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

Victor Cruz – © USA TODAY Sports Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predictably, Cruz says he will be back.

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

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

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

#TheReturn

A video posted by Victor Cruz (@teamvic) on

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

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

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

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

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Andrus Peat, Stanford Cardinal (October 18, 2014)

Andrus Peat – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Tackles

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

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

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

CURRENT OTs ON NYG ROSTER

Will Beatty – 30 Years old – Signed through 2017

Justin Pugh – 25 Years old – Signed through 2016

Marshall Newhouse – 27 Years old – Signed through 2016

Tony Kropog – 29 Years old – Signed through 2015

Michael Bamiro – 25 Years old – Signed through 2016

Emmett Cleary – 25 Years old – Signed through 2016

WHERE THEY STAND

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

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Andrew Whitworth/CIN

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Zack Martin/DAL

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Joe Staley/SF

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Ryan Clady/DEN

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Phil Loadholt/MIN

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Russell Okung/SEA

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Justin Pugh/NYG

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Duane Brown/HOU

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Luke Joeckel/JAC

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: D.J. Fluker/SD

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Anthony Davis/SF

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Mitchell Schwartz/CLE

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Joe Barksdale/STL

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Ramon Foster/PIT

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

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

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

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

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

Upside Pro Comparison: Michael Harris/MIN

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

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

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

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

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

TOP UDFA SLEEPER

Brett Boyko – UNLV – 6’7/301 – 64

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

NYG APPROACH

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

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