Apr 142022
 
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Travon Walker, Georgia Bulldogs (January 10, 2022)

Travon Walker – © USA TODAY Sports

EDGE

90+: All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

1: Travon Walker – Georgia – 6’5/272

Grade: 89

Summary: Junior entry from Thomaston, GA. One-year starter that was a key contributor to the defensive line all three seasons. With an evolving skill set that steadily improved all three years attached to tools that rank among the best in the class along the defensive line, Walker brings an incredibly high level of intrigue to the table. He has the speed to factor in space, the power to factor inside, and the hustle to factor in pursuit. Simply put, he is the kind of defensive lineman that can line up everywhere and pose as a matchup problem. He is too quick for the bigger, slower blockers and too strong for the smaller, weaker blockers. He will spend most of the time on the outside where he can abuse the tight ends and make plays against the run but will also shift inside and out quick the interior blockers in the passing game. He has some developing to do through experience but there is no denying the sky-high ceiling and immediate contribution he brings to the table respectively.

*Cat is out of the bag. Walker is my top overall player in the class and the one guy that I think helps the Giants defense the most. That would be the fact if the scheme still belonged to Patrick Graham. But now with Martindale calling the shots? The notion is even stronger. Yes, you may have to be a little patient with Walker, more than you want out of a top overall prospect. Know who I see him being in just another year or two? Rashan Gary (tied for 3rd in the NFL in pressures). But one more than that, Walker is head and shoulders better against the run, has more inside-rush capability, and can cover better than 80% of the outside linebackers in the league. At 270+ pounds. The last draw I have to Walker is more “old school”. Walker plays through blockers and contact better than any of the elite defenders I have ever graded. He isn’t as naturally skilled and slippery as someone like Myles Garrett, but you are going to see Walker crushing people at the point of attack and 20 yards away from the snap. He is going to be everywhere just splattering the opposition.

2: Aidan Hutchinson – Michigan – 6’7/268

Grade: 87

Summary: Senior entry from Plymouth, Michigan. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All American honors in 2021 and won the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year Award. Also won the Ted Hendricks Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy. 1st Team All Big 10 in 2021, 3rd Team in 2019. Hutchinson, son of former 1992 Wolverine MVP Chris, developed into a dominant player from humble beginnings and appears to be only getting started. The physical traits like strength, quickness, and flexibility have steadily improved year after year. The techniques are pro caliber, the understanding of the game is advanced, and the grit that carries over snap to snap-week to week will create a difference maker at the next level. The tool set and explosion may not be top tier, but his versatility and constant impact on the game will be.

*It seems to be the consensus that Hutchinson is going number one overall. At this point (April 13), I’m not completely sure. The production is off the charts, yes. His switch is always on high, yes. He has the elite size and quickness. But after watching over 12 games from multiple angles, I do have some concerns about his ability to beat pro tackles the way an elite prospect does. The bend gets a little inconsistent and I don’t see him winning with pure speed up the edge. I still believe he has Pro Bowl potential. I also think he is very safe to a team looking to add to their defensive front. At minimum, you’ll hit a double here. I just fear me may be more Sam Hubbard than TJ Watt. Still a very good player, but I don’t see the elite ceiling.

3: Kayvon Thibodeaux – Oregon – 6’4/254

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry from South Central Los Angeles. Three-year starter that came out of school as a topflight, 5-star recruit and delivered. Earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors all three years, won the 2020 Morris Trophy, and landed on both the 2020 and 2021 All American squads. Thibodeaux has a long, explosive frame that can bend in and out of small creases with tremendous power and strength. His lockout game combined with a strong initial burst consistently gives him initial positional advantages on blockers. Sometimes, that alone is good enough as he can work through the shoulder of a blocker with consistent ease whether he is rushing the passer or defending the run. He is equally productive against both. Where Thibodeaux struggles, however, is when he is matched up against pro-caliber size and power when it comes to secondary rush moves. He needs to show more technique refinement and continue to try and strengthen his base, which plays small and gets too narrow at times. His lack of body control will cause issues as well when it comes to reaction-based action. His tool set is top shelf, but he is far from a finished product and will need to fix a lot prior to being labeled a dependable player.

*I am going to try and not make this too long because the Thibodeaux fans get really offended, really easily. First off: I have 800+ grades on my master sheet along with another 400+ “training camp body” labels. Thibdodeaux is in the top 15. So yes, I do like him, and I do project him to be a very good football player in the NFL. A starter with high, sky-high, upside. There is some Harold Landry in his game. That said, I do not see him being the All-Pro or even perennial Pro Bowl type. When it comes to the “effort” shortcomings, this is NOT a guy that walks up and down the field. He does NOT play with the “I don’t care” label. There is more to effort than sheer hustle, however.

My issues with Thibodeaux revolve around what he did against his best competition. If he lost initially, if he got locked on to, I did not see the secondary moves. I didn’t see the secondary wiggle to try and re-gain a position. The contrast between him and the other top 5 edge guys in the class in that department is obvious. He also had too many dumb penalties. When it isn’t easy for him (he matched up against some awful OTs), he got frustrated and immature. He didn’t pin his ears back and elevate his game. To me, that is effort and mental toughness that just isn’t there. It is a crucial, borderline vital trait to playing the edge.

That is where I left it with him. And then hearing how he talks about himself and a contract. I have a saying “…he works at his craft like he is above it all already…” simply rubs me the wrong way. Enough that I would be too nervous to use #5 or #7 on him with the other guys available. That is all.

4: Jermaine Johnson – Florida State – 6’5/254

Grade: 83

Summary: Fifth year senior from Eden Prairie, MN. Started at Florida State for one year after being a part of the rotation for two seasons for Georgia, where he transferred after being the top junior college recruit. 2021 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and second team All-American. Johnson finally received a full slate of snaps in his final year and boy did he take his stock to another level. He is a true alpha male in the trenches that can beat guys up at the point of attack, finish off the ball carrier with nastiness, and rush the passer from multiple angles. He plays such a strong game and when he uses his hands correctly, can easily dictate where a blocker ends up. He lacks some of the ideal juice as a pure edge rusher and there is some tightness in his hips, but Johnson brings both a high floor and ceiling to the table. He is a safe pick that could evolve into a big-time edge player.

*I put the same grade on Johnson as Thibodeaux, but they got there in very different ways. I think Johnson lacks some of the natural bend and looseness in his lower body. He gets caught playing too high, too often. In addition, the get off is probably the worst among these top 5-6 guys. That said, Johnson’s best tape is just as good as anyone in this group. His hand techniques are top notch, his lockout game is top notch (when used correctly), and he knows how to time the punch of a blocker better than all of these guys. Simply put, there are a lot of skills to work with here. I love his tenacity. The second the quarterback throws the ball he starts hustling downfield. When he and Ekwonu faced off, I thought Johnson got the best of that matchup. More power, quicker to his secondary move. There is some unknown here when it comes to how deep he is into his own progression curve. He doesn’t have as much experience as some of these guys and he struggled to understand come complex concepts in meetings/chalk board talk. That may be enough to keep NYG away from him, but I don’t see a top 10 talent here regardless. I don’t think he will be in play for NYG.

5: George Karlaftis III – Purdue – 6’4/266

Grade: 81

Summary: Junior entry from West Lafayette, Indiana. Three-year starter that began playing football in 8th grade after moving to the United States from Greece. Turned himself into a 3-time All Big 10 honoree, earning a spot on the 1st Team in 2021. The 2019 Freshman All American and 2021 3rd Team All American battled injury and Covid-19 in 2020, but in the two seasons where he was healthy, Karlaftis totaled 28.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks over 24 games. The top-shelf technician is an every down weapon for the defense. His hand fighting and footwork are in complete cohesion with each other, and the skill set constantly maximizes his level of impact. Karlaftis isn’t overly flashy and may not have the elite-level athletic ability in space, but this film-nut and gym-rat is a coach’s dream to work with. His versatility, football intelligence, and ability to produce on all downs in all situations at a high level is something a defensive front can be built around.

*Throughout the season I was looking at Karlaftis as a sure-thing top ten pick. The more tape I saw from the All-22 and the more I really compared him to the other edge guys, I had to move him down a bit. The juice isn’t there as a pure edge rusher and I question some of his suddenness against athletic blockers. Still a first-round player physically and I do think some coaches are going to fall in love with his passion for the game and grit. Karlaftis is going to impact the game in ways that not everyone will notice. I think he is best suited for a 4-3 defensive end role and I’m not sure I see the fit with Martindale’s scheme.

6: Boye Mafe – Minnesota – 6’4/261

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior from Golden Valley, MN. Two-year starter that earned second team All-Big 10 honors in 2021, honorable mention in 2020. Mafe is a twitched-up edge rusher that fits ideally into a 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker. He is an explosive, hyper-active presence that wins off the ball and knows how to turn a tight corner with a low pad level. Mafe plays with high energy and a body that can twist, turn, and bend in all directions with ease. He is a tough guy to lock on to and he shows the mental capacity to know where and when to make his move. Mafe does not have a very stout presence against the run, both inside and outside. His body type does not play very stout. If he is kept to rushing the pass from the outside, he will be an impact rusher. Ask him to be an every down force and there could be issues. He is good enough to be a scary number two pass rusher on a team but should not be the premiere guy along a front. He will turn 24 years old during his rookie season.

*I really hope the right team gets their hands on Mafe. If he is kept outside where he can really pin his ears back and attack the edge with minimal inside shoulder responsibility, he is going to be a 10-sack-per-year guy. That does not mean he will be one of the best edge defenders in the league, but he could be the ideal role player for a player that needs that kind of role filled. Teams that run that wide-9 look often will love Mafe. Is there a spot here for him? I don’t think so. He and Ojulari are too similar in that I don’t see enough versatility and there is a slight lack of stoutness/power. But if they can manipulate the scheme a tad to let him come in and be that pure edge guy, I’m all for it. He can be a difference maker.

7: Arnold Ebiketie – Penn State – 6’2/250

Grade: 80

Fifth year senior from Silver Spring, MD. Spent four years at Temple where he started for one season, earning second team All-AAC honors. Transferred to Penn State in 2021 where won a starting job and earned first team All-Big 10 honors. Ebiketie has stand out twitch and length, always a good place to start for an edge defender. He gets off the ball in a hurry and fully understands how to maximize his tools against blockers. His hand strength and ability to adjust his direction late will make him a tough guy to square up. He also brings a high level of energy and anger snap after snap. Ebiketie plays the game hard and relentless. The combination of all these traits should, at the very least, create plays as a rush linebacker. His floor is high in that department and whether he can develop a man-power game remains to be seen. He is a safe bet to at least be a solid player against the pass.

*I boosted Ebiketie up a notch after doing the secondary tape review part of the process. He has a few traits in his game that most of these guys don’t. The juice off the snap with his plus-bend AND length is an ideal set up for a pure edge guy. He can flatten the edge at a high level. I also think we will see him develop more power and anchor over the course of his first 2-3 years in the league. I view his upside on a similar level to the top 4 guys on this list. Like Mafe, he may be worth a tweak to the scheme to make it work with him and Ojulari.

8: Drake Jackson – USC – 6’3/254

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Corona, California. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors in 2021, 2nd Team in 2020. The outside linebacker excels with initial burst off the line and bend around the corner. His ability to get under the pads of a blocker while maintaining speed and body control will make him a pure edge threat at the next level. His ankle and knee flexion combined with the level of explosion he shows is rare. Once he enhances his brute strength and power presence, Jackson has the potential of a top-tier edge presence against the pass. He still has a ways to go as a run defender, as he doesn’t play a stable game when controlling a gap. His high level of hustle and grit will help a bit there, however. His ideal role is in a 3-4 scheme on the outside where that speed and leverage can be a weapon against tackles that have a hard time sliding up the edge. At the very least, he will be a very good specialty pass rusher that can rotate in and out.

*Another player here that showed us arguably his best season in 2019 as a true freshman. At that point, almost everyone had him labeled as a future top 10 guy. Where Jackson got kind of screwed was a change in scheme and overall role. He was asked to add weight prior to his freshman season but a scheme change required him to drop 15-20 pounds. Another odd point here: Jackson was 254 pounds at the scouting combine but 273 pounds at his Pro Day. The two were just three weeks apart. Jackson has the versatile skill set to fit into the new NYG scheme and if they go elsewhere round 1-2 and Jackson is still there at the top of round 3, that would a major value grab. The variance in size, the variance in roles he played, and how athletic he looks as both a pass rusher and cover man are enticing.

9: David Ojabo – Michigan – 6’4/250

Grade: 79

Junior entry from Aberdeen, Scotland. A one-year starter that made the most of 2021, earning 1st Team All Big 10 honors and was a 2nd Team All American. Ojabo was born in Nigeria then moved to Scotland in 2007 before coming to America for high school. Originally a soccer and basketball player, Ojabo did not start playing football until his junior year. His speed won him the New Jersey state prep title in 100 M dash with a time of 10.93. Ojabo, with that in mind, is a top-shelf athlete that started to figure things out in 2021. He entered the season with just 26 snaps under his belt but proved he can be an absolute game wrecker from the outside. While he still has some physical development to take on, the tools fit the prototype of any and every edge role in the NFL. Once he understands the game more and can always play to his true speed, the sky is the limit. He will need time before he can be an every down player though.

*Keep an eye on this kid, one of the most interesting prospects in the entire class. Ojabo played under Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald at Michigan. Where was he previously? On the staff under current Giants Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale in Baltimore. Ojabo’s ascent from raw athlete to 2nd Team All American took place under a guy that Martindale led for years. Anyway, Ojabo is a name I think many are looking past when it comes to NYG. He is going to miss some, if not his entire rookie season as he rehabs from an Achilles’ injury suffered just a few weeks ago. But as I have said numerous times, the 2022 Draft will have much more to do with the 2023 season than most teams. Ojabo will be fully healthy by then, should have more bulk below the waist, and will know the scheme that much more. I never viewed him as a high first rounder because of the amount of work he needs but from my connections at Michigan, Ojabo is as hard working and genuine as it gets at this stage. He is going to reach his ceiling. Again, keep this kid’s name fresh in your memory bank.

