New York Giants 2019 NFL Draft Preview: Guards and Centers
90+: Elite, All Pro
85-89: Immediate starter, building block for a decade, franchise player
80-84: First round talent, starter and/or majority of the snaps each week
77-79: Day 2 pick, starter within their first 16-24 games as a pro
75-76: Fourth rounder, has starter traits but needs development
71-74: Fifth/Sixth rounder, should develop into weekly contributor over rookie contract
68-70: Draftable, hopeful for special teams impact and long term development
67 and under: UDFA
*NFL Comparison are not a projection of how good they are, more so their style of play.
WHERE THEY STAND
The interior of the NYG offensive line in 2018 was a major road block at any consistency on that side of the ball as a whole. Will Hernandez will be back after a strong finish to his rookie season and the team acquired Kevin Zeitler from CLE in the Vernon trade. Zeitler was one of my favorite guard prospects backs in 2012 and since then, he’s been one of the league’s top guards. Center was a revolving door as the team traded Brett Jones last summer and Jon Halapio missed almost the entire season with a leg injury. Spencer Pulley was brought back for depth after an underwhelming 2018 with the team a he joins the unknowns Evan Brown, Chad Slade, and Kristjan Sokoli on the depth chart.
1: Chris Lindstrom – Boston College – 6’4/308
Summary: Son of former NFL lineman, Chris. A four year starter who ended his career as a 1st Team All ACC lineman. A very solid run blocker who can make an impact in traffic and in space, Lindstrom has the playing style and athletic ability to make an impact early in his career. He needs to prove he can handle the power of interior defensive linemen, but the nasty streak who always appears to be on combined with his more-than-solid technique translate well. The former tackle will be most sought after by teams that employ zone blocking concepts.
*In a class full of solid interior blockers, Lindstrom is the lone prospect who I am confident can start in year one and be a impact guy on multiple levels. He has the hustle and grit combined with plus foot speed and technique. He is a fun player to watch and no matter what scheme he gets put into, he will be able to more than hold his own in year one. There is some sloppiness here and there that needs to be cleaned up, but he is a sure-bet to be a long time player.
NFL Comparison: Joe Thuney / NE
2: Dalton Risner – Kansas State – 6’5/312
Summary: Fifth year senior who has starting experience at center and right tackle. A three time 1st Team All Big 12 honoree and 2018 All American. Risner was the leader of the Kansas State offensive line for three years and leaves the program as arguably the top player at the position group in school history. Risner is an old school, punch-you-in-the-mouth type blocker who uses a lot of upper body and desire to get the job done. His farm-boy hands can stifle even the most powerful defenders but if he doesn’t clean up his footwork, he will struggle in pass protection. He got away with a lot in college that he simply will not in the NFL. His future is inside where some of those issues can be hidden and his ability to move people in the running game can be used more often.
*I forecast a move inside for Risner at the next level, as I jus don’t love his bending in space in pass protection. He is at his best inside where he can beat guys up in a phone booth. He does have experience at center and tackle and he could be the valuable 6th lineman right away and fill in where needed as the season progresses in year one. Risner is a tone setter, the kind of young buck you want in the trenches based solely on hustle, aggression, and mindset.
NFL Comparison: Brandon Scherff / WAS
3: Garrett Bradbury – NC State – 6’3/306
Summary: Fifth year senior. Began his career as a tight end and ended it as a three year starter and 2018 Rimington Trophy Award winner. Mentally, Bradbury is exactly what every team wants in the middle of their offensive line. He is a coach who wears pads and bangs helmets with the opponents. Bradbury’s intelligence combined with his top tier movement skills and ability will make him a major draw to teams that demand a lot of lateral movement from their center position. There are legitimate fears about his ability to maintain ground and position against the bigger defenders in the NFL, but that can be hidden inside. Bradbury is a week 1 starter and a long time pro.
*I like Bradbury but I am not on the first round train like many are. If I am drafting a center in round 1, he needs to be a guy who can handle the big, powerful nose tackles by himself. I’m not sure I trust Bradbury there. Movement wise, intelligence wise, he has the goods. I trust him to be a solid player but I would wait until round 2 to take him, that’s all.
NFL Comparison: Cody Whitehair / CHI
4: Elgton Jenkins – Mississippi State – 6’4/310
Summary: Fifth year senior. Has started games at both tackle spots and at left guard before settling in at center for the past two years. Jenkins is a mammoth for the position and considering his versatility he showed throughout his college career, he can be viewed as a versatile backup right away. He is intelligent enough and if the scheme is a right fit, he may be viewed as a better guard prospect. Wherever he plays, his stoutness and ability to get movement will make him an asset to any running game, but whether or not he improves his foot speed and balance in space will be the biggest determining factor when it comes to his impact.
