Apr 232014
 
 April 23, 2014  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Kony Ealy, Missouri Tigers (January 3, 2014)

Kony Ealy – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Ends

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

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

Current Defensive Ends on NYG Roster:

Jason Pierre-Paul – 25 – Signed through 2015

Mathias Kiwanuka – 31 – Signed through 2015

Damontre Moore – 21 – Signed through 2016

Robert Ayers – 29 – Signed through 2015

Kendrick Adams – 26 – Signed through 2015

Where They Stand:

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

Top 10 Grades:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 – Dee Ford – Auburn – 6’2/252: 70

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

Day One Target:

JaDeveon Clowney – South Carolina

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

Runner Up: Kony Ealy – Missouri

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

Day Two Target:

Will Clarke – West Virginia

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

Runner Up: Marcus Smith – Louisville

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

Day Three Target:

Aaron Lynch – South Florida

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

Runner Up: Adrian Hubbard – Alabama

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

Most Overrated:

Scott Crichton – Oregon State (63)

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

Runner Up: Kareem Martin

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

NYG Approach:

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

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Apr 212014
 
 April 21, 2014  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Troy Niklas, New York Giants (November 2, 2013)

Troy Niklas – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Tight Ends on NYG Roster:

Kellen Davis – 29 – Signed through 2014

Adrien Robinson – 26 – Signed through 2015

Larry Donnell – 26 – Signed through 2014

Daniel Fells – 31 – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

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

Top 10 Grades:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day One Target:

Troy Niklas – Notre Dame

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

Runner Up: Eric Ebron – North Carolina

Day Two Target:

Jace Amaro – Texas Tech

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

Runner Up: CJ Fiedorwicz – Iowa

Day Three Target:

Marcel Jensen – Fresno State

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

Runner Up: Nic Jacobs – McNeese State (66)

Most Overrated:

Austin Seferian-Jenkins – Washington

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

Runner Up: Xavier Grimble – USC (64)

NYG Approach:

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

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Apr 172014
 
 April 17, 2014  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Joel Bitonio, Nevada Wolf Pack (February 20, 2014)

Joel Bitonio – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Tackles

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

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

Current OT on the NYG Roster:

William Beatty – 29 – Signed through 2017

Justin Pugh – 24 – Signed through 2016

Charles Brown – 27 – Signed through 2014

Steven Baker – 26 – Signed through 2015

Tony Kropog – 28 – Signed through 2015

Where They Stand:

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

Top 10 Grades:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day One Target:

Greg Robinson – Auburn

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

Runner Up: Jake Matthews – Texas A&M

Day Two Target:

Joel Bitonio – Nevada

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

Runner Up: Morgan Moses – Virginia

Day Three Target:

Wesley Johnson – Vanderbilt

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

Runner Up: Parker Graham – Oklahoma State

Most Overrated:

Billy Turner – North Dakota State

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

Runner Up: Antonio Richardson

NYG Approach:

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

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Apr 152014
 
 April 15, 2014  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Travis Swanon, Arkansas Razorbacks (November 17, 2012)

Travis Swanson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Guards and Centers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

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

Current G/C on NYG Roster:

Geoff Schwartz – 28 – Signed through 2017

Chris Snee – 32 – Signed through 2014

John Jerry – 28 – Signed through 2014

James Brewer – 27 – Signed through 2014

Brandon Mosley – 26 – Signed through 2015

Stephen Goodin – 26 – Signed through 2014

Eric Herman – 25 – Signed through 2015

JD Walton – 27 – Signed through 2015

Dallas Reynolds – 30 – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

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

Top 10 Grades:

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

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

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

4 – Trai Turner – LSU – 6’3/310: 77

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day One Target:

David Yankey – Stanford

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

Runner Up: Cyril Richardson

Day Two Target:

Travis Swanson – Arkansas

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

Runner Up: Trai Turner – LSU

Day Three Target:

Conor Boffeli – Iowa

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

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

Most Overrated:

Marcus Martin – C – USC (66)

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

Runner Up: Jon Hilapio – Florida (52)

NYG Approach:

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

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Apr 102014
 
 April 10, 2014  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh Panthers (September 28, 2013)

Aaron Donald – © USA TODAY Sports Images

BBI New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Tackles

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Defensive Tackles on the NYG Roster:

Cullen Jenkins – 33 – Signed through 2015

Mike Patterson – 31 – Signed through 2014

Jonathan Hankins – 22 – Signed through 2016

Markus Kuhn – 28 – Signed through 2015

Where They Stand:

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

Top 10 Grades:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day One Target:

Aaron Donald – Pittsburgh

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

Runner Up: Rashede Hageman – Minnesota

Day Two Target:

Stephon Tuitt – Notre Dame

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

Runner Up: DaQuan Jones – Penn State

Day Three Target:

Brent Urban – Virginia

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

Runner Up: Taylor Hart – Oregon

Most Overrated:

Anthony Johnson – LSU (59)

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

Runner Up: Daniel McCullers – Tennessee (64)

NYG Approach:

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

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Apr 082014
 
 April 8, 2014  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Chris Borland, Wisconsin Badgers (October 12, 2013)

Chris Borland – © USA TODAY Sports Images

BBI New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Linebackers

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

*DISCLAIMER:  Grading linebackers is arguably the most difficult thing to do because of the different schemes and roles across the league.  These grades are purely based on NYG’s 4-3 front.  Some teams have a scheme that could use an edge rushing linebacker and grade him out very high while a team like NYG would view him as a middle rounder at best.  So please keep that in mind….

Current Linebackers on NYG Roster

Jon Beason – Signed through 2016

Spencer Paysinger – Signed through 2014

Jacquian Williams – Signed through 2014

Jameel McClain – Signed through 2015

Mark Herzlich – Signed through 2014

Allen Bradford – Signed through 2015

Spencer Adkins – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

The NYG front office and coaching staff has had their share of troubles over the years when trying to piece together their LB group via every avenue possible when it comes to play acquisition.  The Draft, free agency, trades, waiver wire, in-season street free agents – they’ve attacked it from everywhere.  Personally, I think this has been a below average group for years and there is a direct correlation between that and their extreme inconsistency on the defensive side of the ball.  While the passing era of football has forced teams to only play one or two linebackers at a time for a lot of plays, I still think the value of quality guys in the middle of the defense is vital.  Since I’ve been drafting for NYG in real time to compare years down the road, I’ve been calling for names like Curtis Lofton (2008), Sean Lee (2010), Mason Foster (2011), and Devonte Holloman (2013).  The impact of these guys against BOTH the run and pass is enormous and I am consistently noticing a lack talent at the position hurting this team every year.  The trade for Beason was a nice start, but this group is still starving for another talented player. 

