Apr 292020
 
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T.J. Brunson, South Carolina Gamecocks (August 31, 2019)

T.J. Brunson – © USA TODAY Sports

MEDIA SESSIONS WITH T.J. BRUNSON, CHRIS WILLIAMSON, TAE CROWDER…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with New York Giants draft picks linebacker T.J. Brunson (7th round), CB/S Chris Williamson (7th round), and linebacker Tae Crowder (7th round):

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

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

A: Yes, sir. That’s me.

Q: Where did that come from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: And special teams?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Were you a good hitter?

A: I’d like to think so.

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

A: Since high school.

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

A: I’ll be out there, no doubt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: You have to wear blue not black right?

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

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

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

Media Q&A with CB/S Chris Williamson (Video):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with LB Tae Crowder:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: We’ll never know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 282020
 
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Shane Lemieux, Oregon Ducks (April 20, 2019)

Shane Lemieuxr – © USA TODAY Sports

MEDIA SESSIONS WITH SHANE LEMIEUX, CAM BROWN, CARTER COUGHLIN…
Transcripts and video clips of the media sessions with New York Giants draft picks guard/center Shane Lemieux (5th round), linebacker Cam Brown (6th round), and linebacker Carter Coughlin (7th round):

Media Q&A with OG/OC Shane Lemieux  (Video):

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

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

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

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

Q: What is the biggest challenge of playing center?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: You have never missed a practice either?

A: Never missed a practice, no sir.

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with LB Cam Brown (Video):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Did you grow up a Giants fan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Carter Coughlin (Video):

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

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

Q: How was he as a quarterback?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 252020
 
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Darnay Holmes, UCLA Bruins (November 24, 2018)

Darnay Holmes – © USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the New York Giants made seven more selections on the final day of the 2020 NFL Draft:

  • 4th Round: CB Darnay Holmes, 5’10”, 195lbs, 4.47, UCLA
  • 5th Round: OG Shane Lemieux, 6’4”, 310lbs, 5.13, University of Oregon
  • 6th Round: LB Cam Brown, 6’5”, 233lbs, 4.69, Penn State
  • 7th Round: LB Carter Coughlin, 6’3”, 236lbs, 4.58, University of Minnesota
  • 7th Round: LB T.J. Brunson, 6’0”, 230lbs, N/A, University of South Carolina
  • 7th Round: CB/S Chris Williamson, 6’0”, 200lbs, 4.43, University of Minnesota
  • 7th Round: LB Tae Crowder, 6’3”, 235lbs, N/A, University of Georgia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sy’56’s Take on LB T.J. Brunson: One of the biggest combine snubs. Bruiser that leaves a mark when he hits you, shows good tackle to tackle range. Versatile on third down because he can blitz well and carry tight ends up the seam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: I’m curious on the run on linebackers late. What does that say about not only these guys but the linebackers you have on the roster? You guys didn’t take a tight end in this draft. How confident are you in Evan Engram’s durability and how excited are you about Kaden Smith?

Judge: Let me start with the linebackers first. I think it says a lot more about how our defensive scheme fits together. That we are going to play with a lot of linebackers throughout the game. You build your defense to build two thirds of your team, that’s really your defense and your kicking game for covering kicks. These guys have a lot of impact across the board right there. In terms of our tight end position, we’re excited about all the guys at that position right now. We’re always looking for the best player available. We thought there were a few tight ends on the board that were worthy of being taken at certain points. When it came up to us, there was either someone better or they may have already been taken. We have confidence in the guys we have on our roster right now at the tight end position. In terms of durability question of our players, they are all working through strength programs and rehab to get as healthy as they can. No one is ever 100 percent healthy once the football season begins. We have to prepare everyone for depth because you never know who is going to play.

Q: How did the system go with this virtual draft? Joe, I know you made an audible there to move to a different location. Dave, I wanted to ask you specifically about the offensive line. I know you used the term the another night that you want to fix it once and for all. Do you think this draft did that?

Gettleman: We feel real good about it. We got two tackles and a guard that we feel real strong about. Adding them to what we already have now, adding them to Will (Hernandez), Kevin (Zeitler) and Spencer Pulley and the rest of the group. We’re very pleased with this. As I said earlier, every team that I have been with that has been playoff worthy and gone deep has had a strong offensive line. The O-line really does set the tone. We’re fired up about these guys because of their skill level. Obviously, their skill and ability and their playing demeanor.

Q: How did things work out with the virtual nature of the draft?

