Apr 202015
 
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Stephone Anthony, Clemson Tigers (December 29, 2014)

Stephone Anthony – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Linebackers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*Below are my published, abbreviated reports via Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC

**A note about Pro Upside Comparisons: These are comparisons that are based on the player reaching his ceiling. It does not necessarily mean I believe the player will “be as good as”.

CURRENT LBs on NYG ROSTER

Jon Beason – 30 Years old – Signed through 2016

Jameel McClain – 30 Years old – Signed through 2015

Devon Kennard – 24 Years old – Signed through 2017

JT Thomas – 27 Years old – Signed through 2017

Jonathan Casillas – 28 Years old – Signed through 2017

Mark Herzlich – 28 Years old – Signed through 2016

Terrell Manning – 25 Years old – Signed through 2015

James Davidson – 25 Years old – Signed through 2015

Uani Unga – 28 Years old – Signed through 2017

Victor Butler – 28 Years old – Signed through 2015

Ryan Jones – 24 Years old – Signed through 2015

WHERE THEY STAND

For years I have been calling for more talent at the linebacker positions via the draft. There is the argument that it is a group simply not needed for 4-3 defensive success but I have always strongly disagreed. The impact that three powerful, fast, and versatile linebackers can have on a defense is huge. This is a group that lacks star power but there are plenty of guys that can fill roles. Beason and McClain are now in their 30s with lateral movement issues, but they can more-than-get-by with their instincts and quick reactions. They are the vocal leaders of this defense. Kennard had the brightest upside of this group, showing inside/outside versatility and the talent to be an impact defender. Thomas and Casillas are both athletic linebackers that will bring an overly aggressive nature to this group, something they have lacked over the years. At the very least both of them will have a strong impact on special teams. Herzlich and Manning are easily replaceable and they will have to work hard to fend off younger, more athletic version of themselves throughout the preseason. The rest of the names up there are training camp bodies, although I had a high grade on Unga when he came out of BYU. I’d like to see what he can bring to the table in this defense.

TOP 20 GRADES and ANALYSIS

1 – Stephone Anthony – Clemson – 6’3/243 – 83

Upside Pro Comparison: Derrick Johnson/KC

Strong Points: Quick thinker and mover within the tackle box. Diagnoses the running lanes and takes the right angle towards the action to miss the meat of a block. Fast transition from shuffle to explosion downhill. Very agile and can play fast with easy bending. Closes the gap in front of him fast. Hard tackler with mechanics and consistent results. Very aware of the action around him. Shows a lot of necessary tools to defend the inside run. Good blitzing linebacker from all angles. Can wiggle his way through the line and reach the passer consistently.

Weak Points: Becomes less and less effective the more he moves away from the point of attack. Struggles to change direction in space. Can be outraced to the sideline by faster rushing attacks. The instincts in coverage do not match what he can diagnose against the run. Will play high at times, exposing too much of his chest to the blockers.

Summary: 1st Team All ACC defender that builds his game off of awareness, strength, and tackling ability. Anthony is a quality inside run defender with quick, powerful downhill ability. While he is athletic enough to play in the NFL, he may not be considered a 3 down linebacker. This brand of NFL defense has taken a slight step backward but he can still carve a nice niche for himself at the next level. Smart defenders with strength, power, and downhill ability will always be in demand. Probable starter for most schemes but he needs to use his athleticism in coverage more to be considered a great three down linebacker.

*I saw Anthony twice in September and both times I came away with a negative impression. I penciled in a 3rd round grade and went on from there. As the season progressed I kept on hearing his name from some people I really respect and I was convinced to take a look at some of his games from the second half of the season. With those in mind and what I saw during the pre-draft process, Anthony cemented himself as the top linebacker grade I’ve given out in 3 years. He is a guy that could likely start at MIKE or WILL in the Spags scheme from day one. He isn’t an elite cover guy but he can evolve in to a better one considering his top tier athletic ability. I’m not sure I could spend a top 10 pick on a guy like this, but he will be in my top 12 overall. He’d be a great 2nd rounder.

2 – Eric Kendricks – UCLA – 6’0/232 – 82

Upside Pro Comparison: Lavonte David/TB

Strong Points: Ultra productive and reliable tackling machine. Has a nose for the ball. Quick thinker, sees the offense well and has a natural flow towards the action. Can fight his way under blocks. Quick and light feet but maintains a power presence. Good lateral pursuit to reach the sidelines. Aggressive and strong on the move, can deliver a violent pop no matter where he is on the field. Will drive his body through the ball carrier and consistently get them to the ground. Efficient mover in coverage. Rarely gets caught out of position or moving in the wrong direction. Can turn his hips and stick with receivers up the seam. Can reach proper depth when dropping in to coverage.

Weak Points: Lacks the ideal size from a between-the-tackles linebacker. Light in the pants and doesn’t have a long reach. Average movement in pursuit. May not have the speed-based range to play all over the field. Won’t take blocks and anchor his position.

Summary: Butkus Award winner. Nation’s leader in solo tackles in 2014 and 2012. Two time team captain and has won a couple leadership awards. Kendricks lacks the ideal tool set that coaches look to use in the NFL. He is slightly undersized and lacks the top tier speed and strength. All he does is produce, however. He reads the action as good as any player in the nation is consistently in a position to make plays. He is a reliable, heady player that will direct traffic and quarterback the entire defense. His knack for locating the ball and taking down whoever is carrying it will get him on the field. His size may limit him to the weak side but he will be as reliable as it gets.

*Superstar linebacker? I don’t think so. But Kendricks is going to be a very solid player in the NFL and I have no doubt about it. He is a really safe pick. He lacks a couple of ideal size aspects but he is as smart as it gets and doesn’t miss tackles. Down the road I think he can be a MIKE but I think he could be a 100+ tackle WILL right away. He would fit this defense right now as well as any linebacker in the class. Spending a 2nd rounder on him would be a solid value.

3 – Denzel Perryman – Miami – 5’11/236 – 80

Upside Pro Comparison: Jon Beason/NYG

Strong Points: Thick, country strong linebacker that can drive himself through a ball carrier with consistency. Angry tackler with a power presence. Quick mover and an even quicker thinker. Brings a lot of force to every hit he makes. Can react to the action right after the snap and get himself in to position. Makes himself small to blockers and will sneak his way to the action. Low center of gravity. Great body control and balance. Explosive when moving downhill. Head is always on a swivel. Able to diagnose plays based on what is going on around him.

Weak Points: Lateral range is average. Struggles against the faster offenses to reach the sidelines. The further in space he gets, the lesser of an athlete he looks like. Won’t get off blocks fast enough. Looks overwhelmed when linemen have a free path to him. Gets lost in the traffic. Will have a hard time seeing through and/or over blockers. Size and speed may be a limiting factor at the next level.

Summary: 3rd Team All American and Finalist for the Butkus Award. Has been the leading or second leading tackler for Miami all four years of his career. Equally productive as an outside or middle linebacker. Perryman is an instinctual mover that is almost always in position to make a play against the run. He is an elite tackler that combines form and power. Leader of the defense with a lot of responsibility directing traffic around him. There are holes in his game that mainly come from a lack of size and speed but he is a true gamer that will find a way to make an impact each week. Future starter in the NFL at almost any linebacker position other than the 3-4 OLB spot.

*There are some people that hate Perryman and some that love him. I’ll be very interested to see where he goes draft weekend, as I have him graded as a 1st rounder but I’ve heard as low as round 4 from people with connections to teams. Perryman would be an ideal WILL in the Spags scheme from a run defending perspective. Yes, he may need to be taken off the field on passing downs but you know what? You need to get to third down. If you can’t stop the run, you won’t make it to 3rd down. Perryman is a bigger asset against the run and short passing game than he is a liability against the intermediate and long passing game. He is worth NYG’s 2nd rounder for sure.

4 – Bernardrick McKinney – Mississippi State – 6’4/246 – 79

Upside Pro Comparison: Emmanuel Lamur/CIN

Strong Points: Athletically gifted and tools-rich. Versatile athlete that lines all up all over the field, capable of wearing different hats. Explosive and fast athlete in space. Can turn speed in to power quickly. Functionally strong in short areas, can deliver a violent pop to blockers and ball carriers. Incredible wingspan and reach as a tackler. Wraps up and swallows his target after powerful initial contact. Effective blitzer. Can get off blockers using different ways to shake free. Bends well and can play a low pad level game. Strong hands to grip and rip off a blocker. Effective in coverage with loose hips and quick acceleration. Has the speed to hang with receivers in space.

Weak Points: Better athlete than he is a football player. Lacks the quick reactions and plays a lot of catch up. Delayed reads when in traffic. Doesn’t keep his head on a swivel and will be tricked by play action and counters. Takes too many false steps. Doesn’t get himself in position to make plays against the inside run consistently. Struggles to anchor his position via strong presence from his base.

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. All American. Top tier athlete for the position that gradually improved his overall level of play throughout the 2014 season. Was also an accomplished high school quarterback and basketball player. McKinney is one of the most explosive 250 pound athletes in the nation. He is an easy mover that creates a tremendous amount of force in short areas. His physical gifts outweigh his skill set at the moment, but he is steadily improving the nuances and reading ability of the linebacker position. His upside and potential are among the best in this draft class.

*When a prospect is a better athlete than what he shows on tape, I’m always worried. McKinney has all the size you can ask for and he is as explosive as some of the top wide receivers in this draft class. The issues is he doesn’t always display that kind of ability on tape but even his biggest opposers have to admit the light started to come on for him in 2014. He showed enough to me to warrant a high 2nd round grade because of where I think he will be in another year or two. McKinney is a similar talent to Kennard but I think there is a higher upside with him. If he continues to mentally and physically develop, he could be a star in the NFL. But I would project a potential “bust” with him more so than anyone on this list. Huge risk/reward.

5 – Shaq Thompson – Washington – 6’0/228 – 78

Upside Pro Comparison: DeAndre Levy/DET

Strong Points: Explosive, all over the field type athlete. Easy mover in space, has defensive back-caliber hips and footwork in coverage. Closes a ten yard gap as fast as any defender in the nation. Aggressive downhill tackler, will meet the ball carrier at the point of attack and stifle him with a strong initial pop. Hits hard with or without a running start, shows enough quick twitch power to handle between the tackles duty. Easily reaches the edge and tackles well on the move to the outside. Diagnoses quickly and reacts to the action without hesitation. High football IQ, aware of his positioning and where he needs to be. Has a knack for the big play.

Weak Points: Gets lost in traffic and overwhelmed by the bigger blockers. Will over pursue and create cutback lanes for ball carries. Chooses to run around the action rather than filling lanes. Struggles to consistently follow assignment football. Doesn’t wrap up consistently, needs to show more discipline with wrapping up. Needs more strength and size to handle a head on blocker.

Summary: Junior entry. First Team All American. Scored four touchdowns as a defender in 2014. Also played running back, finishing the year with 61 carries (7.48 avg) and 2 touchdowns. Versatile athlete that can fit in to several roles on defense. Former safety five start high school recruit. The speed and explosive athletic ability are elite. Thompson has developed the power and strength elements of his game, giving him the all around skill set to play every down in the NFL. He has sideline to sideline range and can even cover wide receivers in space. If he can continue to physically develop, Thompson has All-Pro potential at the next level.

*Interesting prospect here. Watching highlights of him and it’s hard not to dream of what he could do for the NYG defense. To get a real feel for who he is though, you need to watch 2-3 games in their entirety. Thompson looks overwhelmed for 3-4 plays in a row, then all of the sudden blockers can’t touch him and he’s finishing ball carriers off like Ray Lewis. Thompson is very role-specific and that’s what prevented me from giving him a round 1 grade. However, if a defense can let him do what he does best, he’ll deliver. And you know what? It wouldn’t hurt to have him in the offensive backfield as a short yardage back as well. I think he’ll eventually get in to that role in addition to being a defender. He showed very good RB skills.

6 – Cole Farrand – Maryland – 6’2/231 – 78

Upside Pro Comparison: Kiko Alonso/PHI

Strong Points: Wiry-strong frame with easy bend and mobility. Shows light feet with an explosive lower half. Can change direction with ease and will reach his top speed quickly. Smart player that reads the action. Consistently puts himself in position post-snap to impact the play. Can be slippery to blockers with his combination of bend-ability and quickness. Violent tackler. Delivers a strong jolt to the ball carrier, will snap helmets back. Easy mover in coverage, can flip his hips and react to the passer’s eyes.

Weak Points: Body control isn’t always there. His mind moves faster than his body. Will over-pursue and lose track of backside pursuit responsibilities. Speed to the sidelines is sub-average. Gets too hands-on in coverage. Struggles to break free from blockers that get their hands inside. Gives up too much ground against straight ahead blockers.

Summary: Fourth year senior and three year starter. Led the Terps in tackles two of the past three years. Farrand is an overlooked but fully capable linebacker with the tools, skills, and toughness to be an NFL starter. He is smart and instinctive before and after the snap. He pursues like his hair is on fire and finishes his tackles as if the ball carrier just kicked his puppy. Farrand is a three down player that may lack some top end speed, but has more than enough to factor in any kind of scheme in almost any kind of linebacker role. He will out produce many linebackers that are drafted ahead of him.

*So every year there is a linebacker or two that I am MUCH higher on than everyone else. This year, it’s Farrand. He wasn’t invited to the combine or the Senior Bowl and a lot of people I respect say he may not get drafted. It hasn’t deterred me from having a 2nd round grade on him. Farrand is a fun player to watch, the motor never turns off and he can fly all over the field. I like LBs that are constantly around the action. Farrand is rarely found away from the ball at the end of a play, he is a natural read and react defender. Athletically he has good size and put together a very impressive Pro Day performance. He is a much more athletic and more physical version of what NYG has in Herzlich. He is going to out-produce several guys drafted ahead of him.

7 – Taiwan Jones – Michigan State – 6’3/245 – 77

Upside Pro Comparison: David Harris/NYJ

*Jones is another thumper that could excel as an NFL run defender day one. When looking at his size, he has the natural gifts that NYG usually looks for with long arms and big hands to go along with a thick frame. Jones is as physical as it gets when it comes to taking on blockers at the point of attack and will make plenty of plays in the tackle box. He is likely a MIKE-only and may be best suited in the 3-4 scheme, but he could be a nice option for NYG to have is Beason doesn’t work out due to age and injuries.

8 – Martrell Spaight – Arkansas – 6’0/236 – 76

Upside Pro Comparison: Demeco Ryans/PHI

Strong Points: Fast reaction and great pre-snap reads. Gets himself in to position to make plays consistently. Minimal false steps, almost always moving in the right direction. Sure mover that can generate speed and power. Does not get fooled by counters or play action. Gets proper depth in coverage. Keeps his head on a swivel and will read the routes and quarterback simultaneously. Sneaks by blockers and has a nose for the ball. Good tackler, wraps up with good technique and good power. Effective blitzer, times it well and explodes out of his two point stance. Can use his hands and feet to get off blocks. Aggressive and sure minded.

Weak Points: Undersized for playing between the tackles as much as he does. Light in the pants. Doesn’t have staying power against blockers. Can be ridden out of a play if he doesn’t get the initial positional advantage after the snap. Limited athlete when pursuing to the outside, may not have that lateral range to reach the sidelines. Limited starting experience at the Division I level.

Summary: 2014 SEC leader in tackles. Former JUCO All American that has only one season of starting experience at the Division I level. Broke out in a big way in 2014. Spaight forced his way on to the national radar with a consistently productive season. He is one of the smartest pre and post snap defenders in the nation. He is constantly moving in the right direction and he knows how to locate the football and finish. He is not an elite mover and there are athleticism deficiencies, but players like this find a way on to the field and produce when given the opportunity. He may never be elite, but he will be reliable.

*Leading a conference like the SEC in tackles doesn’t weight lightly in my mind. Spaight lacks some of the talent and explosion of some of the top guys in this group, but it’s hard not to really like him after watching a few games. He is as good as it gets when it comes to taking a correct first step and working his way to the action. He is smart and savvy, a perfect general for the middle of any defense. Is he better suited for the 3-4? Sure. But he can hack it as a future MIKE for NYG while possibly bringing something to the table as a WILL right away.

9 – Hayes Pullard – USC – 6’0/240 – 75

Upside Pro Comparison: Manti Te’o/SD

Strong Points: Packs a hue punch, outplays his size. Violent and powerful tackler that will deliver a jolt to the ball carrier. Generates a lot of power within a short space. Attacking, downhill-type defender. Has the speed to reach the sidelines as well. Diagnoses quickly and moves with his eyes. Can get in to position with savvy decision making and quick, last second movement. Can make himself small and wiggle his way through traffic. Will meet blockers at the point of attack with aggression. Reliable tackler in traffic and in space, can make any kind of tackle.

Weak Points: Lacks the ideal size for play between the tackles. Will get overwhelmed and driven out of the play by blockers with a clean shot at him. Doesn’t use his hands to shed blockers, gets locked on to. Stiff in coverage, doesn’t turn and change direction with fluidity. Needs a lot of recovery time as a pass defender.

Summary: Fifth year senior, started all four seasons in the middle or the weak side. Led USC in tackles three of his four seasons. Pullard came to USC with a lot of hype and he performed at a high level through the end of his career there. He may not have the ideal size, but Pullard plays big and can add a violent, aggressive element to an NFL defense right away. He may be restricted to the weak side because of his lack of size and ability to deal with blockers, however. He will need to improve his performance against the pass if he wants to be more than a two down linebacker at the next level. At the very least, Pullard has the potential to be a star special teamer with the potential to be a solid contributor on defense as an athletic, rangy run defender.

*Pullard may have never reached his superstar status that many thought he would, but he is still a very good LB prospect. He can fit in to any scheme and will likely be able to play all three downs if need be. Pullard lacks explosion but he is quick at the point of attack and he knows how to finish. Very reliable tackler and he’ll make more plays than you think. Special teams demon and probably starter within a year or two at WILL or MIKE.

10 – Jake Ryan – Michigan – 6’2/240 – 75

Upside Pro Comparison: Chad Greenway/MIN

Strong Points: Sound technician. Quick thinker with consistent flow towards the action. Hard hitter that wraps up while trying to run through the ball carrier. Good back side pursuit. Takes good angles towards the ball and will make plenty of tackles on the other side of the line. Good straight line speed. Comfortable in space. Easy mover in coverage with light feet and loose hips. Productive and effective blitzer.

Weak Points: Gets lost in traffic. Reacts too slowly after diagnosing the blockers. Will play too high and gets locked on to by linemen. Short area quickness and explosion isn’t there. Torn ACL in the Spring of 2013.

Summary: Fifth year senior and two time team captain. Considered to be the leader of the Wolverines defense. Blue collar player. Ryan has played a couple of different positions, proving to be productive no matter where he lined up. He led the team in tackles in both 2012 and 2014 while showing the ability to be a true three down player. He may not have the movement ability and natural nose for the ball to be a starter right away, but he can factor as a quality backup and special teamer.

*A couple years ago Ryan was heading towards an eventual 1st round grade but a torn ACL and lack of speed development later, he’s entering his class with a 3rd round grade on my sheet. He is definitely a serviceable guy that will get a shot at some point, just not sure there is an upside here that you would choose over others guys in the class. He did have a few games in 2014 where he showed flashes of prospect with a higher grade. I like his approach and toughness. You could do much worse than him but he may need a specific role.

11 – Ramik Wilson – Georgia – 6’2/237 – 74

*He ran a 4.77 at the combine but I think Wilson may have the best lateral range from inside of all the LBs in this class. He is a quick accelerator that constantly plays with top tier effort and toughness. He could use more lower body strength but I think he’s a guy that screams Cover 2 defense type roles. He can help a defense looking for more athletic ability.

12 – Kwon Alexander – LSU – 6’1/227 – 73

*Undersized but tougher than everyone he plays against. It is fun to watch a guy weighing under 230 pounds beat the crap out of tackles and guards. Alexander does that but also shows the speed to reach the sidelines and shadow tight ends in coverage. Put him in the right scheme and you may have a Lavonte David type defender.

13 – Paul Dawson – TCU – 6’0/235 – 73

*He was viewed as a 1st rounder by some this past fall. He had a horrific combine and some reports have surfaced that he is a bad teammate and poor practice guy. I downgraded him a few points because of it. As a between the lines player, Dawson is versatile and brings playmaking ability. He isn’t a guy that fits a role though, as he roams too much and can really hurt a defense because of his approach. There is a lack of discipline here that appears on and off the field.

14 – Geneo Grissom – Oklahoma – 6’3/262 – 73

*Has the NFL body already and could handle the physical part of the game week 1 of the season. Some view him as a 3-4 OLB only but I think this could be a hybrid that NYG has been searching for but with enough movement ability to factor in coverage packages as well. He could be a nice SAM here in NY.

15 – Josh Keyes – Boston College – 6’2/230 – 71

*Interesting guy here. If I had to give another name of a guy that I think will out-perform several others that are drafted ahead of him, it’s Keyes. He played an interesting, rush linebacker type role for the BC defense. There were times where looked unblockable against some of his best competition. I think this kid is a gamer and he’s added some needed weight in addition to an impressive pro day performance. If he can show he is more than an undersized rush linebacker, I think he can be a big time defender.

16 – Bryce Hager – Baylor – 6’1/234 – 70

Tackling machine that excelled at moving his way through traffic and locating the ball. He is fast, smart and savvy. He can avoid the meat of blocks and doesn’t need much to produce. He can create on his own with a combination of instincts and quick feet. Special teamer that could produce his way in to a bigger role.

17 – Mike Hull – Penn State – 6’0/237 – 70

*Similar to Hager and Heeney from a read and react point of view but a slightly lesser athlete. Hull can get locked on to and will get overwhelmed more often than I like. But he simply won’t miss tackles and could likely give a team 100+ of them in year one if he started right away. Just not sure I see the upside here.

18 – Ben Heeney – Kansas – 6’0/232 – 68

*Another tackling machine here that raised eyebrows at the combine with probably the best workout among all the LBs. He put up defensive back type results. Heeney can play with that kind of speed and quickness but there are countless examples on tape that he struggles to finish off plays. He missed more tackles than any defender in the country in 2014. He is a special teamer that can backup spots in the NFL, but I think he lacks “it”.

19 – Quinton Alston – Iowa – 6’1/235 – 68

*Between the tackles thumper that has more speed to his game that I initially thought. He can reach the edges and he maintains power on the move. Quality MIKE/WILL blend in the Spags scheme that could add some special teams presence as well.

20 – Jordan Hicks – Texas – 6’1/236 – 68

*One of the most impressive athletes of all these linebackers and he is a guy that started to click mentally in 2014. Someone is going to him enough to spend a day 2 pick on I think. I’m not as high but the upside is higher than most of the guys he is grouped with. I would rather this kind of athlete factor better in coverage than what Hicks showed.

NYG APPROACH

This LB group is stronger and deeper than any of what I’ve been grading over the past 5 years. There are several MIKE-type linebackers that could fill in at WILL and even a few that could play an athletic SAM role. There isn’t a whole lot of demand for LBs in the draft, as it seems really good grades always fall to day three. With the amount of depth in this group, I could see a good amount of day 2 grade being available in rounds 4 through 6. With that in mind, it may be too tempting to keep passing on these guys despite the need at LB not being huge.

There are a lot of LBs on this roster already. One could make the argument that NYG is fully stocked there and bringing in a rookie would force an unnecessary cut. While the need at LB isn’t what I labeled it to be over the past few years, I would gladly bring in anyone of these kids and get Herzlich off the roster. I know he brings special teams presence and backs up multiple positions, but I’m confident a lot of these kids could as well while offering more long term upside. The MIKE is filled by Beason, fine. Kennard will play SAM and possibly roam through different spots depending on the package. But the rest of the names are not far and away better than the top guys on this list. LB is definitely an option on day two. As I said earlier, if NYG can bring in a big time player to the second level of the defense, we could see things change in a way some simply don’t know exists.

Apr 172015
 
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Dante Fowler, Florida Gators (November 15, 2014)

Dante Fowler – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Ends and Edge Rushers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*DISCLAIMER* – I am putting all the edge rushers in this group. If I think the player is a primarily a pass rusher (whether it be OLB or DE) he will be in this group, no matter the size.

*Below are my published, abbreviated reports via Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC

**A note about Pro Upside Comparisons: These are comparisons that are based on the player reaching his ceiling. It does not necessarily mean I believe the player will “be as good as”.

