Apr 282022
 
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New York Giants 2022 NFL Draft Review

Round Pick in Round Overall Selection Player Selected Video
1 5 5 Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux (Video)
1 7 7 OT Evan Neal (Video)
2 11 43 WR Wan’Dale Robinson (Video)
3 3 67 OG/OT Joshua Ezeudu (Video)
3 17 81 CB Cor’Dale Flott (Video)
4 7 112 TE Daniel Bellinger (Video)
4 9 114 S Dane Belton (Video)
5 3 146 LB Micah McFadden (Video)
5 4 147 DL D.J. Davidson (Video)
5 30 173 OG Marcus McKethan (Video)
6 3 182 LB Darrian Beavers (Video)

2022 Draft Pick Scouting Reports

1st Round – Edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, 6’4”, 254lbs, 4.58, University of Oregon

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Junior entry from South Central Los Angeles. Three-year starter that came out of school as a topflight, 5-star recruit and delivered. Earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors all three years, won the 2020 Morris Trophy, and landed on both the 2020 and 2021 All American squads. Thibodeaux has a long, explosive frame that can bend in and out of small creases with tremendous power and strength. His lockout game combined with a strong initial burst consistently gives him initial positional advantages on blockers. Sometimes, that alone is good enough as he can work through the shoulder of a blocker with consistent ease whether he is rushing the passer or defending the run. He is equally productive against both. Where Thibodeaux struggles, however, is when he is matched up against pro-caliber size and power when it comes to secondary rush moves. He needs to show more technique refinement and continue to try and strengthen his base, which plays small and gets too narrow at times. His lack of body control will cause issues as well when it comes to reaction-based action. His tool set is top shelf, but he is far from a finished product and will need to fix a lot prior to being labeled a dependable player.

*I am going to try and not make this too long because the Thibodeaux fans get really offended, really easily. First off: I have 800+ grades on my master sheet along with another 400+ “training camp body” labels. Thibdodeaux is in the top 15. So yes, I do like him, and I do project him to be a very good football player in the NFL. A starter with high, sky-high, upside. There is some Harold Landry in his game. That said, I do not see him being the All-Pro or even perennial Pro Bowl type. When it comes to the “effort” shortcomings, this is NOT a guy that walks up and down the field. He does NOT play with the “I don’t care” label. There is more to effort than sheer hustle, however.

My issues with Thibodeaux revolve around what he did against his best competition. If he lost initially, if he got locked onto, I did not see the secondary moves. I didn’t see the secondary wiggle to try and re-gain a position. The contrast between him and the other top 5 edge guys in the class in that department is obvious. He also had too many dumb penalties. When it isn’t easy for him (he matched up against some awful OTs), he got frustrated and immature. He didn’t pin his ears back and elevate his game. To me, that is effort and mental toughness that just isn’t there. It is a crucial, borderline vital trait to playing the edge.

That is where I left it with him. And then hearing how he talks about himself and a contract. I have a saying “…he works at his craft like he is above it all already…” simply rubs me the wrong way. Enough that I would be too nervous to use #5 or #7 on him with the other guys available. That is all.

Joe Schoen’s Take:We’re ecstatic with the two players we got, obviously getting Kayvon Thibodeaux, a really good pass rusher at five, we are excited about that. Thought of getting him there with Azeez (Ojulari) on the other side and the pass rush is important to us, so two young pass rushers on the team now that we are definitely excited about…He’s a very outgoing individual. He’s got a lot of personality. I’m sure you guys will enjoy your time with him meeting him, but a really good kid, likable kid, works hard…Also with Kayvon, he had a serious ankle injury. And a lot of people, with his draft status and draft stock, could have hung it up and said, we’ll call it a season and I’m not going to play anymore. He fought back. And we talked to several people at the school, and he worked his way back and practiced, and a lot of people — he didn’t necessarily need to do that.” (Full Transcript)

Brian Daboll’s Take:Kayvon is quick off the ball. I think he has a wide variety of pass rush moves, but he can also set an edge for us on our defense, and it’s no secret we play multiple schemes with Wink as our defensive coordinator, and we envision Kayvon being able to do a lot of different things for us. He’s going to have to come in here and earn it, but a productive player the time he’s been at Oregon.” (Full Transcript)

Media Q&A with Kayvon Thibodeaux: (Full Transcript)


1st Round – OT Evan Neal, 6’7”, 337lbs, 5.04, University of Alabama

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Junior entry from Okeechobee, Florida. Three-year starter at three different positions (LG, RT, LT). A 2019 Freshman All American that ended his career as a 2nd Team All American and 1st Team All SEC honoree. Neal, a team captain, is lauded by both the on-field coaches and support staff inside the walls. His attention to detail, intelligence, and work ethic have helped him deliver on his 5-star recruit profile out of high school. The fact he started right away as a true freshman for Nick Saban along the offensive line, a rarity, and progressed each season of his 3-year career while playing 3 different positions speaks volumes about his mental game. The obvious with Neal is the elite physical tools. His size is second to none, his power comes easy and natural, and the explosion within his blocking can put him in a rare tier of offensive line prospects. He did struggle with consistency throughout his career, as he showed low body awareness in several situations. He often oversets, leading to balance and control issues. Defenders were able to shake him off too many times. Neal’s upside is as high as it gets but the constant new-position he dealt with every year may have thrown off some important development. That versatility may help his outlook to some teams but once he is drafted, his true value will come when he settles into a position. Neal can eventually be one of the best linemen in the game.

*Prior to the start of the year, I had nearly no-doubt Neal was going to finish in the 90+ tier. But this is where you have to toss pre-conceived notions out the window when watching the tape. The truth is, Neal did not take a step forward. There are shortcomings within his skill set that arose weekly. The positive? These are all very correctable issues, and we see them corrected all the time. He has some of the same issues that Tristan Wirfs did coming out of Iowa in 2020. Wirfs was my OT1 in that class with a similar grade and is now an All-Pro. Neal can get on that path just as quickly, but I think he needs to settle into a position and remain there for a couple years. That hasn’t been the case since he was a high schooler. NYG would be an ideal destination for him. Insert him into the RT spot week 1 and they could have a top tier OT pair within a year or two. I would be excited to get this kid in blue.

Joe Schoen’s Take:Evan Neal, again, I’m sure it will come up, but starting off we’ll be putting him at right tackle. Obviously, we really like his versatility, 40 career starts in three different spots in the SEC, only missed one game in his career with COVID. So both 21 years old, young players, both still have upside to develop.” (Full Transcript)

Brian Daboll’s Take:Evan has played multiple positions. He’s long — it takes a guy the long route to go to the quarterback. He’s got long arms. He’s a big, massive man, played multiple positions, had a lot of people down at Alabama that I trust and had a lot confidence in him and had a lot of good things to say about him and along with (offensive line coaches) Bobby Johnson and Tony Sparano, the guys that have looked at him, we thought very highly of him.” (Full Transcript)

Media Q&A with Evan Neal: (Full Transcript)


2nd Round – Wan’Dale Robinson, 5’8”, 178lbs, 4.38, University of Kentucky

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Junior entry from Frankfort, KY. Spent two seasons at Nebraska before transferring to Kentucky for the 2021 season. Honorable Mention All-Big 10 in both 2019 and 2020, second team All-SEC in 2021. Robinson has been a hybrid receiver/running back from the start of his career and will give an NFL offense the opportunity to create a big-time playmaker out of him. He has the well-balanced athletic ability and overall skill set to do multiple things, align from different spots, and create on his own. He is much more than an undersized, underneath threat that can occasionally take a jet sweep. He has had a lot of success in the deep passing game and plays with the kind of competitive fire that an at least somewhat make up for the lack of ideal size. Because he has lined up all over the offense, Robinson is a little rough around the edges when it comes release and route nuances, but all can be corrected in time. He is a big play threat every time he gets on the field no matter where he lines up.

*Robinson is a guy I have a feeling about. The quickness and burst he has the instant he touches the ball is exactly what gets overlooked by many when looking at measurables. He has the knack to find creases immediately. He is also one tough, strong dude that understands he can use the diminutive frame to his advantage, as a weapon. He is a gadget player, not someone that is always on the field. An argument can be made that only an established offense should be using a pick on a guy like this. I would not agree. Robinson is someone that can make things happen on his own. He can create big plays from nothing and that is what a growing offense needs. Robinson will make grown men hold their breath every time he gets the ball. The way Daboll used Isaiah McKenzie in Buffalo is a nice template: 77 catches – 27 rushes – 21 punt returns – 29 kick returns since 2019. I see Robinson being a better version of that. Keep an eye here.

Joe Schoen’s Take:Good football player we’ve had our eye on, generator with the ball in his hands, very good run after the catch, very good route runner, can separate. And for what we are going to do offensively, we thought he would be a very good fit for us…He’s a generator when the ball is in his hands. He can run after a catch. He can separate from DBs, he gets open. He played some running back at Nebraska (before he transferred). That’s a versatile piece you can use in your offense. If you look at some of the other guys, how you can use them, and if you look at Daboll’s past or you look at Kafka’s past in terms of the creativeness in their offense and the weapons they can utilize, I think you can kind of see what the vision may look like.(Full Transcript)

Brian Daboll’s Take:Versatile, got quickness, explosiveness, he’s tough even for a smaller guy. Been a very productive player really going back to high school when he played there in Kentucky. So a guy we’re anxious to get our hands on and work with and implement into our scheme…I think he can play inside, and I think he’s strong enough and fast enough, even though he’s a smaller, shorter guy, that he can contribute outside, too…What we’re trying to do is put as many generating pieces out there to create pace and stretch the field, whether it be vertical or horizontally, and this is another good guy that has ability to run after catch, which is an important aspect of it.(Full Transcript)

Media Q&A with Wan’Dale Robinson: (Full Transcript)


3rd Round – OG/OT Joshua Ezeudu, 6’4”, 308lbs, 5.19, University of North Carolina

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Fourth-year junior entry from Lawrenceville, GA. Three-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-ACC honors in 2021, second-team in 2020. Because of injuries and inconsistent play throughout the entire line, Ezeudu was moved around often. Throughout his career he played every spot along the line with some of his best tape coming from his snaps at left tackle. His top position will be inside at guard but that kind of versatility can boost his stock a bit. Ezeudu excels with his hands and displays quick feet, always a good place to start. The natural top-end athletic ability is limited, however, and it shows up when he needs to adjust laterally. His knee bend is inconsistent and there is a recoil in his reaction-times because of it. If he can improve some lower body techniques, there are some quality traits to work with.

*When looking to add offensive linemen early day three, I love the idea of getting a guy that has credible experience and ability at multiple spots. There is no question Ezeudu projects best to guard, but I do think he could be a swing tackle if needed. So many teams have depth issues there. You see a guy or two go down with an injury and all of the sudden the entire offense needs to change. Ezeudu looks pro ready on most levels. His movement just seems a step too slow right now but I think he is better than over half the backups in the league right now. Throw in the versatility and I think it is a brilliant pick if he can be had in the right slot.

Joe Schoen’s Take:So Josh Ezeudu out of North Carolina, a player we liked obviously. History of playing multiple spots on the offensive line. He’s got guard-tackle flex. Again, we’ll bring him in, I’m not sure, not going to say exactly where we’re going to start him, but we like the versatility that he can play guard, he can play tackle, compete to start probably inside, with outside flex…Impressive (at switching spots). He’s impressive. It’s rare. I was fortunate enough to see him play live twice this year, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh. He’s a big man, and it’s impressive. Again, he could play multiple spots not only on a week-to-week basis but within a game, within drives. So it’s very impressive, and he’s an outstanding kid. You guys will like getting to know him.” (Full Transcript)

Media Q&A with Joshua Ezeudu: (Full Transcript)


3rd Round – Cor’Dale Flott, 6’0”, 175lbs, 4.40, LSU

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Junior entry from Saraland, AL. Two-year starter that saw time outside and at nickel. Cousin to fellow draft prospect Velus Jones, a wide receiver from Tennessee. Flott is a smooth mover that gets in and out of his breaks with no wasted motion. He plays faster than he times because of it. He lacks a physical presence on contact and there is not much of a frame to build on. Because of that, Flott will need to be near-flawless when it comes to route anticipation and reaction. He will likely project as a backup nickel that can see the field in deeper sub packages. He has some safety type traits against the pass only as well. He may be a guy without a true position and I’m not sure I see a ton of special teams upside.

Joe Schoen’s Take:Cor’Dale Flott is a guy we liked out of LSU, athletic kid, versatility, play inside, outside. Both kids we spent a lot of time with throughout the spring, and we’re happy to have them…I think position one, ideally, he’s inside, but he can play inside and outside. He has height, and he does have length. And again, the kid is 20 years old. I believe he turns 21 in August or September…So still young, still developing. Three-year guy at LSU that played in a really talented backfield and a good conference. We’re excited. He’s got really good movement skills to play inside, but with the size and length, can play outside as well.” (Full Transcript)

Media Q&A with Cor’Dale Flott: (Full Transcript)


4th Round – TE Daniel Bellinger, 6’5”, 253lbs, 4.63, San Diego State University

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Senior entry from Las Vegas, NV. Three-year starter than earned Honorable Mention All-Mountain West honors in 2020. Bellinger has the tool set and ability to play the traditional Y tight end spot. While his skill set is more receiver-friendly, he does show enough upside and ability to create impact as a blocker. He plays a twitchy, sudden game and understands his role well. Bellinger may not have the man-strength quite yet to have a big role, but he should fill the back end of a depth chart early on. He is a plus-athlete with some sneaky upside to him when it comes to getting open and making things happen after the catch.

*It would not surprise me one bit to see Bellinger sneak into the end of round two. The triangle numbers are really solid, and he didn’t drop a single ball over his last two seasons. I just wish he got more looks in the passing game at San Diego State. He will likely be a year two guy at earliest because he had a hard time with defensive linemen in the Mountain West. I think NFL guys will eat him early on.

Joe Schoen’s Take:Daniel Bellinger was our first pick today, tight end out of San Diego State. A guy that we liked, size, speed, athleticism, should be able to help us on special teams, was in Senior Bowl, was at his pro day, too, and a guy we’ve liked throughout the process.” (Full Transcript)

Media Q&A with Daniel Bellinger: (Full Transcript)


4th Round – S Dane Belton, 6’1”, 205lbs, 4.43, University of Iowa

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Junior entry from Tampa, FL. Two-year starter that earned All Big-10 honors in both 2020 and 2021, first team in 2021. Belton played a hybrid safety/linebacker role that saw him involved in the box more often than not. He has a sturdy, strong frame with plus-power and straight line speed. He factors well in pursuit sideline to sideline and had a high success rate as a tackler. Belton started to turn a corner as a junior in coverage. He showed quality ball skills and plus-body control out of his breaks. He shows minimal wasted motion once he made up his mind. He can get into trouble when trying to forecast routes and throws, as he seems a step behind mentally and shows tightness in his hips laterally. He projects as a nickel or dime safety that can creep up toward the line and he will be a weapon on special teams.

Joe Schoen’s Take:Dane Belton, another guy we liked, the versatility in the player, he’s got ball skills, he can play from depth and down in the box, can pay nickel.” (Full Transcript)

Media Q&A with Dane Belton: (Full Transcript)


5th Round – LB Micah McFadden, 6’1”, 240lbs, 4.75, Indiana University

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Senior entry from Tampa, FL. Three-year starter that earned honorable mention All-Big 10 honors in 2019, first team in 2020, second team in 2021. Also a third team All-American in 2019. McFadden is a well-put together, quick and sudden linebacker that flies all over the field and brings a high success rate as a tackler. He can defend the inside run with stout power and will get to the sideline against the outside running game. He excels in pursuit. McFadden does have the occasional lapse in concentration and will over-pursue his intentions, leaving him vulnerable and top heavy. He does not factor well in man coverage, as his hip tightness and eager mentality can be easy to toy with. He projects as a solid special teamer that could develop into a rotational inside linebacker in a 3-4 front.

Joe Schoen’s Take:Micah McFadden from Indiana, another guy with very good size, speed. He was a captain, he’s athletic. I think he’ll help us out. He can play inside, outside, and he’s a good blitzer as well. Again, another versatile piece.” (Full Transcript)

Media Q&A with Micah McFadden: (Full Transcript)


5th Round – DL D.J. Davidson, 6’3”, 327lbs, 5.20, Arizona State University

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Fifth year senior from Mesa, AZ. Took an additional year off between high school and college. Three-year starter that earned second team All-Pac 12 honors in 2021. Davidson will best project to a zero-tech in a 3-4 front. There, his natural power and ability to two-gap will be used most effectively. In an even front, he will not offer much as a pass rusher, but he could fit into a situational role as well. Davidson can play with quick feet in addition to a hard-to-move presence against the run. He has a natural sense to feel blocks and flow to the ball. He needs to work on lower body bend and techniques so his pad level can be better. The lack of leverage wins will eat him up at the next level. Davidson needs to fully buy into fixing his body and skill set for a couple years before he can be trusted.

Joe Schoen’s Take:D.J. Davidson, see him more as a nose, out of Arizona State, be a good depth player that has some upside. We are excited about working with him inside, again, trying to add some depth up front there.” (Full Transcript)

Media Q&A with D.J. Davidson: (Full Transcript)


5th Round – OG Marcus McKethan, 6’6”. 340lbs, 5.31, University of North Carolina

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Fifth year senior from Barnwell, SC. Three-year starter that has the body of a tackle but played right guard all three seasons. Two-time Honorable Mention All-ACC. McKethan looks like a tackle prototype with elite girth and length from head to toe. His power and lockout game are enough to stop professional defenders in their tracks right away. The issue with him revolves around reaction time and bend. He does not keep the feet active post-engagement and he will always struggle to win the leverage battle. McKethan is a project that a team will want to develop in undrafted free agency most likely, as the holes in his game are both hard to fix and far away from being pro-ready.

Joe Schoen’s Take:Marcus McKethan, another guy obviously we spent some time with, the North Carolina kids. Huge human being. Very good size, length. Again, some versatility, he’s played tackle and he’s played guard. Again, going to add depth and competition to the roster. We’ll probably start him at guard, but he does have tackle flex.” (Full Transcript)

Media Q&A with Marcus McKethan: To be provided. (Full Transcript)


6th Round – LB Darrian Beavers, 6’4”, 237lbs, 4.85, University of Cincinnati

Sy’56’s Scouting Report: Fifth year senior from Cincinnati, OH. Spent 2017 and 2018 at Connecticut before transferring to Cincinnati. Four-year starter between the two programs. Second team All-AAC in 2020, first team in 2021. Was also a Butkus Award Finalist in his final season. Beavers brings a unique tool set to the table and it was used all over the front seven in college. He primarily lined up off the ball, but he saw over 250 snaps along the edge on-line over his three years at Cincinnati. The heaviness in his hands and overall ability to play both stout and fast should get the attention of versatile defensive schemes. He does not play very sudden and there are too many inconsistencies with his tackling and aggression in space. There won’t be a fit for him in every scheme but at the same time, he can bring versatility to a multiple-front defense that others cannot.

*I have in my notes from the 2021 season that Beavers “…looks like an old school Steeler or Patriot…” Some make the mistake that Baltimore (Martindale/Ryan) went after the same personnel. I don’t agree. Martindale wants a bit more speed and twitch in his linebackers and even though Beavers tested OK with times, he doesn’t always play fast. I will say this though: He is an alpha. Beavers is a mean, powerful dude and he did line up all over the front seven. That said, he was not a very successful outside rusher.

Joe Schoen’s Take:Darrian Beavers is another guy that we really liked, versatile piece, he played inside and he played outside. I was at his pro day. He did some stuff as an outside rusher and that looks like something that may be part of the package. Like his versatility to be inside, outside, and play on special teams.” (Full Transcript)

Media Q&A with Darrian Beavers: (Full Transcript)


Rookie Free Agent Scouting Reports

RB Jashaun Corbin, 6’0’’, 221lbs, 4.58, Florida State University (Video)
Corbin is is a north/south runner who does his best work between the tackles. He is a patient runner with good vision. He has some shiftiness to his game and can run through tackles. Corbin also can catch the ball out of the backfield, but he needs work in pass protection.

FB Jeremiah Hall, 6’2’’, 248lbs, 4.96, University of Oklahoma (Video)
Built more like an H-Back or fullback than tight end, Hall was used in the slot, inline, and out of the backfield in college. Hall is a good receiver who runs tough after the catch. Good blocker.

TE Andre Miller, 6’3’’, 220lbs, 4.54, University of Maine (Video)
Miller was a big receiver in college with good overall athletic ability. The Giants intend to convert him to tight end.

TE Austin Allen, 6’9’’, 255lbs, 4.83, University of Nebraska (Video)
Allen is a tall, narrow tight end with a big catch radius and sure hands. He gives an effort in the blocking department, but is more of a position blocker given his frame.

OG Josh Rivas, 6’6’’, 317lbs, 5.32, Kansas State University (Video)
Rivas is a big lineman with decent athleticism for his size. He needs a lot of technique work.

DE Ryder Anderson, 6’6’’, 4.92, 266lbs, Indiana University
Anderson has good size, strength, and length. He can control the point-of-attack against the run, but lacks ideal quickness to be factor rushing the passer.

DL Christopher Hinton, 6’4’’, 310lbs, 5.28, University of Michigan (Video)
Hinton lacks ideal size and athleticism, but he is a tough, strong run defender. He plays with leverage and holds his ground. Hinton does not offer much as a pass rusher. Reliable and he plays hard.

DL Jabari Ellis, 6’3’’, 278lbs, 4.77, University of South Carolina (Video)
Ellis was a team captain who played six seasons in college.

DL Antonio Valentino, 6’3’’, 312lbs, 5.27, University of Florida (Video)
Valentino is a big, strong, hard-working lineman who lacks ideal athletic ability and quickness.

OLB Tomon Fox, 6’3’’, 260lbs, 4.79, University of North Carolina (Video)
Fox lacks ideal athleticism, but he is instinctive, productive, and plays hard.

CB Darren Evans, 6’3’’, 174lbs, 4.53, LSU (Video)
Evans is a tall, thin corner who has decent overall athleticism. He is aggressive against the run. Evans needs to make more plays on the ball.

CB Zyon Gilbert, 6’1’’, 182lbs, 4.42, Florida Atlantic University (Video)
Gilbert played both safety and cornerback in college. He combines good size and overall athleticism and speed. Gilbert is aggressive against the run, but he needs work in coverage in terms of his anticipation skills and technique.

S Yusuf Corker, 6’0’’, 197lbs, 4.53, Kentucky, University of Kentucky (Video)
A physical, aggressive, and instinctive safety, Corker makes plays on the ball both as a run and pass defender. A bit stiff, he lacks ideal speed and change-of-direction skills. He needs to become a more consistent tackler.

S Trenton Thompson, 6’2’’, 200lbs, 4.58, San Diego State University (Video)
Despite playing six years in college, Thompson only became a full-time starter in his final season. He has good size, but lacks ideal speed. Instinctive, he does play faster than he times. Big hitter. Thompson is a good special teams player.

S Jordan Mosley, 6’1’’, 210lbs, 4.69, University of Maryland (Video)
Mosley has good size, but lacks ideal overall athleticism, speed, and agility. An instinctive player, Mosley is also a good tackler.

Apr 262022
 
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Malik Willis, Liberty Flame (December 18, 2021)

Malik Willis – © USA TODAY Sports

QUARTERBACKS

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

1: Malik Willis – Liberty – 6’0/219

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior from Atlanta, GA. Two-year starter at Liberty after two seasons as a backup at Auburn and a full season where had to sit out because of transfer rules. Willis, a late bloomer that was not highly recruited out of high school, is a pure boom or bust prospect. The talent is obvious and known. He can make plays with the ball in his hands like a running back and his frame fully supports that kind of role. His arm strength and torque created from his hips are both at the elite of the elite level. That is about where it ends, however. Willis appears light years behind when it comes to forecasting and reading a defense. The indecisiveness and lack of feel for where defenders are, both in the pass rush and in coverage, is alarming. Willis also has mechanical issues with his drop backs that create inconsistent ball placement. His ability to run will hide some of the issues but he will certainly need at least a season on the sidelines before he can be trusted to lead an offense.

*In a quarterback class that lacks clarity, Willis is the one standout that could flip this group (and entire draft class) upside down. While there is a lot of work to be done, Willis is the potential superstar. While I doubt we see him come off the board at #2 to Detroit, the value of the position in relation to team-success in this league can certainly lead to it happening. Someone is going to take a swing for the fence with this kid. Keep in mind, there isn’t a scout or coach or GM that doesn’t believe in Willis’ intangibles. He is a rock-solid kid that is going to be great for a locker room and will work hard at his craft. His ideal scenario is to get involved in an offense that will be tailored for him specifically, similar to what Baltimore did with Lamar Jackson and sit for an entire year. Is it worth considering NYG as a possible destination? I don’t think so. This ownership (they’re still very involved) will request Jones gets a shot with this new system (his third in four years).

2: Kenny Pickett – Pittsburgh – 6’3/217

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior from Oakhurst, NJ. Four-year starter who broke out in his final season, earning numerous accolades including first team All-American, ACC Player of the Year, and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm. Pickett’s late decision to skip the 2021 NFL Draft paid off and could end up being the first quarterback taken in 2022. His 42 touchdowns broke a conference record previously held by Deshaun Watson and Picket ended up re-writing the Pitt program’s passing records. When it comes to pro projection, he has several traits that carry over well. He is a plus-athlete with outstanding accuracy on the move to all levels of the route tree. He showed the ability to progress through multiple reads in a pro-style offense. And he plays with tremendous grit. Pickett does not have plus-arm strength, however, and turnovers were a problem. He threw over 30 interceptions and fumbled 38 times in 49 career starts. Pickett also struggled to see the entire field on traditional drop backs. He will get a starting nod at some point but will most likely end as a career backup.

*Gun to my head, I think Pickett goes before Willis and will be the top overall quarterback selected. He feels safer than some of these other guys because he appears to have at least a little bit of everything. If you were ranking all the physical and mental traits, Pickett may not rank number 1 in any of them but I bet he is second or third all of them (minus the hand size). Yes, the hand size matters when he has the high fumble number in his stat line. Is that what prevents him from a higher number? No. I simply don’t see Pickett as the one to step up and carry an offense. He can be a solid starter on a team that is strong around him, but I don’t see the guy the makes everyone else better. And then yes, I hate turnovers.

3: Desmond Ridder – Cincinnati – 6’3/211

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Louisville, KY. Four-year starter that earned first team All-AAC honors in both 2020 and 2021 while also taking home the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year Award. Ridder took over the job week one as a freshman and never looked back, re-writing several school and conference records respectively. He won over 40 games and shined in big moments. Ridder carries all of the intangibles and leadership qualities a coach could want at the position. He has a live arm with a quick, snappy, but smooth and repeatable release. The icing on the cake is a top shelf set of movement-based tools. He has elite speed in the open field and firecracker footwork as a passer. The overall upside and ceiling are a bit of an unknown considering he did not play against a lot of stiff competition in college and the accuracy is inconsistent. He also needs to process coverages quicker. Ridder will, and should, get an opportunity as a starter down the road. At the very least, he is someone that a team can feel good about as a backup.

*Ridder was a guy I did not give a ton of attention to until after the season. Nothing ever really jumped out at me when watching him play or as I was scouting players that he was on film with. A deeper dive exposed some solid truths for him, though. His footwork and overall mechanics are the best of the group. He is a dangerous athlete in the open field. And he shows good mental toughness and leadership qualities. This will simply come down to how talented of a passer he actually is. Everything else is there, but the gray area is a big one. There are too many inaccurate throws on tape, and he does not seem to see the whole field. There won’t be success for him in the league unless those two improve mightily. I can easily see him feeling “safe” for NFL decision makers though.