Gettleman: It was different. For us, it really worked well. Justin Warren the head of out IT department and Ty Siam (football operations/data analytics) was in the house with me to make sure I didn’t blow anything up. They did an unbelievable job. Our software developers developed two new programs for us, which we used. John Dorney (Lead Developer) and his group with Julie Glisky (Director of IT). They really did well, everything went as smoothly as it could. Occasionally there was a glitch, people would get bumped off. Considering the situation, it went about as well as you could expect.

Judge: I would second what Dave said there. The support staff within our building did a tremendous job. I had to come to Jersey from Massachusetts. I was a little nervous with the overall set up on my own personal end and just the way my house is set up. I thought this was better for the overall function. I didn’t want to be in the middle of a round and all of the sudden something froze up or I didn’t have everything accessible to me. Justin Warren our IT director did a tremendous job setting everything up. I would say throughout the league I didn’t hear of any real issues, everything went smooth. We had our versions of practice with the mock drafts. We even had what you would refer to as scrimmages with some other friendly teams in the league to make sure the function team-to-team worked as well. That was beneficial for all of us.

Q: We talked to Andrew and Xavier and they talked about a lot of the communication with you guys leading up to the draft really focused on them as people off the field and there weren’t many conversations about football. My assumption was you let the tape speak for itself on the football end of things. Is that your philosophy, at least in this draft, that you wanted focus everything you can get out of the video calls that was non-football? Then let the scouts and whatever you see take care of the football things?

Judge: Well I definitely think there is different things you need to find out about everybody. Ultimately you have to find out everything before you bring somebody in. I’d say with both Andrew and Xavier as well as the other players, we do talk at length about the football. With Andrew and with Xavier we got to talk with them earlier on in the process at the combine and have meetings with those guys in person where you get to talk a lot football. To get on tape, to get on the board and go through that. Towards the end of the process, I had a number of conversations with a lot of prospects. At length, with Andrew, Xavier and other players it was important for me to have some sit-down time like we are right now. This is about as intimate as we can be, but at least you can look at each other in the eye to a degree and see each other’s reactions. I want to find out as much about these guys as a person as I could. I want to know what kind of guys we’re bringing into the building. I want to know what makes them tick, that’s important to me. Everybody is different. You are going to have 53 guys on a roster, we’re going to have 90 on the roster through spring and training camp. You have to know how to get to every player. On the front end, you want to find out as much as you can to narrow down to find out if they fit you. At the same time, you want to gather as much information that once you get them in the building it helps you reach them as fast as possible. It helps you find out inside what makes someone tick and how they respond.

Q: With prospects that you are talking to, do you walk a fine line between wanting to keep the focus on them or do you talk about other guys? Whether it’s teammates or guys they’ve gone against. How did you handle that during this process?

Judge: I think it’s a natural part of the process. If you’re talking to an offensive lineman, it’s natural to say who the best rushers you’ve gone against. If it’s a pass rusher, who’s the best offensive linemen you’ve gone against. If it’s someone you know has competed against each other, for example, you had the Chaisson kid out of LSU, he went against Andrew. We talked to both of those guys at length. It’s important to talk to both of them (and say) hey who’s the best rusher, who’s the best offensive linemen. It’s interesting to see what they say. It’s also interesting to talk to teammates and ask them about players on their team. For example, there may be multiple receivers on a team and you ask a defensive back, who do you think is the best receiver on your team is? If you were starting a team who would you pick first? It sheds a lot of light. One thing you will find out is you can’t lie to the players, they really know. We have to dig for it as coaches. The support staff can only find out about the players. Inside that locker room they know. They know who the dudes are.

Q: What’s the plan for the rookies. What’s the logistics with these guys the next couple of days, weeks and months?

Judge: The league has allowed us to have a version of rookie minicamp. They have given us a couple weekends where we are going to get our guys in. We are getting all the information from the league as far as the days, the hours, the structure we’re allowed to work within. Then we’ll map out the specifics. We are going to get them somewhere around next weekend. To make sure we can meet with them and get them started on the process. It will be very similar to what our vets have gone through. For them, it will be a little bit more of an orientation on the front end to let them know a little bit more about our program. To be honest with you, with our vets, it’s a new staff, it’s a new program, it’s an orientation for them as well. Our coaches will repeat a lot of the process this week that we started with our vets. It will be all virtual right now so we have to bridge the gap as much as we can.

Q: Have you guys made a decision on the fifth-year options for Evan and Jabrill?

Gettleman: We’ll make the decisions this coming week. With the craziness on and off the field so to speak over the last six weeks, we’ve had preliminary conversations. We’ll make those decisions pretty quick.

Q: Any update on where Evan stands in his recovery?

Gettleman: I haven’t seen him. None of us have been in the building in over a month. As far as I know, he’s doing fine. That’s all I know.

