2020 Draft Pick Scouting Reports
1st Round – OT Andrew Thomas, 6’5”, 315lbs, 5.18, University of Georgia
Scouting Report: The 6’5”, 315-pound Thomas is a junior entry, but three-year starter at Georgia with experience at both tackle positions. Big frame with very long arms. Thomas is a tough, strong, physical run blocker who can get movement at the point-of-attack. He is athletic enough to get to the second level and works to finish his blocks. Thomas is a good athlete and he flashes excellent pass protection skills, but he needs to improve his overall technique and consistency in that department. Team leader.
Sy’56’s Take: When I look at who Dave Gettleman has drafted in the past at the offensive tackle position, Thomas looks like that guy. Big, thick, long-armed and really physical. He is a really fun player to watch when he’s pissed off. He moves guys into another zip code as a run blocker, he really gets after guys in space, and he finishes. The issues here are two-fold. His effort isn’t consistent and that is the number one red flag. In the intense moments, big games…etc. Thomas gets after it. But too many times throughout the past two seasons I saw a guy who simply tried to get by on talent. The second issue, he looks like a train wreck in pass protection at times. He struggles to reach his point against speed and he shows his numbers to the ground too often. While his power and reach can partially make up for it, he simply needs to get better there or he will get eaten alive by the top end pass rushers. I’ll end with this: Thomas at his absolute best is better than Wirfs and Wills. But do you want to gamble on his work ethic and lack of athletic ability? More power to you if you do, but I only want him if it meant NYG traded down and the two guys above were off the board.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Dave Gettleman: First off, I hope everybody is well and your families are fine. We spent a lot of time on this and we want to fix this offensive line once and for all. Andrew certainly has a hell of a pedigree, a three-year starter in the Southeast Conference. He’s played against some real quality defensive ends during his college career. He has played big time ball in front of a lot of people. We spent a lot of time with him off the field as well, numerous conversations. We spoke to him in Indianapolis and we just feel he is ready to make this jump. He’s young, like all these guys are. We feel very strongly that he is ready and capable. He’s going to come in and compete, nothing is being handed to him. When I get the chance to talk to him later, I am going to say the same thing to him that I said to Saquon and that I said to Daniel, you have to come in and compete, nothing is getting handed to you. He’s big, he’s long, he’s strong, he can bend. He can anchor in pass (protection). He’s very athletic in the open field, we are just really excited to have him, and continue to build this team properly.
Joe Judge: I think Dave really hit it on the head. This was a very talented draft class, especially on the offensive line. This is definitely one that we think is going to give us a chance to come in and improve us overall. He has a skillset that gives him a chance to come in and compete early on. We are anxious to get to work with him, get our hands on him and get going. He has the right demeanor, the right makeup. I’ve talked on the front end about a lot guys, the whole process of this. Not being able to be on campuses, not having the luxury of pro days or 30 visits coming to our facility. You had to rely on your contacts, and this is someone that a lot of people I am close with had worked directly with. There was a lot of good knowledge that could sign off on and know what we were bringing in to add to our team. This is definitely a guy we are excited about getting in and getting a chance to work with and giving him a chance to compete with the rest of our guys.
Q: Was there a defining characteristic or two that elevated Andrew over the other tackles?
Judge: It had nothing to do with the other guys that were in this draft. This is all about Andre right now. I’ll tell you what, his skillset favors his opportunity to come in and contribute. He’s long, he’s a good athlete, he has good short area redirect. One thing that sticks out about him is when you watch the top pass rushers, with the exception of maybe a couple in this draft, they have to go against him. You watch his college tape and he is going against all the guys that you are going to see get drafted in the next couple of days. He does a heck of job on them, you see him compete, you see him play big in big games and that’s important. He was coached very hard at the University of Georgia and that’s a trait we look for. Guys who can play hard and play on big stages and compete.
Q: A lot of people viewed Thomas as the premier pass protector in the class. How much did that factor into your decision and how much does that benefit Daniel Jones?
Gettleman: The length that he has is really a defining feature that he has physically. You turn around and you see the guys that don’t have as much length, shorter arms, shorter people and the defensive ends with long arms get them. A big part of it is, I’m a wise guy sometimes with you folks, and I have done a study and I say it’s tougher to complete passes when the guy is on his back. I think that was a big part of it. I have always gotten a chuckle out of people who say you draft a quarterback and you have to get him weapons. No, you don’t draft a quarterback and then get weapons, once you draft a quarterback, you get guys in front of him that will keep him upright. So, this was an important piece for us in Daniel’s development and for Saquon, as well. Don’t forget the running part of it, and he is a hell of a run blocker.
Q: How much discussion was there about trading down? If Andrew was the top guy on your board, were you reluctant to not get a chance to get him?
Gettleman: We had conversations, but everyone was touchy-feely, maybe yes, maybe no. There were no firm offers anywhere. There is nothing that made me look at John Mara and Joe (Judge) and say let’s trade back and get some more picks. There really wasn’t much there. You can see we haven’t had a trade in the first round yet, how often does that happen? There wasn’t a lot of action.
Q: Did Thomas’ experience on both sides, left and right, factor into the decision?
Gettleman: That’s a piece of it, absolutely. Absolutely. He has legitimate…you know he started on the right side as a puppy and two years at left. One of the things that kind of helped the process along is the other day I took a look at his 2018 game when they played Kentucky and he played Josh Allen, and you guys know I’ve got a lot of love for Josh Allen and how talented he is. That really, that was big. As Joe said, he’s played against a lot of legitimate pass rushers and he’s done well.
Q: You mentioned your contacts and you kind of exhausted those, I would imagine. Three of the four (tackles), we were able to connect dots on the offensive linemen that you may have had connections to. Did it make it more difficult because you had a lot of resources giving you tips and insight into, not just Andrew, but a bunch of guys? Or did you kind of narrow that down pretty quickly early on?
Judge: Well, the tape gives you the initial impression of what you’re looking for and then what you use all of the information when you talk to the coaches is really to fill in any gaps you may not know about personality, work ethic, how they respond to hard coaching, and then also to really confirm what you’ve seen on the tape as well. Listen, the one thing is I have very good contacts at all of these places with all the top guys. I have a good enough relationship where they’re not trying to sell me a product, they know if the guy is good enough, he’s going to get paid to play somewhere and they are very directly honest with me. I don’t get just the good on guys. They give me, ‘hey, these are the things he’s gonna have to work on, these are the things you have to know about how he responds personality wise’, and that’s all very important. I would say this overall, we exhausted the process and all of the top prospects at different positions, but you look at those offensive linemen, which definitely came into consideration with this pick, all of them have got great traits, they were coached very well, they are going to be tremendous pros, I have nothing but great things to say about all of them. But we’re doing what’s best for the Giants and we feel this move is best for the New York Giants right now. I think this is going to be a tremendous move right now to help Daniel (Jones) play more confident back there, not that he needs that, but he can sit back and be protected and we’ve got to go ahead and be more stiff. I talk all of the time, you have to run the ball, you have to stop the run, you have to cover kicks, so we’ve got to add to our run blocking as well to give ourselves a chance to get going on the ground.
Q: Where do you plan on starting him? Do you expect him to play both sides or would you like to start him on one side and then maybe test the other or how do you plan on handling that?
Judge: The good thing about both of our tackles, really all of our tackles, they played on both sides. If you look across the board, everyone on our depth chart right now has played on the right and the left. Everyone is going to come in on Day One and compete and as they shake out, whether that demonstrates being a starter at whatever position, that’s where they’ll fall. We went into this with several players we all thought had the ability to go on both sides, right or left. We made a decision that we’re going to let training camp figure that out. We’re not going to have a pre-conceived notion right now of trying to plug someone in. We have a lot of talented guys, they have to compete. This is not a finish line. This is a starting point. He needs to come in, he has to earn it every day, he has to work like every player we had this week in will. But everyone will get the chance to compete, and training camp will really sort out how they fall.
Q: My impression of that is you said he’s going to compete on both sides to start?
Judge: He will compete on both sides, that’s correct. As will all of our tackles. They’ve all got versatility on both sides.
Q: Dave, a lot of people saw you put a mask on tonight in your house. This is a unique time in our country’s history, what made you do that tonight and are you concerned about this virus?
Gettleman: Well, I’ve got a young IT fellow in here with me and we’re social distancing and part of that is the mask. I’m fine.
Media Q&A with Andrew Thomas (Video):
Q: How big of a surprise was this to go four and to go to the Giants? What was your interaction with them throughout?
A: Yeah, so I had a couple Zoom calls with them (in) this process and I had a formal meeting with them down at the combine. But I was excited to get the call, it came like three minutes before the pick. I just thank God for the blessing.
Q: Did you think beforehand that this was a possible landing point for you, and what was your reaction when you realized you were going to end up in New York?
A: I really didn’t know where I was going to end up. But when they made the call, I was obviously excited. I’m ready to get to work and get down to New York.
Q: Have you had a chance to process blocking for Daniel Jones and opening up running lanes for Saquon Barkley? What is fitting into an offense with this kind of talent around you, what do you think you can bring to that scheme and bring to the Giants?
A: I’ll do my best to protect the quarterback, open up lanes. It’s a blessing to be able to play with guys as talented as they are.
Q: How exciting is it be joining a team with so many young, talented players, especially on offense like Saquon, like Daniel Jones, Darius Slayton. Are you looking forward to growing with a group like that?
A: Definitely. Those guys are very talented. I’ll be looking up to those guys to teach me the ropes, working hard to help the program.
Q: Washington drafted Chase Young at two overall. The Giants took you to protect Daniel Jones and Saquon, but also to go up against guys like Chase Young. Joe Judge said in large part the Giants drafted you because of your ability against top pass rushers. What’s your confidence level going against guys like Chase Young and top pass rushers around the league?
A: Confidence comes with preparation, understanding the playbook, learning from the vets week in and week out. Going against guys that have been playing in the league for 10 years, who are very good at what they do, so for me, it’s a mental thing and like I said, having confidence in myself for my preparation.
Q: Dave (Gettleman) talked about watching you go up against Josh Allen and some of the top pass rushers in the SEC. I’m curious who the toughest pass rusher you’ve played against was and how it’s going to prepare you for going up against the Chase Youngs and DeMarcus Lawrences and Brandon Grahams of the world?
A: Yeah, playing in the SEC, I’ve gone against a few pretty good pass rushers. Like I said, week in and week out, you have to be prepared going against guys like Josh Allen, (K’Lavon) Chaisson this year was a pretty good rusher. It just prepares you a little bit for what you’re going to see in the NFL.
Q: Can you talk about your versatility, the opportunity to play left and right tackle and how that’s prepared you for this level?
A: Yeah, at Georgia I started off at right tackle as a freshman and made the transition my sophomore year. I played at left tackle for the next two years. I think that definitely helps. Having experience playing both sides will be something that will be an asset for me.
Q: I see you have the nice New York Giants hat there. How many hats did you have there just in case?
A: The NFL sent us a package with 32 hats for all the teams. Just in case you got picked, you had the hat ready.
Q: What are you going to do with the other ones?
A: Probably give them to my friends.
Q: Who was with you tonight to share your special moment?
A: Immediate family, my agent, my mentor and a few of my close friends just to be here celebrating with me.
Q: Who is your mentor?
A: His name is Kevin Johnson. He was my offensive line coach at Pace Academy.
Q: I know you said you wanted to learn a lot from Daniel and Saquon. What kind of responsibility do you feel towards them? You are the guy they brought in to be Daniel’s protector and to open holes for Saquon.
A: For me, I’m just focusing on what I can control and that’s just getting better. It’s hard to tell with the pandemic but just moving forward (focus on) communicating with the team, learning the playbook and doing what I can to stay in shape so I can be prepared when I have to step on the field.
Q: Going into tonight, did it matter to you to be the number one tackle off the board?
A: Definitely, I work hard every day to be the best. I don’t understand why you would play this game if you don’t want to be the best. It definitely meant something.
Q: Were you pretty confident that that was the way it was going to end up?
A: I wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to go. You never know with the draft. I thank God for blessing me and putting me in this position.
Q: There was lot of conversation about who was the best tackle. What did you think of it and how much did you hear about it?
A: Obviously you see it with social media and things like that. For me, I just try to focus on what I can control. I can’t control what other guys may do or what the media may say. All I can do is work on my craft and do what I need to do to be prepared when I step on the field.
Q: Were you surprised by the perception that people had?
A: No, people are entitled to their own opinion. For me, it’s just a matter of what the coaches think of me and definitely what my teammates think of me.
Q: What are your next couple of weeks and months going to look like? How have you been able to deal with this and is everybody in your family healthy?
A: My family is doing well, thanks for asking. I was blessed to be able to train at Dash performance, I have a relationship with the owner there. It’s shut down to the public, but he lets me and my trainer come in there and get some work in to try to stay in shape.
Q: Dave Gettleman mentioned your matchup with Josh Allen from two years ago. Coming out of that matchup, was there more confidence that you gained out of going up against him considering he ended up as the seventh overall pick.
A: Definitely, I’m a competitor. I want to go up against the best guys and test my limits against them. Going up against him and having a pretty good game meant a lot to me. I put in a lot of hard work to get there.
Q: What is more rewarding, keeping a guy from touching the quarterback or grinding it out on the ground the way you guys did?
A: I would probably say grinding it out on the ground. I definitely want to protect the quarterback, but the run game, I love it.
Q: You have a couple of your former college teammates up here. What’s your relationship like with Lorenzo Carter and DeAndre Baker like?
A: I remember being a freshman with Zo being a senior here. It’s going to be exciting to be back with him. With D-Bake, I talk to him every now and then. I’m excited to get in the locker room and be with those guys again.
Q: Were you in touch with them during the process at all?
A: Not really, but I know Lorenzo hit me up right after I got drafted, so I will probably talk to him later today.
2nd Round – S Xavier McKinney, 6’0”, 201lbs, 4.65, University of Alabama
Scouting Report: The 6’0, 201-pound McKinney was a junior entry and 2-year starter in college. He is a very versatile player who is able to play both safety spots and slot corner. McKinney plays faster than he times and has good quickness. He is instinctive in coverage and makes a lot of plays on the football. McKinney is aggressive and physical in run defense. Good blitzer and he will hit you. He does need to become a more consistent tackler. Team leader who quarterbacks the secondary.
