David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

Apr 212020
 
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Joe Burrow, LSU Tigers (January 13, 2020)

Joe Burrow – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Quarterbacks

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 10, and my ranks 11-20 with grades only.

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

It has been a year since Dave Gettleman shocked the world with his Daniel Jones selection at #6 overall. The vast majority of the public chastised the pick for multiple reasons but here we are a year later and a case can be made that NYG has their guy for the next decade-plus. He started 12 games and scored 26 touchdowns on an offense that was broken because of what was going on up front. The issue, and it is a glaring one, are the turnovers. He fumbled the ball 18 times and threw 12 interceptions. We have seen it with young quarterbacks in the past; a good player who makes plays but the turnovers end up putting them back on the bench. Jones has so many of the tools and intangibles to be a winner, but that won’t matter if he can’t protect the ball.

Behind him, NYG signed veteran Colt McCoy and they still employ Alex Tanney. The one catch? Both are free agents in 2021. The long-term stability behind Jones isn’t there. As good as Jones looked at times in his rookie year, the objective fact is NYG is heading into the year with an unproven starter and two backups who won’t be under contract once this season is over.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 10 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Joe Burrow / LSU / 6’4 – 221

Grade: 87

Summary: Fifth year senior from Athens, Ohio. A two-year starter who took off in 2019, winning the Heisman Trophy and National Championship. A transfer from Ohio State, Burrow’s ascent began at the end of the 2018 season against UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. Fast forward to this past year and Burrow set the college football world on fire with elite performance after elite performance after elite performance. He set an NCAA record with 60 touchdowns and led the country with 5,671 yards. His tools as a thrower are just above average, there are several prospects with a stronger arm. However this goes to reinforce the fact that arm strength is such a small part of evaluating QB play. Burrow has unmatched pocket presence and downfield accuracy. He is exceptionally smart in the film room and on the field. He is a better athlete than anyone thinks. He is a franchise quarterback all the way who should end up in the Pro Bowl at some point early in his career if the supporting cast is there.

  1. Tua Tagovailoa / Alabama / 6’0 – 217

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry from Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Two-year starter who initially burst onto the scene when he replaced Jalen Hurts in the second half of the 2017 National Championship, where he led the Tide to a come from behind win. In 2018 he confirmed his ceiling, winning the Maxwell Award while earning 2nd Team All American honors. 2019 didn’t quite go as planned, however. Tagovailoa suffered an ankle injury and then a severe hip injury that caused some to ponder if he would ever play again. If the injuries are kept out of the equation that generates his grade, Tua would be approaching the elite 90-point mark. He has lethal accuracy, he is a true competitor who handles pressure situations well, and he knows how to read defenses. The medicals are huge though and he doesn’t show a feel for missing traffic in the pocket. A case can rightfully be made that these injuries are going to pop up in the NFL more and more and because of that, you see the debate at the top of the draft behind Burrow.

  1. Justin Herbert / Oregon / 6’6 – 236

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Eugene, Oregon. Four-year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors in 2018 and 2019. Also the winner of the Academic Heisman as a senior who scored a 39 on his wonderlic exam, an elite number. Herbert has every single tool. He is massive, he is fast, he has a quick release, and he is really strong. Herbert also has everything you want between the ears when it comes to intelligence, maturity, and leadership qualities. On paper, he may be the ideal quarterback for today’s NFL. The concern here is he never quite put together a consistent level of performance as a passer. His accuracy is a roller coaster and he seemed gun-shy at times. There is still a ways to go here but I think NFL coaches see exactly what they want to work with here.

  1. James Morgan / Florida International / 6’4 – 229

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Began his career at Bowling Green where he started for a year-plus. He traded the job back and forth and then opted to leave for Florida International where he was named Honorable Mention All Conference USA in both 2018 and 2019. He has a really snappy throwing motion that can put more than enough zip on the ball. He gets the ball downfield really well. But the most attractive trait to his game is what goes on between the ears. Morgan is a coach’s favorite who knows the game inside and out. He studies hard, applies it to the practice field, and makes those around him better. He may never develop into a top tier starter, but he will be in the league for a decade-plus.

  1. Jordan Love / Utah State / 6’4 – 224

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Bakersfield, California. Three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Mountain West honors in 2019, 2nd Team in 2018. After an eye opening season in 2018, Love took a step backwards as a redshirt junior. He threw 17 interceptions, most in the nation. Even though his 2018 tape looks first round worthy, a question can rightfully be asked whether or not he sees the field well enough. He was tricked into several turnovers after coaches had a full season to scout him on tape. He was playing with a lesser deck of cards at Utah State, but then again he wasn’t matched up against elite defenses either (besides a game against LSU). There are some issues he needs to answer in meetings with coaches but there is no denying the arm talent. The question is, can it overcome some mental shortcomings?

  1. Jalen Hurts / Alabama / 6’1 – 222

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas. Spent three years at Alabama, the first two of which he started and led Alabama to the National Championship. Tua Tagovailoa took over the job at the very end of 2017 and Hurts played a backup role for the entire 2018 season. He then transferred to Oklahoma in 2019, earning 3rd Team All American Honors and 1st Team All Big 12 honors. Hurts is a plus athlete with a strong arm and the composure to keep his heartbeat down in the highest pressure situations. Coaches and teammates alike love him. The issue with Hurts is centers around a lack of true feel in the pocket and inconsistent accuracy. He made a lot of easy throws in college and missed a lot of high difficulty ones. His best role is likely as a number two guy who can come in and spark an offense if an injury occurs, but his upside as a pure starter is risky.

  1. Jake Fromm / Georgia / 6’2 – 219

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Warner Robbins, Georgia. Three-year starter who took over the job in 2017 as a result of an injury to Jacob Eason. Fromm starred, winning the SEC Freshman of the Year Award and never gave up the job afterward. Justin Fields, the Ohio State quarterback who is likely going to be a top 10 pick in 2021, transferred from Georgia because he couldn’t beat Fromm out. Fromm won a ton of games and was a two-year team captain. While his tools won’t impress, he knows how to gain a coach’s trust. He plays within himself, he makes smart decisions, and he knows when to alter his aggression. The issue is a lack of true upside and he just doesn’t seem to have the physical potential to take over a game when necessary. He is likely heading toward backup duty but also likely to get a shot at some point.

  1. Anthony Gordon / Washington State / 6’2 – 205

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Pacifica, California. After being drafted out of high school to play baseball, Gordon opted for junior college football. He then transferred to Washington State and sat behind Gardner Minshew in 2018. After patiently waiting, he finally got the opportunity in 2019 and earned 2nd Team All Pac 12 honors finishing among the country’s leaders in several passing categories. Gordon has a slick and quick release with an accurate arm. This baseball-style passing, especially underneath, is becoming more and more popular these days and Gordon excels at it. An offense that favors a short and quick passing attack may have a much higher grade on Gordon, but one must admit the ceiling with him is an unknown. He started one year and his tools are average.

  1. Jacob Eason / Washington / 6’6 – 231

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Lake Stevens, Washington. After a three year career at Georgia (one as a starter, one on the injury list, one as a backup) Eason transferred back to his hometown and started 13 games for the Huskies. The tall and strong, plus athlete has an absolute cannon for an arm. When he winds up and chucks it downfield, it simply flies out of his hands different than others. There is no shortage of arm talent from a strength perspective, but he hasn’t shown enough consistency when it comes to balls that need touch. Eason has a competitive spirit but there are concerns around his role as a leader. There is a high ceiling to work with here, but he has a ton of work to do and will have to show consistency as a worker.

  1. Jake Luton / Oregon State / 6’6 – 224

Grade: 69

Summary: Fifth year senior from Marysville, Washington. Began his career at Idaho but transferred to junior college where he became a sought after recruit. Luton chose Oregon State but suffered a severe spine injury in 2017, playing in just 4 games. He returned to start 4 more games in 2018. In his final opportunity, Luton showed what many have been talking about for a few years now. He earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors as he threw 28 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. Luton is a big and tough leader who can make all the throws. He looks a little heavy in the pocket and doesn’t always show the knack for locating pressure but there is still some rawness to him that some teams may actually find attractive as a developmental prospect.

  1. Steven Montez / Colorado: 69
  2. Kevin Davidson / Princeton: 68
  3. Shea Patterson / Michigan: 67
  4. Cole McDonald / Hawaii: 67
  5. Nate Stanley / Iowa: 67
  6. Case Cookus / Northern Arizona: 67
  7. Brian Lewerke / Michigan State: 66
  8. Nathan Rourke / Ohio: 66
  9. Tyler Huntley / Utah: 66
  10. Kelly Bryant / Missouri: 65

NYG APPROACH

Whether you think Daniel Jones is the guy or not, one has to admit that even thinking about a QB early in the draft isn’t going to happen. This regime selected him, he flashed a lot of positive traits as a rookie, and assets need to be placed elsewhere for this team to reach the level where they used to be. The backups are locked in for the 2019 season but as I stated earlier, there is a blank slate there for 2021. One way to approach this is find a kid who you can stash on the practice squad for 2020. This needs to be a late round pick or an undrafted free agent who you know other teams aren’t going to come in and scoop up halfway through the year. Obviously the odds of hitting successfully from that point are slim to none, but it is always worth trying to add a guy to the position group every year. Two names I like, both as a mental capacity piece and someone with tools that can be developed over the years are Devin Davidson from Princeton a Nick Tiano from Chattanooga. At best, they are future backups who take up very little cap space.

Apr 192020
 
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J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State Buckeyes (February 26, 2020)

J.K. Dobbins – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITIONAL OVERVIEW

This is one of maybe 2 or 3 spots on the roster where a fresh pair of legs won’t be needed. Saquon Barkley is one of the most versatile backs in the league and still has three years left on his rookie contract, although negotiations for the long term deal will likely begin prior to that. The big play back is averaging just under 5 yards per carry despite running behind a porous offensive line in addition to averaging 5 receptions per game. The high ankle sprain he suffered in week 3 forced him out of the next 3 games but he ended the season really strong. The team has lacked a difference making backup to offset Barkley in his two years, as Wayne Gallman just hasn’t done anything to stand out. He has averaged 4 yards per carry in his 3 seasons but the main issue has been fumbles. He’s put the ball on the ground 6 times on just 250 carries (1 every 42 touches). For comparison, Barkley has fumbled 1 time on 621 touches. Let’s take a look at a couple other backup running backs from 2017 for reference. Kareem Hunt has fumbled once every 306 touches. Brian Hill has fumbled once on 122 touches. Jamaal Williams hasn’t fumbled yet on 472 touches.

The signing of Dion Lewis takes some pressure off NYG needing to add another running back. Even though he is coming off the two worst seasons of his career and he will turn 30 in September, it will be beneficial to have someone established back there. For comparison to Gallman, he has only fumbled once every 118 touches. He is also a plus-blocker and can catch the ball. The one thing NYG doesn’t have behind Barkley and perhaps give him a break from physical contact is a short yardage presence. Barkley is so effective in space, he is so effective in the passing game. I’ve always thought it would be nice to have a north/south physical runner who can take the ball on 3rd and 1 and near the goal line. If there is a situation where I don’t see Barkley as elite, that is it.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. JK Dobbins / Ohio State / 5’10 – 209

Grade: 81

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from La Grange, Texas. Dobbins led the Buckeyes in rushing all three years on campus including 2,000 yard, 2nd Team All American season in 2019. Dobbins has been a hit on campus from the start and left Ohio State as their second all time leading rusher after just three years of service. He has the ideal body type and running style of a every down back in the NFL with a diverse skill set and team-mentality. Dobbins will put forth top tier effort into every role he is asked to partake in whether it is touting the rock, catching passes, or blocking for his quarterback. Dobbins may not have ideal wiggle and vision, but in a scheme that gets him vertical, he can be a top tier back.

*As a freshman, Dobbins looked like the next big thing. As a sophomore, he took a slight step back as he fought nagging injuries and senior Mike Weber split carries with him. Then as a junior, I still don’t think people are giving him enough credit for what he did. 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. 174 yards on 18 carries (9.7 yards per) against Clemson in the playoff game. Dobbins may not have the top tier speed and size some are looking for, but this kid plays fast and he shoots out of a cannon. He has really good vision, he is pit bull with the ball in his hands. Some may look elsewhere because his hands aren’t natural as a receiver, but I want a gamer back there and he is exactly that.

  1. D’Andre Swift / Georgia / 5’8 – 212

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A two-year starter who has been a part of a committee approach since the start of his career. Swift played behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as a freshman, then took over the leading rusher role the rest of the way. He was 2nd Team All SEC in 2018, and 1st Team in 2019. Swift is an every down back who can contribute on every down, no matter the situation. His ability to make the first guy miss and make the spectacular catch will make the highlight reels, but Swift’s greatest value his how reliable he is down to down. He will make big plays, yes, but he will provide the value by picking up the tough yards inside and falling forward. The one red flag that must be addressed, however, stems from how he handles the ball. He let it loose way too often. Other than that, Swift is a near can’t-miss.

*Many have Swift as RB1, I won’t argue against it. He has the body that you want. Short and stocky, really thick and powerful legs. He is still very capable of pushing piles and picking up the tough inside yards. He is just a tad tight in my opinion. I don’t see elite, but I do see a solid starter. Underrated receiving ability too.

  1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire / LSU / 5’7 – 207

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A one year starter who was the Tigers second leading rusher in 2018 before putting together one of the best seasons at the position in LSU history. The 1st Team All SEC back, team MVP, and Paul Hornung finalist led the SEC in touchdowns with 16 and was second in the conference in rushing. Edwards-Helaire is a versatile threat who carries his ability to make defenders miss into both the running and passing games respectively. He really turned it on when the lights shined brightest, showing his hunger and ability to create something out of nothing routinely. His lack of height is actually a weapon and don’t mistake him for an undersized back because of it. He is a rock on contact with thick legs and bruiser mentality. He is an ideal compliment to a backfield that already has a back who can contribute 10-15 carries per game.

*This is the kind of back who I love to have as a compliment, but do not mistake that for a backup. If I want to split touches in the backfield and I already have a bruiser or a big play space threat, Edwards-Helaire is the guy I want behind him. He is effective in so many situations. I have a feeling we are going to see Tampa Bay take him in round 2 and he is going to be the next Tom Brady back who catches 75+ passes and ends up scoring a ton of points. This kid is a gamer and a near-sure thing to at least be a solid player.

  1. Antonio Gibson / Memphis / 6’0 – 228

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Stockbridge, Georgia. One year starter a Memphis after a two year stint at East Central Community College in Mississippi. Gibson earned 2nd Team All American Athletic Conference honors as a wide receiver and also the conference Co-Special Teams Player of the Year Award. This is as interesting a player as there is in the entire draft class. He barely touched the ball in comparison to other draft prospects over the past two years, but you will have a hard time finding a guy who scored 14 touchdowns on 77 career offensive touches, 33 of which were carries. Gibson was finally put into the backfield halfway through 2019 as a hybrid WR/RB, and he excelled. He simply sat behind two future NFL picks (Tony Pollard and Darrel Henderson) and shared other duties with current prospect Patrick Taylor Jr. Gibson is a top tier athlete who looked like one of the best running backs during Senior Bowl week and one has to assume he is very early on the progressive scale. Give this kid some time, carve out a few package-plays for him in the meantime, and you have one of the top value picks in the draft.

*Gibson may be the highest-ceiling prospect in this group. The hybrid RB/WR is being viewed as a RB by every team that I know of, so even though he was primarily a WR at Memphis, that is why he is in the RB preview. I actually thought he was the top RB at the Senior Bowl all week, by a wide margin. Gibson has really good size, he plays physical, and he has legit runaway speed. He is also coming into the league with more tread on the tires. I think someone is going to take a gamble on him much earlier than people think.

  1. Anthony McFarland / Maryland / 5’8 – 208

Grade: 77

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Hyattsville, Maryland. A two-year starter who shared backfield duties both seasons. McFarland was wanted by Alabama but a broken leg his senior year of high school caused them to back off. McFarland settled on Maryland and after a redshirt year in 2017, he set a school record for rushing yards by a freshman with 1,034 yards including a stunning 298 against Ohio State. He finished 2nd Team All Big 10 that season. 2019 didn’t go as planned, as Maryland really struggled to get any sort of rhythm going on that side of the ball and McFarland couldn’t be used as he should. He isn’t an every down back, but McFarland can be one of the most dangerous threats in the league if used correctly. He has elite burst and agility with the ball in his hands and will run away from pursuers in space. There is more strength and balance to his game than people think and considering he touched the ball just under 275 times, he comes in with fresh wheels. Potential draft-altering pick for a team.

*I am having a hard time pegging where McFarland will go in the draft, but that aside I think he is a day 2 player who can immediately add big play presence to an offense. If a team has a grinder in the backfield but they don’t have big play potential, McFarland has to be in their crosshairs. He shoots out of a cannon and can run away from defenders like very few can.

  1. Jonathon Taylor / Wisconsin / 5’10 – 226

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Salem, New Jersey. A three-year starter with one of the most prolific running back careers in NCAA history. Two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award and was a finalist in the year he didn’t win. Two time unanimous 1st Team All American and 2nd Team All American in the other year. The number 6-all time leading rusher in NCAA history who rushed for over 1,900 yards all three seasons, the only player to ever do that. Taylor can open eyes with his production and straight-line athleticism. There simply aren’t many humans that can move like he does at 220 pounds with running back-ability. The two red flags, however, are enough to knock his grade down a bit. He has had major fumble issues (18) over his career that never quite got fixed, and his lateral adjustments show up against the more athletic defenses he faced. Questions revolving around his ability to even reach the open field to use that sprinter’s speed that earned him two state titles on the track in high school are legitimate. Taylor brings plenty of upside but a lot needs to be corrected and a team needs to know he isn’t a do-it-all player.

*I am lower on Taylor than the entire market, I know. And this is a grade that has the potential to come back and bite me where it hurts, I know. But I don’t like spending high picks on guys with major turnover problems and I don’t think Taylor plays to his timed athleticism. He is a tough kid and he works hard, I also think he is a better receiver than people think too. But I don’t see special in him, I see a day 2 pick who is closer to day 3 than day 1.

  1. Cam Akers / Florida State / 5’10 – 217

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Clinton, Mississippi. Three year starter who arrived at Florida State as one of the most sought after recruits in the country. Akers was a high school quarterback who was dominant on the ground but also produced through the air. Akers broke Dalvin Cook’s FSU freshman rushing record and ended his career as the 6th all time leading rusher in program history. He was 3rd Team All ACC in 2017, 2nd Team in 2019. Akers has every down capability in his running style. He sees the field exceptionally well, takes what the defense gives him, and gains plenty of yards after contact. He improved as a receiver all three years and plays with the team-first attitude that can inspire hope for his blocking potential, which was up and down at Florida State. Akers, however, has a ball security issue that absolutely must be fixed before he can be trusted in the NFL. He puts the ball in the wrong hand at an alarming rate and he fumbled once every 65 touches in college. The offense was broken at FSU over the last two years, so there is some unknown here if he gets put into a quality scheme with good blocking. He has all the traits but it won’t see the light of day if he doesn’t fix the ball security issues.

*The Florida State faithful will continue to tell anyone who listens that Akers had one of the worst situations to deal with in college football and that somebody is going to get the steal of the draft here. I take that with a grain of salt but I do know a longtime Southeast scout who told me he thinks Akers is going to be a better pro than Dalvin Cook. I do see the flashes on tape and yes, his line + passing game at FSU made life difficult for him. But once again, I hate it when guys can’t hold onto the ball in college. I am keeping him here.

  1. Zack Moss / Utah / 5’9 – 223

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Hialeah Gardens, Florida. Three-year starter who re-wrote the running back record book at Utah. A 2019 All American and Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year Award winner. Also finished 2nd Team All Pac 12 in his injury shortened 2018 season. Cousin to former NFL receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss. A back who could have declared for the 2019 draft, Moss opted to return for his senior year and prove a meniscus injury was behind him, and that he did. The every down back is a force with the ball in his hands who, especially with downhill momentum, will pick up the tough yards by running through contact. He is more than a simple inside runner, however. He is very elusive and slippery in the open field and always seems to have his balance. He looks like a pass catcher as well, giving him an every down feel. He has suffered injuries to his knee, shoulder, and foot respectively, however. At the very least he can be a 1B option for a team that wants a dual attack out of the backfield, but has the potential to be the guy.

*If it weren’t for the multiple injuries, Moss could have been in the top 5 of this group. I think many still do, actually. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken early round 3 for a team that needs a between the tackles bruiser. He shouldn’t be the focal point of a backfield, but he can be an important piece.

  1. DeeJay Dallas / Miami / 5’10 – 217

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Brunswick, Georgia. One year starter who was a part of the running back rotation all three seasons. A dislocated elbow ended his junior campaign three games early. Dallas is one of the most physical backs in the class and it shows up within multiple phases. With the ball in his hands, he can take on big contact and stone the defender, maintaining his center of gravity, and continue to move north. As a pass blocker, he is often the aggressor who will stand the blitzer up and finish him off. Dallas has a lot of value to a team that wants a backup right away to handle third down duties without giving up too much in the running game. He has starter traits to develop but at the very least will be a solid backup.

*I’m not sure where Dallas is going to go in the draft, I don’t have a pulse on his situation. If he ends up being one of the backs who slips into mid to late day 3, he is someone who I think fits really well in NYG’s running back room. He is a really physical downhill runner who can pick up positive yards when just a couple are needed. He is the best blocker in the class in my opinion. And he showed the ability to make circus catches, he really is a complete player. Not sure why he doesn’t get more publicity. Also have good reports on him as a worker, team player, and coachable kid.

  1. Darius Anderson / TCU / 5’11 – 208

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Richmond, Texas. A key contributor all four years who started games for three seasons. A two-time Honorable Mention All Big 12 performer. Anderson has been a consistently productive back in the high-powered TCU offense since his freshman season. He has led the Horned Frogs in yards per carry every year and displayed a new talent as a receiver as a senior. Anderson is a threat with the ball in his hands because of his burst and acceleration, but also some sneaky power and balance. He contorts his body through traffic well to break tackles and gain yards after contact and proved he had enough breakaway speed to rattle off the big play when it is there. Anderson won’t be an every down back and needs to shore up ball security and blocking, but he can produce in the league.

*Anderson is a plus athlete who runs really hard and maintains excellent balance after contact. There is a really good combination of skills in his game that could end up making him a big play threat. Day three guy all the way but every year we see a few of them make a difference. Anderson will be one of those guys if he gets his number called.

11. JaMycal Hasty / Baylor / 5’8 – 205

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Longview, Texas. A four-year contributor who finished top three in the team’s carries all four years. Honorable Mention All Big 12 back in 2019, Hasty lacks the ideal triangle numbers but it is easy to see this kid runs bigger than his size. He is a violent, mighty-mouse type runner who consistently breaks through contact and will create afterward. He is an underrated pass catcher who, once he has a head of steam, will not be a welcomed sight for defensive backs in space. He has bad intentions when he plants his foot in the ground and moves north. While Hasty won’t create a ton on his own and his pass blocking needs work, he is the kind of back who outperforms several backs drafted ahead of him.

