Apr 142019
 
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Nick Bosa, Ohio State Buckeyes (September 15, 2018)

Nick Bosa – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2019 NFL Draft Preview: Edge Rushers

*Grading Scale:

90+: Elite, All Pro

85-89: Immediate starter, building block for a decade, franchise player

80-84: First round talent, starter and/or majority of the snaps each week

77-79: Day 2 pick, starter within their first 16-24 games as a pro

75-76: Fourth rounder, has starter traits but needs development

71-74: Fifth/Sixth rounder, should develop in to weekly contributor over rookie contract

68-70: Draftable, hopeful for special teams impact and long term development

67 and under: UDFA

*NFL Comparison are not a projection of how good they are, more so their style of play.

EDGE

WHERE THEY STAND

In the Giants scheme that implements both 3-4 and 4-3 concepts, their quest for more edge talent can dip in to multiple forms and identities of the role where as in their former 4-3 days, there were certain players that just didn’t fit. The current status of the edge presence on this team is among the weakest in the NFL purely from a personnel point of view. The “headliners” if you want to call them that are second-year, super-athlete Lorenzo Carter who flashed at times as a rookie and free agent signing Markus Golden, who has missed 17 games since 2016, a year in which he recorded 12.5 sacks. Kareem Martin offers solid run defense from his backup role and Avery Moss is likely in his make or break third season after no impact to this point.

TOP 25

1: Nick Bosa – Ohio State – 6’4/266

Grade: 87

Summary: Junior entry. Son of John and brother to Joey, both 1st round picks. After winning the 2017 Big 10 Defensive Lineman of the year Award, Bosa entered the 2018 campaign as the nation’s top prospect and he more than strengthened the label through 4 games this past fall. He had 6 TFL and 4 sacks but an abdomen injury put him on the sideline and he opted to not return. Despite a lack of ideal experience, Bosa still sits at the top of this class because of what he has shown on tape and his lineage. His physical traits may not jump off the screen like past top edge prospects, but the way he plays the game via technique, awareness, power, and hunger is more than enough to warrant a high pick. Bosa won’t ever be the best in the league, but he will be a building block asset for a long time.

*Bosa leaves the strenuous grading process as my top prospect, but I can’t say I view him on the same level as guys like Myles Garrett and Bradley Chubb. I am confident he will be a player, but the lack of game experience and the fact his brother has been injury riddled so far in his young career create some hesitation. The one thing I go back to is how many different faces his game has via talent and mental approach. The upside is elite, no question. However I think his floor may be lower than what you want out of a top pick.

NFL Comparison: Joey Bosa / LAC

2: Montez Sweat – 6’6/260

Grade: 83

Summary: A multi stop career that began at Michigan State ended with two straight 1st Team All SEC seasons. Sweat has been arguably the top edge rusher in the conference since the start of 2017 that has performed his best against his top competition. He shows up weekly and it seems to be that it is only a matter of time before he makes a play. Sweat has the ideal NFL body with what appears to be the proper blend of tools and desire. While he may need some time to add meat on that frame, his upside is that of a solid starter with a specialty in edge rushing and playmaking via speed and range.

*The pre draft process boosted Sweat from borderline first rounder to a potential top 10 spot on my board. He outperformed expectations at the Senior Bowl and put together one of the most impressive combine performances in history. Lastly, this kid has been notably impressive in interviews and whiteboard sessions from what I have been told. While I like everything about the past few months, the tape has some holes that we can only hope get filled in the coming years. I don’t love his movement in short areas, which is where football is played. And there are some power issues from his lower half, something that can ruin potential. A high risk, high reward player here that needs the right system and right role.

NFL Comparison: Marcus Davenport / NO

3: Clellin Ferrell – Clemson – 6’4/264

Grade: 83

Summary: Third year junior entry. Has been a team-leading force since 2016, recording 50 TFL and 27.5 sacks. He has proven to be a force against his stiffest competition over the years and will be ready for NFL action week 1. Ferrell is the stereotypical 4-3 defensive end that can stay on the field in all situations. His subtle, but vital techniques need work as he won’t ever be a “blow by you” type edge rusher, but the tools he currently has combined with the passion he plays with makes him a safe bet to be a very good player at the next level.

*Perhaps some of his production has been inflated by the abundance of talent around him, but you have to like the tools and grit here. Ferrell is one of the top hustlers in this class and I have several game notes from the past two years that note the passion he plays with. I think that can really translate. There is some stiffness to him that gives me hesitation to call him a sure top 10 guy, but I still see a 1st round talent that can play right away.

NFL Comparison: Bud Dupree – PIT

4: Josh Allen – Kentucky – 6’5/262

Grade: 82

Summary: Three year starter that showed a steady progression throughout his career that ended with him being named 1st Team All SEC and a consensus All American as a senior. Allen gained 20 pounds last offseason and combining that with his top tier athleticism has vaulted him in to the 1st round tier, maybe even in to the top 10. At his size with his frame, Allen is a rare athlete that shows the kind of skill set that screams upside. There are important strength and power components to being a pass rusher that aren’t quite there yet, however. His eventual upside is as high as any player in the class, but it’s hard to call a rusher elite that struggles against power blockers. He still has a little ways to go.

*Allen has been labeled an automatic top 5 player in this draft. I do have a 1st round grade on him but I don’t think he is close to the elite level. I love the frame and I do think he has the potential to put on even more weight, but I borderline think it is mandatory for him to add the power to his game. He lost too many one on one battles where he didn’t get the initial position advantage and that rubs me the wrong way. However I love how he can fill multiple roles and I think he plays the game the right way. He will be dependably and consistently solid, but that is where it ends for me.

NFL Comparison: Anthony Barr / MIN

5: Rashan Gary – Michigan – 6’4/277

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry. Former blue-chip recruit with a tool set that was ready for NFL action two years ago. Gary earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors two straight years and continued to display a top tier tool set that took over games at times. The issue here is a lack of consistency and production. For a player that has such a distinct physical advantage over opponents, there weren’t enough lays being made to make him an elite draft prospect. He did fight through a lower body injury in 2018 but he still has the boom-or-bust label attached to his name.

*From what I have seen and heard, you are one of two people when it comes to Gary. One that falls in love with the tools and occasional plays, thus labeling him a legit top 10 prospect. Or you’re like me, one that respects the upside he brings to the table but just constantly felt underwhelmed by the tape. I always left the times I scouted him wanting more. He did play through a couple of injuries over the past two years but I can’t label him the top tier guy that many do, including the one scout I respect the most. For the record I think he goes top 10 and I do think NYG is looking at him hard at #6.

NFL Comparison: Carlos Dunlap / CIN

6: Zach Allen – Boston College – 6’4/281

Grade: 80

Summary: Two year starter that has been one of the most productive defensive ends in the ACC over that span. The two-time All ACC honoree totaled over 40 TFL and 18 sacks over his career from multiple spots along the defensive line. He is not a traditional burner that explodes up the edge, but his skill set is advanced even by NFL-measures. The technique is top notch and combined with his power, size, and strength he will be a versatile force in the league. This inside-out defender is a sure bet to be an effective starter with the potential to be a star.

*This is a name I am surprised isn’t getting more talk when it comes to NYG picks, notably the 2nd round. Allen is made for the 5 technique, a spot I think NYG will be looking to fill with another body or two in the coming in weeks. He isn’t the same athlete that JJ Watt is, not even close, but the similarities to their styles is very notable. Hands and footwork, versatility, toughness, IQ, and grit. Allen faced off against some solid talent over the past two years and he is the kind of guy that elevated his play against the toughest opponents. His Clemson tape was some of the best I saw all year.

NFL Comparison: Adam Gotsis / DEN

7: Ben Banogu – TCU – 6’3/250

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior. Began his career at Lousiana-Monroe where he won the Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year Award in 2015. Banogu spent two years in the Big 12 with TCU and recorded 34.5 TFL and 17 sacks. When it comes to the ideal measurables of an NFL edge rusher, Banogu comes up a bit short when it comes to size and speed. There is a lot to like in his game, however. He is really crafty, powerful, and balanced. While some of his tricks may not work on NFL-caliber blockers, he is a gamer that will find ways to get the job done. He has consistently produced at a high level every year he was on the field.

*Banogu caught my eye in 2017 when a scout tipped me off before anyone knew him. I’ve had my eyes on him ever since and I think he would be a near-ideal fit for the Giants edge role opposite of Lorenzo Carter. I think there is some Vernon in him, the younger, more productive version of Vernon. Love him in a phone booth and there is more explosion there than people think. TCU misused him a bit and I think his ceiling is as high as any of the guys on this list.

NFL Comparison: Dante Fowler / LAR

8: Jachai Polite – Florida – 6’3/258

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry. A breakout performer in 2018 that earned 1st Team All SEC honors. Polite’s ability to fire out low and fast with easy agility can make him a tough guy for blockers to lock their paws on to. If that is the case, Polite will win several battles each week and produce at a high rate. His lack of power presence makes him a bit of a one trick pony, however and the run defense may be a detriment. In the right edge rushing roe, Polite can be a stud but the lack of prowess across the board keeps the final grade down a notch.

*The pre-draft process has been odd here. Polite did not look good in workouts, both his times and his body. Then he had some very questionable interviews with the media and it sounds like he didn’t impress during team meetings. If you watch the right tape with him, though, he looks dominant at times. He can play at a really high speed with plenty of twitch and bend. He looks lethal at times. High risk, high reward.

NFL Comparison: Vic Beasley/ ATL

9: Charles Omenihu – Texas – 6’5/280

Grade: 79

Summary: First Team All Big 12 defender finally blossomed in 2018, his senior year. Omenihu is one of the more impressive specimens in this class when you are looking at simple triangle numbers. He has the NFL body right now and will make an impact early on as a run defender from any and all angles of the defensive line. Omenihu can be graded at different positions based on which scheme he is placed in to, but no matter what his upside is intriguing and he will be a physical force against the run. If he can continue to progress as a pass rusher the way he did in 2018, he will be one of the more dangerous inside-out defenders in the NFL.

*Similar to Allen above, Omenihu has the traits and playing style that can really fit in to this scheme at the 5 technique, a position of need. When looking at this kid’s body and 2018 film, it is easy to get really excited about him. But I am still unsure if he has the football player in him from an awareness and technique perspective. Those are the 2 red flags on his grading sheet but if a team can really coach him up, he can be a big time player.

NFL Comparison: Cameron Heyward / PIT

10: Jonathan Ledbetter – Georgia – 6’4/280

Grade: 78

Summary: Senior with two-plus years of starting experience. The 2nd Team All SEC pick won’t wow anyone with production or athletic ability, but his pro-caliber power presence and overall consistency was noteworthy in the SEC. Ledbetter isn’t the kind of defender that will stand out play to play, but those that really pay attention will appreciate how dependable and violent he is. The blue collar, versatile threat won’t ever jump off the stat sheet but he is the kind of quietly effective defender that can start for a decade in the league. The team that drafts him needs to have a plan for him, as the talent is limited but his ability to role-play at a high level is there.