Sy’56’s Take: Junior entry. Two year starter from Roswell, Georgia. 2019 All American and First Team All SEC. McKinney was a do-it-all safety for Nick Saban’s defense, making plays against the pass, the run, and on special teams. He is a versatile, rangy, aggressive weapon for the defense that reacts and closes as fast as anyone can at the position. He is a hustler who will bring swagger to the defense he gets drafted to. He has some on-field discipline issues that can get exposed in the NFL, thus he will need some extra time to adjust to the speed and complexity of the game. His upside is sky-high if he is put into the right situation and he applies himself.
*McKinney plays a high risk, high reward style which isn’t a fit for every scheme. But for the teams that can tolerate, borderline feet of that, he is going to be graded highly and I do think he has a shot at being the top safety off the board. I love his burst and ability to close, if he can develop that movement into coverage, watch out.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Gettleman: Obviously, we had Xavier rated, we had a first-round value on him, and we’re absolutely thrilled to get him. He’s a great kid, he’s smart, he plays smart, he lines up the backend for us, he’s versatile, you can put him down low, he can cover tight ends, he’s got ball skills, and he’s a good tackler. So, we’re excited and just feel we’ve got a real quality person and player in this second round pick.
Judge: Yeah, I’d say my first exposure to Xavier was a few springs ago. I was down in Alabama actually scouting a couple other guys for the draft and had an opportunity to pass on through one of the practices, and he just stuck out as a guy on the field who flies around. He plays with a lot of passion and energy. He also has that ability to be the quarterback on the backend and really be the signal caller for our defense. Knowing the program he comes from, he fits the mold of a smart, tough, fundamentally sound guy we’re looking to build with. We’re very excited to have him. Like Dave said, we had a first-round grade on him, saw him hanging around and we’re very fortunate to be able to take him at the position that we did.
Q: Are there some similarities here with Xavier and Isaiah Simmons as you were watching the two films? It looks like Xavier is one of those guys who played 100 snaps at four different positions last year.
Gettleman: He certainly is versatile, he certainly is versatile. One of the important things for us this year was getting a safety that could play in the deep part of the field. Xavier has certainly played back there enough that we know we feel very comfortable about that part of his game.
Q: How much better do you feel about your secondary after making this pick and signing (James) Bradberry in free agency? Does it feel like it is shored up a lot more than maybe it was at the end of last year?
Gettleman: Absolutely. You know, it’s kind of funny. Everybody is playing so much 11 and 10 personnel and you’re in sub 55 to 70 percent of the time. You can never have enough DBs. You know, Bradberry is young, he’s 26, I believe, or 25. Jabrill (Peppers) is young. All of these kids we drafted last year and now Xavier this year, we’re putting together, I think, a very talented young group that just has the ability to play football at the NFL level. We’ve just got to get them rolling.
Q: Did you entertain a lot of offers to try to move down? Do you think having Xavier will actually enhance Jabrill Peppers and maybe put him in spots where you can enhance his talents rather than have to do things maybe he wasn’t as good at?
Gettleman: Well, the first thing I’ll tell you is we had made up our mind that if Xavier fell to us, we were taking him. So, we did have something. If Xavier had been gone, we did have a team willing to move up and we would’ve moved back. But we felt the value of getting Xavier there was just too good to pass up. I think the second part of the question is a better one for Joe, frankly.
Judge: You know, I don’t think it’s about any of the players on our roster. I just think with his versatility and what he’s shown of what he’s been able to do, play in the deep part of the field, play in the box, be used in coverage on slot receivers, be used in blitz packages. He’s shown a range in what he’s able to do. That’s going to allow us to use all of our players in different ways. Because of his versatility, that will complement everybody else on the roster as his strengths shake out. But he has a good skill set to come in and compete and we’re anxious to get him on the field and start working with him.
Q: How much were you able to tap into your Alabama connections when you were scouting Xavier?
Judge: There’s a number of guys down at Alabama that have a great background on him. There are a number of guys on our staff currently that have a great background on the Alabama guys, Burton Burns and Jody Wright were there in recent years. They were there when these guys came in as freshmen, they were there for the progression. As well as making phone calls down to Tuscaloosa, we were able to make phone calls and have staff meetings with guys who had direct relationships with these players and that’s a great advantage. I talked yesterday about my relationship with Kirby (Smart) and how that plays a part in identifying these guys and what they are like off the field and off the tape. That plays a big part. There are certain people in that building, not just the head coach, that you rely on what they say. You know they see them as a person and how they treat everybody. Everyone has nothing but the highest compliments of him as a person and that’s what we’re looking for. Guys with good character, good traits, that want to come in and want to work and want to earn what they get.
Q: You are about to have a 63-pick gap, are you in moving up at all?
Gettleman: You have to see how the board falls. We are going to sit for a while. If we move up, I’m not going to dip into next year’s draft class. We are going to sit here and be patient and see how the board falls.
Q: Do you think If Alabama held its pro day and he ran a better 40 than he did at the combine that he would have been there for you at that point?
Gettleman: It’s speculation, (but) that’s the only thing we can think of. Very frankly, I’ve said it to our scouts, it’s how fast does a guy play? It’s about how he carries his pads. It’s not what he does in his underwear on a track, it’s play speed. Way back in the day when San Francisco had their unbelievable run and Bill Walsh was running that club, they were not in a scouting combine. They did not care what a guy ran. They talked about play speed all the time. I think it worked pretty well for them. I am a big believer in that, it’s about how fast does a guy play. If it was just about 40-yard dash times, then we would go watch track meets.
Q: What does this draft do for a guy like Julian Love?
Judge: Julian has a great skill set. He can play corner, he can play in the slot and he can play back deep as a safety. We are going to use him as we need by each game plan. He may be an every-down safety, he may be an-every down corner. We are too far away right now to give that an answer. We are excited about all the guys we have back there. We believe we added some talent to the back end for guys to compete and we are going to see where it shakes out. Nothing has been decided in terms of positions that will go into a depth chart at this point and nothing has been decided in how we are going to use guys by game plan. That will change week to week. We believe we have enough skillsets that it will give us flexibility within our packages.
Q: You have drafted a Georgia player in the third round or higher in three straight drafts. Is there anything particular about Georgia’s program that you like?
Gettleman: What you like is the fact that it’s the Southeast Conference. They play a lot of big games and they do a hell of a job coaching down there. It’s more by accident, it’s kind of the way it worked out. They have a hell of a program.
Media Q&A with Xavier McKinney:
Q: With your versatility playing deep safety, down in the nickel, crashing the box, what do you enjoy the most and what do you think you bring to this defense most of all?
A: I like doing it all. I like playing as many positions as I can on the field. I just like making plays for my teammates and helping my team be successful. So for me, that’s pretty much my main goal. As far as what I can provide for the team, it really is whatever coach wants me to do. I always do what’s asked of me and I try to do it at a high level. So, whatever I’m asked to do, then I’ll adapt to it and I’ll be able to do it.
Q: I understand that a lot of your tattoos you designed yourself. I just wanted to ask about your creativity and how you bring that creativity onto the field?
A: Yeah, I appreciate that question. It’s just something that I like to do in my free time. If I’m ever bored or ever kind of get to thinking, then I try to put the pencil on paper. For me, it’s pretty fun being able to do it and draw my tattoos. But as far as what I bring onto the field as far as creativity, I just try to do as much as I can to help my teammates and help put us in the best possible position to win.
Q: How much did you communicate with the Giants, if at all, throughout the draft process and what’s your impression from your conversations with them?
A: I communicated with them a good bit, especially towards this ending part of it with us not having pro day and stuff like that. So, I’ve been in contact with them a few times and I always got a good vibe with them. It was people I felt comfortable with, it was coaches I felt comfortable with. Just knowing that everything was smooth when we talked, and they were more just trying to get to know me as a person instead of a player because they already knew what I could do on the field. They wanted to know what I could do off the field. But you know, I enjoyed talking to them. I’m surely very happy, very excited that they were able to draft me.
Q: I’m sure Coach Judge had a lot of conversations with Coach Saban about you. I’m wondering if you had any conversations with Coach Saban about Coach Judge and if he kind of helped you understand what you’re getting yourself into here?
A: No, I actually haven’t talked to Coach Saban about Coach Judge. I didn’t even know, I just kind of found out pretty recently that Coach Judge coached at Bama. I didn’t know. But now that I know they pretty much…there’s a lot of things that are going to be similar to how it was at school, and that’s how I like it. I’m very excited for the opportunity.
Q: How surprised were you that you were drafted today and not yesterday?
A: Very surprised. Of course, I thought I was going to get drafted yesterday, but you know, it is what it is. I’m happy to be a Giant and that’s all that matters right now.
Q: Joe Judge told us a story earlier that two years ago in the spring he was scouting some other guys for Alabama and he remembers the impression that you left on him then in practice, kind of being all over the field. Throughout this process, even going back one to two years, were you conscious of the fact that all eyes were on you and things that you did two years ago may come to help you on draft night?
A: No, not really. I’m a type of guy that tries to focus on what’s going on right now. At that point in time, I was focused on the season, I was focused on winning, trying to win a national championship. So for me, I was always trying to do the right thing for myself but not only for myself, but for my teammates. I wasn’t too much focused on all the things that would come later on down the road because I didn’t know what would come. I always try to do the right thing and try to set myself up to be in the best position as possible.
Q: I noticed on Twitter that Jabrill Peppers had reached out to you. I didn’t know if you had a previous relationship with him, if you know him at all, and what do you think about being on the back end with a guy like that?
A: Yeah, I actually followed him when he was coming out because he was also a safety that played a lot of positions in college when he came out. I’m a big fan of him, I watch his game. I actually haven’t been able to see that he reached out, I’ve got to check that. But, I’m excited and I’m ready to see what’s in store for me when I get up to New York.
Q: You said you thought you’d get picked in the first round. How much do you think the 40 (yard dash) time hurt you and can you explain how you got cramps or just what happened at the combine?
A: I don’t know how much it hurt me. To be honest, I really don’t care that much about the 40 anyways. I think like I’ve said before, my tape says it all. It’s something that outweighs the 40 anyways because, of course, I play way faster than what that 40 said. But when I did run the 40, I did have cramps. A lot of it was due to just the setup of how the combine was, things that I wasn’t necessarily prepared for or didn’t really know how the schedule would be. But you know, it is what it is. Everything happens for a reason. Like I’ve said before, I’m excited for this moment and I’m excited to be a Giant.
Q: What have the coaches told you about the defense and how you might fit into the defense? How do you think your skill set is going to complement Jabrill Peppers?
A: I’m not sure much about the defense right now. When I talked to the staff previously, we weren’t really talking much about football. It was more about them trying to get to know me and who I was off the field. We haven’t gotten into much depth about what is going to happen on the field. As far as what my role might be, of course, I don’t know. I am able to adjust to anything that is thrown at me and I’m ready for whatever they might want me to do. I think I can do anything that they ask me for. I’m ready for the moment.
Q: Those battles at practice where you saw Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, do you think that makes all of you that much better coming into the NFL and if so, how?
A: I think so. Like I said before, those are first round guys as you have seen yesterday. Being able to compete against those guys at that level has been helpful for me and the people around me. I think that helps a lot going into the NFL. A lot of times in the NFL you will see guys like that every week instead of just one week and then you get a rest week where you may not have the best receiver like it is in college. In the NFL, there’s going to be good receivers week in and week out. It helps, it helped me prepare and get ready for this moment.
Q: Do you pride yourself on being a playmaker?
A: I do. I just try to make as many plays for my team as I can. I like to put my teammates in the best position possible in whatever way that I can to help the team be successful in any part of the game. Whether that’s special teams, whether that’s playing on defense, wherever it is, I try to make sure I put my teammates in the best possible situation that we can be in. I do pride myself on being a playmaker.
Q: You played for Nick Saban, who runs a tight ship, an authoritative coach, what he says goes. Joe Judge has started off here running a similar program. How do you thrive in a program where the head coach has a strong personality and where there is a ton of structure to how they want things to run?
A: I’m good with structure. It’s never been a problem for me, it wasn’t a problem when I went into school as a freshman. Those are the things that I like a lot. I actually love having that structure and having that strict almost tight ship being ran by the coaches. For me, I always do what I’m asked to do, and I try to do it at a high level. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to win. I’ll do whatever it takes to be able to win games and anything I can to help.
Q: First of all, I just want to make sure everyone in your family is healthy. How have you been able to keep in shape? How do you plan on moving forward with that plan in the next couple of weeks before you can get up here?
A: Everybody is doing well. I have been following the restrictions and certain stuff that we can and cannot do. I’ve still been able to jog around the neighborhood or do some yoga in the house. I’ve still been able to do some position work on the field. I’m still trying to restrict it as much as I can so it’s not all the time. I want to keep everyone else around me safe.
Q: The Cowboys picked Travon Diggs and the Eagles picked Jalen Hurts. What’s that going to be like in these NFC East battles with you going against two of your former teammates?
A: It’s going to be fun. Those are my guys, I actually just talked to Tray today and I talked to Jalen, I think, a couple days ago. Those are my guys, it’s definitely going to be fun. I’m going to be really excited to see them and play against them again.
Q: Do the Alabama guys take those battles pretty seriously?
A: Yeah, we do. Even in practice whenever we are going against each other. Me and Tray were on the same side, but we always competed to see who got the most picks for the day and we also did it for the game. We definitely take those very seriously and it gets really competitive.
Q: I’m sure you ran the 40 at Alabama and you did it in your training. Was your time significantly better (than the combine)?
A: Yeah, for sure. The time that I ran at the combine, that was a fake time. I caught cramps before I actually ran. That was actually my worst time throughout the whole process. My best time was a 4.52 when I was training. If I got to do the pro day, I thought I was going to run a good time. I’m not too worried about the 40. That’s why I didn’t run it again. I knew my tape said it all and I didn’t have anything to prove running the 40. There was no reason for me to do that.
Q: Do you look at yourself as a free safety or strong safety? Do you put that label on yourself?
A: I consider myself a DB. A DB is somebody that can play safety, free safety, corner, slot nickel, anywhere. I’m a versatile DB, that’s what I consider myself.
