Apr 232020
 
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New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Review

Draft Pick Scouting Reports
Rookie Free Agent Scouting Reports
Eric’s Take on the 2020 Draft

Round Pick in Round Overall Selection Player Selected Video
1 4 4 OT Andrew Thomas (Video)
2 4 36 S Xavier McKinney (Video)
3 35 99 OT Matt Peart (Video)
4 4 110 CB Darnay Holmes (Video)
5 4 150 OG Shane Lemieux (Video)
6 4 183 LB Cam Brown (Video)
7 4 218 LB Carter Coughlin (Video)
7 24 238 LB T.J. Brunson (Video)
7 33 247 CB/S Chris Williamson (Video)
7 41 255 LB Tae Crowder (Video)

2020 Draft Pick Scouting Reports

1st Round – OT Andrew  Thomas, 6’5”, 315lbs, 5.18, University of Georgia

Scouting Report: The 6’5”, 315-pound Thomas is a junior entry, but three-year starter at Georgia with experience at both tackle positions. Big frame with very long arms. Thomas is a tough, strong, physical run blocker who can get movement at the point-of-attack. He is athletic enough to get to the second level and works to finish his blocks. Thomas is a good athlete and he flashes excellent pass protection skills, but he needs to improve his overall technique and consistency in that department. Team leader.

Sy’56’s Take: When I look at who Dave Gettleman has drafted in the past at the offensive tackle position, Thomas looks like that guy. Big, thick, long-armed and really physical. He is a really fun player to watch when he’s pissed off. He moves guys into another zip code as a run blocker, he really gets after guys in space, and he finishes. The issues here are two-fold. His effort isn’t consistent and that is the number one red flag. In the intense moments, big games…etc. Thomas gets after it. But too many times throughout the past two seasons I saw a guy who simply tried to get by on talent. The second issue, he looks like a train wreck in pass protection at times. He struggles to reach his point against speed and he shows his numbers to the ground too often. While his power and reach can partially make up for it, he simply needs to get better there or he will get eaten alive by the top end pass rushers. I’ll end with this: Thomas at his absolute best is better than Wirfs and Wills. But do you want to gamble on his work ethic and lack of athletic ability? More power to you if you do, but I only want him if it meant NYG traded down and the two guys above were off the board.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman: First off, I hope everybody is well and your families are fine. We spent a lot of time on this and we want to fix this offensive line once and for all. Andrew certainly has a hell of a pedigree, a three-year starter in the Southeast Conference. He’s played against some real quality defensive ends during his college career. He has played big time ball in front of a lot of people. We spent a lot of time with him off the field as well, numerous conversations. We spoke to him in Indianapolis and we just feel he is ready to make this jump. He’s young, like all these guys are. We feel very strongly that he is ready and capable. He’s going to come in and compete, nothing is being handed to him. When I get the chance to talk to him later, I am going to say the same thing to him that I said to Saquon and that I said to Daniel, you have to come in and compete, nothing is getting handed to you. He’s big, he’s long, he’s strong, he can bend. He can anchor in pass (protection). He’s very athletic in the open field, we are just really excited to have him, and continue to build this team properly.

Joe Judge: I think Dave really hit it on the head. This was a very talented draft class, especially on the offensive line. This is definitely one that we think is going to give us a chance to come in and improve us overall. He has a skillset that gives him a chance to come in and compete early on. We are anxious to get to work with him, get our hands on him and get going. He has the right demeanor, the right makeup. I’ve talked on the front end about a lot guys, the whole process of this. Not being able to be on campuses, not having the luxury of pro days or 30 visits coming to our facility. You had to rely on your contacts, and this is someone that a lot of people I am close with had worked directly with. There was a lot of good knowledge that could sign off on and know what we were bringing in to add to our team. This is definitely a guy we are excited about getting in and getting a chance to work with and giving him a chance to compete with the rest of our guys.

Q: Was there a defining characteristic or two that elevated Andrew over the other tackles?

Judge: It had nothing to do with the other guys that were in this draft. This is all about Andre right now. I’ll tell you what, his skillset favors his opportunity to come in and contribute. He’s long, he’s a good athlete, he has good short area redirect. One thing that sticks out about him is when you watch the top pass rushers, with the exception of maybe a couple in this draft, they have to go against him. You watch his college tape and he is going against all the guys that you are going to see get drafted in the next couple of days. He does a heck of job on them, you see him compete, you see him play big in big games and that’s important. He was coached very hard at the University of Georgia and that’s a trait we look for. Guys who can play hard and play on big stages and compete.

Q: A lot of people viewed Thomas as the premier pass protector in the class. How much did that factor into your decision and how much does that benefit Daniel Jones?

Gettleman: The length that he has is really a defining feature that he has physically. You turn around and you see the guys that don’t have as much length, shorter arms, shorter people and the defensive ends with long arms get them. A big part of it is, I’m a wise guy sometimes with you folks, and I have done a study and I say it’s tougher to complete passes when the guy is on his back. I think that was a big part of it. I have always gotten a chuckle out of people who say you draft a quarterback and you have to get him weapons. No, you don’t draft a quarterback and then get weapons, once you draft a quarterback, you get guys in front of him that will keep him upright. So, this was an important piece for us in Daniel’s development and for Saquon, as well. Don’t forget the running part of it, and he is a hell of a run blocker.

Q: How much discussion was there about trading down? If Andrew was the top guy on your board, were you reluctant to not get a chance to get him?

Gettleman: We had conversations, but everyone was touchy-feely, maybe yes, maybe no. There were no firm offers anywhere. There is nothing that made me look at John Mara and Joe (Judge) and say let’s trade back and get some more picks. There really wasn’t much there. You can see we haven’t had a trade in the first round yet, how often does that happen? There wasn’t a lot of action.

Q: Did Thomas’ experience on both sides, left and right, factor into the decision?

Gettleman: That’s a piece of it, absolutely. Absolutely. He has legitimate…you know he started on the right side as a puppy and two years at left. One of the things that kind of helped the process along is the other day I took a look at his 2018 game when they played Kentucky and he played Josh Allen, and you guys know I’ve got a lot of love for Josh Allen and how talented he is. That really, that was big. As Joe said, he’s played against a lot of legitimate pass rushers and he’s done well.

Q: You mentioned your contacts and you kind of exhausted those, I would imagine. Three of the four (tackles), we were able to connect dots on the offensive linemen that you may have had connections to. Did it make it more difficult because you had a lot of resources giving you tips and insight into, not just Andrew, but a bunch of guys? Or did you kind of narrow that down pretty quickly early on?

Judge: Well, the tape gives you the initial impression of what you’re looking for and then what you use all of the information when you talk to the coaches is really to fill in any gaps you may not know about personality, work ethic, how they respond to hard coaching, and then also to really confirm what you’ve seen on the tape as well. Listen, the one thing is I have very good contacts at all of these places with all the top guys. I have a good enough relationship where they’re not trying to sell me a product, they know if the guy is good enough, he’s going to get paid to play somewhere and they are very directly honest with me. I don’t get just the good on guys. They give me, ‘hey, these are the things he’s gonna have to work on, these are the things you have to know about how he responds personality wise’, and that’s all very important. I would say this overall, we exhausted the process and all of the top prospects at different positions, but you look at those offensive linemen, which definitely came into consideration with this pick, all of them have got great traits, they were coached very well, they are going to be tremendous pros, I have nothing but great things to say about all of them. But we’re doing what’s best for the Giants and we feel this move is best for the New York Giants right now. I think this is going to be a tremendous move right now to help Daniel (Jones) play more confident back there, not that he needs that, but he can sit back and be protected and we’ve got to go ahead and be more stiff. I talk all of the time, you have to run the ball, you have to stop the run, you have to cover kicks, so we’ve got to add to our run blocking as well to give ourselves a chance to get going on the ground.

Q: Where do you plan on starting him? Do you expect him to play both sides or would you like to start him on one side and then maybe test the other or how do you plan on handling that?

Judge: The good thing about both of our tackles, really all of our tackles, they played on both sides. If you look across the board, everyone on our depth chart right now has played on the right and the left. Everyone is going to come in on Day One and compete and as they shake out, whether that demonstrates being a starter at whatever position, that’s where they’ll fall. We went into this with several players we all thought had the ability to go on both sides, right or left. We made a decision that we’re going to let training camp figure that out. We’re not going to have a pre-conceived notion right now of trying to plug someone in. We have a lot of talented guys, they have to compete. This is not a finish line. This is a starting point. He needs to come in, he has to earn it every day, he has to work like every player we had this week in will. But everyone will get the chance to compete, and training camp will really sort out how they fall.

Q: My impression of that is you said he’s going to compete on both sides to start?

Judge: He will compete on both sides, that’s correct. As will all of our tackles. They’ve all got versatility on both sides.

Q: Dave, a lot of people saw you put a mask on tonight in your house. This is a unique time in our country’s history, what made you do that tonight and are you concerned about this virus?

Gettleman: Well, I’ve got a young IT fellow in here with me and we’re social distancing and part of that is the mask. I’m fine.

Media Q&A with Andrew Thomas (Video):

Q: How big of a surprise was this to go four and to go to the Giants? What was your interaction with them throughout?

A: Yeah, so I had a couple Zoom calls with them (in) this process and I had a formal meeting with them down at the combine. But I was excited to get the call, it came like three minutes before the pick. I just thank God for the blessing.

Q: Did you think beforehand that this was a possible landing point for you, and what was your reaction when you realized you were going to end up in New York?

A: I really didn’t know where I was going to end up. But when they made the call, I was obviously excited. I’m ready to get to work and get down to New York.

Q: Have you had a chance to process blocking for Daniel Jones and opening up running lanes for Saquon Barkley? What is fitting into an offense with this kind of talent around you, what do you think you can bring to that scheme and bring to the Giants?

A: I’ll do my best to protect the quarterback, open up lanes. It’s a blessing to be able to play with guys as talented as they are.

Q: How exciting is it be joining a team with so many young, talented players, especially on offense like Saquon, like Daniel Jones, Darius Slayton. Are you looking forward to growing with a group like that?

A: Definitely. Those guys are very talented. I’ll be looking up to those guys to teach me the ropes, working hard to help the program.

Q: Washington drafted Chase Young at two overall. The Giants took you to protect Daniel Jones and Saquon, but also to go up against guys like Chase Young. Joe Judge said in large part the Giants drafted you because of your ability against top pass rushers. What’s your confidence level going against guys like Chase Young and top pass rushers around the league?

A: Confidence comes with preparation, understanding the playbook, learning from the vets week in and week out. Going against guys that have been playing in the league for 10 years, who are very good at what they do, so for me, it’s a mental thing and like I said, having confidence in myself for my preparation.

Q: Dave (Gettleman) talked about watching you go up against Josh Allen and some of the top pass rushers in the SEC. I’m curious who the toughest pass rusher you’ve played against was and how it’s going to prepare you for going up against the Chase Youngs and DeMarcus Lawrences and Brandon Grahams of the world?

A: Yeah, playing in the SEC, I’ve gone against a few pretty good pass rushers. Like I said, week in and week out, you have to be prepared going against guys like Josh Allen, (K’Lavon) Chaisson this year was a pretty good rusher. It just prepares you a little bit for what you’re going to see in the NFL.

Q: Can you talk about your versatility, the opportunity to play left and right tackle and how that’s prepared you for this level?

A: Yeah, at Georgia I started off at right tackle as a freshman and made the transition my sophomore year. I played at left tackle for the next two years. I think that definitely helps. Having experience playing both sides will be something that will be an asset for me.

Q: I see you have the nice New York Giants hat there. How many hats did you have there just in case?

A: The NFL sent us a package with 32 hats for all the teams. Just in case you got picked, you had the hat ready.

Q: What are you going to do with the other ones?

A: Probably give them to my friends.

Q: Who was with you tonight to share your special moment?

A: Immediate family, my agent, my mentor and a few of my close friends just to be here celebrating with me.

Q: Who is your mentor?

A: His name is Kevin Johnson. He was my offensive line coach at Pace Academy.

Q: I know you said you wanted to learn a lot from Daniel and Saquon. What kind of responsibility do you feel towards them? You are the guy they brought in to be Daniel’s protector and to open holes for Saquon.

A: For me, I’m just focusing on what I can control and that’s just getting better. It’s hard to tell with the pandemic but just moving forward (focus on) communicating with the team, learning the playbook and doing what I can to stay in shape so I can be prepared when I have to step on the field.

Q:  Going into tonight, did it matter to you to be the number one tackle off the board?

A: Definitely, I work hard every day to be the best. I don’t understand why you would play this game if you don’t want to be the best. It definitely meant something.

Q: Were you pretty confident that that was the way it was going to end up?

A: I wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to go. You never know with the draft. I thank God for blessing me and putting me in this position.

Q:  There was lot of conversation about who was the best tackle. What did you think of it and how much did you hear about it?

A: Obviously you see it with social media and things like that. For me, I just try to focus on what I can control. I can’t control what other guys may do or what the media may say. All I can do is work on my craft and do what I need to do to be prepared when I step on the field.

Q: Were you surprised by the perception that people had?

A: No, people are entitled to their own opinion. For me, it’s just a matter of what the coaches think of me and definitely what my teammates think of me.

Q: What are your next couple of weeks and months going to look like? How have you been able to deal with this and is everybody in your family healthy?

A: My family is doing well, thanks for asking. I was blessed to be able to train at Dash performance, I have a relationship with the owner there. It’s shut down to the public, but he lets me and my trainer come in there and get some work in to try to stay in shape.

Q: Dave Gettleman mentioned your matchup with Josh Allen from two years ago. Coming out of that matchup, was there more confidence that you gained out of going up against him considering he ended up as the seventh overall pick.

A: Definitely, I’m a competitor. I want to go up against the best guys and test my limits against them. Going up against him and having a pretty good game meant a lot to me. I put in a lot of hard work to get there.

Q: What is more rewarding, keeping a guy from touching the quarterback or grinding it out on the ground the way you guys did?

A: I would probably say grinding it out on the ground. I definitely want to protect the quarterback, but the run game, I love it.

Q: You have a couple of your former college teammates up here. What’s your relationship like with Lorenzo Carter and DeAndre Baker like?

A: I remember being a freshman with Zo being a senior here. It’s going to be exciting to be back with him. With D-Bake, I talk to him every now and then. I’m excited to get in the locker room and be with those guys again.

Q: Were you in touch with them during the process at all?

A: Not really, but I know Lorenzo hit me up right after I got drafted, so I will probably talk to him later today.

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2nd Round – S Xavier McKinney, 6’0”, 201lbs, 4.65, University of Alabama

Scouting Report: The 6’0, 201-pound McKinney was a junior entry and 2-year starter in college. He is a very versatile player who is able to play both safety spots and slot corner. McKinney plays faster than he times and has good quickness. He is instinctive in coverage and makes a lot of plays on the football. McKinney is aggressive and physical in run defense. Good blitzer and he will hit you. He does need to become a more consistent tackler. Team leader who quarterbacks the secondary.

Sy’56’s Take: Junior entry. Two year starter from Roswell, Georgia. 2019 All American and First Team All SEC. McKinney was a do-it-all safety for Nick Saban’s defense, making plays against the pass, the run, and on special teams. He is a versatile, rangy, aggressive weapon for the defense that reacts and closes as fast as anyone can at the position. He is a hustler who will bring swagger to the defense he gets drafted to. He has some on-field discipline issues that can get exposed in the NFL, thus he will need some extra time to adjust to the speed and complexity of the game. His upside is sky-high if he is put into the right situation and he applies himself.

*McKinney plays a high risk, high reward style which isn’t a fit for every scheme. But for the teams that can tolerate, borderline feet of that, he is going to be graded highly and I do think he has a shot at being the top safety off the board. I love his burst and ability to close, if he can develop that movement into coverage, watch out.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Gettleman: Obviously, we had Xavier rated, we had a first-round value on him, and we’re absolutely thrilled to get him. He’s a great kid, he’s smart, he plays smart, he lines up the backend for us, he’s versatile, you can put him down low, he can cover tight ends, he’s got ball skills, and he’s a good tackler. So, we’re excited and just feel we’ve got a real quality person and player in this second round pick.

Judge: Yeah, I’d say my first exposure to Xavier was a few springs ago. I was down in Alabama actually scouting a couple other guys for the draft and had an opportunity to pass on through one of the practices, and he just stuck out as a guy on the field who flies around. He plays with a lot of passion and energy. He also has that ability to be the quarterback on the backend and really be the signal caller for our defense. Knowing the program he comes from, he fits the mold of a smart, tough, fundamentally sound guy we’re looking to build with. We’re very excited to have him. Like Dave said, we had a first-round grade on him, saw him hanging around and we’re very fortunate to be able to take him at the position that we did.

Q: Are there some similarities here with Xavier and Isaiah Simmons as you were watching the two films? It looks like Xavier is one of those guys who played 100 snaps at four different positions last year.

Gettleman: He certainly is versatile, he certainly is versatile. One of the important things for us this year was getting a safety that could play in the deep part of the field. Xavier has certainly played back there enough that we know we feel very comfortable about that part of his game.

Q: How much better do you feel about your secondary after making this pick and signing (James) Bradberry in free agency? Does it feel like it is shored up a lot more than maybe it was at the end of last year?

Gettleman: Absolutely. You know, it’s kind of funny. Everybody is playing so much 11 and 10 personnel and you’re in sub 55 to 70 percent of the time. You can never have enough DBs. You know, Bradberry is young, he’s 26, I believe, or 25. Jabrill (Peppers) is young. All of these kids we drafted last year and now Xavier this year, we’re putting together, I think, a very talented young group that just has the ability to play football at the NFL level. We’ve just got to get them rolling.

Q: Did you entertain a lot of offers to try to move down? Do you think having Xavier will actually enhance Jabrill Peppers and maybe put him in spots where you can enhance his talents rather than have to do things maybe he wasn’t as good at?

Gettleman: Well, the first thing I’ll tell you is we had made up our mind that if Xavier fell to us, we were taking him. So, we did have something. If Xavier had been gone, we did have a team willing to move up and we would’ve moved back. But we felt the value of getting Xavier there was just too good to pass up. I think the second part of the question is a better one for Joe, frankly.

Judge: You know, I don’t think it’s about any of the players on our roster. I just think with his versatility and what he’s shown of what he’s been able to do, play in the deep part of the field, play in the box, be used in coverage on slot receivers, be used in blitz packages. He’s shown a range in what he’s able to do. That’s going to allow us to use all of our players in different ways. Because of his versatility, that will complement everybody else on the roster as his strengths shake out. But he has a good skill set to come in and compete and we’re anxious to get him on the field and start working with him.

Q: How much were you able to tap into your Alabama connections when you were scouting Xavier?

Judge: There’s a number of guys down at Alabama that have a great background on him. There are a number of guys on our staff currently that have a great background on the Alabama guys, Burton Burns and Jody Wright were there in recent years. They were there when these guys came in as freshmen, they were there for the progression. As well as making phone calls down to Tuscaloosa, we were able to make phone calls and have staff meetings with guys who had direct relationships with these players and that’s a great advantage. I talked yesterday about my relationship with Kirby (Smart) and how that plays a part in identifying these guys and what they are like off the field and off the tape. That plays a big part. There are certain people in that building, not just the head coach, that you rely on what they say. You know they see them as a person and how they treat everybody. Everyone has nothing but the highest compliments of him as a person and that’s what we’re looking for. Guys with good character, good traits, that want to come in and want to work and want to earn what they get.

Q: You are about to have a 63-pick gap, are you in moving up at all?

Gettleman: You have to see how the board falls. We are going to sit for a while. If we move up, I’m not going to dip into next year’s draft class. We are going to sit here and be patient and see how the board falls.

Q: Do you think If Alabama held its pro day and he ran a better 40 than he did at the combine that he would have been there for you at that point?

Gettleman: It’s speculation, (but) that’s the only thing we can think of. Very frankly, I’ve said it to our scouts, it’s how fast does a guy play? It’s about how he carries his pads. It’s not what he does in his underwear on a track, it’s play speed. Way back in the day when San Francisco had their unbelievable run and Bill Walsh was running that club, they were not in a scouting combine. They did not care what a guy ran. They talked about play speed all the time. I think it worked pretty well for them. I am a big believer in that, it’s about how fast does a guy play. If it was just about 40-yard dash times, then we would go watch track meets.

Q: What does this draft do for a guy like Julian Love?

Judge: Julian has a great skill set. He can play corner, he can play in the slot and he can play back deep as a safety. We are going to use him as we need by each game plan. He may be an every-down safety, he may be an-every down corner. We are too far away right now to give that an answer. We are excited about all the guys we have back there. We believe we added some talent to the back end for guys to compete and we are going to see where it shakes out. Nothing has been decided in terms of positions that will go into a depth chart at this point and nothing has been decided in how we are going to use guys by game plan. That will change week to week. We believe we have enough skillsets that it will give us flexibility within our packages.

Q: You have drafted a Georgia player in the third round or higher in three straight drafts. Is there anything particular about Georgia’s program that you like?

Gettleman: What you like is the fact that it’s the Southeast Conference. They play a lot of big games and they do a hell of a job coaching down there. It’s more by accident, it’s kind of the way it worked out. They have a hell of a program.

Media Q&A with Xavier McKinney:

Q: With your versatility playing deep safety, down in the nickel, crashing the box, what do you enjoy the most and what do you think you bring to this defense most of all?

A: I like doing it all. I like playing as many positions as I can on the field. I just like making plays for my teammates and helping my team be successful. So for me, that’s pretty much my main goal. As far as what I can provide for the team, it really is whatever coach wants me to do. I always do what’s asked of me and I try to do it at a high level. So, whatever I’m asked to do, then I’ll adapt to it and I’ll be able to do it.

Q: I understand that a lot of your tattoos you designed yourself. I just wanted to ask about your creativity and how you bring that creativity onto the field?

A: Yeah, I appreciate that question. It’s just something that I like to do in my free time. If I’m ever bored or ever kind of get to thinking, then I try to put the pencil on paper. For me, it’s pretty fun being able to do it and draw my tattoos. But as far as what I bring onto the field as far as creativity, I just try to do as much as I can to help my teammates and help put us in the best possible position to win.

Q: How much did you communicate with the Giants, if at all, throughout the draft process and what’s your impression from your conversations with them?

A: I communicated with them a good bit, especially towards this ending part of it with us not having pro day and stuff like that. So, I’ve been in contact with them a few times and I always got a good vibe with them. It was people I felt comfortable with, it was coaches I felt comfortable with. Just knowing that everything was smooth when we talked, and they were more just trying to get to know me as a person instead of a player because they already knew what I could do on the field. They wanted to know what I could do off the field. But you know, I enjoyed talking to them. I’m surely very happy, very excited that they were able to draft me.

Q: I’m sure Coach Judge had a lot of conversations with Coach Saban about you. I’m wondering if you had any conversations with Coach Saban about Coach Judge and if he kind of helped you understand what you’re getting yourself into here?

A: No, I actually haven’t talked to Coach Saban about Coach Judge. I didn’t even know, I just kind of found out pretty recently that Coach Judge coached at Bama. I didn’t know. But now that I know they pretty much…there’s a lot of things that are going to be similar to how it was at school, and that’s how I like it. I’m very excited for the opportunity.

Q: How surprised were you that you were drafted today and not yesterday?

A: Very surprised. Of course, I thought I was going to get drafted yesterday, but you know, it is what it is. I’m happy to be a Giant and that’s all that matters right now.

Q: Joe Judge told us a story earlier that two years ago in the spring he was scouting some other guys for Alabama and he remembers the impression that you left on him then in practice, kind of being all over the field. Throughout this process, even going back one to two years, were you conscious of the fact that all eyes were on you and things that you did two years ago may come to help you on draft night?

A: No, not really. I’m a type of guy that tries to focus on what’s going on right now. At that point in time, I was focused on the season, I was focused on winning, trying to win a national championship. So for me, I was always trying to do the right thing for myself but not only for myself, but for my teammates. I wasn’t too much focused on all the things that would come later on down the road because I didn’t know what would come. I always try to do the right thing and try to set myself up to be in the best position as possible.

Q: I noticed on Twitter that Jabrill Peppers had reached out to you. I didn’t know if you had a previous relationship with him, if you know him at all, and what do you think about being on the back end with a guy like that?

A: Yeah, I actually followed him when he was coming out because he was also a safety that played a lot of positions in college when he came out. I’m a big fan of him, I watch his game. I actually haven’t been able to see that he reached out, I’ve got to check that. But, I’m excited and I’m ready to see what’s in store for me when I get up to New York.

Q: You said you thought you’d get picked in the first round. How much do you think the 40 (yard dash) time hurt you and can you explain how you got cramps or just what happened at the combine?

A: I don’t know how much it hurt me. To be honest, I really don’t care that much about the 40 anyways. I think like I’ve said before, my tape says it all. It’s something that outweighs the 40 anyways because, of course, I play way faster than what that 40 said. But when I did run the 40, I did have cramps. A lot of it was due to just the setup of how the combine was, things that I wasn’t necessarily prepared for or didn’t really know how the schedule would be. But you know, it is what it is. Everything happens for a reason. Like I’ve said before, I’m excited for this moment and I’m excited to be a Giant.

Q: What have the coaches told you about the defense and how you might fit into the defense? How do you think your skill set is going to complement Jabrill Peppers?

A: I’m not sure much about the defense right now. When I talked to the staff previously, we weren’t really talking much about football. It was more about them trying to get to know me and who I was off the field. We haven’t gotten into much depth about what is going to happen on the field. As far as what my role might be, of course, I don’t know. I am able to adjust to anything that is thrown at me and I’m ready for whatever they might want me to do. I think I can do anything that they ask me for. I’m ready for the moment.

Q: Those battles at practice where you saw Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, do you think that makes all of you that much better coming into the NFL and if so, how?

A: I think so. Like I said before, those are first round guys as you have seen yesterday. Being able to compete against those guys at that level has been helpful for me and the people around me. I think that helps a lot going into the NFL. A lot of times in the NFL you will see guys like that every week instead of just one week and then you get a rest week where you may not have the best receiver like it is in college. In the NFL, there’s going to be good receivers week in and week out. It helps, it helped me prepare and get ready for this moment.

Q: Do you pride yourself on being a playmaker?

A: I do. I just try to make as many plays for my team as I can. I like to put my teammates in the best position possible in whatever way that I can to help the team be successful in any part of the game. Whether that’s special teams, whether that’s playing on defense, wherever it is, I try to make sure I put my teammates in the best possible situation that we can be in. I do pride myself on being a playmaker.

Q: You played for Nick Saban, who runs a tight ship, an authoritative coach, what he says goes. Joe Judge has started off here running a similar program. How do you thrive in a program where the head coach has a strong personality and where there is a ton of structure to how they want things to run?

A: I’m good with structure. It’s never been a problem for me, it wasn’t a problem when I went into school as a freshman. Those are the things that I like a lot. I actually love having that structure and having that strict almost tight ship being ran by the coaches. For me, I always do what I’m asked to do, and I try to do it at a high level. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to win. I’ll do whatever it takes to be able to win games and anything I can to help.

Q: First of all, I just want to make sure everyone in your family is healthy. How have you been able to keep in shape? How do you plan on moving forward with that plan in the next couple of weeks before you can get up here?

A: Everybody is doing well. I have been following the restrictions and certain stuff that we can and cannot do. I’ve still been able to jog around the neighborhood or do some yoga in the house. I’ve still been able to do some position work on the field. I’m still trying to restrict it as much as I can so it’s not all the time. I want to keep everyone else around me safe.

Q: The Cowboys picked Travon Diggs and the Eagles picked Jalen Hurts. What’s that going to be like in these NFC East battles with you going against two of your former teammates?

A: It’s going to be fun. Those are my guys, I actually just talked to Tray today and I talked to Jalen, I think, a couple days ago. Those are my guys, it’s definitely going to be fun. I’m going to be really excited to see them and play against them again.

Q: Do the Alabama guys take those battles pretty seriously?

A: Yeah, we do. Even in practice whenever we are going against each other. Me and Tray were on the same side, but we always competed to see who got the most picks for the day and we also did it for the game. We definitely take those very seriously and it gets really competitive.

Q: I’m sure you ran the 40 at Alabama and you did it in your training. Was your time significantly better (than the combine)?

A: Yeah, for sure. The time that I ran at the combine, that was a fake time. I caught cramps before I actually ran. That was actually my worst time throughout the whole process. My best time was a 4.52 when I was training. If I got to do the pro day, I thought I was going to run a good time. I’m not too worried about the 40. That’s why I didn’t run it again. I knew my tape said it all and I didn’t have anything to prove running the 40. There was no reason for me to do that.

Q: Do you look at yourself as a free safety or strong safety? Do you put that label on yourself?

A: I consider myself a DB. A DB is somebody that can play safety, free safety, corner, slot nickel, anywhere. I’m a versatile DB, that’s what I consider myself.

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3rd Round – OT Matt Peart, 6’6”, 310lbs, 5.06, University of Connecticut

Scouting Report: The 6’6”, 310-pound Peart was a 4-year starter in college with experience at both tackle spots. Peart combines excellent size, long arms, and good overall athletic ability. He has the frame to get bigger and he needs to get stronger. Right now he is a better pass protector than run blocker. He could play with more meanness to his game. Team leader.

Sy’56’s Take: Fifth year senior from Kingston, Jamaica. A four year starter who never missed a game. 1st Team All AAC honors as a senior. Peart is relatively new to the game, as he didn’t play football until he started high school. He is a physically gifted player who, when his feet are in the right place, showed dominant traits. He has incredibly strong hands with long arms and an athletic base, he simply just needs to hammer away at his lower body mechanics until they become more natural and consistent. If and when that happens, he is a starting caliber player.

*I did a quick recap of who Gettleman selected in his career as GM along the offensive line. One glaring tendency was his desire for length at tackle. Well, here you go. Peart has the longest arms in the class and the widest frame. Throw in the fact that he has a decently athletic lower body, and there is a chance he is going to hear his name called in round 2. NYG is going to like him, I’m sure of it. How much? Not sure. I personally see a guy who won’t be a factor in year one and he is going to need to really hammer away at lower body mechanics and power. I couldn’t get past the 4th/5th round tier but I can see why some are higher on him because of the ceiling.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Getttleman: The Peart kid that we took at the bottom of three is long, he’s big. He’s a 315-pound kid that’s skinny. We interviewed him a number of times, he’s a great kid. He’s athletic and he’s long and we think he has a lot of upside for a young kid. He’s a guy that the coaching staff really wanted to work with.

Joe Judge: I second what Dave said. It’s rare to describe someone as 315 pounds and skinny, but that’s what he is. He’s an athletic guy, he has a lot of length to him. We feel good about his character and his work ethic. He’s excited to come on in here and work hard and we can’t wait to get him on the field.

Q: Why did you guys decide to pick another tackle instead of going with a center? I know you guys have been talking about center?

Gettleman: It’s about value. He was too good of a value to pass by. We had him rated well above the rest of the other centers on our board.

Q: What kind of a ceiling does this kid have?

Gettleman: I think he has a sizeable ceiling. He’s young, he’s really got a lot of talent. We really like the upside on him.

Q: Joe, you talked to us the other day about projecting how players will be two or three years down the road. Is this one of those players for you?

Judge: I think they are all one of those players for me. He definitely has a lot of upside. I don’t want to say he is developmental, he is developing, and they all are. He’s got tremendous work ethic, he’s got a great attitude. I think we are going to see a lot better football in the future than we’ve seen from him already. That’s what makes us really excited to work with these guys that we’re bringing in.

Q: Is it too early in his development to know if he is a more natural left or right tackle?

Judge: I think his athleticism is going to lend him to being a swing tackle early on in his career and work on both sides. We don’t want to limit any of our guys to just play on one side. We have to cross train everybody. If you play on the left side, you have to be able to play on the right side as well. That’s going to go ahead and lend to what we need based on roster situation and game plans.

Q: Are you still looking for a center?

Gettleman: We are just going to work the board.

Q: What was it like having this long gap between picks? I know you did it last year. What was the feeling when the Jets were on the clock at 68?

Gettleman: I mean, it’s a long time between picks. We’re at 36 and then it’s 99, so you’ve got 54 picks, multiply it times five minutes, it’s a long time, you know? We made the decision last year on that, on the third round pick, and we’re fine.

Q: This is a guy who did not play football in high school, but he never missed a snap in college. Do you see some of that rawness of a guy who came to the game late that interests you that you can work with in a guy like this?

Judge: I always like having athletic players who you don’t feel like are tapped out. I said earlier, he’s developing – meaning, this guy has got a skill set, he’s still learning. I think we’ve got the right line coach to go ahead and work with him between (Offensive Line Coach) Marc (Colombo) and (Assistant Offensive Line Coach) Ben (Wilkerson). This guy’s got tremendous upside. His athleticism, his physical build and then just his character and work ethic. You put those things together and these are guys you really want to work with.

Q: You had a long wait tonight, but you have a pretty quick turnaround tomorrow getting ready. How do you guys handle this? Do you try to get together tonight and map out what’s on the board for tomorrow and what plans you’re going to do, or do you wait until tomorrow to get together? Do you have a couple of guys that you are kind of eyeing already for that fourth round pick?

Gettleman: We’ll talk a little bit tonight and, really and truly, it’ll be interesting to see if we get calls because we’re picking so early tomorrow. We’ll have a conference, we’ll get together tomorrow morning well in advance to give us a chance to really talk and figure out what we want to do. So, we’ll spend time tonight and tomorrow.

Q: You told us earlier that you weren’t going to dip into next year for picks to move up, but if there was somebody on your board you might be tempted to do something. Was there anyone on your board at a certain spot that you were tempted to move up or were you content to stay at 99?

Gettleman: No, we were fine because, again, I wasn’t going to dip into next year and that’s what we would’ve had to have done. So, we were fine. We’re fine. We just got a really good value with Matt Peart. He’s a solid prospect and we got a really good value.

Media Q&A with Matt Peart (Video):

Q: Can you take us through last night? How surprised were you when you got the call and was this a destination on your radar?

A: When I got the call, it was definitely a big surreal feeling. My mom started going crazy. I had family members do a Zoom call like this and they were going crazy over the computer. So it was just a great time being able to experience everyone that’s near and dear to my heart just happy and joyous for the moment. Growing up, I always wanted to be a Giant and I’m just happy to put on the blue. It still feels so surreal to me and I’m just looking forward to the future.

Q: Are you in the Bronx? Is that where you are with your family?

A: No, we moved a year ago, so I’m in Fishkill, New York.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about growing up a Giants fan? I know you were rooting for them when you were going to high school up in New England.

A: I came from Jamaica at a young age and growing up in New York, I kind of fell in love with the Knicks and then also the Giants soon after that. Just watching them on the TV, just the culture and everything the Giants stand for was something that was appealing for me as a young kid. Especially growing up, especially that moment in high school when they had that Super Bowl win my freshman year. That was a very, very fun time for me.

Q: Did you have a favorite offensive lineman or a favorite player?

A: My favorite player, my favorite Giant always would be Eli Manning, for sure. The man is just tough, tough as nails. I respect his game and I just respect everything he does for the game. You know, he’s definitely my favorite Giant, 100 percent.

Q: I just wanted to ask a little bit more about your journey. You were born in Jamaica, then you came to the Bronx, I’m guessing, pretty young. Then how do you end up at a private boarding school and then from there end up getting into football, since I know that wasn’t your first sport?

