Apr 232013
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Jerry Reese, New York Giants (February 23, 2013)

Jerry Reese – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2013 NFL Draft Needs

I think there are three ways to look at team “needs.”  The first – and most obvious to fans – is to look at the depth chart and say, “we need a better player here” or “we have a big hole there.”  The second – and less obvious – is to consider what positions a particular team places a premium on in order to remain a strong contender.  The third – and something rarely considered by fans – is that a team like the New York Giants does not look at the next upcoming draft as only a way to address immediate needs.  Indeed, General Manager Jerry Reese and company are considering 2014 and 2015 as much as 2013, when they select a player.  What players are nearing the end of their prime?  Who has injury issues?  What players are making too much money or will be asking for too much money?  Who is likely to not be on the team in two years?

We’ll consider all three factors in this draft preview article.  Don’t let the wide range of positions startle you.  Almost all NFL teams have a bunch of team needs when you consider the three aforementioned factors.  At the same time, do not overrate the talent on the Giants.  This is a team that has won two NFL Championships in the last six NFL seasons.  But many of those key components are now gone or past their primes.  In order for the Giants to seriously contend once again, they must restock the cupboards.  Too often in recent drafts, the Giants have selected players – particularly in the 2-4 rounds – who have not developed.  That needs to change in this draft.

When the Giants pick players in the upcoming draft, also do not overemphasize the position selected.  For example, is it better to draft an average linebacker or an outstanding defensive tackle?  The average linebacker you will have to soon replace.  The outstanding defensive tackle becomes a core player.  Pick good players in the draft; fill in the remaining holes with second-tier veteran free agents after the draft is over.

Linebacker (Both Middle and Outside): Defensively, because they play a 4-3, the Giants correctly place a premium on defensive linemen over linebackers.  In a 4-3 defense, by the very nature of the scheme, the impact players are on the defensive line.  But since players like Jessie Armstead and Antonio Pierce left years ago, the Giants have not only lacked a steady production at the position, they have also missed that leadership.  A good linebacker – in the 4-3 or 3-4 – is often the leader of the defense.  The Giants are severely lacking in that department.

At middle linebacker, Dan Connor gets a one-year audition.  A once highly-regarded draft pick, Connor has flashed but his career has not progressed as expected.   He could surprise.  Mark Herzlich is a nice story, but he has not taken advantage of opportunities presented to him.  Is he athletic enough to start at the NFL level?  Time may be running out for him.

Outside, not only are there talent questions, but quantity seems to be a problem, especially if Mathias Kiwanuka is moved back to defensive end as many hope.  Michael Boley is gone.  Left is Jacquian Williams, Keith Rivers, and Spencer Paysinger.  That’s it.  Supposedly the Giants had big plans for Williams last year in their sub-defensive packages but he missed much of the year with injury.  He’s a bit undersized and not the most physical guy in the world against the run.  Keith Rivers – like Connor – has not lived up to his NFL Draft hype.  He simply can’t stay healthy.  He gets one more year in New York to turn his career around.  Paysinger has made more of an impact on special teams than on defense to date.

Offensive Line (Both Tackle and Guard): The Giants need to invest more premium resources here to restock an area of the team that has been fraying at the edges.  The Giants have a number of issues on the line.  Assuming everyone stays healthy and/or recovers nicely from offseason  medical procedures, the Giants should be OK in 2013 at left tackle (Will Beatty), left guard (Kevin Boothe), center (David Baas), and right guard (Chris Snee).  But there is a big question mark at right tackle where David Diehl will battle James Brewer for the starting job.  Diehl is obviously nearing the end of his NFL career.  And while Brewer has a nice combination of size and athleticism, we really do not know if he has the skills and temperament to succeed at the NFL level as a starter.

But right tackle is not the only issue.  Both starting guards may be gone in 2014.  Chris Snee’s play has been declining for two years, he is very expensive, and he has talked about retirement.  Kevin Boothe only re-signed for one season and will be an unrestricted free agent again.  At center, for better or worse, re-structuring David Baas’ contract likely means the Giants are stuck with him for one, maybe two more seasons.  He’s a good player when healthy, but Baas always seems to be hurt.

Also impacting this analysis is, aside from Brewer, we do not know how the Giants really feel about Brandon Mosley, Matt McCants, Selvish Capers, and Stephen Goodin.  They have some talent, but do they have a future?  Can the Giants risk relying solely on their development?

Defensive Line (Both End and Tackle): This is the heart of the Giants defense.  If this area is not strong, the Giants’ defense will not be strong.  And this area was not strong in 2012.  It lived more off of reputation than ability.  The Giants may have enough talent here to get by in 2013, but much depends on aging veterans.  There are also bigger concerns for 2014 and beyond.

At end, Jason Pierre-Paul had a very disappointing season.  While his run defense was good, he did not accrue a sack in the last seven games of the season.  He is still very young and has a big upside, but the Giants need him to play like he did in 2011.   I expected Justin Tuck to rebound from a down regular-season in 2011, but he did not.  He seems re-energized this offseason, but one wonders how much his body is beginning to betray him?  He is entering a contract year and the Giants may choose to move on in 2014.  If Mathias Kiwanuka moves back to defensive end, then the immediate talent/depth concerns decline.  But keep in mind that Kiwanuka is 30 years old  and has had serious neck issues.  Adrian Tracy, Adewale Ojomo, Justin Trattou, and Matt Broha have all flashed but it remains to be seen what their true ability is against NFL starting competition.

At tackle, the Giants were not strong up the middle in 2012 and the whole defense suffered because of it.  Heading into the draft, while the Giants have a lot of bodies, the only one without serious question marks is Linval Joseph, and he will be a free agent in 2014.  Cullen Jenkins should help in the short term, but he is 32 and on the downside of his career.  Fellow ex-Eagle Mike Patterson never lived up to his 1st-round hype, but he can be a steady Rocky Bernard-type if he makes the team.  Shaun Rogers missed all of 2012 with a health issue, is clearly nearing the end, and will have to fight to make the team.  Markus Kuhn is coming off of a serious ACL knee injury.  And Marvin Austin has been a 2nd-round disappointment.  Quantity does not equal quality.  This position is too important.

Defensive Back (Both Cornerback and Safety): At cornerback, again the Giants have numbers and recognizable names, but how good are these players?  The hope is that Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley continue to develop, or the Giants are in worse shape than it seems.  Amukamara has a solid – not special – season.  Hosley really struggled much of the time as the nickel slot corner, but the team seems high on him.  Corey Webster was very inconsistent, had some horrible games, and saw his salary cut.  He has a history of rebounding nicely but he is on the wrong side of 30 for an NFL corner and this could be his last year with the Giants.  Terrell Thomas is coming off his third ACL tear and may never be the same player; he’s on a 1-year deal.  Aaron Ross was brought back for veteran depth but turns 31 and also signed only a 1-year contract.  So in many ways, a good, young cornerback makes a lot of sense for the Giants.

The Giants lost Kenny Phillips in free agency and hope that Will Hill or Stevie Brown can adequately replace him.  Hill has a lot of ability but has to keep his nose clean.  Brown was a major surprise last year with his nose for the football, but he has to prove that he is not a one-year wonder and improve the more mundane aspects of his play such as run defense and not making mistakes in coverage.  Antrel Rolle is 30 and has a huge contract.  He could become a cap casualty in 2014.  Ryan Mundy did not impress in Pittsburgh other than on special teams.  Tyler Sash appears to be just a special teams guy.

Summary/Other Positions: The Giants’ biggest needs are the offensive line and everywhere on defense.  This is a defense that ranked 27th in 2011 and 31st in 2012.  They are clearly living off of past reputation more than anything right now.  To be blunt, the Giants’ defense stinks.  The offense – aside from some depth issues – is in pretty good shape except for the short- and long-term questions on the offensive line.

Here are some other areas where the Giants could use some improved depth or could take a special player if someone becomes available:

Tight End: The top guys will be Brandon Myers, Adrien Robinson, and Bear Pascoe.  But the Giants could use a solid, two-way tight end for depth and competition.  Myers is basically on a 1-year contract and Pascoe is just a guy.  Robinson should become the best blocker of the group, but another body would be nice.