Top 10 Grades:

CJ Mosley – Alabama – 6’2/234: 81

Chris Borland – Wisconsin – 6’0/248: 81

Khalil Mack – Buffalo – 6’3/251: 81

Anthony Barr – UCLA – 6’5/255: 80

Jordan Tripp – Montana – 6’3/234: 79

Ryan Shazier – Ohio State – 6’1/237: 77

Jordan Zumwalt – UCLA – 6’4/235: 75

Christian Kirksey – Iowa – 6’2/233: 74

Trevor Reilly – Utah – 6’5/245: 74

Yawin Smallwood – Connecticut – 6’2/246: 73

Day One Target:

CJ Mosley – Alabama

I should be a bit of an asterisk on this one because I don’t have any of these linebackers graded in the top 12 overall.  But should NYG trade back a bit, Mosley could come in to play.  This is a player that earned a first round grade, but I have been a little let down on his lack of progression the past few years.  I thought he was going to be a ‘special’ player that ended up with a grade above 90; however he never really took the next step.  Despite that, I still think highly of him and believe he is one of the safer bets to be a quality difference maker for a decade in the NFL.  Mosley is a guy that does it all physically but will also elevate the play of his teammates with his high on-field IQ.  Mosley is a great mover in tight spaces as well as in pursuit to the sidelines.  He is also one of the better coverage LBs in this class.  He fits in well with what they want to do with the NYG LBs and he would fill a major hole in this defense.  A true three down linebacker here.

Runner Up: Khalil Mack – Buffalo

Day Two Target:

Chris Borland – Wisconsin

I’ve been raving about Borland for over a year now and I’ve yet to take a step back.  He earned a legit first round grade on my board despite the lack of ideal size.  He is one of the most instinctive LBs I have ever seen and his ability to move in traffic is second to none.  Watch any Wisconsin game, against any kind of offense, against any level of speed and you will see #44 in the frame on almost every play.  Borland is a quality tackler and quality cover man.  He consistently beats blockers to a spot, putting himself in position to impact the play.  He lacks the physical gifts that some of these guys have at the position, but Borland will be a productive player no matter what.  He is a great value pick in round 2, and could be an option for end of round 1 if NYG ends up there via trade.

Runner Up: Ryan Shazier – Ohio State

Day Three Target:

Jordan Tripp – Montana

Tripp comes from a slightly lower level of college football, but he has shined against better competition in his limited opportunities.  He has the wiry frame, movement ability, and power presence that I saw out of Kiko Alonso last year.  He may not be on that level right away, but I think Tripp will eventually be that same kind of defender in the league.  He can fly all over the field, but also has the presence to take on linemen and deliver a violent jolt when taking on their blocks. 

Runner Up: Jordan Zumwalt – UCLA

Most Overrated: 

Kyle Van Noy – BYU (72)

Van Noy has one of the more productive resumes to look at when considering statistical compilation.  But I’ve seen him play almost 10 times and I notice a lack of consistent presence against blockers coming straight at him.  He doesn’t play strong enough at the point of attack; too often he is dancing around contact or even worse, giving up on plays.  His ability to pursue and rush the edge can get him drafted, but I don’t think he warrants anything within the top 4-5 rounds.  There is too much not to like here.

Runner Up: Shayne Skov (64)

NYG Approach:

As I previously stated, this defense needs an upgrade in talent at the LB group.  The addition and resigning of Beason decreased the level of importance a bit, but the issue is still there.  While the likes of Paysinger, Williams, and McClain can instill enough confidence to be a good-enough core at the start, there isn’t enough on the depth chart.  Injuries are inevitable and NYG is just one away here from having yet another year of LB liability.  There won’t be a player worth taking at #12 overall here, so I think they are looking at rounds 2-5 to bring in a quality rookie.  I would prefer one of those day two picks to be spent on one, but not to a point where the value isn’t matched up.  With that said, I think they can grab Borland in round 2, Tripp or Shazier in round 3, or even Zumwalt on day 3.  There can be a lot of debate on just how important this is, but I won’t budge on my stance.  The lack of talent and development at the LB position has held this team back more than most believe.

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Apr 032014
 
 April 3, 2014  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State Cowboys (October 26, 2013)

Justin Gilbert – © USA TODAY Sports Images

BBI New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current CBs on the NYG Roster:

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – 28 – Signed through 2018

Prince Amukamara – 25 – Signed through 2014

Walter Thurmond – 27 – Signed through 2014

Trumaine McBride – 29 – Signed through 2015

Jayron Hosley – 24 – Signed through 2015

Zack Bowman – 30 – Signed through 2014

Charles James – 24 – Signed through 2014

Junior Mertile – 25 – Signed through 2014

Ross Weaver – 27 – Signed through 2015

Chaz Powell – 26 – Signed through 2015

Travis Howard – 25 – Signed through 2015

Where They Stand:

On paper, this is one of the best groups of CBs that NYG has had in recent memory.  The aggressive free agency signing of Rodgers-Cromartie was an impressive one for a front office that seems to usually error on the side of caution.  The addition of Thurmond may end up being the top signing of this offseason though.  He’s been a league-favorite of mine for a few years now and I think he will prove to be a difference maker right away.  Round out the top three with the upside of Amukamara and this secondary appears to have the makings of something really good.  The depth has a few question marks, as McBride/Hosley/Bowman all have their deficiencies, but what secondary in the league doesn’t find themselves in that position?  It seems NYG is scouring the street free agent market for a starter every year at some point in the season.  Reese appears to have really locked in a deep group at the position that will give them plenty of options should injuries arise.  This may be the most impressive group of a revamped defense.