A: So getting into the boarding school, I got into a program called the Oliver Scholars program. It was actually based out of the Tri-State area. They take high-achieving kids in the Tri-State area and allow them to go to independent day schools and boarding schools that they coordinate with through the program. Governor’s (Academy) was one of the schools on that list of all of the schools. So, having that connection allowed me to go to the private school.

Q: Then how did you get into football, because I think I read that you were more of a basketball player when you first got there?

A: Yeah, mainly because I grew up in the Bronx. You know, Jamaicans call it ‘The Concrete Jungle,’ so it’s easier to pick up a ball and shoot some hoops because there weren’t really that many fields open. Going to Governor’s Academy and having an opportunity to be exposed to the sport was actually the first time I really got exposed to the sport.

Q: How old were you when you moved to the Bronx?

A: When I was about four or five.

Q: How did you end up at Connecticut and with your size, were you recruited by some bigger schools?

A: Connecticut was my biggest offer coming out of high school. Like I said, I started the transition relatively late, so UConn had offered me a week before signing day. Before that, SUNY-Albany was my first offer, they offered me for offensive tackle. Then UConn offered me a week before signing day. The day I committed to UConn, UNH came up to offer me. But they knew I was going to UConn, so they never extended that offer.

Q: You’re kind of listed by the experts as this kid who’s got raw talent. How much of a project do you think you are?

A: Whenever I think about that, it just means that I just want to dedicate myself to be a better student of the game and wherever I need to improve, you best believe I’m willing to do the work, and I’m ready to work right now. That’s all I can speak on that one.

Q: What was your first call like with Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge? Did they talk to at all about what their plans are for you?

A: Like I said, just getting that phone call was very surreal. I’m just trying to grasp the moment still, it still feels a little bit surreal right now. I’m just ready to do the work. With those conversations, I don’t really delve into private conversations. Just know that I am ready to work and ready to prove that I belong to be a Giant and ready to earn everything.

Q: Can you expand a little bit on how basketball has helped you with the offensive line? Especially with playing both sides as you have.

A: I feel like when it comes to basketball, you have to have real fine footwork. I really feel like that helped correlate on the field when it comes to football. Being a post player, you have to be able to have good footwork to work in the post. It’s just what you have to have. I really feel like that helped me correlate over to football. Just being a tough and dominant player in the post as well helped me be a dominant football player as well.

Q: How is your family doing health wise?

A: The main part of my family is all in New York. My eldest brother is in Albany right now with his wife. My second eldest brother is in the Bronx with his wife, they’re actually expecting a baby. Everyone is taking the proper precautions right now. Everyone is safe, thank God. I just want to thank everyone that’s dedicating their time and efforts during this time just to help ease the pain now, so we have a better tomorrow. We’re just taking the precautions that are recommended and doing everything we need to do to make sure we are living up to the standards of the quarantine rules.

Q: How have you been able to stay in shape and how do you plan to move forward with that?

A: Right now, I am coordinating with a strength coach. He is based out of New Jersey. It’s called Parisi’s. They’re able to give me workouts through an app and that’s what I have been doing during this time, finding ways to get after it. Since I’m in upstate, I can always find a little patch of grass so I can work on my offensive line technique. I may look crazy out there, but I have to do what I have to do.

Q: I just wanted to ask you about Andrew Thomas. Do you know him at all, do you have a relationship with him? What do you think of his game? How much are you looking forward to playing on the same line as him, hopefully for years to come?

A: Andrew and I were training at the same facility, EXOS down in Pensacola, Florida, before the combine. He’s an amazing tackle, he’s a real true talent when it comes to offensive line play. I definitely picked up some things from him with my time down there. Staying down there with the small time we had, I definitely consider him to be a brother and now he’s definitely a brother right now. He can’t get rid of me now. I’m looking forward to it and I’m happy he’s coming to the city.

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4th Round – CB Darnay Holmes, 5’10”, 195lbs, 4.47, UCLA

Scouting Report: The 5’10”, 195-pound Holmes was a 3-year starter at UCLA. He lacks ideal height and is probably best suited to slot corner in the NFL. Holmes is a very smart and competitive player who is equally comfortable with press and off coverage. Good speed and quickness. He makes plays on the football. Overly aggressive at times, Holmes needs to guard better against double moves. Despite his lack of size, he is a tough guy who will play the run. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs.

Sy’56’s Take: Slot corner that can come in year 1 and compete for a nickel job. Graduated college in under 3 years. Smart and savvy, shows up on the field. Can mirror quick slot receivers, has some size/playing strength issues.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on CB Darnay Holmes: We had a good day today. I’m very pleased with what happened. We took all defensive guys except for Shane Lemieux, the guard in the fifth round. The theme of the day for defense was speed. We really feel like we improved our teams speed and that was what we were trying to do. In the fourth round we took Darnay Holmes, a kid from UCLA. He’s a corner, he plays the nickel. He will come in and compete for that spot right away. He’s a tough kid, he can run. We’re excited we were able to get him.

Joe Judge on CB Darnay Holmes: Darnay is definitely a guy that jumps out at you. He’s got good speed, he’s got real good short area quickness. He’s contributed on the defensive side of the ball, he’s had impact in the kicking game. He plays with a good edge, shows some nasty. You can see he definitely plays bigger than his size. He’s a guy that jumped out at us at the Senior Bowl. His tape backed up what we saw down there. I’m really happy we were able to add him today.

Media Q&A with Darnay Holmes (Video):

Q: This is a pretty young secondary with a lot of guys drafted in the last couple of years, including DeAndre Baker in the first round a year ago. As another young guy coming in here, what can you do to differentiate yourself and get on the field?

A: My thing is to just be a sponge. DeAndre is there a year before me, so he definitely learned more things than I have learned. I’m definitely going to get under his wing and try to contribute in every phase. I’m going to be an asset, I’m not going to be a liability. I’m just going to play my part and maximize my role, for sure.

Q: I was reading up on you and you are somewhat of a trendsetter. Someone who uses chess as a way to analyze football. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you got into that and how exactly it works and helps you?

A: I saw several cornerbacks playing chess and I’m the type of player that wants to get insight on everything that’s going on. I walked up to the chess master and asked him do you mind helping me out with chess. The reason I play chess is I want to have efficient thoughts. I want to make sure I am making forceful moves and I want to make sure everybody responds to things that I do. Everything I’m doing, I’m not a piece, I’m a player. I’m going to make sure the team is working accordingly and we’re all on one accord. Chess is a great thing for me to get my mind off of football but also get my mind in the state of being efficient in everything I do.

Q: I read about some of the hardships you had earlier in your life. Was there ever a time when you thought this day wouldn’t come?

A: Definitely there were several times when you go through different emotions and you don’t know when that day will come. I know those days and those experiences molded me into a better person, a better man. It molded my spirit to be someone that’s ready to transition and transform within every phase of my life. Every season is not going to be a good season, but I know that season shall pass and I’ll be bigger than that season.

Q: How is everyone in your family doing these days?

A: Everyone in my family is doing good these days. They are all on one accord, there is no family feud and everybody is making sure that we are transitioning so we have generational wealth for our young nephews.

Q: I know your dad played in the NFL and he went through a lot of stuff in his life before he started coaching you guys up. How much has he impacted your growth as a football player and as a person over the years?

A: My pops impacted me in a lot of ways. He was a person who installed that hustler drive. That drive to compete each and every day, knowing that there is somebody out there working to take your spot or working to be better than you. Each and every day he always told me that you never compromise your grind or compromise the good habits you have for something that will not allow you to propel you forward to your full potential. He always made sure that you can’t take any shortcuts. If you take shortcuts, when the time comes and you reach that destination, there’s lessons that you did not learn. The downfall is going to be harder than the come up.

Q: Who were some of the guys you idolized growing up?

A: Definitely a few people that are mentors of mine are Aeneas Williams, Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson. I have a great group of guys around me. Those guys are constantly providing me with insight that will allow me to be disciplined and have freedom. Freedom equals discipline. By them giving different tools and different things that I can add to my toolbox, I’m just ready to rock.

Q: Do you have personal relationships with them or just from studying them?

A: Personal relationships definitely.

Q: How did that come about?

A: When you are around the football circuit you definitely come around several marquee guys who want to give back to the youth. They understand that true wealth in life is what you give back to the world. They are constantly God-fearing men and they know when you serve somebody, it’s an opportunity to serve God.

Q: Where are you, that’s an interesting background behind you?

A: I’m in Palm Springs.

Q: What’s behind you there, is that your yard?

A: Yeah, that’s just some acres to get some work in.

Q: I’m just curious about your experience in the slot. Did you play much of it in college and if not, do you feel like you can play it at the next level?

A: Truthfully, I can’t tell you where I’m going to play, I’m just ready to contribute. Wherever they put me, I’m going to maximize that role and I’m going to make sure that I understand that role. That’s my main thing is understanding it and grasping all the concepts.

Q: Have you played the nickel much in the past?

A: The first time I played was the Senior Bowl. That was my first go around at it and I loved it. There’s a lot of things that I need to learn about it. Until then, I’m just going to keep on crafting and get to know this playbook that the Giants have in store for me.

Q: What did teams talk to you about position wise when they talked to you? Is that something that they brought up, the slot, and is that something that’s been mentioned to you? When people say you’re too small to play outside in the pros, is that something you heard and you had to fight throughout this process?

A: Definitely I haven’t had to fight that. A lot of people need different roles to be fulfilled. Some roles need to be nickel, some roles need to be boundary, some roles need to be primary corner. Everybody’s got different roles and different things that they need to fulfill, so I’m just ready to fulfill whatever role that’s needed right away.

Q: What do you bring to the team in terms of special teams? Did you talk to Joe Judge about any of that yet? He has a special teams background.

A: Definitely, I can bring a lot of things to the team. I can be a gunner, I can be a jammer, I can be whatever a team needs me to be. I’m ready to just contribute. I’m ready to play football, I’m ready to showcase everything that they need me to showcase. I have a lot of things to learn, I didn’t play much special teams in college, but I know right away I’m going to be able to contribute on those four phases of special teams. So, whatever that may be, I’m going to be front line ready to rock.

Q: You talked about how you went to a chess master. How does one go about finding a chess master?

A: When you go to UCLA, you’re around a lot of different things, you have access to different pools of people. So, Chip Kelly, a great father figure of mine I should say, he makes sure he brings people within the school who are going to aid and are going to be able to value the mindset to reach that different frequency.

Q: I read that you graduated very early, I think two or three years. What motivated you to get through your studies so quickly, and apparently you did so at a high level and you got good grades. How has that helped you with learning complex defenses and your studying?

A: Definitely the school curriculum allowed me to implement a strict routine, a routine that allowed me not to sway away into different distractions. So, by me having this vivid vision, my energy was aligning to it right away. That’s definitely something that I implemented right when I got to UCLA. It was, I’m going to graduate in three years and then from there I’m going to figure out what I want to do. Right away I was a student, then after I graduated, it was like okay, how can I pursue my athlete endeavor, and I’m here now being a New York Giant. I’m very excited.

Q: Did you choose to accelerate your studies or did that just come together for you?

A: Definitely. Definitely I had to make that choice. If I hadn’t made that choice, I would probably still be an undergraduate. So, I made that choice right away that I had to get my degree and break that barrier within my family being the first person in my family to get that degree at a prestigious college. (It) allowed them to know that we have so much greatness within ourselves, let’s go chase that and manifest that.

Q: How did that help you with football? Learning a playbook can be so complex, I imagine it made that easier for you?

A: Definitely. You have different tactics that you use to grasp concepts and grasp schemes and make sure that you understand those things. I don’t memorize, I want to grasp it and understand so I’ll be able to tap into it no matter what the heat of the moment is. I’ll understand it, so I’ll be able to utilize it.

Q: How do you think playing for someone like Chip Kelly, who has experience coaching in the NFL, got you ready to make this leap to the league? He kind of had the reputation in Philly and then in San Fran as kind of a taskmaster or drill sergeant. Joe Judge comes in here as all business, no nonsense type of guy. When you look at their two personalities, how do you think you’ll be able to make that transition from Chip to playing for Judge?

A: At the end of the day, everybody holds up a standard, so I’m going to abide by that standard and I’m going to abide by that code. I know that code is for us to flourish. When I have something that’s great, it’s like wouldn’t you utilize it to tap into it?

Q: Obviously you’re not going to be able to come here to New Jersey for a while. Did you take any online courses and do you think that’s going to help you during these next couple of weeks and months when most of this stuff is going to be done virtually?

A: My online courses are going to be the Zoom meetings with the New York Giants getting that playbook down. I’m a graduate, so it’s either hit the field, learn more about myself, the New York Giants organization, and tap into different people who’ve been around, veterans, Barkley, everybody who knows what it’s like to be a New York Giant. That’s my key and that’s my goal — to understand the playbook, be a sponge, and find a way to be a leader. I’m not saying I’m going to be a leader right away, but by me being under somebody who are leaders, you’re the average of the five people you hang around, so I’m going to hang around five leaders. That’s just the type of person I am.

Q: Have you taken online courses in the past, though?

A: Yeah, definitely. I had to take several online courses to graduate in two and a half years, Sir.

Q: What’s the key to learning that way?

A: The key to learning that way is understanding that you can’t lollygag. You can’t put things to the side because at the end of the day it’s on your own time. In this life we’re living, you do things on your own time, but at the end of the day if you have a strict routine, you can never be swayed off to different distractions or different things that will hinder you from accomplishing the main goal, which is being the great contributor to the team.

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5th Round – OG Shane Lemieux, 6’4”, 310lbs, 5.13, University of Oregon

Scouting Report: The 6’4”, 310-pound Lemieux started an incredible 52 games in college, never missing a game. Tough, strong, blue-collar offensive guard who could project to center. He has good size but also  has athletic limitations that will limit his upside. Lemieux can create movement as a run blocker, but can be exposed by quick pass rushers at times. Smart.

Sy’56’s Take: Fifth year senior from Yakima, Washington. Four year starter who never missed a game, 52 consecutive starts. Two-time 2nd Team All Pac 12 and 2019 2nd Team All American. Lemieux is a reliable, know-what-you’re-getting guard who won’t be a guy who consistently hurts an offense, but has a limited upside. He is big and plays with a blue collar attitude, often overpowering and out-hustling his man. However there are certain matchups and situations where his tight hips and inconsistent pad level pops up. He will need to be protected a bit, but he should at least be a solid interior backup early on with the potential to start down the road.

*I talked about how impressive and rare it is to see a lineman start 46 games over the course of a career. Lemieux started 52! Just amazing. I really wanted to grade him higher than this because I love his grit and style. However I just can’t get beyond the stiffness he shows when something unexpected comes his way. He might be a guy who can play early but he needs to be protected and you can’t have him move laterally that often. I just wouldn’t want to see him on an island against these quicker interior pass rushers.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on OL Shane Lemieux: Next round we got Shane Lemieux, a guard out of Oregon. Every really good club that I have been with, the offensive line has set the tone. This is a tough kid who plays mad. He’s big, he’s powerful, he’s a pretty good athlete. We’re excited to add him to the mix.

Joe Judge on OL Shane Lemieux: Shane’s a guy like Dave said, he plays with nasty. You turn the Auburn game on and right from the first snap he’s tossing bodies around. You can’t help but watch him. In a lot of cross over tape he jumps out at you as well. He’s a guy that’s going to have interior swing value. We’re going to cross train him guard and center. It’s going to be something he has been working on out at Oregon and we’re going to keep on building with that as well.

Media Q&A with Shane Lemieux (Video):

Q: You have obviously played guard in games, but you’ve also done some work at center if I’m not mistaken. Can you tell us where you are in that process and how that transition is coming along for you?

A: I was really fortunate enough in college, I had a really good offensive line. We never really had to move much because we were experienced veterans. During this draft process, I understood that this game is all about versatility. I think that me getting good at all three interior positions is going to benefit me well in the future. I don’t really have a position. I just want to be ready whenever I get in, to be ready to play whatever coach asks me to.

Q: Was that your decision to take on center? Did your coach come to you and tell you to learn other spots?

A: That was probably just on me. Especially as a rookie, there’s not really a guard that only plays guard. Versatility is the biggest factor in this game. Coaches want to be able to put you in multiple spots. I have really good mentors that told me that at training camp, no matter where you are, they are going to throw you in, and you have to be ready. I just want to be prepared before that happened. Even at pro day, somebody asked me to jump in at center and I was ready to do that. It just all works out and versatility is key.

Q: What is the biggest challenge of playing center?

A: Every single offensive line position is going to have different techniques. I feel like with center there is a lot more responsibility on you to know the offense and to know more of the defense and be more sound with what’s going on around you. Obviously, you have to snap the ball. Those are the two of the biggest factors that are different. At the same time, I feel like I am a football player. I’ve been working at all three positions. I really appreciate the differences in all three of the interior spots and the tackle spots as well. There’s obviously little caveats, little differences to everything.

Q: You are the second Oregon player to be drafted to New York. Do you know Sabrina (Ionescu) and what do you think about her basketball game?

A: Yes, I do know Sabrina. She came in the class after me, obviously she is a really talented athlete, awesome person. A fearless competitor. When you watch her play, that’s the first thing you see. A competitor who loves her teammates and loves the game of basketball. I think that’s the most important part of being a great athlete, loving your sport.

Q: What was your initial conversation with Coach Judge like? What’s it like going to a coach who is clearly trying to establish a culture?

A: My head coach in college, Mario Cristobal, emphasized doing the work before doing the talk. I think that’s a really important piece that taught me how to be pro. Coach Judge called me on draft day and said put your head down and work. I think that’s an important thing. I don’t want to elaborate on exactly what he said out of respect for him and I. The main mantra was to put your head down and work.

Q: As the nearly 500th ranked recruit at the time, three-star, first guy out of West Valley to D-1. What has this ride meant to you the last four or five years? How does it feel to be an NFL draft pick?

A: First thing I thought of was I remember one day my sophomore year of high school when I told my dad I’m going to play in the NFL. I’m going to get this done, I’m going to play at Oregon and be an All American. I think ever since that day I promised my parents, it’s kind of been uphill since from there. I went through a lot of stuff, a lot of workouts, a lot of force feeding to try and get up to the weight to get into college. It’s awesome, I’ve gotten unbelievable support out of West Valley, my high school area. Just trying to be a good representative of the 509. I take a lot of pride in that. Cooper Kupp came out of Washington and is with the Rams and now there’s me. I think I have to be a good representative of the valley and be a good representative for the University of Oregon. They taught me so much.

Q: As a country boy who wants to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere at some point, how does the New York/ New Jersey area sound?

A: We have a bunch of guys, Justin Pugh, who I’m training with, Jonotthan Harrison of the Jets. They have done a good job of showing me where the places to fish are, where the reservoirs are. I’ve heard a lot about the surrounding areas, even the ocean you can fish. I’m sure I can find stuff to do. At the same time, I want to focus on the season, I’m going to be doing a lot of stuff. I’m probably just going to be living wherever I am, playing ball, and studying film.

Q: Growing up when you were learning the position, who were some of the guys you viewed as role models?

A: I probably never really had a role model or someone I modeled my game after. I was always told as a young player, especially from my coaches at Oregon, you are an individual. You play like Shane Lemieux, you don’t play like anybody else. Obviously, there’s great role models in this game. I think one that comes to mind is Marshal Yanda. His toughness and his durability. I remember him walking off the field with a broken leg, I thought that was really impressive. Stuff like that, people who take a lot of pride in the position, people who work really hard are guys I want to look up to but not necessarily who I want to play like.

Q: A lot of what we have talked to you about is being a center. I assume you are coming in here saying, “I’m a guard”, aren’t you?

A: I think I’m an offensive lineman, that’s what I’m coming in as. That’s what I have been playing, I’m a football player. I’m a football player that plays offensive line. No matter where the coaches want to put me to help the team, that’s where I’m going to go.

Q: With a name like Lemieux, how is it you are playing football instead of hockey?

A: I’ve gotten that question for a long time. I had a left tackle in college named Tyrell Crosby that played right next to me, so it was Crosby and Lemieux and people had a fit with that. I’ve heard I’m not wearing 66, which is a crime. I was 68 in college. I’ve never met another Lemieux that plays hockey so if somebody sees this, let me know.

Q: After four years of being a starter, what is the mental shift for you in this process of having to compete for a job again and possibly having to be backup to start off? After 52 straight starts, what’s that like for you mentally?

A: It’s just going to work. I think every single day in college I approached each day as if my job was on the line. I think the biggest factor of why I never liked to miss practice or why I never missed a game rep was if I wasn’t getting those reps, somebody else was. That’s the mentality I had instilled in me by coach Cristobal at Oregon. Alex Mirabal at Oregon. I think that’s just the way I take the game. I take a lot of pride in the sense that any play can be your last. The more I can understand the playbook, earn the trust of the coaches and my teammates and just work, that’s what it takes.

Q: Did the whole family make it down to Arizona? Did Miranda join you?

A: It was just mom, dad and my sister in Arizona. My parents drove down, they thought it would be a lot safer than flying. Even here, we did a lot of social distancing. It was good.

Q: Joe Judge has talked a lot about cross training offensive linemen at different spots. Andrew Thomas at left tackle and right tackle, I’m sure with you playing both guard spots and center. From an offensive lineman’s perspective, how challenging is that and how beneficial is it to get reps at all three of those spots?

A: Especially as a young player in this league, I think it’s the ultimate test to be able to play all the different positions. I know a lot of offensive line coaches like it. I’m sure these offensive line coaches like it, they talked a lot about it. You want to be the best player you can be. The best player you can be is somebody who can be thrown in at any position and can play.

Q: Where are you most comfortable? Where do you have the most experience and is there a difference between both sides?

A: In high school, I played left tackle, right tackle. In college I played left guard, in practice I played right guard. I’ve been all over. I think I don’t really have any place where I’m comfortable. I think I’m a natural offensive lineman where I can play any position I’m asked. I think that’s just been a lot of work. Obviously, there’s techniques and differences between each position. There’s set differences if you’re a guard, if you’re a tackle, if you’re at center. I think it’s just the more reps, the more comfortable you are at a position. I’ve taken so many reps over my career, I’m comfortable at any position.

Q: You mentioned cross training and you are an offensive lineman, not just a guard. Center is a whole different animal. Have you ever snapped before in practice? What are the main things you need to learn to actually snap the ball and then block? It’s a whole different skill set.

A: In practice throughout my college career, I snapped just to learn. I think it would just be good to learn. Ever since, now I have been trained at every position. I have even been trained at tackle just to understand the game more and be more versatile. Each offensive line position is a little different, each takes reps to get comfortable. I’ve been working to get more comfortable with the stance and the snaps. Even at right guard, I haven’t played a bunch of right guard, so I am getting better there. I’m probably never going to play tackle, but just the ability to get out there even if you have to take a couple reps in practice is great to have.

Q: I know you have played every game. Do you have any idea on how many snaps you’ve missed?

A: I remember one game I missed a snap against Wyoming because my shoe came off. That’s the only snap I have ever missed, that was my sophomore year. Ever since then, it was only if we were up big on an opponent.

Q: You have never missed a practice either?

A: Never missed a practice, no sir.

Q: The general manager Dave Gettleman talked about fixing the offensive line once and for all. You are well aware they drafted Andrew Thomas, they drafted Matt Peart in the third round and you as well. What’s it like to be a part of that group that is tasked with fixing that offensive line once and for all?

A: I think it’s really awesome seeing a team value the offensive line the way that they do. I’ve heard all about hog mollies and all that kind of stuff. I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get to know these other rookies and I can’t wait to get to know the other teammates on the offensive line. I think we are all ready to get to work. I can’t speak for them, but I’m sure we are all ready to work. I briefly met Andrew Thomas and Peart at the combine and I can’t wait to see them and get to work with them.

Q: You mentioned getting reps in. With the challenge with COVID-19, how are you getting these reps in. There is so much more about playing center. There’s the movement of the ball and moving at the same time. It’s snapping to a quarterback and getting used to the chemistry there. How are you simulating all that in whatever training you are doing?

A: Basically, I have been at a private training facility in Arizona with LeCharles Bentley. We do a really good job of keeping people inside the gym social distancing. We have the same group of guys that have been in the gym for the last four months. We kind of live in this bubble and we do a really good job of dividing these groups out, so we are not together. I think I have been taking a lot of reps on air at guard and tackle. I have been doing lot on the bag, too. I’m still able to get the work in.

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6th Round – LB Cam Brown, 6’5”, 233lbs, 4.69, Penn State

Scouting Report: The 6’5”, 233-pound Brown was a 2-year starter at Penn State. Very tall and lanky outside backer with long arms and decent speed. Brown is an aggressive but not overly instinctive player. His size and solid athletic ability assist him coverage but he needs to improve his run defense at the point-of-attack and overall tackling consistency. Team leader.

Sy’56’s Take: A frame and tool set that every coach is going to want to work with because of the multi-down versatility he can offer. Can be a weapon in coverage because of his top shelf length and loose hips.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on LB Cam Brown: In the sixth round we took Cam Brown, a big long kid out of Penn State. He’s 6’5 and change, he’s 230, he runs well. Cam and all the young men we took in the seventh round, we like they are players with good developmental qualities and tools. They all can run, every one of these guys can run. We’re excited about that.

Joe Judge on LB Cam Brown: Physically, he’s got good length. He’s got a frame to fill out and play. He plays with good energy. He plays aggressive and downhill. He’s going to bring versatility on the edge as well as a little bit of stack backer value. He brings impact in the kicking game with us. Looking at the way our defense is pieced up and set, we need guys that are versatile, that we can move by game plan and by need. Cam definitely fits within that. Sean Spencer (defensive line coach) on the staff has spoken very highly of Cam since he got here. He’s also a guy that when you talk to other guys on Penn State and you hit them with who the leader on the defense is, without hesitation they all said Cam Brown. That stuck out to us. He’s been an alpha dog in the locker room and that brings the attitude we really look for on the field.

Media Q&A with Cam Brown (Video):

Q: I know when you were originally recruited to Penn State, they wanted you as a defensive end but there was that struggle to put weight on to play that position. What was that like for you and what do you think you can bring to this Giants defense that really doesn’t have a pass rush other than Markus Golden, who is not even on the team who has had double digit sacks the last couple years?

A: Honestly, the struggle coming to Penn State and trying to put on some weight, it wasn’t too much of a struggle, it was just something that would fit at the time. At the time, I was about 220, not even 220, like 200, and they figured I’d be more effective at linebacker at the time than at defensive end. So, I mean of course if I grew into a spot, they’d be open to moving to d-end. For me, luckily, it wasn’t necessary. It worked out well for me to be a linebacker at Penn State. Going into the Giants, I really do hope to just play my role, play whatever role that is as a linebacker, outside, inside, wherever the coaches need. I just want to make plays honestly. Just get my name out there so I can make plays.

Q: We know your Penn State connections to the Giants, I’m curious how many of those guys have you been in contact with? It’s probably pretty obvious that (Defensive Line Coach) Sean Spencer gave you a high recommendation for you to land here. What’s your relationship with him?

A: From the start honestly, I talked to Grant (Haley) and Saquon (Barkley) of course, Coach Spence, everybody on draft day congratulated me. Just reconnecting with them a little bit. With Say (Saquon) and Grant, it was more so I was just asking them for a little advice, just bouncing quick ideas off them real quick. But I’m pretty sure more communication will go on as long as this goes on, as long as we’re away from each other. But honestly, Coach Spence, Coach Spence is my guy. Like I said, I was going to be recruited as a d-end, so we had a relationship, he came to see me all of the time during recruitment in high school. It’s grown and blossomed. I feel like I became one of the guys he could trust on the defense and he’s one of the guys that I trusted him to go to with problems or things like that. Our relationship is growing and I hope it continues to blossom.

Q: What kind of background do you have in special teams? Did you play much in college?

A: Yeah, freshman and sophomore year, it was how I made my money honestly. It was how I got on the field. Freshman year, I played every special teams, kickoff, kick return, punt, punt return. Made some plays on kickoff and punt return. But sophomore year, I moved into, I still was playing a lot of special teams, that was more so kickoff, punt, a little bit of punt return there. But that year, or those two years, I was getting my feet wet, trying to get the experience, trying to understand the flow of the game. Just going against different players. I mean every game at kickoff you really get to size people up. The game always starts and ends with a kick, so it’s kind of what I got used to and kind of how I started my progression in college.

Q: Do you expect your NFL career to follow that same path?

A: Yeah, I do. I definitely understand that as a rookie coming in that I’m going to have to do and play all special teams. I mean it’s a 53-man roster, you’ve got to play your role and that role might be in multiple places. I’m willing and ready to play.

Q: Did you work a whole lot with Coach Spencer? I know he cross-trains a lot of guys. Can you just talk about working with him and what he teaches and what you think that’s going to translate to when you get to this level?

A: Yeah, Coach Spence…we used to call him the ultimate motivator. He’s going to get guys riled up, his coaching style is really energetic, he’s out there with you, he’s going to run around, he’s going to crack jokes with you. He’s going to yell at you, and he’ll get on you hard, but you know it’s coming from a loving place. With Coach Spence going through different drills, like certain days we had hunger drills where it was like each day you’re working out on things coaches feel like we need this week. Like maybe tackling, maybe hand work, pass rush. With Coach Spence, he was always there to correct those pass rush moves and things like that. I hope and pray we can get some more cross-training there so I keep up that relationship with him.

Q: I was wondering with your relationship with Coach Spencer, did you have any inkling that the Giants were looking to draft you? Also, what was your first interaction like with Joe Judge?

A: With Coach Spence, his congratulations were more so cordial, more so family-like than as coming as a coach. He’s always giving me a little bit of advice just to go ahead. But, with Coach Judge honestly, the conversations have been good. They’ve been positive, they’ve been welcoming is all I can say. But outside of that, I’m getting ready to have more conversations with him and grow from there.

Q: The Giants seem to embrace the idea of versatility. Was there a time in your college career where you said as much as I’m versatile, maybe focusing on one thing might kind of raise my profile a little bit? Do you feel like what kind of led people to maybe overlook you in college and might be something that when you get to this defense and the way they want to use you might expand your profile a little bit?

A: Honestly in college, I wasn’t too concerned on doing one thing. I was doing whatever was needed, whatever (Penn State Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers) Coach Pry asked me honestly, if that was jumping from positions — from Will, to Sam, to back to Mike, honestly for me, I feel like that versatility and that diversity in positions I’ve played has only helped me. I feel like I don’t mind if people may have overlooked me, that’s fine. I made my way to the NFL and I’m ready to show what I can do there and whatever the coaches want me to do there, pass rush, drop, coverage, whatever it may be, I’m ready to do it.

Q: When you watch the game now that is being played in the NFL, do you see yourself as someone who can thrive in doing that variety of things?

A: One hundred percent, yes, I do. I feel like, like I said the versatility in all the positions I’ve played have helped me a tremendous amount. At middle linebacker, sometimes you’ve got to guard running backs, you’ve got to guard tight ends. The outside, sometimes you’ve got to set up in the slot. Whatever it may be. I feel like with the spread offense that’s coming to the NFL and all these multiple weapons and big tight ends that everybody is using, I feel like I’ll be able to match up very well against them.

Q: You became kind of a Giants fan favorite on draft day with your tweet about the Cowboys. Where did that come from? Did you grow up a Giants or Eagles fan? Why did you grow up not liking the Cowboys?

A: Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you. I was probably watching a game when that tweet came out. But honestly, I’d rather not talk about something that went on seven years ago.

Q: Did you grow up a Giants fan?

A: Honestly no, I did not. I jumped around teams for a while and then grew up a Patriots fan.

Q: How does being 6’5” as a linebacker help you? Now, that’s big for a linebacker…the Giants have another one in Lorenzo Carter who’s tall like that, but you’d expect that size at defensive end.

A: Honestly, it helps getting in windows. When you’re 6’5” on the second level, and the quarterback is trying to throw a dig, it’s kind of hard when you’ve got to clear about seven to eight feet of height and length in arms. It’s kind of, for me, it’s been getting into windows, it helps with the range. Even when you’re diving through tackles, that length allows you to get a little bit further than most.

Q: Back to that initial phone call with Joe Judge. There’s been a lot of talk about how he was pretty serious with the other players who were drafted, not to go on and talk to us about Super Bowl expectations or anything like that. What was that call like? Also, playing at a program like Penn State where they’ve had 10 or 11 players drafted in the past two years, how does playing in a program like that get you ready for the jump to the NFL?

A: I think, especially with the Giants, it’s a great organization, it’s a very professional organization. I feel like with us, Penn State is known to be high standard, high character. I feel like that transition will be very smooth for me. Even with Coach Judge, he’s a humble guy. He wants us to have humble but ambitious goals honestly. From there, he wants us to focus on what we’ve got to do now, and that’s honestly getting through this Corona thing.

Q: You mentioned you feel you are very versatile. I want to get a better idea as to how versatile you are. Are you primarily a stand up a guy, have you ever played much with your hand in the dirt. Are you a five technique if you have played the defensive line, do you play nine wide? Can you fill in those gaps for me?

A: My freshmen year I played the Will, the boundary backer for us which gets a lot of action. Sophomore year, I moved to the Sam position while playing Will still. The Sam for us is almost like an NFL nickel. We sit on top of two, we’re rerouting receivers, we’re not really in the run game. Junior year, I stayed at Sam and played Mike on third downs. Mike for us on third downs is our pass coverages, our dollar (coverage), we’re mixing stuff up, blitzing, whatever it may be. Senior year, it was the same combination. I bounced around. Even at the Sam position, there’s no two wide, but I was playing the wide guy. Honestly, I played a little bit of everything. I haven’t put my hand in the dirt but outside of that, everything on the second level I have played.

Q: Joe Judge talked about the way they go about talking to players and they use it as an opportunity at times to pick your brain on other players. How different was your interaction with them as a team than with other organizations?

A: I can’t say it was too different. A lot of teams want to see how you react and how you respond to teams’ questions about other guys, either negative or positive. With them, they want to get more of a well-rounded view on me and how I looked at the game. That’s what they took out of it. When they asked questions like who is the best player you played against, I answered the question with J.K. Dobbins, who is an amazing player. Things like that, they just want to see your deeper understanding of football. I feel like that’s what they were getting out of that.

Q: Did they give you an idea of where they are going to start you at position wise?

A: Honestly at linebacker, I can tell you that. Outside or inside, that’s up for debate.

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7th Round – LB Carter Coughlin, 6’3”, 236lbs, 4.58, University of Minnesota

Scouting Report: A 3-year starter at Minnesota, the 6’3”, 236-pound Coughlin is an outside linebacker who can play over the tight end. He may project to inside linebacker in the pros. Coughlin can set the edge against the run. Hustles and chases. Coughlin is limited by his athletic limitations, but he is a tough, competitive over-achiever who is reliable and consistent. Solid in coverage.

Sy’56’s Take: 40 career TFL + 22.5 career sacks. Sneaky athlete that will be a “multiple” LB for NYG defense that wants to be able to change schemes weekly. A natural in coverage, effective with his hands as a rusher, and plays low.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on LB Carter Coughlin: The next guy is Carter Coughlin. Another tall linear guy out of Minnesota. He’s 6’3 and change and 240. He can run. He’s got some versatility to him.

Joe Judge on LB Carter Coughlin: Dave hit this off the bat, the theme of the day was speed. He’s a guy that gives us more speed on the edge. He brings some length with him. He plays with a high motor and a lot of aggressiveness. He was productive in Minnesota’s scheme and with the way we are going to play guys on the edge in different packages, he’s someone with a lot of value. He will come in here and compete.

Media Q&A with Carter Coughlin (Video):

Q: What was it like being high school teammates with Ryan Connelly? Have you been in touch with him since the weekend?