Wide Receiver:  If the value is too great to pass on, the Giants certainly could add another receiver.  But I think Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz will both be here for a while.  Rueben Randle is going to be a player if he works harder.  And the Giants have Louis Murphy and Jerrel Jernigan competing for playing time as the fourth and fifth receivers.  The Giants also seem to always find an interesting undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver.  Not a pressing need, but if someone slips…

Running Back: The top two backs are clearly David Wilson and Andre Brown.  But since Wilson isn’t the biggest guy in the world and Brown has been injury-prone, a third option would be nice.  That could be a draft pick or a veteran such as Ryan Torain.

What about a developmental quarterback?  No room on the roster and a good one would be snatched off of the Practice Squad.

Apr 232013
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Stevie Brown, New York Giants (December 30, 2012)

Stevie Brown – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2013 NFL Draft Preview: Safety

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Safeties on the Giants Roster:

Antrel Rolle – 30 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Stevie Brown – 25 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Ryan Mundy – 28 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Will Hill – 23 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Tyler Sash – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014

David Caldwell – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

Perry Fewell’s scheme puts a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of its safeties and calls for versatile athletes that are at least capable of man coverage as well as a presence against the run.  Their current personnel at this group may not be well known around the league, but it is a reliable component to the defense as a whole.  They are led by a savvy veteran and team leader Antrell Rolle.  Since signing a big contract via free agency in 2010, Rolle has been the steady presence in the middle of their secondary that had been missing out for years.  His versatility is a vital attribute to this defense.  Brown came out of nowhere and led the team with 8 interceptions.  While I don’t use that stat alone to judge how good a player performs because interceptions are frequently a “right place-right time” occurrence, Brown earned the right to start in 2013.  He is a well rounded safety that tackles well and anticipates the action.  Will Hill is another nicely-priced, versatile safety with the best physical tool set in the group.  He is a capable backup that has shown flashes of physical presence across the middle.  Mundy was brought in via free agency to provide an extra layer of depth to the group.  He is an average pass defender that can make big hits over the middle.  He will make the team, but he’s not a guy that is in the long term plans.  Sash is a special teams weapon that that can contribute to the defense as a guy in the box.  He lacks the athletic tool set and reaction skills to play a role in coverage schemes.  Caldwell is a training camp body that will likely not make the team.  When considering the economics of a football roster, these safeties are an efficient group with enough youth.  There is a nice blend of talent that mixes in well when put together.

Top 10 Grades:

Kenny Vaccaro – 6’0/214 – Texas: 83

Matt Elam – 5’10/208 – Florida: 78

Jonathan Cyprien – 6’0/217: 77

Shamarko Thomas – 5’9/213 – Syracuse: 77

Josh Evans – 6’1/207 – Florida: 77

Zeke Motta – 6’2/213 – Notre Dame: 76

Eric Reid – 6’1/213 – LSU – 75

Tony Jefferson – 5’11/213 – Oklahoma: 73

T.J. McDonald – 6’3/219 – USC: 72

Duke Williams – 5’11/203 – Nevada: 70

Early Round Target (1st-2nd):

Kenny Vaccaro – Texas

Easy and fluid hips.  Minimal effort to turn and run.  Very agile and flexible, natural mover in space.  Tenacious player that plays faster than he times.  Will catch a lot of guys from behind.  Closes a 10-15 yard window as fast as anyone.  Explodes downhill and will play a physical game against the run.  Good tackler that will wrap up.  Versatile enough to play safety and cornerback.  Was used all over the field in the Texas scheme.  Always around the ball, a true gamer.  May not be a deep cover safety.  Doesn’t show the same speed when chasing the deep route runners.  Will get reckless at times, losing track of assignments.

If there is one safety in consideration for round 1, it is Vaccaro.  He almost came out last year after receiving a second round grade, but went back to refine some skills, notably as a cover man.  Texas’ scheme had Vaccaro moving all over the field and he proved to be a true weapon the closer he moved to the line of scrimmage.  He is a guy that plays as fast as the guy he is up against no matter what, something you don’t see often.  His relentlessness in pursuit and ability to close a gap is Polamalu-esque, any scheme can use that.  Vaccaro is the kind of player that comes in and gets on the field right away because he has such a versatile skill set that elevates the abilities of other players.

Mid Round Target (3rd-5th):

Shamarko Thomas – Syracuse

One of the biggest hitters in the nation.  A brick house that brings a presence to every tackle he makes. Intimidator over the middle that makes in impact on receivers that cross it.  Elite speed in coverage and pursuit.  Moves at such a rapid pace but shows nice balance and body control.  Processes his reads well and shows instinctive movement.  Plays a reckless style and will overpursue.  Needs to slow down sometimes.  Not a consistent tackler, fails to wrap up.  Ball skills are average in traffic, won’t get his hands on a lot of passes.  Run defender that can be exposed in zone coverage.

One player comes to mind every single time I watch Thomas play: Bob Sanders.  Now his career was cut short by injuries because of a reckless style within a small frame, but that doesn’t stop me from giving Thomas a similar grade to Elam.  He is the guy that every defense wants in the middle of their secondary.  He makes an impact on so many plays.  When a physical force hustles the way Thomas does, big things can happen on a weekly basis.  He is potentially a big time playmaker that can be had in the middle rounds.

Late Round Target (6th-UDFA):

Zeke Motta – Notre Dame

Big time presence that will be physically ready for the power of the NFL right away.  Explosive downhill player that plays fast when the action is in front of him.  Sound, physical tackler that makes in impact with each it.  Takes proper angles in pursuit.  Very aware and smart, quick reaction.  Can cover tight ends step for step.  Experienced in zone coverage.  Not a guy you can trust in deep coverage.  Doesn’t have a lot of range, lacks top end speed when running with back to the line of scrimmage.  Stiff when moving laterally in coverage.  Not very versatile.

I really hope the poor forty time bumps Motta down in to the later rounds because I think he is going to be a great value there.  He lacks top end athletic traits when the speed is needed.  He doesn’t have that extra gear that most safeties possess.  But Motta stands out in every Notre Dame tape I watch because of how well he plays downhill.  He can be a force in the box, similar to Bernard Pollard.  He can cover the athletic tight ends all over the field.  Hard worker that will make an impact on special teams.  There are simply some guys that you just know will, at the very least, carve a niche for themselves in the league and consistently contribute.  Motta is one of those guys.

The Plan:

The Giants have room on their roster for another safety, but there is enough within their group for 2013.  Their starters are set and they have a couple of younger guys that are still progressing along with a veteran that can play both positions.  Rolle has played very well over the past few seasons, but I still think they don’t have any star players back there.  A top tier player back there can make a defense completely different because they are so frequently in the middle of the action.  This scheme can do a lot with a versatile safety, thus if the value matches up when they are on the clock, this should be a consideration.  There are a lot of guys in this class that I think are vastly overrated by the media.  Guys like Rambo, Reid, McDonald and Swearinger are highlight-reel friendly but did not grade out as high on my sheet.  I want a versatile athlete that plays with a consistent motor.  Put him in to this depth chart and I think good things will happen.