3rd Round – OT Matt Peart, 6’6”, 310lbs, 5.06, University of Connecticut
Scouting Report: The 6’6”, 310-pound Peart was a 4-year starter in college with experience at both tackle spots. Peart combines excellent size, long arms, and good overall athletic ability. He has the frame to get bigger and he needs to get stronger. Right now he is a better pass protector than run blocker. He could play with more meanness to his game. Team leader.
Sy’56’s Take: Fifth year senior from Kingston, Jamaica. A four year starter who never missed a game. 1st Team All AAC honors as a senior. Peart is relatively new to the game, as he didn’t play football until he started high school. He is a physically gifted player who, when his feet are in the right place, showed dominant traits. He has incredibly strong hands with long arms and an athletic base, he simply just needs to hammer away at his lower body mechanics until they become more natural and consistent. If and when that happens, he is a starting caliber player.
*I did a quick recap of who Gettleman selected in his career as GM along the offensive line. One glaring tendency was his desire for length at tackle. Well, here you go. Peart has the longest arms in the class and the widest frame. Throw in the fact that he has a decently athletic lower body, and there is a chance he is going to hear his name called in round 2. NYG is going to like him, I’m sure of it. How much? Not sure. I personally see a guy who won’t be a factor in year one and he is going to need to really hammer away at lower body mechanics and power. I couldn’t get past the 4th/5th round tier but I can see why some are higher on him because of the ceiling.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Dave Getttleman: The Peart kid that we took at the bottom of three is long, he’s big. He’s a 315-pound kid that’s skinny. We interviewed him a number of times, he’s a great kid. He’s athletic and he’s long and we think he has a lot of upside for a young kid. He’s a guy that the coaching staff really wanted to work with.
Joe Judge: I second what Dave said. It’s rare to describe someone as 315 pounds and skinny, but that’s what he is. He’s an athletic guy, he has a lot of length to him. We feel good about his character and his work ethic. He’s excited to come on in here and work hard and we can’t wait to get him on the field.
Q: Why did you guys decide to pick another tackle instead of going with a center? I know you guys have been talking about center?
Gettleman: It’s about value. He was too good of a value to pass by. We had him rated well above the rest of the other centers on our board.
Q: What kind of a ceiling does this kid have?
Gettleman: I think he has a sizeable ceiling. He’s young, he’s really got a lot of talent. We really like the upside on him.
Q: Joe, you talked to us the other day about projecting how players will be two or three years down the road. Is this one of those players for you?
Judge: I think they are all one of those players for me. He definitely has a lot of upside. I don’t want to say he is developmental, he is developing, and they all are. He’s got tremendous work ethic, he’s got a great attitude. I think we are going to see a lot better football in the future than we’ve seen from him already. That’s what makes us really excited to work with these guys that we’re bringing in.
Q: Is it too early in his development to know if he is a more natural left or right tackle?
Judge: I think his athleticism is going to lend him to being a swing tackle early on in his career and work on both sides. We don’t want to limit any of our guys to just play on one side. We have to cross train everybody. If you play on the left side, you have to be able to play on the right side as well. That’s going to go ahead and lend to what we need based on roster situation and game plans.
Q: Are you still looking for a center?
Gettleman: We are just going to work the board.
Q: What was it like having this long gap between picks? I know you did it last year. What was the feeling when the Jets were on the clock at 68?
Gettleman: I mean, it’s a long time between picks. We’re at 36 and then it’s 99, so you’ve got 54 picks, multiply it times five minutes, it’s a long time, you know? We made the decision last year on that, on the third round pick, and we’re fine.
Q: This is a guy who did not play football in high school, but he never missed a snap in college. Do you see some of that rawness of a guy who came to the game late that interests you that you can work with in a guy like this?
Judge: I always like having athletic players who you don’t feel like are tapped out. I said earlier, he’s developing – meaning, this guy has got a skill set, he’s still learning. I think we’ve got the right line coach to go ahead and work with him between (Offensive Line Coach) Marc (Colombo) and (Assistant Offensive Line Coach) Ben (Wilkerson). This guy’s got tremendous upside. His athleticism, his physical build and then just his character and work ethic. You put those things together and these are guys you really want to work with.
Q: You had a long wait tonight, but you have a pretty quick turnaround tomorrow getting ready. How do you guys handle this? Do you try to get together tonight and map out what’s on the board for tomorrow and what plans you’re going to do, or do you wait until tomorrow to get together? Do you have a couple of guys that you are kind of eyeing already for that fourth round pick?
Gettleman: We’ll talk a little bit tonight and, really and truly, it’ll be interesting to see if we get calls because we’re picking so early tomorrow. We’ll have a conference, we’ll get together tomorrow morning well in advance to give us a chance to really talk and figure out what we want to do. So, we’ll spend time tonight and tomorrow.
Q: You told us earlier that you weren’t going to dip into next year for picks to move up, but if there was somebody on your board you might be tempted to do something. Was there anyone on your board at a certain spot that you were tempted to move up or were you content to stay at 99?
Gettleman: No, we were fine because, again, I wasn’t going to dip into next year and that’s what we would’ve had to have done. So, we were fine. We’re fine. We just got a really good value with Matt Peart. He’s a solid prospect and we got a really good value.
Media Q&A with Matt Peart (Video):
Q: Can you take us through last night? How surprised were you when you got the call and was this a destination on your radar?
A: When I got the call, it was definitely a big surreal feeling. My mom started going crazy. I had family members do a Zoom call like this and they were going crazy over the computer. So it was just a great time being able to experience everyone that’s near and dear to my heart just happy and joyous for the moment. Growing up, I always wanted to be a Giant and I’m just happy to put on the blue. It still feels so surreal to me and I’m just looking forward to the future.
Q: Are you in the Bronx? Is that where you are with your family?
A: No, we moved a year ago, so I’m in Fishkill, New York.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about growing up a Giants fan? I know you were rooting for them when you were going to high school up in New England.
A: I came from Jamaica at a young age and growing up in New York, I kind of fell in love with the Knicks and then also the Giants soon after that. Just watching them on the TV, just the culture and everything the Giants stand for was something that was appealing for me as a young kid. Especially growing up, especially that moment in high school when they had that Super Bowl win my freshman year. That was a very, very fun time for me.
Q: Did you have a favorite offensive lineman or a favorite player?
A: My favorite player, my favorite Giant always would be Eli Manning, for sure. The man is just tough, tough as nails. I respect his game and I just respect everything he does for the game. You know, he’s definitely my favorite Giant, 100 percent.
Q: I just wanted to ask a little bit more about your journey. You were born in Jamaica, then you came to the Bronx, I’m guessing, pretty young. Then how do you end up at a private boarding school and then from there end up getting into football, since I know that wasn’t your first sport?
A: So getting into the boarding school, I got into a program called the Oliver Scholars program. It was actually based out of the Tri-State area. They take high-achieving kids in the Tri-State area and allow them to go to independent day schools and boarding schools that they coordinate with through the program. Governor’s (Academy) was one of the schools on that list of all of the schools. So, having that connection allowed me to go to the private school.
Q: Then how did you get into football, because I think I read that you were more of a basketball player when you first got there?
A: Yeah, mainly because I grew up in the Bronx. You know, Jamaicans call it ‘The Concrete Jungle,’ so it’s easier to pick up a ball and shoot some hoops because there weren’t really that many fields open. Going to Governor’s Academy and having an opportunity to be exposed to the sport was actually the first time I really got exposed to the sport.
Q: How old were you when you moved to the Bronx?
A: When I was about four or five.
Q: How did you end up at Connecticut and with your size, were you recruited by some bigger schools?
A: Connecticut was my biggest offer coming out of high school. Like I said, I started the transition relatively late, so UConn had offered me a week before signing day. Before that, SUNY-Albany was my first offer, they offered me for offensive tackle. Then UConn offered me a week before signing day. The day I committed to UConn, UNH came up to offer me. But they knew I was going to UConn, so they never extended that offer.
Q: You’re kind of listed by the experts as this kid who’s got raw talent. How much of a project do you think you are?
A: Whenever I think about that, it just means that I just want to dedicate myself to be a better student of the game and wherever I need to improve, you best believe I’m willing to do the work, and I’m ready to work right now. That’s all I can speak on that one.
Q: What was your first call like with Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge? Did they talk to at all about what their plans are for you?
A: Like I said, just getting that phone call was very surreal. I’m just trying to grasp the moment still, it still feels a little bit surreal right now. I’m just ready to do the work. With those conversations, I don’t really delve into private conversations. Just know that I am ready to work and ready to prove that I belong to be a Giant and ready to earn everything.
Q: Can you expand a little bit on how basketball has helped you with the offensive line? Especially with playing both sides as you have.
A: I feel like when it comes to basketball, you have to have real fine footwork. I really feel like that helped correlate on the field when it comes to football. Being a post player, you have to be able to have good footwork to work in the post. It’s just what you have to have. I really feel like that helped me correlate over to football. Just being a tough and dominant player in the post as well helped me be a dominant football player as well.
Q: How is your family doing health wise?
A: The main part of my family is all in New York. My eldest brother is in Albany right now with his wife. My second eldest brother is in the Bronx with his wife, they’re actually expecting a baby. Everyone is taking the proper precautions right now. Everyone is safe, thank God. I just want to thank everyone that’s dedicating their time and efforts during this time just to help ease the pain now, so we have a better tomorrow. We’re just taking the precautions that are recommended and doing everything we need to do to make sure we are living up to the standards of the quarantine rules.
Q: How have you been able to stay in shape and how do you plan to move forward with that?
A: Right now, I am coordinating with a strength coach. He is based out of New Jersey. It’s called Parisi’s. They’re able to give me workouts through an app and that’s what I have been doing during this time, finding ways to get after it. Since I’m in upstate, I can always find a little patch of grass so I can work on my offensive line technique. I may look crazy out there, but I have to do what I have to do.
Q: I just wanted to ask you about Andrew Thomas. Do you know him at all, do you have a relationship with him? What do you think of his game? How much are you looking forward to playing on the same line as him, hopefully for years to come?
A: Andrew and I were training at the same facility, EXOS down in Pensacola, Florida, before the combine. He’s an amazing tackle, he’s a real true talent when it comes to offensive line play. I definitely picked up some things from him with my time down there. Staying down there with the small time we had, I definitely consider him to be a brother and now he’s definitely a brother right now. He can’t get rid of me now. I’m looking forward to it and I’m happy he’s coming to the city.
4th Round – CB Darnay Holmes, 5’10”, 195lbs, 4.47, UCLA
Scouting Report: The 5’10”, 195-pound Holmes was a 3-year starter at UCLA. He lacks ideal height and is probably best suited to slot corner in the NFL. Holmes is a very smart and competitive player who is equally comfortable with press and off coverage. Good speed and quickness. He makes plays on the football. Overly aggressive at times, Holmes needs to guard better against double moves. Despite his lack of size, he is a tough guy who will play the run. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs.
Sy’56’s Take: Slot corner that can come in year 1 and compete for a nickel job. Graduated college in under 3 years. Smart and savvy, shows up on the field. Can mirror quick slot receivers, has some size/playing strength issues.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Dave Gettleman on CB Darnay Holmes: We had a good day today. I’m very pleased with what happened. We took all defensive guys except for Shane Lemieux, the guard in the fifth round. The theme of the day for defense was speed. We really feel like we improved our teams speed and that was what we were trying to do. In the fourth round we took Darnay Holmes, a kid from UCLA. He’s a corner, he plays the nickel. He will come in and compete for that spot right away. He’s a tough kid, he can run. We’re excited we were able to get him.
Joe Judge on CB Darnay Holmes: Darnay is definitely a guy that jumps out at you. He’s got good speed, he’s got real good short area quickness. He’s contributed on the defensive side of the ball, he’s had impact in the kicking game. He plays with a good edge, shows some nasty. You can see he definitely plays bigger than his size. He’s a guy that jumped out at us at the Senior Bowl. His tape backed up what we saw down there. I’m really happy we were able to add him today.
Media Q&A with Darnay Holmes (Video):
Q: This is a pretty young secondary with a lot of guys drafted in the last couple of years, including DeAndre Baker in the first round a year ago. As another young guy coming in here, what can you do to differentiate yourself and get on the field?
A: My thing is to just be a sponge. DeAndre is there a year before me, so he definitely learned more things than I have learned. I’m definitely going to get under his wing and try to contribute in every phase. I’m going to be an asset, I’m not going to be a liability. I’m just going to play my part and maximize my role, for sure.
Q: I was reading up on you and you are somewhat of a trendsetter. Someone who uses chess as a way to analyze football. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you got into that and how exactly it works and helps you?
A: I saw several cornerbacks playing chess and I’m the type of player that wants to get insight on everything that’s going on. I walked up to the chess master and asked him do you mind helping me out with chess. The reason I play chess is I want to have efficient thoughts. I want to make sure I am making forceful moves and I want to make sure everybody responds to things that I do. Everything I’m doing, I’m not a piece, I’m a player. I’m going to make sure the team is working accordingly and we’re all on one accord. Chess is a great thing for me to get my mind off of football but also get my mind in the state of being efficient in everything I do.
Q: I read about some of the hardships you had earlier in your life. Was there ever a time when you thought this day wouldn’t come?
A: Definitely there were several times when you go through different emotions and you don’t know when that day will come. I know those days and those experiences molded me into a better person, a better man. It molded my spirit to be someone that’s ready to transition and transform within every phase of my life. Every season is not going to be a good season, but I know that season shall pass and I’ll be bigger than that season.
Q: How is everyone in your family doing these days?
A: Everyone in my family is doing good these days. They are all on one accord, there is no family feud and everybody is making sure that we are transitioning so we have generational wealth for our young nephews.
Q: I know your dad played in the NFL and he went through a lot of stuff in his life before he started coaching you guys up. How much has he impacted your growth as a football player and as a person over the years?
A: My pops impacted me in a lot of ways. He was a person who installed that hustler drive. That drive to compete each and every day, knowing that there is somebody out there working to take your spot or working to be better than you. Each and every day he always told me that you never compromise your grind or compromise the good habits you have for something that will not allow you to propel you forward to your full potential. He always made sure that you can’t take any shortcuts. If you take shortcuts, when the time comes and you reach that destination, there’s lessons that you did not learn. The downfall is going to be harder than the come up.