10: Dominique Robinson – Miami (OH) – 6’5/253

Grade: 78

Fifth year senior from Canton, OH. A former oversized wide receiver that started for one year at outside linebacker. Earned third team All-MAC honors in 2021. Robinson’s journey is one of the most unique paths in the class overall. He was a wide receiver from 2017-2019, finishing as the team’s downfield threat with his 230+ pound frame. He then moved to the defensive side of the ball, put on twenty pounds and counting, and showed an incredibly high ceiling. His frame and newness to the position promotes the concept he should be able to host more bulk within the first year or two in a pro strength program. Robinson has such an easy and natural way of moving at a high rate of speed in a short amount of time. That and his elite coordination and burst will create issues once he can refine and strengthen his rush moves. He may be a bit of a project but there is no denying the upside that rivals some of the best edge defenders in this class. He can fit into a 3-4 scheme as a Buck or Joker in hybrid fronts whereas in the 4-3, a very specific edge role would need to be created for him.

*One of the more interesting players in the class. Originally a quarterback/athlete recruit. Then moved to receiver and actually produced there (14/296/21.1 avg in 2019). He is now about 20 pounds heavier, and the light started to turn on over the second half of 2021. Robinson made the move to the edge during the pandemic, and we all know how much that impeded the simplicity of work. Robinson has some of the best movement traits on tape and he has the frame that will handle at least another 15 pounds of lean mass. The skill set will take time and he may never be a stout run defender. But the sky is the limit here and his dividends could be the highest in this group overall.

11: DeAngelo Malone – Western Kentucky – 6’3/242

Grade: 77

Fifth year senior from Atlanta, GA. Four-year starter that earned All-Conference USA honors his last three seasons, first team in both 2020 and 2021. Two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. Malone primarily played stand up outside linebacker at Western Kentucky, a spot that helped him set school records for both sacks and tackles for loss. His 59 career tackles for loss are top ten in FBS history. It is easy to notice that Malone appears undersized for life in the NFL trenches. He has had a hard time holding on to body mass, as his frame may simply be maxed out. His lack of weight does not translate to a lack of power, however. His explosion, twitch, and use of leverage sends a surprising violent jolt to linemen, often putting them on their backs. Malone has proven to be effective in off-ball roles whether it be coverage or spying the quarterback. He has elite closing speed and an engine that always stays on high. Malone is the kind of defender that will need a role carved out specifically for him, but the skill set is so unique that it will be fully worth the effort to do so.

*One of my predictions for a mid-round NYG selection. I think I have a slightly higher grade on him than most. I bet he goes day three and I think NYG will have an eye on him. There is a role made almost-specifically for him in the Martindale scheme when he has everything he wants elsewhere. He can move all over the field, the short area quickness and closing speed show up every week, and he is a mean dude. Malone’s production in college was elite and even though the role and scheme engineered some of it, he proved to be a very smart, tough, dependable player over his career. Get where I am going with that? I think the lack of plus-size isn’t an issue in this role. No matter what NYG does at the top of the draft, Malone is going to be on the radar later on.

12: Sam Williams – Mississippi – 6’4/261

Grade: 77

Fifth year senior from Montgomery, AL. Three-year starter after a two-year stint at Northeast Mississippi Junior College. Capped off his career in 2021 finishing second in the SEC in sacks, earning first team All-Conference and third team All-American honors. Williams’ stock took a steep hit in the summer of 2020 when he was arrested for sexual battery. Charges were eventually dropped, and he returned to the field for the season. On the field, Williams has the play style of a rush linebacker that can fit in to both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. He should be a situational pass rusher early in his career while coaches try to refine his run game deficiencies. The elite burst and speed combine with plus-length and hand work to give opposing blockers fits. He needs to play with a more consistent motor and sense of urgency, however. The stretches of poor effort and lack of effectiveness in the running game should throw some caution into the grade but the pass rush ceiling is through the roof.

*Even though the sexual battery chargers were dropped, Williams’ grade may end up being impacted by that and the fact he showed off-field motivation issues throughout his entire career. The talent is real, however. He ran a 4.43 at 260+ pounds and there is some quality tape here. He just doesn’t hustle against the run, lacks the gap integrity to be an every down guy, and has long stretches where he disappears. The pass rush potential in a vacuum, however, is more than just notable. It will be interesting to see where he goes, a lot going on here.

13: Cameron Thomas – San Diego State – 6’4/267

Grade: 76

Fourth year junior entry from Carlsbad, CA. Three-year starter that earned first team All-Mountain West honors all three seasons capped off with a 2021 conference Defensive Player of the Year Award. Thomas, a second team All-American, was a defensive tackle until a few games into the 2020 season. He played in a three-man front and was moved up and down, left and right routinely. The versatile skill set allowed him to make a strong impact in multiple ways from multiple positions. His steadiness week to week when it comes to pressuring the quarterback and making tackles behind the line of scrimmage can be a difference maker right away at the next level. The concerns revolve around his overall mass and presence if he lines up inside the tackle. He is not an every down player there, but the speed and explosion is not enough to impact the edge rushing play to play. Thomas will fit into a 3-4 scheme but should be shifted to an outside shade on running downs. He can be used by a creative defensive mind on passing downs and that is where he will make his money, but there is power development needed.

*Thomas is not nearly the prospect that JJ Watt was, but there were glimpses of that play style and versatility when I watched Thomas. The action with his hands, the ability to twist and turn suddenly, and the overwhelming effort made him unblockable at times. The question will be how that translates to the NFL against pro blockers. His techniques get inconsistent at times, and I don’t see enough sheer talent to let that slide. He may not be the ideal fit here. Even though he plays inside-out, the frame looks nearly maxed out and he isn’t powerful enough for inside-tackle play. He will likely end up in a 4-3 front as a rotational guy.

14: Nik Bonitto – Oklahoma – 6’3/248

Grade: 75

Fourth year junior entry from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Three-year starter that finished as a second-team All American in 2020, second-team All-Big 12 in 2021. The undersized edge rusher is quick as a cat with constant bendability and sudden twitch. His game is purely dependent on the initial get off and spacing. He can beat blockers off the ball. With how small he can make himself, stemming from both his bend and natural anatomy, he can be a menace to get a firm grip on. Bonitto struggles once he is engaged with blockers, however. If he doesn’t win initially, he has a hard time breaking free unless he moves much further out into space. His run defense is also a significant weak point when he needs to set the edge or anchor himself in a gap. He is a situational pass rusher that can occasionally drop into coverage and/or spy the passer, but not a true every down threat.

*Bonitto almost came out last year and many were expecting him to shoot up into the top 45. I never quite saw that upside with him, but I do see a similar player to Malone just a few spots up. He is undersized but he can use it to his advantage. The pad level is outstanding, and he knows how to play slippery. Bonitto is a guy you must let line up out wide over and over and let him burst upfield. He can make plays against the run via pursuit and craftiness, but he won’t be a gap-integrity guy. He just can’t handle pro caliber power. He will be a passing down weapon which is certainly good enough for the mid-round area. I don’t see a starter or a guy that makes a huge difference though. If he is the number three edge guy, you’re good. If he is number one or two, you’re in trouble.

15: Myjai Sanders – Cincinnati – 6’5/247

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Jacksonville, FL. Three-year starter that earned first team All-AAC honors in both 2020 and 2021. Sanders looks the part in multiple ways as an edge threat. He has the capability of getting off the ball in a hurry with a long arm and low pad level. The natural bend and easy-moving hips can give him a lot of options post-snap. He does not always play to those strengths, however, and there is a muscle mass shortcoming. Sanders simply does not play big or powerful enough to pose as an all-situation threat. If he can gain and maintain weight, it should provide the window he needs to be a dependable force. He will not be a fit for every scheme, but there is a high ceiling to work with here because of multiple high-end traits.

*As written above, Sanders has some of the traits and skills that you only hope some of these higher ranked guys get some day. The bend and forward lean in combination with the ability to miss blockers with well-timed body adjustments and turns are something you see from the best pass rushers in the league. His body is a concern. He had a stomach bug prior to the combine and lost 20 pounds. Looking at his lower half in pads, he just comes across overly lean. Is the 247 he weighed in at the Pro Day legit? He is solid, not spectacular athlete. If he can’t put on weight and/or play with consistent power, he won’t be more than a backup.

BEST OF THE REST

16: Josh Paschal – Kentucky – 6’3/268: 74
17: Zachary Carter – Florida – 6’4/282: 74
18: Michael Clemons – Texas A& M – 6’5/263: 74
19: Christopher Allen – Alabama – 6’3/241: 73
20: Esezi Otomewo – Minnesota – 6’5/282: 73
21: Amare Barno – Virginia Tech – 6’5/246: 72
22: Kingsley Enagbare – South Carolina – 6’4/258: 72
23: Tyreke Smith – Ohio State – 6’3/254: 71
24: Alex Wright – UAB – 6’5/271: 71
25: Isaiah Thomas – Oklahoma – 6’5/266: 71
26: Adam Anderson – Georgia – 6’4/236: 70**
27: Tyree Johnson – Texas A& M – 6’2/248: 70
28: Jeffrey Gunter – Coastal Carolina – 6’4/258: 69
29: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa – 6’2/270: 69
30: Tre Williams – Arkansas – 6’4/253: 69
31: David Anenih – Houston – 6’2/245: 69
32: Carson Wells – Colorado – 6’3/241: 68
33: Joshua Onujiogu – Farminingham State: 68
34: Tariqious Tisdale – Mississippi – 6’5/285: 68
35: Tyler Johnson – Arizona State – 6’3/280: 67

NYG APPROACH

There are so many different directions this conversation about NYG and the EDGE group can go in. If I had to guess, I do not think they are going into round 1 saying they MUST add an edge presence. Sure, every team wants an elite guy out there and if there is a spot open for one, you take it. But they may not have multiple prospects from this group that grade above, or even on the same level as some of tackles and corners. I certainly do, but they may not. In addition, Martindale does create a pass rush in a variety of ways, and I don’t think he will pound the table specifically for an edge guy. If he got to choose, I would bet he wants one of the corners. Without knowing how the top 4 picks will transpire, I think we are looking at a coin flip whether or not they take one of the top 4 guys (assuming at least one of them will be available).

Now, in my opinion, Walker needs to be the pick at #5 if he is there. Again, I have no clue if he will be. But in terms of his grade and the ideal-fit for the versatile scheme we will see, I just don’t see a reason why they would look past him. He has it all, he can do it all, and he is still early on the progression curve. His best football was played late in the year, and I think we only saw a glimpse of what he will be.

One concern I have is this: If NYG ignores EDGE at #5 and #7 (which is fine), it will be hard to guarantee the ideal value will be there round 2/3. Now, odds are the value will be there because this is the deepest edge group I have ever scouted. But I really want a guy that forces the defense to game plan around. I think that is step one to improving the level of the defense as a whole. If you wait until round 2, or 3, or even 4…your gamble on that happening gets higher and higher. As written above, there are several high-potential prospects in this group. Odds are most of them will not pan out. This team needs someone that is MORE than Ojulari (I do like him – his grade was 84) to ensure Ojulari can produce at his highest respective ceiling. If Ojulari is the top dog and gets most of the attention from the offense, I don’t see him overcoming it. Pair him with Walker or Hutchinson (preferably the former) and you have 2 cornerstones along with Williams inside that can make this defense light years more dangerous in this scheme. And I mean that fully.

Apr 122022
 
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Jordan Davis, Georgia Bulldogs (January 10, 2022)

Jordan Davis – © USA TODAY Sports

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

1: Jordan Davis – Georgia – 6’6/341

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Charlotte, North Carolina. Four-year starter that has been a part of a steady rotation of several current and future pro defensive linemen. 2021 1st Team All SEC and All American. Winner of both the Outland Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award. Of all the imposing line-talent the SEC has and will send to the NFL, Davis is the most imposing figure of them all. His rare size and speed combination shows up in powerful ways against both the run and pass. When moving straight ahead, Davis is nearly impossible to knock off track. His arm length and grizzly bear-paws do enough damage alone to jolt blockers up and back. When he brings his lower body with him and has a fresh battery, the match ups almost seem unfair. The issue is a lack of conditioning and repeatability. Davis spent a lot of time on the sidelines with his hands on his hips. With this elite size and power presence comes a lack of play-to-play functionality. He won’t offer much against the pass and there are stretches where he just can’t seem to play the lateral game. He can fit in to multiple fronts, but he should not be counted on as an every down player or contributor as a pass rusher.

*You can’t talk about Davis without lauding what he did at the combine. That may be truly once in a lifetime right there and because of that and his glimpses of dominance on tape, I think there is a shot we see him go top 10 and even top 5. Would I? No. But I will tell you what. If you are a contender with a good defense but you lack a piece along the interior of your D-Line – Davis is worth the shot. He is the closest thing we have seen to the dominant version of Albert Haynesworth (what he did in 2007-2008 was downright scary). Anyway – I don’t endorse him to NYG in the top 10. His battery life is too short and I’m not confident he will impact the pass rush enough. It would be one thing if this defensive front had Aaron Donald or a group of rushers that are all 10+ sack candidates. But they don’t. Do we really want to see a top 10 guy spend half the game on the sidelines with his hands on his hips? Defensive lines are all about rotations and I get that. But the best ones stay on the field on 3rd down. Donald? 90% of snaps. Jeffery Simmons? 85%. Cam Heyward? 82%. Chris Jones? 68%. Davis never exceeded 45% over the course of a season. Just something to keep in mind. A first-round talent, for sure. But he can’t be a focal point of a front.