4: Matt Corral – Mississippi – 6’1/212

Grade: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Ventura, CA. Three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2021. In a simple, quarterback-friendly offense Corral shows the occasional glimpse of greatness. His lightning-quick release along with a rocket-arm will create the opportunity for a play designer and caller to widen the possibilities with what can be done of offense. Corral also brings a high level of speed and easy vision when carrying the ball on both designed runs and scrambles. He can make every throw at a high level. Mentally, he is a risk taker that plays with a short memory when adversity arrives. Corral overlooks several key components to basic fundamentals too often, however. He air mails far too many deep balls, showing a lack of natural touch and accuracy. He has poor ball handling mechanics, with just under 25 career fumbles in 27 starts. His body type may not be able to handle a slew of NFL contact a scrambling quarterback normally absorbs over the course of the season. He needs to become a more precise passer and will need time to transition to the complexity of the league.

*Corral has had moments, and enough of them, to be rightfully considered the top quarterback prospect in this class. Even with that in mind, he is not a first rounder. There are too many shortcomings that quality starters in this league avoid on a routine basis. My biggest red flags are the ball security and body type. One of his key strengths revolve around his ability to run and create with his legs. His body type presents extra risk AND there are significant fumble issues. In fact, he was fortunate to not have fumbled more with how far away he gets that thing from his body with one hand on the ball. Corral’s release and live arm, however, are very attractive. He has some unique, borderline elite-level throwing traits that are worth trying to develop, but his upside is similar to what Jones brings to NYG, if not a little less.

5: Sam Howell – North Carolina – 6’1/218

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Indian Trail, NC. Three-year starter that earned All-ACC honors in both 2020 and 2021 in addition to a second team All-American honor in 2020. Howell was a big deal the moment he stepped foot on campus at Chapel Hill and ended up re-writing record books for the program and finishing as one of the most productive passers in ACC history. The short, but stout and powerful signal caller plays an innovative game with both his arms and legs. While he does not have blazing speed or quickness, the savvy ball carrier creates big plays when things break down in the pocket. He will need to clean up his throwing motion and overall mechanics, however, as he will not shake tacklers in the NFL the way he did in college. Howell is a quiet, but effective leader with a knack for the accurate deep ball. He is coming from an incredibly simple offense but there is enough on tape to warrant the idea of him becoming a top tier backup and potential starter in time.

*Everyone had huge expectations for Howell heading into 2021. If you asked me last summer who would be the guy that ends up at the top of the draft, it would have been Howell or Kedon Slovis (transferred to Pitt for 2022). I guess this is why we play the games. Anyway, Howell took a couple steps backward in 2021. I took a deep dive into his game all year and he was a mess. He had very little integrity and feel in the pocket. He jumped into scramble mode way too often. He rushed through mechanics, and it caused several errant throws weekly. He also played in a very simple offense even for college standards. Howell does not look like a pro to me even though he does throw the prettiest deep ball of the group. Everything else is backup caliber.

6: Bailey Zappe – Western Kentucky – 6’0/214

Grade: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior from Victoria, TX. Four-year starter for Houston Baptist (FCS) before grad-transferring to Western Kentucky where he started for one season. 2021 first team All-Conference USA and Conference USA most valuable player. In Western Kentucky’s high-powered attack, Zappe ended the season as the nation’s leader in yards and touchdowns. His 62 touchdowns are a new all-time NCAA record. He threw the ball 686 times. The third-place finisher (Bryce Young from Alabama) threw the ball 547 times. While the production is a tad inflated, Zappe is a credible pro prospect that broke out at the right time. He was a relative-unknown at Houston Baptist (8 wins in 4 years), but there are traits here that deserve a look at the next level. Zappe has incredible accuracy and ball placement along the short and intermediate portions of the route tree. He throws with excellent tempo and timing to pair with a quick release. His lack of size and sheer arm-power will make life difficult early on and he will need time to learn the nuances of playing under center within a complex pro offense. He will be in the league for a long time as a backup but should get a starting nod at some point.

*Zappe can make a push for being the fifth quarterback taken. I don’t think it will happen, but I think it should. Out of all the passers in this class, Zappe’s ball placement is the most consistent. Does he respond well to a dirty pocket? That is an unknown. I see a ton of Chase Daniel here. A guy that will be a welcomed back up in several cities for years and at some point, someone will want to give him a shot. Zappe is a competitive dude that did elevate his play in big moments. He plays with that underdog mentality that I love to see. Could NYG look here day three? I wouldn’t be against it at all.

7: Jack Coan – Notre Dame – 6’3/218

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior from Sayville, NY. Two-year starter at Wisconsin prior to transferring to Notre Dame in 2021, we he started 13 games. Honorable Mention All-Big 10 in 2019. Coan is a player that gets the most out of himself. He is smooth and calm in the pocket and fully understands how to play with tempo. He progresses through reads in a hurry and keeps his lower body in sync with his throwing motion consistently. The lack of arm strength has a tendency to show up on passes to the sideline and he does not strike fear in to defenses when it comes to the deep ball. Coan, however, excels at getting the ball out in a hurry and shows plus-accuracy with proper touch when needed. His upside is limited but he can be trusted to protect the ball, play within a system, and take what is given. He will be a backup for the first few years of his career but should see a starting gig at some point if/when injuries arise.

*I like Coan a lot, but I do understand the limited ceiling he plays with. His throws to the outside die before they reach the target. He does not have an easy release for the deep ball. His athleticism is average. But remember this: falling in love with tools when it comes to the quarterback while neglecting the mental capacity that is required, the overall mechanics, and toughness under pressure has forced many men to lose their jobs. Coan is on the opposite end of that spectrum. He does a lot of the little things right and plays a lot of mistake-free football. I feel good about having a guy like this as a backup and seeing if there is some physical development that can take place once in the league. I would applaud a day three pick used on Coan.

8: Carson Strong – Nevada – 6’3/226

Grade: 71

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Vacaville, CA. Three-year starter that earned first team All-MWC honors in both 2020 and 2021 while also winning the conference’s Player of the Year Award both seasons. Strong re-wrote the record book at Nevada while also protecting the ball at a record-rate. He went 299 attempts without throwing an interception. The team captain is an emotional player that will stare down the barrel of a gun while in the pocket. He has plus-arm strength and shows the ability to layer the ball to all levels of the route tree. Strong will be entering the league with a beat up knee and a severe lack of mobility. He will struggle to escape pressure and there are too many throws on tape where the lower half is not engaged. He is a long-term project that will have his upside very much dictated by the health of his knee.

*There has been some chatter about Strong going higher than where I have him, that he could be the number 6 guy in the class. I can see why. He has the look of a pure, old school pocket passer that can hit every throw. He throws a nice deep ball. But when I looked further into his game, there were too many things I did not like. He seemed a bit too emotional for the position, very up and down. His knee (think of it as a knee that belongs to a 50-year-old) impedes his ability to really activate his lower half when throwing the ball hard/far. He can’t move. And there were a ton of throws where it was just a simple, thoughtless “chuck it” and hope. That won’t fly in the league. There are too many reasons why I would not touch him anywhere near day 2.

9: Kaleb Eleby – Western Michigan – 6’1/208

Grade: 70

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Maryland Heights, MO. Three-year starter that earned second team All-MAC honors in 2021, third team in 2020. Eleby is a risk taker that shows no fear when it comes to trying to fit the ball into tight windows. He has a quick release and powerful snap to his throws. He was deeply involved in a RPO attack that did not require him to make many reads. Because of that, he will need extra time to adjust to a pro passing attack. He rarely saw snaps under center and there are inconsistencies with his release point that will cause the occasional errant throws. Eleby also needs to improve his ball handling. He does not have the athletic ability to constantly evade defenders, thus he needs to protect the ball better. Eleby will likely need a redshirt year in the NFL before battling for a backup job.

*I was surprised Eleby came out. 23 starts from a MAC program while having another year of eligibility probably was not the smartest move. He had D’Wayne Eskridge and Skyy Moore, two pro receivers, to throw to in a conference full of defensive backs that will not play in the league. With Moore in this draft class, that could be why he wanted to leave but they have another kid, Jaylen Hall, that will be a pro prospect at this time next year. He could have used another year of seasoning because I do see some pro traits that could have gotten him drafted in the round 3-4 area in 2023. Now? He might get his name called late day three.

10: EJ Perry – Brown – 6’1/211

Grade: 70

Summary: Fifth year senior from Andover, MA. Two-year starter at Brown after transferring from Boston College where he was a backup for two seasons. Two-time first team All-Ivy and 2021 Ivy Offensive Player of the Year and All American. Perry is a gimmicky quarterback that has a way of creating on his own. He shows a great feel in the pocket for where the pressure is coming from and will make quick decisions to avoid it. His ball placement and consistency in that department on the move can extend plays and keep the defense on their heels. The overall arm talent and bad habits show up too often to project him as a starting quarterback at the next level. Perry has a hard time seeing through the traffic on plays that go beyond one simple read. He turned the ball over a lot and does not have the natural, powerful trigger to make all the throws. He will live on the back end of a depth chart.

*Perry looked solid at the East-West Shrine Game. That was my first exposure to him, and I did a deep dive on five of his game tapes afterward (less than ideal for QB). There were a lot of nuances to his game that I did not like. He has an overly-crouched position after he gets the ball and drops back. He is already on the short side, and I felt that, along with slow decisions as a passer, really hurt his odds at seeing and anticipating. He got away with a lot in college that he has not shot at getting away with in the NFL. Solid competitive juice and a real athlete (played basketball for Brown and received a scholarship offer to play baseball for Boston College) can get him a look, but there is a lot of work to be done and I don’t see enough upside in the arm.

BEST OF THE REST

11: Dustin Crum – Kent State – 6’1/210: 69
12: Cole Kelley – Southeastern Louisiana – 6’7/249: 69
13: Chase Garbers – California – 6’2/215: 69
14: Skylar Thompson – Kansas State – 6’2/217: 68
15: Brandon Peters – Illinois – 6’4/228: 68
16: Brock Purdy – Iowa State – 6’1/212: 67
17: Aqeel Glass – Alabama A& M – 6’4/231: 67
18: Zerrick Cooper – Jacksonville State – 6’2/230: 66
19: Anthony Brown – Oregon – 6’1/217: 65
20: Jawon Pass – Prairie View A& M – 6’4/240: 65

NYG APPROACH

Simply put here, I do not see NYG being in the market for a new franchise quarterback. Reason one: The franchise still has an unknown in Daniel Jones and even though he is sliding towards a no-go, he is better or on the same level as all these top guys. Reason number two: Next year’s crop of QBs will likely be much better than what this draft class is producing. And reason number three, there are too many good players rounds 1-3 that NYG would be passing on in order to take one of these guys. I do not see the point in going for anyone unless we are talking about day three and hoping to find the next backup and/or long term project. The number one reason why I want NYG to consider trading back (if the opportunity is there) would be to net extra picks in 2023 (ideally a first) so they can march into next draft with some money in the bank should they need to make an aggressive move up for a quarterback at the top. These guys simply are not worth it although I am intrigued to see what becomes of Willis.

Apr 242022
 
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Kenny Walker, Michigan State Spartans (March 4, 2022)

Kenny Walker – © USA TODAY Sports

RUNNING BACKS

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

1: Kenny Walker III – Michigan State – 5’9/211

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Arlington, TN. Two-year starter that starred in his one season at Michigan State after transferring from Wake Forest. 2021 Doak Walker Award recipient, unanimous first-team All American and Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year. Walker III is a no-nonsense runner that will excel between the tackles. He has enough lower body strength to complement his quick, high feet that enable him to work through traffic well. He breaks a lot of tackles and can win in space a variety of ways. The quick-trigger acceleration and ability to make fast decisions will make him a dangerous threat as he gets through traffic. He needs some work to be considered an every down player, as he is a poor blocker and does not seem to have a natural receiving skill set. That will determine just how useful he can be overall but at the very least he will be a solid addition to an inside-running game.

*There is one medical issue from his high school days that COULD scare some teams off, just FYI. Walker has two of the biggest traits I look for in a back: yards after contact and vision. If I had to rank all of these backs in those two departments, Walker ranks at the top of both. You may look at the size and assume he is not a power back, but that would be wrong. This kid is as strong as you will find at that size and runs bigger than most backs that weigh 220+. The one thing that prevents him from approaching the 85+ tier, and it is a big one, is the lack of impact he has in the passing game. His receiving is simply an unknown and his blocking is poor. Not a good combo there. I do not see him being on the NYG radar.

2: Breece Hall – Iowa State – 5’11/217

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Wichita, KS. Three-year starter that won the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and was a first team All American in both 2020 and 2021, respectively. The two-time finalist for the Doak Walker Award re-wrote 11 school records and scored a touchdown in 24 consecutive games, a NCAA record. Hall is a highly decorated back that brings a combination of size, natural power, and burst that will fit best into a zone-based scheme. His patience comes from the confidence he has to reach his top gear in a hurry while running through arm tackles. While he isn’t the fastest or most agile ball carrier, his ability in a phone booth (where most of his game is played) is top notch. He is a smart runner that understands how to read and manipulate the situation in front of him on the fly. He has number one running back ability for teams that a horse to lead the group but can also be an accessory piece to a two-back system that needs a sizeable part. Either way, his ability to produce will be there from day one and has big upside. Imposing figure that carries 220+ pounds with ease.

*If I had to gamble on it, I think Hall goes before Walker. I just prefer Walker, but the two are graded out the same. Hall is going to need a better offensive line to produce. He gets a little too patient in the backfield and the speed of the NFL could make that a glaring negative. I do like his ability to turn on the jets and he can be really heavy on contact. A decade or two ago I bet this guy is a top 15 pick but, like Walker, I’m not sure he will impact the passing game enough to warrant anything higher. Again, a guy I don’t see NYG pursuing.

3: Isaiah Spiller – Texas A& M – 6’0/217

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Spring, TX. Three-year starter that earned All-SEC honors in both 2021 and 2020, first team in 2020. Spiller is a jack of all trades, master of none type back. He can be a fit in any role out of the backfield with his blend of size and athleticism. He proved over his three-year career in the SEC that his blend of tools and knack for coming up with the big play in big moments will create a skill set that a team can work with. While there is a limit to his upside, Spiller feels safe and secure when projecting his floor. He would be an ideal number two back.

*Texas A& M has an underclassman running back that may end being a “special” caliber kid. We will see. He ate into Spiller’s playing time quite a bit, but that may not be a bad thing. I like the fact he did not get too many touches because he was used a lot in 2019 and 2020. Spiller is the kind of back that makes the most out of whatever is thrown at him. If he has space, he will make guys miss and run away from them. If he is in traffic, he finds the available crease and falls forward. I feel safe with him, but expectations should not be too high.

4: Brian Robinson Jr – Alabama – 6’2/225

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior from Tuscaloosa, AL. One-year starter that earned first team All-SEC honors in 2021. Robinson at one point was above Najee Harris on the Alabama depth chart. He played behind multiple future pro running backs throughout his career and patiently waited for his time as a fifth year senior. He did not disappoint. Robinson thrived as a feature back and proved he can handle a full load of snaps as an every down player. His greatest impact will be found between the tackles as a bruiser picking up the tough yards. He pushes piles and rips through cheap contact by a defense. He won’t ever go down easily and is the kind of back that can wear down a defense. Robinson’s athletic upside may not be overly explosive, and his running style may lead to injury here and there. He would be an ideal complement to a backfield looking for a power piece, one that shows up as a runner and blocker.

*This is the first name I would strongly consider for NYG, likely in round 3. There is a possibility he makes it to day three, however. May be worth the gamble since there is not an overly pressing need at the position. Robinson is a bruiser that actually runs to his size and frame unlike the other 225-pound back in blue right now. I trust running backs from this program on multiple fronts. They are physical, but not poor athletes. They specialize in running between the tackles, but they can do well enough as blockers and receivers. And, most importantly, they freakin’ play hard. NYG needs more toughness in the backfield and Robinson will, at least, give you that. It looks like this team needs to prepare for life after Barkley and Robinson would be a nice start.

5: James Cook – Georgia – 5’11/199

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Miami, FL. Two-year starter that has been a steady part of the backfield rotation since 2018. The brother of Vikings running back Dalvin, James brings a similar level of natural feel and elite burst to the table. He looks like he plays the game on ice skates with how fluidly his hips swivel in and out of breaks. The cuts he can make while moving at a high rate of speed are sharp enough to rip through a bone. Cook’s greatest value will be found in space. Simply put, there are not many backs under 200 pounds that can stick around in the league for a long time. Cook can carry the ball, but he needs to be in the open field. His skill set could even pass for a slot receiver with how well he runs routes and the fact he doesn’t have a single drop on his resume over the past two years. Put in the right situation and he can be an excellent accessory piece to an offense as a big play threat.

*If NYG really wants Cook, it may have to be with their early 3rd rounder. I just don’t see him being there past that point. One caveat to that statement, though, is the history of backs that weigh under 200 pounds drafted in the first 3 rounds is incredibly low over the past decade. Cook’s counter point to that is the elite level route running and hands. Also, and yes this means something, his brother (Dalvin) having enormous success in the league will help him draft weekend. They move similarly. If NYG wants to add an element to the passing game via the backfield, this is the top option. He will be an impact guy right away. He will not be his brother, a true every down force you give the ball to 20+ times every week, but that isn’t as important anymore. He would be a fun kid to watch in this offense.

6: Rachaad White – Arizona State – 6’0/214

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Kansas City, MO. Spent two seasons at Mt. San Antonio College prior to transferring to Arizona State where he started for two years. Earned second team All-Pac 12 honors in 2021. White makes the game look easy and smooth. He never looks out of control or off-balanced. He plays at different gears and understands timing-plus-angles so well that it almost appears as if he is playing slow at times. He then shoots out of a cannon and explodes through a crease. He is an ideal back for a zone blocking scheme but will also add a dangerous element to the passing game. He uses that movement skill set to run good routes and his concentration on the ball is high-caliber. White does not bring a lot of power to the table as a runner or blocker, but his impact on a backfield can be huge if the right system and situation brings him in.

*White is one of my favorite pass-catching backs in the class. The grade is steered in that direction. Although I do think he is good for 5-6 carries per game, I would bring him in to help the passing game more than anything. He is a receiver-caliber route runner and has better ball skills that several of the players at that position as well. He can be a big play back in the regard and another name I think NYG could use behind Barkley. I want a bruiser or a pass catching specialist behind him, and White brings the latter along with some size and credible ability as an inside runner on occasion.

7: Kyren Williams – Notre Dame – 5’9/194

Grade: 77

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Saint Louis, MO. Two-year starter that earned second-team All ACC honors in 2020 and won the conference’s Rookie of the Year. 2021 first team All-American. In a league where very few teams use a one-back system, Williams can be viewed as the ideal third down back in any offense. His skill set fits any role you want from that kind of player. He can run routes and catch the ball like a receiver, he can be fully trusted as a blocker, and he can create as a rusher in space. The team-first, tougher-than-nails attitude and play style will be highly sought after by coaches if they have much say in the draft room. He is a safe pro, albeit with a limited upside, that will be dependable on multiple levels. A rusher, pass catcher, and returner all wrapped into one that can handle 15+ touches weekly.

*I am just a tad down on Williams. The size is near-bottom tier, and his workout was below the ideal line as well. I did not move him down much, however. It’s hard not to love this kid’s tape and overall approach to the game. He is one of the best blockers in this entire group despite the frame and anchor. He catches the ball, he makes guys miss, he has excellent vision. I think the numbers tell you he will not be an every down guy, which is fine with me. NYG would be a solid destination for him if he can be had day three. He may not grade as high as some of other prospects at other positions but if Daboll sees that use in him, I am fine with it round 3 or 4. He is a good culture guy and I trust him to get whatever he has in him on to the field.

8: Zamir White – Georgia – 6’0/214

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Laurinburg, NC. Two-year starter that has been a key piece to the Bulldogs’ backfield rotation from the beginning. The team’s leading rusher each of the past two seasons and team captain brings a physical, no-nonsense approach to carrying the football. He consistently runs behind his pads and gains yards after contact. He shows the ability to make aggressive, explosive cuts left and right but will also show no hesitation in putting his head down and pushing the pile. The two glaring negatives here are a lack of experience in the passing game (17 career receptions) and past injuries (tore both ACLs). While the lack of creativity and wiggle can limit his running style, he excels at what he does so much that it will warrant a spot as a power back on a pro depth chart. Well-built below and above the waist with minimal bad weight.

*The medicals are crucial here. It could bump him all the way to end of the draft or it may not be a huge deal to some teams. I am grading him without access to those reports. I love the way this kid runs with the ball. He takes on contact and delivers the blow as hard as anyone. He will change the personality of a running game, but it is hard to ignore the potential issues.

9: Dameon Pierce – Florida – 5’10/218

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Bainbridge, GA. Technically a one-year starter but has been a steady presence in the rotation for three seasons. Pierce was under used at Florida which, considering the position he plays, can be considered a good thing as he will enter the league with less wear and tear. He had ten carries in a game just eight times in four years. When it comes to his tape, Pierce shows all the tools and skills to be an effective inside runner that can pick up all the difficult, hard-to-find yards. He has functional thickness and strength below the waist along with light, easy footwork. He can run with several different tempos and speeds and there is a sense of hunger to his style. Pierce shows enough to be used on third down as well, but his biggest impact will be found in short yardage and near the goal line. If he can find a role as a complement to a space-friendly, pass catching back he will be an early and often contributor.

*Florida’s offense was not an ideal fit for Pierce. He is a traffic-back that can move the chains, run with success between the tackles, and break tackles. His contact balance is top notch. But in an offense that creates space, likes to throw, and predicates on speed, he was more of an accessory. I see a similar role and usage at the next level. Pierce is dependable but won’t offer much more than you see. Two things that coaches will like and could end up getting him into day two is the quality blocking and special teams defense. He has a linebacker-feel to his game, and it shows up. A strong and powerful dude that would be a complement to Barkley who struggles as a blocker and does not run with enough success in short yardage. Pierce will need a very good line though.

10: Kennedy Brooks – Oklahoma – 5’11/209

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Mansfield, TX. Three-year starter that sat out the 2020 season due to Covid-19. Honorable Mention All-Big 12 in 2019, second team in 2020. Brooks walked a bumpy road over his career. He came to Oklahoma with a recurring shoulder injury that began in high school which led to a redshirt. He was accused of mental and physical abuse by a woman which had to be investigated by the school (he was cleared). And lastly, he sat out 2020 because of the Covid pandemic. When looking strictly at the film, however, Brooks is easy to like. He runs like a pro when looking at several angles. His tempo, vision, and decision making will bring him to a much higher level than his tools suggest. Brooks does not have stand out triangle numbers. He won’t be a blazer in the open field, nor does he play overly big. However, this is a back that fully understands the intricacies of the position. He stays within the scheme and knows when to get to the next gear. The contact balance and mental side will create production as a sold complementary back.

*I am taking a bit of a risk here. But I can’t get away from what my gut says after watching him run. Some guys have natural and ever-present tempo when they get the ball. It is rare. When someone truly has it at the pro level, it is a near-automatic success. Brooks runs with several different gears and just feels the spacing and timing exceptionally well. The asterisk there is the fact he played in the Big 12. The OU scheme creates more space than what he will see in the league and the defenses in that conference are a joke. I just have the good feeling here. There was an incident (he was fully cleared) that centered on physical and mental abuse with an ex-girlfriend. Never know with that stuff but he will be looked into. Athletically, nothing special either.

11: Tyler Badie – Missouri – 5’8/197

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Memphis, TN. Three-year starter that capped off his career earning first team All-SEC and second team All-American honors after finishing second in the nation in yards from scrimmage. Badie has the natural instincts and vision to gain the obtainable hidden yards both inside and outside. He lacks the standout physical traits when it comes to size and speed, but he has proven to be a productive asset for an offense both as a rusher and receiver. He is a reliable pass catcher and moves with savvy, subtle quickness in small areas to create bigger runs than he should be able to obtain. He can be a solid number two or three back that is situationally dependent

*I like Badie as a consolation prize day three if NYG wants a pass catcher but does not get one of top guys in that department. He plays bigger than his size. He is stout and runs with excellent contact balance. The catch radius isn’t great, and I question the ability to really get out in space and make moves. But when backs like James White make such a strong impact in the right passing scheme, I can see Badie coming in and making similar plays. Never a feature guy, but potentially an important part to an offense.

12: Jerome Ford – Cincinnati – 5’10/210

Grade: 72

Summary: Senior entry from Tampa, FL. One year starter that began his career at Alabama before transferring to Cincinnati prior to the 2020 season. First team All-AAC in 2021. Ford had to wait his turn after a slow start to his career in the crowded Crimson Tide backfield. Even at Cincinnati, he did not get more than ten carries until mid-December in 2020. He then took off as a senior and gave the league a glimpse what he could be. Ford is a big play back with the kind of burst and acceleration that will not be caught from behind once in the open field. His play speed is excellent. He runs like a back that needs more experience, however. There is not much feel or innovation to his game but at the same time, he will come in with substantial tread on the tires.

*Ford is a big play back. The kind of guy that gets a few yards and will create a touchdown run from it. He truly runs away from guys in space. I don’t see the kind of guy that comes in and makes the impact of Jamaal Charles, though. He fumbled too much, and his vision lacks consistency. For an offense starving for big plays, however, Ford is a nice guy to have on the depth chart for 3-5 runs per game. I liked what I saw in his increased receiving role in 2021 as well.

13: Pierre Strong – San Jose State – 5’11/207

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior from Little Rock, AR. Four-year starter with enough accolades to fill a bookshelf. Won the MVFC Freshman of the Year award in 2018. First team All-MVFC three times and a three-time All American. Strong was a dominant force on the FCS level since the day he stepped foot on campus. His production speaks for itself. Physically he plays fast and tough with good reaction time as an inside runner. He is the kind of back that will make the most out of what is given to him. Once in the open field, he does have the juice to create more with his movement abilities. There are some concerns with his overall build and lower body mechanics. He may not ever be an every down, top of the depth chart guy but he can fit in as a backup for a team that has a no-nonsense approach to the running game. He will need to improve as a receiver and blocker to really stick.

*Strong is a candidate to be the day three back in this class that comes out of nowhere and ends up being a force early on. He has a solid combination of explosion, long speed, and toughness. Is he going to break tackles in the NFL? That is my one concern. The speed and power jump he is making will be a hard adjustment for his body type and he lacks some of the late wiggle in his hips to really avoid hits. He can get away with that when matching up against boys. The question will be if that shows up against men.

14: Keontay Ingram – USC – 6’0/221

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Carthage, TX. Spent three seasons at Texas where he started off and on all three years. Transferred to USC for 2021 and earned the starting role which led to an honorable mention All-Pac 12 recognition. Ingram is a physical, strong runner between the tackles with excellent running back mechanics. He stays behind his pads with a solid forward lean that will rip through arm tackles. He can gain a lot of yards after the catch and plays hungry. Ingram also proved he can factor on third down both as a pass catcher and blocker. This is a back that can do it everything across the board with a physical brand.

*Ingram is one of my favorite day three players in the class. Not because I think he will be the Elijah Mitchell of the group, but because I think he can come in right away and contribute. He is a back you feel safe with in multiple roles. Never a starter, but always a reliable backup and rotational force. Ingram has pro-ready vision and tempo. He can break tackles and he can block. If NYG waits until late to add a back, this is one of my guys that I think fits the situation well.

15: Sincere McCormick – UTSA – 5’8/204

Grade: 71

Summary: Junior entry from Converse, TX. Three-year starter that has been earning accolades since his career began at UTSA. 2019 Conference USA Freshman of the Year, 2020 and 2021 Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year, two-time 1st Team All-Conference USA and two-time All American. McCormick broke, and the re-broke the program’s single season rushing record en route to becoming UTSA’s all-time leader in the department. The natural runner anticipates running lanes with ease and has the burst to couple with it to create big play after big play. In a league that is filled with committee-approaches in the backfield, McCormick will be a highly sought after back for teams looking to complement a power back. He runs inside and outside equally well in addition to offering a steady presence as a receiver. The quick-hit mentality and aggressive finishes to his runs will make an impact early and often.