Q: Who were some of the guys you idolized growing up?
A: Definitely a few people that are mentors of mine are Aeneas Williams, Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson. I have a great group of guys around me. Those guys are constantly providing me with insight that will allow me to be disciplined and have freedom. Freedom equals discipline. By them giving different tools and different things that I can add to my toolbox, I’m just ready to rock.
Q: Do you have personal relationships with them or just from studying them?
A: Personal relationships definitely.
Q: How did that come about?
A: When you are around the football circuit you definitely come around several marquee guys who want to give back to the youth. They understand that true wealth in life is what you give back to the world. They are constantly God-fearing men and they know when you serve somebody, it’s an opportunity to serve God.
Q: Where are you, that’s an interesting background behind you?
A: I’m in Palm Springs.
Q: What’s behind you there, is that your yard?
A: Yeah, that’s just some acres to get some work in.
Q: I’m just curious about your experience in the slot. Did you play much of it in college and if not, do you feel like you can play it at the next level?
A: Truthfully, I can’t tell you where I’m going to play, I’m just ready to contribute. Wherever they put me, I’m going to maximize that role and I’m going to make sure that I understand that role. That’s my main thing is understanding it and grasping all the concepts.
Q: Have you played the nickel much in the past?
A: The first time I played was the Senior Bowl. That was my first go around at it and I loved it. There’s a lot of things that I need to learn about it. Until then, I’m just going to keep on crafting and get to know this playbook that the Giants have in store for me.
Q: What did teams talk to you about position wise when they talked to you? Is that something that they brought up, the slot, and is that something that’s been mentioned to you? When people say you’re too small to play outside in the pros, is that something you heard and you had to fight throughout this process?
A: Definitely I haven’t had to fight that. A lot of people need different roles to be fulfilled. Some roles need to be nickel, some roles need to be boundary, some roles need to be primary corner. Everybody’s got different roles and different things that they need to fulfill, so I’m just ready to fulfill whatever role that’s needed right away.
Q: What do you bring to the team in terms of special teams? Did you talk to Joe Judge about any of that yet? He has a special teams background.
A: Definitely, I can bring a lot of things to the team. I can be a gunner, I can be a jammer, I can be whatever a team needs me to be. I’m ready to just contribute. I’m ready to play football, I’m ready to showcase everything that they need me to showcase. I have a lot of things to learn, I didn’t play much special teams in college, but I know right away I’m going to be able to contribute on those four phases of special teams. So, whatever that may be, I’m going to be front line ready to rock.
Q: You talked about how you went to a chess master. How does one go about finding a chess master?
A: When you go to UCLA, you’re around a lot of different things, you have access to different pools of people. So, Chip Kelly, a great father figure of mine I should say, he makes sure he brings people within the school who are going to aid and are going to be able to value the mindset to reach that different frequency.
Q: I read that you graduated very early, I think two or three years. What motivated you to get through your studies so quickly, and apparently you did so at a high level and you got good grades. How has that helped you with learning complex defenses and your studying?
A: Definitely the school curriculum allowed me to implement a strict routine, a routine that allowed me not to sway away into different distractions. So, by me having this vivid vision, my energy was aligning to it right away. That’s definitely something that I implemented right when I got to UCLA. It was, I’m going to graduate in three years and then from there I’m going to figure out what I want to do. Right away I was a student, then after I graduated, it was like okay, how can I pursue my athlete endeavor, and I’m here now being a New York Giant. I’m very excited.
Q: Did you choose to accelerate your studies or did that just come together for you?
A: Definitely. Definitely I had to make that choice. If I hadn’t made that choice, I would probably still be an undergraduate. So, I made that choice right away that I had to get my degree and break that barrier within my family being the first person in my family to get that degree at a prestigious college. (It) allowed them to know that we have so much greatness within ourselves, let’s go chase that and manifest that.
Q: How did that help you with football? Learning a playbook can be so complex, I imagine it made that easier for you?
A: Definitely. You have different tactics that you use to grasp concepts and grasp schemes and make sure that you understand those things. I don’t memorize, I want to grasp it and understand so I’ll be able to tap into it no matter what the heat of the moment is. I’ll understand it, so I’ll be able to utilize it.
Q: How do you think playing for someone like Chip Kelly, who has experience coaching in the NFL, got you ready to make this leap to the league? He kind of had the reputation in Philly and then in San Fran as kind of a taskmaster or drill sergeant. Joe Judge comes in here as all business, no nonsense type of guy. When you look at their two personalities, how do you think you’ll be able to make that transition from Chip to playing for Judge?
A: At the end of the day, everybody holds up a standard, so I’m going to abide by that standard and I’m going to abide by that code. I know that code is for us to flourish. When I have something that’s great, it’s like wouldn’t you utilize it to tap into it?
Q: Obviously you’re not going to be able to come here to New Jersey for a while. Did you take any online courses and do you think that’s going to help you during these next couple of weeks and months when most of this stuff is going to be done virtually?
A: My online courses are going to be the Zoom meetings with the New York Giants getting that playbook down. I’m a graduate, so it’s either hit the field, learn more about myself, the New York Giants organization, and tap into different people who’ve been around, veterans, Barkley, everybody who knows what it’s like to be a New York Giant. That’s my key and that’s my goal — to understand the playbook, be a sponge, and find a way to be a leader. I’m not saying I’m going to be a leader right away, but by me being under somebody who are leaders, you’re the average of the five people you hang around, so I’m going to hang around five leaders. That’s just the type of person I am.
Q: Have you taken online courses in the past, though?
A: Yeah, definitely. I had to take several online courses to graduate in two and a half years, Sir.
Q: What’s the key to learning that way?
A: The key to learning that way is understanding that you can’t lollygag. You can’t put things to the side because at the end of the day it’s on your own time. In this life we’re living, you do things on your own time, but at the end of the day if you have a strict routine, you can never be swayed off to different distractions or different things that will hinder you from accomplishing the main goal, which is being the great contributor to the team.
5th Round – OG Shane Lemieux, 6’4”, 310lbs, 5.13, University of Oregon
Scouting Report: The 6’4”, 310-pound Lemieux started an incredible 52 games in college, never missing a game. Tough, strong, blue-collar offensive guard who could project to center. He has good size but also has athletic limitations that will limit his upside. Lemieux can create movement as a run blocker, but can be exposed by quick pass rushers at times. Smart.
Sy’56’s Take: Fifth year senior from Yakima, Washington. Four year starter who never missed a game, 52 consecutive starts. Two-time 2nd Team All Pac 12 and 2019 2nd Team All American. Lemieux is a reliable, know-what-you’re-getting guard who won’t be a guy who consistently hurts an offense, but has a limited upside. He is big and plays with a blue collar attitude, often overpowering and out-hustling his man. However there are certain matchups and situations where his tight hips and inconsistent pad level pops up. He will need to be protected a bit, but he should at least be a solid interior backup early on with the potential to start down the road.
*I talked about how impressive and rare it is to see a lineman start 46 games over the course of a career. Lemieux started 52! Just amazing. I really wanted to grade him higher than this because I love his grit and style. However I just can’t get beyond the stiffness he shows when something unexpected comes his way. He might be a guy who can play early but he needs to be protected and you can’t have him move laterally that often. I just wouldn’t want to see him on an island against these quicker interior pass rushers.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Dave Gettleman on OL Shane Lemieux: Next round we got Shane Lemieux, a guard out of Oregon. Every really good club that I have been with, the offensive line has set the tone. This is a tough kid who plays mad. He’s big, he’s powerful, he’s a pretty good athlete. We’re excited to add him to the mix.
Joe Judge on OL Shane Lemieux: Shane’s a guy like Dave said, he plays with nasty. You turn the Auburn game on and right from the first snap he’s tossing bodies around. You can’t help but watch him. In a lot of cross over tape he jumps out at you as well. He’s a guy that’s going to have interior swing value. We’re going to cross train him guard and center. It’s going to be something he has been working on out at Oregon and we’re going to keep on building with that as well.
Media Q&A with Shane Lemieux (Video):
Q: You have obviously played guard in games, but you’ve also done some work at center if I’m not mistaken. Can you tell us where you are in that process and how that transition is coming along for you?
A: I was really fortunate enough in college, I had a really good offensive line. We never really had to move much because we were experienced veterans. During this draft process, I understood that this game is all about versatility. I think that me getting good at all three interior positions is going to benefit me well in the future. I don’t really have a position. I just want to be ready whenever I get in, to be ready to play whatever coach asks me to.
Q: Was that your decision to take on center? Did your coach come to you and tell you to learn other spots?
A: That was probably just on me. Especially as a rookie, there’s not really a guard that only plays guard. Versatility is the biggest factor in this game. Coaches want to be able to put you in multiple spots. I have really good mentors that told me that at training camp, no matter where you are, they are going to throw you in, and you have to be ready. I just want to be prepared before that happened. Even at pro day, somebody asked me to jump in at center and I was ready to do that. It just all works out and versatility is key.
Q: What is the biggest challenge of playing center?
A: Every single offensive line position is going to have different techniques. I feel like with center there is a lot more responsibility on you to know the offense and to know more of the defense and be more sound with what’s going on around you. Obviously, you have to snap the ball. Those are the two of the biggest factors that are different. At the same time, I feel like I am a football player. I’ve been working at all three positions. I really appreciate the differences in all three of the interior spots and the tackle spots as well. There’s obviously little caveats, little differences to everything.
Q: You are the second Oregon player to be drafted to New York. Do you know Sabrina (Ionescu) and what do you think about her basketball game?
A: Yes, I do know Sabrina. She came in the class after me, obviously she is a really talented athlete, awesome person. A fearless competitor. When you watch her play, that’s the first thing you see. A competitor who loves her teammates and loves the game of basketball. I think that’s the most important part of being a great athlete, loving your sport.
Q: What was your initial conversation with Coach Judge like? What’s it like going to a coach who is clearly trying to establish a culture?
A: My head coach in college, Mario Cristobal, emphasized doing the work before doing the talk. I think that’s a really important piece that taught me how to be pro. Coach Judge called me on draft day and said put your head down and work. I think that’s an important thing. I don’t want to elaborate on exactly what he said out of respect for him and I. The main mantra was to put your head down and work.
Q: As the nearly 500th ranked recruit at the time, three-star, first guy out of West Valley to D-1. What has this ride meant to you the last four or five years? How does it feel to be an NFL draft pick?
A: First thing I thought of was I remember one day my sophomore year of high school when I told my dad I’m going to play in the NFL. I’m going to get this done, I’m going to play at Oregon and be an All American. I think ever since that day I promised my parents, it’s kind of been uphill since from there. I went through a lot of stuff, a lot of workouts, a lot of force feeding to try and get up to the weight to get into college. It’s awesome, I’ve gotten unbelievable support out of West Valley, my high school area. Just trying to be a good representative of the 509. I take a lot of pride in that. Cooper Kupp came out of Washington and is with the Rams and now there’s me. I think I have to be a good representative of the valley and be a good representative for the University of Oregon. They taught me so much.
Q: As a country boy who wants to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere at some point, how does the New York/ New Jersey area sound?
A: We have a bunch of guys, Justin Pugh, who I’m training with, Jonotthan Harrison of the Jets. They have done a good job of showing me where the places to fish are, where the reservoirs are. I’ve heard a lot about the surrounding areas, even the ocean you can fish. I’m sure I can find stuff to do. At the same time, I want to focus on the season, I’m going to be doing a lot of stuff. I’m probably just going to be living wherever I am, playing ball, and studying film.
Q: Growing up when you were learning the position, who were some of the guys you viewed as role models?
A: I probably never really had a role model or someone I modeled my game after. I was always told as a young player, especially from my coaches at Oregon, you are an individual. You play like Shane Lemieux, you don’t play like anybody else. Obviously, there’s great role models in this game. I think one that comes to mind is Marshal Yanda. His toughness and his durability. I remember him walking off the field with a broken leg, I thought that was really impressive. Stuff like that, people who take a lot of pride in the position, people who work really hard are guys I want to look up to but not necessarily who I want to play like.
Q: A lot of what we have talked to you about is being a center. I assume you are coming in here saying, “I’m a guard”, aren’t you?
A: I think I’m an offensive lineman, that’s what I’m coming in as. That’s what I have been playing, I’m a football player. I’m a football player that plays offensive line. No matter where the coaches want to put me to help the team, that’s where I’m going to go.
Q: With a name like Lemieux, how is it you are playing football instead of hockey?
A: I’ve gotten that question for a long time. I had a left tackle in college named Tyrell Crosby that played right next to me, so it was Crosby and Lemieux and people had a fit with that. I’ve heard I’m not wearing 66, which is a crime. I was 68 in college. I’ve never met another Lemieux that plays hockey so if somebody sees this, let me know.
Q: After four years of being a starter, what is the mental shift for you in this process of having to compete for a job again and possibly having to be backup to start off? After 52 straight starts, what’s that like for you mentally?
A: It’s just going to work. I think every single day in college I approached each day as if my job was on the line. I think the biggest factor of why I never liked to miss practice or why I never missed a game rep was if I wasn’t getting those reps, somebody else was. That’s the mentality I had instilled in me by coach Cristobal at Oregon. Alex Mirabal at Oregon. I think that’s just the way I take the game. I take a lot of pride in the sense that any play can be your last. The more I can understand the playbook, earn the trust of the coaches and my teammates and just work, that’s what it takes.
Q: Did the whole family make it down to Arizona? Did Miranda join you?
A: It was just mom, dad and my sister in Arizona. My parents drove down, they thought it would be a lot safer than flying. Even here, we did a lot of social distancing. It was good.
Q: Joe Judge has talked a lot about cross training offensive linemen at different spots. Andrew Thomas at left tackle and right tackle, I’m sure with you playing both guard spots and center. From an offensive lineman’s perspective, how challenging is that and how beneficial is it to get reps at all three of those spots?
A: Especially as a young player in this league, I think it’s the ultimate test to be able to play all the different positions. I know a lot of offensive line coaches like it. I’m sure these offensive line coaches like it, they talked a lot about it. You want to be the best player you can be. The best player you can be is somebody who can be thrown in at any position and can play.