*”Heavy hands” is something this front office and coaching staff have discussed often when looking for defensive linemen. This is the one thing I noticed about Ledbetter over and over during tape study and I think he is at a different level than other prospects. I think he can be a really solid 5 technique, one that starts in the league for a long time but nobody appreciates enough. And I think there is more pass rush potential with him than people think, as Georgia had him do a lot of the dirty work.

NFL Comparison: Tyrone Crawford / DAL

11: Chase Winovich – Michigan – 6’3/256

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior. Two time 1st Team All Big 10 and capped his career with an All American campaign in 2018. Winovich was “the other guy” on that Michigan defensive line over the past two years, with much of the attention being on teammate Rashan Gary but it was Winovich that led the Wolverines in tackles for loss. He doesn’t have the ideal body or frame for the NFL tranches right now, but his style of play and well-balanced attack will translate to at least a base-level of success in the NFL. Motors like this combined with technique and quickness trend well at the next level.

*The biggest question with Winovich entering the draft is the injury and surgery he had to his hand/wrist area. I’ve been told that thing may keep him off the field longer than expected, may even hamper the start of the 2019 regular season. Take that out of the picture because you have to think eventually that is a complete non factor, Winovich has traits and techniques combined with the mentality that will make a difference. How much of a difference? I don’t see him as a double digit sack guy but I do see a three down player that will be consistent and reliable.

NFL Comparison: Jerry Hughes / BUF

12: Brian Burns – Florida State – 6’5/249

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry. A two-plus year starter that began his career earning Freshman All American honors and ended his career with a 1st Team All ACC honor. Burns has the explosive first step and easy bend that can make him a terror off the edge. He played small in college and while there may be some issues keeping mass on, his role as pure speed rusher will be a factor at the next level. The issues with him revolve around power and run defense, both areas of his game that were apparent weaknesses. If he finds the right role, ideally a 3-4 outside linebacker without run defense responsibilities, he can be a factor.

*I am pretty low on Burns, as many have him as a sure thing 1st rounder, potentially even a top 15. The burst is there and I think may are assuming he will add and keep on mass. I fear edge guys that are purely based on burst and speed, especially guys that don’t have top shelf burst and speed. Burns has a lot of attractive tape on multiple levels but he disappears way too often. Boom or bust type that could be a stud in the right role.

NFL Comparison: Leonard Floyd / CHI

13: Jaylon Ferguson – Louisiana Tech – 6’5/271

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior. First Team All Conference USA in 2016, 2017, and 2018 respectively. He ranks number one overall on the FBS career sacks list, passing Terrell Suggs during his last game. The 2018 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year award winner brings an elevated skill set to the table along with the mentality every defensive coach wants to work with. He is a strong and powerful bully that can play a subtle finesse game when needed. While the jump in competition can make things slow for him at the start, Ferguson has the kind of upside and aggression that will make things happen in the pros. Just give him time.

*A lot of media chatter around him falling because of a bad 3-Cone and Short Shuttle time. Just another example of some people that don’t watch game tapes enough overreacting to workouts. Ferguson has been a day 2 guy the entire process for me and nothing about his workouts changed that. This is the kind of guy you want on your line if you need more physical play. He is a big, mean dude that can help change the personality of a team. He won’t be a Terrell Suggs pass rusher in the league, but he can be more than stout against the run and will find a way to consistently impact the pass rush.

NFL Comparison: Carl Nassib / TB

14: John Cominksy – Charleston – 6’5/286

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior. The former high school quarterback has gained over 70 pounds in his time at Charleston and slowly but surely progressed each year. His career ended with three straight All-Mountain East honors including a senior season where he won the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year Award. Even though he has 5 years of training and playing experience on the defensive side, he is still a bit of a developmental prospect that has a lot of work to do from a technique standpoint. With that said, players at his size and speed with his kind of hustle simply don’t come around often. He lined up all over the defensive line and that kind of role will carry over to the NFL. High upside pick that can be trusted based on hustle and grit.

*Several scouts think this kid can be the top 5-tech in the class from a developmental perspective. His name keeps coming up in discussions which I always find noteworthy. He held it together at the Senior Bowl pretty well and now that his body mass is ready to go, it is all about cleaning up the techniques and skillset. He might be a 1-2 year project but there is an upside here paired with a high floor that teams like to take chances on.

NFL Comparison: Arik Armstead / SF

15: LJ Collier – TCU – 6’2/283

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior. A rotational player for the first three years of his career, Collier finally got the starting nod in 2018 and ended up on the 1st Team All Big 12 defense. The 280 pounder with top-tier length and easy knee bend showed pro-caliber technique and a never ending engine. He brings a physical brand to the line and showed enough production as an inside rusher to give him the versatility that most teams want on third down. While his impact as a speed rusher is limited, the ways he can help a defense are too numerous to overlook. Collier is an underrated prospect that will be a better pro than he was in college.

*One of the more underrated players in the class. Collier has a lot of tools and quality tape but because he was just a one year starter, there is some hesitation. I trust that his skill set fits really well in to the league and a team with a multi-look front can keep this guy on the field constantly because of how well he can adjust his approach. A physical tone setter that already checks a lot of pro-ready boxes.

NFL Comparison: Michael Bennett / NE

16: Austin Bryant – Clemson – 6’4/271: 77
17: DeAndre Walker – Georgia – 6’2/251: 76
18: Maxx Crosby – Eastern Michigan – 6’5/255: 76
19: Shareef Miller – Penn State – 6’4/254: 76
20: Wyatt Ray – Boston College – 6’3/257: 76
21: Joe Jackson – Miami – 6’4/275: 75
22: Anthony Nelson – Iowa – 6’7/271: 75
23: Porter Gustin – USC – 6’4/255: 74
24: Christian Miller – Alabama – 6’3/247: 73
25: Oshane Ximines – Old Dominion – 6’3/253

**TOP UDFA SLEEPER**

Malik Reed – Nevada – 6’1/234

38 career starts and a three time All Mountain West honoree. Reed is very undersized and may not have the frame to handle much more weight, but I do think the pro-caliber strength and conditioning program will put him in the right direction. He is a practice squad type guy that comes in to the league with a skills et that can create issues. He has excellent footwork, quickness, and bend. Just a kid that knows how to beat blockers in a variety of ways. If he can add some power to his game, he can be a difference maker.

NYG APPROACH

The way I look at the Giants edge roles and situation is this. They need a 4-3 defensive end type, one that is almost always rushing the passer and/or mixing it up in the trenches. They then need a 3-4 outside linebacker type that will rush the passer and drop in to coverage and/or play in space. Lorenzo Carter should develop in a fine 3-4 OLB type but could be better suited for rotational duty, meaning he isn’t a guy you make plans around if a guy you really like is available. The Markus Golden/Kareem Martin duo is likely to fill the defensive end role, meaning they will always be rushing in to the trenches. Without any solid depth, I think NYG needs to attack both of these roles in the draft as early as pick 6 if the value is right. This defense is a train wreck when it comes to pass rush and they traded away Vernon, their top edge guy. NYG fans know that a quality and consistent pass rush makes all the difference in the world.

Apr 122019
 
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Quinnen Williams, Alabama Crimson Tide (January 7, 2019)

Quinnen Williams – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2019 NFL Draft Preview: Defensive Tackles

*Grading Scale:

90+: Elite, All Pro

85-89: Immediate starter, building block for a decade, franchise player

80-84: First round talent, starter and/or majority of the snaps each week

77-79: Day 2 pick, starter within their first 16-24 games as a pro

75-76: Fourth rounder, has starter traits but needs development

71-74: Fifth/Sixth rounder, should develop in to weekly contributor over rookie contract

68-70: Draftable, hopeful for special teams impact and long term development

67 and under: UDFA

*NFL Comparison are not a projection of how good they are, more so their style of play.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES

WHERE THEY STAND

I am including the defensive ends they have, as their front has a very 3-4 look to it. BJ Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson moved to their more natural positions after the Damon Harrison trade during the 2018 season. Both are solid players but it can be debated neither are a true fit for the nose tackle spot. Tomlinson is penciled in there for now but he is more of a penetrator that struggled to be stout over his first 2 years. Pierre Olsen was signed from ARI and he will compete for the starting 5-tech spot with RJ McIntosh, a high upside player that got his feet wet towards the end of last yea after missing a lot of time with a sickness. The group is thin and it looks like they will be bringing in more veteran talent before training camp.

TOP 25

1: Quinnen Williams – Alabama – 6’3/303

Grade: 86

Summary: Third year sophomore entry. Was off the radar entering 2018, as his impact as a redshirt freshman in 2017 wasn’t until late in the year. When it comes to his play on the field, Williams helped his stock as much as any player in the class. 2018 All American. He was a dominant force week after week, the standout defender on a loaded Alabama defense. Williams is a tough assignment to block because he can alter his approach snap to snap. It is hard to find such elite levels of play across multiple styles. The speed-to-power will immediately become one of the best in the league. A scheme that will let him penetrate through different lanes and angles will benefit from Williams in a way where their entire defense will be elevated. He is a big time difference maker right away.

*It is possible Williams falls right in to the waiting arms of NYG at 6 if the teams ahead of them are pursuing more edge presence and someone grabs a QB. While his size isn’t anything to write home about, Williams would be an ideal fir for the NT in Bettcher’s scheme. He is all about penetration via power and speed but can more than hold his own against double teams in the running game. He still has some growing to do and when all is said and done, I think he has a strong chance at being the best player in this class.

NFL Comparison: Kawann Short / CAR

2: Dexter Lawrence – Clemson – 6’4/342

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry. A blue chip recruit that made an impact right away, winning the ACC Freshman of the Year Award in 2016. He then went on to earn two straight 1st Team All ACC placements even though his production wasn’t anything noteworthy. Lawrence can be a missing piece to a defense that struggles against the run. His mere presence demands attention from multiple bodies and he is no slouch when it comes to pursuing the ball. Even though he is almost always the biggest and most powerful player on the field, Lawrence needs to shore up techniques and be more consistent. He is not an every down player, but certainly one that can dominate in stretches.

*If there is one non-QB I think NYG may be looking at with their 17th pick, it’s Lawrence. He fits the bill with what Gettleman wants up front and the trade of Harrison left that NT role wide open. Lawrence was the piece that made that loaded Clemson front go. I can remember seeing him play as a true freshman and at that moment in time, I said he was ready for the NFL. There is a rare combination of size, speed, and power to go along with more awareness and intelligence than you may think. Big time potential here that can change a defense right away.

NFL Comparison: Haloti Ngata / RET

3: Christian Wilkins – Clemson – 6’3/315

Grade: 84

Summary: One of the best defenders in Clemson history that has been a dominant force since 2015, where he was a Freshman All American. The three time All-American and two time Nagurski Award finalist was moved around the defensive line over the years but what never changed was his impact on the game. The sheer volume of plays made from the trenches over the years is incredibly rare. The coach’s favorite, when all is said and done, can be put anywhere along the line and it is as close to a guarantee as it gets that he will produce. He is a winning football player that makes others better and will be a defensive coordinators favorite, most versatile toy.