A: I got a chance to play with Ryan my freshman and sophomore year. At Eden Prairie High School, Ryan was the starting quarterback, so it’s awesome that he switched over to linebacker, it clearly worked out for him. He texted me on draft day and I got a chance call him last night. He gave a rundown on a bunch of stuff, so it’s awesome to connect with him and I will be able to get some awesome wisdom from him.

Q: How was he as a quarterback?

A: He was a monster as a quarterback. He was built like a linebacker, crazy athletic and super smart. All that obviously translated over to his linebacker game. I still remember him standing on the 50-yard line with his feet planted and being able to throw the ball all the way to the endzone without an issue. He had a cannon for an arm.

Q: You were versatile at Minnesota. Can you talk about the positions and what they asked you to do on the defense?

A: At Minnesota, I got a chance to play our edge rush position. We just called it our rush. It’s kind of a hybrid outside linebacker mixed with defensive end. It allowed me to drop into coverage, it allowed me to get after the quarterback, play off tight ends and play near the line of scrimmage. It really allowed me to play a bunch of different aspects of what an outside linebacker could look like or even a defensive end. I loved the rush position.

Q: Did you play with your hand in the dirt?

A: No. I always stayed up on my feet at the University of Minnesota.

Q: You have a long family line that has attended the University of Minnesota. Why was that so important to you to continue that tradition?

A: I grew up a Gopher fan since the day I came out of the womb. For me, I took a lot of pride in the University of Minnesota. Being a Gopher fan for a while, it was kind of tough sometimes because there were a lot of years where it was down and then you would catch a glimmer of hope and it would go back down. When I was deciding where I wanted to go to school, I decided I wanted to be a part of making Minnesota as great as the days when my grandpa played and they were winning championships and all that kind of stuff. From that aspect, I had pride at Minnesota, and I decided I wanted to be a part of building the program.

Q: You had a lot success in college getting sacks, rushing the passer. How do you see that translating to the NFL? The Giants did not really draft pass rushers and they need pass rushers. As a seventh rounder, can you be a guy that can contribute in that regard?

A: Being a swiss army knife is always useful. Whatever position the coaches decide to put me at, I guarantee you I will be able to maximize my potential there. Whether that looks like special teams, whether that looks like a positional fit, I’ll be able to use a lot of the different tools I have been able to build up through college. To able to maximize every opportunity I get.

Q: What do you think the key to being a successful pass rusher at the next level will be?

A: I’d say to continue to harness in on some of the details that I think, since I’ve been out of college, that I’ve been able to identify. Stuff that I really want to work on. But I think a lot of it, too, is watching film. That played out a lot for me in college, identifying what the opposing offensive tackle struggles with, how he moves his feet, how he shoots his hands, whether he leans, all of that kind of stuff. I think that transfers even more to the NFL because from what I’ve heard it’s a whole bunch of film and note taking and that’s right up my wheelhouse. I’ll be able to continue to develop those skills of learning and taking notes and watching film and all of that kind of stuff.

Q: I know you have a long legacy at Minnesota, but the Coughlin name also has a big legacy here with the Giants. Have you ever met Coach Coughlin? I’m assuming you’re not related at a distant point.

A: No, I’ve never met him, and we are not related, but I’ve got a bunch of people that have been asking me that over social media.

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7th Round – LB T.J. Brunson, 6’0”, 230lbs, N/A, University of South Carolina

Scouting Report: The 6’0”, 230-pound Brunson is an undersized inside linebacker with decent but not ideal athleticism. He is very physical and aggressive, to the point where it sometimes hurts his game. Brunson needs to play under more control and consistently wrap up as a tackler. Hard worker and team leader.

Sy’56’s Take: One of the biggest combine snubs. Bruiser that leaves a mark when he hits you, shows good tackle to tackle range. Versatile on third down because he can blitz well and carry tight ends up the seam.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on LB T.J. Brunson: The next guy is T.J. Brunson. T.J. played at South Carolina as you guys know. He’s a little bit smaller. He plays the stack Will linebacker. He’s fast, he’s really athletic, he’s got good instincts. He’s just a little bit on the small side but he plays at about 230. We feel like he will be a really good fit and also has a lot of special teams value.

Joe Judge on LB T.J. Brunson: He’s a guy you see making tackles sideline-to-sideline. He’s also a guy in South Carolina’s scheme and (Will) Mushchamp’s scheme down there isn’t the simplest. Guys have been challenged mentally being down there. They’ve been coached hard. It’s very similar to the guys we talked about playing at Georgia and Alabama. Very similar schemes, very similar cultures. He’s a guy that was out there making a lot of calls so you can see the communication element with him on the field as well as the productivity on the field.

Media Q&A with T.J. Brunson (Video):

Q: I was looking at your bio for South Carolina and a lot of things that were highlighted was tenacity, leadership…is that you?

A: Yes, sir. That’s me.

Q: Where did that come from?

A: I believe that the tenacity and everything came from just the way I was raised. I have two older brothers, so I kind of came up fighting them, wrestling around with them. I come from an athletic family, so sports have always been kind of something that we’ve done. Just growing up in that type of household, it made me competitive, it made me fierce. I just go out on the field and have fun.

Q: How long did it take you to beat them?

A: They kind of stopped once I started getting bigger. I don’t think they’ve really tried to mess with me since I’ve gotten older, but I never got a chance to.

Q: What are you doing to stay in shape, what’s your situation like amid this? Also, what were your interactions with Joe Judge before the draft and then when he called you, what was your impression of him?

A: Right now, just with working out and everything, I’ve been trying to stay within social distancing guidelines. I’ve been able to get in what I need to and stick to my routine so far. Before the draft, my only interaction with Coach Judge was at the Senior Bowl. I was lucky enough to be a participant of that and I had an interview with the Giants. That was the first interaction and I thought he was a pretty laid back guy. You know, he’s about ball and he knows what he’s talking about for sure. I’m excited to play for him and get on the team and just see what the Giants are about.

Q: What was that initial call like when you got the call that you were drafted by him? What was his message to you?

A: Really, he just asked me if I was ready to work. It was pretty simple. Let me know that they liked me, and they thought I was a good player. You know, the real message there was just come in ready to work and prove yourself.

Q: I read that you played over 2,500 snaps in college over a three-year career, which would suggest good durability on your part. Can you talk about your durability and also what are some of the roles they asked you to play within that defense?

A: When it comes to durability, I feel like I’m a guy that’s going to just be out there every game, as long as I’m healthy. But I’m a guy that’s going to do what it takes to get on the field to help my team out. That just comes with preparation and just how I take care of my body.

Q: What type of role did you play in the defense?

A: I think I was the guy that just went out there to bring energy and to play fast, but I’ve played Mike, Will and wherever else I needed to line up. There were a few times that I lined up as a single high safety and I was a middle field safety. So, wherever they need me to play, I feel like I’m comfortable and I’m able to do it.

Q: I see you were also a two-time captain. What did that mean to you to be voted captain by your peers?

A: Yes, being a two-time captain is big just for the simple fact that I was voted on by my peers. It just made me feel as if I had a stronger role to play on the team. I was definitely a guy that had to come out every day and prove myself and prove why I had those titles.

Q: As a guy who was a captain in college, seventh round pick coming in as a rookie, there is a lot of emphasis on culture in terms of what Joe Judge is trying to build. How do you come in as a rookie and try to assert that leadership role right away?

A: My only focus is getting in and doing what I’m supposed to do to help the team. I don’t have any predictions, or I don’t plan on going in there being that guy. I just want to go in there and do my job and do it to the best of my capabilities. Whatever is asked of me, I plan on doing it at full speed and just doing it the way that it should be done.

Q: Were there any alumni from South Carolina or any current pros that might have helped you out through this process, given you some advice, trained with you, or that sort of thing?

A: I’ve had a couple different guys just talk to me. Taylor Stallworth is one of those guys, they just kept me level. Dennis Daley as well. They really just kept me level to the process of training for the combine, pro day or whatever and getting ready for the draft and now we’re post-draft. It’s a little bit different this year than what they had to go through, but I think they’ve given me enough information and knowledge of what to expect that I’m pretty…I’m ready for it.

Q: I’m curious what your experience level was like in college on special teams? Do you know anybody that you’ve come across from this draft class that you’re close with? I know there are a couple of linebackers there that were all drafted late by this team…do you know each other from the pre-draft things or even college recruiting?

A: I know Cam Brown from Senior Bowl and he’s the only guy that I really know.

Q: And special teams?

A: When I came into South Carolina, I started off on special teams and that was my way of getting on the field and getting on the roster. That was also how the coaches gained their trust in the players, so whatever it took. I was out on every type of drill that they had in practice, I was going out trying to get out there first. I know that’s kind of my role and how I make this team, how I can help out and make it better. Any type of special teams, whatever they need me to do, I’m out there.

Q: What role on special teams did you like? Were there any that stood out?

A: I think my favorite is probably punt. But I don’t mind…I like kickoff, punt return. I like everything pretty much.

Q: I was reading up and saw you played basketball for a while and then gave it up. I guess the line was that you have five fouls and used them all pretty much every game. Is that fair?

A: I’m not sure where that came from. I grew up playing baseball. I’ve been a baseball player my whole life. I played…I started varsity in eighth grade, played all of the way through my senior year. But I kind of had to, just because of the way football and baseball worked, I missed a lot of travel ball and stuff because of football workouts. I decided after a while I put in so much time in football and they give full scholarships, so I decided to take the football route.

Q: Where did you play baseball? What was your favorite position?

A: I played third base. My senior year, I got moved to right field because we didn’t have any outfielders. I played third, I played first but primarily third.

Q: Were you a good hitter?

A: I’d like to think so.

Q: When was the last time you were in a cage and swung a bat?

A: Since high school.

Q: If they (Giants) have one of those charity softball games, you’ll jump in and maybe surprise us.

A: I’ll be out there, no doubt.

Q: Do you know Tae Crowder at all? I know you were picked a couple spots prior to him. Him being the last pick in the entire draft, can there be some fun element to that?

A: I haven’t had any personal conversations with him. I played against him the past couple of years. I’ve seen him play in person. I’m sure he’s a baller, I know he’s a baller for the fact that he was in the position he’s in. I was in the same position almost. I’m looking forward to working. I don’t really have much to say. I haven’t talked to him or said anything to him, but I’m excited. I know what type of guys Georgia has and I know that he is going to come out there and be a dog.

Q: You initially committed to Louisville and then flipped to South Carolina and you had somewhat of a special relationship with your head coach. Tell us a little bit about that relationship.

A: I was committed to Louisville and I took my official visit in December, I think. It just didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like home for me. I committed to South Carolina with Coach Mushchamp. I was also Coach Muschamp’s first visit after he got the job after the press conference. Everything he told me from day one has pretty much come to fruition. Those things were just you get in here, work hard, keep your head down and you’ll see what you’re working for. Over the years, our relationship grew and I kind of understood him and what he wants in the program and things like that. It made it easier for me.

Q: What did it mean to you that you were the first recruit he went to visit after he was hired?

A: It was big to know that someone, especially a coach like that in the SEC, felt like I was important enough to go out and get to help start a team for his inaugural season. That’s going down in history, we’re his first class. It’s crazy looking back at it knowing all of our stories and how we got there and things like that.

Q: How much are you interested to see how this remote learning thing works? Are you worried about it? Do you have any experience with it? Is it a disadvantage for rookies to be learning this way? Is there disappointment in not getting onto the field at a rookie minicamp?

A: Because of everything going on right now, I think this is the best option we have. I personally don’t have an issue with it. I’d rather be up there in person. If this is how we have to get our football in, then there’s no problem with that. As far as I know from what I’ve been told, the way they have it set up, it seems like it’s going to be helpful for us. I think it’s a disadvantage for rookies not to see where they are going to be and be there in person. We’re also expected to come in and pick up what’s going on and play fast. I think this will help us when we get there. Hopefully it’s before August. If we don’t get there until August, we’re supposed to hit the ground and be able to pick up everything that’s going on. I think this gives us a chance to really understand the calls and the defense and get out there and play fast.

Q: You think if you get here by August there will be even more appreciation for playing?

A: Definitely. That’s when it will really settle in for me. Once I get a helmet on and get up there and start playing around, I think that’s when it will be real.

Q: You don’t even have any Giants gear right? Are they going to send you any Giants gear?

A: I hope so, I’m waiting on it. I’m definitely waiting on it. My dad’s a Raiders fan, my whole family is Raiders fans.

Q: You have to wear blue not black right?

A: Yeah, definitely now. We’re going to deck the house out in some blue.

Q: Playing in the SEC I’m curious who were some of the best offensive linemen? Did you ever line up opposite Andrew Thomas and what was it like going up against him?

A: We would go through the scouting reports and we know which guys are the guys for each team. I don’t think I had too many run ins with a lot of those big offensive linemen. I did my best to stay away from them. I ran into Jedrick Willis from Alabama, pretty strong guy, athletic. Isaiah (Wilson), he can move, good pick. Because it’s the SEC, you see guys week in and week, out so it’s almost hard to figure out which guy is that guy on each team when it comes to offensive line. I don’t really have much to say on that because I wasn’t on the ball with those guys.

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7th Round – CB/S Chris Williamson, 6’0”, 200lbs, 4.43, University of Minnesota

Scouting Report: The 6’0”, 200-pound Williams combines good size and overall athleticism. He has experience playing as a hybrid inside defensive back/linebacker and is physical with receivers in coverage. Williamson is aggressive in run support and will hit but he needs to play under more control.

Sy’56’s Take: One of the favorites down at Shrine week. Top shelf athletic ability but also shows the discipline to stay in phase, trusting his feet and balance. Might be an ideal fit for nickel but can play outside.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on DB Chris Williamson: Next we drafted the safety out of Minnesota, Chris Williamson. Good sized kid. He’s long, he can run and he’ll hit you.

Joe Judge on DB Chris Williamson: This is a guy who’s going to have some combination corner to safety. We call it the star position, that nickel position as well. He’ll bring some position flexibility in the defensive backfield. He’s got a good size and speed combination. We look for him to compete at multiple positions this year.

Media Q&A with Chris Williamson (Video):

Q: I’m sure for every young guy it’s a dream of a lifetime to get drafted. What was this experience like, the remote experience, and what have your interactions with the Giants been? What have they told you in what to expect going forward here?

A: To have my dream finally come true, it’s been a huge blessing. It still hasn’t truly hit me yet, just because I’ve been home. I’ve been around my family and stuff like that, but it still hasn’t truly hit me all the way. So, I’m still letting it hit me day by day. It was a good experience. I was with my dad and my brother at the time when I found out. Just to see the excitement on their faces, they know I was excited as well too. I know they were happy for me as well because it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to hear my name called in the NFL. To finally have my name called, it was just like a huge weight off my shoulders and I feel extremely humbled and blessed by the experience.

Q: Most rookies in other years would be getting ready to come to New Jersey, you’re not doing that. What do you think it’s going to be like with a virtual rookie minicamp?

A: I don’t have any expectations because I really don’t, I don’t know what to expect at this time. We’ll see how everything goes, but it’s something I’m looking forward to, most definitely.

Q: When we spoke to Joe Judge, he was talking about you playing corner, safety, sort of what they call the star position. What have been your experiences where you did play in college. When you spoke to teams where did they sort of envision you fitting in?

A: Yeah, the one thing a lot of teams talked to me about is my versatility. I have the ability to play multiple positions in the back end. Even with the Giants, they kind of talked about me doing the same thing of being able to do those multiple positions. But every team I talked to kind of had that same idea for me. I’d be a guy who’d kind of be like a Swiss Army Knife and can do multiple things on the back end.

Q: How much did you actually play safety in college and do that part of it?

A: Well, I didn’t get to play a whole bunch of safety. But actually I had a spring ball, actually when I was at Florida, where I did nothing but strictly safety. So, I’ve actually had the opportunity throughout my college career to practice at each position.

Q: I saw that right after you were drafted you got the Darius Slayton seal of approval for the pick. Tell me about your relationship with him, how far back do you guys go?

A: Man, me and Darius’ relationship, it goes back extremely far. I’ve known Darius… I mean we grew up playing football against each other, we grew up running track against each other. The biggest memory me and him have of each other is playing each other in our 9-year-old football league, the Gwinnett Football League, which is one of the top youth football leagues in Georgia. Like I was talking about earlier, we played them in the regular season and they beat us pretty bad. It was like 34-0. I know at the time they got the mercy rule as the youth football league, so they mercy ruled us. They actually beat us pretty good. Then later on in the season we got the chance to play them again in the 9-year-old football championship for the Gwinnett Football League. The funny thing about it, his team hadn’t lost a game in two to three years, so they were the best team in the league. So, they pulled up to the championship game in all white stretched-out Hummer limousines. These are 9-year-old kids now, pulling up in limousines. They were expecting to win. We played the game and we actually won the game, 14-0, so we came out on top. I mean I know it had to be kind of embarrassing pulling up in a limousine and losing. But you know, it’s something I still hold over Darius to this day.

Q: Did you get to ride the limos home at least?

A: No, we didn’t. That was their team. I don’t even think they rode the limos home (laughter).

Q: Were you always a defensive back and he was always a receiver?

A: No, I was actually an offensive guy. I grew up playing offense the majority of my life. I didn’t actually switch to defense until my senior year of high school. I was always kind of training for it, but I had never actually truly played it in a game until my senior year of high school. Actually, Darius was a corner in high school, so he kind of, I mean he was doing corner and wide receiver in high school and I guess he decided to stick with wide receiver in his college career.

Q: I was looking at your background and it looks like a lot of the decisions you made moving from wide receiver to defensive back, transferring to from Florida to Minnesota with maybe a path to the NFL in mind. Is that the case? Talk a little bit about Ray Buchanon.

A: That’s honestly where it all kind of starts. The move from wide receiver to defensive back honestly came from Ray Buchanon. I met him in the summer of eighth grade when I was training. Me and him have had an extremely close relationship up until this day. He still mentors me and I train with him every time I’m home. I was always playing receiver and I was a six-foot receiver. You can find a lot of six-foot receivers, but I was kind of a bigger defensive back. The one nugget that Ray always put in my head was you’re an average size receiver, but you’re a big defensive back that can move. There’s not too many guys who are big and can move that get paid at the next level. He was always throwing that nugget in my head. My senior year of high school was the first year I had played defensive back. I had always been training with him for defensive back, but I never truly played it in a high school game. I definitely give the credit for me making that move to Ray Bucannon.

Q: I want to follow up with Ray Buchanon, he played for a Super Bowl team in the Atlanta Falcons. What are some of the lessons he taught you? You mentioned he was very instrumental in your development. Can talk about some of the things he taught you that you feel were instrumental in getting you to the next level?

A: He was one of the first people I talked to when I was considering transferring. He has always been a person that has my best interest at heart. He always wanted what was best for me. He was a huge asset to have during that time period. The transition from wide receiver to defensive back was something he helped me with, as well. He’s had a huge role in my corner. He’s more so like a second father to me as well. Just having somebody like that who’s already played in the NFL is a huge blessing. I can still train with him, there’s a lot of things about the game he teaches me as well. Things I may not see. I have the opportunity to send him clips of film from practice and he’ll break that down for me and stuff that I did wrong. It’s a true blessing to have somebody like that in my corner.

Q: What about in terms of the little things? We talk about players taking care of their bodies and all that stuff. Things that you don’t necessarily learn at the college level. Did he share some of that with you?

A: Yeah, he always expressed to me the importance of taking care of my body. I truly learned on my own my freshman year of college. Having to go through and just deal with some of my own injuries, it was kind of something I learned on my own. He’s definitely always told me the importance of taking care of my body. Putting the right things in terms of the right fluid and food in my body as well.

Q: You said you were with your dad and your brother when you got the call. Younger brother or older brother?

A: Younger brother, he’s 19, he will be 20 this year. He actually plays ball at Stanford.

Q: What kind of background do you have on special teams? Is that something you did in college? It’s probably where you will start out with this team.

A: Most definitely. Throughout my college career I played on every single special teams and that’s something I was able to communicate with each and every team that I talked to. This past year they took a lot of our guys, a lot of our starters, and kept them off special teams. We had a lot of young guys who they wanted to get out there and see them in some smaller roles. They took a lot of our starters off special teams this year. Throughout my college career, I played every special teams so that’s not an issue at all.

Q: Are you going to room with Carter (Coughlin) when you finally do get here?

A: It’s definitely something that was discussed. It would be nice because that’s somebody that can help me. We can help each other throughout this process. That’s somebody I already know that I have had a previous relationship with, that I’ve played with. We are both on the same side of the ball and can learn the playbook together. It would be nice to room with Carter.

Q: I asked you before about remote learning. How do you think that’s going to go down? Do you think that’s going to be a big disadvantage for rookies coming in, instead of getting on the field and showing what you can do this spring? Do you have any experience with remote learning?

A: I don’t think it puts anybody at a disadvantage. Of course, every rookie that’s coming in wants to get on the field and show what they can do. Football is such a physical game, but it’s also a part of the mental makeup. Guys who are successful at the NFL level, it comes from the mental aspect of the game. We’ll be able to expand our mental part of the game and come in and maybe be more ready than just being thrown into the fire of things. We’ve had time to talk it over with coaches and stuff like that. I don’t think it puts us at a disadvantage. It might be an advantage honestly.

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7th Round – LB Tae Crowder, 6’3”, 235lbs, N/A, University of Georgia

Scouting Report: The 6’3”, 235-pound Crowder was moved from running back to linebacker in college and thus is still learning the position. Only a 1-year starter. He is a good athlete and has added size to his frame. More instinctive than you would expect given his lack of experience.

Sy’56’s Take: Leader of a talented Georgia defense that plays fast and physical. Maybe more of a 2-down guy that the team drafted for special teams, the theme of their 7th round.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on LB Tae Crowder: The last guy who in former days of the NFL draft was called Mr. Irrelevant Tae Crowder, the linebacker out of Georgia. He was a running back early, they converted him. He’s a 245-pound kid that runs 4.6 and plays 4.6. He’s got some versatility and some value and definitely has some special teams value.

Joe Judge on LB Tae Crowder: This is a guy that’s only played a couple years at linebacker. We see a lot of upside with him. Both in his physical skills as well as his emerging defensive understanding. He’ll come in and compete for positions at that Will linebacker spot as well as give impact to the kicking game. We think we added a very competitive group over these last few days. We think today we brought in a lot of guys with versatility and speed.

Media Q&A with Tae Crowder:

Q: I read that there were a lot of teams that were interested in you as an undrafted free agent. What was that whole process at the end when the Giants announced that they were going to pick you? What was that moment like where maybe you were thinking you weren’t going to get drafted?

A: It was a crazy moment, you know. It was really stressful. A lot of teams were kind of saying the same things. It came down to who I thought was the best. But New York was one of them and they ended up pulling the trigger. I just thank God for that.

Q: What was that moment like when they did announce your name and you knew you were a draft pick?

A: It was crazy just because I was already planning on signing for free agency. That whole process, I can’t even explain how it felt but my family was happy, I was happy and that’s all that matters.

Q: What’s the difference between getting drafted and becoming a free agent? Are you familiar with the Mr. Irrelevant concept and can you have a little bit of fun with it?

A: Obviously I can now that I read up on it, but at first, I knew about Mr. Irrelevant but I didn’t know all of the stuff that came with it. It’s pretty special for me and my family. We’ll have fun with it.

Q: I think the guy usually gets a parade and things like that. I don’t know if they are going to be able to do that this year, but did you get anything from this honor?

A: Yeah, so they called me right after the draft and we kind of talked about everything, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to actually do it. I think they’ll reach out to me, I guess, when everything clears up. We’ll just have to find a way to plan it with my family.

Q: Just to clarify, were you going to sign with the Giants? That was a team you had chosen?

A: I don’t know who I was going to sign with at the moment, but I just thank God that they pulled the trigger and drafted me.

Q: I was doing some research on you and I saw that you had a rather interesting path to get to where you are. You started off at Georgia Southern and then you switched over to Georgia and you were initially recruited, I think, as a running back. Can you just walk us through that journey and how you kind of got from point A to where you are now?

A: Yeah, so I was committed to Georgia Southern for a while and I was going to end up switching to the University of Kentucky late, but I always knew I wanted to go to Georgia. I was having conversations with different people trying to figure out some things and trying to see if Georgia was going to ever offer me. But the week of signing day, that’s when I ended up finding out they wanted to give me the offer. They gave me the offer like two days or a day prior to signing day. That whole time was stressful for me, too, but that’s how I ended up going to Georgia.

Q: How did they flip you from running back, which I believe they initially recruited you as, to linebacker? How did that come about?

A: I was just on scout team at practice, just working hard, and my coach ended up noticing it just going against the number one defense, making plays, he saw that I was an athlete and that I should be on the field. He reached out to me, we had a meeting, and he was like he sees me as a linebacker and stuff like that, as a defensive player. We just had a one-day tryout, and at that tryout I ended up doing pretty good and I stayed there from then.

Q: I know you’re excited to be drafted and all, but there are some that believe if you get that low in the draft it’s actually better to have the option of being a free agent to choose your own place. Did that thought ever cross your mind, leaving the draft?

A: Yeah, my agent was talking about it the whole time. Like I said, we were already planning on doing free agent stuff. It worked out for me though. I can’t complain about getting drafted and coming to a great organization. Like I said, I’m just truly blessed for this.

Q: What is the difference between being the last pick in the draft in terms of what it means to you just to be drafted versus being a free agent? In terms of money there is a little bit of a difference, but what does it mean to be drafted?

A: It means a lot to me and my family and my community. I’m one of the first ones from my town to get drafted and that’s pretty big where I’m from. I’m from a small town, many people don’t make it from here. It brought the city out, they have my name hanging up in different places and stuff like that. It was a blessing and a dream come true for me.

Q: Can you be more specific about what kind of things were hanging in town? Did they have some banners hanging up for you and things like that?

A: Yeah, they had some banners. At the high school, they had a program with my name on there saying, ‘Congrats Tae Crowder, NFL Draft 2020’. Stuff like that.

Q: That wouldn’t have happened if you were a free agent, right?

A: We’ll never know.

Q: Can you talk about your teammate in college who will be your teammate in the NFL (Andrew Thomas)?

A: Andrew Thomas is a great player, a great person. He takes his work serious, he’s just a great kid. Football and off the field stuff is really important to him, and I respect him for that. I loved each day at practice in college just going to work with him, helping him lead the team and stuff like that. I highly respect my teammate Andrew Thomas.

Q: Did you go up against him a lot in practice?

A: Yeah, we went up against each other a few times and he was pretty good.

Q: You could have been running behind him instead of going up against him.

A: You’re right about that. I think I would rather run behind him.

Q: You went against Sony Michel and Nick Chubb in practice a lot. Can you just talk about the challenges and what that taught? How did that help you find your skills as a linebacker?

A: Just being in the room with them as a running back, it was crazy switching sides. From running drills with them to now I have to run drills against him. It just made me better as a young linebacker going against great athletes like them. It was fun, sometimes it was tough moving to linebacker and going against them. They were first round and second round picks. It paid off and it made me better.

Q: You are being reunited with quote unquote your “dogs”, Lorenzo Carter and DeAndre Baker. What does that mean to be reunited with them on the same defense? What can you guys bring together with that Georgia Bulldog mentality?

A: It’s just a dream come true. We know how each other works. It will be fun catching up, going to work with them and being on the field with each other once again.

Q: Can you describe what kind of a player you are? Can you play Will, Sam, can you cover running backs? Can you give me a handle on that?

A: I’m an aggressive player, a disciplined player. A hard-working player and I like to make plays for the team. I can play Sam, I can play Will and Mike. I’m pretty good in coverage. I love to fit the run and I love to cover backs too.

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Rookie Free Agent Scouting Reports

QB Case Cookus, 6’3”, 221lbs, 4.83, Northern Arizona University (Video)
Cookus had a promising collegiate career derailed with season-ending injuries in 2016 and 2018. Gunslinger who has been super-productive when he plays.

RB Javon Leake, 6’0”, 215lbs, 4.71, University of Maryland (Video)
Leake was a junior entry and rotational starter at Maryland. He is much faster than he timed at the Combine. Slashing, cut-and-go running back with good size. He is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball. Leake is not a physical runner and he was rarely used in the passing game in college. Leake also returns kickoffs. He has had fumbling issues.

WR Binjimen Victor, 6’4”, 198lbs, 4.56, Ohio State University (Video)
Victor was a 4-year rotational player at Ohio State. Tall and slender, Victor can leap and has a huge catch radius. He is a natural athlete and pass catcher who can make big plays and highlight-reel catches. He needs to play with more consistency. He also has to prove he can defeat NFL press coverage.

WR Austin Mack, 6’1”, 208lbs, 4.59, Ohio State University (Video)
Mack was a rotational player at Ohio State. Muscular wideout with good size. He is more of a possession receiver, but he is a natural pass receiver who can make the tough grab.

WR Derrick Dillon, 5’11’, 185lbs, 4.47, LSU (Video)
Dillon is a smaller, speedy wide receiver with limited collegiate production. He has had some big plays in big games.

WR/TE Rysen John, 6’7”, 237lbs, 4.65, Simon Fraser University (Video)
John has an intriguing combination of size and athletic ability. He could be used at a number of different positions including wide receiver, tight end, and H-Back.

TE Kyle Markway, 6’4”, 252lbs, 4.79, University of South Carolina (Video)
Markway has a good frame and long arms. Better blocker than receiver. Markway won’t threaten a defense as a receiver due to his athletic limitations, but he can catch the football.

OC/OG Kyle Murphy, 6’3”, 316lbs, 5.34, University of Rhode Island (Video)
Murphy was a 3-year starter in college with experience all along the offensive line. Team leader. Murphy moves well with good agility.

OC/OG Tyler Haycraft, 6’3”, 295lbs, University of Louisville (Video)
Tough, gritty, smart player with decent athleticism.

DE/LB Niko Lalos, 6’5”, 268lbs, 4.82, Dartmouth College (Video)
Lalos played defensive end in college but could project to outside linebacker at the pro level.

LB Dominique Ross, 6’4”, 228lbs, University of North Carolina
Ross played a hybrid nickelback/linebacker role in college where he was used both in coverage and as a blitzer.

LB Dana Levine, 6’3”, 235lbs, 4.82, Temple University (Video)
Levine played defensive end in college but projects to outside linebacker at the pro level. Tough guy who flashes explosiveness, but he needs to play off of blocks better.

LB Oluwole Betiku, Jr., 6’3”, 249lbs, 4.69, University of Illinois (Video)
Levine played defensive end in college but projects to outside linebacker at the pro level. Tough guy who flashes explosiveness, but he needs to play off of blocks better.

CB Malcolm Elmore, 5’11”, 186lbs, 4.48, Central Methodist University

CB Christian Angulo, 6’2”, 190lbs, Hampton University (Video)

S Jaquarius Landrews, 5’11”, 196lbs, 4.43, Mississippi State University (Video)

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Eric’s Take on the 2020 Draft

Firmly ensconced in the franchise’s darkest period since the 1964-1980 nadir, the New York Giants entered the 2020 NFL draft with significant needs virtually at every position. That is not surprising for a team with a 12-36 record over the span of the last three seasons. This was Dave Gettleman’s third draft as New York’s head man and Chris Pettit’s second draft as the team’s Director of College Scouting. The new voice in the room was first-year Head Coach Joe Judge as Gettleman whiffed badly on his first coaching choice to turn the Giants around, Pat Shurmur.

Approaching the draft, media and fan focus was almost exclusively centered on whether the Giants should draft linebacker Isaiah Simmons or an offensive linemen with their first pick. Further debate ensued on whether the Giants should trade down and acquire additional selections and which offensive linemen was the best prospect. The choice would have been obvious had the Giants not defeated the Redskins in overtime in Week 16. The Giants would have walked away with Chase Young, but alas that was not to be.

The Giants entered the draft with 10 picks, though that was a bit misleading as only three of those selections were within the top 100 slots. The rest of the selections all came on day three, with four of those being in the final round. Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants did not trade once, either up or down, during the entire 3-day affair.

Overall, this was one of the team’s most fascinating drafts in recent memory. All 10 picks were focused on the offensive line, secondary, and linebacking corps. No offensive skill positions were selected. No defensive linemen were selected. Three of the first five selections were on offense, but seven players were taken on defense, including the last five picks. This was a bread-and-butter, no frills draft completely concentrated on only three areas.

The first three picks went pretty much as expected with the Bengals taking Joe Burrow, the Redskins taking Chase Young, and the Lions taking Jeff Okudah. Would the Giants take Simmons, one of the offensive tackles, or trade down? My personal preference was for the Giants to trade down a few spots and then select one of the tackles. I think Simmons will be a very good player, but I wondered if he would be a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type who really didn’t have a true NFL position. Time will tell as Simmons was selected four picks later by the Cardinals.

Regarding trading down, Gettleman said afterwards, “We had conversations, but everyone was touchy-feely, maybe yes, maybe no. There were no firm offers anywhere. There is nothing that made me look at John Mara and Joe (Judge) and say let’s trade back and get some more picks. There really wasn’t much there… There wasn’t a lot of action.”

So somewhat predictably, the Giants stood pat and selected Andrew Thomas. When the pick was announced, I breathed a sigh of relief. Knock on wood, but Thomas was probably one of the safest selections in this draft. The word “safe” often has a negative meaning when discussing draft prospects, but not in this case. Despite what some have argued, Thomas’ upside is significant. Despite just turning 21 in January, Thomas is an enormous young man. He looks and plays bigger than his listed size (6’5”, 315lbs) with a huge base and tree trunk arms. He is a very good athlete and the only guy among the top four who everyone believed could handle left tackle at the pro level. A lot of people preferred Tristan Wirfs, but Wirfs’ best natural position may be guard. (Wirfs was selected nine picks later by Tampa Bay AFTER Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton).

In hindsight, if the Giants felt there was a significant gap between Thomas and the other three, it is fortunate they stayed pat. According to NJ.com, the Browns, Colts, Dolphins, Chargers, Cardinals, and Panthers had Thomas rated as the top tackle. Thomas also wowed everyone at the NFL Combine during the interview process. So the Giants are not only getting a top talent, but someone who everyone was impressed with personally in terms of his character and ability to learn the NFL game.

Entering the second round on day two, a number of still-available defensive prospects stood out like sore thumbs. This included DL Yetur Gross-Matos, DL A.J. Epenesa, S Xavier McKinney, S Grant Delpit, and a few others. Some thought the Giants may dive into the WR-rich draft at this point or maybe reach for a center. But need-value seemed to strongly suggest defense and it was no surprise that the Giants picked McKinney, who they even tried to trade up for as they considered him a 1st-round talent. (Charley Casserly claims that he knows at least 12 teams felt the same way). The other option here was to trade down and try to bridge the huge gap between the Giants’ picks at 36 and 99. But it is interesting to note that THREE safeties went in the next nine picks, including the Patriots selecting a safety right after the Giants took McKinney, who many regarded as the best safety in the draft.