Apr 222013
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New York Giants 2013 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerback

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Cornerbacks on the Giants Roster:

Corey Webster – 31 Years Old – Signed through 2014 (player option)

Terrell Thomas = 28 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Prince Amukamara – 23 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Jayron Hosley – 22 Years Old – Signed through 2015

Aaron Ross – 30 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Terrence Frederick – 23 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Antonio Dennard – 23 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Trumaine McBride – 27 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Buddy Jackson – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Laron Scott – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

As it currently stands, cornerback may be the deepest group on the Giants roster. Between the veterans and young talent, there is a nice blend of proven success and high-ceiling potential. In 2012, this was group ravaged by injuries and the lack of depth came back to bite them hard. There were a few points where the Giants defensive backfield appeared to be one of the worst in football. With that said, they are looking for healthy returns and maturation from their younger players. Webster is on the wrong side of 30, coming off one of his worst seasons in blue. He still has enough in the tank to be the team’s top cover man, but his days may be numbered here. Thomas returns from his second season-ending knee injury. He had a nice start to his career, looking like a solid starter the back end could depend on. How he bounces back is a huge question mark to say the least. Amukamara and Hosley have not stood out early in their respective careers, but they’ve shown enough in games to deserve a shot at big time responsibilities. They are both young and cheap with a lot of potential, that’s all you can ask for. Ross was brought back on a one year deal with minimal risk. While he is not a difference maker, Ross is a reliable performer at a tough position that has become more and more important. Having him as a #4 or #5 corner makes this a very deep group. Behind him are a bunch of practice squad bodies that could compete for a roster spot should injuries arise. Frederick and Scott were both graded in the 5th round tier on my CB board at this time last year. When all is said and done, the Giants should feel good about this group when comparing to what the rest of the league has at cornerback.

Top 10 Grades:

Dee Milliner – 6’0/201 – Alabama: 90

Xavier Rhodes – 6’2/210 – Florida State: 84

Jamar Taylor – 5’11/192 – Boise State: 82

Tryann Mathieu – 5’9/186 – LSU: 80

Dwayne Gratz – 5’11/201 – Connecticut: 79

D.J. Hayden – 5’11/191 – Houston: 78

Micah Hyde – 6’0/197 – Iowa: 78

B.W. Webb – 5’10/184 – William & Mary: 77

Sanders Commings – 6’0/216 – Georgia: 76

Johnthan Banks – 6’2/185 – Mississippi State: 76

Early Round Target (1st-2nd):

Xavier Rhodes – Florida State

Huge frame that is filled out and ready for the physical side of the game. Immediately becomes a strong presence as a press corner and run defender. Likes to play strong, has a safety’s mentality when tackling. Wraps up and delivers a pop, will be a reliable defender. Further along with the jam technique than most college corners are coming out. Re-routes receivers with his punch. Has great body control downfield when locating at attacking the football. Gets his hands on a lot of balls. Will lose track of the action behind him in zone coverage. Doesn’t twist and turn with as much fluidity as you want. Appears stiff at times. Won’t run stride for stride with the league’s top deep threats.

I don’t expect Milliner to fall anywhere within the Giants grasp in round one, but I think Rhodes has a shot at being there. He will have to be in the discussion even though cornerback is not a pressing need. The big, physical corners are becoming a weapon for pass defenses. Rhodes is about as big a cornerback as you will find considering his height, length, and girth. He is a strong player that brings presence to a secondary. He lacks some fluidity in his hips that disables the turn and run component to his game a bit, but nothing that would keep him off the field. For a guy this big and this strong, Rhodes has the surprising ability to maintain balance and control when running at full speed down the field. He will be a tough guy to throw on, plain and simple. His power game will help underneath and his length/speed combination will make him a deep cover man that quarterbacks will think twice about throwing on.

Mid Round Target (3rd-5th):

Micah Hyde – Iowa

Big and physical with the ability to press and tackle at a high level. Tremendous ball skills down the field. Tracks the ball and times his lunges well. Plays fast. Will run with a lot of speed receivers deep. Versatile, can do a lot for a defense. Just as effective as a deep zone cover guy as he is at the point of attack jamming the receiver. Will gamble and guess too often. Stop/go quickness and agility are average. Very hands on underneath and got away with it in college. The speed was not challenged often enough in college.

I’ll say with confidence that I probably have the highest grade on Hyde among all evaluators. I did not watch Iowa until November, and I simply put a star next to Hyde’s name to ensure I would go back and check him out after the season. A closer look led me to believe that he is going to be an overlooked but effective defensive back in the league. He is a guy that plays as fast as he needs to on a weekly basis. His game speed far outweighs his workouts, even though his times are nothing to be looked down upon. Hyde has great body control and displays knowledge of a lot of nuances to the position that I just don’t see when watching college corners. He has played safety and corner with plenty of experience. Versatility is key with defensive backs, and he is one of the best multi-faceted guys in this class.

Late Round Target (6th-Undrafted):

Kayvon Webster – 5’11/195 – South Florida: 68

Explosive in short space, great hips that show flexibility and power. Can really turn and run. Trusted in deep coverage. Has elite speed that can handle deep responsibility on an island. Long arms and a thick frame. Has a physical element to his game. Zero hesitation in taking on blocks from linemen. Physical and willing tackler. Will lose his balance and body control underneath. Has a hard time locating the ball and attacking when moving at a high speed. Loses athleticism when running with his back to the quarterback. A little too hands on, needs to trust his feet more.

Webster is a guy that some current NFL players are raving about in pre-draft workouts. Webster caught my eye a couple times during the season, playing a very similar game to former South Florida 1st round pick Mike Jenkins. He brings a physical style to the game that the Giants need. But he is more than a strong presence, as he’s shown some finesse to his game as a cover man. He has some of the most explosive and fluid hips in this class, something you want to work with when bringing a corner in. Webster is potentially a year or two of coaching and hard work away from being a starting caliber player.

The Plan:

This is an incredibly deep group of cornerbacks, especially in the middle rounds. Without a real big sense of urgency on the depth chart, the Giants are in a position to sit tight and wait for a big time value. I don’t expect anyone to be there in round 1 or 2 that presents that value considering who else will be available and what their roster needs are. There will be a logjam of quality physical cover men that have the versatility fill a couple holes in the middle-to-late rounds. Unless a tremendous value falls, I would wait until round 4 to consider this position. Both the short and long term outlooks are looking positive. Even with that in mind, a defensive backfield needs to be prepared for injuries, as seen last year. There is space on the roster for another cornerback without taking anything away from other groups. Ideally a guy could come in that has the versatility to at least play a little safety if need be. That’s where the names like Micah Hyde and Sanders Commings come to mind, two prospects I really like on tape that will be available a bit later.

Apr 192013
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New York Giants 2013 NFL Draft Preview: Linebacker

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Linebackers on Giants Roster:

Keith Rivers – 26 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Dan Connor – 27 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Jacquian Williams – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Mark Herzlich – 25 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Spencer Paysinger – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Jake Muasau – 23 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

This is the one position I have been critical of when it comes to the Giants approach in the draft. This has been a spot of instability for a few years now that has been partially fixed with low-cost free agents. There have been multiple opportunities to strengthen this group via the draft over the past few years but the front office has failed to find the impact players. The league has evolved to a pass-happy approach, which means a linebacker or two will spend a lot of time on the sidelines because of the nickel/dime packages. I understand that. However, linebackers can be used effectively within the right scheme against the run and pass. The current and most recent groups of linebackers have not been versatile enough and it has really impacted the lack of identity for the entire unit. Rivers and Connor are one year stop gaps that can easily be replaced by young talent within a year or two. They are serviceable, but nothing that can really upgrade the defense as a whole. Williams is a top notch athlete that shows promise as a rangy weak side guy. His skill set can make a big difference as long as he can avoid the injury bug. Both Herzlich and Paysinger are special teams’ assets but have showed they may be in over their head when it comes to linebacker duty on a play to play basis. Muasau is a training camp body that will likely be cut prior to week 1 of the regular season. This is a unit that, almost desperately, needs an upgrade in young talent.

Top 10 Grades:

Dion Jordan – 6’6/248 – Oregon: 85

Barkevious Mingo – 6’4/241 – LSU: 79

Kiko Alonso – 6’4/238 – Oregon: 79

Jarvis Jones – 6’3/245 – Georgia: 78

Arthur Brown – 6’1/241 – Kansas State: 77

DeVonte Holloman – 6’2/243 – South Carolina: 77

Kevin Minter – 6’0/246 – LSU – 77

Kevin Reddick – North Carolina: 77

Khaseem Greene – 6’1/241 – Rutgers: 76

Manti Te’o – 6’1/241 – Notre Dame: 75

Early Round Target (1st-2nd):

Kiko Alonso – Oregon

Long, wiry frame with some room for bulk. Unique athlete with a blend of speed and quickness that stands out each week. Hard nosed defender that will take blocks on and smack them in the mouth. Strong presence inside. Gets the most out of himself physically. Smart and instinctive. Flows towards the action well and gets in position. A lot of lateral range. Reaches the sideline with ease. Knows how to finish. Good form tackler that wraps up. Effective in coverage. Can run down the seam with athletic tight ends. Length is an advantage. Gets nicked up often. Plays out of control at times and will be fooled by counters and playaction fakes. Some maturity issues that need to be checked out.