*My initial grade on Wilkins was one of the top 2 overall grades in the entire class. I have a thing for this kid and while I will stick to my board when draft time rolls around, I’d be ecstatic if he ended up in blue. And you know what? His best role in college was at the 5-technique and that is the gaping hole on this defensive line. While further scouting exposed some power-deficiencies, Wilkins is a true gamer that will wear several hats for a defense. A scheme that likes to switch things up and move guys around, Wilkins can be a stud. Top notch kid and a true culture-builder.

NFL Comparison: Gerald McCoy / TB

4: Ed Oliver – Houston – 6’2/287

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry. The only three-time All American in school history. Chose Houston over top tier programs out of high school. An ultra-productive player that has been one of the most explosive, dangerous defensive linemen in the country since he stepped on the field. Elite, rare-level speed and quickness for the position that can impact the game in ways that very few can at any defensive position. An ideal 3-technique from a speed and burst perspective that will need to improve his staying-power and stay-at-home defense so he isn’t a one-trick pony. Elite ceiling but carries plenty of risk as well.

*One of the more polarizing prospects in the class. Part of me wants to throw all of my chips in the middle of the table for Oliver because I have never seen a DT move like him, ever. The other part of me says he won’t be able to handle NFL lineman and there just isn’t enough discipline in his game. At the end of the day, whichever team drafts him needs a very specific plan for him. You need to get him moving laterally, alter his pre-snap positions, and let him pursue. Houston mis-used him in 2018 and showed the world he can’t just live inside and bull rush. The explosion and quickness can be a weapon, but there is more to it than just that. Does he fit with NYG? I’m not sure because I don’t think Bettcher has ever used a guy like this. But there is no denying the upside to impact this defense, and this league, in a big way.

NFL Comparison: Geno Atkins / CIN

5: Dre’Mont Jones – Ohio State – 6’3/281

Grade: 83

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. After a couple years of promising flashes, Jones broke out in 2018 with a 1st Team All Big 10 performance that included 8.5 sacks and 13 TFL. Jones is a standout athlete that can be moved around the defensive line. His size and athleticism can cause matchup problems for any blocker depending on the situation. He has some work to do on his strength/power game, but the tools and skill sets are there. If he continues to stay on his current trajectory as a versatile inside defender, Jones has the upside of a Pro-Bowl caliber player.

*There is something about Jones that makes me think NYG is going to go after him at #17 if the chips fall their way. He is a true fit for the 5 technique spot, one that will add a big time pass rush presence to a front that is starving for sacks. Jones is arguably the most efficient and prolific mover in this group when it comes to short areas and technique. His frame can handle more weight and in time he could be one of those rare 3-4 DL that grabs 8-10 sacks a year.

NFL Comparison: Trey Flowers / DET

6: Jerry Tillery – Notre Dame – 6’6/295

Grade: 82

Summary: A former high school offensive tackle that was highly touted on that side of the ball, Tillery made the move to the defensive side right away at Notre Dame. After some questionable character hiccups early in his career, he grew up and molded himself in to a fine and potentially elite prospect. Tillery is a really unique blend of tools and skills that don’t come around often, plain and simple. He finished his career as an All American, causing plenty of disruption as a pass rusher, run defender, and on special teams. He is the kind of defender that can simply beat quality offensive linemen even when they do everything right because he has such a physical advantage. The path he has been on since the start of 2017 and the progression he has shown is on the path to stardom.

*Occasionally I will get nervous about defensive tackles that are this tall, as they just have such a hard time with leverage battles. Not Tillery. He plays low, strong, and fast. What he has become over the past 2-3 years makes me think this kid is going to be one of the draft-weekend bargains. He flashed stretches of sheer dominance via power and athletic ability multiple times and while I wish he was more consistent, he has “pro” written all over him. Another good locker room presence kid that will be in the league a long time and offer big time upside.

NFL Comparison: Cameron Heyward / PIT

7: Renell Wren – Arizona State – 6’5/318

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior. 2018 was the only season where he was a full time starter and it ended in him earning Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors. Wren was moved around the line early in his career, but he settled in at the nose tackle in 2018 where his elite power and reach was a difference maker in the middle of their line. Wren was a fun player to watch because of how much he imposed his will and presence on centers. I almost felt bad for a few of his opponents, as it just looked unfair. Wren won’t be a pass rusher early in his career, but any team that wants consistent presence along the inside will want this guy. High upside pick because of his naturally dominant traits.

*If you watch Dexter Lawrence play and fall in love with the push he gets at the point of attack, you almost have to like Wren and what he brings to the table. He finally found his home at nose tackle in 2018 after being moved around too much early in his career. Wren won’t be an every down player but he is the kind of guy you want on your side when you need to stop the run. He demands a lot of attention and he was arguably the most consistent force at the point of attack when it came to sheer movement and presence I saw all year.

NFL Comparison: Malik Jackson / PHI

8: Gerald Willis III – Miami – 6’2/302

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior that began his career at Florida. After a few run-ins with the coaching staff, Willis was kicked out of the Gators program and landed at Miami. After more personal issues in 2017 that kept him on the scout team, he came back on fire as a fifth year senior and put together an All American season. Willis is a three technique that has shown more than enough ability and potential. He is a true disruptor that makes the offensive line adjust to him, not the other way around. If he can stay clean and drama free, he is some simple development away from being a dangerous force.

*There will be extra screening needed here, as Willis has had multiple issues off the field and his coachability has been questioned. That said, the performance he put together in 2018 was, no doubt, 1st round caliber. This is the kind of player that can change a defensive front right away. I do think his best role is a 3 technique where he can shoot gaps and disrupt, but there is more to his game than just that. One of the wildcards of this entire class.

NFL Comparison: Akeem Spence / MIA

9: Jeffrey Simmons – Mississippi State – 6’4/301

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry. Two time 1st Team All SEC and a 2018 All American. Simmons was soaring his way in to round 1 territory in the eyes of some but a torn ACL while training for the combine grays his 2018 in a big way. In addition he had an arrest a few years ago that included violence against a woman, something the NFL as a whole has really tried to come down on. While that won’t impact his playing status in the pros, it is noteworthy. On the field, Simmons is a really impressive specimen. He has plenty of straight line speed and a body that makes scouts drool. However I see a lot of issues in his game, most notably reaction-based quickness and leg stiffness. Throw in the injury and I just don’t see him where others do although I think someone will gamble on the upside early day 2.

*The ACL injury is part of the grade but even then, I had him as a borderline first round talent leaning towards the top of round 2. I like Simmons and his athletic-freakness, but I never saw the elite player that some are talking about. I see too much stiffness and a lack of leverage that can eat a player up in the NFL. The off field stuff from years ago really isn’t a part of the equation for me. Simmons is a slid 3 technique prospect that likely won’t factor much in 2019 until late in the year. I would rather someone else take the chance on him.

NFL Comparison: Leonard Williams / NYJ

10: Isaiah Buggs – Alabama – 6’3/306

Grade: 76

Summary: Former junior college player that was a major get for the program prior to 2017. A two year starter that has been a steady pass rush presence from inside the tackles, as he led the team with 9.5 sacks in 2018. While Buggs won’t impress many with tools, he may be the most technique-savvy and smartest player along the ‘Bama front. The coaching staff loves how he takes things in and applies them to games and that stood out to me. Buggs is a safe, reliable player that won’t be a star but I bet he has a 10-year career.

*One of my favorite day 3 targets here, not because I think he will blossom in to a star, but because I think he will be Mr. Reliable for a long time. I actually think he has Patriots written all over him. Buggs can fit in nicely to multiple inside roles and I don’t see his physical shortcomings being an issue with his style of play.

NFL Comparison: Matt Ioannidis / WAS

11: Daylon Mack – Texas A& M – 6’1/338

Grade: 74

Summary: Former junior college player that was a major get for the program prior to 2017. A two year starter that has been a steady pass rush presence from inside the tackles, as he led the team with 9.5 sacks in 2018. While Buggs won’t impress many with tools, he may be the most technique-savvy and smartest player along the ‘Bama front. The coaching staff loves how he takes things in and applies them to games and that stood out to me. Buggs is a safe, reliable player that won’t be a star but I bet he has a 10-year career.

*For a team that is looking strictly for a two down run stuffer, Mack’s grade can certainly be moved in to day 2 territory. He has the kind of body that simply won’t be moved by single and double teams alike. I’m not quite sure what his deal was in 2016 and 2017, but the 2018 version of him showed flashes of dominance. He might be a guy that you need to keep in check with his diet and work ethic, but there will be a starting role for him somewhere.

NFL Comparison: Brandon Williams / BAL

12: Kingsley Keke – Texas A& M – 6’3/288

Grade: 74

Summary: Three year starter that progressed well over his career. Finished as the team’s 2018 sack leader. Keke is a really twitchy athlete with the length and easy bend that can give interior blockers a fit in pass protection. He is inconsistent, a lot of disappearing for stretches but when he plays to his upside, he can wreck a game. He will need time to develop his body but he has solid rotational pass rusher written all over him.

*His best fit is likely in a 4-3 scheme we he can shoot gaps and use the quick footed, long-armed frame to his full advantage. He can’t be trusted as an every down run defender but there is enough he can do against the pass to warrant a highly-used spot. May have to wait a year or two for him though, he needs body work.

NFL Comparison: Larry Ogunjobi / CLE

13: Greg Gaines – Washington – 6’1/312

Grade: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior. Three year starter that has been one of the staples of Washington defense for years. He was All Pac-12 all four seasons, ending his career on the 1st Team. Gaines primary role at the next level will be inside gap run stuffer. He can control two at a time and demand attention. But he proved he can’t be slept on from a playmaking perspective. For a player that doesn’t exactly specialize in burst and movement, he makes a lot of plays away from the starting point. He is as blue collar as it gets and will be a safe bet to provide solid 2 down run defense.

*Similar to Mack above, there are some teams that may have a day 2 grade on Gaines based on the need for more run defending presence. He is a rock in the middle that plays hard and smart. A really reliable, yet limited, player that NYG may want to give a hard look to on day 3 if they want a NT presence that brings something different to the table than Tomlinson.

NFL Comparison: Brandon Mebane / LAC

14: Armon Watts – Arkansas – 6’5/300

Grade: 72

Summary: After a really quiet career leading up to 2018, Watts broke out and led the Razorbacks with 7 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. He is still a bit of an unknown but its hard not to be drawn to him when re-watching his tape. He has a lot going for him when it comes to size and power. There are some red flags from earlier in his career when it comes to attitude and effort, but this kid took a turn this past yea off and on the field. Someone may be getting a huge bargain on day 3.