2: Devonte Wyatt – Georgia – 6’3/304

Grade: 82

Fifth year senior from Decatur, GA. Spent one season at Hutchinson Community College before transferring to Georgia where he started for two years. Finished his career first team All-SEC in 2021. Wyatt has been, for years, the most active run defender along an impressive Bulldogs’ front. His athleticism is top grade, and he plays with a pair of active, angry, and powerful hands. He can wear multiple hats along the defensive line and could credibly fit into any scheme. Wyatt saw his production waver but that could have been a product of such a star-studded defense. Simply put, he can beat one on one blockers with an array of post-snap strategies and skills. He can play as fast as any defensive tackle in the league right now and could end up being a feature player in time. There is an off-field incident that occurred in 2020 that should be investigated.

*Wyatt was one of the top three tackles on my board toward the end of the 2020 season with a round 2 outlook. When he opted to go back to school, I was surprised. I didn’t think he could do much more to improve his grade. I was wrong. Wyatt on tape in 2021 was even better and I can easily make the case he should be DT1 in the class. Based on what a team wants to do with their defensive front – Wyatt is probably a better fit than Davis for half of the teams. NYG could use a guy like Wyatt if he gets to them in round 2. Remember, we have no idea if Lawrence is a long-term guy and there isn’t much else on this front beyond Williams that gives long term hope.

3: Logan Hall – Houston – 6’6/283

Grade: 82

Senior entry from Belton, TX. Two-year full-time starter that saw a few starts in the previous two seasons as well. Earned first team All AAC honors in 2021. Hall is one of the more unique players in the class. His frame suggests defensive end, but he mostly lined up inside the tackles in Houston’s hybrid front that normally had four down linemen. He excels in there because he can get off the ball quicker than interior blockers and also maintains a low pad level with long, strong arms. He wins initially with powerful hands and shows another gear when he is near the ball. Hall’s unique skill set and body make him an intriguing player that can create mismatches for opposing offensive lines. He can evolve into a top tier inside pass rusher but will also provide quality run defense as well if shifted outside a gap or two. A true every down threat here that is best suited for a hybrid scheme.

*One of the most interesting players in the class. Hall stood out to me every time I watched him. The more I saw, the more I found myself thinking about the possibilities he brings to the table. You don’t see guys with this kind of height that can play with elite knee bend often. Throw in the fact that his hand techniques are far beyond what you see out of college kids and there is something to work with that other guys do not have. Crazy high ceiling here and I think he fits in exactly with what NYG wants to do along the front.

4: Travis Jones – Connecticut – 6’4/325

Grade: 80

Fourth year junior entry from New Haven, CT. Three-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season because of Covid-19. Jones has the ideal body and build for teams looking to beef up their interior presence along the defensive line. He carries 325+ pounds with ease while also showing excellent first step quickness up the field. The most attractive trait in his game comes immediately post-snap where his cinderblock-hands strike the blocker and immediately gets the action moving into the backfield. He creates a new line of scrimmage on a consistent basis when he has his pad level low enough. Jones does not show a lot of variety as a pass rusher, nor does he adjust well if initially beat. He needs to gain a better feel for the game and match his skill set with his impressive set of tools when it comes to lateral movement and adjustments. If that does happen, he can be one of the top forces at the position in the league. His basement will still be a very solid run defender and bull rusher. Safe player with enormous upside.

*Jones sitting out 2020 took away valuable playing experience that may have very well impeded his progress as a player. I think he is still pretty early on the progression curve compared to a lot of these guys. Jones has Pro-Bowl potential if that is the case because this dude can be a player right now. Week 1 he can get on the field and be a factor as a run defender. If he builds off what he did at the Senior Bowl, there may be some solid pass rush here as well. I think Jones is the ideal fit for nose tackle in Martindale’s scheme. I bet he is pounding the table for him, but the debate is whether or not he should be the second rounder considering what else will be on the board and what NYG already has at DT.

5: Perrion Winfrey – Oklahoma – 6’4/290

Grade: 78

Senior entry from Maywood, IL. Spent two seasons at Iowa Western Junior College prior to transferring to Oklahoma in 2020 where he started for two years. Two-time second team All-Big 12. Winfrey has a naturally powerful body that plays even stronger on gameday. He is an adrenaline-spike for the defense, as his engine runs hot every time he steps foot on the field. His elite-level length and explosive upper body can create significant issues for blockers off the ball. He strikes his man early and violently. Couple that with his aggressive, twitchy lower half and he can consistently penetrate a gap and cause disruption. There are still some issues with his overall body control and stability, but his growth has been tremendous over the course of his two seasons with the Sooners. If he continues on this path, he will be an effective three-technique, but should be kept out of serious run defending duties.

*Like a couple guys above him, Winfrey is going to start off as a specialty guy. Except one can make the argument that this is the one you want because of how well he can rush the passer. Winfrey has tremendous get off and tenacity. He is an energy stick for a defense. The one potential issue I see here is the fact that he be beat up on a lot of college linemen that just weren’t very stout or powerful. I’m not sure he will get the push that he did in college at his size. He won’t be able to two-gap, but there is pass rush potential.

6: DeMarvin Leal – Texas A& M – 6’4/283

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from San Antonio, Texas. Three-year starter that capped his career off with a 1st Team All SEC and 1st Team All American season. Leal is a pass rush specialist that was moved all over the defensive front. He primarily lined up at end and as a stand up outside linebacker, but his body tape and size will likely keep him inside the tackle in most schemes. Leal has the kind of get-off and rush moves that will cause headaches for heavy footed blockers. He can whip by them in a blink and his reaction to the ball is noteworthy. He knows how to finish behind the line of scrimmage, as seen with his 24.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks over his career. The question with him is whether or not he can be an every down player. He doesn’t exactly fit into a pure edge role, and he may not be stout enough to play inside every down. He bets fits into a situation where guys are rotated and moved around often, but he may not be the difference maker he was in college.

*I normally don’t love using a day 2 grade on a guy without a true position but there are exceptions for players that can rush the passer. Leal can do that from multiple angles. Because of what Texas A& M had on their roster (and didn’t have), Leal mostly played on the edge. Some guys may have him graded out there (one of our guys wanted me to put him outside). He is a well-below average athlete if he is strictly an edge. But he won’t be stout enough for the inside. Truly a hard guy to project but with the number of teams playing a hybrid front, Leal is going to find a spot somewhere.

7: Phidarian Mathis – Alabama – 6’4/310

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Wisner, LA. One year starter that was a heavy part of the defensive line rotation all four seasons. Second-team All-SEC in 2021 after finishing third in the conference in sacks. Mathis exploded on to the scene in his final year and sent a sharp upward jolt to his draft stock. The oversized interior pass rusher plays with tremendous hustle and grit which maximizes his natural gifts of long and heavy arms. His explosive hands and ability to win the lockout battle puts him in a position to succeed. He then shows understanding of angles and creases post-engagement with the blocker. His body type may cause some issues that stem from an unstable lower half, but he will at least be a solid pass rush presence from the inside, but maybe not an every down player.

*When trying to enhance this team’s pass rush deficiencies, one needs to look deeper than a pure edge presence. Leonard Williams is a stud between the tackles but the lack of another option along the line (or blitzing LB) makes life easier for the opponent to deal with him. Mathis is a really solid penetrator that finished second on Alabama with 9 sacks while adding 12 TFL. The size and body scream 2-gap run defender though. He does both, he plays hard, and I think he still has a lot to learn. Really solid guy to have as an option on the line to rotate in and out. He will make others better.

8: Otito Ogbonnia – UCLA – 6’4/324

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, TX. Spent one year as a full-time starter but did start games all four seasons at UCLA. Ogbonnia was a nationally ranked shot-put thrower in high school and also spent time on the UCLA Track and Field team. He won the 2019 PanAm U20 Championships. That, along with the absolute ideal body type for the position gives him a sense of upside and potential that could eventually mold into a quality presence inside. He won’t ever be a big-time pass rusher, which does need to be kept in mind, but his size and power can help a defense out in a big way. Ogbonnia is not elusive, nor does he adjust very well laterally, but he creates a new line of scrimmage or can maintain gap control against double teams repeatedly. He is the alpha-male in a group full of guys that think they’re the alpha.

*For teams looking to add a 3-4 nose tackle to their front, but strike out on guys like Davis and Jones, could very well have Ogbonnia next on their board. He does not have the same upside, but I do see a guy that, when it comes to strictly playing over center and controlling the point of attack, Ogobonnia is on a similar level. Scouts love defensive tackles with an accomplished shot-put background. There was a time where Ogbonnia was heading toward a potential Olympic-path. He has some untapped upside that interests me. Nice fit with NYG, too.

9: Kalia Davis – Central Florida – 6’1/302

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Pensacola, FL. Two-year starter that sat out the 2020 season because of Covid-19. Davis came back strong in 2021 but tore his ACL week five, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. Thus, he played just five games since the end of 2019, the year he started to break out and show how good of a penetrating force he could be. The former linebacker has seen action all over the front seven. He played Mike, Will, and Sam before transitioning to playing with his hand in the dirt. Once there, he began at defensive end and found his home as a three-technique. That will be his home at the next level, where his penetrating and forceful impact will be a handful for blockers to handle. Davis’ low center of gravity and long arms will create multiple options for him post-snap. If the knee checks out and the skill set continues the current trajectory, Davis can be a starting interior lineman or at least a sub-package interior rusher early in his career.

*Sleeper alert. I won’t move Davis much higher than this because his grade is almost completely projection based, as he’s barely played since the end of 2019, and he’s seen such a small amount of snaps at tackle. But this is an incredibly unique background, and the physical profile is something I always look for. Low to the ground, plus arm length, and a twitchy lower half. It can be incredibly hard to block for offensive linemen, especially ones that have a hard time bending. Davis needs time to be coached up to refine the skill set, but he has some physical advantages that nobody else does. His 5 games prior to the ACL were money, too.

10: Eyioma Uwazurike – Iowa State – 6’6/316

Grade: 73

Summary: Sixth year senior from Detroit, MI. Four-year starter that earned first team All-Big 12 honors in 2021, honorable mention in 2019 and 2020. Uwazurike has an incredibly unique body and skill set that has earned him a high versatility grade. He split his time between nose tackle and five -technique in 2021 and thrived at both. He plays a solid lockout game and will fight with anger through the whistle play after play. There are multiple issues with his movement, as he plays tight and tall at times and won’t beat many blockers one on one right away. He will fit best in a 3-4 scheme as an oversized five technique. While his upside is limited, he will be a reliable presence that can offer a little extra against the pass.

*Look for potential NYG interest in here. Uwazurike can rightfully project to multiple positions within a 3-4 front. I’m not sure I see a potential starter because the initial movement off the ball and stiffness can be exposed. However, if there is a plan to bring him on the field in specific situations, he can be a matchup problem. I also love the fire and passion he plays with. He made a lot of eye-opening plays in pursuit. Rare body, plus-versatility, and good effort can make things happen with the right coaching.

11: Matthew Butler – Tennessee – 6’4/297

Grade: 73

Fifth year senior from Raleigh, NC. Three-year starter that was the ringleader to a deep, talented defensive line. Butler led that line in tackles three straight seasons and was the second leading sack artist in 2021. He was moved throughout the defensive line, everywhere from nose tackle to defensive end. He projects best to a three-technique role where his explosive first step and powerful hands can do a lot of damage post-snap. He can be a situational pass rusher that is no slouch in the run game if he isn’t put in a spot where he needs to handle double teams or man two gaps.

*He may not be an ideal fit for the NYG scheme, but he does bring powerful hand fighting and versatility to the table. He is more penetrator than 2-gapper. He was so active on tape, just a pure hustler and when I use a day three pick on a defensive lineman that lacks some of the ideal traits, that energy stick means something extra.

12: Neil Farrell Jr – LSU – 6’4/330

Grade: 72

Fifth year senior from Mobile, AL. Started games over three seasons, was a full-time starter in one of them. Farrell is a big-time power presence inside that can hold the point of attack, controlling two gaps with his use of leverage and ability to attach himself to the ground he stands on. His craftiness and surprisingly nimble feet in traffic get him to the action often against the run. The pure athleticism in space and as a pass rusher will need to be hidden, but the impact can be there as a two-gap run defender. His best fit will reside in a 3-4 scheme over the center.

*The next 3-4 nose tackle that will be able to handle that kind of role right away. He could get a little over-drafted based on the amount of teams I am projecting to need that kind of player and the supply in this class. Farrell’s stamina is less than the guys above. He really didn’t do well when he had to be on the field often. He won’t offer anything as a pass rusher, either. I would be worried about a team going hurry up with him on the field. But for the traditional run defending role, he will get the job done.

13: Eric Johnson – Missouri State – 6’2/299

Grade: 71

Summary: Sixth year senior from Plainfield, IL. Five-year starter that played the extra year because of the eligibility given out as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Finished his career earning second team All-MVFC honors. After a lackluster career that did not fully highlight his tool set, Johnson started to open eyes in the spring of 2021. He saved his best ball for the fall season just a few months later and continued to rise throughout the pre-draft process. Johnson excelled at the East-West Shrine Game and was a late add to the Senior Bowl roster a week later. He is a versatile inside-out threat with a pro caliber combination of heavy hands and quick feet. His frame suggests the likely potential to add more functional mass to his frame with a year of a pro strength program. Once there, he has the athletic ability to wreck havoc as an interior penetrator that ideally finds a home as a 3 or 5 technique.

*Johnson got my attention late in the process. His practice tape at both Shrine and Senior week was impressive. And to think this kid still has plenty of room to add to his wide and long frame gives a really solid long-term projection. He confirmed the projection at his dominant Pro Day performance. Johnson is going to be a day three pick that coaches are really excited about.