*I’ve had a thing for McCormick since the early part of the season. I saw a potential star here. He has a lot of big plays on his resume and there is a sense of quick vision and toughness that drew me in. His no-nonsense approach was refreshing to watch. The running back position has changed so much to the point where I cringe watching some of these kids dance around while missing out on what is right in front of them. Not McCormick. He takes what is there and will create big plays from that approach. Does that carry over to the next level against much faster defenses? We will see. But I wanted NYG to draft Khalil Herbert last year in the 7th round for similar reasons. He had over 530 yards as a rookie on just 117 touches and made some noise as a kick returner. I bet he starts games in the league at some point. I have a similar feel here with McCormick.

BEST OF THE REST

16: Tyler Allgeier – BYU – 5’11/224: 71
17: Abram Smith – Baylor – 6’0/213: 71
18: Ty Davis-Price – LSU – 6’0/211: 70
19: Zonovan Knight – North Carolina State – 5’11/209: 70
20: D’Vonte Price – Florida International – 6’1/210: 70
21: Max Borghi – Washington State – 5’9/210: 70
22: Ty Chandler – North Carolina – 5’11/204: 70
23: Snoop Conner – Mississippi – 5’10/222: 70
24: Tyler Goodson – Iowa – 5’9/197: 69
25: Kevin Harris – South Carolina – 5’10/221: 69
26: Leddie Brown – West Virginia – 6’0/213: 68
27: ZaQuandre White – South Carolina – 6’0/206: 68
28: CJ Verdell – Oregon – 5’8/196: 68
29: Hassan Hankins – Michigan – 6’2/228: 68
30: Isaih Pacheco – Rutgers – 5’10/216: 68

NYG APPROACH

Only if the opportunity presents itself for solid value can I see NYG using a pick at running back. That could be as early as day 2 (I would still be surprised), it could be early day three (still not likely), but probably with one of their final two picks. I see the spot on the depth chart for a rookie, no question. One can easily make the case that backups Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Antonio Williams, and Sandro Platzgummer are number 3-4 backs at best. From that perspective, NYG does not have a true backup behind a running back that has missed 21 games in 3 years (18 over the past 2). Then, the kicker…it is very realistic NONE of the backs, including Barkley, will be on this roster a year from now. Sounds like I could end up talking myself into an earlier pick on a running back. Yes, of course, there are more pressing needs on this team, and it is easier to find day three value at this position in any draft. I do see a huge cluster of those day three backs who make sense here. You want a power guy because Barkley runs too soft on urgent situations? Snoop Conner and both of the kids from South Carolina can be a nice add. You want a pass catcher? Leddie Brown and Max Borghi will likely be there late and could play right away. I think the debate is, do you want to grab a James Cook, Brian Robinson, Dameon Pierce, Rachaad White in round 3? Or do you wait to see which guy falls into your lap in day three? Again, I am looking at this draft not for this upcoming season, but for 2023. With that in mind, I look at this position as a group that can use an asset as early as round 3 if the value is right.

Apr 222022
 
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Garrett Wilson, Ohio State Buckeyes (January 4, 2022)

Garrett Wilson – © USA TODAY Sports

WIDE RECEIVERS

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

1: Garrett Wilson – Ohio State – 6’0/186

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry from Austin, Texas. A former 5-star recruit that also had Division I offers out of high school for basketball. Two-year starter, two-time 1st Team All Big 10 honoree and a 2021 2nd Team All American. Wilson is the kind of dynamic and explosive playmaker that is a threat to score each time he steps on the field. The size and speed are, respectively, both good enough but neither are top shelf traits. What makes him different is the elite body control and special awareness. He can twist and turn late in ways that most others simply cannot. The game slows down for him when defenders are near and the second, he makes his move, those defenders are often found wondering what just happened. Wilson can project to both the outside and the slot depending on the offense that brings him in. No matter what, expect him to make plays right away and ascend to one of the more dangerous threats in the league at the position.

*In a strong receiver class that lacks anyone near the elite-tier, Wilson gets the nod for the top spot. This could easily belong to one of the next few guys based on the style of offense a specific team plays. Wilson likely fits into any offense, however, as the skill set can go in a variety of ways. He is going to get open on all levels of the route tree and he can make special plays look easy. There is a looseness and flexibility to his core than screams playmaker. I do wish he had a little more presence against contact after the catch, as he goes down fast too often, but that is a negative I’ll deal with as long as he keeps everything else together. Wilson’s ceiling is similar to what we see in Stefon Diggs (a 5th round pick). I wouldn’t sleep on NYG making an aggressive move at WR in this draft. There are a lot of questions there on this team and the new regime did not bring any of the current ones on to this roster.

2: Jameson Williams – Alabama – 6’1/179

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry from St. Louis, MO. One year starter for Alabama after spending two seasons at Ohio State where he started six out of 22 games played. First team All-SEC and first team All-American in 2021. Finished the season number three on the program’s all-time single season receiving list behind only DeVonta Smith (2020) and Amari Cooper (2014). Williams sure did capitalize on the transfer away from Ohio State where he would have been competing with three other future first round picks for targets. He can play as fast and smooth as it gets. The ability to call on different gears at any point, whether he is running routes or carrying the ball, can change an offense. His movement is so sure with nothing wasted no matter what he is asked to do. To match that athleticism is an aggressive mindset and gamer’s mentality. Williams was also known as one of the team’s hardest working players in practice, he is often found making downfield blocks, and he was used on special teams as both a gunner and returner. The torn ACL will impact his rookie season but when it is fully recovered, we are looking at a top tier talent that can be one of the best playmakers in the NFL.

*The tape-grade was the same as Wilson’s. The torn ACL, even though he is expected to recover fully, did bring him down a point. You just never quite know and that goes deeper than just the ligament and knee itself. The soft tissue problems that can stem from this are part of the fear. Regardless, Williams’ body type can be a small concern as well. If he had more size and contact-strength, we could be talking about a guy near the 90-range. Williams has the movement and playmaking skills that can truly change an offense. There could be some Justin Jefferson here if he bounces back. The lack of game experience does create some extra gray area here, but that really could go in both directions. This is a tough, physical dude that will not shy from contact when needed. If he gets on the right offense, which is the case for a lot of skill position players, watch out.

3: Chris Olave – Ohio State – 6’0/187

Grade: 83

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from San Marcos, California. Three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All American honors in 2021 in addition to 1st Team All Big 10 in both 2021 and 2020, 3rd Team in 2019. Olave is a smooth and easy operator that moves with the kind natural suddenness to constantly get open underneath and intermediate. No matter where lines up, he will find the holes in coverage and become a quarterback’s best friend. In a league where separation is key, Olave may be the most reliable in that department. His attention to detail and ability to glide while moving at his top rate will bring him to open space. While his response to traffic and approach the catching the ball needs some refining, Olave is a safe bet to an ideal complementary, number two target in any kind of passing attack.

*You have to feel safe with Olave. I think he is the one guy up here that you know exactly what you’re getting out of when you draft him. He is such a smooth and easy mover, and it shows up every snap, every week. If he can be put into a role that gets him in space, I really don’t see a cornerback being able to stick to him. Olave is just too quick, too fast, and the body control is too easy for him. It would be a mistake to project him to be a true number one guy, however. He gets tossed around at the catch point and I don’t love the catching mechanics. He is an Isaac Bruce type. If GB or KC gets their hands on him, that is the type of situation where he starts catching 90+ balls per year. Put him on the wrong offense and he struggles to make an impact. Again, not an earth-shattering statement but he, more than most of these guys, needs that kind of plus-situation around him.

4: George Pickens – Georgia – 6’3/195

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry from Hoover, AL. Spent one season as a starter but was a on the field a ton in his first season in. addition to missing almost all of 2021 with a torn ACL. Pickens put the nation on notice as a true freshman when he led the Bulldogs in catches, yards and touchdowns all by wide margins. While he has not taken it to the next level since, the tools and ball skills are worth an extra look. He has a lot of natural talent and easy movement about him. The suddenness combined with his size can create a lot both off the line and in contested situations. He showed something when he came back from the torn ACL suffered in March before playing games in November. This is a competitive player with the NFL size and speed and plus ball skills. If his maturity can be polished, Pickens has the ceiling of a first rounder but there are several bullet points under the risk factor.

*Yet another player that I had to go back to 2019 to find his best tape. I was surprised Pickens declared after missing nearly all of 2021 with a torn ACL. While I am impressed he fought hard to get back on the field just 8 months after the injury, there are several maturity question marks with Pickens. When I think about what Schoen wants on the field and in the locker room, I don’t see a potential marriage here. But I do want to say this: Pickens has the ability and upside of every WR in this class. If his head is on straight (and stays on straight), there will be a very lucky offense out there when he puts their uniform on. This is not the time for NYG to take that kind of risk, but I would be lying if I said I never thought about taking him in round 2. He has credible WR1 ability.

5: Drake London – USC – 6’4/219

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry from Moorpark, California. Three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All-Pac 12 honors in 2020, 1st Team in 2021 in addition to 3rd Team All American honors in his injury-shortened junior campaign. London fractured his ankle in USC’s eighth game of the season. He was the only receiver in the country to average 11 catches per contest and he finished second in the nation with 135.5 yards per game. The former Division I basketball player brings a combination of size, grace, and power presence to the table that can make him a threat in traffic at all times. There have been some maddening inconsistencies in his game as a ball catcher, however. He allowed too many balls to bounce off his hands and hit the turf. Considering he also lacks the final gear to separate downfield, London’s ceiling falls short of a true number one threat. He can be an asset short, intermediate, and in the red zone but don’t bank on him being a top dog.

*At the time of this writing, London still has not had his private Pro Day. I’m not overly concerned by that situation in relation to his ankle, though. I have London as a first rounder, but not someone I am considering really high. There are too many little things about his game that add up to a grade that I feel is lower than what is out there. I see a cheap version of Mike Evans. Maybe he could evolve into something close to him, and in that case would be fully worth a high first rounder, but I think there will be issues separating from pro corners at the next level. I want my size-guys to catch the ball at a high level. I want to see them rarely let the ball hit the turf when they get near it. London needs to prove more in that department. I don’t see him being in the plans of NYG unless they trade down into the 20s, maybe late teens.

6: Jahan Dotson – Penn State – 5’11/178

Grade: 80

Summary: Senior entry from Nazareth, PA. Four-year starter that left Penn State top five in program history across all major career receiving records. Earned second team All-Big 10 honors in 2021, third team in 2020. Dotson, a high school state champion long jumper and anchor in the 4×100 meter relay, brings elite movement in all directions to the table. His burst, quickness, and acceleration give him constant space to work with. He can run himself open on all levels of the route tree and once the ball is in the air, his ability to seal the deal with a catch is as good as it gets. His hands are like magnets to the ball and the body control is always there. Dotson’s lack of size and contact presence can hinder his impact in specific situations, but he often played bigger than what he looks like. Add the dynamic ability with the ball in his hands after the catch and in the return game, Dotson has potential to be a game-changing force at the next level.

*Which receiver has the best hands in the draft? Here you go. There are guys with excellent hands and there is Dotson. In this class, he is in a class of his own. His looseness below the waist as a route runner and the core flexibility when reaching for the ball in any direction makes him an inviting target to throw to despite the lack of true size. Dotson’s weight and presence against contact does concern me. That is what prevents him from a first round grade. He would be an excellent number two or three option in a high-powered offensive attack. With where I project him to possibly go (maybe late round 1), he could find himself in an offense like GB and KC and that is where he could be overlooked and evolve into a 100+ catch per year guy. Does he fit in with NYG? I can see Daboll liking him but again, I think he is an ideal complement to a true number one guy. Still very important, yes. Not sure I see NYG going in this direction though. I won’t ever bash a pick on a guy with this level of ball skills, though.

7: Treylon Burks – Arkansas – 6’2/225

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Warren, AR. Three-year starter that capped his career off earning first-team All SEC honors. The versatile offensive weapon fits the mold of a growing trend in the NFL; strong and thick enough to make a difference with the ball in his hands and fast enough to pose as a downfield threat in the passing game. Burks lined up all over the field and produced from a variety of roles. In addition to his 146 career receptions, he also carried the ball 41 times and returned 12 punts. Simply put, no matter the situation or role, Burks is the kind of player that will create in a unique way when the opportunity is there. His skill set as a route runner and ball catcher are still developing, but the strides he made in 2021 were enormous and showed he has some number-one-receiver upside in him.

*The idea of Burks may exceed his physical potential. With that said, there are a few offensive minds that could truly get the most out of this versatile skill set. Are the Giants one of those teams? I’m not quite sure yet because even though Daboll has proven himself with Josh Allen and Buffalo, the talent here is not even close to that. Burks is a long strider. That isn’t a bad thing, but his speed only shows up after he gets a decent head start. I don’t see the sudden route runner that will get him open consistently. Now, I do like the strength at the catch point, and he does track the ball well downfield. I may be a bit low on him, but I think he is closer to Cordarelle Patterson than he is Deebo Samuel. Still a very good player, but someone I would slot into round 2.

8: Christian Watson – North Dakota State – 6’4/208

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior from Tampa, FL. Three-year starter that earned All-MVFC honors all three seasons, first team in both 2020 and 2021. Also, an All-American in his final year. Watson is the son of former NFL safety Tim Watson. The tall, long, and explosive receiver is dripping with tools that are enticing. He was a big play threat throughout his career at North Dakota State, averaging over 20 yards per catch. His ability to run, jump, and play with toughness can go a long way at the next level. He is making a significant jump in competition and overall athleticism; thus, his adjustment curve will likely be steep. Watson needs to shore up some techniques as a pass catcher and route runner, but this short-term project should add a significant downfield threat to a vertical passing game.

*On paper, I can see why there are some that view Watson as a potential first rounder. It is incredibly rare for a receiver from FCS to break into round 1, just for the record (has not happened since 2001, and just once since 1989). Watson is a physical freak with tools that many will create dreams from. I like the ceiling here and I think it is worth looking into day two. But his issues with drops, lack of a variety in routes, and soft tissue problems after a 2019 knee surgery concern me enough to keep him closer to round 3.

9: Skyy Moore – Western Michigan – 5’10/195

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from New Kensington, PA. A lightly recruited former high school cornerback and quarterback that transitioned to wide receiver right away at Western Michigan. Three-year starter that earned first team All-MAC honors in both 2021 and 2019, second team in 2020. Moore has the elite quickness and precision as a route runner to consistently gain initial separation at the next level. He split time evenly between lining up at the slot and out wide, but he will likely project inside. His toughness and ability after the catch that stems from balance and vision can make him a force with the ball. He plays stronger and bigger than he looks. His lack of size and long speed will likely keep him from being an outside threat but there should not be a need to put him out there considering how refined and ready his skill set it to impact the game from the slot.

*For teams that need a slot, it is very possible he ends up with a top-of-second-round grade. He is the best pure slot guy in the class and in some offenses, the role of importance there is just as high as the outside receiver. Moore is a tough dude that plays at a high speed at all times. He makes some plays that scream Wes Welker. He has a long way to go to reach that level but the urgency, suddenness, and toughness are in that tier. I hope he finds a quality offense; he can be fun to watch. NYG will need a slot at this time next year, I think. Shepard’s days are numbered, and I would not be opposed to getting a guy in right now to learn the system and take over that role full time in 2023. If he falls to round 3, he is an option.

10: John Metchie III – Alabama – 5’11 – 187

Grade: 78

Junior entry from Brampton, Canada. Two-year starter full time and also started four games as a freshman because of injuries. Earned second-team All SEC in 2021. In a very crowded wide receiver room, Metchie III caught 151 passes in 26 games. Built like a slot receiver, his inside-out versatility will help him get on the field early on. The play speed and burst can make things happen after the catch. He did not make a lot of deep catches over his career, but he can do a lot of damage within the short to intermediate portions of the route tree. While his top end potential may not be high, his impact within a quality passing game can be strong off the bat. He plays fast, moves with power, and is still developing the overall skill set that has shown quality flashes throughout his career.

*Metchie’s medicals are going to be very important. He has had multiple lower body injuries over the past two seasons, including a torn ACL this past December. He also had surgery the year prior, and he has an enlarged heart. This is one of those situations where you could see him drop multiple rounds over the course of the weekend and everyone is left wondering what happened. On the field, Metchie is potentially a top tier slot receiver. His routes and lower body stability have left several NFL-caliber corners dead in their tracks. He can stick in the league for a long time if he passes the medicals.

11: Jalen Tolbert – South Alabama – 6’1/194

Grade: 77

Fifth year senior from Mobile, Alabama. Three-year starter that earned first team All-Sun Belt honors in both 2020 and 2021. Tolbert was a late bloomer in high school and did not receive a lot of attention from major programs. He then suffered a knee injury in 2017, forcing him to redshirt. He started to show glimpses of greatness in 2019 before really taking off a season later. Tolbert went on to set, and then re-set school records. The silky-smooth athlete makes certain components of playing the position look easy that certainly are not. His ability to play at different gears and attack the ball with precision and strength can make him a dangerous threat on all levels of the route tree. His skill set needs a lot of work, however, and a team will need patience before they throw him on the field. Tolbert drops too many balls and his body control as a route runner is inconsistent. These things are correctable, and his natural gifts are noteworthy.

*Tolbert is going to need some extra time to truly develop as a route runner and pass catcher. He is no longer going to be the top athlete on the field. He is going to longer have substantial size advantages over others. That said, the physical package this kid brings to the table is attractive. Perhaps NYG is looking at this receiver group knowing most of them will not be around in a year? That would be a good situation for a receiver like Tolbert to come into. No urgency to get on the field, learn the offense, enhance the skill set, and hopefully be the number one or two guy in 2023.

12: Wan’Dale Robinson – Kentucky – 5’8/178

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Frankfort, KY. Spent two seasons at Nebraska before transferring to Kentucky for the 2021 season. Honorable Mention All-Big 10 in both 2019 and 2020, second team All-SEC in 2021. Robinson has been a hybrid receiver/running back from the start of his career and will give an NFL offense the opportunity to create a big-time playmaker out of him. He has the well-balanced athletic ability and overall skill set to do multiple things, align from different spots, and create on his own. He is much more than an undersized, underneath threat that can occasionally take a jet sweep. He has had a lot of success in the deep passing game and plays with the kind of competitive fire that an at least somewhat make up for the lack of ideal size. Because he has lined up all over the offense, Robinson is a little rough around the edges when it comes release and route nuances, but all can be corrected in time. He is a big play threat every time he gets on the field no matter where he lines up.

*Robinson is a guy I have a feeling about. The quickness and burst he has the instant he touches the ball is exactly what gets overlooked by many when looking at measurables. He has the knack to find creases immediately. He is also one tough, strong dude that understands he can use the diminutive frame to his advantage, as a weapon. He is a gadget player, not someone that is always on the field. An argument can be made that only an established offense should be using a pick on a guy like this. I would not agree. Robinson is someone that can make things happen on his own. He can create big plays from nothing and that is what a growing offense needs. Robinson will make grown men hold their breath every time he gets the ball. The way Daboll used Isaiah McKenzie in Buffalo is a nice template: 77 catches – 27 rushes – 21 punt returns – 29 kick returns since 2019. I see Robinson being a better version of that. Keep an eye here.

13: Alec Pierce – Cincinnati – 6’3/211

Grade: 76

Senior entry from Glen Ellyn, IL. Three-year starter that earned second team All-AAC honors in 2021. Pierce, an accomplished jumper and volleyball player in high school, has the kind of explosion and straight line burst to pose as a downfield threat the next level. He averaged over 17.5 yards per catch over his four-year career. His linear movement and plus-length can be a dangerous weapon for a vertical passing offense looking to add an outside threat. He is not the twitchiest underneath route runner and there are occasional issues with his ability after the catch when it comes to innovation and creating extra yards, but in his lane, he can be a solid player. He will be role-specific, but in that role, he has traits that are hard to find. He is a physical gem when considering the secondary set of tools beyond an-already impressive set of tools.

*The size and leaping ability here are a big deal. He is going to be a weapon in the vertical passing game and near the red zone. Pierce has the potential to be a menace on third down. There are going to be issues separating though, and that is a big enough concern for me to keep him in the day three tier. He would be an asset to an offense that had other movement-based options in the passing game.

14: Calvin Austin III – Memphis – 5’8/170

Grade: 75

Fifth year senior from Memphis, TN. Two-year starter that was also a key return specialist. Earned first team All-AAC honors in both 2020 and 2019. Also, a member of the school’s Track and Field Team where he earned multiple All Conference honors and was a 2019 All American. Austin was a nine-time state champion in high school on the track in several events. He will enter the league and immediately become one of the fastest players on the field every Sunday. What makes him different, however, is the suddenness and functional movement traits that show up on the field in multiple versions. He is a dangerous returner, he gets off press coverage with quickness, and can run routes with precision. Austin’s size and lack of natural ball skills will show up from time to time and will prevent him from being a steady and consistent player. With that said, a team that needs more juice on their offense will be able to use the speed of Austin to create opportunities for the offense as a whole right away and he should make an impact on special teams.

*Austin is a fun kid to watch, and it is easy to fall into the thoughts of “what if” with him. His long speed is elite but even better, the short area quickness and burst are next level. He is going to get open in the NFL as long as he doesn’t get eaten up by a quality press corner. He is going to run away from guys with the ball. This is how I felt about a guy with a scary-close profile, Marquise Goodwin. Goodwin battled significant injuries early in his career, but he has made plays. 2017 was his peak, catching 56 passes for 962 yards. He has 14 career touchdowns but never quite made the impact as a returner. If you could guarantee Austin would have a similar career, where would you draft him? That is what I think he will end up being.

15: David Bell – Purdue – 6’1/212

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Indianapolis, IN. Three-year starter that earned accolades all three seasons. Three-time All Big 10, 2019 Big 10 Freshman of the Year, and 2021 Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year. Capped off his career earning 1st Team All American honors. Bell is not the most physically talented receiver. He is no slouch athletically but where he made his money came from how advanced he is with the skill set of being a playmaker. His routes, releases, and ball skills all stand out in a big way. He is a smooth criminal that will steal the ball away from defenders in traffic, make them look silly in the open field, and show a nasty side to him after the catch. He is a football player, plain and simple. While he won’t be an elite downfield threat and his separation downfield will be limited, he will make a strong impact if the right team finds the right role for him.

*Bell falls below the minimum speed numbers for some teams at both the 20-yard shuttle and 40. It is possible some will not even view him as draftable. I am still looking at him in that late 4/early 5 area because of dependable he is when the ball gets in the air. He tracks it as well as anyone and there is a competitive fire in him that I like. Bell is also an advanced route runner. Watch his footwork in cohesion with his hips and core control. He has it down. There are some young receivers that never get to that level. But you do have to be careful here with the speed and lack of ability to create space. As much as I like his game, the corners at the next level are an entirely different level than what he played against.

16: Erik Ezukanma – Texas Tech – 6’2/207

Grade: 74

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Forth Worth, TX. Three-year starter that led the Red Raiders in receiving all three seasons. Earned All-Big 12 honors in 2020 and 2021. Ezukanma is a tough, hard-nosed receiver with excellent play-strength. He plays bigger than his above average-frame will suggest both with the ball in his hands and attacking a pass in traffic. His mechanics as a receiver of the ball are consistent no matter what angle he is coming from. Ezukanma trusts his hands and has an automatic turn upfield immediately after the catch. There is some rawness to his route running and his speed is just average. The skill set will need time to improve but there is a lot to like here if he can fine-tune some of the little things.

*This is an intriguing day three target. I do think this is where NYG will pursue a receiver, that round 5-6 area where you stash a guy toward the back end of the group and possibly use him on special teams. Ezukanma does not have a lot of experience as a gunner, but his skill set and toughness lead me to believe he can do it. As a receiver, guys from Texas Tech have always been hard to project to the next level. Their scheme is relatively simple and there is a lot of unknown. One thing that does stand out beyond the toughness is his straight line ability. He can really go north and he can really jump. Throw in the plus-hands and aggressive style, there are multiple facets to his game that add up. Also, a good situation for him to be in for a year.

17: Velus Jones Jr – Tennessee – 6’0/204

Grade: 73

Summary: Sixth year senior from Saraland, AL. Spent three seasons at USC prior to transferring to Tennessee in 2020. First team All-SEC in 2021 and second team All-Pac 12 in 2019 as a special teamer. Co-winner of the 2021 SEC Special Teams Player of the Year Award. Jones is going to make his initial and most likely mark in the league on special teams. He is a natural playmaker in the return game, stemming from his field vision and contact balance. His burst to speed and easy change of direction makes him an intriguing project at wide receiver as well. The body thickness is unique and could thrive in a quick-strike offense as an underneath target. There are multiple ways he can help and team and that should give his overall grade a boost. He did not get many intermediate-to-deep looks in the passing game at all and there are some catch radius issues, but Jones is a gamble at receiver with a high floor because of what he will offer on specials right away.

*Jones will turn 25 just days after the draft. He had a pretty rough path to Tennessee, but he was never in trouble and there are not any concerns there. Once he settled in, Jones started to show he was more than a special teams weapon. He gets off tight coverage in a hurry, he has the deep speed to get away from corners, and he may be one of the toughest dudes in this class with the ball in his hands. While I think his role should be centralized to the slot on offense, there is extra value he brings on special teams. He has a kick couple return touchdowns on his resume and I think there could be a potential gunner here too. Jones is a very poor man’s version of Deebo Samuel. My game notes on the two are scary-similar. Both have that running back thickness and power with the ball, but both will roast you in the passing game on multiple levels. Jones does not have some of the fluidity and his routes need work, but this is one of the bigger sleepers in the class.

18: Kevin Austin – Notre Dame – 6’2/200

Grade: 73

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. One-year starter that played in just two games from the start of 2019 to the end of 2020. He was suspended from the team in 2019 for repeated violations and injured his foot multiple times in 2020, requiring multiple surgeries. Once on the field for good in 2021, Austin’s talent that had been lauded for a long time finally broke through. He led the Fighting Irish in receiving and proved to be a big play threat, averaging just under 19 yards per catch. What he brings to the table, physically, is as good as any receiver in the class. He is an explosive mover in all directions and his strength plus contact presence can be too much to handle for defensive backs. Because of injuries and the 2019 suspension, he simply did not gain the experience to properly develop his tools into refined skills. This is a super high risk, high reward prospect.

*Because of what I think this regime is going to pursue, especially in this draft, when it comes to “safety” in their picks, I don’t see Austin as a guy they will pursue. Remember the name though. This can be a worthy risk for an offense that is already explosive. If he hits, you have yet another weapon which makes the “embarrassment of riches” notion even stronger (KC? LV? LAC? MIN?) or it can make a decision easier when financial issues arise with a player coming off a rookie deal. For the record, there is one guy (a college coach) that I bounce thoughts off of when it comes to receivers and backs. He said Austin is a “top 3 WR in this class and nobody knows it”.

19: Tyquan Thornton – Baylor – 6’2/181

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Miami, FL. Three-year starter that earned second team All-Big 12 in 2021 and honorable mention in 2019. A former accomplished track star, Thornton is going to bring an element of speed and big play potential to the table right away. He is a smooth accelerator that maintains quality body control as he tracks the ball downfield. His length and concentration as he approaches the ball with his hands showed up several times on tape. There needs to be some more versatility to his game, notably after the catch and as an underneath route runner. He is not overly physical or strong, and that will need time to develop, but there are some sneaky-high end traits here worth taking a shot on day three.

*There are a lot of guys that like the tool set Thornton brings to the table. He has a lot of speed and showed the ball skills that give him a deep threat label. There may not be a ton of variety to his game, so I do think he will be a niche player, but still someone that can create the explosive plays. That is the craze of the NFL right now and because of that, you may see this kid go a little higher than where I have him. The height and length will make him appear even bigger and faster at times. He can get to balls that others come up just short on. There will be some extra transition time for him, as he didn’t run a deep route tree. Nice potential project pick for NYG if they can find him day three and a cheaper option than what Darius Slayton brings to the table.