*Antonym to Bradbury, Jenkins is the kind of stonewall you want inside against power rushers. He anchors really well and is always fighting through the whistle, but the late start that I saw out of him from time to time could make him a liability against the smaller but quicker interior guys who are becoming more and more popular. Jenkins is the kind of kid who will work his butt off and in time, I think he is a reliable starter especially for a team that wants to run the ball.
NFL Comparison: Travis Frederick / DAL
5: Nate Davis – North Carolina-Charlotte – 6’3/316
Summary: Fifth year senior with three years of starting experience at right guard and one at right tackle. The two time All-Conference USA selection did miss time early in the 2018 season due to a NCAA suspension, but the quality tape he put out as a right tackle was more than enough for him to warrant day 2 consideration. Davis is built like the ideal guard with a stout presence, athletic feet, and ability to adjust. He is really twitchy for a lineman and that translates very well to the next level. His solid week at the Senior Bowl confirmed he is one of the better guard prospects in this class.
*The quality tape Davis has at tackle is only going to help his overall grade not because anyone is actually going to play him out there, but it showed twitch and comfort in space that scouts didn’t know he had. He is more than a power guy. If it weren’t for some immaturity issues that have popped up a few times in recent years, Davis would be a 1st round grade. I do think he can play right away for any blocking scheme that brings him in. Keep him in mind towards the end of round 1, he has a shot at hearing his name called.
NFL Comparison: Joel Bitonio / CLE
6: Hjate Froholdt – Arkansas – 6’5/306
Summary: After moving to the United States as a high school senior, Froholdt put himself on the radar as a raw but highly talented defensive tackle. After a year on the defensive side of the ball at Arkansas, he was moved to the offensive line where he started three straight seasons. Most of his time was spent at guard, but he did see some action at center as a senior. Considering how new he is to the game in comparison to other prospects, Froholdt’s level of play and consistent techniques are overly impressive. He projects to both inside spots at the next level but his lack of length may keep him at center long term. No matter the case, Froholdt is an elite pass blocker with perhaps the best tape all year against Alabama’s star tackle Quinnen Williams. He is going to be an early starter in the league.
*This is a guy I am really targeting day 2, and there is a shot he is there early day 3. I am higher on Froholdt than what I see out there, but for what we consider to still be “raw and learning”, Froholdt’s tape is come of the cleanest out there. He is a big guy who plays with plenty of knee bend, light feet, and inside hands. I think his ideal role is at OC, but early on when he isn’t in the starting lineup he would be valuable interior backup.
NFL Comparison: Nick Easton / NO
7: Erik McCoy – Texas A&M – 6’4/303
Summary: Fourth year junior. A three year starter who didn’t miss a game since the start of 2016. The team captain and coach’s favorite started to turn heads as 2018 progressed where he was putting together multiple big time performances against the stiffest competition in the SEC. McCoy brings plus athleticism and a stout frame to the table. His game can wear multiple hats, as he shows fullback type movement in space as a lead blocker but more than enough leg drive to anchor against the power tackles. McCoy is a safe bet to be a solid starter in the league for a long time.
*A popular name among many when it comes to teams looking for a week 1 starter, McCoy jumps off the screen with athleticism and range. He really can cover the B gap with ease in either direction, as seen how often they pulled him outside to lead block on outside runs. I’m not completely sold on immediate contribution unless it is an ideal scheme fit though. He is inaccurate with his hands and he doesn’t get a ton of push. Solid but not much more, yet. High upside.
NFL Comparison: Pat Elflein / MIN
8: Mike Jordan – Ohio State – 6’6/312
Summary: Junior entry. Jordan was the first true freshman to start right away on the offensive line for Ohio State in 23 years when the great Orlando Pace did so. He was a Freshman All American and followed that with two All Big 10 performances in consecutive years at different positions. Jordan doesn’t play with the ideal quickness of a center and he did struggle with shotgun snaps. He best projects at right guard in a scheme where he won’t need to move laterally often. His size and power are natural and ever-present. He does a lot of little things right but he will need to improve balance and quickness before he can be thrown into the fire.
