Apr 172021
 
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Penei Sewell, Oregon Ducks (November 23, 2019)

Penei Sewell – © USA TODAY Sports

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 16-30 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

On paper, the Giants appear set for 2021 at tackle. While the progression questions still need to be answered (only comes with time) when looking at Andrew Thomas and Matt Peart, both are tool-rich and flashed as rookies. Thomas ended the year strong and played the majority of his season with a bad wheel, and Peart was showing signs before being derailed by Covid. When looking at how rookie offensive linemen play year to year, both were average. Nothing to be worried about, but also nothing to put in stone just yet. I think that means in regard to 2021, those two are the starting tackles Week 1. That is in the bag unless an injury occurs obviously. Nate Solder comes back at a reduced-price tag to back both of them up and while he has been a major disappointment since signing a huge contract, there are much worse backup tackles in the league. If Thomas and Peart move forward in their progression respectively, NYG is in a really good spot with them being on rookie contracts for the next few years. If one of them falters, the trouble sign will once again begin to flash. Jackson Barton and Kenny Wiggins offer back-end roster depth inside and outside and the coaches have said good things about Chad Slade. To be as simple as possible, this is coming down to Thomas and Peart.

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. Penei Sewell / Oregon / 6’5-331

Grade: 91

Summary: Junior entry from Malaeimi, American Samoa. Two-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season. Earned Honorable Mention all-conference honors as a true freshman in 2018 before being named Co-Pac 12 Offensive Player of the year in 2019. Sewell delivered on his highly touted high school recruit profile, ending his playing career at Oregon as the winner of the Outland and Morris Trophy, respectively. Sewell has elite potential that stems from his combination of size, athleticism, and techniques. He is a consistent weapon the trenches that has an extremely high win rate both as a run and pass blocker. He is a comfortable mover, he has outstanding hand strength, and he almost always looks under full control no matter the situation. Because he opted out of the 2020 season, however, Sewell will enter the league with just 20 college games under his belt. He needs to develop more power and trust in his lower half and become less dependent on simply being more talented than his opponent. He was a man among boys in college, but his subtle and hard to notice weaknesses will need to be cleaned up if he wants to carry that success into the NFL.

*Sewell has legitimate All-Pro potential. He can be the Quenton Nelson of tackles; a guy that comes in and makes an entire offense better simply because he is on the field throwing his weight around. If he somehow drops to #11, he has to be the pick. What do you do with him? Again, an unpopular opinion here, but I say you throw him at left guard where he could almost right away be top 5 guard in the NFL, and this running game go wild. If Thomas falters at left tackle, which needs to be considered a possibility, you have Sewell who can shift over. Sewell not playing in 2020 is causing some in the media to question him. Nonsense. This kid has rare ability and will be a big-time player at a position that causes so many problems for different teams in the league. There is a chance we see him go to ATL at 4, he’s been training at right tackle and part of me thinks he’s been told by someone to do it.

2. Christian Darrisaw / Virginia Tech / 6’5-322

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry from Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Two-year starter that ended his career first team All ACC. Darrisaw checks a lot of boxes when it comes to size, athletic ability, and body control. He is rarely found off balance or losing his base. Darrisaw shows the hard to find, unique trait of getting on his man and sticking to him like a magnet. That initial hand placement combined with such a stable and twitchy lower half can enable him to mirror defenders that play the speed game. His true strength and power will need to be developed over his first couple of years in the league but if that does catch up with the rest of his skill set, he has as much potential as any offensive lineman in this class.

*At first glance, I saw a tackle that was heading toward the top 10. His balance and hand techniques were so easy and consistent. Upon further review, he has a few holes (albeit correctable) that need to be cleaned up. He doesn’t always play with man-power and there are too many plays where he just isn’t getting after his man. I like bullies in the trenches but even then, I still prefer guys that play with balance and control. Starting tackle that has elite upside if he enhances his power and grit.

3. Spencer Brown / Northern Iowa / 6’8-311

Grade: 82

Summary: Fifth year senior from Lenox, Iowa. Three-year starter that had his redshirt senior season postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 2nd Team All Missouri Valley Conference in 2019. Brown comes from a hometown of 1,500 people and played 8-man high school football where he was a tight end and defensive end. He was a 0-star recruit that received just one scholarship offer. He then hurt his knee after 5 games into his redshirt freshman season before he started to turn heads over the course of the next two years. Brown developed his frame while maintaining his plus-foot speed and body control in a big way. The well-versed athlete is still early in the progression scale in comparison to fellow offensive line prospects, but there is a tool set here that very few possess. Brown is a one-to-two-year project with elite upside. He is worth taking a chance on.

*It surprised me, and admittedly causes some hesitation, to place a 1st round grade on a kid from Northern Iowa. I’ll go on record though; Brown has the ceiling of an All-Pro. I really do believe that. The question will be how much NFL coaching and NFL strength work elevates his game. Brown is already a freak athlete, and he already shows the understanding of footwork + hand techniques. I thought he was one of the biggest winners from Senior Bowl week and that was after having his 2020 season cancelled. I have to admit there is a lot of risk with a prospect like this and that is why I have his grade down here. I see a lot of Taylor Decker here, one of the most underrated tackles in the game.

4. Alex Leatherwood / Alabama / 6’5-312

Grade: 79

Summary: Senior entry from Pensacola, Florida. Three-year starter, one at guard and two at left tackle. Three-time 1st Team All SEC, two-time 1st Team All American, and 2020 Outland Trophy Award winner. Leatherwood capped off his career with 40 straight starts split between left guard and left tackle. He has an NFL body and power presence right now. He will undoubtedly be ready to step into an NFL offensive line week 1 if needed. The question will revolve around where he is best suited. The physical talent and upside should land him at tackle, where his overwhelming strength, length, and quickness can be most effectively used. However, a team that already has the outside shored up can use him early on at guard. There are some pass protection issues he needs to clean up from a technique perspective, most notably with his hands and body control. His power and ability to move men off the ball will be an asset to a running game and should provide immediate contributions if he were inside initially. No matter what, this is a starting caliber player that will increase the mauling at the point of attack for any offensive line.

*Some teams will look at him as a guard, some teams will look at him as a tackle. I see him as an offensive lineman that can play either spot based on the situation he is drafted into. If NYG goes for him, I think he is the starting left guard week 1 and I would feel really good about it. Leatherwood never quite reached the 1st round tier on my grading scale, but I still like him as a pro. He is heavy handed and a better athlete than some give him credit for. He has a few issues in pass protection that were actually similar to what I saw in Andrew Thomas last year. Maybe NYG sees that and comes out of the process with the same outlook; they think they can fix him enough and mold him into a key part of their offensive line. Leatherwood will certainly be in their discussion day 2 if he is there and NYG does not go OL round 1.

5. Dillon Radunz / North Dakota State / 6’4-301

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior from Becker, Minnesota. Started for two complete seasons. In 2017, he started 1 game then missed the rest of the season with a knee injury. In 2020, North Dakota State’s season was just one game because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 1st Team All American and Missouri Valley Conference in 2019, 2nd Team All-Conference in 2018. Radunz has elite body control and balance and it led to him being dominant at the FCS level. He then went to the Senior Bowl and had a really solid week against the better competition. This is the kind of offensive lineman that has all of the movement and balance traits but may need some extra time before he is thrown into the mix at the next level. He doesn’t seem to have that natural power and anchor that handles the man-strength found on a play-by-play basis in the league. He is an ideal fit for a heavy zone-blocking scheme and if he reaches his upside, you are talking about a very solid left tackle for a long time.

*Radunz was another impressive player in that he was forced to miss all of the 2020 season because of the school cancelling their program, but he still showed up to the Senior Bowl and performed admirably. I love the balance Radunz plays with, such a natural athlete. He may even be a better fit inside in a zone blocking scheme where his lack of true strength can be hidden a bit. No matter where he plays, he will be a solid player. There is a nice combination of grit and athletic ability here, but I think there is a cap on just how good he can be.

6. Liam Eichenberg / Notre Dame / 6’6-306

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior from Cleveland, Ohio. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All ACC honors in 2020 and was an Outland Trophy finalist. Eichenberg also won the ACC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy, given to the conference’s top blocker voted on by the league’s Head Coaches and Defensive Coordinators. Eichenberg is a throwback, blue collar lineman that gets the job done consistently through technique, grit, and desire. Where he lacks physical talent and ability through tools and traits, he can make up for in his approach and mental game. He may need to make a move inside but no matter where he lines up, he is the kind of lineman that plays to a higher result than the sum of his parts. His mental game is strong, his techniques are repeatable, and he has good brute strength in his hands and base respectively.

*This is a name to keep an ear out for when NYG gets on the clock day 2, assuming they don’t go OL in round 1. Eichenburg can play tackle at the next level, but if a team like NYG brings him in, he can easily transition inside. One could make the case he would be better at guard because there have been issues with him getting beat on his outside shoulder. Eichenburg is a technician that plays hard and smart. Just seems like a Joe Judge kind of guy and he brings extra versatility to the table. I bet he is in the league for a long time.

7. Jalen Mayfield / Michigan / 6’5-326

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Two-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-Big 10 honors in 2019. Mayfield initially opted out of the 2020 season but changed his mind, playing in just 2 games before suffering an ankle injury. Mayfield only has 15 career starts on his resume. His upside is obvious, as his size and athleticism are easy to respect. He carries a lot of weight on a big and wide frame, and it certainly plays a role in his dominant run blocking. When he gets a strong punch and maintains inside hand position, which occurs often, he looks lethal. Mayfield is, as expected, still pretty raw when it comes to techniques in pass protection and overall staying power. He still has multiple holes in his footwork after he is engaged with his man, narrowing his base and playing too tall. He has starter-upside but won’t be ready right away. Mayfield could also make a move inside where his pop off the ball could factor earlier in his career while he develops pass blocking approaches.

*Mayfield will likely go earlier than where I have him slotted. Nobody can deny his upside, as he put forth a performance against Chase Young in 2019 that may be the best lone performance I saw out of all these tackles, and I mean that. Mayfield just lacked the snap-to-snap consistency. It looked like there was an issue with his switch, just simply turning off and on too often. This is a player that ideally sits for a year, has the coaching staff work with him and feel out his drive, and let him see the field in 2022. A good team that will need a tackle next year (LAR? DAL?) would be a good landing spot for him.

8. Tevin Jenkins / Oklahoma State / 6’6-317

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior from Topeka, Kansas. Four-year starter that earned 1st Team All Big 12 honors in 2020 after being named Honorable Mention in both 2018 and 2019. Jenkins has experience at both tackle spots, although he was predominantly on the right side. He is an old school mauler that cherishes the opportunity to run block. He takes it on as a personal challenge to grab his man and put him through the sideline play after play. He already has man strength, and it was evident he was playing against boys at times in college. Jenkins checks the boxes when it comes to size, playing strength, and attitude. He needs to clean up his essential and vital techniques. His pad level and base-width are all over the place when it comes to consistency and it has produced more than his fair share of ugly tape. The starter potential is there, and the issues are correctable. High upside player.

*Jenkins is an old school right tackle prospect in that he is the big and physical mauler that doesn’t always know what he’s doing but will pretty much always throw his weight around and enhance the line’s physical attitude. He absolutely tossed Texas edge rusher Joseph Ossai around in their matchup this past year and yes, that truly does make a difference in some scouts’ eyes. Some players elevate their level of play against higher level of competition and that is something I keep hearing about Jenkins. Some view him as a late 1st rounder, I can see why.

9. James Hudson / Cincinnati / 6’5-313

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior from Toledo, Ohio. One-year starter that earned 1st Team All AAC honors in 2020. Originally a defensive line recruit that began his career at Michigan before transferring to Cincinnati in 2018. Hudson underwent a nationally-known mental health situation that enabled his transfer. The NCAA denied his immediate eligibility, thus forcing him to sit out all by 1 game. Hudson then played in the shortened 2020 season, starting 10 times. That is it. Hudson is still incredibly raw and inexperienced, but there is absolutely no denying his physical talent and upside. Hudson has a lot to learn and clean up but there is a level of explosion, twitch, and power here that very few can match. It may take a year-plus, but Hudson could be a starting tackle or guard for a long time, and a very good one.

*There is a lot of hype around this kid when looking at the long-term upside. His college career was as rocky as it gets, and he may be the most inexperienced prospect in this class. Some want to steer clear of that, others start dreaming about value in relation to where he can be had in the draft. I’ve been told he could even be a day two pick, which is wild because I thought I was too high on him. He is a gifted mover, and he plays hard. It will come down to how hard he works and how well he is coached. Could move to guard too.

10. Foster Sarell / Stanford / 6’6-318

Grade: 75

Summary: Fourth year junior from Graham, Washington. A two-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 honors in 2019 after missing most of 2018 with a knee injury. Sarell only started 17 games over his career but possesses an NFL body and plays with very quick, active feet. He was the emotional leader of the Stanford offensive line and is clearly a try-hard player that will get the most out of himself. There are multiple technique shortcomings but they all stem from his over-aggression, which will cause him to overset and reach. If he can learn to be more patient and allow his ability to take over, Sarell has starter potential down the road. The athletic ability, pop, and desire are all there. He simply needs time and good coaching.

*A few guys I know have an undrafted grade on Sarell, and that is fine. He doesn’t have the lower body juice and athleticism that some want. I think he makes up for it enough with is tenacity, hustle, and size. He plays big and violent. I’m not sure if NYG really wants to use a draft resource on another tackle. If they do, unless they get major value at #11 (who might move to OG anyway), I think it is late. And I see Sarell being a guy you can get late and stash on the practice squad for a year.

11. Samuel Cosmi / Texas / 6’6-314

Grade: 75

Summary: Fourth year junior from Humble, Texas. Three-year starter that earned All Big 12 honors in 2019 and 2020, respectively. 1st Team All Big 12 in 2020. Cosmi is a tall and athletic tackle with good hand striking and fighting. He has an aggressive style that will work well in the running game. He gets a solid initial pop and is athletic enough to stay on defenders as he moves downhill. His issues consistently pop up in pass protection, however. His high hips and lack of knee bend make it very difficult for him to stay balanced and upright. He dips his head too often and just doesn’t maintain quality posture throughout. There isn’t a lot of sustainable power in his legs either. He has a lot to fix before being considered a starter at the next level.

*I had a feeling Cosmi was going to get more publicity after his Pro Day. All due respect, he absolutely crushed that Pro Day. He may be one of the better overall athletes in the class and coaches will bang the table for him. Every coach wants the athlete because they feel their coaching will make THE difference. Cosmi has had some quality OL coaching in his career so far and it hasn’t really made him a great player. I’m not sure I see the change happening in the NFL that needs to happen. He is worth a day 3 pick though and nobody can deny his upside, I just wouldn’t want to overdraft him because of it.

12. D’Ante Smith / East Carolina / 6’5-305

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior from Augusta, Georgia. Four-year starter that barely played in 2020 because of an undisclosed injury. Honorable Mention All AAC in 2019. Smith is an undersized but overly athletic blocker that shows exceptional foot speed and twitch. He moves at a different level of speed and quickness off the ball and when he maintains his balance and technique, he looks like a pro. The question with him will be where to put him, and when to put him there. He may be best suited for guard in the NFL, as he doesn’t look comfortable in sustained pass protection in space. However, this kind of athlete with this kind of length and natural bend could be a high ceiling player for tackle. Either way, Smith needs to get stronger and play with a more consistent level of balance and control. If that comes in time, he can be a starter at guard or tackle.

*I really want to see Smith get a shot in the next 2 years. I initially saw some Duane Brown, one of my favorite tackles in the game over the past decade, and upon further review I still saw it. He is underdeveloped in pass protection skills and I need to see strength gains. But his foot speed, hand strike, and natural ability to mirror was on display at the Senior Bowl after a 2020 in which we just didn’t see him play much. Really interesting guy to keep an eye on day 3 and I do think NYG will be looking at him.

13. Walker Little / Stanford / 6’7-313

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas. Three-year starter, but just started just 1 game in the final year because of a season ending knee injury. Honorable Mention All-Pac 12 in 2017, 1st Team in 2018. Little is the grandson and nephew of two former NFL players. He began his career at Stanford winning the Pac 12’s Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year Award. After an impressive sophomore year, Little injured that knee in August 2019 and hasn’t been on the game field since. He opted out of the 2020 season. Little is one of the biggest mysteries in the class. His body and initial techniques look like a prototype. His natural athleticism and heavy hands further enhance the notion he can be an immediate starter. However, he has a lot of poor tape where his balance, power, and sustainability look low-level. The floor is there for Little to be a quality starting tackle, but the questions are way too many to consider him anything close to a sure thing.

*Off the top of my head, I can’t remember a player that essentially go through 3 full years between live game action. He was on an early trajectory of being a sure-thing 1st rounder after 2018, but that early knee injury and opt out left a lot unknown. I am really interested in following what happens here, some still think he is a top 60 pick. Talk about a risk, but one that can certainly work out really well.

14. Alaric Jackson / Iowa / 6’6-321

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Detroit, Michigan. Four-year starter that earned All Big 10 honors three straight years, including 1st Team in 2020. Jackson started at left tackle right off the bat as a redshirt freshman and never looked back. He paired with current Tampa Bay right tackle Tristan Wirfs to create a formidable duo on the outside for a couple seasons. Early on, Jackson was considered the better of the two before Wirfs’ athletic tools took over during his development. Jackson may not be the first rounder and potential All-Pro that Wirfs is currently, but he has something in him. He is a really powerful and physical player that has flashed dominant stretches over his career. His lower body mechanics need to be cleaned up and there may be an issue with his length as an exterior pass blocker, but he should fit into a first-backup role with the potential of being a starter down the road.

*I can remember prior to 2019, I had a note sent to me that the Iowa coaches thought Jackson was going to be a better pro than Tristan Wirfs. I never saw that and certainly don’t see that now, but I still think it is noteworthy when you get notes from a coaching staff that you trust. Jackson is a bully. He hits hard, he finishes plays, and he is consistent with his effort. I see a guy that is just physically limited, though. He may have to make a shift inside or simply be that 7th/8th lineman on a team that can fill in at guard or tackle if injuries pile up. Perhaps he starts out the way David Diehl did and who knows what happens from there.

15. Royce Newman / Mississippi / 6’5-310

Grade: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior from Nashville, Illinois. Two-year starter that spent a season at guard and a season at tackle. Some think Newman doesn’t appear to have the length or foot speed for the outside. He gives up too much pressure on his outside shoulder and struggles to get the long arm position. He is better suited for guard in some schemes where he can use his ability to play low and strong with limited space windows for defenders around him to use. He has a lot of natural knee bend and he shows the ability to stay square with his hands attached. He just needs time to bulk up and add more power and size to his lower body. He projects as a backup at the next level.

*I’ve been back and forth on Newman when it comes to guard or tackle. It will depend on the scheme and situation a bit, but I will keep him here for now. He has the body control for it, but just not sure the speed and length will be enough. He didn’t play enough out there for me to think he can’t do it though. Maybe he just needs more looks out there. Either way, a solid backup type that can likely fill into multiple spots.

16. Tommy Doyle / Miami (OH) / 6’6-320: 73

17. Josh Ball / Marshall / 6’7-308: 71

18. Stone Forsythe / Florida / 6’8-307: 71

19. Brenden Jaimes / Nebraska / 6’5-298: 70

20. Drew Himmelman / Illinois State / 6’9-323: 69

21. Adrian Ealy / Oklahoma / 6’6-321: 69

22. Carson Green / Texas A& M / 6’6-320: 68

23. Brady Christensen / BYU / 6’5-302: 68

24. Jaylon Moore / Western Michigan / 6’4-311: 68

25. Greg Eiland / Mississippi State / 6’8-321: 67

26. Dan Moore / Texas A& M / 6’6-311: 67

27. Larry Borom / Missouri / 6’5-322: 67

28. Cole Van Lenen / Wisconsin / 6’4-305: 66

29. Landon Young / Kentucky / 6’6-310: 66

30. Grant Hermanns / Purdue / 6’7-300: 65

NYG APPROACH

Just to reiterate my stance, NYG needs to move forward in 2021 with Andrew Thomas at left tackle and Matt Peart at right tackle. I can’t imagine Nate Solder beats out Peart on the right side and I would feel good about him being the third tackle that backs up both spots. I say this because no matter who they decide to bring in, those two have the be the tackles. They drafted and developed them for a year, and it would likely do more harm than good to draft a rookie at replace either one of them. Really, there is only one player that even creates a question mark in relation to 2021: Penei Sewell. The odds of him slipping through the cracks and into the laps of NYG is probably less than 20%. However, if it happens, you scoop him up and put him at guard and there isn’t even a debate in my mind. In a more realistic sense, I think this is a year NYG can use their draft resources elsewhere. They used two top 100 picks on the position a year ago and they have a solid veteran backup. I can see them using a pick on one of these tackles that poses as a possible transition-to-guard type that can be had on day 3. If not there, possibly one of their last picks on a day 3 project that can be stashed on a practice squad.

Apr 142021
 
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Rashawn Slater, Northwestern Wildcats (October 28, 2017)

Rashawn Slater – © USA TODAY Sports

GUARDS / CENTERS

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 16-30 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

The surprise of the 2020 season, in my book anyway, was the emergence of Nick Gates at center. I remember watching him at 2019 Training Camp and didn’t think he was any different than Chad Wheeler. He did flash a bit during that regular season, but I don’t think anyone saw his performance at center, especially after the first few weeks, coming. Gates is a wild card on this line. On one end, he proved he can be the center of the future. On another end, in a year where the center class is especially strong, he could likely move to either guard spot and still be a strong part of the unit. The guards, both of them, are major questions marks. Kevin Zeitler fell off in a hurry and was released. Shane Lemieux flashed in his rookie year and passed Will Hernandez on the depth chart. Both have significant limitations, however. Lemieux lacks a true power anchor and Hernandez plays ultra-tight when it comes to his footwork. Veteran Zach Fulton, who has started 90 games in 7 years, was signed and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him starting while Lemieux and Hernandez battle it out on the other side. Jonotthan Harrison is a solid backup at center. Kyle Murphy is a project that I’ve heard some good things about.

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. Rashawn Slater / Northwestern / 6’4-304

Grade: 85

Summary: Senior entry from Sugar Land, Texas. Three-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season. Honorable Mention All-Big 10 in 2019, 3rd Team in 2018. Slater’s father, Reginald, played 8 years in the NBA. Slater does not fit the prototypical profile for tackles in the NFL. He is short and may have an arm length issue that didn’t always get exposed in college. He may be best suited to make the move to guard like Zack Martin did coming out of Notre Dame when he was drafted by Dallas. No matter where he plays, Slater will be ready for a starting role early on in his career. He is really technically sound, plays really smart, and has the athletic ability to handle the speed of the NFL right away. Slater has top shelf hands and foot speed, always a good place to start. He can lock on to any kind of defender and at the very least, slow him down. There are some issues that pop up when needing to move toward his inside shoulder, but he has the ability to recover. He also could use a stronger anchor position but remember, his tape is from 2019. It is safe to assume he will be stronger next time he steps foot on the field. Wherever Slater ends up playing, he has the look of a long-term solution but his truest ceiling resides at guard in a zone-scheme.

*I know some are going to think Slater should be in the tackle group. I don’t want to get into a debate about it, this is simply where I see him at his best in the NFL. Can he play outside? Sure. A lot of good guards in the NFL couple likely play outside if needed, but they are better inside. I really see a Zack Martin type situation here. Not sure how many people truly realize how important he was and still is to that offensive line. DAL had a top 5 OL for a few years and he was a key part of that. Even if Slater is the NYG pick at #11 to play guard, I would be more than fine with it. This line absolutely needs to be better inside and outside if they want to avoid being the 31st ranked offense (second to last). “Wait until day 2” just because you don’t like the idea of using this pick on a guard is, with all due respect, completely foolish. If the line can get to a dominant level, imagine what happens with Barkley and the offense.

2. Alijah Vera-Tucker / USC / 6’5-308

Grade: 85

Summary: Fourth year junior from Oakland, California. Two-year starter that earned All-Pac 12 honors, 1st Team in 2020. Winner of the 2020 Morris Trophy. Tucker made the move from guard to left tackle this past season, proving to be an equally effective talent at both spots. That kind of versatility and consistent production will weigh a lot for teams that have multiple question marks along their offensive line. Vera-Tucker is a nasty, powerful off the ball blocker that will stifle defenders and stick to them with active feet. He can mirror his man while playing a strong, effective game. He can rightfully grade out both inside and outside, but his ideal spot will be at guard. He has shown a few leverage and control issues when he is far into open space. He should be a starter early in his career and a guy that sticks around for a decade-plus.

*I had a 1st round grade on Vera-Tucker after the first USC game I watched in 2020. This kid is a stud and will be as reliable as you would want a guard to be. His footwork and body control in pass protection as a tackle was the best I had seen all year. Even though I think his length issue will keep him inside, which again is more than fine when talking about a 1st round pick, I bet he could back up a left tackle spot if a starter were to go down and the backup tackles simply aren’t good. Anyway, I like Vera-Tucker in the same way I like Slater. His hands are powerful and sticky, his footwork and adjustment speed are both upper tier, and he is incredibly consistent.

3. Landon Dickerson / Alabama / 6’6-333

Grade: 81

Summary: Fifth year senior from Hickory, North Carolina. A transfer from Florida State prior to the 2019 season that was the starter all five years at the schools combined, albeit multiple of them were cut short by injuries. Two time All SEC honoree, including 1st Team in 2020. Also won the Rimington Trophy Award to cap off his career. Dickerson is an emotional leader and physically dominating presence inside that best fits in to a power blocking scheme. His size, country-power, and attitude make him a magnet to energy and constant juice in the trenches. He is a true leader that impacts a team with his actions and consistency. Dickerson’s major red flag, however, revolve around his health. For the fourth time in five years, Dickerson suffered a major injury (multiple to his knees) that ended his season short. The medicals will be crucial here but if things check out, he has starter potential.

*Dickerson is going to add a ton of personality to the offensive line he gets drafted to right away. What I mean by that is strictly on the field. His power presence and ability to straight up maul defenders play after play is fun to watch. I even think some teams will view him as a guard so he can just focus on pushing guys around rather than all of the directing traffic a center needs to do. I imagine his medicals are going to turn some teams off though, and you may see him fall into deep day 2 because of it.

4. Creed Humphrey / Oklahoma / 6’4-302

Grade: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior from Shawnee, Oklahoma. Three-year starter and three-time All Big 12 conference honoree. The two time All American (1st Team in 2019) also earned Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year two straight seasons. Humphrey is as decorated an offensive lineman as anyone in the class. He is a true general in the middle and will be a huge mental asset to any quarterback he works with at the next level. He is steps ahead of the defense at all times and will be a strong piece of glue holding his fellow linemen together. Physically, Humphrey brings a big, wide body with strong hands and advanced technique. His consistency as a run blocker is top notch, however he needs to improve his lower body in pass protection. Too often he gets stuck in the mud and will lack the quickness and power needed on the fly. He will be a starter and he fits into multiple schemes, but there is plenty of work to be done in a league where interior pass rushers are becoming more and more effective.

*I view Humphrey as a starting center in this league. I don’t want to come across in a way where I don’t like him. I just don’t see the “sure-thing” that many speak about. To be blunt, I think his best tape was from his redshirt freshman season in 2018. He just never took that next step when it comes to lower body twitch and bend. His mind alone will be a help to an offense and that is a bigger deal than most know when it comes to playing center. I just think his physical potential will prevent him from being a truly great player.

5. Wyatt Davis / Ohio State / 6’4-315

Grade: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior from Bellflower, California. Two-plus year starter that earned 2nd Team All Big 10 in 2019 before earning 1st Team All American honors in addition to All Big 10 in 2020. Davis also won the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year Award, given to the conference’s top lineman. He is an easy prospect to be attracted to. He is a mauler inside with ideal size across the board. He is big and thick with long arms. He has plus straight line burst and explosion. He plays hard and wants to be the Alpha on the field. Davis has tools but he plays a polarizing style. His consistency is maddening at times. He really struggles to get across a defender’s face when moving laterally. He overreaches but doesn’t adjust his footwork well enough. The lack of balance and adjustment speed is going to hurt him in pass protection early on. He can be a solid starter if he cleans those issues up, but he won’t be ready right away. There are also knee issues that need to be investigated.

*Davis was at the top of pretty much everyone’s iOL stack going into the season. I don’t want to say he played that poorly to drop down here, but a couple other guys played really well and Davis just showed a few repeated mistakes that make me nervous. When I see an offensive lineman on the ground as much as Davis, I have a hard time getting behind him when it comes to grade. At this point in his career, if balance is an issue, I don’t see it changing much. He is so good in other areas though and his tool set is top notch. He can be a quality player, but I wouldn’t go higher than round 3 for him. This is a name I think NYG will be interested in.

6. Trey Smith / Tennessee / 6’6-321

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Jackson, Tennessee. Four-year starter and two-time 1st Team All SEC honoree at left guard. 2nd Team All American in 2020. Smith’s career began with him seeing starts all over the line, every position other than center. He was on a trajectory of being one of the best guards in the country before being slightly derailed with blood clots in his lungs halfway through the 2018 season. After overcoming that, Smith was back on the field for the start of 2019 and didn’t miss a game since. Smith is a seasoned veteran with over 40 career starts. He is an oversized guard that will occasionally struggle with lateral movement and adjustment speed, but his size and intelligence can somewhat make up for it. He is best suited for a gap-power scheme that will allow him to come off the ball downhill and get movement with his powerful hands, heavy frame, and long arms. He is a safe bet to be a starter in the league once he can clean up his footwork and knee bend.

*Another guy I am confident will start a lot of games in the NFL, but I wouldn’t count on him being a top-level guard. And again, that is just fine when you are talking round 3. Smith is a guy that will elevate the attitude of an offensive line day one. He can backup multiple spots as well if injuries pile up, which happens around the league every year. Smith needs to prove he can move well laterally and maintain a lower center of gravity. That is a no-no for many in the NFL once they are matched up against that elite speed/power combinations.

7. Quinn Meinerz / Wisconsin-Whitewater / 6’3-320

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Hartford, Wisconsin. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All All-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference two times in addition to being named 1st Team All American in 2020. Meinerz was the most talented but also the hardest working player on the team, on and off the field. He won a team award for offseason strength and conditioning work. The two-time team captain sat out the 2020 season because the school postponed its season, but he showed up to the Senior Bowl and simply dominated all week. Meinerz is plus athlete with the exact type of body and power you would expect from a Wisconsin axe man. He plays with grit, intelligence, and strength that rarely comes out of the Division III level. While the jump in competition is enormous and he did have to spend 2020 on the outside looking in, Meinerz is a safe bet to start at one of the three inside positions within a year or two at the next level and play at a quality level.

*Whenever I get a name from a D-III program, I am ultra-strict and hard on them in the scouting process. It is such a jump in competition and while it does happen every now and then, it is extremely rare to see a kid from that level make the jump to impactful NFL player. Dominating isn’t enough. Well, Meinerz checked every box, and he did so in every tape. Then he went to Senior Bowl and played well there too. Some guys that didn’t play in 2020 were unimpressive in workouts having not been in the routine they were used to for a decade plus. Meinerz didn’t miss a stride and that says a lot about his character.

8. Drew Dalman / Stanford / 6’3-295

Grade: 77

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Salinas, California. Three-year starter that was All Pac-12 in his final two seasons respectively, including a 1st Team honor in 2020. The son of former NFL offensive lineman and Super Bowl champion, Chris, Drew brings pro lineage to the table that other simply cannot. With that said, Drew appears to be heading toward a similar if not better trajectory. He is ultra-advanced when it comes to technique, smarts, and repeatability. He displays a rare level of consistent balance and body control and it is a big part of his game. Zone blocking schemes will favor him more so than the power blocking schemes, but this is a kid that can do it all and should be NFL ready year one.