Alonso is my top inside linebacker from this class and I think he can be a star at the next level. Talent wise, he is a legit 1st round caliber player. I had to downgrade him a bit because of some off the field concerns, but nothing that would prevent me from selecting him. I watched a ton of Oregon tape over the past few months. Alonso moves and finishes like a young Brian Urlacher. He has the frame to add some weight and if he can maintain his unique athleticism, you have a special player that can do a lot for a defense. He is a 3 down linebacker that can bring an attitude to the defense that the Giants currently lack. Round 2 will be where he becomes a consideration for me.

Mid Round Target (3rd-5th):

DeVonte Holloman – South Carolina

Former safety that has been moved up closer to the line of scrimmage. Moves exceptionally well for a guy 240+ pounds. Still has some work to do strength wise. Aggressive, fiery player that brings it every play. Surprisingly will send a jolt to offensive linemen with a strong punch and proper use of leverage. Smart player that plays assignment football. Not a roamer, very disciplined. Rangy player in coverage and against the outside run. Doesn’t wrap up consistently. Power backs can get off his tackles. Will get lost in the shuffle when playing the inside run. Needs more time to get acclimated to linebacker.

In a passing league, Holloman could be a big time asset to any defense playing a 4-3 scheme that likes to keep their linebackers on the field. Holloman is a former safety that put some weight on and made the move to linebacker. I’m impressed by how seamless the transition was for him. He looks like a natural fit there because he is a physical, smart, instinctive player that can fulfill multiple roles. He is the kind of guy you want covering this new brand of athletic tight ends that is exploiting matchups. Holloman actually moved back to safety a couple times in 2012 because of injuries to the SC defense, and he played exceptionally well. A couple years down the road, Holloman will be one of the best athletes at the linebacker position across the league.

Late Round Target (6th-UDFA):

Vince Williams – 6’1/233 – Florida State: 69

Inside run road block. Tough and physical that plays an aggressive, downhill game. Powerful when playing between the tackles. Delivers a violent punch to runners when he can play straight ahead. Reliable tackler. Intense and physical. Struggles to reach the outside runs. Can be slow to react, will get lost in the shuffle. Doesn’t cover well. Fails to drop back deep enough when playing the middle zone. Loses athleticism in space as a cover man.

Williams did not stand out to me when watching Florida State throughout the year. However when I took a closer look after being impressed by his play at the Senior Bowl, I can see him being a reliable 2 down linebacker in the NFL. He is as tough as they come against the inside run. He avoids blocks well and will deliver a blow to running backs. He is not a bad athlete, but simply did not fit in to FSU’s scheme, which calls for 4.5 guys at linebacker. He will be a top tier special teamer and quality backup in the NFL at the very least.

The Plan:

As I said earlier, this group of linebackers is a big time limiting factor to just how good this defense can be. I agree the line and cornerbacks/safeties can hinder this issue a bit, but the lack of talent is a major concern. In round 1, there will not be a value there to select a linebacker, which is fine. This is a very deep class that may lack top tier grades at the top, but is loaded with quality 2nd/3rd round caliber guys that can be had on Saturday/Sunday. The Giants must find a value somewhere in there and bring at least one fresh body to this group that lacks quality between the starters and backups. The inside guys in this class can be had a little later but if the Giants are looking for a starting caliber WILL or SAM, they may need to pounce a tad earlier. Solid linebackers can be found in the middle of any draft, but they cannot afford to pass on the proper value at any point. If the Giants want to acquire a new brand of defense that includes speed and toughness, this is where they need to look first. Their personnel elsewhere is solid at the very least but we may never know just how good they are unless they upgrade the middle level.

Apr 182013
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New York Giants 2013 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Tackle

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Defensive Tackles on the Giants Roster:

Linval Joseph – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Cullen Jenkins – 32 Years Old – Signed through 2015

Shaun Rogers – 34 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Mike Patterson – 29 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Marvin Austin – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Markus Kuhn – 26 Years Old – Signed through 2015

Bobby Skinner – 28 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

The Giants are deep along the inside of the defensive line with a good blend of youth and experience.  This is a group, when healthy, that could give opposing offenses a lot of problems because of the versatility they bring to the table.  The Giants run defense in 2012 was a problem when looking at the big picture.  The root of that problem resided at tackle where injuries piled up and lack of quality depth was exposed.  Linval Joseph is the reliable mainstay of this group.  He brings a Keith Hamilton type approach, occupying both space and blockers which can free up linebackers to roam free and make tackles.  There is actually some upside as a pass rusher and playmaking presence with him as well considering the size/quickness combination.  Mike Patterson and Cullen Jenkins were brought in via free agency to join 2012 acquisition Shaun Rogers to add a sense of physical presence inside.  Between those three, there could be a economic rotation of reliable and effective line-of-scrimmage-controllers.  Both Austin and Kuhn have the upside to make a difference as role players within a rotation.  They are coming off injuries and entering a crowded and competitive group of guys that are vying for roster spots and playing time.  Neither are locks to maintain a roster spot.  Skinner is a training camp body that has minimal chances of making this team.

Top 10 Grades:

Star Lotulelei – 6’3/311 – Utah: 91

Sheldon Richardson – 6’3/294 – Missouri: 87

Sharif Floyd – 6’3/297 – Florida:  84

Kawann Short – 6’3 /299– Purdue: 78

Jesse Williams – 6’4/323 – Alabama: 76

Josh Boyd – 6’3/310 – Mississippi State: 76

Johnathan Hankins – 6’3/320 Ohio State: 75

Brandon Moore – 6’5/317 – Texas: 75

Montori Hughes – 6’4/329 – Tennessee-Martin: 74

Sylvester Williams – 6’3/313 – North Carolina: 73

Early Round Target (1st-2nd):

Sheldon Richardson – Missouri

Top tier explosion off the snap.  Plays low, strong, quick.  Repeatedly beat some of his best competition one on one.  Demands a lot of attention as a pass rusher.  Quick hands with refined rush moves.  Avoids the meat of blocks, plays slippery.  Mobile behind the line of scrimmage, hard to believe he can move this way at nearly 300 pounds.  Versatile.  Plays inside and outside, handand in dirt and standing up.  Angry player that brings it week in, week out.  Can be blown off the line of scrimmage when run defending.  Does not handle the double teams well.  May not be suited for a lot of assignment football.  Background and coachability need to be looked at closely.

Richardson ends the grading process with a higher grade than Floyd on my grading sheet.  Most of what I see out there leads me to believe that Floyd will be taken way before him though.  While the need isn’t a glaring one, Richardson may have to be the pick if he somehow falls to #19.  The character concerns are there but he’s been praised by the Missouri staff for how much he has turned it around over the past year and a half.  Richardson would be a tremendous inside presence against the pass early on.  His athletic ability could make him a weapon against the popular stretch running plays and pistol offense.  He is a guy that can get in to the backfield consistently and disrupt the action.  There is always room for this kind of difference maker on any roster as long as his off the field concerns are looked in to.

Mid Round Target (3rd-5th):

Josh Boyd – Mississippi State

May lack the elite size, but Boyd is a big time presence against the inside run.  Controls the point of attack with a low, strong base and powerful punch.  Can keep blockers away from his numbers.  Quick reaction guy that can make plays along the tackle box.  Hustler that plays with excellent stamina throughout a game.  His best games were against his toughest competition.  Won’t be a pass rusher at the next level.  Doesn’t have the moves to beat guys one on one.  Doesn’t stand out as a high upside guy on any level.