Q: A lot of people expected you to come away with a center in this draft. Did the value not matchup to the need? What’s the plan at center going forward?

Gettleman: Value and need always has to be there. Right now, what we’ve got as Joe says, it’s all about competition. We are going to turn around and cross train Shane Lemieux and we’ve got Nick Gates who we are going to work with. You have Spencer Pulley, a returning center and we’ll see what happens with Pio (Jon Halapio) with his Achilles. We’ll see what kind of recovery he makes. We feel like we have three to four guys, two of whom have played the position with varsity competition. Nick worked at center last year during practice and of course Shane’s never done it in a game and we’re going to cross-train him and see where it goes. We’ve got two centers in the building that have played varsity snaps and have played winning football.

Q: You mentioned you would consider cross-training some of these guys on the offensive line. I’m just wondering, learning in the classroom and mental reps is one thing, but ultimately, you’ve got to get out there and do it because that’s the second part of it. Without knowing if you are going to have practices, how do you get these guys up to speed so if and when you do get to the practice field, they are going to be able to step right in as though they never missed a beat?

Judge: So first off, I’ll talk on the mental part of it which we have access to on the virtual setting. For the offensive line, and this is true really for all positions to know how the pieces fit, but with the offensive line you really have to know the entire concept and the entire scheme. So, a center got to know the guard, the tackle and vice versa down the line. Playing right, left, near each other responsibility wise just knowing if you’re on the front or the backside. The cross-training physically, really at this point right now, comes on the players themselves through the strength program we’ve given them. Now we’re not monitoring workouts so we’ve made some stuff available to the players that they can follow and keep up with, and we’ve made ourselves accessible to the strength coaches and nutritionist so they can reach out for help.

But we’ve incorporated along with conditioning some agility drills as well that will fit into position specifics. So, we can go ahead and say for center reps, for guard reps, for tackle reps with the agilities, this is what you’re going to work today on a daily basis. A lot of this stuff is really just total movement for an athlete as it is. But specifically, with the center, you’ve got to find a way to tie in the movements with the actual movement of the ball as well. Snapping, putting the ball between your legs and then moving accordingly. Look, it’s a lot easier for the OTAs when we had Phase Two in OTAs with them guaranteed and we’d get on the field and work them on a daily basis. Right now, we’re kind of the suspect of these guys working on their own on the field. But, I’ll tell you what — they showed up this week with a full head of steam, I’m very pleased with the progress they made with the urgency and the attentiveness they’ve shown in the meetings and everything else that’s happening off the field as well.

Q: Considering you didn’t go for a receiver in this deep class and I don’t know what you plan to add, do you feel you have enough speed at that position?

Judge: Well they can all run, they can all run. I think there’s different elements of speed that tie in all of the receivers. You may have the deep threat receiver, you may have the slot receiver for more short area quickness who’s shifty, you may have the side receiver where it’s really the release speed that’s important as far as getting off the line and establishing body position. I’d say the one thing that we stressed to everybody is the roster building process is not done by any measure after the draft. There’s going to be a lot of roster movements throughout the league, this next week, the coming weeks, throughout the remainder of spring and then when we get into training camp they’ll continue to roll and turn again. We’re always looking to see who’s available and compete within our own roster. A lot these questions may be met later on, but right now we’re going to let the guys on our roster compete full speed. And look, right now our scouts and personnel (people) are working together with the coaches of identifying undrafted guys and getting on the phones with them right now and talking with their agents and working with getting them added as well.

Q: Dave, now that you’ve seen the draft play out and you know where you used your premium picks, how do you feel at edge rusher and do you guys need to circle back in free agency to a Markus Golden or to a proven guy like that now that you know you didn’t use a premium pick on that spot?

Gettleman: It’s one of those deals where, as I’ve said before, sometimes people think that all of the sacks have got to come from one to two guys. It’s a group effort. As Joe said, we’re going to constantly evaluate. Roster building is a 12-month season. It’s 365 and it’s 24/7. At the end of the day, we feel good about where we’re at, but we’ll continue to try to improve it. We’re going to take a look at what we’ve got and you know part of it’s going to be scheme. I’ve got a lot of confidence in (Assistant Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator) Pat Graham and Joe and the defensive guys. We’re going to be fine. It’ll get better. No, we didn’t draft what you guys would call a blue-goose pass rusher, but a lot of the time it’s a group effort. It’s not about who gets the sacks, it’s about the number of sacks and the number of pressures.