*Dalman is too small according to some. His lack of reach and a frame that looked maxed out at under 300 pounds will turn a few teams away. I am still totally on board with him. Even though there aren’t many centers that play at his size, he is more athletic, he is smarter, and he has better hand accuracy than most. While there are certain blocking schemes better for him than others, I see him as a long-time starter in the league. He could make a Garrett Bradbury type impact as a rookie.

9. Aaron Banks / Notre Dame / 6’5-325

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Alameda, California. Three-year starter that took over for Quenton Nelson after he was drafted by the Colts in 2018. 2020 All American and 1st Team all ACC honoree. Banks is a barrel chested, long-armed mauler inside that will fit into gap schemes like a glove. He gets off the ball with heavy hands and can really roll his hips into contact. Even though there are lower body issues that stem from stiffness and lack of twitch, Banks’ sheer size is simply hard to get around. He will excel in some areas but has the potential to really struggle in others. He will need to be groomed but his upside is that of a quality starter.

*I am really curious to see what kind of interior blocker they bring in via the draft. Last year we saw them brining in a smaller-but-quicker guy in Lemieux. But historically the guards that Gettleman has drafted have mostly been big and heavy handed. I think Judge is calling the shots more so with the draft and DG is more pro personnel based. So, with that’s said, I don’t see Banks being on their radar but I like him as a 1-2 year project. He has something in him that most of these other guys do not when it comes to getting movement off the line.

10. Jackson Carman / Clemson / 6’5-317

Grade: 75

Summary: Fourth year junior from Fairfield, OH. Two-year starter that earned All ACC honors both seasons. Jackson is a bruiser with NFL-ready power and strength. He is a factor in the league right now in that department. The questions with him revolve around speed and quickness to the edge and when he is up against quality athletes with an array of double moves. If he doesn’t get the initial positional advantage, he gets really sloppy in his quest to recover. There is a possibility his game could be better suited for interior play where is ability to move defenders off the ball and anchor his position naturally and consistently would be of better service. Regardless of where he plays, he fits into a power blocking scheme right away and should be able to contribute in year one.

*After watching a lot of Carman, I formally moved him to guard a few weeks ago. I had written him up at tackle, and I still think he can play put there, but his best days would be at guard. Offensive line coaches love to see thick lower bodies, especially between the hips and knees, and there aren’t many thicker than Carman. He produces so much power from his base and if his hand placement improves, which is a tall ask once in the NFL, he can be a difference maker. Similar to Banks above, I think NYG won’t be looking at him very hard unless Gettleman gets full say on who they are bringing in. Yes, he can be a guard and emergency tackle.

11. Deonte Brown / Alabama / 6’3-344

Grade: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior from Decatur, Alabama. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All SEC honors in 2020. Brown is an absolute mauler that could take hold his ground against an 18-wheeler rolling down hill. He absorbs contact like its nothing and shows some twitch in tight spaces. He will be one of the heaviest players in the NFL, but one can question if he has too much bad weight that inhibits necessary movement traits for the position. He is lethargic in space and simply doesn’t adjust well to late, sudden, lateral movement up front. He is a non-factor in space. He needs a gap-blocking scheme and even then, he will have to clean up the body and footwork if he wants to be anything more than a backup.

*Like the two names above, Brown may not bring to the table what this new NYG regime wants when it comes to skill set. While he can hold his ground against the biggest and most powerful defensive linemen in the game right now, the movement issues would worry be no matter what scheme he is in. I’ve seen snaps where he looks like he doesn’t even belong on the field in college followed by stretches of play where he looks dominant. I really think if this kid lost 20-30 pounds, he could be a big-time player. With some guys though, that is just near impossible. That is what I hear on Brown.

12. Trey Hill / Georgia / 6’4-319

Grade: 73

Summary: Junior entry from Warner Robins, Georgia. A three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in both 2019 and 2020. Hill was moved around the line early in his career before settling in at center. He has overwhelming size and power with plus straight-line athletic ability. He has plenty of tape on display showing dominant stretches of play. Where he gets into trouble revolves around adjustment speed and pad level. He simply does not have the natural bend in his ankles and knees, which forces him to play top heavy and that leads to a lack of balance. There is a lot to work with here, but Hill will need time and a lot of consistent effort to maximize his physical traits. He will also need to prove his knees are healthy, as both were scoped in December 2020.

*Disclaimer here: Hill’s knees are a question mark. The medical reports (which won’t be public) are going to impact his grade and potentially leave him undrafted. I did factor knee issues into his grade for the record, but not a lot. Hill was a guy that jumped off the screen last year when I was scouting Thomas, Kindley, and Wilson. He can really move guys off the line, and he reaches the second level in a hurry. He is sloppy around the edges in multiple ways, but a good coach can work with him. He didn’t look as natural in 2020 and later I found out about the dual meniscus tears, which I am impressed he played with. Could be a hidden gem here if NYG wants a project that could play all the interior spots.

13. Robert Jones / Middle Tennessee State / 6’4-319

Grade: 72

Summary: Senior entry from Chicago, IL. Two-year starter at Middle Tennessee after starting for two years at Highland Community College. Two-time Honorable Mention All-Conference USA. Jones played tackle at Middle Tennessee but will likely move back inside to guard in the NFL where he played at in junior college. He has the ideal body type for the interior and his skill set matches up there as well. Jones has a really snappy, explosive upper body that can gain control after the initial punch. He has extra pop, and the foot speed post-engagement is a plus as well. Jones needs to get more consistent with his technique all around before he can be put into a starting lineup, but the ceiling is there to be a really solid player.

*I think Jones is one of the most underrated offensive linemen in the class. I look for balance, then quickness, then power when scouting. It goes more detailed than that in the long run, but that is where I start. Jones’ balance and foot speed is top notch, I just question how much he can move NFL defenders off the ball. That can come in time as he comes from a program that is a little behind the times when it comes to strength and conditioning work in comparison to Power 5 schools. I just have a feeling about this kid, but I know the value for him is day 3. If NYG ignores OL early on, this may be the one I want day 3.

14. Josh Myers / Ohio State / 6’5-310

Grade: 72

Grade: Summary: Fourth year junior from Miamisburg, Ohio. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors in 2020, 2nd Team in 2019. Myers does not have the prototypical body of an interior offensive lineman. He is tall and plays with high pads. While he may be a candidate to change positions, Myers has the physical tool set and smarts to try and develop over time. He has a strong punch and shows the athleticism to play fast. If his hands line up well on the defender, he can ride defenders, both big and fast, out of a play. He needs to enhance his lower body power and mechanics, however. Myers projects as a versatile interior backup early on but certainly has the tools of a starter down the road.

*I am lower on Myers than the general consensus. A lot of guys see a 10-year starter here, but I just can’t there on him. He is too stiff for my liking and I see someone that will be too dependent on initial contact. When he was matched up against defensive linemen that really knew what they were doing with their hands and feet, Myers struggled. I think he has a longer way to go than what others think. Smart kid, good kid, and could be a player down the road but I don’t see It early on.

15. Ben Cleveland / Georgia / 6’6-350

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior from Toccoa, Georgia. Four-year starter that was in and out of the lineup because of injuries and inconsistent level of performance. 1st Team All SEC in 2020. Cleveland is almost always going to be the biggest guy in the room. He is tall and long with a Strongman’s body type. His immense muscle mass is lean enough to keep away useless weight. His hand strength and upper body drive is enough to send season NFL veterans violently backwards. Cleveland can factor right away in an offense that goes for downhill push more than lateral movement. There are, however, significant issues with his ability to react with twitch and quickness. He is really stiff below the waist. The knee bend looks overly labored, and his movement in space is poor. Cleveland may be big and strong, but his game is awfully limited.

*Cleveland is one of the enigmas of this class. I don’t know if I have ever seen a body type like this that can actually play football. He looks like he belongs on Game of Thrones. He is absolutely massive, he carries minimal body fat, he has one of the strongest upper body’s you will ever see, and he has elite timed-speed. Honestly, I can see a team falling in love with him to the point where he ends up in the 2nd round. Something just doesn’t click with him mentally, though. He is late to react and bending his knees looks overly labored. He is a hard guy to get around but I question if he can chop his feet well enough. He will be an interesting player to follow.

16. Kendrick Green / Illinois / 6’2-305: 72

17. Sadarius Hutcherson / South Carolina / 6’3-321: 71

18. Robert Hainsey / Notre Dame / 6’5-306: 71

19. Jared Hocker / Texas A& M / 6’6-325: 71

20. Michael Menet / Penn State / 6’4-301: 71

21. Jake Curhan / California / 6’6-323: 70

22. Kayode Awosika / Buffalo / 6’3-307: 70

23. Bryce Hargrove / Pittsburgh / 6’4-310: 70

24. Jack Anderson / Texas Tech / 6’5-314: 69

25. William Sherman / Colorado / 6’3-3-4: 69

26. Tommy Kraemer / Notre Dame / 6’6-309: 68

27. Jimmy Morrissey / Pittsburgh / 6’3-303: 68

28. David Moore / Grambling / 6’2-330: 68

29. Drake Jackson / Kentucky / 6’2-293: 67

30. Brett Heggie / Florida / 6’4-310: 67

NYG APPROACH

As I wrote a few times in this preview, I am very curious to see how NYG approaches this interior offensive line class. Gettleman loves the big maulers with heavy hands and to a fault, will overlook movement issues at the position. Jason Garrett has always wanted his guard to seamlessly pull laterally seamlessly with good body control and coordination. I think it is pretty clear this group needs to add a rookie inside. Will it be a mauler? There are plenty in this class. Or will it be more of an athlete? The supply there is a little less. Another question will be how they address Nick Gates and his versatility. This is an unusually strong OC class. Perhaps the value could be there and NYG could move Gates to one of the guard spots? A lot to think about with this trio and whatever they end up doing, they need to at least hit a double. No more strikeouts on the offensive line in the draft. I can see them using the #11 pick on a lineman and if Penei Sewell falls, things can get really interesting. I can see Slater and Vera-Tucker being in the discussion as well. What do I think will happen? I see a day two pick being used on a guard like Quinn Meinerz or Wyatt Davis. If the value isn’t there or they’re off the board, I think it will be an early day 3 pick like Josh Myers, Robert Jones, or Trey Hill.

Apr 122021
 
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Alim McNeill, North Carolina State Wolfpack (November 30, 2019)

Alim McNeill – © USA TODAY Sports

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

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 16-30 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

As if often the case, a strong defensive tackle group like what NYG had in 2020 was overlooked by many. The trio of Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence, and Dalvin Tomlinson was, at worst, a top 5 trio of interior defensive linemen in the NFL. Williams, after signing a monster-sized contract, will return after a career year. Lawrence, with multiple years left on his rookie contract, will return with a bit more expected of him. Tomlinson, however, left town for MIN a la Linval Joseph. They are left with a formidable trio of tackles that can fill in for Tomlinson, albeit on a slightly lower level. Austin Johnson, B.J. Hill, and newly signed Danny Shelton will keep this group deep. Remember, Hill was essentially the odd man out when it came to playing time over the past 2 years after finishing his rookie season in 2018 with 5.5 sacks. He is entering a contract year and I would bet a lot of money we are going to see a different level of performance out of him.

The rest of the depth chart is filled with replaceable players. I don’t want to talk down on the likes of R.J. McIntosh (who I liked a lot out of Miami), Danny Moa, Breeland Speaks, and Niko Lalos. What I mean though, is that there is room for a rookie on this team. Hill, Shelton, and Johnson are all free agents after the 2021 season. The long-term depth spending at this spot will be limited with the Williams contract on the books. So with all of that in mind, there is a spot for a new body.

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. Alim McNeill / NC State / 6’2-320

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Raleigh, North Carolina. Two-year starter that finished his career first team all ACC. McNeill has played in multiple defensive schemes that had him play in multiple roles. The transition from 4-3 to 3-4 made the assumption his production would go down, but it went in the opposite direction. While he did prove he can two-gap inside, McNeill’s upfield burst and explosion provided an extra punch to his game that can make him useable in so many different situations. There is some skill development that needs to take place when it comes to hand usage and lateral balance, but this is a player that will play like a boulder against the run and a missile against the pass. Not an easy combination to find.

*I don’t have any true first round grades at the DT position in this class. The first 2 guys on this list can end up playing like one, though. When I first saw McNeill play in the fall, I thought he would be an ideal fit for the hole left by the eventual Tomlinson departure. He can play over center, fill roles in both the 4-3 and 3-4 front, and shows underrated pass rush potential. As time went, I realized he wouldn’t be available in the middle rounds because of a poor DT class, and he ended up grading out pretty well. I bet he is a 2nd rounder and if a good scheme gets their hands on him, he will be a very good player. Unsung hero type.

2. Christian Barmore / Alabama / 6’4-310

Grade: 79

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Just a one-year starter that was heavily involved in the defensive rotation both seasons. 1st Team All SEC in 2020. Barmore appears to be the next in line from the Alabama program that has been pumping quality defensive linemen into the NFL for years. He has just as much natural talent and upside of those that came before him, but he is slightly behind in the technique and consistency realms. He checks all the boxes when looking at measurables and there have been several flashes of him tying it all together. The height, length, and frame make him an attractive asset to try and develop. He was woefully inconsistent within a few key, borderline vital components to the position. High risk, high reward player that can be an every down force if he cleans things up. The talent is there.

*I made the mistake of putting a 4th round ground on KC defensive tackle Chris Jones in 2016. I didn’t love the build/body, I hated the inconsistency, and I overlooked his talent. Barmore is a woefully similar prospect. Jones is one of the top DTs in the game and while I do think Barmore has the talent to get to that level, he has a longer way to go than Jones did coming out. Barmore looks absolutely dominant at times. His length, reach, and burst is a hard combination to find. Someone out there is going to think they can make him a star and I won’t blame them. I’ve seen guys like this fail more often that succeed, however. So even though I am trying to avoid the mistake I did with Jones, I am only going to put a 2nd round grade on him.

3. Daviyon Nixon / Iowa / 6’3-313

Grade: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Spent one season at Iowa Western Junior College where he started. Redshirted at Iowa in 2018 before playing a rotational role in 2019 and starting in 2020. Earned 1st Team All Big 12 and All-American honors in 2020 while also finishing as a finalist for the Outland Trophy and Nagurski Award respectively. The Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year broke out this past season with 13.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks. His athleticism and instincts jump off the screen. He has a body that needs to develop more, specifically below the waist. In the meantime, he will offer pass rush potential and should be a solid option to play a gap specific role where he can win the initial movement battle and use that hunger and natural strength to finish plays.

*There isn’t enough talk about Nixon’s upside. He is the best big-body that penetrates consistently. There is a metric some teams use that revolves around plays behind the scrimmage (Pressures + TFL/Sack) per snap played. Nixon’s 2020 season was in some REALLY good company when it comes to guys that have reached a certain number in college and how it translated to success in the NFL. He still has a lot to learn too. He can be a quality every down threat within a year or two.

4. Jay Tufele / USC / 6’2-305

Grade: 77

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Salt Lake City, Utah. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors in 2019. Opted out of the 2020 season. Tufele was the team’s defensive lineman of the year the last time he stepped foot on the field. He is a dirty-work player that already has NFL-caliber power presence and hand strength. He is a solid two-gap option that will occasionally surprise with quality pass rush skills that stem from his ability to shorten the pocket. His athletic upside is limited, and he may be best suited for a rotational role. There are some lower body mechanics that need to be hammered out to hinder those speed and twitch shortcomings.

*Oregon stud left tackle Penei Sewell allowed 1 sack over his career. Who was it against? Tufele. That doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things but hey, fun fact for you that I bet your buddies won’t know. Anyway, Tufele is what he is. He won’t be a star, but I can see him being a really solid number three DT on a team. He can play in multiple fronts as well, but I think ideally he lands in a 4-3.

5. Bobby Brown III / Texas A& M / 6’3-315

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Arlington, Texas. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All SEC honors in 2020. Brown III started to break out a bit down the stretch in the shortened 2020 season, showing dominant athletic traits. He has an enormously wide frame that carries 320+ pounds with ease. The movement in space can be downright scary for any ball carrier he in pursuit of. The amount of force he can create on contact is not common. Brown III is still a really inconsistent player though. His techniques and reaction times just aren’t there yet. He won’t get by on talent in the NFL, but if the right coach gets his hands on him, watch out.

*I think the league is going to really like Brown. He has the ideal NFL body for a space eating, multiple gap defender. He plays so wide, he’s got long arms and heavy hands, and he just plays dense. Every now and then I saw him burst toward the action in space and it would raise my eyebrows. He was woefully inconsistent, thus the grade, but a defensive line coach is going to watch him and will think he can make him a star. Wouldn’t surprise me to see him go day 2.

6. Tommy Togiai / Ohio State / 6’2-300

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Pocatello, Idaho. One-year starter that earned 2nd Team All Big 10 honors in 2020. Togiai is an athletic penetrator that can get off the ball well, but mostly excels with his post-engagement movement. He has twitchy, strong hands and can adjust his weight on demand to avoid getting locked onto. His switch is always on and will make an impact far away from the point of attack. He will struggle to maintain his position against the run, notably when multiple blockers get their hands on him. His anchor is poor, thus he likely won’t be an every down player at the next level. He can be a rotational pass rusher that will bring energy to a front.

*If a team strictly wants more juice from the interior defensive line, more disruption, more energy, Togiai can be their guy. He is a little limited play to play, but this guy brings the heat with the switch turned on at all times. I think he has more potential is a 4-3 front a as a 3-tech, this I’m not sure I see the fit with NYG unless they really change their front. I like pass rushers that play with this kind of engine.

7. Tyler Shelvin / LSU / 6’3-346

Grade: 75

Summary: Fourth year junior entry that opted out of the 2020 season. One-year starter that played in just 21 career games. Shelvin was the unsung hero of the 2019 National Championship squad. He usually lined up at nose tackle and constantly demanded double team blocking against the run. He excelled at anchoring his position and keeping teammates free. Shelvin also showed some surprising speed in pursuit for such a big player. His run defense will be upper-tier but for teams that want their interior linemen to impact the passing game, Shelvin may not be their guy. He has a limited repertoire there and he simple doesn’t have the capacity to be an every down player. He can be a high-end run defender if a team is looking for rotational help, but he may need some extra time to develop because of how little college football he played.

*I think Shelvin is a really good fit for the situation in NY. He can be the next interior defensive tackle that will man the inside role for years to come, but he won’t need to play right away. Shelvin has a ton of talent attached to a really big body. He just isn’t an every down guy right now, as conditioning appeared to be an issue and his pass rush looked limited when it came to his repertoire. But with the NT situation here for 2021, he won’t be needed unless injuries pile up. If he is around early-to-mid-day 3, I really like him for this defense. Would be a huge benefit to walk in to 2022 with him on the roster.

8. Ta’Quon Graham / Texas / 6’3-292

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Temple, Texas. Two-plus year starter that made the move from defensive end to defensive tackle when he arrived at Texas. Honorable Mention All-Big 12 in 2020. Graham is a really unique player when looking at his body type and style of play. He has elite length and a frame that plays extremely wide. He may be a tad undersized when it comes to traditional height and weight, but he is learning how to use his physical gifts as a true strength play to play. He is advanced with hand and lockout techniques, as seen how consistently he can stack and shed. Graham is a lineman that can be moved around, and the defense can always count on him to at least perform a specific role. He didn’t take off when it came to production and pass rush like many thought he would, but this is a player worth taking a chance on. If the snap anticipation improves, he can be an absolute menace.

*Another name I think NYG is going to be high on. A sub-300 pound defensive tackle? You need to look further into him. Graham has freakishly long arms and some of the best hands in this group when it comes to pop and technique. That can help negate size issues. And the fact he plays a little lighter does show up when it comes to twitch and movement, which gets him an advantage as a pass rusher. Throw in the fact he was moved all over that defensive front and I can see the fit with NYG day 3.

9. Levi Onwuzurike / Washington / 6’3-290

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior from Allen, Texas. Two-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season. 1st Team All-Pac 12 in 2019. Onwuzurike was a key part of a very talented Washington defense. He was mainly responsible for interior penetration that stemmed from his plus-speed and burst and ability to twist and turn his body. There was a lot of inconsistency on tape with his techniques, however. His pad level was all over the place despite having enough flexibility in his knees and ankles and it forced him into a lot of ineffective snaps. He did on occasion flash the ability to shoot and gap and disrupt the quarterback’s ability to step up in the pocket. He is athletic enough to take a chance on, but he will need time to develop more power and refine his skills to be more repeatable.

*There are a couple guys I know that have Onwuzurike top 3 in this group. He was up there in most stacks prior to the season, but deeper looks at his game didn’t go well. He gets too high and doesn’t play stout enough. Maybe someone will see the straight-line movement and like his upside, but I think he belongs day 3. I see too many holes.

10. Osa Odighizuwa / UCLA / 6’2-280

Grade: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior from Portland, Oregon. Three-year starter that was one of the more active defenders on the team. Led the Bruins’ defensive linemen in tackles in both 2019 and 2020. Osa is the brother of former New York Giants 3rd round pick Owamagbe. The younger brother has a little more versatility to his game but is a lesser athlete. Owamagbe will fit like a glove into defensive schemes that want to move their linemen back forth from head up on the tackle to the A-gaps. He has the hand strength and arm length to get solid initial strike on a consistent basis with the capability of quality shed techniques to make plays on the ball carrier. He can be a rotational disruptor but likely won’t fit as an every down player. There are a lot of inconsistencies in his game when it comes to balance and anchor and there isn’t anything special about his juice off the snap.

*Recognize that last name Giants fans? His brother was one of the more disappointing NYG draft picks in recent memory in my book. Can’t use that against the younger brother though. Osa has a really interesting body and style. Like Graham above, he is undersized for interior play but his arm length and hand strength make up for some of it. He has a wrestling background, and it shows up. He spent a lot of time at NT and was really effective. I think he will be a limited impact guy, but some teams are gravitating toward this kind of interior presence to rotate in.

11. Marvin Wilson / Florida State / 6’4-303

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas. Three-year starter that earned All-ACC honors in both 2019 and 2020, 1st Team in 2019. Wilson had both of those seasons cut short by different injuries, one to his hand and one to his leg. He never quite lived up to the five-star recruit potential, but he did flash throughout his career. He has a good frame and plus-speed in space to go with it. His power on the move is elite. What is odd about Wilson is the fact he seems more confident and surer in space but looks rigid and unsure in traffic. Playing this position, he needs to be better off the ball in traffic. He needs a lot of development coming from a patient coach and determined work ethic. The tools are there, as seen with his 3 blocked field goals in 6 games this past season. He will need time but there is an interesting upside.

*I know a scout that has a 2nd round grade on Wilson, and he told me that a few others do as well. Wilson has always been a name in the scouting community that has gotten a ton of hype. I just never saw it. Every time I scouted him, I left disappointed in the pad level and lack of consistent hand fighting in the trenches. I guess I can see the potential and ceiling when looking at the ability to move, but there was too much sloppy-ness in my eyes.

12. Milton Williams / Louisiana Tech / 6’3-284

Grade: 72

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Crowley, Texas. Two year starter that earned All-Conference USA honors both seasons, including 1st Team in 2020. Williams caught some steam this past fall. He isn’t an ever down player in every scheme, but for the hybrid fronts that want a guy that can play both 4-3 and 3-4 defensive end roles, he is going to be attractive. His hands are really heavy and he has a really stout lower half. That is always a really good place to start for a defensive lineman. His tool set may not be ideal when looking at long term projection, but he should be a serviceable option for most teams.

*Williams’ name gets mentioned a lot when I discuss defensive line with some guys. Everyone thinks he has a pro-ready game right now and he should be able to fill the hard-to-find role of CRASH end. NYG is one of the teams that looks for a guy like that. He lacks length though and it could turn them off. I question if he can truly be an effective every down guy, I see more of a backup that is good for a few snaps per game but don’t want him in there for a long time.

13. Jonathan Marshall / Arkansas / 6’3-310

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Shepherd, Texas. One-year starter that slowly but surely evolved into a quality player and pro prospect. He led the Razorbacks defensive linemen in tackles while showing some promising pass rush upside. Marshall has the pro body and heavy hand combination that can create an aura of upside. His get off is a little delayed and there are issues with his bend and late twitch, but this is a powerful kid that has some natural ability in him that others simply do not. He projects to the back end of a depth chart early in his career and could evolve the way he did at Arkansas into a contributing rotation lineman.

*The first time I saw Marshall, I wasn’t going into the tape looking for him. I was scouting an opposing offensive lineman and I left the tape wanting more of Marshall. He looks like a pro on so many levels. Good body, good hand striking, good base strength. If he had more natural post-snap flow and a bit more twitch, he would be up in the round 3-4 area. I like this kid as a guy you stash on the back end of the depth chart for a year and see what happens.

14. Marlon Tuipulotu / USC / 6’2-307

Grade: 70

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Independence, Oregon. Three-year starter that was forced to medically redshirt in 2017 because of multiple injuries to his knee and back respectively. Earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors in 2020. Tuipulotu is a well-sized interior defender that plays a powerful game capable of manning two gaps. He is a nose tackle candidate that will offer the occasional pass rush because of his ability to stack and shed lone blockers. He won’t profile as a high-end athlete and he still has a lot of work ahead of him to make his techniques more consistent and repeatable. He projects as a quality-depth option for all fronts.

*There isn’t much to get excited about when looking at Tuipulotu’s game, and that is just fine. He is a dirty-work kind of guy that, at the very least, you know will control his gap and occupy blockers. He is stout and smart, which can lead to a quality run defense presence. If he can be the 4th or 5th defensive tackle on a team, it would be a good spot for him.

15. Khyiris Tonga / BYU / 6’2-325

Grade: 69

Summary: Senior entry from West Valley, Utah. Started games all four years but took over a weekly role in 2018. Tonga has the potential of being a really solid 2-gap defender inside. He can play the role of a boulder, getting off the ball well and taking up space plus blockers to help keep the linebackers clean. He is an aggressive and passionate player that will make his fair share of plays inside the tackle box as well. Tonga may not offer much as a pass rusher but there are traits here that can give off an occasional productive bull rush. Tonga is a classic nose tackle that can be quietly effective on early downs especially if he fixes pad level and conditioning issues.

*Not every scheme is going to see a player here, he is strictly a 2-gap nose tackle. There are a few of them in this class, Tonga is one that I would want to use a late day 3 pick on with the assumption he is going to provide solid value at some point. I am confident in that. He just won’t offer a ton of long-term upside or pass rush. Really strong upper body but he lacks the natural bend and length. May not be a fit for NYG unless they are going to favor more toward the 3-4 snap by snap.

16. Naquan Jones / Michigan State / 6’3-313: 68

17. TJ Slaton / Florida / 6’4-330: 68

18. Roy Lopez / Arizona / 6’2-318: 68

19. Jaylen Twyman / Pittsburgh / 6’2/301: 68

20. Isaiahh Loudermilk / Wisconsin / 6’7-295: 67

21. Quinton Bohanna / Kentucky / 6’4-327: 67

22. Jordon Scott / Oregon / 6’1-311: 67

23. O’Bryan Goodson / Memphis / 6’1-297: 66

24. Austin Faoliu / Oregon / 6’3-287: 66

25. Darius Stills / West Virginia / 6’1-278: 65

26. Forrest Merrill / Arkansas State / 6’0-322: 65

27. Lorenzo Neal Jr / Purdue / 6’2-318: 64

28. Jack Heflin / Iowa / 6’3-307: 64

29. Mustafa Johnson / Colorado / 6’1-285: 63

30. Kenny Randall / Charleston / 6’3-305: 62

NYG APPROACH

NYG has done a very nice job building the entire group in recent years. They have hit on multiple draft picks, they found good value in late free agency periods, they made a spectacular trade, and they spent their money wisely. With the big contract now in the possession of Leonard Williams, however, it will be harder to hold on to young talent in the coming years. The loss of Dalvin Tomlinson and a possible loss of B.J. Hill next offseason in addition to their veterans being under a 1-year contract give the long-term projection of this group very gray. Dexter Lawrence and Williams are a really solid and complimentary (equally important) 1-2 punch that NYG will have in their back pocket for a few more years. However, there will be a hole or two beyond them as soon as next year and certainly beyond. Do you wait until next year to address this? Or do you use a mid-to-late round pick on a guy that can be brought in right now, groomed for a year, then put into the system? With what NYG is clearly going for in 2021, I think they should pass on DT talent this year. Maybe use a late pick or get aggressive here in the UDFA period, but nothing more. This is a woefully weak group and I think some teams will be reaching for talent in the middle rounds. Might as well wait, if you are asking me, for that UDFA period. For the record, the 2022 DT class is going to be very strong.

Apr 102021
 
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Kwity Paye, Michigan Wolverines (November 2, 2019)

Kwity Paye – © USA TODAY Sports

EDGE

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 16-30 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

The edge role in this defense is a little subjective. It is such a hybrid front. Just so you know, the current NYG names I have in this group are Lorenzo Carter, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin, Oshane Ximines, and Trent Harris. Not a very intimidating group of pass rushers here. While the Graham-scheme has a way of producing pressure via different blitz packages in addition to one of the top interior pass rushing threats in the league in Leonard Williams, this is a major hole. Carter was supposed to show us in 2020 if he was going to the answer or not, but a season ending Achilles tendon injury suffered in October ended that idea. Ximines didn’t play much in his sophomore season before injuring his shoulder Week 4 and missing the rest of the year. Kyler Fackrell played the versatile BUCK role, which saw him interchange between inside and outside roles, but he is now with the Chargers. Jabaal Sheard was signed in-season and occasionally flashed, but he likely won’t return. The signing of Odenigbo was an interesting one. After the 2019 season, many believed he was on the cusp of really breaking out into a 10+ sack per year guy. He didn’t follow through, however.

Overall, this edge group lacks a true stud that can make a difference week in, week out. While there is still some hope from guys on their rookie contracts in Carter and Ximines, odds are they won’t step up to be what this defense needs. And to be real about the likes of Brown and Coughlin, they’re shots in the dark at this point.

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. Kwity Paye / Michigan / 6’4-277

Grade: 85

Summary: Senior entry from Providence, Rhode Island. Three-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-Big 10 honors in both 2018 and 2019, 2nd team in 2020. A state champion in the long jump and 4×100 relay as a 250-pound senior in high school, Paye has one of the more interesting tool sets in the entire class. He has rare quickness, bend, and agility for his size. He wins a lot of battles with late movement and sheer head-to-toe power. He lined up all over the Michigan front and that is the kind of role he will thrive in at the next level. He has the power presence to play inside the tackle’s shoulder on all downs, but notably against the pass where he can provide elite interior rush. He does need to improve his production as an outside pass rusher, as he seems late and ineffective too often when trying to purely speed rush. Paye will be an ideal fit for a scheme that wants to move their exterior linemen inside at times and also demands serious running game responsibilities. At the very least, he will be elite at that part of the game.

*Paye will be on my short list of prospects that I will want NYG to take at #11. He is an ideal fit for what NYG wants along that defensive front and in the locker room. He doesn’t have the exact same size as Justin Tuck, but I think his style and on-field impact will be very similar. The Michigan defense moved him all over the field because of what he can do. Did it hurt the stats a bit? Sure, but only the ones a casual fan looks at. There is more to DE than sacks. Paye was among the national leader in pressures, and he did it from every angle you can imagine. In addition, he is by far the best run defender in this top 5. Nobody is close. Paye may not have the upfield juice some want but after watching the way this Graham scheme works, I don’t think that is exactly what they need. Last thing, I am not inside the NYG coaching rooms. They may want something else in terms of skill set for the outside, so I could be off in relation to calling him an ideal fit. Just my opinion.