Boyd was a guy that I was pleasantly surprised with when I took a closer look at him as an individual.  I saw a lot of Mississippi State in 2012, but rarely noticed him in live action.  He is one of the better blue-collar defensive linemen in this class.  There is a constant physical presence that controls the point of attack and demands attention.  He will be the kind of guy that linebackers love to play behind.  He is smart in the way he reads blocks off the snap.  Very good body control and positioning allow him to swallow double teams.  He lacks the upside of a notable player on the stat sheet, but good defensive fronts always have a guy like him in the mix.

Late Round Target (6th-Undrafted):

Brandon Moore – Texas

Has elite upside.  Huge frame that carries 315+ pounds comfortably, minimal bad weight.  Can really move in pursuit, has a quick burst and light feet.  Long arms that he uses well to keep blockers away from his numbers.  Can fire out of his stance and gain the initial advantage at the point of attack.  Strong bull rusher that collapses the pocket consistently.  Doesn’t shed blocks with his hands.  Plays too high, but it is more of a technique issue rather than a physical limitation.  Raw athlete that shows signs of dominance on one play but will look like a 3rd stringer on others.

Moore has had an interesting path to the 2013 NFL Draft.  He started off at Alabama, primed to take over for Marcell Dareus and Josh Chapman.  He was suspended and ended up in junior college prior to transferring to Texas.  He had one more year of eligibility left, but he left for financial reasons.  Moore is a diamond in the rough.  He has the tool set and athletic ability to be a terror in the NFL.  He needs to be coached up and the work ethic has to be there for him to reach his potential.  He certainly looks the part when considering his height, length, and girth.  He has shown flashes on tape of being a complete presence inside that needs to be accounted for on every down.  If he puts his best effort in to becoming a better player, Moore will be a long time starter in the NFL.

The Plan:

The Giants are host to a very deep and versatile unit along the inside of their defensive line.  With two free agent additions and the hopeful return of Rogers, Austin, and Kuhn from their respective injuries, Reese could afford to ignore this position on draft weekend.  If there is a tremendous value that falls in to their lap at any point, they will have to consider bringing one more guy in.  While the current depth chart looks strong, there are some aging veterans being relied upon.  You can never have too many defensive linemen.  Ideally, the Giants can look elsewhere during the first 5-6 rounds and look to add a Brandon Moore type in round 7 or during the undrafted free agency period.  Intra-squad competition never hurts, especially when some of the younger players in the picture have yet to prove anything that warrants a roster spot set in stone.  This is a pretty deep class of defensive tackles and a patient approach will likely be the best strategy to use.

Apr 162013
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New York Giants 2013 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive End

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Defensive Ends on the Giants Roster:

Justin Tuck – 30 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Jason Pierre-Paul – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2015

Mathias Kiwanuka – 30 Years Old – Signed through 2015

Adwale Ojomo – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Adrian Tracy – 26 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Justin Trattou – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Matt Broha – 23 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

What was once considered to be the one area the Giants stood out among the rest of the league has become a situation with several long term question marks.  Justin Tuck still brings the versatility to play inside-out, creating mismatches across the point of attack.  Even though his production dipped and his injuries seem to be intensifying, he still brings value because of the presence he has against blockers.  As he enters his 30 year old season, his role has changed from focal point to role player.  Where he will be over the next couple years is up in the air.  Pierre-Paul and Kiwanuka may be the starting duo we see over the next few seasons.  Both have the length, athletic ability, and power to stay on the field for a lot of snaps and produce at a high level.  Is Pierre-Paul still considered a top tier talent?  Or is he closer to the guy we saw last year?  The one that finished with 6.5 sacks and had a hard time beating tackles on on one is not what we thought he would be at this time last year.  The backups leave a lot to be desired.  They offer a current level of sub-par performance and minimal long term upside.  This is now a unit one must worry about if an injury or two arise at some point.  Ojomo and Tracy have the tools and can hold their own, but neither will be big time pass rushers.  Trattou and Broha might make the team, but won’t factor in to the team’s plans over draft weekend.

Top 10 Grades:

Ezekiel Ansah – 6’5/271 – BYU: 83

Datone Jones – 6’4/283 – UCLA: 82

Malliciah Goodman – 6’4/276 – Clemson: 80

Bjoern Werner – 6’3/266 – Florida State: 78

Sam Montgomery – 6’3/262 – LSU: 78

Cornellius Carradine – 6’4/276 – Florida State: 75

Margus Hunt – 6’8/278 – SMU: 75

William Gholston – 6’6/281 – Michigan State: 74

DaMontre Moore – 6’5/250 – Texas A&M: 74

Alex Okafor – 6’5/264 – Texas: 70

Early Round Target (1st-2nd):

Datone Jones – UCLA

Incredibly strong hands that can control and shed.  Exerts power from his base and delivers a violent punch that jolts the blocker.  Versatile.  Can play multiple spots, multiple roles along the front line.  Played in the 3-4 and 4-3 scheme.  Surprising quickness and speed off the edge.  Smart player after the snap that reads blocks well.  Follows the action and gets in on a lot of plays.  Not a true edge rusher that will beat blockers to the edge.  May need to play an inside role to be effective.  A little slow to pursue in space.  Plays too high at times, taking away power advantages.

Jones earned a first round grade on my board last fall because of his power presence and versatility.  This is a game of matchups.  Jones is a guy that can overpower the pass blocking tackles, but out-quick the interior blockers.  Either way, he is a productive and effective player that can stay on the field no matter the situation.  Finding a guy with this kind of versatility is exactly what the Giants defense is looking for after the departure of Osi Umenyiora and the future of Tuck being unknown.  He is certainly worth a top 20 pick and will likely be my choice for the Giants at #19 overall.

Mid Round Target (3rd-5th):

Malliciah Goodman – Clemson

Freakish tool set with incredibly long arms (36+ inches), big hands (11 inches).  Has a developing frame that will need more girth, but has plenty of room for it.  Mechanically sound with consistent approach.  Plays a violent game with strong hands a plenty of knee bend.  Quick arms and quick feet.  Initial pop off the edge is average.  Loses his power presence when playing the run.  May be a situational guy rather than an every down player.

I gave Goodman a 1st round grade as well, much higher than anything I have seen out there.  He is the kind of college player that NFL coaches will fall in love with because of the upside and coachability.  Goodman is well known and respected for his work ethic between seasons.  There is some natural talent here and a tool set that some NFL players only wish they had.  Goodman played behind some NFL defensive ends early in his career but has impressed me enough over the past two seasons to convince he can be a productive starter.  He will be on the radar starting in round 2 or 3 for the Giants, as this would be an ideal situation for him to play in.

Late Round Target (6th-UDFA):

Quanterus Smith – 6’5/250 -Western Kentucky –  (Grade: 68)

Top tier quickness and fluidity in a phone booth.  Very effective in short space with quick feet and active hands.  Bends well and can play a low, strong game.   Well-developed rush moves that can make him a terror to deal with.  Stronger against the run in between the tackles than you would think by looking at him.  Tore ACL in November, but should be ready by training camp.  Loses track of leverage at some points and gets pushed around.  Will allow blockers to get inside too often.  Not a quick reaction player.  Questionable on-field IQ.

Smith led the nation in sacks (12.5) prior to the injury to his knee.  While he played against a lower level of competition, he did put together a 3-sack game against Alabama.  He showed in that game that he has the NFL caliber athleticism and power to play at a high level in the league.  Smith may not time well in workouts, but he is clearly a guy that can beat blockers with his feet and hands.  He is very quick and balanced with enough upper body power to become an effective pass rusher.  He needs to recover from his knee and add some bulk before he can play in a 4-3 though.  The upside is there to be a starter and he should be available late.  If the Giants want to address other spots on the depth chart early, Smith should get a hard look late.

