The Defensive Approach to the New York Giants 2010 NFL Draft
by Sy’56, New Era Scouting
In a draft where there is very solid crop of high grades on the defensive side of the ball, the New York Giants are going to be in great position to add a fine talent to a unit that really underachieved in 2009. I am going to cover the four defensive positions that I feel will be addressed this week. Defensive Tackle – Linebacker – Cornerback – Defensive End. The way I am formatting this is that I will give you my top three grades for each spot, my top mid-round value (by mid-round I am talking about a player that is being projected for that region by guys I trust), and my top “sleeper” of you will.
1 – Ndamukong Suh – Nebraska – 91
2 – Gerald McCoy – Oklahoma – 90
3 – Jared Odrick – Penn State – 84
Top Mid-Round Value
Al Woods – LSU
Corey Peters – Kentucky
This is a very strong group at the top, with Suh and McCoy receiving grades at or above that 90 mark, which is reserved for the elite talents according to my scale. Neither will be options for the Giants however, unless Reese feels like emptying the cabinet. Jared Odrick is a guy I really like, but he doesn’t fit the need the Giants have along that defensive front. He is a penetrator that can get off the ball and slip blocks with consistency, but he is not a space/blocker eater. If the Giants wanted to add another pass rushing force in there, Odrick would be my guy after the top two of course. However with Canty, Alford, and even Tuck already in place as the team’s 3-Technique type, I don’t see Reese making that kind of move.
If the Giants don’t get a DT with that first pick, I think it would be a smart idea to wait until the middle rounds to go after one. I don’t see the value after those top 3 in the first or second round. Dan Williams is a name we see a lot of on this board and even though I was one of the first to discuss him back in September, he is not a top 15 prospect on my board. I feel he is too one-dimensional for a 1st round pick. Cam Thomas is a 2nd round name I see tossed around, but I think he is too much of a reach in the 3rd. Reese cannot afford to sacrifice value for a big body, because what the Giants already have on that defensive line combined with what they can acquire later in the draft is good enough.
Al Woods was a guy that never quite reached his full potential at LSU, but he has enormous talent. Huge body that can play a variety of roles, won’t need a lot of time before he can be thrown in to the trenches. I love his ability to demand and eat up double teams. Exerts a lot of power from his hands and he brings the attitude that New York has lacked inside for a few years. Peters is a guy that most don’t know about, but he caught my eye in 2008 when I scouted Myron Pryor (New England). Definitely the better player among the two and he is an Alford-type. He gets off the ball well, disrupts the offense consistently. Had a nice career in the SEC and he steadily improved throughout his tenure down there. Has room for another 10-15 pounds easily.
1 – Rolando McClain – Alabama – 92
2 – Sean Weatherspoon – Missouri – 85
3 – Koa Misi – Utah – 85
Top Mid-Round Value
AJ Edds – Iowa
Ryan Stamper – Florida
In a year where the Giants are going to enter the offseason with just one of the three starting linebacker positions secured, there is going to be plenty of opportunity to add the right fit for this defense. McClain is one of the highest-graded linebacker’s I’ve ever done, and there is a legit shot he falls in to the Giants lap at #15 very much like Brian Cushing did to Houston last year at…#15 overall. He is a gamer that will control the opposing interior running game every week, provide the leadership we had in Pierce, and bring a swagger to a lackluster defense. He is a physical tackler that is athletic enough to control the tackle-to-tackle box. NFL ready from day one. Weatherspoon is BBI favorite and I do like him, but he is not the immediate impact player that McClain will be. There is a lot to like with him, but I am hesitant on him because of a few game tapes I watched and saw him really struggle in space. Now that is not a major issue when it comes to the MLB spot, but I think there is better value at his position later in the draft. Misi is a name we rarely talk about here, mainly because he was a defensive end that occasionally dropped back in Utah’s unique scheme. But he shocked me with his athletic ability down in Mobile and he put up some impressive workout numbers. He is a natural SAM linebacker and would be a nice fit for what the Giants are going to do on defense. Brings a lot of versatility to the table and he is a much better cover guy in space that most know.
Now if McClain is off the board by the time New York is on the clock, I think the best strategy would be to wait on the position. The linebacker position is very unique when it comes to the draft in that the wide variety of schemes really provide a huge discrepancy on the grading sheet for these players. Some teams may have a guy that is a top 50 player, while other teams may cross him off their board because of the skill set or lack thereof. This provides the opportunity for good players at the position to “fall” to your slot. There will be a nice value every time the Giants are on the clock and while I feel it is the top need on the Giants roster, Reese must be patient and make the most efficient move here.