2. Azeez Ojulari / Georgia / 6’2-249

Grade: 84

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Marietta, Georgia. A two-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2020. The semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award led the SEC in tackles for loss and sacks in 2020, a year after leading the Bulldogs in sacks and pressures. Ojulari is a mature, hardworking kid that gets the most out of his talents. He won team-awards for most improved player in 2019 as well as one for his efforts during the offseason strength and conditioning program. Ojulari was also a team captain in 2019, the first time a freshman has earned that honor in the Coach Smart era. This is a kid that has high-end talent that can be used in multiple ways for a defense, and it is paired with top notch intangibles. His game really started to blossom as the 2020 season came to a close. He finished with 5 sacks over his last 3 games. Ojulari still has more physical development to achieve, as he will need to add functional weight to play the every down edge in the NFL, but his versatility, talent, and intangibles will make him a dangerous defensive weapon and he can be one of the best when things come together.

*No inside information here. I think Ojulari is on the NYG short list for #11 overall. I’m not exactly sure what NYG is looking to add to their outside pass rush. Do they want a pure burner (what Carter was supposed to turn into, and still can), or do they want an inside-out versatile piece? If it is the former, Ojulari is a very strong possibility. I think he has the best get off in the group. That is a great place to start. I also believe who he is as a person will be exactly what NYG wants to add.

3. Jaelen Phillips / Miami / 6’5-260

Grade: 84

Summary: Fourth year junior from Redlands, California. Two-year starter that split his time between UCLA and Miami. Capped off his career 1st Team All ACC and an All-American honor. Phillips’ early years were marred by injuries to both ankles before a serious wrist injury suffered off the field in a traffic accident that required multiple surgeries. He also sustained multiple concussions at UCLA where some doctors urged him to retire. Phillips was out of the game for a few months with the mindset that his career might be over. He then transferred to Miami, sat out all of 2019 while getting his body back together and awaiting medical clearance. He then went on to break out in the shortened 2020 season, showing real life glimpse of what many thought he could be. Phillips showed some inconsistency early on, but there may not have been a more dominant edge player in the country down the stretch. Over his final 4 games, he finished with 11 TFL and 6.5 sacks. He appears to have turned a corner when it comes to his maturity and showed what he can actually do on the field just in time. Phillips is an every down defender capable of being a dominant force if he keeps his head focused and his body healthy.

*If you are strictly looking at 2020 tape and workout performance plus tools, Phillips is the top EDGE in this class. Someone I work with has him at the top of the group and top 5 overall. Point is Phillips is a prospect that would surprise nobody worth listening to if he ended up being an All Pro player. He has a lot going for him and I think he can fit into every scheme. His medicals (which likely won’t be made public) are essential. I doubt anyone is going to give him a 10 out of 10 on the durability scale, but if NYG does or is even close, he is another name on the short list for #11. My question, and it is more based on tying dots together in a subjective manner rather than facts, he may not be the personality fit NYG wants. Will leave it there.

4. Gregory Rousseau / Miami / 6’7-266

Grade: 81

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Coconut Creek, Florida. A one-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season. That one year was as good as it gets when looking at production where he led the ACC with 19.5 TFL and 15.5 sacks, leading him to 1st Team All ACC and 2nd Team All American honors. With Rousseau sitting out of 2020 and playing in only 2 games as a freshman before getting injured, his lack of game experience is noteworthy. He played in just 15 games since high school. Rousseau is dripping with disruptive and versatile pass rush talent. He checks several boxes, but there are questions revolving around his movement. There is a lot of tape with him falling off balance, needing recovery steps, and struggling to really change direction sharply. As impressive as he was in 2019, it has to be considered a possibility that he was a one-year wonder. Boom or bust prospect.

*One of the major boom or bust prospects in the class. On one hand, you have to love what he did in 2019, have to love his height and length, and you have to love his straight-line burst. He can be a really dangerous pure upfield rusher both from the outside and inside. On the other hand, how can one invest an early pick in a kid that played 15 games since high school and has pretty poor agility times? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him fall out of round 1 but his upside will likely make someone bite.

5. Joseph Ossai / Texas / 6’4-256

Grade: 81

Summary: Junior entry from Conroe, Texas. Two-year starter that capped off his career with a 1st Team All Big 12 and 1st Team All American campaign, leading the conference and finishing third in the nation with 16 tackles for loss. A native of Nigeria, Ossai moved to the States at the age of 10 and quickly developed into one of the best outside linebacker prospects in the class. He is a blue-collar player with constant hustle and desire whether he is rushing the passer, defending the run, or dropping into coverage. Ossai wins a lot of his battles with quickness post-engagement, bend, and hunger. He has a developing frame that will need to add more bulk and power to make him a multi-dimensional threat as a pass rusher. He is a bit of a project in that department, but the skill set is good enough to factor in the league right now. How much bulk he can add while sustaining his quickness will determine just how high the ceiling gets. His ideal fit is in a 3-4 scheme and should end up being an every down force.

*I had a scout tell me that Ossai had one of the more influential pro day workouts of all the defenders in the class. These workouts do mean something, at the very least. Ossai had a lot of up and down tape from the past two years. It made me watch more and more tape, and my number of games for him went over 15. That is way more than I do for most guys. It was frustrating but also enticing, if that makes sense. If he gets more consistent, you are looking at. Khalil Mack type player. I can’t put him any higher than this though, too many games where he just got overwhelmed by good blocking. Don’t be surprised though if he ends up being a big-time player.

6. Joe Tryon / Washington / 6’5-262

Grade: 80

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Renton, Washington. One-plus year starter that took over the edge role at the end of 2018 and stayed there in 2019, where he earned 2nd Team All Pac 12 honors. Opted out of the 2020 season. Tryon is a physical freak that wears the pads well. He is more than just an athlete. His engine is always on and will make plays away from the point of attack routinely. He is not someone you want to take a hit from when he has a head full of steam. He matches that physical ability and power with attitude. Tryon is a nasty dude that will immediately elevate the presence of a defense. At his size and speed, Tryon will be intriguing to defenses that like to move their plays around. He is comfortable dropping back into coverage, he is comfortable in space, and he can really defend the run in addition to obviously being a potential menace as an edge rusher. The upside is enormous here but there are concerns over his lack of experience (14 career starts) and he has a long way to go when it comes to developing pro-caliber techniques and rush-versatility.

*Tryon is the kind of guy I see just destined for PIT, NO, or BAL. They value defenders that are just big, fast, and mean. That is how I describe Tryon in the most basic form. He lacks the desired skill set but that can always be acquired with a willing player and coach being on the same page. He is a borderline first rounder that could be in the NYG crosshairs if he falls to their 2nd rounder.

7. Boogie Basham / Wake Forest / 6’3-281

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior from Roanoke, Virginia. Four-year starter that got into the lineup toward the ends of his freshman season and never looked back. 1st Team All ACC in 2019, 3rd Team in 2020. Basham saw a dip in week-to-week production in his final season. He still accrued 36.5 TFL and 20.5 sacks over his accomplished career. While he isn’t going to win the runway model contests, Basham has the ideal body for an inside-outside versatile lineman that can change his style at the snap of a finger. His power and hand striking are both elite. At the very least, the defense can rely on him to control one or two gaps against the run. Where Basham will surprise from time to time is the ability to reach the passer from any and all angles. His upfield burst won’t win a lot of battles up the edge but what he can do once engaged with a blocker one on one will make an impact. Even if Basham does not end up near the league leaders in traditional production, he is a dirty-work lineman that will make players around him better.

*If NYG wants another crash end (hybrid 3-4/4-3 DE) early in the draft (day 2), I bet Basham is on their list. I’m not sure I see that though, as they like to put Williams there in some looks and Odenigbo will likely be the depth there. There is also an unusual amount of solid crash ends in this class that can be had day 3. Basham is a really good football player though, one that will find a bunch of ways to make an impact for a long time.

8. Jayson Oweh / Penn State / 6’5-257

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Howell, New Jersey. One-year starter that also spent a season in the heavy rotation. 1st Team All Big 10 in 2020. Oweh is going to catch a lot of eyes as a result of his physical tool set. He is tall, long, strong, and very fast. In fact, he may be one of the fastest and most explosive defenders in the entire class even beyond that of the defensive ends. However, Oweh’s play never got to a point where it matched that kind of potential. He started just 8 games over his career, played in just 24 total, and recorded just 1 sack over his final 12 games. Beyond the production, Oweh has a hard time keeping his center of gravity when he needs to react laterally. He needs too many recovery steps and lacks consistent technique. Oweh has sky-high potential but his basement is lower than most. At this point, he is much more of an athlete than he is a football player. He will need a lot of development.

*I was told last summer that Oweh was a name to watch, and he would test out better than Parsons. I didn’t believe it, and I should have. Oweh is one of the more impressive athletes in the entire class. With that said, I’m still not overly impressed with him as a football player. He did accrue some pressures, but they were basically all straight-line speed rushes with minimal skill or power present. I’ve been burned like this before, where I just didn’t think the athlete would turn in to a football player but most of the time, these dudes don’t pan out. Worth a day 2 shot though, I think he goes top 45.

9. Elerson Smith / Northern Iowa / 6’7-262

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Minneapolis, Minnesota. One-year starter that had his senior season canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 1st Team All Missouri Valley Conference and 1st Team AFCA FCS All American in 2019. Smith broke out in his redshirt junior season, netting 21.5 tackles for loss, 14 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, and 2 blocked kicks. He plays the game with a level of ease and smoothness in traffic. He gets off the ball in a hurry with great leverage and upper body positioning, his hands are exceptionally fast, and the foot quickness is elite. Smith is just scratching the surface when it comes to his true potential. He needs to sleep in the weight room for a year before he can be an every down asset, but he will be a solid rotational pass rusher right away and has the upside of being a solid starter in multiple schemes.

*If you haven’t seen Northern Iowa play but you want to get a feel for what this kid looks like on the field, think about Jayson Taylor. He has the really long, borderline thin frame but plays with tremendous burst and bend for a player his size. Smith impressed me a ton at the Senior Bowl in the practice tapes. Really twitchy, plays low to the ground, and easily changes direction. His 2019 tape is something else, too. Good player here that may need more time than others but presents more upside than most guys in this tier.

10. Chris Rumph II / Duke / 6’3-235

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior from Gainesville, Florida. Two-year starter that was a part of the rotation all three seasons. Ended his career 2nd Team All ACC in 2020. The team captain put together two quality years over 2019 and 2020, combining for 26 TFL and 14.5 sacks. Father coached outside linebackers for the Houston Texans in 2020 and multiple southeastern college programs, including two stints with Alabama. Rumph is an ultra-bendy, long limbed athlete that put together two very productive seasons at Duke. He looks a little light and there is a lack of power presence in his game, but if a team is confident they can add bulk and strength to his game, he has the potential to be an every down force. Athletically he plays with a nice blend of grace, speed, and technique. He is a high upside player that may need to be brought along slowly for a year.

*I struggled with where to put Rumph II in relation to his true position. He won’t be an every down player on the edge, but he can certainly be a pass rusher that stays on the field all three downs. Duke played him at a hybrid LB/EDGE position, majority EDGE. No matter the case, I see him as an attractive day 3 pick that can make an impact right away but it may be 2022 when he can play every down. Really interesting skill set, really interesting knowledge of the game, and he flashed dominant stretches of play.

11. Payton Turner / Houston / 6’5-270

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas. Three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All AAC honors in 2020. Turner missed his senior year of high school with a knee injury and had his 2018 cut short by a foot injury. His final two-year run, however, netted 18.5 TFL and 9 sacks. Turner started to blossom in 2020, taking his plus-size and overall frame and showing he was learning how to use it. He won’t ever be a pure burner up the edge but if he can continue his path of progression from a skill set perspective, the tools he possesses can make him a solid left defensive end-type and one that can shift inside in specific situations.

*If NYG ignores the EDGE spot on days 1 and 2, but still want a guy that has some inside-out versatility, I think Turner is a really good fit. He plays the run and pass equally well, he has a very moldable frame and tool set, and he is a really good kid. I’ve had some people rave about him. Turner is the kind of player/body type I see Gettleman going after as well, although the more I see, the more I think Judge is the final shot caller with personnel. No matter the case, this is a really nice fit for NYG on day three if the value matches up. I like his upside.

12. Patrick Jones II / Pittsburgh / 6’4-261

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior from Chesapeake, Virginia. Two-year starter that earned All ACC honors in both 2019 and 2020, 1st Team in 2020. Jones is tall and fast with average length and below average power. He needs further development in the weight room before he can be thrown into every down duty at the next level. With that said, he was a very productive player that totaled 32 TFL and 21 sacks over the past three seasons combined. He has a knack for beating tackles off the edge because of his ability to burst upfield and bend under the blocker’s pads. He is relentless in his approach and will make a lot of hustle plays. The team that gets him needs to be patient and really try to develop the power game. If he gets refined and improved in that facet, he can be a true threat.

*Jones just always left me wanting more. He has the look, he has the upfield burst, and he plays a hyperactive game. But he just doesn’t have a standout physical trait and I don’t love how he moves his lower body sometimes. Seems unstable. I can see why some have him day 2 but I would be much more comfortable bringing him in as a day 3 guy that could be worked with for a year or two.

13. Ronnie Perkins / Oklahoma / 6’3-253

Grade: 75

Summary: Junior entry from St. Louis, Missouri. Three-year starter that was a two-time 2nd Team All-Big 12 honoree. Missed the first 5 games of 2020 because of a drug suspension that stemmed from an issue in 2019. Perkins was a man playing against boys when it came to field-strength and technique. He isn’t blessed with upper tier tools when it comes to size and speed, but he does pack a punch. He has really good hands when it comes to power and placement. He understands how to properly use leverage and he simply knows how to position his body. The issue with Perkins revolves around his upside. He is a really solid player right now and he looks like a reliable throwback type, however there isn’t a ton of juice off the edge and he isn’t overly twitchy. His frame also looks nearly maxed out. He could be a solid starter in time or a part of a heavy rotation in a 3-4 scheme.

*I see a similar player to what NYG has in XImines here. Not blessed with particularly standout tools in any area, but he knows how to get to the passer. He is crafty, strong, and plays with some decent twitch when engaged with the blocker. There are limitations with him across the board and I would simply temper any expectations I’d have for him.

14. Wyatt Hubert / Kansas State / 6’3-258

Grade: 73

Summary: Fourth year junior from Topeka, Kansas. Three-year starter and two-time 1st Team All Big 12 honoree. The two-time team captain plays the game with contagious energy and all-out hustle. He is a throwback in the sense that he relies on instincts and effort more than he does speed. However, do not make the mistake of shorting the evaluation of his talent. He blends together plus-skills across the board. His hands are violent, accurate, and powerful. His base is incredibly strong and bendy, making him a constant winner in the leverage battle. He shows a clear understanding of angles and knows how to find the creases. Hubert moves exceptionally well for a player at his size in addition to playing with constant high effort. He will be able to contribute on the edge right away.

*I have to admit that for most of the college season, I had Hubert a bit too high. I fell in love with his grit, heavy hands, and hustle. Part of the scouting process is all about keeping personal bias aside and knowing when you are wrong. I’ve made the mistake in the past of over-grading a guy simply because of my initial impression even though further information came out that should have lowered the grade a tad. Hubert didn’t measure well, and he didn’t test well athletically. I think his playing style can hide that a little, but not completely. I love his tape, I really do. At the end of the day, the lack of true talent is going to make like difficult for him, as it did at the Senior Bowl. I still wouldn’t mind taking a round 5 or 6 chance on him, but it can’t be any earlier.

15. Rashad Weaver / Pittsburgh / 6’4-259

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Three-year starter that missed all of 2019 with a torn ACL suffered in preseason. Came back strong in his final year, earning 1st Team All ACC honors. Weaver has an attractive frame with current thickness and width that has plenty of room for more functional muscle. He is a really physical player at the point of attack that does a nice job using his heavy hands and natural bend. There is a lot to work with when looking at his potential as a versatile inside-out lineman. He isn’t overly impressive when it comes to upfield burst and suddenness, but he can be a factor as a third down pass rusher that can be moved around. Weaver missed all of 2019 with a torn ACL and how strong he came back just a year later is noteworthy. There are multiple options when it comes to how a defensive front can use him and he can be an every down force within a year or two.

*Weaver looks like a pro when he engages with the blocker. That stood out to me right away when I first saw him. I don’t love his body though; he needs more thickness in his lower half and he won’t win a lot of foot races. There are certain skills he has already that others take awhile to obtain, but I think there is a cap on just how good he can be. Solid guy to have on the depth chart though because he can impact the running game as well as rush the passer.

16. Dayo Odeyingbo / Vanderbilt / 6’5-285: 72
17. Chauncey Golston / Iowa / 6’5-259: 72
18. Quincy Roche / Miami / 6’3-243: 72
19. William Bradley-King / Baylor / 6’5-254: 71
20. Daelin Hayes / Notre Dame / 6’4-261: 70
21. Janarius Robinson / Florida State / 6’5-263: 70
22. Cam Sample / Tulane / 6’3-274: 70
23. Romeo McKnight/ Charlotte / 6’4-260: 70
24. Jordan Smith / UAB / 6’6-255: 70
25. Jonathon Cooper / Ohio State / 6’3-254: 69
26. Ade Ogundeji / Notre Dame / 6’4-256: 69
27. Victor Dimukeje / Duke / 6’2-256: 69
28. Malcolm Koonce / Buffalo / 6’2-249: 69
29. Malik Herring / Georgia / 6’3-275: 68
30. Josh Kaindoh / Florida State / 6’6-260: 68

NYG APPROACH

So, I have had this thought for awhile now. I think NYG coaches don’t view the EDGE as a significant hole on the defense. Can it be better? Sure. Half the teams if not more can say that. I think this coaching staff simply wants to improve their pass rush. They think more macro than micro if that makes sense. I don’t see them pursuing the top edge rusher just because they don’t have a solid edge presence. I think they want to come out of this draft class with another guy that helps this defense get to the passer. It can be another interior pass rusher, it can be a blitzing linebacker, it can be a hybrid OLB/DE type. They just want to get someone that can build around, and that has always been the right approach. Ideally, in my eyes anyway, that extra presence comes in the form of someone that can line up outside the tackle. He doesn’t always need to be out there, but he can be out there and pose as a threat. I think the ideal, for an amoeba scheme, is someone that can shift inside at times and/or defend the run at a high level. Fortunately, there are several of those guys in this class. If they swing for the fences, and I think it would be a strong idea, they use #11 on Paye or Phillips. If they want to wait for day 2, Tryon or Basham. If they want to build elsewhere early on, day three target is Turner or Odeyingbo.

I would be very surprised to see a draft class that does not include one of the names in this top 30.

Apr 072021
 
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Micah Parsons, Penn State Nittany Lions (November 9, 2011)

Micah Parsons – © USA TODAY Sports

LINEBACKERS

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 16-30 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

One of the best signing across the NFL during the 2020 offseason was Blake Martinez. NYG has lacked a consistent and reliable presence at linebacker for years and I’ve been very vocal about that leading to a lot of their defensive shortcomings. Martinez is the general they needed. One can make a case that the talent next to him is good enough with an interesting upside player in 2020 7th rounder Tae Crowder. He certainly outperformed his draft status as a rookie, and he deserves a shot. The likes of Devante Downs and David Mayo (now with WAS) just didn’t cut it. They don’t play fast enough and only made a positive impact on special teams. Reggie Ragland will give more of the same, although he is stouter against the run and T.J. Brunson is an unknown who was drafted in the 7th round. The Ryan Anderson signing is interesting to me. As I said in my year-end review, that BUCK linebacker is a hybrid outside/inside linebacker position that needs to be a legitimate force at both spots and capable of switching his skin play to play. Ryan Anderson was exactly that at Alabama (19 TFL/9 sacks as a senior) but they never gave him a ton of snaps in WAS and he simply did not fit the Rivera scheme. The one year that he did play over 20% of the snaps, he did have 4 sacks. That was an underrated signing by this front office. The Giants are likely set at ILB + Buck (I am including Carter in the EDGE group by the way) but the player they have next to Martinez (Crowder) cannot be considered a sure thing and the depth behind those two is average. The depth behind Anderson is near non-existent (although Carter Coughlin can fill that role).

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. Micah Parsons / Penn State / 6’3-246

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A one-year starter that was heavily involved with the defense as a freshman in addition. Earned 1st Team All American honors and won the Big 10 Butkus-Fitzgerald Award in 2019, the first true sophomore to ever do that in conference history. Parsons opted out of the 2020 season, thus there are only two seasons of experience under his belt. However, in those two seasons he showed enough to be considered one of the premiere talents in this draft class. Parsons is already built like a man with a frame that will hold more bulk. His closing speed, burst, and violence when meeting the ball carrier will make him a playmaker who can be tossed around pre-snap. He plays like he is on fire and finishes with bad intentions. Parsons will be best suited for a defense that shows multiple fronts and can change their tune weekly. He is the epitome of versatility and playmaking. There will be some issues with his ability to mentally process and stick to assignments against the inside run, but that can be hidden with a quality defensive coordinator who understands this is a player you can build around.

*In 2019, I had Devin White and Devin Bush at 83 and 85 respectively. I place Parsons right in that tier, although he is a different kind of linebacker. He isn’t the play-to-play reliable force that the other two are, but he offers more versatility and playmaking potential. I actually think a scheme like Graham’s is the ideal fit for him, considering how much they blitz and try to bring pressure from different angles. My “concern” here is how disciplined he is with making reads, fighting through blockers, and impact on the passing game. Parsons is a highlight reel type, but the 12 plays in between those highlights he can be merely average. Is that worth #11? It is debatable. In regard to some of the off-field concerns, I did not bring him down at all. Yes, there are maturity issues, but we aren’t talking about the kind of trouble where we see him on the 11 PM news in handcuffs. He is a stud, he knows he is a stud, and he has a temper issue. And to be honest, I don’t mind that in a linebacker. Parsons will be in the discussion, but I think he is behind a few guys who will be there at 11.

2. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah / Notre Dame / 6’1-221

Grade: 82

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Two-year starter that took home a lot of hardware in 2020. Earned 1st Team All ACC and All-American honors respectively, won the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award, and the Butkus Award to cap off his career. Owusu-Koramoah was a high school safety that played an ultra-hybrid role at Notre Dame. He led the Fighting Irish in tackles over the two seasons he was a starter while adding 24.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 7 pass break ups, and 5 forced fumbles. His versatility within his skill set matches what is seen in the box score. This is a kid that can line up in multiple spots based on what the opposing offense is showing and make an impact no matter what the opposing offense ends up doing. While there are some issues that need to be hidden, namely his stoutness inside, Owusu-Koramoah is an ideal fit for the new mold of defensive schemes looking for a hybrid defender that can stay on the field every down. He may be more safety than linebacker to some, but no matter where he lines up, he is going to be an impact player.

*During the season, I was convinced Owusu-Koramoah was going to finish as a top 10 player on my overall board. He didn’t quite reach that tier because of a few physical limitations, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him making a big impact if he lands on a good defense that really uses him the right way. I actually think there is a subtle chance NYG goes after him. He reminds me a bit of CAR linebacker Shaq Thompson, who Dave Gettleman drafted in 2015. He is as “multiple” as it gets, a term Joe Judge uses all the time, and he brings the intangibles to the table they want.

3. Zaven Collins / Tulsa / 6’5-259

Grade: 82

Summary: Fourth year junior from Hominy, Oklahoma. Three-year starter that earned All AAC honors in both 2019 and 2020. Also earned All American honors and won both the Bednarik Award and Nagurski Trophy to cap off his career. Collins, a high school quarterback, morphed from 2-star recruit to one of the nation’s top defensive players during his time at Tulsa. He is ultra-tools rich that can change his skin play to play. The versatility he brings to the table as an off ball linebacker, edge rushing presence, and cover-man will be sought after by defenses that want to play a multiple-scheme. Collins shows the intelligence and knack for locating the action to rightfully be considered a cornerstone player for a team. This is the kind of prospect that is hard to find.

*I have a really hard time projecting where Collins is going to go in the draft. He is a 1st rounder in my book, but I could see him slipping to day 2 but can also see him being taken in the top 15. These guys with plus-tools, but from slightly lesser college programs, are always an enigma when it comes to projecting where they will go. Collins has Anthony Barr-type numbers when looking at measurables, but he gets way too high at times and didn’t read the action the way Barr did at UCLA. He also has a little less twitch. Collins upside is really high, no denying it.

4. Pete Werner / Ohio State / 6’2-242

Grade: 81

Summary: Senior entry from Indianapolis, Indiana. Three-year starter that earned All Big 10 honors in both 2019 and 2020, 1st Team in 2020. Werner is a new-age linebacker in that he can fill multiple roles along the second level of a defense and has the skill set to really stand out in coverage. He has good size, excellent foot speed, and fluid hips. He moved around the scheme often, seeing plenty of time both between the tackles and split out. He is a smart, well-versed, experienced player that simply gets the job done play in, play out. His pop and violence on contact and ability to pursue the action stands out. Werner may not raise eyebrows in workouts or on the stat sheet, but this is a blue-collar player that appears to be a safe pick and will out-perform several players drafted ahead of him.

*I am higher on Werner than most of what I have seen out there. Not sure what else people want to see out of a linebacker in terms of projecting a quality starter. He is big enough, fast enough, and plays versatile. One of the more dependable linebackers week to week. He spent a lot of time matched up against receivers in space, but still found a way to impact the running game between the tackles. He has everything an every down linebacker needs. And I’ll tell you what, if he is there in round 2, it would take someone else really falling for me to not want this kid to play with Martinez inside.

5. Nick Bolton / Missouri / 6’0-232

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from Frisco, Texas. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All SEC honors both seasons. Bolton has a powerful, muscle packed frame that is built low to the ground with speed and burst. He has true sideline to sideline range and will make his presence known on contact. He totaled an SEC-high 202 tackles over 2019-2020 combined, showing a consistent every down presence against the nation’s fastest offenses. There are red flags on tape when it comes to processing information and working through traffic against the inside run, but he is at the very least a rotational linebacker that can make things happen athletically.

*Bolton is going to be sought after day 2. His speed and power has some thinking he is an every down MIKE. I can see what those guys like, I really do. I just wish he had more looseness in his lower half. I actually think his best fit is inside in a 3-4. A team like PIT makes a lot of sense here, and he would thrive. However, if he is THE guy in the middle of a defense, I think he will leave some to be desired.

6. Jamin Davis / Kentucky / 6’3-234

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Ludowici, Georgia. Davis broke out in his first year as a starting linebacker, leading the team with 102 tackles in just 10 games. He also intercepted three passes, forced a fumble, recovered one, and blocked a kick. It is easy to notice the versatile upside Davis brings to the table. He is all over the field, he is fast, he is long, and he is physical. Considering the lack of experience and occasional mental and technique hiccups that arose weekly, he is in the tier of prospects that a team will need to be patient with. He has a higher ceiling than most, but he may need a redshirt year in the NFL besides special teams.

*Davis is the best athlete in this group, and pound for pound may be the best athlete in the entire class. He absolutely tore up his Pro Day workout and it shows up on tape. If he can figure it out, he has the potential to be a player that can change a defense. There is a chance we see him drafted in the first round.

7. Chazz Surratt / North Carolina / 6’2-227

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Denver, North Carolina. Two-year starter at linebacker that originally arrived at UNC as a quarterback, where he also started 7 games. Two-time 1st Team All ACC and was the runner up for the 2019 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award. Surratt was a record setting quarterback in high school and spent his first three seasons with the Tar Heels under center. He moved to linebacker prior to the 2019 season and the transition was completely seamless. He quickly became of the best at the position in the ACC. Surratt clearly understands the game mentally and used his experience as a quarterback to aid the transition process. Throw in the fact he is incredibly twitchy with plus-closing speed, it is easy to see how good of a player he can be in a league that now demands linebackers to cover first, play the run second. Surratt may not be big and stout, but he plays tough and knows how to work around traffic. His role is specific and there are certain schemes he won’t fit into at the second level, but this is the kind of linebacker that will provide an upgrade to the speed and athleticism of a unit and should contribute early on.

*I think the grades on him around the league are going to vary a ton. Some will be turned off by the size because he isn’t a big-time speed guy. Some will be turned off by the lack of stoutness. I think he is good enough in all those areas but brings his game to another level because of what goes on between the ears. He is really smart and twitchy. He has some pop and attitude in his game too. I think he is a quality starting weak side guy year 2. Remember, he was a quarterback just 2 years ago.

8. Jabril Cox / LSU / 6’3-233

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Kansas City, Missouri. Spent four seasons at North Dakota State before grad-transferring to LSU for 2020. Four-year starter between the two programs. Three-time All Missouri Valley Conference and two-time All American during his time at North Dakota State. Cox decided to take his game to the highest collegiate level in 2020 after four years in the FCS. While it took him a few weeks to get acclimated to the speed of the game, his tools and versatility were on full display by the end of the shortened season. Cox is naturally gifted with the ideal NFL body for the position, possessing length and functional lower body thickness. His speed in space is real and he can catch a lot of action from behind. He seems to be missing the quick twitch reactions that stem from recognition and instincts, however. He looks much better in space than he does in traffic, which could be a major problem if he is put into the wrong role. He has the tools to be a very good player, but the team that drafts him needs to be patient and smart about where they put him.

*As expected, the uptick in competition from the Missouri Valley Conference to the SEC didn’t do much for Cox. While he proved he can run with those guys, he didn’t perform well against blockers. I think he needs a space-friendly role. If a team can protect him in that regard, he can be a really good front seven piece that will immediately make a group faster.

9. Dylan Moses / Alabama / 6’1-225

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Alexandria, Louisiana. Three-year starter that missed all of 2019 with a knee injury. 2nd Team All SEC in 2018, 1st Team in 2020. Moses was a rising star after starting 11 games in his first year on campus and landing on the SEC All-Freshman team. He then went on to being named a Butkus Award Finalist in 2018. The knee injury that ended his 2019 before it started killed his momentum, however, and he never quite got back to the same level in 2020. Moses, a former 5-star recruit, was a standout athlete on a team full of freak athletes. His burst and speed are top notch. He seemed to really struggle with post-snap reads though. There wasn’t much natural flow through traffic, and he didn’t impact the game consistently. Moses will be an athlete that some teams want to gamble on, but this will be a high risk, high reward draft pick.

*A few too many got on the Alabama hype train when initially projecting Moses. I hand out my initial draft grades over summer for stacking purposes, and I never saw him as a day 2 guy. I do like the speed and pop he brings to the table, and he had a lot of quality tape in his career. He just never took that step up, though. Like a lot of linebackers with this kind of speed, he can make an impact for a defense if he is in the right situation. I don’t see him being a guy that will create a lot on his own without help.

10. Baron Browning / Ohio State / 6’3-241

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Fort Worth, Texas. Two-year starter that saw a lot of rotation duty in the NFL-filled linebacker room at Ohio State. Two-time All Big 10 honoree, 1st Team in 2020. Browning will test well athletically, and he has the NFL-ready body. He is thick and long with functional muscle mass from head to toe. Browning looks like a star on some plays, usually when he gets going in full pursuit and delivers violent impact on the move. Play to play, however, he doesn’t show a natural feel for the game. He has speed but lacks twitchy reaction and has proven to be a liability in zone coverage. He projects to backup duty where he can fill a specific, space-friendly role in certain packages.