The Plan:

If the Giants want to bring their defense back to a respectable level, they need to strengthen their group in the trenches.  They have already brought in a couple veteran defensive tackles via free agency, but they remain thin outside with some serious questions when looking at the future.  Bringing in multiple defensive ends via the draft year after year was a great approach that helped bring a lot of success to New York.  With that in mind, Reese will likely look to add another quality piece that can contribute early.  The draft’s top defensive end, Ezekial Ansah, will be gone prior to them being on the clock.  As I said earlier, Jones is a picture-perfect fit for the Giants defense and if he is available at 19, he should be the pick barring a big time value elsewhere falling in their lap.  If they do in fact go elsewhere with that first rounder, there will be enough value somewhere in the middle rounds.  This is a pretty deep class of defensive ends when looking for guys that can fill multiple roles.  There are not a lot of true edge rushers but this is a scheme that will rotate a lot of guys inside and out.  Bringing in competition will push the current contributors and add a sense of long term security to the most vital position on the defensive side of the ball.

Apr 132013
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New York Giants 2013 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Guard/Center

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Guards/Centers on the Giants Roster:

Chris Snee – 31 Years Old – Signed through 2014
Kevin Boothe – 29 Years Old – Signed through 2013
David Baas – 31 Years Old – Signed through 2015
Brandon Mosley – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2015
Selvish Capers – 26 Years Old – Signed through 2013
Stephen Goodin – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014
Jim Cordle – 25 Years Old – Signed through 2013
Michael Jasper – 26 Years Old – Signed through 2014
Chris DeGeare – 26 Years Old – Signed through 2013
Bryant Browning – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Where They Stand:

The interior of the Giants offensive line has been a main focus so far this offseason. Reese has brought in a lot of street free agents to add a sense of competition to the backups with the hope that somebody will elevate their performance enough to add a sense of long term security to the position. This was a group that was very hot and cold in 2012. There were weeks where they were dominated inside from start to finish. Then there were weeks where the Giants could run wild via the inside gaps. The main issue here is depth and the future, as the three starters are capable of playing at a high level in 2013. Snee and Baas are on the back nine of their respective careers, and both were banged up in 2012. Baas’ contract gets overvalued next season, so this may be his last year in New York. The re-signing of Boothe to an economic deal is a big deal for this team, as he brings a lot of versatility and a quality level of performance. Behind them, there are a lot of unknowns. Mosley and Capers are former tackles with solid athletic ability and length. Can they handle the inside power game though? This will be a big offseason for both of them. It is very possible that two new starters will be in this group at this time next year. Right now may be the time to prepare for that.

Top 10 Grades:

Chance Warmack – G – 6’2/317 – Alabama: 84

Alvin Bailey – G– 6’3/312 – Arkansas: 80

Jonathan Cooper – G – 6’2/311 – North Carolina: 80

Dallas Thomas – G – 6’5/306 – Tennessee: 77

Barrett Jones – C/G – 6’5/306 – Alabama: 76

Hugh Thornton – G – 6’3/320 – Illinois: 74

Chris Barker – G – 6’3/305 – Nevada: 73

Brian Winters – G – 6’4/320 – Kent State: 71

Travis Frederick – C – 6’4/312 – Wisconsin: 70

Khaled Holmes – C – 6’3/302 – USC: 70

Early Round Target (1st-2nd):

Chance Warmack – Alabama

Powerful as a run blocker. Fast and low out of his stance, delivers the punch. Sends a jolt to defenders consistently. Freakishly long arms that are constantly extended. Strong lower half. Can anchor and control the engagement against his stiffest competition. Mobile enough to move laterally on trap plays, not a pulling guard to the outside however. Superb pass blocker, top in the class. Will tire easily, needs better conditioning. Hands aren’t always inside. Will get caught leaning/lunging. The speed of the NFL may hurt him.

I’m having a tough time projecting where exactly Warmack will go in the draft. Part of me thinks top 10. Part of me thinks top 20. When all is said and done, there is a decent chance he falls in to the Giants lap at #19. There are a lot of teams looking to add defensive line and defensive back help early. When that is the case, teams will tend to reach for talent to ensure they can get one of top guys at that position. If Warmack slips through the cracks, it would likely be a quick selection in my eyes. He is an immediate starter. He is a safe bet to perform well with the upside of being a potential Pro Bowl caliber guy very soon. Similar game to Chris Snee but with more physical presence. This would allow Boothe to play the important role of backup to several different spots and give long term stability to an important position for this scheme.

Mid Round Target (3rd-5th):

Alvin Bailey – Arkansas

Has played left and right guard. Big time physical presence that can move players as a run blocker. Engulfs defenders and will control the engagement consistently. Very long arms. Well developed frame that can hold a lot of weight. Maintains balance and strength when moving laterally, effective stretch blocker. Bends at the knees, rarely caught leaning. Started every game of his career and visibly improved each year. Pass blocking was up and down in 2012. Technique isn’t clean yet, loses track of hand placement and feet will get stationary.

Bailey was on my radar prior to the start of 2012 even though he was a junior that not many people knew about. I watched a lot of Arkansas this year, and he stood out every time. He has the most upside of all the guards in this class. If he can be coached up to refine his footwork and hand placement while continuing to physically develop, Bailey is going to be one of the top guards in football. He fits well in to the Giants scheme, looking like another Kevin Boothe at his current level of play with the obvious long term upside of improvement.

Late Round Target (6th-UDFA):

Chris Barker – Nevada

Has started every game over his 4 year career. Anchors well with the combination of tremendous lower body strength, consistent leverage, heavy hands. Moves east/west with balance and power. Wins most one-on-one battles. Hustles to the second level. Can play against speed. Not an effective pulling guard to the outside. Doesn’t deliver the violent punch, will catch defenders instead of deliver a jolt. Double moves by quick rushers give him trouble.

I really liked what I saw out of Barker in the 3 games I watched. He stands out with his ability to anchor and stay in front of his man. He doesn’t physically overwhelm anybody, but consistently gets the job done. He can get his hips in to the hole and prevent his assignment from making a play. He needs to spend a year or two developing power to his upper body though. Not an immediate starter type, as he doesn’t have a lot of experience against NFL caliber competition. Barker would present the right kind of value late because I think he can start in the league and perform well for a balanced offense.

The Plan:

This is not a deep class of interior offensive linemen. After the top 10-12 guys, there is a pretty significant drop off in talent, much more so than what I’ve graded in the past. As I said in my OT analysis, the offensive line is not stable when looking at the depth and long-term outlook. It is vital for the Giants to bring in help once the value is right. It could be in round one if Warmack falls. Barring another shocking value being available as well, Warmack needs to be the Giants 1st round pick if he is there. Otherwise, I think there will be an opportunity to draft Bailey in round 3. Both of these guys can play early in their career and help bring back the dominance at the point of attack that they’ve lacked for a couple years now. The centers in this class are nothing special, as I have them graded much lower than what I see out there projection-wise. That’s where the value of Boothe having the capability of manning that spot is very important once Baas is cut, which I expect to happen next year. If, for whatever reason, the Giants do not bring in one of those top 10-12 guys, they should ignore it completely because they already have an abundance of street free agent-type guys on the roster.

Apr 112013
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New York Giants 2013 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Tackle

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current OTs on the Giants Roster:

Will Beatty – 28 Years Old – Signed Through 2017

David Diehl – 32 Years Old – Signed Through 2013

Matt McCants – 23 Years Old – Signed Through 2014

James Brewer – 25 Years Old – Signed Through 2014

Levy Adcock – 24 Years Old – Signed Through 2014

Where They Stand:

There is a sense of insecurity at offensive tackle, more notably on the right side.  Diehl appears to be the guy for the job, finishing where he started his career.  He has fallen off fast however and is no longer the reliable, week-to-week road grader that gets the job done.  He had to re-structure his contract in order to hold his roster spot in 2013.  There is a good chance this will be his last year in New York.  On the left side, Reese has made a long term commitment to Beatty.  This will be his fifth year in the league.  He has developed physically and refined his technique as a pass blocker.  Even with that in mind, Beatty has limited upside and I’m not sold on him being the guy that will protect Manning’s blind side for the second half of his career.  Behind the two starters are McCants and Brewer.  Both are good athletes that have yet to play their best football.  They will stick around for another year or two, but neither project to be starting caliber tackles on championship teams.  Adcock is a practice squad body that will not factor in to the decision process draft weekend.