*Big, mean, physical and quietly very skilled. Watts has the look of a kid that enters training camp and starts tossing veterans around and wrecking havoc. Where he was for the first three years is a little unknown besides the fact that he didn’t work hard, but something seems to have changed and 2018 was a glimpse of what this kid might be in the NFL.

NFL Comparison: Ashawn Robinson / DET

15: Tito Odenigbo – Miami – 6’3/300

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior. After playing three years at Illinois where he never quite stood out, Odenigbo transferred to Miami for the 2018 season and started to shine as the year progressed. After breaking his way in to more playing time, Odenigbo finished the year with 5 TFL over the final 5 games. His quick and easy power comes natural and the pad level he can play with generates even more effort for blockers to put out. Odenigbo is a but of an unknown by the flashed some really solid traits and should be drafted.

*Maybe my top sleeper along the DT group. If it weren’t for a few character red flags, I may have had him closer to the 4th round area despite a lack of experience in college. Odenigbo really showed me something when he got in to the steady rotation and I think there are NFL traits here that most schemes could use.

NFL Comparison: Davon Godchaux / LSU

16: Dontavious Russell – Auburn – 6’3/319: 71
17: Chris Slayton – Syracuse – 6’4/307: 71
18: Cortez Broughton – Cincinnati – 6’3/292: 71
19: Olive Sagapolu – Wisconsin – 6’2/340: 71
20: Trysten Hill – Central Florida – 6’3/308: 70
21: Albert Huggins – Clemson – 6’3/305: 70
22: Khalen Saunders –Western Illinois – 6’0/324: 70
23: Chris Nelson – Texas – 6’1/312: 70
24: Terry Beckner – Missouri – 6’4/296: 69
25: Daniel Wise – Kansas – 6’3/281: 69

**UDFA SLEEPER**

Roderick Young – North Texas – 6’1/299

There are a couple of really interesting prospects on the North Texas squad, but Young is a guy that flashed over and over. For those that fell in love with Khalen Saunders at the Senior Bowl, Young has to get some attention from you. Similar frame, similar style of play, and comes with a little more mobility. I think Young can be a solid addition to stash on the practice squad for a year or two and watch him blossom in to a disruptive nose tackle.

NYG APPROACH

The more you look at this depth chart, the harder it hits you that this team has holes everywhere. The defensive line, when it comes to the demands of a 3-4 scheme, is just fine when you look at the starting trio and like I said earlier, I think one more free agent will be signed in the coming weeks. However the depth, should someone go down, just isn’t there. I was a believer in McIntosh when they drafted him a year ago but the sickness he went through really put a hitch in his needed physical progression. At the top, I am not sold on Tomlinson being a guy that you overlook a really solid NT prospect should someone be there in the first. I think the odds are that NYG will be pursuing an interior force with one of their first 3 picks.

Apr 102019
 
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Devin Bush, Michigan Wolverines (January 1, 2018)

Devin Bush – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2019 NFL Draft Preview: Linebackers

*Grading Scale:

90+: Elite, All Pro

85-89: Immediate starter, building block for a decade, franchise player

80-84: First round talent, starter and/or majority of the snaps each week

77-79: Day 2 pick, starter within their first 16-24 games as a pro

75-76: Fourth rounder, has starter traits but needs development

71-74: Fifth/Sixth rounder, should develop in to weekly contributor over rookie contract

68-70: Draftable, hopeful for special teams impact and long term development

67 and under: UDFA

*NFL Comparison are not a projection of how good they are, more so their style of play.

LINEBACKER

WHERE THEY STAND

The trade for Alec Ogletree proved to be an effective move for the sheer fact that they finally have a reliable leader in the middle. While he isn’t and won’t be a star, he is a leader of the defense type that brings what you think he will bring each week. BJ Goodson has had issues staying fully healthy but the bruiser impressed late in the year and seems to be a nice fit for the Bettcher scheme. His issues are apparent when it comes to every down duty though and he may be best used in a rotational role. The depth inside is very limited.

1: Devin Bush – Michigan – 5’11/234

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry. Son to Devin Bush Sr who played in the NFL. The 2018 Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year and two-time Butkus Award finalist brings a top tier combination of power and speed to the table that doesn’t come around often. The short, but stout enforcer is the kind of player that can immediately change the personality of a defense. Don’t be fooled by the lack of height when diagnosing his size and presence, as he is big where it matters and is often the most physical player on the field. Bush is a three down linebacker that will have to prove he is healthy and durable, but there is almost no risk with him. He is going to be a stud.

*I am still going to label Bush as a top 10 player in this class and while I know he won’t be the pick at #6, he would in the discussion if it were up to me. Sometimes guys with a lack of stereotypical size are mistaken for a lack of physical presence and power, but Bush might be the most physical one of the bunch. NYG has struggled with consistent LB play for a long time and I’ve had many debates whether or not premium picks should be spent on this spot, but I think it is being proven over and over a guy like this can change an entire defense right away.

NFL Comparison: Myles Jack / JAC

2: Devin White – LSU – 6’0/237

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry. Two time First Team All SEC defender that has finished at the top of the conference in tackles/tackles per game each of the past 2 years. Was initially recruited and graded as an athlete coming out of high school. Has rare speed and explosion for the thickness he has on his frame. The kind of versatile linebacker that can impact the game in several ways each week. White is a tone-setter that plays the game tough and violent but also has the speed to make things happen up and down the seam and sideline to sideline. There isn’t a role that White will struggle to fill from the linebacker position. He has some areas to improve when it comes to defeating blockers, but he is a sure-thing to be an impact player.

*While I am not sold on him being an elite player like some, I do think White is a week 1 starter that can add the physical brand to a defense that many teams are looking for. His standout traits revolve around burst and pursuit speed. He is such a hungry player and excels in reaction-based assignments. I think he can be better off on the weak side, not so much at MIKE linebacker. He isn’t the most instinctive guy and there are a few whispers about intelligence/knowledge of the game. No matter what, he can be a game wrecker.

NFL Comparison: Bobby Wagner / SEA

3 – Bobby Okereke – Stanford – 6’1/239

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior with three years of starting experience. Two time Honorable Mention All Pac 12 defender. Okereke fits the mold for today’s ideal linebacker when it comes to skill set. He is more than athletic enough to factor in coverage with his plus-top end speed and easy fluidity in his hips. The length is another plus there and he can really make his presence known physically. He is a tough, hard nosed linebacker that will let you know he hit you. Okereke lacks some of the vital instincts and natural flow and he may struggle with how fast things transpire in the NFL. However he is a solid weak side candidate that can make plays in space and give a defense options. Likely an eventual solid starter.

*Last year I had Darius Leonard as a top 5 overall player in the draft, he ended up being taken in the 2nd round and won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. I bring that up because I have Leonard comps in multiple places for Okereke. I don’t see the same caliber but when it comes to skill set, they are similar. The elite, rare length paired with fluid hips can make him a major weapon in coverage and he is a violent player in traffic. There is a lot he can do, and he will be a true 3 down player.

NFL Comparison: Darius Leonard / IND

4 – Ben Burr-Kirven – Washington – 6’0/230

Grade: 78

Summary: Two year starter. The former high school star took time to translate to the college level, but the 2018 First Team All American led the nation with 176 tackles, with the next highest being 158. He is more than just a tackle machine, as he forced 6 fumbles, intercepted 3 passes and broke up 11 more in his last two seasons. Plain and simple, this kid is a baller that finds ways to produce no matter the situation or opponent. He has tremendous speed, quickness, and instincts. While the size might be a slight turn off, Burr-Kirven is a sure bet to be at least a productive weak side linebacker that will play assignment football at a high level on all three downs. Never a star, but likely a solid contributor.

*It’s hard to watch this kid and not walk away being impressed. The size issue gets a tad overrated especially for the amount of plays he makes in traffic. He knows how to use it to his advantage and there are things he can do that bigger guys simply cannot. I want linebackers that play instinctive and smart in addition being able to cover. If I have to give some stoutness away, that’s fine.

NFL Comparison: Wesley Woodyard / TEN

5 – Jahlani Tavai – Hawaii – 6’2/253

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior and four year starter that was All Mountain West three seasons in a row. 2018 didn’t go as many hoped, as he was suspended for a game stemming from an offseason arrest before missing the final month with a shoulder injury that is still hampering him right now. That medical is going to be important for him. Tavai is an attractive linebacker because of his ever-present instincts and aggression. You won’t find a player that gives more hustle and grit that Tavai. That said, he needs to show more a ability against blockers coming at him. He gets a little lethargic at times and doesn’t have the explosion or pop to make up for it. I do like the style and I do think there is 3 down potential here as long as the shoulder checks out.

*Tavai was one of my names to watch coming in to 2018, but the game 1 suspension and shoulder injury knocked him down a tad. But the tape, especially from 2017, doesn’t lie. This kid is all over the place but it is more than high-effort. He has legit talent the ability to forecast plays. Really violent player that brings intensity to the players around him. I have some discipline questions here, but I got some feedback regarding his team interviews and meetings and they were all positive.

NFL Comparison: Benardrick McKinney – HOU

6: Drue Tranquill – Notre Dame – 6’2/234

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior and two-time team captain. The former safety suffered torn ACL injuries in both 2014 and 2015, but has bounced back 38 games over 3 years. Tranquill is a blue-collar player that has a couple limitations physically, but seems to always find a way to get the job done on all three downs. He is as smart and quick to react as you will find. Combine that with the violence and aggression he plays with and Tranquill looks like an eventual starter on the weak side and special teams star. The medicals will be important for him.

*One of the more underrated players in the class. I’ll tell you what, if the medicals were completely clean here, I would have Tranquill as a first round player. Hard to find someone with the coverage ability, nose for the ball, and toughness like this kid. His athleticism issues are a little overblown and I think he proved that in workouts. I like that you know exactly what you are getting here play by play, week by week.

NFL Comparison: Christian Kirksey / CLE

7: Blake Cashman – Minnesota – 6’1/237

Grade: 77

Summary: A former walk on and just a one year starter for the Gophers, Cashman did earn 3rd Team All Big 10 honors as a senior after being on nobody’s radar entering the year. Cashman’s play slowly but surely got noticed more and more as the season progressed. He all-out, all-the-time approach to the game coupled with his speed and violence can make him an asset in most schemes. His weaknesses reside in coverage and he won’t do much to rush the passer, thus his role may be limited at the next level. At worst, he is a core special teamer and solid backup but I see him starting at some point in his career.

*While I see a 2 down player here, I think a team looking for a run stuffer in the middle can get a lot out of Cashman. He is a better athlete than advertised based on his reaction time and instincts. Also he is a guy that rarely misses tackles, something I constantly value.

NFL Comparison: Blake Martinez / GB

8: Justin Hollins – Oregon – 6’5/248

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior. Three year starter that spent a season at defensive end before the team moved him to a hybrid edge role. Hollins spent most of his time on the edge but he proved to be a factor in coverage to the point where his versatility grade is what really makes him. Hollins is an every down threat capable of impacting the game in several ways. He plays fast and twitchy, shows developed skill sets across the board, and has a constant sense of hustle. With his frame and athletic ability, there is an upside worth trying to develop.