20: Khalil Shakir – Boise State – 5’11/196

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Murrieta, CA. Three-year starter that earned All Mountain West honors all three seasons, first team in both 2020 and 2021. Shakir’s body type and water bug movement skills scream slot receiver at the next level. He also shows the necessary toughness and competitive streak to go headfirst into a crowd without hesitation. Shakir is the kind of asset on offense and special teams that could get the ball a combined ten times a game, three different ways. The drops and overall radius are both alarming, however. If he does not shore up the consistency, the speed and toughness he shows with the ball will be tough to utilize. His margin for error is very small. At the very least he should add value as a returner and does present upside as a hard-to-touch slot.

*If there was a separate grading stack for slot receivers, Shakir would be pretty close to the top of it. I could see him getting drafted toward the round 4 area if an offense wants a guy strictly for that role. He is quick and sudden but what I like the most is the contact balance post-catch. He is a tough guy to bring down. The issues with drops really bother me, however. It is a personal rule of mine that if you are going to be a slot-only, your hands need to be elite. Throw in length-issues and I just think he needs to be a mid to late day three guy.

BEST OF THE REST

21: Makai Polk – Mississippi State – 6’3/195: 71
22: Danny Gray – SMU – 6’0/186: 71
23: Romeo Doubs – Nevada – 6’2/201: 71
24: Braylon Sanders – Mississippi – 6’0/194: 71
25: Kyle Phillips – UCLA – 5’11/189: 70
26: Justyn Ross – Clemson – 6’4/205: 70
27: Bo Melton – Rutgers – 5’11/189: 70
28: Dareke Young – Lenoir-Rhyne – 6’2/220: 70
29: Tre Turner – Virginia Tech – 6’1/184: 69
30: Jacquarri Roberson – Wake Forest – 6’1/186: 69
31: Charleston Rambo – Miami – 6’1/177: 69
32: Jalen Nailor – Michigan State – 5’11/186: 69
33: Devon Williams – Oregon – 6’5/210: 69
34: Slade Bolden – Alabama – 5’11/193: 68
35: Isaiah Weston – Northern Iowa – 6’3/214: 68
36: Mike Woods – Oklahoma – 6’1/204: 68
37: Tanner Conner – Idaho State – 6’3/226: 68
38: Reggie Roberson – SMU – 5’11/192: 68
39: Jerreth Sterns – Western Kentucky – 5’7/178: 68
40: Tay Martin – Oklahoma State – 6’1/184: 68

NYG APPROACH

This is a position that is going to need a lot of attention in the next year or two. I can easily see all three of Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton not on this roster at this time next year. In fact, I would parlay that bet and be very confident in it. So, what is NYG left with? The unknown of Kadarius Toney (drafted by the previous regime), although we should get some clarity in the 2022 season. All of the other current receivers are roster-hopeful types. There will be more money to spend the next two offseasons, thus we can assume a mid-to-high priced free agent will be brought in, perhaps even a trade (similar to what BUF did with Diggs). That still will not be enough. They are going to use pick(s) on a receiver in the next year or two, no question. Daboll likes receivers who can play BOTH the slot and on the outside based on situations and matchups. They don’t need to be overly big, but they need to be tough at the catch point and run quality routes according to the pro standard. There are a few guys in every tier who I think profile best to that kind of role. It is a long shot, but Wilson in the first round (even in the top 10) is a fit there. Day two I see guys like Jahan Dotson and John Metchie III being the fit. On day three, which is where I am expecting them to probably use a pick on one, names like Calvin Austin, Erik Ezukanma, Makai Polk, Danny Gray, and Reggie Roberson are names to keep an eye on. In today’s NFL, you can never have enough playmakers. NYG is starting from the bottom tier in that department.

Apr 202022
 
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Trey McBride, Colorado State Rams (November 6, 2021)

Trey McBride – © USA TODAY Sports

TIGHT ENDS

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

1: Trey McBride – Colorado State – 6’4/246

Grade: 83

Summary: Senior entry from Fort Morgan, CO. Four-year starter. Winner of the 2021 Mackey Award and earned unanimous All-American honors, a first in the program’s history. Three-time All-Mountain West, first team in 2021 and 2019. McBride excelled in multiple sports growing up. He left high school as the all-time leading scorer in basketball and the all-time leader in home runs on the baseball field. His success on the gridiron, ending with the top award in the nation as a senior, speaks volumes of how much he can excel at anything he takes part in. McBride is not the top shelf athlete, and he falls just short of ideal size, but his production and feel for the game across multiple domains creates a near-sure thing at the next level. He is as competitive as it gets and there is a skill set both as a blocker and receiver that should land him a starting job early in his career. He specializes at coming away with the ball in traffic and will put everything he has into beating his man in the running game.

*McBride has been at the top of my TE stack since August and his 2021 season only hardened that position. I think this kid is a stud, and I am probably higher on him than most. I do wish he was a little bigger/longer. If he was, he would be in the 85+ tier, a credible Pro Bowl projection. McBride is a better athlete than most think (4.54 forty), he plays with tenacity across every aspect of the game, and he breeds success every time he gets on the field. This is what I want NYG to have at tight end. He is a crazy-close profile to George Kittle and I think the ball skills are even better. If he is there in round 2 (I don’t think he will be), there won’t be many guys I want more than him.

2: Jeremy Ruckert – Ohio State – 6’5/252

Grade: 80

Summary: Senior entry from Lindenhurst, NY. Two-plus year starter that earned honorable mention All-Big 10 honors in 2021. After being the number two overall tight end recruit from the 2018 class, Ruckert never quite matched the hype because of an overly crowded and talented wide receiver room at Ohio State. His looks in the passing game just weren’t frequent enough to showcase his talent. He saw just 71 targets over the three seasons he was a big part of the offense. He did, however, display his ability to block both in-line and up the field. Ruckert’s hands, physical nature, and high on-field IQ made him a weapon on plays he was not thrown to. His impact will be felt there right away, and he could end up showing more as a receiver at the next level than he did in college. This is a guy that dropped just one pass over his career and scored 12 touchdowns on those 71 targets. He can be a weapon and an asset, one that sneaks up on the league in a classic “Y” tight end role.

*Ruckert is another round 2 option (I think most are projecting round 3) for NYG in my eyes. This guy is a full blown starting tight end week 1 in his rookie year. I don’t say that about a lot of guys, as the transition from college to NFL for tight ends is just brutal. Ruckert is the best blocker of the group (besides guys that are only blockers). He has a lot of Dalton Schultz in his game in that he will be equally reliable as a receiver and blocker but if he gets consistent looks in the passing game, his production will be higher than any Giants tight end since Shockey. I think he is one of the safest picks in the draft, just don’t expect Travis Kelce.

3: Greg Dulcich – UCLA – 6’4/243

Grade: 80

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Glendale, California. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors in 2021, 2nd Team in 2020. Dulcich proved to be a big play threat from a position that is usually reserved for threats underneath. Over his two seasons as a starter, he led the Bruins in receiving (1,242) and yards per catch (18.2), uncommon for the position. He has a unique blend of burst, speed, and ability to play an acrobatic brand. While he still has some developing to do physically, he brings a high-effort and no-nonsense style to the field that can create mismatches across the board. Dulcich won’t be an every down player early on, but his contributions to the passing game can be immediate and if he adds enough power and mass to his frame, he can be a very good starter at the next level.

*Sometimes you watch a guy one time and just “have a feeling”. I watched Dulcich against LSU early in the year and immediately said he was going to be a 1st or 2nd rounder. Nobody even had him entering the draft at that point. I never wavered and here we are, Dulcich declared and may be the highest-upside receiver at the position in the class. He has a unique style of movement to him, and he can really go up and get it. The one issue beyond his low-level blocking? I’m not sure I would label him a “soft-hands” type. I think he may be a guy that drops some easy balls. The question is, will the big plays overshadow the lowlights? It didn’t work with Engram but there are situations where it does pan out. I have a high enough grade on him to be in the discussion round 2.

4: Jelani Woods – Virginia – 6’7/253

Grade: 78

Summary: Senior entry from Ellenwood, GA. Three-year starter at Oklahoma State prior to transferring to Virginia for the 2021 season where he also started for one year. Two-time honorable mention All-Big 12 and capped his career off earning first team All-ACC honors in 2021. Woods’ frame and long stride speed stand out. He is such a tall and wide target in the passing game with a raw feel. The former quarterback still has some nuances to fix as a route runner, but his ball skills and ability after the catch are noteworthy and present long-term promise. He may not be ready for life in the trenches early on, but the competitive streak and tools are there to be an all-around player at a classic tight end set up.

*I am excited about Woods’ upside. I see so many Marcedes Lewis comparisons with his tool set. However, him reaching that kind of ceiling will come down to what Lewis did after he was drafted. That dude took a lot of pride in his blocking and developing that skill set. The size, speed, and ability to catch the ball in traffic and on the move is already there. If Woods wants to be that kind of player, he needs to LOVE blocking and truly understand how much a team needs a presence from that role. I am not sure I see the fire in him, but Lewis didn’t either coming out of UCLA. Woods is a high risk, high reward guy.

5: Cade Otton – Washington – 6’5/247

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Turnwater, WA. Four-year starter that earned first team All-Pac 12 honors in 2021. Otton brings a very high floor to the table for teams that want a steady, long-term starter at tight end. He checks all the boxes when it comes to size, athletic ability, and ever down impact. He shows tremendous upside as a blocker with his explosive hands and sturdy base along with a keen sense of where to be and what to do. Otton also brings a sense of steadiness to the passing game with his ability to get suddenly open and fight through traffic for the ball. His greatest trait arises after the catch. He is a load to bring down and runs with a lot of will and toughness. He barrels over defensive backs and looks like the biggest kid at recess that nobody wants to deal with. Otton has some limitations when it comes to speed and agility but he is good enough in those departments to complement his style well. Has the ideal frame and body type for an every down role.

*The standout trait that I like here is how physical Otton plays with the ball in his hands. He will get those yards after contact that stem from defensive backs that don’t know how to tackle. The size and strength are solid, but it is the attitude and “want to” that he plays with. He will be a good, not great, blocker too. There are a few of the day two guys / projected starters that I prefer but he is a solid fall back option.

6: Charlie Kolar – Iowa State – 6’6/254

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Norman, OK. Three-plus year starter that earned first team All-Big 12 honors in 2019, 2020, and 2021 in addition to third team All-American honors in both 2019 and 2020. Kolar, an award-winning student as well, fits the mold of the “Y” tight end perfectly. His size from any and every angle is top tier and he proved to be a reliable pass catcher that can be key component to an air attack. The lack of speed and burst could limit the routes and depth of target he brings to the table, but his success in traffic over the years means something. Kolar does not have standout athletic traits and he needs to learn how to block with more urgency and toughness, but his floor is very high. Kolar will be a starter or second tight end that sees the field a lot. A sure thing to at least be useable and reliable week to week.

*Kolar has had a really solid pre-draft process. His workout at the Pro Day went better than expected and he showed well at Senior Bowl week. While I still don’t see a sudden mover on tape, Kolar’s size and strong catching mechanics in traffic are enticing. I think he may need a transition year before being depended on as an every down guy, but he had a weird role at Iowa State. They used so many tight ends and Kolar was split out way more than he was in-line. Get him stronger, get him more comfortable with his hand in the dirt, and view him as a starter in 2023.

7: Daniel Bellinger – San Diego State – 6’5/253

Grade: 76

Senior entry from Las Vegas, NV. Three-year starter than earned Honorable Mention All-Mountain West honors in 2020. Bellinger has the tool set and ability to play the traditional Y tight end spot. While his skill set is more receiver-friendly, he does show enough upside and ability to create impact as a blocker. He plays a twitchy, sudden game and understands his role well. Bellinger may not have the man-strength quite yet to have a big role, but he should fill the back end of a depth chart early on. He is a plus-athlete with some sneaky upside to him when it comes to getting open and making things happen after the catch.

*It would not surprise me one bit to see Bellinger sneak into the end of round two. The triangle numbers are really solid, and he didn’t drop a single ball over his last two seasons. I just wish he got more looks in the passing game at San Diego State. He will likely be a year two guy at earliest because he had a hard time with defensive-linemen in the Mountain West. I think NFL guys will eat him early on.

8: Jake Ferguson – Wisconsin – 6’5/250

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Madison, WI. Three-year starter that earned first team All-Big 10 honors in both 2021 and 2020, honorable mention in 2019. Ferguson falls just below the line when it comes to difference-making speed and size for the position, but he brings a well-balanced skill set to the table that can at least somewhat hinder that. He is a smart and savvy receiver with plus-ball skills. He makes the acrobatic catch look easy and can create with the ball in his hands. He struggled to make a consistent impact as a blocker, as the strength below the waist and inability to latch on to his man showed up on tape several times. He will fill the back end of a depth chart early and can develop into a rotational player if he can gain and maintain mass and power.

*Ferguson is a pure football kid from a pure football family. His grandfather is former Wisconsin Head Coach Barry Alvarez. While I think he is a tad short on talent and upside, I feel safe with him as a backup that plays a few snaps weekly and can be used without a specialty outlook. That means he is a threat to catch or block, not just one or the other. I don’t see the upside as a starter, but that does not mean he is a bad day tree pick. He feels safer than some of the other guys in this tier.

9: Isaiah Likely – Coastal Carolina – 6’4/245

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Cambridge, MA. Three-year starter that earned first team All-Sun Belt each of his last two seasons and was also a second team All-American in 2021. Likely’s production was somewhat a product of the scheme he played in that had a lot of easy catches for him programmed within. However, a deeper look into the film and there is a reel of high difficulty catches down the field in traffic. He is an athletic, natural receiver with soft hands, dropping just one pass out of 79 targets in 2021. The issue with him revolves around blocking and overall size. His grades there are as low as it gets, and he does not seem overly interested in impacting the play unless he is a target in the passing game. He can make it as a move-tight end but with fewer and fewer teams using that kind of weapon, the demand for his services will be low. In the right system, Likely can be a sneaky-good option though.

*Catch the right film and you will think Likely is a top 100 guy that belongs in the tier with the first six on this list. I don’t see that, but he does have good athleticism and soft hands. Always a good place to start. He won’t ever factor as a blocker, so you really need to carve out that role for him. How much is it worth unless we are talking about an elite receiver? Likely is not that. It is un-Likely we will see him as a top tier guy, but you could find a spot if the scheme wants someone to motion pre-snap and mostly run routes.

10: James Mitchell – Virginia Tech – 6’4/249

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Big Stone Gap, VA. Three-year starter that played in just two games in 2021 due to a knee injury that required surgery. Mitchell will project to a motion-tight end at the next level. His best blocking performances are on the move in space, as he matches up well enough against speed and quickness. He is a savvy receiver with enough shake and suddenness at the top of his routes to create some separation. He won’t need much, as his ball skills and contact presence at the catch point look sturdy and reliable. Mitchell is a savvy player on all fronts that will get the most out of himself. He will be coming off an ACL injury and surgery, but this is a long-term player that will be in the league beyond his rookie deal as a solid number two tight end.

*After watching all of Mitchell’s film that I could get my hands on from 2020-2021, I saw someone that I wanted on the back end of my depth chart. If I have a starter and quality backup, Mitchell is someone I want. His game looks pro-caliber across multiple spectrums. I will admit he is short on tools and won’t stand out anywhere in particular, but there are subtle things I see on tape he does better than other guys. And he has made some ridiculous catches on tape. Coming off the ACL may delay his start a bit, so that factored in a little as well.

11: Chigoziem Okonkwo – Maryland – 6’2/238

Grade: 71

Senior entry from Power Springs, GA. Spent two years as a part time starter before sitting all out of 2020 because of a heart condition. Okonkwo came back strong in 2021, starting full time and earning Honorable Mention All-Big 10 honors. While the size and power presence will prevent Okonkwo from playing every down, his potential in a hybrid / H-Back role will be a draw to several teams. He plays incredibly quick and twitchy in addition to showing the ability to run away from defenders in space. Okonkwo is not a fit for every scheme, but a creative mind can find ways to use his talent.

*I could have put Oknokwo in with the fullbacks. He is going to be someone that teams use in multiple roles. In-line, motion, and the backfield. The Chargers used Stephen Anderson like this in 2021 and it was a very underrated aspect of their offense. This dude is a specimen and a very good athlete. I think he has some upside worth trying to develop. If the new offense wants to get away from using a roster spot on a fullback, Okonkwo is a guy worth pursuing. He can do it.

12: Teagan Quitoriano – Oregon State – 6’6/256

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Salem, OR. Four-year starter that earned honorable mention All-Pac 12 honors in both 2020 and 2021. Quitoriano was a two-sport star in high school that also excelled on the hardwood. He brings that kind of skill set to the table; a power forward capable of using his big frame to box out defenders and his quick feet to get initial advantages. The tool set he has should fit in nicely toward the bottom of a depth chart early on. With the role he expects to play as an in-line tight end, he needs to get much stronger as he will be matched up against pro defensive linemen often. He had issues sustaining blocks. His lack of athleticism, especially when moving laterally, will not permit him to be a true big-time threat as a receiver. He should be able to find a role as an underneath threat in the red zone on third down, however.

*Big country kid that shows the upside of being a problem for guys trying to prevent him from catching the ball. Someone with this size that also has a basketball background will always be a draw. He is more developmental than the mid-rounders but he also has a higher ceiling. Another really solid option for a day three pick that sits on the bottom of the depth chart. Has some young Kevin Boss to him.

13: Peyton Hendershot – Indiana – 6’4/250

Grade: 69

Summary: Fifth year senior from North Salem, IN. Four-year starter that earned All-Big 10 honors three times. Hendershot was a big part of the Indiana passing game. He finished second on the team in catches in 2019 and led the team in 2021. He does not have a standout physical trait but if he gets his hands on the ball, he will bring it in. He dropped just two passes over the past three years, an amazing ratio to his 121 catches. He needs to prove he can handle himself in the trenches against linemen, but he has the desire and want-to. Hendershot as an arrest on his record that needs to be investigated.

*Hendershot is a grinder. He plays through traffic so well. He is a tough dude that will create with the ball in his hands. He was a focal point of a passing game and rarely dropped the ball. The issue is upside stemming from lackluster tools. What is the upside here? He looks maxed out, but I like having young hungry guys like this on a bad roster. They bring the energy and can help build the culture. Hendershot won’t be a big factor in the league, but this is the kind of guy that sticks around.

14: Cole Turner – Nevada – 6’6/249

Grade: 69

Senior entry from Clackamas, OR. Two-year starter that earned All-Mountain West honors both seasons, first team in 2020. Turner has the body of either an oversized wide receiver or undersized tight end. Throw in the fact he mostly lined up in the slot away from the defensive line, and we are looking at a hybrid space-dependent player. He will not survive against pro defensive ends and outside linebackers as a blocker. His value will revolve around making plays on the ball downfield. He does not have blazing speed or explosive traits, but he does have quality tape in contested situations. For teams that reserve a role for a tight end that lines up split out, Turner will be an intriguing player to try and develop over the course of two or three years.

*Turner was a WR for a couple years before moving to “tight end” in 2020. I put that in quotes because he lined up in-line under 100 times. He really was an oversized slot in that offense. His body is terrible. Just looks like a guy that couldn’t decide if he wants to be a receiver or tight end, so he chose neither. He has some quality ball skills and production though. At his height and knowing he is nowhere near where he could be physically, there is a sliver of hope for him. Late round gamble only.

15: Jalen Wydermyer – Texas A& M – 6’4 – 255

Grade: 69

Summary: Junior entry from Dickinson, TX. Three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors all three seasons. A 2020 Mackey Award finalist. Wydermyer is dripping with tools, talent, and potential. He has the prototype body plus some extra length and ability to track the ball. He shows flashes of being an ideal tight end target in today’s pass-happy NFL, one that will cause matchup nightmares across the board. He is capable of adjusting his weight to the pass in an instant and has made multiple highlight-reel plays over his career. The issue is everything in between. His drop rate and blocking grades are bottom tier. The lack of consistency and reliability make him a very boom-or-bust prospect. If he can approach his own progression with more attention to detail and passion for the small things, he can be quality starter and true difference maker. If he stays on this current track, he will live on the bottom of the depth chart.

*What a major fall for this kid over the past year. This time about 12 months ago, many were assuming top 45 pick. He had quality tape, good production, and appeared to have the tools. There were some off-field red flags but nothing too serious. He then goes out and puts out poor tape week after week. Dropping balls left and right, missing blocks, and looking lethargic. Then, puts together one of the worst Pro Day workouts of all time for the position. He ran a 5.02 forty, a space usually reserved for linemen. His jumps are bottom 5% historically. There have been 2 tight ends in history drafted with this kind of package, both primarily for blocking. Wydermyer is not a good blocker. The only reason he makes a late round draftable grade is the fact he has some quality tape from a couple years ago. Not sure what happened but it is worth looking into to see if someone can motivate him.

BEST OF THE REST

16: Nicholas Muse – South Carolina – 6’4/258: 68
17: Gerrit Prince – UAB – 6’4/241: 68
18: Armani Rogers – Ohio – 6’5/226: 68
19: Grant Calcaterra – SMU – 6’4/241: 68
20: Derrick Deese Jr – San Jose State – 6’3/236: 67
21: Chase Allen – Iowa State – 6’6/251: 67
22: Austin Allen – Nebraska – 6’8/253: 67
23: Curtis Hodges – Arizona State – 6’8/257: 66
24: Trae Berry – Boston College – 6’6/247: 66
25: John Fitzpatrick – Georgia – 6’7/262: 66
26: Zaire Mitchell – Florida Atlantic – 6’4/256: 65
27: Lucas Krull – Pittsburgh – 6’6/254: 65
28: John Babicz – North Dakota State – 6’6/255: 65
29: Jamal Pettitgrew – McNeese State – 6’6/244: 65
30: Erik Krommenhoek – USC – 6’5/245: 65

NYG APPROACH

If you take position value out of the equation, a. strong case can be made for tight end being the number one need on this team. Now that Evan Engram can officially be labeled a first round bust, the cupboard is bare. There are ways around an offense not having one and I feel Daboll is just the guy to handle that responsibility. He knows how to scheme around a hole at a position to maximize what a team actually has. The issue? This team just does not have much to scheme into. Nothing to sink teeth into. Nothing to put trust into. With that in mind, this front office needs to get a tight end in here, preferably early and I will tell you why.

A quality every down tight end (running and blocking) will elevate what this team can do both in the running and passing game. The NYG offensive line will likely still be an issue. They will have at least one rookie on the line, the likely spot being right tackle. Ricky Seals-Jones and Chris Myarick and Jake Hausmann are not going to help enough when trying to open up running lanes for Barkley or provide aid in pass protection. In addition, the tight end needs to be a big part of the third down offense. That spot needs to have a guy who can quickly get into his route and catch balls in traffic. This will be a quick-strike offense, thus that tight end needs to feed into that approach. While Seals-Jones can give some oversized wide receiver assistance, there is a reason why he has averaged under 3 starts a year over his five-year career. He has never caught more than two-thirds of his targets either.

The tight end spot is important regardless of how spread open you think this offense will be. Dawson Knox, for example, was on the field for just under 90% of the team’s snaps in Buffalo last year. He was second on the team in touchdowns (9) and second on the team in passer rating when targeted (127.8). NYG needs to find their version of Knox as soon as possible. I prefer McBride (round 2) or Ruckert (possibly round 3). While they may not pay the dividends you want right away, this draft is mostly about being ready to compete in 2023. No matter who the quarterback is at that time, a more-than-serviceable tight end will be a huge part of this offense getting out of the basement. In fact, I wouldn’t even mind a double dip at the position if there was a late day three value there like Quitoriano.

Apr 182022
 
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Evan Neal, Alabama Crimson Tide (December 31, 2021)

Evan Neal – © USA TODAY Sports

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

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

1: Evan Neal – Alabama – 6’7/337

Grade: 87

Summary: Junior entry from Okeechobee, Florida. Three-year starter at three different positions (LG, RT, LT). A 2019 Freshman All American that ended his career as a 2nd Team All American and 1st Team All SEC honoree. Neal, a team captain, is lauded by both the on-field coaches and support staff inside the walls. His attention to detail, intelligence, and work ethic have helped him deliver on his 5-star recruit profile out of high school. The fact he started right away as a true freshman for Nick Saban along the offensive line, a rarity, and progressed each season of his 3-year career while playing 3 different positions speaks volumes about his mental game. The obvious with Neal is the elite physical tools. His size is second to none, his power comes easy and natural, and the explosion within his blocking can put him in a rare tier of offensive line prospects. He did struggle with consistency throughout his career, as he showed low body awareness in several situations. He often oversets, leading to balance and control issues. Defenders were able to shake him off too many times. Neal’s upside is as high as it gets but the constant new-position he dealt with every year may have thrown off some important development. That versatility may help his outlook to some teams but once he is drafted, his true value will come when he settles into a position. Neal can eventually be one of the best linemen in the game.

*Prior to the start of the year, I had nearly no-doubt Neal was going to finish in the 90+ tier. But this is where you have to toss pre-conceived notions out the window when watching the tape. The truth is, Neal did not take a step forward. There are shortcomings within his skill set that arose weekly. The positive? These are all very correctable issues, and we see them corrected all the time. He has some of the same issues that Tristan Wirfs did coming out of Iowa in 2020. Wirfs was my OT1 in that class with a similar grade and is now an All-Pro. Neal can get on that path just as quickly, but I think he needs to settle into a position and remain there for a couple years. That hasn’t been the case since he was a high schooler. NYG would be an ideal destination for him. Insert him into the RT spot week 1 and they could have a top tier OT pair within a year or two. I would be excited to get this kid in blue.

2: Ikem Ekwonu – NC State – 6’4/310

Grade: 87

Summary: Junior entry from Charlotte, North Carolina. Three-year starter that has seen time at both left guard and left tackle. Two-time 1st Team All ACC and 2021 1st Team All American. The former wrestler was the also the anchor on his high school track team at 280+ pounds. Ekwonu will immediately be one of the best athletes along the offensive line in the league. His explosion, twitch from head to toe, and comfort in space as a lead blocker will be a viable weapon on an NFL offense early on. He is constantly putting defenders on the ground, as he can turn that speed into power at the snap of a finger. The issue with Ekwonu, however, is what we see out of homerun hitters in baseball. In between the highlights are far too many strikeouts. His lack of space-awareness and angles cause too many losses. His footwork is off, and his hands are often too late, which NFL defenders will eat for breakfast. The upside is through the roof, and he does carry credible inside-out versatility, but there is a lot of work to be done. He could start inside at guard in the NFL and will be most valuable in the running game when he can get out in space.

*For the record, Ekwonu graded out in the same tier at guard as tackle. It would be a hard call to pick between the two spots where he should start his career off. If the long-term plan is to put him at tackle, you might as well put him there right away. But if a team has 2 capable tackles and a hole at guard, I would not hesitate to put him inside. He has that kind of power, and he will make a bigger initial impact there. Ekwonu has holes in his game, just like Neal. Those issues, also like Neal, are very correctable. And lastly, like Neal, that is what kept him out of the 90+ tier. The upside is on that level at both guard and tackle. I do see a scenario where he is the guy I want NYG to go after at #5. It is pretty specific in terms of what happens 1-4, but it is possible. He would be a fun player to watch, and I would like the fit next to Glowinski for his mental progression. A part of me would wonder, however, if it would be a better idea to insert him at left guard and try to fill in RT next year. What a left side that would be.

3: Charles Cross – Mississippi State – 6’5/307

Grade: 85

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Laurel, Mississippi. Two-year starter that earned 1st Team All SEC honors in 2021. Cross has all the tools and on-field intelligence to be a starting tackle in the league. His size and athletic ability look natural and easy. He has a calmness about him in pass protection that is hard to find. Rarely does he seem off balance or out of control even when he needs to adjust his weight and intentions at the final moment. There are some brute strength and power issues that show up in the running game, but if he continues on the track we have seen with his body development over the last three years, he should bridge the gap in that department soon enough to potentially be considered one of the top tackles in the league. He can already do things against speed, quickness, and scheme-complexity that many pros cannot. His upside us as high as any offensive lineman in the draft.