Q: You’ve been a part of nine previous drafts in the NFL, all with one team as a special teams guy. What was this like for you now just having input as a head coach, working with a new organization? There’s always this feel of if the head coach has enough input — if this is a Joe Judge pick, if this is a Dave Gettleman pick, that kind of thing. How was this whole thing for you, even though it was remote, just knowing your input as a head coach? Then, do you feel like you’ve let down a lot of people by not having Abby show up on national television?

Judge: I’ll answer the last question first. I tried to bring the dog with me, I was told that I could not bring the dog with me. I’ll tell you I let me kids down. I’ve been getting frown face memes all weekend because everyone else’s kids got to be on TV. So, I’ve got a six-year-old who wants to know if she’ll ever be famous. I told her it’s okay, no news is good news sometimes.

But I’d say this, going back to the first question. From when I first got here, we talked in the interview, and I’ll tell you what — this entire process has been tremendous. There’s definitely a full teamwork environment in our building. Dave has been awesome, his staff has been great. The coaches have had a lot of involvement, there’s been constant communication going back and forth. Probably one of the more disappointing things we didn’t get to experience was going on the road together, coaches and scouts, and working the pro days. But that was bridged a lot with scouts and coaches working a lot through these virtual interviews with Zooms and constant communication. We spent a lot of time at night talking and going back over, watching tape together and talking to prospects. I spent a lot of time in the meetings with Dave and his staff and going through the scouts and hearing everybody’s opinion. The important thing in these processes is knowing what you see and sticking to your guns.

Look, not everyone’s going to see everything the same way so you go through this process and it’s tough. You’ve got to remember, these scouts do a very, very difficult job. They spend a whole lot of nights away from their families on the road in hotels. To go through that excruciating process of evaluating someone, lining them up on your board, hoping to have a chance to get somebody just to watch another team take them away from you. Or maybe you have someone whose opinion is a little bit different or varied, or you’ve got someone like me maybe hammering back at you saying he may not be a fit for us. That’s a tough thing, but the entire way, even through some of those kind of natural disagreements and opinions, there’s been a great teamwork environment in the building and I couldn’t be more pleased with it.

Was it different being a head coach than a special teams coordinator? Absolutely. There’s just different responsibilities that come with it. But I’ll tell you what, I thought the coaching staff gave me great input and insight, there’s a lot of experience on the staff that I was able to lean on, on the frontend and kind of ask advice from of how to handle different situations with things that may came up that I didn’t expect. Me and Dave had great conversations at length, whether it was late at night or early in the morning. We’ve gone back over the board or talked through different scenarios that could come up so that when they did come up, we were prepared for it. Look, obviously it’s a different situation, it was a different medium this year being virtual. But I’ll tell you what, through all of the changes that came our way I thought we operated pretty effectively as an entire staff.

Q: I know you said that you guys aren’t done making moves and the offseason is not over, but now that you have been through this draft and you went through the initial free agency, how do you feel with how this team sits right now compared to when you started out here in January?

Judge: Well, we haven’t been on the field yet so that’s the biggest answer right there. Look, you can’t really evaluate until you get on the grass. Right now we have a lot of names on paper. There’s a lot of guys that are itching to get on the grass and compete and start proving themselves. Look, everyone laughs when I say it, but our depth chart is a blank slate right now. We have a lot of names, everyone has to earn every spot they get. So, when we get out there on day one whoever the first five linemen are that are out there, that’s just the first five guys taking a rep. That’s not a spot in concrete at all. They’ve got to earn to keep that spot. We’ll change it up continuously throughout training camp or OTAS, whenever we get these guys. To answer as far as where we are, I think we’ve made some good moves in terms of bringing in pieces that can help us. But overall, I can’t really give you a solid answer just because I can’t comment on specific players until we really get them on the grass, otherwise it’s just speculation and hypotheticals.

Q: Dave, you talked a few minutes ago about not drafting that blue-goose pass rusher and maybe using the scheme to generate that rush. We talk about those old, good Giants teams and they always had four or five guys that could generate that…yeah, they had that one big one but you had multiple guys. When you look at your roster now do you have enough guys without the blue-goose pass rusher to generate a consistent pass rush?

Gettleman: You know, I believe we do. I’ve seen what scheme can do to free people up, it’s an effective way to do it. Obviously we’re getting better in the back end, force the quarterback to hold the ball a little longer. Again, there’s a million ways to skin the cat. You guys were raised on the blue-goose pass rushers, rushing with four, and the drafts and the accumulation of players just worked out that way. There’s a number of ways to do it. Like I said, I was here for that run and I saw what a blessing it is when you can rush with four. There’s no reason to say we can’t do it now and also can do it with scheme. So again, there’s a million ways to do it, guys. There’s not just one way.