CURRENT DEs on NYG ROSTER

Jason Pierre-Paul – 26 Years old – Signed through 2015

Robert Ayers – 30 Years old – Signed through 2015

Damontre Moore – 23 Years old – Signed through 2016

Kerry Wynn – 24 Years old – Signed through 2016

George Selvie – 28 Years old – Signed through 2015

Jordan Stanton – 24 Years old – Signed through 2016

WHERE THEY STAND

We still have to say this group is a strength of the team no more. Gone are the days of NYG having “too many” quality edge rushers. The pass rush did improve in 2014 from 2013, however and there is reason to hope this can be a quality group if things line up and they all stay healthy. JPP was franchised and is fully capable of being a top 10 DE in the game. His performance against the run goes overlooked, he really is a true three down player. Ayers was arguably the best NYG defender in 2014, showing left/right and inside/outside versatility. When I talk about presence, approach, and attitude, Ayers is a perfect example of what this team needs more of. I think Moore has been under-utilized throughout his young career and his has he potential to be a very disruptive player. He may be a bit of a liability against the run, showing a lack of anchor-type strength but he is a tough guy to block off the edge on passing downs. He needs more snaps. Wynn showed promise in preseason 2014 and finally got a few looks late in the season and produced. Selvie was brought in to rotate with the guys mentioned above. The light has turned on for the tools-rich edge rusher and can easily be a 8-sack guy every year if the snaps are there. Stanton is a training camp body.

TOP 20 GRADES and ANALYSIS

1 – Dante Fowler – Florida – 6’3/261 – 84

Upside Pro Comparison: Cliff Avril/DET

Strong Points: Versatile edge player with the tools and skills to be moved around all over the defense. Has the short area explosion and turns speed in to power on a whim. Bendy and stout at the same time. Can get under the blocker’s pads with force and all of his balance. Has the speed in space to run with backs and receivers. High effort, aggressive nature that plays hard through the whistle. Pursues to the sidelines and shows the functional speed and strength to factor all over the field in any role. Heavy hands and powerful leg drive. Has an array of rush moves that appear natural for him to use.

Weak Points: Technique and mechanics have flaws every time I see him on tape. Inconsistent presence and approach. Struggles to recover after being beat off the ball. Won’t disengage from the more powerful blockers. Timing off the snap isn’t always there. Limited exposure in coverage, may be a downhill-only type player. Light in the pants, needs more weight below his waist.

Summary: Junior entry. All American season in 2014. Won the team’s MVP award in 2014 as well. Turned in to the feature player on this defense once Dominique Easley went down with an injury in 2013. Easley is a disruptor off the edge that played standing up and with his hand in the dirt. Fowler lost over 20 pounds over his three year career with the Gators and it looks like that may one of the main reasons he broke out in a big way this past season. He is a lot more explosive and fluid when he is playing at or below 260 pounds. His best role is at outside linebacker in a 3-4 front where he can be turned loose and blend his short area power and explosion. He will need to improve his approach from a mechanical perspective and he could use more lower body strength, but he is an immediate impact guy on the edge.

*Fowler isn’ the athletic freak that some make him out to be. He really gets by on grit, hustle, and a level of aggression that a lot of players don’t have. His production in college was back and forth because of his constantly-changing role and body. He was 20 pounds heavier at one point, putting his hand in the ground and playing inside gaps at times. In 2014 Fowler found his best role with 20 pounds off his frame and he’s now a top 10, possibly top 5 prospect. He can play DE in a 4-3 but I don’t think it’s his best role. He performs better standing up and he could play a Von Miller/Khalil Mack type role. If he is there at #9 somehow, NYG has to consider him strongly.

2 – Shane Ray – Missouri – 6’3/245 – 84

Upside Pro Comparison: Trent Cole/IND

Strong Points: Explosive pass rusher with the ability to reach the passer several ways. Explosive first step gives him the initial advantage. Turns the corner low and fast. Flexible hips allow him to explode from the lower half with plenty of strength. Violent tackler. Sends a jolt to his target. Can be stunted inside where he is just too quick and agile for the interior blockers. Consistent aggression, motor is always on. Pursues hard and fast, will make plenty of plays away from the line of scrimmage.

Weak Points: Lacks the ideal build for a defensive end. Light in the pants. Does not anchor his position against the run right at him. Will over pursue and create cutback lanes for running backs. Does not recognize the trap blocks, won’t read the offensive line to get himself in position. Ineffective bull rush against his toughest one on one competition.

Summary: Junior entry. Fourth year junior that has played on an incredibly talented defensive line all three years. Has been used as part of a rotation. Broke out in a big way in 2014 with 21 TFL and 12.5 sacks. Ray is ultra-talented from an athleticism perspective. He can beat blockers with straight line speed, change of direction, balance, leverage, and agility. He is a skilled player in addition, showing a variety of pass rush moves and routes to the quarterback. He may lack the ideal size, power, and strength for some schemes but plain and simple, he can reach the quarterback. His intensity and passion for the game should create even more opportunities for him to make plays. He may be somewhat scheme-specific but his impact in the NFL could be Pro-Bowl caliber.

*I’ve been on Ray from the beginning. There are size and strength concerns here and you would be silly to not admit it. He in’t long, He isn’t thick. He doesn’t have a wide frame. What Ray has that others lack however is a level of explosion, speed, and aggression with pads on that others simply do not. Ray is a guy that will fight harder than the player assigned to block him every down of every game. While he struggles to anchor his position against straight ahead power blockers, Ray still has a presence. He delivers violent hits and pops to ball carriers. He can stifle offensive tackles in their tracks. Ray is a passionate player that finds ways to beat his man. Is he a 3 down player right away? Probably not. But the impact he can have on a game is enormous. He is worth the #9 pick.

3 – Owamagbe Odighizuwa – UCLA – 6’3/264 – 82

Upside Pro Comparison: Osi Umenyiora/FA

Strong Points: Gifted tools from frame and athleticism perspectives. Explosive out of his stance. Can get in to a blocker right away and initiate the engagement. Wide array of pass rush moves that seem refined and ready to go at all times. Really quick and powerful hands when using a swim or rip. Easy bender that can cut the corner of the edge with ease. Functionally strong, can turn speed in to power in a blink. Hyper-active athlete, motor is always on. Shows a passion for the game. Good tackler that uses his length to swallow the ball carrier. Defends the run well. Stays under the pads of his blocker to maintain and anchored position. Late and sudden movement to get off the blocks and in position to make the tackle.

Weak Points: Shows the tendency to get locked on to when rushing the passer. Needs to add more generate more power from his base, doesn’t offer much as a bull rusher. Will over pursue and create cutback lanes. Won’t read the action and is often late to react. Missed all of 2013 with a hip injury.

Summary: Has the talent and style of play to far exceed the production he put up in college. Odighizuwa has a blend of power, speed, and flexibility that is rare to come across. When he puts all of his tools together with his hyper motor, he can be a nightmare for a lone blocker to deal with. He needs to become a smarter player and learn to shed blocks when defending the run. If he can do that, there is a very high ceiling when looking at his potential. Starting-caliber defensive end here with a blend of everything one can ask for in a defensive end.

*From the first game I scouted of Owam, I’ve felt this guy has the goods to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL. He has the get off, he has the easy flexibility, he has the hand power, he has the pass rush moves and most importantly the motor never turns off. The slight issue here is a hip problem that has hampered him in the past. Even though he’s been at full strength for almost two years now, there are medical reports out there that will dictate how far he drops. I did factor that in to his final grade and if it wasn’t in the picture, Owam would be one of my top 8 grades in the class. If he somehow fell in to round 2, he is a guy I would even consider trading up for from #40 overall.

4 – Vic Beasley – Clemson – 6’3/246 – 81

Upside Pro Comparison: Von Miller/DEN

Strong Points: Explosive edge rusher that can accelerate quickly. Bends well and can sneak both by and under offensive tackles. Good uses of hands, he can use them with power and quickness. Can deliver a violent swipe on the move when a blocker tires to lock him up. Violent hitter and tackler. He can really make his presence felt when he reaches the ball carrier. Consistent aggression. Hustles across the field with top tier pursuit speed. Combination of pass rush moves can be called upon at any point. At his best from a pure speed rush stance, but he can rip/spin/uppercut his way to the inside shoulder. Developed upper body with explosive power in space.

Weak Points: Lack of size, especially below the waist. Doesn’t fill the back side of his pants. In tight space, his strength and power appear to be on the weaker side. His impact play to play isn’t there. Doesn’t factor much against the run when it’s right at him. Struggles to control the engagement and get rid of blockers going right at him. Doesn’t break through the double team, nor does he anchor his position against them. Most likely not a fit for every scheme.

Summary: Beasley is an All American and Clemson’s all time leading sack artist. His game is based purely on speed, quickness, and hustle. There are some developed skills to his game as well when it comes to pass rush moves of different sorts. His struggle, however, has always been and will likely always be strength-based. He is light in the pants and he struggles to hold up against the bigger blockers in traffic. Boom or bust type player that needs a scheme that will boost his strengths and really hide his weaknesses. Could end up being strictly a situational player at the next level.

*Clemson was one of my main schools I was assigned to last summer, so I’ve seen pretty much every single one of Beasley’s games over the past two years. I was on him being a top 15 guy right away and I think there is still a shot he is the first edge guy taken. His get off and bend-ability are top tier. He has good upper body strength with powerful, quick hands and the foot speed of a wide receiver. Beasley is a pass rush specialist that will make tackles look downright silly, and good ones too. He is a hard guy to touch, let alone block out on an island. Are there concerns with his lower body strength and run defense? Absolutely. He isn’t a perfect, elite prospect. But the upside here may be the highest among all these guys. If NYG took him at #9, it could be the perfect fit for the role they have tried to create with much lesser athletes.

5 – Preston Smith – Mississippi State – 6’5/271 – 80

Upside Pro Comparison: Cameron Jordan/NO

Strong Points: Versatile pass rusher with the speed to rush the edge and the strength to rush the interior. Tough guy for blockers to move. Anchors his position against the run with a strong lower body and stiff arms. Sees the action and pursues the ball in traffic. At his best when bull rushing the inside shoulder of the offensive tackle. Gets out of his snap and hands on the blocker quickly. Wins a lot of battles post-engagement because of the initial hand and body position. Technically sound pass rusher. Creates matchup problems for any kind of blocker.

Weak Points: Doesn’t have the initial jump out of his three point stance. Won’t win the battles with a blocker on athleticism. Tight-hipped and won’t show the wiggle and late movement. Takes too long and too many steps to change direction. Doesn’t get near the action enough, will disappear for long stretches within a game.

Summary: First team all SEC defensive end that broke out in 2014 with a consistently productive season. Smith is a power rusher that displayed a developed and versatile skill set. He can be moved inside and out, exploiting matchup problems for the opposition. He gets to the passer a few different ways. His strength, and hand positioning allow him to rush between the tackles successfully but there is also a little pop to the outside that he can use when the offensive tackles lean to far inside. Smith has an ideal frame for the position and while there may be a slight athleticism deficit, he more than makes up for it with strength and consistent technique.

*Every year I feel NYG is looking for their next Justin Tuck. It’s hard to find a defender with really powerful presence, easy quickness, and inside/out versatility that is created from a combination of refined skills and high-upside tools. Smith is that guy. I think NYG is going to have a VERY high grade on Smith. #9 pick? I don’t think so but he is going to be a guy that will move around to get on their team. Smith is a legit day one starter in a 4-3 scheme and the inside/out versatility he showed at Mississippi State would be a godsend for Spagnuolo. He’s lost about 15 pounds since his playing weight in college and the athleticism he has shown over the past few months leads me to believe this guy has Pro Bowls in his future.

6 – Randy Gregory – Nebraska – 6’5/235 – 80

Upside Pro Comparison: DeMarcus Ware/DEN

Strong Points: Explosive edge rusher that moves well with ease. Smooth athlete with the frame to put on bulk. Easy bender with freakish flexibility and quickness. Changes direction with balance and power. High effort player, works hard on the field to do the little things right. Uses a variety of rush moves to the outside. Diagnoses the blocker’s strategy and pounces on to where is vulnerable. Can explode off the snap from a three point stance or standing up starting position. Gets his hands inside with plenty of knee bend. Disciplined and patient pass rusher. Can set his man up and bounce off to accelerate past him. Finishes his tackles. Wraps up and drives to the ground.

Weak Points: Has a thin and almost lanky frame. Lacks a power game. Doesn’t play the inside run well, struggles to get himself off the power blockers. Won’t drive tackles back as a bull rusher. Can be stifled easily when he rushes the inside shoulder. Needs to be in space to be effective, not a traffic player. Has had a laundry list of injuries in 2014 (knee, toe, foot, concussion) after missing time over the summer with a minor knee surgery. There are questions concerning his ability to physically hold up in the NFL.

Summary: Gregory may be the top edge rushing prospect in this class. He has elite athleticism and the frame to put on more weight. He explodes off the snap and changes direction as if he were ice skating. He can bend his body in any direction at the snap of a finger. His struggles revolve around a lack of power and strength. He can be ineffective against the run to his inside shoulder and he won’t get much of a push. His long list of injuries need to be looked in to as well. The upside is huge but there are always players with this kind of situation that don’t pan out in the NFL, so buyer beware.

*It’s easy to see what everyone loves about this player. Gregory has top tier flexibility and ability to move. He is so fluid and easy and there is more power behind him than one thinks. He needs to get stronger but I don’t think he necessarily needs to add 30 pounds. He can out-muscle several guys that outweigh hum by a lot. Gregory can be a top tier edge player in this league but the question that made me downgrade him by 3-4 points was the drug concern. I have a hard time thinking football is Priority A when you fail a drug test that you know is coming. The NFL is not taking this stuff lightly and he will be on their radar from day one. There is talent here but he isn’t head and shoulders above these other guys, I’d rather go with lesser off the field risk.

7 – Arik Armstead – Oregon – 6’7/292 – 78

Upside Pro Comparison: Calais Campbell/ARI

Strong Points: Massive size from every perspective. Long and thick limbs. Can still bend well at the point of attack and can deliver as violent a punch as anyone in the nation. Shows the physical ability to dominate any matchup that is put in front of him. Has a suddenness to his game. Quick reaction and can move within a five yard window as fast as anyone. Makes the effort to get his pad level down. Can hold his ground at the very least, showing the short area power to get a constant push when he wants to. Explosive, hard hitting tackler that can put a ball carrier through the ground. Effective bull rusher with top tier driving power. Elite power presence with good and balanced footwork.

Weak Points: Pad level is inconsistent. Ineffective when he exposes his chest, giving blockers a massive target to lock on to. Effort runs hot and cold. Will lose track of his mechanics and rely too much on his size and ability. Was not nearly as productive as his talent would indicate. Does not have a natural flow towards the action, spends too much time away from the ball.

Summary: Junior entry. Played for the Oregon basketball team in addition for two years. Elite level tool set that has shown several flashes of being a rare player. Armstead is a big, thick body but moves like a basketball player. He has quickness, agility and grace in the open field. When his motor is on, Armstead can dominate anyone at the point of attack. His presence isn’t always felt on the stat sheet, but offenses will always need to know where he is. He is versatile enough to play on the outside of any scheme and could end up being an elite player if he continues to develop.

*In January I talked about Armstead as a top 10 caliber guy with his blend of size, power, and short area explosion. I dove deeper in to his game and found there are a few maddening inconsistencies but at his best, I think he is better than Leonard Williams. At almost 300 pounds, he can athletically handle 4-3 DE responsibilities as a pass rusher and simply dominate against the run. When his technique and effort were on, he was tossing blockers around like rag dolls. For the most part Armstead plays hard and physical and he would add a versatile option to this defense that could make an enormous difference on this defense. His long term upside can be discussed with the best young names in the game.

8 – Bud Dupree – Kentucky – 6’4/269 – 77

Upside Pro Comparison: Cameron Wake/MIA

* I do think the talks about him being a top 10 pick are real. I don’t want to claim to be on the inside but I keep hearing from people I trust that there are 3 teams in the top 10 that want him. Time will tell. I think it is a common, but rarely ever successful, situation where the guy has some explosion on tape and puts together a top tier workout which leads to an overly high grade. He does have a nice get off and there is above average flexibility, but I don’t see a guy that is going to consistently win the one on one battles. He’ll get his share and I do have him graded as a 2nd rounder, but I don’t see the special in him. He gets locked on to and struggles to disengage. I don’t see any bull rush ability. I see a guy that dances around too much. Can he fit in to a 4-3 DE role? Sure, but ideally you get a guy with better urn defense for the level of production he will offer as a pass rusher.

9 – Lorenzo Mauldin – Louisville – 6’4/259 – 77

Upside Pro Comparison: Jabaal Sheard/NE

Strong Points: Savvy edge rusher. Understands how to set up blockers throughout a game. Can dip and change direction with a natural flow. Explosive off the snap. Good body control and awareness. Pursues well, often found near the action. Strong tackler with good mechanics and power presence. Aggressive, high motor athlete that will make plenty of plays based on hustle alone. Understands how to use his length to his advantage. Will play with a low base and high hands. Can anchor his position against the run and get off blocks with quick, last second movement. Long strider in space.

Weak Points: Lacks a bull rush type presence to his game. Doesn’t push blockers back in to the pocket. Would rather dance around a blocker than drive through him. Lacks awareness and experience in coverage. Doesn’t play with his head on a swivel, will be tricked by blocking schemes involving traps and counters. Needs more strength and girth.

Summary: Mauldin is a tools-rich edge rusher with experience as a 4-3 DE and a 3-4 OLB. He is a comfortable athlete with plenty of ability to change direction in a small box and work his way to the pocket. He was used in a variety of ways at Louisville, constantly changing sides of the line, playing standing up and with is hand in the dirt, and rushing inside and outside shoulders. Very easy bender with short area pop. Mauldin will need to add strength and power to his repertoire but he is a natural, savvy edge player with the tools to be an effective player early on in his career.

*I struggled with the decision of Mauldin being a LB or DE/Edge. He played both at Louisville and he is the one guy on this list that is actually a factor when he drops back in to coverage. I’ll keep him here for now. Mauldin is a smart, smart player that can get himself in position to make plays quicker than others. There is legit talent here too. He can be explosive on one play, bull rush on the next, and use one of his refined moves after. He has a nose for the ball. He reminds me of DaMontre Moore in college actually. He can fit in to this scheme a few different ways.

10 – Henry Anderson – Stanford – 6’6/294 – 77

Upside Pro Comparison: Datone Jones/GB

Strong Points: Long and wiry strong type frame. Bends exceedingly well and is often found being the low man between him and the blocker. Quick and explosive out of his stance. Shoots the gaps well. Keeps his body low and strong hands in front. Works hard to get the inside position. Sheds blocks consistently and will get near or in on the action often. Wide array of rush moves. Rip, swim, and uppercut are all well developed. Accelerates hard within a short space. Shows tackle to tackle range. Good tackler, wraps up hard and aggressively finishes. Has surprising ability to speed rush the edge and turn the corner. Can hold the point and get rid of the blocker after diagnosing. Very good instincts and reaction.

Weak Points: Gets driven back by the double team. Once he gets stood up he has a hard time holding his position. Limited speed in the open field, lacks the extra gear in pursuit. Won’t explode in to the blocker and deliver a violent jolt. May have a limited power output at his current weight. Missed 6+ games in 2013 with a knee injury.

Summary: Fifth year senior with a lot of starting experience. Anderson is moved all over the line because of his versatile skill set. With his height and length, he can be a weapon between the tackles to combat the short, quick passing game with his ability to cloud the throwing lanes. There is also a good amount of flexibility and quickness that makes him a very good one-gap rusher. His reach for the blocker off the snap allows him to control the engagement and his skill set of shedding blocks while maintaining body control allows him to get in on a lot of action. High upside, versatile player that can wear a lot of hats.

*During the season I thought I would have Anderson graded as a first rounder. Once I started to really break him down, I found more holes in his game but I still think he can be a versatile difference maker in a 4-3. Some label him as a 3-4 only guy, and I wholeheartedly disagree. He would fit perfect as a LDE that shifts inside on passing downs. He is a classic pass rusher that can be too quick for power blockers, but too strong for the fast-footed blockers. At 6’6+, Anderson plays with a really low pad level and considering he has almost 300 pounds on that frame, he is simply a tough guy to block in any situation for any blocker. He lacks the superstar ceiling, but Anderson is the kind of guy that wins games. Every winning team as an Anderson on their team.

11 – Nate Orchard – Utah – 6’3/250 – 77

*Maybe the player I was impressed by the most at the Senior Bowl. Orchard lacks size and strength below the waist, but he was consistently productive against the run and pass. He is crafty more than he is talented but he showed a good combination of tools and skills against some stiff competition. He gave Peat, an OT I really respect, a headache for a few plays in their matchup.

12 – Eli Harold – Virginia – 6’3/241 – 76

*I remember watching Harold play in October and saying that was gonna be a guy I couldn’t wait to scout next year. He just looked like an NFL edge guy. I was surprised to see him come out early and I think he could have been a top 10 guy after another year of college football. I scouted him after the season and comparing him to the top edge guys on this list, he just isn’t on their level. He has good get off by the lacks hand strength and won’t disengage from blockers. There are a couple pieces missing but he is still a guy I think has the upside to be an impact player down the road.

13 – Mario Edwards – Florida State – 6’3/279 – 74

*There are a few guys telling me Edwards is going to be a 1st round pick. That may be the case but I think he is a day 3 guy. Edwards will be a solid role player with a high floor, you know what you are getting with him. He is big and powerful, can defend the run. Even has some surprising ability to move in space but there isn’t the quick twitch. I don’t see him as a pass rush factor or a guy that disrupts the backfield. Solid but unspectacular.

14 – Markus Golden – Missouri – 6’2/260 – 74

*I’ll tell you what, Golden was one of my favorite players in the nation this past year to watch. He is a mean, mean dude that has muscles growing on muscles. I want to grade him higher but he is lacking in several physical traits that are really important. He is short and he lacks length. He isn’t fast and he isn’t explosive. In the NFL, that’s a combination of weaknesses that rarely works out. But I will still put a 4th round grade on him and he is guy I would welcome with open arms at that point. He plays as hard as anyone and he will be good for physical presence and intensity, if nothing else.

15 – Danielle Hunter – LSU – 6’5/252 – 74

*Prime example of two players with the same grade but they leave a different taste in my mouth when looking at Hunter and Golden. Hunter is a guy I don’t like right now, but he is blessed with a tool set that can be developed in to superstar status. He has height, length, strength, speed, explosion, and flexibility. Those are important check marks. Hunter wasn’t productive at all in college but you can’t deny his upside. He is a multi-year project that I think will be drafted way before I would consider him an option for NYG.

16 – Trey Flowers – Arkansas – 6’2/261 – 73

*At first glance he is a ‘nothing special’ guy but the more you watch, the more football player you see in him. He is a coach’s favorite and if NYG is still on their obsession with team captains and top tier behavior off the field, Flowers is a guy that may want. He isn’t tall but he is long and he plays with a low pad level, tough guy to lock on to. He’s smart and he plays hard, there are some interesting tools here to work with. Limited upside but he could be a niche guy.

17 – Anthony Chickillo – Miami – 6’3/267 – 71

*Interesting guy here that some people I respect are very high on. He was in a tough spot at Miami, playing a 3-4 DE role and even shifting inside at times. He couldn’t display his combination of tools and skills until the pre-draft process, one he did very well with. I think NYG will be attracted to a guy like this, similar to the way they liked David Tollefson a few years back except Chickillo has more talent.

18 – Martin Ifedi – Memphis – 6’3/275 – 71

*Overlooked prospect by many but I think there will be a few teams with a high grade on him. Teams with hybrid fronts may even have a 3rd round grade on him. Ifedi excels once he engages with the blocker. He has quick feet and strong hands with long arms, making hum a tough guy to lock up. He isn’t explosive but he is crafty and times his reactions and movements well.

19 – Hau’oli Kikaha – Washington – 6’2/253 – 71

*Classic example of a guy that that had a productive, All-American type season and the draft community got too high on and immediately put him in the 1st round. I think I even saw one of the ESPN guys put him in the top 10 at one point. That has subsided and bit and I think he ends up exactly where I always thought he would, day 3. I love the energy/motor/aggression he brings to the table. He doesn’t have a power presence though and he won’t out-move NFL OTs. He can be a special teams weapon and situational guy at best.