*I was excited about Jordan at the start of the 2018 season. Rarely do you see a guy with this kind of body play with his kind of leverage and lateral range, but I just don’t think OC was the spot for him. I prefer his tape at OG and that will likely be the spot he ends up at in the NFL. He won’t be a fit in every scheme, but some power run-game offenses could end up having a 2nd round grade on him.
NFL Comparison: James Carpenter / ATL
9: Keaton Sutherland – Texas A&M – 6’5/322
Summary: Three-plus year starter who has battled injuries throughout his career. 2018 was a solid campaign for the senior, as he earned the honor of playing in the East West Shrine game after coming into the year as a near-unknown. Sutherland has the frame and athletic ability that will make a coach salivate. The techniques are pretty far along and he shows easy, natural knee bend. There is a lot to like here and had his injuries stayed away earlier in his career, we may be discussing him as a top 32 pick.
*Really like this kid when day 3 rolls around. He was a pretty awful miss by those that select who goes to the combine and what not. His 2018 tape combined with his tools and athletic ability is among the best in this group. I do think he will need an extra year to build up his body since much of his college career revolved around recovering from injuries but there is no denying the fact this kid has eventual starter written all over him.
NFL Comparison: Kyle Long / CHI
10: Brandon Knight – Indiana – 6’4/314
Summary: Three year starter from Noblesville, In. After earning the team’s Newcomer of the Year award in 2015 as a rotational tackle and blocking tight end, Knight earned a starting role. After missing a combined 7 games over 2016 and 2017, Knight was an every week starter as a senior and earned Honorable Mention All Big 10 honors. He is at his worst the further into space he gets and his body type screams interior lineman. Knight will move to guard, maybe even center, and develop into a quality starter with the upside of being more. His technique and combination of fast feet and hands translate well and once he enhances his strength and power presence, he could be a blocker who has it all.
*Another guy a really high on if he can be there early day 3. Knight will almost surely make the move to guard at the next level where his body type and ability in space is more natural. He had some of the nicest looking techniques in spurts that I saw all year, but just didn’t bring it all year. He fought through injuries and it sounds like there may still something going on with him that could hamper his next few months, but I want this kid on my team to mold and strengthen up for a year or two.
NFL Comparison: Kevin Zeitler / NYG
11: Kaleb McGary – Washington – 6’7/317
Summary: Fifth year senior. 3+ year starter who made the full time transition to tackle from defensive end during his redshirt year. Two time 1st Team All Pac 12. McGary played tackle his entire career but there is some debate whether or not he will stay out there or move inside at the next level. Athletically he moves with fast feet but there are balance issues and enough poor tape to make me think he has to stay inside. He is a violent, try-hard player who can really do damage in the running game. Early on he projects as a solid, versatile backup but in order for him to take the next step, plenty of work needs to be done.
*McGary is a guy who I could equally project inside and outside. If I had to choose, I am going for guard because of his style and over-aggressive manner that can sometimes get him into trouble in space. While guards who stand this tall don’t often pan out, McGary is a different kind of athlete which has teams looking at him really hard as a day 2 guy. I am not quite there, but I won’t deny the upside. Blocking is so much about grit and desire, McGary has all of it. It may not sound sexy, but I would draft this kid to be my 6th lineman for a long time, a guy who backs up every spot other than OC.
NFL Comparison: Alex Lewis / BAL
12: Dru Samia – Oklahoma – 6’5/305
Summary: A three year starter who earned 1st Team All Big 12 honors in 2018. Samia was an overlooked part of the OU offensive line coming into his senior season, but he came out of it as maybe the second best pro prospect among the group. Samia checks the size, speed, and strength boxes but what sets him apart from others is the consistent desire and effort to be physical and aggressive. He gets everything out of himself and more. Teams looking for more presence inside, particularly in the running game, will love Samia. He can be a starter, a solid one at that, within a year or two.
*Samia is one of those prospects who earned his way on to the radar with quality play week after week. I went into the OU games looking at other players but he kept standing out not because of talent or tools, but his nasty mean streak and constant desire to play through the whistle. I want those guys on my team, especially in the trenches and especially in an offense that wants to run the ball early and often. He is sloppy and lacks some tools, but I think he can will himself into a starting role over time.
NFL Comparison: Andrew Norwell / JAC
13: Connor McGovern – Penn State – 6’5/308
Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter who has played multiple interior spots and could project to any of the three at the next level. A two time All Big 10 performer, McGovern was the leader of that PSU offensive line on and off the field. He has the body and athleticism combined with an aggressive, hands on approach to blocking. Offensive line coaches will love his dedication and grit along with his versatility. The concerns around his pad level and lower body engagement will need to be addressed over time, but he can be a very solid backup with the potential to be more.