Q: Dave, Joe talked about what it was like for him to do it as a head coach. How different was it to have him as the head coach working compared to some of the head coaches you’ve had in the past? Also, the streak continued with the no trades, now that’s eight. I’m wondering how big of a coincidence is that, how do you look at that and what do you make of that?

Gettleman: A lot less than you guys do (laughter). A lot less than you guys do. Unbelievable. You know, working with anybody is…working with Joe is different than working with Ron Rivera than working with Pat Shurmur. Anybody you work with that’s not the same person is going to be different. It was great working with Joe and at the end of the day, it’s not a Dave Gettleman decision, they are not Joe Judge decisions, they are New York Football Giants decisions. That’s really the way it is. It was terrific working with Joe, it was thorough, it was well done and we felt very prepared and felt we had a really good, solid draft.

Q: Can you give us an example of how it’s different? He seems like a pretty strong personality. Is that sort of how he operates as well?

Gettleman: God bless you. We get along fine. Next question.

Q: About the trades, did you get close though or was there at any point and you guys mentioned in the second round, but was there any other point where you did get close or did you want to add a pick between that 63 pick gap?

Gettleman: There were calls. But, I don’t believe in over paying. The couple of times that there were decent opportunities to trade back, the player we wanted was there. Plain and simple. So, we just took the player, that’s all.

Q: There have been a couple reports about phone calls you made to your high picks and you saying, “I don’t want to hear you talk about Super Bowls, I don’t want to hear you compare yourself to anybody, I want you to put your head down and work.” Obviously, you work to become a head coach, what goes into deciding how that first phone call is going to go, why you’re handling it that way and is that about setting the exact tone you want for your program right off the bat?

Judge: I think there’s more said on the phone calls than just what not to do. There’s a lot of we’re very excited about adding these players and giving them a chance to come up and compete and add to our team. Look, to be honest with you, and I think you guys have kind of found out a little bit in the short time we’ve been doing this together, I’m not big into predictions. I’m not big into that. I’m not big into comparing people to other people. One thing that drives me nuts is when sometimes guys get drafted, the emotion gets caught up, they stand on the stage a lot of times and what do they say? They start talking about how they’re going to take over the league. Look, this is a guy who hasn’t been in the league for five seconds. What do they know about taking over the league? What they have to worry about at this point is improving. Put your head down, just work hard. Hey, here’s the reality of every one of these rookies we just took — they don’t know how to be a pro yet, they don’t. As much as they may think they do, they don’t. Physically, they have an advantage over a lot of the vets because they have young legs. But in terms of technique, in terms of mentally how to prepare themselves and handle the situations in terms of emotionally how to handle the duration of the season, they have no idea what they’re doing yet. So, they’re behind in everything except for having fresh, young legs with everyone they are competing against. They watch it on TV, they think they have an understanding of what’s going on in the league. The reality is they don’t. The faster they understand that the better off they’ll be in a short term to improve and give themselves a chance to compete.

Look, everyone gets excited. When you get excited, you let emotion get the best of you, a lot of times you say things, you turn around afterwards and go, “Maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say.” Well, sometimes you don’t want to have those slips when you’ve got millions of people and it’s forever ingrained anyway in print, social media, whatever it may be. You want to make sure that sometimes you wish that someone gave you a little bit of guidance. So, sometimes it’s good to just get reminded at certain times, “Hey listen, this is your focus, this is what we’re building, this is what our culture here is going to be, let’s just make sure you say the right thing at the right time.” Number one, not to make yourself have any expectations you now have to meet, it’s going to be tough enough for you to go ahead and get in the rhythm of you being a pro as it is. Number two, don’t ever, the whole comparisons and predictions, just work out what you can control. Right now what you can control is showing up, doing your job day-by-day and improving and that’s it.

Q: Did you like how the guys handled it, the group that you dealt with?

Judge: I’ve only seen a couple of the actual quotes or the interviews. I’ve gone back and looked at a couple of them that Pat Hanlon sent my way. But you know, I’m very pleased. I’ll say this, I’m not surprised because we spent a lot of time with these guys on the front end. We spent a lot of time on the character, on the traits, on the personality. Look, we’re not collecting talent, we’re building a team — and it’s important. There’s a lot of good players out there. There’s not a lot of right fits and you want to find the right fits to bring into your locker room. It’s important to spend as much time with these guys as people on the front end and make sure that you’re building a culture in your locker room. I don’t want 53 independent contractors, I want one team. That’s what we have to make sure we bring in the right guys for that.

Media Q&A with CB Darnay Holmes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Personal relationships definitely.

Q: How did that come about?