20 – Zack Wagenmann – Montana – 6’3/247 – 71

Not sure this guy can hack it as a 4-3 DE, as I just don’t see the body type. But if NYG can create a role for a situational pass rusher from a LB type spot, Wagenmann is worth a day 3 look. At a lower level of college football, he looked like Clay Matthews with his explosion off the ball and relentless pursuit of the action. He is a physical guy that had a nice showing at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl.

TOP UDFA SLEEPER

Andre Monroe – Maryland – 5’11/260

Yes that height is correct and yes some people won’t even look at him as a DE. If you want to see Iowa OT Brandon Scherff struggle, go watch him matched up against Monroe. Monroe is the all time sack leader at Maryland and he is a guy that makes any kind of blocker work extra hard from start to finish. I think this is a kid that will fight his way on to a roster and surprise people.

NYG APPROACH

From the early fall, I have viewed these edge prospects as a really strong and deep group. There are plenty of guys that fit the mold of an explosive speed rusher and plenty of guys that can play the every down role. I think there is a legit shot we see 5 of these kids go in the top 10 overall. If you miss out on one of the top guys, there will be plenty of options to go after an upside player in the rounds that follow. The main issue, however, several teams will be looking for edge help. It’s become such a high demand role, even for the teams that are considered to be strong there already.

My issue with NYG when it comes to pass rush is simple. I feel they have been hindering themselves from improvement by only targeting specific players that fit the traditional 4-3 DE roles. Guys that have to be a certain height/weight/length. Well, this year those guys simply are far and few between while there are several players that can help this team be more productive against the pass. I want NYG to be more innovative with their view and implementation of edge rushers in to their scheme. If they don’t select a Beasley, or Ray, or Fowler simply based on size and the traditional 4-3 DE “needs”, it will bother me. Hopefully Spags learned a thing or two in Baltimore about tweaking a system based on personnel. NYG has a decent group of DEs right now but who knows where JPP will be in a year and the adage remains, you can never have enough pass rushers. I would love to see NYG bring in one of those first 10 names I discussed.

Apr 142015
 
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Leonard Williams, USC Trojans (February 22, 2015)

Leonard Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Tackles

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*Below are my published, abbreviated reports via Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC

**A note about Pro Upside Comparisons: These are comparisons that are based on the player reaching his ceiling. It does not necessarily mean I believe the player will “be as good as”.

CURRENT DTs on NYG ROSTER

Johnathan Hankins – 23 Years old – Signed through 2016

Cullen Jenkins – 34 Years old – Signed through 2015

Kenrick Ellis – 28 Years old – Signed through 2015

Markus Kuhn – 29 Years old – Signed through 2015

Jay Bromley – 23 Years old – Signed through 2017

Dominique Hamilton – 26 Years old – Signed through 2015

WHERE THEY STAND

I wouldn’t call the current group of DTs a weakness but there is plenty of room for improvement across the board. Hankins has blossomed in to a quality three down player. He is a force against the run with his ability to control multiple gaps and make plays when he is single teamed. If you made a list of the top 10 DTs across the league, Hankins has a right to be on it. Jenkins and Ellis provide the balance of run and pass defense from the inside. Jenkins is a versatile and savvy defender that can take advantage of matchups inside and outside, while Ellis was brought in to add a much needed run defender to keep linebackers clean. The wildcard here is Bromley, a potential pass rush presence that NYG desperately needs. Many, including myself, believe he was over-drafted in round 3 last year. He has every opportunity to be a difference maker along this defensive line. Kuhn and Hamilton can compete for jobs, but neither have proven to be difference makers and decisions won’t be made based on them.

TOP 20 GRADES and ANALYSIS

1 – Leonard Williams – USC – 6’5/302 – 89

Upside Pro Comparison: Muhammed Wilkerson/NYJ

Strong Points: Physical marvel that has made an impact from day one of his career. Freakish combination of size, speed, and strength. Strong hands that grab on to the blocker and can toss them aside with ease. Plays with a low base and high hands. Holds the point of attack whether he is up against single or double teams. Powerful bull rusher up the middle with the ability to collapse the pocket. Can get to the quarterback a variety of ways from different spots along the defensive line. Versatile athlete. Can accelerate off his blocks. Can use his strength or quickness at any given point throughout the engagement. Explosive tackler that swallows ball carriers. Very aggressive, high effort player. Tough gamer, plays through injuries at a high level.

Weak Points: Doesn’t read the action around him. Will be forced in to compromising positions against trap blocks. Slow reaction to complex blocking schemes. Relies too much on strength and power rather than technique. Footwork is inconsistent. Doesn’t play the game with his feet as much as he does his hands.

Summary: Junior entry. Widely considered a top tier talent in this draft class as a whole. Williams is a true nightmare for offensive linemen. He is too big and fast for a lone blocker to take on. He can be moved around the defensive line in any scheme. His short area explosion and power presence can be a dominant force within the tackle box against the run. His speed out of his stance and variety of rush moves can collapse the edge of the pocket against the pass. There isn’t much that Williams cannot do and his impact on the NFL will be immediate.

*My top overall player in this class. He is expected by almost everyone to be one of the first two or three picks in the draft. He could fit the NYG scheme like a glove because of his inside-out versatility. He could legitimately play the 4-3 LDE role or the UT role. His length and foot speed make him a tough matchup for any kind of blocker. Combine that with his top tier intangibles and mental awareness on the field, Williams is probably the safest pick of the draft and offers All-Pro upside.

2 – Danny Shelton – Washington – 6’2/339 – 80

Upside Pro Comparison: Vince Wilfork/HOU

Strong Points: Powerful and high energy pocket collapser. Quick thinker that can read the action around him. Very smart and aware. Plays with a low and strong center of gravity. Can anchor his position against double teams. Generates a high amount of power from both his legs and hands. Stifles and controls the blocker with his initial punch. Pursues and hustles from sideline to sideline and all the way downfield. Gets near the action often. Can shed blocks several ways. And pull and jerk, undercut, and spin his way off the blocker. Light on his feet when he needs to be. Tenacious pass rusher with a violent and surprisingly athletic style. Can bull rush his way deep in to the pocket. Carries a lot of weight but moves surprisingly well.

Weak Points: Had several maturity issues early in his career. Weight will need to be monitored, as he carries a lot of loose meat. Initial explosion and quickness off the snap isn’t there. Will over pursue and neglect assignments. Struggles to change direction in short space. His momentum carries him out of the play.

Summary: 1st Team All American. Shelton has improved each and every season of his career both on and off the field. His maturity issues appear to be a thing of the past but those they still need to be investigated. Between the sidelines Shelton is a terror for linemen to block. He has tremendous functional power and strength. He is a high effort player that plays through the whistle with consistency. He outplays what his body type says he can do. He improves as the play goes on because of his rare ability to get off blocks and chase down the action. Shelton can fit in to any scheme and start from day one in the NFL.

*Shelton turned in to the favorite player of many people over the past 8 months. His senior season helped his draft grade as much as anyone in the class with All-American caliber production. I’ve seen a lot of him and I can’t say there is a “special” here, but by no means do I overlook his potential to be a terror for a defense from the inside. He can be a valuable run defender for any kind of scheme, not just the 3-4. He will absorb blockers but there is also a level of effort and ability that gets him involved on a lot of tackles. Pairing him with Hankins would create a sense of inside dominance against the run for NYG. He doesn’t fit the mold of what NYG usually goes for at DT, but I think there is still a good possibility he is their pick at #9 overall. NYG needs more consistent and reliable presence inside and pairing Shelton with Hankins would do exactly that. With a defense that needs more attitude, Shelton could be an immediate game changer.

3 – Carl Davis – Iowa – 6’5/320 – 79

Upside Pro Comparison: Haloti Ngata/DET

Strong Points: Big everywhere with a lot of functional strength. Long and thick frame that moves with plenty of athleticism and balance. Can play with proper leverage, bending easy at the knees with hands high. Can move his body quickly in tight spaces. Absorbs the double teams and anchors his position. Always seems to be in control of the engagement. Neutralizes the blocker and frees himself with a powerful grip and strong base. Swallows up the ball carrier when tackling. Wraps up well. Can fill an open lane while engaged with a blocker. Can diagnose by feeling the pressure from blockers and flow towards the action.

Weak Points: Strictly an in between the tackles player. Won’t make a lot of plays away from the line of scrimmage. Doesn’t explode in to the gaps. Will get too high once engaged, losing out on a lot of his strength. Limited pass rusher. Lacks the moves and hand work to free himself. Will almost always use a bull rush, needs more variety to his pass rush repertoire.

Summary: Two year starter that doesn’t jump off the stat sheet but makes his presence known every play. Huge frame that carries a lot of weight with ease. Consistently gets that push at the point of attack and will demand attention. He can keep the linebackers behind him free of blockers while clogging the inside running lanes. Davis has some sneaky athleticism to his game as well. When the action is near him, he can move his way towards the action and make a play. There is short area quickness and burst that very few players his size possess. He can be an impact player right away in the NFL in any defensive front.

*Davis is an intriguing case and prospect. There have been flashes from his time both at Iowa and the Senior Bowl where he looked like a top 10 player in the draft class. His size and presence was constant. He isn’t a guy that gets pushed back. He looked like a man among boys at times. His role in the Iowa defense was more about reading blockers and staying at home, absorbing space and bodies. Every now and then however, I would see him break out of his stance and carry multiple blockers in the backfield. After seeing him do the same at the Senior Bowl, I left with the impression there is some “special” in this kid. There are rumors of work ethic issues and he did seem to tire easily at Iowa, but I haven’t confirmed anything there. Davis is more than a run defender but very much like Shelton, his worst case scenario is a guy that is plus space eater with the upside of being another Hankins-type, true three down guy. Round 2 value would be very good here.

4 – Eddie Goldman – Florida State – 6’4/336 – 79

Upside Pro Comparison: Dan Williams/OAK

Strong Points: Thick from head to toe. Long arms and a wide frame, hold his weight comfortably. Fires out of his stance with his hands up and ready to go. Easy bender, stays below the pads of the blocker, consistently winning the leverage battle. Strong, heavy hands that are very functional. Aggressive at the point of attack. Shows the strength to anchor his position at the very least. Handles the double teams to keep linebackers clean. Effective bull rusher. Creates a tremendous amount of force to press the pocket. Can get in to a quarterback’s step up space in a blink. Has the quickness to jump out of his stance and in to the backfield. Can carry blockers in to the pocket.

Weak Points: Not as effective when he needs to use skill-based rush moves. He struggles to shed blocks if he doesn’t get the initial advantage off the snap. Lacks speed in pursuit, not a space player. Has lapses in concentration. Won’t read blocks and is often found out of position. Creates big cutback lanes and won’t always stay true to his assignment. Doesn’t always have the leg drive to produce maximum power.

Summary: Junior entry. Gifted athlete that has all of the physical traits that teams want out of a defensive tackle. Size, speed, flexibility, coordination are all there. Goldman often under-produced considering his ability. He has shown glimpses of being a terror to block inside, however. He is very quick off the snap and can bull rush the strongest of pass blockers deep in to the pocket. High potential athlete but still needs a lot of work on some of the finer, mental aspects of the game.

*It took me a few games to get a feel for Goldman and really appreciate the kind of player he is. I’ve known of him for a few years now, as I watched him play in high school here in NJ and I remember thinking NFL while watching him warm up. He is a little bit of a freak. He carries a lot of weight with ease, an athletic 330+ pounds. At FSU he never really broke out in to a playmaking, gap shooting defender but that doesn’t mean he didn’t perform. Goldman might be the best run stuffer in this class when it comes to eating blockers and chewing up space. He is the guy that rarely, if ever, gets pushed back regardless of having one or two blockers assigned to him. One thing that prevents him from a first round grade, however, is a lack of awareness and reading ability. He is late to recognize and won’t get near the action as much as someone like Shelton does. For the role he would play here in NY, Goldman would be a force. He is a better version, but similar player to Linval Joseph. And for those that like “inside info”, I have heard NYG has a high grade on him.

5 – Malcolm Brown – Texas – 6’2/319 – 78

Upside Pro Comparison: Randy Starks/CLE

Strong Points: Stout frame with equal thickness through his upper and lower body. Powerful and quick off the snap. Can explode out of his stance and reach the blocker before he is set up. Easy bender, consistently plays with a low pad level and body control. Incredibly strong hands. Can grip and rip the blocker away. Shows consistent ability to get off blocks and free himself up. Quick reaction. Can move fast within a phone booth and will make a lot of plays behind or at the line of scrimmage. Packs a big punch. Hits hard and can turn speed in to power right away. Accelerates off blocks and has range within the tackle box.

Weak Points: Shows a tendency to get stood up if he doesn’t win off the snap. Can get locked on to and struggles to get off the blockers that have a lot of hand strength. Lacks athleticism the further in to space he gets. Struggles to reach the blockers with his hands. Won’t always get inside position and it will take him longer to free himself. Will compromise his assignment but trying to get around blocks rather than stay in his gap, creating lanes.

Summary: Junior entry. 1st Team All American. Was nominated for some of the most prestigious defensive awards in college football. Is married with two children. Brown is a tough assignment for any blocker. He has the quickness off the snap to get in to the backfield within a blink of time, has the strength to toss blockers to the side, and has the instincts to naturally flow towards the action and always be around the ball. He knows how to finish. If he can stay on top of his technique, Brown has the potential to be one of the best in the league.

*There are some people I respect that have a top 10 overall grade on Brown. I like him, but not that high. There is a nice blend of talent here when looking at his size, movement off the snap, and ability to disengage from blockers. He lacks the standout quality though and too often I see him getting pushed off the ball. He doesn’t exactly anchor against power blockers. He is a gap shooter without top tier explosion ability. I think Brown is going to get over-drafted but that doesn’t mean I think he is a bust waiting to happen. He’ll be a player, just not the immediate star that some are saying. He can improve his game a lot with a simple in consistency of technique and mechanics. The talent is there, just not sure the skills are.

6 – Jordan Phillips – Oklahoma – 6’5/329 – 78

Upside Pro Comparison: Albert Haynesworth/RET

Strong Points: Massive presence. Tall, long, and functionally thick. Quick out of his stance and makes the offensive line react to him. Can get his hands on the blocker and control the engagement. Quickness to either side, moves well laterally. Hard hitter, can forcefully pound a ball carrier in to the ground. Has such a wide reach, can close a hole fast. Gets off blocks with sheer power or quickness. Consistently pulls and jerks offensive linemen out of the way. Elite strength from his base. Can anchor his position against double teams without giving up any ground. High effort player, consistent engine. Can press the pocket, bull rushes his way to the quarterback.

Weak Points: Limited athlete in space. Does not pursue well to the outside. Ball carriers can outrun his angles. Will play high out of his stance, exposing his numbers to the blockers. Lacks an array of refined pass rush moves. Lacks versatility and may not be a three down player. Doesn’t have that explosive element to his game. Back injury ended his 2013 season after 4 games.

Summary: Fourth year sophomore entry. Redshirt in 2011 and a medical redshirt in 2013. Limited experience player, but has the upside of a dominant inside force. Phillips demands the attention of multiple blockers every play. His combination of size, strength, and quickness off the ball consistently creates havoc. He is a space eater inside that is rarely pushed back by the double team. He can shorten a pocket when a blocker is left alone to pass block him. Phillips can be an immediate force inside at the next level as long as his back holds up. May never be a star, but he will be reliable.

*It took me awhile to catch on to Phillips, as I didn’t realize he was draft-eligible until December. There are games where Phillips reminded me of what Albert Haynesworth looked like the year prior to his free agency with Tennessee. There isn’t a blocker in the country that can keep Phillips from pushing the pocket. His combination of size, strength, and speed is too much for a lone man to handle. The problem for Phillips is actually one of his strengths, his height. He isn’t very well conditioned, so when he gets tired he stands straight up and makes it much easier for blockers to prevent from impacting the play. I don’t think there are effort issues here, but I’m just not sure he can be a 3 down guy. As part of a rotation, he is a guy that can be moved around to force an offensive line to shift a certain way, making things more predictable for linebackers. There is a back issue that needs to be looked in to, as I know some scouts have given him a big downgrade because of it. Not a good thing for a guy that already struggles with leverage from time to time. Fully healthy, Phillips can be one of the top players in this class.

7 – Marcus Hardison – Arizona State – 6’3/307 – 77

Upside Pro Comparison: Corey Liuget/SD

Strong Points: Quickness of the snap with a powerful upper body makes him a touch matchup. Exceptional athleticism for a player his size. Can overwhelm blockers with movement on one play and strength on the next. Gets his hands on fast and can shed blockers . Comfortable in space and in traffic. Can break through the pocket several ways from different spots. Can turn the corner with full body control while moving at full speed. Can bull rush and push the pocket.

Weak Points: Really only had one year of productivity at the D-I level. Lacks lower body size and strength. Lacks the ideal body type for play between the tackles. Doesn’t play with a low-enough pad level. Will bend at the waist and rely too much on movement and upper body strength. Won’t generate a pop to the blocker out of his stance.

Summary: Fourth year senior. Spent two years in junior college prior to joining the Sun Devils. Hardison was not an impact player at all in 2013 but broke out in a big way in 2014 with 10 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. He was a tough matchup for tackles, as he was simply to strong, quick, and powerful to consistently block. He had surprising ability to move quickly in a short space for a player over 300 pounds. In the right scheme he can be a very good interior pass rush presence and/or outside run defender. Teams that like to move their defensive linemen around based on matchups will love Hardison. As he continues to strengthen his lower body and improve the consistency of his technique, Hardison could end up being a big time presence.

*If NYG is looking to add an interior pass rush presence, Hardison needs to be given a hard look. He mostly played a DE role for ASU, but his body type and style of play can fit inside within a 4-3 front. He is quick off the ball and plays with heavy hands. Hardison doesn’t get the attention that I think he deserves. Very few defensive tackles in this class can do what he does. Is he an every down guy? Maybe not as a DT but I think you can get enough out of him as a run stuffing LDE and pass rushing DT. If he is there, starting in round 3 which I am sure he will be, he will have my attention.

8 – Michael Bennett – Ohio State – 6’2/293 – 74

Upside Pro Comparison: Sylvester Williams/DEN

Strong Points: Explosive north/south mover that can fire out of his stance and shoot the gaps. Consistently beats blockers to a point. Plays with a low center of gravity, making him a tough target for blockers to lock on to. Quick and powerful hands. Refined rush moves. Has a tenacious, almost wild get off when shooting the gaps as a pass rusher. Has the explosion to close a five yard gap in a blink. Productive and effective within the tackle box. Can react well to the action and flow towards the ball.

Weak Points: Lacks ideal size and length. May need more weight on his frame. Struggles to reach for the blocker and control the engagement with his hands. Struggles to anchor his position as a stay at home defender. Too easily moved by the blocker when he is locked on to. Won’t recover well after being initially beat after the snap. Doesn’t occupy space and multiple blockers at the same, time. Shows a lack of speed and effort once the action is outside the tackles.

Summary: Fourth year senior with almost 30 career starts. Son of parents that both went to West Point and served in the military. Team leader. Bennett is a one-gap penetrator that may be restricted to certain schemes in the NFL. His initial quickness and ability to break the pocket will be sought after by most 4-3 defenses in the league, most notably the Tampa-2 based schemes. He is consistently faster than the blocker, gaining the initial advantage. He lacks the staying power against the run and will need to get stronger before he is an every down player, however. Good role player type that can excel against the pass, always a trait in high demand.

*Another pass rush specialist here, however I am not as high on him as some are. Bennett has the quickness of the snap and he can be a solid gap shooter that makes guys adjust. I think he can fit in to pass rush-only type role but when it comes to every down duty, I think he will be a liability more than an asset. He gets pushed off the ball far too often and unless he gets the initial positional advantage post-snap, he can be rendered ineffective. He is the kind of guy that simply won’t keep the linebackers clean. If he could be had in round 4, I would think it’s good value but I think he ends up going in the first 3 rounds.

9 – Xavier Cooper – Washington State – 6’3/293 – 73

Upside Pro Comparison: Ziggy Hood/JAC

Strong Points: Exceptional athlete for his size. Carries 300 pounds with ease and moves like a player that is much lighter. Can explode out of his stance and get in to the blocker’s body right away. Gets his strong hands on right away and works hard to control the engagement. Can stick his feet to the ground and maintain his position against power blockers. Can feel the flow of the action and get himself in position to make an impact. Smart, quick reactions. Relentless pursuit of the ball carrier. Face up tackler that can deliver a violent impact. Top tier speed in pursuit, will reach the sidelines from his interior spot. Often found downfield, never gives up on a play.

Weak Points: Lacks the ideal bulk for interior defensive line positions. Light in the pants. Will need to enhance his upper and lower body strength. Gets by on hustle and grit, but doesn’t show a lot of pass rush moves. Needs to improve the skill-based aspects of the position. Will play too high and expose his chest to the blockers.

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter. Cooper played a couple of different defensive line positions for the Cougars. He played in a 3-4 DE role, but also shifted inside in four man fronts and excelled in both roles. He is a long athlete with a lot of open field athleticism. His playing speed is rare for the position. Cooper was an accomplished high school basketball player and it shows when he is in space. At the point of attack, Cooper is a violent and quick defender that has plenty of functional strength to hold his ground and stifle ball carriers. There is a lot teams can do with him, and once he gains some strength and girth, he could be an every down force in any scheme.

*At first glance, after seeing two of his games, I had Cooper as one of the top pass rushing DTs in this class. He is another guy that can play inside/out, showing too much quickness for guards and too much strength for the tackles. He is a high-motor player that has more lower body strength than you would think by looking at him. He showed the ability to anchor his position against power blockers and the way he accelerates off blocks is noteworthy. He is a superb athlete with pads on. My biggest gripe with him is a lack of size. He isn’t thick enough and lacks the necessary to length. As a rotational, day three pick Cooper can be a steal.

10 – David Parry – Stanford – 6’1/308 – 73

Upside Pro Comparison: Barry Cofield/WAS

Strong Points: Stout and powerful at the point of attack. Tremendous use of leverage and lower body strength. Quick and low. Easy knee bender that can move quickly in a short space. Can press defenders off his body and get the separation he needs to make any sort of lateral movement. Turns a corner fast, easy change of direction. Constantly near the action and can tackle with force.

Weak Points: Limited athlete the further in to space he gets. Does not have the height or length that a typical defensive tackle prospect has. Limited skill set as a pass rusher.

Summary: Underrated, overlooked defender that wore a few hats for the Stanford defense. Does the dirty work inside, demanding attention and keeping linebackers clean. Parry can do more than eat space, he is a force between the tackles. He doesn’t stay blocked for long because of his consistent, relentless approach. His low center of gravity packed with power and quickness make him a tough assignment every down.

*There is a part of me that thinks Parry could go undrafted because he lacks tools. I’m keeping my 4th round grade on him though. He is a football player, pain and simple. I watched Stanford early in the year to get a look at some of their other notables, but Parry just kept on jumping off the screen. Talk about a disruptive presence inside, Parry plays the game with a wrestler’s type leverage and won’t be pushed back. He showed some ability to do more than occupy blockers with quickness and a nose for the action. He found the ball carrier often and finished off plays more than your common 3-4 NT. Does he fit in the 4-3? I think he does. There is demand for a presence like this when looking at the NYG interior defenders. He’ll be a favorite of the team’s linebackers and watch him out-produce several players drafted ahead of him.

11 – Gabe Wright – Auburn – 6’3/300 – 73

*I like the frame and movement off the snap. He can be an early contributor with his power presence on the move, but may lack the ability to anchor his position against the run.

12 – Derek Lott – Tennessee-Chattanooga – 6’4/314 – 72

*One of my top small school prospects. Started off at Georgia but struggled to see the field. Went to a lower level of college football and showed flashes of dominance, as he should have. A player with this size and pass rush ability shouldn’t be overlooked. Day 3 value would be nice here, I like the upside.

13 – Grady Jarrett – Clemson – 6’1/304 – 71

*Undersized, yes. But you’ll struggle to find a DT that plays harder than this guy. His lack of size shows up on tape here and there, but you won’t go more than a few plays without seeing him make an impact. Not a fit for every scheme and his role is pretty specific, but he can help a team looking for interior rush.