Top 10 Grades:

1: Justin Gilbert – Oklahoma State – 6’0/202: 86

2: Jason Verrett – TCU – 5’10/189: 83

3: Kyle Fuller – Virginia Tech – 6’0/190: 82

4: Travis Carrie – Ohio – 6’0/206: 78

5: Aaron Colvin – Oklahoma – 5’11/177: 78

6: Phillip Gaines – Rice – 6’0/193: 78

7: Darqueze Dennard – Michigan State – 5’11/199: 77

8: Shaquille Richardson – Arizona – 6’0/194: 76

9: Brock Vereen – Minnesota – 6’0/199: 75

10: Nevin Lawson – Utah State – 5’10/190: 74

Day One Target:

Justin Gilbert – Oklahoma State

I would say there is a 50/50 chance Gilbert is available for NYG when they are on the clock at #12 overall.  I think he is widely considered the top corner in this class with his size/speed/agility/ball skills combination that isn’t matched by anyone in this class.  He had a dominant 2013 season and showed just how well rounded he can be now that he has put it all together.  Despite NYG beefing up their secondary via free agency, I think he should at least be a consideration for the slot.  In this era, a team may never have too many quality cornerbacks.  As I stated earlier, it seems as if NYG is looking for street free agents to be a part of the CB rotation on Sundays every year.  This is not a spot where you want to have questionable depth.  When you consider Rodgers-Cromartie is the only one that will definitely be around after 2014, a Gilbert selection makes sense.

Runner Up:

Jason Verrett – TCU

Day Two Target:

Kyle Fuller – Virginia Tech

I’m having hard time gauging where Fuller will land in this draft class, but I think he is a legit top 20 player.  His injuries are included in my grade, so I’m not ignoring them even though it appears they will not hamper him down the road at all.  Fuller was one of my favorite players to watch in 2013.  He is as aggressive as it gets against both the run and pass with elite movement ability and good awareness.  I love the toughness he brings to the table.  If he falls out of the first round, NYG should immediately consider him with their second pick.  He has quality-starting corner written all over him. 

Runner Up:

Aaron Colvin – Oklahoma

Day Three Target:

Travis Carrie – Ohio

I’ll venture to say most of you have never heard of my #4 overall CB.  That’s fair and from what I see out there, nobody has this kind of grade on him.  I’m fine with that because I don’t use the media’s perception as part of my grading process.  Carrie is a tall, well put together athlete that can move with anyone.  He has some of the best feet and hips you’ll find and enough speed to stick with speed receivers down the field.  He is a strong tackler that approaches that part of the game the right way.  Carrie may be my biggest diamond in the rough this year and I wouldn’t hesitate to take him on day three for one second.  He will be a player if he finds the right system that allows him to play bump and run coverage and attack the running game.  I am really looking forward to his career.

Runner Up:

BJ Lowery – Iowa

Most Overrated:

Bradley Roby – Ohio State

I want to like Roby because of his receiving ability and movement.  He is a top tier agility/speed guy that can catch the ball.  But every time I watch OSU tape, his lack of awareness and fluidity jumps off the screen.  When he is matched up against receivers that understand the mental side of the game and do the little things right, Roby gets exposed.  He loses a lot of his athleticism when tracking the deep ball as well.  His speed does not translate to the field and guys like that always bother me.

Runner Up:

Keith McGill – Utah

NYG Approach:

I’ve said it a few times that I am very confident this group of CBs can perform at a level that we haven’t seen here in quite some time.  Their top 3 corners can be as good as any in the league.  The depth behind them could be a lot worse when comparing depth charts from around the league, so I could see the case made for not addressing the position in the 2014 Draft.  I have a different view, however.  There are some interesting opportunities here to bring in a quality cover corner throughout the entire draft.  I would have to give a long, hard thought to Gilbert at #12 overall if he is there.  I understand he may not fill the biggest hole, or even the third biggest hole on this team right away, but cornerback is NOT a spot you want to ever be weak at.  It would be foolish to approach this as a “Cross that bridge when we get to it” type mindset.  Gilbert could have a spot on this roster right away that leads to contribution.  If he is passed on, I have a lot of different grades on this class when comparing to what I see out there.  There will be an opportunity in every round of day three for a great value grab.  I would say that should be the route taken if Gilbert is not the pick at #12 overall.

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Apr 022014
 
 April 2, 2014  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Calvin Pryor, Louisville Cardinals (October 5, 2013)

Calvin Pryor – © USA TODAY Sports Images

BBI New York Giants 2014 NFL Draft Preview: Safety

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Safeties on NYG Roster:

Antrel Rolle – Signed through 2015

Will Hill – Signed through 2015

Stevie Brown – Signed through 2015

Quintin Demps – Signed through 2015

Cooper Taylor – Signed through 2017

Where They Stand:

Upon initial glance, the safety group looks strong and deep for the 2014 season.  Rolle is one of the highest paid players on the team and even though his production hasn’t matched his cap number, his value goes deeper than what we see on the stat sheet.  He is the leader of the defense and comes to play every Sunday.  He is one of the more versatile and reliable players on this team.  Hill and Brown have both shown game breaking ability here and there.  They are aggressive players that are always around the action.  Both have concerns though.  Brown has the knee injury he will attempt to bounce back from and Hill has had his share of off-field issues.  Demps was a quality FA signing that can wear a few hats and Taylor showed promise as a special teamer in 2013.  This unit is strong for the current situation they are in, but we could be looking at an entirely different situation a year from now.  How much longer can NYG pay Rolle?  And are Brown/Hill capable of overcoming their respective problems?

Top 10 Draft Prospect Grades:

1 – Calvin Pryor III – Louisville – 5’11/207: 86

2 – Hasean Clinton-Dix – 6’1/208: 84

3 – Deone Bucannon – Washington State – 6’1/211: 81

4 – Dion Bailey – USC – 6’0/206: 78

5 – Terrence Brooks – Florida State – 5’11/198: 76

6 – Vinnie Sunseri – Alabama – 5’11/210: 74

7 – Marcus Trice – North Texas – 5’8/193: 73

8 – Shamiel Gary – Oklahoma State – 6’0/205: 73

9 – Ed Reynolds – Stanford – 6’1/207:  73

10 – CJ Barnett – Ohio State – 6’0/204: 72

Day One Target:

Calvin Pryor – Louisville

Pryor has been the top rated safety on my board since the early fall of 2013.  I saw him early two times and really liked his game.  He is such a well rounded player that makes the impact that some of the top safeties in the game can do.  Pryor is an angry missile from the secondary when defending the run.  His style is straddles the line of too-aggressive.  Pryor is a sound tackler that can be relied upon as the last line of defense in the open fiend, showing the ability to break down on the move and control his body enough to tackle an elusive runner.  In coverage, Pryor grades out as an above average defender, but lacks the elite movement ability.  He still gets his hand in on the action plenty, however.  There is a good chance Pryor will be the top graded player available when NYG is on the clock for me.  Even though the safety spot is not a vital position of need this season, he will still be a consideration.  He’s a reliable impact player that can change a defense.