*There is some unknown with Hollins and a lot of what he is being graded on is based on long term projection and development. That said, if he blossoms in to what he can be, he can be one of the top linebackers in this group when all is said and done. He needs to fill the frame out a bit and handle contact with blockers better, but someone with this height, length, speed, and versatility can be a big time weapon.

NFL Comparison: De’Vondre Campbell – ATL

9: Cameron Smith – USC – 6’2/238

Grade: 75

Summary: Four year starter that has overcome a few injuries to his shoulder and knee respectively, but still managed to start 45 games. He began his career off with a bang, winning Pac 12 Freshman of the Year honors before he tore up that knee. He became the leader of that defense real fast and there are almost zero concerns when it comes to his ability to impact the run defense and mental side of things. Smith is a better athlete than some give him credit for, but I still think his primary role will be on early downs. He can hold his own but the impact he can make as a tackler is far greater. Really solid player that can’t do everything, but can do enough.

*Bringing in Smith is all about quality depth with the possibility of run defending presence. He won’t be a start but he will be reliable and effective in the right role. Safe player as long as his medicals check out.

NFL Comparison: Vince Williams / PIT

10: Mack Wilson – Alabama – 6’1/240

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry. Full time for the first time in 2018 but was a steady part of the rotation in 2017 and half of 2016. 2nd Team All SEC to cap his career. If you catch Wilson on the right week, he looks like yet another first round ‘Bama linebacker. However the inconsistencies constantly left me wanting more. Maybe it was just inexperience and maybe had he retuned for his senior season he would have been a sure thing first rounder next year, but I can’t put him much higher than this just because of flashes. I question his ability to forecast and diagnose and I do think a lot of his production came from the talent around him. Still a solid upside pick here with legit talent, but still think he is a ways away.

*Man I wish this kid went back to school for his senior season, which I know the coaches were trying to push him towards. Wilson was maddening to watch because he had flashes of big time, just to be followed by the look of a backup just plays later. I won’t deny his upside but I think the talent around him and the fact he is coming from the ‘Bama program inflated his outlook by the general public. I don’t trust him enough.

NFL Comparison: KJ Wright / SEA

11: Sione Takitaki – BYU – 6’1/238

Grade: 74

Summary: Fifth year senior. Took a redshirt season in 2016 after being a part time contributor over his first two years. The former defensive end made the full time move to linebacker in 2018 despite being the team’s defensive player of the year in 2017. He took 20 pounds off his frame and slowly but surely earned his way up draft boards with quality, consistent play. Takitaki needs some extra screening, as he was a troublemaker early in his career and was nearly kicked out of the program. He got married a couple years ago and since then, he has been a new person. A very focused and driven player on and off the field, Takitaki has the look of someone drafted day 3 but ends up starting in his rookie year.

*Interesting player here. I’ve been told a few teams are looking at him as a day 2 pick. I don’t trust him in coverage but I think he has enough versatility to stay on the field all three downs. He has a knack for winning one on one battles against blockers and I think his experience as an edge guy can only help. He is what I would call a calculated shot in the dark. I predict NE to draft him day 3 and he ends up being a stud, he has that kind of look to him.

NFL Comparison: Kyle Van Noy / NE

12: Germaine Pratt – NC State – 6’2/240

Grade: 74

*Fifth year senior. Former safety that redshirted in 2016 because of a shoulder injury and came back as a linebacker, blossoming in to a 1st Team All ACC defender in 2018, his lone season as the starter. Pratt brings a lot to the table. He is an excellent, physical, wrap up tackler with natural ability in coverage and some pass rush traits that many overlook. On the other hand, he mightily struggles taking on blocks and gets lost in traffic too often. Drafting Pratt is all about the future because he has a ways to go when it comes to learning the game and overall techniques. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him starting in 2 years for a good defense.

*Pratt was a favorite of mine initially. He doesn’t miss tackles, I like the 3 down versatility, and he has a very all-business type approach to the game. Bu t after scouting 8 games, the ever-present issues he has against blockers and overlooking assignment football is maddening enough to wait until day 3. For the record, I believe he goes earlier than this.

NFL Comparison: Todd Davis / DEN

13: Andrew Van Ginkel – Wisconsin – 6’3/241

Grade: 73

Summary: A one year starter. A career that began at South Dakota in which he was in the running for the FCS Freshman of the year, Van Ginkel bounced around a bit because of a coaching change. With a pit stop at Iowa Western, he ended at Wisconsin and contributed for two years. The 2018 starter led the team with 5.5 sacks in 2018 and totaled 12 over his two years with the team. His pure athletic ability and passionate style of play can somewhat make up for some hesitations and lack of true power. The pass rush upside will largely depend on development and whoever drafts him will need to be patient, but he can be an impactful special teamer.

*Upside player here that has the tools and occasional flashes of impact off the edge. Van Ginkel still needs time to mold his game and strengthen his frame, but there is a lot of natural in him. He wasn’t on my radar until late in the year but he showed enough and there is more untapped upside to him than others.

NFL Comparison: Samson Ebukam – LAR

14: Vosean Joseph – Florida – 6’1/230

Grade: 73

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter that plays the hot/cold style as much as any player in the class. While his effort and hustle are both always on, Joseph really struggles with the skill-based aspects of the game. He makes incorrect reads and poor decisions, one of the reasons the Florida coaches permanently moved him to the weak side. When it comes to speed, explosion, and pop, Joseph has standout ability. He can wreck havoc in the backfield with a violent finisher type style. That athletic ability translates well to the passing game as well, whether he drops back or blitzes. Joseph is an all or nothing player right now but if the right coach gets his hands on him, look out.

*Similar to Mack Wilson above, I really wish this kid went back for his senior year. There is 1st round potential in him but the inconsistencies were too frequent for my liking. When he is in full blown attack mode, Joseph is a fun player to watch they can take over a game. He has that kind of talent. If he can sit for a year or two with an attachment to getting better mentally, someone will get a bargain.

NFL Comparison: Jerome Baker / MIA

15: Sutton Smith – Northern Illinois – 6’0/233

Grade: 72

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. One of the most productive edge rushers in FBS since 2017 will need to make the move to off-all linebacker at the next level. Two time All American and two time Ted Hendricks Award finalist. The lack of size and power showed up on tape during the season and really showed up at the Senior Bowl. Smith has the body and athletic ability to factor as a strong side linebacker that can be used in specific pass rush packages as a blitzer. The stutter step quickness and knack for finding windows to sneak through can be used by the right scheme.

*Smith’s production is as good as anyone in the class but I think that was derived from a lack of competition and scheme more so than sheer talent. Nonetheless, he will be a solid backup and very good special teamer. While he was embarrassed the Senior Bowl as a pass rusher, I still think there are things you can do with him.

NFL Comparison: Nick Vigil / CIN

16: Deshaun Davis – Auburn – 5’11/234: 72

17: Otaro Alaka – Texas A&M – 6’3/239: 72

18: Dakota Allen – Texas Tech – 6’0/236: 72

19: Cody Barton – Utah – 6’2/237: 71

20: Jordan Kunazyk – California – 6’3/235: 71

21: Joe Dineen – Kansas State – 6’1/235: 71

22: David Long – West Virginia – 5’11/227: 71

23: Chase Hansen – Utah – 6’3/227: 70

24: Ryan Connelly – Wisconsin – 6’2/241: 70

25: Terrill Hanks – New Mexico State – 6’2/242: 70

**UDFA SLEEPER**

Tre Watson – Maryland – 6’2/233

*Fifth year senior that played 4 years at Illinois before grad-transferring to Maryland. He ranked 5th in the Big 10 in tackles and I have several game notes on him saying he has “it”. The inherent ability to locate the ball, beat blockers to spots, an finish off the ball carrier. He doesn’t jump off the screen when it comes to triangle numbers but he proved plus-burst and quickness at his pro day. He will be a core special teamer and has the look of an UDFA that ends up starting somewhere down the road.

NYG APPROACH

NYG would be smart to take a hard look at Devin Bush and Devin White in the first round. These two are every down players that can impact the running and passing games right away at a high level. I have never bought in to the concept that this position is not valuable enough for high picks. Too often has this defense been burned by poor second level play. The day 2 options aren’t as deep but no matter what, this group needs to be addressed at some point. Linebacker impact can be based on scheme, so the fit will be there at some point.

Apr 092019
 
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Byron Murphy, Washington Huskies (September 8, 2018)

Byron Murphy – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2019 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks

*Grading Scale:

90+: Elite, All Pro

85-89: Immediate starter, building block for a decade, franchise player

80-84: First round talent, starter and/or majority of the snaps each week

77-79: Day 2 pick, starter within their first 16-24 games as a pro

75-76: Fourth rounder, has starter traits but needs development

71-74: Fifth/Sixth rounder, should develop in to weekly contributor over rookie contract

68-70: Draftable, hopeful for special teams impact and long term development

67 and under: UDFA

*NFL Comparison are not a projection of how good they are, more so their style of play.

CORNERBACK

WHERE THEY STAND

One of the hardest position groups in the NFL to consistently fill year by year, NYG is standing at the edge of a cliff with their CB group. Janoris Jenkins is still a solid number one but they are banking on young, unprovens behind him.. Sam Beal is in line for major playing time after missing his entire rookie season with a shoulder injury. Grant Haley flashed as a nickel in 2018, but the UDFA looks limited. Antonio Hamilton, Tony Lippett, and Michael Hunter round out the group and when it comes to comparison with the rest of the league, these guys don’t stand out to say the least. Hunter, however, has always been a guy that I have wanted to see get more and more action.

TOP 25 GRADES

1: Byron Murphy – Washington – 5’11/190

Grade: 83

Summary: Third year sophomore entry. Murphy missed 7 games in 2017 with a broken foot but came back with a 1st Team All Pac 12, 2nd Team All American performance. Despite the lack of game–experience, Murphy proved to be one of the more NFL-ready corners in the class with his top shelf athletic ability and ball tracking. He does play a little light which will need to change in the NFL, but his aggressive style and fast twitch reactions make him scary to throw near. If the technique can get cleaned up and he can improve in zone coverage, he has quality starting corner written all over him.

*Physically Murphy is probably the safest and most reliable corner in the class. Everything seems smooth and easy for him. Body control and balance is just as important as speed at the CB spot and Murphy is top-shelf there. If there is one corner that I think sneaks in to the top10 , it’s this kid.

NFL Comparison: Brent Grimes / FA

2: DeAndre Baker – Georgia – 5’11/193

Grade: 83

Summary: Baker was a three year starter for the Bulldogs that progressively improved as a prospect from the beginning of 2017. The two-time all SEC defender (1st Team in 2018) brings the kind of confidence and swagger that can take on the numerous challenges of playing cornerback in the NFL. He can be left alone on an island and stick with anyone on all levels of the route tree as well as make plays on the ball like a receiver. His issues can be correctable, mainly the technique-based and mental ones. The lack of power presence can be an issue at times but in a league where contact is allowed less and less in coverage, the corners that can get the job done via instincts, agility, and speed stand out a bit more.