14 – L.T. Walton – Central Michigan – 6’5/319 – 71

*Another small school guy with an intriguing tool set and developed skills. Walton is more than a run plug, he showed some good movement between the tackles and if the light turns on, you are looking at a starting caliber player that can fit multiple schemes. He’s a guy I think sneaks in to the top 3 rounds.

15 – Darius Philon – Arkansas – 6’1/298 – 71

*Yet another undersized pass rusher from the inside. Philon was really productive and looked unblockable at times. For awhile I questioned if he was a better prospect than the well known Trey Flowers, a DE we will talk about later in the week. The lack of length will hurt him in the NFL but he can carve himself a niche somewhere.

16 – Tyeler Davison – Fresno State – 6’2/316 – 70

*Limited athlete but a dependable run defender. He can anchor his spot with consistent leg drive and leverage. Won’t make plays but he is a guy that fills out a roster and will have a job as a backup run defender.

17 – Leon Orr – Florida – 6’5/323 – 70

*If it weren’t for the confusing off-field issues, Orr could have been a top 10 guy on this list. He left the team after being taken out of the starting lineup, which is odd. His story has been tough to look in to but when I watch him, I see upside. He can really move and he carries 320+ pounds with ease. He just screams NFL defensive tackle and I think he fits the 4-3 really well.

18 – Darius Kilgo – Maryland – 6’2/310 – 69

*Played a 3-4 NT role but he can fit multiple schemes. Made plays in 2014 that most people probably didn’t see because if they did, he would have been at the combine. He is a lot better than several guys that were there. Run defender first, but showed the short area quickness to take advantage of opportunities.

19 – James Castleman – Oklahoma State – 6’2/300 – 67

*Really strong upper body, a guy that just bench presses blockers off him and will locate the ball. Might be undersized for the role he plays but he is tougher than nails. I saw Oklahoma State 4 times and each time I had positive notes on him.

20 – Christian Covington – Rice – 6’2/289 – 67

*Undersized and beat up, but watch his 2013 tape and you cant help but wonder if this guy should be a 1st rounder. Covington has the blend of quickness and power that gives blockers a headache. He had a pretty nasty knee injury last fall though and some teams have crossed him off their board after failed physicals.

TOP UDFA SLEEPER

Angelo Blackson – Auburn – 6’4/318

*Overlooked defender on an underrated SEC defense that has a few defenders getting a lot of attention for next year’s draft. Blackson kept linebackers clean with his disruptive nature off the snap and was rarely pushed back. Dirty work guy that has the frame to add more good weight. He has more mechanics and consistent technique than some of the top guys on this list.

NYG APPROACH

While some may view DT as a lesser need of the roster, it’s a position that really hurt this defense in 2014. Hankins is evolving in to a force but he can’t do it by himself in a 4 man front, there needs to be another presence along side of him that makes the opposing offense gameplan around. This prospect group is an interesting one in that there are a lot of guys that can help the run defense or pass rush, but not both. What does NYG need more? A credible argument can be made for both but finding a guy that can do both is going to be very tough.

I don’t think any of these prospects (outside of Williams at the top) will be worth their #9 overall selection. But once they are on the clock in round 2 and from there on out, NYG needs to be looking at some of these prospects with the thought that one of them can take this unit’s run defense to another level. The pass rush prospects are worth looking at as well, but they are all undersized and counting on them would strike some fear in to me and may not be worth the risk. They may be better off going after an edge rusher and getting creative with pass rush packages, shifting some of their more physical ends inside.

Apr 102015
 
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Cameron Erving, Florida State Seminoles (August 30, 2014)

Cameron Erving – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Guards and Centers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*Below are my published, abbreviated reports via Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC

**A note about Pro Upside Comparisons: These are comparisons that are based on the player reaching his ceiling. It does not necessarily mean I believe the player will “be as good as”.

CURRENT OG/C on NYG ROSTER

Geoff Schwartz – 29 Years old – Signed through 2017

John Jerry – 29 Years old – Signed through 2016

Weston Richburg – 24 Years old – Signed through 2017

Brandon Mosley – 27 Years old – Signed through 2015

Eric Herman – 26 Years old – Signed through 2015

Adam Gettis – 27 Years old – Signed through 2015

Dallas Reynolds – 31 Years old – Signed through 2015

Brett Jones – 24 Years old – Signed through 2017

WHERE THEY STAND

One can easily make the argument that the combination of starters and backups here are among the worst in the league. I can look at 20 depth charts from the NFL and rightfully say I would rather take their interior guys over what NYG has to offer at the moment. They lack true presence and won’t get a push off the point of attack when faced off against the more physical defensive lines. It created massive problems throughout the 2014 season when NYG tried to run the ball. Chris Snee was never replaced and there is a gaping hole at LG right now. Geoff Schwartz had a year to forget in 2014, missing the majority of the season with injuries. There is the hope he returns to 100% and can offer NYG a reliable presence at RG. However even when he was healthy, he looked very lethargic and over-matched. Jerry was a favorite of mine coming out of Ole Miss a few years back, but I have to admit his career performance to this point has been sub-par. If he is on the team as a primary backup, fine. But he can’t be a starter. I didn’t like the Richburg selection last year but he out-performed expectations in year one, a season that I would assume NYG wanted to be a redshirt year for him to add strength, but was forced in to action at an unnatural position. I think he can be the guy at C but he will need to prove he can get more push. The rest of the names up there lack long term potential. They are training camp body-types. I am intrigued to see what Canadian Brett Jones can bring to the table, however. He has some decent tape from the CFL that will remind NYG fans of a young Rich Seubert. This is a poor group that doesn’t have the nastiness nor do they have star power.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Cameron Erving – Florida State – 6’5/313 – 82

Upside Pro Comparison: Jahri Evans/NO

Strong Points: Versatile offensive lineman that could likely play any position along the front at a high level. Good use of leverage, plays with a low base and high hands. Strong use of his upper body. Can lock on to a defender and drive him out of a play. Quick feet and hips that can get himself between his man and the running lane. Hustles downfield and looks to throw the extra block. Long arms and thick legs with room to grow. Flawlessly made the move to center from left tackle halfway through the 2014 season. Patient blocker that allows the action to come to him. Can pounce on the inside defender quickly and lock him up.

Weak Points: Loses his power presence as an outside pass blocker. Feet get stuck in the mud against the faster, quicker, more agile pass rushers. Gives up too much pressure off the edge. Doesn’t roll his hips in to the defender enough, losing out on power output. Does not show the kind of control of engagement you want out of a pass blocker. Still raw around the edges.

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

*Erving has moved all over the field. He was a solid run stuffing DT. The he made a move to LT where many viewed him as a potential top 10 pick. He really struggled there and I said back in the fall he’d be lucky to be a 3rd round pick. I was hoping to see him get moved inside because I thought his skill set was best suited there. Well my wish was granted and Erving really delivered. This guy can be a dominant interior player. He plays with great pad level and heavy hands. He can adjust well in short space and his ability to reach the second level is up there with the best in the class. I think Erving has the highest upside of all the interior blockers. He would present outstanding round 2 value with his ability to back up several spots and even start from day one at one of the three interior positions. I think someone will take him in the top 25 overall.

2 – A.J. Cann – South Carolina – 6’3/313 – 79

Upside Pro Comparison: Ben Grubbs/KC

Strong Points: Ideal frame for the position. Thick but athletic and powerful with long arms. Can plant his feet and anchor his position against the biggest of defenders. Shows the initial pop out of his stance to stifle his defender and drive him out of a play. Can lock on with his hands inside and keep his feet moving forward. Creates elite power with his combination of speed and strength. Good knee bend with a low base and upright torso in pass protection. Gets the initial punch and can control pass rushers with his hands.

Weak Points: Shows a lack of mobility in space and has a hard time reacting to late movement. Struggles to adjust his weight on the move. Not as effective as a pulling lead blocker. Will be slow to reach his spot in space. Relies too heavily on his upper body strength, needs to show more consistent footwork.

Summary: Cann is an All-American guard that has started the second most games in South Carolina history. He is a two year team captain with rave reviews from the coaching staff when it comes to his work ethic and leadership ability. He wins a lot of one on one battles with initial movement and power, consistently firing out of his stance and getting his hands on the defender. He is at his best as a straight ahead, power run blocker. He may struggle with speed and quickness in space. The further away he gets from the line of scrimmage, the more his footwork and lack of reaction speed are exposed. He shows dominant traits but will need to become a better athlete if he wants to stay at left guard. He could be an early starter at right guard in the NFL.

*Cann could easily be the top interior guy in this class. He is a much better athlete than you think. He got better as the year went on and while I won’t say his blocking on the move is a strong point, he showed that he can get the job done well enough to play in a moving role here and there. He’s at his best in a straight-ahead role, as he can produce the necessary power out of his stance and can jolt a defender with his punch. The amount of experience and the fact that he is a top notch worker off the field will be attractive to NYG. He is the only one of these top guys that has played LG as well, something you shouldn’t overlook when projecting who NYG will like. If I had to pick a guard that I think will both be available in round 2 and liked by NYG, Cann is it.

3 – Laken Tomlinson – Duke – 6’3/323 – 77

Upside Pro Comparison: Larry Warford/DET

Strong Points: Experienced and productive interior blocker with plenty of power and strength. Ideal frame for the position. Wide frame with thick legs, long arms. Easy bender at the knees with light, but powerful feet. Excels as a run blocker, getting a strong pop out of his stance and can win the initial battle after the snap. Good body control and balance when he keeps his chest upright. Can anchor his position against the strongest of bull rushers. Uses his weight well.

Weak Points: Gets top heavy at times and will dip his head. Won’t lock on to defenders, leaving him very susceptible to double moves. Doesn’t find to maintain an inside hand position. Late to pickup blitzes and stunts to his outside shoulder. Doesn’t recover well after being initially beat. Technique needs a lot of work.

Summary: Over 50 career starts after beginning his football career in high school. Grew up in Jamaica and moved to Chicago, getting a later than usual start to his football career. Has the physical makeup and talent to be a dominant player but is still raw around the edges. Tomlinson will look like a top tier prospect on some plays but then show a lack of skills on others. He needs to be coached up at the next level but everything about him off the field leads me to believe the work ethic will be there. High upside prospect here.

*Traditional guard prospect here. Has that wide, square frame and he consistently makes it tough for guys to get around him. Really wide wingspan. I don’t get a lot of “inside” information regarding NYG and when I do, I’m not always confident it’s legit. NYG is pretty tight lipped. With that in mind I have been told they like Tomlinson a lot but they may view him as a RG-only player. If Schwartz is going to be there, maybe the view Tomlinson as a guy that will sit a year? With all the OL talent in this draft it’s hard to imagine them bringing in a guy they know will be a backup. Tomlinson doesn’t have any wow-factor to his game but he can hold up against the elite power players day one in the NFL. He doesn’t block as well on the move though and I think it’s enough to knock him down more than people think. He would be a solid round 2 value but I think there will be several guys available with a higher grade.

4 – Tre Jackson – Florida State – 6’4/330 – 77

Upside Pro Comparison: Chance Warmack/TEN

Strong Points: Powerful, squatty type blocker that gets off the ball quickly and delivers a violent punch to the defender. Thick and strong frame that appears to be maxed out. Easy bender at the knees, can produce a lot of power from his legs. Quick in a phone booth, works hard to get across the face of a defender when he needs to. Can shift his feet to stay in front a pass rusher. Shows the balance and body control as a pass blocker when the action is in front of him. Can anchor his position and hold ground against the bigger, more powerful defenders. Smart player that can mentally anticipate the stunts and blitzes that defenses throw at him.

Weak Points: Lack of athleticism shows up in space. He isn’t nearly as effective as pulling blocker to the outside or at the second level when he needs to deal with linebackers. Too often the defender will get off his blocks with lateral movement, needs to show more control of the engagement with his hands. The quick-twitch reaction isn’t always there. Has the tendency to get top heavy, forgetting to move his feet and leaving him in a prone position to get beat.

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

*I like Jackson every time I watch the FSU game tapes. He is a guy that rarely gets beat. He doesn’t make it look pretty always but watch him play after play and the defender he is assigned to rarely gets in on the action. He can lock defenders up and play the power game, but also moves his feet quickly with balance in pass protection. I question his explosion and short area quickness when moving with linebackers in space. He had some trouble reacting at times and there are several guards that are better when it comes to pulling out of his stance and lead blocking. If NYG can use a straight ahead power blocker rather than a lateral mover, Jackson is worth a day 2 look.

5 – Andy Gallik – Boston College – 6’2/306 – 77

Upside Pro Comparison: Joe Hawley/ATL

Strong Points: Squatty and quick off the snap. Very good body control and balance from start to finish. Easy bender at the knees. Hands are constantly fighting to get inside with a violent punch or stab. Sets up in pass protection quickly. Plays with a low center of gravity and can deliver a lot of power from his lower half and hands. Stays square to the pass rusher. Functionally strong. Quick to pull out of his position and reach the outside as a lead blocker. Effective in space against the faster defenders. Quick twitch reaction. Forecasts the action well, showing the anticipation and instincts teams want from a center.

Weak Points: Struggles to adjust to the quicker, more advanced pass rushers. Won’t lock on to a defender and finish his blocks. Doesn’t change direction well in space. Lacks the physically dominant traits.

Summary: Fifth year senior and four year starter. Second team All ACC. Gallik is a consistent presence inside that shows a lot of effort throughout a game. He can do a lot of different things from the inside. He shows quick hands and feet after the snap, consistently getting his hands on the defender first and sticking to his man. Very good athlete that can pull to the outside and lead block. Experienced and smart, Gallik has a lot of starting-caliber traits to his game. His strong, athletic, squatty frame could start early on at the next level.

*If NYG was in dyer need of a center, I would be calling for Gallik on day 2. I love his game and his consistency. He rarely gets beat at the point of attack and he is always in position at the second level to seal off backside defenders. Would NYG possibly view him as an OG? Probably not. He doesn’t have the width that your typical OG has and his frame is likely close to being maxed out. He needs to play C in the NFL. Would NYG draft Gallik and keep Richburg at LG? Another probably not. If this guys keeps falling in to day three however, there may be a point where you just need to pull the trigger on bringing him in because he is going to be a quality player.

6 – Jamil Douglas – Arizona State – 6’4/304 – 77

Upside Pro Comparison: TJ Lang/GB

Strong Points: Gifted tool set with top tier strength numbers. Has a long, lean frame. Able to bend at the knees and sustain good balance and body control. Plays a violent game with his upper body. Goes after the defender, consistently initiating contact and delivering a strong punch. Can keep his feet moving to mirror defenders. Able to stick to his man up and down the pocket. Can crash down and reach the inside gaps in a blink. Shows good quickness while maintaining his balance. Hustles downfield and will look to make the extra block. Easy mover in space, very good speed and change of direction. Can pull out of his stance and accelerate to lead block. Powerful presence on the move. Works hard to sustain and finish his blocks.

Weak Points: Will get sloppy with technique the further from the line he gets. Spends too much time with his chest facing the ground. Needs to be more consistent with posture and body positioning. Late to react to blitzes and stunts, needs to be more aware. Will often rely too much on his upper body, leaving him prone to the double move and penalties.

Summary: Fifth year senior. Spent two years playing guard, but moved to left tackle in 2014. Most likely a guard in the NFL. Douglas is one of the more impressive linemen in the nation when it comes to workouts and tools. He has great length but is a monster in the weight room and has elite level speed for the position. He has shown steady improvement from a skill set perspective and is beginning to prove that he has everything a coach could want out of a guard in the NFL. If he can clean up specific technique issues, he can be a long term starter.

*Douglas is a better athlete than what he showed at the combine. I actually think he is one of the top athletes among all OL prospects. I love the position versatility he presents. He has both the skills and tools to be a guy that backs up guards and tackles early in his career but I think his talent will eventually shine bright enough to get him a starting nod somewhere. Quality player that plays hard and has the aggression NYG needs in there.

7 – Reese Dismukes – Auburn – 6’3/296 – 76

Upside Pro Comparison: Ben Jones/HOU

*A lot of what I said about Gallik can be applied to Dismukes here. He is widely considered the top C of the class outside of Erving, thus I think he can be a 2nd rounder. I would consider him in round 3 but I think Gallik will be available longer than Dismukes. Dismukes is a better mover but lacks the power against power defenders. When it comes to overall upside they are comparable but Dismukes fits in to the zone schemes more while Gallik is more of a power guy. Depending on your scheme they are both good values in round 3 or 4.

8 – John Miller – Louisville – 6’2/304 – 75

Upside Pro Comparison: Andy Levitre/TEN

Strong Points: Powerful presence inside with a lot of experience on both sides of the line. Gets out of his stance quickly and will get his hands inside. Can create a lot of power from his lower body. Quickly turns his hips in to the hole and will push his man out of a running lane. Reliable and forceful run blocker. Smart and savvy. Reads the defensive front post-snap and is rarely caught off balance. Plays with a low center of gravity and can bend his knees with ease. Effective on the move. Can pull out of his stance to trap blocks. Adjusts on the run, processes information quickly while maintaining his power presence. Recovers well from being initially beat.

Weak Points: Feet get stagnant as a pass blocker. Will rely on strength and power too much, neglecting constant foot movement and placement. Lacks the lateral range to effectively pull to the outside and lead block. Body control isn’t always there when he’s in space.

Summary: Four year starter that has dealt with a few minor injuries over his career but for the most part has been a mainstay on that offensive line. Miller plays in a scheme that puts him on both the left and right sides, respectively. His game is based on power and awareness. Typical squatty build for the position. Has good enough foot quickness and strength to start in the NFL. He will need to learn how to equally rely on athleticism and overall strength. He has the tools to be a quality player but will need to shore up his footwork and mechanical issues first.

*There wasn’t a more impressive OL at the East/West Shrine Game than Miller. He was a favorite of mine heading in to the 2014 season. He can be a dominant run blocker with his power and length. He took a step back as a pass blocker though once I started to track his plays. He needs technique work more than anything, thus I don’t see him as a long term project or anything. He’ll get a starting job somewhere in the league within a couple years. Not as great as I initially projected but you can do much worse than him with your 3rd rounder.

9 – Mark Glowinski – West Virginia – 6’4/307 – 75

Upside Pro Comparison: Kevin Zeitler/CIN

Strong Points: Quick start, gets set up out of his stance in a blink. Consistently puts himself in to good position, ready to engage. Knee bend is there with light feet and high hands. Works hard to stay inside the shoulders of his man. Can swing his hips in to the hole, athletic ability is there. Aggressive but patient pass blocker. Can wait to see what is going on prior to attacking hard with his hands. Has the speed and quickness to pull out of his stance and get in front. Good second level blocker, can adjust to the speed of linebackers. Can pivot and turn his bodyweight quickly.

Weak Points: Struggles to recover after being initially beat. Doesn’t always roll his hips in to the defender, will get too upper body dependent. Will over-commit his bodyweight and leaves himself prone to double moves. Mental reaction to stunts and blitzes are delayed. Inconsistent footwork.

Summary: Fifth year senior. Spent his first two seasons Lackawanna Junior College. Redshirt in 2012 and a two year starter at right guard for the Mountaineers. Glowinski is a former tackle that made the move to guard prior to the 2014 season. He has the quick feet, set up, and knee bend to handle the speed and quickness of the NFL. He is a gritty blocker that loves to use upper body strength and power to dominate defenders. There are a lot of tools combined with an admirable style of play that coaches will want to work with. He needs to improve a couple of vital mechanical flaws before he can be depended on. If he can do that, there is starter potential here.

*I have a decent amount of OG/C graded in the 74-75-76 range. I think the best value in terms of where you can draft these guys is going to be Glowinski. Most see him as a 6th or 7th rounder and I would sign for him in round 5 right now and consider it one of the steals of the draft no matter what. Glowinski is quick out of his stance, quick to get his hands on, and quick to swing his hips. He is a former left tackle that can still move like one. He needs to become more lower body dependent if he is going to anchor against NFL-caliber DTs, but this is simply a guy that knows how to play and I would bet a good amount of money on him being a starter down the road and is one of those guys you never hear from because he is always getting the job done.

10 – Hroniss Grasu – Oregon – 6’3/297 – 75

Upside Pro Comparison: Evan Dietrich-Smith/TB

Strong Points: Right away, sudden type quickness to his game right after the snap. Can set his feet and get his hands up fast while maintaining all of his balance and body control. Easy mover with agile hips and light feet. Shows proper footwork consistently. Stays square to his, able to mirror. Good knee bender. Can shift his weight laterally without a problem. Comfortable in space, can stick with linebackers. Can pull out of his stance and work his way through the line and in to the second level fast. Smart and savvy, responsible for making line calls and adjustments. Quick reaction both mentally and physically.

Weak Points: Not overly stout at the point of attack. Gets pushed back by the bigger, more powerful defensive tackles. Doesn’t stifle a defender with a strong punch. Won’t always finish his blocks. Needs to add a more physical, more aggressive approach. Will need to add strength and bulk to his frame.

Summary: Fifth year senior and four year starter. All-American center that has been the leader of the Oregon offensive line for a few years now. Grasu plays with exceptional agility and quickness, moving out of his stance as fast as any interior linemen in this class. He is comfortable at the point of attack as well as in space. He will need to spend some time adding a power element to his game, however. His ability to anchor against the bull rush will be challenged in the NFL and he needs to be able to move guys out of running lanes. He can get by in certain schemes right now, most notably zone, but he may not be as NFL-ready as some other players with these accolades.

*This is a four-center draft and Grasu brings up the rear of the group, but by no means does that mean I don’t like him. As you can see, he finished with the same grade as Dismukes and not far below Gallik. Grasu is on the undersized side but the Oregon scheme called for him to play under 300 pounds so he could maintain a fast pace of play. He can likely add some bulk at the next level. Grasu is one of the more natural athletes of this entire group and he may be the smartest center I’ve seen since Alex Mack. He had a ton of responsibility at Oregon. Talent wise I think he needs a year before he can handle NFL power but some schemes can really hide a guy like this. If you want a smarter, athlete-type in the middle, Grasu may be your guy.

11 – Ali Marpet – Hobart & William Smith – 6’4/307 – 75

*He’s been a fun story to watch and follow. Rarely do you see a D-III player finish with this high of a grade, no matter the position. His strong week at the Senior Bowl really helped. We are still talking about a guy that likely won’t contribute until 2016. Hard not to think of Rich Seubert when I watch him.

12 – Jeremiah Poutasi – Utah – 6’5/335 – 74

*. Has experience at right and left tackle, but is a candidate to move inside in the NFL. Poutasi has all the power a team could ask for. He is hard to push back and can control the defender right in front of him with leg drive and heavy hands. His weaknesses arrive when he is asked to slide to the left or right. His athletic ability is very limited in space as a pass blocker. He can carry a lot of weight comfortably and has shown the ability to dominate when moving straight ahead with minimal lateral duties. His future will most likely reside as a guard in the NFL where he could someday be a quality starter.

13 – Adam Shead – Oklahoma – 6’4/338 – 74

*Five year senior with over 40 career starts. Shead has the potential the top run blocking guard in this class. His frame and initial pop out of his stance along with good technique allows him to play a physical, power-based game. He needs to work on pass blocking footwork and movement, but the tools are there. He can be a backup with a long term future as a starter.

14 – Max Garcia – Florida – 6’4/309 – 73

*Coaches favorite and team captain. Has a good amount of experience at guard and center. An underrated athlete with really good weight room strength. Garcia started to break out a little and I know a few guys that think he is better than any of the centers I discussed above. He might be a guy you look for day 3 and becomes a starter in year 1.

15 – Jarvis Harrison – Texas A& M – 72

*Three year starter. Had high hopes for the 2014 season but was slow returning to his former self after a shoulder surgery during the offseason. Showed poor conditioning throughout the season. Was bounced back and forth between LG and LT as a result of injuries along the Texas A& M front. Considered to be the most athletic lineman on the team but didn’t display that kind of ability in 2014. His power and strength are best suited inside at guard where he could be a starting caliber player if he can stay healthy and improve his conditioning.

16 – Arie Kouandjio – Alabama – 6’5/310 – 72

*All American and All SEC performer. Fifth year senior that has overcome a couple of major knee injuries to finish his career as a two-year starter. He is a high upside lineman with enough physical ability to play right away in the NFL. He is a wide shouldered, long limbed, athletic blocker that has improved his skill set by a wide margin since last year. He can be an equally effective run and pass blocker that can match up against any kind of defensive lineman. His medicals will have a big impact on where he gets drafted but talent wise, Kouandjio can be one of the best interior linemen in this class.