*If you are looking for a tackle solely for pass protection, a strong case can be made for Cross being the top dog. His body control is what stands out the most to me. When you watch the top pass blocking tackles in the league, you rarely see their numbers facing the ground. You rarely see them overextending or bending from the hip. This is what I see in Cross every time I watch him play. He does have losses on tape which stem from a weak initial punch and lack of grip strength. That needs to be enhanced, no question. Hand fighting is an essential part of blocking and while I think he has the skill set down, he just needs to get stronger. The build is there, and he has done a nice job adding some weight since being recruited. I do think he is in play for #7 if NYG goes elsewhere at #5.

4: Trevor Penning – Northern Iowa – 6’7/325

Grade: 83

Summary: Fifth year senior from Clear Lake, IA. Three-year starter that did not play in 2020 because the program cancelled the season. He played in both a shortened spring and full fall season respectively in 2021. Capped off his career with first team All-MVFC and All-American honors in addition to being named a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the Offensive Player of the Year in FCS. Penning brings immense size, power, and attitude to the trenches. He is the kind of player that gets slid into a starting offensive line and all the sudden the personality up front is changed. To say he plays nasty and physical would be an understatement. Penning does have a few athletic shortcomings, as he doesn’t have the ever-present agility and bend below the waist. However, the capabilities are there to be just good enough at minimum and his overall power and mass should be able to hide most of the issues. There is a possibility his best fit would be inside, but he should get a shot to man a starting tackle spot early in his career.

*Penning was barely recruited out of high school. He spent just a year-plus on the offensive line. And he played at the lowest level of Iowa high school football. Now? He is a 325-pound freak that some can rightfully argue brings the best blend of talent to the table of all linemen in this class. I have a feeling we are going to see Penning go a lot earlier than where some are projecting him. He is a dream come true for some offensive line coaches. Still relatively raw when it comes to playing offensive line, elite burst and power, a pro-ready body, a love for the weight room, and a tenacity that can change the personality of an entire offense. Penning is a bit of a gamble because even from a lower level of college football, he was out-quicked far too often for my liking. But after seeing him workout, a case can be made he just doesn’t fully know what he is doing yet. And if/when he does, he can be a Pro Bowl talent.

5: Abraham Lucas – Washington State – 6’6/315

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior from Everett, WA. Four-year starter that earned All-Pac 12 honors all four seasons, first team in both 2020 and 2021. Lucas is a highly experienced and accomplished right tackle that checks all the boxes when it comes to the tools and physical skill set. He is a superb pass blocker that does a lot of the little things right on a repeated basis. His footwork and body control, both in space and while engaged with the defender, are consistent. He is not the best natural athlete, and it does show up on occasion, but he rarely abandons his techniques and there is a presence of denseness to him. He plays strong and heavy when things are lined up. His issues, which center around consistent bend and hand-timing, are very correctable. Lucas will be a starting right tackle in the league by his second year and should have a long career in the league.

*Lucas may need a little more time than most guys with a 79 grade. He did not play in anything close to a pro-blocking scheme and was rarely ever asked to run block. There is a level of weakness to his game as well. He is like a JV version of Charles Cross. Really smooth and reliable pass blocker but does not get enough push yet in the running game. His frame is there, though, and he does have some attitude to him that showed up at the Senior Bowl. I liked him there. If NYG does not get an OT early, he is on my short list overall for day 2.

6: Tyler Smith – Tulsa – 6’5/324

Grade: 79

Third year sophomore entry from Forth Worth, TX. Two-year full-time starter that also started two games in his redshirt season. Earned All-AAC honors in both 2020 and 2021. Smith is an explosive bruiser that plays the game with some extra attitude and violence. He plays with the kind of untamed mean streak that, when lined up properly, can be a true difference maker for an offensive line. His size and foot speed give him a high ceiling, but it will take some time to get there. He got away with poor techniques across the board in college that will not fly in the NFL. He needs to completely refine his hand work, get more comfortable with knee bend, and improve his body overall. Smith may need to make a move inside but even there, his ability to anchor will need time to build up. Look for him to be steady contributor within two years with a high upside.

*Look for Smith as another candidate for NYG to move inside if they can get their hands on him day 2. He plays the game like a violent guard. The lack of consistency in his bend and hand placement will cause issues on the outside early on. Inside, however, there is more margin for error in that department because he wouldn’t be as responsible for as much space. That said, most teams will see a potential tackle here that likely needs to sit a year. He has a high enough upside to warrant round 2.

7: Nicholas Petit-Frere – Ohio State – 6’5/316

Grade: 79

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Tampa, Florida. Two-year starter that transitioned to left tackle in 2021, finishing as a 2nd Team All American and earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors. Petit-Frere was an elite, top-rated high school recruit at the tackle position coming out. It took him a little extra time before he was ready to contribute on the field, but he put forth two solid seasons at both right and left tackle respectively. The body, athletic ability, and overall upside are enough to forecast a starting job in his future, however it may not be right away. There are a lot of inconsistencies in his game that need to be hammered out before can be fully trusted. He carries tightness in his lower half that translates into poor initial movement, delayed reactions, and a lack of sustainable power. When he does have all his techniques lined up, he has shown flashes of being a dominant player. The plays in between those positive stretches are what can cause some worry and delay his impact on a quality offense. Boom or bust type that would be best suited as a backup early on.

*There are stretches of play where Petit-Frere looks like a definite first rounder. He looks the part both pre and post snap. He has starting experience on both sides of the ball. He put a lot of quality work into the offseasons throughout his career. My glaring negative when breaking down his grade is the fact that his performances against arguably his two toughest opponents were poor. Hutchinson from Michigan and Ebikitie from Penn State, two pro-caliber edge guys, nearly destroyed him. I’ve said this before, but I will repeat it. How these guys respond to those matchups will always mean a lot to my final grades. Petit-Frere was a first rounder in my eyes until those game tapes. He has the ability, but it needs to come together on a more reliable basis.

8: Bernhard Raimann – Central Michigan – 6’6/307

Grade: 77

Senior from Steinbrunn, Austria. Two-year starter at left tackle after starting 11 games over the previous two seasons at tight end. Earned first team All-MAC honors in 2021. Raimann played tight end until 2020 and it took just 18 games at his new position to become a credible pro prospect. His quick feet and overall twitch carry over well. He can stay under control against speed but also shows advanced knowledge and understanding of hand-techniques. He usually gets them inside while staying square and the ability to constantly stop and re-direct complements that well. Raimann is still rough around the edges and does not have the prototype-frame for the position. He lacks ample reach and struggles to keep his outside shoulder strong in pass protection, and it could cause a move inside. However, his skill set and lack of push off the ball could hinder his ability at guard. The athleticism and rawness do leave the door open for more obtainable upside than most prospects at the position, but there is a lot of development needed, which will take extra time.

*Raimann will turn 25 early in the 2022 season. He has a lot of big-time supporters around the league. It sounds like he will be a 2nd rounder. My initial read on him was 3rd or 4th round and after seeing the entire package, I did cement him into day two. That said, I don’t see a way to move him higher than where I have. There are too many unprovens when it comes to his skill set. Now, if he fixes the outside shoulder issues and gets a little more consistent with his lower body overall, and the actual ability is there I’ll admit, then we are looking at a starter. But the lack of length, lack of consistency, and core-based issues are too much for me to consider him any higher.

9: Rasheed Walker – Penn State – 6’6/313

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior from Waldorf, Maryland. Three-year starter that earned third team All-Big 10 honors in 2020. Walker has all the tools and traits to be a quality starting tackle in the NFL. His size and athleticism are hard to find together in one player. When his techniques are lined up, they come together and create quality blocking. He has the suddenness and explosive hands to re-direct defenders while keeping the lower half active and fast. His issues revolve around inconsistent spacing between his feet. It causes him to lose balance and power, notably in pass protection when he needs to move to his outside shoulder. In time, Walker can be a high-end player but he will need quality coaching, patience, and an unwavering work ethic.

*Walker is getting over a minor knee injury that prevented him from working out at both his pro day and the scouting combine. There are also some maturity question marks with him that will cause teams to hesitate in a deep group day three linemen. With that said, Walker’s best tape rivals several of the guys in the day two group. He has the goods. The lack of consistency and questions noted above will likely cause NYG to steer clear, however.

10: Luke Goedeke – Central Michigan – 6’5/312

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Whitelaw, WI. Two-year starter that missed all of 2020 after a knee injury that required surgery. First team All-MAC in 2021. Goedeke played right tackle all but one snap over his career. He shows dominant traits in the running game that stem from a combination of mentality and hand strength. He locks on with active feet and uses all his mass to get movement off the line. He plays with solid top to bottom cohesion and understands the angle-battle well. His size and lack pure athletic ability may force a move inside, but he should at least get a look at tackle. He is a fighter, one that relishes the role of being a security guard. Goedeke can be the important sixth lineman that can man different spots when injuries arise with the upside of being a starter down the road.

*After a career at tackle, he may have to make a shift inside due to length concerns. Goedeke is also a solid, but not great, mover in pass protection. He is one of the handful of guys you could project to either spot but I kept him out here because he never played inside at Central Michigan. Goedeke is not far off from Raimann, who gets much more attention it seems. Watch the two snap to snap (easy to do since they are on the same film) and you’ll see they trade back and forth positive/negative plays. I see Goedeke as the career backup type that you don’t want to head into the season as your starter, but OK with him coming in when an injury pops up.

11: Kellen Diesch – Arizona State – 6’7/301

Grade: 75

Fifth year senior from Trophy Club, TX. Two-year starter for Arizona State after transferring from Texas A& M where he spent three seasons as a backup. Earned second team All-Pac 12 honors in 2021. Diesch is a natural, easy-looking pass protector on the edge with smooth and repeatable footwork. His techniques are near-flawless, and it led to an incredibly high success rate on an island against pass rushers. He falls well below the prototype size for the tackle position, however, and may not have the anchor-strength for inside right away. There is a lot of weight room work to be done here but there is no denying how good he is at blocking, simply put. Diesch knows how to get the job done and could project as a valuable backup that could overcome a size deficiency in time and evolve into a quality starter.

*Diesch is a guy that falls below the size requirements on multiple levels but has such quality tape that you get reminded how much of an art this is. There are teams that will not even look at Diesch. But then there are teams that will look at the movement in pass protection, the easy and calm hands, and the ability to stay square will want to roll the dice. Diesch was one of my favorite guys to watch tape early in the year (and in 2020). But you must be careful knowing that the lack of anchor and length can, quite easily, be eaten alive by quality pass rushers. I would want this kid on my depth chart for a year or two to see if something can be made of him.

12: Max Mitchell – Louisiana – 6’6/307

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Monroe, LA. Three-year starter that earned All-Sun Belt honors in both 2020 and 2021, first team in his final season. A well-balanced technician, Mitchell brings a very nice base-level skill set to work with. He has a natural and ever-present sense of body control and balance that can set him up well in pass protection. The sudden hand work and mobile hips will get him a lot of initial wins up the edge. He is not big or strong enough yet. He will need a redshirt for his initial pro season with a personal key to the weight room. If he can gain quality weight while maintaining his developed skill set, Mitchell has starter-capability at either tackle spot. A move to guard could be in the works as well, but the lower body mass and anchor need to vastly improve.

*Mitchell has one of the key traits I want in a lineman, more specifically at tackle. He maintains excellent body control and balance while he is engaged with his man. Even though he does not have the plus-speed or size, he stays in phase and rarely gets caught oversetting or losing his anchor. Simply put, he showed he knows how to block. I liken him to a poor man’s version of Dillon Radunz from last year, a 2nd rounder for TEN that had to sit most of the year while he beefed up. I see Mitchell being a similar guy, just a hair lower when it comes to talent and upside. Always have room for this guy on a depth chart.

14: Vederian Lowe – Illinois – 6’5/314

Grade: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior from Rockford, IL. Started all five years because of receiving extra eligibility because of Covid-19. Honorable Mention All-Big 10 in both 2020 and 2021. Lowe, a father of two, is highly lauded by coaches and teammates. He also plays with a sense of maturity on the field. The techniques are repeated snap after snap, and it translates to superb body control and reliability. The feet and hands are in complete cohesion with one another, and it is rare to see him abandoning his base. Lowe does not bring a high end of speed or power to the table, but he is a blocker that simply gets the job done. His body type is unique. Lowe does not project to a top-tier status, but he will outplay and outlast players drafted ahead of him. He has things put together so well and his skill set will continue to improve in time.

*Lowe reminds me of a slightly lesser version, also slightly bigger version of Isaiah Wynn. The way he moves, the way he absorbs contact, and the ever-present sense of control. This is a dark horse guy worth trying to remember. I do have some concerns with him against top tier NFL speed and quickness, but if I can get him in round 5, I would be pumped. I think NYG will like the dependable traits he has. Highly respected by coaches, was impressive in interviews at the combine, has 2 kids, and set the Illinois record for starts (52).

14: Daniel Faalele – Minnesota – 6’8/384

Grade: 73

Senior entry from Melbourne, Australia. Three-year started that opted out in 2020 because of Covid-19. Faalele is going to stand out because of his rare size for obvious reasons. He will immediately be one of the largest humans in the league full of giants. What makes him even more intriguing, however, is the fact he started playing football for the first time in 2016 with his first game action occurring a year later. Faalele moves off the ball exceptionally well for a player of his size. The baseline athletic ability is good enough but where he struggles is when unplanned adjustment and lateral shifts of weight are needed. That, along with the likelihood of eventual injury playing at such a heavy weight, is why he will need to shed a few pounds before being depended on. He can win a lot of battles because of his mass and natural power, but the speed and complexity of the NFL will expose movement issues too often if he stays on his current path. He has upside and potential as a power blocker that others simply do not, but there is a lot that needs to be lined up prior to getting there.

*I can see where kid can come across as a unicorn. You just don’t see 400 pounders that can move their feet the way he does. But for my money, I’ll let someone else take the chance. I don’t trust the long term of health of someone that weighs this much and to be frank, there are some defenders he may not even be able to get his hands on. In a league where the low, bendy, fast pass rushers are becoming more and more prevalent, Faalele may simply be coming into the league at the wrong time.

15: Austin Deculus – LSU – 6’5/321

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Mamou, LA. Four-year starter that saw all his snaps at right tackle. Deculus has been a mainstay on an offensive line that has been one of the best performing groups in the nation over the past three years. He does not have standout talent or a dominating skill set, but it is hard to find a lot of bad beats on tape. He is just big enough and just powerful enough to hide the significant agility issues. He has heavy feet and stiff ankles, however his upper body strength and overall mass is hard to cleanly get by. There is a strong athletic base here, thus the notion there is some untapped potential lives on. Deculus has work to do, but there is a lot of pro-readiness to his game already. He can be a multiple year project that could end up being a quality starter in the league.

*Another guy well known for his durability (school record 61 games). Deculus is a better athlete than what we see on tape. He is a prime candidate for a draft and stash scenario (although I’m not sure how safe he is on the practice squad) for a year or two. Have him hammer away work at his agility and lower body mobility and see what he can develop into. Deculus has the man-power already and, most importantly, he knows how to win against better athletes. He can recover, an often overlook component to a quality lineman.

BEST OF THE REST

16: Braxton Jones – Southern Utah – 6’5/310: 71
17: Zachary Thomas – San Diego State – 6’5/308: 71
18: Myron Cunningham – Arkansas – 6’5/320: 70
19: Obinna Eze – TCU – 6’6/321: 70
20: Cade Mays – Tennessee – 6’5/311: 69
21: Dare Rosenthal – Kentucky – 6’7/29: 69
22: Matt Waletzko – North Dakota – 6’8/312: 69
23: Alec Anderson – UCLA – 6’5/304: 69
24: Andrew Rupcich – Culver-Stockton – 6’6/318: 68
25: Caleb Jones – Indiana – 6’9/370: 68
26: Luke Tenuta – Virginia Tech – 6’8/319: 68
27: Tyler Vrabel – Boston College – 6’6/315: 68
28: Bamidele Olaseni – Utah – 6’7/339: 68
29: Greg Long – Purdue – 6’3/304: 67
30: Devin Cochran – Georgia Tech – 6’7/306: 67

NYG APPROACH

If I were a betting man, I would put a lot of money on NYG using #5 or #7 on one of the top four tackles. I say four because there is some love for Trevor Penning around the league that nobody is talking about, although I think the decision comes down to the obvious Ekwonu, Neal, or Cross trio. Let’s break this down, as I would put them all at equal odds to be the guy NYG goes for.

Ekwonu is the best athlete of the bunch and probably offers the most upside when it comes to handling speed and quickness. While his technique as a pass blocker is a step or two behind, his twitch and explosion (upper and lower body) is one of the best I have seen. I also think he brings the meanest personality to the table. Neal is the one with the biggest upside overall, but I also think he has the lowest floor. No, I am not hedging my bet here. My grade is above, and he is OT1 on my board. But what I mean here is, Neal’s biggest issue (balance) has ruined careers in this league. If you can’t stay on your feet, let alone stay solid and strong on them, you won’t be a reliable blocker against players that are just as fast east-west as they are north-south. Defensive schemes are also as complex as they’ve ever been. But his best tape rivals Hall of Famer Walter Jones, the top tackle of my lifetime in my opinion. While I would be surprised to see Cross go ahead of the two guys above, it has very little to do with his run blocking. My surprise would come from the fact that is there is a weakness to his pass blocking, it is the anchor and losing to the inside shoulder. This will very much depend on what Daboll wants out of the tackle. Does he want more body control and overall grace? Then, Cross makes sense. But I think he will lean more toward power for this vacant RT spot.

If NYG somehow ignores OT with the first two picks, they almost need to force a pick there at the top of round 2. There are quality linemen taken there in that window nearly every year, but more often than not it is an inside guy. Tackles in round 2 are not easy to find. Names like Abraham Lucas, Tyler Smith, Nicholas Petit-Frere may not present the best value at that point in the draft, but NYG would almost have to go in that direction. The OL is the biggest issue this team has had for years, right tackle in particular. Waiting and waiting and waiting is a recipe to create the same issues we have been forced to stress about.

My closing thought will not be a popular one. I am very much open to the idea of using BOTH #5 and #7 on two offensive linemen. I know some of the naysayers bring up the potential cap downfall of this in a few years, but I do not agree. NYG will not be paying a starting quarterback top-of-market price (unless Jones explodes and/or they trade for an established superstar, both good problems). When that is the case, you can be overly aggressive at a few different spots. Knowing how hard it is to find good offensive linemen (across the league), this is the spot I would invest in should a situation like this pop up. Remember, the offensive line is FIVE positions. In addition, it provides a hedge should one of the linemen not pan out and/or injuries arise. We will see what the decision and situation present draft weekend.

Apr 162022
 
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Zion Johnson, Boston College Eagles (November 20, 2021)

Zion Johnson – © USA TODAY Sports

GUARDS / CENTERS

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

1: Zion Johnson – Boston College – 6’3/312

Grade: 85

Fifth year senior from Bowie, MD. Started for three seasons at Boston College after transferring from Davidson College, where he spent two seasons as a starter. First team All-ACC in 2021 and second team in 2019 as a guard, third team in 2020 as a left tackle. Johnson projects inside at the next level after playing both tackle and guard throughout his career. He also saw some snaps at center during Senior Bowl week. The two-time team captain looks pro-ready across the board. His power that stems from an enormous lower body and long, thick arms with heavy hands will seamlessly handle NFL power right away. He is technically sound and very smart when it comes to lateral awareness and adjustments. The blue-collar blocker does the little things right and it will cover up the slight natural athleticism issues he has. He should be a year one starter at any of the inside positions, preferably guard.

*When you are looking for a general of the offensive line, a guy that will lead the group of five and a guy that just quietly shows up week after week and gets the job done, and a guy that you know will be a professional on and off the field, Johnson is the example. A former 0-star (yes, 0-star) high school recruit now ends up one of the top 10 players in his draft class. I’ve never had that before. Johnson is a plug and play guard (or center) that can fit into any blocking scheme. He is one of the most mature and hardworking players in the class and will bring the interior of a line to another level right away. Put this kid in the starting lineup week one and you’re set for a decade.

2: Kenyon Green – Texas A& M – 6’4/323

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry from Humble, Texas. Three-year starter that evolved into a 2-time All Time All American, 1st Team in 2021. Also earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2020, 1st Team in 2021. Green played right guard as a true freshman in 2019 before shifting to left guard as a sophomore. Because of injuries, he played every position along the line other than center as a junior. Green’s versatility is a plus, but his most ideal spot will reside inside. He has elite power and strength that shows up most often in the running game. He gains a constant vertical push off the line which is created by an explosive upper body paired with tremendous thickness below the waist. He is not the ideal natural athlete when it comes to agility and lateral movement, but he is no slouch in that department. A lot of his issues seem to be more technique-based than ability-based. He needs a more mindful and intentional first step. With good coaching and a constant approach to honing his skill set, Green has the ability to be a top-notch guard in the league in time. He simply won’t be a fit for some schemes that require a lot of lateral movement. If he finds the right spot, he will be a difference maker.

*Green impressed me a ton in 2021. I never projected (and still don’t) him to the outside but I’ll tell you what, he can play out there if a team needed him to. Inside, Green has dominant traits. There is not a lineman in this class capable of moving guys the way Green can. If NYG truly wants more personality up front, more brute strength and power, Green is a guy worth looking at if they end up trading down a bit. The one concern I have, however, is the body. He looked awful at the combine. I’m not overly concerned with it (after all, it is a freakin’ lineman, not a bodybuilding contest), but it did not have the look of someone that has been working his tail off. That in combination with some of the sloppiness in his techniques kept him out of the 85+ tier for me. But when it comes to upside and what he can do for a line, he is a credible potential Pro Bowler.

3: Tyler Linderbaum – Iowa – 6’2/296

Grade: 81

Summary: Junior entry from Solon, IA. Three-year starter after an accomplished wrestling and shot-put high school career. Ended his tenure at Iowa as a 1st Team All American and Rimington Trophy winner in addition to being named a finalist for both the Rotary Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy respectively. The 3-time All Big 10 honoree and 2021 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year will be an immediate starter in the NFL. His game best suits an offense that employs zone blocking scheme. His natural quickness and agility while maintaining body control and leverage is a weapon in the running game. He can reach players and angles that many centers cannot. Linderbaum is a force on the move that will win battles against both defensive linemen and linebackers alike. There is some bad tape on him when it comes to pass protection and power blocking straight ahead. He plays light and lacks a sturdy anchor. Teams will need to offer him help in those situations and he will need to improve his overall technique there, as he too often loses his center of mass and will face the ground. Linderbaum is week 1, year 1 starter that will likely be a long time leader of an offensive line.

*There are a ton of similarities to Vikings starting center Garrett Bradbury here. The size and quickness, the strength and weaknesses, the pro-readiness, the limited ceiling. Linderbaum has always had a late first round label for me. The fact he is going to struggle against NFL power if he is left alone on an island should worry some at least a little bit. You do not want your center to lose the positional battle near the goal line and/or short yardage. I do think he can be “good enough” in that department, though. When it comes to what he can do on the move, he truly can move like Jason Kelce from the Eagles. That speed and suddenness is a weapon in the right blocking scheme.

4: Cameron Jurgens – Nebraska – 6’3/303

Grade: 80

Fourth-year junior entry from Beatrice, NE. Third-team All-Big 10 in 2021. After beginning his career as a tight end, he moved to center full time prior to the 2019 season. When it comes to speed and overall athleticism, Jurgens stands out on tape. He can burst post-snap in any direction and make solid contact with targets in-line and in space. Zone blocking schemes where linemen are required to move laterally in a hurry will be drawn to him. The issue, initially, will be a lack of power and sustainability. He will need time to enhance his anchor-strength and grip. If that develops and he continues to improve his feel for angles, Jurgens can be a quality starting center.

*I moved Jurgens up quite a bit from November to now. The initial look was a 3rd/4th rounder. After the secondary tape review, he was boosted to round 2-3. Now, after his impressive pre-draft process I think he is a sure-thing second rounder. It would not surprise me one bit to see him go ahead of Linderbaum. He is a better athlete, he is bigger across the board, he is still somewhat new to the offensive line, and there is more tenacity to his play style. The risk here is that he needs to prove he knows what to do with his technique. He is all over the place at times with his feet and hands, they just don’t play in cohesion with each other. The ability is there, but it does not always show up. He needs a spot where he can sit for a year, continue to add mass, and make the steps thoughtless/more natural. NYG presents a nice situation for him. Keep this one in mind as a potential excellent value for day 2.

5: Sean Rhyan – UCLA – 6’5/321

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Ladera Ranch, California. Three-year starter that capped his career off earning 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors. Rhyan, the grandson of a pro boxer and former big time rugby player played left tackle for the Bruins, is a prime candidate to move inside at the next level where he could thrive. He does not have the ideal length and lower body looseness for tackle, but he is no slouch athletically at the small warts in his would be easier to hide inside. Rhyan has a unique skill set and background to go along with tree-trunk thighs and excellent hand accuracy. He is rarely caught off balance, shows a strong mental understanding of the game, and will provide a sturdy presence inside with gap control as both a run and pass blocker. This is a pocket protector that will rarely ever lose ground and the experience he does have outside only increases his value.

*Rhyan has a very interesting background. The blend of accomplishments as a rugby player and thrower in track and field are two pieces of the puzzle that one needs to consider when projecting his talent level in the NFL. He has some of the biggest hands you’re ever gonna see and it shows up on tape. When it comes to squaring a defender up and truly locking on, Rhyan stands out among all the blockers in the class. He may be the guy I trust the most in that department. He played well in limited head-to-head snaps against Thibodeaux and it just came down to his elite anchor, body control, and hand strength. I’ve always thought he would be an ideal fit at guard. You won’t ever see him get pushed back. It will be a new position, however, and there could be some issues as a lateral mover that he needs to fix before being thrown into the mix. If NYG ignores the interior in rounds 1-2, Rhyan will be on my short list round 3, no question. Ideal fit here in NY.

6: Darian Kinnard – Kentucky – 6’5/322

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Knoxville, TN. Three-year starter full time and also started two games as a true freshman. First team All-SEC and All-American in 2021, second team All-SEC and third team All-American in 2020. Kinnard plays a powerful game that complements his long, dense frame very well. He is not the most athletically gifted athlete, and he knows it. He understands the value of his initial punch, angles, and timing. The mental capacity he shows and the trust he has in himself made him a productive blocker in the SEC. Kinnard will likely move inside at the next level. He moves a bit too sluggish up the edge in pass protection and the outside foot plays too soft. His hand striking, stoutness, and mental game can be a solid fit for a gap-scheme as a starter within a couple years.

*It was pretty clear to me after watching just one tape on Kinnard that he was going to need to play inside. He just can’t seem to get his feet off the ground well enough in a kick slide to secure an edge against credible defenders. I actually think it was a good thing that he played in the SEC, by far the fastest conference in college football. If he had played in the Big 10 or the Pac-12, his tape may have convinced some he could possibly play out there. I always have to keep in mind the level of competition when evaluating one’s play. That is why, with my limited time, I always try to get the tape on these guys when the face off against other future NFL’ers. Kinnard can be a starting guard in year two. Let him re-learn some techniques, get used to different space demands, and try to improve the agility just a little bit.

7: Joshua Ezeudu – North Carolina – 6’4/308

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth-year junior entry from Lawrenceville, GA. Three-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-ACC honors in 2021, second-team in 2020. Because of injuries and inconsistent play throughout the entire line, Ezeudu was moved around often. Throughout his career he played every spot along the line with some of his best tape coming from his snaps at left tackle. His top position will be inside at guard but that kind of versatility can boost his stock a bit. Ezeudu excels with his hands and displays quick feet, always a good place to start. The natural top-end athletic ability is limited, however, and it shows up when he needs to adjust laterally. His knee bend is inconsistent and there is a recoil in his reaction-times because of it. If he can improve some lower body techniques, there are some quality traits to work with.