Q: Where are you most comfortable? Where do you have the most experience and is there a difference between both sides?
A: In high school, I played left tackle, right tackle. In college I played left guard, in practice I played right guard. I’ve been all over. I think I don’t really have any place where I’m comfortable. I think I’m a natural offensive lineman where I can play any position I’m asked. I think that’s just been a lot of work. Obviously, there’s techniques and differences between each position. There’s set differences if you’re a guard, if you’re a tackle, if you’re at center. I think it’s just the more reps, the more comfortable you are at a position. I’ve taken so many reps over my career, I’m comfortable at any position.
Q: You mentioned cross training and you are an offensive lineman, not just a guard. Center is a whole different animal. Have you ever snapped before in practice? What are the main things you need to learn to actually snap the ball and then block? It’s a whole different skill set.
A: In practice throughout my college career, I snapped just to learn. I think it would just be good to learn. Ever since, now I have been trained at every position. I have even been trained at tackle just to understand the game more and be more versatile. Each offensive line position is a little different, each takes reps to get comfortable. I’ve been working to get more comfortable with the stance and the snaps. Even at right guard, I haven’t played a bunch of right guard, so I am getting better there. I’m probably never going to play tackle, but just the ability to get out there even if you have to take a couple reps in practice is great to have.
Q: I know you have played every game. Do you have any idea on how many snaps you’ve missed?
A: I remember one game I missed a snap against Wyoming because my shoe came off. That’s the only snap I have ever missed, that was my sophomore year. Ever since then, it was only if we were up big on an opponent.
Q: You have never missed a practice either?
A: Never missed a practice, no sir.
Q: The general manager Dave Gettleman talked about fixing the offensive line once and for all. You are well aware they drafted Andrew Thomas, they drafted Matt Peart in the third round and you as well. What’s it like to be a part of that group that is tasked with fixing that offensive line once and for all?
A: I think it’s really awesome seeing a team value the offensive line the way that they do. I’ve heard all about hog mollies and all that kind of stuff. I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get to know these other rookies and I can’t wait to get to know the other teammates on the offensive line. I think we are all ready to get to work. I can’t speak for them, but I’m sure we are all ready to work. I briefly met Andrew Thomas and Peart at the combine and I can’t wait to see them and get to work with them.
Q: You mentioned getting reps in. With the challenge with COVID-19, how are you getting these reps in. There is so much more about playing center. There’s the movement of the ball and moving at the same time. It’s snapping to a quarterback and getting used to the chemistry there. How are you simulating all that in whatever training you are doing?
A: Basically, I have been at a private training facility in Arizona with LeCharles Bentley. We do a really good job of keeping people inside the gym social distancing. We have the same group of guys that have been in the gym for the last four months. We kind of live in this bubble and we do a really good job of dividing these groups out, so we are not together. I think I have been taking a lot of reps on air at guard and tackle. I have been doing lot on the bag, too. I’m still able to get the work in.
6th Round – LB Cam Brown, 6’5”, 233lbs, 4.69, Penn State
Scouting Report: The 6’5”, 233-pound Brown was a 2-year starter at Penn State. Very tall and lanky outside backer with long arms and decent speed. Brown is an aggressive but not overly instinctive player. His size and solid athletic ability assist him coverage but he needs to improve his run defense at the point-of-attack and overall tackling consistency. Team leader.
Sy’56’s Take: A frame and tool set that every coach is going to want to work with because of the multi-down versatility he can offer. Can be a weapon in coverage because of his top shelf length and loose hips.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Dave Gettleman on LB Cam Brown: In the sixth round we took Cam Brown, a big long kid out of Penn State. He’s 6’5 and change, he’s 230, he runs well. Cam and all the young men we took in the seventh round, we like they are players with good developmental qualities and tools. They all can run, every one of these guys can run. We’re excited about that.
Joe Judge on LB Cam Brown: Physically, he’s got good length. He’s got a frame to fill out and play. He plays with good energy. He plays aggressive and downhill. He’s going to bring versatility on the edge as well as a little bit of stack backer value. He brings impact in the kicking game with us. Looking at the way our defense is pieced up and set, we need guys that are versatile, that we can move by game plan and by need. Cam definitely fits within that. Sean Spencer (defensive line coach) on the staff has spoken very highly of Cam since he got here. He’s also a guy that when you talk to other guys on Penn State and you hit them with who the leader on the defense is, without hesitation they all said Cam Brown. That stuck out to us. He’s been an alpha dog in the locker room and that brings the attitude we really look for on the field.
Media Q&A with Cam Brown (Video):
Q: I know when you were originally recruited to Penn State, they wanted you as a defensive end but there was that struggle to put weight on to play that position. What was that like for you and what do you think you can bring to this Giants defense that really doesn’t have a pass rush other than Markus Golden, who is not even on the team who has had double digit sacks the last couple years?
A: Honestly, the struggle coming to Penn State and trying to put on some weight, it wasn’t too much of a struggle, it was just something that would fit at the time. At the time, I was about 220, not even 220, like 200, and they figured I’d be more effective at linebacker at the time than at defensive end. So, I mean of course if I grew into a spot, they’d be open to moving to d-end. For me, luckily, it wasn’t necessary. It worked out well for me to be a linebacker at Penn State. Going into the Giants, I really do hope to just play my role, play whatever role that is as a linebacker, outside, inside, wherever the coaches need. I just want to make plays honestly. Just get my name out there so I can make plays.
Q: We know your Penn State connections to the Giants, I’m curious how many of those guys have you been in contact with? It’s probably pretty obvious that (Defensive Line Coach) Sean Spencer gave you a high recommendation for you to land here. What’s your relationship with him?
A: From the start honestly, I talked to Grant (Haley) and Saquon (Barkley) of course, Coach Spence, everybody on draft day congratulated me. Just reconnecting with them a little bit. With Say (Saquon) and Grant, it was more so I was just asking them for a little advice, just bouncing quick ideas off them real quick. But I’m pretty sure more communication will go on as long as this goes on, as long as we’re away from each other. But honestly, Coach Spence, Coach Spence is my guy. Like I said, I was going to be recruited as a d-end, so we had a relationship, he came to see me all of the time during recruitment in high school. It’s grown and blossomed. I feel like I became one of the guys he could trust on the defense and he’s one of the guys that I trusted him to go to with problems or things like that. Our relationship is growing and I hope it continues to blossom.
Q: What kind of background do you have in special teams? Did you play much in college?
A: Yeah, freshman and sophomore year, it was how I made my money honestly. It was how I got on the field. Freshman year, I played every special teams, kickoff, kick return, punt, punt return. Made some plays on kickoff and punt return. But sophomore year, I moved into, I still was playing a lot of special teams, that was more so kickoff, punt, a little bit of punt return there. But that year, or those two years, I was getting my feet wet, trying to get the experience, trying to understand the flow of the game. Just going against different players. I mean every game at kickoff you really get to size people up. The game always starts and ends with a kick, so it’s kind of what I got used to and kind of how I started my progression in college.
Q: Do you expect your NFL career to follow that same path?
A: Yeah, I do. I definitely understand that as a rookie coming in that I’m going to have to do and play all special teams. I mean it’s a 53-man roster, you’ve got to play your role and that role might be in multiple places. I’m willing and ready to play.
Q: Did you work a whole lot with Coach Spencer? I know he cross-trains a lot of guys. Can you just talk about working with him and what he teaches and what you think that’s going to translate to when you get to this level?
A: Yeah, Coach Spence…we used to call him the ultimate motivator. He’s going to get guys riled up, his coaching style is really energetic, he’s out there with you, he’s going to run around, he’s going to crack jokes with you. He’s going to yell at you, and he’ll get on you hard, but you know it’s coming from a loving place. With Coach Spence going through different drills, like certain days we had hunger drills where it was like each day you’re working out on things coaches feel like we need this week. Like maybe tackling, maybe hand work, pass rush. With Coach Spence, he was always there to correct those pass rush moves and things like that. I hope and pray we can get some more cross-training there so I keep up that relationship with him.
Q: I was wondering with your relationship with Coach Spencer, did you have any inkling that the Giants were looking to draft you? Also, what was your first interaction like with Joe Judge?
A: With Coach Spence, his congratulations were more so cordial, more so family-like than as coming as a coach. He’s always giving me a little bit of advice just to go ahead. But, with Coach Judge honestly, the conversations have been good. They’ve been positive, they’ve been welcoming is all I can say. But outside of that, I’m getting ready to have more conversations with him and grow from there.
Q: The Giants seem to embrace the idea of versatility. Was there a time in your college career where you said as much as I’m versatile, maybe focusing on one thing might kind of raise my profile a little bit? Do you feel like what kind of led people to maybe overlook you in college and might be something that when you get to this defense and the way they want to use you might expand your profile a little bit?
A: Honestly in college, I wasn’t too concerned on doing one thing. I was doing whatever was needed, whatever (Penn State Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers) Coach Pry asked me honestly, if that was jumping from positions — from Will, to Sam, to back to Mike, honestly for me, I feel like that versatility and that diversity in positions I’ve played has only helped me. I feel like I don’t mind if people may have overlooked me, that’s fine. I made my way to the NFL and I’m ready to show what I can do there and whatever the coaches want me to do there, pass rush, drop, coverage, whatever it may be, I’m ready to do it.
Q: When you watch the game now that is being played in the NFL, do you see yourself as someone who can thrive in doing that variety of things?
A: One hundred percent, yes, I do. I feel like, like I said the versatility in all the positions I’ve played have helped me a tremendous amount. At middle linebacker, sometimes you’ve got to guard running backs, you’ve got to guard tight ends. The outside, sometimes you’ve got to set up in the slot. Whatever it may be. I feel like with the spread offense that’s coming to the NFL and all these multiple weapons and big tight ends that everybody is using, I feel like I’ll be able to match up very well against them.
Q: You became kind of a Giants fan favorite on draft day with your tweet about the Cowboys. Where did that come from? Did you grow up a Giants or Eagles fan? Why did you grow up not liking the Cowboys?
A: Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you. I was probably watching a game when that tweet came out. But honestly, I’d rather not talk about something that went on seven years ago.
Q: Did you grow up a Giants fan?
A: Honestly no, I did not. I jumped around teams for a while and then grew up a Patriots fan.
Q: How does being 6’5” as a linebacker help you? Now, that’s big for a linebacker…the Giants have another one in Lorenzo Carter who’s tall like that, but you’d expect that size at defensive end.
A: Honestly, it helps getting in windows. When you’re 6’5” on the second level, and the quarterback is trying to throw a dig, it’s kind of hard when you’ve got to clear about seven to eight feet of height and length in arms. It’s kind of, for me, it’s been getting into windows, it helps with the range. Even when you’re diving through tackles, that length allows you to get a little bit further than most.
Q: Back to that initial phone call with Joe Judge. There’s been a lot of talk about how he was pretty serious with the other players who were drafted, not to go on and talk to us about Super Bowl expectations or anything like that. What was that call like? Also, playing at a program like Penn State where they’ve had 10 or 11 players drafted in the past two years, how does playing in a program like that get you ready for the jump to the NFL?
A: I think, especially with the Giants, it’s a great organization, it’s a very professional organization. I feel like with us, Penn State is known to be high standard, high character. I feel like that transition will be very smooth for me. Even with Coach Judge, he’s a humble guy. He wants us to have humble but ambitious goals honestly. From there, he wants us to focus on what we’ve got to do now, and that’s honestly getting through this Corona thing.
Q: You mentioned you feel you are very versatile. I want to get a better idea as to how versatile you are. Are you primarily a stand up a guy, have you ever played much with your hand in the dirt. Are you a five technique if you have played the defensive line, do you play nine wide? Can you fill in those gaps for me?
A: My freshmen year I played the Will, the boundary backer for us which gets a lot of action. Sophomore year, I moved to the Sam position while playing Will still. The Sam for us is almost like an NFL nickel. We sit on top of two, we’re rerouting receivers, we’re not really in the run game. Junior year, I stayed at Sam and played Mike on third downs. Mike for us on third downs is our pass coverages, our dollar (coverage), we’re mixing stuff up, blitzing, whatever it may be. Senior year, it was the same combination. I bounced around. Even at the Sam position, there’s no two wide, but I was playing the wide guy. Honestly, I played a little bit of everything. I haven’t put my hand in the dirt but outside of that, everything on the second level I have played.
Q: Joe Judge talked about the way they go about talking to players and they use it as an opportunity at times to pick your brain on other players. How different was your interaction with them as a team than with other organizations?
A: I can’t say it was too different. A lot of teams want to see how you react and how you respond to teams’ questions about other guys, either negative or positive. With them, they want to get more of a well-rounded view on me and how I looked at the game. That’s what they took out of it. When they asked questions like who is the best player you played against, I answered the question with J.K. Dobbins, who is an amazing player. Things like that, they just want to see your deeper understanding of football. I feel like that’s what they were getting out of that.
Q: Did they give you an idea of where they are going to start you at position wise?
A: Honestly at linebacker, I can tell you that. Outside or inside, that’s up for debate.
7th Round – LB Carter Coughlin, 6’3”, 236lbs, 4.58, University of Minnesota
Scouting Report: A 3-year starter at Minnesota, the 6’3”, 236-pound Coughlin is an outside linebacker who can play over the tight end. He may project to inside linebacker in the pros. Coughlin can set the edge against the run. Hustles and chases. Coughlin is limited by his athletic limitations, but he is a tough, competitive over-achiever who is reliable and consistent. Solid in coverage.
Sy’56’s Take: 40 career TFL + 22.5 career sacks. Sneaky athlete that will be a “multiple” LB for NYG defense that wants to be able to change schemes weekly. A natural in coverage, effective with his hands as a rusher, and plays low.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Dave Gettleman on LB Carter Coughlin: The next guy is Carter Coughlin. Another tall linear guy out of Minnesota. He’s 6’3 and change and 240. He can run. He’s got some versatility to him.
Joe Judge on LB Carter Coughlin: Dave hit this off the bat, the theme of the day was speed. He’s a guy that gives us more speed on the edge. He brings some length with him. He plays with a high motor and a lot of aggressiveness. He was productive in Minnesota’s scheme and with the way we are going to play guys on the edge in different packages, he’s someone with a lot of value. He will come in here and compete.