14: John Ridgeway – Arkansas – 6’5/321

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Bloomington, IL. Had a five-year career at Illinois State (including the 2021 spring season) where started for four years. Following that 2021 spring season (just 4 games), Ridgeway transferred to Arkansas and started at nose tackle. The sizeable frame and powerful hands make him a potential two-gap force inside that can make a real difference in the running game. He won’t bring much to the table as a pass rusher, as he simply doesn’t have the juice to shoot a gap and he is a step behind when it comes to rush moves. He projects as a rotational interior defender with a bias toward run defense.

*Ridgeway is the kind of guy that the league likes more than what is out there. He plays big and wide, controls his gap(s), and says square. Just a reliable player inside with the tools that line coaches want to work with. He won’t be a pass rusher, but the 3-4 fronts will see him as a guy worth trying to develop.

15: Haskell Garrett – Ohio State – 6’2/300

Grade: 70

Summary: Fifth year senior from Las Vegas, NV. Two-year starter that earned first team All-Big 10 honors in 2021. Garrett falls below the prototypical triangle numbers for the position. He measures in less than ideal when it comes to height, length, and weight. With that said, there aren’t many players that maximize the tools they do have like Garrett does. He is an energy stick for a defensive line that can disrupt the passing game. He gets off the ball in a hurry with active hands and low center of gravity. He can wear down a blocker over time and take advantage of a small crease. He will fit into a rotation as a penetrating three technique for a solid dozen snaps per game.

*Garrett probably won’t be very high on NYG’s board, he may not even be on it. I think he is 3-tech only. I appreciate how hard this guy plays and how consistent that effort is. But it is hard to find that standout trait in his game that truly puts guys on their heels. He can find a spot as a backup somewhere and you know he will bring the effort. Upside is limited across the board. He struggled at the Senior Bowl.

BEST OF THE REST

16 – DJ Davidson – Arizona State – 6’3/327: 70
17 – Jayden Peevy – Texas A& M – 6’5/308: 70
18 – Noah Elliss – Idaho – 6’4/346: 69
19 – Thomas Booker – Stanford – 6’3/301: 69
20 – Christopher Hinton – Michigan – 6’4/305: 69
21 – LaBryan Ray – Alabama – 6’4/283: 68
22 – Marquan McCall – Kentucky – 6’3/342: 68
23 – Jonathan Ford – Miami – 6’5/331: 68
24 – Matt Henningsen – Wisconsin – 6’3/289: 68
25 – Donovan Jeter – Michigan: 6’3/310: 67
26 – Ben Stille – Nebraska – 6’4/300: 67
27 – Jordan Jackson – Air Force – 6’4/294: 67
28 – Tayland Humphrey – Louisiana – 6’5/328: 66
29 – LaRon Stokes – Oklahoma – 6’4/300: 65
30 – Dion Novil – North Texas – 6’1/300: 65

NYG APPROACH

When it comes to the Giants defensive line and examining this group of prospects, it is important to know they DO want a true two-gap nose tackle in this scheme. It does not need to be an ever down down guy, but as seen with the signing of Justin Ellis, they will always want a guy that can do that job. With that in mind, they’ll always want a backup two-gap nose tackle. I think their approach to the defensive line starts there. I’m not confident David Moa is that guy. Now, the one caveat I have with my statement is the gray cloud of the head of Dexter Lawrence. I would love to see him be the guy that is playing over center and Ellis as the backup. You then have Jihad Ward and Leonard Williams as the hybrid 3/5 techniques that play their best in an attack-based scheme. Whichever is indeed the case, NYG needs to add at least one defensive lineman in this draft class. Which type will largely depend on what they want to do with Lawrence? I always viewed him as a double A-gap guy, but he has been moved around way too much. I think NYG start looking here as early as round 3 (although watch out for Logan Hall in round 2) if they are looking for more pass rush. If they are looking for more size and run defense, I think it will be round 4-6. This team will be adding a DL talent, though.

Apr 102022
 
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Nakobe Dean, Georgia Bulldogs (September 11, 2021)

Nakobe Dean – © USA TODAY Sports

LINEBACKERS

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

1: Nakobe Dean – Georgia – 5’11/229

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry from Horn Lake, Mississippi. Two-year starter (2020 and 2021) that was also a key contributor to the 2019 defense that was loaded with NFL talent, earning the team’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year Award. Capped his career off earning 1st Team All SEC and 1st Team All American honors. Dean, a third-year graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, has the make-up and production of a key difference maker in the middle of the defense. He was the leader of the pack at Georgia, a defense (a linebacker unit in particular) packed with pro talent on a National Champion squad. His speed and range, against both the run and pass, will be an immediate weapon at the next level. He brings instant energy and pop to the defense. The size is a credible concern and remember, the talent around him was unlike anything we have seen in recent years in college football. He fits into a space-friendly role, ideally on the weak side, where he can roam and allow his legs to make a difference. The size can be schemed around, and his speed/power combination will make an immediate difference.

*I do like Dean. I often have to remind some that of the 1,500+ guys that start the process, having someone finish in the top 25 overall means I like them a lot. That said, taking Dean high in the draft would worry me. If NYG trades down into the teens or 20s, then I would endorse taking him. But top 10? I just don’t see it being a great decision considering the position he plays and there will be guys graded higher. Dean has the speed and maneuverability that is fun to watch. But that size is REALLY below the line I want, especially with the scheme Martindale will be bringing to the table. Dean has a shot at being Jonathan Vilma and to be real, I thought Vilma was much more physical against blockers and a stouter inside defender.

2: Devin Lloyd – Utah – 6’3/237

Grade: 82

Summary: Fifth year senior from Chula Vista, CA. Three-year starter that earned All-Pac 12 honors all three seasons, first team in both 2020 and 2021. A consensus 2021 All American, Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and AP Defensive Player of the Year. Lloyd is a highly decorated linebacker that produced his way into big time recognition. A former three-star recruit, Lloyd’s intangibles and love for the game outproduced expectations across the board. The military kid brings great discipline to the table that has defensive leader written all over him. Physically, Lloyd plays with instant speed and burst that always convert to power. He pursues sideline to sideline, makes plays behind the line of scrimmage on a routine basis, and is a true three down threat. He can do it all and will surely be a green dot quarterback of a defense that can change the personality and speed of a front seven right away.

*I went back and forth with Lloyd finishing slightly above Dean, slightly below Dean, and right there with Dean. They end up with the same grade and I think it is a coin flip when it comes to who gets taken first. It will be based on scheme. Lloyd has enormous size advantages. He is 3 inches taller, about 10 pounds heavier about 1 inch longer, and about 4 inches wider. Those things do matter when their play-grades are similar. Lloyd looks like the ideal fit in Martindale’s scheme. When you talk about guys that can line up anywhere, keep a defense guessing, and make a difference in a variety of ways, Lloyd is the prototype. In 2018, I had Darius Leonard as a top 8 overall player on my board in the entire draft. He went in the 2nd round to IND and is now a two-time All Pro. Lloyd has some Leonard-type vibes in his game but what kept him a little lower is important. Lloyd lacks instincts and gap integrity against the inside run. It popped up often and I can’t ignore it. He blitzed more than any linebacker in the draft by a wide margin and it inflated the numbers a bit. Still a very fine player and can be a difference maker but like Dean, I can’t justify top 10 here. Maybe if they trade down, maybe.

3: Quay Walker – Georgia – 6’4/241

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Cordele, GA. Spent one season as a full-time starter but played a lot throughout both 2019 and 2020 in Georgia’s rotation-heavy defense. Walker has an elite set of tools to work with. He is tall and long with tremendous speed and power. He has experience in multiple roles along the front seven and could benefit from a creative defensive coach putting him into different spots based on situations. He shows a lot of hesitation post-snap when it comes to making reads and flowing to the action at the right time. He is also uncomfortable in coverage despite the wide wingspan and athletic lower half. The strengths and weaknesses in his game are very blunt and easy to see. If he is put into the right role and kept out of other specific ones, he can be a star.

*Between Walker, Dean, and Lloyd, this is the one with the highest ceiling. Walker stood out to me the day I watched this Georgia defense more than anyone on it. The glimpses he shows are truly elite. The tools, the alpha-male mentality and presence, and physical nature. Walker is the guy that Georgia coaches said scares opponents the most. Not just the talent and ability, but how hard he can hit guys. He inflicts pain both in traffic and in space. Walker just doesn’t completely know what he is doing yet in terms of making reads. It is incredibly important to playing linebacker to show that kind of feel. He goes back and forth there. I think there is a sneaky pass rusher here too for what it is worth. He has rush moves and bend that did not get enough looks in that defense. I have a feeling Martindale is going to love this kid as a potential 2nd rounder.

4: Leo Chenal – Wisconsin – 6’3/250

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Grantsburg, WI. Two-year starter that broke out in a big way in 2021, earning second-team All American honors in addition to first team All-Big 10. Winner of the 2021 Butkus-Fitzgerald Award, given to the conference’s top linebacker. Chenal is a unique prospect. He brings plus size to the table but also shows impressive straight line burst and closing speed. He uses both traits to maximum effectiveness against the inside run and as a blitzer. He is such a densely built, powerful defender that can dominate blockers and ball carriers alike. The question will be how usable he can be on passing downs in a league where teams are throwing at record rates. He struggles with lateral movement in coverage and does not have the feel in space that he does in traffic. To combat that, however, is how well he can blitz up the middle and get into the backfield. He will not be an ideal fit for every scheme, but a system that can hide the few weaknesses in his game will get themselves a big-time difference maker.

When it comes to the off-ball linebacker spots, Chenal is just one of 7 players over the past 5 years to measure in at 250+ at the combine. Out of those 7 players, Chenal was the only one to run a 4.55 AND jump 40+ on the vertical AND run a sub 7.00 3-cone. In fact, those workout metrics at 250+ pounds for the linebacker position had never once been combined, ever. I want to paint the picture how rare of an athlete this kid is at his size. Chenal is a chew-glass defender too. The tape he has against Iowa’s OC Tyler Linderbaum alone brought Linderbaum down a couple tiers on my grading sheet. If Chenal can learn to play more fluid in coverage and as a lateral mover, he has star written all over him. If NYG goes linebacker day two, I will even say it is likely Chenal is their guy.

5: Christian Harris – Alabama – 6’0/226

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from Baton Rouge, LA. Three-year starter that finished top five on the team in tackles all three seasons. Harris is a speed demon that will immediately be one of the fastest players at the position in the league. He can move with almost anyone the opposing offense gives the ball to and that can be a major weapon for a defense. Harris is no slouch against blockers, but he is at his best away from traffic. He doesn’t feel the action soon enough and it often puts him in a bad position. In addition, Harris gets beat up in coverage repeatedly no matter the role. He has a lot of work to do but that speed and physical nature is enticing. If a coach can enhance his instincts and reaction time, Harris has the upside of a high-end weak side linebacker in a four-man front.

*Harris has been a tough guy to watch. I am so used to watching a certain kind of linebacker from Alabama. A fast thumper that excels downhill. Harris is not. They did try him in that role, but he failed. Harris does not play assignment-savvy football. He is not the guy you want in the middle of the defense putting others in position, feeling his way through traffic, and playing with gap integrity. They moved him to the weak side, and he played the best football of his career. Get Harris in space, let him chase, and he will make things happen. Teams need to be careful with what they expect from him but if he is your complement to a reliable, steady inside thumper, he will do damage.

6: Troy Andersen – Montana State – 6’3/243

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior from Dillon, MT. Began his career as a running back and linebacker, earning Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year honors in 2017. Made the move to quarterback in 2018 and earned first-team All-Big Sky honors before moving to linebacker in 2019 where he also earned a first team placement. Andersen shifted to inside linebacker in 2021 and took his game to an even higher level. The FCS ADA National Player of Year, Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, and first-team All American left the program as one of its most decorated players ever. Andersen’s frame and long speed in combination with a natural feel for the game will be an enticing skill set for the league. He will not be ready right away, as he needs to strengthen his lower half and improve his presence against blockers, but the special teams presence will be there and his margin for potential growth his huge.

*This is a rare situation where I see a team using a day two pick on a linebacker with the idea of only allowing him to play special teams as a rookie. Andersen is one of the most unique players in the entire class. Say it with me. He was a first team All-Conference quarterback just a few years ago. Now he is one of the top triangle-numbers at the position. His play style reminds me a ton of Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano, except Andersen is light years ahead when it comes to tools. He won’t get away with what he did in college when it comes to reaction time, but the ability to cover, close, and finish is going to be a weapon in a year or two.

7: Chad Muma – Wyoming – 6’3/239

Grade: 77

Senior entry from Lone Tree, CO. Two-year starter that earned first team All-Mountain West honors in 2021. Muma, a former safety, transitioned to linebacker in 2019 after standing out on special teams a true freshman in 2018. Slowly but surely, he added mass and learned the mental side enough to lead the conference in tackles and tackles for loss as a senior. In fact, he finished just one tackle shy of leading all of FCS in tackles. Muma is a guy that is found all over the field. His acceleration and top end speed reach the sidelines, drops into deep coverage with ease, and pursues from behind all at high levels. He is fast and plays fast. Muma is also an excellent tackler on the move and in the open field. His overall power presence leaves a little too much on the table right now. He doesn’t play a strong, stout, or powerful game and while it may not have been exposed in the soft Mountain West schedule, it will be an issue in the pros. He is going to be a demon on special teams and should impact the defense on passing downs early on, but he will not be an every down player for at least a year. The ceiling is high though if he can continue the current trajectory he is on.

*Similar to Andersen, I would like to see Muma stay away from defense in year one while he gets bigger and stronger. He could possibly be a dime linebacker considering how well he moves and the experience he has at safety, however. Muma has a good natural feel for the game, and he is fun to watch on the move. There is something about his short area movement that worries me just a little. He gets high-hipped and without a stout style against blockers, that could make life difficult in the NFL. However, in a pass-happy league, Muma brings things to the table that most of these other guys do not.