*I am a little biased toward Hasty, I will admit that. I was one of the first ones on him dating back to the fall of 2018. There is something about him that I like, similar to what I saw in Alex Collins out of Arkansas in the 2016 class. He was a 5th rounder who out-produced several backs in front of him but injuries and drug suspension derailed his career. Hasty has a similar pit bull running style and plays a lot faster than he times. He shoots out of a cannon and will run through guys. His lack of true size and inconsistent third down contributions could make him fall into late day three. I would keep a close eye on him.

  1. Ke’Shawn Vaughn / Vanderbilt / 5’10 – 214

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Nashville, Tennessee. One-year starter at Illinois, two year starter at Vanderbilt. Vaughn spent his first two seasons at Illinois before transferring. In 2018 he led the SEC in yards per carry and rushed for the second most yards in a season in school history. His production didn’t quite match that level in 2019, as he was nicked up throughout the year and he played behind a porous offensive line. Vaughn runs with attitude, sometimes may be a bit too much. But more often than not his emotion is an asset to his game, as he fights through arm tackles and gains plenty of yards after contact. He will be NFL ready right away as part of a committee, but he will need to bulk up if he wants to be an every down back.

*Vaughn was my top senior running back in my preseason stack. Sometimes that ends up landing you in the day 2 tier but things didn’t click in 2019 the way I was hoping. He simply doesn’t have the standout traits to his game besides high effort. He is a feisty guy and I think he can help a backfield, but you can get this kind of guy any year. Also comes into the NFL with some wear and tear.

  1. Joshua Kelley / UCLA / 5’11 – 212

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Lancaster, California. Spent two years at UC Davis before transferring to UCLA, sitting out 2017. A two year starter for the Bruins who was Honorable Mention all Pac 12 in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. Kelley has the look of an ideal third down back at the next level. He has wide receiver-caliber ball skills and routes, but also showed the ability to run the ball inside and out in addition to plus-pass blocking effort. He has a smoothness to his game that does not come around often. His overall upside may be limited, as he doesn’t break tackles and there are vision issues, but there is a lot he can do for an offense right away.

*Kelley has a real chance at being a late day 2 pick because of how well he runs routes and catches the ball. He isn’t a soft kid by any means, either. Teams that want to add a receiving threat to their offense will like him a lot.

  1. Lamical Perine / Florida / 5’11 – 216

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Mobile, Alabama. Two year starter but has been a steady contributor to the Gators backfield since he stepped on the field. He led the team in rushing three straight seasons and was the second leading rusher as a freshman. Perine won’t jump off the screen in any way but the consistency and 3-down capabilities here are attractive. He is the kind of player who will compete hard and help the team in a variety of ways. He isn’t a feature back, but instead a nice option to have on the depth chart who can provide depth across every role a running back group hosts.

*Some teams don’t want specialty backs. They don’t want a receiver, they don’t want a short yardage bruiser, they don’t want a blazing speed threat. They just want a stack of guys who can get all the jobs done. Jack of all trades, master of none. That is Perine. He won’t stand out anywhere, but he is a natural, tough runner with good vision. In the right situation, he is someone who can step right in and get the job done but don’t expect anything more than average play.

  1. Eno Benjamin / Arizona State / 5’9 – 207

Grade: 71

Summary: Junior entry. Two-year starter from Wylie, Texas. A two-time All Pac 12 running back and 2018 All American. Benjamin is an exciting talent with the ball in his hands who will consistently create on his own. He isn’t the ideal back for a cut and dry system, but instead someone a team will want on the field on third down to catch the ball in space and see what he can do. He doesn’t have the body to take an every down pounding and fumbles are an issue. Benjamin is a guy to put within a backfield group, but not at the top of it.

*There are some impressive highlight tapes of Benjamin and because of that, I think the public has a higher outlook on him than most. He can be a nice change up to an offense that needs a spark though, yes. He is slippery and hungry in the open field. He is destined for a backup or complimentary role, but just don’t expect too much from him.

  1. AJ Dillon / Boston College: 70
  2. Darrynton Evans / Appalachian State: 70
  3. Patrick Taylor / Memphis: 70
  4. Benny Lemay / Charlotte: 70
  5. Jason Huntley / New Mexico State: 69
  6. James Robinson / Illinois State: 69
  7. Salvon Ahmed / Washington: 69
  8. Raymond Calais / Louisiana Lafayette: 69
  9. Sewo Olinolua / TCU: 68
  10. Javon Leake / Maryland: 68

NYG APPROACH

The long-term depth at running back is essentially non-existent. Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman are both free agents after the 2020 season and nobody would be surprised to see not one, but both of them playing elsewhere in 2021. While that isn’t a reason to panic, you also don’t want to go into the 2021 draft in absolute need of a backup. It may be worth trying to find a late round talent who can be developed for a year at the back end of the depth chart, learn the offensive scheme and blocking responsibilities, and put him right behind Barkley in 2021. While I don’t think this is a must for NYG, I do think it would be wise. I tend to lean toward a back who is big and physical, both as a ball carrier and blocker.

Apr 172020
 
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CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma Sooners (December 7, 2019)

CeeDee Lamb – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 25, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 26-45 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

Thankfully Darius Slayton burst on the scene over the course of the second half of the season. If it weren’t for him, there would be reason to consider this position group one of the top 3 weaknesses on the roster. It’s not that they lack able players at the position, as Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate are both solid options. The issue is they lack the one guy who is going to strike fear into the opposition. Nobody is losing sleep over defending Shepard, a quick and shifty slot who has averaged 4 touchdowns per year and just over 11 yards per catch. Nobody is undergoing extra game planning for Golden Tate, a soon-to-be 32 year old who averages 12 yards per catch over his career and caught 57% of his targets in 2019, the second worst of his career. Slayton, as impressive as he looks, is still considered unproven and a bit of an unknown. The drop off behind those three is significant. Corey Coleman, Da’Mari Scott, Cody Core, Reggie White, David Sills V, and Amba Etta-Tawo are all roster hopeful-caliber players and maybe you get lucky with on one or two of them, but the heavy odds are that won’t happen.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 25 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. CeeDee Lamb / Oklahoma / 6’2 – 198

Grade: 86

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from Richmond, Texas. A three time All Big 12 honoree, 2019 Consensus All American and Biletnikoff Award finalist. Lamb left Oklahoma near the top of the school’s all-time receiving lists. He is a big play threat, as seen with his 24 catches of 40+ yards (a school record), who creates with more than simple downfield speed. Despite being slightly undersized, Lamb is a weapon after the catch who will break tackles, see the field well, and run away in space. He is an electric playmaker with a fierce competitive mindset that will carry over well to the next level. He can play outside and in the slot depending on the situational and scheme. Lamb is a sure bet to be a productive player in the NFL.

*Lamb has been my WR1 since August. As you will see, there are a few guys who are close but I never really viewed this as much of a debate. Lamb is talented, but not uber talented. He makes his money with something I wish all receivers had, the dog mentality. This dude is a gamer, he is tough, and he makes things happen with the ball in his hands. There is no “Diva” here, he never plays soft, and he needs to win. There is some DeAndre Hopkins in him when looking at his body type and ability to win in traffic despite not having elite size or strength. He is a year 1 starter and will be one of the top 10 receivers in the game within a couple years if he can pick up on the mental side of things. He didn’t test well there.

  1. Henry Ruggs III / Alabama / 5’11 – 188

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Montgomery, Alabama. Former five star recruit. The speedy deep threat on a team full of fast deep threats stood out over his final two years as he displayed a level of burst and acceleration that the opposition could not handle. When he gets a clean release, there aren’t many who can even think about staying close to him on the vertical routes. There is some lack of variety to his game but don’t make the mistake of labeling him a deep-threat only kind of player. He is a competitor who will work hard at his craft. If and when he develops his underneath route running and ball skills, Ruggs could be an incredibly dangerous weapon in any NFL offense.

*I want to say this about Ruggs. He was the only one I considered putting on the same level as Lamb grade wise. The only reason why he is down here is something most aren’t talking about but I can almost guarantee some teams are worried about it. He has had multiple soft tissue injuries over his career. Calf and hip mainly. He also got nicked up with separate hand, rib, and concussion issues. While he didn’t miss a lot of action, I get worried about this track-type body types who run at his elite-level rate. However his speed is elite and rare, and he isn’t a soft guy at all. He plays hard.

  1. Jerry Jeudy / Alabama / 6’1 – 193

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Deerfield Beach, Florida. A former five star recruit. Winner of the 2018 Biletnikoff Award and two time 1st Team All SEC and All American. Jeudy already has many of the refined skill sets of a pro receiver. He runs sharp, precise routes with cat-like quickness and agility. When it comes to short spaces, he can be a blur to defenders trying to jab him and/or stick to his hip pocket. He has produced at a high level against the toughest competition in college football despite some long speed and size concerns. Jeudy is a football player, not a workout-winner. He will simply get open, make things happen after the catch, and be a team player. Everyone can work with a kid like this and even though his overall ceiling may no be through the roof, he is as safe a pick as any in this class.

*Jeudy was widely considered the top WR in the class at the start of the year. I never put him in that elite tier or anywhere close to it, but there is no denying how ready he is for NFL offense right now. When it comes to playing receiver at a high level, you need to be really good at getting open, catching the ball, and making things happen after the catch. If you miss out on one of them, make sure you are elite at the other two. Jeudy is an elite route runner and he has elite stop and go ability with the ball. The one red flag I’ve noticed are the hands downfield. He body catches a bit too much for me to consider him elite and he missed a few deep balls in 2019. No, his hands are not a major issue but I can’t say they are on par with his other traits. Still a starter week 1 and a very good compliment to a passing game, just not sure he can be a team’s top guy week to week.

  1. Tee Higgins / Clemson / 6’4 – 216

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry. Two-year starter from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Two time All –ACC, including a 1st Team honor in 2019. Higgins was a top shelf high school recruit who left the school tied with former Tigers’ DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins as the all time leader in touchdown receptions (27). He is the only player in program history to record 10+ touchdown catches in consecutive years. Higgins lacks some of the burst and quickness that a receiver needs to get open along all levels of the route tree, but the elite ball skills and ability to snag the ball from any and every angle with a sense of ease will make up a dangerous threat in the league. He plays fast enough and there are other traits in his game that make him a future number one receiver for a team that likes to throw the ball downfield.

*I’ve been on Higgins all year. Plain and simple I love how this kid attacks the ball with aggression but at the same time makes it look smooth and easy. He is such a natural receiver who will always have the advantage in one on one situations. There is also some sneaky-good route running traits he has when it comes to planting his foot and getting in/out of breaks. The Giants may have a shot at him in round 2 and while plenty of discussion can rightfully be placed elsewhere on the roster, this team needs to score points. If they want a receiver to offset what they have in the current WR group, Higgins would be a nice get.

  1. Justin Jefferson / LSU / 6’1 – 202

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry from St. Rose, Louisiana. A two year starter who earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2019. The number one pass catcher for LSU each of the past two years who’s 18 touchdowns in 2019 were second in the nation only to teammate Ja’Marr Chase. Jefferson played primarily out of the slot in 2019 and because of his crisp route running and smooth ball skills, it will likely be his ideal spot in the NFL. He has great twitch and transition for a player with his length and he will create unique opportunities in that role at the next level. While his long speed and playing strength can be questioned, he proved his ability to impact a game but short and deep and will be a NFL-ready receiver right away.

*Jefferson was one of the surprises of the combine for me. I thought he would run in the 4.55+ area but he ended with a 4.42. He is such a smooth and easy athlete who he actually appears to be playing slower than he is. That is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen often. Jefferson will be pro ready right away and while I think he best projects to the slot, he could play outside as well. He tracks the deep ball as well as anyone. Also a top-tier kid who everyone knows will come in and work his butt off.

  1. Chase Claypool / Notre Dame / 6’4 – 238

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Abbotsford, British Columbia. Three year starter. From little known high school recruit in Canada, to Notre Dame’s leader in special team tackles in 2016, all the way to Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2019, Claypool has shown the kind of progression and hard work that will impress every coach in the league. Combine that with a set of tools that no other receiver in the class can match, and a credible argument can be made for him being one of the top players in the draft at receiver. Claypool may be projected to a hybrid receiver/tight end role in the NFL but no matter what, he has the potential to be a dominant force. The ball skills and physical brand will make him a weapon who can be used on both offense and special teams right away and he has number one pass catcher potential.

*I have had Claypool in the first round discussion since mid-October, way before he went to the combine and tore it up. The way he moves plus his size had me thinking Evan Engram back during the season. Now there is talk some teams view him as a tight end, which I don’t entirely agree with but it just strengthens the Engram comparison. Claypool moves like a guy who weights 215 and I’m not only talking about long speed. He gets in and out of breaks really well, he adjusts to the ball really well, and he is a true competitor. I would take this kind of gamble any day.

  1. Denzel Mims / Baylor / 6’3 – 207

Grade: 81

Summary: Senior entry from Daingerfield, Texas. Three year starter who earned All Big 12 honors in both 2017 and 2019. The former high school basketball and track star had a bit of a back and forth career at Baylor because of the quality around him, but his 2019 cemented him as one of the top receivers in the class. Mims has a classic wide receiver build with wiry strong length and a defender’s mentality. He is incredibly physical and tough but also shows a blend of finesse and pure speed that can make him a threat within all areas of the route tree. There are some elements to his game that need to be fixed, most notably his release and route running, but the tools are there. His issues are fixable and if he fine tunes the skill set, he can be a number one receiver in the league.

*You want a receiver who is going to actually make a difference as a blocker? Here you go. Mims is physical and strong with an aggressive, borderline reckless approach on the field. He really evolved as a pass catcher in 2019 and the tools are near top shelf. He is long and fast with good ball tracking and he really competes for the ball and after the catch. He almost seems like the perfect prospect who should be graded higher, but he still has some rawness to his game. He didn’t run a lot of routes and he can still get sloppy as a route runner. I think he ends up being a really solid player but may just need extra time compared to others up here.

  1. Brandon Aiyuk / Arizona State / 6’0 – 205

Grade: 81

Summary: Senior entry. Two year starter from Reno, Nevada. Spent two seasons at Sierra Junior College. After being the number two guy behind N’Keal Harry in 2018, Aiyuk took over as a senior, finishing second in the conference in receiving. The 1st Team All Pac 12 standout brings a rare level of hand size and arm length, making him play bigger than the listed size. Aiyuk’s greatest trait, however, is the ability to burst and get himself open via movement. He has enough speed to make a corner bail on his technique and enough quickness to plant his foot and dart away from them underneath. In the right scheme and role, he is a year-one contributor. He still needs to clean up some release issues and continue to learn the game at a higher level, but he can be a dynamic weapon at the next level.

*Aiyuk just recently underwent a core muscle surgery and while it doesn’t appear that serious, I wonder if these medical red flags will bump him down because of the situation we are under. He is a legit first round talent who still has a way to go on the progression scale. If he reaches his upside, he has some Odell Beckham in his arsenal. Like Mims, he is a bit raw still and there are credible questions. Some have him in their top 20 overall though.

  1. Van Jefferson / Florida / 6’2 – 200

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Brentwood, Tennessee. Began his career at Ole Miss where he started and finished second on the team in catches among a group of pass catchers that included Evan Engram, AJ Brown, and DK Metcalf. Jefferson transferred to Florida after graduating in just three years, giving him two more seasons of eligibility. He started both years and led the Gators in receiving both times. Jefferson’s father is a former NFL wide receiver and also the current Jets receiver coach. It is obvious he is coming into the league with a deep understanding of the game on multiple levels. He runs impeccable routes, catches everything he gets his hands on, and will make things happen with the ball in his hands. He may not have the top tier physical traits when it comes to size and speed, but he is almost a sure-bet to be a productive player at the next level. The only question is overall upside.

*This kid is being overlooked by the public, but I am confident he is going to be a 2nd or early 3rd rounder. I think he lacks some of the elite tools and highlights that many are looking for, but this kid has gotten the job done multiple times across multiple offenses. He stood out on teams with other pro-receivers. His father is a wide receiver coach and you can tell he knows what he is doing when running routes and attacking the ball. His learning curve will not be as steep as some others which again, I think will be valued more this year than others.

  1. Michael Pittman Jr./ USC / 6’4 – 223

Grade: 80

Summary: Senior entry. Three year starter from Woodland Hills, California. Son of former NFL running back Michael Pittman. Pittman made the 1st Team All Pac 12 as a special teams player in 2017 and Honorable Mention as a receiver in 2018 and 1st Team in 2019. He has been a versatile, multi faceted contributor since the start of his career. That all ties together how much this kid knows the game and can adjust to whatever role he is thrown into. For a receiver who doesn’t possess top tier athletic traits, Pittman can still get the job done because of superior route running, ball skills, and toughness. While he won’t be a number one threat, he is the kind of player who will be in the league a long time and will remain consistent and steady.

*Another kid with NFL lineage here and it shows when I watched his tape. Pittman knows exactly what to do when the ball is in the air when it comes to body positioning and timing. He can high point the ball exceptionally well and he rarely lets one hit the turf if it is within his reach. He doesn’t have the juice to be a big time threat athletically, but he is going to be dependable for a long time. I bet he has a 10+ year career and scores a lot of touchdowns.

  1. Bryan Edwards / South Carolina / 6’3 – 212

Grade: 80

Summary: Senior entry from Conway, South Carolina. Four-year starter who re-wrote the school record book. Caught a pass in all 48 games he played in. A two time winner of the school’s Steve Spurrier Award, given to the teams top offensive player. A permanent team captain. Edwards is the kind of player every coach wants to welcome in with open arms based on his intangibles alone. He is a complete, balanced player who brings toughness, competitiveness, and production to the table. Athletically he won’t scare anyone, but he gets the most out of himself and will be a guy who sticks around in the league for a long time.

*There isn’t enough talk about Edwards but I can understand why, there are simply so many good receivers in this class. Edwards may be this year’s version of Darius Slayton, a guy I have graded in the second round who could be available early day three. His speed is sneaky, he runs good routes, and he will catch everything within his radius. Edwards has good size, something NYG needs at the position. I can see these two pairing up.

  1. KJ Hamler / Penn State / 5’9 – 178

Grade: 79

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Pontiac, Michigan. A two year starter who exploded onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2018, a year that saw him break Saquon Barkley’s school all purpose yards record for freshmen while ending up Honorable Mention All Big 10 as a receiver and kick returner respectively. He was also a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile player. Hamler didn’t quite produce the same way in 2019 but there is no denying how electric he is with the ball in his hands. The 2nd Team All Big 10 receiver can line up in the slot and outside because of his ability to get vertical on one play and open underneath the next. He is as agile and quick as he is fast. The lack of size will hurt him and there needs to be an improvement as a pass catcher, but Hamler’s is the kind of player who a defense will need to adjust to. He is a playmaker who can make things happen at any given moment in a variety of ways.

*High risk, high reward player who won’t be a fit for every team. Some offenses don’t want anything to do with someone who stands just under 5’9 and weights under 180 pounds. He is electric, though. For an offense with a creative mind running the show, packages and plays can be created for what this kid can do on the field. He also showed some impressive route running which doesn’t get enough attention from the public, he can really get himself open.

  1. Jalen Reagor / TCU / 5’11 / 206

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Waxahachie, Texas. Two year starter but was a key contributor all three seasons. Named 2017 Big 12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year and earned 2nd Team All Big 12 honors in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Son of former NFL defensive tackle Monte Reagor. Jalen is a gadget player at this point who can line up all over the field including the backfield. He is the kind of player who no opposing defensive coach wants to see with the ball in his hands because of his legit ability to score every time he touches it. Reagor is coming into the league with a raw feel, however. He is sloppy as a route runner who doesn’t maximize his physical gifts. He doesn’t catch the ball consistently. And his effort can be questioned on some plays where is isn’t directly involved. His upside is exciting and he will be an occasional playmaker at the very least, but he has a lot of work to do.

*Reagor is a tough guy to scout for a few reasons. TCU put him all over the offense and they were really inconsistent week to week when it came to getting him the ball, especially in 2019. Another thing, he suffered from really poor QB play as a junior. Third, Reagor lacks staying power. What I mean by that is he looks to be an all or nothing type asset. There are some weeks where he looks like what Percy Harvin was supposed to be, other weeks where he looks like what Percy Harvin actually was. His hands are shaky at best, his routes don’t match his movement skills, and he doesn’t play big. He has first round burst and big play potential, but there is so much more to it than that.

  1. Laviska Shenault / Colorado / 6’1 – 227

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from DeSoto, Texas. Two-year starter who was 1st Team All Pac 12 in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. The do-it-all weapon for Colorado lined up all over the offense and produced from multiple spots. At his size, he can certainly pose as a backfield threat in certain packages. Getting him the ball via the handoff and/or screen game will put pressure on the defense because of his ability to break tackles and gain yards after contact. As an outside receiver, Shenault will have a hard time getting open. He is very raw as a route runner and his speed won’t put anyone on their heels. He is a physical gimmick player with some additional upside if he can refine his skill set quite a bit.

*Shenault underwent core muscle surgery and was a little banged up throughout the 2019 season. That factored into his grade a bit, but nothing drastic. I like him as an oversized gimmick player who looks comfortable and natural in multiple roles. I think there are some effort issues though and this is kid who has a lot of work to do from a skill set perspective.

  1. James Proche / SMU / 5’11 – 201

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Dallas, Texas. Four year starter who re-wrote the program’s all time receiver record book, leaving atop the career catches, yards, and touchdowns lists respectively. Two time All AAC honoree. Proche is the gamer of all gamers who will always find a way to make an impact. He lined up both outside and in the slot in addition to being the team’s primary punt returner. No receiver in the country caught as many balls as Proche over the past two years. His question will be long speed and that may determine if he will be full time slot or not at the next level. If so, he will need to clean up the consistency of his route running but he shows the tools to do so. According to SMU coaches, he has the best pair of hands they have ever been around and that’s the way it shows on tape. Proche won countless contested situations despite lacking a size advantage. The skill set is dangerous and if he finds the right situation in the NFL, he will be among league leaders in catches.

*When I made my master list last June/July/August, I tried to watch a little bit of tape on each prospect (over 1,000 players) even if it was just a few minutes. I like to get a very-initial view on guys. When I watched Proche, I immediately said this kid catches the ball different than everyone else. Fast forward to now, I’ve read the SMU coaches say he has the best hands they’ve ever seen and Daniel Jeremiah recently stated he has the best ball skills in the draft. Proche didn’t run well and he isn’t big, so there is a chance he falls into late day three. If I need a slot, I am all over him though. Maybe not a fit for NYG but if he gets to the right situation, he is the guy who catches 100 balls per year.

  1. Donovan People-Jones / Michigan / 6’2 – 212

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Detroit, Michigan. Three-year starter who earned 3rd Team All Big 10 honors in 2018 as both a receiver and punt returner. The former 5-star recruit who was also an accomplished high school sprinter with a near-4.0 grade point average never quite lived up to the hype after a promising Freshman All American season in 2017. The inconsistent quarterback play combined with a lingering lower body injury that hampered him in the first half of 2019 left a lot of unknowns for him. However his athletic ability combined with top shelf length and hand size in addition to a woefully impressive combine leaves him on the positive side of that wonder. This is a receiver with number one receiver potential who needs to clean up some of his route running, but already has other traits that will help a team right away.