I saw some Giants fans react negatively to this pick by claiming that safety wasn’t a big need. With all due respect to these individuals, you’re nuts. Safety has been a huge need on this team for years and safety play is one of the major reasons why this team has only won 12 games in three years. It was not only a need, it was a gigantic need. I also don’t agree with those who say McKinney is only a strong safety. In Nick Saban’s defense, McKinney split his time equally between three positions: 285 snaps in the box, 271 snaps at free safety, and 227 snaps in the slot. Saban is not having a subpar athlete playing in the slot and at free safety – not on that team and in that pro-style defense. When people look at McKinney, I think they see an aggressive, physical player who makes a lot big hits and plays around the line of scrimmage, assume that is the strength of his game (which it is), but then also assume he can’t do other things (which he can). Another phrase kept coming up when people described McKinney: “alpha dog.” Boy, do the Giants need that kind of guy on defense! Big picture, the Giants now have two interchangeable athletes at safety in Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham can keep offenses guessing as to who will be playing where as both can move up or back as designed. The days of Curtis Riley and Antoine Bethea are over.

Because of Gettleman’s odd and still controversial decision to trade for pending free agent DL Leonard Williams during a losing season, the Giants were without their own #3 draft pick and had to wait 63 picks for their next selection at the end of the 3rd round (really 4th round when you consider how all of these compensatory picks have diluted rounds 3-7). Stating the obvious, round 3 has not been kind to the Giants, although to be fair, the team has done better under Gettleman in this round. On the surface, the selection of Matt Peart appears to be an excellent one. Peart was widely regarded as one of the best offensive tackle prospects in this draft. He’s another big, athletic tackle with incredibly long arms who just looks the part. Both Thomas and Peart move effortlessly for big men, they make it look easy at times. And despite being 310lbs, Peart actually looks like he can add another 20 pounds easy to his frame. Other than level of competition concerns (UConn), the biggest negative I’ve seen on him is that he needs to play with more nastiness. That can be an issue. This game is not for the faint of heart. Unless the Giants dump Nate Solder (unlikely given the fact they have already given him his $3 million roster bonus and the uncertainty of training camp with the COVID situation), Peart will likely sit for a year before contending for a starting tackle spot in 2021.

Despite my nagging concern for a center, I had no issues with Darnay Holmes in the 4th round. I think a lot of fans reacted by saying, “Why cornerback? Gettleman already acquired James Bradberry, Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, and Corey Ballentine!” Yes, but none those guys have proven they can handle slot corner, which is an entirely different skill set and a de facto starter in today’s NFL. Holmes was an outside corner at UCLA whose skill set screams slot corner. I will say this, Holmes was the one guy who people were all over the board about. Some people love him (Bucky Brooks felt he was the #1 slot corner in the draft). Others were less enthusiastic. Interestingly, Chris Pettit actually singled Holmes out as one of the guys he was most excited who the Giants drafted (see his comments at the 5-minute mark). If you believe slot corner is a start position in the NFL, the Holmes has a very good chance to be the third immediate starter coming out of this draft. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs. He’s also supposed to be an incredibly smart guy.

In terms of value and need, Shane Lemieux may be my favorite selection in this draft. To get him in the 5th round was a major steal. It was not too long ago when Lemieux was considered one of the top OL prospects in the entire draft. While he may not have the ideal athleticism that teams crave, NFL rosters are historically filled with big, tough, strong, smart linemen like Lemieux who will knock the snot out of you. Lemieux is built like a prototypical NFL guard. Just as importantly, he plays the position like you want your interior linemen to play. I think he’s a future starter in this league (which would be incredible for a 5th-round pick) and he began cross-training as a center before the Giants even selected him. Don’t be shocked if he’s our starting center as a rookie. If he can’t make the transition to center, I think he’s an eventual starter at guard.

The last five picks are a bit of a blur and merge together for Giants fans as four of them were linebackers. At this point of the draft, even though they technically were in the 6th and 7th round, due to the ridiculous number of compensatory picks, these really are what used to be 7th round/undrafted free agents. Just keep that in mind when evaluating these selections.

Linebacker was an obvious area of need, but fans who were crying for a center, wide receiver, running back, or tight end were not happy with four being picked. It’s a valid complaint. But if you pay millions of dollars to your scouts to pick the best players, you have to trust your board and take those guys who you think have the best chance to make an NFL roster. They Giants may be wrong, but they have to trust their process.

As one linebacker after another was picked, I kept reminding myself that Joe Judge is a special teams coach and the heart of any special teams unit is always the back-up linebackers and defensive backs. The Giants last five picks were four linebackers and safety. The best way for all five of these players to make the team will be to excel on special teams. Beyond that, two of the linebackers really stick out to me but for different reasons. I don’t know too many 6’5”, 230-pound coverage linebackers but that’s what Cam Brown is. And again, the phrase “Alpha dog” was tossed around when describing his character. I don’t get the sense that he was a throw-a-way pick at all for the Giants and that Graham has a plan for him as a role player. Carter Coughlin is also an interesting guy. While he’s not a dynamic athlete, he’s better than advertised and has the look of one of those players who hangs around the NFL for a long time. Carter has the intangibles that all teams look for. He’s also very tight with Ryan Connelly.

Regarding Chris Williamson, Petitt also mentioned that he was one of the late draft picks who he was particularly excited about. (See 5:30 mark).

A cursory look at the 15 undrafted free agents suggests the Giants may have found a few who may have a legitimate shot at a roster spot. Who knows if he can make it, but I love the way Kyle Murphy plays. Watch. You don’t think an undrafted guard can make a difference? Tell that to Rich Seubert, one of my all-time favorites. The two OSU receivers have a legitimate shot. Both were lost in the shuffle at a WR-rich school. Ben Victor reminds me a little bit of a poor man’s Plaxico Burress. Austin Mack will never wow you, but he’s a reliable guy who I could see the coaches liking. Kyle Markway was versatile blocker at South Carolina and those kind of guys can surprise (think Rhett Ellison in Minnesota). Javon Leake is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball and returns kickoffs. But he has to play with more toughness.

Overall, gun to my head, I honestly think the Giants got three starting offensive linemen in one draft. If so, that’s incredible. Andrew Thomas has the chance to be the best Giants’ left tackle of my lifetime, and that includes Jumbo Elliott. (Though don’t be shocked if he starts off at RT as a rookie, just like Elliott). Peart may need some time on the bench, but I’d be surprised if he is not starting by next year. You know what I think about Lemieux.

Gettleman has loaded up on defensive backs via trade, free agency, and the draft the past two years. The backfield had better be set! Again, it appears the Giants still added two starters in this draft with Xavier McKinney at free safety and Darnay Holmes at slot corner (also he may be the returner). If the Giants really got five eventual starters out of one draft, that’s a home run. Time will tell.

As for the last five picks, these were all late round/free agent types. If any of them have a career longer than a couple of seasons, that’s just icing on the cake.

Regrets? Always. The Giants didn’t draft a true center and have to count on Nick Gates, Lemieux, Kyle Murphy, or Tyler Haycraft being able to make the transition to the position. The Giants didn’t get a dynamic edge rusher and will have to wait until next year for that. Same with adding another top-flight wide receiver. But the Giants were a bad team with only three top 100 picks. There was only so much they could do.

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Apr 212020
 
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Joe Burrow, LSU Tigers (January 13, 2020)

Joe Burrow – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Quarterbacks

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 10, and my ranks 11-20 with grades only.

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

It has been a year since Dave Gettleman shocked the world with his Daniel Jones selection at #6 overall. The vast majority of the public chastised the pick for multiple reasons but here we are a year later and a case can be made that NYG has their guy for the next decade-plus. He started 12 games and scored 26 touchdowns on an offense that was broken because of what was going on up front. The issue, and it is a glaring one, are the turnovers. He fumbled the ball 18 times and threw 12 interceptions. We have seen it with young quarterbacks in the past; a good player who makes plays but the turnovers end up putting them back on the bench. Jones has so many of the tools and intangibles to be a winner, but that won’t matter if he can’t protect the ball.

Behind him, NYG signed veteran Colt McCoy and they still employ Alex Tanney. The one catch? Both are free agents in 2021. The long-term stability behind Jones isn’t there. As good as Jones looked at times in his rookie year, the objective fact is NYG is heading into the year with an unproven starter and two backups who won’t be under contract once this season is over.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 10 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Joe Burrow / LSU / 6’4 – 221

Grade: 87

Summary: Fifth year senior from Athens, Ohio. A two-year starter who took off in 2019, winning the Heisman Trophy and National Championship. A transfer from Ohio State, Burrow’s ascent began at the end of the 2018 season against UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. Fast forward to this past year and Burrow set the college football world on fire with elite performance after elite performance after elite performance. He set an NCAA record with 60 touchdowns and led the country with 5,671 yards. His tools as a thrower are just above average, there are several prospects with a stronger arm. However this goes to reinforce the fact that arm strength is such a small part of evaluating QB play. Burrow has unmatched pocket presence and downfield accuracy. He is exceptionally smart in the film room and on the field. He is a better athlete than anyone thinks. He is a franchise quarterback all the way who should end up in the Pro Bowl at some point early in his career if the supporting cast is there.

  1. Tua Tagovailoa / Alabama / 6’0 – 217

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry from Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Two-year starter who initially burst onto the scene when he replaced Jalen Hurts in the second half of the 2017 National Championship, where he led the Tide to a come from behind win. In 2018 he confirmed his ceiling, winning the Maxwell Award while earning 2nd Team All American honors. 2019 didn’t quite go as planned, however. Tagovailoa suffered an ankle injury and then a severe hip injury that caused some to ponder if he would ever play again. If the injuries are kept out of the equation that generates his grade, Tua would be approaching the elite 90-point mark. He has lethal accuracy, he is a true competitor who handles pressure situations well, and he knows how to read defenses. The medicals are huge though and he doesn’t show a feel for missing traffic in the pocket. A case can rightfully be made that these injuries are going to pop up in the NFL more and more and because of that, you see the debate at the top of the draft behind Burrow.

  1. Justin Herbert / Oregon / 6’6 – 236

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Eugene, Oregon. Four-year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors in 2018 and 2019. Also the winner of the Academic Heisman as a senior who scored a 39 on his wonderlic exam, an elite number. Herbert has every single tool. He is massive, he is fast, he has a quick release, and he is really strong. Herbert also has everything you want between the ears when it comes to intelligence, maturity, and leadership qualities. On paper, he may be the ideal quarterback for today’s NFL. The concern here is he never quite put together a consistent level of performance as a passer. His accuracy is a roller coaster and he seemed gun-shy at times. There is still a ways to go here but I think NFL coaches see exactly what they want to work with here.

  1. James Morgan / Florida International / 6’4 – 229

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Began his career at Bowling Green where he started for a year-plus. He traded the job back and forth and then opted to leave for Florida International where he was named Honorable Mention All Conference USA in both 2018 and 2019. He has a really snappy throwing motion that can put more than enough zip on the ball. He gets the ball downfield really well. But the most attractive trait to his game is what goes on between the ears. Morgan is a coach’s favorite who knows the game inside and out. He studies hard, applies it to the practice field, and makes those around him better. He may never develop into a top tier starter, but he will be in the league for a decade-plus.

  1. Jordan Love / Utah State / 6’4 – 224

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Bakersfield, California. Three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Mountain West honors in 2019, 2nd Team in 2018. After an eye opening season in 2018, Love took a step backwards as a redshirt junior. He threw 17 interceptions, most in the nation. Even though his 2018 tape looks first round worthy, a question can rightfully be asked whether or not he sees the field well enough. He was tricked into several turnovers after coaches had a full season to scout him on tape. He was playing with a lesser deck of cards at Utah State, but then again he wasn’t matched up against elite defenses either (besides a game against LSU). There are some issues he needs to answer in meetings with coaches but there is no denying the arm talent. The question is, can it overcome some mental shortcomings?

  1. Jalen Hurts / Alabama / 6’1 – 222

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas. Spent three years at Alabama, the first two of which he started and led Alabama to the National Championship. Tua Tagovailoa took over the job at the very end of 2017 and Hurts played a backup role for the entire 2018 season. He then transferred to Oklahoma in 2019, earning 3rd Team All American Honors and 1st Team All Big 12 honors. Hurts is a plus athlete with a strong arm and the composure to keep his heartbeat down in the highest pressure situations. Coaches and teammates alike love him. The issue with Hurts is centers around a lack of true feel in the pocket and inconsistent accuracy. He made a lot of easy throws in college and missed a lot of high difficulty ones. His best role is likely as a number two guy who can come in and spark an offense if an injury occurs, but his upside as a pure starter is risky.

  1. Jake Fromm / Georgia / 6’2 – 219

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Warner Robbins, Georgia. Three-year starter who took over the job in 2017 as a result of an injury to Jacob Eason. Fromm starred, winning the SEC Freshman of the Year Award and never gave up the job afterward. Justin Fields, the Ohio State quarterback who is likely going to be a top 10 pick in 2021, transferred from Georgia because he couldn’t beat Fromm out. Fromm won a ton of games and was a two-year team captain. While his tools won’t impress, he knows how to gain a coach’s trust. He plays within himself, he makes smart decisions, and he knows when to alter his aggression. The issue is a lack of true upside and he just doesn’t seem to have the physical potential to take over a game when necessary. He is likely heading toward backup duty but also likely to get a shot at some point.

  1. Anthony Gordon / Washington State / 6’2 – 205

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Pacifica, California. After being drafted out of high school to play baseball, Gordon opted for junior college football. He then transferred to Washington State and sat behind Gardner Minshew in 2018. After patiently waiting, he finally got the opportunity in 2019 and earned 2nd Team All Pac 12 honors finishing among the country’s leaders in several passing categories. Gordon has a slick and quick release with an accurate arm. This baseball-style passing, especially underneath, is becoming more and more popular these days and Gordon excels at it. An offense that favors a short and quick passing attack may have a much higher grade on Gordon, but one must admit the ceiling with him is an unknown. He started one year and his tools are average.

  1. Jacob Eason / Washington / 6’6 – 231

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Lake Stevens, Washington. After a three year career at Georgia (one as a starter, one on the injury list, one as a backup) Eason transferred back to his hometown and started 13 games for the Huskies. The tall and strong, plus athlete has an absolute cannon for an arm. When he winds up and chucks it downfield, it simply flies out of his hands different than others. There is no shortage of arm talent from a strength perspective, but he hasn’t shown enough consistency when it comes to balls that need touch. Eason has a competitive spirit but there are concerns around his role as a leader. There is a high ceiling to work with here, but he has a ton of work to do and will have to show consistency as a worker.

  1. Jake Luton / Oregon State / 6’6 – 224

Grade: 69

Summary: Fifth year senior from Marysville, Washington. Began his career at Idaho but transferred to junior college where he became a sought after recruit. Luton chose Oregon State but suffered a severe spine injury in 2017, playing in just 4 games. He returned to start 4 more games in 2018. In his final opportunity, Luton showed what many have been talking about for a few years now. He earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors as he threw 28 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. Luton is a big and tough leader who can make all the throws. He looks a little heavy in the pocket and doesn’t always show the knack for locating pressure but there is still some rawness to him that some teams may actually find attractive as a developmental prospect.

  1. Steven Montez / Colorado: 69
  2. Kevin Davidson / Princeton: 68
  3. Shea Patterson / Michigan: 67
  4. Cole McDonald / Hawaii: 67
  5. Nate Stanley / Iowa: 67
  6. Case Cookus / Northern Arizona: 67
  7. Brian Lewerke / Michigan State: 66
  8. Nathan Rourke / Ohio: 66
  9. Tyler Huntley / Utah: 66
  10. Kelly Bryant / Missouri: 65

NYG APPROACH

Whether you think Daniel Jones is the guy or not, one has to admit that even thinking about a QB early in the draft isn’t going to happen. This regime selected him, he flashed a lot of positive traits as a rookie, and assets need to be placed elsewhere for this team to reach the level where they used to be. The backups are locked in for the 2019 season but as I stated earlier, there is a blank slate there for 2021. One way to approach this is find a kid who you can stash on the practice squad for 2020. This needs to be a late round pick or an undrafted free agent who you know other teams aren’t going to come in and scoop up halfway through the year. Obviously the odds of hitting successfully from that point are slim to none, but it is always worth trying to add a guy to the position group every year. Two names I like, both as a mental capacity piece and someone with tools that can be developed over the years are Devin Davidson from Princeton a Nick Tiano from Chattanooga. At best, they are future backups who take up very little cap space.

Apr 192020
 
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J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State Buckeyes (February 26, 2020)

J.K. Dobbins – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITIONAL OVERVIEW

This is one of maybe 2 or 3 spots on the roster where a fresh pair of legs won’t be needed. Saquon Barkley is one of the most versatile backs in the league and still has three years left on his rookie contract, although negotiations for the long term deal will likely begin prior to that. The big play back is averaging just under 5 yards per carry despite running behind a porous offensive line in addition to averaging 5 receptions per game. The high ankle sprain he suffered in week 3 forced him out of the next 3 games but he ended the season really strong. The team has lacked a difference making backup to offset Barkley in his two years, as Wayne Gallman just hasn’t done anything to stand out. He has averaged 4 yards per carry in his 3 seasons but the main issue has been fumbles. He’s put the ball on the ground 6 times on just 250 carries (1 every 42 touches). For comparison, Barkley has fumbled 1 time on 621 touches. Let’s take a look at a couple other backup running backs from 2017 for reference. Kareem Hunt has fumbled once every 306 touches. Brian Hill has fumbled once on 122 touches. Jamaal Williams hasn’t fumbled yet on 472 touches.

The signing of Dion Lewis takes some pressure off NYG needing to add another running back. Even though he is coming off the two worst seasons of his career and he will turn 30 in September, it will be beneficial to have someone established back there. For comparison to Gallman, he has only fumbled once every 118 touches. He is also a plus-blocker and can catch the ball. The one thing NYG doesn’t have behind Barkley and perhaps give him a break from physical contact is a short yardage presence. Barkley is so effective in space, he is so effective in the passing game. I’ve always thought it would be nice to have a north/south physical runner who can take the ball on 3rd and 1 and near the goal line. If there is a situation where I don’t see Barkley as elite, that is it.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. JK Dobbins / Ohio State / 5’10 – 209

Grade: 81

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from La Grange, Texas. Dobbins led the Buckeyes in rushing all three years on campus including 2,000 yard, 2nd Team All American season in 2019. Dobbins has been a hit on campus from the start and left Ohio State as their second all time leading rusher after just three years of service. He has the ideal body type and running style of a every down back in the NFL with a diverse skill set and team-mentality. Dobbins will put forth top tier effort into every role he is asked to partake in whether it is touting the rock, catching passes, or blocking for his quarterback. Dobbins may not have ideal wiggle and vision, but in a scheme that gets him vertical, he can be a top tier back.

*As a freshman, Dobbins looked like the next big thing. As a sophomore, he took a slight step back as he fought nagging injuries and senior Mike Weber split carries with him. Then as a junior, I still don’t think people are giving him enough credit for what he did. 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. 174 yards on 18 carries (9.7 yards per) against Clemson in the playoff game. Dobbins may not have the top tier speed and size some are looking for, but this kid plays fast and he shoots out of a cannon. He has really good vision, he is pit bull with the ball in his hands. Some may look elsewhere because his hands aren’t natural as a receiver, but I want a gamer back there and he is exactly that.

  1. D’Andre Swift / Georgia / 5’8 – 212

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A two-year starter who has been a part of a committee approach since the start of his career. Swift played behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as a freshman, then took over the leading rusher role the rest of the way. He was 2nd Team All SEC in 2018, and 1st Team in 2019. Swift is an every down back who can contribute on every down, no matter the situation. His ability to make the first guy miss and make the spectacular catch will make the highlight reels, but Swift’s greatest value his how reliable he is down to down. He will make big plays, yes, but he will provide the value by picking up the tough yards inside and falling forward. The one red flag that must be addressed, however, stems from how he handles the ball. He let it loose way too often. Other than that, Swift is a near can’t-miss.

*Many have Swift as RB1, I won’t argue against it. He has the body that you want. Short and stocky, really thick and powerful legs. He is still very capable of pushing piles and picking up the tough inside yards. He is just a tad tight in my opinion. I don’t see elite, but I do see a solid starter. Underrated receiving ability too.

  1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire / LSU / 5’7 – 207

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A one year starter who was the Tigers second leading rusher in 2018 before putting together one of the best seasons at the position in LSU history. The 1st Team All SEC back, team MVP, and Paul Hornung finalist led the SEC in touchdowns with 16 and was second in the conference in rushing. Edwards-Helaire is a versatile threat who carries his ability to make defenders miss into both the running and passing games respectively. He really turned it on when the lights shined brightest, showing his hunger and ability to create something out of nothing routinely. His lack of height is actually a weapon and don’t mistake him for an undersized back because of it. He is a rock on contact with thick legs and bruiser mentality. He is an ideal compliment to a backfield that already has a back who can contribute 10-15 carries per game.

*This is the kind of back who I love to have as a compliment, but do not mistake that for a backup. If I want to split touches in the backfield and I already have a bruiser or a big play space threat, Edwards-Helaire is the guy I want behind him. He is effective in so many situations. I have a feeling we are going to see Tampa Bay take him in round 2 and he is going to be the next Tom Brady back who catches 75+ passes and ends up scoring a ton of points. This kid is a gamer and a near-sure thing to at least be a solid player.

  1. Antonio Gibson / Memphis / 6’0 – 228

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Stockbridge, Georgia. One year starter a Memphis after a two year stint at East Central Community College in Mississippi. Gibson earned 2nd Team All American Athletic Conference honors as a wide receiver and also the conference Co-Special Teams Player of the Year Award. This is as interesting a player as there is in the entire draft class. He barely touched the ball in comparison to other draft prospects over the past two years, but you will have a hard time finding a guy who scored 14 touchdowns on 77 career offensive touches, 33 of which were carries. Gibson was finally put into the backfield halfway through 2019 as a hybrid WR/RB, and he excelled. He simply sat behind two future NFL picks (Tony Pollard and Darrel Henderson) and shared other duties with current prospect Patrick Taylor Jr. Gibson is a top tier athlete who looked like one of the best running backs during Senior Bowl week and one has to assume he is very early on the progressive scale. Give this kid some time, carve out a few package-plays for him in the meantime, and you have one of the top value picks in the draft.

*Gibson may be the highest-ceiling prospect in this group. The hybrid RB/WR is being viewed as a RB by every team that I know of, so even though he was primarily a WR at Memphis, that is why he is in the RB preview. I actually thought he was the top RB at the Senior Bowl all week, by a wide margin. Gibson has really good size, he plays physical, and he has legit runaway speed. He is also coming into the league with more tread on the tires. I think someone is going to take a gamble on him much earlier than people think.

  1. Anthony McFarland / Maryland / 5’8 – 208

Grade: 77

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Hyattsville, Maryland. A two-year starter who shared backfield duties both seasons. McFarland was wanted by Alabama but a broken leg his senior year of high school caused them to back off. McFarland settled on Maryland and after a redshirt year in 2017, he set a school record for rushing yards by a freshman with 1,034 yards including a stunning 298 against Ohio State. He finished 2nd Team All Big 10 that season. 2019 didn’t go as planned, as Maryland really struggled to get any sort of rhythm going on that side of the ball and McFarland couldn’t be used as he should. He isn’t an every down back, but McFarland can be one of the most dangerous threats in the league if used correctly. He has elite burst and agility with the ball in his hands and will run away from pursuers in space. There is more strength and balance to his game than people think and considering he touched the ball just under 275 times, he comes in with fresh wheels. Potential draft-altering pick for a team.

*I am having a hard time pegging where McFarland will go in the draft, but that aside I think he is a day 2 player who can immediately add big play presence to an offense. If a team has a grinder in the backfield but they don’t have big play potential, McFarland has to be in their crosshairs. He shoots out of a cannon and can run away from defenders like very few can.

  1. Jonathon Taylor / Wisconsin / 5’10 – 226

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Salem, New Jersey. A three-year starter with one of the most prolific running back careers in NCAA history. Two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award and was a finalist in the year he didn’t win. Two time unanimous 1st Team All American and 2nd Team All American in the other year. The number 6-all time leading rusher in NCAA history who rushed for over 1,900 yards all three seasons, the only player to ever do that. Taylor can open eyes with his production and straight-line athleticism. There simply aren’t many humans that can move like he does at 220 pounds with running back-ability. The two red flags, however, are enough to knock his grade down a bit. He has had major fumble issues (18) over his career that never quite got fixed, and his lateral adjustments show up against the more athletic defenses he faced. Questions revolving around his ability to even reach the open field to use that sprinter’s speed that earned him two state titles on the track in high school are legitimate. Taylor brings plenty of upside but a lot needs to be corrected and a team needs to know he isn’t a do-it-all player.

*I am lower on Taylor than the entire market, I know. And this is a grade that has the potential to come back and bite me where it hurts, I know. But I don’t like spending high picks on guys with major turnover problems and I don’t think Taylor plays to his timed athleticism. He is a tough kid and he works hard, I also think he is a better receiver than people think too. But I don’t see special in him, I see a day 2 pick who is closer to day 3 than day 1.

  1. Cam Akers / Florida State / 5’10 – 217

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Clinton, Mississippi. Three year starter who arrived at Florida State as one of the most sought after recruits in the country. Akers was a high school quarterback who was dominant on the ground but also produced through the air. Akers broke Dalvin Cook’s FSU freshman rushing record and ended his career as the 6th all time leading rusher in program history. He was 3rd Team All ACC in 2017, 2nd Team in 2019. Akers has every down capability in his running style. He sees the field exceptionally well, takes what the defense gives him, and gains plenty of yards after contact. He improved as a receiver all three years and plays with the team-first attitude that can inspire hope for his blocking potential, which was up and down at Florida State. Akers, however, has a ball security issue that absolutely must be fixed before he can be trusted in the NFL. He puts the ball in the wrong hand at an alarming rate and he fumbled once every 65 touches in college. The offense was broken at FSU over the last two years, so there is some unknown here if he gets put into a quality scheme with good blocking. He has all the traits but it won’t see the light of day if he doesn’t fix the ball security issues.

*The Florida State faithful will continue to tell anyone who listens that Akers had one of the worst situations to deal with in college football and that somebody is going to get the steal of the draft here. I take that with a grain of salt but I do know a longtime Southeast scout who told me he thinks Akers is going to be a better pro than Dalvin Cook. I do see the flashes on tape and yes, his line + passing game at FSU made life difficult for him. But once again, I hate it when guys can’t hold onto the ball in college. I am keeping him here.

  1. Zack Moss / Utah / 5’9 – 223

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Hialeah Gardens, Florida. Three-year starter who re-wrote the running back record book at Utah. A 2019 All American and Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year Award winner. Also finished 2nd Team All Pac 12 in his injury shortened 2018 season. Cousin to former NFL receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss. A back who could have declared for the 2019 draft, Moss opted to return for his senior year and prove a meniscus injury was behind him, and that he did. The every down back is a force with the ball in his hands who, especially with downhill momentum, will pick up the tough yards by running through contact. He is more than a simple inside runner, however. He is very elusive and slippery in the open field and always seems to have his balance. He looks like a pass catcher as well, giving him an every down feel. He has suffered injuries to his knee, shoulder, and foot respectively, however. At the very least he can be a 1B option for a team that wants a dual attack out of the backfield, but has the potential to be the guy.

*If it weren’t for the multiple injuries, Moss could have been in the top 5 of this group. I think many still do, actually. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken early round 3 for a team that needs a between the tackles bruiser. He shouldn’t be the focal point of a backfield, but he can be an important piece.

  1. DeeJay Dallas / Miami / 5’10 – 217

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Brunswick, Georgia. One year starter who was a part of the running back rotation all three seasons. A dislocated elbow ended his junior campaign three games early. Dallas is one of the most physical backs in the class and it shows up within multiple phases. With the ball in his hands, he can take on big contact and stone the defender, maintaining his center of gravity, and continue to move north. As a pass blocker, he is often the aggressor who will stand the blitzer up and finish him off. Dallas has a lot of value to a team that wants a backup right away to handle third down duties without giving up too much in the running game. He has starter traits to develop but at the very least will be a solid backup.

*I’m not sure where Dallas is going to go in the draft, I don’t have a pulse on his situation. If he ends up being one of the backs who slips into mid to late day 3, he is someone who I think fits really well in NYG’s running back room. He is a really physical downhill runner who can pick up positive yards when just a couple are needed. He is the best blocker in the class in my opinion. And he showed the ability to make circus catches, he really is a complete player. Not sure why he doesn’t get more publicity. Also have good reports on him as a worker, team player, and coachable kid.

  1. Darius Anderson / TCU / 5’11 – 208

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Richmond, Texas. A key contributor all four years who started games for three seasons. A two-time Honorable Mention All Big 12 performer. Anderson has been a consistently productive back in the high-powered TCU offense since his freshman season. He has led the Horned Frogs in yards per carry every year and displayed a new talent as a receiver as a senior. Anderson is a threat with the ball in his hands because of his burst and acceleration, but also some sneaky power and balance. He contorts his body through traffic well to break tackles and gain yards after contact and proved he had enough breakaway speed to rattle off the big play when it is there. Anderson won’t be an every down back and needs to shore up ball security and blocking, but he can produce in the league.

*Anderson is a plus athlete who runs really hard and maintains excellent balance after contact. There is a really good combination of skills in his game that could end up making him a big play threat. Day three guy all the way but every year we see a few of them make a difference. Anderson will be one of those guys if he gets his number called.

11. JaMycal Hasty / Baylor / 5’8 – 205

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Longview, Texas. A four-year contributor who finished top three in the team’s carries all four years. Honorable Mention All Big 12 back in 2019, Hasty lacks the ideal triangle numbers but it is easy to see this kid runs bigger than his size. He is a violent, mighty-mouse type runner who consistently breaks through contact and will create afterward. He is an underrated pass catcher who, once he has a head of steam, will not be a welcomed sight for defensive backs in space. He has bad intentions when he plants his foot in the ground and moves north. While Hasty won’t create a ton on his own and his pass blocking needs work, he is the kind of back who outperforms several backs drafted ahead of him.

*I am a little biased toward Hasty, I will admit that. I was one of the first ones on him dating back to the fall of 2018. There is something about him that I like, similar to what I saw in Alex Collins out of Arkansas in the 2016 class. He was a 5th rounder who out-produced several backs in front of him but injuries and drug suspension derailed his career. Hasty has a similar pit bull running style and plays a lot faster than he times. He shoots out of a cannon and will run through guys. His lack of true size and inconsistent third down contributions could make him fall into late day three. I would keep a close eye on him.

  1. Ke’Shawn Vaughn / Vanderbilt / 5’10 – 214

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Nashville, Tennessee. One-year starter at Illinois, two year starter at Vanderbilt. Vaughn spent his first two seasons at Illinois before transferring. In 2018 he led the SEC in yards per carry and rushed for the second most yards in a season in school history. His production didn’t quite match that level in 2019, as he was nicked up throughout the year and he played behind a porous offensive line. Vaughn runs with attitude, sometimes may be a bit too much. But more often than not his emotion is an asset to his game, as he fights through arm tackles and gains plenty of yards after contact. He will be NFL ready right away as part of a committee, but he will need to bulk up if he wants to be an every down back.

*Vaughn was my top senior running back in my preseason stack. Sometimes that ends up landing you in the day 2 tier but things didn’t click in 2019 the way I was hoping. He simply doesn’t have the standout traits to his game besides high effort. He is a feisty guy and I think he can help a backfield, but you can get this kind of guy any year. Also comes into the NFL with some wear and tear.

  1. Joshua Kelley / UCLA / 5’11 – 212

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Lancaster, California. Spent two years at UC Davis before transferring to UCLA, sitting out 2017. A two year starter for the Bruins who was Honorable Mention all Pac 12 in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. Kelley has the look of an ideal third down back at the next level. He has wide receiver-caliber ball skills and routes, but also showed the ability to run the ball inside and out in addition to plus-pass blocking effort. He has a smoothness to his game that does not come around often. His overall upside may be limited, as he doesn’t break tackles and there are vision issues, but there is a lot he can do for an offense right away.

*Kelley has a real chance at being a late day 2 pick because of how well he runs routes and catches the ball. He isn’t a soft kid by any means, either. Teams that want to add a receiving threat to their offense will like him a lot.

  1. Lamical Perine / Florida / 5’11 – 216

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Mobile, Alabama. Two year starter but has been a steady contributor to the Gators backfield since he stepped on the field. He led the team in rushing three straight seasons and was the second leading rusher as a freshman. Perine won’t jump off the screen in any way but the consistency and 3-down capabilities here are attractive. He is the kind of player who will compete hard and help the team in a variety of ways. He isn’t a feature back, but instead a nice option to have on the depth chart who can provide depth across every role a running back group hosts.

*Some teams don’t want specialty backs. They don’t want a receiver, they don’t want a short yardage bruiser, they don’t want a blazing speed threat. They just want a stack of guys who can get all the jobs done. Jack of all trades, master of none. That is Perine. He won’t stand out anywhere, but he is a natural, tough runner with good vision. In the right situation, he is someone who can step right in and get the job done but don’t expect anything more than average play.

  1. Eno Benjamin / Arizona State / 5’9 – 207

Grade: 71

Summary: Junior entry. Two-year starter from Wylie, Texas. A two-time All Pac 12 running back and 2018 All American. Benjamin is an exciting talent with the ball in his hands who will consistently create on his own. He isn’t the ideal back for a cut and dry system, but instead someone a team will want on the field on third down to catch the ball in space and see what he can do. He doesn’t have the body to take an every down pounding and fumbles are an issue. Benjamin is a guy to put within a backfield group, but not at the top of it.

*There are some impressive highlight tapes of Benjamin and because of that, I think the public has a higher outlook on him than most. He can be a nice change up to an offense that needs a spark though, yes. He is slippery and hungry in the open field. He is destined for a backup or complimentary role, but just don’t expect too much from him.

  1. AJ Dillon / Boston College: 70
  2. Darrynton Evans / Appalachian State: 70
  3. Patrick Taylor / Memphis: 70
  4. Benny Lemay / Charlotte: 70
  5. Jason Huntley / New Mexico State: 69
  6. James Robinson / Illinois State: 69
  7. Salvon Ahmed / Washington: 69
  8. Raymond Calais / Louisiana Lafayette: 69
  9. Sewo Olinolua / TCU: 68
  10. Javon Leake / Maryland: 68

NYG APPROACH

The long-term depth at running back is essentially non-existent. Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman are both free agents after the 2020 season and nobody would be surprised to see not one, but both of them playing elsewhere in 2021. While that isn’t a reason to panic, you also don’t want to go into the 2021 draft in absolute need of a backup. It may be worth trying to find a late round talent who can be developed for a year at the back end of the depth chart, learn the offensive scheme and blocking responsibilities, and put him right behind Barkley in 2021. While I don’t think this is a must for NYG, I do think it would be wise. I tend to lean toward a back who is big and physical, both as a ball carrier and blocker.

Apr 172020
 
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CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma Sooners (December 7, 2019)

CeeDee Lamb – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 25, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 26-45 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

Thankfully Darius Slayton burst on the scene over the course of the second half of the season. If it weren’t for him, there would be reason to consider this position group one of the top 3 weaknesses on the roster. It’s not that they lack able players at the position, as Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate are both solid options. The issue is they lack the one guy who is going to strike fear into the opposition. Nobody is losing sleep over defending Shepard, a quick and shifty slot who has averaged 4 touchdowns per year and just over 11 yards per catch. Nobody is undergoing extra game planning for Golden Tate, a soon-to-be 32 year old who averages 12 yards per catch over his career and caught 57% of his targets in 2019, the second worst of his career. Slayton, as impressive as he looks, is still considered unproven and a bit of an unknown. The drop off behind those three is significant. Corey Coleman, Da’Mari Scott, Cody Core, Reggie White, David Sills V, and Amba Etta-Tawo are all roster hopeful-caliber players and maybe you get lucky with on one or two of them, but the heavy odds are that won’t happen.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 25 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. CeeDee Lamb / Oklahoma / 6’2 – 198

Grade: 86

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from Richmond, Texas. A three time All Big 12 honoree, 2019 Consensus All American and Biletnikoff Award finalist. Lamb left Oklahoma near the top of the school’s all-time receiving lists. He is a big play threat, as seen with his 24 catches of 40+ yards (a school record), who creates with more than simple downfield speed. Despite being slightly undersized, Lamb is a weapon after the catch who will break tackles, see the field well, and run away in space. He is an electric playmaker with a fierce competitive mindset that will carry over well to the next level. He can play outside and in the slot depending on the situational and scheme. Lamb is a sure bet to be a productive player in the NFL.