8: Channing Tindall – Georgia – 6’2/230

Grade: 77

Senior entry from Columbia, SC. One-year starter that earned second team All-SEC in 2021. Tindall had a hard time getting on the field on a consistent basis his first three seasons with the Bulldogs. His patience paid off, however, as he showed enough as a senior to warrant a slot in the 2022 NFL Draft. Tindall’s standout trait is speed that is converted into violence. He plays fast, angry, and borderline undisciplined with the hope that any issues that come from the latter are made up by the former. Tindall does not always know what he’s doing, but there is something about a player that can reach this rate of movement with such tenacity and sure tackling. His size could be an issue against blockers here and there but if he is protected within the scheme he plays, he can be a playmaker and personality changer for a defense.

*Prior to the start of the 2021 season, I talked to a SEC position coach, and he said to get on this kid before everyone else. The Georgia linebackers were the best in the country by a wide margin and I was told this kid was the fastest and most physical one. He was right. Tindall plays at a different speed, and he is someone you don’t want to get hit by. If he gets with the right coach and a team can be patient with him, there is some star-potential here. Remember, he is not nearly as experienced as most of these guys and progressing at linebacker is all about seeing live snaps. Tindall is yet another high-ceiling linebacker that can truly change a group. I would love to see him fall to NYG in round 4.

9: Brian Asamoah – Oklahoma – 6’0/226

Grade: 76

Fourth year junior entry from Columbus, OH. Two-year starter that earned second team All-Big 12 honors in 2021. Asamoah is a fun player to watch that will bring instant speed and energy to a defense. His hustle, grit, and determination stand out on tape week to week. He is a defender that can pursue sideline to sideline and show range in coverage. He struggles to stay disciplined against the inside run when it comes to gap control and fighting off blockers. The tools and violence are there but he needs to prove he will do things the right way rather than simply rely on speed. He should be a demon on special teams and a solid backup early on while he cleans up the technique and mental side of the game. His best fit would be within a 4-3 scheme on the weak side.

*I’m not sure Asamoah will fit into the new Giants defensive scheme, but he is still a fine player that brings the heat. Asamoah’s size may be an initial downgrade to some, but he has long arms for his frame. If he gets better at using them, and he has shown glimpses of doing so, he could fit better to an inside role. Asamoah will be a weapon on special teams, no question.

10: Jesse Luketa – Penn State – 6’3/257

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Ottawa, ON. Two-year starter that earned honorable mention All-Big 10 honors in 2021. Luketa, a two-time team captain brings a unique skill set to the table. He is shorter than traditional edge rushers and has seen over a season’s worth of snaps lined up as an off-ball linebacker. His natural and powerful bend combined with plus-arm length, however, creates a tough assignment for blockers. He is tough to square up and the techniques he shows when it comes to his hands and footwork can manufacture disruption. He has solid football sense moving downhill in traffic and plus-quickness within a phone booth. The versatility can help his cause in the right scheme, but most of his time should be spent coming off the edge where he can be a disruptive three-down asset.

*I moved Luketa back and forth between EDGE and LB a couple times. For what it’s worth, he can be in either group. His size screams the former, his play style screams the latter. I liked him a bit more initially than where I have him right now. As I looked deeper into his game and watched the All-22, I think he is going to be a rotational guy at best. That is not a bad thing by the way, it simply is where I would peg him in the draft. I think NYG will love the versatility and toughness, but I question if he can do anything at a high enough level to be on the field every down. I don’t see it right now, but I want to reiterate I think he can be a guy that sees 10+ snaps a game to exploit matchups and I do see a solid special teamer here. I also have some concern about the body type as he is scary thin below the waist. An odd ball prospect here that I have a hard time finding a comparison to.

11: Brandon Smith – Penn State – 6’3/250

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Louisa, VA. Two-year starter that earned third team All-Big 10 honors in 2021. Smith is going to impress with prototype measurements and speed for the position. He looks the part and plays an explosive style of football. He has true sideline to sideline range and brings top end burst and agility. The upside with this kind of athlete is high. The issues on tape are hard to ignore, however. He is a poor form tackler than will miss too often. He does not read the inside run well and there is very little gap integrity to his play. He is a freelancer that opposing teams can expose regularly. In time, Smith has the ability to develop into a quality player if he dives in headfirst to enhancing his techniques, decision making, and discipline. If not, he is destined for backup duty.

*Before the year, a guy I work with had Smith as one of the top 45 players in the class. He simply did not step up the way someone like Christian Harris did in 2021. He has excellent triangle numbers. He has rare length (34.5 inch arms), he has 4.5 speed that shows up on tape, and he can make plays behind the line of scrimmage (17 TFL in the last 21 games). That alone can get a guy a mid-round pick. I have a feeling we will see Smith in the league for a long time, way beyond his rookie deal. Coaches will see the tools and occasional plays on tape and think they can mold him. For me, the missed tackles and freelancing are too often for the tools to look that attractive. He could be a draft weekend surprise, one scout told me “day 2 for us”. I couldn’t believe it, but tools are tools.

12: Darian Beavers – Cincinnati – 6’4/237

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Cincinnati, OH. Spent 2017 and 2018 at Connecticut before transferring to Cincinnati. Four-year starter between the two programs. Second team All-AAC in 2020, first team in 2021. Was also a Butkus Award Finalist in his final season. Beavers brings a unique tool set to the table and it was used all over the front seven in college. He primarily lined up off the ball, but he saw over 250 snaps along the edge on-line over his three years at Cincinnati. The heaviness in his hands and overall ability to play both stout and fast should get the attention of versatile defensive schemes. He does not play very sudden and there are too many inconsistencies with his tackling and aggression in space. There won’t be a fit for him in every scheme but at the same time, he can bring versatility to a multiple-front defense that others cannot.

*I have in my notes from the 2021 season that Beavers “…looks like an old school Steeler or Patriot…” Some make the mistake that Baltimore (Martindale/Ryan) went after the same personnel. I don’t agree. Martindale wants a bit more speed and twitch in his linebackers and even though Beavers tested OK with times, he doesn’t always play fast. I will say this though: He is an alpha. Beavers is a mean, powerful dude and he did line up all over the front seven. That said, he was not a very successful outside rusher.

13: JoJo Domann – Nebraska – 6’1/228

Grade: 72

Sixth year senior entry from Colorado Springs, CO. Four-year starter that began his career as a safety before moving to linebacker full time prior to the 2019 season. Ended his career earning second team All-Big 10 and second team All-American honors. Domann is going to be a space linebacker, one that can come on the field in sub packages and offer slightly better pass defense than a traditional Sam or Mike. His burst to the ball and no-fear, no-hesitation will play fast. He is a physical playmaker that will force fumbles and often find himself at the right place at the right time. Domann may not have the tools to fit as an every down player, but his value on special teams and on passing downs will create solid value and versatility.

*The experience Domann has at safety is going to help him in the league. His speed in space whether it is pursuit or coverage shows up. He can cover backs and I think he could hang with the motion tight ends too. I would not want to bring him in as an every down guy, but he will make the impact you want on special teams at the very least. If I had separate grades for special teamers, Domann would probably be near the top of the list. That is worth drafting mid-day three for sure. He has the kind of skill set that some teams value, possibly even at the beginning of day three.

14: Kyron Johnson – Kansas – 6’0/230

Grade: 72

Fifth year senior from Arlington, TX. Three-year starter that earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2020. Johnson bounced back and forth between off ball linebacker and a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker spot. He was a Swiss Army knife type that brought the kind of skill set to the table that was used in multiple roles. The standout trait here is undoubtedly speed and burst merged with great length. His ability to accelerate off the ball and blocks can be a weapon from anywhere on the field. He measures too small to be an every down edge player, but his impact there can still be felt on sure-passing downs. He will need time to develop the skill set as an off-ball linebacker, notably in coverage and defending the inside run. This kind of speed and relentless pursuit does not come around often though, and his upside is sky-high.

*Johnson was the biggest combine snub in the class, and I don’t think it was close. I can come up with 50+ guys, maybe more, that Johnson should have been there in place of. I think the lack of size and knowing he was pretty much exclusively an edge defender turned the deciding minds off. I like the idea of trying to transition him to an off-ball spot while still using him as a pass rusher on 3rd down. He has some high-quality tape against credible NFL prospects. He has the athletic ability (4.40 forty and 6.98 3-cone) to move well in coverage. He showed well there at his Pro Day (not the same, I know). This is one of my guys for day 3, just have a good feeling about him.

15: D’Marco Jackson – Appalachian State – 6’1/233

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Spartanburg, SC. Three-year starter that earned All-Sun Belt honors in both 2020 and 2021, first team in 2021. Also won the conference Defensive Player of the Year Award in his final season. Jackson was quietly one of the better interior run defenders from the linebacker position in the nation over the past two years. He has a great first step and plays an aggressive, low-to-ground style tat blockers have a hard time squaring up. Jackson does not play a good cover-game and he gets a little tight in lateral pursuit. He could be an ideal fit for a 3-4 front where he can zero in on defense between the tackles. He may never be a starter, but Jackson will be a reliable backup capable of stepping and keeping things together if the starter goes down.

*Jackson is the kind of day three prospect that, if put into the right defense, comes in and shines brighter that several guys taken ahead of him. He won’t be a guy that creates a ton on his own, but he does know how to dominate his niche. He can play the interior running game very well. Reliable player in that regard, limited elsewhere.

BEST OF THE REST

16: Terrel Bernard – Baylor – 6’1/224: 71
17: Chance Campbell – Mississippi – 6’2/232: 71
18: Tariq Carpenter – Georgia Tech – 6’2/230: 71
19: Damone Clark – LSU – 6’2/239: 70
20: Malcolm Rodriguez – Oklahoma State – 5’11/232: 70
21: Aaron Hansford – Texas A& M – 6’2/239: 70
22: Nate Landman – Colorado – 6’2/238: 70
23: Mike Rose – Iowa State – 6’4/245: 70
24: Zakoby McClain – Auburn – 5’11/228: 69
25: Ellis Brooks – Penn State – 6’1/226: 69
26: Jake Hansen – Illinois – 6’1/238: 69
27: Jeremiah Moon – Florida – 6’5/249: 69
28: Jack Sanborn – Wisconsin – 6’2/234: 69
29: Darien Butler – Arizona State – 5’10/221: 68
30: Micah McFadden – Indiana – 6’1/240: 68
31: Nephi Sewell – Utah – 5’11/226: 68

NYG APPROACH

The linebackers in this new defensive scheme will have a unique feel to them. I want to say they’re going to be “really important” but I would say that about all the positions depending on what angle we are discussing. So, I’ll keep that under my tongue. The linebackers DO need to be versatile. I don’t seem them sticking with a classic thumper or a guy that lacks a standout trait. Those types work well in certain schemes, but I think this new regime will want guys that can do multiple things. They all need to defend the run well with plus power and speed. Beyond that, the need a specialty such as blitz/pass rush or coverage. This is a LB class that I love for that kind of approach, notably on day 2. There isn’t a much depth in that round 4-5 area that I usually see, but there will be plenty of bodies available round 6/7 if NYG does not find value earlier. But when trying to break down guys that fit what NYG wants to do on defense, I can see one of the four picks in rounds 2-4 being spent here. I don’t think Blake Martinez will be in the picture beyond 2022 and Tae Crowder is a rotational or backup at best. NYG may need two guys at this time next year and it would be in their best interest to get one in this draft. Learn the scheme, acclimate to the speed of the NFL, be ready to rock in 2023. Chanel, Walker, and Andersen are all guys I think would be both outstanding picks that can contribute here and there as rookies but will take over as the top dog in 2023. There will be handfuls of names late day three but again, look for the ones that have versatility and specialize either in coverage or the pass rush.

Apr 082022
 
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Derek Stingley, LSU Tigers (September 19, 2021)

Derek Stingley – © USA TODAY Sports

CORNERBACKS

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

1: Derek Stingley – LSU – 6’0/190

Grade: 87

Summary: Junior entry from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Three-year starter that arrived at LSU as the number one high school recruit in the nation and fully delivered. 2019 SEC Newcomer of the Year, two-time 1st Team All SEC and All American. Grandson of a 1973 1st round pick by New England and son of a Major League Baseball draft pick, Stingley comes from strong genes and has combined them with an elite cornerback skill set. He checks all the boxes when it comes to defending the pass and will especially stand out in schemes that put their corners in man coverage most of the time. His footwork, quickness, and top end speed make him a sticky cover man all over the route tree. After his 6 interception, 15 pass break up freshman season in the SEC, he simply wasn’t thrown at much through the end of his career. He underwent foot surgery in September 2021 after just 3 games but should be full-go by rookie minicamp. Stingley has a few technique flaws that will need to be cleaned up and don’t expect him to play a physical brand against the run. However, this is the kind of corner that can shut down an entire third of a field by himself.

*There is a lot of debate around Stingley. His career could not have gotten off to a better start after a legendary true freshman season in the SEC. Add that to the fact he was the top recruit in the nation…he was perceived as the second coming in the world of corners. How does one even come close to those expectations at the second hardest position in football? Stingley missed games with multiple injuries over the next two years, the most recent one being serious. His Pro Day was absolutely crucial. The foot checked out and he timed well, Stingley needs to be the top or second corner in this draft. He is a mix of Patrick Peterson and Marshon Lattimore and I expect a similar career if he stays healthy. How does NYG view him? If they truly want a “tough guy” out there, they may look past him. Stingley is physical in coverage and at the catch point, but I would not call him a “chew glass” type. The risk of his lower body becoming an issue durability-wise is a major fear as well. NYG cannot afford to see one of these top 10 picks turn out to be a low-dividend. I like Stingley and his potential, but the risk may be too high and Gardner is nearly just as good. Tough decision if they want to go corner.