*When looking to add offensive linemen early day three, I love the idea of getting a guy that has credible experience and ability at multiple spots. There is no question Ezeudu projects best to guard, but I do think he could be a swing tackle if needed. So many teams have depth issues there. You see a guy or two go down with an injury and all of the sudden the entire offense needs to change. Ezeudu looks pro ready on most levels. His movement just seems a step too slow right now but I think he is better than over half the backups in the league right now. Throw in the versatility and I think it is a brilliant pick if he can be had in the right slot.

8: Luke Fortner – Kentucky – 6’4/307

Grade: 76

Summary: Sixth-year senior from Sylvania, OH. Three-year starter that spent two of those seasons at both guard spots before transitioning to the middle in 2021. Fortner brings a credible level of interior versatility to the table that can help fill the back end of an offensive line’s depth chart. His experience at both guard spots along with center will create an opportunity for a team to knock out multiple roles with one player. In relation to his level of play, Fortner shows a strong understanding of spacing, angles, and anchoring. He does not have immense hand strength and is an average athlete at best as a pass protector. His upside may never reach that of a reliable starter, but he should be able to hang as a backup for multiple spots.

*Fortner will turn 24 just a couple weeks after the draft. Another guy that brings some versatility to the table, albeit all inside. Still very valuable for where I think you can get him in the draft. NYG did a solid job of bringing in some quality, dependable interior blockers in free agency. The issue? You can’t expect even an above average ceiling and 3 of the 4 signings are on one-year deals. Fortner is a name worth looking at day three for sure.

9: Cole Strange – Chattanooga – 6’5/307

Grade: 75

Summary: Sixth year senior from Knoxville, TN. Five-year starter that earned All-Southern Conference honors three straight seasons, including first team in both 2020 and 2021. Two-time winner of the Jacobs Blocking Award, given to the top offensive lineman in the Southern Conference. Strange primarily played guard in college but did shift to tackle and guard due to injuries throughout his career at times. The technician with a never-quit mentality shows an intriguing skill set for teams that use a zone blocking scheme. He gets off the ball with such sudden movement in his hands and feet. He has an ability to latch on to his target with an inside position and low pad level while on the move that can be a true difference maker up front. His overall mass and power are not yet pro ready, but the other pieces are so well in place that he should give decision makers confidence that he can be a starter within one to two years.

*Strange turns 24 right around the start of training camp. This is a really interesting prospect. He graded out elite in workouts and watching him at the Senior Bowl increased by outlook on him. I only had 2 games on him from his regular season play, less than ideal. This dude is a fighter and plays with tremendous twitch. I think he will need to stay at center, but I do see a scenario where he plays guard in a zone-heavy scheme. I wish I had more on him but someone I spoke with said he could be a surprise day two pick.

10: Ed Ingram – LSU – 6’3/327

Grade: 75

Fifth year senior from DeSoto, TX. Four-year starter that has seen time at both guard positions but has not played on the right side since 2017. Second team All-SEC in 2021. Ingram is not a fancy prospect, but one that checks all the boxes when it comes to his level of play and overall effectiveness. He plays with a boxer’s mentality as a run blocker. One that fires off the ball and will deliver an accurate, violent punch to gain the initial advantage. His wide and long frame with natural knee bend gives him a very high floor to work with play to play. Combine that with his experience and visual intelligence on the field, Ingram appears to be one of the safer bets to start at some point and provide a steady level of play.

*I don’t see a high ceiling here, but I do see someone that gives a team exactly what they expect. Ingram is a tough and gritty dude with tremendous upper body pop. So many scouts and coaches want to see a kid with the hands. The hands that strike hard, stifle a defender, and stick. Ingram does all of that. When his base is balanced, he is very sturdy there too. He just shows inconsistencies with the feet that need to be cleaned up. There is an arrest on his record too that will require extra screening.

11: Zach Tom – Wake Forest – 6’4/304

Grade: 75

Fifth year senior from Prairieville, LA. Three-year starter that spent two seasons at left tackle, two at center. Honorable mention All-ACC in 2019 inside, first team in 2021 on the outside. Tom is going to move to guard or center at the next level. His intelligence and athleticism stand out in a big way. Tom gets out of his stance in a hurry and gets that vital initial step down before the defender moves on a routine basis. Add in the wide base and plus-balance habits he is a blocker with a commonly high blocking grade. He simply does not have a lot of losses on tape. Tom does need to add more core strength to handle pro interior linemen so he can stay stiffer against the bull rush and that will take time. This is a smart kid that can take on the leader-of-the-line role at center within his rookie contract.

*I do project Tom to the inside, but I’ll tell you what. Watching his tape from 2021 makes me think there is an outside shot someone will see him as a tackle. He moves well enough, he measured in less than ideal but still, good enough. This is a very smart kid that handles himself well on the field. I am impressed with how well he stays square even when he initially loses. Tom is the kind of guy you want directing traffic. If he can just get a little bigger, he has starter potential or he can be the valuable backup that is behind everybody on the depth chart. I mean everybody.

12: Marquis Hayes – Oklahoma – 6’5/318

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior from Maryland Heights, CO. Three-year starter that brings immense talent and tools to the table. Hayes measures in at prototype levels and has an explosive style of play. He gets off the ball in a hurry, does damage on initial contact, and has the ability to recover. Hayes’ issues have a lot to do with correctable technique and timing mistakes. He will often lean too much from the waist, hindering his ability to move his feet and stay square to his target. If he gets with the right coach and really applies himself, he can be a quality starter at the next level, but it will take some time.

*There is a major draw to the tool set here. Hayes has a lot of attractive tape and he showed some it at the Senior Bowl. There are flashes of dominance. At that size, there is an upside many will want to tap into. I think there are natural bend issues that will show up too often. He has the look of a guy that just won’t be able to handle stunts and twists as a pass protector. The run blocking, notably in gap schemes, will be a draw. Someone will think they can fix him, and I bet he goes earlier than where I graded.

13: Thayer Munford – Ohio State – 6’5/316

Grade: 72

Summary: Senior entry from Cincinnati, OH. Four-year starter that earned All-Big 10 honors all four seasons, first team in both 2020 and 2021 at two different positions. Munford primarily played tackle for the Buckeyes but shifted to guard as a senior. He is one of the few prospects that could realistically project to both positions at the next level. He has the size and power to handle NFL linemen right away. His long, wide, and thick frame complements his hand-strike and ability to anchor well. The lack of sudden footwork and inaccurate hands are a cause for worry, however. Munford has had a ton of experience, yet still makes repeated mistakes when he is forced to react laterally. The tools are there for a coach to try and refine, but there are too many holes in his game to project anything more than a versatile backup which still does present value.

*I kept Munford inside because of the feet. I don’t see him fixing that issue well enough to maintain every down duty on the outside. Munford is a man-mover. He really is imposing and has the kind of grip strength that can handle the biggest and strongest the NFL has to offer. The body type and bend may be an issue at times. He has tools, just not the right blend. Maybe we see him back up a few spots for a few years and sees what he makes of himself.

14: Chris Paul – Tulsa – 6’4/323

Grade: 72

Fifth year senior from Houston, TX. Four-year starter that saw two years at guard and two at tackle. Second team all-AAC in 2020, honorable mention in 2021. Paul can project to both tackle and guard at the next level, but the lack of natural speed and fluidity may keep him inside predominantly. He can play a heavy game with his ability to anchor against power and get movement off the ball. Paul plays with disciplined and repeatable techniques with both his hands and feet, promoting a constant sense of control and balance. As he continues to develop his power and confidence with the initial hand strike, Paul can eventually be a starting caliber player. At the very least, he should be able to provide inside-out versatility as a backup. He is mechanically sound and big enough respectively to create a high-floor outlook.

*Paul is going to require patience before he can even be depended on, even as a backup. Remember, you go in to game day thinking these backups have a strong likelihood of playing. Paul will not be ready for that. He is raw but there is some natural, base-level talent that coaches will want to work with. If NYG goes OL early, I would love to see them get a kid like Paul day three to stash on the game day inactive list. This team is going to need more OL at this time next year.

15: Dylan Parham – Memphis – 6’3/311

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior from Carrollton, GA. Four-year starter, one of which was at right tackle and rest were split between both guard positions. Earned first team All-AAC honors in 2021. Parham brings the unique tool set to the table which can be viewed as a developmental project with a high ceiling or a project not worth gambling on. His natural bend and explosion jump off the screen, but both are inconsistent, and he does not always play to his physical strengths. Even though he is still relatively new to the offensive line compared to other prospects, Parham’s negatives arise on tape often. He fails to convert his speed into power and struggles to sustain quality contact with his hands. He can backup the interior spots with the long-term possibility of molding into a starter.

*The lack of consistency was maddening here. I am OK with the Day 3 grade when it comes to that kind of negative, but a few I have spoken with say he may be a day 2 pick. I would not endorse it at all. He does not latch on to his man, he gets soft, and his lower half is a mess. I see the athletic ability and there is enough quality tape and versatility to say “he can hang”. But, again, that screams day three to me and there are guys I would rather have in that tier. I bet he goes earlier than where I have him.

16: Spencer Burford – UTSA – 6’4/304

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from San Antonio, TX. Three-year full-time starter that also started two games as a true freshman after being the first ever four-star recruit to sign with the program. Three-time All-Conference USA, first team in 2021. Burford is the cousin to former NFL players LaAdrian Waddle and Sam Hurd. He will likely move to guard at the next level because of the struggles he has with his lower body in space pass protection. He excels with power and upper body explosion, strong suits for the interior. Burford needs to refine his lower body techniques and make his knee bend more consistent because when he is lined up correctly, he is an absolute boulder that can screw himself into the ground. If he can be put into a situation that allows for 1-2 years of patience, he can out-perform where he is drafted.

*Yet another situation where, if NYG goes OL early, I am heavily intrigued by Burford. Just like Paul, a college tackle that has plus-length for the inside and has shown enough anchor to handle the power of tackles. In a pinch, he can shift to the outside and sorry to keep repeating myself, you need backups with versatility. I shouldn’t say need, that is simply what I prefer. I like how hoard Burford plays too. Very talented kid that, no disrespect to the UTSA program, will get a huge leap in the quality of coaching and training once in the NFL. Give him a year or two and I think they will have something.

17: Justin Shaffer – Georgia – 6’4/314

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Ellenwood, GA. Two-year starter that earned second team All-SEC honors in 2021. Shaffer is a square-built ox that best shows up in the running game. His ability to control a gap and finish off blocks after creating a new line of scrimmage was on display week after week during the season and at the Senior Bowl. Shaffer is a bully inside that can handle NFL size and power right now. His lower body issues, bend and agility, show up often in pass protection. Because of that, he will need to man a backup spot on the depth chart early on. If he develops in that area, he can be an eventual starter that will change the power presence of an offensive line.

*A fun kid to watch. Intense blocker that wants to put his man through the ground snap after snap. He will get the most out of himself. The question is, what is the actual ceiling here? The lateral movement and knee bend looks a couple tiers below where it needs to be and I don’t see much, if any, versatility. Shaffer will be attractive to gap schemes a pure power guy. He does create tremendous force but the inaccuracy of his hands and inability to adjust consistently may keep him off the field. He is worth a day three shot because there is immense power and decent straight line burst to work with.

18: Lecitus Smith – Virginia Tech – 6’3/314

Grade: 70

Summary: Fifth year senior from Fitzgerald, GA. Four-year starter that earned honorable mention All-ACC honors in each of his final three seasons. Smith is a densely built, fire hydrant body that can play explosive and powerful. He generates tremendous pop off the ball and couples it with a lot of desire, hustle, and grit. That is always a good place to start. Smith is rough around the edges when it comes to sustaining quality contact with his man as a pass blocker. He does not keep his feet chopping and the lateral adjustments are not there. He will need time to properly season, but a quality situation with patience can mold him into a quality backup in time.

*If you want some more personality up front, if you want the bruiser mentality, Smith can be a part of that culture. I loved my initial look at him and started thinking day 2/early day 3. The pass protection and lateral movement as a run blocker were red flags that popped up numerous times. Can it be fixed? He isn’t a poor athlete, but he will need time to figure things out. By all accounts Smith is a hard-working kid and humble enough to work on the craft. Not a bad fall-back option if some of my other day 3 targets don’t pan out in terms of availability.

19: Jamaree Salyer – Georgia – 6’3/321

Grade: 70

Summary: Senior entry from Atlanta, GA. Two-year starter that also was a heavy rotational player prior to. Second team All-SEC in 2021. Salyer is a team captain that has won awards for leadership and intangible qualities. He brings position versatility to the table, having seen snaps at all five spots along the offensive line over his career. His lack of speed and quickness will likely land him inside at the next level. Salyer is a top-heavy power presence that will fit best into a gap blocking scheme. He is a hard guy to move off his point and should be able to protect the passer well enough inside. His heavy movement and lack of natural bend below the waist are elements that need to be improved over time. He projects to be a quality backup presence at the next level.

*The intangibles are off the charts with Salyer. He brings a versatile tool and skill set respectively to the offensive line. He plays with immense power. He out-performed Aidan Hutchinson in their head-to-head matchups. There is a lot to like Salyer. But I have a hard time taking his lower body mechanics and technique and thinking he can hold up for a full snap load over a season. I would be fine with him on my depth chart, however. He is the kind of guy you feel OK with if your starter goes down. Again, not for an every week situation but you can hide some of his issues for a short time. I also believe he will be great for a locker room.

20: Logan Bruss – Wisconsin – 6’5/309

Grade: 70

Fifth year senior from Appleton, WI. Four-year starter that earned second team All-Big 10 honors in 2021, third team in 2020. Bruss has seen action at both guard and tackle for the Badgers, majority of which was outside. With that said, Bruss’ skill set best projects inside at the next level. He quickly gets off the ball and onto his man whether it is in-line or at the second level. The feisty fighter excels at staying square to his target which can somewhat hide his athletic shortcomings. His main issues arise in pass protection. The hands are late, and the sudden reactions are not good enough. He often gets walked back into the pocket and will not adjust well to secondary moves. Bruss has the attitude and power to play inside, and his lack of pure speed will not arise as often. He can be a valuable, versatile backup with the small but present potential of eventually starting at guard.

*Bruss does not have the ceiling that some of the guys in this tier have. That in mind, I think his floor is higher and I would bet money on the likelihood he stays in the league longer than at least a handful of the linemen graded above him. He has a pro-style to his game already. He really needs to enhance the lower body power and potential. The fear is he may already be maxed out there. I would draft him as a late day three guy and assume I have at 7th or 8th lineman locked up for a few years.

BEST OF THE REST

21: OC Dohnovan West – Arizona State – 6’3//296: 70
22: OG Ben Brown – Mississippi – 6’5/312: 70
23: OG Ja’Tyre Carter – Southern – 6’3/311: 70
24: OG Chasen Hines – LSU – 6’3/327: 70
25: OG Andrew Stueber – Michigan – 6’7/325: 70
26: OG Cordell Volson – North Dakota State – 6’6/315: 69
27: OC Dawson Deaton – Texas Tech – 6’5/306: 69
28: OC Alec Lindstrom – Boston College – 6’3/296: 69
29: OC Luke Wattenberg – Washington – 6’4/299: 68
30: OG Xavier Newman-Johnson – Baylor – 6’2/297: 68
31: OG Nick Zackelj – Fordham – 6’6/316: 68
32: OG Lewis Kidd – Montana State – 6’6/312: 68
33: OG Josh Rivas – Kansas State – 6’6/330: 68
34: OG Tyrese Robinson – Oklahoma – 6’3/317: 68
35: OG William Dunkle – San Diego State – 6’5/328: 67

NYG APPROACH

As I stated above, the additions of the veterans inside via free agency are more about avoiding the bottom from falling out. We really saw the floor come out from underneath this group in recent years. I think there is open competition for left guard between Lemieux, Douglas, Garcia, and a potential 2022 draft pick. Also keep in mind that Ikem Ekwonu, whom I have in the tackle group, could very well be that 2022 draft pick to start at guard. We also need to think beyond 2022, as all of those names noted (other than Lemieux and his bad knee) are free agents less than 12 months from now. Brian Daboll is big on ensuring the inside of this line is able to protect the passer. They need to anchor, and they need to be able to shift their weight laterally. In 2019, they drafted a college tackle and converted him to guard (Cody Ford). They also traded for a college tackle, Ryan Bates, that moved inside. Their center, Mitch Morse, was a college tackle. Their interior backups, Ike Boettger and Greg Mancz, both had extensive experience at tackle. If Daboll had an influence on what kind of linemen that team pursued for the inside, I have a strong feeling they will be using a pick on a tackle-turned guard. If Ekwonu is not that guy or they do select him and keep him at right tackle, you can look at several of these names and see a fit for that situation. Day 2 guys like Sean Rhyan, Darian Kinnard and Joshua Ezeudu. Day 3 names like Zach Tom (reminds me of Morse), Chris Paul, Spencer Burford, and Logan Bruss are the names that stand out to me. Another positive here is I fully expect a draftable player, two, or three at this spot to be there in the free agency period. This group of interior guys sets up nicely for what NYG needs, and is going to need, in the Daboll scheme.

Apr 142022
 
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Travon Walker, Georgia Bulldogs (January 10, 2022)

Travon Walker – © USA TODAY Sports

EDGE

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

1: Travon Walker – Georgia – 6’5/272

Grade: 89

Summary: Junior entry from Thomaston, GA. One-year starter that was a key contributor to the defensive line all three seasons. With an evolving skill set that steadily improved all three years attached to tools that rank among the best in the class along the defensive line, Walker brings an incredibly high level of intrigue to the table. He has the speed to factor in space, the power to factor inside, and the hustle to factor in pursuit. Simply put, he is the kind of defensive lineman that can line up everywhere and pose as a matchup problem. He is too quick for the bigger, slower blockers and too strong for the smaller, weaker blockers. He will spend most of the time on the outside where he can abuse the tight ends and make plays against the run but will also shift inside and out quick the interior blockers in the passing game. He has some developing to do through experience but there is no denying the sky-high ceiling and immediate contribution he brings to the table respectively.

*Cat is out of the bag. Walker is my top overall player in the class and the one guy that I think helps the Giants defense the most. That would be the fact if the scheme still belonged to Patrick Graham. But now with Martindale calling the shots? The notion is even stronger. Yes, you may have to be a little patient with Walker, more than you want out of a top overall prospect. Know who I see him being in just another year or two? Rashan Gary (tied for 3rd in the NFL in pressures). But one more than that, Walker is head and shoulders better against the run, has more inside-rush capability, and can cover better than 80% of the outside linebackers in the league. At 270+ pounds. The last draw I have to Walker is more “old school”. Walker plays through blockers and contact better than any of the elite defenders I have ever graded. He isn’t as naturally skilled and slippery as someone like Myles Garrett, but you are going to see Walker crushing people at the point of attack and 20 yards away from the snap. He is going to be everywhere just splattering the opposition.

2: Aidan Hutchinson – Michigan – 6’7/268

Grade: 87

Summary: Senior entry from Plymouth, Michigan. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All American honors in 2021 and won the Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year Award. Also won the Ted Hendricks Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy. 1st Team All Big 10 in 2021, 3rd Team in 2019. Hutchinson, son of former 1992 Wolverine MVP Chris, developed into a dominant player from humble beginnings and appears to be only getting started. The physical traits like strength, quickness, and flexibility have steadily improved year after year. The techniques are pro caliber, the understanding of the game is advanced, and the grit that carries over snap to snap-week to week will create a difference maker at the next level. The tool set and explosion may not be top tier, but his versatility and constant impact on the game will be.

*It seems to be the consensus that Hutchinson is going number one overall. At this point (April 13), I’m not completely sure. The production is off the charts, yes. His switch is always on high, yes. He has the elite size and quickness. But after watching over 12 games from multiple angles, I do have some concerns about his ability to beat pro tackles the way an elite prospect does. The bend gets a little inconsistent and I don’t see him winning with pure speed up the edge. I still believe he has Pro Bowl potential. I also think he is very safe to a team looking to add to their defensive front. At minimum, you’ll hit a double here. I just fear me may be more Sam Hubbard than TJ Watt. Still a very good player, but I don’t see the elite ceiling.

3: Kayvon Thibodeaux – Oregon – 6’4/254

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry from South Central Los Angeles. Three-year starter that came out of school as a topflight, 5-star recruit and delivered. Earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors all three years, won the 2020 Morris Trophy, and landed on both the 2020 and 2021 All American squads. Thibodeaux has a long, explosive frame that can bend in and out of small creases with tremendous power and strength. His lockout game combined with a strong initial burst consistently gives him initial positional advantages on blockers. Sometimes, that alone is good enough as he can work through the shoulder of a blocker with consistent ease whether he is rushing the passer or defending the run. He is equally productive against both. Where Thibodeaux struggles, however, is when he is matched up against pro-caliber size and power when it comes to secondary rush moves. He needs to show more technique refinement and continue to try and strengthen his base, which plays small and gets too narrow at times. His lack of body control will cause issues as well when it comes to reaction-based action. His tool set is top shelf, but he is far from a finished product and will need to fix a lot prior to being labeled a dependable player.

*I am going to try and not make this too long because the Thibodeaux fans get really offended, really easily. First off: I have 800+ grades on my master sheet along with another 400+ “training camp body” labels. Thibdodeaux is in the top 15. So yes, I do like him, and I do project him to be a very good football player in the NFL. A starter with high, sky-high, upside. There is some Harold Landry in his game. That said, I do not see him being the All-Pro or even perennial Pro Bowl type. When it comes to the “effort” shortcomings, this is NOT a guy that walks up and down the field. He does NOT play with the “I don’t care” label. There is more to effort than sheer hustle, however.

My issues with Thibodeaux revolve around what he did against his best competition. If he lost initially, if he got locked on to, I did not see the secondary moves. I didn’t see the secondary wiggle to try and re-gain a position. The contrast between him and the other top 5 edge guys in the class in that department is obvious. He also had too many dumb penalties. When it isn’t easy for him (he matched up against some awful OTs), he got frustrated and immature. He didn’t pin his ears back and elevate his game. To me, that is effort and mental toughness that just isn’t there. It is a crucial, borderline vital trait to playing the edge.

That is where I left it with him. And then hearing how he talks about himself and a contract. I have a saying “…he works at his craft like he is above it all already…” simply rubs me the wrong way. Enough that I would be too nervous to use #5 or #7 on him with the other guys available. That is all.

4: Jermaine Johnson – Florida State – 6’5/254

Grade: 83

Summary: Fifth year senior from Eden Prairie, MN. Started at Florida State for one year after being a part of the rotation for two seasons for Georgia, where he transferred after being the top junior college recruit. 2021 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and second team All-American. Johnson finally received a full slate of snaps in his final year and boy did he take his stock to another level. He is a true alpha male in the trenches that can beat guys up at the point of attack, finish off the ball carrier with nastiness, and rush the passer from multiple angles. He plays such a strong game and when he uses his hands correctly, can easily dictate where a blocker ends up. He lacks some of the ideal juice as a pure edge rusher and there is some tightness in his hips, but Johnson brings both a high floor and ceiling to the table. He is a safe pick that could evolve into a big-time edge player.

*I put the same grade on Johnson as Thibodeaux, but they got there in very different ways. I think Johnson lacks some of the natural bend and looseness in his lower body. He gets caught playing too high, too often. In addition, the get off is probably the worst among these top 5-6 guys. That said, Johnson’s best tape is just as good as anyone in this group. His hand techniques are top notch, his lockout game is top notch (when used correctly), and he knows how to time the punch of a blocker better than all of these guys. Simply put, there are a lot of skills to work with here. I love his tenacity. The second the quarterback throws the ball he starts hustling downfield. When he and Ekwonu faced off, I thought Johnson got the best of that matchup. More power, quicker to his secondary move. There is some unknown here when it comes to how deep he is into his own progression curve. He doesn’t have as much experience as some of these guys and he struggled to understand come complex concepts in meetings/chalk board talk. That may be enough to keep NYG away from him, but I don’t see a top 10 talent here regardless. I don’t think he will be in play for NYG.

5: George Karlaftis III – Purdue – 6’4/266

Grade: 81

Summary: Junior entry from West Lafayette, Indiana. Three-year starter that began playing football in 8th grade after moving to the United States from Greece. Turned himself into a 3-time All Big 10 honoree, earning a spot on the 1st Team in 2021. The 2019 Freshman All American and 2021 3rd Team All American battled injury and Covid-19 in 2020, but in the two seasons where he was healthy, Karlaftis totaled 28.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks over 24 games. The top-shelf technician is an every down weapon for the defense. His hand fighting and footwork are in complete cohesion with each other, and the skill set constantly maximizes his level of impact. Karlaftis isn’t overly flashy and may not have the elite-level athletic ability in space, but this film-nut and gym-rat is a coach’s dream to work with. His versatility, football intelligence, and ability to produce on all downs in all situations at a high level is something a defensive front can be built around.

*Throughout the season I was looking at Karlaftis as a sure-thing top ten pick. The more tape I saw from the All-22 and the more I really compared him to the other edge guys, I had to move him down a bit. The juice isn’t there as a pure edge rusher and I question some of his suddenness against athletic blockers. Still a first-round player physically and I do think some coaches are going to fall in love with his passion for the game and grit. Karlaftis is going to impact the game in ways that not everyone will notice. I think he is best suited for a 4-3 defensive end role and I’m not sure I see the fit with Martindale’s scheme.

6: Boye Mafe – Minnesota – 6’4/261

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior from Golden Valley, MN. Two-year starter that earned second team All-Big 10 honors in 2021, honorable mention in 2020. Mafe is a twitched-up edge rusher that fits ideally into a 3-4 scheme at outside linebacker. He is an explosive, hyper-active presence that wins off the ball and knows how to turn a tight corner with a low pad level. Mafe plays with high energy and a body that can twist, turn, and bend in all directions with ease. He is a tough guy to lock on to and he shows the mental capacity to know where and when to make his move. Mafe does not have a very stout presence against the run, both inside and outside. His body type does not play very stout. If he is kept to rushing the pass from the outside, he will be an impact rusher. Ask him to be an every down force and there could be issues. He is good enough to be a scary number two pass rusher on a team but should not be the premiere guy along a front. He will turn 24 years old during his rookie season.

*I really hope the right team gets their hands on Mafe. If he is kept outside where he can really pin his ears back and attack the edge with minimal inside shoulder responsibility, he is going to be a 10-sack-per-year guy. That does not mean he will be one of the best edge defenders in the league, but he could be the ideal role player for a player that needs that kind of role filled. Teams that run that wide-9 look often will love Mafe. Is there a spot here for him? I don’t think so. He and Ojulari are too similar in that I don’t see enough versatility and there is a slight lack of stoutness/power. But if they can manipulate the scheme a tad to let him come in and be that pure edge guy, I’m all for it. He can be a difference maker.

7: Arnold Ebiketie – Penn State – 6’2/250

Grade: 80

Fifth year senior from Silver Spring, MD. Spent four years at Temple where he started for one season, earning second team All-AAC honors. Transferred to Penn State in 2021 where won a starting job and earned first team All-Big 10 honors. Ebiketie has stand out twitch and length, always a good place to start for an edge defender. He gets off the ball in a hurry and fully understands how to maximize his tools against blockers. His hand strength and ability to adjust his direction late will make him a tough guy to square up. He also brings a high level of energy and anger snap after snap. Ebiketie plays the game hard and relentless. The combination of all these traits should, at the very least, create plays as a rush linebacker. His floor is high in that department and whether he can develop a man-power game remains to be seen. He is a safe bet to at least be a solid player against the pass.