Media Q&A with Carter Coughlin (Video):
Q: What was it like being high school teammates with Ryan Connelly? Have you been in touch with him since the weekend?
A: I got a chance to play with Ryan my freshman and sophomore year. At Eden Prairie High School, Ryan was the starting quarterback, so it’s awesome that he switched over to linebacker, it clearly worked out for him. He texted me on draft day and I got a chance call him last night. He gave a rundown on a bunch of stuff, so it’s awesome to connect with him and I will be able to get some awesome wisdom from him.
Q: How was he as a quarterback?
A: He was a monster as a quarterback. He was built like a linebacker, crazy athletic and super smart. All that obviously translated over to his linebacker game. I still remember him standing on the 50-yard line with his feet planted and being able to throw the ball all the way to the endzone without an issue. He had a cannon for an arm.
Q: You were versatile at Minnesota. Can you talk about the positions and what they asked you to do on the defense?
A: At Minnesota, I got a chance to play our edge rush position. We just called it our rush. It’s kind of a hybrid outside linebacker mixed with defensive end. It allowed me to drop into coverage, it allowed me to get after the quarterback, play off tight ends and play near the line of scrimmage. It really allowed me to play a bunch of different aspects of what an outside linebacker could look like or even a defensive end. I loved the rush position.
Q: Did you play with your hand in the dirt?
A: No. I always stayed up on my feet at the University of Minnesota.
Q: You have a long family line that has attended the University of Minnesota. Why was that so important to you to continue that tradition?
A: I grew up a Gopher fan since the day I came out of the womb. For me, I took a lot of pride in the University of Minnesota. Being a Gopher fan for a while, it was kind of tough sometimes because there were a lot of years where it was down and then you would catch a glimmer of hope and it would go back down. When I was deciding where I wanted to go to school, I decided I wanted to be a part of making Minnesota as great as the days when my grandpa played and they were winning championships and all that kind of stuff. From that aspect, I had pride at Minnesota, and I decided I wanted to be a part of building the program.
Q: You had a lot success in college getting sacks, rushing the passer. How do you see that translating to the NFL? The Giants did not really draft pass rushers and they need pass rushers. As a seventh rounder, can you be a guy that can contribute in that regard?
A: Being a swiss army knife is always useful. Whatever position the coaches decide to put me at, I guarantee you I will be able to maximize my potential there. Whether that looks like special teams, whether that looks like a positional fit, I’ll be able to use a lot of the different tools I have been able to build up through college. To able to maximize every opportunity I get.
Q: What do you think the key to being a successful pass rusher at the next level will be?
A: I’d say to continue to harness in on some of the details that I think, since I’ve been out of college, that I’ve been able to identify. Stuff that I really want to work on. But I think a lot of it, too, is watching film. That played out a lot for me in college, identifying what the opposing offensive tackle struggles with, how he moves his feet, how he shoots his hands, whether he leans, all of that kind of stuff. I think that transfers even more to the NFL because from what I’ve heard it’s a whole bunch of film and note taking and that’s right up my wheelhouse. I’ll be able to continue to develop those skills of learning and taking notes and watching film and all of that kind of stuff.
Q: I know you have a long legacy at Minnesota, but the Coughlin name also has a big legacy here with the Giants. Have you ever met Coach Coughlin? I’m assuming you’re not related at a distant point.
A: No, I’ve never met him, and we are not related, but I’ve got a bunch of people that have been asking me that over social media.
7th Round – LB T.J. Brunson, 6’0”, 230lbs, N/A, University of South Carolina
Scouting Report: The 6’0”, 230-pound Brunson is an undersized inside linebacker with decent but not ideal athleticism. He is very physical and aggressive, to the point where it sometimes hurts his game. Brunson needs to play under more control and consistently wrap up as a tackler. Hard worker and team leader.
Sy’56’s Take: One of the biggest combine snubs. Bruiser that leaves a mark when he hits you, shows good tackle to tackle range. Versatile on third down because he can blitz well and carry tight ends up the seam.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Dave Gettleman on LB T.J. Brunson: The next guy is T.J. Brunson. T.J. played at South Carolina as you guys know. He’s a little bit smaller. He plays the stack Will linebacker. He’s fast, he’s really athletic, he’s got good instincts. He’s just a little bit on the small side but he plays at about 230. We feel like he will be a really good fit and also has a lot of special teams value.
Joe Judge on LB T.J. Brunson: He’s a guy you see making tackles sideline-to-sideline. He’s also a guy in South Carolina’s scheme and (Will) Mushchamp’s scheme down there isn’t the simplest. Guys have been challenged mentally being down there. They’ve been coached hard. It’s very similar to the guys we talked about playing at Georgia and Alabama. Very similar schemes, very similar cultures. He’s a guy that was out there making a lot of calls so you can see the communication element with him on the field as well as the productivity on the field.
Media Q&A with T.J. Brunson (Video):
Q: I was looking at your bio for South Carolina and a lot of things that were highlighted was tenacity, leadership…is that you?
A: Yes, sir. That’s me.
Q: Where did that come from?
A: I believe that the tenacity and everything came from just the way I was raised. I have two older brothers, so I kind of came up fighting them, wrestling around with them. I come from an athletic family, so sports have always been kind of something that we’ve done. Just growing up in that type of household, it made me competitive, it made me fierce. I just go out on the field and have fun.
Q: How long did it take you to beat them?
A: They kind of stopped once I started getting bigger. I don’t think they’ve really tried to mess with me since I’ve gotten older, but I never got a chance to.
Q: What are you doing to stay in shape, what’s your situation like amid this? Also, what were your interactions with Joe Judge before the draft and then when he called you, what was your impression of him?
A: Right now, just with working out and everything, I’ve been trying to stay within social distancing guidelines. I’ve been able to get in what I need to and stick to my routine so far. Before the draft, my only interaction with Coach Judge was at the Senior Bowl. I was lucky enough to be a participant of that and I had an interview with the Giants. That was the first interaction and I thought he was a pretty laid back guy. You know, he’s about ball and he knows what he’s talking about for sure. I’m excited to play for him and get on the team and just see what the Giants are about.
Q: What was that initial call like when you got the call that you were drafted by him? What was his message to you?
A: Really, he just asked me if I was ready to work. It was pretty simple. Let me know that they liked me, and they thought I was a good player. You know, the real message there was just come in ready to work and prove yourself.
Q: I read that you played over 2,500 snaps in college over a three-year career, which would suggest good durability on your part. Can you talk about your durability and also what are some of the roles they asked you to play within that defense?
A: When it comes to durability, I feel like I’m a guy that’s going to just be out there every game, as long as I’m healthy. But I’m a guy that’s going to do what it takes to get on the field to help my team out. That just comes with preparation and just how I take care of my body.
Q: What type of role did you play in the defense?
A: I think I was the guy that just went out there to bring energy and to play fast, but I’ve played Mike, Will and wherever else I needed to line up. There were a few times that I lined up as a single high safety and I was a middle field safety. So, wherever they need me to play, I feel like I’m comfortable and I’m able to do it.
Q: I see you were also a two-time captain. What did that mean to you to be voted captain by your peers?
A: Yes, being a two-time captain is big just for the simple fact that I was voted on by my peers. It just made me feel as if I had a stronger role to play on the team. I was definitely a guy that had to come out every day and prove myself and prove why I had those titles.
Q: As a guy who was a captain in college, seventh round pick coming in as a rookie, there is a lot of emphasis on culture in terms of what Joe Judge is trying to build. How do you come in as a rookie and try to assert that leadership role right away?
A: My only focus is getting in and doing what I’m supposed to do to help the team. I don’t have any predictions, or I don’t plan on going in there being that guy. I just want to go in there and do my job and do it to the best of my capabilities. Whatever is asked of me, I plan on doing it at full speed and just doing it the way that it should be done.
Q: Were there any alumni from South Carolina or any current pros that might have helped you out through this process, given you some advice, trained with you, or that sort of thing?
A: I’ve had a couple different guys just talk to me. Taylor Stallworth is one of those guys, they just kept me level. Dennis Daley as well. They really just kept me level to the process of training for the combine, pro day or whatever and getting ready for the draft and now we’re post-draft. It’s a little bit different this year than what they had to go through, but I think they’ve given me enough information and knowledge of what to expect that I’m pretty…I’m ready for it.
Q: I’m curious what your experience level was like in college on special teams? Do you know anybody that you’ve come across from this draft class that you’re close with? I know there are a couple of linebackers there that were all drafted late by this team…do you know each other from the pre-draft things or even college recruiting?
A: I know Cam Brown from Senior Bowl and he’s the only guy that I really know.
Q: And special teams?
A: When I came into South Carolina, I started off on special teams and that was my way of getting on the field and getting on the roster. That was also how the coaches gained their trust in the players, so whatever it took. I was out on every type of drill that they had in practice, I was going out trying to get out there first. I know that’s kind of my role and how I make this team, how I can help out and make it better. Any type of special teams, whatever they need me to do, I’m out there.
Q: What role on special teams did you like? Were there any that stood out?
A: I think my favorite is probably punt. But I don’t mind…I like kickoff, punt return. I like everything pretty much.
Q: I was reading up and saw you played basketball for a while and then gave it up. I guess the line was that you have five fouls and used them all pretty much every game. Is that fair?
A: I’m not sure where that came from. I grew up playing baseball. I’ve been a baseball player my whole life. I played…I started varsity in eighth grade, played all of the way through my senior year. But I kind of had to, just because of the way football and baseball worked, I missed a lot of travel ball and stuff because of football workouts. I decided after a while I put in so much time in football and they give full scholarships, so I decided to take the football route.
Q: Where did you play baseball? What was your favorite position?
A: I played third base. My senior year, I got moved to right field because we didn’t have any outfielders. I played third, I played first but primarily third.
Q: Were you a good hitter?
A: I’d like to think so.
Q: When was the last time you were in a cage and swung a bat?
A: Since high school.
Q: If they (Giants) have one of those charity softball games, you’ll jump in and maybe surprise us.
A: I’ll be out there, no doubt.
Q: Do you know Tae Crowder at all? I know you were picked a couple spots prior to him. Him being the last pick in the entire draft, can there be some fun element to that?
A: I haven’t had any personal conversations with him. I played against him the past couple of years. I’ve seen him play in person. I’m sure he’s a baller, I know he’s a baller for the fact that he was in the position he’s in. I was in the same position almost. I’m looking forward to working. I don’t really have much to say. I haven’t talked to him or said anything to him, but I’m excited. I know what type of guys Georgia has and I know that he is going to come out there and be a dog.
Q: You initially committed to Louisville and then flipped to South Carolina and you had somewhat of a special relationship with your head coach. Tell us a little bit about that relationship.
A: I was committed to Louisville and I took my official visit in December, I think. It just didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like home for me. I committed to South Carolina with Coach Mushchamp. I was also Coach Muschamp’s first visit after he got the job after the press conference. Everything he told me from day one has pretty much come to fruition. Those things were just you get in here, work hard, keep your head down and you’ll see what you’re working for. Over the years, our relationship grew and I kind of understood him and what he wants in the program and things like that. It made it easier for me.
Q: What did it mean to you that you were the first recruit he went to visit after he was hired?
A: It was big to know that someone, especially a coach like that in the SEC, felt like I was important enough to go out and get to help start a team for his inaugural season. That’s going down in history, we’re his first class. It’s crazy looking back at it knowing all of our stories and how we got there and things like that.
Q: How much are you interested to see how this remote learning thing works? Are you worried about it? Do you have any experience with it? Is it a disadvantage for rookies to be learning this way? Is there disappointment in not getting onto the field at a rookie minicamp?
A: Because of everything going on right now, I think this is the best option we have. I personally don’t have an issue with it. I’d rather be up there in person. If this is how we have to get our football in, then there’s no problem with that. As far as I know from what I’ve been told, the way they have it set up, it seems like it’s going to be helpful for us. I think it’s a disadvantage for rookies not to see where they are going to be and be there in person. We’re also expected to come in and pick up what’s going on and play fast. I think this will help us when we get there. Hopefully it’s before August. If we don’t get there until August, we’re supposed to hit the ground and be able to pick up everything that’s going on. I think this gives us a chance to really understand the calls and the defense and get out there and play fast.
Q: You think if you get here by August there will be even more appreciation for playing?
A: Definitely. That’s when it will really settle in for me. Once I get a helmet on and get up there and start playing around, I think that’s when it will be real.
Q: You don’t even have any Giants gear right? Are they going to send you any Giants gear?
A: I hope so, I’m waiting on it. I’m definitely waiting on it. My dad’s a Raiders fan, my whole family is Raiders fans.
Q: You have to wear blue not black right?
A: Yeah, definitely now. We’re going to deck the house out in some blue.
Q: Playing in the SEC I’m curious who were some of the best offensive linemen? Did you ever line up opposite Andrew Thomas and what was it like going up against him?
A: We would go through the scouting reports and we know which guys are the guys for each team. I don’t think I had too many run ins with a lot of those big offensive linemen. I did my best to stay away from them. I ran into Jedrick Willis from Alabama, pretty strong guy, athletic. Isaiah (Wilson), he can move, good pick. Because it’s the SEC, you see guys week in and week, out so it’s almost hard to figure out which guy is that guy on each team when it comes to offensive line. I don’t really have much to say on that because I wasn’t on the ball with those guys.
7th Round – CB/S Chris Williamson, 6’0”, 200lbs, 4.43, University of Minnesota
Scouting Report: The 6’0”, 200-pound Williams combines good size and overall athleticism. He has experience playing as a hybrid inside defensive back/linebacker and is physical with receivers in coverage. Williamson is aggressive in run support and will hit but he needs to play under more control.
Sy’56’s Take: One of the favorites down at Shrine week. Top shelf athletic ability but also shows the discipline to stay in phase, trusting his feet and balance. Might be an ideal fit for nickel but can play outside.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Dave Gettleman on DB Chris Williamson: Next we drafted the safety out of Minnesota, Chris Williamson. Good sized kid. He’s long, he can run and he’ll hit you.
Joe Judge on DB Chris Williamson: This is a guy who’s going to have some combination corner to safety. We call it the star position, that nickel position as well. He’ll bring some position flexibility in the defensive backfield. He’s got a good size and speed combination. We look for him to compete at multiple positions this year.