*Lamb has been my WR1 since August. As you will see, there are a few guys who are close but I never really viewed this as much of a debate. Lamb is talented, but not uber talented. He makes his money with something I wish all receivers had, the dog mentality. This dude is a gamer, he is tough, and he makes things happen with the ball in his hands. There is no “Diva” here, he never plays soft, and he needs to win. There is some DeAndre Hopkins in him when looking at his body type and ability to win in traffic despite not having elite size or strength. He is a year 1 starter and will be one of the top 10 receivers in the game within a couple years if he can pick up on the mental side of things. He didn’t test well there.

  1. Henry Ruggs III / Alabama / 5’11 – 188

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Montgomery, Alabama. Former five star recruit. The speedy deep threat on a team full of fast deep threats stood out over his final two years as he displayed a level of burst and acceleration that the opposition could not handle. When he gets a clean release, there aren’t many who can even think about staying close to him on the vertical routes. There is some lack of variety to his game but don’t make the mistake of labeling him a deep-threat only kind of player. He is a competitor who will work hard at his craft. If and when he develops his underneath route running and ball skills, Ruggs could be an incredibly dangerous weapon in any NFL offense.

*I want to say this about Ruggs. He was the only one I considered putting on the same level as Lamb grade wise. The only reason why he is down here is something most aren’t talking about but I can almost guarantee some teams are worried about it. He has had multiple soft tissue injuries over his career. Calf and hip mainly. He also got nicked up with separate hand, rib, and concussion issues. While he didn’t miss a lot of action, I get worried about this track-type body types who run at his elite-level rate. However his speed is elite and rare, and he isn’t a soft guy at all. He plays hard.

  1. Jerry Jeudy / Alabama / 6’1 – 193

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Deerfield Beach, Florida. A former five star recruit. Winner of the 2018 Biletnikoff Award and two time 1st Team All SEC and All American. Jeudy already has many of the refined skill sets of a pro receiver. He runs sharp, precise routes with cat-like quickness and agility. When it comes to short spaces, he can be a blur to defenders trying to jab him and/or stick to his hip pocket. He has produced at a high level against the toughest competition in college football despite some long speed and size concerns. Jeudy is a football player, not a workout-winner. He will simply get open, make things happen after the catch, and be a team player. Everyone can work with a kid like this and even though his overall ceiling may no be through the roof, he is as safe a pick as any in this class.

*Jeudy was widely considered the top WR in the class at the start of the year. I never put him in that elite tier or anywhere close to it, but there is no denying how ready he is for NFL offense right now. When it comes to playing receiver at a high level, you need to be really good at getting open, catching the ball, and making things happen after the catch. If you miss out on one of them, make sure you are elite at the other two. Jeudy is an elite route runner and he has elite stop and go ability with the ball. The one red flag I’ve noticed are the hands downfield. He body catches a bit too much for me to consider him elite and he missed a few deep balls in 2019. No, his hands are not a major issue but I can’t say they are on par with his other traits. Still a starter week 1 and a very good compliment to a passing game, just not sure he can be a team’s top guy week to week.

  1. Tee Higgins / Clemson / 6’4 – 216

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry. Two-year starter from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Two time All –ACC, including a 1st Team honor in 2019. Higgins was a top shelf high school recruit who left the school tied with former Tigers’ DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins as the all time leader in touchdown receptions (27). He is the only player in program history to record 10+ touchdown catches in consecutive years. Higgins lacks some of the burst and quickness that a receiver needs to get open along all levels of the route tree, but the elite ball skills and ability to snag the ball from any and every angle with a sense of ease will make up a dangerous threat in the league. He plays fast enough and there are other traits in his game that make him a future number one receiver for a team that likes to throw the ball downfield.

*I’ve been on Higgins all year. Plain and simple I love how this kid attacks the ball with aggression but at the same time makes it look smooth and easy. He is such a natural receiver who will always have the advantage in one on one situations. There is also some sneaky-good route running traits he has when it comes to planting his foot and getting in/out of breaks. The Giants may have a shot at him in round 2 and while plenty of discussion can rightfully be placed elsewhere on the roster, this team needs to score points. If they want a receiver to offset what they have in the current WR group, Higgins would be a nice get.

  1. Justin Jefferson / LSU / 6’1 – 202

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry from St. Rose, Louisiana. A two year starter who earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2019. The number one pass catcher for LSU each of the past two years who’s 18 touchdowns in 2019 were second in the nation only to teammate Ja’Marr Chase. Jefferson played primarily out of the slot in 2019 and because of his crisp route running and smooth ball skills, it will likely be his ideal spot in the NFL. He has great twitch and transition for a player with his length and he will create unique opportunities in that role at the next level. While his long speed and playing strength can be questioned, he proved his ability to impact a game but short and deep and will be a NFL-ready receiver right away.

*Jefferson was one of the surprises of the combine for me. I thought he would run in the 4.55+ area but he ended with a 4.42. He is such a smooth and easy athlete who he actually appears to be playing slower than he is. That is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen often. Jefferson will be pro ready right away and while I think he best projects to the slot, he could play outside as well. He tracks the deep ball as well as anyone. Also a top-tier kid who everyone knows will come in and work his butt off.

  1. Chase Claypool / Notre Dame / 6’4 – 238

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Abbotsford, British Columbia. Three year starter. From little known high school recruit in Canada, to Notre Dame’s leader in special team tackles in 2016, all the way to Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2019, Claypool has shown the kind of progression and hard work that will impress every coach in the league. Combine that with a set of tools that no other receiver in the class can match, and a credible argument can be made for him being one of the top players in the draft at receiver. Claypool may be projected to a hybrid receiver/tight end role in the NFL but no matter what, he has the potential to be a dominant force. The ball skills and physical brand will make him a weapon who can be used on both offense and special teams right away and he has number one pass catcher potential.

*I have had Claypool in the first round discussion since mid-October, way before he went to the combine and tore it up. The way he moves plus his size had me thinking Evan Engram back during the season. Now there is talk some teams view him as a tight end, which I don’t entirely agree with but it just strengthens the Engram comparison. Claypool moves like a guy who weights 215 and I’m not only talking about long speed. He gets in and out of breaks really well, he adjusts to the ball really well, and he is a true competitor. I would take this kind of gamble any day.

  1. Denzel Mims / Baylor / 6’3 – 207

Grade: 81

Summary: Senior entry from Daingerfield, Texas. Three year starter who earned All Big 12 honors in both 2017 and 2019. The former high school basketball and track star had a bit of a back and forth career at Baylor because of the quality around him, but his 2019 cemented him as one of the top receivers in the class. Mims has a classic wide receiver build with wiry strong length and a defender’s mentality. He is incredibly physical and tough but also shows a blend of finesse and pure speed that can make him a threat within all areas of the route tree. There are some elements to his game that need to be fixed, most notably his release and route running, but the tools are there. His issues are fixable and if he fine tunes the skill set, he can be a number one receiver in the league.

*You want a receiver who is going to actually make a difference as a blocker? Here you go. Mims is physical and strong with an aggressive, borderline reckless approach on the field. He really evolved as a pass catcher in 2019 and the tools are near top shelf. He is long and fast with good ball tracking and he really competes for the ball and after the catch. He almost seems like the perfect prospect who should be graded higher, but he still has some rawness to his game. He didn’t run a lot of routes and he can still get sloppy as a route runner. I think he ends up being a really solid player but may just need extra time compared to others up here.

  1. Brandon Aiyuk / Arizona State / 6’0 – 205

Grade: 81

Summary: Senior entry. Two year starter from Reno, Nevada. Spent two seasons at Sierra Junior College. After being the number two guy behind N’Keal Harry in 2018, Aiyuk took over as a senior, finishing second in the conference in receiving. The 1st Team All Pac 12 standout brings a rare level of hand size and arm length, making him play bigger than the listed size. Aiyuk’s greatest trait, however, is the ability to burst and get himself open via movement. He has enough speed to make a corner bail on his technique and enough quickness to plant his foot and dart away from them underneath. In the right scheme and role, he is a year-one contributor. He still needs to clean up some release issues and continue to learn the game at a higher level, but he can be a dynamic weapon at the next level.

*Aiyuk just recently underwent a core muscle surgery and while it doesn’t appear that serious, I wonder if these medical red flags will bump him down because of the situation we are under. He is a legit first round talent who still has a way to go on the progression scale. If he reaches his upside, he has some Odell Beckham in his arsenal. Like Mims, he is a bit raw still and there are credible questions. Some have him in their top 20 overall though.

  1. Van Jefferson / Florida / 6’2 – 200

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Brentwood, Tennessee. Began his career at Ole Miss where he started and finished second on the team in catches among a group of pass catchers that included Evan Engram, AJ Brown, and DK Metcalf. Jefferson transferred to Florida after graduating in just three years, giving him two more seasons of eligibility. He started both years and led the Gators in receiving both times. Jefferson’s father is a former NFL wide receiver and also the current Jets receiver coach. It is obvious he is coming into the league with a deep understanding of the game on multiple levels. He runs impeccable routes, catches everything he gets his hands on, and will make things happen with the ball in his hands. He may not have the top tier physical traits when it comes to size and speed, but he is almost a sure-bet to be a productive player at the next level. The only question is overall upside.

*This kid is being overlooked by the public, but I am confident he is going to be a 2nd or early 3rd rounder. I think he lacks some of the elite tools and highlights that many are looking for, but this kid has gotten the job done multiple times across multiple offenses. He stood out on teams with other pro-receivers. His father is a wide receiver coach and you can tell he knows what he is doing when running routes and attacking the ball. His learning curve will not be as steep as some others which again, I think will be valued more this year than others.

  1. Michael Pittman Jr./ USC / 6’4 – 223

Grade: 80

Summary: Senior entry. Three year starter from Woodland Hills, California. Son of former NFL running back Michael Pittman. Pittman made the 1st Team All Pac 12 as a special teams player in 2017 and Honorable Mention as a receiver in 2018 and 1st Team in 2019. He has been a versatile, multi faceted contributor since the start of his career. That all ties together how much this kid knows the game and can adjust to whatever role he is thrown into. For a receiver who doesn’t possess top tier athletic traits, Pittman can still get the job done because of superior route running, ball skills, and toughness. While he won’t be a number one threat, he is the kind of player who will be in the league a long time and will remain consistent and steady.

*Another kid with NFL lineage here and it shows when I watched his tape. Pittman knows exactly what to do when the ball is in the air when it comes to body positioning and timing. He can high point the ball exceptionally well and he rarely lets one hit the turf if it is within his reach. He doesn’t have the juice to be a big time threat athletically, but he is going to be dependable for a long time. I bet he has a 10+ year career and scores a lot of touchdowns.

  1. Bryan Edwards / South Carolina / 6’3 – 212

Grade: 80

Summary: Senior entry from Conway, South Carolina. Four-year starter who re-wrote the school record book. Caught a pass in all 48 games he played in. A two time winner of the school’s Steve Spurrier Award, given to the teams top offensive player. A permanent team captain. Edwards is the kind of player every coach wants to welcome in with open arms based on his intangibles alone. He is a complete, balanced player who brings toughness, competitiveness, and production to the table. Athletically he won’t scare anyone, but he gets the most out of himself and will be a guy who sticks around in the league for a long time.

*There isn’t enough talk about Edwards but I can understand why, there are simply so many good receivers in this class. Edwards may be this year’s version of Darius Slayton, a guy I have graded in the second round who could be available early day three. His speed is sneaky, he runs good routes, and he will catch everything within his radius. Edwards has good size, something NYG needs at the position. I can see these two pairing up.

  1. KJ Hamler / Penn State / 5’9 – 178

Grade: 79

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Pontiac, Michigan. A two year starter who exploded onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2018, a year that saw him break Saquon Barkley’s school all purpose yards record for freshmen while ending up Honorable Mention All Big 10 as a receiver and kick returner respectively. He was also a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile player. Hamler didn’t quite produce the same way in 2019 but there is no denying how electric he is with the ball in his hands. The 2nd Team All Big 10 receiver can line up in the slot and outside because of his ability to get vertical on one play and open underneath the next. He is as agile and quick as he is fast. The lack of size will hurt him and there needs to be an improvement as a pass catcher, but Hamler’s is the kind of player who a defense will need to adjust to. He is a playmaker who can make things happen at any given moment in a variety of ways.

*High risk, high reward player who won’t be a fit for every team. Some offenses don’t want anything to do with someone who stands just under 5’9 and weights under 180 pounds. He is electric, though. For an offense with a creative mind running the show, packages and plays can be created for what this kid can do on the field. He also showed some impressive route running which doesn’t get enough attention from the public, he can really get himself open.

  1. Jalen Reagor / TCU / 5’11 / 206

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Waxahachie, Texas. Two year starter but was a key contributor all three seasons. Named 2017 Big 12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year and earned 2nd Team All Big 12 honors in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Son of former NFL defensive tackle Monte Reagor. Jalen is a gadget player at this point who can line up all over the field including the backfield. He is the kind of player who no opposing defensive coach wants to see with the ball in his hands because of his legit ability to score every time he touches it. Reagor is coming into the league with a raw feel, however. He is sloppy as a route runner who doesn’t maximize his physical gifts. He doesn’t catch the ball consistently. And his effort can be questioned on some plays where is isn’t directly involved. His upside is exciting and he will be an occasional playmaker at the very least, but he has a lot of work to do.

*Reagor is a tough guy to scout for a few reasons. TCU put him all over the offense and they were really inconsistent week to week when it came to getting him the ball, especially in 2019. Another thing, he suffered from really poor QB play as a junior. Third, Reagor lacks staying power. What I mean by that is he looks to be an all or nothing type asset. There are some weeks where he looks like what Percy Harvin was supposed to be, other weeks where he looks like what Percy Harvin actually was. His hands are shaky at best, his routes don’t match his movement skills, and he doesn’t play big. He has first round burst and big play potential, but there is so much more to it than that.

  1. Laviska Shenault / Colorado / 6’1 – 227

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from DeSoto, Texas. Two-year starter who was 1st Team All Pac 12 in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. The do-it-all weapon for Colorado lined up all over the offense and produced from multiple spots. At his size, he can certainly pose as a backfield threat in certain packages. Getting him the ball via the handoff and/or screen game will put pressure on the defense because of his ability to break tackles and gain yards after contact. As an outside receiver, Shenault will have a hard time getting open. He is very raw as a route runner and his speed won’t put anyone on their heels. He is a physical gimmick player with some additional upside if he can refine his skill set quite a bit.

*Shenault underwent core muscle surgery and was a little banged up throughout the 2019 season. That factored into his grade a bit, but nothing drastic. I like him as an oversized gimmick player who looks comfortable and natural in multiple roles. I think there are some effort issues though and this is kid who has a lot of work to do from a skill set perspective.

  1. James Proche / SMU / 5’11 – 201

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Dallas, Texas. Four year starter who re-wrote the program’s all time receiver record book, leaving atop the career catches, yards, and touchdowns lists respectively. Two time All AAC honoree. Proche is the gamer of all gamers who will always find a way to make an impact. He lined up both outside and in the slot in addition to being the team’s primary punt returner. No receiver in the country caught as many balls as Proche over the past two years. His question will be long speed and that may determine if he will be full time slot or not at the next level. If so, he will need to clean up the consistency of his route running but he shows the tools to do so. According to SMU coaches, he has the best pair of hands they have ever been around and that’s the way it shows on tape. Proche won countless contested situations despite lacking a size advantage. The skill set is dangerous and if he finds the right situation in the NFL, he will be among league leaders in catches.

*When I made my master list last June/July/August, I tried to watch a little bit of tape on each prospect (over 1,000 players) even if it was just a few minutes. I like to get a very-initial view on guys. When I watched Proche, I immediately said this kid catches the ball different than everyone else. Fast forward to now, I’ve read the SMU coaches say he has the best hands they’ve ever seen and Daniel Jeremiah recently stated he has the best ball skills in the draft. Proche didn’t run well and he isn’t big, so there is a chance he falls into late day three. If I need a slot, I am all over him though. Maybe not a fit for NYG but if he gets to the right situation, he is the guy who catches 100 balls per year.

  1. Donovan People-Jones / Michigan / 6’2 – 212

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Detroit, Michigan. Three-year starter who earned 3rd Team All Big 10 honors in 2018 as both a receiver and punt returner. The former 5-star recruit who was also an accomplished high school sprinter with a near-4.0 grade point average never quite lived up to the hype after a promising Freshman All American season in 2017. The inconsistent quarterback play combined with a lingering lower body injury that hampered him in the first half of 2019 left a lot of unknowns for him. However his athletic ability combined with top shelf length and hand size in addition to a woefully impressive combine leaves him on the positive side of that wonder. This is a receiver with number one receiver potential who needs to clean up some of his route running, but already has other traits that will help a team right away.

*One of the most overlooked talents in the draft. People-Jones has the goods but he struggled to fully put it together at Michigan. There was a lot of poor and inconsistent QB play that hurt him specifically. This is a really smart kid with plus juice and explosion. He’s made some catches in traffic that were really high-difficulty but he made them look simple and easy. He already shows some plus route running and quick decision making when reacting to the defense. Most years he is a top 10 talent at the position.

  1. Lynn Bowden / Kentucky / 5’11 – 204

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Youngstown, Ohio. Two year starter who stole the show as an all purpose performer in 2019, winning the Paul Hornung Award and earning 1st Team All American honors. The two time 1st Team All SEC honoree made the move to quarterback for the final 8 games of 2019 which led to him leading the Wildcats in both rushing and receiving. The versatility grade Bowden brings to the table will give the more creative offensive play-callers wide eyes. This kid is a gamer who knows the game exceptionally well and has the feel and movement ability to support it. He projects as a slot receiver who will need to clean up his route running but in the mean time, he can be a specific package player who will put a defense on their heels when he steps on the field.

*In this copycat league, you may see some teams view Bowden as the next Taysom Hill. A wide receiver who can actually line up at quarterback and pose as a threat in multiple ways. If you are grading him strictly as a receiver, he may be a tad lower but not much. He is really smooth and easy with the ball in his hands but he plays to a 4.45 speed. He made a lot of SEC defenders look silly. If you can create a specific role for him, he can make things happen. Not sure if NYG has it in the cards to get creative like that, but if they want to think outside the box I bet he is there in round 4.

  1. Antonio Gandy-Golden / Liberty / 6’4 – 223

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Dallas, Georgia. Three year starter who was 1st Team All Big South in 2017 before Liberty bumped up to FBS, going independent. The team’s leading receiver three straight seasons has a lot of dominant tape to look back on over his career. He has the size, strength, and leaping ability to take over a 50/50 situation and come down with the ball, making him a credible red zone threat right away. He has some sloppiness and lethargic movement as a route runner, but the steady improvement he showed over the last four seasons should give reason for optimism in regard to overcoming some athletic shortcomings.

*Maybe the most physical receiver in the group, Gandy-Golden will be a credible red zone threat right away. He has plus body control and coordination to help maximize his tools. He won’t be an every down threat when it comes to deep speed or underneath separation, but his size and competitiveness will overshadow some movement shortcomings. A good fit for what NYG needs but I could see him falling a bit because of a lack of speed.

  1. Kalija Lipscomb / Vanderbilt / 6’0 – 207

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from New Orleans, Louisiana. Two year starter who was the team’s leading receiver in 2019 and 2018 respectively. If it weren’t for such poor quarterback play, Lipscomb’s production could have been much more attractive. He did the most he could from a bad offensive situation and could a top value for an offense looking for a slot option. He moves exceptionally fast off the line and will get open underneath consistently. He also shows toughness and grit in traffic with elusiveness after the catch. A lack of long speed will limit his impact on the outside, but if he can stay in a traditional slot role, he can be effective early on.

*I like how competitive Lipscomb plays week in, week out. A really feisty player who gets the most out of himself and rarely lets one hit the turf. His tools are average to below average, but he had a petty productive career in the SEC despite playing with poor QBs. He caught my eye at the Senior Bowl as a slot prospect but he may not be ideal for an outside role.

  1. Devin Duveray / Texas / 5’11 – 200

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Sachse, Texas. Two-year starter who was involved in the offense all four seasons. Has some kick return experience. Finished number one in the nation among FBS receivers in catches with 103 (regular season) en route to a 1st Team All Big 12 honor. Duvernay was state champion sprinter in high school who broke out as a senior. His ability to take the top off a defense while also tracking the ball well and finishing plays with the ball is an attractive asset that every offense is looking for. What is unique about him is the running back build and mentality. He can make things happen after the catch with a blend of toughness and speed that a creative offensive mind can sometimes only dream about. His feel for the game as a route runner and somewhat below average agility may limit his impact underneath and intermediate, but there are traits here that can certainly make an impact.

*In this overly crowded receiver class, it is very possible some teams have Duvernay in the top 15. He has top shelf speed, he had a really productive year, and he is effective after the catch. Someone is going to take a chance on him day 2 I think. I just don’t love the tightness he shows as a route runner and he doesn’t get to a lot of balls away from his body, which is already playing with a small radius. He is a big play threat though, no denying it.

  1. KJ Hill / Ohio State / 6’0 – 196

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior. Technically just a one year starter but has been heavily involved in the Buckeyes passing attack all four seasons. Honorable Mention All Big 10 in both 2019 and 2018. Set the all time receptions record at Ohio State toward the tail end of his career. Hill was also a punt returner in his time in Columbus. He projects as a slot receiver at the next level because of his sharp route running ability, quickness out of his breaks, and lack of true size and speed that would be reserved for the outside. Hill’s production may have been somewhat of a result of right place, right time type factors, but he still deserves a shot at taking on a slot role in the NFL. He will need to get more physical in a crowd and increase his production after the catch if he is going to stick.

*Hill projects to the slot at the next level. He plays smaller than he is listed. With that said, to set the all time catch record at a program like Ohio State is noteworthy. Combine that with how coordinated he looks when it comes to route running and ball skills and he looks like a safe day three pick who you know will give you something but lacks the big time upside.

  1. Isaiah Hodgins / Oregon State / 6’4 – 210

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Oakley, California. A three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. The son of former Rams Super Bowl winning fullback James Hodgins. Isaiah was Oregon State’s number one receiver two straight seasons. He doesn’t jump off the screen as an athlete, but his superb and advanced route running, plus-ball skills, and tough mentality make him an ideal fit for the possession receiver spot. He is a sure thing to bring the ball in if he can get his hands on it. Separation against tight man coverage will be tough, but there will be a spot for him somewhere. Players with this kind of production, size, and NFL lineage are safe bets.

*The question here will be speed and burst. He isn’t a guy who will get open easily but if a scheme that creates separation for receivers can get their hands on him, he has plus-talent pretty much everywhere else. He can make the difficult catches look easy and he does the little things right. Really good size too, someone I bet NYG is looking at day 3.

  1. Isaiah Coulter / Rhode Island / 6’2 – 198

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Brandywine, Rhode Island. A two-year starter who earned 2nd Team All Colonial Athletic Association honors in 2019. The cousin to fellow receiver prospect Aaron Parker, also from Rhode Island. Coulter was a surprise early entry who could have been a day two prospect next year. Currently, he displays a high ceiling that stems from his plus-straight line athleticism and potential as a route runner. He has really good footwork and hands, but struggles to play strong and lacks explosive traits downfield. The potential is there, he is simply rough around the edges and needs time. He could be an eventual number three or four.

*There is quietly a good amount of interest on this kid around the league. Teams see a lot of untapped upside and while I still think the early declaration was a quick trigger by him, I think someone is going to take a chance on him earlier than we think. He made a lot of flash plays, plays that a lot of receivers down in this area can’t make. You want a 2-3 year project with huge upside, here he is.

  1. Quintez Cephus / Wisconsin / 6’1 – 202

Grade: 73

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Macon, Georgia. Three-year starter. Honorable Mention all Big 10 in 2019 after missing all of 2018 while he was undergoing a rape trial. He was found not guilty and soon after re-admitted to the program. Cephus, a top end high school basketball player who also had several Division I offers, broke out in his true-senior season while leading the Badgers in catches, yards, and touchdowns. In a predominantly rushing offense, it Cephus stood out and flashed top-end ability on the outside. Wisconsin isn’t exactly known for producing NFL talent at receiver, but this kid moves different and has a lot of tools to work with. If the off-field screening passes tests, he is just as talented as many others at the position in this class with attainable upside.

*Good story here if you have the time to read up on it. Cephus, on the field, showed big play ability in 2019 and one can rightfully wonder what he could have been in a more passing-focused scheme. He had a poor workout at the combine though and it is going to further push him down. I’m not sure the off field story is going to impact his grade with teams but the more “red notes” someone has, the less likely teams will gamble especially in this kind of WR class. Cephus brings a high ceiling to the table and while I do think he plays faster than his listed 4.73 forty, questions can be asked regarding his potential to be a downfield threat.

  1. JaMarcus Bradley / Louisiana-Lafaytte / 6’0 – 198

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Ackerman, Mississippi. Three-year starter who was named 2nd Team All Sun Belt in both 2019 and 2018, Honorable Mention in 2017. Left the program as the 4th all time leading receiver in school history and 2nd all time in receiving touchdowns. Bradley isn’t going to jump off the sheet when it comes tools and physical upside. He is pedestrian across the board. However where he does stand out is the ability to catch the ball and run routes underneath. The former high school quarterback who was a record setter as a runner and passer has a knack for finding creases and coming away from traffic with the ball. His huge hands and long arms are assets that can at least somewhat make up for his lack of long speed and playing strength. He has a good chance at being one of the best values of draft weekend.

*I left Shrine week with one kid in mind when it came to who stood out the most and who improved their stock via consistency. It was Bradley. He wasn’t invited to the combine, which I wasn’t happy about, as it makes it less and less likely he will be drafted with that being the case. I am keeping my grade on him here, however. Bradley has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen and he is a pro-caliber route runner. He doesn’t have ideal size and speed, but he can make up for it. I don’t see a day three pick who will end up being a number one receiver, but I do see a guy who is going to contribute if he gets his shot.

  1. Quartney Davis / Texas A&M: 72
  2. Quez Watkins / Southern Mississippi: 72
  3. Tyler Johnson / Minnesota: 72
  4. Collin Johnson / Texas: 71
  5. John Hightower / Boise State: 71
  6. Juwan Johnson / Oregon: 71
  7. Aaron Fuller / Washington: 71
  8. Mason Kinsey / Berry: 71
  9. Joe Reed / Virginia: 71
  10. Jauan Jennings / Tennessee: 70
  11. Maurice Ffrench / Pittsburgh: 70
  12. Kendrick Rogers / Texas A&M: 70
  13. Freddie Swain / Florida: 69
  14. Omar Bayless / Arkansas State: 69
  15. Austin Mack / Ohio State: 69
  16. Gabriel Davis / Central Florida: 69
  17. Juwan Green / Albany: 69
  18. Darnell Mooney / Tulane: 68
  19. Nick Westbrook / Indiana: 68
  20. Isaiah Wright / Temple: 68

NYG APPROACH

The three-year average for amount of wide receivers drafted is 31. I have 50 draftable grades in this group alone. I think the growing trend among scouting circles I’m in is that the wide receiver classes are going to continue to strengthen year by year. In the WR preview at this time last year, I said the 2019 class was the deepest I have scouted. This group is better. And as of right now, early indications are the 2021 group is going to be just as strong if not even better. I talk about this because I think NYG can and should take one of these guys, but they shouldn’t be rushed into anything. I think the odds are in their favor that a really good value will be there in round 5.

Do I think a good value will be there at the top of round 2? Sure. But if you want to gamble on the economics game (supply/demand), I think your better value will be present day three (similar to what NYG got in Slayton in 2019) while filling in the other empty boxes on the NYG roster earlier on. The Giants passing game has room for improvement and I think they need a bigger, more physical threat for red zone situations specifically. They have guys who can make things happen after the catch, they have a speed threat, but they don’t have the big guy. Now with that said, I don’t want a sizeable receiver who can’t move. He needs to have good hands and I still think this team needs more true speed and you want the new kid to be competitive. So if you’re looking early, I see Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins, and Chase Claypool being realistic options. If you’re looking middle rounds, someone like Bryan Edwards, Donovan People-Jones, Isaiah Coulter could be the guy. If you want to wait for the late rounds, I’m sure a few surprises will fall but you may get a John Hightower, Kendrick Rogers, or Quartney Davis back there.

Apr 142020
 
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Cole Kmet, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (October 12, 2019)

Cole Kmet – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

If there is one position on offense that I think NYG can look past, it is tight end. With that said, there are long term question marks here. Evan Engram, when he’s on the field, has been a productive and dangerous asset to the offense. With his 4.44 speed on his 240 pound frame, he presents matchup problems for the defense and offers a weapon no other receiver on the current NYG roster can. The glaring issue, however, revolves around his durability. He missed 5 games in 2018 and 8 games in 2019 while battling through injuries in several others. Engram had surgery on his foot this past December, now making knee / hamstring / foot issues on a guy who is overly reliant on burst and quickness.

Because Engram really can’t hang in the trenches as a blocker, NYG signed Levine Toilolo from SF in free agency. He is known for his blocking and even deeper than that, known for being able to help rookie offensive tackles. Something to consider there. Kaden Smith was signed off the SF practice squad last season and provided really solid, albeit limited play. And lastly, CJ Conrad (who impressed throughout 2019) will be competing for a job with journeymen veterans Eric Tomlinson and Garrett Dickerson.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Cole Kmet / Notre Dame / 6’6 – 262

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Lake Barrington, Illinois. A one year starter who was the team’s number two receiver despite missing the first two games with a broken collar bone. Kmet is one of the more NFL-ready tight ends in the class. His size, strength at the point of attack, and soft hands will make him an every down player. He won’t be able to get open against NFL safeties and cover linebackers, but his length and ability to box out defenders like a power forward can make him at last pose as an underneath and red zone threat. His upside is limited, but will come in with a high floor and ability to play right away.

*In a weak tight end class, Kmet stands out as the most NFL-ready and capable. The potential issue is, however, some teams aren’t valuing the Y-tight end as much as they used to. The “Y” is what most of us grew up on, the guy with his hand in the dirt most snaps. With the amount of offenses that are using their tight end in motion and split out wide, a guy like Kmet could see a draft day fall whereas 10 years ago I think he is a first round lock. He is a safe player, one who will get the job done but not one who is going to make a huge, notable difference.

  1. Harrison Bryant / Florida Atlantic / 6’5 – 243

Grade: 79

Summary: Senior entry from Gray, Georgia. Three year starter who made the move from offensive tackle to tight end as a senior in high school. Went onto earn 2nd Team All Conference USA in 2017 and 1st Team in both 2018 and 2019. Was also an All American and the Winner of the John Mackey Award as a senior. Bryant was the only tight end in the country to finish with over 1,000 yards receiving. The volume of the Florida Atlantic passing game helped a bit, but his production was no fluke. He has a lot of tools that translate well to the next level. He is tougher than nails, has an outstanding lower body when it comes to quickness and agility, and will look to take a defenders head off when he can. This overly physical pass catcher may have some size and strength limitations, but he has the tools to really make a difference in the passing game right away.

*Bryant is an interesting player. He was on my short list of guys to watch early in 2019 and I didn’t like him against Ohio State. I kept on seeing his numbers throughout the year increase and I gave him another look midseason, didn’t like him against Western Kentucky. However as the postseason scouting process when deeper and deeper, I got my hands on my tape and he impressed me. Coming from a low place in regard to my view of him, Bryant really shined. He is tough and feisty. He is really quick and subtle. He is a top notch second level blocker. I think a team can use him the way SF and BAL uses their tight ends, meaning a lot of motion and favorable matchups. He can’t be an in-line tight end every down, but I do think he can make an impact if used correctly.

  1. Jacob Breeland / Oregon / 6’5 – 252

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior entry. Three year starter from Mission Viejo, California. Breeland was well on his way toward a top tier season not only for his career, but among the 2019 Pac 12 tight ends. However a torn ACL suffered in October ended his season early and he is currently rehabbing with the hope to be ready for training camp. Breeland has the size and strength to play in line, but also proved he can be a factor in space in Oregon’s wide open attack. He can be viewed as a but of an unknown but a look at his tape over the past two years will create the solid notion he is a starting caliber pro tight end. He does everything a team would want from the position. He is tough, hard nosed, and will catch everything within his reach.

*I am taking a bit of a chance here on Breeland. First, he is coming off a torn ACL and is questionable to be ready for training camp. Second, he wasn’t a feature guy in the Oregon offense. However with the way they run the ball, he got so much experience as an inline blocker and it was a role he impressed. However he is not just a blocking tight end, he can be a credible threat to the passing game as well. I like his style and I think he ends up being a better pro than he was a college player.

  1. Hunter Bryant / Washington / 6’2 – 248

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from Issaquah, Washington. Bryant’s career got off to a hot start in 2017 but he suffered a knee injury that he re-aggravated months later, forcing him into surgery that kept him out of all but 5 games in 2018. Bryant was still fighting through lingering issues from that injury in early 2019 but he played every game (other than the decision to sit out his bowl game) and earned 1st Team All Pac 12 honors, falling just short of re-writing the program’s all time tight end record book. Bryant is a plus athlete, route runner, and ball catcher who lacks ideal size and strength. He has the look of a tweener but this role is becoming more and more popular in the NFL. If his knee checks out and stays healthy, Bryant can be a chess piece-receiving option for a team looking to create mismatches.

*Bryant is going to need to pass a few medicals to be drafted day two, but this grade is assuming he will. He is a cheap version of Evan Engram. Not the same caliber athlete but he plays a similar style. He gets open on all three levels of the route tree, he can make the spectacular play, and he can be a mismatch for both linebackers and defensive backs. High risk, high reward guy.

  1. Adam Trautman / Dayton / 6’5 – 255

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Williamsburg, Michigan. Four year starter who made the transition from quarterback to tight end in 2016. From there he was named All PFL three straight years and was a FCS All American in 2019 in addition to being named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year. Trautman is one of the top small school prospects in the draft and rightfully so. His potential impact on the passing game stems from his ability to create mismatches and capitalize on the ball being in the same zip code as him. He has soft hands and a basketball player’s type ability to coordinate himself with balance and precision in traffic. There is a lot of weight room in his future, where he will need to be given a key and sleeping bag because his power presence in the NFL trenches won’t be existent in year one. He has the frame, however, to improve there and be a quality starter.

*If you are scouting Trautman’s upside as a receiver, it is very likely you could end up with a 2nd round grade on him. He has size, decent speed, and excellent ball skills. He was really impressive down on Mobile at Senior Bowl week. When I really broke him down, though, I saw a guy who is a year or two away from consistent impact. Maybe a team can use him specific packages early on, but he won’t handle the physical side of the game early. Add in the fact he will be getting a late start to the strength program because of what is going on, 3rd round is the best I can give him.