Day Two Target:

Deone Bucannon – Washington State

Bucannon is the classic case of being a superb prospect coming from a poor defensive program.  Very few were able to see him play in 2013 from a general public perspective, but make no mistake about this player’s ‘special’ potential.  I’ll put his ability against the run up against anyone’s in this draft class.  He is a well built, explosive-in-short-spaces safety that can play in the box with the best of them.  He has consistently led that team in tackles with a career-high 114 in 2013 and has 15 career interceptions, including 6 this past season.  From the first time I saw this defense play, Bucannon always appears to be a pro football player matched up against kids.  He graded out as a 1st-round caliber prospect on my board and he would be a great value pick in round 2 or 3. 

Day Three Target:

Marcus Trice – North Texas

One of my favorite lesser-known prospects in the nation here.  Trice will fight the naysayers all day, every day because of his sub 5’10 listing.  The lack of size hurt his grade, but he still graded out as a borderline 3rd/4th rounder on my board.  Trice made an impact on every game I watched.  He is an enforcer that ball carriers fear but he can also play a deep cover 1 role, showing enough range to reach either sideline.  He anticipates the action well and gets his hands on a lot of passes.  Trice is a fun player to watch that will make his impact on a tea one way or another.  Sometimes I’ll overlook the meaurables when a player like this jumps off the tape as much as Trice did.  He is a spirited competitor that gets the most out of himself and others.  Day 3 will be when is start to consider this versatile defender for NYG.

Giants Approach:

I’ve put a lot of thought in to this, and admittedly am still struggling to come up with a clear cut answer on how to approach the safeties in this draft.  Overall, this group is below average when looking at my past grades.  Pryor and Clinton-Dix would help this defense; there is no doubt about it.  They are more talented than what is currently on the roster at the position with much more upside.  Their grades tell me they are worthy of the #12 overall pick, so those two facts should be enough to say yes to one of them if they are available, right?

Like most of you, I would rather wait on bringing in another young safety to this team.  One could make the case there is no room on the roster, and it would be a waste economically.  Although there is a little voice that says you don’t pass on high grades like this, especially considering the lack of stability at the position past this upcoming season.  In my ideal world, NYG passes on safety altogether in 2014 and reevaluates the position at this time next year.  You have to gamble on certain spots here and there and have faith that what currently resides on the roster will be good enough.

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Jan 062014
 
 January 6, 2014  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Greg Robinson, Auburn Tigers (September 21, 2013)

OT Greg Robinson – © USA TODAY Sports Images

January 6, 2014 BCS National Championship: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

AUBURN

*#73 Greg Robinson – LT – 6’5/320

Third year sophomore. Unfortunately Robinson did not receive the public recognition until halfway through the year because most had no idea he was three years removed from high school. Robinson caught my eye last year when I was scouting opposing players. He is enormous but carries minimal bad weight. He is light on his feet but can anchor himself in to the ground and stone a bull rusher. Robinson may be THE left tackle of this class if he comes out. While I think he is a bit raw and will need some balance/core/stability work, Robinson has two years of starting experience in the SEC with game tape just as, if not more, impressive as Kouandijo. If he comes out, he could really go anywhere from #1 to #15 overall.

*#21 Tre Mason – RB – 5’10/205

Third year junior that has not declared yet. Mason is a fun player to watch. He had a big year (1,600+ yards) in 2013 but I am trying to figure out how much of it was the scheme, and how much was it based on his talent. He is short, but Mason is not undersized. He is thick throughout and he runs with power between the tackles and in space. He can shoot out of a cannon and accelerate through traffic with the best of them. Very efficient mover with minimal wasted steps. Once Mason is in the open field, he has good, but not great speed. His game is based on short area quickness and breaking tackles, which is what I want most in a running back. Right now he is a 2nd rounder but there is a chance he ends up being the first back taken.

#30 Dee Ford – DE – 6’2/240

Fifth year senior. Ford is a playmaker from the outside that makes things happen behind the line of scrimmage. My gripe with him is a pure lack of size/bulk and the fact that he doesn’t make his presence known play to play. If Ford doesn’t sack the QB or guess right on a running play, he doesn’t make an impact. He won’t be able to handle the power of the NFL unless he gets significantly bigger. Ford’s lack of staying power wasn’t an issue in college, but he will be manhandled by tight ends if he is an every down guy. Right now, he is a situational pass rusher that only fits certain schemes. Day three guy.

#11 Chris Davis – CB – 5’11/200

Fourth year senior. Best known for his return for a TD after a missed Alabama FG to win the game. Davis is actually a solid CB prospect that I think can be a contributor early on in his career. He is very quick, very explosive. He plays downhill with aggression. Davis is an excellent turn and run guy. He has the quick twitch and reaction that you want to see out of corners. His return skills will only boost his grade as I think he could be a 5th or 6th round guy.

#35 Jay Prosch – FB – 6’0/258

Fourth year senior. Rarely will you see a traditional fullback be drafted, but I think Prosch has a good shot at being a day three pick. He is not a receiver, he is not a rusher. But Prosch might be the best lead blocker that I’ve ever seen and I think his impact at the next level will be immediate. Prosch is effective in space against fast linebackers and defensive backs He always has his balance and power under him. He can send a violent jolt to defensive linemen as well who often outweigh him. He can perform multiple blocking duties at a high level and even though this role is dwindling in numbers around the league, I think Prosch will be drafted.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#94 Nosa Eguae – DE – 6’3/269

FLORIDA STATE

#75 Cameron Erving – LT – 6’6/320

Fourth year junior. Redshirted in 2010 because of a back injury. Backup defensive tackle that played in every 2011 game as the team’s primary run stuffer. Made the move to left tackle prior to the 2012 season and has started every game since then. Finished 2012 season on a strong note and has displayed an impressive tool set. Some consider Erving a top 10 pick and I think it is very possible. He is still somewhat new to the position, which will lead some to believe that he has a lot of untapped upside even though he plays at a very high level currently. He is an easy bender with a lot of hand power. He leans too much though and will likely need some time to shore up some technique issues before he can play. I think Erving is a solid prospect that may need some time on the bench before starting. But all in all, a likely top 15 guy.