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

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

A: I’m in Palm Springs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 252020
 
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Xavier McKinney, Alabama Crimson Tide (January 1, 2020)

Xavier McKinney – © USA TODAY Sports

With the 4th pick (36th overall) in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected safety Xavier McKinney (University of Alabama). The team then selected offensive tackle Matt Peart (University of Connecticut) with the 35th pick (99th overall) in the 3rd round.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Xavier McKinney:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Do you pride yourself on being a playmaker?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Are you still looking for a center?

Gettleman: We are just going to work the board.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Matt Peart:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: When I was about four or five.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: How is your family doing health wise?

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 242020
 
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Andrew Thomas, Georgia Bulldogs (November 2, 2019)

Andrew Thomas – © USA TODAY Sports

With the 4th pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected offensive tackle Andrew Thomas (University of Georgia).

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

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

Video Breakdown by Shaun O’Hara: Giants Draft Andrew Thomas: INSTANT Analysis (VIDEO)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Andrew Thomas:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Probably give them to my friends.

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

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

Q: Who is your mentor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apr 232020
 
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New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Review

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

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

2020 Draft Pick Scouting Reports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Andrew Thomas (Video):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Probably give them to my friends.

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

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

Q: Who is your mentor?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Xavier McKinney:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Do you pride yourself on being a playmaker?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Are you still looking for a center?

Gettleman: We are just going to work the board.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Matt Peart (Video):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: When I was about four or five.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: How is your family doing health wise?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Darnay Holmes (Video):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Personal relationships definitely.

Q: How did that come about?

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

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

A: I’m in Palm Springs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Shane Lemieux (Video):

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

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

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

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

Q: What is the biggest challenge of playing center?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: You have never missed a practice either?

A: Never missed a practice, no sir.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Cam Brown (Video):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Did you grow up a Giants fan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Carter Coughlin (Video):

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

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

Q: How was he as a quarterback?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: Yes, sir. That’s me.

Q: Where did that come from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: And special teams?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Were you a good hitter?

A: I’d like to think so.

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

A: Since high school.

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

A: I’ll be out there, no doubt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: You have to wear blue not black right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media Q&A with Chris Williamson (Video):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: I saw that right after you were drafted you got the Darius Slayton seal of approval for the pick. Tell me about your relationship with him, how far back do you guys go?

A: Man, me and Darius’ relationship, it goes back extremely far. I’ve known Darius… I mean we grew up playing football against each other, we grew up running track against each other. The biggest memory me and him have of each other is playing each other in our 9-year-old football league, the Gwinnett Football League, which is one of the top youth football leagues in Georgia. Like I was talking about earlier, we played them in the regular season and they beat us pretty bad. It was like 34-0. I know at the time they got the mercy rule as the youth football league, so they mercy ruled us. They actually beat us pretty good. Then later on in the season we got the chance to play them again in the 9-year-old football championship for the Gwinnett Football League. The funny thing about it, his team hadn’t lost a game in two to three years, so they were the best team in the league. So, they pulled up to the championship game in all white stretched-out Hummer limousines. These are 9-year-old kids now, pulling up in limousines. They were expecting to win. We played the game and we actually won the game, 14-0, so we came out on top. I mean I know it had to be kind of embarrassing pulling up in a limousine and losing. But you know, it’s something I still hold over Darius to this day.

Q: Did you get to ride the limos home at least?

A: No, we didn’t. That was their team. I don’t even think they rode the limos home (laughter).

Q: Were you always a defensive back and he was always a receiver?

A: No, I was actually an offensive guy. I grew up playing offense the majority of my life. I didn’t actually switch to defense until my senior year of high school. I was always kind of training for it, but I had never actually truly played it in a game until my senior year of high school. Actually, Darius was a corner in high school, so he kind of, I mean he was doing corner and wide receiver in high school and I guess he decided to stick with wide receiver in his college career.

Q: I was looking at your background and it looks like a lot of the decisions you made moving from wide receiver to defensive back, transferring to from Florida to Minnesota with maybe a path to the NFL in mind. Is that the case? Talk a little bit about Ray Buchanon.

A: That’s honestly where it all kind of starts. The move from wide receiver to defensive back honestly came from Ray Buchanon. I met him in the summer of eighth grade when I was training. Me and him have had an extremely close relationship up until this day. He still mentors me and I train with him every time I’m home. I was always playing receiver and I was a six-foot receiver. You can find a lot of six-foot receivers, but I was kind of a bigger defensive back. The one nugget that Ray always put in my head was you’re an average size receiver, but you’re a big defensive back that can move. There’s not too many guys who are big and can move that get paid at the next level. He was always throwing that nugget in my head. My senior year of high school was the first year I had played defensive back. I had always been training with him for defensive back, but I never truly played it in a high school game. I definitely give the credit for me making that move to Ray Bucannon.