*One of the most overlooked talents in the draft. People-Jones has the goods but he struggled to fully put it together at Michigan. There was a lot of poor and inconsistent QB play that hurt him specifically. This is a really smart kid with plus juice and explosion. He’s made some catches in traffic that were really high-difficulty but he made them look simple and easy. He already shows some plus route running and quick decision making when reacting to the defense. Most years he is a top 10 talent at the position.

  1. Lynn Bowden / Kentucky / 5’11 – 204

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Youngstown, Ohio. Two year starter who stole the show as an all purpose performer in 2019, winning the Paul Hornung Award and earning 1st Team All American honors. The two time 1st Team All SEC honoree made the move to quarterback for the final 8 games of 2019 which led to him leading the Wildcats in both rushing and receiving. The versatility grade Bowden brings to the table will give the more creative offensive play-callers wide eyes. This kid is a gamer who knows the game exceptionally well and has the feel and movement ability to support it. He projects as a slot receiver who will need to clean up his route running but in the mean time, he can be a specific package player who will put a defense on their heels when he steps on the field.

*In this copycat league, you may see some teams view Bowden as the next Taysom Hill. A wide receiver who can actually line up at quarterback and pose as a threat in multiple ways. If you are grading him strictly as a receiver, he may be a tad lower but not much. He is really smooth and easy with the ball in his hands but he plays to a 4.45 speed. He made a lot of SEC defenders look silly. If you can create a specific role for him, he can make things happen. Not sure if NYG has it in the cards to get creative like that, but if they want to think outside the box I bet he is there in round 4.

  1. Antonio Gandy-Golden / Liberty / 6’4 – 223

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Dallas, Georgia. Three year starter who was 1st Team All Big South in 2017 before Liberty bumped up to FBS, going independent. The team’s leading receiver three straight seasons has a lot of dominant tape to look back on over his career. He has the size, strength, and leaping ability to take over a 50/50 situation and come down with the ball, making him a credible red zone threat right away. He has some sloppiness and lethargic movement as a route runner, but the steady improvement he showed over the last four seasons should give reason for optimism in regard to overcoming some athletic shortcomings.

*Maybe the most physical receiver in the group, Gandy-Golden will be a credible red zone threat right away. He has plus body control and coordination to help maximize his tools. He won’t be an every down threat when it comes to deep speed or underneath separation, but his size and competitiveness will overshadow some movement shortcomings. A good fit for what NYG needs but I could see him falling a bit because of a lack of speed.

  1. Kalija Lipscomb / Vanderbilt / 6’0 – 207

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from New Orleans, Louisiana. Two year starter who was the team’s leading receiver in 2019 and 2018 respectively. If it weren’t for such poor quarterback play, Lipscomb’s production could have been much more attractive. He did the most he could from a bad offensive situation and could a top value for an offense looking for a slot option. He moves exceptionally fast off the line and will get open underneath consistently. He also shows toughness and grit in traffic with elusiveness after the catch. A lack of long speed will limit his impact on the outside, but if he can stay in a traditional slot role, he can be effective early on.

*I like how competitive Lipscomb plays week in, week out. A really feisty player who gets the most out of himself and rarely lets one hit the turf. His tools are average to below average, but he had a petty productive career in the SEC despite playing with poor QBs. He caught my eye at the Senior Bowl as a slot prospect but he may not be ideal for an outside role.

  1. Devin Duveray / Texas / 5’11 – 200

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Sachse, Texas. Two-year starter who was involved in the offense all four seasons. Has some kick return experience. Finished number one in the nation among FBS receivers in catches with 103 (regular season) en route to a 1st Team All Big 12 honor. Duvernay was state champion sprinter in high school who broke out as a senior. His ability to take the top off a defense while also tracking the ball well and finishing plays with the ball is an attractive asset that every offense is looking for. What is unique about him is the running back build and mentality. He can make things happen after the catch with a blend of toughness and speed that a creative offensive mind can sometimes only dream about. His feel for the game as a route runner and somewhat below average agility may limit his impact underneath and intermediate, but there are traits here that can certainly make an impact.

*In this overly crowded receiver class, it is very possible some teams have Duvernay in the top 15. He has top shelf speed, he had a really productive year, and he is effective after the catch. Someone is going to take a chance on him day 2 I think. I just don’t love the tightness he shows as a route runner and he doesn’t get to a lot of balls away from his body, which is already playing with a small radius. He is a big play threat though, no denying it.

  1. KJ Hill / Ohio State / 6’0 – 196

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior. Technically just a one year starter but has been heavily involved in the Buckeyes passing attack all four seasons. Honorable Mention All Big 10 in both 2019 and 2018. Set the all time receptions record at Ohio State toward the tail end of his career. Hill was also a punt returner in his time in Columbus. He projects as a slot receiver at the next level because of his sharp route running ability, quickness out of his breaks, and lack of true size and speed that would be reserved for the outside. Hill’s production may have been somewhat of a result of right place, right time type factors, but he still deserves a shot at taking on a slot role in the NFL. He will need to get more physical in a crowd and increase his production after the catch if he is going to stick.

*Hill projects to the slot at the next level. He plays smaller than he is listed. With that said, to set the all time catch record at a program like Ohio State is noteworthy. Combine that with how coordinated he looks when it comes to route running and ball skills and he looks like a safe day three pick who you know will give you something but lacks the big time upside.

  1. Isaiah Hodgins / Oregon State / 6’4 – 210

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Oakley, California. A three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. The son of former Rams Super Bowl winning fullback James Hodgins. Isaiah was Oregon State’s number one receiver two straight seasons. He doesn’t jump off the screen as an athlete, but his superb and advanced route running, plus-ball skills, and tough mentality make him an ideal fit for the possession receiver spot. He is a sure thing to bring the ball in if he can get his hands on it. Separation against tight man coverage will be tough, but there will be a spot for him somewhere. Players with this kind of production, size, and NFL lineage are safe bets.

*The question here will be speed and burst. He isn’t a guy who will get open easily but if a scheme that creates separation for receivers can get their hands on him, he has plus-talent pretty much everywhere else. He can make the difficult catches look easy and he does the little things right. Really good size too, someone I bet NYG is looking at day 3.

  1. Isaiah Coulter / Rhode Island / 6’2 – 198

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Brandywine, Rhode Island. A two-year starter who earned 2nd Team All Colonial Athletic Association honors in 2019. The cousin to fellow receiver prospect Aaron Parker, also from Rhode Island. Coulter was a surprise early entry who could have been a day two prospect next year. Currently, he displays a high ceiling that stems from his plus-straight line athleticism and potential as a route runner. He has really good footwork and hands, but struggles to play strong and lacks explosive traits downfield. The potential is there, he is simply rough around the edges and needs time. He could be an eventual number three or four.

*There is quietly a good amount of interest on this kid around the league. Teams see a lot of untapped upside and while I still think the early declaration was a quick trigger by him, I think someone is going to take a chance on him earlier than we think. He made a lot of flash plays, plays that a lot of receivers down in this area can’t make. You want a 2-3 year project with huge upside, here he is.

  1. Quintez Cephus / Wisconsin / 6’1 – 202

Grade: 73

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Macon, Georgia. Three-year starter. Honorable Mention all Big 10 in 2019 after missing all of 2018 while he was undergoing a rape trial. He was found not guilty and soon after re-admitted to the program. Cephus, a top end high school basketball player who also had several Division I offers, broke out in his true-senior season while leading the Badgers in catches, yards, and touchdowns. In a predominantly rushing offense, it Cephus stood out and flashed top-end ability on the outside. Wisconsin isn’t exactly known for producing NFL talent at receiver, but this kid moves different and has a lot of tools to work with. If the off-field screening passes tests, he is just as talented as many others at the position in this class with attainable upside.

*Good story here if you have the time to read up on it. Cephus, on the field, showed big play ability in 2019 and one can rightfully wonder what he could have been in a more passing-focused scheme. He had a poor workout at the combine though and it is going to further push him down. I’m not sure the off field story is going to impact his grade with teams but the more “red notes” someone has, the less likely teams will gamble especially in this kind of WR class. Cephus brings a high ceiling to the table and while I do think he plays faster than his listed 4.73 forty, questions can be asked regarding his potential to be a downfield threat.

  1. JaMarcus Bradley / Louisiana-Lafaytte / 6’0 – 198

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Ackerman, Mississippi. Three-year starter who was named 2nd Team All Sun Belt in both 2019 and 2018, Honorable Mention in 2017. Left the program as the 4th all time leading receiver in school history and 2nd all time in receiving touchdowns. Bradley isn’t going to jump off the sheet when it comes tools and physical upside. He is pedestrian across the board. However where he does stand out is the ability to catch the ball and run routes underneath. The former high school quarterback who was a record setter as a runner and passer has a knack for finding creases and coming away from traffic with the ball. His huge hands and long arms are assets that can at least somewhat make up for his lack of long speed and playing strength. He has a good chance at being one of the best values of draft weekend.

*I left Shrine week with one kid in mind when it came to who stood out the most and who improved their stock via consistency. It was Bradley. He wasn’t invited to the combine, which I wasn’t happy about, as it makes it less and less likely he will be drafted with that being the case. I am keeping my grade on him here, however. Bradley has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen and he is a pro-caliber route runner. He doesn’t have ideal size and speed, but he can make up for it. I don’t see a day three pick who will end up being a number one receiver, but I do see a guy who is going to contribute if he gets his shot.

  1. Quartney Davis / Texas A&M: 72
  2. Quez Watkins / Southern Mississippi: 72
  3. Tyler Johnson / Minnesota: 72
  4. Collin Johnson / Texas: 71
  5. John Hightower / Boise State: 71
  6. Juwan Johnson / Oregon: 71
  7. Aaron Fuller / Washington: 71
  8. Mason Kinsey / Berry: 71
  9. Joe Reed / Virginia: 71
  10. Jauan Jennings / Tennessee: 70
  11. Maurice Ffrench / Pittsburgh: 70
  12. Kendrick Rogers / Texas A&M: 70
  13. Freddie Swain / Florida: 69
  14. Omar Bayless / Arkansas State: 69
  15. Austin Mack / Ohio State: 69
  16. Gabriel Davis / Central Florida: 69
  17. Juwan Green / Albany: 69
  18. Darnell Mooney / Tulane: 68
  19. Nick Westbrook / Indiana: 68
  20. Isaiah Wright / Temple: 68

NYG APPROACH

The three-year average for amount of wide receivers drafted is 31. I have 50 draftable grades in this group alone. I think the growing trend among scouting circles I’m in is that the wide receiver classes are going to continue to strengthen year by year. In the WR preview at this time last year, I said the 2019 class was the deepest I have scouted. This group is better. And as of right now, early indications are the 2021 group is going to be just as strong if not even better. I talk about this because I think NYG can and should take one of these guys, but they shouldn’t be rushed into anything. I think the odds are in their favor that a really good value will be there in round 5.

Do I think a good value will be there at the top of round 2? Sure. But if you want to gamble on the economics game (supply/demand), I think your better value will be present day three (similar to what NYG got in Slayton in 2019) while filling in the other empty boxes on the NYG roster earlier on. The Giants passing game has room for improvement and I think they need a bigger, more physical threat for red zone situations specifically. They have guys who can make things happen after the catch, they have a speed threat, but they don’t have the big guy. Now with that said, I don’t want a sizeable receiver who can’t move. He needs to have good hands and I still think this team needs more true speed and you want the new kid to be competitive. So if you’re looking early, I see Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins, and Chase Claypool being realistic options. If you’re looking middle rounds, someone like Bryan Edwards, Donovan People-Jones, Isaiah Coulter could be the guy. If you want to wait for the late rounds, I’m sure a few surprises will fall but you may get a John Hightower, Kendrick Rogers, or Quartney Davis back there.

Apr 142020
 
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Cole Kmet, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (October 12, 2019)

Cole Kmet – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

If there is one position on offense that I think NYG can look past, it is tight end. With that said, there are long term question marks here. Evan Engram, when he’s on the field, has been a productive and dangerous asset to the offense. With his 4.44 speed on his 240 pound frame, he presents matchup problems for the defense and offers a weapon no other receiver on the current NYG roster can. The glaring issue, however, revolves around his durability. He missed 5 games in 2018 and 8 games in 2019 while battling through injuries in several others. Engram had surgery on his foot this past December, now making knee / hamstring / foot issues on a guy who is overly reliant on burst and quickness.

Because Engram really can’t hang in the trenches as a blocker, NYG signed Levine Toilolo from SF in free agency. He is known for his blocking and even deeper than that, known for being able to help rookie offensive tackles. Something to consider there. Kaden Smith was signed off the SF practice squad last season and provided really solid, albeit limited play. And lastly, CJ Conrad (who impressed throughout 2019) will be competing for a job with journeymen veterans Eric Tomlinson and Garrett Dickerson.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Cole Kmet / Notre Dame / 6’6 – 262

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Lake Barrington, Illinois. A one year starter who was the team’s number two receiver despite missing the first two games with a broken collar bone. Kmet is one of the more NFL-ready tight ends in the class. His size, strength at the point of attack, and soft hands will make him an every down player. He won’t be able to get open against NFL safeties and cover linebackers, but his length and ability to box out defenders like a power forward can make him at last pose as an underneath and red zone threat. His upside is limited, but will come in with a high floor and ability to play right away.

*In a weak tight end class, Kmet stands out as the most NFL-ready and capable. The potential issue is, however, some teams aren’t valuing the Y-tight end as much as they used to. The “Y” is what most of us grew up on, the guy with his hand in the dirt most snaps. With the amount of offenses that are using their tight end in motion and split out wide, a guy like Kmet could see a draft day fall whereas 10 years ago I think he is a first round lock. He is a safe player, one who will get the job done but not one who is going to make a huge, notable difference.

  1. Harrison Bryant / Florida Atlantic / 6’5 – 243

Grade: 79

Summary: Senior entry from Gray, Georgia. Three year starter who made the move from offensive tackle to tight end as a senior in high school. Went onto earn 2nd Team All Conference USA in 2017 and 1st Team in both 2018 and 2019. Was also an All American and the Winner of the John Mackey Award as a senior. Bryant was the only tight end in the country to finish with over 1,000 yards receiving. The volume of the Florida Atlantic passing game helped a bit, but his production was no fluke. He has a lot of tools that translate well to the next level. He is tougher than nails, has an outstanding lower body when it comes to quickness and agility, and will look to take a defenders head off when he can. This overly physical pass catcher may have some size and strength limitations, but he has the tools to really make a difference in the passing game right away.

*Bryant is an interesting player. He was on my short list of guys to watch early in 2019 and I didn’t like him against Ohio State. I kept on seeing his numbers throughout the year increase and I gave him another look midseason, didn’t like him against Western Kentucky. However as the postseason scouting process when deeper and deeper, I got my hands on my tape and he impressed me. Coming from a low place in regard to my view of him, Bryant really shined. He is tough and feisty. He is really quick and subtle. He is a top notch second level blocker. I think a team can use him the way SF and BAL uses their tight ends, meaning a lot of motion and favorable matchups. He can’t be an in-line tight end every down, but I do think he can make an impact if used correctly.

  1. Jacob Breeland / Oregon / 6’5 – 252

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior entry. Three year starter from Mission Viejo, California. Breeland was well on his way toward a top tier season not only for his career, but among the 2019 Pac 12 tight ends. However a torn ACL suffered in October ended his season early and he is currently rehabbing with the hope to be ready for training camp. Breeland has the size and strength to play in line, but also proved he can be a factor in space in Oregon’s wide open attack. He can be viewed as a but of an unknown but a look at his tape over the past two years will create the solid notion he is a starting caliber pro tight end. He does everything a team would want from the position. He is tough, hard nosed, and will catch everything within his reach.

*I am taking a bit of a chance here on Breeland. First, he is coming off a torn ACL and is questionable to be ready for training camp. Second, he wasn’t a feature guy in the Oregon offense. However with the way they run the ball, he got so much experience as an inline blocker and it was a role he impressed. However he is not just a blocking tight end, he can be a credible threat to the passing game as well. I like his style and I think he ends up being a better pro than he was a college player.

  1. Hunter Bryant / Washington / 6’2 – 248

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from Issaquah, Washington. Bryant’s career got off to a hot start in 2017 but he suffered a knee injury that he re-aggravated months later, forcing him into surgery that kept him out of all but 5 games in 2018. Bryant was still fighting through lingering issues from that injury in early 2019 but he played every game (other than the decision to sit out his bowl game) and earned 1st Team All Pac 12 honors, falling just short of re-writing the program’s all time tight end record book. Bryant is a plus athlete, route runner, and ball catcher who lacks ideal size and strength. He has the look of a tweener but this role is becoming more and more popular in the NFL. If his knee checks out and stays healthy, Bryant can be a chess piece-receiving option for a team looking to create mismatches.

*Bryant is going to need to pass a few medicals to be drafted day two, but this grade is assuming he will. He is a cheap version of Evan Engram. Not the same caliber athlete but he plays a similar style. He gets open on all three levels of the route tree, he can make the spectacular play, and he can be a mismatch for both linebackers and defensive backs. High risk, high reward guy.

  1. Adam Trautman / Dayton / 6’5 – 255

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Williamsburg, Michigan. Four year starter who made the transition from quarterback to tight end in 2016. From there he was named All PFL three straight years and was a FCS All American in 2019 in addition to being named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year. Trautman is one of the top small school prospects in the draft and rightfully so. His potential impact on the passing game stems from his ability to create mismatches and capitalize on the ball being in the same zip code as him. He has soft hands and a basketball player’s type ability to coordinate himself with balance and precision in traffic. There is a lot of weight room in his future, where he will need to be given a key and sleeping bag because his power presence in the NFL trenches won’t be existent in year one. He has the frame, however, to improve there and be a quality starter.

*If you are scouting Trautman’s upside as a receiver, it is very likely you could end up with a 2nd round grade on him. He has size, decent speed, and excellent ball skills. He was really impressive down on Mobile at Senior Bowl week. When I really broke him down, though, I saw a guy who is a year or two away from consistent impact. Maybe a team can use him specific packages early on, but he won’t handle the physical side of the game early. Add in the fact he will be getting a late start to the strength program because of what is going on, 3rd round is the best I can give him.

  1. Devin Asiasi / UCLA / 6’3 – 257

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Shoreville, California. One year starter who began his career at Michigan in 2016 and was forced to sit out all of 2017 because of the transfer. Asiasi didn’t really pop onto the radar until 2019, where he earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors. He finished second on the Bruins in receiving and averaged a hefty 14.6 yards per catch. Asiasi is a really gifted athlete who moves with easy fluidity as a route runner all over the route tree. He can get onto the defense in a hurry and when the ball is near him in traffic, he almost always comes away with it. He doesn’t look ready for NFL blocking duties just yet, but he shows the necessary effort that coaches can work with and will impact the passing game in the mean time. The risk here revolves around a lack of experience, giving him a bit of a boom or bust label.

*This kid has as high a ceiling as any TE in the class. If he went back to school and put up a big year, we would likely be talking about a top 40 pick in 2021. Asiasi will have some questions to answer in regard to some work ethic concerns, but I’ve been told it is nothing serious. He can really get in and out of his breaks, he has excellent ball skills, he tries hard as a blocker. I think we are going to hear about this kid in a few years if he stays clean.

  1. Jared Pinkney / Vanderbilt / 6’4 – 257

Grade: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior from Norcross, Georgia. Four year starter who peaked in 2018, earning 2nd Team All SEC honors. Pinkney spent the majority of his snaps lined up in the slot. He is not a traditional Y-tight end, as he struggles to maintain quality contact as a blocker in the trenches. However when it comes to making an impact as a receiver, he can beat man coverage against linebackers and defensive backs alike. He is the kind of tight end who can be moved around the formation pre-snap and make things happen in space. He is a reliable pass catcher in traffic on all levels of the route tree and could be one of those guys who becomes a much better pro than what he was in college because of the talent deficit he was dealing with being a part of the Vandy offense in the SEC.

*Pinkney may go higher than where I have him, I would even say it is likely. He was given a 1st round projection by the NFS before the 2019 season. I watched him plenty and just don’t see the upside but he may be able to get on the field right away as a slot tight end. Like I have spoken about a few times, teams that want to move the TE around a bit will like him. Reliable route runner and hands, just a limited guy. Doesn’t stand out to me and I don’t see a ton of upside.

  1. Colby Parkinson / Stanford – 6’7 – 252

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Simi Valley, California. Two year starter who earned 2nd Team All Pac 12 honors in 2019. Parkinson comes from a pro-style offense that utilized the tight end in multiple ways. They have produced several solid pros from the position and Parkinson should be next in line. His main contributions will come in the passing game, as the power forward has shown the knack for boxing defenders out and attacking the ball with a wide radius. While his power presence in the trenches won’t ever make a big difference, he can hold his own. He can be a part of a solid 1-2 package at the position right away.

*It sounds like Parkinson is heading toward a day 2 selection. I have him slightly below that but I can see why some teams see the matchup nightmares he can present for a defense. He is an athletic, fluid, agile receiver who stands over 6’7 tall. Those guys don’t come around often. His pad level is an issue in the trenches and beyond his size, I don’t see a special athlete. He will catch some touchdowns for you but I’m not sure I see a guy who will be on the field for even half the plays.

  1. Albert Okwuegbunam / Missouri / 6’6 – 258

Grade: 74

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Springfield, Illinois. A three-year starter who earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in both 2017 and 2019 while finishing as a Mackey Award finalist in his injury-shortened 2018. Okwuegbunam has the size and ball skills that are going to be a problem for defenders in the NFL, most notably in the secondary. His length and thickness alone are tough to handle, but he proved to be an efficient and savvy receiver of the ball, bringing in 23 touchdowns over 33 games. However he isn’t an every down threat right away, as his blocking and down-to-down contributions are a ways away. He never played a traditional tight end role and his effectiveness in the trenches needs a lot of work.

*Another one who has a good chance at being drafted higher than where I have him. Okwuegbunam is massive but shows soft hands and plus body control. He can be an asset to the passing game, for sure. However don’t be fooled by his size, he isn’t a physical guy and will get eaten alive in the trenches.

  1. Stephen Sullivan / LSU / 6’5 – 248

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Two year starter who has been a part of the consistent offensive rotation since 2017. The former top 10 wide receiver recruit evolved into an athletic, tools rich tight end prospect who is going to be a bit of a project in the NFL. He is gifted with what few others can match when it comes to size and speed, but he never quite put a lot of consistent production together at LSU. He has a ways to go as a blocker but the effort seems to be there and he flashed during Senior Bowl week as a matchup nightmare in the passing game.

*For a team that has a spot on the depth chart to develop at tight end, Sullivan on day three makes a ton of sense. Still relatively new to the tight end position, he has ridiculous size. 35+ inch arms and a 85+ inch wingspan is huge for a tackle. Then he jumps put of the building and runs a 4.66. Sullivan is a little too straight-line for me but he can get you excited when all things are considered. Just need to be patient.

  1. Brycen Hopkins / Purdue / 6’4 – 245

Grade: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Nashville, Tennessee. Two year starter who really blossomed in his final year on campus. Earned 1st Team All Big 10 and All American honors in addition to being named the conference’s Tight End of the Year in 2019 after being named Honorable Mention in 2018. Hopkins is a flex tight end who can be moved around pre-snap. He can pass the initial eyeball test when lining up in-line and in the backfield, but his ideal fit is split out where he can out-quick a linebacker and out-muscle a defensive back. He has production on all levels of the route tree but his hands aren’t consistent enough to be considered a big time threat in the passing game and he won’t ever be an impact-blocker. He has the look of a second or third tight end who can be effective in specific portions of the playbook.