*Another safe pick here that may have a limited upside, but at this position you just want reliable. That is Baker is a nutshell. I love the competitive spirit, the swagger he shows on the outside. Do I trust him against a Michael Thomas on an island? Probably not. But at the end of the day that isn’t the job of a #1 corner on most teams. He can fit in to any coverage scheme and any role, right away.

NFL Comparison: Tre’Davious White / BUF

3: Rock Ya-Sin – Temple – 6’0/192

Grade: 82

Summary: After three seasons, two of which as a starter, at Presbyterian after the program dropped from a scholarship program. He transferred to Temple without having to sit out and made his mark in a big way. The physical, chiseled, speedy corner earned 1st Team All AAC honors and became a leader of the defense right away. He quickly earned a single digit jersey number, given to the team’s toughest players, and he proved he deserved it all year. Ya-Sin is one of the best competitors in this entire class and he pairs that with a solid size/speed combination. His skill set needs to be cleaned up to avoid penalties, but he has #1 corner written all over him if he does.

*I was on this kid pretty early in the year and I am glad to see him get the attention he deserves. The frame and physical presence stands out the second you turn the tape on, but I think there are some inherent traits that can’t be taught. He shows the ideal blend of aggression and patience combined with enough playing speed to factor in any situation. If he cleans up the techniques and gets more consistent, he has the most upside of all the CBs in the class.

NFL Comparison: Darius Slay / DET

4: Julian Love – Notre Dame – 5’11/195

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry that was an All American in both 2017 and 2018. Leaves Notre Dame as the all time leader in pass break ups and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award this past season. Love is a pro-ready corner that checks a lot of boxes when it comes to technique, reaction speed, and quickness. He is a weapon against the pass when covering the short and intermediate passing game. While his lack of size and strength can be exposed by certain matchups, Love has the kind of game that can be moved inside-out. Safe and reliable corner that has starter written all over him.

*The thing that stood out to me about Love over and over was his safe, dependable play. He looked like a pro each week from an awareness and technique perspective respectively. Rarely did I ever find him out of position or lacking the control needed to make plays on the ball. I know I’m not getting a star here, but I am getting dependability and as I said earlier, that is what I want at the position.

NFL Comparison: Logan Ryan – TEN

5: Joejuan Williams – Vanderbilt – 6’4/211

Grade: 81

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter that evolved in to one of the top corners in the SEC in 2018, earning 2nd Team All conference honors. Williams stands out among his peers off the bus with his rare combination of height, length, and weight. After he puts the pads on and starts moving around on the field, it’s hard not to get overly excited. Williams is a fluid and easy mover that has so much range and a wide radius that throwing in his direction is a risk in and of itself. He really took his game to another level as 2018 progressed and an argument can be made he has the highest ceiling among all corners in this class.

*It is rare to see a cornerback with this kind of size that nobody even discusses as a possibility to be moved to safety. The long-limbed mover has a unique skill set that can be the kind of factor in a defense that opposing QBs don’t even want to look at in coverage. The radius here is ridiculous and he isn’t a poor athlete at all. The ceiling here is the highest in the class. I know of 2 current scouts that say their teams list him at #1 in the group.

NFL Comparison: Aqib Talib – LAR

6: Greedy Williams – LSU – 6’2/185

Grade: 80

Summary: Third year sophomore entry. In his two seasons as a starter, Williams was an All American and 1st Team All SEC both years respectively. He has the ideal length and height for the position but not at the expense of movement. His hips are fluid and flexible and the body control he shows while facing the action is top shelf. Williams comes from the Deion Sanders’ school of defending, meaning he wants nothing to do with tackling or the physical side of the game. He lacks strength and desire but the ability and potential to shut down a number one receiver is enough to make up for it. Williams has star potential but needs to clean up some deep passing-defense.

*The outlook on Williams very much depends on what a team is looking for from their corners. If you want a guy that can move with any kind of receiver all over the field and make plays on the ball, this could be your guy. However if you want someone that is physical, blue collar, intelligent, Williams can be far down your list. He makes the highlight tape look legit, but if you watch 5-6 games of his in the SEC, you’ll see more negatives than positives. The upside is real, though.

NFL Comparison: Sidney Jones / PHI

7: David Long – Michigan – 5’11/196

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry with two years of starting experience. A First Team All Big 10 defender that may not have the ball-production that some look for, but Long is one of the best pure cover corners in the class. His ability to minimize separation between himself and the receiver on all levels of the route tree is something that will translate to the league right away. His hips are fluid and his feet are light. Long also plays with a pitbull-mentality. He wants to fight his man and shows no hesitation when it comes to mixing it up and playing physical. There is a combination of positive traits here that can really turn in to something at the next level. Quarterbacks rarely want to throw in his direction.

*Kind of the complete opposite from Williams above. Long doesn’t have the most attractive highlight tape but a big part of that is the fact QBs did not want to throw his way. He may be a top 3 man-cover corner in this class and he brings the baller mentality to the table. I believe most have Long as a day 3 pick but if you do end up getting him there, it might be the steal of the draft.

NFL Comparison: Stephon Gilmore / NE

8: Lonnie Johnson – Kentucky – 6’2/213

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior. Originally committed too Ohio State but he didn’t make the grades and ended up at junior college where he played safety for a couple years. He started for a year and a half at Kentucky but it wasn’t until we were a few weeks in 2018 where he really started to stand out. In a uber-talented secondary, Johnson leaves as the top pro prospect. Physically he can do it all. Tall, long, fast, physical, and under control. He still has a rawness about his skill set but nobody would be surprised if he ended up being the top CB in this class down the road.

*I know a handful of scouts that say Johnson, by a wide margin, is the top CB in the class. I never fully bought in but I will see he is the most impressive specimen. I think he deserves a “buyer beware” label. And I will go on record that he is the one CB in this class that I think is worth trying to move to safety. He has the body, he has the mentality, and he has the experience. The holes in his game as a CB can be hidden a bit at safety, a spot where I think he could be a legit sideline to sideline rangy guy that NYG may be a perfect fit for.

NFL Comparison: Trumaine Johnson / NYJ

9: Jordan Brown – South Dakota State – 6’0/201

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior. A former wide receiver that ended his career with two straight years where he ended up on the 1st Team All Missouri Football Conference list. His production across the stat sheet also got him an All American spot in 2018. Brown is still relatively new to the cornerback spot in relation to other prospects and he has shown flashes of very high quality play. His size and foot-speed in addition to the natural ability to make plays on the ball makes him an attractive draw. There are holes and he is making a big jump in competition but the progress path he is on right now could lead to a starting caliber pro corner.

*Quick funny story. A scout was at the combine, clearly delusional after being there all week (it is a tough week for them), and was writing down notes for the draft’s top corner Byron Murphy while watching Brown in drills. Ironic part is, my game notes from the fall had Byron Murphy comparisons multiple times. Ok maybe not that funny to you. Anyway, Brown stood out all year albeit against low-level competition. Not only did he look like he was on a different level, his techniques and body control were on point. Really intrigued by him.

NFL Comparison: TJ Carrie / CLE

10: Trayvon Mullen – Clemson – 6’1/199

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry with two years of starting experience. Honorable Mention All ACC in 2017 and 2nd Team in 2018. Mullen fits the mold of the ideal cornerback when it comes to height, length, and speed. He can cover a lot of ground and showed the ability to stick to his man as a straight line mover up and down the field. His has loose hips, quick feet, and knows how to attack the ball like a receiver. He is limited by a lack of physical hunger and hustle that may be hard to all of the sudden change in the NFL. Mullen wasn’t challenged much in college so there is a lot of unknown here, but the tools are there and he can wear a few hats. He is a high-upside, inside-outside corner with a boom or bust label.

*High risk, high reward prospect here. I just haven’t seen enough on tape from him that screams starting-caliber corner. It came in flashes here and there, but for a kid that played more games than most corners over the past two years, I wish he showed more.

NFL Comparison: Bashaud Breeland / KC

11: Brian Peavy – Iowa State – 5’9/194

Grade: 77

Strong Points: Fifth year senior. A four-year starter that made the All Big 12 team every season. A consistently productive across-the-board defender that plays bigger than he is listed with exceptional quickness and body control. After playing through a torn pec during his entire senior season, Peavy was one of the biggest combine snubs in the nation. While he lacks the ideal triangle numbers, the growing importance of nickel corners should boost this kid up in to early day 3, maybe even late day 2 territory. Whoever grabs this kid is going to be pleasantly surprised, as I think he will outperform several corners drafted ahead of him.

*Within the next year or two, a the nickel corner may be considered a starting lineup spot in every defense. If you look at snap totals, they are on the field just as, if not more often than the third linebacker. Peavy wasn’t at the combine but I’ll bet my full salary on the fact he gets drafted higher than 5 of the guys that were invited. Productive, tough, quick, and smart. Put this kid in the slot and watch what happens.

NFL Comparison: Anthony Brown / DAL

12: Justin Layne – Michigan State – 6’2/196

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry. Former wide receiver that made the move to cornerback halfway through his freshman year. He was a natural at the position and surprised coaches with how quickly he picked up on the nuances. Layne is a natural because of his tremendous lower body fluidity and aggressive approach to the game. He is limited against the vertical passing game, but he knows how to cover it up as much as possible and he can be a dangerous corner to throw near underneath. His body type may not hold up against the power game, but in time he can be a very solid zone coverage corner that will make plays.

*Layne is a popular pick among the media and fans. By no means do I dislike him ,after all I still see day 2 here. I think he has the size and speed that everyone wants to work with in today’s NFL but there were too many negatives on tape that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet. I’ve been told a few teams have a round 1 grade on him by the way.

NFL Comparison: William Jackson / CIN

13: Iman Lewis-Marshall – USC – 6’1/207

Grade: 77

Summary: Four year starter that burst on to the scene as a freshman in 2015, earning 1st Team Freshman All American honors. Minus a hiccup in 2017 where a knee injury hampered him, Lewis-Marshall quietly had one of the best careers of all the corners in this class. There are athletic-based shortcomings in his game, namely long speed, thus a move to safety may be in his future. No matter where you put him, though, Lewis-Marshall brings a constant sense of urgency, physical play, and instincts to the secondary. He is the kind of day 2, early day 3 pick that ends up starting in year 1.

*Here is the other corner that I think some teams should look hard and long at when it comes to making the transition to safety. I don’t mind starting him at corner, where he balled his entire career at USC. But the pitbull mentality can be better used while also hiding some movement issues he has.