17 – Jake Cotton – Nebraska – 6’7/300 – 72

*I’ve always had a thing for Cotton and I am surprised he didn’t get more attention leading up to the draft. He is an easy mover and maintains his power/strength on the move. Really good fit for teams that use a zone blocking scheme.  Cotton maintains his power on the move and can reach guys in space that most guards cannot. He is behind schedule when it comes to strength and power levels, but he’ll eventually develop in to a quality backup and possible starter in the right scheme.

18 – Josue Matias – Florida State – 6’5/309 – 70

*I had a much higher grade on Matias earlier in the pre-draft process and thought he could have been a 2nd rounder. But the deeper I look in to his game, the more I noticed his significant mechanical issues and inconsistent use of his tools. He isn’t the athlete I initially thought he was, either. Matias can be a player down the road but hr won’t offer much as a backup because he appears to be a RG-only type guy.

19 – Greg Mancz – Toledo – 6’4/301 – 69

*Fifth year senior that has started every game of his playing career. Has starts at tackle, guard, and center. Mancz is making a big jump in competition and will need a year of NFL weight training before being thrown in to the mix. With that said, he does all the little things right and is ahead of the curve compared to other prospects when it comes to his technique and mechanics. He certainly moves like an NFL caliber blocker after the snap whether he is in traffic or in space. There is a lot to like about his approach and performance. He has starter potential if he can physically develop in to a stronger, more powerful athlete.

20 – Shaquille Masion – Georgia Tech – 6’0/300 – 69

*Always have to be weary of OL coming out of this program because it’s so run-heavy and they lack NFL technique. Mason was a dominant straight ahead blocker and surprised many with his ability to drop back at the Senior Bowl. There is a size issue here but he can be hidden at C, the spot most are projecting him to move to in the pros.

NYG APPROACH

This group from a depth perspective is a more impressive one that what we had to work with a year ago. There are several guys that could come here and backup both guard spots, but also compete for the starting LG spot. I really like the centers at the top of the group as well and even though NYG thinks they have their long term starter in Richburg, bringing in one of them if the value is there wouldn’t be a bad idea. NYG has the flexibility to use Pugh at LG if they draft a quality OT, but I can’t say I would want him in that spot over one of the top guys on this list.

The good value of G/C in any draft is usually found from round 3 on. It is no secret that NYG needs to bring someone new in to the mix. The question is, do they gamble by waiting and hoping a value falls, which usually happens at this position, or do they “panic” and grab one of these guys in round 2. It’s tough to argue against either side but I have always believed that a good OL makes everyone else better than they really are. It’s not a group you should want to get cute with. NYG is in a tough spot with who is on the current roster at the position. Waiting almost appears to be not an option. NYG needs a guard, and it ideally they can get one before their 4th round pick. A few of those names will be available when they are on the clock in round 3 and the value will warrant that selection being used on one of them. It would almost seem foolish to pass on unless of course they use their first pick on one of the top OTs. Don’t forget that some of the quality OT prospects have the tools and skill to shift inside and play guard, a trend that is very popular around the league these days.

Apr 082015
 
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Victor Cruz, New York Giants (November 17, 2013)

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Special players enable teams to win games and championships. The greatest single roster addition for the New York Giants in 2015 will not likely come from free agency or the NFL Draft, but hopefully the return of a healthy and dynamic Victor Cruz.

The Giants won their last NFL Championship in 2011. During team’s 9-7 regular season, the Giants finished dead last in rushing and 27th in total defense. It was quarterback Eli Manning (nearly 5,000 yards and six regular-season 4th-quarter come-from-behind victories) who was the catalyst for the team’s winning record. But the other two impact players on offense were wide outs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. In one of the great Cinderella stories in all of sports, the undrafted free agent Cruz caught 82 passes for 1,536 yards (18.7 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns in first full season. In addition, 2009 1st rounder Nicks caught 76 passes for 1,192 yards and seven touchdowns. Together, Cruz and Nicks were responsible for over 55 percent of Manning’s yardage total as New York finished 5th in the NFL in passing.

The Giants barely squeaked into the playoffs in 2011, but they went on an astounding four-game post-season winning streak where the team defeated the 10-6 Atlanta Falcons, 15-1 Green Bay Packers (#1 NFC seed), 14-3 San Francisco 49ers (#2 NFC seed), and 15-3 New England Patriots (#1 AFC seed). Fortunately for the Giants, the team’s defense and ground game finally came alive in the playoffs, Eli brought the team back twice more in the fourth quarter, and Nicks went on a monster 4-game stretch (28 catches, 444 yards, 4 touchdowns).

But it was Manning, Cruz, and Nicks who got them to the dance. They were the difference makers.

Now obviously there is more than one path to the playoffs and Super Bowl glory. The 2007 New York Giants finished 10-6 with an inconsistent Eli Manning and passing game and the League’s 4th-ranked rushing attack and 7th-ranked defense. It was those latter two units who got the Giants to the playoffs before Eli went on his first post-season tear.

However, it will be easier for the Giants to improve their passing game (7th in the NFL in 2014) to elite status than to elevate their defense (29th in the NFL in 2014) and rushing game (28th in yards per rushing attempt in 2014) from the bottom of the NFL to top 10 status in one season. For one, Manning is coming off one of his best seasons and should be far more comfortable in Ben McAdoo’s West Coast-style of offense. Second, Odell Beckham has already arguably become the most dangerous receiver in the NFL. If Cruz can return to his 2011-12 form (168 catches, 2,228 yards, 19 touchdowns), the Giants will have one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the game. Manning-Beckham-Cruz could surpass the 2011 productivity of Manning-Cruz-Nicks.

The potential fly in the ointment is obviously Cruz’s right knee. Cruz tore the patella tendon in his right knee in October 2014. Cruz immediately underwent surgery that same month. At the time, a series of articles were written by sports reporters who consulted medical specialists who questioned whether Cruz would be ever be the same player again.

“While it heals after surgery, it’s a very difficult injury for a speed guy to come back from,” Dr. Craig Levitz, chairman of orthopedic surgery at South Nassau Communities Hospital and chief of sports medicine, told Newsday. “I don’t recall a speed player that has made it back anything close to their former self. He will be ready to play next season, but he may not be good enough to play after he heals.”

“How well he does depends on a number of factors,’’ Dr. James Gladstone, Co-Chief, Division of Sports Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told The New York Post. “He could get back 100 percent, but it’s also possible if he doesn’t get his range of motion.”

After the surgery, Cruz’s trainer predicted the opposite.

“I expect him to attack the rehab just like he’s attacked everything else,” Sean Donellan told The New York Post in October. “He loves proving people wrong. He’s been told his entire life, ‘The doors are closed.’ He wasn’t a Notre Dame guy, a Michigan guy. He wasn’t a big-time D-1 recruit. He wasn’t a draft pick. He scrapped his way onto the field, and he’ll scrap his way back from this.

“I know a lot of people are saying he can’t or won’t be the same after the surgery, and they have pointed out other players who haven’t come back the same, but I have worked with some of those guys and the difference is Victor will outwork them.

“And he will be back. I have no question about that whatsoever.”

Publicly, comments from Giants’ officials have ranged from cautious to optimistic.

“When a guy has a big injury like Victor had, you can’t put all your eggs in his basket,” said Reese on February 21. “Our doctors said he looks good. I see him down in the training room working out with our trainers and doctors and he looks good. Until you get out there – his game is quickness. Until you get out there and move around, you never know how he is going to recover from that. We are hoping and praying that he comes back 100 percent and be the Victor Cruz that we know, but you can’t put 100 percent in that basket.”

“I think (Cruz) will be back to the player that he was and hopefully better,” said Coughin on March 25. “Victor looks really good, he’s starting to run, I was in the field house watching him rehab, he’s coming along well… I don’t know (when he will be able to fully practice). I shouldn’t say this, because medically I really do not have a definite answer, but by training camp, hopefully. He will work his way through.”

Predictably, Cruz says he will be back.

“The injury’s going well, the rehab’s going very, very well,” Cruz said on March 4. “I’m a little more than halfway there, we’re building the strength back in my leg. The rehab’s been hard, it’s been difficult, it’s been long, it’s been grueling, but I’ve been going through it, man, and it’s definitely paying off now. The strength is coming back slowly but surely.

“(The Giants’ medical staff does) a good job of when I’m feeling good, they still tell me things I need to hear to bring me back down to earth a little bit. So they do a good job of keeping me humble and keeping me mindful of the fact that I still have a little ways to go. These steps that I’ve taken so far have been great ones, and they always remind me to send me videos of myself eight weeks ago, ten weeks ago just to remind me how far I’ve come.

“Obviously the next couple of months are very, very important in terms of building the strength (in my knee) and continuing to mold my body back into running shape and things like that. And I just want to take these next couple of months to do that and really focus on that. Training camp is definitely the timetable. More importantly, even before training camp, I’ll be feeling almost 100 percent around May-ish, June-ish and I can really start rehabbing and strengthening it and start running routes and things like that, hopefully.”

#TheReturn

A video posted by Victor Cruz (@teamvic) on

If Cruz isn’t the same player, it will be a hard hit for the Giants. Without Cruz, Beckham is the only receiver on offense that consistently scares opposing defenses. Wide receiver Rueben Randle and tight end Larry Donnell have flashed, but it remains questionable how good they will become. In fact, a strong argument can be made that if one of the top receivers are available in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft, the Giants should considering adding another potential impact player at a position that once looked settled with Cruz and Nicks. The disaster scenario for Manning and the Giants? What if Beckham gets hurt and Cruz isn’t the same player?

Some also point to Cruz’s disappointing season in 2013. Cruz not only missed the last two games of that season with a concussion and left knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery, he was held scoreless and only had one 100-yard receiving game after Week 4. He was also a bit up-and-down in the six games he played in 2014. Though Cruz is an incredibly hard worker, the naysayers will point to off-the-field distractions (both business and social) as well as level of comfort derived from a Super Bowl ring and a huge 5-year, $43-million contract.

Cruz isn’t big. He isn’t blazing fast. But when he’s on top of his game, his quickness and ability to read coverages, run good routes, and get open make him one of the best slot receivers in football. New York Giants fans only got to see Cruz and Beckham play together for a little more than a game and a half. They want more.

Cruz is clearly at a crossroads… and so might be state of the New York Giants passing offense. No other offseason move can equal the impact of the return of the 2011-12 version of Victor Cruz.

Apr 072015
 
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Andrus Peat, Stanford Cardinal (October 18, 2014)

Andrus Peat – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Tackles

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*Below are my published, abbreviated reports via Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC

**A note about Pro Upside Comparisons: These are comparisons that are based on the player reaching his ceiling. It does not necessarily mean I believe the player will “be as good as”.

CURRENT OTs ON NYG ROSTER

Will Beatty – 30 Years old – Signed through 2017

Justin Pugh – 25 Years old – Signed through 2016

Marshall Newhouse – 27 Years old – Signed through 2016

Tony Kropog – 29 Years old – Signed through 2015

Michael Bamiro – 25 Years old – Signed through 2016

Emmett Cleary – 25 Years old – Signed through 2016

WHERE THEY STAND

There are more questions than answers for NYG at OT. In a league where teams are constantly adding to their pass rush arsenal, paralleled with a the slowing down of Eli Manning, these questions need answers. Will Beatty was signed to a long term deal and it appears the Giants brass is okay with him protecting Manning’s blind side at least for another year or two. His contract isn’t the worst in the league and they were in a tough spot considering the availability within the market at the time, but the odds of NYG ever getting their money’s worth out of the deal are slim to none. He is woefully inconsistent and there simply isn’t a sense of trust, dominance, or dependability there. Pugh was drafted to play RT, and so he has the past two seasons. But do not forget what Reese said when he was drafted (which he repeated again this offseason), he can play inside if the situation warranted it. Pugh’s physical shortcomings were exposed in 2014 and he had flashes of really poor performance. I think he can still be a part of the team’s long term plans, but by no means should he be cemented in to the RT spot. Newhouse is a solid backup caliber player, better than what NYG had in 2014. Between Kropog, Bamiro, and Cleary, there is a chance all three will be off the roster by the beginning of the season. Kropog is the most reliable but I think Cleary has some upside to him.

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Andrus Peat – Stanford – 6’7/313 – 84

Upside Pro Comparison: Andrew Whitworth/CIN

Strong Points: Overwhelming size and power. Can explode out of his stance and dominate at the point of attack. Has a long reach with strong, heavy hands. Generates a lot of power from his lower half and can play the leverage game. Plays with a wide and balanced base. Holds his ground against the bull rush with ease, doesn’t get pushed back. Technically sound from top to bottom. Has a “dancing bear” movement ability when dropping back in to pads protection. Can be light on his feet when he needs to be. Recovers well after being initially beat. Shows quick and balanced reaction to late movement, blitzes, and stunts. Passionate about the game, works hard to do the little things right.

Weak Points: Limited athlete the further in to space he gets. Struggles to hang with the speed and quickness of linebackers on the second level. Sloppy body, needs to refine his conditioning work. Will get top heavy when fatigued, bending at the waist and reaching. The power presence and aggression aren’t always there in pass protection. Athletic upside is limited.

Summary: 2nd Team All American and three year starter. Father (Todd) played six seasons in the NFL. Peat has all the size, length, and power presence of an elite left tackle in the NFL. His consistent ability to fire out of his stance and dominate his man at the point of attack will catch the eye of every offensive coach in the league. There is work to be done on his knee bend and lateral range from a consistency perspective, but he has shown the ability to do everything at a high level. He is a rare athlete with a burning passion and knowledge of the game and position.

*So I came in to the NFL Draft “season” with Peat atop my OT rankings, but I downgraded him a bit due to a lack of performance at the combine and what appeared to be poor conditioning. I did extra digging and used my limited availability of resources to get some information on him and all I got back was that he was as dedicated a football player as you can find. Peat is naturally massive kid that is still ridding himself of baby fat is what I was told. His genetics are getting in the way a little bit but there are no reasons to believe he won’t be in football shape. I took a step back and realized I over-analyzed Peat. I went back to my game notes and told myself, this is the top OT of the class and there is no question about it. He has the best footwork. He has the most length and girth. He can produce more short area power than any OTs in the class. Peat is what I said he was all year, a fantastic football player. I don’t consider him to be elite and he may need a year at RT. But Peat is definitely an option for #9 overall and I think he can be a long term solution at LT.

2 – La’el Collins – LSU – 6’4/305 – 83

Upside Pro Comparison: Zack Martin/DAL

Strong Points: Versatile three starter with both the tool and skill sets to play either guard or tackle in the NFL. Long arms with a wide frame and light feet. Punishing run blocker that makes the consistent effort to drive defenders through the ground. Finishes blocks. Tremendous reach blocker. Makes the effort to get downfield and throw his weight around among smaller defenders. Strong hands that can lock on to a defender’s chest and control engagement. Gets out of his stance quickly and sets up precisely in pass protection. Can stay square to a speed rusher.

Weak Points: Feet will get heavy when engaged, loses track of keeping them chopping. Leverage isn’t always there, will lean too far forward at the waist. Has struggled against the lower, stronger defenders. Won’t always reach the edge in time against speed rushers. Double moves and stunts expose an athleticism deficit in his game.

Summary: After leading the team in knockdown blocks as the left guard in 2012, Collins made the move to left tackle prior to 2013 and has been on the steady incline since. His improvement as a pass blocker has been constant with each month. He is very powerful and strong. His physical contact with defenders carries a lot of force, as seen with the amount of players he puts on the ground. His position versatility in combination with his impressive improvement as a pass blocker should get him drafted very high. The weaknesses in his game can be coached up and erased with more experience as a left tackle. He has all the speed, strength, size, and intangibles necessary to be a big time player at the next level.

*By no means did I downgrade Collins with my recent upgrade of Peat. Collins is still one of my favorite players in this draft. The question with him is whether or not he should play guard in the NFL. Physically he is better built for the inside and the more I’ve watched of him, the more I notice his weaknesses are hidden when he plays inside and his strengths are enhanced. So while I do think he could play either tackle spot, Collins is best suited inside. I think in terms of immediate contribution, he is the best of the top three. His violence and effort are what the NYG offensive line needs the most. I love how hard he plays and it’s rare to find a player that so commonly takes his defender out of a play. He takes pride in being a protector of his teammates. NYG needs more attitudes like this one. I think he could be a day one starter at LG or RT for NYG.

3 – Brandon Scherff – Iowa – 6’5/319 – 83

Upside Pro Comparison: Joe Staley/SF

Strong Points: Punishing run blocker that generates tremendous, dominating power on the move. Tenacious and consistently aggressive. Stays upright with good nee bend as he shuffles to the edge in pass protection. Has the athleticism to mirror the pass rusher and keep himself squared up. Athletic, quick feet. Comfortable in space and it doesn’t take much for him to completely blow a linebacker up and push him out of the play when moving on to the second level. Can reach and seal off a defender in either direction. Swings his hips in to the hole and anchors his position. Recovers well with good last second punches and lunges. Versatile blocker with a developed skill set.

Weak Points: May not have the ideal frame or length for the tackle position. Too often his man will make tackles or an assist. Needs to do a better job of locking on and finishing blocks. Will lose his sense of strength and power in pass protection. Short area change of direction after he commits is slow. Does not always appear to be aware with quick reactions to the defense.

Summary: First Team All American. Interesting athletic background that explains some of his physical traits. He was a 5 sport athlete in high school which included a couple years of playing quarterback. Scherff is a freak in the weight room and it translates to tremendous power on the field. When his balance is in the right place, Scherff looks like one of the most dominant linemen in the nation. There are holes in his game when it comes to consistency of mechanics with hand and foot placement that he needs to refine. His future in the NFL may be best suited at guard when considering his strengths and weaknesses. High ceiling, low floor type prospect.

*Scherff finishes with the same grade as Collins. I wouldn’t mind either but I just prefer Collins to Scherff if you put a gun to my head. Out of these too top three guys, Scherff is the best athlete and I’ve been saying it for months. The label of him being too unathletic for LT that some were using was erroneous. This guy can really move. He, like Collins, plays hard and will make the effort to drive defenders through the ground consistently. When he has everything clicking mechanically, he can block anyone in any situation. My main issue with him is a lack of consistency and a lack of ability to finish plays. Way too often did I see his defender make tackles, sacks, hurries…etc. He was probably tested the least among the top OTs in this class when it came to playing against eventual NFL caliber players in college but probably allowed the most tackles and hurries. Another guy I think is best suited inside a la Joel Bitonio and Zack Martin.

4 – Jake Fisher – Oregon – 6’6/306 – 77

Upside Pro Comparison: Ryan Clady/DEN

Strong Points: Elite level quickness and body control out of his stance. Fast to get his hands on the defender with an inside position. Natural knee bender, shows zero struggle in playing with a low pad level. Strong stab, stifles the defender and allows him to swing his hips in to position. Easy looking ability to mirror a pass rusher up and down the pocket. Explosive and fast in space. Can be counted on to get to the second level and impact the linebacker’s route to the ball. Can redirect players in space. Has the suddenness to reach lateral defenders and seal them off. Rolls his hips and maintains proper posture and mechanics. Fiery player, works hard to protect his teammates and do the little things in a consistently aggressive manner.

Weak Points: Needs more bulk to play in the NFL. Light in the pants, has a hard time anchoring his position against the bigger, more powerful defenders. Won’t get much of a push when trying to down block. More of a body position dependent blocker that doesn’t look to drive through his target. Struggles to recover when initially beat. Loses track of strength and balance, can be pushed in to the quarterback’s space.

Summary: Fifth year that has bounced around the offensive front. Was a high school tight end converted to guard, but earned the starting right tackle job in 2012. He started there for two seasons and then shifted to left tackle as a result of injuries along the starting Oregon offensive line. Fisher has the athletic ability to play either tackle spot in the pros but before he can be thrown in to the mix, he needs to add weight and strength. He has the ability and attitude to be a quality starter down the road.

*Fisher may have upped his stock more than any OT with his play in 2014. It started with the opportunity to move from RT to LT following an injury to the Ducks’ starting blind side protector. Fisher showed off great foot speed, easy bending, and an aggressive style. He was mentioned as the piece to the offense that held everything together. He is a blue collar type that lacks a couple of physical tools, but makes up for it with grit and consistent technique. He puts on a show in workout ad there are some people I respect that say he can be the top OL in this draft 3 or 4 years down the road. He needs to build up lower body strength but by no means do I consider him a player that has a power-deficit. I think Fisher can be had in round 2 and he could play the RT spot for NYG day one. Don’t overlook him.

5 – Ereck Flowers – Miami – 6’6/329 – 76

Upside Pro Comparison: Phil Loadholt/MIN

Strong Points: Big and powerful run blocker with the feet and length to play left tackle in the pros. Overwhelming strength and presence to swallow up a defender and take him out of the play. Assertive blocker that can stifle his man with a violent punch to the numbers. Shows rare athletic ability for a player his size. Shows light feet. Can reach the edge with an efficient kick slide. Will stay square to the defender and try to overpower him right away. Looks downfield to make the extra block. Will play with a mean and aggressive style. Shows the desire to put his opponents through the ground.

Weak Points: Inconsistent technique and mechanics. Puts his head down when engaged with a defender. Lapses in concentration, slow reaction to blitzes and stunts. Will neglect the knee bend and try too hard to win the battle with his upper body only. Sloppy set up as a pass blocker, trusts his tool set to get the job done too often.

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter with experience on the right and left side. Flowers shows the ability to dominate his opponent on every play when he maintains the proper body position and technique. He has all the ability a player needs to be a quality left tackle in the NFL. He moves well, has tremendous power and functional strength in addition to the size to factor as an immediate contributor at the next level. His nasty on-field demeanor and talent can make him one of the top run blocking tackles in the league. He needs to refine his pass blocking technique and mechanics before he is trusted to protect the blind side of a quarterback, though.

*There is a good amount of speculation that Flowers is being targeted by NYG at #9. I haven’t head anything that gives that rumor credence and I just can’t imagine how they could believe he is one of the top 10 overall players in this draft class. I wouldn’t say that I dislike him. He is graded as a 2nd round caliber player and I do think he can start for a team, possibly even right away. Flowers has the size and power to factor as a RT day one. I can’t watch a quarter of his on tape without seeing significant technique and mechanical issues though. It is pretty maddening. He can improve there with good coaching and a good approach, thus the upside may be a solid starting left tackle. I’m just a little scared off by the fact there are more questions than answers with him.

6 – D.J. Humphries – Florida – 6’5/307 – 75

Upside Pro Comparison: Russell Okung/SEA

Strong Points: Excellent athlete in space. Fast and sudden with a long, slender frame capable of putting on more bulk. Consistent motor and effort. Very active and always on the lookout for extra defenders to pick off. Strong hands, can stifle a defender in his tracks and control engagement. Easy knee bender. Can kick slide his way to the edge with the balance and power to block power and speed rushers.

Weak Points: Lean body type that needs at least a year’s worth of weight training before being depended on. Late out of his stance and will force himself in to playing a lot of catch up. Inconsistent footwork from a mechanical point of view. Does not always play up to his athletic ability.

Summary: Junior entry. Suffered a serious knee injury in 2013 and missed two games in 2014 with an ankle. Former elite high school recruit that never lived up to the expectations. Humphries still has a high ceiling because of his length and ability to move. He can generate a lot of power from his upper body and shows that he can move in space with anybody. He will need time to adapt to the quickness of the league and add weight, but he has starter potential down the road.

*I’ve been back and forth on Humphries to the point where I has him at the end of round 1 and towards the bottom of round 3. I think Humphries has the elite upside that most coaches and GMs are looking for when scouting left tackles. He is a great athlete and has tremendous natural hand power. He can really rough guys up at the line of scrimmage and it almost seems easy for him to mirror guys in space. What doesn’t he have? Well first of all I want to see him hold on to weight, as he’s never played at above 300 pounds and I need to see more leg drive. He had a hard time anchoring his position against power guys and he’ll see those every week in the NFL. Humphries is going to get drafted by someone in the first round, thus I don’t see NYG having to deal with the temptation of bringing him here in round 2. I think his real value is found in round 3.