*I boosted Ebiketie up a notch after doing the secondary tape review part of the process. He has a few traits in his game that most of these guys don’t. The juice off the snap with his plus-bend AND length is an ideal set up for a pure edge guy. He can flatten the edge at a high level. I also think we will see him develop more power and anchor over the course of his first 2-3 years in the league. I view his upside on a similar level to the top 4 guys on this list. Like Mafe, he may be worth a tweak to the scheme to make it work with him and Ojulari.

8: Drake Jackson – USC – 6’3/254

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Corona, California. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All-Pac 12 honors in 2021, 2nd Team in 2020. The outside linebacker excels with initial burst off the line and bend around the corner. His ability to get under the pads of a blocker while maintaining speed and body control will make him a pure edge threat at the next level. His ankle and knee flexion combined with the level of explosion he shows is rare. Once he enhances his brute strength and power presence, Jackson has the potential of a top-tier edge presence against the pass. He still has a ways to go as a run defender, as he doesn’t play a stable game when controlling a gap. His high level of hustle and grit will help a bit there, however. His ideal role is in a 3-4 scheme on the outside where that speed and leverage can be a weapon against tackles that have a hard time sliding up the edge. At the very least, he will be a very good specialty pass rusher that can rotate in and out.

*Another player here that showed us arguably his best season in 2019 as a true freshman. At that point, almost everyone had him labeled as a future top 10 guy. Where Jackson got kind of screwed was a change in scheme and overall role. He was asked to add weight prior to his freshman season but a scheme change required him to drop 15-20 pounds. Another odd point here: Jackson was 254 pounds at the scouting combine but 273 pounds at his Pro Day. The two were just three weeks apart. Jackson has the versatile skill set to fit into the new NYG scheme and if they go elsewhere round 1-2 and Jackson is still there at the top of round 3, that would a major value grab. The variance in size, the variance in roles he played, and how athletic he looks as both a pass rusher and cover man are enticing.

9: David Ojabo – Michigan – 6’4/250

Grade: 79

Junior entry from Aberdeen, Scotland. A one-year starter that made the most of 2021, earning 1st Team All Big 10 honors and was a 2nd Team All American. Ojabo was born in Nigeria then moved to Scotland in 2007 before coming to America for high school. Originally a soccer and basketball player, Ojabo did not start playing football until his junior year. His speed won him the New Jersey state prep title in 100 M dash with a time of 10.93. Ojabo, with that in mind, is a top-shelf athlete that started to figure things out in 2021. He entered the season with just 26 snaps under his belt but proved he can be an absolute game wrecker from the outside. While he still has some physical development to take on, the tools fit the prototype of any and every edge role in the NFL. Once he understands the game more and can always play to his true speed, the sky is the limit. He will need time before he can be an every down player though.

*Keep an eye on this kid, one of the most interesting prospects in the entire class. Ojabo played under Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald at Michigan. Where was he previously? On the staff under current Giants Defensive Coordinator Don Martindale in Baltimore. Ojabo’s ascent from raw athlete to 2nd Team All American took place under a guy that Martindale led for years. Anyway, Ojabo is a name I think many are looking past when it comes to NYG. He is going to miss some, if not his entire rookie season as he rehabs from an Achilles’ injury suffered just a few weeks ago. But as I have said numerous times, the 2022 Draft will have much more to do with the 2023 season than most teams. Ojabo will be fully healthy by then, should have more bulk below the waist, and will know the scheme that much more. I never viewed him as a high first rounder because of the amount of work he needs but from my connections at Michigan, Ojabo is as hard working and genuine as it gets at this stage. He is going to reach his ceiling. Again, keep this kid’s name fresh in your memory bank.

10: Dominique Robinson – Miami (OH) – 6’5/253

Grade: 78

Fifth year senior from Canton, OH. A former oversized wide receiver that started for one year at outside linebacker. Earned third team All-MAC honors in 2021. Robinson’s journey is one of the most unique paths in the class overall. He was a wide receiver from 2017-2019, finishing as the team’s downfield threat with his 230+ pound frame. He then moved to the defensive side of the ball, put on twenty pounds and counting, and showed an incredibly high ceiling. His frame and newness to the position promotes the concept he should be able to host more bulk within the first year or two in a pro strength program. Robinson has such an easy and natural way of moving at a high rate of speed in a short amount of time. That and his elite coordination and burst will create issues once he can refine and strengthen his rush moves. He may be a bit of a project but there is no denying the upside that rivals some of the best edge defenders in this class. He can fit into a 3-4 scheme as a Buck or Joker in hybrid fronts whereas in the 4-3, a very specific edge role would need to be created for him.

*One of the more interesting players in the class. Originally a quarterback/athlete recruit. Then moved to receiver and actually produced there (14/296/21.1 avg in 2019). He is now about 20 pounds heavier, and the light started to turn on over the second half of 2021. Robinson made the move to the edge during the pandemic, and we all know how much that impeded the simplicity of work. Robinson has some of the best movement traits on tape and he has the frame that will handle at least another 15 pounds of lean mass. The skill set will take time and he may never be a stout run defender. But the sky is the limit here and his dividends could be the highest in this group overall.

11: DeAngelo Malone – Western Kentucky – 6’3/242

Grade: 77

Fifth year senior from Atlanta, GA. Four-year starter that earned All-Conference USA honors his last three seasons, first team in both 2020 and 2021. Two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. Malone primarily played stand up outside linebacker at Western Kentucky, a spot that helped him set school records for both sacks and tackles for loss. His 59 career tackles for loss are top ten in FBS history. It is easy to notice that Malone appears undersized for life in the NFL trenches. He has had a hard time holding on to body mass, as his frame may simply be maxed out. His lack of weight does not translate to a lack of power, however. His explosion, twitch, and use of leverage sends a surprising violent jolt to linemen, often putting them on their backs. Malone has proven to be effective in off-ball roles whether it be coverage or spying the quarterback. He has elite closing speed and an engine that always stays on high. Malone is the kind of defender that will need a role carved out specifically for him, but the skill set is so unique that it will be fully worth the effort to do so.

*One of my predictions for a mid-round NYG selection. I think I have a slightly higher grade on him than most. I bet he goes day three and I think NYG will have an eye on him. There is a role made almost-specifically for him in the Martindale scheme when he has everything he wants elsewhere. He can move all over the field, the short area quickness and closing speed show up every week, and he is a mean dude. Malone’s production in college was elite and even though the role and scheme engineered some of it, he proved to be a very smart, tough, dependable player over his career. Get where I am going with that? I think the lack of plus-size isn’t an issue in this role. No matter what NYG does at the top of the draft, Malone is going to be on the radar later on.

12: Sam Williams – Mississippi – 6’4/261

Grade: 77

Fifth year senior from Montgomery, AL. Three-year starter after a two-year stint at Northeast Mississippi Junior College. Capped off his career in 2021 finishing second in the SEC in sacks, earning first team All-Conference and third team All-American honors. Williams’ stock took a steep hit in the summer of 2020 when he was arrested for sexual battery. Charges were eventually dropped, and he returned to the field for the season. On the field, Williams has the play style of a rush linebacker that can fit in to both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. He should be a situational pass rusher early in his career while coaches try to refine his run game deficiencies. The elite burst and speed combine with plus-length and hand work to give opposing blockers fits. He needs to play with a more consistent motor and sense of urgency, however. The stretches of poor effort and lack of effectiveness in the running game should throw some caution into the grade but the pass rush ceiling is through the roof.

*Even though the sexual battery chargers were dropped, Williams’ grade may end up being impacted by that and the fact he showed off-field motivation issues throughout his entire career. The talent is real, however. He ran a 4.43 at 260+ pounds and there is some quality tape here. He just doesn’t hustle against the run, lacks the gap integrity to be an every down guy, and has long stretches where he disappears. The pass rush potential in a vacuum, however, is more than just notable. It will be interesting to see where he goes, a lot going on here.

13: Cameron Thomas – San Diego State – 6’4/267

Grade: 76

Fourth year junior entry from Carlsbad, CA. Three-year starter that earned first team All-Mountain West honors all three seasons capped off with a 2021 conference Defensive Player of the Year Award. Thomas, a second team All-American, was a defensive tackle until a few games into the 2020 season. He played in a three-man front and was moved up and down, left and right routinely. The versatile skill set allowed him to make a strong impact in multiple ways from multiple positions. His steadiness week to week when it comes to pressuring the quarterback and making tackles behind the line of scrimmage can be a difference maker right away at the next level. The concerns revolve around his overall mass and presence if he lines up inside the tackle. He is not an every down player there, but the speed and explosion is not enough to impact the edge rushing play to play. Thomas will fit into a 3-4 scheme but should be shifted to an outside shade on running downs. He can be used by a creative defensive mind on passing downs and that is where he will make his money, but there is power development needed.

*Thomas is not nearly the prospect that JJ Watt was, but there were glimpses of that play style and versatility when I watched Thomas. The action with his hands, the ability to twist and turn suddenly, and the overwhelming effort made him unblockable at times. The question will be how that translates to the NFL against pro blockers. His techniques get inconsistent at times, and I don’t see enough sheer talent to let that slide. He may not be the ideal fit here. Even though he plays inside-out, the frame looks nearly maxed out and he isn’t powerful enough for inside-tackle play. He will likely end up in a 4-3 front as a rotational guy.

14: Nik Bonitto – Oklahoma – 6’3/248

Grade: 75

Fourth year junior entry from Fort Lauderdale, FL. Three-year starter that finished as a second-team All American in 2020, second-team All-Big 12 in 2021. The undersized edge rusher is quick as a cat with constant bendability and sudden twitch. His game is purely dependent on the initial get off and spacing. He can beat blockers off the ball. With how small he can make himself, stemming from both his bend and natural anatomy, he can be a menace to get a firm grip on. Bonitto struggles once he is engaged with blockers, however. If he doesn’t win initially, he has a hard time breaking free unless he moves much further out into space. His run defense is also a significant weak point when he needs to set the edge or anchor himself in a gap. He is a situational pass rusher that can occasionally drop into coverage and/or spy the passer, but not a true every down threat.

*Bonitto almost came out last year and many were expecting him to shoot up into the top 45. I never quite saw that upside with him, but I do see a similar player to Malone just a few spots up. He is undersized but he can use it to his advantage. The pad level is outstanding, and he knows how to play slippery. Bonitto is a guy you must let line up out wide over and over and let him burst upfield. He can make plays against the run via pursuit and craftiness, but he won’t be a gap-integrity guy. He just can’t handle pro caliber power. He will be a passing down weapon which is certainly good enough for the mid-round area. I don’t see a starter or a guy that makes a huge difference though. If he is the number three edge guy, you’re good. If he is number one or two, you’re in trouble.

15: Myjai Sanders – Cincinnati – 6’5/247

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Jacksonville, FL. Three-year starter that earned first team All-AAC honors in both 2020 and 2021. Sanders looks the part in multiple ways as an edge threat. He has the capability of getting off the ball in a hurry with a long arm and low pad level. The natural bend and easy-moving hips can give him a lot of options post-snap. He does not always play to those strengths, however, and there is a muscle mass shortcoming. Sanders simply does not play big or powerful enough to pose as an all-situation threat. If he can gain and maintain weight, it should provide the window he needs to be a dependable force. He will not be a fit for every scheme, but there is a high ceiling to work with here because of multiple high-end traits.

*As written above, Sanders has some of the traits and skills that you only hope some of these higher ranked guys get some day. The bend and forward lean in combination with the ability to miss blockers with well-timed body adjustments and turns are something you see from the best pass rushers in the league. His body is a concern. He had a stomach bug prior to the combine and lost 20 pounds. Looking at his lower half in pads, he just comes across overly lean. Is the 247 he weighed in at the Pro Day legit? He is solid, not spectacular athlete. If he can’t put on weight and/or play with consistent power, he won’t be more than a backup.

BEST OF THE REST

16: Josh Paschal – Kentucky – 6’3/268: 74
17: Zachary Carter – Florida – 6’4/282: 74
18: Michael Clemons – Texas A& M – 6’5/263: 74
19: Christopher Allen – Alabama – 6’3/241: 73
20: Esezi Otomewo – Minnesota – 6’5/282: 73
21: Amare Barno – Virginia Tech – 6’5/246: 72
22: Kingsley Enagbare – South Carolina – 6’4/258: 72
23: Tyreke Smith – Ohio State – 6’3/254: 71
24: Alex Wright – UAB – 6’5/271: 71
25: Isaiah Thomas – Oklahoma – 6’5/266: 71
26: Adam Anderson – Georgia – 6’4/236: 70**
27: Tyree Johnson – Texas A& M – 6’2/248: 70
28: Jeffrey Gunter – Coastal Carolina – 6’4/258: 69
29: Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa – 6’2/270: 69
30: Tre Williams – Arkansas – 6’4/253: 69
31: David Anenih – Houston – 6’2/245: 69
32: Carson Wells – Colorado – 6’3/241: 68
33: Joshua Onujiogu – Farminingham State: 68
34: Tariqious Tisdale – Mississippi – 6’5/285: 68
35: Tyler Johnson – Arizona State – 6’3/280: 67

NYG APPROACH

There are so many different directions this conversation about NYG and the EDGE group can go in. If I had to guess, I do not think they are going into round 1 saying they MUST add an edge presence. Sure, every team wants an elite guy out there and if there is a spot open for one, you take it. But they may not have multiple prospects from this group that grade above, or even on the same level as some of tackles and corners. I certainly do, but they may not. In addition, Martindale does create a pass rush in a variety of ways, and I don’t think he will pound the table specifically for an edge guy. If he got to choose, I would bet he wants one of the corners. Without knowing how the top 4 picks will transpire, I think we are looking at a coin flip whether or not they take one of the top 4 guys (assuming at least one of them will be available).

Now, in my opinion, Walker needs to be the pick at #5 if he is there. Again, I have no clue if he will be. But in terms of his grade and the ideal-fit for the versatile scheme we will see, I just don’t see a reason why they would look past him. He has it all, he can do it all, and he is still early on the progression curve. His best football was played late in the year, and I think we only saw a glimpse of what he will be.

One concern I have is this: If NYG ignores EDGE at #5 and #7 (which is fine), it will be hard to guarantee the ideal value will be there round 2/3. Now, odds are the value will be there because this is the deepest edge group I have ever scouted. But I really want a guy that forces the defense to game plan around. I think that is step one to improving the level of the defense as a whole. If you wait until round 2, or 3, or even 4…your gamble on that happening gets higher and higher. As written above, there are several high-potential prospects in this group. Odds are most of them will not pan out. This team needs someone that is MORE than Ojulari (I do like him – his grade was 84) to ensure Ojulari can produce at his highest respective ceiling. If Ojulari is the top dog and gets most of the attention from the offense, I don’t see him overcoming it. Pair him with Walker or Hutchinson (preferably the former) and you have 2 cornerstones along with Williams inside that can make this defense light years more dangerous in this scheme. And I mean that fully.

Apr 122022
 
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Jordan Davis, Georgia Bulldogs (January 10, 2022)

Jordan Davis – © USA TODAY Sports

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

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

1: Jordan Davis – Georgia – 6’6/341

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Charlotte, North Carolina. Four-year starter that has been a part of a steady rotation of several current and future pro defensive linemen. 2021 1st Team All SEC and All American. Winner of both the Outland Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award. Of all the imposing line-talent the SEC has and will send to the NFL, Davis is the most imposing figure of them all. His rare size and speed combination shows up in powerful ways against both the run and pass. When moving straight ahead, Davis is nearly impossible to knock off track. His arm length and grizzly bear-paws do enough damage alone to jolt blockers up and back. When he brings his lower body with him and has a fresh battery, the match ups almost seem unfair. The issue is a lack of conditioning and repeatability. Davis spent a lot of time on the sidelines with his hands on his hips. With this elite size and power presence comes a lack of play-to-play functionality. He won’t offer much against the pass and there are stretches where he just can’t seem to play the lateral game. He can fit in to multiple fronts, but he should not be counted on as an every down player or contributor as a pass rusher.

*You can’t talk about Davis without lauding what he did at the combine. That may be truly once in a lifetime right there and because of that and his glimpses of dominance on tape, I think there is a shot we see him go top 10 and even top 5. Would I? No. But I will tell you what. If you are a contender with a good defense but you lack a piece along the interior of your D-Line – Davis is worth the shot. He is the closest thing we have seen to the dominant version of Albert Haynesworth (what he did in 2007-2008 was downright scary). Anyway – I don’t endorse him to NYG in the top 10. His battery life is too short and I’m not confident he will impact the pass rush enough. It would be one thing if this defensive front had Aaron Donald or a group of rushers that are all 10+ sack candidates. But they don’t. Do we really want to see a top 10 guy spend half the game on the sidelines with his hands on his hips? Defensive lines are all about rotations and I get that. But the best ones stay on the field on 3rd down. Donald? 90% of snaps. Jeffery Simmons? 85%. Cam Heyward? 82%. Chris Jones? 68%. Davis never exceeded 45% over the course of a season. Just something to keep in mind. A first-round talent, for sure. But he can’t be a focal point of a front.

2: Devonte Wyatt – Georgia – 6’3/304

Grade: 82

Fifth year senior from Decatur, GA. Spent one season at Hutchinson Community College before transferring to Georgia where he started for two years. Finished his career first team All-SEC in 2021. Wyatt has been, for years, the most active run defender along an impressive Bulldogs’ front. His athleticism is top grade, and he plays with a pair of active, angry, and powerful hands. He can wear multiple hats along the defensive line and could credibly fit into any scheme. Wyatt saw his production waver but that could have been a product of such a star-studded defense. Simply put, he can beat one on one blockers with an array of post-snap strategies and skills. He can play as fast as any defensive tackle in the league right now and could end up being a feature player in time. There is an off-field incident that occurred in 2020 that should be investigated.

*Wyatt was one of the top three tackles on my board toward the end of the 2020 season with a round 2 outlook. When he opted to go back to school, I was surprised. I didn’t think he could do much more to improve his grade. I was wrong. Wyatt on tape in 2021 was even better and I can easily make the case he should be DT1 in the class. Based on what a team wants to do with their defensive front – Wyatt is probably a better fit than Davis for half of the teams. NYG could use a guy like Wyatt if he gets to them in round 2. Remember, we have no idea if Lawrence is a long-term guy and there isn’t much else on this front beyond Williams that gives long term hope.

3: Logan Hall – Houston – 6’6/283

Grade: 82

Senior entry from Belton, TX. Two-year full-time starter that saw a few starts in the previous two seasons as well. Earned first team All AAC honors in 2021. Hall is one of the more unique players in the class. His frame suggests defensive end, but he mostly lined up inside the tackles in Houston’s hybrid front that normally had four down linemen. He excels in there because he can get off the ball quicker than interior blockers and also maintains a low pad level with long, strong arms. He wins initially with powerful hands and shows another gear when he is near the ball. Hall’s unique skill set and body make him an intriguing player that can create mismatches for opposing offensive lines. He can evolve into a top tier inside pass rusher but will also provide quality run defense as well if shifted outside a gap or two. A true every down threat here that is best suited for a hybrid scheme.

*One of the most interesting players in the class. Hall stood out to me every time I watched him. The more I saw, the more I found myself thinking about the possibilities he brings to the table. You don’t see guys with this kind of height that can play with elite knee bend often. Throw in the fact that his hand techniques are far beyond what you see out of college kids and there is something to work with that other guys do not have. Crazy high ceiling here and I think he fits in exactly with what NYG wants to do along the front.

4: Travis Jones – Connecticut – 6’4/325

Grade: 80

Fourth year junior entry from New Haven, CT. Three-year starter that opted out of the 2020 season because of Covid-19. Jones has the ideal body and build for teams looking to beef up their interior presence along the defensive line. He carries 325+ pounds with ease while also showing excellent first step quickness up the field. The most attractive trait in his game comes immediately post-snap where his cinderblock-hands strike the blocker and immediately gets the action moving into the backfield. He creates a new line of scrimmage on a consistent basis when he has his pad level low enough. Jones does not show a lot of variety as a pass rusher, nor does he adjust well if initially beat. He needs to gain a better feel for the game and match his skill set with his impressive set of tools when it comes to lateral movement and adjustments. If that does happen, he can be one of the top forces at the position in the league. His basement will still be a very solid run defender and bull rusher. Safe player with enormous upside.

*Jones sitting out 2020 took away valuable playing experience that may have very well impeded his progress as a player. I think he is still pretty early on the progression curve compared to a lot of these guys. Jones has Pro-Bowl potential if that is the case because this dude can be a player right now. Week 1 he can get on the field and be a factor as a run defender. If he builds off what he did at the Senior Bowl, there may be some solid pass rush here as well. I think Jones is the ideal fit for nose tackle in Martindale’s scheme. I bet he is pounding the table for him, but the debate is whether or not he should be the second rounder considering what else will be on the board and what NYG already has at DT.

5: Perrion Winfrey – Oklahoma – 6’4/290

Grade: 78

Senior entry from Maywood, IL. Spent two seasons at Iowa Western Junior College prior to transferring to Oklahoma in 2020 where he started for two years. Two-time second team All-Big 12. Winfrey has a naturally powerful body that plays even stronger on gameday. He is an adrenaline-spike for the defense, as his engine runs hot every time he steps foot on the field. His elite-level length and explosive upper body can create significant issues for blockers off the ball. He strikes his man early and violently. Couple that with his aggressive, twitchy lower half and he can consistently penetrate a gap and cause disruption. There are still some issues with his overall body control and stability, but his growth has been tremendous over the course of his two seasons with the Sooners. If he continues on this path, he will be an effective three-technique, but should be kept out of serious run defending duties.

*Like a couple guys above him, Winfrey is going to start off as a specialty guy. Except one can make the argument that this is the one you want because of how well he can rush the passer. Winfrey has tremendous get off and tenacity. He is an energy stick for a defense. The one potential issue I see here is the fact that he be beat up on a lot of college linemen that just weren’t very stout or powerful. I’m not sure he will get the push that he did in college at his size. He won’t be able to two-gap, but there is pass rush potential.

6: DeMarvin Leal – Texas A& M – 6’4/283

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from San Antonio, Texas. Three-year starter that capped his career off with a 1st Team All SEC and 1st Team All American season. Leal is a pass rush specialist that was moved all over the defensive front. He primarily lined up at end and as a stand up outside linebacker, but his body tape and size will likely keep him inside the tackle in most schemes. Leal has the kind of get-off and rush moves that will cause headaches for heavy footed blockers. He can whip by them in a blink and his reaction to the ball is noteworthy. He knows how to finish behind the line of scrimmage, as seen with his 24.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks over his career. The question with him is whether or not he can be an every down player. He doesn’t exactly fit into a pure edge role, and he may not be stout enough to play inside every down. He bets fits into a situation where guys are rotated and moved around often, but he may not be the difference maker he was in college.

*I normally don’t love using a day 2 grade on a guy without a true position but there are exceptions for players that can rush the passer. Leal can do that from multiple angles. Because of what Texas A& M had on their roster (and didn’t have), Leal mostly played on the edge. Some guys may have him graded out there (one of our guys wanted me to put him outside). He is a well-below average athlete if he is strictly an edge. But he won’t be stout enough for the inside. Truly a hard guy to project but with the number of teams playing a hybrid front, Leal is going to find a spot somewhere.

7: Phidarian Mathis – Alabama – 6’4/310

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Wisner, LA. One year starter that was a heavy part of the defensive line rotation all four seasons. Second-team All-SEC in 2021 after finishing third in the conference in sacks. Mathis exploded on to the scene in his final year and sent a sharp upward jolt to his draft stock. The oversized interior pass rusher plays with tremendous hustle and grit which maximizes his natural gifts of long and heavy arms. His explosive hands and ability to win the lockout battle puts him in a position to succeed. He then shows understanding of angles and creases post-engagement with the blocker. His body type may cause some issues that stem from an unstable lower half, but he will at least be a solid pass rush presence from the inside, but maybe not an every down player.

*When trying to enhance this team’s pass rush deficiencies, one needs to look deeper than a pure edge presence. Leonard Williams is a stud between the tackles but the lack of another option along the line (or blitzing LB) makes life easier for the opponent to deal with him. Mathis is a really solid penetrator that finished second on Alabama with 9 sacks while adding 12 TFL. The size and body scream 2-gap run defender though. He does both, he plays hard, and I think he still has a lot to learn. Really solid guy to have as an option on the line to rotate in and out. He will make others better.

8: Otito Ogbonnia – UCLA – 6’4/324

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, TX. Spent one year as a full-time starter but did start games all four seasons at UCLA. Ogbonnia was a nationally ranked shot-put thrower in high school and also spent time on the UCLA Track and Field team. He won the 2019 PanAm U20 Championships. That, along with the absolute ideal body type for the position gives him a sense of upside and potential that could eventually mold into a quality presence inside. He won’t ever be a big-time pass rusher, which does need to be kept in mind, but his size and power can help a defense out in a big way. Ogbonnia is not elusive, nor does he adjust very well laterally, but he creates a new line of scrimmage or can maintain gap control against double teams repeatedly. He is the alpha-male in a group full of guys that think they’re the alpha.

*For teams looking to add a 3-4 nose tackle to their front, but strike out on guys like Davis and Jones, could very well have Ogbonnia next on their board. He does not have the same upside, but I do see a guy that, when it comes to strictly playing over center and controlling the point of attack, Ogobonnia is on a similar level. Scouts love defensive tackles with an accomplished shot-put background. There was a time where Ogbonnia was heading toward a potential Olympic-path. He has some untapped upside that interests me. Nice fit with NYG, too.

9: Kalia Davis – Central Florida – 6’1/302

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Pensacola, FL. Two-year starter that sat out the 2020 season because of Covid-19. Davis came back strong in 2021 but tore his ACL week five, forcing him to miss the rest of the season. Thus, he played just five games since the end of 2019, the year he started to break out and show how good of a penetrating force he could be. The former linebacker has seen action all over the front seven. He played Mike, Will, and Sam before transitioning to playing with his hand in the dirt. Once there, he began at defensive end and found his home as a three-technique. That will be his home at the next level, where his penetrating and forceful impact will be a handful for blockers to handle. Davis’ low center of gravity and long arms will create multiple options for him post-snap. If the knee checks out and the skill set continues the current trajectory, Davis can be a starting interior lineman or at least a sub-package interior rusher early in his career.

*Sleeper alert. I won’t move Davis much higher than this because his grade is almost completely projection based, as he’s barely played since the end of 2019, and he’s seen such a small amount of snaps at tackle. But this is an incredibly unique background, and the physical profile is something I always look for. Low to the ground, plus arm length, and a twitchy lower half. It can be incredibly hard to block for offensive linemen, especially ones that have a hard time bending. Davis needs time to be coached up to refine the skill set, but he has some physical advantages that nobody else does. His 5 games prior to the ACL were money, too.

10: Eyioma Uwazurike – Iowa State – 6’6/316

Grade: 73

Summary: Sixth year senior from Detroit, MI. Four-year starter that earned first team All-Big 12 honors in 2021, honorable mention in 2019 and 2020. Uwazurike has an incredibly unique body and skill set that has earned him a high versatility grade. He split his time between nose tackle and five -technique in 2021 and thrived at both. He plays a solid lockout game and will fight with anger through the whistle play after play. There are multiple issues with his movement, as he plays tight and tall at times and won’t beat many blockers one on one right away. He will fit best in a 3-4 scheme as an oversized five technique. While his upside is limited, he will be a reliable presence that can offer a little extra against the pass.

*Look for potential NYG interest in here. Uwazurike can rightfully project to multiple positions within a 3-4 front. I’m not sure I see a potential starter because the initial movement off the ball and stiffness can be exposed. However, if there is a plan to bring him on the field in specific situations, he can be a matchup problem. I also love the fire and passion he plays with. He made a lot of eye-opening plays in pursuit. Rare body, plus-versatility, and good effort can make things happen with the right coaching.

11: Matthew Butler – Tennessee – 6’4/297

Grade: 73

Fifth year senior from Raleigh, NC. Three-year starter that was the ringleader to a deep, talented defensive line. Butler led that line in tackles three straight seasons and was the second leading sack artist in 2021. He was moved throughout the defensive line, everywhere from nose tackle to defensive end. He projects best to a three-technique role where his explosive first step and powerful hands can do a lot of damage post-snap. He can be a situational pass rusher that is no slouch in the run game if he isn’t put in a spot where he needs to handle double teams or man two gaps.