Media Q&A with Chris Williamson (Video):
Q: I’m sure for every young guy it’s a dream of a lifetime to get drafted. What was this experience like, the remote experience, and what have your interactions with the Giants been? What have they told you in what to expect going forward here?
A: To have my dream finally come true, it’s been a huge blessing. It still hasn’t truly hit me yet, just because I’ve been home. I’ve been around my family and stuff like that, but it still hasn’t truly hit me all the way. So, I’m still letting it hit me day by day. It was a good experience. I was with my dad and my brother at the time when I found out. Just to see the excitement on their faces, they know I was excited as well too. I know they were happy for me as well because it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to hear my name called in the NFL. To finally have my name called, it was just like a huge weight off my shoulders and I feel extremely humbled and blessed by the experience.
Q: Most rookies in other years would be getting ready to come to New Jersey, you’re not doing that. What do you think it’s going to be like with a virtual rookie minicamp?
A: I don’t have any expectations because I really don’t, I don’t know what to expect at this time. We’ll see how everything goes, but it’s something I’m looking forward to, most definitely.
Q: When we spoke to Joe Judge, he was talking about you playing corner, safety, sort of what they call the star position. What have been your experiences where you did play in college. When you spoke to teams where did they sort of envision you fitting in?
A: Yeah, the one thing a lot of teams talked to me about is my versatility. I have the ability to play multiple positions in the back end. Even with the Giants, they kind of talked about me doing the same thing of being able to do those multiple positions. But every team I talked to kind of had that same idea for me. I’d be a guy who’d kind of be like a Swiss Army Knife and can do multiple things on the back end.
Q: How much did you actually play safety in college and do that part of it?
A: Well, I didn’t get to play a whole bunch of safety. But actually I had a spring ball, actually when I was at Florida, where I did nothing but strictly safety. So, I’ve actually had the opportunity throughout my college career to practice at each position.
Q: I saw that right after you were drafted you got the Darius Slayton seal of approval for the pick. Tell me about your relationship with him, how far back do you guys go?
A: Man, me and Darius’ relationship, it goes back extremely far. I’ve known Darius… I mean we grew up playing football against each other, we grew up running track against each other. The biggest memory me and him have of each other is playing each other in our 9-year-old football league, the Gwinnett Football League, which is one of the top youth football leagues in Georgia. Like I was talking about earlier, we played them in the regular season and they beat us pretty bad. It was like 34-0. I know at the time they got the mercy rule as the youth football league, so they mercy ruled us. They actually beat us pretty good. Then later on in the season we got the chance to play them again in the 9-year-old football championship for the Gwinnett Football League. The funny thing about it, his team hadn’t lost a game in two to three years, so they were the best team in the league. So, they pulled up to the championship game in all white stretched-out Hummer limousines. These are 9-year-old kids now, pulling up in limousines. They were expecting to win. We played the game and we actually won the game, 14-0, so we came out on top. I mean I know it had to be kind of embarrassing pulling up in a limousine and losing. But you know, it’s something I still hold over Darius to this day.
Q: Did you get to ride the limos home at least?
A: No, we didn’t. That was their team. I don’t even think they rode the limos home (laughter).
Q: Were you always a defensive back and he was always a receiver?
A: No, I was actually an offensive guy. I grew up playing offense the majority of my life. I didn’t actually switch to defense until my senior year of high school. I was always kind of training for it, but I had never actually truly played it in a game until my senior year of high school. Actually, Darius was a corner in high school, so he kind of, I mean he was doing corner and wide receiver in high school and I guess he decided to stick with wide receiver in his college career.
Q: I was looking at your background and it looks like a lot of the decisions you made moving from wide receiver to defensive back, transferring to from Florida to Minnesota with maybe a path to the NFL in mind. Is that the case? Talk a little bit about Ray Buchanon.
A: That’s honestly where it all kind of starts. The move from wide receiver to defensive back honestly came from Ray Buchanon. I met him in the summer of eighth grade when I was training. Me and him have had an extremely close relationship up until this day. He still mentors me and I train with him every time I’m home. I was always playing receiver and I was a six-foot receiver. You can find a lot of six-foot receivers, but I was kind of a bigger defensive back. The one nugget that Ray always put in my head was you’re an average size receiver, but you’re a big defensive back that can move. There’s not too many guys who are big and can move that get paid at the next level. He was always throwing that nugget in my head. My senior year of high school was the first year I had played defensive back. I had always been training with him for defensive back, but I never truly played it in a high school game. I definitely give the credit for me making that move to Ray Bucannon.
Q: I want to follow up with Ray Buchanon, he played for a Super Bowl team in the Atlanta Falcons. What are some of the lessons he taught you? You mentioned he was very instrumental in your development. Can talk about some of the things he taught you that you feel were instrumental in getting you to the next level?
A: He was one of the first people I talked to when I was considering transferring. He has always been a person that has my best interest at heart. He always wanted what was best for me. He was a huge asset to have during that time period. The transition from wide receiver to defensive back was something he helped me with, as well. He’s had a huge role in my corner. He’s more so like a second father to me as well. Just having somebody like that who’s already played in the NFL is a huge blessing. I can still train with him, there’s a lot of things about the game he teaches me as well. Things I may not see. I have the opportunity to send him clips of film from practice and he’ll break that down for me and stuff that I did wrong. It’s a true blessing to have somebody like that in my corner.
Q: What about in terms of the little things? We talk about players taking care of their bodies and all that stuff. Things that you don’t necessarily learn at the college level. Did he share some of that with you?
A: Yeah, he always expressed to me the importance of taking care of my body. I truly learned on my own my freshman year of college. Having to go through and just deal with some of my own injuries, it was kind of something I learned on my own. He’s definitely always told me the importance of taking care of my body. Putting the right things in terms of the right fluid and food in my body as well.
Q: You said you were with your dad and your brother when you got the call. Younger brother or older brother?
A: Younger brother, he’s 19, he will be 20 this year. He actually plays ball at Stanford.
Q: What kind of background do you have on special teams? Is that something you did in college? It’s probably where you will start out with this team.
A: Most definitely. Throughout my college career I played on every single special teams and that’s something I was able to communicate with each and every team that I talked to. This past year they took a lot of our guys, a lot of our starters, and kept them off special teams. We had a lot of young guys who they wanted to get out there and see them in some smaller roles. They took a lot of our starters off special teams this year. Throughout my college career, I played every special teams so that’s not an issue at all.
Q: Are you going to room with Carter (Coughlin) when you finally do get here?
A: It’s definitely something that was discussed. It would be nice because that’s somebody that can help me. We can help each other throughout this process. That’s somebody I already know that I have had a previous relationship with, that I’ve played with. We are both on the same side of the ball and can learn the playbook together. It would be nice to room with Carter.
Q: I asked you before about remote learning. How do you think that’s going to go down? Do you think that’s going to be a big disadvantage for rookies coming in, instead of getting on the field and showing what you can do this spring? Do you have any experience with remote learning?
A: I don’t think it puts anybody at a disadvantage. Of course, every rookie that’s coming in wants to get on the field and show what they can do. Football is such a physical game, but it’s also a part of the mental makeup. Guys who are successful at the NFL level, it comes from the mental aspect of the game. We’ll be able to expand our mental part of the game and come in and maybe be more ready than just being thrown into the fire of things. We’ve had time to talk it over with coaches and stuff like that. I don’t think it puts us at a disadvantage. It might be an advantage honestly.
7th Round – LB Tae Crowder, 6’3”, 235lbs, N/A, University of Georgia
Scouting Report: The 6’3”, 235-pound Crowder was moved from running back to linebacker in college and thus is still learning the position. Only a 1-year starter. He is a good athlete and has added size to his frame. More instinctive than you would expect given his lack of experience.
Sy’56’s Take: Leader of a talented Georgia defense that plays fast and physical. Maybe more of a 2-down guy that the team drafted for special teams, the theme of their 7th round.
Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:
Dave Gettleman on LB Tae Crowder: The last guy who in former days of the NFL draft was called Mr. Irrelevant Tae Crowder, the linebacker out of Georgia. He was a running back early, they converted him. He’s a 245-pound kid that runs 4.6 and plays 4.6. He’s got some versatility and some value and definitely has some special teams value.
Joe Judge on LB Tae Crowder: This is a guy that’s only played a couple years at linebacker. We see a lot of upside with him. Both in his physical skills as well as his emerging defensive understanding. He’ll come in and compete for positions at that Will linebacker spot as well as give impact to the kicking game. We think we added a very competitive group over these last few days. We think today we brought in a lot of guys with versatility and speed.
Media Q&A with Tae Crowder:
Q: I read that there were a lot of teams that were interested in you as an undrafted free agent. What was that whole process at the end when the Giants announced that they were going to pick you? What was that moment like where maybe you were thinking you weren’t going to get drafted?
A: It was a crazy moment, you know. It was really stressful. A lot of teams were kind of saying the same things. It came down to who I thought was the best. But New York was one of them and they ended up pulling the trigger. I just thank God for that.
Q: What was that moment like when they did announce your name and you knew you were a draft pick?
A: It was crazy just because I was already planning on signing for free agency. That whole process, I can’t even explain how it felt but my family was happy, I was happy and that’s all that matters.
Q: What’s the difference between getting drafted and becoming a free agent? Are you familiar with the Mr. Irrelevant concept and can you have a little bit of fun with it?
A: Obviously I can now that I read up on it, but at first, I knew about Mr. Irrelevant but I didn’t know all of the stuff that came with it. It’s pretty special for me and my family. We’ll have fun with it.
Q: I think the guy usually gets a parade and things like that. I don’t know if they are going to be able to do that this year, but did you get anything from this honor?
A: Yeah, so they called me right after the draft and we kind of talked about everything, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to actually do it. I think they’ll reach out to me, I guess, when everything clears up. We’ll just have to find a way to plan it with my family.
Q: Just to clarify, were you going to sign with the Giants? That was a team you had chosen?
A: I don’t know who I was going to sign with at the moment, but I just thank God that they pulled the trigger and drafted me.
Q: I was doing some research on you and I saw that you had a rather interesting path to get to where you are. You started off at Georgia Southern and then you switched over to Georgia and you were initially recruited, I think, as a running back. Can you just walk us through that journey and how you kind of got from point A to where you are now?
A: Yeah, so I was committed to Georgia Southern for a while and I was going to end up switching to the University of Kentucky late, but I always knew I wanted to go to Georgia. I was having conversations with different people trying to figure out some things and trying to see if Georgia was going to ever offer me. But the week of signing day, that’s when I ended up finding out they wanted to give me the offer. They gave me the offer like two days or a day prior to signing day. That whole time was stressful for me, too, but that’s how I ended up going to Georgia.
Q: How did they flip you from running back, which I believe they initially recruited you as, to linebacker? How did that come about?
A: I was just on scout team at practice, just working hard, and my coach ended up noticing it just going against the number one defense, making plays, he saw that I was an athlete and that I should be on the field. He reached out to me, we had a meeting, and he was like he sees me as a linebacker and stuff like that, as a defensive player. We just had a one-day tryout, and at that tryout I ended up doing pretty good and I stayed there from then.
Q: I know you’re excited to be drafted and all, but there are some that believe if you get that low in the draft it’s actually better to have the option of being a free agent to choose your own place. Did that thought ever cross your mind, leaving the draft?
A: Yeah, my agent was talking about it the whole time. Like I said, we were already planning on doing free agent stuff. It worked out for me though. I can’t complain about getting drafted and coming to a great organization. Like I said, I’m just truly blessed for this.
Q: What is the difference between being the last pick in the draft in terms of what it means to you just to be drafted versus being a free agent? In terms of money there is a little bit of a difference, but what does it mean to be drafted?
A: It means a lot to me and my family and my community. I’m one of the first ones from my town to get drafted and that’s pretty big where I’m from. I’m from a small town, many people don’t make it from here. It brought the city out, they have my name hanging up in different places and stuff like that. It was a blessing and a dream come true for me.
Q: Can you be more specific about what kind of things were hanging in town? Did they have some banners hanging up for you and things like that?
A: Yeah, they had some banners. At the high school, they had a program with my name on there saying, ‘Congrats Tae Crowder, NFL Draft 2020’. Stuff like that.
Q: That wouldn’t have happened if you were a free agent, right?
A: We’ll never know.
Q: Can you talk about your teammate in college who will be your teammate in the NFL (Andrew Thomas)?
A: Andrew Thomas is a great player, a great person. He takes his work serious, he’s just a great kid. Football and off the field stuff is really important to him, and I respect him for that. I loved each day at practice in college just going to work with him, helping him lead the team and stuff like that. I highly respect my teammate Andrew Thomas.
Q: Did you go up against him a lot in practice?
A: Yeah, we went up against each other a few times and he was pretty good.
Q: You could have been running behind him instead of going up against him.
A: You’re right about that. I think I would rather run behind him.
Q: You went against Sony Michel and Nick Chubb in practice a lot. Can you just talk about the challenges and what that taught? How did that help you find your skills as a linebacker?
A: Just being in the room with them as a running back, it was crazy switching sides. From running drills with them to now I have to run drills against him. It just made me better as a young linebacker going against great athletes like them. It was fun, sometimes it was tough moving to linebacker and going against them. They were first round and second round picks. It paid off and it made me better.
Q: You are being reunited with quote unquote your “dogs”, Lorenzo Carter and DeAndre Baker. What does that mean to be reunited with them on the same defense? What can you guys bring together with that Georgia Bulldog mentality?
A: It’s just a dream come true. We know how each other works. It will be fun catching up, going to work with them and being on the field with each other once again.
Q: Can you describe what kind of a player you are? Can you play Will, Sam, can you cover running backs? Can you give me a handle on that?
A: I’m an aggressive player, a disciplined player. A hard-working player and I like to make plays for the team. I can play Sam, I can play Will and Mike. I’m pretty good in coverage. I love to fit the run and I love to cover backs too.
QB Case Cookus, 6’3”, 221lbs, 4.83, Northern Arizona University (Video)
Cookus had a promising collegiate career derailed with season-ending injuries in 2016 and 2018. Gunslinger who has been super-productive when he plays.