7 – Mitch Morse – Missouri – 6’5/305 – 73

Upside Pro Comparison: Justin Pugh/NYG

Strong Points: Easy bender at the knees. Displays great balance and body control with a low base and high hands. Stays square to the defender, can strike at any point. Really light feet when dropping back to the edge in pass protection. Comfortable blocker at the second level. Can hang with the quickness and speed of linebackers. Gets out of his stance fast and will initiate contact.

Weak Points: Lacks a power game. Doesn’t stifle defenders, won’t deliver the violent punch. Won’t anchor his position against the powerful, bigger defenders. Doesn’t drive defenders out of a play. Needs to add more weight and strength.

Summary: Fifth year senior and three year starter. Has played center, right tackle, and left tackle for the Tigers. Underrated prospect with very good athletic ability and mechanics. Versatile blocker with a high upside. Has the feet to play left tackle, but also the low center of gravity and lateral quickness to play inside. Morse far-exceeded expectations in 2014 with his more-than-solid level of play at left tackle in the SEC all year, and he could be a diamond in the rough with legit ability to start in the NFL.

*Morse is a versatile athlete and versatile football player. He has both the tools and skills to play both inside and outside. I think he favorably compares to Pugh in several ways, including the fact that he lacks the length that many want out of an OT. I could put him in to the OG group but since he performed so well at LT in 2014, I kept him here. Morse was never overwhelmed against the speed of the SEC, as he always just looked so balanced and ready to pounce. He had the blend of aggression and patience that all good blockers have. Morse is a day 3 target that would fit in as a versatile backup and possible starter. Don’t overlook the NYG need for quality backups, as it’s been a terrible part of this team for years.

8 – T.J. Clemmings – Pittsburgh – 6’5/309 – 73

Upside Pro Comparison: Duane Brown/HOU

Strong Points: Quick and strong with wide shoulders and thick legs. Light and athletic feet that he keeps moving throughout engagement. Punishing run blocker that is at his best when moving downhill and driving the defender back. Will finish blocks, plays to the whistle. Violent punch that stifles the defender. Controls the defender and can stop them in their tracks. Gets to the second level fast and has the agility to move with linebackers. Good balance and body control in pass protection. Can stay square to his man. Reacts fast to the blitz at his inside shoulder, adjusts well. Can swing his hips in to place and rolls them in to the defender. Anchors his position, won’t be pushed back.

Weak Points: Still new to the position, only played offensive tackle for two years. Late to get out of his stance and will allow the defender in to his body. Hands are too wide and he will get grabby to the shoulder pads of the defender. Needs to show better footwork when pass protecting the edge. Shows hesitation as a pass blocker. Mis-times his jabs and foot movement.

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

*The way I feel about Humphries and his upside is how many people feel about Clemmings. The tools-rich, raw athlete put together a couple seasons of quality and improving performance. If that trend continues as he enters the league, someone will get a quality starter out of him. But also similar to Humphries, there is a certain level of inconsistency that will drive coaches mad. The one thing he never lacks however is a sense of violence and power. He is a guy that can get a lot of push and will control defenders with his hands on. There is a lack of power and flexibility under the belt and he really needs to develop more reliable mechanics. He will no longer be the big man on campus when he is in the NFL. I like him as a 4th rounder but some are saying he is a 1st round guy. Someone will take a chance on him.

9 – Ty Sambrailo – Colorado State – 6’6/311 – 73

Upside Pro Comparison: Luke Joeckel/JAC

Strong Points: Experienced left tackle with over 40 starts on his resume. Great body control and balance. Shows good footwork, can play the game with his feet. Does a nice job of staying square to his target. Gets his hands inside with a strong initial jab. Rolls his hips in to the defender. Remains active throughout the engagement, always making the effort to finish his blocks. Has the speed to reach the second level and close off linebackers. Bends at the knees and will prevent himself from leaning too far forward. Displays consistent technique from top to bottom. Durable and reliable.

Weak Points: Slow out of his stance, lacks the pop upon initial contact to the defender. Doesn’t control strong defenders with his hands. Lacks upper body strength and won’t overpower anyone. Struggles to anchor his position against the more powerful defensive linemen. Questionable reach in pass protection. Missed 2+ games with a knee in 2014.

Summary: 1st Team All Mountain West Conference. A lot of starting experience at left tackle. Sambrailo has been the leader of that offensive line for a couple seasons now and the coaches rave about his intangibles. On the field, he shows the ability to play the game with his feet, hanging with speed rushers and neutralizing them at the point of the attack. His balance and body control consistently put him in position to get the job done as a pass blocker. His struggles come from a slow pop out of his stance and a lack of upper body strength, both of which can be improved with coaching and hard work. Sambrailo may not be an immediate impact guy for most schemes, but he has a skill set that most tackles never get. He simply needs a year or two of strength and conditioning work and he could end up a solid starting left tackle at the next level.

*There may be a few physical tools that he lacks when searching for the ideal left tackle. But the one word I constantly walk away thinking about with him is “smooth”. Sambrailo can easily shift his weight in space and his hands are always high and inside. I can recall comparing his game to Joe Thomas after the first time I watched him, I really thought for a second he was gonna be a top 10 guy. The more I watch though, the more development I think he will need. He is pretty soft-bodied and lacks the power you want out of an NFL OL. I think he can be a starting LT down the road and for where you can get him (3rd/4th), it is good value.

10 – Donovan Smith – Penn State – 6’6/325 – 72

Upside Pro Comparison: D.J. Fluker/SD

Strong Points: Tools-rich offensive lineman. Big and physical with a long reach and quick feet. Has the rare movement ability for a player his size. Controls defenders with his hands and can wash them out of a play completely. Shows lateral range capability. Can get the push at the point of attack. Swings his hips in to the hole and will keep his feet moving as a run blocker.

Weak Points: Raw and inconsistent. Effort isn’t always there. Played heavier than his listed size and there might be a conditioning issue. Doesn’t play up to his physical potential. Reaches and lunges for pass rushers, leaving himself top heavy and unbalanced. Late out of his stance and is often playing catch up. Slow reaction to late stunts and blitzes.

Summary: Fourth year junior entry with three seasons of starting experience. Smith has never lived up to the hype and consistently under performs considering his tool set. He is big and strong and has the athletic ability to play left tackle. His issues are consistency and attention to detail. He fails to do the little, but vital, things right. Has physical upside but failed to put it together after 30+ starts in college.

*I had to downgrade Smith by a few points because of some work ethic and character concerns. He is talented, gifted, tools-rich but there has been a lack of effort put in during the past two offseasons by Smith. This year he has out his best foot forward and all of the sudden he is down about 20 pounds since December and had a Pro-Day that rivaled the best we’ve seen throughout the pre=draft process. Smith is huge and he has good footwork. He has power, strength, and nastiness to him. He can be a big time player if he applies himself. I think he can be a sure-thing RT in this league with the upside of a more-than-solid LT. He was just so inconsistent in college and there are the character issues that just always pop up when I talk to people about him.

11 – Darryl Williams – Oklahoma – 6’5/327 – 72

Upside Pro Comparison: Anthony Davis/SF

Strong Points: Mammoth-sized right tackle with a lot of starting experience. Tremendous reach and upper body strength. Powerful drive blocker. Functionally strong and powerful. Reaches the defenders down the line at on the second level. Reacts to the action around him well. Quick thinker. Controls the engagement upon contact.

Weak Points: Relies too heavily on his hands. Doesn’t use his feet as much as he should. Gets top heavy and will bend too far at the waist. Speed in space as a lead blocker is below average. Athletic ability looks worse the further from the line he gets. Plays too high. Quicker, smaller defenders can get under his pads and throw him off balance.

Summary: Over three years, Williams missed three games (knee) and started the rest at right tackle with the exception of the 2014 Sugar Bowl, where he manned the left tackle spot. He brings a physical presence to the line and rarely gets pushed around. He can make a big difference as a run blocker, showing the ability to be equally effective against linemen and linebackers alike. His ability in short space to physically dominate is consistent. He struggles against speed when he has to pass protect, relying too much on his upper body. His upside may be limited because of his footwork, but there is plenty of upside to warrant a selection.

*Williams caught my eye each time I saw Oklahoma on the screen. He moved and punched like an NFL right tackle playing college football. He has such great length that when he is reaching for defenders, he is in to their body before they have any shot at locking on to him. He consistently controls the engagement and when he has his feet under him, he’ll drive anyone back. The footwork is behind where it needs to be right now though. He can get heavy at times and he doesn’t bend that well. He needs to simply be a better athlete than he is now but keep in mind, a guy with this kind of size and length can make up for quickness limitations.

12 – Rob Havenstein – Wisconsin – 6’7/321 – 72

Upside Pro Comparison: Mitchell Schwartz/CLE

Strong Points: Good looking frame that carries plenty of weight with ease. Gets out of his stance quickly and will initiate contact as a run blocker. Sets up in pass protection like clockwork and maximizes his potential pre-engagement. Strong hands. Technically sound from head to toe. Will work hard to keep his hands locked on. Understands and practices good leverage to anchor. Always in control of his body and his very well aware of his ability and what needs to be done each play. Smart player with quick reactions and consistent awareness of his assignment and defensive alignment. Can recover well if he is initially beat. Consistently stays within himself.

Weak Points: Has a shorter than desired athletic ceiling. Strength and power from his lower half are average at best. Won’t overwhelm anyone. Foot speed in space isn’t there. Will overextend in space, showing his chest to the ground. Loses track of agility knee bend when moving to the second level. Doesn’t have the length that a player with his frame typically has.

Summary: Fifth year senior. All American in 2014. Tied a school record with 54 games played and started 41 straight at right tackle. Havenstein is exactly what most teams want out of a right tackle prospect. He is big, technically sound, and overly reliable. He is a better athlete than advertised as a pass blocker, showing the ability to move with some of the best pass rushers the country had to offer. He could stand to add a more consistent strength and power element to his game, but he could be a plug and play type prospect. That fact alone could get him drafted early day two even though his long term upside is limited. Smart blockers with this size and the ability to pass protect are always in high demand.

*There isn’t one way to block a defender. It doesn’t always need to look pretty and the number one thing I look for is how often a guy gets beat. Havenstein looks rough around the edges, doesn’t bend that well, and won’t wow anyone with movement. But what he consistently does is win the one on one battles whether they are in space or at the point of attack. He can lock on to his man and stay between him and the ball carrier, plain and simple. I think there is a limit to how good he will be, but he can be a quality backup and spot starter. NYG could have used a guy like this over the past 2-3 years.

13 – Cedric Ogbuehi – Texas A& M – 6’5/306 – 71

Upside Pro Comparison: Joe Barksdale/STL

Strong Points: Gifted, versatile lineman with all the tools and skills to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. Ideal frame and reach, long arms and looks comfortable holding 300+ pounds with the body type to hold more weight. Quick, light feet. Reacts fast to what the defense throws at him. Gets the initial hand position inside with a squared up body position. Bends at the knees with ease. Easy drop back step, slides out to the edge with speed and balance. Makes the effort to get downfield and throw the extra block. Easy mover.

Weak Points: Lacks the hand strength to control defenders. Loses out on body control in pass protection, balance isn’t always there. Inconsistent power presence, gets walked back in to pocket too often. Poor anchor strength. Loses track of technique as the play continues on. Wont drive defenders off the ball and stick to their chest through the end of a play. Tore his ACL following the 2014 season.

Summary: Fifth year senior. Received a first round grade from the Advisory Board last year. Has been shuffled around the offensive line with multiple starts at RG, RT, and LT. Failed to meet expectations at left tackle in 2014, showing a lack of power and consistency with his technique. Ogbuehi was viewed as one of the top OL prospects coming in to the season but the holes in his game left many questioning if he can play on the left side in the NFL. His work ethic and passion for the game are in question as well. While he may not be the elite prospect, Ogbuehi is still a quality player that could bring position versatility to an NFL team. The upside is there when you consider his size and athletic ability, he just needs to refine his technique and become a more consistent performer. His torn ACL suffered after the 2014 season will likely force him to miss the 2015 season.

*Ogbuehi is a guy that I really want to like. He is blessed with the necessary tools and natural ability. He has some outstanding tape at OG and RT. When he’s on, there is an easy sense of dominance. But there may not be a player in the country that hurt himself more in 2014 with his play than Ogbuehi. Week after week he was overwhelmed at the point of attack by strength and power. The footwork and movement was good enough but he failed to react with balance and body control He just always appeared to be uncomfortable and mentally behind. Combine that with a lack of hand strength and inconsistent mechanics, he was routinely beat. He’ll likely miss 2015 with the ACL injury, so the question is how hard will he approach this year when it comes to enhancing his strength and football IQ? Reports (unconfirmed by be) are that he doesn’t practice hard and is a on the lackadaisical side. NYG has had too many of those guys for a few years now. If he can be had in round 4 or 5, maybe, just maybe, go for it and give him a year and a half to prove himself. But I think someone will scoop him up prior to that.

14 – Jamon Brown – Louisville – 6’4/323 – 68

Upside Pro Comparison: Ramon Foster/PIT

Strong Points: Mammoth, versatile offensive tackle with experience on both sides. Creates a lot of force and power from his hands. Light feet, can really move well in space. Can stay balanced and adjust to the defense. Able to strike quickly at any time. Uses long arms and able legs to square himself up to defenders and stay there. Will control engagement and take his man where he wants to.

Weak Points: Doesn’t anchor well in pass protection for a player with his size. Will struggle to sustain presence the longer a play transpires. Questionable lateral range. Plays high and will bend at the wait instead of the knees. Over-commits and shows his numbers to the ground.

Summary: Brown is a three year starter with plenty of experience at both left and right tackle. Lost 25 pounds between the 2013 and 2014 seasons and it helped tremendously. He is not just a big, stagnant body that excels as a run blocker. Brown has the foot quickness to play on the left side but there needs to be work done on his consistency of mechanics with his hands and knee bend.

*Not sure where he will fit best in the NFL, RT or RG. I’ve seen flashes here and I think he can eventually be a capable versatile backup. He has outstanding length and hand strength, he can lock guys up when his balance is there but I question the foot speed and lateral movement. There are tools to be worked with and he is a violent guy but he needs a lot of coaching and time to develop.

15 – Tyrus Thompson – Oklahoma – 6’5/324 – 68

Upside Pro Comparison: Michael Harris/MIN

Strong Points: Physically gifted. Large frame with plenty of length and a strong upper body that produces a lot of force. Light, quick feet. Strong and productive run blocker. Can swing his hips in to the hole and lack on to the defender. Gets a lot of movement when he can move downhill. Quick hands off the snap, gets his hands on right away. Shows the speed to get to the second level.

Weak Points: Loses track of his footwork and will cross them in pass protection. Does not stay square to his defender. Inconsistent use of leverage. Gets driven back too easily as a pass blocker. Doesn’t show functional strength on the move in pass protection. Slow reaction to stunts and blitzes. Doesn’t move his feet when trying to react to lateral movement.

Summary: Fifth year senior, two year starter. Thompson can move well in space and has all the size you can ask for. His girth and reach alone make him a tough matchup for defenders. He can handle the physical side of the game. He shows weakness as a mover to the left and right but a lot of those issues are mechanical. He can be coached up over time in to a starting caliber offensive tackle.

*There have been scouts talking about Thompson as a guy that could be one of the best in the class down the road. I’ve never seen it with him. He produces no power from his lower body and he doesn’t react to the action. When it comes to speed rushers with double moves and defensive fronts that are moving guys around laterally, he repeatedly fails to perform. I don’t think this guy will be in the league very long.

16 – Takoby Cofield – Duke – 6’4/310 – 66
17 – Brey Cook – Arkansas – 6’7/325 – 65
18 – Austin Shepherd – Alabama – 6’4/313 – 65
19 – Rob Crisp – NC State – 6’6/301 – 65
20 – Corey Robinson – South Carolina – 6’7/324 – 65

TOP UDFA SLEEPER

Brett Boyko – UNLV – 6’7/301 – 64

*One of my favorite under the radar prospects here. He has the some of the best footwork you’ll find from a mechanical perspective. He can punch hard and he keeps his hands inside. Has the knee bend, balance, and body control you want out of a guy that works in space. Boyko measured in with 32 inch arms, which is the shortest of all the OL prospects. There are teams that obsess over numbers like that and I understand why, but Boyko is a guy I would take a chance on. He was so consistent in the 4 games I saw and the lack of length rarely showed up on the field. He really doesn’t look all that different than Justin Pugh when Pugh was coming out of Syracuse.

NYG APPROACH

This is an interesting group. More so than years past, there are a lot of guys (especially at the top) that many project to be better inside than outside. Scherff and Collins are legit, quality LT prospects but they do have the skill sets to be Pro-Bowl level guards in year one. The discussion then becomes…should NYG spend their #9 overall pick on a prospect that will play LG? It’s an interesting debate. Maybe you are under the impression that NYG should opt for an offensive playmaker or pass rusher with the first pick and opt for a 2nd/3rd round OL. Again, no right answer there but it seems to be there will be a lot of teams looking for fresh OL talent this year. Hoping that a value falls to you in round 2 or 3 could really backfire and result in NYG heading in to 2015 with the same OL they struggled with in 2014. If NYG wants a starter, the safe route would be to take one at #9,

The Peat/Scherff/Collins race to the top has been as back and forth as I can ever remember personally. I’ve had all three at the top respectively at some point during the pre-draft process. You can’t go wrong with any of them but when it comes down to what I think NYG will need over the next 4-5 years, Peat ends up as my guy. He has the most natural talent of the three and his work ethic is more than good enough. I think his issues are easier to correct than the other two. No matter the case, nobody can complain if one of them is the pick at #9. If someone like Cooper or White falls and NYG opts to bring in the playmaker, the question becomes do they opt for a second or third tier OT, or do they go for one of the top interior guys we will discuss later in the week? I don’t think the long-term solution at LT is on the roster, but I wouldn’t go in to the draft thinking you absolutely have to find him in this class.

Apr 062015
 
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George Selvie, Dallas Cowboys (December 15, 2013)

George Selvie – © USA TODAY Sports Images

As discussed in our spotlight on defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis, the defensive line of the New York Giants has been in a state of decline. This has been most noticeable at defensive end where the Giants have seen the deterioration and departure of Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Mathias Kiwanuka, not to mention the roller coaster productivity of Jason Pierre-Paul.

To help reinforce this unit, the Giants signed unrestricted free agent George Selvie from the Dallas Cowboys on March 20. The contract was reportedly a 1-year, $1.4 million deal that included a $200,000 signing bonus.

The 28-year old Selvie was a collegiate teammate of defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul at the University of South Florida. And it is Selvie, and not JPP, who holds school records for career sacks, sacks in a season, and tackles for a loss in a season. In 2007, Selvie was named “Big East Defensive Player of the Year” when he accrued 14.5 sacks. Indeed, at one time, Selvie was considered a better pro prospect than Pierre-Paul. But not by the Giants and the rest of the NFL.

After the Giants drafted Pierre-Paul in 2010, Giants Vice President of Player Evaluation was asked why the Giants like JPP better than Selvie. “(Pierre-Paul) is a great player,” replied Ross. “Selvie – not much. This kid helped Selvie… They are totally different players; totally different skill set; totally different athletic ability. The media was talking about Selvie – the guy had a tremendous sophomore year. He had 15 sacks or so. But his production has gone down and that is where you evaluate their skill set; their athletic ability; the height, weight, speed, the quickness, the strength, those things.”

While Pierre-Paul was drafted in the 1st round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Giants, Selvie fell to the 7th round where he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. The head coach of the Rams at the time was Steve Spagnuolo. Selvie only lasted one season with the Rams. He played in all 16 games as a rookie and finished the year with 21 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Spagnulo waived Selvie in early September 2011 before the regular season started. Selvie was immediately claimed by the Carolina Panthers but then waived a month later after playing in four games as a backup. A month after that, in November, he was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he played in seven games as backup. In all, Selvie finished the 2011 season with only six tackles and half a sack.

Selvie missed the first five games of the 2012 season with a knee injury. When he returned, Selvie played in nine games as a reserve for the Jaguars, collecting 15 tackles and one sack.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Selvie as a free agent in April 2013 after the Jaguars decided not to tender him. However, Tampa Bay became the fourth NFL team to cut ties with Selvie when they released him a month later.

It was at this point in time where there would occur another connection between Selvie and the Giants. After being cut by Tampa Bay, Selvie was invited to try out at the Giants rookie mini-camp in May 2013. However, Selvie did not do enough to impress the team and he was not offered a contract.

At the time, that looked like the last hurrah for Selvie. But two months later, the Dallas Cowboys signed him after their training camp opened. Defensive end Anthony Spencer was having knee issues and defensive end Tyrone Crawford had just tore his Achilles. Although Selvie was not expected to make the team, the Cowboys were desperate for bodies. However, Selvie did more than that as he quickly earned first-team reps and was named the starter at left (strongside) defensive end in the preseason.

For the Cowboys in 2013, Selvie started all 16 regular-season games and finished the year with 45 tackles, seven sacks (second most on the team), 22 quarterback pressures, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. Selvie’s first sack as a Cowboy was on Eli Manning in the opener. Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinellis affectionately nicknamed him the “Bricklayer.”

“It’s something coach Marinelli came up with,” said Selvie. “You know sometimes you got guys who will just keep going out there and work, just through time lay bricks, lay bricks one at a time to get better. That’s an analogy they try to use with me, so it just kept.”

Selvie’s productivity in Dallas declined in 2014. He played in all 16 regular-season games with 13 starts at left defensive end. He also started both playoff games for the Cowboys. Selvie finished the regular season with 30 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He added six post-season tackles, including five against Green Bay. Selvie was credited with 20 quarterback pressures in the regular season, down by just two from 2013. And he continued to cause problems for the Giants, sacking Eli again and being credited with eight tackles in two games against Big Blue in 2014.

When Dallas signed one of the better defensive ends in free agency in Greg Hardy in March 2015, Selvie became expendable. The Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers – two teams that had already looked at him just two years earlier and had rejected him – were both interested once again. Selvie signed with the Giants, whose new defensive coordinator, Spagnulo, had also previously waived Selvie.

“I’m excited to be here,” Selvie said. “It’s a great opportunity for me. And I’m excited to be playing with JPP again, along with Spags. I’m excited for the opportunity to be here.

“There have been great defensive linemen that have played (with the Giants), and I want to be one of those. I felt like this was a great situation. With Jason being over there (at right defensive end), he gets a lot of attention. I hope I can get free with that. It’s a great opportunity and a great fit.”

Pierre-Paul also appears thrilled to be playing with his old collegiate teammate.

“I think that’s a great pickup,” Pierre-Paul said of the Giants signing Selvie. “He’s a good player. George can play the run and rush the passer. From the film I’ve watched, he’s gotten better as a player…He’s a dedicated worker, and I know he’s going to work to try to get better and better.”

So how does Selvie fit in with the Giants? At 6’4”, 270 pounds, the journeyman Selvie has demonstrated an ability to be a decent run defender at left end, where he has started 31 regular- and post-season NFL games since 2013. He also has 10 sacks and 42 quarterback pressures in the last two regular seasons. That alone gives him a decent shot a starting job at strongside end if the Giants choose to keep JPP at weakside end. Selvie will compete with Damontre Moore, Robert Ayers, and Kerry Wynn – along with any potential 2015 draft pick – for a starting job. No one yet has the inside track.

“George is going to fill in that gap that we have on that other side,” Pierre-Paul said. “He is going to fight for that starting spot. That’s a good thing. That will make everybody work harder.”

The big question is what is Selvie’s upside? Was 2013 his career year for a journeyman now with his sixth team? Is he the kind of guy you look to replace, or can become a valuable starter or reserve in New York? That remains to be seen. Like a bad penny, Selvie keeps turning up. Spagnulo, the Buccaneers, and Giants all wanted him back after cutting ties. At the very least, it will be interesting to see if Selvie’s presence on the team has an impact on JPP’s mental outlook and overall game.

Apr 022015
 
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Amari Cooper, Alabama Crimson Tide (November 8, 2014)

Amari Cooper – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*Below are my published, abbreviated reports via Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC

**A note about Pro Upside Comparisons: These are comparisons that are based on the player reaching his ceiling. It does not necessarily mean I believe the player will “be as good as”.