*I see Hopkins as a guy who will get on the field early. He is really smart and does a lot of things right. I don’t think he ever gets past the backup/number 2 spot, but he can make things happen underneath. Solid 3rd down option for teams that may be thin at WR.

  1. Thaddeus Moss / LSU / 6’2 – 250

Grade: 71

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Charlotte, North Carolina. A one-year starter for LSU after playing one season at NC State. Missed all of 2018 while rehabbing a foot injury . Son of former NFL receiver Randy Moss. Moss was a key part of the elite passing attack LSU put on display en route to their National Championship. He really started to emerge over the course of the second half of the year where he put on plus-ball skills and grit on tape. While he lacks ideal experience and physical tools, there will be a place for him on a depth chart. He won’t ever be a feature tight end but there is reason to believe he can add something to a passing attack as an accessory piece.

*Moss had a really solid season in 2019, but I do think a decent portion of his production was the result of the offense he was in and defensive attention being elsewhere. At the end of the day he isn’t that big and he isn’t that fast. He does have lineage, which teams like, and he has a good feel to find the vacant holes in the coverage, something teams also like. I don’t see a starter, but instead a rotational asset to the short passing game.

  1. Dominick Wood-Anderson / Tennessee – 6’4 – 261

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from San Diego California. Two-year starter for Tennessee after spending two seasons in junior college. Wood-Anderson is an intriguing athlete when considering the tools he brings to the table in addition to the upside he shows as a blocker. When his head is in the game, he can be depended upon to man a defender up whether it is a defensive end or linebacker, and take him out of the play. There is some natural pop and explosion that comes from his hips paired with heavy hands. In addition, he flashed both at Tennessee and during Shrine week as a receiver who can overmatch linebackers with quickness and safeties with strength. He projects as a backup until he can prove he is maturing and will apply himself but if he does, there is a lot of potential in him.

*Wood-Anderson comes with a buyer-beware label. He is talented and tough, but there weren’t exactly glowing reports on him coming out of school. If not for the character issues, I would have likely had him 3-4 points higher into round 3/4 territory. He didn’t run well at the combine, though. I could see him going undrafted but if someone wants to take a chance, he may be worth it.

  1. Gio Ricci / Western Michigan – 6’3 – 234

Grade: 70

Summary: Fifth year senior from Loveland, Ohio. Three-year starter who made the transition from wide receiver to tight end in 2018. A 3rd team All MAC selection in 2018, 1st Team in 2019. Ricci is still developing his frame into pro tight end-caliber and he may never be ideal size. With that said, there is enough toughness and grit in his game to work with if a team can find a way to move him around pre-snap. He is a versatile athlete and quality pass catcher who can line up in the backfield, split out wide, or into a H-Back type spot. At the end of the day, he can be a weapon in the passing game for a creative mind.

*There are a handful of these undersized slot tight ends who I have a draftable grade on. The best route runner is Ricci, who was playing wide receiver less than 2 years ago. He gets out of his breaks exceptionally well and locates the ball with hands up and ready. He rarely lets one hit the turf if it is within his reach. Ricci is small though, and will struggle to impact the game as a blocker. However he can get open, a trait coaches are looking for.

  1. Dalton Keene / Virginia Tech / 6’4 – 253

Grade: 69

Summary: Junior entry from Littleton, Colorado. Three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All ACC honors in 2018. A former running back who primarily played tight end / H-back for the Hokies, Keene was used as a Swiss army knife gadget. He lined up all over the offense, saw a lot of pre-snap motion, and got the ball in his hands a variety of ways. The instability of the Virginia Tech offense over the past tree seasons may have hurt his production, but he showed enough to prove he can make a roster via versatility and athletic upside. Keene is quicker than he is fast, which plays to his position well. He isn’t strong enough to handle pro linebackers and linemen yet, but he should be a multiple-use player who can also help on special teams within a year.

*Keene was a bit of a surprise early entrant. I thought he had some potential to be a 2021 day two pick if he went back to school and got featured more. He simply never got to display his potential as a threat in the passing game enough but there are glimpses where you can see his ability to play a versatile role. He does a lot of little things well and should be around late day three.

  1. Charlie Taumoepeau / Portland State: 69
  2. Josiah Deguara / Cincinnati: 68
  3. Cheyenne O’Grady / Arkansas: 68
  4. Mitchell Wilcox / South Florida: 67
  5. Sean McKeon / Michigan: 66
  6. Ben Ellefson / North Dakota State: 64
  7. Charlie Woerner / Georgia: 64
  8. Jared Rice / Fresno State: 64
  9. Eli Wolf / Georgia: 63
  10. Parker Houston / San Diego State: 62

NYG APPROACH

I think this is the time to share some thoughts on Evan Engram. He is going to be on his rookie contract another two seasons (assuming NYG picks up the 5th year option in May). Ever since I first saw him at training camp in 2017, I’ve thought this kid could be the wildcard of the offense. His gifts are among the best in the position across the entire league. At 240 pounds he has proven to have wide receiver caliber speed and leaping ability. He is agile, explosive, and adjusts well. Now that he has played three years, we can probably make a highlight reel of plays he’s made and there would be every reason to hope this kid has a career in blue because plain and simple, he is a threat. However, I think it is time to consider a trade.

Engram doesn’t fit into a power offense. I think we can agree he won’t ever be an effective enough blocker in the trenches to really pave a dependable outside path for Barkley. So knowing that you need someone in-line to make a difference, that means NYG will need to split Engram out wide. Do you really want him on the field over a wide receiver in that regard? You also have to consider he has multiple lower body injuries on his record, he’s missed 13 games in 2 years in addition to being banged up in others, and he has struggled with drops.

If there were ever a time to trade Engram, it is before the 2020 season. His economic value will remain somewhat high because of his rookie contract and proven production. The issue will be his health, as teams may not be confident in trading a prime asset for a guy coming off a foot surgery. With that said, if a team is willing to offer a top 75 pick for him, I think it would be worth going for and then NYG could view this tight end group with more focus on the future and what NYG has to build around in Barkley and Jones. I don’t bang the table for trades often, but this is one I would strongly consider. Teams that I think would be interested based on scheme and need, BAL (#55 or #60), HOU (#57), GB (#62), CIN (#65), ARI (#72), IND (#75).

Apr 122020
 
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Tristan Wirfs, Iowa Hawkeyes (November 9, 2019)

Tristan Wirfs – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Tackles

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

Dave Gettleman got aggressive in 2018, signing Nate Solder from NE to a 4 year $62 million contract. It was a move that put former top 10 pick Ereck Flowers at right tackle. Fast forward two seasons and Flowers is now a guard on the Dolphins after playing the 2019 season with the Redskins and Nate Solder grades out as one of the bottom third left tackles in the game despite having the third highest contract in the league. One has to assume they will move forward in 2020 with Solder on the left side but his $20.5 Million cap hit next year leads me to the notion he will not be playing for NYG beyond this season.

Mike Remmers left for KC in free agency to be a backup, which leaves the right side up to the winner of Nick Gates and the newly signed Cameron Fleming. Fleming has started 6 games over the past 2 seasons for Dallas and in fact has never started more than 7 games in a single season in his career. Gates saw three starts in 2019 and played both inside and outside. He showed promise but remember, the bar has been set so low here in regard to the offensive line and Gates would be best suited for a 6th or 7th blocker role. Chad Slade and Eric Smith are training camp bodies who can compete for a roster spot respectively. All in, the lack of quality both short term and long term at this position is incredibly weak.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Tristan Wirfs / Iowa / 6’5 – 320

Grade: 86

Summary: Junior entry and three year starter from Mount Vernon, Iowa. After a record setting high school shot put and discuss career, Wirfs stepped in as a starting right and left tackle as a true freshman in 2017. He settled in on the right side as the Hawkeyes have another future NFL prospect manning the left side, Alaric Jackson. Wirfs is a physical freak in the weight room and keeping that in mind with his background as a thrower, it was a sight to see as his football skill set and performance started to catch up with his upside in 2019. The foot-quickness, hand-striking, and easy knee bend gives him the look of a franchise offensive tackle. There are multiple inconsistencies that remain, however. He overextends too often and the speed/power combination of NFL edge rushers can eat that up for breakfast if it isn’t fixed. The just-turned 21 year old has work in front of him to do but if he can correct the very correctable issues, he can be a star.

*Another really interesting pre-draft study here that I spent a ton of time on. Wirfs has shutdown ability. What I mean by that is no matter what kind of pass rusher he is up against, Wirfs has the physical ability to dominate. Against power he can anchor, re-anchor, and keep his hands locked inside. Against pure speed he can beat the defender to the meeting point without losing the width of his feet. Against quickness, he can adjust inside and out while keeping his hands in the right place and maintaining his knee bend. All of these skills and tools are there, but the snap to snap consistency isn’t there when it comes to balance and timing. That is the reason why he doesn’t approach the 90-point mark. With that said, we are talking about correctable issues here, not physical shortcomings. Wirfs is a dominant run blocker right now, he can project to both right and left tackle, and he is a week 1 starter on this team. Because of where the NYG situation resides and because I think we are looking at a Pro Bowl tackle, Wirfs gets my vote for who NYG should take at #4 unless Young somehow falls into their lap.

  1. Jedrick Wills / Alabama / 6’4 – 312

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry from Lexington, Kentucky. A two-year starter at right tackle who earned 1st Team All SEC and 2nd Team All American honors in 2019. Wills was the most physical blocker on the Crimson Tide offensive line but also turned heads with his quality, consistent performance as a pass blocker. It can be hard to locate a true dent in his armor outside of the fact he can get out-reached by longer defenders. His footwork and hands are as sure as it gets and he plays with an ever-present competitive streak that every team wants in the trenches. He has the look of a first-year starter who could move inside if the situation he is drafted into doesn’t initially demand a new face at tackle.

*Wills grew on me more and more as the scouting process got under way. Initially, he doesn’t have the traditional tackle body. He is a little light in the pants, he is a little short, and there isn’t a great reach-game. For those reasons I don’t see Gettleman considering him at #4, as he just doesn’t fit the profile. However, for me, I think Wills is probably the most polished and NFL ready tackle in the group. If these tackles all start in 2020, I bet Wills has the best rookie season. While he isn’t a road grader in the running game, he plays with some good fire and he can translate speed into power. He will be fine there. My question long term with him is stoutness against the ends who really bull rush under the blocker’s pads. All that in mind, I see a David Bakhtiari type tackle here, who is very good.

  1. Andrew Thomas / Georgia / 6’5 – 315

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry from Lithonia, Ga. A three year starter with experience at both tackle positions and a two-time 1st Team All SEC and All American. Thomas has the tools and more than enough quality tape over three years to sell himself as an elite left tackle prospect. The issue, however, is the amount of inconsistencies he shows in pass protection when it comes to technique. He doesn’t maximize those tools and has gotten used to playing catch-up football which will be much more difficult to do against NFL edge players. Thomas will be a plus-run blocker right away but whatever team ends up with him will need to be patient in his development as a pass blocker.

*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.

  1. Mekhi Becton / Louisville / 6’8 – 364

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry and three year starter from Highland Springs, Virginia. First team All ACC in 2019 as the team’s starting left tackle. Becton has played on both sides of the line and could project to either in the NFL. His game very much depends on the elite length and upper body explosion that can take over a one on one battle right away. Becton is rare physical force who gets movement at both the point of attack and in space the second he comes in contact with the defender. His issues are partially technique-based which, in theory, can be corrected but there are also movement issues. It can be hard for a player at his height to adjust with balance and precision and even his length can’t hide those issues in pass protection. His sometimes-inaccurate hands aren’t backed up by other physical attributes and techniques which gives him a rather large buyer-beware label. Boom or bust prospect who turns 21 just days prior to the draft.

*I don’t expect a guy this big to move like Tyron Smith from DAL, I get it. Yes, guys with this kind of length and width can get away with movement issues. Yes, I have been wrong a couple of times in recent years about mammoth tackles. All that in mind, I am placing a first round grade on Becton but I don’t think he is a top 10 pick for NYG, certainly not the guy I want at 4. Do I see NYG pursuing him? Sure. He is huge and explosive, he can be a dominant force in the running game, and he isn’t even 21 years old yet. There are a couple medical red flags that need to check out however. If a guy who weighs 360-380 pounds comes into the league with any injury red flag, I would be more worried than usual. Throw in some more red flags centering around his willingness to work and grind, I just don’t want to take the risk but I can see why some wouldn’t mind going for it. This is a rare specimen who has some quality tape.

  1. Ezra Cleveland / Boise State / 6’6 – 311

Grade: 79

Summary: Fourth year junior from Spanaway, Washington. A three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Mountain West honors in 2017, and 1st Team honors in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Cleveland has a wrestling background and it shows on tape. His body control and balance are noteworthy, as he never seems to lose his feet and you rarely find him lunging for a defender or wind up on the ground. His techniques with his hand and feet create the notion that his learning curve in the NFL won’t be as steep as some others. The question for him will center around length and lockout and whether or not that makes him move inside. He could likely be a quality backup at both spots and a starter once he adds more strength and power to his arsenal.

*A huge part of my offensive tackle evaluation is balance and body control. If I had to rank which tackle in this class had the best of both, it is Cleveland. I am not comparing him to Joe Thomas, but that is how he moves. Just smooth and easy, movement across the line never seems to disrupt his approach. The issue? He has short arms, lacks a true power game, and his body may not be ready in year one. I can’t use a first rounder on someone like that and I don’t think he is in play at #36. If NYG ends up with an early third or late second somehow, then we can talk.

  1. Josh Jones / Houston / 6’5 – 319

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior from Richmond, Texas. A four year starter who earned 2nd Team All AAC honors in 2019. Jones put together a really solid season and earned an invite to the Senior Bowl where he performed well all week against the stiffest competition he faced. His length and power game are small red flags but he has the foot speed and techniques that can hide them. He is a really smooth operator who knows and trusts himself. He doesn’t over-set like most tackles do, he doesn’t abandon techniques when he doesn’t win the initial battle like most tackles do, and he still has ton of attainable upside to go before he is a finished product. If he can improve his power game and continue to progress his skill set, he can be a longtime starter in the league. With that said, he should be thrown into the fire right away.

*I know a scout in the league who has Jones on the same tier as the top tackles in the draft. While I don’t think that is a common opinion, I’m sure he isn’t the only one. Jones is a really fluid and easy athlete on the outside who simply needs a key to the weight room. I do think he can handle snaps right away, but I would prefer to him to wait at least half a season if possible. Power guys are going to beat him up pretty good. If he does enhance how own power game, he is a definite starter.

  1. Isaiah Wilson / Georgia / 6’6 – 350

Grade: 78

Summary: Redshirt sophomore entry from Brooklyn, New York. Two year starter who missed 2 games in 2019 with an ankle injury. 2nd Team All SEC in 2019. Wilson is a tools-rich tackle who still has a lot to learn and put into practice. He needs to take in NFL coaching so that his footwork can become second nature. He has a lot of ugly tape in that department but when he does line things up, his combination of length and power can be dominant. He is a high-upside prospect who shouldn’t be rushed into action.

*For all the talk Becton gets about his size, I’m surprised Wilson isn’t more talked up. He actually has a wider frame and the 350 pound mark is where I think Becton will come down to. Wilson also has top-shelf length and hand power. He is sloppy though, there is no denying it. Wilson’s hands get really wide and he loses track of the width of his base at times. However when he’s on, there isn’t a huge gap between him and Thomas and I mean that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him go in the top 40, but I would want to wait until the top of round 3 to take him. I bet he’s gone by that point.

  1. Lucas Niang / TCU / 6’6 – 315

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from New Canaan, Connecticut. Three year starter who missed the second half of 2019 with a hip labrum injury that needed surgery. Earned 2nd Team All Big 12 in 2018, the only season he started every game. Niang’s size looks excellent on paper but he has work to do on his body. As he continues to rehab from his surgery, Niang is going to need a sleeping bag in the weight room. He doesn’t play an aggressive game and will too often try to catch defenders rather than impose his will. There is a lot of natural talent to work with however, as he moves very well and produced based on athletic ability and size. If he can combine that with more consistent footwork and effort, he has starter-potential. He simply needs to apply himself in the weight room for a year and clean other areas up.

*This is an interesting prospect. I had a hard time getting information on his hip injury and how much it impacted his play early in 2019. He didn’t look like the same guy as I saw in 2018. I had some really positive notes from his 2018 tape but it just didn’t match up. There is a chance somebody is going to get a starting caliber right tackle here at the end of round 3 or early round 4. You also have to account for the recovery from the hip injury, however. A lot of things to consider in his evaluation but if NYG doesn’t address tackle with their first three picks and he is there at the start of round 4, it would be tough to pass on.

  1. Austin Jackson / USC / 6’5 – 322

Grade: 75

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Phoenix, Arizona. Grandson of Melvin, a five-year NFL lineman. First team All Pac 12 in 2019. Jackson has the tools and initial movement off the snap with an aggressive playing style and hustle that will get coaches excited about working with him. He can create solid torque and pop off the ball and he has enough athletic ability to play outside. However a deeper look into his game and there are several warts that absolutely need to be ironed out. He needs a lot of core strength and balance work before he can be asked to handle NFL pass rushers. His toughest opponents in college made him look silly at times, out of his league. This is an upside-based prospect who will need a couple years.

*Jackson is impressive initially. He has a good body and plays with good explosion off the snap. He can really get on top of a guy and gain the initial advantage. But when it comes to the secondary stuff, he was woefully inconsistent. I really didn’t like him against his toughest competition. Jackson has more reachable upside than a typical 4th/5th round grade, I will give him that. However the natural imbalance just sticks to my memory too hard.

  1. Matt Peart / Connecticut / 6’7 – 318

Grade: 75

Summary: 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.

  1. Trey Adams / Washington / 6’8 – 318

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Wenatchee, Washington. Four year starter who began his career on a high note. Adams was a 1st Team All Pac 12 and 2nd Team All American as a sophomore in 2016. However a back injury suffered in 2017 forced him to miss the second half of the year and the entire 2018 regular season. Adams was once viewed as a no-doubt first round pick but questions surrounding his back injury and inconsistent play since he’s come back has made the outlook cloudy. Adams is a plus-athlete with good size and aggression who plays smart and aware. He has enough athletic ability to play tackle in the pros, but the medical screening and how it relates to his potential to add strength and power will mean a lot for his final grade. He is going to need a year at least before he can be counted on as a starter.

*Adams was on his way toward being a sure-thing first round pick. But the back injury that kept him out so long is going to knock is grade down a bug chunk, maybe even make him undraftable to some. For me? If you are sitting there in round 5 or 6 and you need a young tackle to try and develop, I pull the trigger on him. He is a really feisty, nasty, aggressive blocker. It will be considered lucky to see him get completely over the injury but one has to take chances late in the draft at times. And to build a quality offensive line, you have to get lucky once or twice.

  1. Charlie Heck / North Carolina / 6’8 – 311

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Kansas City, Missouri. A three year starter who finished his career as a 2nd Team All ACC tackle. Heck has plenty of experience on both sides and shows the intelligence and natural ability to play on both sides in the NFL. The son of Kansas City Chiefs offensive line coach, Andy Heck, Charlie has the look of an eventual starter once he can enhance his staying power and core strength. He is outstanding off the ball but simply needs to clean up his hand placement and footwork that usually stems from his inconsistent pad level. Once he cleans that up, there is starter-potential and in the mean time, he is a solid swing tackle for a team needing to add depth.

*I almost went 3 or 4 points higher on Heck. I liked him a lot down the stretch and he was the best blocker at Shrine week. There is a plus-athlete here and you know he understands the ins and outs of the game as well as anybody. Heck’s height, like a couple others in this class, is a bit of an issue. He doesn’t have a powerful base and its just hard for him to play with consistent knee bend and pad level. That is a problem unless you have elite traits elsewhere, which he does not.

  1. Colton McKivitz / West Virginia / 6’6 – 306

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Jacobsburg, Ohio. A four year starter who has played both tackle positions. Two time Honorable Mention All Big 12 before being named 2nd Team in 2019. Was also named 3rd Team All American as a senior. McKivitz has average size and power that will need to be developed over the course of a year or two, but the former all state high school basketball player has light and quick feet with plus-balance. Combine that with a strong will to win the one on one battles that doesn’t have an off switch, a case can be made he is one of the top tackles who will be available day three. He won’t be ready right away, as he needs to improve his lower body power and hand strength, but if he can tidy those areas up he is proficient everywhere else. Swing tackle candidate.

*McKivitz is an intriguing athlete who simply didn’t lose much in college. He has plenty of work ahead to get his power presence up to par, but for a team that can stash him away for a year or two, there is a high ceiling.

  1. Yasir Durant / Missouri / 6’6 – 331

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Three year starter for Missouri who spent a season at Arizona Western Community College where he played guard and tackle. Durant took over the left tackle job four weeks into 2017 and never looked back. He is going to cause a second look based on his size alone, as he is as wide as he is long. This kind of blocker doesn’t need to be the most twitched up, fastest player on the field. He is a tough guy to get around because of how well he stays within himself, how far his blocking radius extends to, and hoe powerful his punch can be. He may not be a year one guy, as there are some lower body techniques that must be cleaned up, but Durant has a potential starter label on him at either tackle spot.

*Durant is really interesting. It is widely known that he is going to struggle athletically, he is just a really heavy mover and the bend doesn’t come natural to him. But you know what? There aren’t many tackles who had higher graded tape, he just didn’t lose much. I noticed how patient he works at Shrine week. He just sits and waits, lets the defender make his move, and then calmly and powerfully reacts. I think there is something to this kid.

  1. Robert Hunt / Louisiana-Lafayette / 6’5 – 323

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Burkeville, Texas. Four year starter who has started games at left guard, left tackle, and right tackle. Was named 2nd Team All Sun Belt in 2018, 1st Team in 2019 despite missing games with a groin injury. Hunt projects to both tackle and guard at the next level. He was a good high school basketball player and that kind of foot-speed and quickness shows up on the gridiron with his attractive, moldable frame. He may not be ready for NFL action right away, as he has some footwork issues to clean up and lower body strength to pack on. Depending on where he is drafted, however, he has the look of an eventual starter inside or outside. It is hard to find guys with this kind of size, athletic ability, and body control capabilities. His best tape came against his toughest competition, a good sign in relation to his long term projection.

*I originally had a 3rd round grade on Hunt as a tackle, but because of a medical, had to bring him down to round 5/6 region. Good kid though and I am hoping for the best. On the field, Hunt has the feet to play outside but some question his length. Personally, I don’t see the move to guard because he plays too high and he isn’t stout enough. If he clears the medical stage, I like him as a versatile backup who may need to sit for a year and enhance his strength.

  1. Tyre Phillips / Mississippi State: 70
  2. Aaron McKinney / TCU: 69
  3. Terence Steele / Texas Tech: 67
  4. Darrin Paulo / Utah: 67
  5. Carter O’Donnell /Alberta: 66
  6. Matt Womack / Alabama: 66
  7. Alex Taylor / South Carolina State: 65
  8. Drew Richmond / USC: 64
  9. Jake Benzinger / Wake Forest: 63
  10. Brandon Bowen / Ohio State: 61

NYG APPROACH

It isn’t the sexy pick. It isn’t the name you are going to see in the box score or the highlight reel. You’re rarely going to walk away from a Giants win and talk about how good the tackles played. All of that said, this team isn’t going anywhere unless this offensive line improves on the outside. It would be one thing if they already had a solid piece on the left or right side. It would be one thing if they already had an up and coming stud who was in the development stages. The Giants have neither nor are they even close.