  1. Devin Asiasi / UCLA / 6’3 – 257

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Shoreville, California. One year starter who began his career at Michigan in 2016 and was forced to sit out all of 2017 because of the transfer. Asiasi didn’t really pop onto the radar until 2019, where he earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors. He finished second on the Bruins in receiving and averaged a hefty 14.6 yards per catch. Asiasi is a really gifted athlete who moves with easy fluidity as a route runner all over the route tree. He can get onto the defense in a hurry and when the ball is near him in traffic, he almost always comes away with it. He doesn’t look ready for NFL blocking duties just yet, but he shows the necessary effort that coaches can work with and will impact the passing game in the mean time. The risk here revolves around a lack of experience, giving him a bit of a boom or bust label.

*This kid has as high a ceiling as any TE in the class. If he went back to school and put up a big year, we would likely be talking about a top 40 pick in 2021. Asiasi will have some questions to answer in regard to some work ethic concerns, but I’ve been told it is nothing serious. He can really get in and out of his breaks, he has excellent ball skills, he tries hard as a blocker. I think we are going to hear about this kid in a few years if he stays clean.

  1. Jared Pinkney / Vanderbilt / 6’4 – 257

Grade: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior from Norcross, Georgia. Four year starter who peaked in 2018, earning 2nd Team All SEC honors. Pinkney spent the majority of his snaps lined up in the slot. He is not a traditional Y-tight end, as he struggles to maintain quality contact as a blocker in the trenches. However when it comes to making an impact as a receiver, he can beat man coverage against linebackers and defensive backs alike. He is the kind of tight end who can be moved around the formation pre-snap and make things happen in space. He is a reliable pass catcher in traffic on all levels of the route tree and could be one of those guys who becomes a much better pro than what he was in college because of the talent deficit he was dealing with being a part of the Vandy offense in the SEC.

*Pinkney may go higher than where I have him, I would even say it is likely. He was given a 1st round projection by the NFS before the 2019 season. I watched him plenty and just don’t see the upside but he may be able to get on the field right away as a slot tight end. Like I have spoken about a few times, teams that want to move the TE around a bit will like him. Reliable route runner and hands, just a limited guy. Doesn’t stand out to me and I don’t see a ton of upside.

  1. Colby Parkinson / Stanford – 6’7 – 252

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Simi Valley, California. Two year starter who earned 2nd Team All Pac 12 honors in 2019. Parkinson comes from a pro-style offense that utilized the tight end in multiple ways. They have produced several solid pros from the position and Parkinson should be next in line. His main contributions will come in the passing game, as the power forward has shown the knack for boxing defenders out and attacking the ball with a wide radius. While his power presence in the trenches won’t ever make a big difference, he can hold his own. He can be a part of a solid 1-2 package at the position right away.

*It sounds like Parkinson is heading toward a day 2 selection. I have him slightly below that but I can see why some teams see the matchup nightmares he can present for a defense. He is an athletic, fluid, agile receiver who stands over 6’7 tall. Those guys don’t come around often. His pad level is an issue in the trenches and beyond his size, I don’t see a special athlete. He will catch some touchdowns for you but I’m not sure I see a guy who will be on the field for even half the plays.

  1. Albert Okwuegbunam / Missouri / 6’6 – 258

Grade: 74

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Springfield, Illinois. A three-year starter who earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in both 2017 and 2019 while finishing as a Mackey Award finalist in his injury-shortened 2018. Okwuegbunam has the size and ball skills that are going to be a problem for defenders in the NFL, most notably in the secondary. His length and thickness alone are tough to handle, but he proved to be an efficient and savvy receiver of the ball, bringing in 23 touchdowns over 33 games. However he isn’t an every down threat right away, as his blocking and down-to-down contributions are a ways away. He never played a traditional tight end role and his effectiveness in the trenches needs a lot of work.

*Another one who has a good chance at being drafted higher than where I have him. Okwuegbunam is massive but shows soft hands and plus body control. He can be an asset to the passing game, for sure. However don’t be fooled by his size, he isn’t a physical guy and will get eaten alive in the trenches.

  1. Stephen Sullivan / LSU / 6’5 – 248

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Two year starter who has been a part of the consistent offensive rotation since 2017. The former top 10 wide receiver recruit evolved into an athletic, tools rich tight end prospect who is going to be a bit of a project in the NFL. He is gifted with what few others can match when it comes to size and speed, but he never quite put a lot of consistent production together at LSU. He has a ways to go as a blocker but the effort seems to be there and he flashed during Senior Bowl week as a matchup nightmare in the passing game.

*For a team that has a spot on the depth chart to develop at tight end, Sullivan on day three makes a ton of sense. Still relatively new to the tight end position, he has ridiculous size. 35+ inch arms and a 85+ inch wingspan is huge for a tackle. Then he jumps put of the building and runs a 4.66. Sullivan is a little too straight-line for me but he can get you excited when all things are considered. Just need to be patient.

  1. Brycen Hopkins / Purdue / 6’4 – 245

Grade: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Nashville, Tennessee. Two year starter who really blossomed in his final year on campus. Earned 1st Team All Big 10 and All American honors in addition to being named the conference’s Tight End of the Year in 2019 after being named Honorable Mention in 2018. Hopkins is a flex tight end who can be moved around pre-snap. He can pass the initial eyeball test when lining up in-line and in the backfield, but his ideal fit is split out where he can out-quick a linebacker and out-muscle a defensive back. He has production on all levels of the route tree but his hands aren’t consistent enough to be considered a big time threat in the passing game and he won’t ever be an impact-blocker. He has the look of a second or third tight end who can be effective in specific portions of the playbook.

*I see Hopkins as a guy who will get on the field early. He is really smart and does a lot of things right. I don’t think he ever gets past the backup/number 2 spot, but he can make things happen underneath. Solid 3rd down option for teams that may be thin at WR.

  1. Thaddeus Moss / LSU / 6’2 – 250

Grade: 71

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Charlotte, North Carolina. A one-year starter for LSU after playing one season at NC State. Missed all of 2018 while rehabbing a foot injury . Son of former NFL receiver Randy Moss. Moss was a key part of the elite passing attack LSU put on display en route to their National Championship. He really started to emerge over the course of the second half of the year where he put on plus-ball skills and grit on tape. While he lacks ideal experience and physical tools, there will be a place for him on a depth chart. He won’t ever be a feature tight end but there is reason to believe he can add something to a passing attack as an accessory piece.

*Moss had a really solid season in 2019, but I do think a decent portion of his production was the result of the offense he was in and defensive attention being elsewhere. At the end of the day he isn’t that big and he isn’t that fast. He does have lineage, which teams like, and he has a good feel to find the vacant holes in the coverage, something teams also like. I don’t see a starter, but instead a rotational asset to the short passing game.

  1. Dominick Wood-Anderson / Tennessee – 6’4 – 261

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from San Diego California. Two-year starter for Tennessee after spending two seasons in junior college. Wood-Anderson is an intriguing athlete when considering the tools he brings to the table in addition to the upside he shows as a blocker. When his head is in the game, he can be depended upon to man a defender up whether it is a defensive end or linebacker, and take him out of the play. There is some natural pop and explosion that comes from his hips paired with heavy hands. In addition, he flashed both at Tennessee and during Shrine week as a receiver who can overmatch linebackers with quickness and safeties with strength. He projects as a backup until he can prove he is maturing and will apply himself but if he does, there is a lot of potential in him.

*Wood-Anderson comes with a buyer-beware label. He is talented and tough, but there weren’t exactly glowing reports on him coming out of school. If not for the character issues, I would have likely had him 3-4 points higher into round 3/4 territory. He didn’t run well at the combine, though. I could see him going undrafted but if someone wants to take a chance, he may be worth it.

  1. Gio Ricci / Western Michigan – 6’3 – 234

Grade: 70

Summary: Fifth year senior from Loveland, Ohio. Three-year starter who made the transition from wide receiver to tight end in 2018. A 3rd team All MAC selection in 2018, 1st Team in 2019. Ricci is still developing his frame into pro tight end-caliber and he may never be ideal size. With that said, there is enough toughness and grit in his game to work with if a team can find a way to move him around pre-snap. He is a versatile athlete and quality pass catcher who can line up in the backfield, split out wide, or into a H-Back type spot. At the end of the day, he can be a weapon in the passing game for a creative mind.

*There are a handful of these undersized slot tight ends who I have a draftable grade on. The best route runner is Ricci, who was playing wide receiver less than 2 years ago. He gets out of his breaks exceptionally well and locates the ball with hands up and ready. He rarely lets one hit the turf if it is within his reach. Ricci is small though, and will struggle to impact the game as a blocker. However he can get open, a trait coaches are looking for.

  1. Dalton Keene / Virginia Tech / 6’4 – 253

Grade: 69

Summary: Junior entry from Littleton, Colorado. Three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All ACC honors in 2018. A former running back who primarily played tight end / H-back for the Hokies, Keene was used as a Swiss army knife gadget. He lined up all over the offense, saw a lot of pre-snap motion, and got the ball in his hands a variety of ways. The instability of the Virginia Tech offense over the past tree seasons may have hurt his production, but he showed enough to prove he can make a roster via versatility and athletic upside. Keene is quicker than he is fast, which plays to his position well. He isn’t strong enough to handle pro linebackers and linemen yet, but he should be a multiple-use player who can also help on special teams within a year.

*Keene was a bit of a surprise early entrant. I thought he had some potential to be a 2021 day two pick if he went back to school and got featured more. He simply never got to display his potential as a threat in the passing game enough but there are glimpses where you can see his ability to play a versatile role. He does a lot of little things well and should be around late day three.

  1. Charlie Taumoepeau / Portland State: 69
  2. Josiah Deguara / Cincinnati: 68
  3. Cheyenne O’Grady / Arkansas: 68
  4. Mitchell Wilcox / South Florida: 67
  5. Sean McKeon / Michigan: 66
  6. Ben Ellefson / North Dakota State: 64
  7. Charlie Woerner / Georgia: 64
  8. Jared Rice / Fresno State: 64
  9. Eli Wolf / Georgia: 63
  10. Parker Houston / San Diego State: 62

NYG APPROACH

I think this is the time to share some thoughts on Evan Engram. He is going to be on his rookie contract another two seasons (assuming NYG picks up the 5th year option in May). Ever since I first saw him at training camp in 2017, I’ve thought this kid could be the wildcard of the offense. His gifts are among the best in the position across the entire league. At 240 pounds he has proven to have wide receiver caliber speed and leaping ability. He is agile, explosive, and adjusts well. Now that he has played three years, we can probably make a highlight reel of plays he’s made and there would be every reason to hope this kid has a career in blue because plain and simple, he is a threat. However, I think it is time to consider a trade.

Engram doesn’t fit into a power offense. I think we can agree he won’t ever be an effective enough blocker in the trenches to really pave a dependable outside path for Barkley. So knowing that you need someone in-line to make a difference, that means NYG will need to split Engram out wide. Do you really want him on the field over a wide receiver in that regard? You also have to consider he has multiple lower body injuries on his record, he’s missed 13 games in 2 years in addition to being banged up in others, and he has struggled with drops.

If there were ever a time to trade Engram, it is before the 2020 season. His economic value will remain somewhat high because of his rookie contract and proven production. The issue will be his health, as teams may not be confident in trading a prime asset for a guy coming off a foot surgery. With that said, if a team is willing to offer a top 75 pick for him, I think it would be worth going for and then NYG could view this tight end group with more focus on the future and what NYG has to build around in Barkley and Jones. I don’t bang the table for trades often, but this is one I would strongly consider. Teams that I think would be interested based on scheme and need, BAL (#55 or #60), HOU (#57), GB (#62), CIN (#65), ARI (#72), IND (#75).

Apr 122020
 
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Tristan Wirfs, Iowa Hawkeyes (November 9, 2019)

Tristan Wirfs – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Tackles

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

Dave Gettleman got aggressive in 2018, signing Nate Solder from NE to a 4 year $62 million contract. It was a move that put former top 10 pick Ereck Flowers at right tackle. Fast forward two seasons and Flowers is now a guard on the Dolphins after playing the 2019 season with the Redskins and Nate Solder grades out as one of the bottom third left tackles in the game despite having the third highest contract in the league. One has to assume they will move forward in 2020 with Solder on the left side but his $20.5 Million cap hit next year leads me to the notion he will not be playing for NYG beyond this season.

Mike Remmers left for KC in free agency to be a backup, which leaves the right side up to the winner of Nick Gates and the newly signed Cameron Fleming. Fleming has started 6 games over the past 2 seasons for Dallas and in fact has never started more than 7 games in a single season in his career. Gates saw three starts in 2019 and played both inside and outside. He showed promise but remember, the bar has been set so low here in regard to the offensive line and Gates would be best suited for a 6th or 7th blocker role. Chad Slade and Eric Smith are training camp bodies who can compete for a roster spot respectively. All in, the lack of quality both short term and long term at this position is incredibly weak.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Tristan Wirfs / Iowa / 6’5 – 320

Grade: 86

Summary: Junior entry and three year starter from Mount Vernon, Iowa. After a record setting high school shot put and discuss career, Wirfs stepped in as a starting right and left tackle as a true freshman in 2017. He settled in on the right side as the Hawkeyes have another future NFL prospect manning the left side, Alaric Jackson. Wirfs is a physical freak in the weight room and keeping that in mind with his background as a thrower, it was a sight to see as his football skill set and performance started to catch up with his upside in 2019. The foot-quickness, hand-striking, and easy knee bend gives him the look of a franchise offensive tackle. There are multiple inconsistencies that remain, however. He overextends too often and the speed/power combination of NFL edge rushers can eat that up for breakfast if it isn’t fixed. The just-turned 21 year old has work in front of him to do but if he can correct the very correctable issues, he can be a star.

*Another really interesting pre-draft study here that I spent a ton of time on. Wirfs has shutdown ability. What I mean by that is no matter what kind of pass rusher he is up against, Wirfs has the physical ability to dominate. Against power he can anchor, re-anchor, and keep his hands locked inside. Against pure speed he can beat the defender to the meeting point without losing the width of his feet. Against quickness, he can adjust inside and out while keeping his hands in the right place and maintaining his knee bend. All of these skills and tools are there, but the snap to snap consistency isn’t there when it comes to balance and timing. That is the reason why he doesn’t approach the 90-point mark. With that said, we are talking about correctable issues here, not physical shortcomings. Wirfs is a dominant run blocker right now, he can project to both right and left tackle, and he is a week 1 starter on this team. Because of where the NYG situation resides and because I think we are looking at a Pro Bowl tackle, Wirfs gets my vote for who NYG should take at #4 unless Young somehow falls into their lap.

  1. Jedrick Wills / Alabama / 6’4 – 312

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry from Lexington, Kentucky. A two-year starter at right tackle who earned 1st Team All SEC and 2nd Team All American honors in 2019. Wills was the most physical blocker on the Crimson Tide offensive line but also turned heads with his quality, consistent performance as a pass blocker. It can be hard to locate a true dent in his armor outside of the fact he can get out-reached by longer defenders. His footwork and hands are as sure as it gets and he plays with an ever-present competitive streak that every team wants in the trenches. He has the look of a first-year starter who could move inside if the situation he is drafted into doesn’t initially demand a new face at tackle.

*Wills grew on me more and more as the scouting process got under way. Initially, he doesn’t have the traditional tackle body. He is a little light in the pants, he is a little short, and there isn’t a great reach-game. For those reasons I don’t see Gettleman considering him at #4, as he just doesn’t fit the profile. However, for me, I think Wills is probably the most polished and NFL ready tackle in the group. If these tackles all start in 2020, I bet Wills has the best rookie season. While he isn’t a road grader in the running game, he plays with some good fire and he can translate speed into power. He will be fine there. My question long term with him is stoutness against the ends who really bull rush under the blocker’s pads. All that in mind, I see a David Bakhtiari type tackle here, who is very good.

  1. Andrew Thomas / Georgia / 6’5 – 315

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry from Lithonia, Ga. A three year starter with experience at both tackle positions and a two-time 1st Team All SEC and All American. Thomas has the tools and more than enough quality tape over three years to sell himself as an elite left tackle prospect. The issue, however, is the amount of inconsistencies he shows in pass protection when it comes to technique. He doesn’t maximize those tools and has gotten used to playing catch-up football which will be much more difficult to do against NFL edge players. Thomas will be a plus-run blocker right away but whatever team ends up with him will need to be patient in his development as a pass blocker.

*When I look at who Dave Gettleman has drafted in the past at the offensive tackle position, Thomas looks like that guy. Big, thick, long-armed and really physical. He is a really fun player to watch when he’s pissed off. He moves guys into another zip code as a run blocker, he really gets after guys in space, and he finishes. The issues here are two-fold. His effort isn’t consistent and that is the number one red flag. In the intense moments, big games…etc Thomas gets after it. But too many times throughout the past two seasons I saw a guy who simply tried to get by on talent. The second issue, he looks like a train wreck in pass protection at times. He struggles to reach his point against speed and he shows his numbers to the ground too often. While his power and reach can partially make up for it, he simply needs to get better there or he will get eaten alive by the top end pass rushers. I’ll end with this: Thomas at his absolute best is better than Wirfs and Wills. But do you want to gamble on his work ethic and lack of athletic ability? More power to you if you do, but I only want him if it meant NYG traded down and the two guys above were off the board.

  1. Mekhi Becton / Louisville / 6’8 – 364

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry and three year starter from Highland Springs, Virginia. First team All ACC in 2019 as the team’s starting left tackle. Becton has played on both sides of the line and could project to either in the NFL. His game very much depends on the elite length and upper body explosion that can take over a one on one battle right away. Becton is rare physical force who gets movement at both the point of attack and in space the second he comes in contact with the defender. His issues are partially technique-based which, in theory, can be corrected but there are also movement issues. It can be hard for a player at his height to adjust with balance and precision and even his length can’t hide those issues in pass protection. His sometimes-inaccurate hands aren’t backed up by other physical attributes and techniques which gives him a rather large buyer-beware label. Boom or bust prospect who turns 21 just days prior to the draft.

*I don’t expect a guy this big to move like Tyron Smith from DAL, I get it. Yes, guys with this kind of length and width can get away with movement issues. Yes, I have been wrong a couple of times in recent years about mammoth tackles. All that in mind, I am placing a first round grade on Becton but I don’t think he is a top 10 pick for NYG, certainly not the guy I want at 4. Do I see NYG pursuing him? Sure. He is huge and explosive, he can be a dominant force in the running game, and he isn’t even 21 years old yet. There are a couple medical red flags that need to check out however. If a guy who weighs 360-380 pounds comes into the league with any injury red flag, I would be more worried than usual. Throw in some more red flags centering around his willingness to work and grind, I just don’t want to take the risk but I can see why some wouldn’t mind going for it. This is a rare specimen who has some quality tape.

  1. Ezra Cleveland / Boise State / 6’6 – 311

Grade: 79

Summary: Fourth year junior from Spanaway, Washington. A three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Mountain West honors in 2017, and 1st Team honors in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Cleveland has a wrestling background and it shows on tape. His body control and balance are noteworthy, as he never seems to lose his feet and you rarely find him lunging for a defender or wind up on the ground. His techniques with his hand and feet create the notion that his learning curve in the NFL won’t be as steep as some others. The question for him will center around length and lockout and whether or not that makes him move inside. He could likely be a quality backup at both spots and a starter once he adds more strength and power to his arsenal.

*A huge part of my offensive tackle evaluation is balance and body control. If I had to rank which tackle in this class had the best of both, it is Cleveland. I am not comparing him to Joe Thomas, but that is how he moves. Just smooth and easy, movement across the line never seems to disrupt his approach. The issue? He has short arms, lacks a true power game, and his body may not be ready in year one. I can’t use a first rounder on someone like that and I don’t think he is in play at #36. If NYG ends up with an early third or late second somehow, then we can talk.

  1. Josh Jones / Houston / 6’5 – 319

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior from Richmond, Texas. A four year starter who earned 2nd Team All AAC honors in 2019. Jones put together a really solid season and earned an invite to the Senior Bowl where he performed well all week against the stiffest competition he faced. His length and power game are small red flags but he has the foot speed and techniques that can hide them. He is a really smooth operator who knows and trusts himself. He doesn’t over-set like most tackles do, he doesn’t abandon techniques when he doesn’t win the initial battle like most tackles do, and he still has ton of attainable upside to go before he is a finished product. If he can improve his power game and continue to progress his skill set, he can be a longtime starter in the league. With that said, he should be thrown into the fire right away.

*I know a scout in the league who has Jones on the same tier as the top tackles in the draft. While I don’t think that is a common opinion, I’m sure he isn’t the only one. Jones is a really fluid and easy athlete on the outside who simply needs a key to the weight room. I do think he can handle snaps right away, but I would prefer to him to wait at least half a season if possible. Power guys are going to beat him up pretty good. If he does enhance how own power game, he is a definite starter.

  1. Isaiah Wilson / Georgia / 6’6 – 350

Grade: 78

Summary: Redshirt sophomore entry from Brooklyn, New York. Two year starter who missed 2 games in 2019 with an ankle injury. 2nd Team All SEC in 2019. Wilson is a tools-rich tackle who still has a lot to learn and put into practice. He needs to take in NFL coaching so that his footwork can become second nature. He has a lot of ugly tape in that department but when he does line things up, his combination of length and power can be dominant. He is a high-upside prospect who shouldn’t be rushed into action.

*For all the talk Becton gets about his size, I’m surprised Wilson isn’t more talked up. He actually has a wider frame and the 350 pound mark is where I think Becton will come down to. Wilson also has top-shelf length and hand power. He is sloppy though, there is no denying it. Wilson’s hands get really wide and he loses track of the width of his base at times. However when he’s on, there isn’t a huge gap between him and Thomas and I mean that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go in the top 40, but I would want to wait until the top of round 3 to take him. I bet he’s gone by that point.

  1. Lucas Niang / TCU / 6’6 – 315

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from New Canaan, Connecticut. Three year starter who missed the second half of 2019 with a hip labrum injury that needed surgery. Earned 2nd Team All Big 12 in 2018, the only season he started every game. Niang’s size looks excellent on paper but he has work to do on his body. As he continues to rehab from his surgery, Niang is going to need a sleeping bag in the weight room. He doesn’t play an aggressive game and will too often try to catch defenders rather than impose his will. There is a lot of natural talent to work with however, as he moves very well and produced based on athletic ability and size. If he can combine that with more consistent footwork and effort, he has starter-potential. He simply needs to apply himself in the weight room for a year and clean other areas up.

*This is an interesting prospect. I had a hard time getting information on his hip injury and how much it impacted his play early in 2019. He didn’t look like the same guy as I saw in 2018. I had some really positive notes from his 2018 tape but it just didn’t match up. There is a chance somebody is going to get a starting caliber right tackle here at the end of round 3 or early round 4. You also have to account for the recovery from the hip injury, however. A lot of things to consider in his evaluation but if NYG doesn’t address tackle with their first three picks and he is there at the start of round 4, it would be tough to pass on.

  1. Austin Jackson / USC / 6’5 – 322

Grade: 75

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Phoenix, Arizona. Grandson of Melvin, a five-year NFL lineman. First team All Pac 12 in 2019. Jackson has the tools and initial movement off the snap with an aggressive playing style and hustle that will get coaches excited about working with him. He can create solid torque and pop off the ball and he has enough athletic ability to play outside. However a deeper look into his game and there are several warts that absolutely need to be ironed out. He needs a lot of core strength and balance work before he can be asked to handle NFL pass rushers. His toughest opponents in college made him look silly at times, out of his league. This is an upside-based prospect who will need a couple years.

*Jackson is impressive initially. He has a good body and plays with good explosion off the snap. He can really get on top of a guy and gain the initial advantage. But when it comes to the secondary stuff, he was woefully inconsistent. I really didn’t like him against his toughest competition. Jackson has more reachable upside than a typical 4th/5th round grade, I will give him that. However the natural imbalance just sticks to my memory too hard.

  1. Matt Peart / Connecticut / 6’7 – 318

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior from Kingston, Jamaica. A four year starter who never missed a game. 1st Team All AAC honors as a senior. Peart is relatively new to the game, as he didn’t play football until he started high school. He is a physically gifted player who, when his feet are in the right place, showed dominant traits. He has incredibly strong hands with long arms and an athletic base, he simply just needs to hammer away at his lower body mechanics until they become more natural and consistent. If and when that happens, he is a starting caliber player.

*I did a quick recap of who Gettleman selected in his career as GM along the offensive line. One glaring tendency was his desire for length at tackle. Well, here you go. Peart has the longest arms in the class and the widest frame. Throw in the fact that he has a decently athletic lower body, and there is a chance he is going to hear his name called in round 2. NYG is going to like him, I’m sure of it. How much? Not sure. I personally see a guy who won’t be a factor in year one and he is going to need to really hammer away at lower body mechanics and power. I couldn’t get past the 4th/5th round tier but I can see why some are higher on him because of the ceiling.

  1. Trey Adams / Washington / 6’8 – 318

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Wenatchee, Washington. Four year starter who began his career on a high note. Adams was a 1st Team All Pac 12 and 2nd Team All American as a sophomore in 2016. However a back injury suffered in 2017 forced him to miss the second half of the year and the entire 2018 regular season. Adams was once viewed as a no-doubt first round pick but questions surrounding his back injury and inconsistent play since he’s come back has made the outlook cloudy. Adams is a plus-athlete with good size and aggression who plays smart and aware. He has enough athletic ability to play tackle in the pros, but the medical screening and how it relates to his potential to add strength and power will mean a lot for his final grade. He is going to need a year at least before he can be counted on as a starter.

*Adams was on his way toward being a sure-thing first round pick. But the back injury that kept him out so long is going to knock is grade down a bug chunk, maybe even make him undraftable to some. For me? If you are sitting there in round 5 or 6 and you need a young tackle to try and develop, I pull the trigger on him. He is a really feisty, nasty, aggressive blocker. It will be considered lucky to see him get completely over the injury but one has to take chances late in the draft at times. And to build a quality offensive line, you have to get lucky once or twice.

  1. Charlie Heck / North Carolina / 6’8 – 311

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Kansas City, Missouri. A three year starter who finished his career as a 2nd Team All ACC tackle. Heck has plenty of experience on both sides and shows the intelligence and natural ability to play on both sides in the NFL. The son of Kansas City Chiefs offensive line coach, Andy Heck, Charlie has the look of an eventual starter once he can enhance his staying power and core strength. He is outstanding off the ball but simply needs to clean up his hand placement and footwork that usually stems from his inconsistent pad level. Once he cleans that up, there is starter-potential and in the mean time, he is a solid swing tackle for a team needing to add depth.

*I almost went 3 or 4 points higher on Heck. I liked him a lot down the stretch and he was the best blocker at Shrine week. There is a plus-athlete here and you know he understands the ins and outs of the game as well as anybody. Heck’s height, like a couple others in this class, is a bit of an issue. He doesn’t have a powerful base and its just hard for him to play with consistent knee bend and pad level. That is a problem unless you have elite traits elsewhere, which he does not.

  1. Colton McKivitz / West Virginia / 6’6 – 306

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Jacobsburg, Ohio. A four year starter who has played both tackle positions. Two time Honorable Mention All Big 12 before being named 2nd Team in 2019. Was also named 3rd Team All American as a senior. McKivitz has average size and power that will need to be developed over the course of a year or two, but the former all state high school basketball player has light and quick feet with plus-balance. Combine that with a strong will to win the one on one battles that doesn’t have an off switch, a case can be made he is one of the top tackles who will be available day three. He won’t be ready right away, as he needs to improve his lower body power and hand strength, but if he can tidy those areas up he is proficient everywhere else. Swing tackle candidate.

*McKivitz is an intriguing athlete who simply didn’t lose much in college. He has plenty of work ahead to get his power presence up to par, but for a team that can stash him away for a year or two, there is a high ceiling.

  1. Yasir Durant / Missouri / 6’6 – 331

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Three year starter for Missouri who spent a season at Arizona Western Community College where he played guard and tackle. Durant took over the left tackle job four weeks into 2017 and never looked back. He is going to cause a second look based on his size alone, as he is as wide as he is long. This kind of blocker doesn’t need to be the most twitched up, fastest player on the field. He is a tough guy to get around because of how well he stays within himself, how far his blocking radius extends to, and hoe powerful his punch can be. He may not be a year one guy, as there are some lower body techniques that must be cleaned up, but Durant has a potential starter label on him at either tackle spot.

*Durant is really interesting. It is widely known that he is going to struggle athletically, he is just a really heavy mover and the bend doesn’t come natural to him. But you know what? There aren’t many tackles who had higher graded tape, he just didn’t lose much. I noticed how patient he works at Shrine week. He just sits and waits, lets the defender make his move, and then calmly and powerfully reacts. I think there is something to this kid.

  1. Robert Hunt / Louisiana-Lafayette / 6’5 – 323

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Burkeville, Texas. Four year starter who has started games at left guard, left tackle, and right tackle. Was named 2nd Team All Sun Belt in 2018, 1st Team in 2019 despite missing games with a groin injury. Hunt projects to both tackle and guard at the next level. He was a good high school basketball player and that kind of foot-speed and quickness shows up on the gridiron with his attractive, moldable frame. He may not be ready for NFL action right away, as he has some footwork issues to clean up and lower body strength to pack on. Depending on where he is drafted, however, he has the look of an eventual starter inside or outside. It is hard to find guys with this kind of size, athletic ability, and body control capabilities. His best tape came against his toughest competition, a good sign in relation to his long term projection.

*I originally had a 3rd round grade on Hunt as a tackle, but because of a medical, had to bring him down to round 5/6 region. Good kid though and I am hoping for the best. On the field, Hunt has the feet to play outside but some question his length. Personally, I don’t see the move to guard because he plays too high and he isn’t stout enough. If he clears the medical stage, I like him as a versatile backup who may need to sit for a year and enhance his strength.

  1. Tyre Phillips / Mississippi State: 70
  2. Aaron McKinney / TCU: 69
  3. Terence Steele / Texas Tech: 67
  4. Darrin Paulo / Utah: 67
  5. Carter O’Donnell /Alberta: 66
  6. Matt Womack / Alabama: 66
  7. Alex Taylor / South Carolina State: 65
  8. Drew Richmond / USC: 64
  9. Jake Benzinger / Wake Forest: 63
  10. Brandon Bowen / Ohio State: 61

NYG APPROACH

It isn’t the sexy pick. It isn’t the name you are going to see in the box score or the highlight reel. You’re rarely going to walk away from a Giants win and talk about how good the tackles played. All of that said, this team isn’t going anywhere unless this offensive line improves on the outside. It would be one thing if they already had a solid piece on the left or right side. It would be one thing if they already had an up and coming stud who was in the development stages. The Giants have neither nor are they even close.

What is the point of drafting a Saquon Barkley #2 overall if you can’t get anyone up front to keep defenders out of the backfield? Quite literally he is getting contacted by defenders before he takes his third step with the ball as much as any back in the league! Daniel Jones was selected #6 overall and I have always believed the number one task to aid the maturation of a young quarterback is building the group up front. Keep him upright. Keep him confident. Make it easier for him to hold onto the football!

Credible and respectful arguments can be made to take defense, namely Simmons or Okudah, at #4. I disagree that it is the best path. While I am fully aware the NYG defense needs work, I think the offensive line is more important and NYG is absolutely hopeless at tackle right now. Throw in the fact that I have a Pro Bowl projection on Wirfs and Wills, the decision is even easier. Only a godsend like Chase Young being available will change my mind.

Apr 092020
 
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Saahdiq Charles, LSU Tigers (January 13, 2020)

Saahdiq Charles – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Guards and Centers

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

A valid argument can be made that the hole at center is the biggest one on the team. Jon Halapio likely won’t return, leaving Spencer Pulley in line to start after playing in just 4 games (1 start) in 2019. He started 9 games with the club in 2018 but over the course of the two years and multiple opportunities he was given, he has yet to prove he can be relied upon snap to snap, week to week. The Chargers thought the same thing after he started 16 games for them in 2017. There were multiple centers, all capable of at least contending for the starting job here, available in free agency but the team did not pursue them.

Both guard spots are locked up through 2021 with Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler. While Hernandez has been up and down, he hasn’t missed a game in 2 years and he is more than solid enough to be relied on. Zeitler is a team leader, very solid player, and can help out a rookie on either or both sides of him, which may very well be the case. The one issue at guard is one can make the argument they are dangerously thin there. Even though Nick Gates can play inside (he will be in Sunday’s OT write up), he may be needed at tackle. NYG will likely bring in another veteran at some point but the case still exists, there is a hole in need of a rookie along the inside. Maybe even two.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Matt Hennessey / Temple / 6’4 – 307

Grade: 80

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Bardonia, New York. Three year starter who finished 2019 as 1st Team All AAC. Brother of Jets long snapper Thomas Hennessey. A two time team captain who was awarded a single digit jersey number for Temple, given to the team’s toughest and hardest working players. Hennessey has the look of a long time starter at center. He is a well-balanced machine who stays within himself at all times, rarely being caught off balance or out of position. If and when he adds some man-strength and bulk to his frame, he will be ready for starting duties in any scheme. He could be a starter within the first year of service if a team can help him against elite power inside. He is smart and reliable with the upside of being a top-half center in the league.

*A big part of playing offensive line is the simple but hard to find ability to maintain balance at all times. Even very good prospects struggle with it, especially when they need to block in space. Hennessey has no such problem. He probably plays with the most body control of all the OL in this class. While he may struggle against power off the bat, most rookie centers do and you can hide that with help from the guards. Hennessey will likely bring to the table what Garrett Bradbury did for MIN in 2019; solid but limited impact. Reliable week to week, most notably in the running game. For a team that needs better run blocking as much as any team in the league, he may be an ideal round 2 fit.

  1. Saahdiq Charles / LSU / 6’4 – 321

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Jackson, Mississippi. A three-year starter who has seen the majority of his action at left tackle. Part of an offensive line that won the 2019 Joe Moore Award, given to the best offensive line in the country. Charles will likely make the move inside at the next level where he can immediately become a top tier athlete and zone-blocking scheme weapon. His burst and range from his stance will make a difference right away. The former high school soccer goalie still has a lot to learn and progress to as a blocker, but there is no denying the elite upside. Not many players his size can move and produce power like him. There are shoulder and maturity issues that need to be screened but if that checks out, he is a week 1 starter.

*Every year there are a handful of guys who I am much higher on than my boss and others I respect. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t but I don’t shy away from standing strong on my opinion. Charles is the poster boy of that group in this class. From what I hear, he is going round 4 or 5 but I am maintaining my 2nd round grade on him. He lacks control at times but I actually think this may be the best athlete of the bunch, certainly inside. Length concerns will likely move him from tackle to guard but I actually like him better in that role. He has tremendous power and explosion, he tries hard, and he developed a lot from a skill set perspective from 2018. All that said, there is a shoulder issue that needed screening, so that is a part of what will happen to him draft weekend. If he is there at the end of round 3 / start of round 4, I would scoop him up in a heartbeat if the team hadn’t addressed the OL yet.

  1. Prince Tega Wanogho / Auburn / 6’5 – 308

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior. Two-plus year starter from Montgomery, Alabama. Native of Nigeria and the son of a Prince and Princess. Earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2019. Wanogho was a sought after defensive recruit out of high school who made the move to full time offensive lineman when he arrived at Auburn. He had a rough-go early but evolved into one of the best linemen in the SEC. While there are still technique issues when it comes to consistent execution from snap to whistle, Wanogho still has plenty of untapped upside. At his best, in the SEC by the way, Wanogho had dominant stretches where he made everything look easy. The ability is there and it’s been showcased several times. A move from tackle to guard may be in the forecast and as long as he applies himself to the NFL coaching, he can be a quality starter in time.