AJ Edds is a guy that, I’ve been told, will be a 4th-5th rounder. Personally, I feel he warrants a top 100 pick and the Giants third. He is a big body that does need to add some bulk, but he is an outstanding athlete on the field. Moves naturally in coverage and is always around the action. He was overshadowed by Angerer at Iowa, but Edds is by far the better pro prospect and gives the Giants a versatile athlete that could make the transition to the middle a la Stewart Bradley. Ryan Stamper is a projected undrafted free agent, but I really don’t see a huge gap between him and Brandon Spikes. Stamper lacks the NFL-ready size but he showed a knack for big plays and he reads the action in front of him quicker than Spikes. Very good athlete that has plenty of range and has the ability to make himself small and slippery to blockers. Spending a 7th round pick on him would provide outstanding value.
1 – Derrick Morgan – Georgia Tech – 90
2 – Brandon Graham – Michigan – 87
3 – Jerry Hughes – TCU – 83
Top Mid Round Value
Jermaine Cunningham – Florida
Willie Young – NC State
My grades for the defensive end position stand out the most when I contrast them with other analysts across the web. Morgan is a coach’s dream, and he would be a welcomed addition to the Giants defense. Problem is, there are a few names that love this kind of player and have a need for the position as well (Holmgren and Parcells being the top two). The endless motor combined with his sky-high potential physically makes him one of the safer bets in the class. Versatile weapon that can be used like another Justin Tuck…inside-out and left-right. He is one of the few players I would make an aggressive trade up offer for. Graham’s grade is very up and down with the people I talk with, and I am obviously one of the evaluators that really likes his game. His ability to get off a block and explode within a five yard window makes him the perfect fit for the NFL trenches. I think he is a legit option for the #15 pick and while it would be a surprise, he’ll pay off enormous dividends. Hughes reminds me of a young Osi, but with a more developed frame coming out of college. Outstanding levels of production. Not just a 3-4 OLB prospect, has the body and strength to play a 4-3 DE spot. Won’t be a top 15 value but he could be a surprise 2nd rounder that falls in to the Giants’ lap.
With Kiwanuka-Tuck-Umenyiora-Tollefson already in place, the Giants could afford to wait a few rounds until they address the position. That is a solid rotation that is fully capable of being a top notch unit. However at the same time, the importance of the position and the up and down of play of Umenyiora and Kiwanuka on top of their status’ with the franchise (contracts and attitude), gambling on the concept of passing on good talent off the edge is not the right strategy. The second Reese sees the proper value, no matter what round, he needs to grab hold of it and run. Good defenses use a wide rotation up front and there is certainly space for another defensive end here.
Every year there are a few underclassmen that jump out at me when I’m scouting another player. Well in 2008, I thought there was a good chance Brandon Spikes would declare after his junior year, thus I started to grade his games. Jermaine Cunningham jumped out at me play after play and I started to jot down some notes about him. He is very explosive off the snap and he plays with tremendous, NFL ready, technique. He uses his hands well and constantly plays lower than the blocker. He has a bright future in the NFL as long as he can stay at 265+. Willie Young enters the draft as a similar talent to what Kiwanuka was after his sophomore year. He is very long and lean (6’5 – 250) but he obviously has the frame to hold another 20 pounds easily. He has the explosion off the edge that can be matched up with anyone in this class. I actually have him graded right under Jason Pierre-Paul, but he is a talent that can be had in the later rounds. He is a developmental athlete that has shown flashes of top notch ability against solid competition. If he can find and keep the motivation, he is a 10-12 sack per year guy.
1 – Joe Haden – Florida – 90
2 – Kyle Wilson – Boise State – 89
3 – Kareem Jackson – Alabama – 84
Top Mid Round Value
Chris Cook – Virginia
Walter Thurmond – Oregon
A quick look at the roster and you may think the Giants are not even considering a cornerback at the #15 spot. But I can almost guarantee (as much as someone that is not “in the know” can) that Reese would not pass on a talent such as Joe Haden. Haden is the prototypical cornerback for the Giants defense, as he can maul a receiver at the point of attack but has the athletic ability to shadow a receiver in man coverage. While some have a concern with his lack of top end speed (timed anyway), I believe he is going to be a Charles Woodson clone in the NFL. Wilson is a guy that I did not get to see a lot of on tape. But he sold me down in Mobile because I literally struggled to find a single weakness in his game. Just watching him live, the way he shadowed receivers, anticipated throws, and how he beat players up at the point of attack was incredible. He is an Asante Samuel clone that will shine in the NFL. He would make any decision difficult at #15 if he were available. Whenever I watched Alabama in 2009, I was impressed with the way Jackson played in relation to what the Giants ask out of their corners. I think he is the top press corner outside of Wilson in this class. He lacks the great top end speed but he is a savvy defender that got the job done against his toughest competition. Very physical corner that can support the run. Not worthy of a top 15 pick, but there is a shot he is still on the board in the 2nd and that would be an outstanding value selection.