Top 10 Grades:

Eric Fisher – 6’7/306 – Central Michigan: 90

Luke Joeckel – 6’6/306 – Texas A&M: 88

Lane Johnson – 6’6/303 – Oklahoma: 82

Manelik Watson – 6’5/310 – Florida State: 79

Kyle Long – 6’6/313 – Oregon: 77

DJ Fluker – 6’5/339 – Alabama: 77

Xavier Nixon – 6’6/321 – Florida: 73

Justin Pugh – Syracuse – 6’5/307: 72

David Quessenberry – 6’5/302 – San Jose State: 72

Terron Armstead – 6’5/306 – Arkansas Pine Bluff: 71

Early Round Target (1st-2nd):

Kyle Long – Oregon

Probably the most versatile offensive linemen in this class.  Top tier footwork.  Smart player that maintains his technique in all situations, regardless of his opponent.  Trusts his hands and feet.  Can move laterally and get in to space.  Effective second level blocker.  Has the athletic ability to move with linebackers.  Has a chance to be a top tier pass blocker.  Needs to add more power to his game, especially from his upper body.  Has a couple red flags off the field, but nothing considered too serious.

Long has the bloodlines the NFL values more than you think.  Son of Howie, brother of Chris, Kyle showed the ability to play all over the line in 2011 and 2012.  While he is not a 1st rounder, the value he could bring in round 2 is something the Giants should look at.  Projecting where this offensive line is heading can be very difficult.  There is so much up in the air right now, as some of the veterans are coming off serious injuries and the younger guys are unproven.  Long gives the Giants a high quality, young, healthy body that can adapt to whatever the Giants offensive line may need in 2014. I think he could end up being a quality starting left or right tackle very soon.  But if Beatty can hold down the left side and Brewer/McCants can perform well on the right side, Long will have value inside.  Versatility is key when drafting offensive line this year.

Mid Round Target (3rd-5th):

Xavier Nixon – Florida

Great hands/feet combination.  Can fire out of his stance and reach the edge quickly in pass protection.  Strong and violent hands.  Can handle the strength of power rushers, can handle the explosion of speed rushers.  Well balanced in space.  Looks comfortable and confident in pass protection.  Doesn’t get a big push as a straight-ahead run blocker.  Loses track of his balance when reaching the outside edge.  Gets beaten on double moves too often.

Nixon has a ton of experience against the speed of the SEC, having started 33 games over the course of three years.  I’ve been impressed with him against some of the toughest competition he has faced.  He performed very well against the likes of DaMontre Moore, Jarvis Jones, and Sam Montgomery.  I read over some notes from the fall, and I wrote down on different occasions that Nixon shows the ability in flashes that none of the top guys in this class have shown.  What needs to be investigated here is the off the field work ethic/physical evaluations.  Nixon has had some issues keeping weight/bulk on.  Is that a character flaw?  Physical limitation?  He is weighing in around 320 these days, but is it a legit 320?  If all that checks out, Nixon could be a round 4 or 5 pick that gets on the field early.  He can play multiple positions along the line and he has far better tape than Beatty, Brewer, or McCants ever did in college.

Late Round Target (6th-UDFA):

Luke Marquardt – Azusa Pacific – 6’9/315

Big, long, and flexible.  Has a nice frame that allows him to play with a blend of athleticism and physical presence.  Could add more bulk to his lower half.  Fires out of his stance in a blink, reaches the second level easily with balance.  Dominated his level of competition.  Quick enough to reach the edge is pass protection.  Has the length to make up for initial timing mishaps.  Can bend at the knees well.  Played against a low level of competition.  Technique with his hands and feet are inconsistent and immature.

I’ve only watched two game tapes of Marquardt, but I really like what I see as a developmental prospect.  He has the physical makeup of a starting left tackle when considering his combination of size, ability, and physical presence.  He is a very powerful athlete in space.  He was head and shoulders above the players he was up against in the tapes I saw.  If he adapts to the speed of the NFL and takes in the NFL quality coaching and lifting programs, he can be a big time player.  I don’t say this much about guys that are slated to be a drafted late (if at all), but he is definitely a guy that has the tools that a lot of guys in the middle rounds will never have.

The Plan:

Personally, I think the Giants offensive line could end up being a severe limiting factor for the unit in 2013 and beyond unless pieces are added.  There are a lot of questions, both short term and long term, when it comes to how they are going to control the line of scrimmage.  An offense can only be as efficient as the line will allow.  The tackles are a thin group at the moment unless the development of Brewer and McCants can take a big leap forward this year.  I’ve never bought in to Beatty being the long term option at left tackle, but he will man the spot in 2013 and show what he’s got.  This is a group that should be addressed in the first few rounds.  It would not be a great approach to simply add another developmental guy that needs a couple years of training before he is considered for weekly playing time.  They have enough of those guys.  Because of the instability inside as well, Reese needs to try and find a value in the first half of the draft that gives them multiple options should someone go down, or quality performance isn’t there inside or out.

Apr 092013
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New York Giants 2013 NFL Draft Preview: Tight End

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current Tight Ends on NYG Roster:

Brandon Myers – 27 Years Old – Signed through 2016 (contract can be voided after one season)

Bear Pascoe – 27 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Adrien Robinson – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2015

Larry Donnell – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Jamie Childers – 24 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

The tight end position has seen a lot of turnover since the Jeremy Shockey era ended in 2008. With one of the top position coaches in the league leading the way, Mike Pope, they have been able to get adequate production from this spot with low-cost free agents. They signed a young, relatively unknown free agent in Brandon Myers to a voidable contract this offseason. He is a savvy underneath receiver that can give Manning that safety net on third downs, but he won’t make plays downfield or alter the plans of the opposing defense. For the long term, Adrien Robinson is being molded in to an every down player after primarily blocking in college. He has all the tools to be a starter in this league, as the Giants were very impressed with his in-season progress throughout 2012. Bear Pascoe plays the hybrid role of blocking tight end and fullback, but doesn’t impact the game as a receiver. Both Donnell and Childers are practice squad-caliber guys that won’t offer much to the offense. At initial glance, the Giants are set at tight end for the next year or two. Everything they need out of the position is already on the roster.

Top 10 Grades:

Tyler Eifert – 6’6/250 – Notre Dame: 82

Travis Kelce – 6’5/255 – Cincinnati: 81

Zach Ertz – 6’5/249 – Stanford: 77

Dion Sims – 6’5/262 – Michigan State: 74

Gavin Escobar – 6’6/254 – San Diego State: 74

Philip Lutzenkirchen – 6’3/258 – Auburn: 72

Jack Doyle – 6’5/254 – Western Kentucky: 69

Lucas Reed – 6’6/247 – New Mexico: 68

Vance McDonald – 6’4/267 – Rice: 68

Jordan Reed – 6’3/236 – Florida: 68

Early Round Target (1st-2nd):

Tyler Eifert – Notre Dame

Toughest receiver over the middle I’ve ever scouted. Such a reliable pass catcher. Tremendous ball skills. Locates the ball and positions his body well to come down with it. Can jump with anybody in traffic. Strong hands, ball is completely stationary upon contact with his hands. Smart and quick route runner. Can sell his double routes. Can turn on a dime when running full speed. Good effort as a blocker. Needs to get stronger, especially below the waist. Will allow his defender to make too many tackles. Lacks the downfield speed to give opposing defenses matchup problems.

Eifert would have been my top tight end in 2012 had he come out. I’ve seen a lot of his games and I always walk away impressed. He will be a third down gem in the NFL. He has the size to out-muscle and/or out-position any defensive back he wants. Linebackers will struggle to stick with him underneath as well because he such an efficient route runner. Does he fit with the Giants? Sure. But they don’t have a need for a starting, or even primary backup tight end at the moment. He will be a first round pick, thus the match probably isn’t there. Don’t completely discount this as a possibility at #19 though. He is a very good, very safe bet to be a productive player in the NFL.