*#1 Kelvin Benjamin – WR – 6’5/242

Third year sophomore. Benjamin has evolved in to my favorite WR in this draft class if he comes out. I have a higher opinion of him than most though. He would be better suited off returning to school so he can play with Winston one more year and make himself a definite top 10 pick in 2015. What I like about Benjamin is obvious. His height, length, and girth make him a matchup nightmare for defenses. At his size, it is unreal how well he moves when going after a pass and/or running with the ball in his hands. He has progressed more than any WR in the nation over the past year. In that offense, we may not even come close to seeing what he is capable of. I may have a top 10 grade on Benjamin when all is said and done but if he comes out, he will likely be a late 1st rounder.

#22 Telvin Smith – OLB – 6’3/215

Fourth year senior. Career backup and rotational defender until 2013 but has been consistently productive when his name is called. Was the team’s third leading tackler in 2012. Took over the starting WILL position in 2013 and flourished. Thin but wiry frame, plays stronger than he looks. Top-tier speed in pursuit, can play sideline-to-sideline. Aggressive downhill defender that can fill the lane and locate the ball carrier. Good form tackler that can be relied upon in space. Excellent in man coverage, can stick with most, if not all backs and tight ends. Fluid hips that turn well, light feet that can change direction. Has the tendency to over-pursue on runs to the other side of the line, opening cutback lanes. Discipline isn’t always there when it comes to his assignments. Will dance around blockers too often rather than meeting them straight up. Smith’s game speed and power can make him a three down defender at the next level. He has played both the MIKE and WILL positions very well for one of the nation’s top defenses over the past two years. He is also considered to be one of the more vocal leaders of the team. Smaller linebackers with supreme speed and good enough power are becoming big time players across the league. I think he can be a top 45 player in this class, although I’d expect him to be a 3rd/4th rounder in May.

#20 Lamarcus Joyner – S – 5’8.195

Fifth year senior that has seen a lot of playing time at both CB and S. Lacks the ideal height (5’8”) but weighs a solid 195 pounds and plays worth a chip on his shoulder. Possesses elite acceleration and agility. Can chase down some of the fastest receivers that college football has to offer from behind. Closes a 10 yard window as fast as anyone. Effective blitzer (5 sacks through November in 2013) with the ability to explode through small creases and ability to finish. Has long arms for his height. High energy player that the FSU defense looks to for leadership. Over-aggressive style can be taken advantage of by QBs with the ability to look off defenders. Takes a lot of false steps and is often found recovering. His attitude can only do so much downfield in one on one situations. Gets too hands on and will be flagged a lot. Creates mismatches that opposing offenses will look to exploit. Joyner is a hard nosed football player that can overcome his physical shortcomings. His approach and versatility are always in high demand across the league. Could be a 2nd/3rd rounder.

*#80 Rashad Greene – WR – 6’0/175

Third year junior that has led the team in receptions and yards all three years of his career to this point. Also an accomplished punt returner in 2012. Easy and fluid mover that can separate from man coverage all over the route tree. Has the speed to knife through a secondary over the top. Aggressive pass catcher with a strong pair of hands. Slight frame that can be beat up at the point of attack. Usually starts off the line. May not handle the press corners effectively. Effort as a blocker is there, but he does not make a big difference on the edge. Greene shows a lot of NFL ready skills and I’m not sure how much he could gain by returning to school. His upside is limited but he could be a QBs best friend because of his ability to get open, catch the ball, and run after the catch. 2nd/3rd rounder.

*#8 Timmy Jernigan – DT – 6’2/298

Third year junior. Was a top tier, 5 star recruit out of high school that made an immediate impact in a rotational role as a freshman in 2011, winning the team’s newcomer of the year award. Plays the inside gaps, mostly lining up over center. Smaller than the typical nose tackle, but plays low and powerful, making him a tough guy to push back. Strong player with outstanding footwork. Incredible quickness and speed for the position. Does a nice job of sending the initial punch with a strong pair of hands, keeping his base low so he can control the engagement with the blocker. Well-developed technique, knows how to get off blocks using moves and positioning. No matter that, he will need to develop more lower body strength before being relied upon against NFL linemen. Jernigan is a disruptor in every sense of the word that has several ways to beat a blocker. Despite his less than ideal height/weight numbers, he can play multiple roles along any defensive front. Could be 2nd/3rd rounder.

*#32 James Wilder Jr. – RB – 6’2/226

Third year junior. Top tier athlete out of high school that was highly recruited. Son of former NFL running back James Wilder. A physical specimen with the size/speed/strength that will make NFL coaches dream about stardom. Hard-nosed, physical runner that is tough to bring down once he has a head of steam. Broke out in 2012 with almost 6 yards per carry and 11 TDs. Superb blocker with the ability to process information quickly and deliver a violent jolt to the defender. Breaks a lot of tackles in space and is a tough guy to bring down past the second level of the defense. Maintains a strong grip on the ball and can be relied upon to secure it. Runs with a high pad level in traffic. Lacks the quick twitch acceleration and change of direction when approaching the line. Too many recovery steps with approaching the line of scrimmage. Not a natural receiver. Limited role but can be a valuable weapon as part of a committee approach. Wilder Jr. could declare early and me a mid-round pick that out-produces backs drafted ahead of him. I see some Eddie George here. A true workhorse that does a lot of little things well on top of having enormous gifts.

#7 Christian Jones – LB – 6’4/232

Fourth year senior that has started games at both outside linebacker positions as well as defensive end. Productive player that led the team in tackles in 2012, and was second on the team in 2011. Great size/speed/strength numbers that contributes on special teams as well. Physical player that plays well with his hands. Pursues well across the line. Can close a 5-10 yard window fast. Effective tackler that makes the effort to wrap up while maintaining a powerful presence. Can be used in a variety of ways. Gets locked on to and ridden out of plays by quality linemen and tight ends. Doesn’t use his hands effectively to control the engagement with blockers. Lacks awareness and reaction as a pass defender. Better athlete than he is a football player. I’m not as high on guys like this. He looks like a guy that will be a solid backup and special teamer, but I wouldn’t draft him until day three.