*Browning in the kind of linebacker that I talk about when saying that instincts for this position are more important than pure speed. Yes, the speed (and in his case, power) can make a difference up front. He is not someone you want to be hit by with a full head of steam. However, he is too slow to see things transpire and there is a lot of catch up in his game. That works fine in the Big 10, not so much the NFL. He is a backup early on that can evolve into a solid MIKE if he learns the game.

11. Cameron McGrone / Michigan / 6’1-234

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Indianapolis, Indiana. Two-year starter that never quite lived up to the hype after being a five star recruit out of high school. He played in just 18 career college games and flashes his top-shelf speed and burst but failed to consistently put together quality production. McGrone’s shortcomings mainly came from slow reading post-snap and a lack of stoutness between the tackles. His athleticism will make him a solid run and chase defender and potential solid cover man at the second level, though. Taking a chance on a plus-athlete that is a solid kid off the field is worth the risk. The debate will center around his lack of experience and inconsistent impact against the inside run.

*McGrone is worth gambling on day 3. He is really explosive, has a nice frame with good weight, and plays hard. Smart kid too. He is a really raw football player and lacks experience. He just never found a long groove at Michigan and I think the shortened season hurt him a bit, more than most. As a football player, he is a 6th or 7th round pick. But the upside is worth looking at early day 3. Worst case, he will be a really good special teamer. Keep an eye on this kid with NYG if he is there mid to late day 3, it is a good fit.

12. K.J. Britt / Auburn / 6’1-235

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Oxford, Alabama. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All SEC honors. Played in just two 2020 games, as he injured his thumb and needed surgery. Britt thus only started 15 games over his career. There is enough tape to see how effective he can be as an interior run defender. He is a violent thumper with plus speed and power. Britt plays the game like an old school, classic Mike. With that said, he doesn’t appear to have a high ceiling against the pass and there is some agility-based tightness in his hips. Britt is a solid two-down linebacker that will provide on special teams, but he may be too limited to make an every down impact as a starter.

*Britt is worth drafting for special teams and providing depth at MIKE. I don’t see him ever making a big impact, but these are the kinds of guys I like to have on the depth chart. Smart, physical, and straight-line speed.

13. Monty Rice / Georgia / 6’0-233

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Huntsville, Alabama. Three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2019 while also winning the co-MVP for the Georgia defense. Rice took a step back in production as a senior, as he saw a chunk of his playing time taken away from a couple of future NFL linebackers. He was still very much a part of the Georgia defense, he simply rotated in and out more. Rice is a really instinctive, physical linebacker that tackles well and always seems to be around the action. He isn’t blessed with elite size and it does show up time to time, but he has underrated speed and plus intelligence. This is a linebacker that carried Alabama speedster Jaylen Waddle up the seam in coverage. He gets the most out of himself and should carve out a role on special teams early on and will stick as a solid backup with the potential of someday being a starting inside linebacker.

*Rice is similar to Britt, a guy I would love to have in a backup role and on special teams. It was a little bizarre how Georgia used him. There is a lot of young talent on that roster at linebacker and it definitely impacted Rice’s playing time. He wasn’t an every down guy, but I think he could have been. He simply doesn’t have the size + power those younger kids had. One of the best speed + instincts combos in the class, against the run. Didn’t see him much against the pass but I’ll never forget the time he carried Jaylen Waddle up the seam and ran with him all the way down the field. He may be entering the league really underrated because of how he was used at Georgia. Another interesting name to keep an ear out for.

14. Charles Snowden / Virginia / 6’6-243

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Silver Spring, Maryland. Three-year starter that earned All-ACC honors in 2019 and 2020. Had his 2020 cut short because of a broken ankle and then suffered a minor foot injury during the Senior Bowl practices. Snowden is a very unique player with a blend of tools and skills that don’t come around often. He has an enormous wingspan, he shows a good feel for the game, and his production is versatile. He has proven to be a factor against the pass as both an edge rusher and cover man (16 career pass break ups, 15 career sacks, and 18 career QB pressures). He is a smart and vocal player. He plays hard. All of these traits are sought after but there are concerns surrounding his lack of true power and burst. He is really thin and had hard time against true strength. He also looks awkward when his pad level isn’t low when it comes to his high-hip movement. Snowden is a player that will need time on the depth chart performing backup and situational roles before he can be an every down defender. Thew upside is high.

*I had high hopes for Snowden after watching his 2019 tape in prep for 2020. He had a slightly lower level-Anthony Barr look to him and a similar style. Some coaches are going to love his wingspan and he has some decent stride speed. I downgraded him a bit during the season though, as he lacks lower body stability which creates balance issues. He also has the body type I don’t trust when it comes to staying healthy. That in mind, he still is worth looking at day 3 because he can do a few things against the pass. He can run with tight ends, his wingspan can make life difficult for passers, and he has pass rush upside. Can be a solid situational player.

15. Grant Stuard / Houston / 5’11-230

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Conroe, Texas. Two-year starter that earned All-AAC honors in both 2019 and 2020. Stuard was a hybrid-safety until the team moved him to a full-time linebacker role as a senior. The former accomplished high school track athlete plays at a different level of speed and energy, somewhat hiding the fact he is very undersized for play near the line of scrimmage. Despite that red flag, Stuard was a very productive and impactful player. He is all over the field every week. There aren’t many prospects that bring the intensity like Stuard, but the question will revolve around the team’s ability to hide his size issues. His ideal role may even be more on the safety side. Stuard is going to be a demon on special teams and a defender that will instantly raise the energy of whatever unit he ends up on.

*Want to watch a fun player? Go get some Stuard clips on YouTube. This is one of the most energetic players I have ever seen, and it is literally every play, every game. His size is below the minimum that some teams have when it comes to overall reach, but enough teams will still see a stud special teamer. Stuard plays really fast too and knows how to avoid contact in traffic. You will hear about this kid someday; just not sure it will be on anything more than special teams.

16. Paddy Fisher / Northwestern / 6’3-240: 72
17. Hamilcar Rashed, Jr. / Oregon State / 6’3-254: 72
18. Garrett Wallow / TCU / 6’2-220: 71
19. Ernest Jones / South Carolina / 6’2-230: 70
20. Riley Cole / South Alabama / 6’3-225: 70
21. Buddy Johnson / Texas A&M / 6’1-230: 70
22. Tony Fields II / West Virginia / 6’0-222: 69
23. Derrick Barnes / Purdue / 6’0-238: 69
24. Anthony Hines III / Texas A&M / 6’2-230: 68
25. Isaiah McDuffie / Boston College / 6’1-227: 68
26. Amen Ogbongbemiga / Oklahoma State / 6’0-235: 68
27. Erroll Thompson / Mississippi State / 6’1-239: 68
28. Justin Hilliard / Ohio State / 6’1-227: 67
29. Tuf Borland / Ohio State / 6’0-229: 66
30. Trajan Stephens-McQueen / Georgia State / 6’1-230: 66

NYG APPROACH

While I think NYG is more than fine moving forward with Martinez and Crowder, especially considering that second ILB doesn’t play a ton of snaps, there are a lot of interesting names in the that top 15. If a value drops into day 3 that NYG likes, I think it would be smart to bring in another young depth piece. I think Devante Downs is very replaceable and to be honest, I would take any of those guys in the cluster of #9-#13 right now over Downs, and I think all five will go day 3. Something to think about. The biggest early-on question will be whether or not NYG should use #11 on Parsons if he is there. I can see why some would give the thumbs up; he is electric and could be the star of a defense because of how much base-level help there is around him. This NYG defense is put together really well, and it could handle a “freelancer” who Graham moves around and creates with. I wouldn’t criticize the pick at all. I just think the NYG defense could better-use that 11th pick and still bring in a quality player later on. The off-field stuff? Again, from what I have been told we aren’t talking about a guy who has jail time coming his way. I don’t think it will factor into the grade. NYG could use a new star defensive player, he is the one that has that All-Pro ceiling.

Apr 052021
 
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Patrick Surtain, Alabama Crimson Tide (January 11, 2021)

Patrick Surtain – © USA TODAY Sports

CORNERBACKS

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

The signing of James Bradberry from last year’s free agency period was one of the best signings we have seen this franchise make in a long time.  Having a reliable, quality presence on the outside week to week means more to a defense than most understand.  Scheming around that is so much more opportunistic and with the versatility at safety, this defense has a lot of options.  The other outside corner role was a revolving door in 2020, as DeAndre Baker was released.  The signing of Adoree’ Jackson in this year’s free agency period is a huge net-gain for this defense.  Now they have two reliable guys on the outside, an up-and-coming nickel in Darnay Holmes, and adequate depth in Isaac Yiadom, Ryan Lewis, and Quincy Wilson.  One can make the argument that it is a thin group when looking at the future.  You always want to have 1-2 quality backups on the outside because they do see the field plenty and you’re an injury away from a glaring hole that a good opposing offense can torch.

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. Patrick Surtain II / Alabama / 6’2-202

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry from Plantation, Florida.  Three-year starter that began his career as a rare true freshman starter at cornerback when looking back at the Nick Saban era.  He went on to start 38 straight games.  Ended his career as a 1st Team All American, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and finalist for the Thorpe, Bednarik, Nagurski, and Lott Awards respectively.  Surtain is the son of former NFL cornerback Patrick Surtain.  Like his father, the young pedigree plays with outstanding strength and aggression.  He has the size and physical brand that can take over and dominate receivers on the outside.  Even though there are some deep movement and tracking issues, he is a starting caliber cornerback right now because of how advanced he is with techniques and how consistent of a presence he provides.  He is better in zone than he is man, but he can fit into any scheme and play week 1.

*Prior to the Jackson signing, Surtain II was one of five guys I had pegged to NYG.  He is an ideal fit for the scheme and there was a hole on the outside of Bradberry.  Add in the fact his grade met the value of #11, I really thought this would be the direction they would lead toward.  I still think there is a chance it happens, but obviously less likely.  Surtain II has a couple issues with the deep ball that concern me a bit, but he is so good in every other area.  He is going to be very good.

2. Jaycee Horn / South Carolina / 6’1-205

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry from Alpharetta, Georgia.  Three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2020.  Opted out of the 2020 season after 7 games.  On a short list of true freshmen that have started at South Carolina.  Some of the other names include Stephon Gilmore (Patriots), Jadeveon Clowney (Titans), and Bryan Edwards (Raiders).  Horn, from day one, has been an impressive and important part to the Gamecocks defense.  He plays a physical game, capable of taking on a big possession receiver and beating him to the ball.  While there are some concerns with his turn and run ability, there is enough he can do, notably in a zone heavy scheme, that can make a big difference.  The ball skills, instincts, and downhill explosion will make him a starter early in his career.

*The single best performance I have seen out of any corner in recent years was the one Horn put out against Auburn last fall.  I have no quarrels with anyone that has him at CB1, him and Surtain II are equally very good.  Horn shows more ability in man coverage and I think his upside is higher.  If he evolves more like he did over the past 2 years, we may be looking at one of the top 3 or 4 corners in football.

3. Caleb Farley / Virginia Tech / 6’1-207

Grade: 81

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Maiden, North Carolina.  A two-year starter that earned 1st Team All ACC honors in 2019 after leading the conference in pass break ups while adding 4 interceptions.  He opted out of the 2020 season.  Farley was a high school quarterback that initially tried his hand at wide receiver in 2017 before tearing his ACL, leading to a redshirt.  He came back in 2018, made the transition to cornerback, and started the next two seasons.  Farley’s top shelf height, length, and long speed make him a very attractive prospect for any scheme in the NFL.  He can blanket the opposition’s targets with both size and speed in addition to possessing receiver-caliber ball skills.  The glaring issue is the fact that he only played in 23 career college games, with his 2019 being cut short because of a nerve issue in his back that later needed a procedure.  There will need to be extra medical screening done here, but his tape and tools pass all the tests.

*I never had Farley in the running for CB1 in this class, nor did I ever see him as a top 20 guy.  Still a very good prospect and 1st round talent though.  He has the tools, a case can be made he is earlier on the progression scale than others, and he showed plenty of playmaking skills.  Farley simply has too many question marks for me to “love” him.  Medical and small area movement.  Still a starter in year one I think.

4. Ifeatu Melifonwu / Syracuse / 6’3-212

Grade: 80

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from South Grafton, Massachusetts.  Two-year starter that was 2nd Team All ACC in 2020, the only year in which he played every game.  He led the team with 17 pass break ups over the past two years combined and showed a safety’s type impact on the running game.  Melifonwu is dripping with talent, much like his brother did coming out of Connecticut in 2017 when he was a 2nd round pick of the Raiders.  The younger brother has the kind of size and speed for the position that is hard to find when trying to connect it to a player with an actual cornerback skill set.  He attacks the ball with tremendous precision and accuracy, plays a physical brand, and is just scratching the surface.  If he takes in NFL coaching and cleans up some simple but vital techniques, he can be a menace on the outside.  High upside player that needs work.

*I am a bit higher on Melifonwu than most.  I think he is a borderline first rounder, partially because of the versatility he can bring to the table.  If I were to grade him strictly as a safety, he would be right around here as well.  Teams that really value the size at corner are going to be high on him.  He is twitchy, agile, and quick which doesn’t usually match up with this height and length.  He can do so much in the secondary.

5. Greg Newsome II / Northwestern / 6’0-192

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Chicago, Illinois.  Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors in 2020.  A very fluid and easy moving athlete, Newsome brings the desired height, length, and athleticism to the table that NFL corners need.  He can play on the outside and be left alone on an island.  His footwork and hip movement look ideal, and he has shown the ability to play with high-level ball skills.  Newsome II only started 18 games over his career and there are some inconsistencies across the board.  He will get caught looking in the backfield too often and his physical maturity still has a ways to go.  He plays weak on contact and will not factor much against the run.  He can be a starting corner in time but would be best suited for a situation that brought him along a little slower over the course of the first year or two of his career.

*There is a lot of hype around Newsome II and I think he is going to get drafted somewhere in the 20s.  I’m not that far off from that evaluation, but I do question how quick he can make an impact. A few issues in his game are what I saw out of Jeff Okudah in his disappointing year in DET.  It takes a few corners multiple years before they’re high quality, and that is the path I see both those guys taking.

6. Aaron Robinson / Central Florida / 6’0-190

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior from Deerfield Beach, Florida.  Began his career at Alabama in 2016 where he played in 13 games.  Transferred to Central Florida in 2017 and redshirted.  Two-year starter that earned 2nd Team All AAC honors in both 2019 and 2020.  Robinson has the pro-caliber foot speed and burst that enables him to stay sticky to his man on all levels of the route tree.   He can play the game with his feet rather than getting too grabby with his hands.  Robinson has a lot of dog in him.  He is always one of the toughest players on the field and he knows it.  Even though he needs to control where he gets aggressive and where to gamble, he is the kind of player that elevates the energy of a defense.  That doesn’t occur much from cornerbacks.  His size may keep him at nickel but he can play both.

*There are some corners that elevate their game with swagger.  They are constantly getting in fights, constantly running their mouth.  I understand that isn’t an approach for everyone to get behind, but I personally love it.  Much prefer that than guys on opposing teams laughing with each other all game and trading jerseys afterward.  Robinson hates his opponent every week, and he plays like it.  He also has really well developed technique and footwork.  Little gamble here, but I think he is starting in the league within a year or two.

7. Tyson Campbell / Georgia / 6’1-193

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Plantation, Florida.  Three-year starter that was a key part of a loaded Georgia secondary.  Campbell was a five-star recruit that developed from athlete with upside to full blown pro-caliber starting corner.  His body type fits in exactly with what the league is looking for.  His height, length, and speed have the potential to shut the big deep threats down at the next level.  He is a light and easy mover with fluid hips and flexible ankles.  His ability to seamlessly change direction with this kind of body is rare.  Campbell still has a ways to go in his progression when it comes to locating downfield passes, however.  His athleticism looks uncomfortable when he is on an island deep.  He lost too many 50/50 situations and simply didn’t produce enough to be considered a first rounder, but his upside is that of a starting corner.  If his progression path stays on the path he forged over his career, his upside is as good as any at the position in this class.

*Upside-based grade here.  There are safer prospects below him with similar grades but this where one can get more subjective with how they stack guys.  I saw flashes out of Campbell that I didn’t see from others.  His easy turn and run ability, top shelf speed, and size make him an attractive long term prospect.

8. Paulson Adebo / Stanford / 6’1-198

Grade: 79

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Mansfield, Texas.  Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors both seasons.  Also earned All American honors in 2019.  Opted out of the 2020 season.  Adebo was very productive over the course of his short playing career.  He was on the field for just 22 games but still walked away with 8 interceptions and 29 pass break ups.  This tall, long, and fast cover man has proven receiver-caliber ball skills spread across multiple seasons.  He is a try-hard corner that pursues the action hard on all downs, all situations.  He is a smart and well-spoken kid that will get the most out of himself.  There are a few essential techniques that he will need to clean up, however.  He plays really high and it messes with his ability to minimize separation underneath.  His tool set is there, he just needs to become more machine-like.  High upside talent here that has the tools the NFL wants.

*Adebo was one of the guys I really wanted to watch in 2020.  He opted out though and I didn’t want to move him any higher than this even though I do think he can play like a 1st rounder.  He had a really impressive Pro Day and he is a really smart kid + hard worker.  He has the tools and showed the ability to make a lot of plays on the ball.  He just had a few backpedal and turning issues that, without the 2020 tape to look back on, I’m not currently sure about.

9. Kelvin Joseph / Kentucky / 6’1-192

Grade: 79

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Began his career at LSU where he was a rotational backup in 2018 before transferring to Kentucky which forced him to sit out all of 2019.  Started 9 games in 2020.  Joseph is a smooth and easy mover that has plus-athletic traits attached to a really long frame.  His skill set looks NFL ready right now, as he can turn and run as if he were on ice skates on top of showing the ability to play the ball in the air like a receiver.  The issue here is a significant lack of experience.  He has 9 career starts and played in just 20 games total.  High risk, high reward cover man.

*There are a couple guys in the league that have a 1st round grade on Joseph.  No arguments against that from me.  He is as fluid and fast as they come.  The lack of experience increases his risk a ton and I saw a couple red flags when it came to being physical in both coverage and run defense.  Nobody would be surprised to see him being the top corner in this class a few years from now.

10. Elijah Molden / Washington / 5’10-190

Grade: 79

Summary: Senior entry from West Linn, Oregon.  Two-plus year starter that is a two-time 1st Team All-Pac 12 honoree.  Molden was a chess piece for the Washington secondary that can project to multiple positions in the NFL.  He has the skill set to be a high-level nickel defender but can also play a free safety type role.  He flies around the field without any hesitation.  Molden is a true student of the game that is self-made.  His tools won’t win any awards, as he falls under the desired lines when it comes to pure size and speed.  However, his short area burst and quickness gets him around the action often.  Molden is a true leader of the defense type, one that will make players around him better and hide deficiencies via smart and active play.

*There are certain teams that are going to get everything out of this kid.  He is blue collar player that is smarter than most prospects coming out.  He can wear a lot of hats.  I just hope the right coach/scheme gets their hands on him.  If he is put into the wrong place, he will be merely average at best.

11. Benjamin St. Juste / Minnesota / 6’3-200

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  Began his career at Michigan and spent two years there.  Two-year starter for the Gophers that earned Honorable Mention All-Big 10 honors in 2019.  St. Juste fits the mold of corners that many teams want now. He is tall and twitchy with plus-length.  He has a nicely developed frame with an easy-moving lower half.  St. Juste may not check all the boxes when it comes to long speed, thus he will need protection over the top or play a specific role at the next level.  His quality of play has been on a solid and consistent upward trajectory since the start of 2019 and there are intriguing tools here to try and develop.

*St. Juste was really far down the scouting lists that I get to cross check over the summer.  When I say far down, I am talking outside of the top 50 (just cornerbacks).  I knew he would finish higher than that, but even I was not anticipating him finishing this high.  He was one of the first Shrine Bowl recommendations I sent out.  Plain and simple, you just don’t get a guy with this kind of agility and balance paired with this height often.  It is rare, actually.  If he were at a SEC school, we may be talking round 1.

12. Shakur Brown / Michigan State / 5’10-190

Grade: 77

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Stockbridge, Georgia.  Two-year starter that broke out in 2020, earning 1st Team All Big 10 honors after he led the FBS in interceptions per game.  His 5 picks in just 7 games highlighted his ability to make plays on the ball while also displaying superior sticky coverage potential.  Brown isn’t overly big or fast, but he plays hard and will stick the NFL slots naturally.  He is a short strider with elite agility.  He projects to a starting nickel role in time if he can prove to say healthy and progress his mental game.

*Brown has nickel written all over him.  Not just his size, but his movement and sticky-style in coverage underneath.  Was his breakout 2020 season real?  Or just a product of a short year? He is a tough dude that plays with some attitude and swagger.

13. Eric Stokes / Georgia / 6’1-194

Grade: 77

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Covington, Georgia.  Two-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2019, 1st Team in 2020.  In a crowded secondary with NFL talent all over the place, it was Stokes that led the team in pass break ups in 2019 and interceptions in 2020.  The former high school track star developed nicely into his frame that has natural height and length to it.  He still needs to add some bulk so he can maintain power positions and balance in traffic against physical pass catchers, but his long speed and easy burst really minimizes the separation receivers can obtain all over the route tree.  He will be a dependable man-cover corner capable of playing early in his career with the upside of being a very good number two corner.

*Stokes got put on some radars when he ran a sub 4.35 at the Georgia Pro Day.  We already knew he was fast, that wasn’t ever the question.  His questions will revolve around physical impact on contact and the ability to anticipate.  I just wish I saw a bit more natural flow in his game.  If he makes gains in that area, he can be a starter in a similar way to the new NYG starter Adoree Jackson.

14. Asante Samuel Jr. / Florida State / 5’10-184

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Sunrise, Florida.  Son of former Super Bowl winning NFL cornerback Asante Samuel.  A three-year starter that earned 1st Team All ACC honors in 2020, 3rd Team in 2019.  Samuel, like his father, is a ball hawk that can make up for physical shortcomings with his instinctive nature and precise footwork.  He broke up 29 passes in 32 games while intercepting another 4.  He was a bright spot among the struggling FSU program.  Samuel’s lack of size and questionable speed could get him in trouble if left alone against NFL receivers on the outside.  He doesn’t always look comfortable down the field and in traffic.  However, when it comes to sitting back and diagnosing the action in front of him, Samuel Jr looks NFL-ready.  He can be eased into action and is most attractive in a scheme with safety help deep.

*Samuel is going to be a very good nickel.  He is a bit scheme-specific, one that favors zone, but for the team that gets him will know that.  He could slip into day 3 because of the crazy CB depth in this class.  And I bet he makes a year-1 impact.

15. Kary Vincent / LSU / 5’10-185

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas.  Three-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season.  Son of former NFL cornerback Kary Vincent, Sr.  A former high school state champion sprinter that also ran track for the Tigers in college.  Vincent may be the fastest defender in the class.  His burst, acceleration, and top end speed are all tied together.  He plays at a rate faster than everyone else when he knows what he is going after.  The issue seems to be that he just doesn’t always mentally click when deciphering route concepts and the passer’s intentions.  Vincent was moved around the secondary a ton, seeing a lot of looks at nickel corner and free safety.  A team needs to try and develop him at one spot because the tools are good enough to be a big-time factor at the next level.  He isn’t a physical player and his instincts aren’t natural, so the nickel spot is likely his best spot where the power-shortcomings won’t hurt as much.

*I had Vincent top 5 in my stack at the start of 2020.  His opt out was less than ideal. I don’t want to penalize him for it but I do have a tendency to push guys ahead of him when I know there are significant instinct-based issues in his game.  Vincent will be one of the fastest players in the NFL right away and he made some big plays over his career.  He is worth the gamble at some point, the question will be when.  Also, you need a strong plan for where he is going in the secondary, as I don’t see the intelligence to man multiple spots.

16. Camryn Bynum / California / 6’0-198: 75
17. Robert Rochell / Central Arkansas / 5’11-195: 75
18. Shaun Wade / Ohio State / 6’1-195: 75
19. Ambry Thomas / Michigan / 6’0-189: 74
20. Keith Taylor / Washington / 6’2-191: 74
21. Thomas Graham Jr / Oregon / 5’11-193: 74
22. DJ Daniel / Georgia / 5’11-183: 72
23. Michael Carter II / Duke / 5’10-190: 72
24. Israel Mukuamu / South Carolina / 6’4-205: 71
25. Trill Williams / Syracuse / 6’1-198: 71
26. Marco Wilson / Florida / 5’11-187: 70
27. Rodarius Williams / Oklahoma State / 6’0-193: 70
28. Bryan Mills / NC Central / 6’1-180: 69
29. Bryce Thompson / Tennessee / 6’0-182: 69
30. Tay Gowan / Central Florida / 6’2-185: 69

NYG APPROACH

This is one of the deepest cornerback groups in recent memory.  I still have another 10+ names that I consider draftable.  NYG has a strong 1-2-3-4-5 for the 2021 season, maybe top 7 in the NFL if Jackson reaches his previous form now that his knee is 100%.  As said earlier, however, that extra depth for the future isn’t there yet.  Do you wait until next year and then have to rely on a rookie?  Or do you use a day three pick on someone that falls and groom him for a year?  I also think some depth and competition for Holmes at nickel would be a benefit to him.  While it isn’t a pressing need, you don’t ever want to be poor or lacking depth at corner.  If the value is right any point day 3, I think it is a smart investment.

Apr 032021
 
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Trevon Moehrig, TCU Horned Frogs (October 10, 2020)

Trevon Moehrig – © USA TODAY Sports

SAFETIES

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 16-30 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

The Giants employ a very-hybrid scheme, and that isn’t just what goes on at defensive line.  The safeties are very interchangeable.  Jabrill Peppers made a big impact throughout the year.  The 2022 free agent was a much better fit in this scheme than what we saw in 2019.  Will he be here long term?  That is the question.  If he leaves town, it will be a result of the economics not lining up more than his quality of play.  Logan Ryan was a late signing last year.  He went on to finishing as the leader of the secondary and another player who benefitted greatly from Patrick Graham’s scheme.  He has been such a hybrid corner/safety his entire career, but TEN just couldn’t figure out how to use his talent.  After watching TEN closely the past 2 years, a place where defensive backs have gone to die lately, that was more of them than him.  Ryan was extended and provides a big-time presence in the secondary.  Xavier McKinney is the wildcard of the group, as he missed most of his rookie season with an injury but came back for the final 6 games, starting the final 4, and flashed the talent that made him a 2nd rounder.  I feel good about him moving forward.  Julian Love, a college cornerback, quietly provides really solid depth at multiple spots.  He played in all 16 games, started 6, and finished 4th on the team in tackles.

Overall, this is a strong group that has just one player (Peppers) that is not locked up through 2022.  The need for new talent here is not a priority, however with the way safeties are used in this scheme, an extra depth piece with a specialty (whether it be coverage or run defense) is possible.

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. Trevon Moehrig / TCU / 6’2-202

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry from Spring Branch, Texas.  Two-year starter that earned postseason honors all three seasons.  Won the TCU Special Teams Player of the Year as a freshman and 1st Team All Big 12 honors in both 2019 and 2020.  Also named 2020 All American and winner of the Jim Thorpe Award.  The team captain has evolved into a premiere safety that can do it all from the middle of the field.  He is more than rangy enough in deep zone, showing true sideline to sideline range.  He is fast enough, but the glaring positive trait comes from his on-field intelligence.  He excels at feeling out the whole field when looking downhill.  In addition, Moehrig is an elite level tackler when measuring his success rate, power, and technique.  He is a year one starter that will do a lot for a defense and special teams unit respectively.

*In a safety class that looks bleak at the top, Moehrig gets the nod for the best safety prospect by a really wide margin.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking he got that label by default, as he is a really good player.  When I look at a safety, I want instincts, then tackling, then speed, then size.  Moehrig is top-shelf in the first two, and good enough in the next two.  Like most safeties, how strong his reputation builds along the next few years very much depends on what team brings him in.  If BAL gets their hands on him, a good fit, he can be a star.

2. Andre Cisco / Syracuse / 6’0-209

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from Valley Stream, New York.  Three-year starter that began his career on fire, earning 1st Team All ACC and 3rd Team All American honors.  Earned 2nd Team All ACC honors in 2019.  Cisco created a playmaker’s reputation with his ACC leading 7 interceptions as a true freshman and responded with another ACC leading 5 as a sophomore.  His 2020 campaign lasted just two games, however, as he tore his ACL.  Even then, he brought in another interception Week 1 against North Carolina.  Cisco is a credible playmaker that can man the centerfielder role.  His instincts, anticipation, and speed make him a rangy and dangerous defender.  His burst is elite and as long as he can bounce back well from the ACL surgery, he is going to be a really high ceiling prospect that can fill a role that many teams have a hard time locating.  His run defense and physical presence won’t make a big difference, but when he makes plays the way he does, that can take a back seat to a point.

*Cisco has the kind of game that is going to make fans love and hate him.  He is going to make plays on the ball, but there were flashes on tape, too many, where he went for the home run when the smart decision would have been take the double.  If he were a better tackler and wasn’t coming off the ACL, he could have been 1st rounder on my board.  Even though he will be on the field for cover purposes, he needs to enhance his tackling and physical nature.  You can get away with being poor in that department as a corner, not safety.  Really high upside player.

3. Richie Grant / Central Florida / 6’0-200

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior from Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All AAC honors all three seasons.  A productive player across the board that totaled 259 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 10 interceptions and 19 pass break ups over his career, Grant has exactly what a lot of defensive coaches look for in a safety.  He can play multiple spots at a high level, making him that chess piece from the middle that can play the role of Queen, going anywhere he wants whenever he wants.  He has excellent quickness and burst and seems to have really taken a step up in understanding route concepts and running schemes.  Grant may not be the most powerful enforcer, but he is a good tackler that can be relied upon.  This is a do-it-all safety that should be a starter early in his career.

*I know a few guys more important than me that really like Grant.  They see him as a true nickel safety, something more and more teams want now.  He shined at the Senior Bowl and in a weird year where there was less tape all around, I am curious if his week down there meant more.  I see a player that will thrive in a scheme similar to the one NYG employs, one where the safety is half corner/half safety.

4. Jamien Sherwood / Auburn / 6’1-219 

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Jensen Beach, Florida.  One-year starter that did see rotational playing time his first two seasons.  Sherwood is the prototype when looking for pro box-safeties.  He has outstanding size and speed, but also has the skill set to fill multiple roles along the second and third level of the defense.  Sherwood had to wait his turn to breach the starting lineup, but he made the most of his opportunity in 2020.  He was all over the field on a weekly basis, doing most of his damage in the box.  He may not play as physical as his size suggests, but he is a reliable run defender that can also make an impact as a pass defender.  He is an ideal matchup for athletic tight ends and has the kind of long speed to take a deep half.

*Sherwood is one of “my guys” in this class.  He doesn’t have a lot of starting experience partially because he had a couple NFL safeties playing ahead of him prior to 2020.  Sherwood is put together different, which can create false hope.  But what stuck out to me was his ability to get in and out of traffic, the ability to make himself small when he needed to be, and his closing burst.  He may be there day 3 and if NYG wants to start thinking about post-Peppers when it comes to finding a safety that can play specific linebacker roles, here you go.

5. Hamsah Nasirildeen / Florida State / 6’3-213

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Concord, North Carolina.  Three-plus year starter that earned 2nd Team All ACC honors in 2019.  Played in just the final 2 games 2020 after it took him nearly a year to recover from a serious leg injury suffered during the end 2019 season.  Nasirildeen is a really attractive prospect when looking at his tools and watching him fill in a variety of secondary roles.  He led the team in tackles in both 2018 and 2019 while also providing a spark 3 forced fumbles and 3 interceptions over that span.  He may not be the most sudden or instinctual player in coverage, but he has an athletic base to work with.  Nasirildeen has starter potential in time and will be able to contribute in a limited role right away.