CURRENT WRs ON NYG ROSTER

Odell Beckham – 23 Years old – Signed through 2017

Victor Cruz – 29 Years old – Signed through 2018

Rueben Randle – 24 Years old – Signed through 2015

Preston Parker – 28 Years old – Signed through 2015

Dwayne Harris – 28 Years old – Signed through 2019

Kevin Ogletree – 28 Years old – Signed through 2015

Corey Washington – 24 Years old – Signed through 2016

Marcus Harris – 26 Years old – Signed through 2015

Julian Talley – 26 Years old – Signed through 2016

Chris Harper – 26 Years old – Signed through 2015

Juron Criner – 26 Years old – Signed through 2016

WHERE THEY STAND

This is a position that could rightfully be considered a major strength for the team or a liability based on who you ask. Beckham came out of his rookie season giving NYG fans a reason to hope that they may finally have an elite level playmaker at the position. While the sophomore struggles are fairly common among NFL wide receivers, there is something about him that just screams yearly production. He has ‘special’ written all over him. Cruz is the wildcard of this group and his return from a nasty knee injury as he approaches 29 years old is a major factor in how well this passing game can maintain an upward trend. If he returns anything close to 100% of what he was, NYG has one of the better 1-2 punches at WR in the league. Randle is only 24 years old and has disappointed as much as he has impressed but nobody can argue that there is still a ceiling with him that hasn’t been reached. He could be poised for a breakout year but the consistency needs to be there in his year 4 season. Beyond those three, there are a bunch of relative unknowns but some of these guys really have shown something more than just potential. Dwayne Harris was signed for his special teams prowess but with that contract, NYG brass may like his skill set enough to get 15+ snaps per game at WR. Parker showed he can contribute from multiple angles but even though I love his story, he is a replaceable player. Marcus Harris was my favorite under the radar WR last preseason, I think he can stick if he returns to form from his injury. Ogletree, Washington, Talley, Harper, and Criner are all training camp bodies that offer their own set of unique tools and skills but in reality should not be impacting NYG’s draft weekend decisions.

TOP 20 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Amari Cooper – Alabama – 6’1/211 – 87

Pro Upside Comparison: Reggie Wayne/RET

Strong Points: Highly skilled, talented athlete that can do everything you want out of a receiver. Quick accelerator, goes form 0-60 in a blink. Elite route runner with quickness in to and out of his breaks. Consistently runs his way open. Reliable, strong hands that plucks the ball out of the air. Elite ball skills and tracking ability. Can chase down a deep ball and position his body to shield a defender from getting in the way. Physical with the ball in his hands, has a running back-type approach with low pad level and strong leg drive. Fearless in traffic and has a strong power presence as a blocker. Reliable as an underneath and deep target. Combines almost all of the essential traits at once no matter what the play call is.

Weak Points: Plays the game so hard and takes way too many hits. His not so serious, but nagging, injuries are starting to pile up. Doesn’t have the elite deep speed to run away from defensive backs or consistently knife through a secondary. Will show lapses in concentration as a receiver and try to run before seeing the ball in.

Summary: All-American receiver and the 2014 Heisman Runner Up. Winner of the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation’s top wide receiver. Cooper is an elite level prospect that will be NFL-ready the day he steps on to the field. He is one of the best route runners to come out of college and he combines that with an aggressive, highly skilled pass catching ability. He is quicker than he is fast, but he has more than enough athleticism to factor as an explosive playmaker in the NFL from day one. The sky is the limit for Cooper as long as he can avoid the injuries that come from such an aggressive style of play.

*I’ve been pretty consistent with my view of Cooper and how I think NYG should approach him. If he is available when they are on the clock, every other plan goes out the window and they should bring him in. Cooper is not a necessity for this offense but he is the perfect compliment to Beckham for the end of Manning’s career. Whether Cruz returns to his former self or not, Cooper fits this offense. He is an NFL-ready route runner with NFL-caliber ball skills and yard-after-catch ability. There isn’t anything he struggles with. The only reason he isn’t elite (90+) is the amount of times he has been nicked up due to his style of play. It is my only concern with him.

2 – Kevin White – West Virginia – 6’3/215 – 85

Pro Upside Comparison: Julio Jones/ATL

Strong Points: Quick and explosive off the snap. Can get off press coverage with a blend of strength and quick-twitch movement. Physical hands catcher. The ball is swallowed by his hands upon contact. Easy change of direction, fluid hips and light feet. Fiery competitor. Reliable and tough in traffic. Can get to the ball at the apex of his leap and will win the majority of one on one situations. Can adjust his momentum and balance on the move. Reacts to the ball fast and easy. Aggressive after the catch and shows running back type tendencies with the ball in his hands. Can outmuscle, outfight most defensive backs.

Weak Points: Doesn’t pay attention to the details when it comes to route running. Wasn’t given a full route tree and doesn’t have a lot of experience reading coverage and running options routes. Doesn’t play to his timed speed. Separation from more athletic cornerbacks is inconsistent. Lacks smooth and effortless movement ability. Effort as a blocker doesn’t match his effort as a receiver.

Summary: Spent two seasons with the Mountaineers after a two year run at Lackawanna College. Had some maturity issues during his pre-West Virginia career. White broke out in a huge way in 2014 including a masterful performance against Alabama week 1. His blend of size, speed, and aggression make him a legit downfield threat each play. White can beat a defense several ways. He has more than enough speed and quickness to pair with his ball skills. He is a tough matchup for any kind of cover man. He can be a day one starter for half the teams in the league if his route running is on par.

*I wouldn’t necessarily argue against those that say White has a higher ceiling than Cooper. His triangle numbers (height/weight/speed) are better by a nice margin and he is a much more aggressive, power-based type athlete. He would scare an opposing defense more than Cooper. If he is there at #9, there is a very small amount of players I would take over him. White is a top 5 overall guy in this class, perhaps even top 3. I think he will need more development time than Cooper, as he can be a pretty sloppy route runner and he doesn’t show the natural awareness and feel for the game. I am getting way ahead of myself and perhaps I shouldn’t…but part of me would be worried about the personalities of White and Beckham being on the field together. They both have a little “diva” in them.

3 – Nelson Agholor – USC – 6’0/198 – 81

Pro Upside Comparison: Jeremy Maclin/KC

Strong Points: Quick and efficient mover with body control and balance. Explosive route runner, gets in and out of breaks with speed. Can change direction while moving at full force. Smooth receiver with elite ball skills. Pure hands catcher. Comes down with a lot of passes in traffic. Excels at running the underneath routes and showing no hesitation over the middle in extending his body to reach the ball. Incredibly savvy when it comes to reading the defense and finding lanes. Tough to bring down in the open field, slippery to tacklers. Polished receiver that does almost everything well.

Weak Points: Top end speed is just average. Has a hard time getting deep separation from defensive backs. Won’t outrun a secondary. Takes a lot of hits with his overly aggressive running style while in possession of the ball. Lacks the size and length that you want out of an outside receiver. Doesn’t have any of the “wow” factor to his game.

Summary: School record setting punt returner with a very well-developed NFL caliber skill set. Easy mover in space with the ability to run himself open against any kind of coverage. Agholor is a reliable underneath target that can make things happen with the ball in his hands. He lacks the ideal size and long speed that the elite receivers possess, but he can a key contributor within an NFL offense. He has a heady approach to the game and plays at a very quick, jitterbug type pace. His role as a receiver may be restricted to the slot positions but he is as reliable as it gets and he grades out very well as a return specialist.

*The more I saw of Agholor as the offseason progressed, the more I became intrigued by his pro potential. I’ve said this before and I will say it again. If you like Cooper a lot, you almost have to like Agholor. He isn’t on the same level but they are similar-type receivers. Agholor is dangerous with the ball in his hands, he’s tough over the middle, he can consistently run himself open. He had a couple performances on tape that most WRs in this class couldn’t put together. In addition, he may be the best punt returner in the class. Out of Marquise Lee, Robert Woods, and Agholor, I am taking Agholor every day.

4 – Jaelen Strong – Arizona State – 6’2/217 – 80

Pro Upside Comparison: Jordan Matthews/PHI

Strong Points: Big and physical. Can outmuscle most defensive backs that try to mix it up with him. Productive pass catcher in traffic. Tall and thick with huge hands. Long strider that can run away from a secondary when he has the ball in his hands. High on-field IQ, reads the defense and makes quick decisions and reactions. A weapon in traffic. Shows no hesitation in going after the ball over the middle in a prone position to be hit. High points the ball. Hard runner after the catch . Tough for a lone defensive back to bring down. Can plant his foot and change direction. Quick change of direction. Strong blocker that takes pride in that part of the game.

Weak Points: Rounds his routes when moving laterally. Lacks the explosion out of his breaks. Top end speed may be average. Doesn’t show the elusive ability to miss tacklers with the ball in his hands. Will let the ball in to his body. Still has some raw tendencies to his game as a pass catcher.

Summary: Junior entry. Former JUCO player that spent two years at ASU, leading the Sun Devils in receiving both seasons. Strong plays a big. Physical game with some sneaky athletic ability. He has elite upside with his combination of size, strength, speed, and ball skills. He is a weapon on 3rd down and near the end zone with his ability in traffic to go up and get the ball. Strong has a versatile tool and skill set that does need to be smoothed around the edges, but his potential and current level of play should get him drafted very high.

*For awhile I had Strong up there with Cooper and White. I love big guys that compete before and after the catch the way Strong does. He can come in to the league day one and match the physical nature of any defensive back in the league. He is big, tough, and long and knows how to use his body. Part of me thinks that if NYG wants to go with an early round WR, Strong is the type of guy they should bring in to compliment what is already on the roster. He won’t make a top 9 overall grade but I doubt he will be there with their second selection. If he drops to their second, he would be an outstanding addition to the passing game. He is made for this kind of scheme. His main issue is he may need more time to develop than what NYG fans want to deal with based on the lack of routes he ran at ASU.

5 – DeVante Parker – Louisville – 6’3/209 – 78

Pro Upside Comparison: AJ Green/CIN

Strong Points: Tool-happy receiver with a well developed skill set. Good game speed, able to break free from a pack and outrun defensive backs. Can get behind a secondary on deep routes. Can burst out of a still position and get in to his long, fast strides quickly. Elite ball skills. Huge hands that swallow the ball upon contact. Great eye-hand coordination, consistently grabs the ball away from his body. Craft and savvy after the catch, knows where to run and when to make cuts. Strong presence, can hold his ground and maintain power in traffic. A threat all over the field that can run himself open as well as reach the ball first in traffic.

Weak Points: Loses some of his athleticism when tracking the ball. Will struggle to separate underneath on quick routes. His change of direction with the ball in his hands is slow. Foot injury forced him to miss 7 games in 2014. Has a bit of a lanky frame and will move with some imbalance and lack of stability at times.

Summary: Despite missing the first 7 games of the 2014 season with a broken foot, Parker had a dominant run to end his career. He started off hot right away as a freshman in 2011 and hasn’t looked back since. Parker has legit deep speed with long, powerful strides. His hands and ball skills are in the elite tier and he has an enormous catch radius. His height and long arms with big hands will favor him in the NFL. Teams will need to look deeper in to his injury from the early fall and confirm that he can move without issues. There is still some physical development that needs to happen here, but Parker has elite potential.

*Based on his tools, set of skills, and style of play Parker could be a nice fit for NYG in round 2. Like Strong, he brings the necessary triangle numbers to the table that the offense could use to balance out what they currently have. Nobody can argue the level of dominance Parker showed when he returned from injury in 2014. My only grip with him, and it’s one I saw every time I scouted him, is a lack of quick twitch, reaction, and suddenness. He almost always appears to be a step behind or a step too slow when it comes to the quicker elements to the game. Is he just that smooth? I don’t think so. I’ve seen WRs like this before and when they are put in to the blend of speed, quickness, and physical nature of the NFL they end up caving. It just scares me a little and is the main reason I don’t have him as a top 20 overall guy. I still like Parker as a round 2 option but only behind the guys above him on this list.

6 – Devin Smith – Ohio State – 6’0/196 – 78

Pro Upside Comparison: Torrey Smith/SF

Strong Points: Big play threat with elite-level speed and explosion. Efficient mover that moves with grace and balance. Easy acceleration and burst. Comfortable hands catcher. Smooth process for him to bring the ball in. Tremendous coordination from head to toe, very body-aware. Adjusts to where the ball is thrown with ease. Can set up defensive backs and trick them in to being out of position to flip their hips and run deep. Competitive, fiery player that displays passion for the game on and off the field. Physically and mentally tough. Will make a difference as a blocker via effort and intensity.

Weak Points: One trick pony. Doesn’t make much of an impact other than running deep route. Ran a limited route tree in college. Doesn’t run routes as well as his athleticism says he should. Doesn’t break a lot of tackles, won’t play with a power presence. Can be jammed at the point of attack. Doesn’t show a variety of ways to get off the line against press coverage.

Summary: Smith is one of the fastest players in the country and should be considered a top tier deep threat coming from speed and explosion. He has shown the consistent ability to run by anyone, even the fastest defensive backs that college football had to offer. Averaged over 27 yards per catch in 2014. Also is an accomplished Track and Field athlete, starring in the high jump. Smith has a rare blend of speed and body control. He moves so well and makes it look so smooth. He is an impact athlete with some developed football skills. He will need to improve his route running if he wants to be more than a guy that just knifes through a defense.

*So back in September I watched Smith twice. This was before Beckham broke out the way he did and both games I wrote down notes including similar movement ability to NYG’s Beckham. Now I don’t want to compare the two as receivers, but there is something about Smith that screams potential star to me. His body control and movement aesthetics are elite. His ability get behind the defense is elite. His ball skills downfield in one on one situations are elite. Smith is a little bit of a one trick pony right now, as there are holes in his game as an underneath route runner and receiver that needs to get off press coverage. Reese has always loved guys that can knife through a secondary and Smith may be the best of the class in that category.

7 – Tony Lippett – Michigan State – 6’2/192 – 77

Pro Upside Comparison: Stevie Johnson/SD

Strong Points: Long and wiry athlete with big hands. Smart player that can read coverages and adjust on the move. Incredibly savvy before and after the catch, has eyes on the back of his head. Gets off the line with ease. Can press the corner or dance around him, does a nice job of mixing it up. Light and easy feet. Accelerates quickly, can get open underneath. Explosive deep route runner. Easy hands catcher, will swallow the ball on contact. Makes all the tough catches in traffic. Can out-athlete most defenders. Plays a fast and aggressive game.

Weak Points: Needs to spend time in the weight room. Too often did physical play knock him off his game. Doesn’t make seamless lateral cuts as a route runner. Has to slow down too much when changing direction. Might be a straight line athlete only. Won’t be an impact blocker.

Summary: Fifth year senior. Finished his career strong, winning Big 10 receiver of the year and team MVP honors. Lippett is an interesting prospect. He shows the necessary tools to be a playmaker in the NFL on offense with a nice blend of height, length, and ball skills. When the team needed an extra cornerback however, it was Lippett that stepped up and performed admirably. Lippett is as smart and instinctive as you’ll find at the college level. His movement after the catch is seamless and he consistently tricks the defensive backfield with double and decoy routes. He has all the tools of a starting caliber, productive receiver and his approach couldn’t be better. Lippett is a darkhorse prospect worth looking in to early.

*I am really surprised that there aren’t more people talking about Lippett as a potential star player in the NFL. He is very tools-rich and shows an interesting skill set that a lot of other guys in this class lack. He is physical enough, smart enough, and selfless enough to have played both sides of the ball. Some scouts have said he can play a legit CB in the NFL. I like how he tracks the ball downfield and there is an element of toughness to him that I want out of a WR. NYG has gone tools-rich on a lot of their WR prospects. This guy has some goods but a lack of top end speed may get him drafted day three, an outstanding value.

8 – Chris Conley – Georgia – 6’2/213 – 77

Pro Upside Comparison: Roddy White/ATL

Strong Points: Strong and physical receiver that can outmuscle defensive backs as well as knife through the top of a secondary. Long reach and big, strong hands. Gets off the line fast and hard. Quick change of direction. Gets his head around and hands up quickly. Smooth pass catcher, controls the ball on contact. Elite body control in traffic and near the sideline. Has a physical presence as a blocker, makes the effort to make an impact without the ball.

Weak Points: Struggles to separate from man coverage. Won’t outrun defensive backs with the ball in his hands. Doesn’t show the agility with the ball in his hands to shake defenders and break free. Average suddenness, reaction to the defense is often a step behind.

Summary: Fourth year senior that has made steady improvement each season of his career. Led the Bulldogs in receiving in 2013 and 2014. Conley is a smooth operator with the size, strength, and ball skills of a starting caliber NFL wide receiver. He may lack the quick twitch and agility to factor as a threat after the catch, but he consistently made plays downfield with big time speed and explosion and appears to understand the mental side of the game very well. He will make a roster and work his way in to a rotation in due time.

*I have to admit I was upset when Conley showed up at Indianapolis and put on an absolute freak show. Since October he has been one of my favorite under the radar prospects in this overall class. Then he goes out and runs a 4.35 40 and leads all WRs in the vertical and broad jump by wide margins respectively. On the field, Conley is a physical player that can out-physical most defensive backs. He is really good near the sidelines and in the end zone. If NYG wants to add a bigger body to their receiving core, but don’t want to use a 1st or 2nd on it, Conley is on the short list of guys that would present value that also fit the need starting in round 3. Exceptional kid off the field as well.

9 – Phillip Dorsett – Miami – 5’9/185 – 77

Pro Upside Comparison: Antonio Brown/PIT

Strong Points: Top tier speed and explosion. Has elite track speed but is also football fast. Can go from 0-60 in a blink. Knifes through a secondary. Can plant his foot while moving at full force and change direction. Quick to get out of breaks. Can run routes with explosion and elite change of direction ability. Good ball skills, tracks it well and can position his body to make a play on the ball. Can change speed and maintain full body control. Dangerous after the catch, can outrun angles. Strong effort as a blocker, will run downfield and get in the way.

Weak Points: Lack of size hurts him in traffic. Doesn’t come down with a lot of balls when guys are around him. May be limited to just a space player. Doesn’t run routes to his physical capability. Hands aren’t strong, will body catch a lot. Doesn’t play with a savvy sense of where the defense is around him. Physical presence as a blocker is limited. Torn ACL in 2013 ended his season in October.

Summary: Dorsett may be the fastest player in college football. His speed is not just track-based, he knows how to use it functionally. His burst and sudden change of direction make him a tough cover for any lone defensive back. He is the kind of player that an entire defense needs to be aware of. He averaged over 26 yards per catch in 2014. He may not make a play-to-play impact, but he is a guy that keeps opposing defenders up at night because of what he can do with his top tier speed.

*When a player with legit sub 4.3 speed pops up, you can’t help but give him another look. Dorsett is more than a blazer, however. There is actual football speed with him. He can change direction with ease and there is a high level of suddenness to him when he runs routes. He can outrun angles once he has the ball in his hands and combined with good vision, he is a major threat each time he touches the ball. I really like how he bounced back from his ACL injury this past season. He is a legit 2nd/3rd round pick that can impact much more than the return game.

10 – Justin Hardy – East Carolina – 5’10/192 – 76

Pro Upside Comparison: Greg Jennings/MIN

Strong Points: Smart and savvy route runner with precise cuts in and out of his breaks. Big, strong, and reliable hands that swallow the ball. Excellent body control. Can adjust to the poorly thrown ball and come down with it in traffic. Can run himself open consistently. Tracks the ball downfield without losing speed or balance. Quick reaction and movement after the catch.

Weak Points: Doesn’t have that final gear to run away from defensive backs in space. Shorter frame, doesn’t have much of a power presence. Struggles to separate downfield. Limited athlete.

Summary: Hardy is the all time FBS leader in career receptions. He is as sure handed as it gets and can run NFL-caliber routes along with a savvy decision making ability. He doesn’t have the elite speed but his combination of body control, quickness, and agility make him a dangerous threat with the ball in his hands. He is also an experienced punt returner.

*I don’t care what kind of offensive scheme you play in, if you have the kind of production Hardy has over a career, you are worth an extra look. I put a lot of attention on Hardy since the season ended and he has a legit skill set to excel in the NFL from the slot. He is quicker than he is fast but once the pads are on, he is a tough guy to cover. He has the elite suddenness and body control but also knows how to finish off a play with catching ability. NYG loves the prospects with big, sure hands and long arms and despite the lack of top end height, Hardy has both. If this team wants to improve their slot receiving, Hardy is on a short list of guys that can be had on day 2, maybe even early day 3, that can contribute right away.

11 – Mario Alford – West Virginia – 5’8/180 – 76

*More than a speed guy. Alford has elite level explosion indeed but he can run crisp and sharp routes, gets open with ease. Tough after the catch as well.

12 – Austin Hill – Arizona – 6’2/214 – 76

*Might be the toughest yard-after-catch guy in the class. Unfortunate injury in 2013 that took him longer than normal to recover from. May not have the elite speed and quickness but he showed flashes of his dominant 2012 self.

13 – Devin Funchess – Michigan – 6’4/232 – 75

*Big and rangy with superb ball skills. In the right scheme he can be a Jimmy Graham type but he needs to be more physical and willing in traffic. Manning would do well with a WR like this, however.

14 – Rashad Greene – Florida State – 5’11/182 – 75

*Sure handed and reliable underneath route runner. The lack of size is overblown, he is as smooth a receiver you will find and can be a weapon for an offense than relies on WRs getting themselves open via quick routes and savvy reading of the defense.

15 – Samme Coates – Auburn – 6’1/212 – 75

*Tools rich receiver that showed at least one flash per game of a guy that was capable of making a big impact. Lacks the consistent skill set but I think his actual ability was a bit hidden in the Auburn scheme. He will need extra time to develop but there is an upside here that most WRs don’t have.

16 – Dorial Green-Beckham – Oklahoma – 6’5/231 – 74

*If it weren’t for the off-field troubles you are talking about a top 45 overall guy here. But a year-plus away from the game and questionable character, he drops. There are holes in his game too and I don’t think the Calvin Johnson comparisons are fair. He doesn’t have that kind of speed or suddenness or ball skills.

17 – Jamison Crowder – Duke – 5’8/185 – 74

*Put the lack of size to the side and nobody can argue his ability to make things happen. He is explosive with the ball in his hands and there isn’t a defender in the league that can stick to him underneath. Put him in the right offense and you have a Wes Welker clone.

18 – Tyler Lockett – Kansas State – 5’10 – 182 – 74

*Another slot-based prospect that can help the return game in a big way. One of the better route runners in the class and showed the ability to make really tough catches in traffic. For a small guy he plays big in one on one situations.

19 – Kenny Bell – Nebraska – 6’1/197 – 74

*In the right scheme we may be talking about Bell as a top 45 overall guy. He has the athletic tools and NFL ready skill set to be a day three pick that contributes early in his career. Compares favorably to Kenny Stills, another guy that I said would far exceed expectations early in his career.

20 – John Harris – Texas – 6’2/218 – 74

*Probably my top sleeper in the draft. Was a non factor art Texas until his senior year but with the new coaching staff and actual talent at QB, Harris was able to show his sure hands, quick movement, and toughness after the catch. He will out produce several players drafted ahead of him.

TOP UDFA SLEEPER

DeAndre Smelter – Georgia Tech – 6’2/226

*Came to Georgia Tech as a top tier pro baseball prospect, playing OF and P. Was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in 2010. Injured his shoulder and turned to football in 2013. Smelter has raw ability that is tough to find. His triangle numbers are as good as it gets, but he is more than just a physical freak. Smelter is a tough, hard nosed player that will do a lot of little things that go unnoticed by the casual fans. His upside can be discussed with some of the top receivers in this class. The torn ACL will put a question mark on his 2015, but teams that want to develop a raw talent will look to Smelter.

NYG APPROACH

For the second year in a row I am saying that the WR class is probably the best I have ever seen. This is a much deeper group than what we saw last year. If this group as a whole can produce like the 2014 one did, NYG would be fortunate to bring one of these guys listed in at some point. While Cooper and White will be at the top of the overall board and a very likely preference at #9 overall, I wouldn’t stress if they were taken prior to them being on the clock. There will be several opportunities to bring in great value throughout the entire weekend.