What is the point of drafting a Saquon Barkley #2 overall if you can’t get anyone up front to keep defenders out of the backfield? Quite literally he is getting contacted by defenders before he takes his third step with the ball as much as any back in the league! Daniel Jones was selected #6 overall and I have always believed the number one task to aid the maturation of a young quarterback is building the group up front. Keep him upright. Keep him confident. Make it easier for him to hold onto the football!

Credible and respectful arguments can be made to take defense, namely Simmons or Okudah, at #4. I disagree that it is the best path. While I am fully aware the NYG defense needs work, I think the offensive line is more important and NYG is absolutely hopeless at tackle right now. Throw in the fact that I have a Pro Bowl projection on Wirfs and Wills, the decision is even easier. Only a godsend like Chase Young being available will change my mind.

Apr 092020
 
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Saahdiq Charles, LSU Tigers (January 13, 2020)

Saahdiq Charles – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Guards and Centers

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

A valid argument can be made that the hole at center is the biggest one on the team. Jon Halapio likely won’t return, leaving Spencer Pulley in line to start after playing in just 4 games (1 start) in 2019. He started 9 games with the club in 2018 but over the course of the two years and multiple opportunities he was given, he has yet to prove he can be relied upon snap to snap, week to week. The Chargers thought the same thing after he started 16 games for them in 2017. There were multiple centers, all capable of at least contending for the starting job here, available in free agency but the team did not pursue them.

Both guard spots are locked up through 2021 with Will Hernandez and Kevin Zeitler. While Hernandez has been up and down, he hasn’t missed a game in 2 years and he is more than solid enough to be relied on. Zeitler is a team leader, very solid player, and can help out a rookie on either or both sides of him, which may very well be the case. The one issue at guard is one can make the argument they are dangerously thin there. Even though Nick Gates can play inside (he will be in Sunday’s OT write up), he may be needed at tackle. NYG will likely bring in another veteran at some point but the case still exists, there is a hole in need of a rookie along the inside. Maybe even two.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Matt Hennessey / Temple / 6’4 – 307

Grade: 80

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Bardonia, New York. Three year starter who finished 2019 as 1st Team All AAC. Brother of Jets long snapper Thomas Hennessey. A two time team captain who was awarded a single digit jersey number for Temple, given to the team’s toughest and hardest working players. Hennessey has the look of a long time starter at center. He is a well-balanced machine who stays within himself at all times, rarely being caught off balance or out of position. If and when he adds some man-strength and bulk to his frame, he will be ready for starting duties in any scheme. He could be a starter within the first year of service if a team can help him against elite power inside. He is smart and reliable with the upside of being a top-half center in the league.

*A big part of playing offensive line is the simple but hard to find ability to maintain balance at all times. Even very good prospects struggle with it, especially when they need to block in space. Hennessey has no such problem. He probably plays with the most body control of all the OL in this class. While he may struggle against power off the bat, most rookie centers do and you can hide that with help from the guards. Hennessey will likely bring to the table what Garrett Bradbury did for MIN in 2019; solid but limited impact. Reliable week to week, most notably in the running game. For a team that needs better run blocking as much as any team in the league, he may be an ideal round 2 fit.

  1. Saahdiq Charles / LSU / 6’4 – 321

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Jackson, Mississippi. A three-year starter who has seen the majority of his action at left tackle. Part of an offensive line that won the 2019 Joe Moore Award, given to the best offensive line in the country. Charles will likely make the move inside at the next level where he can immediately become a top tier athlete and zone-blocking scheme weapon. His burst and range from his stance will make a difference right away. The former high school soccer goalie still has a lot to learn and progress to as a blocker, but there is no denying the elite upside. Not many players his size can move and produce power like him. There are shoulder and maturity issues that need to be screened but if that checks out, he is a week 1 starter.

*Every year there are a handful of guys who I am much higher on than my boss and others I respect. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t but I don’t shy away from standing strong on my opinion. Charles is the poster boy of that group in this class. From what I hear, he is going round 4 or 5 but I am maintaining my 2nd round grade on him. He lacks control at times but I actually think this may be the best athlete of the bunch, certainly inside. Length concerns will likely move him from tackle to guard but I actually like him better in that role. He has tremendous power and explosion, he tries hard, and he developed a lot from a skill set perspective from 2018. All that said, there is a shoulder issue that needed screening, so that is a part of what will happen to him draft weekend. If he is there at the end of round 3 / start of round 4, I would scoop him up in a heartbeat if the team hadn’t addressed the OL yet.

  1. Prince Tega Wanogho / Auburn / 6’5 – 308

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior. Two-plus year starter from Montgomery, Alabama. Native of Nigeria and the son of a Prince and Princess. Earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2019. Wanogho was a sought after defensive recruit out of high school who made the move to full time offensive lineman when he arrived at Auburn. He had a rough-go early but evolved into one of the best linemen in the SEC. While there are still technique issues when it comes to consistent execution from snap to whistle, Wanogho still has plenty of untapped upside. At his best, in the SEC by the way, Wanogho had dominant stretches where he made everything look easy. The ability is there and it’s been showcased several times. A move from tackle to guard may be in the forecast and as long as he applies himself to the NFL coaching, he can be a quality starter in time.

*Depending on whom he is drafted by, Wanogho may end up a tackle. I think he has the ability to play both but I kept him in this group because his ideal spot is likely inside where his foot speed and length match up better. There was a period during the season where I was ready to put him in the round 1 talk because of how consistent he looked, how under control he played. A few issues popped up though and when you really break him down, there are sustainability problems. Also has a medical red flag but I am still looking at him as a day 2 guy.

  1. Nick Harris / Washington / 6’1 – 302

Grade: 78

Summary: Senior entry from Inglewood, California. Four year starter who has experience at all three interior spots. First Team All Pac 12 in 2019 and 2018, Honorable Mention in 2017. Harris is one of the best athletes among all offensive linemen in the class. He is incredibly twitchy and fast and it translates into power very well. While he could use more strength training below the waist to improve his anchor, he is more than powerful enough to make a physical impact. He can reach defenders that other centers simply cannot and he has a way of turning his body with full control while engaged to make himself stick to his target. Harris is potential big time difference maker in the middle of the line because of how much range he has stemming from his athletic ability . And make no mistake, he is not a finesse blocker, there is a nastiness in him that makes him an every down threat.

*Some are going to be turned off by Harris’ lack of size and true power, thus he won’t be a fit for every scheme. But an offense that wants a center with range and pop, you have to like this kid. Really smart player who started four years and will reach the second level looking like a fullback. There are anchor issues though and ultimately that did drop him a bit on my stack. Will NYG be interested? Hard to know what Jason Garrett is requesting at OC but from his tenure in DAL, I lean no.

  1. Cesar Ruiz / Michigan / 6’3 – 307

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from Camden, New Jersey. A three year starter with experience at guard and center. Second Team All Big 10 in 2019, third team in 2018. Ruiz was a top tier athlete among linemen coming out of high school and he got onto the field in year one at guard. He then made the full time move to center and went onto start 26 games there. Ruiz is a powerful blocker when impressive tools. He is the kind of player who can be developed into a starter over time, but may be best suited for backup duty early on. He needs to work on his footwork and make it more precise, as his quickness and agility appears to be limited. He won’t be able to get by on hand power alone in the NFL.

*Ruiz is being discussed as a late 1st/early 2nd rounder and I’ve re-watched tapes a couple times. I just can’t put him up there because I don’t think he is going to be ready right away. He is a nice physical package but he as all over the place losing balance, hinging at the hip, and being inaccurate with his hands. I also think a lot of his issues were hidden by two guards who are going to be playing on Sundays. If Ruiz hits his potential then yes, he is number 2 or 3 on this list. But his tape was as inconsistent as anyone.

  1. Tyler Biadasz / Wisconsin / 6’4 – 314

Grade: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Amherst, Wisconsin. A three year starter who never missed a game. 1st Team All Big 10 in both 2019 and 2018, 3rd Team All Big 10 in 2017. Unanimous 1st Team All American in 2019, Honorable Mention in 2018. And lastly, the 2019 Rimington Trophy Winner and Outland Trophy Finalist. Biadasz is obviously a widely respected and accomplished center for an offensive line that produced three straight 1,900 yard rush seasons. He was the leader of that group and one of the architects of the entire offense with how much he was responsible for at the point of attack mentally. He has NFL starter written all over him and even though there are some footwork warts in his arsenal, Biadasz has the tools to be an elite center and probable week 1 contributor. If he can fix some his technique red flags, there will be very few chinks in his armor.

*I can’t get my grade higher than this because of his balance and footwork issues, but there is a stubborn side of me that says Biadasz is a sure-thing to be a 10 year starter in the league. Maybe the ghost of Travis Frederick at Wisconsin weighs too much in my evaluation. But this kid hasn’t missed a start, every opposing coach speaks highly of him, and he won almost every accolade a center can win. If Jason Garrett pounds the table for a center, I think it is this one. The question is, when? Round 2 is too high but round 3 may be too late.

  1. Damien Lewis / LSU / 6’2 – 327

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Canton, Mississippi. Two year starter for the Tigers who spent two seasons in junior college. A 2nd Team All SEC performer in 2019. Lewis was a mainstay and physical leader of the offensive line that won the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s top offensive line. Lewis is the kind of guy you want behind you when walking into a fight. He play’s the game with a bully’s mentality and has the juice to back it up. As a run blocker, Lewis can create a new line of scrimmage with his pop out of his stance. As a pass blocker, he will always win the leverage battle but simply needs to refine his footwork and mental approach. He needs some work, but there is a starter here if a team is patient developing him.

*Lewis is a fun dude to watch if you like seeing legal violence on tape. He has heavy hands and plays with a low center of gravity. I would love to see more finesse in his game as a pass blocker where his strength alone can’t get the job done. He can get a bit stiff and top heavy so he will need time to refine a couple things but he will be able to handle NFL size and power right away.

  1. Lloyd Cushenberry III / LSU / 6’3 – 312

Grade: 77

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Carville, Louisiana. Two year starter who earned a 1st Team All SEC and 2nd Team All American honor respectively in 2019. The leader of the offensive line earned the much-respected #18 jersey honor for LSU which is revered for the leader of the team on and off the field. The LSU offensive line won the Joe Moore Award – given to the nation’s top unit – and Cushenberry was the one in front among that group. He is a smart player who is capable of making the calls and adjustments. Physically, his legs are roots which can make it very difficult for a defensive tackle to move, most notably against the run. He plays low and strong and keeps his hands intact. There are significant lateral movement issues, however, and he won’t be a fit for blocking schemes that want their centers to get from point A to point B quickly. In the right scheme, he is a good fit, but he isn’t for everyone.

*I may have Cushenberry a bit further down the stack than some, but I think most agree he is a day 2 prospect who needs the right scheme. He isn’t very light footed and it shows up when he face s off against lateral movers and linebackers. For a guy with such a strong base, and it really is strong, I wish he would simply keep the feet chopping more often. His issues are coachable and if his lack of lateral movement can be hidden, he is another good one who can play year one.

  1. Solomon Kindley / Georgia / 6’3 – 337

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Jacksonville, Florida. A three-year starter who missed some time with separate ankle and knee injuries. Kindley is a brute-force blocker who consistently gets movement off the ball in the run game. He creates a new line of scrimmage and will open a different kind of lane for running backs. His weakness is against quick, lateral movement as a pass blocker but even with that, he was a productive pass blocker in his three seasons. He needs work on his body and overall lower body techniques, the ability is there to ensure improvement and he is a weapon for the running game right away.

*If I could forecast the future and see whether or not Kindley is going to put his best foot forward when it comes to working on his weight and footwork, he would be in the discussion to be the top guard in the class and a possible 2nd rounder. He is too heavy for his frame and if his suddenness can improve by simply weighing 20-30 pounds less, I think he can be a star. He is a dominant run blocker and his natural power can keep pass rushers at bay. He just needs to clean it up and stop being reliant on simply leaning on guys to get the job done. Maybe an ideal fit for a day three pick to try and develop for a year or two.

  1. Ben Bredeson / Michigan / 6’5 – 315

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Hartland, Wisconsin. Four year starter who was 1st Team All Big 10 as a senior, 2nd Team as a junior and sophomore. A 2019 3rd Team All American. Bredeson started 46 games over his career and was a two time team captain. He is on the higher end of experience, toughness, and on-field intelligence. He is rarely caught doing something he shouldn’t be doing when it comes to technique and he always seems to know how to respond to any situation. When it comes to physical ability and potential, he is limited but there is still a good chance he sees starter-duty at some point in his career. He will be in the league for a long time.

*You don’t see prospects coming out of big time programs like Michigan with 46 starts under their belt too often. Bredeson won’t be anyone’s favorite guard in the class but I bet he stays in the league as long as anyone on this list. There may be a chance he moves to center, as some teams are worried about his length shortcoming but they respect his intelligence and grit.

  1. Hakeem Adeniji / Kansas / 6’4 – 302

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Garland, Texas. Four year starter who has experience at both tackle spots. A 1st Team All Big 12 honoree. Adeniji spent his entire career at tackle, but because of his size and lateral movement issues he is destined for a move to guard. He is a really effective straight-ahead blocker who will fire out of his stance and get a violent pop on the defender. The issues with him are technique based, most notably with his footwork. He struggles to maintain the mirror and lock-on if the defender goes left or right. There are developmental tools here though and he could play tackle in a pinch.

*Even though he played tackle in college, he was moved inside at the Senior Bowl and that is usually a sign teams won’t use him outside. I will say it is always good to have a guy on the depth chart who can move out there in an emergency situation where multiple guys go down in the same game. I actually see some David Diehl here, a college tackle who began his career inside before moving back to tackle. They both have violent hands, sub-par foot speed, and a gamer’s mentality. Really nice day three option here.

  1. Ben Bartch / Saint John’s (MN) / 6’6 – 309

Grade: 72

Summary: Senior entry from Dayton, Oregon. Two year starter who only played the offensive line for two years after spending his first two seasons at tight end. Earned 1st Team All Conference honors and Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year Award in 2019 after being named 2nd Team in 2018. Bartch is an interesting athlete who simply bloomed late. He ran track in high school (hurdles and 4×400 relays) before going to college to play tight end. His body screamed offensive line as he continued to grow and once he moved there, he was home. Bartch absolutely dominated the Division III level and more than held his own at the Senior Bowl. He won’t be an immediate contributor in the NFL, as he needs to add power and bulk in addition to making the move to guard from tackle. However the upside is undeniable, as he is a rare athlete for the position who can at least somewhat make up for a lack of lower body strength.

*There was a lot of talk about Bartch toward the end of the fall. Some were comparing him to a recent Division III prospect, Ali Marpet, who Tampa Bay took in the second round of the 2015 draft and is now one of the top guards in the league. No disrespect to Bartch because I do have a draftable grade on him, but he is nowhere near the prospect Marpet was. He has a lot of work to do on his body, a lot of strength to gain. He doesn’t have the ideal body for development but he did play well at the Senior Bowl week but he is going to be a multi year project.

  1. Darryl Williams / Mississippi State / 6’2 – 304

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Bessemer, Alabama. Three year starter who played guard in 2017 and 2018 before moving full time to center as a senior. A team captain who coaches laud for his intelligence and quick mind. Williams is a tough, hard nosed, blue collar blocker who gets the most out of himself. He lack athletic ability and ideal size for the NFL trenches, but his interior versatility and productive blocking career in the SEC will get him a spot on a depth chart in the NFL. Maybe never a starter, Williams should be in the league for a long time.

*I’m not sure Williams is going to evolve into a pure starter, but I bet he starts games in the league. The reason I say that is the fact he can legitimately project to both guard and center. That is really important for teams that are trying to maximize their active game day roster. Williams is a limited mover, not a fit for zone blocking heavy schemes, but I can see NYG giving him a good look late. Good kid, hard worker, versatile.

  1. Shane Lemieux / Oregon / 6’4 – 310

Grade: 71

Summary: 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.

  1. Jon Runyan / Michigan / 6’4 – 306

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Moorestown, New Jersey. A two year starter at left tackle who earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors both years. The son of former Eagles Pro Bowl offensive tackle Jon Runyan. A highly versatile and reliable player, Runyan will make the move inside in the NFL but will carry versatility onto the field which will only help his stock. He isn’t a “wow” player in any way when it comes to physical tools or when it comes to his skill set, but he gets the job done. There is a lot of intelligence and attention to detail in addition to him being a tough guy. I don’t see him being a starter, but rather a valuable inside backup who could shift outside in an emergency situation.

*I’ve spoken with a couple people who have been around Runyan during his pre-combine training and they were glowing about how good of an athlete he is. The lineage is going to help his stock because you can trust him, you know he can think his way through things. Another guy who won’t wow you on tape but he brings some position versatility and could be a guy who is a solid 6th or 7th lineman for a long time.

  1. Michael Onwenu / Michigan: 71
  2. Jack Driscoll / Auburn: 71
  3. Tremayne Anchrum / Clemson: 70
  4. Jonah Jackson / Ohio State: 70
  5. Netane Muti / Fresno State: 70
  6. Danny Pinter / Ball State: 70
  7. Cameron Clark / Charlotte: 70
  8. Kyle Murphy / Rhode Island: 69
  9. Calvin Throckmorton / Oregon: 69
  10. Luke Juriga / Western Michigan: 69

NYG APPROACH

When you look at the guards, NYG can go into the season confident they have their starters, which a lot of teams can’t say. NYG can go into the season confident they have their 2021 starters as well, which most teams can’t say. The glaring issue resides at center, the spot where I’m not sure if the starter is on the team right now. Spencer Pulley is the fallback option but as I said above, he needs to be the interior backup. No matter what NYG does at #4 (OT or defense), center will be in play with their second rounder. It will come down to the grade between their top 1-2 centers and how they compare to others that are on the board. I don’t think NYG will look past OC as a direct result of taking OT in the first.

One thing I noted about grading this class, there is an enormous cluster of draftable interior guys who will be available in rounds 6-7. Only an average of 22 OG/OC get drafted year, but I have 30 draftable grades on guys inside plus a few tackles who can possibly move to guard. A lot of this will come down to teams and their schemes, so I think they are going to have multiple guys on this back end list (16-25) available when they are on the clock in rounds 6-7. Considering the depth is so thin at OG, it would be wise to bring one of these bodies in who is worth trying to develop. Every good offensive line gets “lucky” one or two times and what I mean by that, they all have a late round draft pick and/or an undrafted free agent who ends up being a key cog. In recent NYG memory? Rich Seubert. Kevin Boothe. David Diehl.

Apr 072020
 
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Chase Young, Ohio State Buckeyes (December 28, 2019)

Chase Young – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Edge

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

The “EDGE” position in this scheme is a bit of a gray area, so you may end up seeing a few names that you thought were defensive tackles. Even on the current NYG roster, Leonard Williams can be considered a defensive end but at the end of the day, the majority of his snaps are spent inside the offensive tackle. In regard to who I am talking about on the current NYG roster, you are looking at more traditional 3-4 outside linebacker types. Lorenzo Carter, who was drafted in 2018, is entering the near-vital third season of his career where it is time to put up or shut up. He is physically gifted but inconsistent. Rookie Oshane Ximines, in less snaps, matched Carter’s impact as a pass rusher with 4.5 sacks but really struggled against the run. Markus Golden, who led the team with 10 sacks, remains a free agent and it appears free agent signing Kyler Fackrell will replace him. He hasn’t missed a game in three years but he took a back seat to Preston Smith and ZaDarius Smith in 2019. Keep in mind that Fackrell had 10.5 sacks in 2018.

It’s important to know what exactly this team is trying to do on defense. I can’t say I know for sure, but NYG already has their “BUCK” and “SAM” candidates. The BUCK is essentially a pass rushing linebacker who can play SAM (strong side linebacker) when the front changes. The SAM plays strong side but can move to MIKE/inside when the front changes. I see Ximines, Carter, and Fackrell being those guys. What I’m not sure I see quite yet on this defense is a guy who can really play the CRASH end. They are hybrid 3-4/4-3 defensive end types. Usually these guys need to push 265+ pounds with 34+ inch arms. Can they put Williams in that role, make him more of an edge threat? Sure, but I think there may be better candidates in this draft class for the role. However I will say, it is a hard spot to fill because there aren’t many ideal candidates for that spot.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Chase Young / Ohio State / 6’5 – 264

Grade: 91

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Hyattsville, Maryland. After earning the 5-star recruit label out of high school and coming to Ohio State with sky high expectations, Young finished his career with an All American season and 1st Team All Big 10 honor. He led the nation with 16.5 sacks as a junior despite seeing countless double teams. Young is widely considered the best non-quarterback in the draft and will be a player who a franchise can build a defense around. He is no specialty pass rusher, Young can contribute on and impact all three downs. His tools and work ethic to be great make him the next big thing at defensive end to come out of a program that had produced some recent big time NFL talent at the position.

*Young breaks the 90-point barrier on my grading scale, reserved for guys who I am putting an All-Pro projection on. These aren’t handed out often. Young can do it all, he fits into every scheme, and he is going to be a player right away. I have him slightly below where I had Myles Garrett in 2017 simply because there is a little less juice out of his stance and he doesn’t play as low as I would like at times. But there is no denying how good this kid can be if he comes in and works hard. If NYG could get their hands on him (crazier things have happened), it would be the best-get they’ve gotten in a long time considering the position he plays and NYG’s weakness there. Cross your fingers and pray teams are going to get into bidding wars for the quarterbacks.

  1. Yetur Gross-Matos / Penn State / 6’5 – 266

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Spotsylvania, Virginia. When it comes to long term upside and tools, Gross-Matos can be considered one of the top defenders in the entire class. He has the height, length, and speed combination that is considered rare and salivating for coaches. Don’t make the mistake of labeling him just an upside player, however. He recorded 35 TFL and 17.5 sacks over his two seasons as a starter and has more than enough tape to prove he can get the job done early in his career. There are issues with his game, most notably when it comes to power and inside run defense, but Gross-Matos has a top shelf toolbox who may just need some time and strength development before being an every down player.

*If you want to know who I am going to be hoping for at the top of round 2, well here he is. The odds are he will be a first round pick, however. With that said, many have a cluster of edge talent below Young and if he isn’t the flavor other EDGE-needy teams are wanting, he could slip. Gross-Matos has some baby-deer in him still, a kid who simply needs to add core strength and grow into his own body. However I have multiple game notes with the name “Myles Garrett” in them. He plays with that rare combination of explosion, length, leverage, and strides. At his absolute peak, Gross-Matos is closer to Young than people think.

  1. AJ Epenesa / Iowa / 6’5 – 275

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Glen Carbon, Illinois. A two-time All Big 10 Defensive Lineman, including a first team honor in 2019. Epenesa is a big, long, and physical lineman who can be moved inside and out for a versatile-front scheme. He brings the proper mix of discipline and effort to the table every play. While he lacks some of the standout traits teams want in a pass rusher, Epenesa does a lot for a defense that won’t always show up in the box score. His ceiling doesn’t look as high as some others, but his floor is raised and will wear several hats at a high level when called on.