NFL Comparison: Trevor Williams / LAC

14: Isaiah Johnson – Houston – 6’2/208

Grade: 77

Summary: After an accomplished track and field career in high school, Johnson found himself at the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart at Houston for two years. He was then moved to cornerback prior to 2017 and while he did go through growing pains, he showed more than enough upside as a senior in 2018. He showed the obvious ball-skill advantage with his history as a pass catcher but the fluidity combined with size and speed make him a project worth gambling on. He needs time to add some strength and become more physical, but all of the tools and more than enough ball production are there.

*Another high-ceiling prospect that some are labeling a first rounder based merely on upside and potential. Johnson’s tools and lack of experience have made some believe they can coach him up in to a top tier, shut down cover man. I don’t see it because of short area movement and I’m not sure I could come up with a list of 5 players in this class that are worse at the physical side. I understand upside, but not higher than the bottom of round 3.

NFL Comparison: Jalen Ramsey / JAC

15: Ugo Amadi – Oregon – 5’9/199

Grade: 75

Summary: Four year contributor that was in and out of the starting lineup based more on formations and schemes, not his play. Two time Honorable Mention All Pac 12 that had a knack for making plays. Those last two years, he totaled 6 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 defensive touchdowns, and a punt return for a touchdown. The explosion in short spaces along with his muscular, powerful frame is attractive if you are a team looking for a lot. I think he brings some versatility to the middle of the field and can help a team in a variety of ways.

*Another slot corner that could easily be taken much higher, or much lower, than where I have him. I know, major risk there. Amadi carries a lot of the mentality and short area burst traits that I like, but I question the awareness and instincts. He was a kid that had a hard time holding on to a specific role at Oregon and while that may have been a coaching error more than anything, it could have also been that his football IQ issues kept showing up. Nonetheless, I like how this kid plays.

NFL Comparison: Jimmie Ward / SF

16: Amani Oruwariye – Penn State – 6’2/205: 75

17: Sean Bunting – Central Michigan – 6’0/193: 75

18 – Ryan Pulley – Arkansas – 5’11/209: 74

19 – Montre Hartage – Northwestern – 5’11/190: 74

20 – Savion Smith – Alabama – 6’1/199: 73

21 – Kris Boyd – Texas – 5’11/201: 73

22 – Jordan Miller – Washington – 6’1/186: 72

23 – Ken Webster – Ole Miss – 5’11/203: 72

24 – Derek Baity – Kentucky – 6’2/197: 72

25 – Michael Jackson – Miami – 6’1/210: 72

**TOP UDFA SLEEPER**

Deion Harris – North Dakota – 6’2/200

An intriguing small school prospect off the beaten path, Harris has had plenty of big play success over his career. After missing all of 2017 with an achilles injury, he bounced back to form, where he put himself on the radar with an All American season 2016. Triangle numbers are attractive as are the anticipation and instincts. He was notably lacking power presence at at a lower level of football, thus he has practice squad written all over him as he needs to build the body a bit. There are some naturals with him that I like a lot, though.

NYG APPROACH

I’m not sure many realize how susceptible this position group is, especially if Jenkins were to ever go down. While the argument can be made that any team would really suffer if you took their top corner out of the picture, I think the lack of depth here is among the worst in football. Sam Beal is the wildcard but we can’t act like he was ever a top rated prospect anyway. The extra picks NYG acquired via CLE could have been very much about adding a piece to the CB group earlier than most think, maybe as early as #17 overall. Lack of quality CB play with a questionable pass rush (and that is being kind) is a recipe for disaster.

Apr 072019
 
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Taylor Rapp, Washington Huskies (November 30, 2018)

Taylor Rapp – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2019 NFL Draft Preview: Safeties

*Grading Scale:

90+: Elite, All Pro

85-89: Immediate starter, building block for a decade, franchise player

80-84: First round talent, starter and/or majority of the snaps each week

77-79: Day 2 pick, starter within their first 16-24 games as a pro

75-76: Fourth rounder, has starter traits but needs development

71-74: Fifth/Sixth rounder, should develop in to weekly contributor over rookie contract

68-70: Draftable, hopeful for special teams impact and long term development

67 and under: UDFA

*NFL Comparison are not a projection of how good they are, more so their style of play.

SAFETIES

WHERE THEY STAND

The two starting spots are locked up with Jabrill Peppers, acquired via trade from CLE, and band-aid free agent signing Antoine Bethea. The middle of the secondary has been a major weak point for years, even when Landon Collins was an All-Pro. They just haven’t been able to find two formidable players that coincide skill sets with each other. Failed draft picks and whiffs on multiple free agent signings at this spot are one of the main reasons why this defense has been so inconsistent.

1: Taylor Rapp – Washington – 6’0/208

Grade: 84

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Former Pac 12 Freshman of the Year and two time 1st Team All Pac 12 defender. The All American Rapp has been piling up the accolades since he was inserted in to the starting lineup in 2016. The three-year starter steadily improved year after year and ended his career as arguably the top safety in the nation. His instincts and ability to be everywhere will be a major draw to teams looking to strengthen their back end. He is an every down factor that will specialize in making tackles and being a reliable last line of defense. The physical and mental speed he plays with is not easy to find and as long as he can continue to strengthen his core and stay on the field, he will be an every-week difference maker.

*NYG could use a guy like Rapp as soon as #17 overall, although his name isn’t being discussed there at all. Rapp, combined with the roamer Peppers, could bring a different sense but equally effective of playmaking ability. His timed speed falls below the desired line, but rarely do you watch his tape and think “slow”. His instincts and knowledge of the game are rare.

NFL Comparison: Eric Weddle / BAL

2: Jonathan Abram – Mississippi State – 5’11/205

Grade: 79

Summary: Senior prospect that bounced around early in his career. Abram started off at Georgia but after personal issues and a coaching change, he deferred to junior college before settling in at Mississippi State. The two-year starter quickly made his presence known as one of the more physical defenders in the SEC. The 2018 1st team All conference and 3rd Team All American brought the Alpha approach to a new level as a senior. While Abram is one of the toughest enforcers in the entire class, his over-aggressive style has a tendency to create as many issues as it does plays. He needs to break himself down and become a better forecaster before he can be relied upon on an every down basis.

*Abram will be early fan favorite by whichever organization drafts him. He is an all out, all the time type defender and if properly used, his impact will be felt early. He wasn’t tested much in deep coverage so the jury is still out if he needs to be a guy that stays near the line of scrimmage and if that ends up being the case, I’d like to see him put some more weight on.

NFL Comparison: Jamal Adams / NYJ

3: Amani Hooker – Iowa – 5’11/210

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry. A one and a half year starter that had a role created for him in 2018 which was a linebacker/safety hybrid. He responded in a big way, winning the Big 10 Defensive Back of the Year award. His production across the entire stat sheet is a glimpse in to what Hooker is on the field. He is an every down factor that specializes in run defense. He is more than formidable enough in zone coverage but has shown struggles when matching up against more athletic route runners with downfield intentions. If he is put in to the right role, something near the line of scrimmage, Hooker can be an important piece to a really good defense. However he is not a fit for every safety role.

*I’m on higher on Hooker than what I see out there. He is my kind of strong safety, however. One that tackles well all overt the field, one that is smart, instinctive and aggressive, and one that can make things happen in zone coverage. He does things right and his workouts/interviews exceeded expectations.

NFL Comparison: Shawn Williams / CIN

4: Darell Savage – Maryland – 5’11/198

Grade: 78

Summary: Three year starter that was All-Big 10 two years in a row. Savage is a fun player to watch that immediately brings energy and playmaking ability to the defense. His reaction speed and quickness are elite. If he is put in the right position where he can make a read and pounce, his impact will be felt right away. The issue with him pops up when he has to be more disciplined in coverage because he too easily gets fooled by the QB’s eyes. A pro-caliber passer can take advantage of that over and over. Savage may be in his best role as a nickel defender and/or third safety where he simply pursues the action. Get him in the right role and he can be a star.

*A spitting image of Lamarcus Joyner when it comes to tools and style of play. Savage is even hair bigger than Joyner, but they look near identical on the field. Players like this scare me as much as they excite me, very all or nothing. If he hones in some of the aggression and can gain more understanding of the game when it comes to anticipation, he can be a big time player.

NFL Comparison: Lamarcus Joyner / OAK

5: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson – Florida – 5’11/210

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry. Gardner-Johnson put himself on the radar initially with standout special teams defense. The aggressive and physical defender plays with an attack mode mindset at all times. While that aggression can cause him to miss on occasion, the positives that stem from it are notable. His versatility and playmaking ability was on full display over the rest of his career, constantly finding himself involved in the action despite being moved around on the Florida defense a few times. The experience he has at safety and nickel will likely net him a similar role in the NFL. He isn’t someone you want to depend on in deep coverage or an island against wide receivers, but his impact on all three downs from the middle of the field can help a defense in numerous ways.

*This is a player you need to have a very specific plan for if you end up drafting him. He is a jack of all trades, master of none type prospect. Similar to All Pro Desmond King who LAC drafted in the 5th round (I had him as a 1st rounder), Gardner-Johnson needs to have his own position in the league. A hybrid S/CB that can change his approach based on situations and the scheme. Another really high upside prospect.

NFL Comparison: Desmond King / LAC

6: Sheldrick Redwine – Miami – 6’0/196

Grade: 77

Summary: Former cornerback with starting experience at both spots. Settled in a safety in 2017 and 2018 and finished his career as Honorable Mention All ACC in 2018. Redwine shows elite-level movement when it comes to quickness, agility, burst, and long speed. He can do it all athletically. He matches that with solid instincts and reactions to the action. While he may not be a forceful, high-impact, forceful presence, he can hold his own. He still plays aggressive enough to not be a liability in that department. Redwine could legitimately project as a corner or safety and that kind of versatility could really boost his grade and overall outlook. He may not be trustworthy in deep zone coverage right away, but he does have the movement ability to make up for some mistakes.

*I’ve been told half the teams are grading him as a CB, which I thought was interesting. All depends on scheme, I guess. Redwine may need more mass on that frame to stick in the middle of the field, but I like him as a last line of defense against the pass. He really knows what he is doing back there and I trust his ability to cover the deep zone. The versatility is an extra plus.

NFL Comparison: Rashaan Gaulden / CAR

7: Andrew Wingard – Wyoming – 6’0/209

Grade: 77

Summary: Four year starter with through-the-roof production. Became the school’s all time leading tackler in 2017 but also has 10 career interceptions. He is a throwback strong safety that has more linebacker in him than defensive back, but can more than hold his own athletically in coverage. Wingard makes his presence known each time he comes in contact with a defender. He has the rare combination of power and tackling technique that plagues so many defenses these days. He won’t be the deep, rangy cover man though. At the very least, he is a special teams monster but could also play the role of dime linebacker and in-the-box safety. If he finds the right role, he has the kind of game that can make a steady, week to week impact.

*Another fan favorite type, Wingard makes a different sound and impact when he gets to the ball carrier. Really powerful, rangy run defender that has the football IQ and instincts to make him a factor in coverage. Guaranteed to be a special teams demon.