#31 Terrence Brooks – S – 5’11/197

Fourth year senior, two year starter. Plays a lot of single high safety but has shown the ability to approach the line and make tackles in the box. Led all FSU defensive backs in tackles in 2012. Quick and fluid hips that can get him moving laterally in a blink. Anticipates well and has coverage ability that you will find in a cornerback. Doesn’t have good enough speed to run downfield with speed receivers. Won’t make a lot of plays in back side pursuit. Aggressive player but doesn’t have the physical presence as a tackler to make a big difference. Does a lot of little things well to get him on the field, but has not stood out among a talented FSU defense. Sometimes guys like this get overlooked because they lack star power, but are solid prospects that can grab a roster spot in the NFL. Brooks can be a reliable third safety that can play both spots if need be. Day three guy.

#52 Bryan Stork – C – 6’4/312

Fifth year senior that has been starting since 2011. Has seen time at both guard and center. Graded out as the team’s top blocker in 2012 and is considered to be the leader of the line. Big weight room strength. Active feet that can get his hips in to the hole easily. Moves in space like a tight end, very good athlete. Lacks the power presence when matched up with bigger defensive tackles. Doesn’t create a new line of scrimmage. Leans forward too much. Weak hands prevent him from locking on to a defender. Stork isn’t strong enough for my liking when it comes to immediate production/reliability. He has good movement skills though so I think he can be drafted late and be given time to add some power to his game.

#81 Kenny Shaw – WR – 6’1/170

Fourth year senior that has played in every game since the start of 2011. Big play threat that works best in the slot because of his ability to find the holes in zone coverage. Very thin frame that needs to add bulk. Won’t break a lot of tackles. Average agility in space to make defenders miss and will often go down on initial contact. Not a pure hands catcher. Will allow the ball to get in to his body which impedes his after the catch ability. Not a fluid mover considering his size/frame. Has been the beneficiary of such a talent-rich Florida State offense which has inflated his statistics. There isn’t enough here to get me excited about his potential in the NFL. I don’t think he will handle the physical side of the game and we aren’t talking about an elite burner here. Late rounder.

Potential UDFA to Look For:

#97 DeMonte McCalister – DT – 6’2/285
#55 Jacobbi McDaniel – DT – 6’0/286
#6 Dan Hicks – DE – 6’4/260

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Jan 032014
 
 January 3, 2014  Posted by  Articles, The Draft
Sammy Watkins, Clemson Tigers (November 23, 2013)

WR Sammy Watkins – © USA TODAY Sports Images

January 3, 2014 Bowl Games: 2014 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

OKLAHOMA STATE

#4 Justin Gilbert – CB – 6’0/200

Fourth year senior. Some believe Gilbert is the top corner in this draft. I don’t quite put him on that level but I do think he has more upside than any other defensive back. Gilbert is very tools-rich. Tall, strong, fast, explosive, agile. Physically, he has the capability to do it all. I didn’t like what I saw in 2012 out of him, but he has a few ultra-impressive game tapes from 2013. What makes Gilbert so effective is the combination of abilities to jam receivers at the line and stick with them all over the field. He has his moments of pure brain lapse too often. He mis-diagnoses a lot and his game appears to be based on guess work. It’s hard to knock that area of his game though because I don’t know the background information including his reads and scheme. All said and done, Gilbert is a top 10 athlete but I don’t think he is a top 30 player yet.

#99 Calvin Barnett – DT – 6’2/300

Fourth year senior that spent two years at a junior college. Burst on to the scene in the Big 12 in 2012, earning first team all conference honors. Barnett is a thick, country strong interior guy that can fill a couple different roles. He makes an impact each and every play because of the attention he demands. Barnett is a bit of a loose cannon. There is a certain nastiness to him. He lacks discipline with both his technique and post-play antics. There is a lot to love and hate about that attitude. Barnett will be a solid mid-round pick that can handle the power of the NFL right away.

#87 Tracy Moore – WR 6’2/215

Fifth year senior that missed most of 2012 with an ankle injury. Moore is a gifted athlete that is put together was well as one would want in a receiver. His career got off to a nice start, but a combination of injuries and trouble with the law have kept his stock down a bit. Moore is a solid possession receiver that makes things happen after the catch. He is strong and aggressive and loves to bully the defensive backs. Willing and able over the middle in traffic, Moore has proven to be a solid third down target. There is some hidden upside here as long as Moore can work on his craft without distractions. Had he not been injured and stayed away from off the field trouble, we may be discussing him as a potential 2nd rounder. Now, I see him as a 4th/5th rounder.

#8 Daytawion Lowe – S – 5’11/205

Fifth year senior that missed 2010 with a shoulder injury. Lowe is a tackling machine that lays bigger than his listed size. He led the team in tackles in 2011 and 2012, second in 2013. He’s quicker than he is fast. I like him as an in-the-box safety that supports the run and covers underneath. I think he’ll struggle to play in deep coverage, as the catch speed simply isn’t there. His hips and ankles look tight. He is a different player when moving downhill than when he moves laterally. I think he can be a solid back up and special teamer in the NFL. 5th/6th rounder.

#11 Shaun Lewis – OLB – 5’11/225

Fourth year senior. Undersized player that gets lost in the shuffle sometimes. But I’ve seen three of his games in 2013 and he makes a lot of impact plays. He is a brick house that plays as hard as any linebacker you will find. Lewis can use his height to his advantage. He can sneak underneath blockers and locate the football. Lewis struggles to sit tight and shed blocks though. He will shoot gaps without diagnosing, opening up huge cutback lanes for the opposing back. In the right scheme where he can attack, Lewis might be a guy that makes 100+ tackles per year in the league. I think he is a 5th/6th rounder at worst.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#31 Jeremy Smith – RB – 5’10/210
#71 Parker Graham – LT – 6’7/315
#7 Shamiel Gary – S – 6’0/210
#51 Brandon Webb – G – 6’3/328
#1- Clint Chelf – QB – 6’1/210

MISSOURI

*#47 Kony Ealy – DE – 6’5/275

Fourth year junior. Has not declared yet but many expect him to. There are some people in the Midwest that I speak with every year, and they have said Ealy has more upside that Aldon Smith and Sheldon Richardson did when they were in college. Pretty high praise if you ask me. Ealy is put together well. He is a comfortable 270+ pounds with above average movement ability. Ealy is an underachiever at the moment. He plays too high and doesn’t have the power presence you would think a player of his size would have. He doesn’t have the second gear when rushing the edge, either. I’m not high on Ealy but nobody can deny the upside. He has a lot of work to do and it will be a matter of how he approaches that. Probable 1st rounder if he comes out.