*Depending on whom he is drafted by, Wanogho may end up a tackle. I think he has the ability to play both but I kept him in this group because his ideal spot is likely inside where his foot speed and length match up better. There was a period during the season where I was ready to put him in the round 1 talk because of how consistent he looked, how under control he played. A few issues popped up though and when you really break him down, there are sustainability problems. Also has a medical red flag but I am still looking at him as a day 2 guy.

  1. Nick Harris / Washington / 6’1 – 302

Grade: 78

Summary: Senior entry from Inglewood, California. Four year starter who has experience at all three interior spots. First Team All Pac 12 in 2019 and 2018, Honorable Mention in 2017. Harris is one of the best athletes among all offensive linemen in the class. He is incredibly twitchy and fast and it translates into power very well. While he could use more strength training below the waist to improve his anchor, he is more than powerful enough to make a physical impact. He can reach defenders that other centers simply cannot and he has a way of turning his body with full control while engaged to make himself stick to his target. Harris is potential big time difference maker in the middle of the line because of how much range he has stemming from his athletic ability . And make no mistake, he is not a finesse blocker, there is a nastiness in him that makes him an every down threat.

*Some are going to be turned off by Harris’ lack of size and true power, thus he won’t be a fit for every scheme. But an offense that wants a center with range and pop, you have to like this kid. Really smart player who started four years and will reach the second level looking like a fullback. There are anchor issues though and ultimately that did drop him a bit on my stack. Will NYG be interested? Hard to know what Jason Garrett is requesting at OC but from his tenure in DAL, I lean no.

  1. Cesar Ruiz / Michigan / 6’3 – 307

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from Camden, New Jersey. A three year starter with experience at guard and center. Second Team All Big 10 in 2019, third team in 2018. Ruiz was a top tier athlete among linemen coming out of high school and he got onto the field in year one at guard. He then made the full time move to center and went onto start 26 games there. Ruiz is a powerful blocker when impressive tools. He is the kind of player who can be developed into a starter over time, but may be best suited for backup duty early on. He needs to work on his footwork and make it more precise, as his quickness and agility appears to be limited. He won’t be able to get by on hand power alone in the NFL.

*Ruiz is being discussed as a late 1st/early 2nd rounder and I’ve re-watched tapes a couple times. I just can’t put him up there because I don’t think he is going to be ready right away. He is a nice physical package but he as all over the place losing balance, hinging at the hip, and being inaccurate with his hands. I also think a lot of his issues were hidden by two guards who are going to be playing on Sundays. If Ruiz hits his potential then yes, he is number 2 or 3 on this list. But his tape was as inconsistent as anyone.

  1. Tyler Biadasz / Wisconsin / 6’4 – 314

Grade: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Amherst, Wisconsin. A three year starter who never missed a game. 1st Team All Big 10 in both 2019 and 2018, 3rd Team All Big 10 in 2017. Unanimous 1st Team All American in 2019, Honorable Mention in 2018. And lastly, the 2019 Rimington Trophy Winner and Outland Trophy Finalist. Biadasz is obviously a widely respected and accomplished center for an offensive line that produced three straight 1,900 yard rush seasons. He was the leader of that group and one of the architects of the entire offense with how much he was responsible for at the point of attack mentally. He has NFL starter written all over him and even though there are some footwork warts in his arsenal, Biadasz has the tools to be an elite center and probable week 1 contributor. If he can fix some his technique red flags, there will be very few chinks in his armor.

*I can’t get my grade higher than this because of his balance and footwork issues, but there is a stubborn side of me that says Biadasz is a sure-thing to be a 10 year starter in the league. Maybe the ghost of Travis Frederick at Wisconsin weighs too much in my evaluation. But this kid hasn’t missed a start, every opposing coach speaks highly of him, and he won almost every accolade a center can win. If Jason Garrett pounds the table for a center, I think it is this one. The question is, when? Round 2 is too high but round 3 may be too late.

  1. Damien Lewis / LSU / 6’2 – 327

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Canton, Mississippi. Two year starter for the Tigers who spent two seasons in junior college. A 2nd Team All SEC performer in 2019. Lewis was a mainstay and physical leader of the offensive line that won the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s top offensive line. Lewis is the kind of guy you want behind you when walking into a fight. He play’s the game with a bully’s mentality and has the juice to back it up. As a run blocker, Lewis can create a new line of scrimmage with his pop out of his stance. As a pass blocker, he will always win the leverage battle but simply needs to refine his footwork and mental approach. He needs some work, but there is a starter here if a team is patient developing him.

*Lewis is a fun dude to watch if you like seeing legal violence on tape. He has heavy hands and plays with a low center of gravity. I would love to see more finesse in his game as a pass blocker where his strength alone can’t get the job done. He can get a bit stiff and top heavy so he will need time to refine a couple things but he will be able to handle NFL size and power right away.

  1. Lloyd Cushenberry III / LSU / 6’3 – 312

Grade: 77

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Carville, Louisiana. Two year starter who earned a 1st Team All SEC and 2nd Team All American honor respectively in 2019. The leader of the offensive line earned the much-respected #18 jersey honor for LSU which is revered for the leader of the team on and off the field. The LSU offensive line won the Joe Moore Award – given to the nation’s top unit – and Cushenberry was the one in front among that group. He is a smart player who is capable of making the calls and adjustments. Physically, his legs are roots which can make it very difficult for a defensive tackle to move, most notably against the run. He plays low and strong and keeps his hands intact. There are significant lateral movement issues, however, and he won’t be a fit for blocking schemes that want their centers to get from point A to point B quickly. In the right scheme, he is a good fit, but he isn’t for everyone.

*I may have Cushenberry a bit further down the stack than some, but I think most agree he is a day 2 prospect who needs the right scheme. He isn’t very light footed and it shows up when he face s off against lateral movers and linebackers. For a guy with such a strong base, and it really is strong, I wish he would simply keep the feet chopping more often. His issues are coachable and if his lack of lateral movement can be hidden, he is another good one who can play year one.

  1. Solomon Kindley / Georgia / 6’3 – 337

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Jacksonville, Florida. A three-year starter who missed some time with separate ankle and knee injuries. Kindley is a brute-force blocker who consistently gets movement off the ball in the run game. He creates a new line of scrimmage and will open a different kind of lane for running backs. His weakness is against quick, lateral movement as a pass blocker but even with that, he was a productive pass blocker in his three seasons. He needs work on his body and overall lower body techniques, the ability is there to ensure improvement and he is a weapon for the running game right away.

*If I could forecast the future and see whether or not Kindley is going to put his best foot forward when it comes to working on his weight and footwork, he would be in the discussion to be the top guard in the class and a possible 2nd rounder. He is too heavy for his frame and if his suddenness can improve by simply weighing 20-30 pounds less, I think he can be a star. He is a dominant run blocker and his natural power can keep pass rushers at bay. He just needs to clean it up and stop being reliant on simply leaning on guys to get the job done. Maybe an ideal fit for a day three pick to try and develop for a year or two.

  1. Ben Bredeson / Michigan / 6’5 – 315

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Hartland, Wisconsin. Four year starter who was 1st Team All Big 10 as a senior, 2nd Team as a junior and sophomore. A 2019 3rd Team All American. Bredeson started 46 games over his career and was a two time team captain. He is on the higher end of experience, toughness, and on-field intelligence. He is rarely caught doing something he shouldn’t be doing when it comes to technique and he always seems to know how to respond to any situation. When it comes to physical ability and potential, he is limited but there is still a good chance he sees starter-duty at some point in his career. He will be in the league for a long time.

*You don’t see prospects coming out of big time programs like Michigan with 46 starts under their belt too often. Bredeson won’t be anyone’s favorite guard in the class but I bet he stays in the league as long as anyone on this list. There may be a chance he moves to center, as some teams are worried about his length shortcoming but they respect his intelligence and grit.

  1. Hakeem Adeniji / Kansas / 6’4 – 302

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Garland, Texas. Four year starter who has experience at both tackle spots. A 1st Team All Big 12 honoree. Adeniji spent his entire career at tackle, but because of his size and lateral movement issues he is destined for a move to guard. He is a really effective straight-ahead blocker who will fire out of his stance and get a violent pop on the defender. The issues with him are technique based, most notably with his footwork. He struggles to maintain the mirror and lock-on if the defender goes left or right. There are developmental tools here though and he could play tackle in a pinch.

*Even though he played tackle in college, he was moved inside at the Senior Bowl and that is usually a sign teams won’t use him outside. I will say it is always good to have a guy on the depth chart who can move out there in an emergency situation where multiple guys go down in the same game. I actually see some David Diehl here, a college tackle who began his career inside before moving back to tackle. They both have violent hands, sub-par foot speed, and a gamer’s mentality. Really nice day three option here.

  1. Ben Bartch / Saint John’s (MN) / 6’6 – 309

Grade: 72

Summary: Senior entry from Dayton, Oregon. Two year starter who only played the offensive line for two years after spending his first two seasons at tight end. Earned 1st Team All Conference honors and Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year Award in 2019 after being named 2nd Team in 2018. Bartch is an interesting athlete who simply bloomed late. He ran track in high school (hurdles and 4×400 relays) before going to college to play tight end. His body screamed offensive line as he continued to grow and once he moved there, he was home. Bartch absolutely dominated the Division III level and more than held his own at the Senior Bowl. He won’t be an immediate contributor in the NFL, as he needs to add power and bulk in addition to making the move to guard from tackle. However the upside is undeniable, as he is a rare athlete for the position who can at least somewhat make up for a lack of lower body strength.

*There was a lot of talk about Bartch toward the end of the fall. Some were comparing him to a recent Division III prospect, Ali Marpet, who Tampa Bay took in the second round of the 2015 draft and is now one of the top guards in the league. No disrespect to Bartch because I do have a draftable grade on him, but he is nowhere near the prospect Marpet was. He has a lot of work to do on his body, a lot of strength to gain. He doesn’t have the ideal body for development but he did play well at the Senior Bowl week but he is going to be a multi year project.

  1. Darryl Williams / Mississippi State / 6’2 – 304

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Bessemer, Alabama. Three year starter who played guard in 2017 and 2018 before moving full time to center as a senior. A team captain who coaches laud for his intelligence and quick mind. Williams is a tough, hard nosed, blue collar blocker who gets the most out of himself. He lack athletic ability and ideal size for the NFL trenches, but his interior versatility and productive blocking career in the SEC will get him a spot on a depth chart in the NFL. Maybe never a starter, Williams should be in the league for a long time.

*I’m not sure Williams is going to evolve into a pure starter, but I bet he starts games in the league. The reason I say that is the fact he can legitimately project to both guard and center. That is really important for teams that are trying to maximize their active game day roster. Williams is a limited mover, not a fit for zone blocking heavy schemes, but I can see NYG giving him a good look late. Good kid, hard worker, versatile.

  1. Shane Lemieux / Oregon / 6’4 – 310

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Yakima, Washington. Four year starter who never missed a game, 52 consecutive starts. Two-time 2nd Team All Pac 12 and 2019 2nd Team All American. Lemieux is a reliable, know-what-you’re-getting guard who won’t be a guy who consistently hurts an offense, but has a limited upside. He is big and plays with a blue collar attitude, often overpowering and out-hustling his man. However there are certain matchups and situations where his tight hips and inconsistent pad level pops up. He will need to be protected a bit, but he should at least be a solid interior backup early on with the potential to start down the road.

*I talked about how impressive and rare it is to see a lineman start 46 games over the course of a career. Lemieux started 52! Just amazing. I really wanted to grade him higher than this because I love his grit and style. However I just can’t get beyond the stiffness he shows when something unexpected comes his way. He might be a guy who can play early but he needs to be protected and you can’t have him move laterally that often. I just wouldn’t want to see him on an island against these quicker interior pass rushers.

  1. Jon Runyan / Michigan / 6’4 – 306

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Moorestown, New Jersey. A two year starter at left tackle who earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors both years. The son of former Eagles Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jon Runyan. A highly versatile and reliable player, Runyan will make the move inside in the NFL but will carry versatility onto the field which will only help his stock. He isn’t a “wow” player in any way when it comes to physical tools or when it comes to his skill set, but he gets the job done. There is a lot of intelligence and attention to detail in addition to him being a tough guy. I don’t see him being a starter, but rather a valuable inside backup who could shift outside in an emergency situation.

*I’ve spoken with a couple people who have been around Runyan during his pre-combine training and they were glowing about how good of an athlete he is. The lineage is going to help his stock because you can trust him, you know he can think his way through things. Another guy who won’t wow you on tape but he brings some position versatility and could be a guy who is a solid 6th or 7th lineman for a long time.

  1. Michael Onwenu / Michigan: 71
  2. Jack Driscoll / Auburn: 71
  3. Tremayne Anchrum / Clemson: 70
  4. Jonah Jackson / Ohio State: 70
  5. Netane Muti / Fresno State: 70
  6. Danny Pinter / Ball State: 70
  7. Cameron Clark / Charlotte: 70
  8. Kyle Murphy / Rhode Island: 69
  9. Calvin Throckmorton / Oregon: 69
  10. Luke Juriga / Western Michigan: 69

NYG APPROACH

When you look at the guards, NYG can go into the season confident they have their starters, which a lot of teams can’t say. NYG can go into the season confident they have their 2021 starters as well, which most teams can’t say. The glaring issue resides at center, the spot where I’m not sure if the starter is on the team right now. Spencer Pulley is the fallback option but as I said above, he needs to be the interior backup. No matter what NYG does at #4 (OT or defense), center will be in play with their second rounder. It will come down to the grade between their top 1-2 centers and how they compare to others that are on the board. I don’t think NYG will look past OC as a direct result of taking OT in the first.

One thing I noted about grading this class, there is an enormous cluster of draftable interior guys who will be available in rounds 6-7. Only an average of 22 OG/OC get drafted year, but I have 30 draftable grades on guys inside plus a few tackles who can possibly move to guard. A lot of this will come down to teams and their schemes, so I think they are going to have multiple guys on this back end list (16-25) available when they are on the clock in rounds 6-7. Considering the depth is so thin at OG, it would be wise to bring one of these bodies in who is worth trying to develop. Every good offensive line gets “lucky” one or two times and what I mean by that, they all have a late round draft pick and/or an undrafted free agent who ends up being a key cog. In recent NYG memory? Rich Seubert. Kevin Boothe. David Diehl.

Apr 072020
 
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Chase Young, Ohio State Buckeyes (December 28, 2019)

Chase Young – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Edge

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

The “EDGE” position in this scheme is a bit of a gray area, so you may end up seeing a few names that you thought were defensive tackles. Even on the current NYG roster, Leonard Williams can be considered a defensive end but at the end of the day, the majority of his snaps are spent inside the offensive tackle. In regard to who I am talking about on the current NYG roster, you are looking at more traditional 3-4 outside linebacker types. Lorenzo Carter, who was drafted in 2018, is entering the near-vital third season of his career where it is time to put up or shut up. He is physically gifted but inconsistent. Rookie Oshane Ximines, in less snaps, matched Carter’s impact as a pass rusher with 4.5 sacks but really struggled against the run. Markus Golden, who led the team with 10 sacks, remains a free agent and it appears free agent signing Kyler Fackrell will replace him. He hasn’t missed a game in three years but he took a back seat to Preston Smith and ZaDarius Smith in 2019. Keep in mind that Fackrell had 10.5 sacks in 2018.

It’s important to know what exactly this team is trying to do on defense. I can’t say I know for sure, but NYG already has their “BUCK” and “SAM” candidates. The BUCK is essentially a pass rushing linebacker who can play SAM (strong side linebacker) when the front changes. The SAM plays strong side but can move to MIKE/inside when the front changes. I see Ximines, Carter, and Fackrell being those guys. What I’m not sure I see quite yet on this defense is a guy who can really play the CRASH end. They are hybrid 3-4/4-3 defensive end types. Usually these guys need to push 265+ pounds with 34+ inch arms. Can they put Williams in that role, make him more of an edge threat? Sure, but I think there may be better candidates in this draft class for the role. However I will say, it is a hard spot to fill because there aren’t many ideal candidates for that spot.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Chase Young / Ohio State / 6’5 – 264

Grade: 91

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Hyattsville, Maryland. After earning the 5-star recruit label out of high school and coming to Ohio State with sky high expectations, Young finished his career with an All American season and 1st Team All Big 10 honor. He led the nation with 16.5 sacks as a junior despite seeing countless double teams. Young is widely considered the best non-quarterback in the draft and will be a player who a franchise can build a defense around. He is no specialty pass rusher, Young can contribute on and impact all three downs. His tools and work ethic to be great make him the next big thing at defensive end to come out of a program that had produced some recent big time NFL talent at the position.

*Young breaks the 90-point barrier on my grading scale, reserved for guys who I am putting an All-Pro projection on. These aren’t handed out often. Young can do it all, he fits into every scheme, and he is going to be a player right away. I have him slightly below where I had Myles Garrett in 2017 simply because there is a little less juice out of his stance and he doesn’t play as low as I would like at times. But there is no denying how good this kid can be if he comes in and works hard. If NYG could get their hands on him (crazier things have happened), it would be the best-get they’ve gotten in a long time considering the position he plays and NYG’s weakness there. Cross your fingers and pray teams are going to get into bidding wars for the quarterbacks.

  1. Yetur Gross-Matos / Penn State / 6’5 – 266

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Spotsylvania, Virginia. When it comes to long term upside and tools, Gross-Matos can be considered one of the top defenders in the entire class. He has the height, length, and speed combination that is considered rare and salivating for coaches. Don’t make the mistake of labeling him just an upside player, however. He recorded 35 TFL and 17.5 sacks over his two seasons as a starter and has more than enough tape to prove he can get the job done early in his career. There are issues with his game, most notably when it comes to power and inside run defense, but Gross-Matos has a top shelf toolbox who may just need some time and strength development before being an every down player.

*If you want to know who I am going to be hoping for at the top of round 2, well here he is. The odds are he will be a first round pick, however. With that said, many have a cluster of edge talent below Young and if he isn’t the flavor other EDGE-needy teams are wanting, he could slip. Gross-Matos has some baby-deer in him still, a kid who simply needs to add core strength and grow into his own body. However I have multiple game notes with the name “Myles Garrett” in them. He plays with that rare combination of explosion, length, leverage, and strides. At his absolute peak, Gross-Matos is closer to Young than people think.

  1. AJ Epenesa / Iowa / 6’5 – 275

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Glen Carbon, Illinois. A two-time All Big 10 Defensive Lineman, including a first team honor in 2019. Epenesa is a big, long, and physical lineman who can be moved inside and out for a versatile-front scheme. He brings the proper mix of discipline and effort to the table every play. While he lacks some of the standout traits teams want in a pass rusher, Epenesa does a lot for a defense that won’t always show up in the box score. His ceiling doesn’t look as high as some others, but his floor is raised and will wear several hats at a high level when called on.

*There was a stretch where I thought Epenesa was going to end up as a top 10 prospect. I didn’t up with him there, but I still think he is a solid first round pick if he can find the right scheme. The CRASH end who I spoke of earlier? He is an ideal fit for that role in a defense that can change it’s front without taking guys off the field needs someone like Epenesa on the edge. He isn’t a plus athlete but he can win with his power and advanced hand usage. If he falls into round 2, NYG will be very interested.

  1. K’Laivon Chaisson / LSU / 6’3 – 254

Grade: 80

Summary: Redshirt sophomore entry. Two year starter from Houston, Texas. After a 5-star recruit caliber high school career, Chaisson started week 1 of his true freshman season, a true rarity for the program. He showed off plenty of upside that year but a torn ACL week 1 of his sophomore season caused him to miss the year. He had to fight through an ankle injury early in 2019, thus his experience as he enters the league is limited. With that said, Chaisson’s movement skills and leverage jump off the screen. He is a feisty, explosive straight line edge rusher who can cause the offensive line to change their approach. His body still has a lot of filling out to do, but nobody will question this kids work ethic. After all, he was a permanent team captain as a true junior who wore the heralded #18 jersey for the National Champion Tigers.

*Here is your classic high risk, high reward edge defender. I could see someone using a mid-first on him and while I wouldn’t look down on it, I simply wouldn’t use that early of a pick on someone like this. He has more than enough speed off the edge, he makes a lot of hustle plays. But he had a knee injury, he lacks power, and there isn’t enough advancement in his skill set. I see a 2nd rounder here but one who can easily end up being one of the top 10 players in this entire draft class 3 years from now.

  1. Zack Baun / Wisconsin / 6’2 – 238

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Brown Deer, Wisconsin. Two year starter who ended his career with a bang, earning 1st Team All Big 10 and 2nd Team All American honors. Baun missed all of 2017 with a foot injury but hasn’t missed a thing since. The former high school athlete quarterback made the full time transition to defense during his senior season and evolved into one of the top defensive prospects in the class. He has incredible movement skills as an edge rusher, showing the unique blend of speed, burst, and agility to beat a blocker several ways. He is far along in his development when it comes to technique and mental understanding of the game. He may not be an ideal every down defender right away because of a lack of size against straight ahead run blocking, but his style of play and intentions to mold himself will eventually make him a quality starter.

*A credible case can be made for putting Baun at linebacker, but whatever. He is a 2nd round pick in my eyes, one who could be higher than Chaisson depending on scheme and how you need to use them. Baun isn’t big enough to live on the outside as a pass rusher but he can be moved to an off-ball role. What many don’t see in him is the fact he can cover much better than other off ball linebackers. He didn’t get a ton of action in that role, but the former high school quarterback moves around back there like he really knows what he is doing. I think the versatility will be attractive to the Giants, but does he fit the physical profile of what they are looking for? I think if they go for a front seven defender in round 2, he won’t be at the top of their list.

  1. Jonathan Greenard / Florida / 6’3 – 263

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior from Hiram, Georgia. Spent four years at Louisville before grad-transferring to Florida. He was a 2 year starter in total and saved his best football for 2019, where he earned 1st Team All SEC honors after leading the conference with 15.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Greenard has the kind of length and fast twitch play who will give tackles a headache off the edge. He plays with the proper blend of speed and power and should have plenty more bulk to add to his wide frame. When it comes to total production, Greenard’s last two real seasons accrued 31 TFL and 16.5 sacks over 25 games across two different conferences. There are some power issues, notably against the run, that need to be looked into but this is the kind of athlete and person a team wants to add to their team. His relentless, hard working style combined with quality tape and physical gifts make him a safe bet to be a productive player.

*I am surprised there isn’t more hype around Greenard. He didn’t have the best workout at the combine and I will say he is less explosive than Chaisson, but he plays heavier, has more length, and seems to have better decision making ability. I have seen some Osi Umenyiora in him for what it’s worth. He has some medicals that need to check out as well but if they do, he is a guy I would keep a close eye on in the 3rd round with the hope if he falls into NYG’s lap with that compensatory pick if they don’t address the EDGE spot by then.

  1. Marlon Davidson / Auburn / 6’3 – 303

Grade: 79

Summary: Senior entry from fro, Greenville, Alabama. A rare four year starter from the Auburn program. Davidson may not be an ideal fit for a cut and dry scheme, but with the amount of teams looking to “get multiple” in relation to their looks, Davidson can be a key target. He is a tweener without a true position and lacks a standout strength, but he can fill into multiple spots and perform well enough. Davidson is a powerful force who can create mismatches and do some of the dirty work to keep others clean and unoccupied. The reliable and caliber of a player who every good defense needs.

*Similar to Epenesa, Davidson appears to be a really nice fit if NYG is looking to add a legit CRASH end to the line. He played all over the edge at Auburn and was equally effective against the run and pass. Combine that with his mindset and blue collar attitude, I can see him being a favorite of this coaching staff during the scouting process to the point of him being in the discussion with their 2nd round pick.

  1. Terrell Lewis / Alabama / 6’5 – 262

Grade: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Washington, D.C. A one year starter. 2nd Team All SEC in 2019. Lewis was a 5-star recruit out of high school who began his career strong as a rotational edge rusher, ended his career strong finishing second on the team with 11.5 TFL and leading the team with 14 pressures, but missed a combined 25 games over the two middle years with different injuries. He is a tools-rich, versatile athlete who can make things happen from a standup outside linebacker position, but his medicals will be a very important factor to his grade. His aptitude to play assignment football will be a welcomed addition for a defensive coaching staff that can use him on a rotational basis.

*If it weren’t for the injuries, one can realistically say Lewis is a first round prospect. But you can’t look past the fact he was a one year starter and has only played 16 career games. His tools are top notch, he plays a violent game, and he had a really strong Senior Bowl week. He plays a position that every team is looking for and he fits into every scheme, thus I don’t see his stock plummeting draft weekend.

  1. Jabari Zuniga / Florida / 6’3 – 264

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior from Marietta, Georgia. Started games all four years, but was considered the full time starter in 2018 and 2019 only. Zuniga began playing football as a senior in high school before hitting a growth spurt and evolving into an impressive specimen who had to be developed. His talent alone raised eyebrows in 2016, as he played sparingly but still led the team with 5.5 sacks. Ever since then, he has been used as a versatile inside-out player who can take advantage of interior blockers and tackles alike. He has a style that may be too quick for guards and centers and too powerful for the tackles. The tools are there to be developed and the flashes on tape go to show there is a ceiling higher than most edge prospects in the class. He had a hard time staying healthy but if a team can pinpoint the right role for him and he can stay on the field, watch out.

*Put this kid in the group of prospects who needs to be used correctly for him to reach even somewhere close to his ceiling. I’ve seen a lot of him over the past two years and it is hard to imagine there is a role for him on every defense. It could cause him to drop a bit. Does he fit on he NYG defense? I think he could be an undersized (slightly) CRASH end who I’ve spoken about a few times. If they really want to add a guy to that role but they miss out on one in rounds 1 and 2, check to see if this kid is there end of round 3 / early round 4. I think he can contribute year one.

  1. Darrell Taylor / Tennessee / 6’4 – 267

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Hopewell, Virginia. Three year starter who won the team’s MVP award in 2018. At this point, Taylor has come up a bit short when it comes to consistency and overall production when considering his upside and flashes. When it comes to physical traits, he has all the bend and power that will make him a handful for blockers to deal with off the edge. He makes a powerful impact upon contact and shows the ability to get off blocks with violence. The issues exist in his consistency and instincts. Tennessee coaches have been driven mad because of what he shows in flashes vs. his lack of consistency. He doesn’t react fast enough and will get caught out of position. The physical traits are hard to look past, however, and this is a guy who had 21 TFL / 16.5 sacks over the past two years and played really well against the SEC.

*Don’t sleep on this kid. Something didn’t click for him at Tennessee and I’ve been told it wasn’t all on him. I watch this kid for stretches and wonder why he isn’t dominating. He is more powerful than almost everyone he matched up against, he plays with tremendous leverage, and there is enough juice off the snap. Maybe one of those guys who just doesn’t feel the game OR maybe he ends up being a top 3 edge guy out of this class. I wouldn’t be surprised by either.

  1. Josh Uche / Michigan / 6’1 – 245

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Miami, Florida. A one year starter who made the 2nd Team All Big in 2019, Honorable Mention in 2018. Josh Uche was a heavy-rotational player as a junior and led the team in sacks on a unit that included Devin Bush, Rashan Gary, and Chase Winovich. He repeated as the team’s leading sack artist as the full time starter in 2019 as a senior. Uche has exciting potential that stems from his versatility, explosion, and bend. The twitchy defender plays smart and can be moved around based on the situation, but he will make his money off the edge. He needs to bulk up a bit so he can handle the pro-power game, but at the very least he will be a solid 3rd down defender who a creative mind can use in multiple roles.

*If you like Zack Baun for NYG, you have to like Uche a couple rounds later. Uche had to sit behind some really talented edge rushers at Michigan but when he got his shot in 2019, he proved he can handle it. Some teams hate the 1-year starters and I understand why, but I think he is worth the gamble if he is around at the start of day 3. He would be a perfect BUCK fit in the new scheme as long as his medicals check out.

  1. Julian Okwara / Notre Dame / 6’4 – 252

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Charlotte, North Carolina. A two year starter who had his 2019 cut short because of a broken leg. Brother of current Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara. A native of Nigeria who moved to the states when he was 8 years old. Julian will likely grade out slightly better than his brother but there are questions whether or not he will progress in the same manner. He had a very solid 2018 where his burst and bend were able to disrupt the opposition. However he disappeared and seemed like a different player before his injury as a senior. The position he plays, the last name, and his 2018 could cause a team to gamble but he is more developmental than he is ready for NFL action.

*High risk, high reward prospect who I think fits best as a stand up 3-4 outside linebacker. I think he ends up going higher than where I have him pegged right now for what its worth. I really didn’t like what I saw against Georgia, Michigan, and Southern California when he was matched up against pro-caliber linemen. Overmatched when it came to power and strength and we aren’t talking about a special athlete off the ball either. He looks the part and he was good in 2018, that’s all I have to go on really.

  1. Bradlee Anae / Utah / 6’3 – 257

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Laie, Hawaii. Three year starter who won the 2019 Morris Trophy Award, given to the Pac 12’s top lineman. Two time 1st Team All Pac 12 and 2019 All American. Anae’s production, competitive style of play, and strong week at the Senior Bowl create a lot of arrows toward him being a quality NFL starter. However there are a lot of warts on tape that center around his overall athletic ability and upside. He has tight hips, doesn’t play a good arm extension game, and won’t beat many tackles up the edge. He projects to be a rotational third down player who can be trusted to make things happen on occasion, but not consistently.

*From the beginning of the season through the entire process up to now, I have had Anae as an early day 3 pick. No. I’m not being stubborn. I’ve had dozens and dozens of grades fluctuate up and down multiple rounds since September. I simply just don’t see an every down impact guy here, but by no means do I dislike him. He brings great energy to a defense and he knows how to win in traffic. I just see a limit to how much impact he can make play to play and is best suited for a number three role who comes onto the field in specific situations.

  1. Alton Robinson / Syracuse / 6’3 – 264

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Converse, Texas. Three year starter for Syracuse after spending his freshman season at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Earned 2nd Team All ACC honors in 2018 after finishing third in the conference with 17 tackles for loss and second with 10 sacks. Took a step back as a senior but still earned Honorable Mention honors. Robinson checks a lot of boxes that coaches and scouts look for in a high ceiling edge rusher prospect. He has a strong presence and showed flashes of proper pad level, agility, and finishing ability. There are a lot of inconsistencies in his arsenal but he has produced enough across multiple years against both the run and pass to show there is something to work with. He can be a rotational player early on with the upside of being a quality starter.

*Robinson is similar to Okwara. He just didn’t look the same in 2019 that he did in 2018, that is a red flag to me. It’s not like he saw a massive amount of double teams or anything but I think coaches saw his 2018 tape when scouting and they found ways to neutralize him. Still good enough to be a 4th or 5th rounder, but I was projecting early day 2 when the season began.

  1. Alex Highsmith / Charlotte / 6’3 – 248

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Wilmington, North Carolina. A former walk on who started for two years. In those two years, he earned 1st Team All Conference USA both seasons while adding a 3rd Team All American accolade in 2019. Highsmith set, and then broke, Charlotte’s single season tackle for loss record over his junior and senior seasons. He showed flashes of dominance and despite the lack of ideal tools when it comes to size and speed, created optimism around what he can be in the NFL. He has a lot of inconsistencies that stem from a lack of power and pure explosion, but in a game and specific role where a lot of the action is played in a phone booth, Highsmith’s quickness and low center of gravity along with crafty hands and footwork could carve out a role for him as a situational edge rusher.

*There are a few scouts who really like this kid and have projected him to go day 2. I liked him enough on tape to recommend him for Shrine week, but I never saw anything more than day three. I then got to see him up close and personal at Shrine and walked away with the same thought, day 3. He is similar to Oshane Ximines but a notch below across the board.

  1. Delontae Scott / SMU: 74
  2. Trevis Gipson / Tulsa: 74
  3. James Lynch / Baylor: 73
  4. Jonathan Garvin / Miami: 73
  5. Carter Coughlin / Minnesota: 73
  6. DJ Wonnum / South Carolina: 72
  7. Kenny Willekes / Michigan State: 72
  8. Jason Stowbridge / North Carolina: 72
  9. Nick Coe / Auburn: 72
  10. Azur Kamara / Kansas: 71

NYG APPROACH

While it is difficult to exactly pinpoint which kind of edge presence NYG will go after, I think this is going to be addressed with one of their first four picks. As I said earlier, you can look for the BUCK (pass rushing linebacker) or the CRASH (3-4/4-3 DE hybrid). Because of what they have in Carter, Ximines, and Fackrell, I think they are going to lean toward the CRASH end. This is a spot that will demand more size and presence, not just pure edge speed and explosion. I do think they will add both throughout the weekend, however. In addition, if a top value drops to them and it is more of a BUCK type presence, I think they pull that trigger.

Now, I think NYG will lean toward offensive line with their first pick at 4. That approach opens the door for this EDGE presence at the top of round 2. One of the CRASH end candidates could slip through the cracks right into their lap like Epenesa, Gross-Matos, Davidson, Lewis…etc. One of the BUCK guys could slip into their laps like Chaisson or Baun. These stacks (or ranks) could slightly alter based on what NYG feels they need more but no matter the case, there will be someone available who helps this team right away. Remember, this team wants real versatility and I think they will weigh a lot when their second pick is on the clock.

Apr 052020
 
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Derrick Brown, Auburn Tigers (January 1, 2020)

Derrick Brown – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Tackles

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

As previously stated, the unknown surrounding what the NYG defense will actually look like can make this position group look pretty cloudy. No matter the case, it is widely considered the deepest and possibly the best position on the entire roster. Leonard Williams was franchised, Dalvin Tomlinson is coming off his best season, and Dexter Lawrence was one of the top 5 rookies in the league last year when it comes to overall grades. That is a really solid starting point for a defensive line that needs to be “multiple”, but the strength doesn’t end there. BJ Hill, even though he saw a dip in playing time, is a really reliable and solid fourth lineman who hasn’t missed a game in 2 years. Austin Johnson was signed from TEN to add a better backup nose tackle presence, he hasn’t missed a game in over three years. And lastly there are reasons to be optimistic about RJ McIntosh and Chris Slayton and their ability to provide quality depth and specific role playing. All in, this defensive line is capable of dominating the inside running game and keeping the linebackers clean. On passing downs, they would be an ideal compliment to an elite outside pass rush presence but they aren’t capable of being the primary force in that department.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Derrick Brown / Auburn / 6’5 – 326

Grade: 84

Summary: Three year starter from Sugar Hill, Georgia. Two time All-SEC performer and unanimous 1st Team All American in 2019. Brown has been NFL-ready for multiple years now. This kind of power and speed don’t come around often but he also combines it with excellent on-field intelligence and an evolving skill set. He makes the kind of eye opening play week to week that makes him appear as a bidding star. While Brown doesn’t offer much variety as a pass rusher just yet, he is still considered a three down player because of how much his tool set and hustle can create. He is a fit for any scheme and can fill multiple spots along the defensive line.

*This is the exact kind of defensive tackle talent who Gettleman loves. Huge on all levels, violent and heavy on contact, dominant tendencies, and versatile. But could I really see him adding another DT talent to the team with as many roles they have elsewhere? Yes, I do. Both Tomlinson and Williams aren’t signed beyond 2020, and the draft is very much about your team moving forward. The defensive line is where he wants to be strong and deep. Brown is widely considered a top 10 player in this class, some have him in the top 5. All of that are reasons why DG could credibly go after him but I don’t think it will happen, especially if they stay at 4. At the end of the day though, I think NYG will have players graded higher and he will want to spread resources out after doing what he did along the defensive line over the past 12 months.