2: Ahmad Gardner – Cincinnati – 6’3/190

Grade: 86

Summary: Junior entry from Detroit, MI. Three-year starter that stacked up numerous postseason accolades. Two-time All American, three-time All AAC, and 2021 unanimous AAC Defensive Player of the Year. Gardner has been a dominant force from the start of his career, having never allowed a touchdown across over 1,000 snaps in coverage. His on-field production matches his top-tier tool set for the position. He plays tall, long, and fast across all levels of the route tree. Gardner also shows a deep understanding of how to play the cover game on an island. He is rarely caught out of position and the few times that does happen, his recovery burst and speed can catch up to anyone. This kind of movement, body control, and length will make him a tough cover man to beat. Once near the ball he has shown more than enough coordination with his ball skills to force quarterback’s into thinking twice before going his way. Gardner has true shutdown corner upside.

*Right place, right time for Gardner in relation to the status of Stingley and his foot. Gardner is going to be CB1 on multiple boards across the league and has a strong chance of being the first corner selected even if Stingley is fully healthy. The size is light years ahead of Stingley, his production is off the charts, and the acceleration + health is super clean. Stingley may give more star power, but Gardner may be the safer pick. This will be one of the more interesting storylines to follow. I like Gardner a lot – don’t mistake the stack for me looking down on him. He has the goods. There are some concerns with the short area route tree that I have. That is the one issue I can see on tape. He also did not see a ton of difficult matchups in his career.

3: Kaiir Elam – Florida – 6’1/191

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry from Rivera Beach, FL. Three-year starter that earned first team all-SEC in 2020. The son of former NFL safety Abe Elam and nephew to former NFL safety Matt Elam. Kaiir is a prototype cornerback with plus size and speed. His triangle numbers are some of the best in the class and they complement his tape well. His ability to play physical as a press corner and at the catch point can make him a handful to deal with for receivers. He has both the confidence and ability to get in their face at the line of scrimmage with the knowledge he can turn and run with anyone. He looks rough around the edges when it comes to techniques, forcing him to get too grabby with his hands. His athleticism does not always show up underneath where lateral quickness is needed. The ability and potential are there to be a credible number one corner at the next level in time, though.

*Elam’s uncle Matt was a first-round pick of the Ravens when Martindale was a linebacker coach there. That doesn’t mean anything, but hey a fun fact. Anyway, Kaiir is one of the more competitive, attitude-based corners in the class. In fact, he may be THE guy that I want next to me in a bar fight. This guy mixes it up every week and I think it gives him an actual edge on the field. He is very talented across the board, but there is too much sloppiness in his game right now. He needs to clean it up and that will require time and a lot of attention to his craft.

4: Andrew Booth Jr – Clemson – 6’0/194

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry from Dacula, Georgia. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All ACC honors in 2021. Booth was a 5-star recruit that started just 15 career games at Clemson but was a key contributor for two full seasons. The physically gifted corner excels in downfield coverage because of his easy-moving, explosive lower half. He can hit his top speed in a hurry and combining that with excellent length and twitch, Booth has the makings of a top-flight outside presence that can excel in man-dominant coverage schemes. He needs to improve ball location and underneath-coverage feel. There are a lot of false steps when he is facing the action, he has too much tape where is found tripping over his own feet, and he simply allowed too many receptions. If his mind can catch up to his body, Booth has number one corner written all over him.

*Considering Booth simply does not have a ton of experience under his belt and there truly is no substitute for development at corner without true game experience, Booth is the wild card of this group. His movement skills may be the best in the class. His best tape rivals the best tape we see from both Stingley and Gardner. The issue is that the bad tape is really bad. The footwork and underneath body control can get roasted in the NFL. He also tends to lose the ball downfield, something else a quality passing attack will go after often. There is a lot of guessing here but if NYG can somehow can their hands on him in round 2, he is worth the gamble.

5: Trent McDuffie – Washington – 5’11/193

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Westminster, GA. Three-year starter that earned first team all-Pac 12 honors in 2021, second team in 2020. McDuffie brings instant energy to a defense with his aggressive nature and twitched up movement. He can play fast in all situations, all directions against both the run and pass. His ability to diagnose, put his foot in the ground, and play fast can put him into a variety of roles and schemes. He plays with a one-size-fits-all style. McDuffie’s upside could be limited by the lack of height and reach, however, when he is in contested situations. He simply was not tested much, and his ball production was not noteworthy. There is some unknown here but there are plenty of reasons to feel confident he will compete hard and get the most put of his top-tier speed and quickness.

*McDuffie is guaranteed to bring the heat week in, week out. He can be an energy stick for a secondary. You cannot ignore the lack of reach (29” arms) and lack of ball production. It is actually a non-starter for some teams. I would love to see him in a nickel role off the bat. He specializes in playing sticky on coverage and there is a physical nature that can make a difference lining up closer to the ball. NYG has a question mark at that spot and BUF brought in a couple corners like McDuffie while Schoen was there. Another day 2 target if he falls a bit, but signs point toward him being a first rounder.

6: Roger McCreary – Auburn – 5’11/193

Grade: 79

Summary: Senior entry from Auburn, AL. Three-year starter that earned first team All-SEC honors in 2021. While McCreary may not have all the ideal measurables for a starting outside corner, it is hard to look past how well he grades out everywhere else. His techniques from top to bottom are near-flawless and there is a tenacity to his game that plays big. There is little doubt he can be a solid corner at the next level, but the gray area will be where he should be placed. His tool set screams nickel, where his stickiness and physical nature can blend into most schemes right away. The missed tackles and struggles against size could end up hurting him in that role, however. McCreary is the kind of guy you bring in first, figure out later. He is ahead of the curve among most corners when looking at actual coverage responsibilities.

*Similar to McDuffie above, McCreary will be picked based on his quickness and feel for the position. He plays as sticky as anyone. He is a hair below McDuffie speed wise and even though he does play with a physical, aggressive approach, he is a poor tackler. Not a huge knock for a cornerback in general but if he is going to project to nickel for NYG, he needs to get much better there. McCreary has some really good tape against really good corners. I think he can play right away.

7: Kyler Gordon – Washington – 5’11/194

Grade: 79

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Mukilteo, WA. Three-year starter that earned first team all-Pac 12 honors in 2021 after finishing with honorable mention honors in both 2020 and 2019. Gordon has the tools to be a very solid cover man at the next level. He has the size and long speed to handle pro receivers down the field, no question. Where he stands out is underneath and intermediate. His short area burst and acceleration can make him a sticky corner and when he brings this kind of length to the table as well, we are talking about a do-it-all defender against the pass. He does struggle to get a solid jam at the point of attack and his presence against the run is inconsistent. He would do best in a zone-happy scheme as he continues to learn the game and pick up more repeatable natural tendencies. His impact may be a year away, but he has a starter’s upside.

*Gordon didn’t run as fast as I thought he would at the combine. It did not change where I had him graded, however. He plays plenty fast enough and the tape proves it over and over. My concern is with physical presence at the catch point. He is not a soft player, but he does come across weak. He struggled to consistently impact receivers in contested situations. I love this kid’s upside, but that needs to improve.

8: Alontae Taylor – Tennessee – 6’0/199

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Manchester, TN. Four-year starter that transitioned from wide receiver to cornerback in 2018. Taylor has had an up and down career when it comes to coverage and production. One thing that never rattled, however, was the energy he plays with. Taylor brings a level of intensity and competitive nature to the field that can help change the personality of a defense. He plays the ball well, plays physical, and has plus-tools. There are issues that show up in underneath coverage and he has been banged up multiple times throughout his career. Taylor will at the very least contribute on special teams as a gunner and presents potential as a starting outside corner in a cover 2/cover 3 scheme.

*Taylor surprised me with his pro day workout. His height, speed, and length are going to be attractive to a lot of teams. But it doesn’t just end there. Taylor is still new to the position compared to other corners, coaches will love his aggressive nature, and he showed glimpses of first round caliber play late in the year. I just never got on board with him though. His struggles underneath that stem from the high-hipped lower body and balance issues aren’t going anywhere, not any time soon. I really think he is destined for a zone-heavy scheme and I’m not sure I trust him in man coverage. There are some that graded him as a safety.

9: Josh Jobe – Alabama – 5’11/182

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Miami, FL. Two-year starter that came into 2021 with big expectations after a strong junior season but failed to deliver. Jobe checks most of the boxes when it comes to triangle numbers and techniques but there is a lack of feel to his game. He does not anticipate routes well and there is some high-hipped, sluggish movement against lateral movement. He may be scheme-specific at the next level, but his ability to turn and run with fluidity and control will help maximize his plus-length. He will provide solid depth initially and has the kind of upside that can end up as a solid starter.

*I’ve been on both sides of the fence with Jobe. I love corners that come from the Saban program. He is an easy mover with plus-length and he looked really solid in 2020 and 2019. If you use his 2021 tape by itself, however, he looked like a day three corner or a guy that needs to move to safety. Now we have to keep in mind there was a foot injury that did not get a lot of attention. Jobe is a good enough athlete to play corner in the league, there is no question. The debate is, does he have the feel? Can he improve the mental side? Saban moved him between safety and corner a bit too. One last note: Baltimore drafted corners from Alabama in back-to-back years while Martindale was there. Keep that in mind.

10: Cam Taylor-Britt – Nebraska – 5’11/194

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Montgomery, AL. Three-year starter that began his career as a safety and moved to cornerback in 2019. Two-time All-Big Ten, second team in 2021. Taylor-Britt is a twitched up defensive back with some versatility to wear multiple hats in sub packages. His size is average, but he plays both quick and fast enough cover in multiple schemes. He plays sticky underneath and has the catch-up speed to play the vertical route tree. The former safety also shows plus-aggression as a tackler and run defender, albeit he needs to clean up techniques. His ball skills are another pull on the grade sheet. Taylor-Britt is an ideal fit for a nickel role that can be transitioned inside-out based on matchups. He is a smart and dependable player that should be in the league for a long time.

*I am a little higher on Taylor-Britt than what is out there. This is another version of Julian Love. Safety/corner hybrid that has the juice to play outside. There is some tightness to him, but I think it has more to do with learning the nuances of route concepts from a corner perspective. Olave from Ohio State (1st round WR) ate him up a bit. But remember, he only really played corner for a couple years. I would like to see him as a sub-package guy for a year or two and see where it takes him. It is possible he moves back to safety.

11: Coby Bryant – Cincinnati – 6’1/193

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Cleveland, OH. Four-year starter that earned first team All-AAC honors in both 2020 and 2021. Capped of his career by winning the Jim Thorpe Award and finishing as an All-American. Byrant’s production is noteworthy, and it is easy to be drawn to his instinctive play style. He obviously does his homework, as he shows pro-caliber ability to forecast and put himself in position. While the tool set is less than ideal across the board other than his height, Bryant can be a solid starting corner for a defense that runs a lot of zone-based coverage. He is not a fit for every defense, but Bryant will have starter-grades with multiple teams based on what they ask out of their corners. If he is protected from specific possibilities, he will make plays.

*If you could put Bryant’s feel and instincts into some of these guys above him, you are looking at a 90+ grade (All-Pro projection). Bryant is a couple tiers below athletically than you want from a starter and it will likely prevent him from getting a look from some teams. That said, there are corners in the league (good ones) that profile the same way as Bryant. I’ve learned to slot these guys different that I used to, but I still have a solid outlook on corners that play the way Bryant does. He just needs a specific scheme and role.

12: Marcus Jones – Houston – 5’8/174

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Enterprise, AL. Spent one year at Troy where he started and earned All American honors as a returner. Played two seasons for Houston as a starter and continued his return-prowess, earning first team All-AAC and All-American honors. Also earned second team all-conference honors as a corner and won the AAC Special Teams Player of the Year award in 2021. Jones could be a day two pick based on his return ability alone. As a corner, he is well below the ideal standards for the position, but he shows potential as a sticky slot defender. His margin for error is incredibly low and he simply does not show the technique-discipline yet. He will be a bit of a project but can uniquely still bring value to the table because of the return skills immediately.

*There is a lot of interest in Jones, and I think he will go before where I have him. The return value just is not what it used to be, so I kept him day three. And in addition, I’m not sure he will perform well enough on defense to be anything more than a returner. He has to be uber-special if you are going to use an early to mid-pick on a returner. Thus, a risky proposition that I don’t see NYG going for considering the state of their roster.

13: Tariq Woolen – UTSA – 6’4/205

Grade: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior from Fort Worth, TX. Two-year starter at cornerback after spending his first three seasons at wide receiver where he also started six games. Honorable Mention All-Conference USA in 2021. Woolen is an incredibly unique prospect that will force NFL decision makers to look deep into their crystal ball. His blend of elite size and speed to go along with a more than his fair share of quality tape can easily override some of the current ugliness in his game. The speed shows up and it comes with quality plant and go burst out of his breaks. This is a corner that can truly transfer his tools to quality play on the field. The former receiver is just a couple years into playing on the defensive side of the ball and it is natural to expect his upward progression can be steep if he gets the right coaching and he applies himself. Woolen is a true boom or bust prospect.

*In all my years of scouting, I cannot recall a cornerback with this physical package. Every bit of 6’4 wit plus length AND a sub 4.3 forty? Watch the right film and you will a kid with a real skill set too. The defensive coaches that are overly in love with length are going to be drooling over Woolen. I thought I was a little aggressive with the fourth-round grade, but I bet he goes a little earlier. The upside is so high, but I would bet against him reaching it. There is a long way to go here, and the odds tell me he won’t get to a high enough level with his skill set.