*There was a stretch where I thought Epenesa was going to end up as a top 10 prospect. I didn’t up with him there, but I still think he is a solid first round pick if he can find the right scheme. The CRASH end who I spoke of earlier? He is an ideal fit for that role in a defense that can change it’s front without taking guys off the field needs someone like Epenesa on the edge. He isn’t a plus athlete but he can win with his power and advanced hand usage. If he falls into round 2, NYG will be very interested.

  1. K’Laivon Chaisson / LSU / 6’3 – 254

Grade: 80

Summary: Redshirt sophomore entry. Two year starter from Houston, Texas. After a 5-star recruit caliber high school career, Chaisson started week 1 of his true freshman season, a true rarity for the program. He showed off plenty of upside that year but a torn ACL week 1 of his sophomore season caused him to miss the year. He had to fight through an ankle injury early in 2019, thus his experience as he enters the league is limited. With that said, Chaisson’s movement skills and leverage jump off the screen. He is a feisty, explosive straight line edge rusher who can cause the offensive line to change their approach. His body still has a lot of filling out to do, but nobody will question this kids work ethic. After all, he was a permanent team captain as a true junior who wore the heralded #18 jersey for the National Champion Tigers.

*Here is your classic high risk, high reward edge defender. I could see someone using a mid-first on him and while I wouldn’t look down on it, I simply wouldn’t use that early of a pick on someone like this. He has more than enough speed off the edge, he makes a lot of hustle plays. But he had a knee injury, he lacks power, and there isn’t enough advancement in his skill set. I see a 2nd rounder here but one who can easily end up being one of the top 10 players in this entire draft class 3 years from now.

  1. Zack Baun / Wisconsin / 6’2 – 238

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Brown Deer, Wisconsin. Two year starter who ended his career with a bang, earning 1st Team All Big 10 and 2nd Team All American honors. Baun missed all of 2017 with a foot injury but hasn’t missed a thing since. The former high school athlete quarterback made the full time transition to defense during his senior season and evolved into one of the top defensive prospects in the class. He has incredible movement skills as an edge rusher, showing the unique blend of speed, burst, and agility to beat a blocker several ways. He is far along in his development when it comes to technique and mental understanding of the game. He may not be an ideal every down defender right away because of a lack of size against straight ahead run blocking, but his style of play and intentions to mold himself will eventually make him a quality starter.

*A credible case can be made for putting Baun at linebacker, but whatever. He is a 2nd round pick in my eyes, one who could be higher than Chaisson depending on scheme and how you need to use them. Baun isn’t big enough to live on the outside as a pass rusher but he can be moved to an off-ball role. What many don’t see in him is the fact he can cover much better than other off ball linebackers. He didn’t get a ton of action in that role, but the former high school quarterback moves around back there like he really knows what he is doing. I think the versatility will be attractive to the Giants, but does he fit the physical profile of what they are looking for? I think if they go for a front seven defender in round 2, he won’t be at the top of their list.

  1. Jonathan Greenard / Florida / 6’3 – 263

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior from Hiram, Georgia. Spent four years at Louisville before grad-transferring to Florida. He was a 2 year starter in total and saved his best football for 2019, where he earned 1st Team All SEC honors after leading the conference with 15.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Greenard has the kind of length and fast twitch play who will give tackles a headache off the edge. He plays with the proper blend of speed and power and should have plenty more bulk to add to his wide frame. When it comes to total production, Greenard’s last two real seasons accrued 31 TFL and 16.5 sacks over 25 games across two different conferences. There are some power issues, notably against the run, that need to be looked into but this is the kind of athlete and person a team wants to add to their team. His relentless, hard working style combined with quality tape and physical gifts make him a safe bet to be a productive player.

*I am surprised there isn’t more hype around Greenard. He didn’t have the best workout at the combine and I will say he is less explosive than Chaisson, but he plays heavier, has more length, and seems to have better decision making ability. I have seen some Osi Umenyiora in him for what it’s worth. He has some medicals that need to check out as well but if they do, he is a guy I would keep a close eye on in the 3rd round with the hope if he falls into NYG’s lap with that compensatory pick if they don’t address the EDGE spot by then.

  1. Marlon Davidson / Auburn / 6’3 – 303

Grade: 79

Summary: Senior entry from fro, Greenville, Alabama. A rare four year starter from the Auburn program. Davidson may not be an ideal fit for a cut and dry scheme, but with the amount of teams looking to “get multiple” in relation to their looks, Davidson can be a key target. He is a tweener without a true position and lacks a standout strength, but he can fill into multiple spots and perform well enough. Davidson is a powerful force who can create mismatches and do some of the dirty work to keep others clean and unoccupied. The reliable and caliber of a player who every good defense needs.

*Similar to Epenesa, Davidson appears to be a really nice fit if NYG is looking to add a legit CRASH end to the line. He played all over the edge at Auburn and was equally effective against the run and pass. Combine that with his mindset and blue collar attitude, I can see him being a favorite of this coaching staff during the scouting process to the point of him being in the discussion with their 2nd round pick.

  1. Terrell Lewis / Alabama / 6’5 – 262

Grade: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Washington, D.C. A one year starter. 2nd Team All SEC in 2019. Lewis was a 5-star recruit out of high school who began his career strong as a rotational edge rusher, ended his career strong finishing second on the team with 11.5 TFL and leading the team with 14 pressures, but missed a combined 25 games over the two middle years with different injuries. He is a tools-rich, versatile athlete who can make things happen from a standup outside linebacker position, but his medicals will be a very important factor to his grade. His aptitude to play assignment football will be a welcomed addition for a defensive coaching staff that can use him on a rotational basis.

*If it weren’t for the injuries, one can realistically say Lewis is a first round prospect. But you can’t look past the fact he was a one year starter and has only played 16 career games. His tools are top notch, he plays a violent game, and he had a really strong Senior Bowl week. He plays a position that every team is looking for and he fits into every scheme, thus I don’t see his stock plummeting draft weekend.

  1. Jabari Zuniga / Florida / 6’3 – 264

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior from Marietta, Georgia. Started games all four years, but was considered the full time starter in 2018 and 2019 only. Zuniga began playing football as a senior in high school before hitting a growth spurt and evolving into an impressive specimen who had to be developed. His talent alone raised eyebrows in 2016, as he played sparingly but still led the team with 5.5 sacks. Ever since then, he has been used as a versatile inside-out player who can take advantage of interior blockers and tackles alike. He has a style that may be too quick for guards and centers and too powerful for the tackles. The tools are there to be developed and the flashes on tape go to show there is a ceiling higher than most edge prospects in the class. He had a hard time staying healthy but if a team can pinpoint the right role for him and he can stay on the field, watch out.

*Put this kid in the group of prospects who needs to be used correctly for him to reach even somewhere close to his ceiling. I’ve seen a lot of him over the past two years and it is hard to imagine there is a role for him on every defense. It could cause him to drop a bit. Does he fit on he NYG defense? I think he could be an undersized (slightly) CRASH end who I’ve spoken about a few times. If they really want to add a guy to that role but they miss out on one in rounds 1 and 2, check to see if this kid is there end of round 3 / early round 4. I think he can contribute year one.

  1. Darrell Taylor / Tennessee / 6’4 – 267

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Hopewell, Virginia. Three year starter who won the team’s MVP award in 2018. At this point, Taylor has come up a bit short when it comes to consistency and overall production when considering his upside and flashes. When it comes to physical traits, he has all the bend and power that will make him a handful for blockers to deal with off the edge. He makes a powerful impact upon contact and shows the ability to get off blocks with violence. The issues exist in his consistency and instincts. Tennessee coaches have been driven mad because of what he shows in flashes vs. his lack of consistency. He doesn’t react fast enough and will get caught out of position. The physical traits are hard to look past, however, and this is a guy who had 21 TFL / 16.5 sacks over the past two years and played really well against the SEC.

*Don’t sleep on this kid. Something didn’t click for him at Tennessee and I’ve been told it wasn’t all on him. I watch this kid for stretches and wonder why he isn’t dominating. He is more powerful than almost everyone he matched up against, he plays with tremendous leverage, and there is enough juice off the snap. Maybe one of those guys who just doesn’t feel the game OR maybe he ends up being a top 3 edge guy out of this class. I wouldn’t be surprised by either.

  1. Josh Uche / Michigan / 6’1 – 245

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Miami, Florida. A one year starter who made the 2nd Team All Big in 2019, Honorable Mention in 2018. Josh Uche was a heavy-rotational player as a junior and led the team in sacks on a unit that included Devin Bush, Rashan Gary, and Chase Winovich. He repeated as the team’s leading sack artist as the full time starter in 2019 as a senior. Uche has exciting potential that stems from his versatility, explosion, and bend. The twitchy defender plays smart and can be moved around based on the situation, but he will make his money off the edge. He needs to bulk up a bit so he can handle the pro-power game, but at the very least he will be a solid 3rd down defender who a creative mind can use in multiple roles.

*If you like Zack Baun for NYG, you have to like Uche a couple rounds later. Uche had to sit behind some really talented edge rushers at Michigan but when he got his shot in 2019, he proved he can handle it. Some teams hate the 1-year starters and I understand why, but I think he is worth the gamble if he is around at the start of day 3. He would be a perfect BUCK fit in the new scheme as long as his medicals check out.

  1. Julian Okwara / Notre Dame / 6’4 – 252

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Charlotte, North Carolina. A two year starter who had his 2019 cut short because of a broken leg. Brother of current Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara. A native of Nigeria who moved to the states when he was 8 years old. Julian will likely grade out slightly better than his brother but there are questions whether or not he will progress in the same manner. He had a very solid 2018 where his burst and bend were able to disrupt the opposition. However he disappeared and seemed like a different player before his injury as a senior. The position he plays, the last name, and his 2018 could cause a team to gamble but he is more developmental than he is ready for NFL action.

*High risk, high reward prospect who I think fits best as a stand up 3-4 outside linebacker. I think he ends up going higher than where I have him pegged right now for what its worth. I really didn’t like what I saw against Georgia, Michigan, and Southern California when he was matched up against pro-caliber linemen. Overmatched when it came to power and strength and we aren’t talking about a special athlete off the ball either. He looks the part and he was good in 2018, that’s all I have to go on really.

  1. Bradlee Anae / Utah / 6’3 – 257

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Laie, Hawaii. Three year starter who won the 2019 Morris Trophy Award, given to the Pac 12’s top lineman. Two time 1st Team All Pac 12 and 2019 All American. Anae’s production, competitive style of play, and strong week at the Senior Bowl create a lot of arrows toward him being a quality NFL starter. However there are a lot of warts on tape that center around his overall athletic ability and upside. He has tight hips, doesn’t play a good arm extension game, and won’t beat many tackles up the edge. He projects to be a rotational third down player who can be trusted to make things happen on occasion, but not consistently.

*From the beginning of the season through the entire process up to now, I have had Anae as an early day 3 pick. No. I’m not being stubborn. I’ve had dozens and dozens of grades fluctuate up and down multiple rounds since September. I simply just don’t see an every down impact guy here, but by no means do I dislike him. He brings great energy to a defense and he knows how to win in traffic. I just see a limit to how much impact he can make play to play and is best suited for a number three role who comes onto the field in specific situations.

  1. Alton Robinson / Syracuse / 6’3 – 264

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Converse, Texas. Three year starter for Syracuse after spending his freshman season at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Earned 2nd Team All ACC honors in 2018 after finishing third in the conference with 17 tackles for loss and second with 10 sacks. Took a step back as a senior but still earned Honorable Mention honors. Robinson checks a lot of boxes that coaches and scouts look for in a high ceiling edge rusher prospect. He has a strong presence and showed flashes of proper pad level, agility, and finishing ability. There are a lot of inconsistencies in his arsenal but he has produced enough across multiple years against both the run and pass to show there is something to work with. He can be a rotational player early on with the upside of being a quality starter.

*Robinson is similar to Okwara. He just didn’t look the same in 2019 that he did in 2018, that is a red flag to me. It’s not like he saw a massive amount of double teams or anything but I think coaches saw his 2018 tape when scouting and they found ways to neutralize him. Still good enough to be a 4th or 5th rounder, but I was projecting early day 2 when the season began.

  1. Alex Highsmith / Charlotte / 6’3 – 248

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Wilmington, North Carolina. A former walk on who started for two years. In those two years, he earned 1st Team All Conference USA both seasons while adding a 3rd Team All American accolade in 2019. Highsmith set, and then broke, Charlotte’s single season tackle for loss record over his junior and senior seasons. He showed flashes of dominance and despite the lack of ideal tools when it comes to size and speed, created optimism around what he can be in the NFL. He has a lot of inconsistencies that stem from a lack of power and pure explosion, but in a game and specific role where a lot of the action is played in a phone booth, Highsmith’s quickness and low center of gravity along with crafty hands and footwork could carve out a role for him as a situational edge rusher.

*There are a few scouts who really like this kid and have projected him to go day 2. I liked him enough on tape to recommend him for Shrine week, but I never saw anything more than day three. I then got to see him up close and personal at Shrine and walked away with the same thought, day 3. He is similar to Oshane Ximines but a notch below across the board.

  1. Delontae Scott / SMU: 74
  2. Trevis Gipson / Tulsa: 74
  3. James Lynch / Baylor: 73
  4. Jonathan Garvin / Miami: 73
  5. Carter Coughlin / Minnesota: 73
  6. DJ Wonnum / South Carolina: 72
  7. Kenny Willekes / Michigan State: 72
  8. Jason Stowbridge / North Carolina: 72
  9. Nick Coe / Auburn: 72
  10. Azur Kamara / Kansas: 71

NYG APPROACH

While it is difficult to exactly pinpoint which kind of edge presence NYG will go after, I think this is going to be addressed with one of their first four picks. As I said earlier, you can look for the BUCK (pass rushing linebacker) or the CRASH (3-4/4-3 DE hybrid). Because of what they have in Carter, Ximines, and Fackrell, I think they are going to lean toward the CRASH end. This is a spot that will demand more size and presence, not just pure edge speed and explosion. I do think they will add both throughout the weekend, however. In addition, if a top value drops to them and it is more of a BUCK type presence, I think they pull that trigger.

Now, I think NYG will lean toward offensive line with their first pick at 4. That approach opens the door for this EDGE presence at the top of round 2. One of the CRASH end candidates could slip through the cracks right into their lap like Epenesa, Gross-Matos, Davidson, Lewis…etc. One of the BUCK guys could slip into their laps like Chaisson or Baun. These stacks (or ranks) could slightly alter based on what NYG feels they need more but no matter the case, there will be someone available who helps this team right away. Remember, this team wants real versatility and I think they will weigh a lot when their second pick is on the clock.

Apr 052020
 
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Derrick Brown, Auburn Tigers (January 1, 2020)

Derrick Brown – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Tackles

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

As previously stated, the unknown surrounding what the NYG defense will actually look like can make this position group look pretty cloudy. No matter the case, it is widely considered the deepest and possibly the best position on the entire roster. Leonard Williams was franchised, Dalvin Tomlinson is coming off his best season, and Dexter Lawrence was one of the top 5 rookies in the league last year when it comes to overall grades. That is a really solid starting point for a defensive line that needs to be “multiple”, but the strength doesn’t end there. BJ Hill, even though he saw a dip in playing time, is a really reliable and solid fourth lineman who hasn’t missed a game in 2 years. Austin Johnson was signed from TEN to add a better backup nose tackle presence, he hasn’t missed a game in over three years. And lastly there are reasons to be optimistic about RJ McIntosh and Chris Slayton and their ability to provide quality depth and specific role playing. All in, this defensive line is capable of dominating the inside running game and keeping the linebackers clean. On passing downs, they would be an ideal compliment to an elite outside pass rush presence but they aren’t capable of being the primary force in that department.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Derrick Brown / Auburn / 6’5 – 326

Grade: 84

Summary: Three year starter from Sugar Hill, Georgia. Two time All-SEC performer and unanimous 1st Team All American in 2019. Brown has been NFL-ready for multiple years now. This kind of power and speed don’t come around often but he also combines it with excellent on-field intelligence and an evolving skill set. He makes the kind of eye opening play week to week that makes him appear as a bidding star. While Brown doesn’t offer much variety as a pass rusher just yet, he is still considered a three down player because of how much his tool set and hustle can create. He is a fit for any scheme and can fill multiple spots along the defensive line.

*This is the exact kind of defensive tackle talent who Gettleman loves. Huge on all levels, violent and heavy on contact, dominant tendencies, and versatile. But could I really see him adding another DT talent to the team with as many roles they have elsewhere? Yes, I do. Both Tomlinson and Williams aren’t signed beyond 2020, and the draft is very much about your team moving forward. The defensive line is where he wants to be strong and deep. Brown is widely considered a top 10 player in this class, some have him in the top 5. All of that are reasons why DG could credibly go after him but I don’t think it will happen, especially if they stay at 4. At the end of the day though, I think NYG will have players graded higher and he will want to spread resources out after doing what he did along the defensive line over the past 12 months.

  1. Javon Kinlaw / South Carolina / 6’5 – 324

Grade: 83

Summary: Fourth year senior from Charleston, South Carolina. Started for three years at South Carolina after spending his freshman year at Jones County Junior College. After a childhood filled with adversity, Kinlaw molded himself from overweight junior college hopeful to a probable first round pick. The tool set is among the best in the class at the position and there is enough tape to conform he is much more than a blank slate with potential. Kinlaw has shown the ability to take over games from the middle with his ability to create a new line of scrimmage and close in on the action with violence, power, and speed. There are several technique-based parts to his game that need work and consistency, but he is very coachable and will make a difference early even while he tries to learn the game.

*If you have some time, read up on Kinlaw’s upbringing, it is a great story. I’ve read that he is going top 10 and there is a chance he goes in front of Brown. I don’t see it grade wise, but Kinlaw’s tools are more impressive. He is 324 pounds and he has minimal loose meat on his frame and he could likely hold another 10-15 pounds without losing juice. He already has rare tools, that could put him over the top. His issues revolve around consistency and effort. He doesn’t always try hard and he doesn’t really know what he is doing yet. A team will need to be patient with him and he will need to work really hard on developing the skill set. If he reaches his upside, he can be the most dominant DT in the league and I mean that.

  1. Neville Gallimore / Oklahoma / 6’2 – 304

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior from Ottawa, Ontario. A four year starter who has played up and down the Sooners defensive line. A two time All Big 12 honoree, including first team in 2019. Gallimore was the first ever Canadian to play in the high school US Army All-American Bowl. His combination of size, strength, and speed is hard to find and he progressed his skill set all five years in college. In a league where everyone is looking for more pass rushers, Gallimore is going to be a sought after asset. He is a really quick, disruptive force up the middle who can beat blockers off the ball and win post-engagement. He dropped about 25 pounds between 2018 and 2019 and even though he gave a little as a run defender, his ability to impact the passing game is tempting for any scheme.

*I was surprised to not see this kid in the draft last year. He went back to Oklahoma for his fifth year senior season, lost some weight, and showed he can wear another hat on the defensive line. Gallimore is really versatile, maybe the most versatile guy in this group. He can play big and stout, he can play leaner while adding more pass rush presence. There is an outside shot he slips into the end of round 1.

  1. Justin Madubuike / Texas A&M / 6’3 – 293

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from McKinney, Texas. Two-year starter who posted 10+ tackles for loss two straight seasons with his best football coming against his toughest competition. Madubuike may not be a fit for every team, thus his value is going to be hard to pinpoint. However this is a quick, powerful, 290+ pounder who has a knack for finding creases and lanes to the football. He is an ideal fit for a team that wants a throwback three technique who can shoot gaps and cause havoc. If a team wants him on the field to stay at home and absorb blockers while maintaining his anchor, he will struggle. While he has to be carefully implemented into a scheme, he has the upside of being a top shelf interior pass rusher who can still make a difference on running downs.

*I don’t see the fit with NYG here, regardless of whether or not he drops draft weekend. As said in the summary, he won’t be a fit for every scheme but then again, he has a high pass rush ceiling and good coaches will always find a way to work with that.

  1. Ross Blacklock / TCU / 6’3 – 290

Grade: 79

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Missouri City, Texas. A two year starter who ended his career with a 2019 1st Team All Big 12 honor. Blacklock opened eyes as a redshirt freshman in 2017 but a torn achilles tendon prior to the start of 2018 forced him to miss the year. He bounced back with vengeance, sharing the team lead with 3.5 sacks while adding 9.5 tackles for loss. Blacklock is a disruptive penetrator who has excellent size and burst. He can close a gap in a hurry in pursuit but also shows a power game upon contact with blockers. He is an upside-based pick wjp can be a package defender right away with the potential of being a top tier interior pass rusher down the road.

*Some are putting this kid in the round 1 discussion, some have him going in round 3. The lack size and length is a concern for me when it comes to every down duty, but there is no denying his ability to burst through the line and find the ball. He can be a disruptor from the three-technique position, but I wouldn’t want him as a stay at home guy. Similar to Madubuike, he needs the right role.

  1. Raekwon Davis / Alabama / 6’6 – 311

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry. Three year starter from Meridian, Alabama. Three time All SEC defender and s 2019 All American. Davis put himself onto the national radar as a sophomore in 2017 with 69 tackles and 8.5 sacks. The tool set, as we are used to seeing from the Alabama program, was elite. He was wrecking havoc with his combination of hustle, length, and speed. Fast forward two years and hasn’t been able to match that production, most notably as a pass rusher. There is still a sense of rawness to his game and once can rightfully question how well he can perform week to week. The inconsistencies can be maddening at times but he still flashes dominant traits. He can be a solid starter or rotational player, but there are certain roles he needs to steer clear from.

*Davis may get drafted a lot higher than this because of his ceiling. He has shown in the past that he can be a dominant inside force. The inconsistency was maddening though and we can’t blame coaching. If he couldn’t put it together week to week coming from that program, I think there is plenty of credible reason to believe he will be best used on a rotation basis in the NFL.

  1. DaVon Hamilton / Ohio State / 6’4 – 320

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior entry. One year starter who finished 3rd Team All Big 10 in 2019. Hamilton was part of a really deep and talented defensive line group in is early years, which made it tough for him to see the field. He finally got his shot as a senior and did not disappoint. He had 10.5 tackles for loss and 6 sacks. He is a big, long, thick interior defender who will be able to handle the size and strength of the NFL right away. He needs to clean up hand techniques and time will tell if he is simply a role player or someone who can stay on the field. Even though his upside is limited, he can still be a solid, important player who best fits in a 4-3 front.

*It is a tough sell to use a day 1 or day 2 pick on a guy who was really a 1 year contributor/starter. But coaches reports on him are glowing and he is the kind of alpha-male you put on your defensive line and the overall presence of the group is elevated. Of all the talent on the OSU defense, it was this guy who everyone viewed as the power-force. Not the most talented, but he is a safe bet to at least be a solid player who can start in multiple schemes.

  1. Jordan Elliot / Missouri / 6’4 – 302

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Missouri City, Texas. Two-year starter. Began his career at Texas after transferring following the 2016 season. Elliot is a penetrator with size and finishing power who can impose his will on ball carriers. He has plus-speed and quickness in space and can be a package-player at the next level. He doesn’t engage his lower half enough and gives too much ground against the running game and double teams to be viewed as an every down player at this point but with the amount of defensive line rotations the league has now, he will have a place.