*#20 Henry Josey – RB – 5’10/190

Fourth year junior. A great story here. Suffered a gruesome, possible career ending injury in 2012. Came back in 2013 to lead the team in rushing , averaging over 6 yards per carry. Josey is quick and decisive with runaway speed. Despite being under 200 pounds, he can run inside with some force. Personally I think he needs to return for another year. His production is impressive but may be inflated due to the scheme he plays in. He isn’t what I would call a special back. A poor man’s Reggie Bush without the upside. If he comes out, we are looking at a 3rd rounder a best.

#52 Michael Sam – DE – 6’2/255

Fifth year senior. Opposite situation of Ealy. Sam has evolved in to a quality football player over his five years at Mizzou. He led the team with 10.5 sacks and 18.5 TFL this year. Sam has a ton of functional strength. He can handle the power blockers and run past the speed blockers. I think his best role will be a 3-4 OLB at the next level. He doesn’t have the length to play a DE spot play in, play out and he has shown some ability to work well in space. Top 100 pick, maybe top 75.

#31 EJ Gaines – CB – 5’11/195

Fourth year senior that has had a very accomplished career. I want to get another 2-3 looks a Gaines in the coming months. So far, I love what I see out of him. He is a physical player that sticks his hat in there against the run like a linebacker. Gaines shows nice ball skills down the field with proper balance and timing. He never seems to be playing catch up, which you have to respect a lot. He is a fluid mover that makes the game look easy. Right now I think he is a top 100 guy but I’ll need to see more before I put him in to the round 2 area.

#68 Justin Britt – LT – 6’6/315

Fifth year senior. The 2014 left tackle class might be the best in a long time. We all know the popular names like the back of our hand, but Britt is a guy that is close to their level and never gets talked about. I really like his pro potential and I think he can be a quality starter. He has experience at both RT and LT. His footwork and balance make me believe he can be a left side guy in the NFL. He carries 310+ pounds with ease and I think he has the frame for some more. His greatest asset are his movement skills and consistent technique. He’ll need some work in the weight room but in a year or two, I think we are looking at a quality starter.

#2 L’Damian Washington – WR – 6’4/205

Fifth year senior. Led the Tigers in receiving in 2013 among a group of talented receivers. Washington is a deep threat that has long strides with the ability to take a top off a secondary. His tool set is among the top 10 in the nation, but his skill set hasn’t caught up yet. When I watch him, I always ask myself why isn’t he better than what I see on tape? I’m not sure he has the physical style necessary to factor all over the field. Right now Washington is a limited player that can still be an asset to an offense that needs a deep route runner. But besides that, he is a backup. 4th/5th rounder with upside.

#85 Marcus Lucas – WR – 6’5/220

Fourth year senior. Another tools-rich kid that has not lived up to expectations. Lucas has a lot of experience and has shown flashes on a few occasions of being a big time player. His size and speed along can get him drafted. He has the speed to get behind a defense, but he was used underneath in the games I watched. He is a guy that can create mismatches. I think we are looking at a day three guy here.

#48 Andrew Wilson – MLB – 6’3/240

Fifth year senior. Leading tackler each of the past three years. Wilson has played the middle and outside in Missouri’s scheme. He has been a reliable contributor and the source of a lot of big plays. He dances left and right, back and forth pre-snap. Wilson is a strong player between the tackles but his lack of speed to the edge was exposed in the games I saw. He is a slow change of direction guy that plays too high. He does well when taking on blocks though and I think he can be a solid player in a 3-4 scheme down the road. Day three prospect.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#1 James Franklin – QB – 6’2/225
#7 Randy Ponder – CB – 5’10/195
#17 Matt White – S – 6’0/195

CLEMSON

*#2 Sammy Watkins – WR – 6’1/205

Third year junior. Considered by some as the top receiver in this draft. Watkins was an All-American as a freshman in 2011, but has failed to take the next step since then. 2012 was a rough year for him with a suspension, ankle injury, and stomach virus. He has come back strong in 2013 and has put himself back in to top 15 consideration. Watkins is one of the top YAC receivers you will find. He runs with the ball as if he were a running back, showing a low pad level and the power to break tackles. I can see he has strong hands, very strong hands. The ball has minimal-to-no wiggle upon contact. But he has had a case of the drops in 2013, thus I wouldn’t say he has a top grade for catching ability like most seem to give him. Watkins seems to be a very smart player that understands what opposing defenses are doing. He is an excellent route runner that knows how to set defensive backs up for failure. Combine that with his outstanding movement ability and you may have a top tier playmaker in Watkins. I will personally have him graded somewhere between 20-35 overall, but I think he gets taken in the top 15.

*#3 Vic Beasley – DE – 6’3/235

Fourth year junior that has not yet declared. After Clowney, many think Beasley is the top edge rusher. He is such an explosive, agile, flexible athlete when getting after the passer that it’s hard not to project him as a potentially special player. In the weight room, he is one of the strongest players on the entire Clemson roster and the power will show up on tape when he hits a ball carrier. While he has the frame for more weight, I question if Beasley will end up as one of the situational pass rushers that simply can’t hack it as an every down guy. He can be moved to the side by a bigger offensive tackle too easily, and that would bother me if I were trying to draft him. Teams ran the ball right at him numerous times because his impact on a game is minimal in those situations. His hustle, aggression, and speed are nullified when the action is coming his way. Beasley will be a first round pick, possibly even in the top 10. But a guy that has severe power presence concerns will needs a very specific role and scheme. I don’t like taking guys like that in the first round.