14: Jalyn Armour-Davis – Alabama – 6’1/197

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Mobile, AL. One-year starter that earned second team All-SEC honors in that lone season. A former special teamer, Armour-Davis’ career got off to a rough start, tearing his ACL in pregame warmups as a true freshman. He did not see a lot of time at cornerback until 2021 but did make some noise as a gunner on special teams. Once he earned that starting spot on defense, however, Armour-Davis shined. His speed and size can make a difference if he develops a more consistent skill set. The tools are there but he simply does not have the experience under his belt. He is very much a projection on the next level, but one with a high enough ceiling to warrant a potential starter label.

*As I said earlier, I am always going to feel some extra pull toward an Alabama corner. Armour-Davis only started one season, but in this program that is not the red flag that it is in some others. I make it a point to watch guys both early in the year and late in the year. There are a few reasons why, but for a player like Armour-Davis it is even more important. That game experience made him a better player and one must believe that progression will continue the more he gets on the field. There will be some growing pains, maybe more than typical young corners, but I think the upside is higher than most day three corners. In such a deep group of 4th-5th rounders, I bet he gets taken near the top of that section.

15: Joshua Williams – Fayetteville State – 6’3/195

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Fayetteville, NC. Three-year starter that had his 2020 season cancelled due to Covid 19. First team All-CIAA in 2021. Dripping with tools that are ideal for outside corner, Williams is a long-term project that may not be able see the field in 2022 because of how steep the climb he will be making in competition. With that said, his performance at the Senior Bowl softened the notion significantly. He is smooth as butter as he turns his hips and accelerates to his top speed, showing minimal loss of balance and control. Add that to his size and presence at the catch point, Williams can make the case to be projected as an eventual starting cornerback within his rookie deal. The speed does not jump off the screen, but he does have some extra length to fall back on and he took on the Senior Bowl receivers the way he did at the lower level of college football.

*There are a few guys I respect a lot when it comes to their view on cornerbacks that really like this kid. One that “slipped through the cracks” as a high school recruit. They all said top 100 picks and I agree he has a shot at cracking it. The adjustment in play will be enormous for anyone coming from Fayetteville State. Making that jump at a position where speed is more important than anywhere else likely spells redshirt year for him. Maybe we see him on the field late in the season, but a lot needs to go right. Schoen did help Buffalo make a valuable pick on a corner from a small school a few years ago. Some decision makers are afraid to pull that kind of trigger, he is not.

BEST OF THE REST:

16: Damarri Mathis – Pittsburgh – 5’11/196: 75
17: Akayleb Evans – Missouri – 6’2/197: 75
18: Cordale Flott – LSU – 6’0/175: 75
19: Zyon McCollum – Sam Houston State – 6’2/199: 75
20: Vincent Gray – Michigan – 6’2/192: 75
21: Tariq Castro-Fields – Penn State – 6’1/197: 74
22: Martin Emerson – Mississippi State – 6’2/201: 74
23: Chase Lucas – Arizona State – 5’11/180: 74
24: Mario Goodrich – Clemson – 6’0/176: 73
25: Josh Thompson – Texas – 5’11/194: 73
26: Decobie Durant – South Carolina State – 5’10/180: 72
27: Jaylen Watson – Washington State – 6’2/197: 71
28: Montaric Brown – Arkansas – 6’0/196: 71
29: Kalon Barnes – Baylor – 5’11/183: 71
30: Isaac Taylor-Stuart – USC – 6’1/201: 71

NYG APPROACH

For the second straight year, the cornerback is incredibly deep. While many grades will be scheme-dependent, the notion will be the same for everyone. If you are looking to add depth to your corner group with the potential of that guy being a starter within a couple years, you can get your guy round 4 or 5. Does that mean you should wait until then? No. However, I do think it would be foolish to reach for a guy day 2 even though the position is really important. NYG is going to consider one of the top corners early on, Stingley and Gardner. I think they will prefer the clean bill of health that Gardner brings to the table. I have them graded very closely and I will acknowledge that Stingley brings extra risk to the table. Injuries to knees and feet at cornerback worry me, too. My main reason for stacking him slightly above Gardner has a lot to do with who these guys matched up against in college and the proof Stingley has on his resume that he can make plays against the best NCAA had to offer, and I am including the LSU receivers he got to practice against. That said, the whole “…smart, tough, dependable…” line from Schoen makes me think they lean toward Gardner if they opt to go for a CB. If they do wait until day three, which would be my preference unless the board shook up weird in the top 7 with other teams, I think this is a good spot for Vincent Gray from Michigan or Zyon McCollum from Sam Houston State. They have the tools required for the scheme, they play smart and tough, and they will not be rushed into action. Much of this will depend on whether or not NYG trades Bradberry or Jackson or….both.

Apr 062022
 
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Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (September 5, 2021)

Kyle Hamilton – © USA TODAY Sports

SAFETIES

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

1: Kyle Hamilton – Notre Dame – 6’4/220

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry from Atlanta, Georgia. Two-year starter that earned 2nd Team All American honors in 2020, 3rd team in 2021. Despite playing in just 7 games because of a knee injury that did not require surgery, Hamilton was a finalist for the Bednarik Award. The tall, long, and fast-reaction defensive weapon was manufactured in a factory that specializes in creating products to defend the offense-dominant NFL. His impact on the game can be felt in so many situations from so many different places. He is the queen-chess piece to a defense. Start him anywhere, move him anywhere, have him perform any role, and he will produce. The length and speed can match up against some of the best the league has to offer at both wide receiver and tight end. The intelligence and reaction time can be put into centerfield with credible sideline-to-sideline range. Hamilton is not a very stout or powerful defender; thus he shouldn’t be put in the box often, but he can still perform well as an outside blitzer. The awareness and play-speed will get him involved in the action often, and he is a well-proven finisher. Hamilton is a lock to be a versatile, playmaking defensive weapon.

*The good thing? There really isn’t a safety in the league quite like him. The bad thing? There really isn’t a safety in the league quite like him. The opinions on Hamilton when it comes to his value at #5 and/or #7 will be all over the place. Simply put: Yes, he is worth one of those spots. The new defensive scheme will use him effectively and whatever his ceiling is, he will get there. The problem that some have (his 40 time) is a credible concern. He may be more of a weapon against tight ends than he is against receivers in man coverage. All the talk about his speed is overblown, however. If he was a corner, it would be more worrisome. But you rarely hear the naysayers discuss how big this kid is. You rarely hear them discuss how smart and instinctive he is. Those two attributes, along with the superb ball skills, more-than make up for a forty time that you wish was 0.2 seconds faster. He is in play for 5 and 7.

2: Daxton Hill – Michigan – 6’0/192

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry from Tulsa, OK. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors in 2021. The brother of Ravens running back Justice, Daxton was a 5-star recruit that evolved into one of the most versatile defenders on the Michigan squad. He played several roles and could realistically project to multiple positions in the NFL. He excels in zone coverage where he gets to look downhill at the action and trust his instincts and closing speed. For a defense that wants multiple looks on a constant basis on the back end, Hill can be viewed as a key component. The play speed and ball skills can make up for a slight frame, but there are certain roles he needs to be kept out of. He lacks power presence and can struggle against smaller, quicker slot receivers in man coverage.

*Hill is a more athletic version of what NYG has in Julian Love. Julian Love is a cheaper and younger version of Logan Ryan. College defensive backs that played more cornerback than safety, but are ideal fits for nickel packages. Teams play nickel and dime more and more, but it is always nice to have a guy that can wear multiple hats. Hill is a little smaller than you want out of a pure safety, but there might not be a better short-area mover than in the draft than him. The quickness to explosion is one of the best I’ve seen. If he is there in round 2 and NYG wants to prep a Love-replacement (FA in 2023), Hill is a guy worth remembering.

3: Jaquan Brisker – Penn State – 6’1/199

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior from Pittsburgh, PA. After a two-year stint in junior college, Brisker transferred to Penn State and started for three seasons. Two time All-Big 10 selection, first team in 2021, and a first team All-American in 2021. Brisker has the ideal blend of speed and toughness that promote an incredibly versatile contribution to the defense. He can line up all over the secondary as well as creep up into the box for extra support. Brisker’s ability to cover man to man could even open some eyes as a potential nickel corner at the next level, a growing role of importance against the league’s pass-happy attacks. His quick and agile footwork combined with elite-level speed will show up in several ways. Brisker is a little slight-framed for the way he plays, and it would be ideal to see him add some muscle mass in time. His growing knowledge and ability to read the offense will help him position himself better and combined with the tools he has should create big plays and multiple options for the defense. A do-it-all safety with the kind of elite level speed and toughness respectively to factor all over the field in any situation.

*Brisker still figuring some things out. When he does truly play to his speed, stemming from confident decisions and quality instincts, he is a pretty close player to Hill. Why the significant gap? There is a shoulder issue here that I think will be an issue with how violent he plays. I also see some lateral tightness in coverage. Not nearly as natural – but I do think the physical upside warrants top of round 2 discussion.

4: Lewis Cine – Georgia – 6’2/199

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Cedar Hill, TX. Two-year starter that earned first team All-SEC honors in 2021, playing his best football of his career down the stretch for one of the best defenses in program history. Cine, the Bulldogs’ leading tackler, shoots downhill toward the action like a missile with a finisher’s mentality. Unlike many safeties with this play style, he brings reliable form tackling to the contact point and rarely misses. He is the kind of kind of guy you want in there as the last line of defense. While Cine does not show some of the more natural skills in coverage, he is no slouch in that department. He plays fast and showed the extra gear when needed. There is value to an adrenaline-stick on the back end like this as long as the defense does not put him in too big of a coverage responsibility. If he continues on the progression curve he put himself on down the stretch in 2021, watch out.

*If NYG Is looking for more attitude and physical play for the complementary role next to their potential budding star in McKinney, keep Cine on your short list. This may actually be the best day two fit AND best overall safety fit for the guy in this defense. It would allow Love to bounce around in sub packages while providing extra run support and defense against tight ends. Cine does not always know what he’s doing in coverage, but he is an excellent see-ball, get-ball defender that won’t miss tackles.

5: Jalen Pitre – Baylor – 5’11/198

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior from Stafford, TX. Four-year starter that finished off his career earning first team All-Big 12 and All-American honors respectively in addition to winning the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Award. Pitre has played all over the Baylor defense throughout the course of his career. He has seen as much time at linebacker as he has defensive back. His frame will undoubtedly move him to a hybrid nickel/safety role in the NFL. Pitre’s lack of size almost never shows up when it comes to physical impact and presence. He plays strong, aggressive, and physical far beyond what his body suggests. Pitre also shows the mental capacity to handle multiple roles in a defense if a role can be carved out for him. Where his lack of size shows up is when he is left on an island against tight ends. He can be overshadowed easily, and it turns into him either getting beat or too grabby with his hands. There are a few injury concerns from Pitre’s past that will need to be considered and investigated prior to drafting him. In the right role, he can be a valuable nickel defender that will impact the game in multiple ways but there are some situations he will need to be protected from.

*There seems to be a lot more interest in this kid than what I thought there would be. I always had a round 3/4 outlook on him, but some of the guys I’ve read and spoken with say he is going day 2. Just watching the Baylor defense the past two years, I thought a lot of the production came from the role he was put into. Meaning, anyone would have had it. End of the day he is small when it comes to the reach/radius game and there isn’t a ton of feel in coverage. I could see the round 3 fit, but round 2 is really rich. I don’t see the high ceiling and there are some durability concerns.

6: Bryan Cook – Cincinnati – 6’1/206

Grade: 77

Fifth year senior from Cincinnati, OH. One-year starter for the Bearcats after transferring from Howard University where he spent his first two collegiate seasons. Earned first team All-AAC honors in 2021. Cook had to wait his turn, as he sat behind two safeties that were draft picks in 2020. He took advantage of the opportunity, proving that his skill set caught up to his ideal blend of tools for the position. If safeties were made in a factory, they would come out looking like Cook. He is athletically thick, shows elite burst and acceleration, and is equally impactful as a cover man and tackler. Cook’s versatility was on full display in 2021, as the former cornerback lined up all over the secondary and seemed both comfortable and able across the board. His upside is as high as any safety in the class if he can continue the path he took from the start of 2020 to his current state. He just needs to prove he can play fast in deep coverage and forecast more naturally.

*Cook’s draft prep has been impacted by a shoulder surgery he underwent in January. He did not workout at the combine or the Cincinnati Pro Day. Something to consider even though all signs point to full recovery and him being ready by summer. Cook has limited tape, thus the grade is on the risky side. I project him to start based on tools and versatility. I think the very least you get out of him is a really good special teamer.

7: Nick Cross – Maryland – 6’0 – 212

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Bowie, MD. Three-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-Big 10 honors all three seasons. Cross is a do-it-all safety with a slight bias toward downhill run defense. He has the power presence and thickness to support his style that can give the defense extra support in the box. He anticipates and reacts with suddenness and explosion. Cross then has the final gear to play noticeably faster than the opponent. He has excellent catch-up speed in coverage and has proven himself in deep zone to reach the sideline from a Cover 2 role. Cross needs to be kept away from man coverage against receivers as often as possible but his versatility, short area burst, and instincts will create plays for the defense as a starting safety.

*He picked up some steam late in the process with a solid final four games (probably his best stretch over his career) and a really impressive combine workout. Cross size and speed pair well with his play style to create the label of “enforcer” of a defensive backfield. For the teams that want a safety to impact the running game like a linebacker, this is your guy. He is a weapon as a lateral pursuit guy. I have a hard time seeing him as a difference maker in coverage, thus some teams will see day three here. The range in which I see him going is really wide. Again, a nice complement to what NYG has at safety right now and a Wink-fit.

8: Kerby Joseph – Illinois – 6’1/203

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Orlando, FL. One year starter that made the most out of that one season, earning first team All-Big 10 honors. Joseph was a bit of a late bloomer, as he did not lock down a starting gig until his fourth year. He then went on to be the only player in the nation with five interceptions and three fumble recoveries in 2021. The playmaker brings a near-ideal blend of tools to the table that will work best in a scheme that shows a lot of two-high looks. His easy-moving hips, length, and ability to high-point the football will create for the defense. While he will not offer much as a run defending power presence, he is a solid form tackler and plays aggressive enough. He projects to an eventual starter at the next level.