*If you catch the right game, you will walk away from it saying Elliot is a 2nd round pick. He is a good athlete, pursues well, and moves like a guy who plays at 270 pounds. There are some things I don’t like about his game though revolving around pad level and hand usage. There is a lot of work to be done here but yes, he has pass rush potential which could get him drafted higher than this.

  1. John Penisini / Utah / 6’1 – 318

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior from West Jordan, Utah. Two year starter who was 2nd team All Pac 12 in both 2018 and 2019. Began his career at Snow College in 2015 and sat out 2016 before taking the field for Utah in 2017. Penisini is a dirty-work defender who doesn’t jump off the screen with talent of the box score with production. But his style of play, his body, and his smarts make him an incredibly effective player on running downs. He plays low and strong, rarely giving an inch, to free up defenders around him. When a play is there to be made, he will make it. Penisini isn’t going to be much of a pass rusher but this is the kind of 2-gapper every defense wants on their roster. A very underrated prospect.

*I’ll tell ya what, when I spent the week down at Shrine in January, Penisini was the guy who improved his stock the most via his play. He was dominant at times. I don’t think many will have a grade on him where I do, but I am really confident this kid is going to play early in his career and may end up being a top notch nose tackle in the league. Not a guy who fills up the stat sheet, but one who makes play to play impact and helps others out. Don’t be surprised if you see NYG add him to their DT group day 3, he can be multiple.

  1. Leki Fotu / Utah / 6’5 – 330

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from West Valley City, Utah. Two year starter who was 2nd Team All Pac 12 in 2018 and 1st Team in 2019. Also added a 2nd Team All American honor as a senior. Fotu played just one year of high school football, as he had an extensive and accomplished history with rugby. His physical tool set is rare, as he possesses top tier size and thickness but is still a rather comfortable athlete. For a player this big and athletic, he doesn’t dominate the point of attack like he should but a case can rightfully be made that he is still figuring the game out. At the every least, Fotu can be a two gap run defender who frees up linebackers and will make the occasional play on the ball himself. He is a try-hard player who will stick around in the league for awhile, but may never be enough of a pass rusher to be considered an every down threat.

*Most have Fotu higher than this, and I won’t fault them for it. He is a really good body, he is still relatively new to the game, and he plays hard. Give a coach this kind of frame and hustle to work with, and they will be pleased. He plays a bit too high for my liking and there were long stretches where he disappeared. I still see day three value here though, he can play a role right away and there is some upside if he can figure out the skill set.

  1. Benito Jones / Ole Miss / 6’1 – 316

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Waynesboro, Mississippi. Four year starter who came to Ole Miss as a 5-star recruit and the 2016 Mississippi High School Player of the Year. Earned 2nd Team All SEC in 2019. Jones is the classic defensive tackle force who often gets overlooked when it comes to accolades and awards. He does a lot of dirty work that elevates players around him, but rarely gets his name called when outsiders discuss impact players. Coaches and scouts will see just how good of an every down force he is, and can be. He has always worked on the family farm during the offseason and that kind of power and natural strength shows up on tape. He is very effective with his hands and he shows surprising pop out of his stance. He has a quicker first step than most will assume and combined with his tool set, it will cause offensive lines to plan around him. He is the kind of player who impacts the game so many ways and he will outperform several players drafted ahead of him.

*It sounds like I have a higher grade on Jones than what is out there in the league. I re-watched a few things and it only assured me that I have the right outlook on him. Jones is going to be a really solid nose tackle. While that role may not be as widely uses as it used to be, there are still enough teams that use it. Jones screams PIT to me. That old school nose that makes a huge difference. I’m not sure NYG is confident in what is behind Lawrence in that role and if Jones actually does fall into late day three like I have been told, he would be a great get.

  1. Darrion Daniels / Nebraska / 6’3 – 311

Grade: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior from Dallas, Texas. Two year starter at Oklahoma State and a starter in his lone season at Nebraska as a grad transfer. Team captain who earned Honorable Mention All Big 10 honors in 2019. Daniels is a high-character player who will show no hesitation in doing the dirty work inside for a defense. He can swallow space and blockers consistently, freeing up linebackers to do their job against the run. He won’t be an every down player, as he simply doesn’t offer much against the pass athletically. He has limited range and doesn’t fight through contact. Daniels won’t be a fit for every scheme, but he will find a home as a backup nose tackle in a 3-4 front.

*The grad transfer situation really worked out for Daniels. Coming into the year, he was barely a thought for most but his performance in the unique Nebraska defense opened eyes. He got a the nod to play at the Senior Bowl and I thought he was one of the top interior run defenders there. He is a classic dirty work guy and that teams that use a 3-4 front will like him enough to call on him earlier than others.

  1. McTelvin Agim / Arkansas / 6’3 – 309

Grade: 72

Summary: Senior entry from Texarkana, Texas. A four year starter who played defensive end from 2016-2018 before moving inside for good as a senior. Agim was a five star recruit out of high school who had a blend of size, speed, and strength that was rare. He was a two time state champion in the shot put who was clocked sub 4.6 in the forty. While his speed has taken a hit as he put on 40 pounds since then, his tool set is still considered to be a major plus. Agim will flash good burst and power off the ball and now that he is inside full time, where he should have been all four years of his college career, he can develop at the position a bit better and get rid of the technique deficiencies. He isn’t a stout run defender and will disappear for stretches, but he is a solid rotational prospect who can be a very solid 3rd down option for 4-3 fronts.

*This is the kind of prospect who a coach will see on paper, pop in some film, and immediately put him on their list. Coaches always think they can develop the tools and Agim is no slouch there. He had an underwhelming career compared to what people projected, but he was moved around a ton. If a team can really hone in on a specific spot, Agim has the potential to be an oversized penetrator and disruptor. He has a lot of work to do, but the base is higher than most down here.

  1. Khalil Davis / Nebraska / 6’1 – 308

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Blue Springs, Missouri. A one year starter who was a significant part of their defensive line rotation for three seasons. Won the team’s Defensive Lineman of the Year Award in both 2018 and 2019. Honorable Mention All Big 10 in 2018, 3rd Team in 2019. Davis increased his production every year of his career to the point where he led the Cornhuskers in sacks with 8 as a senior while also leading the defensive line in tackles for loss as both a junior and senior. The plus-athlete has rare speed and pop for the position and he has experience lining up inside the tackle and outside the tight end. That kind of versatility will help him stick to a roster early and his long term outlook will heavily depend on him developing his skill set to hide his size and length issues. He is not stout against the run but he will create plays in space.

*Man, I watched the Davis twins and spoke with them at length down at Shrine week. Both are great kids and both had a great week down there in practice. Khalil is slightly better. He was dominating the one on ones against offensive linemen with is ability to get off the ball fast, low, and active. I’m not sure I want him as a stay at home run defender, as he just doesn’t have the size, but let this guy in on passing downs and let him shoot the gap. He is going to make things happen. His versatility is a plus.

  1. Robert Landers / Ohio State / 6’1- 285

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Dayton, Ohio. A rotational defensive lineman on a team that has been packed with NFL talent there for years. Landers has never been the most talented, or even close to it, defender in the room at Ohio State but it was hard to ignore him and the overachiever style of play. He is built low to the ground and his explosion out of his stance with tornado-hands make him a tough and annoying matchup for blockers. He has subtle but assertive and productive movement that can give him enough space to slip through beyond the line of scrimmage. Landers won’t be a fit for every scheme, but he is a solid bet to make an impact on a situational basis.

*I am taking a chance on Landers. He is undersized on multiple levels but in an era where defensive linemen rotate more than ever, I am trying to find a spot on the 53 man roster for him no matter what scheme I run. He gets off the ball so well, plays with such easy but powerful knee bend, and nobody was able to consistently lock him up. He made so much impact on that OSU front but he wasn’t an every down guy and there were others who simply got the attention.

  1. Malcolm Roach / Texas: 69
  2. Carlos Davis / Nebraska: 69
  3. Broderick Washington / Texas Tech: 69
  4. Tyler Clark / Georgia: 68
  5. Eli Hanback / Virginia: 68
  6. Brendon Hayes / Central Florida: 68
  7. Bravvion Roy / Baylor: 67
  8. Raequan Williams / Michigan State: 67
  9. Tershawn Wharton: 67
  10. Auzoyah Alufoahi / West Georgia: 67

NYG APPROACH

I have tried to break down what Miami did along their defensive front last season as best I could in an effort to try and find what the team needs up front. When it comes to the DT positions, I think they are all set for 2020. They have quality starters, quality backups, and a couple guys in the wings worth developing another season. The question resides in post-2020 though. We do not know if Leonard Williams and/or Dalvin Tomlinson will be in blue. Austin Johnson signed a one-year contract. If you believe in the approach of adding defensive line talent every year in the draft (I do, when you have 6+ picks), there needs to be one added.

Now within the scheme, one can make the argument they should look more at a 3-4/4-3 defensive end type (the Crash end) because that is where they are a bit thin right now. So maybe we take 1 or 2 guys from the EDGE preview which is coming up on Tuesday. If NYG can be patient and pursue an interior body on day 3 with one of those late picks, I would be pleased. I think you can find a guy back there who will add some competition to the back end group (McIntosh-Slayton) and potentially start to fill the hole that will be created if Tomlinson and/or Johnson and/or Williams don’t come back.

The only scenario where I can see them going after an early DT talent like Derrick Brown is if they have a Tomlinson trade planned. I can’t see it though, as he has one year left on a rookie deal and he isn’t that special. We have seen crazier things happen though and if DG is as stubborn as some make him out to be, well then here you go.

Apr 032020
 
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Isaiah Simmons, Clemson Tigers (December 7, 2019)

Isaiah Simmons – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Linebackers

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

Keep in mind I have an “EDGE” position preview coming up next week, so I may not go into some of those linebackers in this preview. I am mainly talking about the off-ball guys who primarily play between the tackles. Depending on what NYG uses as their base personnel, we are likely looking at the newly signed Blake Martinez and second year kid Ryan Connelly, who is coming off a torn ACL after raising some eyebrows in 4 games. Neither of them are worth getting overly excited about, but that doesn’t mean the position is a weak point, not at all. In fact, especially if Connelly recovers well, the two should provide really good run defense between the tackles and to the sidelines.

The question here is two-fold. Will they be exposed in the passing game? Is there enough depth and intra-roster competition? David Mayo will be back to provide both and while we can’t look down on his performance in 2019, he is best suited for the backup role. Josiah Tauaefa looks to be a solid special teamer and backup, maybe similar to what they had in Chase Blackburn and Calvin Munson in the past. I’m not sure I see Chris Peace or Nate Harvey sticking to a 53 man roster. I think the hole they have here is coverage, as none of the above mentioned guys can hang with quality tight ends or pass catching backs. It’s been an issue for years and there isn’t a current solution on the roster.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

*Zack Baun, Terrell Lewis, Azur Kamara, Carter Coughlin are all graded in EDGE group

  1. Isaiah Simmons / Clemson / 6’4 – 238

Grade: 89

Summary: Fourth year junior entry and two year starter from Olathe, Kansas. After an accomplished high school football and long jump career, Simmons redshirted his first year on campus at Clemson. When he finally got on the field in 2017, his upside jumped off the screen and the coaches knew they had a budding star who couldn’t be kept to one position. They moved him around a lot, seeing snaps at linebacker, nickel corner, safety, and edge rusher. It resulted in two straight years of production across the board, leading the team in tackles in 2018 and 2019 respectively in addition to 25.5 TFL and 9.5 sacks. Simmons also intercepted 4 passes, broke up 13 others, and forced 4 fumbles over that span. Simply put, he is a defensive playmaker who will wear several hats for a defense if schemed properly. He is a very non-traditional player, thus putting him into a traditional role would be a massive mistake. Simmons is the player you scheme around, not the other way around.

*I have done more research and re-watching of tape on Simmons than any non-QB I have ever scouted. No, not because I wasn’t sure of him being elite or close to elite, but because he has played in countless roles against countless style-offenses. He plays to a sub 4.4 (which he ran at the combine), his stats are NOT inflated, and what really puts me over the hill on him are the reports I got on his character and intelligence. If you are going to gamble on an athlete at the top of the draft, make sure the intangibles are there. Simmons’ role within this defense is unknown to me – that is above my pay grade.

Do I think it can work? Absolutely. Do I think this kid is going to make plays on a defense that doesn’t have a playmaker? Absolutely. Do I think this kid can cover tight ends, spy the most athletic quarterbacks, and rush the passer? Absolutely. You just have to make sure you aren’t keeping him in one spot. As said in my summary, you need to build the scheme around him, not the other way around. If this new, motivated, young, innovation-hungry scheme is confident they can do with Simmons, pull the trigger. But one must know, he isn’t instinctive or stout against the run. He flashes power on the move but he won’t handle NFL linemen and blocking tight ends well. Put him in the wrong role, he is a day 2 kind of player.

  1. Kenneth Murray / Oklahoma / 6’3 – 241

Grade: 87

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from Missouri City, Texas. Murray burst onto the scene in 2017, winning the Big 12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year Award. He was a part of the All-Big 12 team all three years and ended his career as an All American. He started all 42 games of that career and has been the heartbeat to the defense. Murray has been touted for both his leadership and play by coaches and opponents alike. He is the kind of player who any team can stick into the middle of their defense and know they have a true three down player who will make others around him better. Murray has the physical tools and mental acuity to be a star in the middle.

*It is possible, that if it weren’t for Simmons, Murray would be in the discussion for the 4th overall pick in my eyes. I don’t think he would end up being my guy, but this is the first LB I have really wanted to compare to Patrick Willis or Luke Kuechly. Everything about this kid is what the modern inside linebacker needs. Speed, burst, power, range in coverage, and true leadership. I was pretty high on Devin Bush and Devin White last year, both of which had good rookie years. Murray is better. There are a couple medical red flags that need to be looked into further.

  1. Logan Wilson / Wyoming / 6’2 – 241

Grade: 81

Summary: Fifth year senior from Casper, Wyoming. He arrived at Wyoming as a 185 pound defensive back. After his redshirt year, Wilson moved to linebacker and earned the Mountain West Freshman of the Year Award. He was a three time All Mountain West honoree and finished his career as an All American. The high school track standout blends the new and old age linebacker into one package. He has the NFL body but can move like a safety. His strengths are on display when he is in space pursuing the action and covering tight ends and backs. He does struggle mightily when taking on blocks, but he is entering the league at the right time as cover linebackers are in high demand and Wilson brings that to the table without giving up too much against the run.

*10 years ago we would have labeled this kid as a linebacker who wasn’t stout enough. To be real, stoutness is less of a factor than it has ever been and the ability to run, chase, and cover are more important. Wilson, with good size, moves really well and was really productive. Smart kid, will start early in his career. Can play multiple spots.

  1. Patrick Queen / LSU / 6’0 – 229

Grade: 81

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Ventress, Louisiana. Over the course of his final two years on campus, Queen started just over a full season’s worth of games. By the end of LSU’s championship run he was arguably the top defensive player on the team. He evolved into a weapon who was all over the field on every down. The NFL’s desire for speed and coverage ability will make Queen a sought after commodity, as his tools in space are near the elite level. He is still growing and evolving as an interior run defender and there are mental lapses that show up from time to time, but this is the kind of linebacker who every team wants now. High upside player.

*I have Queen as a late first round talent as you can see but I can confirm that many don’t see a round 1 guy. As good as he looks at times, the two things NFL coaches and scouts won’t like are the lack of size (especially his short arms) and the fact he was a 1 year starter. And to build off that, he wasn’t the starter at the beginning of the season. He only got in there when he did because Michael Divinity got in some off-field trouble that led to a suspension.

  1. Akeem Davis-Gaither / Appalachian State / 6’2 – 224

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Thomasville, North Carolina. Two year starter. Finished 2018 off with a 2nd Team All Sun Belt honor before really taking off as a senior. 2019 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year. Davis-Gaither was a team captain and obvious leader of the defense that set the tone each and every week. His speed and burst were just too much to handle for his opponents and it was able to impact the game in several ways. He lined up as an edge rusher and showed plus-blitzing ability, he lined up as an inside run defender and was able to move through traffic well enough, and he lined in space as an effective cover linebacker. He won’t be a schematic fit for several teams but a defense that wants to add speed and versatility but can also keep him out of downhill run stuffing responsibilities will have a high outlook on him.

*I see some Telvin Smith here. Undersized, short reach, slight frame. But this dude can move at a different speed than his opponents and he will evade blockers well. Really fun player to watch but he needs to be protected. I don’t see him impact the game as a blitzer or interior run defender, but he will fly around and cover backs with ease.

  1. Troy Dye / Oregon / 6’3 – 231

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Norco, California. Four year starter who led the Ducks in tackles all four seasons. Three time 2nd Team All Pac 12 defender following his Honorable Mention 2016 season. Dye finished his career near the top of the program’s all time tackles list. He has been a productive player across the board and it showed both on the stat sheet and on tape. He lined up all over the field and got to the action one way or another, proving his intelligence and athleticism. His slight frame will need work if he is going to be playing between the tackles at the next level but his ability to factor in space and potential to be a credible every down linebacker is enough to hide his deficiencies. He is a new-age linebacker who doesn’t give up too much as a thumper.

*Dye was as the top of my senior LB stack last summer. I love this kid’s game and more important, I love his consistency. You know what you’re getting week to week. Dye is another current-age linebacker who will be more effective in space than he is in traffic, but he stays plays tough between the tackles. He won’t be a star, but he will contribute on special teams right away and offer some potential as a starting weak side presence.

  1. Malik Harrison / Ohio State / 6’3 – 247

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Columbus, Ohio. Two year starter who earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors in 2019, Honorable Mention in 2018. Also 3rd Team All American as a senior. Harrison has the NFL-ready size and power presence to factor right away against the run. He can handle NFL offensive lineman with his combination of man-strength and top tier length. Once in the open field, he can really get moving with long stride speed, which will be an asset against athletic tight ends. He came to Ohio State as a former high school quarterback who wanted to play wide receiver for the Buckeyes, so that is the kind of athlete we are talking about here. He could end up projecting to the strong side in a 4-3 front long term as a starter with the option of providing some middle-type roles.

*Harrison is overlooked a bit when it comes to how freaky of an athlete he is. He has some of the best triangle numbers (height + weight + speed) at the position. Remember, this kid came to Ohio State to play wide receiver! When I watched his tape, I saw a lot of rawness, indecision, and inconsistency. But when he did line things up, when he did make proper reads, he looked dominant. Harrison is a high upside, really athletic linebacker who simply needs time to sit back on the depth chart and get acclimated. If it clicks, watch out. Really nice fit for NYG’s situation if they can find a way to get their hands on him round 3 or 4.

  1. Jordyn Brooks / Texas Tech / 6’0 – 240

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas. Four-year starter who led Texas Tech in tackles three of those years. Honorable Mention All Big 12 in 2016, 2017, and 2018 respectively before going onto being named 1st Team All Big 12 and 2nd Team All American in 2019. Brooks is an aggressive, fast, attacking downhill defender who made 20 tackles for loss as a senior. That number was a tad inflated as he was almost-always sent on blitzes, but his athletic ability and closing style make him an attractive prospect. He is quick enough to factor in coverage, he just didn’t have a ton of experience in that role. Brooks has the ability to start in the NFL but at the very least will be a special teams contributor and plus-run defender.

*Brooks is going to be a gamble, I think some teams won’t even look at him. He has very little experience in coverage, he was purely a downhill guy. But there are still plenty of schemes that need the thumper inside and that he is. However he also brings 4.6 speed to the table, a nasty, physical guy. He screams Ravens to me. And I always love how their linebackers perform and help them win games.

  1. Anfernee Jennings / Alabama / 6’2 – 256

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Dadeville, Alabama. Three year starter. 1st Team All SEC in 2019. Jennings has been a mainstay on the Tide’s defense for three seasons. He is one of the more versatile players in the class, as he has seen plenty of experience as an edge rusher and inside linebacker. He will likely make a full time move to middle as a two down thumper between the tackles who can add something as a pass rusher on 3rd down. He lacks standout physical traits, most notably when it comes to movement, but he is instinctive and tough. Smart players who have produced the way he has against the highest level of competition find a way on the field at the next level.

*Some are leaving an EDGE position on him, which is fine I guess. But we saw him move to off-ball linebacker a lot in 2019 and he spent the majority of Senior Bowl week there too. Jennings is really smart and really physical, I could see NE being all over this kid draft weekend early day 3. 25+ TFL and 13+ sacks over the past two years coming from Alabama? Can play inside as a thumper, can provide quality pass rush on 3rd down? Sign me up.

  1. Willie Gay Jr. / Mississippi State / 6’1 – 243

Grade: 73

Summary: Junior entry from Starkville, Mississippi. Two year starter but only started 11 games total over his career. Missed a significant amount of time in 2019 because of academics. Gay was a explosive rushing quarterback in high school and it is easy to notice just how fast he can play on the defensive side. He is an aggressive downhill force who will make the offense adjust to him. He is not someone who a ball carrier wants to meet in space, as the power Gay brings upon force when he has a head start is as physical as it gets. There will need to be extra screening in regard to his off field habits, but he is a potential game changer if everything checks out and he learns the game a bit more.

*If the Giants are looking to take a risk at LB on day 3, this is the guy to go after. I had glowing game notes on Gay Jr and the comparison of Devin Bush came up multiple times. Short but stout, plus length for his frame, top-shelf speed. There is no denying that NYG needs more juice, more speed at the second level. Gay Jr blew the combine up, he is in the same tier athletically speaking as Simmons. He is as violent a player as you will find. There are a couple character red flags, however, and he only has 11 career starts. If NYG wants to turn their defense around, they are going to have to take a couple chances. This would be taking a chance but I feel good about it in round 4 or 5.

  1. Dante Olson / Montana / 6’2 – 237

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Medford, Oregon. Two year starter who certainly made the most of those two years. Set, and the re-set, the all time single season record for tackles in program history. A two time FCS All American and the recipient of the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Award. Buck Buchanan Award winner finalist in 2018 and 2019 respectively, given to the top defensive player of the year in FCS. Olson is the son of a coach with really good speed and a finisher’s mentality. He runs around like he’s on fire and with the demands of today’s linebacker in the pros, he could be a sneaky-good fit. He lacks some important agility-based movement skills but he can be molded into a quality player in time. At the very least, he will be a stud-special teamer.

*Olson won’t impress anybody with his tools, but they are good enough and he has the combination of intelligence and toughness on the field to factor. He would be a reliable backup and quality special teamer. My question, in relation to the Giants, would center around how “multiple” he can be. I see a weak side / middle guy only. Every team has a linebacker like him, but I can see why some would rather go for someone faster. I saw him at Shrine and was impressed, I am keeping him near the top of this cluster of mid to late day 3 linebackers.

  1. Shaquille Quarterman / Miami / 6’1 – 234

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Orange Park, Florida. Four year starter who finished All-ACC every season, including the 1st Team honor in both 2018 and 2019. Quarterman evolved into the Alpha Male of the Miami defense over his final two years, producing at a high level against both the run and pass. He has the kind of intelligence and on-field IQ that every good linebacker possesses and he knows how to finish. While he is a bit of a throwback who may currently struggle to play in space against the passing game, he still has the potential and even likelihood to make an impact. He shows stiffness but if a scheme can hide that a bit, he will help a defense much more than hurt it. He will be in the league for a long time and likely start at some point.