Q: I want to follow up with Ray Buchanon, he played for a Super Bowl team in the Atlanta Falcons. What are some of the lessons he taught you? You mentioned he was very instrumental in your development. Can talk about some of the things he taught you that you feel were instrumental in getting you to the next level?

A: He was one of the first people I talked to when I was considering transferring. He has always been a person that has my best interest at heart. He always wanted what was best for me. He was a huge asset to have during that time period. The transition from wide receiver to defensive back was something he helped me with, as well. He’s had a huge role in my corner. He’s more so like a second father to me as well. Just having somebody like that who’s already played in the NFL is a huge blessing. I can still train with him, there’s a lot of things about the game he teaches me as well. Things I may not see. I have the opportunity to send him clips of film from practice and he’ll break that down for me and stuff that I did wrong. It’s a true blessing to have somebody like that in my corner.

Q: What about in terms of the little things? We talk about players taking care of their bodies and all that stuff. Things that you don’t necessarily learn at the college level. Did he share some of that with you?

A: Yeah, he always expressed to me the importance of taking care of my body. I truly learned on my own my freshman year of college. Having to go through and just deal with some of my own injuries, it was kind of something I learned on my own. He’s definitely always told me the importance of taking care of my body. Putting the right things in terms of the right fluid and food in my body as well.

Q: You said you were with your dad and your brother when you got the call. Younger brother or older brother?

A: Younger brother, he’s 19, he will be 20 this year. He actually plays ball at Stanford.

Q: What kind of background do you have on special teams? Is that something you did in college? It’s probably where you will start out with this team.

A: Most definitely. Throughout my college career I played on every single special teams and that’s something I was able to communicate with each and every team that I talked to. This past year they took a lot of our guys, a lot of our starters, and kept them off special teams. We had a lot of young guys who they wanted to get out there and see them in some smaller roles. They took a lot of our starters off special teams this year. Throughout my college career, I played every special teams so that’s not an issue at all.

Q: Are you going to room with Carter (Coughlin) when you finally do get here?

A: It’s definitely something that was discussed. It would be nice because that’s somebody that can help me. We can help each other throughout this process. That’s somebody I already know that I have had a previous relationship with, that I’ve played with. We are both on the same side of the ball and can learn the playbook together. It would be nice to room with Carter.

Q: I asked you before about remote learning. How do you think that’s going to go down? Do you think that’s going to be a big disadvantage for rookies coming in, instead of getting on the field and showing what you can do this spring? Do you have any experience with remote learning?

A: I don’t think it puts anybody at a disadvantage. Of course, every rookie that’s coming in wants to get on the field and show what they can do. Football is such a physical game, but it’s also a part of the mental makeup. Guys who are successful at the NFL level, it comes from the mental aspect of the game. We’ll be able to expand our mental part of the game and come in and maybe be more ready than just being thrown into the fire of things. We’ve had time to talk it over with coaches and stuff like that. I don’t think it puts us at a disadvantage. It might be an advantage honestly.

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7th Round – LB Tae Crowder, 6’3”, 235lbs, N/A, University of Georgia

Scouting Report: The 6’3”, 235-pound Crowder was moved from running back to linebacker in college and thus is still learning the position. Only a 1-year starter. He is a good athlete and has added size to his frame. More instinctive than you would expect given his lack of experience.

Sy’56’s Take: Leader of a talented Georgia defense that plays fast and physical. Maybe more of a 2-down guy that the team drafted for special teams, the theme of their 7th round.

Media Q&A with General Manager Dave Gettleman and Head Coach Joe Judge:

Dave Gettleman on LB Tae Crowder: The last guy who in former days of the NFL draft was called Mr. Irrelevant Tae Crowder, the linebacker out of Georgia. He was a running back early, they converted him. He’s a 245-pound kid that runs 4.6 and plays 4.6. He’s got some versatility and some value and definitely has some special teams value.

Joe Judge on LB Tae Crowder: This is a guy that’s only played a couple years at linebacker. We see a lot of upside with him. Both in his physical skills as well as his emerging defensive understanding. He’ll come in and compete for positions at that Will linebacker spot as well as give impact to the kicking game. We think we added a very competitive group over these last few days. We think today we brought in a lot of guys with versatility and speed.

Media Q&A with Tae Crowder:

Q: I read that there were a lot of teams that were interested in you as an undrafted free agent. What was that whole process at the end when the Giants announced that they were going to pick you? What was that moment like where maybe you were thinking you weren’t going to get drafted?