*As is the case with countless prospects this year, there are a lot of questions around Nasirildeen.  Since the start of 2019, he played in 14 games.  While that isn’t a huge deal, Nasirildeen has been on my radar for a few years now and I really wanted to see more out of him on the field.  I think he has 1st round tools and upside, but he never quite proved it.  Really high upside prospect that has a shot at being there day 3.

6. Caden Sterns / Texas / 6’1-207

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Cibolo, Texas.  Three-year starter that won the job right away as a true freshman in 2018, a season where he won Big 12 Freshman of the Year and earned 1st Team All-Conference honors.  Brother of former Kansas City Chief Jordan Sterns.  Caden’s career began with a bang but injuries limited him in 2019 and he played in just 7 games over the Covid-shortened 2020 season.  He is a versatile safety that does his best work as a deep centerfielder.  He is a reliable last line of defense because of his ability to pursue the action with efficient angles and quick acceleration.  He excels at making plays on the ball, covering receivers in multiple coverages, and being in the right place at the right time.  Sterns won’t add much to the physical presence of a defense, but he is willing to throw his hat into oncoming traffic.   This is a smart and versatile player that can do a lot for a secondary.

*I watched a lot of Sterns.  Someone in the league I speak with has a 2nd round grade on him.  I didn’t see it the first time and I still don’t.  I only say that because I think he will go higher than where I have him slotted.  He has really fluid hips, good closing speed, and receiver caliber ball skills.  I get nervous about prospects who’s best tape was from their freshman year, though.

7. Divine Deablo / Virginia Tech / 6’3-226

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  Two-year starter that made the move from wide receiver to safety in 2017.  He played just 4 games before getting injured and missing the rest of the year.  Again, fought through injuries in 2018 and did not become the full-time starter until 2019.  He then responded by leading the team with 84 tackles before his breakout year in 2020, where he earned 1st Team All ACC honors.  Deablo shared the ACC lead with 4 interceptions.  He is still figuring out the defensive side of the ball, but Deablo looks like a future starter if he can continue his current path.  He still has rawness within his skill set, but there is a combination of size, speed, and playmaking skills that can make a versatile impact at the next level.

*Yet another high upside safety that is still early on the progression scale.  If he continues to surge up, he is a definite starter.  If this is his peak, he is a solid backup and special teams player.  Have to love the size and tackling that shows up and does not come at the expense of making plays in coverage.  He doesn’t move with enough balance for my liking and there are multiple issues in coverage against receivers that I am nervous about.

8. Jevon Holland / Oregon / 6’1-196

Grade: 75

Summary:  Junior entry from Pleasanton, California.  Two-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season.  2nd Team All-Pac 12 in 2019 after tying for the conference lead in interceptions with four.  Holland was part of the Oregon secondary rotation from the beginning of his freshman season.  Even though he started just 2 games in 2018, he still played a lot of snaps in multiple roles.  He is best suited for a box-safety type role that can shift out to the nickel in some looks.  He is slightly undersized for that role, but he plays tough and is a good tackler.  Holland is a bit of a gambler in coverage.  It obviously worked out well (9 interceptions in 2 years), but it can be exposed and toyed with if he is in deep coverage.  He is a chess piece for a secondary that should be used in more man coverage and underneath roaming-type roles.  In the right system, he has starter-potential in addition to adding special teams value.

*Not an ideal fit for every scheme, Holland is another one I think may go on day 2 based on what I’ve heard.  He is a gambler, a fun player to watch.  But I am being stubborn in my thought process when it comes to the guys that completely opted out of 2020.  If they didn’t completely, utterly win me over prior to, I am not upgrading them at all.  Some don’t agree with that stance, and that is fine.

9. Mark Webb / Georgia / 6’0-210

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Two-year starter that earned a team award for his versatility in 2019.  Webb was in a very talented secondary filled with future NFL players.  His role was moved around week to week and even snap to snap in some cases.  His size and power presence is a better fit for the safety position but he can, in certain packages, play the nickel.  His coverage ability against tight ends and physical nature in the box should carve out a role for him in any defense in addition to providing solid special teams play.

* Summary: Senior entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Two-year starter that earned a team award for his versatility in 2019.  Webb was in a very talented secondary filled with future NFL players.  His role was moved around week to week and even snap to snap in some cases.  His size and power presence are a better fit for the safety position, but he can, in certain packages, play the nickel.  His coverage ability against tight ends and physical nature in the box should carve out a role for him in any defense in addition to providing solid special teams play.

*The name Logan Ryan came up in my head when watching him in 2020.  Not on the same level, but a similar player.  One that probably can’t handle life on an island as a corner, but one that can add extra dimensions as a safety.  He worked out well at his pro day.  Smart kid, hard worker, good enough athlete.

10. Jamar Johnson / Indiana / 6’1-197 

Grade: 75

Summary: Junior entry from Sarasota, Florida.  One-year starter that was in the heavy rotation in addition the season prior.  1st Team All Big 10 in 2020.  Johnson was a key playmaker for one of the most surprising teams in the nation.  He totaled 9 takeaways over his career, including 4 interceptions (2 against Ohio State) over his final 4 games.  The former nickel moved inside to safety and started to really turn the corner over the second half of the shortened season.  There are holes in his game when it comes to deep coverage and tackling techniques, but he is a player worth trying to develop.  He can be multiple in the secondary, plays with good instincts, and won’t shy from downhill aggression.

*This nickel safety we keep talking about is a role made for Johnson, a former cornerback.  Johnson was actually one of the first underclassmen I scouted in January when I started looking at guys I didn’t watch in-season.  His flow to the ball stood out to me.  He has something natural in him that doesn’t come around often.  I have a hard time really liking him though, as he doesn’t do well against vertical routes and he isn’t a good tackler.

11. Paris Ford / Pittsburgh / 6’0-197

Grade: 74

Summary: Fourth year junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Two-year starter that earned all ACC honors both seasons, including 1st Team in 2019.  Ford opted out after the first 7 weeks of the 2020 season, giving him just 20 career starts.  The former cornerback is still raw when it comes to certain techniques and nuances, but he has top tier instincts for the position that produced great results in his limited time.  He had 6 career interceptions and averaged over 7 tackles per game.  Ford is a fun player to watch, as he is an undersized but effective enforcer in the box.  He comes downhill like a missile and puts every ounce of himself into a hit.  That quickness and speed translate to twitchy and rangy coverage as well.  While there are some emotional habits that get him into trouble on the field, this is the kind of defender that will spike the energy upward on a defense right away.  He has such a loose, bendy lower half that goes along well with his naturally instinctive play.  He is a really high ceiling safety that brings a fair amount of risk as well.

*Full disclosure, I initially gave Ford a 3rd round grade based on tape alone.  He was different.  I wrote down the name “Ed Reed” when it came to his body, movement, and overall impact.  As the scouting process went on though, it was clear I overshot him a tad.  He has long speed issues, which showed up in a very ugly way at his pro day.  He ran a slow time for defensive ends and tight ends, let alone safety.  He also had a horrific overall workout there.  I later found out he didn’t want to train for those drills, thus did not hire a coach.  That is unheard of.  There are a few character issues here.  I won’t cross him off though, I like his tape too much.  He is worth a day 3 pick.

12. Talanoa Hufanga / USC / 6’1-210

Grade: 73

Summary: Junior entry from Corvallis, Oregon.  Three-year starter that saved his best for last, earning 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors and won the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year Award as a junior.  Also, a 1st Team All American. Hufanga was a dominant force in the shortened 2020 season, averaging over 10 tackles per contest and brought in 4 interceptions in just 6 games.  He is a box-safety that has a knack for getting around and to the action nearly every play. He has physical shortcomings when it comes to speed that do get exposed in space, however.  He doesn’t have the gear to stay with NFL receivers in coverage and he won’t catch ball carriers from behind.  If he can be protected over the top and avoid man coverage against receivers, he will impact the game as a run defender and blitzing safety.

*Hufanga is training with Troy Polamalu leading up to the draft.  It is hard not to think about Polamalu while watching Hufanga on tape.  Honestly though, it has more to do with body type, uniform, and hair as funny as that may seem.  They aren’t in the same stratosphere when it comes to athleticism, which is the main reason Polamalu was what he was.  Hufanga doesn’t move with the same twitch, but I do like the hustle and impact he can make against the run and short passing game.  Limited player, but can fill a solid role.

13. Richard LeCounte III / Georgia / 5’10-196

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Riceboro, Georgia.  Three-year starter that has been one of the most productive defenders on the Bulldogs defense over that span.  LeCounte led the team in tackles in 2018, led the team in interceptions in 2019, and led the team in interceptions per game in 2020.  His senior year was cut short by a traffic accident that forced him to miss the final 4 games and majority of their bowl game.  He is a smart and heady player that comes across bigger than his listed size because of how reliable he is against the run.  His tackling is top tier and his ability to make plays on the ball will make him serviceable against the pass.  Some teams may look past him because there is a low ceiling that stems from below average tools, but LeCounte is a football player at a position that is so reliant on intelligence and instincts.  He checks enough boxes to be considered a solid number three safety and eventual starter.

*I have a tendency to be a sucker for guys that play smart.  LeCounte is one of the smartest safeties in the class and that was verified by his coaches.  He just doesn’t have the top end speed to always take advantage of it.  I still think it can pass as “good enough”.  After all, he started 3 years in the SEC and played well.

14. Damar Hamlin / Pittsburgh / 6’1-201

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from McKees Rock, Pennsylvania.  Three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All ACC honors in 2020, Honorable Mention in 2018.  Hamlin has led the Panthers in tackles over the three-year period in which he was a starter.  After being injured multiple times over his first two seasons, he was a consistent and reliable leader for the entire defensive unit.  He was a shot caller from the back end that put others in position while consistently being a right place, right time defender himself.  He was productive across the board and showed every down versatility.  Hamlin’s deep speed does not leave a lot of margin for error, however.  He doesn’t catch up well and lacks the quick burst to turn and run.  He has some hit or miss to his game as a run defender as well.  He could be an ideal fit for a backup role that sees snaps every week with the upside of developing into a quality starter.  High floor, low ceiling type.

*Hamlin is another name that many in the know rave about when it comes to intelligence.  He was the shot caller of that defense and it was hard to find tape where he was out of place.  He got burned deep so many times when I saw him though.  He doesn’t turn well.  I think he can be a core special teamer though, one that makes a living based on that alone.  Will he make an impact at safety?  I don’t see it, but there are worse safeties on pro depth charts right now.

15. Jacoby Stevens / LSU / 6’1-216 

Grade: 70

Summary: Senior entry from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  Three-year starter that was named 2nd Team All SEC in 2019 for the National Champion Tigers.  Stevens was a chess piece that was moved all over the scheme pre-snap.  He was a shot caller that put his teammates into position as well.  This is a versatile and smart player that can get to the right place at the right time and produce.  The issue that will put question marks around his name revolves around his top end athletic ability.  Stevens was a 5-star recruit and even played some wide receiver early in his career, but he never got to a point where he played fast or explosive in space.  He gets toyed with in coverage against NFL caliber speed and quickness.  He will need a specific box-safety role that has some similarities to what a linebacker is asked to do.  He can be a solid rotational piece that is package-specific.

*I am really curious to see where Stevens goes.  Some teams look at him as a linebacker, one that came come on the field in Dime packages and play the role of linebacker-safety hybrid.  He still has some to learn about playing defense and that could be part of why he looked too slow at times.  When you don’t process information well, it makes you play slower than you are.  Stevens has some untapped upside for that reason.

16. Joshuah Bledsoe / Missouri / 5’11-201: 70
17. Ar’Darius Washington / TCU / 5’8-178: 70
18. James Wiggins / Cincinnati / 6’0-205: 70
19. Tyree Gillespie / Missouri / 5’11-207: 70
20. Brady Breeze / Oregon / 6’0-196: 69
21. Tariq Thompson / San Diego State / 6’0-200: 69
22. Jordyn Peters / Auburn / 6’1-195: 68
23. Christian Uphoff / Illinois State / 6’3-213: 68 
24. Lamont Wade / Penn State / 5’9-188: 68
25. Shawn Davis / Florida / 5’11-202: 67
26. Darrick Forrest / Cincinnati / 5”11-206: 66
27. Eric Burrell / Wisconsin / 5’11-201: 65
28. Troy Warner / BYU / 6’1-201: 64
29. Ben DeLuca / Charlotte / 6’1-215: 64
30. Dwayne Johnson Jr / San Diego State: 64

NYG APPROACH

Safety is maybe the one spot on this roster where you don’t see a spot for a rookie.  They have four guys who can be in the weekly rotation, four guys who can play multiple spots and roles, four guys who are young and healthy.  While there will be several other pressing needs and holes to fill, this is a spot that if I see a value day three, I still very much think a pick can be used on one.  Do you prefer a box-safety to potentially groom behind Peppers should he not be here in 2021?  Do you prefer a nickel-safety who can play some corner similar to what they have in Ryan?  Or do you want a true centerfielder, as they are really hard to find and may be worth a “shot in the dark.”  There are a lot of good safeties in the league that were found on day 3 and it is largely a result of the scheme and surrounding talent.  If NYG sees a value slip into round 5 or later, I am fine with pulling the trigger there.  He better be able to fill in on special teams though.

Apr 232020
 
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New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Review

Draft Pick Scouting Reports
Rookie Free Agent Scouting Reports
Eric’s Take on the 2020 Draft

Round Pick in Round Overall Selection Player Selected Video
1 4 4 OT Andrew Thomas (Video)
2 4 36 S Xavier McKinney (Video)
3 35 99 OT Matt Peart (Video)
4 4 110 CB Darnay Holmes (Video)
5 4 150 OG Shane Lemieux (Video)
6 4 183 LB Cam Brown (Video)
7 4 218 LB Carter Coughlin (Video)
7 24 238 LB T.J. Brunson (Video)
7 33 247 CB/S Chris Williamson (Video)
7 41 255 LB Tae Crowder (Video)

2020 Draft Pick Scouting Reports

1st Round – OT Andrew  Thomas, 6’5”, 315lbs, 5.18, University of Georgia

Scouting Report: The 6’5”, 315-pound Thomas is a junior entry, but three-year starter at Georgia with experience at both tackle positions. Big frame with very long arms. Thomas is a tough, strong, physical run blocker who can get movement at the point-of-attack. He is athletic enough to get to the second level and works to finish his blocks. Thomas is a good athlete and he flashes excellent pass protection skills, but he needs to improve his overall technique and consistency in that department. Team leader.

Sy’56’s Take: When I look at who Dave Gettleman has drafted in the past at the offensive tackle position, Thomas looks like that guy. Big, thick, long-armed and really physical. He is a really fun player to watch when he’s pissed off. He moves guys into another zip code as a run blocker, he really gets after guys in space, and he finishes. The issues here are two-fold. His effort isn’t consistent and that is the number one red flag. In the intense moments, big games…etc. Thomas gets after it. But too many times throughout the past two seasons I saw a guy who simply tried to get by on talent. The second issue, he looks like a train wreck in pass protection at times. He struggles to reach his point against speed and he shows his numbers to the ground too often. While his power and reach can partially make up for it, he simply needs to get better there or he will get eaten alive by the top end pass rushers. I’ll end with this: Thomas at his absolute best is better than Wirfs and Wills. But do you want to gamble on his work ethic and lack of athletic ability? More power to you if you do, but I only want him if it meant NYG traded down and the two guys above were off the board.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman: First off, I hope everybody is well and your families are fine. We spent a lot of time on this and we want to fix this offensive line once and for all. Andrew certainly has a hell of a pedigree, a three-year starter in the Southeast Conference. He’s played against some real quality defensive ends during his college career. He has played big time ball in front of a lot of people. We spent a lot of time with him off the field as well, numerous conversations. We spoke to him in Indianapolis and we just feel he is ready to make this jump. He’s young, like all these guys are. We feel very strongly that he is ready and capable. He’s going to come in and compete, nothing is being handed to him. When I get the chance to talk to him later, I am going to say the same thing to him that I said to Saquon and that I said to Daniel, you have to come in and compete, nothing is getting handed to you. He’s big, he’s long, he’s strong, he can bend. He can anchor in pass (protection). He’s very athletic in the open field, we are just really excited to have him, and continue to build this team properly.

Joe Judge: I think Dave really hit it on the head. This was a very talented draft class, especially on the offensive line. This is definitely one that we think is going to give us a chance to come in and improve us overall. He has a skillset that gives him a chance to come in and compete early on. We are anxious to get to work with him, get our hands on him and get going. He has the right demeanor, the right makeup. I’ve talked on the front end about a lot guys, the whole process of this. Not being able to be on campuses, not having the luxury of pro days or 30 visits coming to our facility. You had to rely on your contacts, and this is someone that a lot of people I am close with had worked directly with. There was a lot of good knowledge that could sign off on and know what we were bringing in to add to our team. This is definitely a guy we are excited about getting in and getting a chance to work with and giving him a chance to compete with the rest of our guys.

Q: Was there a defining characteristic or two that elevated Andrew over the other tackles?

Judge: It had nothing to do with the other guys that were in this draft. This is all about Andre right now. I’ll tell you what, his skillset favors his opportunity to come in and contribute. He’s long, he’s a good athlete, he has good short area redirect. One thing that sticks out about him is when you watch the top pass rushers, with the exception of maybe a couple in this draft, they have to go against him. You watch his college tape and he is going against all the guys that you are going to see get drafted in the next couple of days. He does a heck of job on them, you see him compete, you see him play big in big games and that’s important. He was coached very hard at the University of Georgia and that’s a trait we look for. Guys who can play hard and play on big stages and compete.

Q: A lot of people viewed Thomas as the premier pass protector in the class. How much did that factor into your decision and how much does that benefit Daniel Jones?

Gettleman: The length that he has is really a defining feature that he has physically. You turn around and you see the guys that don’t have as much length, shorter arms, shorter people and the defensive ends with long arms get them. A big part of it is, I’m a wise guy sometimes with you folks, and I have done a study and I say it’s tougher to complete passes when the guy is on his back. I think that was a big part of it. I have always gotten a chuckle out of people who say you draft a quarterback and you have to get him weapons. No, you don’t draft a quarterback and then get weapons, once you draft a quarterback, you get guys in front of him that will keep him upright. So, this was an important piece for us in Daniel’s development and for Saquon, as well. Don’t forget the running part of it, and he is a hell of a run blocker.

Q: How much discussion was there about trading down? If Andrew was the top guy on your board, were you reluctant to not get a chance to get him?

Gettleman: We had conversations, but everyone was touchy-feely, maybe yes, maybe no. There were no firm offers anywhere. There is nothing that made me look at John Mara and Joe (Judge) and say let’s trade back and get some more picks. There really wasn’t much there. You can see we haven’t had a trade in the first round yet, how often does that happen? There wasn’t a lot of action.

Q: Did Thomas’ experience on both sides, left and right, factor into the decision?

Gettleman: That’s a piece of it, absolutely. Absolutely. He has legitimate…you know he started on the right side as a puppy and two years at left. One of the things that kind of helped the process along is the other day I took a look at his 2018 game when they played Kentucky and he played Josh Allen, and you guys know I’ve got a lot of love for Josh Allen and how talented he is. That really, that was big. As Joe said, he’s played against a lot of legitimate pass rushers and he’s done well.

Q: You mentioned your contacts and you kind of exhausted those, I would imagine. Three of the four (tackles), we were able to connect dots on the offensive linemen that you may have had connections to. Did it make it more difficult because you had a lot of resources giving you tips and insight into, not just Andrew, but a bunch of guys? Or did you kind of narrow that down pretty quickly early on?

Judge: Well, the tape gives you the initial impression of what you’re looking for and then what you use all of the information when you talk to the coaches is really to fill in any gaps you may not know about personality, work ethic, how they respond to hard coaching, and then also to really confirm what you’ve seen on the tape as well. Listen, the one thing is I have very good contacts at all of these places with all the top guys. I have a good enough relationship where they’re not trying to sell me a product, they know if the guy is good enough, he’s going to get paid to play somewhere and they are very directly honest with me. I don’t get just the good on guys. They give me, ‘hey, these are the things he’s gonna have to work on, these are the things you have to know about how he responds personality wise’, and that’s all very important. I would say this overall, we exhausted the process and all of the top prospects at different positions, but you look at those offensive linemen, which definitely came into consideration with this pick, all of them have got great traits, they were coached very well, they are going to be tremendous pros, I have nothing but great things to say about all of them. But we’re doing what’s best for the Giants and we feel this move is best for the New York Giants right now. I think this is going to be a tremendous move right now to help Daniel (Jones) play more confident back there, not that he needs that, but he can sit back and be protected and we’ve got to go ahead and be more stiff. I talk all of the time, you have to run the ball, you have to stop the run, you have to cover kicks, so we’ve got to add to our run blocking as well to give ourselves a chance to get going on the ground.

Q: Where do you plan on starting him? Do you expect him to play both sides or would you like to start him on one side and then maybe test the other or how do you plan on handling that?

Judge: The good thing about both of our tackles, really all of our tackles, they played on both sides. If you look across the board, everyone on our depth chart right now has played on the right and the left. Everyone is going to come in on Day One and compete and as they shake out, whether that demonstrates being a starter at whatever position, that’s where they’ll fall. We went into this with several players we all thought had the ability to go on both sides, right or left. We made a decision that we’re going to let training camp figure that out. We’re not going to have a pre-conceived notion right now of trying to plug someone in. We have a lot of talented guys, they have to compete. This is not a finish line. This is a starting point. He needs to come in, he has to earn it every day, he has to work like every player we had this week in will. But everyone will get the chance to compete, and training camp will really sort out how they fall.

Q: My impression of that is you said he’s going to compete on both sides to start?

Judge: He will compete on both sides, that’s correct. As will all of our tackles. They’ve all got versatility on both sides.

Q: Dave, a lot of people saw you put a mask on tonight in your house. This is a unique time in our country’s history, what made you do that tonight and are you concerned about this virus?

Gettleman: Well, I’ve got a young IT fellow in here with me and we’re social distancing and part of that is the mask. I’m fine.

Media Q&A with Andrew Thomas (Video):

Q: How big of a surprise was this to go four and to go to the Giants? What was your interaction with them throughout?

A: Yeah, so I had a couple Zoom calls with them (in) this process and I had a formal meeting with them down at the combine. But I was excited to get the call, it came like three minutes before the pick. I just thank God for the blessing.

Q: Did you think beforehand that this was a possible landing point for you, and what was your reaction when you realized you were going to end up in New York?

A: I really didn’t know where I was going to end up. But when they made the call, I was obviously excited. I’m ready to get to work and get down to New York.

Q: Have you had a chance to process blocking for Daniel Jones and opening up running lanes for Saquon Barkley? What is fitting into an offense with this kind of talent around you, what do you think you can bring to that scheme and bring to the Giants?

A: I’ll do my best to protect the quarterback, open up lanes. It’s a blessing to be able to play with guys as talented as they are.

Q: How exciting is it be joining a team with so many young, talented players, especially on offense like Saquon, like Daniel Jones, Darius Slayton. Are you looking forward to growing with a group like that?

A: Definitely. Those guys are very talented. I’ll be looking up to those guys to teach me the ropes, working hard to help the program.

Q: Washington drafted Chase Young at two overall. The Giants took you to protect Daniel Jones and Saquon, but also to go up against guys like Chase Young. Joe Judge said in large part the Giants drafted you because of your ability against top pass rushers. What’s your confidence level going against guys like Chase Young and top pass rushers around the league?

A: Confidence comes with preparation, understanding the playbook, learning from the vets week in and week out. Going against guys that have been playing in the league for 10 years, who are very good at what they do, so for me, it’s a mental thing and like I said, having confidence in myself for my preparation.

Q: Dave (Gettleman) talked about watching you go up against Josh Allen and some of the top pass rushers in the SEC. I’m curious who the toughest pass rusher you’ve played against was and how it’s going to prepare you for going up against the Chase Youngs and DeMarcus Lawrences and Brandon Grahams of the world?

A: Yeah, playing in the SEC, I’ve gone against a few pretty good pass rushers. Like I said, week in and week out, you have to be prepared going against guys like Josh Allen, (K’Lavon) Chaisson this year was a pretty good rusher. It just prepares you a little bit for what you’re going to see in the NFL.

Q: Can you talk about your versatility, the opportunity to play left and right tackle and how that’s prepared you for this level?

A: Yeah, at Georgia I started off at right tackle as a freshman and made the transition my sophomore year. I played at left tackle for the next two years. I think that definitely helps. Having experience playing both sides will be something that will be an asset for me.

Q: I see you have the nice New York Giants hat there. How many hats did you have there just in case?

A: The NFL sent us a package with 32 hats for all the teams. Just in case you got picked, you had the hat ready.

Q: What are you going to do with the other ones?

A: Probably give them to my friends.

Q: Who was with you tonight to share your special moment?

A: Immediate family, my agent, my mentor and a few of my close friends just to be here celebrating with me.

Q: Who is your mentor?

A: His name is Kevin Johnson. He was my offensive line coach at Pace Academy.

Q: I know you said you wanted to learn a lot from Daniel and Saquon. What kind of responsibility do you feel towards them? You are the guy they brought in to be Daniel’s protector and to open holes for Saquon.

A: For me, I’m just focusing on what I can control and that’s just getting better. It’s hard to tell with the pandemic but just moving forward (focus on) communicating with the team, learning the playbook and doing what I can to stay in shape so I can be prepared when I have to step on the field.

Q:  Going into tonight, did it matter to you to be the number one tackle off the board?

A: Definitely, I work hard every day to be the best. I don’t understand why you would play this game if you don’t want to be the best. It definitely meant something.

Q: Were you pretty confident that that was the way it was going to end up?

A: I wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to go. You never know with the draft. I thank God for blessing me and putting me in this position.

Q:  There was lot of conversation about who was the best tackle. What did you think of it and how much did you hear about it?

A: Obviously you see it with social media and things like that. For me, I just try to focus on what I can control. I can’t control what other guys may do or what the media may say. All I can do is work on my craft and do what I need to do to be prepared when I step on the field.

Q: Were you surprised by the perception that people had?

A: No, people are entitled to their own opinion. For me, it’s just a matter of what the coaches think of me and definitely what my teammates think of me.

Q: What are your next couple of weeks and months going to look like? How have you been able to deal with this and is everybody in your family healthy?

A: My family is doing well, thanks for asking. I was blessed to be able to train at Dash performance, I have a relationship with the owner there. It’s shut down to the public, but he lets me and my trainer come in there and get some work in to try to stay in shape.

Q: Dave Gettleman mentioned your matchup with Josh Allen from two years ago. Coming out of that matchup, was there more confidence that you gained out of going up against him considering he ended up as the seventh overall pick.

A: Definitely, I’m a competitor. I want to go up against the best guys and test my limits against them. Going up against him and having a pretty good game meant a lot to me. I put in a lot of hard work to get there.

Q: What is more rewarding, keeping a guy from touching the quarterback or grinding it out on the ground the way you guys did?

A: I would probably say grinding it out on the ground. I definitely want to protect the quarterback, but the run game, I love it.

Q: You have a couple of your former college teammates up here. What’s your relationship like with Lorenzo Carter and DeAndre Baker like?

A: I remember being a freshman with Zo being a senior here. It’s going to be exciting to be back with him. With D-Bake, I talk to him every now and then. I’m excited to get in the locker room and be with those guys again.

Q: Were you in touch with them during the process at all?

A: Not really, but I know Lorenzo hit me up right after I got drafted, so I will probably talk to him later today.

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2nd Round – S Xavier McKinney, 6’0”, 201lbs, 4.65, University of Alabama

Scouting Report: The 6’0, 201-pound McKinney was a junior entry and 2-year starter in college. He is a very versatile player who is able to play both safety spots and slot corner. McKinney plays faster than he times and has good quickness. He is instinctive in coverage and makes a lot of plays on the football. McKinney is aggressive and physical in run defense. Good blitzer and he will hit you. He does need to become a more consistent tackler. Team leader who quarterbacks the secondary.

Sy’56’s Take: Junior entry. Two year starter from Roswell, Georgia. 2019 All American and First Team All SEC. McKinney was a do-it-all safety for Nick Saban’s defense, making plays against the pass, the run, and on special teams. He is a versatile, rangy, aggressive weapon for the defense that reacts and closes as fast as anyone can at the position. He is a hustler who will bring swagger to the defense he gets drafted to. He has some on-field discipline issues that can get exposed in the NFL, thus he will need some extra time to adjust to the speed and complexity of the game. His upside is sky-high if he is put into the right situation and he applies himself.

*McKinney plays a high risk, high reward style which isn’t a fit for every scheme. But for the teams that can tolerate, borderline feet of that, he is going to be graded highly and I do think he has a shot at being the top safety off the board. I love his burst and ability to close, if he can develop that movement into coverage, watch out.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Gettleman: Obviously, we had Xavier rated, we had a first-round value on him, and we’re absolutely thrilled to get him. He’s a great kid, he’s smart, he plays smart, he lines up the backend for us, he’s versatile, you can put him down low, he can cover tight ends, he’s got ball skills, and he’s a good tackler. So, we’re excited and just feel we’ve got a real quality person and player in this second round pick.

Judge: Yeah, I’d say my first exposure to Xavier was a few springs ago. I was down in Alabama actually scouting a couple other guys for the draft and had an opportunity to pass on through one of the practices, and he just stuck out as a guy on the field who flies around. He plays with a lot of passion and energy. He also has that ability to be the quarterback on the backend and really be the signal caller for our defense. Knowing the program he comes from, he fits the mold of a smart, tough, fundamentally sound guy we’re looking to build with. We’re very excited to have him. Like Dave said, we had a first-round grade on him, saw him hanging around and we’re very fortunate to be able to take him at the position that we did.

Q: Are there some similarities here with Xavier and Isaiah Simmons as you were watching the two films? It looks like Xavier is one of those guys who played 100 snaps at four different positions last year.

Gettleman: He certainly is versatile, he certainly is versatile. One of the important things for us this year was getting a safety that could play in the deep part of the field. Xavier has certainly played back there enough that we know we feel very comfortable about that part of his game.

Q: How much better do you feel about your secondary after making this pick and signing (James) Bradberry in free agency? Does it feel like it is shored up a lot more than maybe it was at the end of last year?

Gettleman: Absolutely. You know, it’s kind of funny. Everybody is playing so much 11 and 10 personnel and you’re in sub 55 to 70 percent of the time. You can never have enough DBs. You know, Bradberry is young, he’s 26, I believe, or 25. Jabrill (Peppers) is young. All of these kids we drafted last year and now Xavier this year, we’re putting together, I think, a very talented young group that just has the ability to play football at the NFL level. We’ve just got to get them rolling.

Q: Did you entertain a lot of offers to try to move down? Do you think having Xavier will actually enhance Jabrill Peppers and maybe put him in spots where you can enhance his talents rather than have to do things maybe he wasn’t as good at?

Gettleman: Well, the first thing I’ll tell you is we had made up our mind that if Xavier fell to us, we were taking him. So, we did have something. If Xavier had been gone, we did have a team willing to move up and we would’ve moved back. But we felt the value of getting Xavier there was just too good to pass up. I think the second part of the question is a better one for Joe, frankly.