RB Javon Leake, 6’0”, 215lbs, 4.71, University of Maryland (Video)
Leake was a junior entry and rotational starter at Maryland. He is much faster than he timed at the Combine. Slashing, cut-and-go running back with good size. He is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball. Leake is not a physical runner and he was rarely used in the passing game in college. Leake also returns kickoffs. He has had fumbling issues.
WR Binjimen Victor, 6’4”, 198lbs, 4.56, Ohio State University (Video)
Victor was a 4-year rotational player at Ohio State. Tall and slender, Victor can leap and has a huge catch radius. He is a natural athlete and pass catcher who can make big plays and highlight-reel catches. He needs to play with more consistency. He also has to prove he can defeat NFL press coverage.
WR Austin Mack, 6’1”, 208lbs, 4.59, Ohio State University (Video)
Mack was a rotational player at Ohio State. Muscular wideout with good size. He is more of a possession receiver, but he is a natural pass receiver who can make the tough grab.
WR Derrick Dillon, 5’11’, 185lbs, 4.47, LSU (Video)
Dillon is a smaller, speedy wide receiver with limited collegiate production. He has had some big plays in big games.
WR/TE Rysen John, 6’7”, 237lbs, 4.65, Simon Fraser University (Video)
John has an intriguing combination of size and athletic ability. He could be used at a number of different positions including wide receiver, tight end, and H-Back.
TE Kyle Markway, 6’4”, 252lbs, 4.79, University of South Carolina (Video)
Markway has a good frame and long arms. Better blocker than receiver. Markway won’t threaten a defense as a receiver due to his athletic limitations, but he can catch the football.
OC/OG Kyle Murphy, 6’3”, 316lbs, 5.34, University of Rhode Island (Video)
Murphy was a 3-year starter in college with experience all along the offensive line. Team leader. Murphy moves well with good agility.
OC/OG Tyler Haycraft, 6’3”, 295lbs, University of Louisville (Video)
Tough, gritty, smart player with decent athleticism.
DE/LB Niko Lalos, 6’5”, 268lbs, 4.82, Dartmouth College (Video)
Lalos played defensive end in college but could project to outside linebacker at the pro level.
LB Dominique Ross, 6’4”, 228lbs, University of North Carolina
Ross played a hybrid nickelback/linebacker role in college where he was used both in coverage and as a blitzer.
LB Dana Levine, 6’3”, 235lbs, 4.82, Temple University (Video)
Levine played defensive end in college but projects to outside linebacker at the pro level. Tough guy who flashes explosiveness, but he needs to play off of blocks better.
LB Oluwole Betiku, Jr., 6’3”, 249lbs, 4.69, University of Illinois (Video)
Levine played defensive end in college but projects to outside linebacker at the pro level. Tough guy who flashes explosiveness, but he needs to play off of blocks better.
CB Malcolm Elmore, 5’11”, 186lbs, 4.48, Central Methodist University
CB Christian Angulo, 6’2”, 190lbs, Hampton University (Video)
S Jaquarius Landrews, 5’11”, 196lbs, 4.43, Mississippi State University (Video)
Firmly ensconced in the franchise’s darkest period since the 1964-1980 nadir, the New York Giants entered the 2020 NFL draft with significant needs virtually at every position. That is not surprising for a team with a 12-36 record over the span of the last three seasons. This was Dave Gettleman’s third draft as New York’s head man and Chris Pettit’s second draft as the team’s Director of College Scouting. The new voice in the room was first-year Head Coach Joe Judge as Gettleman whiffed badly on his first coaching choice to turn the Giants around, Pat Shurmur.
Approaching the draft, media and fan focus was almost exclusively centered on whether the Giants should draft linebacker Isaiah Simmons or an offensive linemen with their first pick. Further debate ensued on whether the Giants should trade down and acquire additional selections and which offensive linemen was the best prospect. The choice would have been obvious had the Giants not defeated the Redskins in overtime in Week 16. The Giants would have walked away with Chase Young, but alas that was not to be.
The Giants entered the draft with 10 picks, though that was a bit misleading as only three of those selections were within the top 100 slots. The rest of the selections all came on day three, with four of those being in the final round. Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants did not trade once, either up or down, during the entire 3-day affair.
Overall, this was one of the team’s most fascinating drafts in recent memory. All 10 picks were focused on the offensive line, secondary, and linebacking corps. No offensive skill positions were selected. No defensive linemen were selected. Three of the first five selections were on offense, but seven players were taken on defense, including the last five picks. This was a bread-and-butter, no frills draft completely concentrated on only three areas.
The first three picks went pretty much as expected with the Bengals taking Joe Burrow, the Redskins taking Chase Young, and the Lions taking Jeff Okudah. Would the Giants take Simmons, one of the offensive tackles, or trade down? My personal preference was for the Giants to trade down a few spots and then select one of the tackles. I think Simmons will be a very good player, but I wondered if he would be a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type who really didn’t have a true NFL position. Time will tell as Simmons was selected four picks later by the Cardinals.
Regarding trading down, Gettleman said afterwards, “We had conversations, but everyone was touchy-feely, maybe yes, maybe no. There were no firm offers anywhere. There is nothing that made me look at John Mara and Joe (Judge) and say let’s trade back and get some more picks. There really wasn’t much there… There wasn’t a lot of action.”
So somewhat predictably, the Giants stood pat and selected Andrew Thomas. When the pick was announced, I breathed a sigh of relief. Knock on wood, but Thomas was probably one of the safest selections in this draft. The word “safe” often has a negative meaning when discussing draft prospects, but not in this case. Despite what some have argued, Thomas’ upside is significant. Despite just turning 21 in January, Thomas is an enormous young man. He looks and plays bigger than his listed size (6’5”, 315lbs) with a huge base and tree trunk arms. He is a very good athlete and the only guy among the top four who everyone believed could handle left tackle at the pro level. A lot of people preferred Tristan Wirfs, but Wirfs’ best natural position may be guard. (Wirfs was selected nine picks later by Tampa Bay AFTER Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton).
In hindsight, if the Giants felt there was a significant gap between Thomas and the other three, it is fortunate they stayed pat. According to NJ.com, the Browns, Colts, Dolphins, Chargers, Cardinals, and Panthers had Thomas rated as the top tackle. Thomas also wowed everyone at the NFL Combine during the interview process. So the Giants are not only getting a top talent, but someone who everyone was impressed with personally in terms of his character and ability to learn the NFL game.
Entering the second round on day two, a number of still-available defensive prospects stood out like sore thumbs. This included DL Yetur Gross-Matos, DL A.J. Epenesa, S Xavier McKinney, S Grant Delpit, and a few others. Some thought the Giants may dive into the WR-rich draft at this point or maybe reach for a center. But need-value seemed to strongly suggest defense and it was no surprise that the Giants picked McKinney, who they even tried to trade up for as they considered him a 1st-round talent. (Charley Casserly claims that he knows at least 12 teams felt the same way). The other option here was to trade down and try to bridge the huge gap between the Giants’ picks at 36 and 99. But it is interesting to note that THREE safeties went in the next nine picks, including the Patriots selecting a safety right after the Giants took McKinney, who many regarded as the best safety in the draft.
I saw some Giants fans react negatively to this pick by claiming that safety wasn’t a big need. With all due respect to these individuals, you’re nuts. Safety has been a huge need on this team for years and safety play is one of the major reasons why this team has only won 12 games in three years. It was not only a need, it was a gigantic need. I also don’t agree with those who say McKinney is only a strong safety. In Nick Saban’s defense, McKinney split his time equally between three positions: 285 snaps in the box, 271 snaps at free safety, and 227 snaps in the slot. Saban is not having a subpar athlete playing in the slot and at free safety – not on that team and in that pro-style defense. When people look at McKinney, I think they see an aggressive, physical player who makes a lot big hits and plays around the line of scrimmage, assume that is the strength of his game (which it is), but then also assume he can’t do other things (which he can). Another phrase kept coming up when people described McKinney: “alpha dog.” Boy, do the Giants need that kind of guy on defense! Big picture, the Giants now have two interchangeable athletes at safety in Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham can keep offenses guessing as to who will be playing where as both can move up or back as designed. The days of Curtis Riley and Antoine Bethea are over.
Because of Gettleman’s odd and still controversial decision to trade for pending free agent DL Leonard Williams during a losing season, the Giants were without their own #3 draft pick and had to wait 63 picks for their next selection at the end of the 3rd round (really 4th round when you consider how all of these compensatory picks have diluted rounds 3-7). Stating the obvious, round 3 has not been kind to the Giants, although to be fair, the team has done better under Gettleman in this round. On the surface, the selection of Matt Peart appears to be an excellent one. Peart was widely regarded as one of the best offensive tackle prospects in this draft. He’s another big, athletic tackle with incredibly long arms who just looks the part. Both Thomas and Peart move effortlessly for big men, they make it look easy at times. And despite being 310lbs, Peart actually looks like he can add another 20 pounds easy to his frame. Other than level of competition concerns (UConn), the biggest negative I’ve seen on him is that he needs to play with more nastiness. That can be an issue. This game is not for the faint of heart. Unless the Giants dump Nate Solder (unlikely given the fact they have already given him his $3 million roster bonus and the uncertainty of training camp with the COVID situation), Peart will likely sit for a year before contending for a starting tackle spot in 2021.
Despite my nagging concern for a center, I had no issues with Darnay Holmes in the 4th round. I think a lot of fans reacted by saying, “Why cornerback? Gettleman already acquired James Bradberry, Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, and Corey Ballentine!” Yes, but none those guys have proven they can handle slot corner, which is an entirely different skill set and a de facto starter in today’s NFL. Holmes was an outside corner at UCLA whose skill set screams slot corner. I will say this, Holmes was the one guy who people were all over the board about. Some people love him (Bucky Brooks felt he was the #1 slot corner in the draft). Others were less enthusiastic. Interestingly, Chris Pettit actually singled Holmes out as one of the guys he was most excited who the Giants drafted (see his comments at the 5-minute mark). If you believe slot corner is a start position in the NFL, the Holmes has a very good chance to be the third immediate starter coming out of this draft. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs. He’s also supposed to be an incredibly smart guy.
In terms of value and need, Shane Lemieux may be my favorite selection in this draft. To get him in the 5th round was a major steal. It was not too long ago when Lemieux was considered one of the top OL prospects in the entire draft. While he may not have the ideal athleticism that teams crave, NFL rosters are historically filled with big, tough, strong, smart linemen like Lemieux who will knock the snot out of you. Lemieux is built like a prototypical NFL guard. Just as importantly, he plays the position like you want your interior linemen to play. I think he’s a future starter in this league (which would be incredible for a 5th-round pick) and he began cross-training as a center before the Giants even selected him. Don’t be shocked if he’s our starting center as a rookie. If he can’t make the transition to center, I think he’s an eventual starter at guard.
The last five picks are a bit of a blur and merge together for Giants fans as four of them were linebackers. At this point of the draft, even though they technically were in the 6th and 7th round, due to the ridiculous number of compensatory picks, these really are what used to be 7th round/undrafted free agents. Just keep that in mind when evaluating these selections.
Linebacker was an obvious area of need, but fans who were crying for a center, wide receiver, running back, or tight end were not happy with four being picked. It’s a valid complaint. But if you pay millions of dollars to your scouts to pick the best players, you have to trust your board and take those guys who you think have the best chance to make an NFL roster. They Giants may be wrong, but they have to trust their process.
As one linebacker after another was picked, I kept reminding myself that Joe Judge is a special teams coach and the heart of any special teams unit is always the back-up linebackers and defensive backs. The Giants last five picks were four linebackers and safety. The best way for all five of these players to make the team will be to excel on special teams. Beyond that, two of the linebackers really stick out to me but for different reasons. I don’t know too many 6’5”, 230-pound coverage linebackers but that’s what Cam Brown is. And again, the phrase “Alpha dog” was tossed around when describing his character. I don’t get the sense that he was a throw-a-way pick at all for the Giants and that Graham has a plan for him as a role player. Carter Coughlin is also an interesting guy. While he’s not a dynamic athlete, he’s better than advertised and has the look of one of those players who hangs around the NFL for a long time. Carter has the intangibles that all teams look for. He’s also very tight with Ryan Connelly.
Regarding Chris Williamson, Petitt also mentioned that he was one of the late draft picks who he was particularly excited about. (See 5:30 mark).
A cursory look at the 15 undrafted free agents suggests the Giants may have found a few who may have a legitimate shot at a roster spot. Who knows if he can make it, but I love the way Kyle Murphy plays. Watch. You don’t think an undrafted guard can make a difference? Tell that to Rich Seubert, one of my all-time favorites. The two OSU receivers have a legitimate shot. Both were lost in the shuffle at a WR-rich school. Ben Victor reminds me a little bit of a poor man’s Plaxico Burress. Austin Mack will never wow you, but he’s a reliable guy who I could see the coaches liking. Kyle Markway was versatile blocker at South Carolina and those kind of guys can surprise (think Rhett Ellison in Minnesota). Javon Leake is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball and returns kickoffs. But he has to play with more toughness.
Overall, gun to my head, I honestly think the Giants got three starting offensive linemen in one draft. If so, that’s incredible. Andrew Thomas has the chance to be the best Giants’ left tackle of my lifetime, and that includes Jumbo Elliott. (Though don’t be shocked if he starts off at RT as a rookie, just like Elliott). Peart may need some time on the bench, but I’d be surprised if he is not starting by next year. You know what I think about Lemieux.
Gettleman has loaded up on defensive backs via trade, free agency, and the draft the past two years. The backfield had better be set! Again, it appears the Giants still added two starters in this draft with Xavier McKinney at free safety and Darnay Holmes at slot corner (also he may be the returner). If the Giants really got five eventual starters out of one draft, that’s a home run. Time will tell.
As for the last five picks, these were all late round/free agent types. If any of them have a career longer than a couple of seasons, that’s just icing on the cake.
Regrets? Always. The Giants didn’t draft a true center and have to count on Nick Gates, Lemieux, Kyle Murphy, or Tyler Haycraft being able to make the transition to the position. The Giants didn’t get a dynamic edge rusher and will have to wait until next year for that. Same with adding another top-flight wide receiver. But the Giants were a bad team with only three top 100 picks. There was only so much they could do.