NFL Comparison: Tony Jefferson / BAL

8: Juan Thornhill – Virginia – 6’0/202

Grade: 76

Summary: Three year starter that made a move from cornerback to safety full time in 2018 and responded with a 1st Team All ACC performance. The smart and instinctive cover man is versatile enough to be moved around in to multiple roles play by play and, at the very least, be trusted to be in the right place at the right time. He was productive up and down the stat sheet against both the run and pass and his athletic ability and football IQ will help translate that kind of performance to the next level. The questions with him will surround his size, frame, and long speed. Upside may be limited, but Thornhill is a safe bet to be a solid player.

*Thornhill put together a solid pre-draft process via workouts and interviews, but I don’t want to get carried away with that impacting his tape-grade. I like the player but he doesn’t play as fast as he times and there isn’t a lot of impact on his hits. Still a guy you can be confident about when it comes to development over 2-3 years.

NFL Comparison: Jordan Poyer / BUF

9: Nasir Adderley – Delaware – 6’0/206

Grade: 76

Summary: Four year starter that ended with an All American season. Production was across the board-impressive and his tape screams versatility as well. He flies all over the field and shows no hesitation mixing it up in traffic with the big boys as well as putting his body on the line in deep coverage lunging for the ball. While he has impressive athleticism combined with more than his share of highlight reel plays, Adderley’s tape is filled with as many mistakes. He gets fooled easily and over commits to his initial reads, showing a lack of awareness and instincts. He may even be better suited at cornerback. No matter what, this is a high ceiling, low floor prospect that could be a maddening player to watch.

*Typical draft-media situation here. Nobody knew Adderley last summer and he was an attractive small school name as the year progressed, thus so many were racing to be the guy that touted him highly first. It got to the point where, in my opinion, he got a little overrated. Adderley is a fun player to watch, no question, but he got schooled often against low-level college football. Buyer beware with this kid.

NFL Comparison: Damarious Randall / CLE

10: Deiontae Thompson – Alabama – 6’1/195

Grade: 75

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. First Team All SEC safety that was all over the field for the dominant Alabama defense. At the initial glance, Thompson looks like an elite playmaker that can change the way an opposing passer approaches the game. His length, speed, and ball skills give him a distinct advantage when the ball is in the air. While he did show flashes of being a top playmaker, there are several holes in his game. He is a poor tackler that over pursues and does not wrap up. In coverage, Thompson struggles to hang with quickness and agility. He has good long speed but the windows he creates for a passing game due to poor short area adjustments can be eaten up in the NFL. High upside prospect that has a lot of work to do.

*I was all over this kid early in the year when he was making elite-level interceptions stemming from ball skills and instincts. As the year wore on, though, his warts showed up time and time again. It’s hard to tell who he really is as a player and I’ve heard some things over the past 2 months that soured my outlook even more. If you asked me in October, I would have say top 15 pick. Now? Day 3.

NFL Comparison: Marcus Williams / NO

11: Will Harris – Boston College – 6’1/207

Grade: 75

Summary: Three-plus year starter. Son of former NFL safety Will Harris. A really impressive athlete with solid triangle numbers. Harris shows the kind of straight line burst and closing ability along with a physical mindset that can wreck havoc in the box. There are some subtle movement issues in tight spaces where he has a hard time adjusting weight quickly, often needing the extra step or two but for the most part this kid can be a weapon when the action is in front of him. His ceiling might be rotational defensive back with solid special teams play, but he will be on a roster and I bet he is in the league for awhile.

*I can’t tell if I am underrating this kid or not, he really does check a lot of boxes. I went back to the tape twice on him, which I normally do not do. I think my biggest concern with him is the fact that football is a tight-space game and the extra steps bother me. Lateral movement doesn’t seem natural but if he gets in a role where that isn’t as vital, he can be a stud. NFL lineage always helps in my eyes, too.

NFL Comparison: Tedric Thompson / SEA

12: Marquise Blair – Utah – 6’1/195

Grade: 74

Summary: A former junior college standout that bounced back from a season ending injury in 2017 and finished 2nd Team All Pac 12 as a senior. The long and lean, yet powerful Blair will bring physical presence to the defensive backfield that can make plays all over the field. He pursues hard, finishes harder. The frame will need more bulk but if he can do that while maintaining his plus speed and explosion, he has the upside to be a dangerous player, especially in the box.

*The reckless style could be an elite impact on special teams early in his career but he made enough plays to lead me to the notion he can be more.

NFL Comparison: Curtis Riley / OAK

13: Jaquan Johnson – Miami – 5’10/191

Grade: 73

Summary: Two-plus year starter. 2nd Team All ACC in 2017 and 2018 and was viewed as the leader of the secondary at Miami. He directed a lot of traffic for a unit that, at times, looked dominant and complex. Johnson is a fun player to watch because he is below the line when it comes to measureables but he flies around and will make plenty of plays. The issue, however, is he really doesn’t move well enough to make up for the lack of playing strength. There are durability issues here and the holes in his game may keep him to very specific roles and packages. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him exceed my expectations, but I just don’t see him holding up at the next level beyond backup duty.

*A fan favorite among some, Johnson can be a guy that surprises early in his career. He flies around, can make plays, and will come across bigger/faster when he knows what he is doing within the scheme. However I get worried about him holding up and I think opposing offenses can eventually play games with him.

NFL Comparison: Ricardo Allen / ATL

14: Malik Gant – Marshall – 6’0/209

Grade: 72

Summary: Fourth year junior entry. Former walk on and a two year starter that finished his career with two straight All Conference USA honors. Team MVP in 2018. A spark plug and overall exciting player to watch. All over the place and a kid that puts his body on the line. Gant didn’t test well and he does have a few hiccups on tape when it comes to long speed but I think he is a player that has a shot at fitting in to a system well. At the very least, he is a special teams standout type that can evolve in to a playmaker. There are holes in his game but a lot of seems correctable. Shot in the dark day three that could be one of the surprises of the class.

*Gant is one of those prospects that could really see a boost from NFL coaching and development. He has traits and the mindset, just too many negative plays on tape that seem to stem from the understanding of his role and the game overall.

NFL Comparison: Duron Harmon / NE

15: Jonathan Crawford – Indiana – 6’1/205

Summary: Four year starter than had arguably his best season as a freshman, winning the team’s Newcomer of the Year award. After showing turnover-creating ability his first two years (7 INTs / 2 FF / 5 FR), Crawford got on the national spotlight his last two years. While his play didn’t stand out as much, he did earn Honorable Mention all Big 10 honors in 2017 and 2018. He is well put together, physical, and really smart. When looking for a safety, the instincts and awareness traits are near-essential and he excels there. He can trust his eyes and he is always flowing in the right direction. There are some movement limitations to him however and I think it may cap his overall upside. I like this kind of kid stashed away on the bench while helping special teams for a couple years to see if he can turn himself in to something.

*The more I watched Crawford, the more I liked. He is smart, always flowing in the right direction. As I said before, that means something to me. I will acknowledge a lack of upside based on his tightness and acceleration, but he can prove to be a real value day 3.

NFL Comparison: Deon Bush – CHI

16: Marvell Tell – USC: 70

17: Evan Worthington – Colorado: 68

18: Mike Bell – Fresno State: 68

19: Josh Battle – LSU: 68

20: Delvon Randall – Temple: 67

21: Mike Edwards – Kentucky: 67

22: Saquon Hampton – Rutgers: 67

23: Lukas Denis – Boston College: 66

24: D’Cota Dixon – Wisconsin: 65

25: Dameon Baber – Nevada: 65

** TOP UDFA SLEEPER **

Rob Rolle – Villanova – 6’0/190

*A late bloomer at a small school program, Rolle has been quietly checking several boxes over the past year. He bounced back from a torn ACL in 2017. He put together a really solid workout and his tape screams smarts and instincts. He is a guy that needs time to put more weight on his lanky frame but he is a physical presence right now and should have the NFL body within a year or two.

NYG APPROACH

Similar to how I have felt about the LB position with NYG, I think the organization has really dropped the ball at safety over the last decade. When you get the right pair back there, the right depth, the entire defense can change. I was a huge fan of Collins, but he just couldn’t do it all and because whoever he was paired with was low-level, it exposed his weaknesses far too often. I agreed with the decision to let him walk and I do believe Peppers will bring that role to a higher level for a fraction of the cost. Bethea is a solid veteran presence but I think the move needs to be to get someone young here to develop. While there are stronger, more apparent needs on this roster, if a value like Rapp in round 2 is there, they have to bite. Otherwise, using one of their middle round picks with a bias towards tackling and deep coverage is the way to go. The depth here is scary thin.

Mar 132019
 
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Jabrill Peppers, Cleveland Browns (December 15, 2018)

Jabrill Peppers – © USA TODAY Sports

MORE DETAILS ON THE ODELL BECKHAM TRADE …
When the New York Giants traded linebacker Olivier Vernon to the Cleveland Browns for guard Kevin Zeitler, the Giants and Browns swapped mid-round picks, with the Giants sending a 4th-round (132nd overall, acquired from Saints for cornerback Eli Apple) selection for the Browns’ 5th-round (155th overall) selection. As part of the wide receiver Odell Beckham trade to Cleveland, both teams now retain their mid-round picks.

So for Beckham, the Giants:

  • Received Cleveland’s 1st-round pick (17th overall selection)
  • Received Cleveland’s 3rd-round pick from New England (95th overall selection)
  • Re-acquired their 4th-round pick (132nd overall selection) from Eli Apple trade
  • Sent back to the Browns their 5th-round pick (155th overall selection)
  • Acquired safety Jabrill Peppers

In fact, both trades were actually processed by the NFL as one deal. The net effect was that the Browns received Beckham and Vernon in exchange for Zeitler, Peppers, a 1st-round pick, and a 3rd-round pick.

“The New York Football Giants would like to thank Odell Beckham, Jr. for his contributions,” said General Manager Dave Gettleman. “We truly wish him well in Cleveland, and we want to wish (Olivier Vernon) the best and nothing but success for both of them.

“With the first-round draft choice, that gives us six and 17. As we continue to build this team, you need draft pick capital. This trade enabled us to do that… You can win while you build a roster. We do have a plan, and this is a part of it.

“We’re very excited we were able to get a quality NFL guard in Kevin Zeitler. We’ve already had him in here, and he passed his physical. That really adds another piece to the offensive line repair that we have going. Now, we have most of the line under control for the next couple years. It’s a great opportunity for us to build stability on our offensive line. We’re excited about that.

“We’re very excited to have Jabrill. A lot of people remember him from his days at Paramus Catholic. He’s coming back home. I spoke to him last night and he’s excited and thankful and couldn’t wait to get here. Jabrill is a quality safety in this league and he is a legitimate linchpin on the back end of your defense. The way this game is being played, your safeties are critical in pass defense.”

The Giants current 2019 NFL Draft selections are:

  • Two 1st-round picks
  • One 2nd-round pick
  • One 3rd-round pick
  • Two 4th-round picks
  • Three 5th-round picks
  • One 6th-round pick
  • Two 7th-round picks