Judge: You know, I don’t think it’s about any of the players on our roster. I just think with his versatility and what he’s shown of what he’s been able to do, play in the deep part of the field, play in the box, be used in coverage on slot receivers, be used in blitz packages. He’s shown a range in what he’s able to do. That’s going to allow us to use all of our players in different ways. Because of his versatility, that will complement everybody else on the roster as his strengths shake out. But he has a good skill set to come in and compete and we’re anxious to get him on the field and start working with him.

Q: How much were you able to tap into your Alabama connections when you were scouting Xavier?

Judge: There’s a number of guys down at Alabama that have a great background on him. There are a number of guys on our staff currently that have a great background on the Alabama guys, Burton Burns and Jody Wright were there in recent years. They were there when these guys came in as freshmen, they were there for the progression. As well as making phone calls down to Tuscaloosa, we were able to make phone calls and have staff meetings with guys who had direct relationships with these players and that’s a great advantage. I talked yesterday about my relationship with Kirby (Smart) and how that plays a part in identifying these guys and what they are like off the field and off the tape. That plays a big part. There are certain people in that building, not just the head coach, that you rely on what they say. You know they see them as a person and how they treat everybody. Everyone has nothing but the highest compliments of him as a person and that’s what we’re looking for. Guys with good character, good traits, that want to come in and want to work and want to earn what they get.

Q: You are about to have a 63-pick gap, are you in moving up at all?

Gettleman: You have to see how the board falls. We are going to sit for a while. If we move up, I’m not going to dip into next year’s draft class. We are going to sit here and be patient and see how the board falls.

Q: Do you think If Alabama held its pro day and he ran a better 40 than he did at the combine that he would have been there for you at that point?

Gettleman: It’s speculation, (but) that’s the only thing we can think of. Very frankly, I’ve said it to our scouts, it’s how fast does a guy play? It’s about how he carries his pads. It’s not what he does in his underwear on a track, it’s play speed. Way back in the day when San Francisco had their unbelievable run and Bill Walsh was running that club, they were not in a scouting combine. They did not care what a guy ran. They talked about play speed all the time. I think it worked pretty well for them. I am a big believer in that, it’s about how fast does a guy play. If it was just about 40-yard dash times, then we would go watch track meets.

Q: What does this draft do for a guy like Julian Love?

Judge: Julian has a great skill set. He can play corner, he can play in the slot and he can play back deep as a safety. We are going to use him as we need by each game plan. He may be an every-down safety, he may be an-every down corner. We are too far away right now to give that an answer. We are excited about all the guys we have back there. We believe we added some talent to the back end for guys to compete and we are going to see where it shakes out. Nothing has been decided in terms of positions that will go into a depth chart at this point and nothing has been decided in how we are going to use guys by game plan. That will change week to week. We believe we have enough skillsets that it will give us flexibility within our packages.

Q: You have drafted a Georgia player in the third round or higher in three straight drafts. Is there anything particular about Georgia’s program that you like?

Gettleman: What you like is the fact that it’s the Southeast Conference. They play a lot of big games and they do a hell of a job coaching down there. It’s more by accident, it’s kind of the way it worked out. They have a hell of a program.

Media Q&A with Xavier McKinney:

Q: With your versatility playing deep safety, down in the nickel, crashing the box, what do you enjoy the most and what do you think you bring to this defense most of all?

A: I like doing it all. I like playing as many positions as I can on the field. I just like making plays for my teammates and helping my team be successful. So for me, that’s pretty much my main goal. As far as what I can provide for the team, it really is whatever coach wants me to do. I always do what’s asked of me and I try to do it at a high level. So, whatever I’m asked to do, then I’ll adapt to it and I’ll be able to do it.

Q: I understand that a lot of your tattoos you designed yourself. I just wanted to ask about your creativity and how you bring that creativity onto the field?

A: Yeah, I appreciate that question. It’s just something that I like to do in my free time. If I’m ever bored or ever kind of get to thinking, then I try to put the pencil on paper. For me, it’s pretty fun being able to do it and draw my tattoos. But as far as what I bring onto the field as far as creativity, I just try to do as much as I can to help my teammates and help put us in the best possible position to win.

Q: How much did you communicate with the Giants, if at all, throughout the draft process and what’s your impression from your conversations with them?

A: I communicated with them a good bit, especially towards this ending part of it with us not having pro day and stuff like that. So, I’ve been in contact with them a few times and I always got a good vibe with them. It was people I felt comfortable with, it was coaches I felt comfortable with. Just knowing that everything was smooth when we talked, and they were more just trying to get to know me as a person instead of a player because they already knew what I could do on the field. They wanted to know what I could do off the field. But you know, I enjoyed talking to them. I’m surely very happy, very excited that they were able to draft me.

Q: I’m sure Coach Judge had a lot of conversations with Coach Saban about you. I’m wondering if you had any conversations with Coach Saban about Coach Judge and if he kind of helped you understand what you’re getting yourself into here?

A: No, I actually haven’t talked to Coach Saban about Coach Judge. I didn’t even know, I just kind of found out pretty recently that Coach Judge coached at Bama. I didn’t know. But now that I know they pretty much…there’s a lot of things that are going to be similar to how it was at school, and that’s how I like it. I’m very excited for the opportunity.

Q: How surprised were you that you were drafted today and not yesterday?

A: Very surprised. Of course, I thought I was going to get drafted yesterday, but you know, it is what it is. I’m happy to be a Giant and that’s all that matters right now.

Q: Joe Judge told us a story earlier that two years ago in the spring he was scouting some other guys for Alabama and he remembers the impression that you left on him then in practice, kind of being all over the field. Throughout this process, even going back one to two years, were you conscious of the fact that all eyes were on you and things that you did two years ago may come to help you on draft night?

A: No, not really. I’m a type of guy that tries to focus on what’s going on right now. At that point in time, I was focused on the season, I was focused on winning, trying to win a national championship. So for me, I was always trying to do the right thing for myself but not only for myself, but for my teammates. I wasn’t too much focused on all the things that would come later on down the road because I didn’t know what would come. I always try to do the right thing and try to set myself up to be in the best position as possible.

Q: I noticed on Twitter that Jabrill Peppers had reached out to you. I didn’t know if you had a previous relationship with him, if you know him at all, and what do you think about being on the back end with a guy like that?

A: Yeah, I actually followed him when he was coming out because he was also a safety that played a lot of positions in college when he came out. I’m a big fan of him, I watch his game. I actually haven’t been able to see that he reached out, I’ve got to check that. But, I’m excited and I’m ready to see what’s in store for me when I get up to New York.

Q: You said you thought you’d get picked in the first round. How much do you think the 40 (yard dash) time hurt you and can you explain how you got cramps or just what happened at the combine?

A: I don’t know how much it hurt me. To be honest, I really don’t care that much about the 40 anyways. I think like I’ve said before, my tape says it all. It’s something that outweighs the 40 anyways because, of course, I play way faster than what that 40 said. But when I did run the 40, I did have cramps. A lot of it was due to just the setup of how the combine was, things that I wasn’t necessarily prepared for or didn’t really know how the schedule would be. But you know, it is what it is. Everything happens for a reason. Like I’ve said before, I’m excited for this moment and I’m excited to be a Giant.

Q: What have the coaches told you about the defense and how you might fit into the defense? How do you think your skill set is going to complement Jabrill Peppers?

A: I’m not sure much about the defense right now. When I talked to the staff previously, we weren’t really talking much about football. It was more about them trying to get to know me and who I was off the field. We haven’t gotten into much depth about what is going to happen on the field. As far as what my role might be, of course, I don’t know. I am able to adjust to anything that is thrown at me and I’m ready for whatever they might want me to do. I think I can do anything that they ask me for. I’m ready for the moment.

Q: Those battles at practice where you saw Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, do you think that makes all of you that much better coming into the NFL and if so, how?

A: I think so. Like I said before, those are first round guys as you have seen yesterday. Being able to compete against those guys at that level has been helpful for me and the people around me. I think that helps a lot going into the NFL. A lot of times in the NFL you will see guys like that every week instead of just one week and then you get a rest week where you may not have the best receiver like it is in college. In the NFL, there’s going to be good receivers week in and week out. It helps, it helped me prepare and get ready for this moment.

Q: Do you pride yourself on being a playmaker?

A: I do. I just try to make as many plays for my team as I can. I like to put my teammates in the best position possible in whatever way that I can to help the team be successful in any part of the game. Whether that’s special teams, whether that’s playing on defense, wherever it is, I try to make sure I put my teammates in the best possible situation that we can be in. I do pride myself on being a playmaker.

Q: You played for Nick Saban, who runs a tight ship, an authoritative coach, what he says goes. Joe Judge has started off here running a similar program. How do you thrive in a program where the head coach has a strong personality and where there is a ton of structure to how they want things to run?

A: I’m good with structure. It’s never been a problem for me, it wasn’t a problem when I went into school as a freshman. Those are the things that I like a lot. I actually love having that structure and having that strict almost tight ship being ran by the coaches. For me, I always do what I’m asked to do, and I try to do it at a high level. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to win. I’ll do whatever it takes to be able to win games and anything I can to help.

Q: First of all, I just want to make sure everyone in your family is healthy. How have you been able to keep in shape? How do you plan on moving forward with that plan in the next couple of weeks before you can get up here?

A: Everybody is doing well. I have been following the restrictions and certain stuff that we can and cannot do. I’ve still been able to jog around the neighborhood or do some yoga in the house. I’ve still been able to do some position work on the field. I’m still trying to restrict it as much as I can so it’s not all the time. I want to keep everyone else around me safe.

Q: The Cowboys picked Travon Diggs and the Eagles picked Jalen Hurts. What’s that going to be like in these NFC East battles with you going against two of your former teammates?

A: It’s going to be fun. Those are my guys, I actually just talked to Tray today and I talked to Jalen, I think, a couple days ago. Those are my guys, it’s definitely going to be fun. I’m going to be really excited to see them and play against them again.

Q: Do the Alabama guys take those battles pretty seriously?

A: Yeah, we do. Even in practice whenever we are going against each other. Me and Tray were on the same side, but we always competed to see who got the most picks for the day and we also did it for the game. We definitely take those very seriously and it gets really competitive.

Q: I’m sure you ran the 40 at Alabama and you did it in your training. Was your time significantly better (than the combine)?

A: Yeah, for sure. The time that I ran at the combine, that was a fake time. I caught cramps before I actually ran. That was actually my worst time throughout the whole process. My best time was a 4.52 when I was training. If I got to do the pro day, I thought I was going to run a good time. I’m not too worried about the 40. That’s why I didn’t run it again. I knew my tape said it all and I didn’t have anything to prove running the 40. There was no reason for me to do that.

Q: Do you look at yourself as a free safety or strong safety? Do you put that label on yourself?

A: I consider myself a DB. A DB is somebody that can play safety, free safety, corner, slot nickel, anywhere. I’m a versatile DB, that’s what I consider myself.

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3rd Round – OT Matt Peart, 6’6”, 310lbs, 5.06, University of Connecticut

Scouting Report: The 6’6”, 310-pound Peart was a 4-year starter in college with experience at both tackle spots. Peart combines excellent size, long arms, and good overall athletic ability. He has the frame to get bigger and he needs to get stronger. Right now he is a better pass protector than run blocker. He could play with more meanness to his game. Team leader.

Sy’56’s Take: Fifth year senior from Kingston, Jamaica. A four year starter who never missed a game. 1st Team All AAC honors as a senior. Peart is relatively new to the game, as he didn’t play football until he started high school. He is a physically gifted player who, when his feet are in the right place, showed dominant traits. He has incredibly strong hands with long arms and an athletic base, he simply just needs to hammer away at his lower body mechanics until they become more natural and consistent. If and when that happens, he is a starting caliber player.

*I did a quick recap of who Gettleman selected in his career as GM along the offensive line. One glaring tendency was his desire for length at tackle. Well, here you go. Peart has the longest arms in the class and the widest frame. Throw in the fact that he has a decently athletic lower body, and there is a chance he is going to hear his name called in round 2. NYG is going to like him, I’m sure of it. How much? Not sure. I personally see a guy who won’t be a factor in year one and he is going to need to really hammer away at lower body mechanics and power. I couldn’t get past the 4th/5th round tier but I can see why some are higher on him because of the ceiling.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Getttleman: The Peart kid that we took at the bottom of three is long, he’s big. He’s a 315-pound kid that’s skinny. We interviewed him a number of times, he’s a great kid. He’s athletic and he’s long and we think he has a lot of upside for a young kid. He’s a guy that the coaching staff really wanted to work with.

Joe Judge: I second what Dave said. It’s rare to describe someone as 315 pounds and skinny, but that’s what he is. He’s an athletic guy, he has a lot of length to him. We feel good about his character and his work ethic. He’s excited to come on in here and work hard and we can’t wait to get him on the field.

Q: Why did you guys decide to pick another tackle instead of going with a center? I know you guys have been talking about center?

Gettleman: It’s about value. He was too good of a value to pass by. We had him rated well above the rest of the other centers on our board.

Q: What kind of a ceiling does this kid have?

Gettleman: I think he has a sizeable ceiling. He’s young, he’s really got a lot of talent. We really like the upside on him.

Q: Joe, you talked to us the other day about projecting how players will be two or three years down the road. Is this one of those players for you?

Judge: I think they are all one of those players for me. He definitely has a lot of upside. I don’t want to say he is developmental, he is developing, and they all are. He’s got tremendous work ethic, he’s got a great attitude. I think we are going to see a lot better football in the future than we’ve seen from him already. That’s what makes us really excited to work with these guys that we’re bringing in.

Q: Is it too early in his development to know if he is a more natural left or right tackle?

Judge: I think his athleticism is going to lend him to being a swing tackle early on in his career and work on both sides. We don’t want to limit any of our guys to just play on one side. We have to cross train everybody. If you play on the left side, you have to be able to play on the right side as well. That’s going to go ahead and lend to what we need based on roster situation and game plans.

Q: Are you still looking for a center?

Gettleman: We are just going to work the board.

Q: What was it like having this long gap between picks? I know you did it last year. What was the feeling when the Jets were on the clock at 68?

Gettleman: I mean, it’s a long time between picks. We’re at 36 and then it’s 99, so you’ve got 54 picks, multiply it times five minutes, it’s a long time, you know? We made the decision last year on that, on the third round pick, and we’re fine.

Q: This is a guy who did not play football in high school, but he never missed a snap in college. Do you see some of that rawness of a guy who came to the game late that interests you that you can work with in a guy like this?

Judge: I always like having athletic players who you don’t feel like are tapped out. I said earlier, he’s developing – meaning, this guy has got a skill set, he’s still learning. I think we’ve got the right line coach to go ahead and work with him between (Offensive Line Coach) Marc (Colombo) and (Assistant Offensive Line Coach) Ben (Wilkerson). This guy’s got tremendous upside. His athleticism, his physical build and then just his character and work ethic. You put those things together and these are guys you really want to work with.

Q: You had a long wait tonight, but you have a pretty quick turnaround tomorrow getting ready. How do you guys handle this? Do you try to get together tonight and map out what’s on the board for tomorrow and what plans you’re going to do, or do you wait until tomorrow to get together? Do you have a couple of guys that you are kind of eyeing already for that fourth round pick?

Gettleman: We’ll talk a little bit tonight and, really and truly, it’ll be interesting to see if we get calls because we’re picking so early tomorrow. We’ll have a conference, we’ll get together tomorrow morning well in advance to give us a chance to really talk and figure out what we want to do. So, we’ll spend time tonight and tomorrow.

Q: You told us earlier that you weren’t going to dip into next year for picks to move up, but if there was somebody on your board you might be tempted to do something. Was there anyone on your board at a certain spot that you were tempted to move up or were you content to stay at 99?

Gettleman: No, we were fine because, again, I wasn’t going to dip into next year and that’s what we would’ve had to have done. So, we were fine. We’re fine. We just got a really good value with Matt Peart. He’s a solid prospect and we got a really good value.

Media Q&A with Matt Peart (Video):

Q: Can you take us through last night? How surprised were you when you got the call and was this a destination on your radar?

A: When I got the call, it was definitely a big surreal feeling. My mom started going crazy. I had family members do a Zoom call like this and they were going crazy over the computer. So it was just a great time being able to experience everyone that’s near and dear to my heart just happy and joyous for the moment. Growing up, I always wanted to be a Giant and I’m just happy to put on the blue. It still feels so surreal to me and I’m just looking forward to the future.

Q: Are you in the Bronx? Is that where you are with your family?

A: No, we moved a year ago, so I’m in Fishkill, New York.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about growing up a Giants fan? I know you were rooting for them when you were going to high school up in New England.

A: I came from Jamaica at a young age and growing up in New York, I kind of fell in love with the Knicks and then also the Giants soon after that. Just watching them on the TV, just the culture and everything the Giants stand for was something that was appealing for me as a young kid. Especially growing up, especially that moment in high school when they had that Super Bowl win my freshman year. That was a very, very fun time for me.

Q: Did you have a favorite offensive lineman or a favorite player?

A: My favorite player, my favorite Giant always would be Eli Manning, for sure. The man is just tough, tough as nails. I respect his game and I just respect everything he does for the game. You know, he’s definitely my favorite Giant, 100 percent.

Q: I just wanted to ask a little bit more about your journey. You were born in Jamaica, then you came to the Bronx, I’m guessing, pretty young. Then how do you end up at a private boarding school and then from there end up getting into football, since I know that wasn’t your first sport?

A: So getting into the boarding school, I got into a program called the Oliver Scholars program. It was actually based out of the Tri-State area. They take high-achieving kids in the Tri-State area and allow them to go to independent day schools and boarding schools that they coordinate with through the program. Governor’s (Academy) was one of the schools on that list of all of the schools. So, having that connection allowed me to go to the private school.

Q: Then how did you get into football, because I think I read that you were more of a basketball player when you first got there?

A: Yeah, mainly because I grew up in the Bronx. You know, Jamaicans call it ‘The Concrete Jungle,’ so it’s easier to pick up a ball and shoot some hoops because there weren’t really that many fields open. Going to Governor’s Academy and having an opportunity to be exposed to the sport was actually the first time I really got exposed to the sport.

Q: How old were you when you moved to the Bronx?

A: When I was about four or five.

Q: How did you end up at Connecticut and with your size, were you recruited by some bigger schools?

A: Connecticut was my biggest offer coming out of high school. Like I said, I started the transition relatively late, so UConn had offered me a week before signing day. Before that, SUNY-Albany was my first offer, they offered me for offensive tackle. Then UConn offered me a week before signing day. The day I committed to UConn, UNH came up to offer me. But they knew I was going to UConn, so they never extended that offer.

Q: You’re kind of listed by the experts as this kid who’s got raw talent. How much of a project do you think you are?

A: Whenever I think about that, it just means that I just want to dedicate myself to be a better student of the game and wherever I need to improve, you best believe I’m willing to do the work, and I’m ready to work right now. That’s all I can speak on that one.

Q: What was your first call like with Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge? Did they talk to at all about what their plans are for you?

A: Like I said, just getting that phone call was very surreal. I’m just trying to grasp the moment still, it still feels a little bit surreal right now. I’m just ready to do the work. With those conversations, I don’t really delve into private conversations. Just know that I am ready to work and ready to prove that I belong to be a Giant and ready to earn everything.

Q: Can you expand a little bit on how basketball has helped you with the offensive line? Especially with playing both sides as you have.

A: I feel like when it comes to basketball, you have to have real fine footwork. I really feel like that helped correlate on the field when it comes to football. Being a post player, you have to be able to have good footwork to work in the post. It’s just what you have to have. I really feel like that helped me correlate over to football. Just being a tough and dominant player in the post as well helped me be a dominant football player as well.

Q: How is your family doing health wise?

A: The main part of my family is all in New York. My eldest brother is in Albany right now with his wife. My second eldest brother is in the Bronx with his wife, they’re actually expecting a baby. Everyone is taking the proper precautions right now. Everyone is safe, thank God. I just want to thank everyone that’s dedicating their time and efforts during this time just to help ease the pain now, so we have a better tomorrow. We’re just taking the precautions that are recommended and doing everything we need to do to make sure we are living up to the standards of the quarantine rules.

Q: How have you been able to stay in shape and how do you plan to move forward with that?

A: Right now, I am coordinating with a strength coach. He is based out of New Jersey. It’s called Parisi’s. They’re able to give me workouts through an app and that’s what I have been doing during this time, finding ways to get after it. Since I’m in upstate, I can always find a little patch of grass so I can work on my offensive line technique. I may look crazy out there, but I have to do what I have to do.

Q: I just wanted to ask you about Andrew Thomas. Do you know him at all, do you have a relationship with him? What do you think of his game? How much are you looking forward to playing on the same line as him, hopefully for years to come?

A: Andrew and I were training at the same facility, EXOS down in Pensacola, Florida, before the combine. He’s an amazing tackle, he’s a real true talent when it comes to offensive line play. I definitely picked up some things from him with my time down there. Staying down there with the small time we had, I definitely consider him to be a brother and now he’s definitely a brother right now. He can’t get rid of me now. I’m looking forward to it and I’m happy he’s coming to the city.

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4th Round – CB Darnay Holmes, 5’10”, 195lbs, 4.47, UCLA

Scouting Report: The 5’10”, 195-pound Holmes was a 3-year starter at UCLA. He lacks ideal height and is probably best suited to slot corner in the NFL. Holmes is a very smart and competitive player who is equally comfortable with press and off coverage. Good speed and quickness. He makes plays on the football. Overly aggressive at times, Holmes needs to guard better against double moves. Despite his lack of size, he is a tough guy who will play the run. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs.

Sy’56’s Take: Slot corner that can come in year 1 and compete for a nickel job. Graduated college in under 3 years. Smart and savvy, shows up on the field. Can mirror quick slot receivers, has some size/playing strength issues.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on CB Darnay Holmes: We had a good day today. I’m very pleased with what happened. We took all defensive guys except for Shane Lemieux, the guard in the fifth round. The theme of the day for defense was speed. We really feel like we improved our teams speed and that was what we were trying to do. In the fourth round we took Darnay Holmes, a kid from UCLA. He’s a corner, he plays the nickel. He will come in and compete for that spot right away. He’s a tough kid, he can run. We’re excited we were able to get him.

Joe Judge on CB Darnay Holmes: Darnay is definitely a guy that jumps out at you. He’s got good speed, he’s got real good short area quickness. He’s contributed on the defensive side of the ball, he’s had impact in the kicking game. He plays with a good edge, shows some nasty. You can see he definitely plays bigger than his size. He’s a guy that jumped out at us at the Senior Bowl. His tape backed up what we saw down there. I’m really happy we were able to add him today.

Media Q&A with Darnay Holmes (Video):

Q: This is a pretty young secondary with a lot of guys drafted in the last couple of years, including DeAndre Baker in the first round a year ago. As another young guy coming in here, what can you do to differentiate yourself and get on the field?

A: My thing is to just be a sponge. DeAndre is there a year before me, so he definitely learned more things than I have learned. I’m definitely going to get under his wing and try to contribute in every phase. I’m going to be an asset, I’m not going to be a liability. I’m just going to play my part and maximize my role, for sure.

Q: I was reading up on you and you are somewhat of a trendsetter. Someone who uses chess as a way to analyze football. Can you talk a little bit about that and how you got into that and how exactly it works and helps you?

A: I saw several cornerbacks playing chess and I’m the type of player that wants to get insight on everything that’s going on. I walked up to the chess master and asked him do you mind helping me out with chess. The reason I play chess is I want to have efficient thoughts. I want to make sure I am making forceful moves and I want to make sure everybody responds to things that I do. Everything I’m doing, I’m not a piece, I’m a player. I’m going to make sure the team is working accordingly and we’re all on one accord. Chess is a great thing for me to get my mind off of football but also get my mind in the state of being efficient in everything I do.

Q: I read about some of the hardships you had earlier in your life. Was there ever a time when you thought this day wouldn’t come?

A: Definitely there were several times when you go through different emotions and you don’t know when that day will come. I know those days and those experiences molded me into a better person, a better man. It molded my spirit to be someone that’s ready to transition and transform within every phase of my life. Every season is not going to be a good season, but I know that season shall pass and I’ll be bigger than that season.

Q: How is everyone in your family doing these days?

A: Everyone in my family is doing good these days. They are all on one accord, there is no family feud and everybody is making sure that we are transitioning so we have generational wealth for our young nephews.

Q: I know your dad played in the NFL and he went through a lot of stuff in his life before he started coaching you guys up. How much has he impacted your growth as a football player and as a person over the years?

A: My pops impacted me in a lot of ways. He was a person who installed that hustler drive. That drive to compete each and every day, knowing that there is somebody out there working to take your spot or working to be better than you. Each and every day he always told me that you never compromise your grind or compromise the good habits you have for something that will not allow you to propel you forward to your full potential. He always made sure that you can’t take any shortcuts. If you take shortcuts, when the time comes and you reach that destination, there’s lessons that you did not learn. The downfall is going to be harder than the come up.

Q: Who were some of the guys you idolized growing up?

A: Definitely a few people that are mentors of mine are Aeneas Williams, Deion Sanders, Rod Woodson. I have a great group of guys around me. Those guys are constantly providing me with insight that will allow me to be disciplined and have freedom. Freedom equals discipline. By them giving different tools and different things that I can add to my toolbox, I’m just ready to rock.

Q: Do you have personal relationships with them or just from studying them?

A: Personal relationships definitely.

Q: How did that come about?

A: When you are around the football circuit you definitely come around several marquee guys who want to give back to the youth. They understand that true wealth in life is what you give back to the world. They are constantly God-fearing men and they know when you serve somebody, it’s an opportunity to serve God.

Q: Where are you, that’s an interesting background behind you?

A: I’m in Palm Springs.

Q: What’s behind you there, is that your yard?

A: Yeah, that’s just some acres to get some work in.

Q: I’m just curious about your experience in the slot. Did you play much of it in college and if not, do you feel like you can play it at the next level?

A: Truthfully, I can’t tell you where I’m going to play, I’m just ready to contribute. Wherever they put me, I’m going to maximize that role and I’m going to make sure that I understand that role. That’s my main thing is understanding it and grasping all the concepts.

Q: Have you played the nickel much in the past?

A: The first time I played was the Senior Bowl. That was my first go around at it and I loved it. There’s a lot of things that I need to learn about it. Until then, I’m just going to keep on crafting and get to know this playbook that the Giants have in store for me.

Q: What did teams talk to you about position wise when they talked to you? Is that something that they brought up, the slot, and is that something that’s been mentioned to you? When people say you’re too small to play outside in the pros, is that something you heard and you had to fight throughout this process?

A: Definitely I haven’t had to fight that. A lot of people need different roles to be fulfilled. Some roles need to be nickel, some roles need to be boundary, some roles need to be primary corner. Everybody’s got different roles and different things that they need to fulfill, so I’m just ready to fulfill whatever role that’s needed right away.

Q: What do you bring to the team in terms of special teams? Did you talk to Joe Judge about any of that yet? He has a special teams background.

A: Definitely, I can bring a lot of things to the team. I can be a gunner, I can be a jammer, I can be whatever a team needs me to be. I’m ready to just contribute. I’m ready to play football, I’m ready to showcase everything that they need me to showcase. I have a lot of things to learn, I didn’t play much special teams in college, but I know right away I’m going to be able to contribute on those four phases of special teams. So, whatever that may be, I’m going to be front line ready to rock.

Q: You talked about how you went to a chess master. How does one go about finding a chess master?

A: When you go to UCLA, you’re around a lot of different things, you have access to different pools of people. So, Chip Kelly, a great father figure of mine I should say, he makes sure he brings people within the school who are going to aid and are going to be able to value the mindset to reach that different frequency.

Q: I read that you graduated very early, I think two or three years. What motivated you to get through your studies so quickly, and apparently you did so at a high level and you got good grades. How has that helped you with learning complex defenses and your studying?

A: Definitely the school curriculum allowed me to implement a strict routine, a routine that allowed me not to sway away into different distractions. So, by me having this vivid vision, my energy was aligning to it right away. That’s definitely something that I implemented right when I got to UCLA. It was, I’m going to graduate in three years and then from there I’m going to figure out what I want to do. Right away I was a student, then after I graduated, it was like okay, how can I pursue my athlete endeavor, and I’m here now being a New York Giant. I’m very excited.

Q: Did you choose to accelerate your studies or did that just come together for you?

A: Definitely. Definitely I had to make that choice. If I hadn’t made that choice, I would probably still be an undergraduate. So, I made that choice right away that I had to get my degree and break that barrier within my family being the first person in my family to get that degree at a prestigious college. (It) allowed them to know that we have so much greatness within ourselves, let’s go chase that and manifest that.

Q: How did that help you with football? Learning a playbook can be so complex, I imagine it made that easier for you?

A: Definitely. You have different tactics that you use to grasp concepts and grasp schemes and make sure that you understand those things. I don’t memorize, I want to grasp it and understand so I’ll be able to tap into it no matter what the heat of the moment is. I’ll understand it, so I’ll be able to utilize it.

Q: How do you think playing for someone like Chip Kelly, who has experience coaching in the NFL, got you ready to make this leap to the league? He kind of had the reputation in Philly and then in San Fran as kind of a taskmaster or drill sergeant. Joe Judge comes in here as all business, no nonsense type of guy. When you look at their two personalities, how do you think you’ll be able to make that transition from Chip to playing for Judge?

A: At the end of the day, everybody holds up a standard, so I’m going to abide by that standard and I’m going to abide by that code. I know that code is for us to flourish. When I have something that’s great, it’s like wouldn’t you utilize it to tap into it?

Q: Obviously you’re not going to be able to come here to New Jersey for a while. Did you take any online courses and do you think that’s going to help you during these next couple of weeks and months when most of this stuff is going to be done virtually?

A: My online courses are going to be the Zoom meetings with the New York Giants getting that playbook down. I’m a graduate, so it’s either hit the field, learn more about myself, the New York Giants organization, and tap into different people who’ve been around, veterans, Barkley, everybody who knows what it’s like to be a New York Giant. That’s my key and that’s my goal — to understand the playbook, be a sponge, and find a way to be a leader. I’m not saying I’m going to be a leader right away, but by me being under somebody who are leaders, you’re the average of the five people you hang around, so I’m going to hang around five leaders. That’s just the type of person I am.

Q: Have you taken online courses in the past, though?

A: Yeah, definitely. I had to take several online courses to graduate in two and a half years, Sir.

Q: What’s the key to learning that way?

A: The key to learning that way is understanding that you can’t lollygag. You can’t put things to the side because at the end of the day it’s on your own time. In this life we’re living, you do things on your own time, but at the end of the day if you have a strict routine, you can never be swayed off to different distractions or different things that will hinder you from accomplishing the main goal, which is being the great contributor to the team.

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5th Round – OG Shane Lemieux, 6’4”, 310lbs, 5.13, University of Oregon

Scouting Report: The 6’4”, 310-pound Lemieux started an incredible 52 games in college, never missing a game. Tough, strong, blue-collar offensive guard who could project to center. He has good size but also  has athletic limitations that will limit his upside. Lemieux can create movement as a run blocker, but can be exposed by quick pass rushers at times. Smart.

Sy’56’s Take: Fifth year senior from Yakima, Washington. Four year starter who never missed a game, 52 consecutive starts. Two-time 2nd Team All Pac 12 and 2019 2nd Team All American. Lemieux is a reliable, know-what-you’re-getting guard who won’t be a guy who consistently hurts an offense, but has a limited upside. He is big and plays with a blue collar attitude, often overpowering and out-hustling his man. However there are certain matchups and situations where his tight hips and inconsistent pad level pops up. He will need to be protected a bit, but he should at least be a solid interior backup early on with the potential to start down the road.