I wouldn’t label the WR position as one of this team’s needs but in the same breath, it shouldn’t be ignored if the value is put in front of them. This is a league where you can’t have enough playmakers. This is a team that doesn’t have more than a couple legit threats that actually scare a defense. While the quantity of receivers is enough and while there are a couple of young names up there with some interesting upside, if White or Cooper is there at #9, you almost have to bring one of them in. I wouldn’t trade up for either, however. There shouldn’t be a sense of panic if one or both of them are gone before #9 because in all honesty, there is going to be a good value available at WR each time they are on the clock and I would even say they can find an immediate contributor in any of the first 3 or 4 rounds.

Apr 012015
 
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Kenrick Ellis, New York Jets (November 24, 2014)

Kenrick Ellis – © USA TODAY Sports Images

Heading into the offseason, it was clear to many, including team officials, that the New York Giants had to get better on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The once-vaunted defensive line has clearly declined. While the Giants actually finished fourth in the NFL in sacks (47), that statistic was misleading as the team went long stretches without being able to consistently pressure the passer. Worse, the Giants were 30th against the run in terms of yards per game (135.1) and dead-last in the NFL in terms of yards per rush (4.9).

To help rectify that problem, the New York Giants signed 27-year old unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis from the New York Jets on March 18. The contract was reported to be a 1-year, $1.65 million deal that included $500,000 in guaranteed money.

Barring injury, the up-and-coming Johnathan Hankins will start at one defensive tackle position. But the second spot appears up for grabs between 34-year old Cullen Jenkins, who is coming off a down season where he was bothered by a troublesome calf injury; 2012 7th-rounder Markus Kuhn, who did little to excite in 2014; 2014 3rd-round Jay Bromley, who mostly rode the bench his rookie season; and journeyman Dominique Hamilton, who spent the year on the team’s practice squad. The Giants could also add another defensive tackle in the 2015 NFL Draft.

The Jamaican-born Ellis is a huge (6’4”, 346 pound) run-stuffing defensive tackle who was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Jets out of Hampton University. Ellis transferred to Hampton after he was dismissed from the South Carolina Gamecocks in May 2008 for repeated violations of team and university drug policies. Ellis also ran into legal problems at Hampton. In April 2010, he was arrested by university police and served jail time after a felony assault charge on another student.

With the Jets, Ellis’ numbers were as follows:

  • 2011: 5 games, 2 starts, 7 tackles
  • 2012: 12 games, 2 starts, 18 tackles (missed four games with a knee injury)
  • 2013: 16 games, 1 start, 16 tackles
  • 2014: 14 games, 0 starts, 12 tackles, 1 sack

So overall, in four seasons with the Jets, Ellis played in 47 games with five starts. He only accrued 53 tackles and one sack during that time. Those are hardly superlative numbers. However, it is important to keep in mind that (1) Ellis was valuable reserve on a very talented Jets defensive line, and (2) his role on the team was not to make plays but to tie up blockers, allowing others to make the tackle.

Ellis was expected to start in 2013, but he was injured in training camp and beaten out by Damon Harrison, an undrafted free agent. In 2014, Ellis only played 158 snaps behind Harrison.

“I am a run-stopper and I like doing it,” said Ellis. “That is the strength of my game. I look forward to helping the Giants get back to their glory.

“I’m a journeyman. I come in and do my job. You don’t get much recognition for it, but you get the job done and it helps out the team. I’ll take on the double-teams and take on the work no one else wants to do. It’s just who I am. I take pride in what I do, which is being a big man in the middle and try to make sure no one runs the ball.”

Despite his low production and his own claims to being a journeyman, Ellis may be more than that. And he has legitimate chance to start for the Giants in 2014. Ellis has the tools. Not only is he naturally strong and huge with long arms, he’s pretty darn athletic for his size. He is also competitive and plays with a bit of a mean streak. Ellis can take on double-team blocks and he is extremely difficult to move off the line of scrimmage. And despite having only one career sack, Ellis does flash explosiveness. The knocks on him coming out of college were his off-field issues, inconsistency, and instincts.

“Ellis is a big human,” said Coughlin. “The young man on our practice squad, Hamilton, is a big human, so I am looking forward to seeing what they can do, too… We realized that big dominating guy in the middle is a good starting point for the D-Line.”

“(The Jets) took a lot of pride in (stopping the run) while I was there, and I want to take the same pride here and start something special,” Ellis said.

Mar 302015
 
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Maxx Williams, Minnesota Golden Gophers (February 20, 2015)

Maxx Williams – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*Below are my published, abbreviated reports via Ourlads Scouting Services, LLC

**A note about Pro Upside Comparisons: These are comparisons that are based on the player reaching his ceiling. It does not necessarily mean I believe the player will “be as good as”.

CURRENT TEs ON THE NYG ROSTER

Larry Donnell – 27 years old – Signed through 2015

Daniel Fells – 32 years old – Signed through 2015

Adrien Robinson – 27 years old – Signed through 2015

Jerome Cunningham – 24 years old – Signed through 2015

WHERE THEY STAND

One could argue the tight end group is the worst on this roster. Donnell showed signs of being a rare player with his ability to get up and after the ball. There is some wide receiver type ability to him and he has the tools to be a dominant player but he will need to enhance his skills and consistency. He was a major source of frustration on different occasions in 2014 and his big plays don’t overshadow that. Behind him there are a bunch of guys that can easily be replaced by better talent. While you could be worse off than Fells at backup, he doesn’t do anything particularly well. Robinson has been a complete non factor his entire career after somehow being labeled the infamous “JPP of TEs” by Jerry Reese. There isn’t anything about his game that warrants him being on this roster. As a matter of fact, Cunningham can likely do more for this team than Robinson. This team is really hurting at the TE position and it’s a spot that could make a significant impact on the hopeful resurgence of this team.

TOP 10 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

1 – Maxx Williams – Minnesota – 6’4/249 – 78

Pro Upside Comparison: John Carlson/ARI

Strong Points: Fast and agile player with a great blend of tools and skills. Long with wiry strength. A weapon after the catch that shows the ability to gain yards using a variety of avenues. Can break tackles and fall forward but also wiggle his way out of contact and run away from defenders. Excellent ball skills. Sees the ball in and shows no hesitation in extending his body for the ball. Tough over the middle and in traffic. High points the ball. Can turn and adjust his body in the air with ease. Consistent mechanics as a blocker. Gets his hands inside and keeps his feet chopping. High effort down the field as a blocker in space. Can handle speed and power.

Weak Points: Rounds his routes when turning laterally. Slow to get his head around. Average movement in and out of breaks. Light in the pants, doesn’t generate a lot of strength or power from his base. Doesn’t make a big, physical impact as a blocker.

Summary: Third year sophomore, early entry. 1st Team All American. Son of former 1st round pick Brian Williams, whom played center for the New York Giants for a decade. Williams led the Gophers in receiving both seasons he was on the active roster. He lines up all over the field and has showed the ability to wear every hat a tight end could potentially wear in the NFL within any system. He excels as a down-the-seam receiver where he knows how to use his size, speed, and ball skills in traffic. He is a weapon near the end zone because of the matchup problems that his talents presents. He needs to get stronger to handle life in the trenches, but he has the potential to be a big piece to any NFL offense.

*I don’t see Williams as a first round caliber talent but with this TE class being overly weak, he could sneak in there somewhere. I think he is a tough kid that can make a lot of touch catches, but he isn’t the kind of TE that scares anyone. We aren’t talking about a supreme athlete here and really, he isn’t that good of a blocker. Weak lower body. That would bother me if I brought him in to be a starting TE unless we were talking about an elite athlete and pass catcher.

2 – Ben Koyack – Notre Dame – 6’5/255 – 77

Pro Upside Comparison: Anthony Fasano/TEN

Strong Points: Every down player that was mostly a blocking tight end until 2014. Squares defenders up and locks on to their numbers with knee bend and active feet. Has the strength and power to handle defensive linemen, but also the quickness and body control to stick with linebackers and defensive backs. Has big and strong hands. Easy catcher of the ball, swallows it on contact. Will come down with a lot of passes in traffic. Hard nosed, shows no hesitation over the middle. Can take hits and keep going. Smart route runner against zone, finds the vacancies and shows his numbers to the QB.

Weak Points: Limited athlete. Lacks the top end speed to factor downfield. Won’t get behind a secondary. Struggles to separate from athletic cover men. Limited route tree possibilities with him. Won’t get up over the defender in jump ball situations. Needs to be in proper position to make plays, won’t create on his own.

Summary: Fourth year senior. Played behind some very good tight end prospects throughout his career. Koyack didn’t really receive an opportunity to be the every down tight end and passing game asset until 2014. He took advantage of the throws made his way though, proving to be much more than just a very good blocker. Koyack has some of the most natural, easy catching hands among tight ends in this class. He looks the ball in and consistently shows minimal struggle in doing so. He lacks some of the top tier athletic traits that you look for in a receiver, but his plus ability to block any kind of defender plus his sure hands can get him a starting job in the NFL soon.

*Probably the most overlooked TE in the class. This guy can be a starter and I think he is just a step below Tyler Eifert and Troy Niklas. His ball skills were put on display at the combine and Senior Bowl and we all already knew he was a positive factor in the run game. I think NYG could grab him in round 2 or 3 and get the perfect compliment and even backup option to Donnell should he not work out. The improvement needed in the run blocking part of the offense doesn’t end with the linemen. They need more presence out of their TEs.

3 – Nick O’Leary – Florida State – 6’3/252 – 76

Pro Upside Comparison: Garrett Graham/HOU

Strong Points: Does all of the little things exceptionally well. Shows a pop out of his stance when blocking, setting his feet and timing his initial punch to the defender well. All-out hustler no matter what his role is on the play. Can pass block very well when asked to with his quick feet, proper hand placement and strong upper body. Reads the defense with ease and can run the option routes correctly. Can run himself open with consistency. Locates the ball and can alter his body position when going after the ball. Strong and consistent hands. If he can touch the pass, he will bring it in. Accurate ball skills when it comes to timing and location of his hands. Effective in traffic. Knows how to use his body to shield off defenders in traffic. A bruising runner with the ball in his hands. Breaks a lot of tackles. Plays hard through the whistle.

Weak Points: Shorter than ideal. Lacks the size and runaway speed that most are looking for in a top tier tight end. Routes tend to be rounded when running to the outside. Struggles to get behind a defense. His deep speed is average. Doesn’t run away from a lot of defenders. The effort is there as a blocker but his upside there may be limited. Very short arms.

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

*The biggest disappointment I’ve seen with O’Leary since the season ended was at the combine. I’m not huge on measurables but they are part of the process. He has the shortest arms among all the tight ends in this class by a wide margin. It’s not a huge deal but it hurt his grade by a point or two. Otherwise, O’Leary is one of my favorites. He is a blue collar guy that you just know will find a way to produce. Maybe he makes a move to H-Back type, possibly even a pass catching full back type. But all I know about him is he is a football player in every sense of the word and he will help a team. Limited upside but he is one of the safest bets in the entire class.

4 – Jeff Heuerman – Ohio State – 6’5/254 – 75

Pro Upside Comparison: Jason Witten/DAL

Strong Points: Tall with long arms and a powerful frame from head to toe. Excels as a blocker in the trenches. Fires out of his stance hard with good knee bend and heavy hands. Gets those hands inside and control the defender upon contact. Can swing his hips in to the hole and keep his feet chopping. Can move defenders, makes the effort to drive them out of the play. Understands body positioning to maximize his presence as a blocker. Has sneaky speed up the seam. Can get past that second level and turn his head around. Soft and big hands, can swallow the ball. Shows the ability to get up in traffic and come down with the ball. Tough as nails. Consistently puts his body on the line.

Weak Points: Lacks an explosive element to his game. Won’t run away from defenders the ball in is hands. Doesn’t miss tacklers or show ability to break free after the catch. Won’t turn in traffic with quickness and precision as a route runner. Wasn’t used a lot as a receiver, limited route tree experience.

Summary: Fourth year senior and three year starter. Heuerman is one of the top all around tight ends in this class. He has top notch blocking ability, showing the potential to move defensive linemen and completely overwhelm linebackers. His technique and strength are both NFL ready right now. Because of the Ohio State scheme, his role as a receiver was diminished. However he produced well when given the opportunity, showing glimpses of being a difference maker downfield and in traffic. He can be a much more productive pro than he was in college while providing a reliable blocking presence at the point of attack.

*There is a high amount of the unknown with Heuerman because of what his role within the OSU offense was. He has upper tier ability to block at the point of attack and in space but when he was asked to run the seam and display ball skills, he consistently delivered. He is a better than advertised athlete and could be a say one starter in the NFL. NYG appears to be ready to give Donnell the long term starting job but even his strongest supporters need to admit he has only showed glimpses. Heuerman, at the very least, presents an every down backup and credible run blocking presence to aid the process of improving the rushing attack.

5 – Clive Walford – Miami – 6’4/251 – 74

Pro Upside Comparison: Dwayne Allen/IND

Strong Points: Big, thick bodied all around tight end that can be on the field every play. Strong upper body with a powerful punch. Good hands catcher, swallows the ball and controls it upon contact. Sneaky acceleration and speed in space, can outrun linebackers and some defensive backs. Reliable and tough in traffic. Good ball reaction. Will put his body on the line over the middle. Shields defenders from making plays on the ball. Good body control and balance. Very stable as a blocker, able to maintain his center of gravity.

Weak Points: Slow out of his stance. Doesn’t have explosive change of direction or agility. Won’t split the seam against a Cover 2 defense. Rounded routes, can be slow in and out of his breaks. Does not live up to the billing as a blocker that his strength suggests he should. Won’t overpower defenders or keep his feet chopping. Lacks the flexibility to bend at his knees and while keeping his chest up. Tore his right MCL late in 2014 but is expected to be out for just two months.

Summary: Former basketball player that played just one year of prep football prior to joining Miami. Walford really started to come in to his own in 2014, proving to be one of the more productive tight ends in the nation. He moved with more speed and quickness than his previous years, showing that the light may be turning on for him. He needs to work on blocking technique and consistency, but the tools are there to be an all around, complete tight end. Teams will need to spend some extra attention examining his knee, but he is expected to make a full recovery.

*Walford has the natural length and thickness to factor as a quality three down tight end in the NFL. He isn’t fast, but he’s fast enough. He isn’t quick, but he’s quick enough. He isn’t a great blocker, but he blocks well enough. He isn’t a big time receiving threat, but he catches the ball well enough. There is a limited upside here but he can work his way in to a starting role down the road. He is still evolving as a football player more so than some of these other tight ends. NYG could be a good spot for him because he won’t be needed right away on an every down basis and he could use the extra time to improve the finer points.

6 – Rory Anderson – South Carolina – 6’5/244 – 71

Pro Upside Comparison: Ladarius Green/SD

Strong Points: Explosive from a standstill. Quick acceleration up the seam and forces the defense to react to him. Shows the ball skills to come down with the pass in traffic. Balanced and full of body control when turning and twisting his body. Aware of where he is on the field in relation to the sidelines and first down markers. Shows the instincts to find the vacant lanes within a zone defense. High effort blocker that shows more presence than his body type would lead you to believe. Shows the mechanics and flexibility to factor in the run game.

Weak Points: Inconsistent pass catcher, will drop easy balls. Let’s the ball in to his body, needs to improve the consistency of hand usage. Doesn’t run crisp routes, will round his lateral turns. Takes too long to come back to the football. Needs to increase leg power so he can be a better in line drive blocker. Has had issues staying healthy and missed some as a result of different muscle-related injuries.

Summary: Fourth year senior and two-plus year starter. Anderson shows athletic-based flashes of being a big time player. With his height and ball skills, he can be a tough matchup for defenses to deal with. Anderson is too fast for the average linebacker, but his size can be too overwhelming for the average defensive back. While his ability to catch the ball is at the top of his resume, he is a better than average blocker. He shows effort and initial pop but will need to get stronger to play in the NFL trenches. His number one issue revolves around both of his triceps being torn and forcing him to both miss games and play hampered in others. If that checks out and he can start his strength training without hiccups, Anderson has very high potential.

*If it weren’t for the two separate tears of his triceps and lingering hamstring issues, Anderson is a top 4 tight end in this class at worst. He has better movement than everyone outside of Williams, and shows enough promise as a blocker to not be labeled a receiving-only player. If he can be had late day three, NYG would be smart to at least give him a long look based on what he can do right now and what he could become down the road.

7 – Jesse James – Penn State – 6’7/261 – 71

Pro Upside Comparison: Levine Toilolo/ATL

Strong Points: Good body awareness in traffic. Can position his large and lengthy frame to shield the defender from making a play on the ball. Reliable and tough in traffic. Willingly puts his body on the line. Strong and reliable hands. Can use his size to get over a defender and come down with the ball. Good leaper that times it well. Quick acceleration when running up the seam. Savvy with the ball in his hands, good vision and tough to bring down for a lone defender. Fires out of his stance low and hard. Reacts to the ball well, adjusts his body and plucks the ball. Works hard as a blocker, takes pride in that part of the position’s role. Can bend well and get his hands inside. Willing to get downfield and make the extra block.

Weak Points: Slow to get his head around when running lateral routes. Doesn’t show that athleticism when getting in and out of breaks. Plays a high game as a route runner. Not a dynamic athlete that scares defenses over the top. Limited speed and won’t run away from defensive backs. Catches defenders when blocking rather than delivering the punch. Doesn’t get a push, won’t drive them out of a lane.

Summary: Junior entry. Long frame with great height and reach. Reliable underneath receiver that creates massive matchup problems. James is a weapon on third down and near the end zone because of his body awareness and ability to get open enough. He is a tough cover in traffic and has proven to be a guy that can come down with a lot of passes when surrounded by defenders. He may not have ideal athleticism but he can make up for it with a savvy and reliable style. Limited, but reliable starter potential.

*I want to like James more than where I have him graded. He is big, tough, and reliable. You know what you are getting out of James each and every play of each and every week. That’s not always easy to find. I just wish he had a quicker twitch to his game when running routes and after the catch. In addition, a guy with this size and strength should be a better blocker. I don’t want to look down on his effort without credible evidence, but I simply question it. If he is a day three option, I think he offers the upside of a starter down the road.

8 – Nick Boyle – Delaware – 6’4/268 – 71

Pro Upside Comparison: Alex Bayer/STL

Strong Points: Every down player with plus size and quickness. Explosive in short areas with easy change of direction and acceleration. Big and soft hands, can swallow the ball upon contact. Adjusts well to passes thrown away from his body. Can reach down, up, laterally for the ball. Shows toughness after the catch. Will run defenders over or jump over them, versatile athlete.

Weak Points: Top end speed is below average. Won’t be a guy that strikes fear in to the secondary. Struggles to work his way up the seam. Not the dominant blocker that a guy at his size playing at a lower level of college football should be. Will get good initial contact but doesn’t stick to his man, lacks consistent technique. Effort appears to be different as a blocker than what I see when as a receiver.

Summary: Fourth year senior. All time leader among tight ends in receptions in school history. All American in 2014 at a lower level of college football. Also has the ability to deep snap. Boyle looks the part and will surprise you with good ball skills and short area quickness. He can plant his foot and make quick cuts, showing consistent ability to get open underneath. He is a limited athlete, however. In addition, he needs to become more physical and play to his size. That transition to the NFL will be tough for him, this he will be a developmental prospect with starter upside.

*Initially this is a guy that is easy to like. He has the thick and long frame to go along with smooth ball skills and a surprising ability after the catch to gain extra yards. The more I watch however, the more I see a guy that really shouldn’t have been playing at a level higher than D-I AA. For a guy weighing nearly 270 pounds, how come he didn’t control defenders as a blocker? That was a little bothersome and factoring that he is a limited upside athlete pushed him down to the day three tier at best.

9 – Tyler Kroft – Rutgers – 6’6/246 – 70

Pro Upside Comparison: Gary Barnidge/CLE

Strong Points: Long and quick twitch athlete with an ideal frame for the position. Runs good routes up the seam. Can keep defenders off balance with last second commitments to his intended route. Runs well, comfortable long strider with the speed to outrun linebackers. Easy catching motion when he’s in space. High effort player. Shows the desire to mix it up in the trenches as a run blocker. Quick release out of his three point stance and from the slot. Can eat up a cushion to the safety fast.

Weak Points: Lacks a physical power presence. Doesn’t control defenders as a blocker, doesn’t give them the initial jolt. Slow reaction to what the defense throws at him. Does not have the speed to outrun defensive backs. Questionable toughness over the middle and in traffic. Doesn’t always extend his arms when going after the ball. Too much of a body catcher.

Summary: Kroft is an easy moving, smooth athlete with a lot of size potential. He has a long frame with good height for the position. That size combined with his speed and quickness when changing directions can make him a reliable short and intermediate receiving option for any offense. He has the leaping ability over the middle. Kroft’s main weakness revolves around his physical nature. He doesn’t control defenders while blocking, nor does he drive second level defenders out of the action. Too often he is found being driven back by his assignment. He needs to add a lot of strength before he can be relied upon as an every down threat. Until then, Kroft can help any offense out with his versatility to line up anywhere to create matchup problems for the defense. He has plenty of potential as a receiver but will need time to factor as a blocker.

*There are a lot of up and down views on Kroft, respectively. He surprised me by coming out early but I can understand why he did. There is a lot of physical talent here, as he may be one of the top 3 athletes at the position in the entire class. He is a developmental player for sure, though. He wont be able to hack it as a blocker early on in his career and we aren’t talking about a receiver that will scare a defense. You could do much worse on day three and NYG does have the time and situation to develop him the right way.

10 – Gerald Christian – Louisville – 6’3/244 – 69

Pro Upside Comparison: Delanie Walker/TEN

Strong Points: Physically gifted athlete. Has the burst out of his stance to gain separation right off the snap. Good change of direction ability. Balanced athlete with the consistent body control and awareness. Big and strong hands. Swallows the ball upon contact. Has eyebrow-raising movement ability with the ball in his hands. Physical and willing blocker that seems to enjoy mixing it up with defenders. Takes pride in owning his man at the line of scrimmage.

Weak Points: Does not run his routes as well as his athleticism says he should. Doesn’t get a push as a blocker. Gets too grabby and will allow the defender to get inside position. Doesn’t extend for the ball in traffic or over the middle. Effort and intensity levels are inconsistent.

Summary: Transferred to Louisville from Florida in 2012. Has the tool set to make his mark as a receiving tight end in the league but didn’t show consistency. Christian will make plays in every game that will cause coaches and scouts alike to think of what may be. He is a gifted athlete that needs to refine his skill sets. High upside prospect.

*NYG likes WRs and TEs with big hands, and Christian has the biggest mitts in the draft among pass catchers. I’m not sure what the deal is with him. He moves as well as anyone in the nation among TEs here and there every time I watched Louisville, but his effort wasn’t always there. And then he put out poor workout times. Maybe there is a motivation issue with him but I just can’t get away from this kid. I see things in him that scream high ceiling. Worth a gamble late in the draft for NYG.

TOP UDFA SLEEPER

A.J. Derby – Arkansas – 6’4/255

*Started off at Iowa as a QB then transferred to a junior college, then to Arkansas. Didn’t make the move to TE until 2014 and he became a highly discussed player among coaches in the SEC. Had be been there since the start of his career, I think Derby is being talked about as a top 45 overall talent. I’ve seen him outrun the Alabama defensive backs and I’ve seen him control the point of attack against their line. Derby has the toughness and awareness to expedite his progression quicker than most that make such a late position change.

NYG APPROACH

Similar to the QB group, this is the weakest I have seen as a whole since I have been grading players. However you don’t need to find an every down starter/contributor at the position for him to factor as a player that will help the team win unlike the approach with drafting a QB. So with that said, even though this class lacks some star power, there is a good enough blend of tools and skills here that can help NYG get more out of the position.

Last year I spoke of Larry Donnell as the lone guy on the roster with legitimate long term upside. He broke out in 2014 with a few solid games and displayed his tools and developing skills. He can do things physically that a lot of TEs in this league cannot. Because we are still unsure about how good of an actual football player he is, NYG would be smart to use a pick on someone that has some long term upside or a player that can take some pressure off Donnell as a blocker. There are some guys lower on my grade list that may be a better fit on this team than guys on the top. I would avoid the TE position for the first two or three rounds and then look for the value of a guy that drops. O’Leary and Koyack aren’t fits for every team, thus I could see them available on day 4 and it would present outstanding value. They could opt to wait until the end of the draft or even UDFA period and give a tools-rich and/or raw prospect a year to sit on the practice squad while Donnell gets another season to show progress, something he earned.