*He may not be an ideal fit for the NYG scheme, but he does bring powerful hand fighting and versatility to the table. He is more penetrator than 2-gapper. He was so active on tape, just a pure hustler and when I use a day three pick on a defensive lineman that lacks some of the ideal traits, that energy stick means something extra.

12: Neil Farrell Jr – LSU – 6’4/330

Grade: 72

Fifth year senior from Mobile, AL. Started games over three seasons, was a full-time starter in one of them. Farrell is a big-time power presence inside that can hold the point of attack, controlling two gaps with his use of leverage and ability to attach himself to the ground he stands on. His craftiness and surprisingly nimble feet in traffic get him to the action often against the run. The pure athleticism in space and as a pass rusher will need to be hidden, but the impact can be there as a two-gap run defender. His best fit will reside in a 3-4 scheme over the center.

*The next 3-4 nose tackle that will be able to handle that kind of role right away. He could get a little over-drafted based on the amount of teams I am projecting to need that kind of player and the supply in this class. Farrell’s stamina is less than the guys above. He really didn’t do well when he had to be on the field often. He won’t offer anything as a pass rusher, either. I would be worried about a team going hurry up with him on the field. But for the traditional run defending role, he will get the job done.

13: Eric Johnson – Missouri State – 6’2/299

Grade: 71

Summary: Sixth year senior from Plainfield, IL. Five-year starter that played the extra year because of the eligibility given out as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Finished his career earning second team All-MVFC honors. After a lackluster career that did not fully highlight his tool set, Johnson started to open eyes in the spring of 2021. He saved his best ball for the fall season just a few months later and continued to rise throughout the pre-draft process. Johnson excelled at the East-West Shrine Game and was a late add to the Senior Bowl roster a week later. He is a versatile inside-out threat with a pro caliber combination of heavy hands and quick feet. His frame suggests the likely potential to add more functional mass to his frame with a year of a pro strength program. Once there, he has the athletic ability to wreck havoc as an interior penetrator that ideally finds a home as a 3 or 5 technique.

*Johnson got my attention late in the process. His practice tape at both Shrine and Senior week was impressive. And to think this kid still has plenty of room to add to his wide and long frame gives a really solid long-term projection. He confirmed the projection at his dominant Pro Day performance. Johnson is going to be a day three pick that coaches are really excited about.

14: John Ridgeway – Arkansas – 6’5/321

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Bloomington, IL. Had a five-year career at Illinois State (including the 2021 spring season) where started for four years. Following that 2021 spring season (just 4 games), Ridgeway transferred to Arkansas and started at nose tackle. The sizeable frame and powerful hands make him a potential two-gap force inside that can make a real difference in the running game. He won’t bring much to the table as a pass rusher, as he simply doesn’t have the juice to shoot a gap and he is a step behind when it comes to rush moves. He projects as a rotational interior defender with a bias toward run defense.

*Ridgeway is the kind of guy that the league likes more than what is out there. He plays big and wide, controls his gap(s), and says square. Just a reliable player inside with the tools that line coaches want to work with. He won’t be a pass rusher, but the 3-4 fronts will see him as a guy worth trying to develop.

15: Haskell Garrett – Ohio State – 6’2/300

Grade: 70

Summary: Fifth year senior from Las Vegas, NV. Two-year starter that earned first team All-Big 10 honors in 2021. Garrett falls below the prototypical triangle numbers for the position. He measures in less than ideal when it comes to height, length, and weight. With that said, there aren’t many players that maximize the tools they do have like Garrett does. He is an energy stick for a defensive line that can disrupt the passing game. He gets off the ball in a hurry with active hands and low center of gravity. He can wear down a blocker over time and take advantage of a small crease. He will fit into a rotation as a penetrating three technique for a solid dozen snaps per game.

*Garrett probably won’t be very high on NYG’s board, he may not even be on it. I think he is 3-tech only. I appreciate how hard this guy plays and how consistent that effort is. But it is hard to find that standout trait in his game that truly puts guys on their heels. He can find a spot as a backup somewhere and you know he will bring the effort. Upside is limited across the board. He struggled at the Senior Bowl.

BEST OF THE REST

16 – DJ Davidson – Arizona State – 6’3/327: 70
17 – Jayden Peevy – Texas A& M – 6’5/308: 70
18 – Noah Elliss – Idaho – 6’4/346: 69
19 – Thomas Booker – Stanford – 6’3/301: 69
20 – Christopher Hinton – Michigan – 6’4/305: 69
21 – LaBryan Ray – Alabama – 6’4/283: 68
22 – Marquan McCall – Kentucky – 6’3/342: 68
23 – Jonathan Ford – Miami – 6’5/331: 68
24 – Matt Henningsen – Wisconsin – 6’3/289: 68
25 – Donovan Jeter – Michigan: 6’3/310: 67
26 – Ben Stille – Nebraska – 6’4/300: 67
27 – Jordan Jackson – Air Force – 6’4/294: 67
28 – Tayland Humphrey – Louisiana – 6’5/328: 66
29 – LaRon Stokes – Oklahoma – 6’4/300: 65
30 – Dion Novil – North Texas – 6’1/300: 65

NYG APPROACH

When it comes to the Giants defensive line and examining this group of prospects, it is important to know they DO want a true two-gap nose tackle in this scheme. It does not need to be an ever down down guy, but as seen with the signing of Justin Ellis, they will always want a guy that can do that job. With that in mind, they’ll always want a backup two-gap nose tackle. I think their approach to the defensive line starts there. I’m not confident David Moa is that guy. Now, the one caveat I have with my statement is the gray cloud of the head of Dexter Lawrence. I would love to see him be the guy that is playing over center and Ellis as the backup. You then have Jihad Ward and Leonard Williams as the hybrid 3/5 techniques that play their best in an attack-based scheme. Whichever is indeed the case, NYG needs to add at least one defensive lineman in this draft class. Which type will largely depend on what they want to do with Lawrence? I always viewed him as a double A-gap guy, but he has been moved around way too much. I think NYG start looking here as early as round 3 (although watch out for Logan Hall in round 2) if they are looking for more pass rush. If they are looking for more size and run defense, I think it will be round 4-6. This team will be adding a DL talent, though.

Apr 102022
 
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Nakobe Dean, Georgia Bulldogs (September 11, 2021)

Nakobe Dean – © USA TODAY Sports

LINEBACKERS

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

1: Nakobe Dean – Georgia – 5’11/229

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry from Horn Lake, Mississippi. Two-year starter (2020 and 2021) that was also a key contributor to the 2019 defense that was loaded with NFL talent, earning the team’s Defensive Newcomer of the Year Award. Capped his career off earning 1st Team All SEC and 1st Team All American honors. Dean, a third-year graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, has the make-up and production of a key difference maker in the middle of the defense. He was the leader of the pack at Georgia, a defense (a linebacker unit in particular) packed with pro talent on a National Champion squad. His speed and range, against both the run and pass, will be an immediate weapon at the next level. He brings instant energy and pop to the defense. The size is a credible concern and remember, the talent around him was unlike anything we have seen in recent years in college football. He fits into a space-friendly role, ideally on the weak side, where he can roam and allow his legs to make a difference. The size can be schemed around, and his speed/power combination will make an immediate difference.

*I do like Dean. I often have to remind some that of the 1,500+ guys that start the process, having someone finish in the top 25 overall means I like them a lot. That said, taking Dean high in the draft would worry me. If NYG trades down into the teens or 20s, then I would endorse taking him. But top 10? I just don’t see it being a great decision considering the position he plays and there will be guys graded higher. Dean has the speed and maneuverability that is fun to watch. But that size is REALLY below the line I want, especially with the scheme Martindale will be bringing to the table. Dean has a shot at being Jonathan Vilma and to be real, I thought Vilma was much more physical against blockers and a stouter inside defender.

2: Devin Lloyd – Utah – 6’3/237

Grade: 82

Summary: Fifth year senior from Chula Vista, CA. Three-year starter that earned All-Pac 12 honors all three seasons, first team in both 2020 and 2021. A consensus 2021 All American, Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year, and AP Defensive Player of the Year. Lloyd is a highly decorated linebacker that produced his way into big time recognition. A former three-star recruit, Lloyd’s intangibles and love for the game outproduced expectations across the board. The military kid brings great discipline to the table that has defensive leader written all over him. Physically, Lloyd plays with instant speed and burst that always convert to power. He pursues sideline to sideline, makes plays behind the line of scrimmage on a routine basis, and is a true three down threat. He can do it all and will surely be a green dot quarterback of a defense that can change the personality and speed of a front seven right away.

*I went back and forth with Lloyd finishing slightly above Dean, slightly below Dean, and right there with Dean. They end up with the same grade and I think it is a coin flip when it comes to who gets taken first. It will be based on scheme. Lloyd has enormous size advantages. He is 3 inches taller, about 10 pounds heavier about 1 inch longer, and about 4 inches wider. Those things do matter when their play-grades are similar. Lloyd looks like the ideal fit in Martindale’s scheme. When you talk about guys that can line up anywhere, keep a defense guessing, and make a difference in a variety of ways, Lloyd is the prototype. In 2018, I had Darius Leonard as a top 8 overall player on my board in the entire draft. He went in the 2nd round to IND and is now a two-time All Pro. Lloyd has some Leonard-type vibes in his game but what kept him a little lower is important. Lloyd lacks instincts and gap integrity against the inside run. It popped up often and I can’t ignore it. He blitzed more than any linebacker in the draft by a wide margin and it inflated the numbers a bit. Still a very fine player and can be a difference maker but like Dean, I can’t justify top 10 here. Maybe if they trade down, maybe.

3: Quay Walker – Georgia – 6’4/241

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Cordele, GA. Spent one season as a full-time starter but played a lot throughout both 2019 and 2020 in Georgia’s rotation-heavy defense. Walker has an elite set of tools to work with. He is tall and long with tremendous speed and power. He has experience in multiple roles along the front seven and could benefit from a creative defensive coach putting him into different spots based on situations. He shows a lot of hesitation post-snap when it comes to making reads and flowing to the action at the right time. He is also uncomfortable in coverage despite the wide wingspan and athletic lower half. The strengths and weaknesses in his game are very blunt and easy to see. If he is put into the right role and kept out of other specific ones, he can be a star.

*Between Walker, Dean, and Lloyd, this is the one with the highest ceiling. Walker stood out to me the day I watched this Georgia defense more than anyone on it. The glimpses he shows are truly elite. The tools, the alpha-male mentality and presence, and physical nature. Walker is the guy that Georgia coaches said scares opponents the most. Not just the talent and ability, but how hard he can hit guys. He inflicts pain both in traffic and in space. Walker just doesn’t completely know what he is doing yet in terms of making reads. It is incredibly important to playing linebacker to show that kind of feel. He goes back and forth there. I think there is a sneaky pass rusher here too for what it is worth. He has rush moves and bend that did not get enough looks in that defense. I have a feeling Martindale is going to love this kid as a potential 2nd rounder.

4: Leo Chenal – Wisconsin – 6’3/250

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Grantsburg, WI. Two-year starter that broke out in a big way in 2021, earning second-team All American honors in addition to first team All-Big 10. Winner of the 2021 Butkus-Fitzgerald Award, given to the conference’s top linebacker. Chenal is a unique prospect. He brings plus size to the table but also shows impressive straight line burst and closing speed. He uses both traits to maximum effectiveness against the inside run and as a blitzer. He is such a densely built, powerful defender that can dominate blockers and ball carriers alike. The question will be how usable he can be on passing downs in a league where teams are throwing at record rates. He struggles with lateral movement in coverage and does not have the feel in space that he does in traffic. To combat that, however, is how well he can blitz up the middle and get into the backfield. He will not be an ideal fit for every scheme, but a system that can hide the few weaknesses in his game will get themselves a big-time difference maker.

When it comes to the off-ball linebacker spots, Chenal is just one of 7 players over the past 5 years to measure in at 250+ at the combine. Out of those 7 players, Chenal was the only one to run a 4.55 AND jump 40+ on the vertical AND run a sub 7.00 3-cone. In fact, those workout metrics at 250+ pounds for the linebacker position had never once been combined, ever. I want to paint the picture how rare of an athlete this kid is at his size. Chenal is a chew-glass defender too. The tape he has against Iowa’s OC Tyler Linderbaum alone brought Linderbaum down a couple tiers on my grading sheet. If Chenal can learn to play more fluid in coverage and as a lateral mover, he has star written all over him. If NYG goes linebacker day two, I will even say it is likely Chenal is their guy.

5: Christian Harris – Alabama – 6’0/226

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from Baton Rouge, LA. Three-year starter that finished top five on the team in tackles all three seasons. Harris is a speed demon that will immediately be one of the fastest players at the position in the league. He can move with almost anyone the opposing offense gives the ball to and that can be a major weapon for a defense. Harris is no slouch against blockers, but he is at his best away from traffic. He doesn’t feel the action soon enough and it often puts him in a bad position. In addition, Harris gets beat up in coverage repeatedly no matter the role. He has a lot of work to do but that speed and physical nature is enticing. If a coach can enhance his instincts and reaction time, Harris has the upside of a high-end weak side linebacker in a four-man front.

*Harris has been a tough guy to watch. I am so used to watching a certain kind of linebacker from Alabama. A fast thumper that excels downhill. Harris is not. They did try him in that role, but he failed. Harris does not play assignment-savvy football. He is not the guy you want in the middle of the defense putting others in position, feeling his way through traffic, and playing with gap integrity. They moved him to the weak side, and he played the best football of his career. Get Harris in space, let him chase, and he will make things happen. Teams need to be careful with what they expect from him but if he is your complement to a reliable, steady inside thumper, he will do damage.

6: Troy Andersen – Montana State – 6’3/243

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior from Dillon, MT. Began his career as a running back and linebacker, earning Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year honors in 2017. Made the move to quarterback in 2018 and earned first-team All-Big Sky honors before moving to linebacker in 2019 where he also earned a first team placement. Andersen shifted to inside linebacker in 2021 and took his game to an even higher level. The FCS ADA National Player of Year, Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year, and first-team All American left the program as one of its most decorated players ever. Andersen’s frame and long speed in combination with a natural feel for the game will be an enticing skill set for the league. He will not be ready right away, as he needs to strengthen his lower half and improve his presence against blockers, but the special teams presence will be there and his margin for potential growth his huge.

*This is a rare situation where I see a team using a day two pick on a linebacker with the idea of only allowing him to play special teams as a rookie. Andersen is one of the most unique players in the entire class. Say it with me. He was a first team All-Conference quarterback just a few years ago. Now he is one of the top triangle-numbers at the position. His play style reminds me a ton of Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano, except Andersen is light years ahead when it comes to tools. He won’t get away with what he did in college when it comes to reaction time, but the ability to cover, close, and finish is going to be a weapon in a year or two.

7: Chad Muma – Wyoming – 6’3/239

Grade: 77

Senior entry from Lone Tree, CO. Two-year starter that earned first team All-Mountain West honors in 2021. Muma, a former safety, transitioned to linebacker in 2019 after standing out on special teams a true freshman in 2018. Slowly but surely, he added mass and learned the mental side enough to lead the conference in tackles and tackles for loss as a senior. In fact, he finished just one tackle shy of leading all of FCS in tackles. Muma is a guy that is found all over the field. His acceleration and top end speed reach the sidelines, drops into deep coverage with ease, and pursues from behind all at high levels. He is fast and plays fast. Muma is also an excellent tackler on the move and in the open field. His overall power presence leaves a little too much on the table right now. He doesn’t play a strong, stout, or powerful game and while it may not have been exposed in the soft Mountain West schedule, it will be an issue in the pros. He is going to be a demon on special teams and should impact the defense on passing downs early on, but he will not be an every down player for at least a year. The ceiling is high though if he can continue the current trajectory he is on.

*Similar to Andersen, I would like to see Muma stay away from defense in year one while he gets bigger and stronger. He could possibly be a dime linebacker considering how well he moves and the experience he has at safety, however. Muma has a good natural feel for the game, and he is fun to watch on the move. There is something about his short area movement that worries me just a little. He gets high-hipped and without a stout style against blockers, that could make life difficult in the NFL. However, in a pass-happy league, Muma brings things to the table that most of these other guys do not.

8: Channing Tindall – Georgia – 6’2/230

Grade: 77

Senior entry from Columbia, SC. One-year starter that earned second team All-SEC in 2021. Tindall had a hard time getting on the field on a consistent basis his first three seasons with the Bulldogs. His patience paid off, however, as he showed enough as a senior to warrant a slot in the 2022 NFL Draft. Tindall’s standout trait is speed that is converted into violence. He plays fast, angry, and borderline undisciplined with the hope that any issues that come from the latter are made up by the former. Tindall does not always know what he’s doing, but there is something about a player that can reach this rate of movement with such tenacity and sure tackling. His size could be an issue against blockers here and there but if he is protected within the scheme he plays, he can be a playmaker and personality changer for a defense.

*Prior to the start of the 2021 season, I talked to a SEC position coach, and he said to get on this kid before everyone else. The Georgia linebackers were the best in the country by a wide margin and I was told this kid was the fastest and most physical one. He was right. Tindall plays at a different speed, and he is someone you don’t want to get hit by. If he gets with the right coach and a team can be patient with him, there is some star-potential here. Remember, he is not nearly as experienced as most of these guys and progressing at linebacker is all about seeing live snaps. Tindall is yet another high-ceiling linebacker that can truly change a group. I would love to see him fall to NYG in round 4.

9: Brian Asamoah – Oklahoma – 6’0/226

Grade: 76

Fourth year junior entry from Columbus, OH. Two-year starter that earned second team All-Big 12 honors in 2021. Asamoah is a fun player to watch that will bring instant speed and energy to a defense. His hustle, grit, and determination stand out on tape week to week. He is a defender that can pursue sideline to sideline and show range in coverage. He struggles to stay disciplined against the inside run when it comes to gap control and fighting off blockers. The tools and violence are there but he needs to prove he will do things the right way rather than simply rely on speed. He should be a demon on special teams and a solid backup early on while he cleans up the technique and mental side of the game. His best fit would be within a 4-3 scheme on the weak side.

*I’m not sure Asamoah will fit into the new Giants defensive scheme, but he is still a fine player that brings the heat. Asamoah’s size may be an initial downgrade to some, but he has long arms for his frame. If he gets better at using them, and he has shown glimpses of doing so, he could fit better to an inside role. Asamoah will be a weapon on special teams, no question.

10: Jesse Luketa – Penn State – 6’3/257

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Ottawa, ON. Two-year starter that earned honorable mention All-Big 10 honors in 2021. Luketa, a two-time team captain brings a unique skill set to the table. He is shorter than traditional edge rushers and has seen over a season’s worth of snaps lined up as an off-ball linebacker. His natural and powerful bend combined with plus-arm length, however, creates a tough assignment for blockers. He is tough to square up and the techniques he shows when it comes to his hands and footwork can manufacture disruption. He has solid football sense moving downhill in traffic and plus-quickness within a phone booth. The versatility can help his cause in the right scheme, but most of his time should be spent coming off the edge where he can be a disruptive three-down asset.

*I moved Luketa back and forth between EDGE and LB a couple times. For what it’s worth, he can be in either group. His size screams the former, his play style screams the latter. I liked him a bit more initially than where I have him right now. As I looked deeper into his game and watched the All-22, I think he is going to be a rotational guy at best. That is not a bad thing by the way, it simply is where I would peg him in the draft. I think NYG will love the versatility and toughness, but I question if he can do anything at a high enough level to be on the field every down. I don’t see it right now, but I want to reiterate I think he can be a guy that sees 10+ snaps a game to exploit matchups and I do see a solid special teamer here. I also have some concern about the body type as he is scary thin below the waist. An odd ball prospect here that I have a hard time finding a comparison to.

11: Brandon Smith – Penn State – 6’3/250

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Louisa, VA. Two-year starter that earned third team All-Big 10 honors in 2021. Smith is going to impress with prototype measurements and speed for the position. He looks the part and plays an explosive style of football. He has true sideline to sideline range and brings top end burst and agility. The upside with this kind of athlete is high. The issues on tape are hard to ignore, however. He is a poor form tackler than will miss too often. He does not read the inside run well and there is very little gap integrity to his play. He is a freelancer that opposing teams can expose regularly. In time, Smith has the ability to develop into a quality player if he dives in headfirst to enhancing his techniques, decision making, and discipline. If not, he is destined for backup duty.

*Before the year, a guy I work with had Smith as one of the top 45 players in the class. He simply did not step up the way someone like Christian Harris did in 2021. He has excellent triangle numbers. He has rare length (34.5 inch arms), he has 4.5 speed that shows up on tape, and he can make plays behind the line of scrimmage (17 TFL in the last 21 games). That alone can get a guy a mid-round pick. I have a feeling we will see Smith in the league for a long time, way beyond his rookie deal. Coaches will see the tools and occasional plays on tape and think they can mold him. For me, the missed tackles and freelancing are too often for the tools to look that attractive. He could be a draft weekend surprise, one scout told me “day 2 for us”. I couldn’t believe it, but tools are tools.

12: Darian Beavers – Cincinnati – 6’4/237

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior from Cincinnati, OH. Spent 2017 and 2018 at Connecticut before transferring to Cincinnati. Four-year starter between the two programs. Second team All-AAC in 2020, first team in 2021. Was also a Butkus Award Finalist in his final season. Beavers brings a unique tool set to the table and it was used all over the front seven in college. He primarily lined up off the ball, but he saw over 250 snaps along the edge on-line over his three years at Cincinnati. The heaviness in his hands and overall ability to play both stout and fast should get the attention of versatile defensive schemes. He does not play very sudden and there are too many inconsistencies with his tackling and aggression in space. There won’t be a fit for him in every scheme but at the same time, he can bring versatility to a multiple-front defense that others cannot.

*I have in my notes from the 2021 season that Beavers “…looks like an old school Steeler or Patriot…” Some make the mistake that Baltimore (Martindale/Ryan) went after the same personnel. I don’t agree. Martindale wants a bit more speed and twitch in his linebackers and even though Beavers tested OK with times, he doesn’t always play fast. I will say this though: He is an alpha. Beavers is a mean, powerful dude and he did line up all over the front seven. That said, he was not a very successful outside rusher.

13: JoJo Domann – Nebraska – 6’1/228

Grade: 72

Sixth year senior entry from Colorado Springs, CO. Four-year starter that began his career as a safety before moving to linebacker full time prior to the 2019 season. Ended his career earning second team All-Big 10 and second team All-American honors. Domann is going to be a space linebacker, one that can come on the field in sub packages and offer slightly better pass defense than a traditional Sam or Mike. His burst to the ball and no-fear, no-hesitation will play fast. He is a physical playmaker that will force fumbles and often find himself at the right place at the right time. Domann may not have the tools to fit as an every down player, but his value on special teams and on passing downs will create solid value and versatility.

*The experience Domann has at safety is going to help him in the league. His speed in space whether it is pursuit or coverage shows up. He can cover backs and I think he could hang with the motion tight ends too. I would not want to bring him in as an every down guy, but he will make the impact you want on special teams at the very least. If I had separate grades for special teamers, Domann would probably be near the top of the list. That is worth drafting mid-day three for sure. He has the kind of skill set that some teams value, possibly even at the beginning of day three.

14: Kyron Johnson – Kansas – 6’0/230

Grade: 72

Fifth year senior from Arlington, TX. Three-year starter that earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors in 2020. Johnson bounced back and forth between off ball linebacker and a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker spot. He was a Swiss Army knife type that brought the kind of skill set to the table that was used in multiple roles. The standout trait here is undoubtedly speed and burst merged with great length. His ability to accelerate off the ball and blocks can be a weapon from anywhere on the field. He measures too small to be an every down edge player, but his impact there can still be felt on sure-passing downs. He will need time to develop the skill set as an off-ball linebacker, notably in coverage and defending the inside run. This kind of speed and relentless pursuit does not come around often though, and his upside is sky-high.

*Johnson was the biggest combine snub in the class, and I don’t think it was close. I can come up with 50+ guys, maybe more, that Johnson should have been there in place of. I think the lack of size and knowing he was pretty much exclusively an edge defender turned the deciding minds off. I like the idea of trying to transition him to an off-ball spot while still using him as a pass rusher on 3rd down. He has some high-quality tape against credible NFL prospects. He has the athletic ability (4.40 forty and 6.98 3-cone) to move well in coverage. He showed well there at his Pro Day (not the same, I know). This is one of my guys for day 3, just have a good feeling about him.

15: D’Marco Jackson – Appalachian State – 6’1/233

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Spartanburg, SC. Three-year starter that earned All-Sun Belt honors in both 2020 and 2021, first team in 2021. Also won the conference Defensive Player of the Year Award in his final season. Jackson was quietly one of the better interior run defenders from the linebacker position in the nation over the past two years. He has a great first step and plays an aggressive, low-to-ground style tat blockers have a hard time squaring up. Jackson does not play a good cover-game and he gets a little tight in lateral pursuit. He could be an ideal fit for a 3-4 front where he can zero in on defense between the tackles. He may never be a starter, but Jackson will be a reliable backup capable of stepping and keeping things together if the starter goes down.

*Jackson is the kind of day three prospect that, if put into the right defense, comes in and shines brighter that several guys taken ahead of him. He won’t be a guy that creates a ton on his own, but he does know how to dominate his niche. He can play the interior running game very well. Reliable player in that regard, limited elsewhere.

BEST OF THE REST

16: Terrel Bernard – Baylor – 6’1/224: 71
17: Chance Campbell – Mississippi – 6’2/232: 71
18: Tariq Carpenter – Georgia Tech – 6’2/230: 71
19: Damone Clark – LSU – 6’2/239: 70
20: Malcolm Rodriguez – Oklahoma State – 5’11/232: 70
21: Aaron Hansford – Texas A& M – 6’2/239: 70
22: Nate Landman – Colorado – 6’2/238: 70
23: Mike Rose – Iowa State – 6’4/245: 70
24: Zakoby McClain – Auburn – 5’11/228: 69
25: Ellis Brooks – Penn State – 6’1/226: 69
26: Jake Hansen – Illinois – 6’1/238: 69
27: Jeremiah Moon – Florida – 6’5/249: 69
28: Jack Sanborn – Wisconsin – 6’2/234: 69
29: Darien Butler – Arizona State – 5’10/221: 68
30: Micah McFadden – Indiana – 6’1/240: 68
31: Nephi Sewell – Utah – 5’11/226: 68

NYG APPROACH

The linebackers in this new defensive scheme will have a unique feel to them. I want to say they’re going to be “really important” but I would say that about all the positions depending on what angle we are discussing. So, I’ll keep that under my tongue. The linebackers DO need to be versatile. I don’t seem them sticking with a classic thumper or a guy that lacks a standout trait. Those types work well in certain schemes, but I think this new regime will want guys that can do multiple things. They all need to defend the run well with plus power and speed. Beyond that, the need a specialty such as blitz/pass rush or coverage. This is a LB class that I love for that kind of approach, notably on day 2. There isn’t a much depth in that round 4-5 area that I usually see, but there will be plenty of bodies available round 6/7 if NYG does not find value earlier. But when trying to break down guys that fit what NYG wants to do on defense, I can see one of the four picks in rounds 2-4 being spent here. I don’t think Blake Martinez will be in the picture beyond 2022 and Tae Crowder is a rotational or backup at best. NYG may need two guys at this time next year and it would be in their best interest to get one in this draft. Learn the scheme, acclimate to the speed of the NFL, be ready to rock in 2023. Chanel, Walker, and Andersen are all guys I think would be both outstanding picks that can contribute here and there as rookies but will take over as the top dog in 2023. There will be handfuls of names late day three but again, look for the ones that have versatility and specialize either in coverage or the pass rush.