  1. Javon Kinlaw / South Carolina / 6’5 – 324

Grade: 83

Summary: Fourth year senior from Charleston, South Carolina. Started for three years at South Carolina after spending his freshman year at Jones County Junior College. After a childhood filled with adversity, Kinlaw molded himself from overweight junior college hopeful to a probable first round pick. The tool set is among the best in the class at the position and there is enough tape to conform he is much more than a blank slate with potential. Kinlaw has shown the ability to take over games from the middle with his ability to create a new line of scrimmage and close in on the action with violence, power, and speed. There are several technique-based parts to his game that need work and consistency, but he is very coachable and will make a difference early even while he tries to learn the game.

*If you have some time, read up on Kinlaw’s upbringing, it is a great story. I’ve read that he is going top 10 and there is a chance he goes in front of Brown. I don’t see it grade wise, but Kinlaw’s tools are more impressive. He is 324 pounds and he has minimal loose meat on his frame and he could likely hold another 10-15 pounds without losing juice. He already has rare tools, that could put him over the top. His issues revolve around consistency and effort. He doesn’t always try hard and he doesn’t really know what he is doing yet. A team will need to be patient with him and he will need to work really hard on developing the skill set. If he reaches his upside, he can be the most dominant DT in the league and I mean that.

  1. Neville Gallimore / Oklahoma / 6’2 – 304

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior from Ottawa, Ontario. A four year starter who has played up and down the Sooners defensive line. A two time All Big 12 honoree, including first team in 2019. Gallimore was the first ever Canadian to play in the high school US Army All-American Bowl. His combination of size, strength, and speed is hard to find and he progressed his skill set all five years in college. In a league where everyone is looking for more pass rushers, Gallimore is going to be a sought after asset. He is a really quick, disruptive force up the middle who can beat blockers off the ball and win post-engagement. He dropped about 25 pounds between 2018 and 2019 and even though he gave a little as a run defender, his ability to impact the passing game is tempting for any scheme.

*I was surprised to not see this kid in the draft last year. He went back to Oklahoma for his fifth year senior season, lost some weight, and showed he can wear another hat on the defensive line. Gallimore is really versatile, maybe the most versatile guy in this group. He can play big and stout, he can play leaner while adding more pass rush presence. There is an outside shot he slips into the end of round 1.

  1. Justin Madubuike / Texas A&M / 6’3 – 293

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from McKinney, Texas. Two-year starter who posted 10+ tackles for loss two straight seasons with his best football coming against his toughest competition. Madubuike may not be a fit for every team, thus his value is going to be hard to pinpoint. However this is a quick, powerful, 290+ pounder who has a knack for finding creases and lanes to the football. He is an ideal fit for a team that wants a throwback three technique who can shoot gaps and cause havoc. If a team wants him on the field to stay at home and absorb blockers while maintaining his anchor, he will struggle. While he has to be carefully implemented into a scheme, he has the upside of being a top shelf interior pass rusher who can still make a difference on running downs.

*I don’t see the fit with NYG here, regardless of whether or not he drops draft weekend. As said in the summary, he won’t be a fit for every scheme but then again, he has a high pass rush ceiling and good coaches will always find a way to work with that.

  1. Ross Blacklock / TCU / 6’3 – 290

Grade: 79

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Missouri City, Texas. A two year starter who ended his career with a 2019 1st Team All Big 12 honor. Blacklock opened eyes as a redshirt freshman in 2017 but a torn achilles tendon prior to the start of 2018 forced him to miss the year. He bounced back with vengeance, sharing the team lead with 3.5 sacks while adding 9.5 tackles for loss. Blacklock is a disruptive penetrator who has excellent size and burst. He can close a gap in a hurry in pursuit but also shows a power game upon contact with blockers. He is an upside-based pick wjp can be a package defender right away with the potential of being a top tier interior pass rusher down the road.

*Some are putting this kid in the round 1 discussion, some have him going in round 3. The lack size and length is a concern for me when it comes to every down duty, but there is no denying his ability to burst through the line and find the ball. He can be a disruptor from the three-technique position, but I wouldn’t want him as a stay at home guy. Similar to Madubuike, he needs the right role.

  1. Raekwon Davis / Alabama / 6’6 – 311

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry. Three year starter from Meridian, Alabama. Three time All SEC defender and s 2019 All American. Davis put himself onto the national radar as a sophomore in 2017 with 69 tackles and 8.5 sacks. The tool set, as we are used to seeing from the Alabama program, was elite. He was wrecking havoc with his combination of hustle, length, and speed. Fast forward two years and hasn’t been able to match that production, most notably as a pass rusher. There is still a sense of rawness to his game and once can rightfully question how well he can perform week to week. The inconsistencies can be maddening at times but he still flashes dominant traits. He can be a solid starter or rotational player, but there are certain roles he needs to steer clear from.

*Davis may get drafted a lot higher than this because of his ceiling. He has shown in the past that he can be a dominant inside force. The inconsistency was maddening though and we can’t blame coaching. If he couldn’t put it together week to week coming from that program, I think there is plenty of credible reason to believe he will be best used on a rotation basis in the NFL.

  1. DaVon Hamilton / Ohio State / 6’4 – 320

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior entry. One year starter who finished 3rd Team All Big 10 in 2019. Hamilton was part of a really deep and talented defensive line group in is early years, which made it tough for him to see the field. He finally got his shot as a senior and did not disappoint. He had 10.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. He is a big, long, thick interior defender who will be able to handle the size and strength of the NFL right away. He needs to clean up hand techniques and time will tell if he is simply a role player or someone who can stay on the field. Even though his upside is limited, he can still be a solid, important player who best fits in a 4-3 front.

*It is a tough sell to use a day 1 or day 2 pick on a guy who was really a 1 year contributor/starter. But coaches reports on him are glowing and he is the kind of alpha-male you put on your defensive line and the overall presence of the group is elevated. Of all the talent on the OSU defense, it was this guy who everyone viewed as the power-force. Not the most talented, but he is a safe bet to at least be a solid player who can start in multiple schemes.

  1. Jordan Elliot / Missouri / 6’4 – 302

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Missouri City, Texas. Two-year starter. Began his career at Texas after transferring following the 2016 season. Elliot is a penetrator with size and finishing power who can impose his will on ball carriers. He has plus-speed and quickness in space and can be a package-player at the next level. He doesn’t engage his lower half enough and gives too much ground against the running game and double teams to be viewed as an every down player at this point but with the amount of defensive line rotations the league has now, he will have a place.

*If you catch the right game, you will walk away from it saying Elliot is a 2nd round pick. He is a good athlete, pursues well, and moves like a guy who plays at 270 pounds. There are some things I don’t like about his game though revolving around pad level and hand usage. There is a lot of work to be done here but yes, he has pass rush potential which could get him drafted higher than this.

  1. John Penisini / Utah / 6’1 – 318

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior from West Jordan, Utah. Two year starter who was 2nd team All Pac 12 in both 2018 and 2019. Began his career at Snow College in 2015 and sat out 2016 before taking the field for Utah in 2017. Penisini is a dirty-work defender who doesn’t jump off the screen with talent of the box score with production. But his style of play, his body, and his smarts make him an incredibly effective player on running downs. He plays low and strong, rarely giving an inch, to free up defenders around him. When a play is there to be made, he will make it. Penisini isn’t going to be much of a pass rusher but this is the kind of 2-gapper every defense wants on their roster. A very underrated prospect.

*I’ll tell ya what, when I spent the week down at Shrine in January, Penisini was the guy who improved his stock the most via his play. He was dominant at times. I don’t think many will have a grade on him where I do, but I am really confident this kid is going to play early in his career and may end up being a top notch nose tackle in the league. Not a guy who fills up the stat sheet, but one who makes play to play impact and helps others out. Don’t be surprised if you see NYG add him to their DT group day 3, he can be multiple.

  1. Leki Fotu / Utah / 6’5 – 330

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from West Valley City, Utah. Two year starter who was 2nd Team All Pac 12 in 2018 and 1st Team in 2019. Also added a 2nd Team All American honor as a senior. Fotu played just one year of high school football, as he had an extensive and accomplished history with rugby. His physical tool set is rare, as he possesses top tier size and thickness but is still a rather comfortable athlete. For a player this big and athletic, he doesn’t dominate the point of attack like he should but a case can rightfully be made that he is still figuring the game out. At the every least, Fotu can be a two gap run defender who frees up linebackers and will make the occasional play on the ball himself. He is a try-hard player who will stick around in the league for awhile, but may never be enough of a pass rusher to be considered an every down threat.

*Most have Fotu higher than this, and I won’t fault them for it. He is a really good body, he is still relatively new to the game, and he plays hard. Give a coach this kind of frame and hustle to work with, and they will be pleased. He plays a bit too high for my liking and there were long stretches where he disappeared. I still see day three value here though, he can play a role right away and there is some upside if he can figure out the skill set.

  1. Benito Jones / Ole Miss / 6’1 – 316

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Waynesboro, Mississippi. Four year starter who came to Ole Miss as a 5-star recruit and the 2016 Mississippi High School Player of the Year. Earned 2nd Team All SEC in 2019. Jones is the classic defensive tackle force who often gets overlooked when it comes to accolades and awards. He does a lot of dirty work that elevates players around him, but rarely gets his name called when outsiders discuss impact players. Coaches and scouts will see just how good of an every down force he is, and can be. He has always worked on the family farm during the offseason and that kind of power and natural strength shows up on tape. He is very effective with his hands and he shows surprising pop out of his stance. He has a quicker first step than most will assume and combined with his tool set, it will cause offensive lines to plan around him. He is the kind of player who impacts the game so many ways and he will outperform several players drafted ahead of him.

*It sounds like I have a higher grade on Jones than what is out there in the league. I re-watched a few things and it only assured me that I have the right outlook on him. Jones is going to be a really solid nose tackle. While that role may not be as widely uses as it used to be, there are still enough teams that use it. Jones screams PIT to me. That old school nose that makes a huge difference. I’m not sure NYG is confident in what is behind Lawrence in that role and if Jones actually does fall into late day three like I have been told, he would be a great get.

  1. Darrion Daniels / Nebraska / 6’3 – 311

Grade: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior from Dallas, Texas. Two year starter at Oklahoma State and a starter in his lone season at Nebraska as a grad transfer. Team captain who earned Honorable Mention All Big 10 honors in 2019. Daniels is a high-character player who will show no hesitation in doing the dirty work inside for a defense. He can swallow space and blockers consistently, freeing up linebackers to do their job against the run. He won’t be an every down player, as he simply doesn’t offer much against the pass athletically. He has limited range and doesn’t fight through contact. Daniels won’t be a fit for every scheme, but he will find a home as a backup nose tackle in a 3-4 front.

*The grad transfer situation really worked out for Daniels. Coming into the year, he was barely a thought for most but his performance in the unique Nebraska defense opened eyes. He got a the nod to play at the Senior Bowl and I thought he was one of the top interior run defenders there. He is a classic dirty work guy and that teams that use a 3-4 front will like him enough to call on him earlier than others.

  1. McTelvin Agim / Arkansas / 6’3 – 309

Grade: 72

Summary: Senior entry from Texarkana, Texas. A four year starter who played defensive end from 2016-2018 before moving inside for good as a senior. Agim was a five star recruit out of high school who had a blend of size, speed, and strength that was rare. He was a two time state champion in the shot put who was clocked sub 4.6 in the forty. While his speed has taken a hit as he put on 40 pounds since then, his tool set is still considered to be a major plus. Agim will flash good burst and power off the ball and now that he is inside full time, where he should have been all four years of his college career, he can develop at the position a bit better and get rid of the technique deficiencies. He isn’t a stout run defender and will disappear for stretches, but he is a solid rotational prospect who can be a very solid 3rd down option for 4-3 fronts.

*This is the kind of prospect who a coach will see on paper, pop in some film, and immediately put him on their list. Coaches always think they can develop the tools and Agim is no slouch there. He had an underwhelming career compared to what people projected, but he was moved around a ton. If a team can really hone in on a specific spot, Agim has the potential to be an oversized penetrator and disruptor. He has a lot of work to do, but the base is higher than most down here.

  1. Khalil Davis / Nebraska / 6’1 – 308

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Blue Springs, Missouri. A one year starter who was a significant part of their defensive line rotation for three seasons. Won the team’s Defensive Lineman of the Year Award in both 2018 and 2019. Honorable Mention All Big 10 in 2018, 3rd Team in 2019. Davis increased his production every year of his career to the point where he led the Cornhuskers in sacks with 8 as a senior while also leading the defensive line in tackles for loss as both a junior and senior. The plus-athlete has rare speed and pop for the position and he has experience lining up inside the tackle and outside the tight end. That kind of versatility will help him stick to a roster early and his long term outlook will heavily depend on him developing his skill set to hide his size and length issues. He is not stout against the run but he will create plays in space.

*Man, I watched the Davis twins and spoke with them at length down at Shrine week. Both are great kids and both had a great week down there in practice. Khalil is slightly better. He was dominating the one on ones against offensive linemen with is ability to get off the ball fast, low, and active. I’m not sure I want him as a stay at home run defender, as he just doesn’t have the size, but let this guy in on passing downs and let him shoot the gap. He is going to make things happen. His versatility is a plus.

  1. Robert Landers / Ohio State / 6’1- 285

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Dayton, Ohio. A rotational defensive lineman on a team that has been packed with NFL talent there for years. Landers has never been the most talented, or even close to it, defender in the room at Ohio State but it was hard to ignore him and the overachiever style of play. He is built low to the ground and his explosion out of his stance with tornado-hands make him a tough and annoying matchup for blockers. He has subtle but assertive and productive movement that can give him enough space to slip through beyond the line of scrimmage. Landers won’t be a fit for every scheme, but he is a solid bet to make an impact on a situational basis.

*I am taking a chance on Landers. He is undersized on multiple levels but in an era where defensive linemen rotate more than ever, I am trying to find a spot on the 53 man roster for him no matter what scheme I run. He gets off the ball so well, plays with such easy but powerful knee bend, and nobody was able to consistently lock him up. He made so much impact on that OSU front but he wasn’t an every down guy and there were others who simply got the attention.

  1. Malcolm Roach / Texas: 69
  2. Carlos Davis / Nebraska: 69
  3. Broderick Washington / Texas Tech: 69
  4. Tyler Clark / Georgia: 68
  5. Eli Hanback / Virginia: 68
  6. Brendon Hayes / Central Florida: 68
  7. Bravvion Roy / Baylor: 67
  8. Raequan Williams / Michigan State: 67
  9. Tershawn Wharton: 67
  10. Auzoyah Alufoahi / West Georgia: 67

NYG APPROACH

I have tried to break down what Miami did along their defensive front last season as best I could in an effort to try and find what the team needs up front. When it comes to the DT positions, I think they are all set for 2020. They have quality starters, quality backups, and a couple guys in the wings worth developing another season. The question resides in post-2020 though. We do not know if Leonard Williams and/or Dalvin Tomlinson will be in blue. Austin Johnson signed a one-year contract. If you believe in the approach of adding defensive line talent every year in the draft (I do, when you have 6+ picks), there needs to be one added.

Now within the scheme, one can make the argument they should look more at a 3-4/4-3 defensive end type (the Crash end) because that is where they are a bit thin right now. So maybe we take 1 or 2 guys from the EDGE preview which is coming up on Tuesday. If NYG can be patient and pursue an interior body on day 3 with one of those late picks, I would be pleased. I think you can find a guy back there who will add some competition to the back end group (McIntosh-Slayton) and potentially start to fill the hole that will be created if Tomlinson and/or Johnson and/or Williams don’t come back.

The only scenario where I can see them going after an early DT talent like Derrick Brown is if they have a Tomlinson trade planned. I can’t see it though, as he has one year left on a rookie deal and he isn’t that special. We have seen crazier things happen though and if DG is as stubborn as some make him out to be, well then here you go.

Apr 032020
 
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Isaiah Simmons, Clemson Tigers (December 7, 2019)

Isaiah Simmons – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Linebackers

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

Keep in mind I have an “EDGE” position preview coming up next week, so I may not go into some of those linebackers in this preview. I am mainly talking about the off-ball guys who primarily play between the tackles. Depending on what NYG uses as their base personnel, we are likely looking at the newly signed Blake Martinez and second year kid Ryan Connelly, who is coming off a torn ACL after raising some eyebrows in 4 games. Neither of them are worth getting overly excited about, but that doesn’t mean the position is a weak point, not at all. In fact, especially if Connelly recovers well, the two should provide really good run defense between the tackles and to the sidelines.

The question here is two-fold. Will they be exposed in the passing game? Is there enough depth and intra-roster competition? David Mayo will be back to provide both and while we can’t look down on his performance in 2019, he is best suited for the backup role. Josiah Tauaefa looks to be a solid special teamer and backup, maybe similar to what they had in Chase Blackburn and Calvin Munson in the past. I’m not sure I see Chris Peace or Nate Harvey sticking to a 53 man roster. I think the hole they have here is coverage, as none of the above mentioned guys can hang with quality tight ends or pass catching backs. It’s been an issue for years and there isn’t a current solution on the roster.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

*Zack Baun, Terrell Lewis, Azur Kamara, Carter Coughlin are all graded in EDGE group

  1. Isaiah Simmons / Clemson / 6’4 – 238

Grade: 89

Summary: Fourth year junior entry and two year starter from Olathe, Kansas. After an accomplished high school football and long jump career, Simmons redshirted his first year on campus at Clemson. When he finally got on the field in 2017, his upside jumped off the screen and the coaches knew they had a budding star who couldn’t be kept to one position. They moved him around a lot, seeing snaps at linebacker, nickel corner, safety, and edge rusher. It resulted in two straight years of production across the board, leading the team in tackles in 2018 and 2019 respectively in addition to 25.5 TFL and 9.5 sacks. Simmons also intercepted 4 passes, broke up 13 others, and forced 4 fumbles over that span. Simply put, he is a defensive playmaker who will wear several hats for a defense if schemed properly. He is a very non-traditional player, thus putting him into a traditional role would be a massive mistake. Simmons is the player you scheme around, not the other way around.

*I have done more research and re-watching of tape on Simmons than any non-QB I have ever scouted. No, not because I wasn’t sure of him being elite or close to elite, but because he has played in countless roles against countless style-offenses. He plays to a sub 4.4 (which he ran at the combine), his stats are NOT inflated, and what really puts me over the hill on him are the reports I got on his character and intelligence. If you are going to gamble on an athlete at the top of the draft, make sure the intangibles are there. Simmons’ role within this defense is unknown to me – that is above my pay grade.

Do I think it can work? Absolutely. Do I think this kid is going to make plays on a defense that doesn’t have a playmaker? Absolutely. Do I think this kid can cover tight ends, spy the most athletic quarterbacks, and rush the passer? Absolutely. You just have to make sure you aren’t keeping him in one spot. As said in my summary, you need to build the scheme around him, not the other way around. If this new, motivated, young, innovation-hungry scheme is confident they can do with Simmons, pull the trigger. But one must know, he isn’t instinctive or stout against the run. He flashes power on the move but he won’t handle NFL linemen and blocking tight ends well. Put him in the wrong role, he is a day 2 kind of player.

  1. Kenneth Murray / Oklahoma / 6’3 – 241

Grade: 87

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from Missouri City, Texas. Murray burst onto the scene in 2017, winning the Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year Award. He was a part of the All-Big 12 team all three years and ended his career as an All American. He started all 42 games of that career and has been the heartbeat to the defense. Murray has been touted for both his leadership and play by coaches and opponents alike. He is the kind of player who any team can stick into the middle of their defense and know they have a true three down player who will make others around him better. Murray has the physical tools and mental acuity to be a star in the middle.

*It is possible, that if it weren’t for Simmons, Murray would be in the discussion for the 4th overall pick in my eyes. I don’t think he would end up being my guy, but this is the first LB I have really wanted to compare to Patrick Willis or Luke Kuechly. Everything about this kid is what the modern inside linebacker needs. Speed, burst, power, range in coverage, and true leadership. I was pretty high on Devin Bush and Devin White last year, both of which had good rookie years. Murray is better. There are a couple medical red flags that need to be looked into further.

  1. Logan Wilson / Wyoming / 6’2 – 241

Grade: 81

Summary: Fifth year senior from Casper, Wyoming. He arrived at Wyoming as a 185 pound defensive back. After his redshirt year, Wilson moved to linebacker and earned the Mountain West Freshman of the Year Award. He was a three time All Mountain West honoree and finished his career as an All American. The high school track standout blends the new and old age linebacker into one package. He has the NFL body but can move like a safety. His strengths are on display when he is in space pursuing the action and covering tight ends and backs. He does struggle mightily when taking on blocks, but he is entering the league at the right time as cover linebackers are in high demand and Wilson brings that to the table without giving up too much against the run.

*10 years ago we would have labeled this kid as a linebacker who wasn’t stout enough. To be real, stoutness is less of a factor than it has ever been and the ability to run, chase, and cover are more important. Wilson, with good size, moves really well and was really productive. Smart kid, will start early in his career. Can play multiple spots.

  1. Patrick Queen / LSU / 6’0 – 229

Grade: 81

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Ventress, Louisiana. Over the course of his final two years on campus, Queen started just over a full season’s worth of games. By the end of LSU’s championship run he was arguably the top defensive player on the team. He evolved into a weapon who was all over the field on every down. The NFL’s desire for speed and coverage ability will make Queen a sought after commodity, as his tools in space are near the elite level. He is still growing and evolving as an interior run defender and there are mental lapses that show up from time to time, but this is the kind of linebacker who every team wants now. High upside player.

*I have Queen as a late first round talent as you can see but I can confirm that many don’t see a round 1 guy. As good as he looks at times, the two things NFL coaches and scouts won’t like are the lack of size (especially his short arms) and the fact he was a 1 year starter. And to build off that, he wasn’t the starter at the beginning of the season. He only got in there when he did because Michael Divinity got in some off-field trouble that led to a suspension.

  1. Akeem Davis-Gaither / Appalachian State / 6’2 – 224

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Thomasville, North Carolina. Two year starter. Finished 2018 off with a 2nd Team All Sun Belt honor before really taking off as a senior. 2019 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. Davis-Gaither was a team captain and obvious leader of the defense that set the tone each and every week. His speed and burst were just too much to handle for his opponents and it was able to impact the game in several ways. He lined up as an edge rusher and showed plus-blitzing ability, he lined up as an inside run defender and was able to move through traffic well enough, and he lined in space as an effective cover linebacker. He won’t be a schematic fit for several teams but a defense that wants to add speed and versatility but can also keep him out of downhill run stuffing responsibilities will have a high outlook on him.

*I see some Telvin Smith here. Undersized, short reach, slight frame. But this dude can move at a different speed than his opponents and he will evade blockers well. Really fun player to watch but he needs to be protected. I don’t see him impact the game as a blitzer or interior run defender, but he will fly around and cover backs with ease.

  1. Troy Dye / Oregon / 6’3 – 231

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Norco, California. Four year starter who led the Ducks in tackles all four seasons. Three time 2nd Team All Pac 12 defender following his Honorable Mention 2016 season. Dye finished his career near the top of the program’s all time tackles list. He has been a productive player across the board and it showed both on the stat sheet and on tape. He lined up all over the field and got to the action one way or another, proving his intelligence and athleticism. His slight frame will need work if he is going to be playing between the tackles at the next level but his ability to factor in space and potential to be a credible every down linebacker is enough to hide his deficiencies. He is a new-age linebacker who doesn’t give up too much as a thumper.

*Dye was as the top of my senior LB stack last summer. I love this kid’s game and more important, I love his consistency. You know what you’re getting week to week. Dye is another current-age linebacker who will be more effective in space than he is in traffic, but he stays plays tough between the tackles. He won’t be a star, but he will contribute on special teams right away and offer some potential as a starting weak side presence.

  1. Malik Harrison / Ohio State / 6’3 – 247

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Columbus, Ohio. Two year starter who earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors in 2019, Honorable Mention in 2018. Also 3rd Team All American as a senior. Harrison has the NFL-ready size and power presence to factor right away against the run. He can handle NFL offensive lineman with his combination of man-strength and top tier length. Once in the open field, he can really get moving with long stride speed, which will be an asset against athletic tight ends. He came to Ohio State as a former high school quarterback who wanted to play wide receiver for the Buckeyes, so that is the kind of athlete we are talking about here. He could end up projecting to the strong side in a 4-3 front long term as a starter with the option of providing some middle-type roles.

*Harrison is overlooked a bit when it comes to how freaky of an athlete he is. He has some of the best triangle numbers (height + weight + speed) at the position. Remember, this kid came to Ohio State to play wide receiver! When I watched his tape, I saw a lot of rawness, indecision, and inconsistency. But when he did line things up, when he did make proper reads, he looked dominant. Harrison is a high upside, really athletic linebacker who simply needs time to sit back on the depth chart and get acclimated. If it clicks, watch out. Really nice fit for NYG’s situation if they can find a way to get their hands on him round 3 or 4.

  1. Jordyn Brooks / Texas Tech / 6’0 – 240

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas. Four-year starter who led Texas Tech in tackles three of those years. Honorable Mention All Big 12 in 2016, 2017, and 2018 respectively before going onto being named 1st Team All Big 12 and 2nd Team All American in 2019. Brooks is an aggressive, fast, attacking downhill defender who made 20 tackles for loss as a senior. That number was a tad inflated as he was almost-always sent on blitzes, but his athletic ability and closing style make him an attractive prospect. He is quick enough to factor in coverage, he just didn’t have a ton of experience in that role. Brooks has the ability to start in the NFL but at the very least will be a special teams contributor and plus-run defender.

*Brooks is going to be a gamble, I think some teams won’t even look at him. He has very little experience in coverage, he was purely a downhill guy. But there are still plenty of schemes that need the thumper inside and that he is. However he also brings 4.6 speed to the table, a nasty, physical guy. He screams Ravens to me. And I always love how their linebackers perform and help them win games.

  1. Anfernee Jennings / Alabama / 6’2 – 256

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Dadeville, Alabama. Three year starter. 1st Team All SEC in 2019. Jennings has been a mainstay on the Tide’s defense for three seasons. He is one of the more versatile players in the class, as he has seen plenty of experience as an edge rusher and inside linebacker. He will likely make a full time move to middle as a two down thumper between the tackles who can add something as a pass rusher on 3rd down. He lacks standout physical traits, most notably when it comes to movement, but he is instinctive and tough. Smart players who have produced the way he has against the highest level of competition find a way on the field at the next level.

*Some are leaving an EDGE position on him, which is fine I guess. But we saw him move to off-ball linebacker a lot in 2019 and he spent the majority of Senior Bowl week there too. Jennings is really smart and really physical, I could see NE being all over this kid draft weekend early day 3. 25+ TFL and 13+ sacks over the past two years coming from Alabama? Can play inside as a thumper, can provide quality pass rush on 3rd down? Sign me up.

  1. Willie Gay Jr. / Mississippi State / 6’1 – 243

Grade: 73

Summary: Junior entry from Starkville, Mississippi. Two year starter but only started 11 games total over his career. Missed a significant amount of time in 2019 because of academics. Gay was a explosive rushing quarterback in high school and it is easy to notice just how fast he can play on the defensive side. He is an aggressive downhill force who will make the offense adjust to him. He is not someone who a ball carrier wants to meet in space, as the power Gay brings upon force when he has a head start is as physical as it gets. There will need to be extra screening in regard to his off field habits, but he is a potential game changer if everything checks out and he learns the game a bit more.

*If the Giants are looking to take a risk at LB on day 3, this is the guy to go after. I had glowing game notes on Gay Jr and the comparison of Devin Bush came up multiple times. Short but stout, plus length for his frame, top-shelf speed. There is no denying that NYG needs more juice, more speed at the second level. Gay Jr blew the combine up, he is in the same tier athletically speaking as Simmons. He is as violent a player as you will find. There are a couple character red flags, however, and he only has 11 career starts. If NYG wants to turn their defense around, they are going to have to take a couple chances. This would be taking a chance but I feel good about it in round 4 or 5.

  1. Dante Olson / Montana / 6’2 – 237

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Medford, Oregon. Two year starter who certainly made the most of those two years. Set, and the re-set, the all time single season record for tackles in program history. A two time FCS All American and the recipient of the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Award. Buck Buchanan Award winner finalist in 2018 and 2019 respectively, given to the top defensive player of the year in FCS. Olson is the son of a coach with really good speed and a finisher’s mentality. He runs around like he’s on fire and with the demands of today’s linebacker in the pros, he could be a sneaky-good fit. He lacks some important agility-based movement skills but he can be molded into a quality player in time. At the very least, he will be a stud-special teamer.

*Olson won’t impress anybody with his tools, but they are good enough and he has the combination of intelligence and toughness on the field to factor. He would be a reliable backup and quality special teamer. My question, in relation to the Giants, would center around how “multiple” he can be. I see a weak side / middle guy only. Every team has a linebacker like him, but I can see why some would rather go for someone faster. I saw him at Shrine and was impressed, I am keeping him near the top of this cluster of mid to late day 3 linebackers.

  1. Shaquille Quarterman / Miami / 6’1 – 234

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Orange Park, Florida. Four year starter who finished All-ACC every season, including the 1st Team honor in both 2018 and 2019. Quarterman evolved into the Alpha Male of the Miami defense over his final two years, producing at a high level against both the run and pass. He has the kind of intelligence and on-field IQ that every good linebacker possesses and he knows how to finish. While he is a bit of a throwback who may currently struggle to play in space against the passing game, he still has the potential and even likelihood to make an impact. He shows stiffness but if a scheme can hide that a bit, he will help a defense much more than hurt it. He will be in the league for a long time and likely start at some point.

*A lot of people were juiced up about this kid before and during his freshman season. I feel like he’s been at Miami for a decade. 52 starts, a ton of tackles, multiple schemes, and a true leader of the group. I got to speak with him down at St. Pete during Shrine week and came away really impressed. He won’t add a lot of athleticism to the group though, he isn’t that big, and he may be a 2-down guy. The physical upside isn’t good enough for me to use anything more than a 3rd day pick here.

  1. Tanner Muse / Clemson / 6’2 – 227

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Belmont, North Carolina. Three year starter who earned 3rd Team All ACC honors in 2018, 1st Team in 2019. Also a 3rd Team All American as a senior. Muse looks too tight to stay at safety, as his hips and feet just don’t move well enough to be trusted in coverage against pro receivers. However he shows potential as a cover linebacker who can handle the running game from the weak side. The winner of the Special Teams Player of the Year Award at Clemson in 2016, Muse brings the kind of straight line speed and power-impact to make an impact in that department at the next level and his role on defense will need to be specific but he has proven to be a factor against the pass if he is protected.

*I have no issues with those who label Muse a late day 2 pick. He has some old school, blue collar in him but don’t look past the fact he is incredibly fast and explosive. Ohio State running back JK Dobbins out-ran Isaiah Simmons in space during the CFB playoffs, Muse caught him from behind. Then he went to the combine and ran a 4.41. Muse is too tight to play safety in my eyes, but he is more than physical enough for linebacker duty and his coverage for the position would be considered a plus. I have this mid to late day 3 grade here, but I’ll say this, his versatility, intelligence, and physical nature could be an exact fit for what NYG plans to do on defense. Look for this kid draft weekend.

  1. Davion Taylor / Colorado / 6’1 – 228

Grade: 70

Summary: Senior entry from Magnolia, Mississippi. Two year starter who spent two seasons in junior college prior to transferring to Colorado in 2018. Finished with Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors as a senior. Also an accomplished sprinter for the Colorado track team. Taylor has as interesting a background as anyone in the class. Because of religious beliefs, he was not allowed to play in football games Fridays or Saturdays during high school until his senior year. Thus, he was under-recruited and simply did not bank much football experience. After two impressive seasons in junior college, Colorado scooped him up and put him into the starting lineup 20 games over 2 years. Taylor had a hard time finding a permanent home in regard to position, but his speed was top shelf and he flashed playmaking ability from time to time. He is still very much considered a developmental player who is incredibly raw, but he has elite special teams potential and could mold into a quality weak side, space-happy linebacker down the road.

*One of the more unique prospects in the class considering his background and tools. Many are putting this kid into the day 2 tier because of his strength and speed. He is an excellent run and chase guy but I don’t see instincts or flow to the action. I thought he looked out of place at the Senior Bowl. While I do respect the upside here that stems from his frame and speed, he is a project.

  1. Jacob Phillips / LSU / 6’3 – 229

Grade: 70

Summary: Senior entry from Nashville, Tennessee. Two year starter who finished second on the team in tackles in 2018, first in 2019. After sitting behind Devin White for two years, a future top 10 pick, Phillips took over the job in the middle of the Tigers defense and excelled. He was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school and flashed over his two seasons. The straight line speed, attractive frame, and sure tackling is sure to catch the eyes of defensive coaches who want to try and develop a player for a year or two. He shows weaknesses in coverage but he physical upside is there to warrant the idea he could improve enough in that area. He is a day three pick who has the upside of a starter, ideally in a scheme that can let him run around and chase.

*Phillips isn’t in the same tier as a some of these recent LSU linebackers, but I think he is a reliable bet to provide quality depth and special teams play. He plays smart, he works hard, he is very coachable. Don’t forget he was a 5-star recruit and even though one could argue he had an underwhelming career, he was an important piece these past two seasons. Not a good cover linebacker but he will be reliable against the run.

  1. Mykal Walker / Fresno State: 70
  2. Francis Bernard / Utah: 70
  3. Evan Weaver / California: 70
  4. Cam Brown / Penn State: 69
  5. Jordan Mack / Virginia: 69
  6. Khaleke Hudson / Michigan: 69
  7. Justin Strnad / Wake Forest: 69
  8. Michael Divinity / LSU: 69
  9. Michael Pinckney / Miami: 68
  10. Jordan Glasgow / Michigan: 68

NYG APPROACH

For the record, I could talk about the possible Simmons selection for an hour straight, it is fascinating. I won’t go too deep here, as we can discuss further in the comments, but I will echo what I stated earlier. NYG can certainly go for him at #4 and I won’t say a negative thing about it. But so much of his potential, even more so than other prospects, will be based on how the team would use him. Build the scheme around him, do not try to fit him into a scheme. This coaching staff yelled from the top of the mountains that they want to be able to change their scheme week to week to exploit the opponent’s weaknesses. Simmons is quite literally the kind of player WHO can change week to week based on what the team needs, and he can do so at a high level. However, if they put him at ILB routinely, he will get crushed because his instincts are average at best and he plays high. If they put him at EDGE routinely, he will get crushed because he doesn’t have an array of rush moves and he doesn’t use his hands well in that situation. If they put him at safety routinely, he will get crushed because he is high hipped and doesn’t play more athletic than NFL receivers like he did in college.

As for the rest of the LB group, whether they draft Simmons or not, speed needs to be added. Connelly, Martinez, and Mayo can get the job done against the run but they are going to get exposed when true speed and coverage are needed. If you need to convert 3rd and 5, attack those guys and a good passing game will almost always come out on top especially on a team that lacks quality pass rushers. This draft’s LB group as a whole is a little thin after those top 7-8 guys. Because it is such a scheme-based position, NYG doesn’t have to rush here. They can be patient, wait for value (even if it is round 7), and add the athleticism there.