl Davis of Iowa, 335-pound Washington, NT Danny Shelton and underrated Tyeler Davison of Fresno State. As of now, though, each of these guys rates as more a second or third rounder. If there is a positive angle to the 2015 DT picture, though, its that it is a pretty deep class, such that there could very well be some potentially useful prospects at the position well into the third day of selections.

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.