*I talked about how impressive and rare it is to see a lineman start 46 games over the course of a career. Lemieux started 52! Just amazing. I really wanted to grade him higher than this because I love his grit and style. However I just can’t get beyond the stiffness he shows when something unexpected comes his way. He might be a guy who can play early but he needs to be protected and you can’t have him move laterally that often. I just wouldn’t want to see him on an island against these quicker interior pass rushers.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on OL Shane Lemieux: Next round we got Shane Lemieux, a guard out of Oregon. Every really good club that I have been with, the offensive line has set the tone. This is a tough kid who plays mad. He’s big, he’s powerful, he’s a pretty good athlete. We’re excited to add him to the mix.

Joe Judge on OL Shane Lemieux: Shane’s a guy like Dave said, he plays with nasty. You turn the Auburn game on and right from the first snap he’s tossing bodies around. You can’t help but watch him. In a lot of cross over tape he jumps out at you as well. He’s a guy that’s going to have interior swing value. We’re going to cross train him guard and center. It’s going to be something he has been working on out at Oregon and we’re going to keep on building with that as well.

Media Q&A with Shane Lemieux (Video):

Q: You have obviously played guard in games, but you’ve also done some work at center if I’m not mistaken. Can you tell us where you are in that process and how that transition is coming along for you?

A: I was really fortunate enough in college, I had a really good offensive line. We never really had to move much because we were experienced veterans. During this draft process, I understood that this game is all about versatility. I think that me getting good at all three interior positions is going to benefit me well in the future. I don’t really have a position. I just want to be ready whenever I get in, to be ready to play whatever coach asks me to.

Q: Was that your decision to take on center? Did your coach come to you and tell you to learn other spots?

A: That was probably just on me. Especially as a rookie, there’s not really a guard that only plays guard. Versatility is the biggest factor in this game. Coaches want to be able to put you in multiple spots. I have really good mentors that told me that at training camp, no matter where you are, they are going to throw you in, and you have to be ready. I just want to be prepared before that happened. Even at pro day, somebody asked me to jump in at center and I was ready to do that. It just all works out and versatility is key.

Q: What is the biggest challenge of playing center?

A: Every single offensive line position is going to have different techniques. I feel like with center there is a lot more responsibility on you to know the offense and to know more of the defense and be more sound with what’s going on around you. Obviously, you have to snap the ball. Those are the two of the biggest factors that are different. At the same time, I feel like I am a football player. I’ve been working at all three positions. I really appreciate the differences in all three of the interior spots and the tackle spots as well. There’s obviously little caveats, little differences to everything.

Q: You are the second Oregon player to be drafted to New York. Do you know Sabrina (Ionescu) and what do you think about her basketball game?

A: Yes, I do know Sabrina. She came in the class after me, obviously she is a really talented athlete, awesome person. A fearless competitor. When you watch her play, that’s the first thing you see. A competitor who loves her teammates and loves the game of basketball. I think that’s the most important part of being a great athlete, loving your sport.

Q: What was your initial conversation with Coach Judge like? What’s it like going to a coach who is clearly trying to establish a culture?

A: My head coach in college, Mario Cristobal, emphasized doing the work before doing the talk. I think that’s a really important piece that taught me how to be pro. Coach Judge called me on draft day and said put your head down and work. I think that’s an important thing. I don’t want to elaborate on exactly what he said out of respect for him and I. The main mantra was to put your head down and work.

Q: As the nearly 500th ranked recruit at the time, three-star, first guy out of West Valley to D-1. What has this ride meant to you the last four or five years? How does it feel to be an NFL draft pick?

A: First thing I thought of was I remember one day my sophomore year of high school when I told my dad I’m going to play in the NFL. I’m going to get this done, I’m going to play at Oregon and be an All American. I think ever since that day I promised my parents, it’s kind of been uphill since from there. I went through a lot of stuff, a lot of workouts, a lot of force feeding to try and get up to the weight to get into college. It’s awesome, I’ve gotten unbelievable support out of West Valley, my high school area. Just trying to be a good representative of the 509. I take a lot of pride in that. Cooper Kupp came out of Washington and is with the Rams and now there’s me. I think I have to be a good representative of the valley and be a good representative for the University of Oregon. They taught me so much.

Q: As a country boy who wants to live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere at some point, how does the New York/ New Jersey area sound?

A: We have a bunch of guys, Justin Pugh, who I’m training with, Jonotthan Harrison of the Jets. They have done a good job of showing me where the places to fish are, where the reservoirs are. I’ve heard a lot about the surrounding areas, even the ocean you can fish. I’m sure I can find stuff to do. At the same time, I want to focus on the season, I’m going to be doing a lot of stuff. I’m probably just going to be living wherever I am, playing ball, and studying film.

Q: Growing up when you were learning the position, who were some of the guys you viewed as role models?

A: I probably never really had a role model or someone I modeled my game after. I was always told as a young player, especially from my coaches at Oregon, you are an individual. You play like Shane Lemieux, you don’t play like anybody else. Obviously, there’s great role models in this game. I think one that comes to mind is Marshal Yanda. His toughness and his durability. I remember him walking off the field with a broken leg, I thought that was really impressive. Stuff like that, people who take a lot of pride in the position, people who work really hard are guys I want to look up to but not necessarily who I want to play like.

Q: A lot of what we have talked to you about is being a center. I assume you are coming in here saying, “I’m a guard”, aren’t you?

A: I think I’m an offensive lineman, that’s what I’m coming in as. That’s what I have been playing, I’m a football player. I’m a football player that plays offensive line. No matter where the coaches want to put me to help the team, that’s where I’m going to go.

Q: With a name like Lemieux, how is it you are playing football instead of hockey?

A: I’ve gotten that question for a long time. I had a left tackle in college named Tyrell Crosby that played right next to me, so it was Crosby and Lemieux and people had a fit with that. I’ve heard I’m not wearing 66, which is a crime. I was 68 in college. I’ve never met another Lemieux that plays hockey so if somebody sees this, let me know.

Q: After four years of being a starter, what is the mental shift for you in this process of having to compete for a job again and possibly having to be backup to start off? After 52 straight starts, what’s that like for you mentally?

A: It’s just going to work. I think every single day in college I approached each day as if my job was on the line. I think the biggest factor of why I never liked to miss practice or why I never missed a game rep was if I wasn’t getting those reps, somebody else was. That’s the mentality I had instilled in me by coach Cristobal at Oregon. Alex Mirabal at Oregon. I think that’s just the way I take the game. I take a lot of pride in the sense that any play can be your last. The more I can understand the playbook, earn the trust of the coaches and my teammates and just work, that’s what it takes.

Q: Did the whole family make it down to Arizona? Did Miranda join you?

A: It was just mom, dad and my sister in Arizona. My parents drove down, they thought it would be a lot safer than flying. Even here, we did a lot of social distancing. It was good.

Q: Joe Judge has talked a lot about cross training offensive linemen at different spots. Andrew Thomas at left tackle and right tackle, I’m sure with you playing both guard spots and center. From an offensive lineman’s perspective, how challenging is that and how beneficial is it to get reps at all three of those spots?

A: Especially as a young player in this league, I think it’s the ultimate test to be able to play all the different positions. I know a lot of offensive line coaches like it. I’m sure these offensive line coaches like it, they talked a lot about it. You want to be the best player you can be. The best player you can be is somebody who can be thrown in at any position and can play.

Q: Where are you most comfortable? Where do you have the most experience and is there a difference between both sides?

A: In high school, I played left tackle, right tackle. In college I played left guard, in practice I played right guard. I’ve been all over. I think I don’t really have any place where I’m comfortable. I think I’m a natural offensive lineman where I can play any position I’m asked. I think that’s just been a lot of work. Obviously, there’s techniques and differences between each position. There’s set differences if you’re a guard, if you’re a tackle, if you’re at center. I think it’s just the more reps, the more comfortable you are at a position. I’ve taken so many reps over my career, I’m comfortable at any position.

Q: You mentioned cross training and you are an offensive lineman, not just a guard. Center is a whole different animal. Have you ever snapped before in practice? What are the main things you need to learn to actually snap the ball and then block? It’s a whole different skill set.

A: In practice throughout my college career, I snapped just to learn. I think it would just be good to learn. Ever since, now I have been trained at every position. I have even been trained at tackle just to understand the game more and be more versatile. Each offensive line position is a little different, each takes reps to get comfortable. I’ve been working to get more comfortable with the stance and the snaps. Even at right guard, I haven’t played a bunch of right guard, so I am getting better there. I’m probably never going to play tackle, but just the ability to get out there even if you have to take a couple reps in practice is great to have.

Q: I know you have played every game. Do you have any idea on how many snaps you’ve missed?

A: I remember one game I missed a snap against Wyoming because my shoe came off. That’s the only snap I have ever missed, that was my sophomore year. Ever since then, it was only if we were up big on an opponent.

Q: You have never missed a practice either?

A: Never missed a practice, no sir.

Q: The general manager Dave Gettleman talked about fixing the offensive line once and for all. You are well aware they drafted Andrew Thomas, they drafted Matt Peart in the third round and you as well. What’s it like to be a part of that group that is tasked with fixing that offensive line once and for all?

A: I think it’s really awesome seeing a team value the offensive line the way that they do. I’ve heard all about hog mollies and all that kind of stuff. I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get to know these other rookies and I can’t wait to get to know the other teammates on the offensive line. I think we are all ready to get to work. I can’t speak for them, but I’m sure we are all ready to work. I briefly met Andrew Thomas and Peart at the combine and I can’t wait to see them and get to work with them.

Q: You mentioned getting reps in. With the challenge with COVID-19, how are you getting these reps in. There is so much more about playing center. There’s the movement of the ball and moving at the same time. It’s snapping to a quarterback and getting used to the chemistry there. How are you simulating all that in whatever training you are doing?

A: Basically, I have been at a private training facility in Arizona with LeCharles Bentley. We do a really good job of keeping people inside the gym social distancing. We have the same group of guys that have been in the gym for the last four months. We kind of live in this bubble and we do a really good job of dividing these groups out, so we are not together. I think I have been taking a lot of reps on air at guard and tackle. I have been doing lot on the bag, too. I’m still able to get the work in.

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6th Round – LB Cam Brown, 6’5”, 233lbs, 4.69, Penn State

Scouting Report: The 6’5”, 233-pound Brown was a 2-year starter at Penn State. Very tall and lanky outside backer with long arms and decent speed. Brown is an aggressive but not overly instinctive player. His size and solid athletic ability assist him coverage but he needs to improve his run defense at the point-of-attack and overall tackling consistency. Team leader.

Sy’56’s Take: A frame and tool set that every coach is going to want to work with because of the multi-down versatility he can offer. Can be a weapon in coverage because of his top shelf length and loose hips.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on LB Cam Brown: In the sixth round we took Cam Brown, a big long kid out of Penn State. He’s 6’5 and change, he’s 230, he runs well. Cam and all the young men we took in the seventh round, we like they are players with good developmental qualities and tools. They all can run, every one of these guys can run. We’re excited about that.

Joe Judge on LB Cam Brown: Physically, he’s got good length. He’s got a frame to fill out and play. He plays with good energy. He plays aggressive and downhill. He’s going to bring versatility on the edge as well as a little bit of stack backer value. He brings impact in the kicking game with us. Looking at the way our defense is pieced up and set, we need guys that are versatile, that we can move by game plan and by need. Cam definitely fits within that. Sean Spencer (defensive line coach) on the staff has spoken very highly of Cam since he got here. He’s also a guy that when you talk to other guys on Penn State and you hit them with who the leader on the defense is, without hesitation they all said Cam Brown. That stuck out to us. He’s been an alpha dog in the locker room and that brings the attitude we really look for on the field.

Media Q&A with Cam Brown (Video):

Q: I know when you were originally recruited to Penn State, they wanted you as a defensive end but there was that struggle to put weight on to play that position. What was that like for you and what do you think you can bring to this Giants defense that really doesn’t have a pass rush other than Markus Golden, who is not even on the team who has had double digit sacks the last couple years?

A: Honestly, the struggle coming to Penn State and trying to put on some weight, it wasn’t too much of a struggle, it was just something that would fit at the time. At the time, I was about 220, not even 220, like 200, and they figured I’d be more effective at linebacker at the time than at defensive end. So, I mean of course if I grew into a spot, they’d be open to moving to d-end. For me, luckily, it wasn’t necessary. It worked out well for me to be a linebacker at Penn State. Going into the Giants, I really do hope to just play my role, play whatever role that is as a linebacker, outside, inside, wherever the coaches need. I just want to make plays honestly. Just get my name out there so I can make plays.

Q: We know your Penn State connections to the Giants, I’m curious how many of those guys have you been in contact with? It’s probably pretty obvious that (Defensive Line Coach) Sean Spencer gave you a high recommendation for you to land here. What’s your relationship with him?

A: From the start honestly, I talked to Grant (Haley) and Saquon (Barkley) of course, Coach Spence, everybody on draft day congratulated me. Just reconnecting with them a little bit. With Say (Saquon) and Grant, it was more so I was just asking them for a little advice, just bouncing quick ideas off them real quick. But I’m pretty sure more communication will go on as long as this goes on, as long as we’re away from each other. But honestly, Coach Spence, Coach Spence is my guy. Like I said, I was going to be recruited as a d-end, so we had a relationship, he came to see me all of the time during recruitment in high school. It’s grown and blossomed. I feel like I became one of the guys he could trust on the defense and he’s one of the guys that I trusted him to go to with problems or things like that. Our relationship is growing and I hope it continues to blossom.

Q: What kind of background do you have in special teams? Did you play much in college?

A: Yeah, freshman and sophomore year, it was how I made my money honestly. It was how I got on the field. Freshman year, I played every special teams, kickoff, kick return, punt, punt return. Made some plays on kickoff and punt return. But sophomore year, I moved into, I still was playing a lot of special teams, that was more so kickoff, punt, a little bit of punt return there. But that year, or those two years, I was getting my feet wet, trying to get the experience, trying to understand the flow of the game. Just going against different players. I mean every game at kickoff you really get to size people up. The game always starts and ends with a kick, so it’s kind of what I got used to and kind of how I started my progression in college.

Q: Do you expect your NFL career to follow that same path?

A: Yeah, I do. I definitely understand that as a rookie coming in that I’m going to have to do and play all special teams. I mean it’s a 53-man roster, you’ve got to play your role and that role might be in multiple places. I’m willing and ready to play.

Q: Did you work a whole lot with Coach Spencer? I know he cross-trains a lot of guys. Can you just talk about working with him and what he teaches and what you think that’s going to translate to when you get to this level?

A: Yeah, Coach Spence…we used to call him the ultimate motivator. He’s going to get guys riled up, his coaching style is really energetic, he’s out there with you, he’s going to run around, he’s going to crack jokes with you. He’s going to yell at you, and he’ll get on you hard, but you know it’s coming from a loving place. With Coach Spence going through different drills, like certain days we had hunger drills where it was like each day you’re working out on things coaches feel like we need this week. Like maybe tackling, maybe hand work, pass rush. With Coach Spence, he was always there to correct those pass rush moves and things like that. I hope and pray we can get some more cross-training there so I keep up that relationship with him.

Q: I was wondering with your relationship with Coach Spencer, did you have any inkling that the Giants were looking to draft you? Also, what was your first interaction like with Joe Judge?

A: With Coach Spence, his congratulations were more so cordial, more so family-like than as coming as a coach. He’s always giving me a little bit of advice just to go ahead. But, with Coach Judge honestly, the conversations have been good. They’ve been positive, they’ve been welcoming is all I can say. But outside of that, I’m getting ready to have more conversations with him and grow from there.

Q: The Giants seem to embrace the idea of versatility. Was there a time in your college career where you said as much as I’m versatile, maybe focusing on one thing might kind of raise my profile a little bit? Do you feel like what kind of led people to maybe overlook you in college and might be something that when you get to this defense and the way they want to use you might expand your profile a little bit?

A: Honestly in college, I wasn’t too concerned on doing one thing. I was doing whatever was needed, whatever (Penn State Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers) Coach Pry asked me honestly, if that was jumping from positions — from Will, to Sam, to back to Mike, honestly for me, I feel like that versatility and that diversity in positions I’ve played has only helped me. I feel like I don’t mind if people may have overlooked me, that’s fine. I made my way to the NFL and I’m ready to show what I can do there and whatever the coaches want me to do there, pass rush, drop, coverage, whatever it may be, I’m ready to do it.

Q: When you watch the game now that is being played in the NFL, do you see yourself as someone who can thrive in doing that variety of things?

A: One hundred percent, yes, I do. I feel like, like I said the versatility in all the positions I’ve played have helped me a tremendous amount. At middle linebacker, sometimes you’ve got to guard running backs, you’ve got to guard tight ends. The outside, sometimes you’ve got to set up in the slot. Whatever it may be. I feel like with the spread offense that’s coming to the NFL and all these multiple weapons and big tight ends that everybody is using, I feel like I’ll be able to match up very well against them.

Q: You became kind of a Giants fan favorite on draft day with your tweet about the Cowboys. Where did that come from? Did you grow up a Giants or Eagles fan? Why did you grow up not liking the Cowboys?

A: Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you. I was probably watching a game when that tweet came out. But honestly, I’d rather not talk about something that went on seven years ago.

Q: Did you grow up a Giants fan?

A: Honestly no, I did not. I jumped around teams for a while and then grew up a Patriots fan.

Q: How does being 6’5” as a linebacker help you? Now, that’s big for a linebacker…the Giants have another one in Lorenzo Carter who’s tall like that, but you’d expect that size at defensive end.

A: Honestly, it helps getting in windows. When you’re 6’5” on the second level, and the quarterback is trying to throw a dig, it’s kind of hard when you’ve got to clear about seven to eight feet of height and length in arms. It’s kind of, for me, it’s been getting into windows, it helps with the range. Even when you’re diving through tackles, that length allows you to get a little bit further than most.

Q: Back to that initial phone call with Joe Judge. There’s been a lot of talk about how he was pretty serious with the other players who were drafted, not to go on and talk to us about Super Bowl expectations or anything like that. What was that call like? Also, playing at a program like Penn State where they’ve had 10 or 11 players drafted in the past two years, how does playing in a program like that get you ready for the jump to the NFL?

A: I think, especially with the Giants, it’s a great organization, it’s a very professional organization. I feel like with us, Penn State is known to be high standard, high character. I feel like that transition will be very smooth for me. Even with Coach Judge, he’s a humble guy. He wants us to have humble but ambitious goals honestly. From there, he wants us to focus on what we’ve got to do now, and that’s honestly getting through this Corona thing.

Q: You mentioned you feel you are very versatile. I want to get a better idea as to how versatile you are. Are you primarily a stand up a guy, have you ever played much with your hand in the dirt. Are you a five technique if you have played the defensive line, do you play nine wide? Can you fill in those gaps for me?

A: My freshmen year I played the Will, the boundary backer for us which gets a lot of action. Sophomore year, I moved to the Sam position while playing Will still. The Sam for us is almost like an NFL nickel. We sit on top of two, we’re rerouting receivers, we’re not really in the run game. Junior year, I stayed at Sam and played Mike on third downs. Mike for us on third downs is our pass coverages, our dollar (coverage), we’re mixing stuff up, blitzing, whatever it may be. Senior year, it was the same combination. I bounced around. Even at the Sam position, there’s no two wide, but I was playing the wide guy. Honestly, I played a little bit of everything. I haven’t put my hand in the dirt but outside of that, everything on the second level I have played.

Q: Joe Judge talked about the way they go about talking to players and they use it as an opportunity at times to pick your brain on other players. How different was your interaction with them as a team than with other organizations?

A: I can’t say it was too different. A lot of teams want to see how you react and how you respond to teams’ questions about other guys, either negative or positive. With them, they want to get more of a well-rounded view on me and how I looked at the game. That’s what they took out of it. When they asked questions like who is the best player you played against, I answered the question with J.K. Dobbins, who is an amazing player. Things like that, they just want to see your deeper understanding of football. I feel like that’s what they were getting out of that.

Q: Did they give you an idea of where they are going to start you at position wise?

A: Honestly at linebacker, I can tell you that. Outside or inside, that’s up for debate.

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7th Round – LB Carter Coughlin, 6’3”, 236lbs, 4.58, University of Minnesota

Scouting Report: A 3-year starter at Minnesota, the 6’3”, 236-pound Coughlin is an outside linebacker who can play over the tight end. He may project to inside linebacker in the pros. Coughlin can set the edge against the run. Hustles and chases. Coughlin is limited by his athletic limitations, but he is a tough, competitive over-achiever who is reliable and consistent. Solid in coverage.

Sy’56’s Take: 40 career TFL + 22.5 career sacks. Sneaky athlete that will be a “multiple” LB for NYG defense that wants to be able to change schemes weekly. A natural in coverage, effective with his hands as a rusher, and plays low.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on LB Carter Coughlin: The next guy is Carter Coughlin. Another tall linear guy out of Minnesota. He’s 6’3 and change and 240. He can run. He’s got some versatility to him.

Joe Judge on LB Carter Coughlin: Dave hit this off the bat, the theme of the day was speed. He’s a guy that gives us more speed on the edge. He brings some length with him. He plays with a high motor and a lot of aggressiveness. He was productive in Minnesota’s scheme and with the way we are going to play guys on the edge in different packages, he’s someone with a lot of value. He will come in here and compete.

Media Q&A with Carter Coughlin (Video):

Q: What was it like being high school teammates with Ryan Connelly? Have you been in touch with him since the weekend?

A: I got a chance to play with Ryan my freshman and sophomore year. At Eden Prairie High School, Ryan was the starting quarterback, so it’s awesome that he switched over to linebacker, it clearly worked out for him. He texted me on draft day and I got a chance call him last night. He gave a rundown on a bunch of stuff, so it’s awesome to connect with him and I will be able to get some awesome wisdom from him.

Q: How was he as a quarterback?

A: He was a monster as a quarterback. He was built like a linebacker, crazy athletic and super smart. All that obviously translated over to his linebacker game. I still remember him standing on the 50-yard line with his feet planted and being able to throw the ball all the way to the endzone without an issue. He had a cannon for an arm.

Q: You were versatile at Minnesota. Can you talk about the positions and what they asked you to do on the defense?

A: At Minnesota, I got a chance to play our edge rush position. We just called it our rush. It’s kind of a hybrid outside linebacker mixed with defensive end. It allowed me to drop into coverage, it allowed me to get after the quarterback, play off tight ends and play near the line of scrimmage. It really allowed me to play a bunch of different aspects of what an outside linebacker could look like or even a defensive end. I loved the rush position.

Q: Did you play with your hand in the dirt?

A: No. I always stayed up on my feet at the University of Minnesota.

Q: You have a long family line that has attended the University of Minnesota. Why was that so important to you to continue that tradition?

A: I grew up a Gopher fan since the day I came out of the womb. For me, I took a lot of pride in the University of Minnesota. Being a Gopher fan for a while, it was kind of tough sometimes because there were a lot of years where it was down and then you would catch a glimmer of hope and it would go back down. When I was deciding where I wanted to go to school, I decided I wanted to be a part of making Minnesota as great as the days when my grandpa played and they were winning championships and all that kind of stuff. From that aspect, I had pride at Minnesota, and I decided I wanted to be a part of building the program.

Q: You had a lot success in college getting sacks, rushing the passer. How do you see that translating to the NFL? The Giants did not really draft pass rushers and they need pass rushers. As a seventh rounder, can you be a guy that can contribute in that regard?

A: Being a swiss army knife is always useful. Whatever position the coaches decide to put me at, I guarantee you I will be able to maximize my potential there. Whether that looks like special teams, whether that looks like a positional fit, I’ll be able to use a lot of the different tools I have been able to build up through college. To able to maximize every opportunity I get.

Q: What do you think the key to being a successful pass rusher at the next level will be?

A: I’d say to continue to harness in on some of the details that I think, since I’ve been out of college, that I’ve been able to identify. Stuff that I really want to work on. But I think a lot of it, too, is watching film. That played out a lot for me in college, identifying what the opposing offensive tackle struggles with, how he moves his feet, how he shoots his hands, whether he leans, all of that kind of stuff. I think that transfers even more to the NFL because from what I’ve heard it’s a whole bunch of film and note taking and that’s right up my wheelhouse. I’ll be able to continue to develop those skills of learning and taking notes and watching film and all of that kind of stuff.

Q: I know you have a long legacy at Minnesota, but the Coughlin name also has a big legacy here with the Giants. Have you ever met Coach Coughlin? I’m assuming you’re not related at a distant point.

A: No, I’ve never met him, and we are not related, but I’ve got a bunch of people that have been asking me that over social media.

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7th Round – LB T.J. Brunson, 6’0”, 230lbs, N/A, University of South Carolina

Scouting Report: The 6’0”, 230-pound Brunson is an undersized inside linebacker with decent but not ideal athleticism. He is very physical and aggressive, to the point where it sometimes hurts his game. Brunson needs to play under more control and consistently wrap up as a tackler. Hard worker and team leader.

Sy’56’s Take: One of the biggest combine snubs. Bruiser that leaves a mark when he hits you, shows good tackle to tackle range. Versatile on third down because he can blitz well and carry tight ends up the seam.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on LB T.J. Brunson: The next guy is T.J. Brunson. T.J. played at South Carolina as you guys know. He’s a little bit smaller. He plays the stack Will linebacker. He’s fast, he’s really athletic, he’s got good instincts. He’s just a little bit on the small side but he plays at about 230. We feel like he will be a really good fit and also has a lot of special teams value.

Joe Judge on LB T.J. Brunson: He’s a guy you see making tackles sideline-to-sideline. He’s also a guy in South Carolina’s scheme and (Will) Mushchamp’s scheme down there isn’t the simplest. Guys have been challenged mentally being down there. They’ve been coached hard. It’s very similar to the guys we talked about playing at Georgia and Alabama. Very similar schemes, very similar cultures. He’s a guy that was out there making a lot of calls so you can see the communication element with him on the field as well as the productivity on the field.

Media Q&A with T.J. Brunson (Video):

Q: I was looking at your bio for South Carolina and a lot of things that were highlighted was tenacity, leadership…is that you?

A: Yes, sir. That’s me.

Q: Where did that come from?

A: I believe that the tenacity and everything came from just the way I was raised. I have two older brothers, so I kind of came up fighting them, wrestling around with them. I come from an athletic family, so sports have always been kind of something that we’ve done. Just growing up in that type of household, it made me competitive, it made me fierce. I just go out on the field and have fun.

Q: How long did it take you to beat them?

A: They kind of stopped once I started getting bigger. I don’t think they’ve really tried to mess with me since I’ve gotten older, but I never got a chance to.

Q: What are you doing to stay in shape, what’s your situation like amid this? Also, what were your interactions with Joe Judge before the draft and then when he called you, what was your impression of him?

A: Right now, just with working out and everything, I’ve been trying to stay within social distancing guidelines. I’ve been able to get in what I need to and stick to my routine so far. Before the draft, my only interaction with Coach Judge was at the Senior Bowl. I was lucky enough to be a participant of that and I had an interview with the Giants. That was the first interaction and I thought he was a pretty laid back guy. You know, he’s about ball and he knows what he’s talking about for sure. I’m excited to play for him and get on the team and just see what the Giants are about.

Q: What was that initial call like when you got the call that you were drafted by him? What was his message to you?

A: Really, he just asked me if I was ready to work. It was pretty simple. Let me know that they liked me, and they thought I was a good player. You know, the real message there was just come in ready to work and prove yourself.

Q: I read that you played over 2,500 snaps in college over a three-year career, which would suggest good durability on your part. Can you talk about your durability and also what are some of the roles they asked you to play within that defense?

A: When it comes to durability, I feel like I’m a guy that’s going to just be out there every game, as long as I’m healthy. But I’m a guy that’s going to do what it takes to get on the field to help my team out. That just comes with preparation and just how I take care of my body.

Q: What type of role did you play in the defense?

A: I think I was the guy that just went out there to bring energy and to play fast, but I’ve played Mike, Will and wherever else I needed to line up. There were a few times that I lined up as a single high safety and I was a middle field safety. So, wherever they need me to play, I feel like I’m comfortable and I’m able to do it.

Q: I see you were also a two-time captain. What did that mean to you to be voted captain by your peers?

A: Yes, being a two-time captain is big just for the simple fact that I was voted on by my peers. It just made me feel as if I had a stronger role to play on the team. I was definitely a guy that had to come out every day and prove myself and prove why I had those titles.

Q: As a guy who was a captain in college, seventh round pick coming in as a rookie, there is a lot of emphasis on culture in terms of what Joe Judge is trying to build. How do you come in as a rookie and try to assert that leadership role right away?

A: My only focus is getting in and doing what I’m supposed to do to help the team. I don’t have any predictions, or I don’t plan on going in there being that guy. I just want to go in there and do my job and do it to the best of my capabilities. Whatever is asked of me, I plan on doing it at full speed and just doing it the way that it should be done.

Q: Were there any alumni from South Carolina or any current pros that might have helped you out through this process, given you some advice, trained with you, or that sort of thing?

A: I’ve had a couple different guys just talk to me. Taylor Stallworth is one of those guys, they just kept me level. Dennis Daley as well. They really just kept me level to the process of training for the combine, pro day or whatever and getting ready for the draft and now we’re post-draft. It’s a little bit different this year than what they had to go through, but I think they’ve given me enough information and knowledge of what to expect that I’m pretty…I’m ready for it.

Q: I’m curious what your experience level was like in college on special teams? Do you know anybody that you’ve come across from this draft class that you’re close with? I know there are a couple of linebackers there that were all drafted late by this team…do you know each other from the pre-draft things or even college recruiting?

A: I know Cam Brown from Senior Bowl and he’s the only guy that I really know.

Q: And special teams?

A: When I came into South Carolina, I started off on special teams and that was my way of getting on the field and getting on the roster. That was also how the coaches gained their trust in the players, so whatever it took. I was out on every type of drill that they had in practice, I was going out trying to get out there first. I know that’s kind of my role and how I make this team, how I can help out and make it better. Any type of special teams, whatever they need me to do, I’m out there.

Q: What role on special teams did you like? Were there any that stood out?

A: I think my favorite is probably punt. But I don’t mind…I like kickoff, punt return. I like everything pretty much.

Q: I was reading up and saw you played basketball for a while and then gave it up. I guess the line was that you have five fouls and used them all pretty much every game. Is that fair?

A: I’m not sure where that came from. I grew up playing baseball. I’ve been a baseball player my whole life. I played…I started varsity in eighth grade, played all of the way through my senior year. But I kind of had to, just because of the way football and baseball worked, I missed a lot of travel ball and stuff because of football workouts. I decided after a while I put in so much time in football and they give full scholarships, so I decided to take the football route.

Q: Where did you play baseball? What was your favorite position?

A: I played third base. My senior year, I got moved to right field because we didn’t have any outfielders. I played third, I played first but primarily third.

Q: Were you a good hitter?

A: I’d like to think so.

Q: When was the last time you were in a cage and swung a bat?

A: Since high school.

Q: If they (Giants) have one of those charity softball games, you’ll jump in and maybe surprise us.

A: I’ll be out there, no doubt.

Q: Do you know Tae Crowder at all? I know you were picked a couple spots prior to him. Him being the last pick in the entire draft, can there be some fun element to that?

A: I haven’t had any personal conversations with him. I played against him the past couple of years. I’ve seen him play in person. I’m sure he’s a baller, I know he’s a baller for the fact that he was in the position he’s in. I was in the same position almost. I’m looking forward to working. I don’t really have much to say. I haven’t talked to him or said anything to him, but I’m excited. I know what type of guys Georgia has and I know that he is going to come out there and be a dog.

Q: You initially committed to Louisville and then flipped to South Carolina and you had somewhat of a special relationship with your head coach. Tell us a little bit about that relationship.