I differ with a lot of BBI’ers when it comes to the evaluation of the Giants cornerbacks. I firmly believe there is room for another early pick if the value matches. Corey Webster (who didn’t have a strong 2009) is the only guy I feel completely confident in as an every down cover man. Ross has had major issues staying on the field, and Terrell Thomas is a #3 guy in my eyes. There may very well be the opportunity to grab a player that can step up as the #1 guy over the next few years. However with that said, the talent that is already on the roster at this position is good enough to help form a top notch unit. And keeping that in mind, there are a handful of prospects on my sheet that will provide solid value in the middle rounds. So if Wilson-Haden are both off the board in round one and Jackson isn’t there in the second, Reese should wait until the middle rounds to find the proper scheme fit.
Speaking of scheme-specific defensive backs, Chris Cook out of Virginia is a guy that would fit in perfectly. The long armed, 6’2 corner showed surprising athletic ability at the Senior Bowl and I don’t think he will be forced to make a position move at the next level. Somewhat similar to Sean Smith from the Dolphins, Cook is a guy that understands the advantages of his length and how to hinder the weaknesses. Thurmond is the one guy in this class that you look for when it comes to looking for a injury-related value. He tore his ACL early in the season, ending his bid to be the top senior cornerback in this class. Prior to the injury, he was arguably the top defensive playmaker in the country. He was an exciting talent that displayed outstanding anticipation and ball skills. He should be at full strength by the time training camp comes around and even if the issue persists, he can be placed on IR for a year and return to live action 2011. That would give the team an opportunity to really find out what they have on the roster at cornerback with the knowledge that they will have a guaranteed talent in the wings.
1 – Eric Berry – Tennessee – 95
2 – Earl Thomas – Texas – 87
3 – Morgan Burnett – Georgia Tech – 86
Top Mid Round Value
Darrell Stuckey – Kansas
Jeromy Miles – UMASS
Eric Berry sits atop of my 2010 big board, receiving the second highest grade I have ever given to a player since I started the process (1st being Calvin Johnson with a 96). In January I was able to convince myself he could drop into the 10-12 area, making a trade up possible. But the more I read and the more people I talk to, Berry is a top 7 lock, making him a very tough player to trade up for. Earl Thomas is a fun player to watch, but he is a buyer-beware guy at the next level because of his reckless style in combination with his lack of size. Somewhat similar to Bob Sanders on the field, Thomas is a true play-maker that is willing to put his body on the line, perhaps too willing. He is still an option however at #15 despite the Giants being set at the safety position for 2010. He can play some corner and give the Giants multiple options on passing downs, as well as secure the middle of the secondary for the long term future. Burnett is somewhat of a sleeper. Not in the sense that he will be available late in the draft, but he has top 15 ability. Exceptional anticipation and ball skills with a great NFL body for the position. Physical player that brings it each week. An option at #15? Most likely not but there could be bigger surprises.
With the signings of Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant combined with the hopeful healthy return of Kenny Phillips, the Giants appear to be set at safety. However I would not rule out a surprise pick at the position because Fewell likes to mix and match his defensive backs if what he did in Buffalo was any sort of indicator. One of the strengths of this draft resides in the middle rounds at safety, with 11 players receiving a grade of 74 or above in contrast to just 5 a year ago. There may not be that true center-fielder type outside of the top two rounds, but there are several guys that can play the box well and provide the solid coverage of athletic tight ends.
Darrell Stuckey has had weeks over the past few years where he looked like a first round caliber talent. And its not like he would completely disappear, as he was always a consistent and steady player at the very least. He has tremendous speed on the field that recovers well over the top and he is very quick within a phone booth. Seems like the perfect fit for a strong safety that is given the responsibility of shadowing the likes of Jason Witten, Brent Celek, and Chris Cooley. I’ve actually seen a lot of UMASS football over the past few months, and Miles is a guy that jumps out at me every time. Actually fairly similar talent to Stuckey, but played at a lower level of college football. Good vision when looking downhill and he reads routes exceptionally well. Very aware of his own talent and the players around him. Late rounder that could push Michael Johnson out of New York.