#10 Tajh Boyd – QB – 6’1/225

Fourth year senior that has re-written the record books at Clemson. A statistical compiler that has had some of the best talent and the best scheme to work with. Boyd was considered a borderline first round talent heading in to 2013, but I don’t think this year has helped him much. Boyd has a quick release and the power to shoot the ball downfield on a line. His arm talent is there. Boyd is shorter than you want and has had issue with his accuracy in 2013. He struggles when he is on the run being chased. Boyd also tucks the ball and run too early. I question his ability to stand strong in the pocket and go through progressions. He has a lot of adjustment to go though once he enters the league and I don’t see the upside being any higher than a Chase Daniel type. Quality backup, but not someone you take on day 1 or day 2 of draft weekend.

#63 Brandon Thomas – LT – 6’3/305

Fifth year senior that has started at left tackle for three years now. Thomas is a name that doesn’t get enough attention. He is going to have a much higher grade on my sheet that what’s put out there. Because of his size, he will likely move inside to guard. With that in mind, Thomas does all of the little things right to lead me to believe he will be a good one at the next level. He has a lot of power, a guy that creates a new line of scrimmage play after play when run blocking. He isn’t blessed with tremendous movement tools, but he is a consistent player because of his mechanics and strong hands. I really liked what I saw in his matchup against Clowney. Despite being out-classed talent wise, Thomas put forth an admirable performance from start to finish. His vast experience at left tackle will only help teams when building a depth chart. Thomas has a ton of value in my eyes, and may end up in the top 75 overall on my board.

*#1 Martavis Bryant – WR – 6’5/200

Third year junior that did send paper work to the advisory board. Bryant is a big time deep threat with enormous upside. He doesn’t have a lot experience in teams of balls being thrown his way, but has shown the talent to be a big time receivers. I would advise him to return to school because I think he could be a top 10 guy in 2015 if he had a nice senior year without Watkins in the picture. Bryant isn’t physical and he doesn’t get himself open underneath. He does make a lot of catches when covered though. There are some teams that will view him as a first round caliber athlete and it could get him drafted in round 2. But I would likely grade him out as a 3rd/4th rounder with big time upside.

#25 Roderick McDowell – RB – 5’9/195

Fifth year senior that has played behind some of the best RB talent that college football has seen from one school in recent years. McDowell had a huge 2013 campaign and some believe he could end up being a top 100 pick. I like him and his game, but I’m not sure he warrants something that high. McDowell comes from an extremely favorable scheme for the running game and I think his production was a result of the playmakers around him, not the other way around. At that size, you need to have game breaking speed that runs away from defenders, elite agility, and/or wide receiver-caliber hands. McDowell is average across the board. I think he gets drafted late and can stick somewhere as a 3rd string guy for a few year.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#33 Spencer Shuey – OLB – 6’3/240
#8 Darius Robinson – CB – 5’10/175
#62 Tyler Shatley – RG – 6’3/300

OHIO STATE

Carlos Hyde – RB – 6’0/235

Fourth year senior. Hyde did more for his draft position in 2013 than arguably any senior in the nation. Despite missing 3 games because of a suspension, Hyde rushed for 1,408 yards averaging over 7.5 yards per carry. Hyde is not your space back that has a lot of big runs because of speed and elusiveness. He is a brick house that doesn’t go down on initial contact and moves the pile forward every time he has the ball. He is an impressive, old school running back that moves the chains and grinds down the clock. There is a lot to like about his running style. I need to try and look in to his off the field trouble but if that checks out, his game tape warrants a top 75 pick.

*#10 Ryan Shazier – OLB – 6’2/230

Third year junior. Led the team in tackles in 2012 and 2013 by a wide margin. Shazier is a fun player to watch. He improved a lot as the year progressed and I‘ve had to re-evaluate my outlook on him. He is a little thin below the waist and it shows up when he takes on blocks. But when he is in space, Shazier might be one of the best linebackers in the nation. He plays really fast and maintains strength when approaching the ball carrier. He has a nasty style to him and it helps. Shazier appears lost in coverage. He isn’t much of an assignment linebacker. When you tell him to make reads and flow towards the action, he struggles. But tell him to blitz a gap and pursue, he can shine. Right now I think he is a lock for the top 75 but he could sneak in to the top 45.

*#1 Bradley Roby – CB – 5’11/192

Third year junior that has already declared. Came in to 2013 as one of the top CBs in the nation but I have been unimpressed all year. Roby has elite movement skills with legit sub 4.4 speed. He can turn his hips and change direction with ease. My issues with him are the extreme lack of ball skills. He is awful in deep coverage when it comes to locating the ball and making a play. In addition, he doesn’t always make the effort I want to see against the run. There is a lot I don’t like about his game I and won’t have a top 100 overall grade on him. He will probably be a day two pick though.

#74 Jack Mewhort – LT – 6’6/308

Fifth year senior. Mewhort started off as a guard playing both spots. He made the move to LT prior to the 2012 season and has done a nice job. Mewhort is a solid blocker all around that doesn’t jump off the screen, but gets his job done consistently. I want to really dive in to some of his tapes in the coming months. I want to see if he can play guard at the next level. I think his value will be as a versatile backup that can play multiple spots. 3rd/4th rounder I think with potential to start.

#4 CJ Barnett – S – 6’1/204

Fifth year senior. Hard hitting, downhill strong safety with a lot of experience as a starter. Has been the go-to-guy in that secondary for a few years. Barnett does a lot of little things well that are hard to pick up on if you just watch him on TV. From the All-22 angle, its easy to see the impact he has on that defense. He is a smart player with quick reaction. He is physically limited in man coverage. He has tight ankles and hips but if he is used correctly, I think he can be a starter in the NFL down the road. 3rd/4th rounder.

#10 Corey Brown – WR  6’0/190

Fifth year senior. Brown is a reliable underneath receiver that can run himself open. Very good route runner and does the little things right. Hands catcher that plays more physical than you would assume. Brown doesn’t scare anyone with speed or size, but he is quietly effective week in, week out. I think he is worth a late round draft choice. He can be a solid backup and brings some return ability to the team as well.

Potential UDFAs to Look For:

#78 Andrew Norwell – LG – 6’6/316
#7 Jordan Hall – RB – 5’9/191
#71 Corey Linsley – C – 6’3/297

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