*A lot of people were juiced up about this kid before and during his freshman season. I feel like he’s been at Miami for a decade. 52 starts, a ton of tackles, multiple schemes, and a true leader of the group. I got to speak with him down at St. Pete during Shrine week and came away really impressed. He won’t add a lot of athleticism to the group though, he isn’t that big, and he may be a 2-down guy. The physical upside isn’t good enough for me to use anything more than a 3rd day pick here.

  1. Tanner Muse / Clemson / 6’2 – 227

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Belmont, North Carolina. Three year starter who earned 3rd Team All ACC honors in 2018, 1st Team in 2019. Also a 3rd Team All American as a senior. Muse looks too tight to stay at safety, as his hips and feet just don’t move well enough to be trusted in coverage against pro receivers. However he shows potential as a cover linebacker who can handle the running game from the weak side. The winner of the Special Teams Player of the Year Award at Clemson in 2016, Muse brings the kind of straight line speed and power-impact to make an impact in that department at the next level and his role on defense will need to be specific but he has proven to be a factor against the pass if he is protected.

*I have no issues with those who label Muse a late day 2 pick. He has some old school, blue collar in him but don’t look past the fact he is incredibly fast and explosive. Ohio State running back JK Dobbins out-ran Isaiah Simmons in space during the CFB playoffs, Muse caught him from behind. Then he went to the combine and ran a 4.41. Muse is too tight to play safety in my eyes, but he is more than physical enough for linebacker duty and his coverage for the position would be considered a plus. I have this mid to late day 3 grade here, but I’ll say this, his versatility, intelligence, and physical nature could be an exact fit for what NYG plans to do on defense. Look for this kid draft weekend.

  1. Davion Taylor / Colorado / 6’1 – 228

Grade: 70

Summary: Senior entry from Magnolia, Mississippi. Two year starter who spent two seasons in junior college prior to transferring to Colorado in 2018. Finished with Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors as a senior. Also an accomplished sprinter for the Colorado track team. Taylor has as interesting a background as anyone in the class. Because of religious beliefs, he was not allowed to play in football games Fridays or Saturdays during high school until his senior year. Thus, he was under-recruited and simply did not bank much football experience. After two impressive seasons in junior college, Colorado scooped him up and put him into the starting lineup 20 games over 2 years. Taylor had a hard time finding a permanent home in regard to position, but his speed was top shelf and he flashed playmaking ability from time to time. He is still very much considered a developmental player who is incredibly raw, but he has elite special teams potential and could mold into a quality weak side, space-happy linebacker down the road.

*One of the more unique prospects in the class considering his background and tools. Many are putting this kid into the day 2 tier because of his strength and speed. He is an excellent run and chase guy but I don’t see instincts or flow to the action. I thought he looked out of place at the Senior Bowl. While I do respect the upside here that stems from his frame and speed, he is a project.

  1. Jacob Phillips / LSU / 6’3 – 229

Grade: 70

Summary: Senior entry from Nashville, Tennessee. Two year starter who finished second on the team in tackles in 2018, first in 2019. After sitting behind Devin White for two years, a future top 10 pick, Phillips took over the job in the middle of the Tigers defense and excelled. He was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school and flashed over his two seasons. The straight line speed, attractive frame, and sure tackling is sure to catch the eyes of defensive coaches who want to try and develop a player for a year or two. He shows weaknesses in coverage but he physical upside is there to warrant the idea he could improve enough in that area. He is a day three pick who has the upside of a starter, ideally in a scheme that can let him run around and chase.

*Phillips isn’t in the same tier as a some of these recent LSU linebackers, but I think he is a reliable bet to provide quality depth and special teams play. He plays smart, he works hard, he is very coachable. Don’t forget he was a 5-star recruit and even though one could argue he had an underwhelming career, he was an important piece these past two seasons. Not a good cover linebacker but he will be reliable against the run.

  1. Mykal Walker / Fresno State: 70
  2. Francis Bernard / Utah: 70
  3. Evan Weaver / California: 70
  4. Cam Brown / Penn State: 69
  5. Jordan Mack / Virginia: 69
  6. Khaleke Hudson / Michigan: 69
  7. Justin Strnad / Wake Forest: 69
  8. Michael Divinity / LSU: 69
  9. Michael Pinckney / Miami: 68
  10. Jordan Glasgow / Michigan: 68

NYG APPROACH

For the record, I could talk about the possible Simmons selection for an hour straight, it is fascinating. I won’t go too deep here, as we can discuss further in the comments, but I will echo what I stated earlier. NYG can certainly go for him at #4 and I won’t say a negative thing about it. But so much of his potential, even more so than other prospects, will be based on how the team would use him. Build the scheme around him, do not try to fit him into a scheme. This coaching staff yelled from the top of the mountains that they want to be able to change their scheme week to week to exploit the opponent’s weaknesses. Simmons is quite literally the kind of player WHO can change week to week based on what the team needs, and he can do so at a high level. However, if they put him at ILB routinely, he will get crushed because his instincts are average at best and he plays high. If they put him at EDGE routinely, he will get crushed because he doesn’t have an array of rush moves and he doesn’t use his hands well in that situation. If they put him at safety routinely, he will get crushed because he is high hipped and doesn’t play more athletic than NFL receivers like he did in college.

As for the rest of the LB group, whether they draft Simmons or not, speed needs to be added. Connelly, Martinez, and Mayo can get the job done against the run but they are going to get exposed when true speed and coverage are needed. If you need to convert 3rd and 5, attack those guys and a good passing game will almost always come out on top especially on a team that lacks quality pass rushers. This draft’s LB group as a whole is a little thin after those top 7-8 guys. Because it is such a scheme-based position, NYG doesn’t have to rush here. They can be patient, wait for value (even if it is round 7), and add the athleticism there.

Mar 312020
 
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Jeff Okudah, Ohio State Buckeyes (October 26, 2019)

Jeff Okudah – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number mean, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

The Giants released their CB1 during the 2019 season, Janoris Jenkins. He was the one stabilizer in the group, the one corner who could be relied onto cover and make plays. 2019 was a growing season for the three young corners who this team is really banking onto evolve into quality players. After trading up for Deandre Baker in the first round of the 2019 Draft, he was thrown into the fire rather early and he came out burned badly. There was no denying how poor he played and when given the opportunity, fellow rookie Corey Ballentine and Sam Beal, who was on the game-day roster for the first time since being a supplemental pick in 2018, didn’t instill any confidence either. The one positive sign was Baker improving as the second half of the year progressed and he actually put together a few solid performances late in the year.

The signing of James Bradberry takes down the need at the position a bit but there are significant questions behind him, zero assurances. Grant Haley remains the primary nickel even though his play took a turn in the wrong direction in his second year. Between Haley, Baker, Beal, and Ballentine the odds are one of them will turn out to be starter-caliber, one will turn out to be rotational-caliber, and two will be gone within a year or two. That said, there is a spot for a new guy in the group.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

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

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

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

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

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

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

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Jeff Okudah / Ohio State / 6’1 – 205

Grade: 87

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Grand Prairie, Texas. The former five star and number one cornerback recruit did not disappoint once he got onto the field late in 2017. The most recent “DB U” has produced handfuls of NFL talent in recent years and the Ohio State coaches have labeled him the best of the bunch in those recent years. Okudah is an elite physical talent who plays with an elite mindset and aggressiveness. The tools are there, the mental capacity is there, and the short memory is there. Okudah is the kind of corner you want out there on an island against the opposition’s number one receiver. He owns that island and charges rent for anyone who wants to live there. Okudah is a week 1 starter in the league with an upside of being one of the best in the game at a position that is incredibly hard to fill.

*Okudah is the top corner I have scouted in quite some time. Physically and mentally, you are going to have a hard time telling anyone with a credible opinion that this kid isn’t going to be a Pro Bowler early in his career. The one thing that keeps him out of the rare 90+ tier on my grading sheet is the lack of discipline when it comes to technique as a press corner. If that issue gets cleaned up and a defense protects him early in his career, watch out. Is he in play for NYG at #4? I think he will be but the signing of Bradberry in combination with this front office trading up into round 1 last year for a corner makes me think they won’t consider him there.

  1. CJ Henderson / Florida / 6’1 – 204

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry from Miami, Florida. A three-year starter who earned All SEC honors all three seasons, including a first team honor in 2019. Henderson brings elite triangle numbers to the table, perhaps best in the class. He has the best combination of height, weight, speed, and leaping ability. However his greatest trait trumps all of those numbers, and it is the ability to stick to a receiver’s hip pocket with a rare combination of quickness, agility, and body control. Henderson makes his elite burst and acceleration look smooth and easy. He has the kind of speed that can stick to the NFL’s fastest deep threats but also the quickness to stick to the NFL’s shiftiest slot receivers. His poor tackling and tendency to avoid contact will hurt his team at times, but for what a corner is first asked to do, cover the receiver, it is hard to find someone better than Henderson.

*I’ll say this, if Henderson was more physical against the run, he would be higher than Okudah. As a scouting mentor (and former NFL coach) once told me, “You pay the other 10 guys to tackle”. If a team doesn’t care about a corner’s ability to tackle, Henderson could easily make a case to be higher than Okudah on the board. He is so smooth and easy, it almost looks like he isn’t even trying. He has some things to clean up as well but talent wise, this kid has it all.

  1. Kristian Fulton / LSU / 6’0 – 197

Grade: 80

Summary: Senior entry from New Orleans, Louisiana. Two-year starter who finished his career with a 2nd Team All SEC honor. Fulton was nearly suspended for two years in 2016 for messing with a performance enhancing drug test. After a couple of appeals, he was only suspended for the 2017 season. He then put together two solid years and stayed clean off the field but had to cope with a nagging ankle/foot injury both seasons. Fulton has tools and the ball production that will cause for the hope of upside, but there are significant movement issues both in short and long areas. He may need to be in a zone-based scheme to hide those issues. He shouldn’t be trusted on an island.

*Last year when Greedy Williams was getting a lot of national hype, I was telling everyone who would listen Fulton was the top guy. Williams went in the middle of the 2nd round in a weaker CB group, I think Fulton has a shot at going round 1. It has been a rocky career for him though with off field issues and a nagging lower body injury that hampered him a lot in 2019. There is some unknown here but when I have seen him at his best, he is first round caliber.

  1. Trevon Diggs / Alabama / 6’1 – 205

Grade: 79

Summary: Senior entry from Gaithersburg, Maryland. Two year starter who peaked as a senior, earning All American and first team All SEC honors. The brother of MIN receiver Stefon Diggs.. The former number one wide receiver recruit out of Maryland, Trevon appeared on track to follow in the footsteps of his brother. He played a hybrid offense/defense/special teams role in 2016 before making the full time move to corner in 2017. Diggs still has a raw-style to his game but one could make the argument he is the top physical press corner in the class. He obliterates receivers at the line and has the kind of size, speed, and ball skills that have become largely in demand in the league. Diggs still has a lot to clean up though and his most ideal role may be in a Cover 2 scheme. He has a hard time reacting in small spaces and needs to clean up a lot of technique bases areas across the board. If he progresses in those areas, he ca be a force.

*For what it’s worth, I know of at least one team that is grading him at safety. So to continue the NYG-safety talk, I think this is another name who can be considered. Top of round 2? I don’t think so. But if they end up with a late 2 or early 3 via trades, it is a possibility. Diggs is long, fast, strong. Teams love that at corner so I think he gets a shot there first.

  1. Noah Igbinoghene / Auburn / 5’10 – 198

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Trussville, Alabama. Two year starter who began his career as a wide receiver for the Tigers. Igbinoghene is the son of two Olympic-level track stars and he had quite the track career himself that carried on at Auburn. The star-athlete made the move to cornerback in 2018 and was abruptly inserted into the starting lineup. His two years at the position in the SEC saw a lot of flags, as his hand work and overall feel for the position just wasn’t quite there. With that said, the improvements he made over that span in combination with his elite speed and burst gives the notion that he may have some of the most attainable upside at the position in the class. Igbinoghene can play both outside and the nickel, but his tools as a press corner combined with the elite speed would best be served in a man-scheme outside. High risk, high reward prospect.

*This is a kid I am taking a chance on. There are a few corners behind him on this list who most have Igbinoghene behind. I saw the light switch on for him later in the year and that is what I want to see. If he had another full season worth of tape that I saw down the stretch, we are talking about a potential first rounder. He is going to go day 2 and he will be a corner who someone can throw in the slot or on the outside pretty early. Can’t say that about a lot of rookie corners. He turns 21 after Thanksgiving 2020.

  1. Jaylon Johnson / Utah / 6’0 – 193

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from Fresno, California. Two year starter and two time 1st Team All Pac 12 in addition to 2019 All American. Johnson passes a lot of the initial eye ball tests when looking for corners who have both size and speed who can play in multiple coverage schemes. He shows a good feel for reading the routes, giving him an advantage against the underneath passing game. The instinctive corner has 7 career interceptions and 28 passes defended. The production is there. He still has a lot of work to do, however, when it comes to technique and ball location. He is a big play waiting to happen if he is matched up against a quality outside receiver with size and ball skills. He is an upside-based pick who may not be ready right away.

*Johnson has good size and long speed. Johnson has good production to look back on. He is a smart kid and very coachable. Some have a late 1st / early 2nd grade on him. Why am I putting him in the round 3 discussion? I don’t see natural ball location and he has some ugly tape against his best competition. I think there is a good chance he develops into a quality starter who can make plays, but it is going to take time. I don’t want to see him on an island against pro receivers in year one, he won’t be ready.

  1. Troy Pride Jr. / Notre Dame / 6’0 – 193

Grade: 78

Summary: Senior entry from Greer, South Carolina. A two year full time starter who also started sporadically in his first two seasons. Pride was also a member of the Notre Dame track team where he set team bests in the 60 and 200 meters. At this point, Pride may still be a better athlete than he is a football player, as seen in his struggles to maintain awareness of the ball. However the improvements he has shown over the years and his flashes of top tier man-cover ability, there is a significant reason to believe his best is far ahead of him. Pride is a hard working, smart kid who simply lacks confidence in his ability at this point. If given time, he can be molded into a quality starting corner.

*There was a point early in the process where I was flirting with Pride as a late first round grade. Once I got my hands on more tape, however, I had to bump him down a couple tiers. I think there is a solid upside here, someone who could rotate in right away but won’t be ready for a starting role until 2021 at the earliest. He is a lesser prospect than Julian Love from 2019, but one with more physical upside.

  1. Jeff Gladney / TCU / 5’10 – 191

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior from New Boston, Texas. Four year starter and three time All Big 12 honoree, including a 1st Team nomination in 2019. Gladney has the rare combination of plus-length and plus-twitch that translates into downfield speed. He can stick himself to receivers on all levels of the route tree and when the ball does come his way, he makes plays on it. He led the Big 12 in pass breakups over the past two seasons in addition to providing good run defense on the outside where he is willing and able to make a difference. Gladney has some minor technique issues to fix, namely his pre-snap set up, but he should be ready for NFL duty right away, possibly even a starting role.

*I like the way this kid competes. So much of playing cornerback is between the ears, revolving around confidence, swagger, and intelligence. Gladney takes all of those and it positively impacts how well he competes. I don’t want him in my starting lineup right away, but I do think he can be an important nickel/dime defender at some point. He has technique issues to clean up and the big 12 isn’t exactly a hotbed for NFL defensive back talent, but I am confident he will at least be a solid backup and eventual starter.

  1. Michael Ojemudia / Iowa / 6’1 – 200

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Farmington Hills, Michigan. Two year starter who earned 3rd Team All Big 10 honors in 2019. Ojemudia was somewhat slow on the progression scale but he did get better every year of his career and flashed some of the traits that the new age of cornerbacks possess. He has above average size and long speed, making him a tough guy to get the ball around especially when noting his receiver-caliber ball skills. He has some glaring issues that may make him a man-only type corner, as he simply allows too much separation underneath and doesn’t play with instincts. He lacks a true feel for the game but there will be roster spot for him, likely in a defense that can keep him in man concepts.

*This kid will be a scheme-based pick who I could see being in the round 2 discussion or dropping to the back end of round 4. I am staying right in the middle. Iowa has been putting quality defensive back talent into the league for a few years and he’s flashed some upside to be considered the best one I have seen over the past 4-5 years from that program.

  1. Cameron Dantzler / Mississippi State / 6’2 ‘ 188

Grade: 77

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Hammond, Louisiana. Two year starter who earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2018. To get a full appreciation for Dantzler and his game, one must watch him over and over. His stats won’t jump off the screen but since the start of 2018, he was one of the toughest SEC corners to complete a pass on, most notably near the end zone. His height, length, and springy athletic ability make him a guy who nobody will have confidence throwing downfield or in contested situations. He has some footwork to clean up so he can be more effective against underneath throws, but the tools and attitude are there to make Dantzler a quality starting corner very early in his career.

*Dantzler was another one I flirted with in round 1 at the beginning of the process. The first tape I watched was the Alabama game, and he won. He beat those guys. But there were some speed concerns that popped up a few times and then we went out and ran a 4.64, not good. He also didn’t measure as long as I was told he would. That in combination with some red flags in further tape study, I put him in round 3. Still think he can be a starter down the road or quality backup.

  1. AJ Terrell / Clemson / 6’1 – 195

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Atlanta, Georgia. Two year starter who earned 3rd Team All ACC honors in 2018, 1st Team in 2019. The former 5-start recruit has a lot of experience, as he was a key cog to an-always talented secondary since the minute he arrived at Clemson. When it comes to the tools and what the league desires, Terrell is going to impress many. He plays tall and long and has proven he can run downfield against speed. Terrell also has produced in some of Clemson’s biggest games. There are issues between the ears, however. He fails to recognize route combinations, struggles to find the ball, and he doesn’t trust his techniques. He gets too grabby in traffic, showing a lack of trust in his techniques. He has the tools to be a quality starter but there is plenty of work to be done before he gets there.

*I am a tad lower on Terrell than most. There are some who put him the tier below the top 2, but I don’t see it. Terrell wasn’t overly productive, he is way too grabby, and there isn’t a natural sense to his game. The tools and program are going to get him drafted higher than where I have him.

  1. Bryce Hall / Virginia / 6’1 – 202

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A four year starter who hadn’t missed a game until his season ending ankle injury halfway through 2019. Hall was an All American and 1st Team All ACC corner in 2018 after leading the nation with 22 pass break ups. He has the desired height and length for the outside corner spot and his performance since the start of 2018 proved he is more than a set of tools. He really came together over his career and teams that primarily run zone coverage will have a high outlook on him. He does have a hole in his arsenal when it comes to long speed. He can be burned and there isn’t a catch-up gear. His surgery is in the rear view mirror and he should be ready by training camp if not sooner. He has many starter traits but he will be scheme specific.

*Depending on which coach you talk to and what scheme they run, Hall can be where I have him (early day 3) or somewhere in the middle of the 2nd round. He would be an ideal fit for a zone scheme where he has some protection over the top. He is tall and long, he plays with a physical brand, and he shows plus instincts. But man, that long speed is an issue and he a team can put him on an island with their speed guy, the defense is in trouble.

  1. Amik Robertson / Louisiana Tech / 5’8 – 187

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Thibodaux, Louisiana. A three year starter who was 1st Team All Conference USA two seasons in a row. Robertson made a name for himself via production and on-field swagger. He had 14 interceptions and 34 pass break ups over his 3 year career, albeit against a slightly lower level of competition. He plays with the kind of short memory you want all defensive backs to possess, never lacking confidence and playing with a borderline nasty attitude. His lack of size will likely keep him at nickel where his techniques and over-aggression could be a problem. He has a lot of discipline to pick up early in his career if he wants to stick around.

*Robertson is a hot name among some, I never put him took him out of the day three tier. I see a nickel-only who will be able to make plays, but he has the kind of game that hurts just as much as it helps a defense. Personally that isn’t my preference at cornerback but I can see why some don’t mind. There aren’t many corners at his size in the league, so it is another red flag but if he sticks at nickel, it is less of an issue.

  1. Lamar Jackson / Nebraska / 6’2 – 208

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Elk Grove, California. Three year starter who earned 2nd Team All Big 10 honors in 2019. Jackson, a former high school safety, made the move to cornerback when he arrived at Nebraska and carved his niche. His size and speed numbers are among the best in the class and after how he turned things around in 2019, it is safe to assume he is undervalued when it comes to his upside. Jackson was benched for immaturity reasons in 2018. Things turned around after the birth of his son and he put together the best year of his career as a senior. Jackson is nowhere near his peak and if he continues on the track he went on between 2018 and 2019, Jackson could be one of the top values in the entire class. Some schemes may even consider moving him back to safety.

*I have a character red flag on Jackson, nothing overly serious but it did bring him down slightly. Jackson plays faster than what he timed at the combine. I actually have it written in game notes from the fall that this kid will play as fast as he needs to and then he went onto the Senior Bowl, where they were able to gauge how fast everyone moved, and Jackson was among the fastest. He is one of my favorite day three targets and I would be equally eager to put him at safety and I am corner.

  1. Damon Arnette / Ohio State / 6’0 – 195

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Three year starter who has played outside and nickel on a loaded defense. Was named 2nd Team All Big 10 in 2019 after almost declaring for the draft after his 2018 Honorable Mention All Big 10 season. Arnette is going to impress with his triangle numbers during workout season. He has more than enough size and speed to play with and coaches will see the energy he brings to the table and try to channel it toward improving his techniques that occasionally arise and burn him. Arnette projects to backup duty, ideally on the outside, with the physical ability and upside to start down the road.

*Arnette is likely going day 2 from what I have been told, I’m not there on him. He never quite reached the upside many have been talking about for years and one has to wonder, if Ohio State couldn’t get him there, what makes you think the light will click in the NFL? OSU is arguably the top cornerback factory in the country. There is no denying the ability, but I didn’t see enough progression or consistency.

  1. Dane Jackson / Pittsburgh: 74
  2. Javaris Davis / Auburn: 74
  3. Trajan Bandy / Miami: 72
  4. Javelin Guidry / Utah: 71
  5. Essang Bassey / Wake Forest: 71
  6. Grayland Arnold / Baylor: 71
  7. Darnay Holmes / UCLA: 71
  8. Josiah Scott / Michigan State: 71
  9. Thakarius Keyes / Tulane: 70
  10. Lavert Hill / Michigan: 70

NYG APPROACH

I am all about NYG adding another CB talent to the pool. They are one injury and one lack of development away from this being a bottom tier group at a position that good offenses can expose with ease. Does Okudah make sense at #4? Sure, when looking at him and his grade by himself. But I don’t think NYG is going to use another prime resource on the position. Remember, this front office traded up into the first round for Baker and they just spent a ton of dough on Bradberry. Now, use the 4th pick of the draft on a good corner, but not a great one, over players with similar if not better grades who play a position where NYG needs help? I don’t see it.

I think there is a lot of early day 3 talent in this draft who can drop into round 5, possibly even round 6. I am looking at guys like Lamar Jackson, Dane Jackson, and Javaris Davis. These are guys who offer some versatility and, to be honest, more upside than what I see in Corey Ballentine and Sam Beal. So at the end of the day, I see the real opportunity for CB value to start day 3 for NYG in relation to the likely value available at other positions.