*I think McGovern will go higher than where I have him. He has the pro-body and with a little more fine tuning below the waist, he could have the complete package. I wouldn’t say I look down on him at all, but I just think he is going to struggle if he gets thrown in there right away. Athletically I think he can handle it, but there are several moments on tape where his reactions are a hair too slow and he couldn’t make up for it. I see him as a long time, quality backup.
NFL Comparison: Justin Britt / SEA
14: Michael Dieter – Wisconsin – 6’5/309
Summary: Fifth year senior with a school record 54 consecutive starts ranging from left tackle, left guard, and center. The two time first team All Big 10 and 2018 All American enters the draft as one of the most versatile linemen in the class. The flexibility he can bring to a team’s depth chart can raise his overall value a tad, but at the end of his day his talent and upside are limited. He doesn’t show consistent lateral movement and his anchor against the quality bull rush looks weak at times. Dieter does bring a lot of consistent effort to the table and should help full multiple spots on the bench, but his potential as a starter is limited.
*I often left the Wisconsin scouting assignments being more impressed with Deiter than Benzschawel. It is ironic I had them graded exactly the same when all was said and done. Anyway, Deiter’s versatility will help his cause because a guy who can actually play multiple spots and has experience doing so can make game day roster decisions a lot easier. I’m not sure I want to rely on a guy like this to start, but I am comfortable him my sixth or seventh lineman.
NFL Comparison: Caleb Benenoch / TB
15: Beau Benzschawel – Wisconsin – 6’6/309
Summary: Fifth year senior who started 49 games over his career. Three time All Big 10 honoree, first team in 2017 and 2018. A tall and rangy blocker who specializes in run blocking stemming from strong initial contact and powerful hands. Benzschawel has a lot of attractive and ugly tape each week, as he struggles with pad level and lower body balance. While he brings the right mentality to the field week in, week out, the inconsistencies and struggles with staying upright with proper leverage can be eaten up in the NFL. He can be an eventual solid starter in the NFL, but it will take time to get there.
*Benzschawel may have been one of the more disappointing prospects of the year for me personally. In my preseason stacks, I had him as a 1st round player who could eventually sneak into the top 10 overall, boy was I wrong. The size and flashes of dominance make me think there is still more than enough to work with, but he is just way too stiff and awkward to be considered anything more than a 4th or 5th rounder on my board. I think a few NFL coaches will want to work with him so he could go earlier, but buyer beware.
NFL Comparison: Spencer Long / BUF
16: Tyler Jones – NC State – 6’3/306: 75
17: Ross Pierschbacher – Alabama – 6’4/307: 75
18: Lamont Gaillard – Georgia – 6’3/305: 74
19: Wes Martin – Indiana – 6’3/311: 74
20: Fred Johnson – Florida – 6’7/326: 72
21: Phil Haynes – Wake Forest – 6’4/322: 72
22: Sam Mustipher – Notre Dame – 6’5/324: 71
23: Ryan Bates – Penn State – 6’4/306: 70
24: Stefano Millin – Pittsburgh – 6’3/300: 70
25: Oshea Dugas – Louisiana Tech – 6’4/335: 69
**TOP UDFA SLEEPER**
Joshua Miles – Morgan State – 6’5/300
Fifth year senior who started 3 years and was forced to sit out 2017 because of academic reasons. Miles had a solid week at the Shrine Game and considering the tool set, there is an upside and enough quality tape to warrant a decent amount of attention. He is a sloppy mover but I think it is more technique based than what he is physically. He is a practice squad type who, if he grows into his frame with quality weight and keeps his head on the details, could be a very solid backup.
With the acquisition of Kevin Zeitler and the assumption that Will Hernandez will build off his fine rookie season, the Giants appear to be set at both guard spots. Their lack of young depth at center showed up in 2018, however, as Jon Halapio went down with a severe leg injury early on and there simply wasn’t anyone to step up. Expecting Halapio to come back and offer a high level of play is a risk in and of itself, thus I think NYG needs to look at OC at some point in the first 4 rounds. In addition, we have all seen what a lack of depth can do to an offensive line when the near-inevitable injuries arise. Does NYG have that? I don’t think so. While they won’t be drafting a candidate to start in 2019, that isn’t always the point of the draft. This offensive line needs to be built in the draft year after year and with the amount of quality prospects with 2nd-4th round grades, there is a strong chance a strong value grab will be there early day 3.