Mid Round Target( 3rd-5th):

Dion Sims – Michigan State

Well-balanced athlete that plays with a lot of power, a lot of presence. Great blocker in space. Dominates linebackers and defensive backs. Can start in the backfield and lead the way as a fullback. Has enough speed to get behind the linebackers and up the seam. Soft hands. Easy catcher of the ball. Big, strong hands. Lacks quickness off the line. May struggle to get open on the short routes. Not a savvy route runner. Doesn’t come back to the football. Not a reliable receiver yet.

The Giants may start looking for another tight end in the middle rounds. They will want a guy that can do multiple things and most importantly, block well. Sims is a guy that plays a similar game to Pascoe, but has more athletic upside to his game. He won’t ever be a guy that catches 60+ passes year in-year out. But the combination of his current power/strength/mobility as a blocker and Mike Pope coaching him up could make him a huge asset within this offense.

Late Round Target (6th-UDFA):

Philip Lutzenkirchen – Auburn

Quick and effective route runner. Finds the vacant windows. Great hands. Reliable underneath receiver that made the most out of his limited opportunities. Can be moved around. Strong in the trenches. Mobile blocker out of the backfield. Lacks speed past the 10 yard window. Recovering from a bad hip injury that needs to be investigated.

Lutzenkirchen is a guy that most will never hear about when looking for tight ends to draft, even late. I noticed him in 2011 when watching the Florida defense. He looked like another Chris Cooley type and I made it a point to check him out in 2012. Unfortunately he missed the second half of the season with a hip injury that needed surgery. He is still on his way towards recovery but will be fine by the summer. If the Giants want to wait until the end of day three or the free agency period to add another tight end body, Lutzenkirchen should be a top priority. He is a blue collar, versatile receiver that does all the little things well. He could save a roster spot or two with how much he can be moved around. He is a feisty, angry blocker with good hand strength and lower body power. He can catch and run with the ball. Similar athlete to the Giants’ new tight end Brandon Myers.

The Plan:

Ideally, the Giants depth chart at tight end has a receiver, a blocker, and a developmental player. No matter the case they want their guys to be versatile enough to do anything though. They currently have everything on this roster that they need, thus I don’t see the urgency here in bringing in anyone during the first half of the draft. Pascoe has been reliable, but he is the one guy that could be taken over by a late rounder if the value is right. There are a lot of guys in this class I’ve graded higher than what is out there. I’m confident the right mix of value and need can be had starting in round 6 so a fresh body can be brought in for competition and/or a safety valve should a couple injuries pop up.

Apr 062013
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New York Giants 2013 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receiver

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

Current WRs on Giants Roster:

Hakeem Nicks – 25 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Victor Cruz – 26 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Rueben Randle – 21 Years Old – Signed through 2015

Louis Murphy – 25 Years Old – Signed through 2013

Kris Adams – 25 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Jerrel Jernigan – 23 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Brandon Collins – 23 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Kevin Hardy – 22 Years Old – Signed through 2014

Where They Stand:

At just 26 years old, Cruz is the oldest player in this group that offers a lot of versatility to the passing game. Eli Manning is the kind of quarterback that will raise the level of players around him. With that in mind, the Giants still need to ensure they keep plenty of talent around at the wide receiver position for the duration of his career. It appears that signing both Nicks and Cruz to long term contracts in this market is unlikely. While they are in position to thrive this season, the long term stability is a bit of a question mark. Whether or not the Giants view WR as a position of need may revolve around their outlooks on Randle and Jernigan. If the confidence isn’t there in addition to not having Cruz and/or Nicks signed long term, this could be a spot where Reese pulls an early trigger.

Top 10 Grades:

Tavon Austin – 5’9/174 – West Virginia: 86

Cordarelle Patterson – 6’2/216 – Tennessee: 85

Robert Woods – 6’1/201 – USC: 84

Keenan Allen – 6’2/206 – California: 82

Kenny Stills – 6’1/194 – Oklahoma: 81

Justin Hunter – 6’4/196 – Tennessee: 76

DeAndre Hopkins – 6’1/214 – Clemson: 75

Markus Wheaton – 5’11/189 – Oregon State: 75

Ryan Swope – 6’0/205 – Texas A&M – 74

Da’Rick Rogers – 6’3/218 – Tennessee Tech – 73

Early Round Target (1st-2nd):

Robert Woods – USC

Top tier route runner. Explosive into and out of his breaks. Can get separation with ease consistently. Great hands. Catches a lot of passes away from his body with his body in awkward positions. Adapts well. Instinctive and smart when the play is breaking down. Solid after the catch. Elusive and quick acceleration. Lacks the deep speed to get behind a defense. Won’t come down with a lot of balls in jump ball situations. Can be thrown off his game by physical corners.

I don’t expect Patterson or Austin to be available in round one. I would then look to round 2 if I wanted to add a new receiver to this core early. Woods impressed me on tape plenty of times over the past two years. Not the biggest. Not the fastest. But he is a guy that gets open and can be relied upon throughout the entire route tree. He can play inside and out. The combination of route running and sure hands is an attractive thought when thinking about the Giants offense. He can be a better version of Steve Smith underneath with the capability of creating more after the catch and occasionally getting downfield for the deep ball.

Mid Round Target (3rd-5th):

Kenny Stills – Oklahoma

Overlooked speed and quickness. Plays the slot with quick reaction skills and toughness. Will run blind in to a pile of defenders if it means getting a catch. Strong hands. Good presence with the ball that doesn’t go down easy. Will break tackles and gain the extra yards. Limited exposure and success outside. May need extra time to get acclimated to an NFL system. Not much of a downfield threat on tape.

Stills is a favorite of mine in the middle rounds. I have him graded very high in comparison to what I’ve seen out there. He will likely fall somewhere in the 20-25 range on my overall board whereas I see him labeled closer to 90-100 elsewhere. Besides Austin, Stills is the top slot receiver in this class. They are becoming more and more important to passing offenses. Plain and simple, he knows how to get open and will come down with the catch if it is anywhere near him. He is a tough, fiery competitor with overlooked athletic ability. He wasn’t used the way he should have been at Oklahoma and because of that, some team will grab a tremendous value when they draft him.

Late Round Target (6th-UDFA):

Marquess Wilson – 6’3/194 – Washington State

Top tier balance and body control. A true downfield threat because of his ability to time his leaps and reach the ball at his apex. Tough underneath as well. Willing to put his body on the line and make catches in traffic. Strong player that works hard on the field. Competitive. Needs to refine his route running technique. Will play too high. Doesn’t have a lot of experience against press coverage. Some off the field concerns need to be investigated.

Interesting story here with Wilson. He entered 2012 as one of the top Washington State players ever in the eyes of NFL Scouts. He had tremendous success leading up to this year but he left the program early because of disagreements with the coaching staff. I’ve been told by a couple people inside that his character concerns are minimal, if anything. On tape. Wilson looks like a star in the making. While he does not grade out as high, Wilson moves a lot like Larry Fitzgerald did in college when tracking the deep ball. There is something about this kid that makes me think he could be the late round gamble of the draft. He does a lot of things well when it comes to timing and body control/positioning that young receivers never are able to do. He plays fast and aggressive and will enter the league with a chip on his shoulder.

The Plan:

It is no secret that I am not completely confident in the Giants pass catchers to this point when looking at the big picture. Nicks and Cruz are great. Randle has upside. Murphy has big time speed and size with some proven success. But this unit could look completely different next year if Cruz signs elsewhere and/or Nicks’ struggles to stay healthy. This is a passing team within a passing league. Manning has done very well with average to above average receiving cores. I think we still have yet to see his best because of the instability they’ve had at wide receiver. They could use a more legitimate deep threat. If Cruz is a goner, they will need a guy underneath with strong hands and quality route running ability. This is a class loaded with wide receivers that I really like. I think patience should be used until the end of day two or beginning of day three where there will be a highly graded receiver available.