A: I was committed to Louisville and I took my official visit in December, I think. It just didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel like home for me. I committed to South Carolina with Coach Mushchamp. I was also Coach Muschamp’s first visit after he got the job after the press conference. Everything he told me from day one has pretty much come to fruition. Those things were just you get in here, work hard, keep your head down and you’ll see what you’re working for. Over the years, our relationship grew and I kind of understood him and what he wants in the program and things like that. It made it easier for me.

Q: What did it mean to you that you were the first recruit he went to visit after he was hired?

A: It was big to know that someone, especially a coach like that in the SEC, felt like I was important enough to go out and get to help start a team for his inaugural season. That’s going down in history, we’re his first class. It’s crazy looking back at it knowing all of our stories and how we got there and things like that.

Q: How much are you interested to see how this remote learning thing works? Are you worried about it? Do you have any experience with it? Is it a disadvantage for rookies to be learning this way? Is there disappointment in not getting onto the field at a rookie minicamp?

A: Because of everything going on right now, I think this is the best option we have. I personally don’t have an issue with it. I’d rather be up there in person. If this is how we have to get our football in, then there’s no problem with that. As far as I know from what I’ve been told, the way they have it set up, it seems like it’s going to be helpful for us. I think it’s a disadvantage for rookies not to see where they are going to be and be there in person. We’re also expected to come in and pick up what’s going on and play fast. I think this will help us when we get there. Hopefully it’s before August. If we don’t get there until August, we’re supposed to hit the ground and be able to pick up everything that’s going on. I think this gives us a chance to really understand the calls and the defense and get out there and play fast.

Q: You think if you get here by August there will be even more appreciation for playing?

A: Definitely. That’s when it will really settle in for me. Once I get a helmet on and get up there and start playing around, I think that’s when it will be real.

Q: You don’t even have any Giants gear right? Are they going to send you any Giants gear?

A: I hope so, I’m waiting on it. I’m definitely waiting on it. My dad’s a Raiders fan, my whole family is Raiders fans.

Q: You have to wear blue not black right?

A: Yeah, definitely now. We’re going to deck the house out in some blue.

Q: Playing in the SEC I’m curious who were some of the best offensive linemen? Did you ever line up opposite Andrew Thomas and what was it like going up against him?

A: We would go through the scouting reports and we know which guys are the guys for each team. I don’t think I had too many run ins with a lot of those big offensive linemen. I did my best to stay away from them. I ran into Jedrick Willis from Alabama, pretty strong guy, athletic. Isaiah (Wilson), he can move, good pick. Because it’s the SEC, you see guys week in and week, out so it’s almost hard to figure out which guy is that guy on each team when it comes to offensive line. I don’t really have much to say on that because I wasn’t on the ball with those guys.

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7th Round – CB/S Chris Williamson, 6’0”, 200lbs, 4.43, University of Minnesota

Scouting Report: The 6’0”, 200-pound Williams combines good size and overall athleticism. He has experience playing as a hybrid inside defensive back/linebacker and is physical with receivers in coverage. Williamson is aggressive in run support and will hit but he needs to play under more control.

Sy’56’s Take: One of the favorites down at Shrine week. Top shelf athletic ability but also shows the discipline to stay in phase, trusting his feet and balance. Might be an ideal fit for nickel but can play outside.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on DB Chris Williamson: Next we drafted the safety out of Minnesota, Chris Williamson. Good sized kid. He’s long, he can run and he’ll hit you.

Joe Judge on DB Chris Williamson: This is a guy who’s going to have some combination corner to safety. We call it the star position, that nickel position as well. He’ll bring some position flexibility in the defensive backfield. He’s got a good size and speed combination. We look for him to compete at multiple positions this year.

Media Q&A with Chris Williamson (Video):

Q: I’m sure for every young guy it’s a dream of a lifetime to get drafted. What was this experience like, the remote experience, and what have your interactions with the Giants been? What have they told you in what to expect going forward here?

A: To have my dream finally come true, it’s been a huge blessing. It still hasn’t truly hit me yet, just because I’ve been home. I’ve been around my family and stuff like that, but it still hasn’t truly hit me all the way. So, I’m still letting it hit me day by day. It was a good experience. I was with my dad and my brother at the time when I found out. Just to see the excitement on their faces, they know I was excited as well too. I know they were happy for me as well because it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to hear my name called in the NFL. To finally have my name called, it was just like a huge weight off my shoulders and I feel extremely humbled and blessed by the experience.

Q: Most rookies in other years would be getting ready to come to New Jersey, you’re not doing that. What do you think it’s going to be like with a virtual rookie minicamp?

A: I don’t have any expectations because I really don’t, I don’t know what to expect at this time. We’ll see how everything goes, but it’s something I’m looking forward to, most definitely.

Q: When we spoke to Joe Judge, he was talking about you playing corner, safety, sort of what they call the star position. What have been your experiences where you did play in college. When you spoke to teams where did they sort of envision you fitting in?

A: Yeah, the one thing a lot of teams talked to me about is my versatility. I have the ability to play multiple positions in the back end. Even with the Giants, they kind of talked about me doing the same thing of being able to do those multiple positions. But every team I talked to kind of had that same idea for me. I’d be a guy who’d kind of be like a Swiss Army Knife and can do multiple things on the back end.

Q: How much did you actually play safety in college and do that part of it?

A: Well, I didn’t get to play a whole bunch of safety. But actually I had a spring ball, actually when I was at Florida, where I did nothing but strictly safety. So, I’ve actually had the opportunity throughout my college career to practice at each position.

Q: I saw that right after you were drafted you got the Darius Slayton seal of approval for the pick. Tell me about your relationship with him, how far back do you guys go?

A: Man, me and Darius’ relationship, it goes back extremely far. I’ve known Darius… I mean we grew up playing football against each other, we grew up running track against each other. The biggest memory me and him have of each other is playing each other in our 9-year-old football league, the Gwinnett Football League, which is one of the top youth football leagues in Georgia. Like I was talking about earlier, we played them in the regular season and they beat us pretty bad. It was like 34-0. I know at the time they got the mercy rule as the youth football league, so they mercy ruled us. They actually beat us pretty good. Then later on in the season we got the chance to play them again in the 9-year-old football championship for the Gwinnett Football League. The funny thing about it, his team hadn’t lost a game in two to three years, so they were the best team in the league. So, they pulled up to the championship game in all white stretched-out Hummer limousines. These are 9-year-old kids now, pulling up in limousines. They were expecting to win. We played the game and we actually won the game, 14-0, so we came out on top. I mean I know it had to be kind of embarrassing pulling up in a limousine and losing. But you know, it’s something I still hold over Darius to this day.

Q: Did you get to ride the limos home at least?

A: No, we didn’t. That was their team. I don’t even think they rode the limos home (laughter).

Q: Were you always a defensive back and he was always a receiver?

A: No, I was actually an offensive guy. I grew up playing offense the majority of my life. I didn’t actually switch to defense until my senior year of high school. I was always kind of training for it, but I had never actually truly played it in a game until my senior year of high school. Actually, Darius was a corner in high school, so he kind of, I mean he was doing corner and wide receiver in high school and I guess he decided to stick with wide receiver in his college career.

Q: I was looking at your background and it looks like a lot of the decisions you made moving from wide receiver to defensive back, transferring to from Florida to Minnesota with maybe a path to the NFL in mind. Is that the case? Talk a little bit about Ray Buchanon.

A: That’s honestly where it all kind of starts. The move from wide receiver to defensive back honestly came from Ray Buchanon. I met him in the summer of eighth grade when I was training. Me and him have had an extremely close relationship up until this day. He still mentors me and I train with him every time I’m home. I was always playing receiver and I was a six-foot receiver. You can find a lot of six-foot receivers, but I was kind of a bigger defensive back. The one nugget that Ray always put in my head was you’re an average size receiver, but you’re a big defensive back that can move. There’s not too many guys who are big and can move that get paid at the next level. He was always throwing that nugget in my head. My senior year of high school was the first year I had played defensive back. I had always been training with him for defensive back, but I never truly played it in a high school game. I definitely give the credit for me making that move to Ray Bucannon.

Q: I want to follow up with Ray Buchanon, he played for a Super Bowl team in the Atlanta Falcons. What are some of the lessons he taught you? You mentioned he was very instrumental in your development. Can talk about some of the things he taught you that you feel were instrumental in getting you to the next level?

A: He was one of the first people I talked to when I was considering transferring. He has always been a person that has my best interest at heart. He always wanted what was best for me. He was a huge asset to have during that time period. The transition from wide receiver to defensive back was something he helped me with, as well. He’s had a huge role in my corner. He’s more so like a second father to me as well. Just having somebody like that who’s already played in the NFL is a huge blessing. I can still train with him, there’s a lot of things about the game he teaches me as well. Things I may not see. I have the opportunity to send him clips of film from practice and he’ll break that down for me and stuff that I did wrong. It’s a true blessing to have somebody like that in my corner.

Q: What about in terms of the little things? We talk about players taking care of their bodies and all that stuff. Things that you don’t necessarily learn at the college level. Did he share some of that with you?

A: Yeah, he always expressed to me the importance of taking care of my body. I truly learned on my own my freshman year of college. Having to go through and just deal with some of my own injuries, it was kind of something I learned on my own. He’s definitely always told me the importance of taking care of my body. Putting the right things in terms of the right fluid and food in my body as well.

Q: You said you were with your dad and your brother when you got the call. Younger brother or older brother?

A: Younger brother, he’s 19, he will be 20 this year. He actually plays ball at Stanford.

Q: What kind of background do you have on special teams? Is that something you did in college? It’s probably where you will start out with this team.

A: Most definitely. Throughout my college career I played on every single special teams and that’s something I was able to communicate with each and every team that I talked to. This past year they took a lot of our guys, a lot of our starters, and kept them off special teams. We had a lot of young guys who they wanted to get out there and see them in some smaller roles. They took a lot of our starters off special teams this year. Throughout my college career, I played every special teams so that’s not an issue at all.

Q: Are you going to room with Carter (Coughlin) when you finally do get here?

A: It’s definitely something that was discussed. It would be nice because that’s somebody that can help me. We can help each other throughout this process. That’s somebody I already know that I have had a previous relationship with, that I’ve played with. We are both on the same side of the ball and can learn the playbook together. It would be nice to room with Carter.

Q: I asked you before about remote learning. How do you think that’s going to go down? Do you think that’s going to be a big disadvantage for rookies coming in, instead of getting on the field and showing what you can do this spring? Do you have any experience with remote learning?

A: I don’t think it puts anybody at a disadvantage. Of course, every rookie that’s coming in wants to get on the field and show what they can do. Football is such a physical game, but it’s also a part of the mental makeup. Guys who are successful at the NFL level, it comes from the mental aspect of the game. We’ll be able to expand our mental part of the game and come in and maybe be more ready than just being thrown into the fire of things. We’ve had time to talk it over with coaches and stuff like that. I don’t think it puts us at a disadvantage. It might be an advantage honestly.

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7th Round – LB Tae Crowder, 6’3”, 235lbs, N/A, University of Georgia

Scouting Report: The 6’3”, 235-pound Crowder was moved from running back to linebacker in college and thus is still learning the position. Only a 1-year starter. He is a good athlete and has added size to his frame. More instinctive than you would expect given his lack of experience.

Sy’56’s Take: Leader of a talented Georgia defense that plays fast and physical. Maybe more of a 2-down guy that the team drafted for special teams, the theme of their 7th round.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on LB Tae Crowder: The last guy who in former days of the NFL draft was called Mr. Irrelevant Tae Crowder, the linebacker out of Georgia. He was a running back early, they converted him. He’s a 245-pound kid that runs 4.6 and plays 4.6. He’s got some versatility and some value and definitely has some special teams value.

Joe Judge on LB Tae Crowder: This is a guy that’s only played a couple years at linebacker. We see a lot of upside with him. Both in his physical skills as well as his emerging defensive understanding. He’ll come in and compete for positions at that Will linebacker spot as well as give impact to the kicking game. We think we added a very competitive group over these last few days. We think today we brought in a lot of guys with versatility and speed.

Media Q&A with Tae Crowder:

Q: I read that there were a lot of teams that were interested in you as an undrafted free agent. What was that whole process at the end when the Giants announced that they were going to pick you? What was that moment like where maybe you were thinking you weren’t going to get drafted?

A: It was a crazy moment, you know. It was really stressful. A lot of teams were kind of saying the same things. It came down to who I thought was the best. But New York was one of them and they ended up pulling the trigger. I just thank God for that.

Q: What was that moment like when they did announce your name and you knew you were a draft pick?

A: It was crazy just because I was already planning on signing for free agency. That whole process, I can’t even explain how it felt but my family was happy, I was happy and that’s all that matters.

Q: What’s the difference between getting drafted and becoming a free agent? Are you familiar with the Mr. Irrelevant concept and can you have a little bit of fun with it?

A: Obviously I can now that I read up on it, but at first, I knew about Mr. Irrelevant but I didn’t know all of the stuff that came with it. It’s pretty special for me and my family. We’ll have fun with it.

Q: I think the guy usually gets a parade and things like that. I don’t know if they are going to be able to do that this year, but did you get anything from this honor?

A: Yeah, so they called me right after the draft and we kind of talked about everything, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to actually do it. I think they’ll reach out to me, I guess, when everything clears up. We’ll just have to find a way to plan it with my family.

Q: Just to clarify, were you going to sign with the Giants? That was a team you had chosen?

A: I don’t know who I was going to sign with at the moment, but I just thank God that they pulled the trigger and drafted me.

Q: I was doing some research on you and I saw that you had a rather interesting path to get to where you are. You started off at Georgia Southern and then you switched over to Georgia and you were initially recruited, I think, as a running back. Can you just walk us through that journey and how you kind of got from point A to where you are now?

A: Yeah, so I was committed to Georgia Southern for a while and I was going to end up switching to the University of Kentucky late, but I always knew I wanted to go to Georgia. I was having conversations with different people trying to figure out some things and trying to see if Georgia was going to ever offer me. But the week of signing day, that’s when I ended up finding out they wanted to give me the offer. They gave me the offer like two days or a day prior to signing day. That whole time was stressful for me, too, but that’s how I ended up going to Georgia.

Q: How did they flip you from running back, which I believe they initially recruited you as, to linebacker? How did that come about?

A: I was just on scout team at practice, just working hard, and my coach ended up noticing it just going against the number one defense, making plays, he saw that I was an athlete and that I should be on the field. He reached out to me, we had a meeting, and he was like he sees me as a linebacker and stuff like that, as a defensive player. We just had a one-day tryout, and at that tryout I ended up doing pretty good and I stayed there from then.

Q: I know you’re excited to be drafted and all, but there are some that believe if you get that low in the draft it’s actually better to have the option of being a free agent to choose your own place. Did that thought ever cross your mind, leaving the draft?

A: Yeah, my agent was talking about it the whole time. Like I said, we were already planning on doing free agent stuff. It worked out for me though. I can’t complain about getting drafted and coming to a great organization. Like I said, I’m just truly blessed for this.

Q: What is the difference between being the last pick in the draft in terms of what it means to you just to be drafted versus being a free agent? In terms of money there is a little bit of a difference, but what does it mean to be drafted?

A: It means a lot to me and my family and my community. I’m one of the first ones from my town to get drafted and that’s pretty big where I’m from. I’m from a small town, many people don’t make it from here. It brought the city out, they have my name hanging up in different places and stuff like that. It was a blessing and a dream come true for me.

Q: Can you be more specific about what kind of things were hanging in town? Did they have some banners hanging up for you and things like that?

A: Yeah, they had some banners. At the high school, they had a program with my name on there saying, ‘Congrats Tae Crowder, NFL Draft 2020’. Stuff like that.

Q: That wouldn’t have happened if you were a free agent, right?

A: We’ll never know.

Q: Can you talk about your teammate in college who will be your teammate in the NFL (Andrew Thomas)?

A: Andrew Thomas is a great player, a great person. He takes his work serious, he’s just a great kid. Football and off the field stuff is really important to him, and I respect him for that. I loved each day at practice in college just going to work with him, helping him lead the team and stuff like that. I highly respect my teammate Andrew Thomas.

Q: Did you go up against him a lot in practice?

A: Yeah, we went up against each other a few times and he was pretty good.

Q: You could have been running behind him instead of going up against him.

A: You’re right about that. I think I would rather run behind him.

Q: You went against Sony Michel and Nick Chubb in practice a lot. Can you just talk about the challenges and what that taught? How did that help you find your skills as a linebacker?

A: Just being in the room with them as a running back, it was crazy switching sides. From running drills with them to now I have to run drills against him. It just made me better as a young linebacker going against great athletes like them. It was fun, sometimes it was tough moving to linebacker and going against them. They were first round and second round picks. It paid off and it made me better.

Q: You are being reunited with quote unquote your “dogs”, Lorenzo Carter and DeAndre Baker. What does that mean to be reunited with them on the same defense? What can you guys bring together with that Georgia Bulldog mentality?

A: It’s just a dream come true. We know how each other works. It will be fun catching up, going to work with them and being on the field with each other once again.

Q: Can you describe what kind of a player you are? Can you play Will, Sam, can you cover running backs? Can you give me a handle on that?

A: I’m an aggressive player, a disciplined player. A hard-working player and I like to make plays for the team. I can play Sam, I can play Will and Mike. I’m pretty good in coverage. I love to fit the run and I love to cover backs too.

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Rookie Free Agent Scouting Reports

QB Case Cookus, 6’3”, 221lbs, 4.83, Northern Arizona University (Video)
Cookus had a promising collegiate career derailed with season-ending injuries in 2016 and 2018. Gunslinger who has been super-productive when he plays.

RB Javon Leake, 6’0”, 215lbs, 4.71, University of Maryland (Video)
Leake was a junior entry and rotational starter at Maryland. He is much faster than he timed at the Combine. Slashing, cut-and-go running back with good size. He is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball. Leake is not a physical runner and he was rarely used in the passing game in college. Leake also returns kickoffs. He has had fumbling issues.

WR Binjimen Victor, 6’4”, 198lbs, 4.56, Ohio State University (Video)
Victor was a 4-year rotational player at Ohio State. Tall and slender, Victor can leap and has a huge catch radius. He is a natural athlete and pass catcher who can make big plays and highlight-reel catches. He needs to play with more consistency. He also has to prove he can defeat NFL press coverage.

WR Austin Mack, 6’1”, 208lbs, 4.59, Ohio State University (Video)
Mack was a rotational player at Ohio State. Muscular wideout with good size. He is more of a possession receiver, but he is a natural pass receiver who can make the tough grab.

WR Derrick Dillon, 5’11’, 185lbs, 4.47, LSU (Video)
Dillon is a smaller, speedy wide receiver with limited collegiate production. He has had some big plays in big games.

WR/TE Rysen John, 6’7”, 237lbs, 4.65, Simon Fraser University (Video)
John has an intriguing combination of size and athletic ability. He could be used at a number of different positions including wide receiver, tight end, and H-Back.

TE Kyle Markway, 6’4”, 252lbs, 4.79, University of South Carolina (Video)
Markway has a good frame and long arms. Better blocker than receiver. Markway won’t threaten a defense as a receiver due to his athletic limitations, but he can catch the football.

OC/OG Kyle Murphy, 6’3”, 316lbs, 5.34, University of Rhode Island (Video)
Murphy was a 3-year starter in college with experience all along the offensive line. Team leader. Murphy moves well with good agility.

OC/OG Tyler Haycraft, 6’3”, 295lbs, University of Louisville (Video)
Tough, gritty, smart player with decent athleticism.

DE/LB Niko Lalos, 6’5”, 268lbs, 4.82, Dartmouth College (Video)
Lalos played defensive end in college but could project to outside linebacker at the pro level.

LB Dominique Ross, 6’4”, 228lbs, University of North Carolina
Ross played a hybrid nickelback/linebacker role in college where he was used both in coverage and as a blitzer.

LB Dana Levine, 6’3”, 235lbs, 4.82, Temple University (Video)
Levine played defensive end in college but projects to outside linebacker at the pro level. Tough guy who flashes explosiveness, but he needs to play off of blocks better.

LB Oluwole Betiku, Jr., 6’3”, 249lbs, 4.69, University of Illinois (Video)
Levine played defensive end in college but projects to outside linebacker at the pro level. Tough guy who flashes explosiveness, but he needs to play off of blocks better.

CB Malcolm Elmore, 5’11”, 186lbs, 4.48, Central Methodist University

CB Christian Angulo, 6’2”, 190lbs, Hampton University (Video)

S Jaquarius Landrews, 5’11”, 196lbs, 4.43, Mississippi State University (Video)

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Eric’s Take on the 2020 Draft

Firmly ensconced in the franchise’s darkest period since the 1964-1980 nadir, the New York Giants entered the 2020 NFL draft with significant needs virtually at every position. That is not surprising for a team with a 12-36 record over the span of the last three seasons. This was Dave Gettleman’s third draft as New York’s head man and Chris Pettit’s second draft as the team’s Director of College Scouting. The new voice in the room was first-year Head Coach Joe Judge as Gettleman whiffed badly on his first coaching choice to turn the Giants around, Pat Shurmur.

Approaching the draft, media and fan focus was almost exclusively centered on whether the Giants should draft linebacker Isaiah Simmons or an offensive linemen with their first pick. Further debate ensued on whether the Giants should trade down and acquire additional selections and which offensive linemen was the best prospect. The choice would have been obvious had the Giants not defeated the Redskins in overtime in Week 16. The Giants would have walked away with Chase Young, but alas that was not to be.

The Giants entered the draft with 10 picks, though that was a bit misleading as only three of those selections were within the top 100 slots. The rest of the selections all came on day three, with four of those being in the final round. Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants did not trade once, either up or down, during the entire 3-day affair.

Overall, this was one of the team’s most fascinating drafts in recent memory. All 10 picks were focused on the offensive line, secondary, and linebacking corps. No offensive skill positions were selected. No defensive linemen were selected. Three of the first five selections were on offense, but seven players were taken on defense, including the last five picks. This was a bread-and-butter, no frills draft completely concentrated on only three areas.

The first three picks went pretty much as expected with the Bengals taking Joe Burrow, the Redskins taking Chase Young, and the Lions taking Jeff Okudah. Would the Giants take Simmons, one of the offensive tackles, or trade down? My personal preference was for the Giants to trade down a few spots and then select one of the tackles. I think Simmons will be a very good player, but I wondered if he would be a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type who really didn’t have a true NFL position. Time will tell as Simmons was selected four picks later by the Cardinals.

Regarding trading down, Gettleman said afterwards, “We had conversations, but everyone was touchy-feely, maybe yes, maybe no. There were no firm offers anywhere. There is nothing that made me look at John Mara and Joe (Judge) and say let’s trade back and get some more picks. There really wasn’t much there… There wasn’t a lot of action.”

So somewhat predictably, the Giants stood pat and selected Andrew Thomas. When the pick was announced, I breathed a sigh of relief. Knock on wood, but Thomas was probably one of the safest selections in this draft. The word “safe” often has a negative meaning when discussing draft prospects, but not in this case. Despite what some have argued, Thomas’ upside is significant. Despite just turning 21 in January, Thomas is an enormous young man. He looks and plays bigger than his listed size (6’5”, 315lbs) with a huge base and tree trunk arms. He is a very good athlete and the only guy among the top four who everyone believed could handle left tackle at the pro level. A lot of people preferred Tristan Wirfs, but Wirfs’ best natural position may be guard. (Wirfs was selected nine picks later by Tampa Bay AFTER Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton).

In hindsight, if the Giants felt there was a significant gap between Thomas and the other three, it is fortunate they stayed pat. According to NJ.com, the Browns, Colts, Dolphins, Chargers, Cardinals, and Panthers had Thomas rated as the top tackle. Thomas also wowed everyone at the NFL Combine during the interview process. So the Giants are not only getting a top talent, but someone who everyone was impressed with personally in terms of his character and ability to learn the NFL game.

Entering the second round on day two, a number of still-available defensive prospects stood out like sore thumbs. This included DL Yetur Gross-Matos, DL A.J. Epenesa, S Xavier McKinney, S Grant Delpit, and a few others. Some thought the Giants may dive into the WR-rich draft at this point or maybe reach for a center. But need-value seemed to strongly suggest defense and it was no surprise that the Giants picked McKinney, who they even tried to trade up for as they considered him a 1st-round talent. (Charley Casserly claims that he knows at least 12 teams felt the same way). The other option here was to trade down and try to bridge the huge gap between the Giants’ picks at 36 and 99. But it is interesting to note that THREE safeties went in the next nine picks, including the Patriots selecting a safety right after the Giants took McKinney, who many regarded as the best safety in the draft.

I saw some Giants fans react negatively to this pick by claiming that safety wasn’t a big need. With all due respect to these individuals, you’re nuts. Safety has been a huge need on this team for years and safety play is one of the major reasons why this team has only won 12 games in three years. It was not only a need, it was a gigantic need. I also don’t agree with those who say McKinney is only a strong safety. In Nick Saban’s defense, McKinney split his time equally between three positions: 285 snaps in the box, 271 snaps at free safety, and 227 snaps in the slot. Saban is not having a subpar athlete playing in the slot and at free safety – not on that team and in that pro-style defense. When people look at McKinney, I think they see an aggressive, physical player who makes a lot big hits and plays around the line of scrimmage, assume that is the strength of his game (which it is), but then also assume he can’t do other things (which he can). Another phrase kept coming up when people described McKinney: “alpha dog.” Boy, do the Giants need that kind of guy on defense! Big picture, the Giants now have two interchangeable athletes at safety in Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham can keep offenses guessing as to who will be playing where as both can move up or back as designed. The days of Curtis Riley and Antoine Bethea are over.

Because of Gettleman’s odd and still controversial decision to trade for pending free agent DL Leonard Williams during a losing season, the Giants were without their own #3 draft pick and had to wait 63 picks for their next selection at the end of the 3rd round (really 4th round when you consider how all of these compensatory picks have diluted rounds 3-7). Stating the obvious, round 3 has not been kind to the Giants, although to be fair, the team has done better under Gettleman in this round. On the surface, the selection of Matt Peart appears to be an excellent one. Peart was widely regarded as one of the best offensive tackle prospects in this draft. He’s another big, athletic tackle with incredibly long arms who just looks the part. Both Thomas and Peart move effortlessly for big men, they make it look easy at times. And despite being 310lbs, Peart actually looks like he can add another 20 pounds easy to his frame. Other than level of competition concerns (UConn), the biggest negative I’ve seen on him is that he needs to play with more nastiness. That can be an issue. This game is not for the faint of heart. Unless the Giants dump Nate Solder (unlikely given the fact they have already given him his $3 million roster bonus and the uncertainty of training camp with the COVID situation), Peart will likely sit for a year before contending for a starting tackle spot in 2021.

Despite my nagging concern for a center, I had no issues with Darnay Holmes in the 4th round. I think a lot of fans reacted by saying, “Why cornerback? Gettleman already acquired James Bradberry, Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, and Corey Ballentine!” Yes, but none those guys have proven they can handle slot corner, which is an entirely different skill set and a de facto starter in today’s NFL. Holmes was an outside corner at UCLA whose skill set screams slot corner. I will say this, Holmes was the one guy who people were all over the board about. Some people love him (Bucky Brooks felt he was the #1 slot corner in the draft). Others were less enthusiastic. Interestingly, Chris Pettit actually singled Holmes out as one of the guys he was most excited who the Giants drafted (see his comments at the 5-minute mark). If you believe slot corner is a start position in the NFL, the Holmes has a very good chance to be the third immediate starter coming out of this draft. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs. He’s also supposed to be an incredibly smart guy.

In terms of value and need, Shane Lemieux may be my favorite selection in this draft. To get him in the 5th round was a major steal. It was not too long ago when Lemieux was considered one of the top OL prospects in the entire draft. While he may not have the ideal athleticism that teams crave, NFL rosters are historically filled with big, tough, strong, smart linemen like Lemieux who will knock the snot out of you. Lemieux is built like a prototypical NFL guard. Just as importantly, he plays the position like you want your interior linemen to play. I think he’s a future starter in this league (which would be incredible for a 5th-round pick) and he began cross-training as a center before the Giants even selected him. Don’t be shocked if he’s our starting center as a rookie. If he can’t make the transition to center, I think he’s an eventual starter at guard.

The last five picks are a bit of a blur and merge together for Giants fans as four of them were linebackers. At this point of the draft, even though they technically were in the 6th and 7th round, due to the ridiculous number of compensatory picks, these really are what used to be 7th round/undrafted free agents. Just keep that in mind when evaluating these selections.

Linebacker was an obvious area of need, but fans who were crying for a center, wide receiver, running back, or tight end were not happy with four being picked. It’s a valid complaint. But if you pay millions of dollars to your scouts to pick the best players, you have to trust your board and take those guys who you think have the best chance to make an NFL roster. They Giants may be wrong, but they have to trust their process.

As one linebacker after another was picked, I kept reminding myself that Joe Judge is a special teams coach and the heart of any special teams unit is always the back-up linebackers and defensive backs. The Giants last five picks were four linebackers and safety. The best way for all five of these players to make the team will be to excel on special teams. Beyond that, two of the linebackers really stick out to me but for different reasons. I don’t know too many 6’5”, 230-pound coverage linebackers but that’s what Cam Brown is. And again, the phrase “Alpha dog” was tossed around when describing his character. I don’t get the sense that he was a throw-a-way pick at all for the Giants and that Graham has a plan for him as a role player. Carter Coughlin is also an interesting guy. While he’s not a dynamic athlete, he’s better than advertised and has the look of one of those players who hangs around the NFL for a long time. Carter has the intangibles that all teams look for. He’s also very tight with Ryan Connelly.

Regarding Chris Williamson, Petitt also mentioned that he was one of the late draft picks who he was particularly excited about. (See 5:30 mark).

A cursory look at the 15 undrafted free agents suggests the Giants may have found a few who may have a legitimate shot at a roster spot. Who knows if he can make it, but I love the way Kyle Murphy plays. Watch. You don’t think an undrafted guard can make a difference? Tell that to Rich Seubert, one of my all-time favorites. The two OSU receivers have a legitimate shot. Both were lost in the shuffle at a WR-rich school. Ben Victor reminds me a little bit of a poor man’s Plaxico Burress. Austin Mack will never wow you, but he’s a reliable guy who I could see the coaches liking. Kyle Markway was versatile blocker at South Carolina and those kind of guys can surprise (think Rhett Ellison in Minnesota). Javon Leake is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball and returns kickoffs. But he has to play with more toughness.

Overall, gun to my head, I honestly think the Giants got three starting offensive linemen in one draft. If so, that’s incredible. Andrew Thomas has the chance to be the best Giants’ left tackle of my lifetime, and that includes Jumbo Elliott. (Though don’t be shocked if he starts off at RT as a rookie, just like Elliott). Peart may need some time on the bench, but I’d be surprised if he is not starting by next year. You know what I think about Lemieux.

Gettleman has loaded up on defensive backs via trade, free agency, and the draft the past two years. The backfield had better be set! Again, it appears the Giants still added two starters in this draft with Xavier McKinney at free safety and Darnay Holmes at slot corner (also he may be the returner). If the Giants really got five eventual starters out of one draft, that’s a home run. Time will tell.

As for the last five picks, these were all late round/free agent types. If any of them have a career longer than a couple of seasons, that’s just icing on the cake.

Regrets? Always. The Giants didn’t draft a true center and have to count on Nick Gates, Lemieux, Kyle Murphy, or Tyler Haycraft being able to make the transition to the position. The Giants didn’t get a dynamic edge rusher and will have to wait until next year for that. Same with adding another top-flight wide receiver. But the Giants were a bad team with only three top 100 picks. There was only so much they could do.

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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.