*I always get a little hesitant about one-year starters unless they come from big time programs and/or they had NFL players in front of them during their non-starting seasons. Neither is the case here for Joseph. That said, Joseph was pretty highly praised by a couple Big 10 coaches that I’ve spoken with and he had a nice education from Lovie Smith. Based on his tape alone, Joseph can play. You may have to be patient with him, more so than others, but there is a lot to like here.

9: Verone McKinley III – Oregon – 5’10/198

Grade: 74

Fourth year junior entry from Carrollton, TX. Three-year starter that ended his career with first team All-Pac 12 and All-American honors. McKinley tied for the national lead in interceptions just two years after leading the Pac-12 in that department as a redshirt freshman. He is a proven playmaker in the secondary that has seen himself lineup all over the defense. His production and tape are solid to say the least, but there are some shortcomings when it comes to speed and size. He falls below the desired height, weight, and length parameters for the position, and it shows up as a tackler. McKinley plays hard and aggressive, but the number of whiffs is alarming. He also struggled against big targets in contested situations. McKinley projects to a nickel role (he arrived at Oregon as a cornerback) that needs to be schemed around to maximize his potential impact.

*Some will look at the turnover numbers and boost him up a bit. He does have a good sense where to go and when to make the breaks in that direction, but we are talking about a guy that isn’t fast or big and he can’t tackle. I don’t want that at safety. Maybe he can find a role as a nickel (former CB, remember) – but the speed concerns could be even bigger there. I think he can be a sub-package guy though. I just don’t see the development into a starter.

10: Yusuf Corker – Kentucky – 6’0/203

Grade: 73

Fifth year senior from McDonough, GA. Three-year starter and two-time team captain that has a lot of experience under his belt. Corker can impact the game in a variety of ways because of a dependable, ever-present feel for the game and situations. His eyes and instincts consistently put him in the right position within short to intermediate areas. The lack of top end speed and agility can be a liability in serious coverage roles, however. He does not turn naturally and will not show enough range in deep spaces. Corker’s size and inconsistent tackling may keep him in a backup role, but he can be an asset in sub packages and special teams. He is a player that will give you exactly what you expect but be sure you know what to expect.

*Corker has the look and style of a guy that coaches trust. He knows his role, gets to his points in a hurry, and rarely looks confused. He is a kid that belongs, plain and simple. The tools, though, may not be quite good enough and the missed tackles at this position always cause a downgrade on my sheet. Maybe a special teamer and solid backup – but I wouldn’t expect much more.

11: Juanyeh Thomas – Georgia Tech – 6’1/212

Grade: 72

Summary: Senior entry from Niceville, FL. Three-year starter that earned honorable mention All-ACC honors in 2021. Thomas burst on to the scene as a big time a special teamer in 2018. He led the team in special teams tackles and returned two kicks for touchdowns. He also returned an interception for a score in spot duty. Thomas had a lot of hype surrounding him after that point, but he never quite met the expectations. His tools are easy to see. He is big, fast, and physical. The acceleration and pursuit are difference making traits. Beyond the surface level, however, Thomas appears to be a liability in most coverage roles. There is too much tightness in his hips and he shows minimal feel for route concepts and combinations. Thomas is easily fooled by misdirection as well. He should factor on special teams early on, but his only potential role will be a box-safety and one that needs to avoid wide receivers.

*Thomas may get a little overhyped by some. His tools are impressive, and he makes the highlight reel often. He is a fun player to watch, but also very frustrating. I don’t see NYG looking here unless they want to groom him for a special teams-only type role. I even think there is a shot he moves to linebacker where you can almost guarantee he won’t be depended upon to cover receivers. Simplify his role and he may be able to make an impact. There aren’t many safeties better than him in pursuit.

12: Quentin Lake – UCLA – 6’1 – 201

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Irvine, CA. Four-year starter that earned second team All-Pac 12 honors in 2021. Father, Carnell, was an All-Pro linebacker for the Steelers. Quentin plays the game like you would think a former player and coach’s son would. The flow to the action is there weekly. Lake plays the game a step ahead mentally and while it does somewhat make up for some of the athleticism shortcomings, he may not be the guy you want as your last line of defense. He has some issues with his footwork and the top end speed will not catch guys from behind. Lake projects as a backup and potential high-end special teamer.

*NFL lineage means something more for some teams. They love the idea that these kids coming into the league knowing to expect. Lake’s father has some coaching experience too and it is an easy assumption after watching his tape that he will be a quick-learn in the league. That is important for safeties and it could easily boost the outlook in come draft rooms.

13: JT Woods – Baylor – 6’2/195

Grade: 71

Senior entry from San Antonio, TX. Three-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 honors twice. Woods, a former member of the Baylor track team and top-shelf sprinter, will attract teams for two reasons. One, he brings incredible speed and burst to the back end that he does not completely know how to use yet. Two, he has a knack for making a big play in big moments. His nine interceptions since the start of the shortened 2020 season should give a solid glimpse into what he can bring to the table once the ball is in the air. He is a gambler on the back end, but he plays fast and will react in a blink. Woods has some work to do on the mental side and he does not have a stoutness to his game, but this kind of speed and playmaking ability is worth taking a chance on.

*Elite speed and one of the top defensive playmakers in the class when looking at turnovers. That combination alone could easily get him drafted a round or two earlier than this. Woods produced at a high level he still has the look of someone that is still trying to figure things out. He does not see route concepts or combinations well. He does not tackle well. But the talent here is worth the gamble, it is just a matter of when.

14: Smoke Monday – Auburn – 6’2/207

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Atlanta, GA. Two-year starter that earned second team All-SEC honors in 2020. Monday was used all over the Auburn defense as a queen chess piece that could move in all directions, align anywhere, and do anything. He skill set fits tremendously for teams that like to interchange their two safeties into different roles. Monday can credibly creep up to the line and defend the run, although he needs to clean up his consistency as tackler. He can drop back into deep coverage, although he needs to improve his turn and run stability. Monday may not have starter potential, but he can provide solid depth and special teams play early on.

*The idea of Monday may be a bit rich compared to what I think he will actually bring to the field. This is a nice safety net (no pun intended) to have behind a pair of starting safeties or a set of guys that rotate in. I do think he can be special teams force too. He sticks his nose into traffic with as much toughness as anyone at the position. The high hips and tight movement in coverage would worry me if he were out there every snap.

15: Tycen Anderson – Toledo – 6’2/209

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Toledo, OH. Three-year starter that earned All-MAC honors twice, first team in 2021. Anderson has been a mainstay within the Toledo secondary since 2018. He has lined up in a variety of spots thanks to a versatile skill set and excellent measurables. He may not have a specific spot to fit in right away, but a creative defensive coordinator should be able to carve out a role for him in sub packages. His size, speed, and closing ability can factor near the line of scrimmage and against tight ends in coverage. He is a chess piece that has not shown natural flow and instincts for an every down role yet, but there is something to work with here. Checks all the boxes when it comes to measurables.

*Anderson will be drafted higher than where I have him. The tools are attractive, and he is a tough kid. This is a guy I think NYG could be looking at to add to the back end of the depth chart. Baltimore has had a few players with this profile and if Wink has the pull I think he is going to, Anderson could easily but the day 3 add. I just don’t want it to be too early. I question the ability in coverage beyond covering a tight end.

BEST OF THE REST

16: Kolby Harvell-Peel – Oklahoma State – 6’0/213: 71
17: Leon O’Neal – Texas A& M – 6’0/204: 71
18: Delarrin Turner-Yell – Oklahoma – 5’10/197: 70
19: Sterling Weatherford – Miami (OH) – 6’4/215: 69
20: Bubba Bolden – Miami – 6’2/209: 69
21: Percy Butler – Louisiana – 6’0/194: 68
22: Dane Belton – Iowa – 6’1/205: 68
23: Tre Sterling – Oklahoma State – 5’11/206: 68
24: Qwynnterrio Cole – Louisville – 6’0/206: 68
25: Greg Eisworth – Iowa State – 5’11/204: 67
26: Markquese Bell – Florida A& M – 6’2/212: 67
27: Daniel Wright – Alabama – 6’0/197: 67
28: Brad Hawkins – Michigan – 6’0/210: 67
29: Nolan Turner – Clemson: 6’1/202: 66
30: D’Anthony Bell – West Florida – 6’1/211: 66

NYG APPROACH

When I look at what NYG has at safety and where I think the direction of this defense is heading, I see spot for a new guy that can come from this draft class. What kind of player are we looking at? I think it will be a guy that leans more toward the safety-linebacker hybrid more so than the safety-corner hybrid. McKinney and Love can handle the coverage responsibilities but I’m not sure either one of them brings what Martindale wants in the run game. In addition, I think both have shortcomings when it comes to defending tight ends in coverage. The trend around the league right now is to make sure you have at least one guy that is designated to that kind of coverage. He does not need to be an every down defender, but you need to have that guy. Because I don’t see that guy on the Giants depth chart right now (which can change via a signing, I know), that role can be added at ANY point in the draft. As high as the top 10 with Kyle Hamilton or Lewis Cine day 2, as low as late day three with a guy like Sterling Weatherford, Tycen Anderson, or Smoke Monday. I would put the odds of a safety being picked very high, more than 80%.

Mar 162022
 
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Jarren Williams, New York Giants (January 2, 2022)

Jarren Williams – © USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK GIANTS RE-SIGN JARREN WILLIAMS AND CASEY KREITER…
The Giants have re-signed exclusive rights free agent cornerback Jarren Williams and unrestricted free agent long snapper Casey Kreiter.

The Giants signed Williams to the Practice Squad in late September 2021 and the 53-man roster in December. He ended up playing in six games with two starts (49 percent of snaps in those games) and finished the season with 17 tackles and one pass defense. In the two games that he started, Williams impressed in one and struggled in the other. Williams was originally signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie free agent after the 2020 NFL Draft. The Giants signed signed Williams in early August 2020 after he was waived by the Cardinals. He spent most of 2020 on the Giants’ Practice Squad, but did play in two games exclusively on special teams.

The Giants signed long snapper Kreiter s an unrestricted free agent from the Denver Broncos in April 2020. The 6’1”, 250-pound Kreiter was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Dallas Cowboys after the 2014 NFL Draft. After spending two camps with the Cowboys, Kreiter made the Denver Broncos in 2016. He made the Pro Bowl for his performance in 2018.

GIANTS DO NOT TENDER JAKE FROMM AND J.R. REED…
The Giants have not tendered quarterback Jake Fromm and safety J.R. Reed, both of whom were set to be an exclusive rights free agents on Wednesday. This means the team is unlikely to want to re-sign either.

The Giants signed Fromm to the 53-man roster from the Practice Squad of the Buffalo Bills in late November 2021. Due to injuries to the other quarterbacks and the ineffective play of Mike Glennon, Fromm unbelievably was thrust into the starting line-up for two games and coming off the bench in a third. The results were not good, with Fromm completing 45 percent of his passes for 210 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions. He finished with a terrible 38.9 quarterback rating and was 0-2 as a starter. The 6’2”, 215-pound Fromm was originally drafted by the Bills in the 5th round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

The Giants signed Reed off the Practice Squad of the Los Angeles Rams in late October 2021. He played in eight games with New York with no starts (10 percent of defensive snaps in those games) and was credited with 13 tackles. He saw extensive time in two mid-season games, playing poorly in one and better in the next. The 6’1”, 194-pound Reed was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2020 NFL Draft. The Jaguars waived him in September 2020. Reed was then signed by the Rams, where he spent time on both their Practice Squad and 53-man roster. He has played in a total of 16 games, with no starts.

For an overall of the Giants’ free agency activity, see the New York Giants 2022 Free Agency Scorecard section of the website.

GIANTS OFFICIAL 2022 NFL DRAFT ORDER…
After the awarding of 39 compensatory picks to various NFL teams, the 2022 NFL Draft order has been officially established. (The Giants did not receive any compensatory picks for their 2021 free agent losses). The Giants have nine picks, as follows:

  • 1st Round (5, 5th overall)
  • 1st Round (7, 7th overall)
  • 2nd Round (4, 36th overall)
  • 3rd Round (3, 67th overall)
  • 3rd Round (17, 81st overall) (from Miami)
  • 4th Round (7, 112th overall) (from Chicago)
  • 5th Round (4, 147th overall)
  • 5th Round (30, 173rd overall) (from Baltimore)
  • 6th Round (3, 182nd)

MEDIA SESSION WITH JON FELICIANO…
The video of the media session with center/guard Jon Feliciano is available on YouTube.

Feliciano confirmed that the Giants will use him at center.

“I’ve been in a lot of people’s ears for a lot of years trying to get into the center position,” Feliciano said. “I honestly think it’s my best position, and I’m just really excited to finally get to show what I’ve got… It was definitely – I wanted to play center. There were other teams that were talking, and I believe in myself, and I believe that the center position is where I’ll be best. Thankfully, (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson) and (head coach Brian) Daboll agreed and we got it to work out.

“Going back to my Oakland days, I had a guy, Rodney Hudson, who’s a top-tier, one-two center, the last 10 years. I got to pick his brain and learn from him, and (former Raiders’ offensive line coach) Mike Tice, and (his assistant) Tim Holt, I took those four years of being a rotational guy, a backup guy, to learn a position that I didn’t play in college (Miami). In college, I played both tackles and then left guard.

“So, from those first four years I got to learn center and I really fell in love with it. Just the responsibility that is on your hands to come in every week and everything is basically on you. You’ve got to know the defense. You’ve got to make all the calls for the guys around you. I take a lot of pride in knowing that stuff.”