A: It was a crazy moment, you know. It was really stressful. A lot of teams were kind of saying the same things. It came down to who I thought was the best. But New York was one of them and they ended up pulling the trigger. I just thank God for that.

Q: What was that moment like when they did announce your name and you knew you were a draft pick?

A: It was crazy just because I was already planning on signing for free agency. That whole process, I can’t even explain how it felt but my family was happy, I was happy and that’s all that matters.

Q: What’s the difference between getting drafted and becoming a free agent? Are you familiar with the Mr. Irrelevant concept and can you have a little bit of fun with it?

A: Obviously I can now that I read up on it, but at first, I knew about Mr. Irrelevant but I didn’t know all of the stuff that came with it. It’s pretty special for me and my family. We’ll have fun with it.

Q: I think the guy usually gets a parade and things like that. I don’t know if they are going to be able to do that this year, but did you get anything from this honor?

A: Yeah, so they called me right after the draft and we kind of talked about everything, but I’m not sure when I’ll be able to actually do it. I think they’ll reach out to me, I guess, when everything clears up. We’ll just have to find a way to plan it with my family.

Q: Just to clarify, were you going to sign with the Giants? That was a team you had chosen?

A: I don’t know who I was going to sign with at the moment, but I just thank God that they pulled the trigger and drafted me.

Q: I was doing some research on you and I saw that you had a rather interesting path to get to where you are. You started off at Georgia Southern and then you switched over to Georgia and you were initially recruited, I think, as a running back. Can you just walk us through that journey and how you kind of got from point A to where you are now?

A: Yeah, so I was committed to Georgia Southern for a while and I was going to end up switching to the University of Kentucky late, but I always knew I wanted to go to Georgia. I was having conversations with different people trying to figure out some things and trying to see if Georgia was going to ever offer me. But the week of signing day, that’s when I ended up finding out they wanted to give me the offer. They gave me the offer like two days or a day prior to signing day. That whole time was stressful for me, too, but that’s how I ended up going to Georgia.

Q: How did they flip you from running back, which I believe they initially recruited you as, to linebacker? How did that come about?

A: I was just on scout team at practice, just working hard, and my coach ended up noticing it just going against the number one defense, making plays, he saw that I was an athlete and that I should be on the field. He reached out to me, we had a meeting, and he was like he sees me as a linebacker and stuff like that, as a defensive player. We just had a one-day tryout, and at that tryout I ended up doing pretty good and I stayed there from then.

Q: I know you’re excited to be drafted and all, but there are some that believe if you get that low in the draft it’s actually better to have the option of being a free agent to choose your own place. Did that thought ever cross your mind, leaving the draft?

A: Yeah, my agent was talking about it the whole time. Like I said, we were already planning on doing free agent stuff. It worked out for me though. I can’t complain about getting drafted and coming to a great organization. Like I said, I’m just truly blessed for this.

Q: What is the difference between being the last pick in the draft in terms of what it means to you just to be drafted versus being a free agent? In terms of money there is a little bit of a difference, but what does it mean to be drafted?

A: It means a lot to me and my family and my community. I’m one of the first ones from my town to get drafted and that’s pretty big where I’m from. I’m from a small town, many people don’t make it from here. It brought the city out, they have my name hanging up in different places and stuff like that. It was a blessing and a dream come true for me.

Q: Can you be more specific about what kind of things were hanging in town? Did they have some banners hanging up for you and things like that?

A: Yeah, they had some banners. At the high school, they had a program with my name on there saying, ‘Congrats Tae Crowder, NFL Draft 2020’. Stuff like that.

Q: That wouldn’t have happened if you were a free agent, right?

A: We’ll never know.

Q: Can you talk about your teammate in college who will be your teammate in the NFL (Andrew Thomas)?

A: Andrew Thomas is a great player, a great person. He takes his work serious, he’s just a great kid. Football and off the field stuff is really important to him, and I respect him for that. I loved each day at practice in college just going to work with him, helping him lead the team and stuff like that. I highly respect my teammate Andrew Thomas.

Q: Did you go up against him a lot in practice?

A: Yeah, we went up against each other a few times and he was pretty good.

Q: You could have been running behind him instead of going up against him.

A: You’re right about that. I think I would rather run behind him.

Q: You went against Sony Michel and Nick Chubb in practice a lot. Can you just talk about the challenges and what that taught? How did that help you find your skills as a linebacker?

A: Just being in the room with them as a running back, it was crazy switching sides. From running drills with them to now I have to run drills against him. It just made me better as a young linebacker going against great athletes like them. It was fun, sometimes it was tough moving to linebacker and going against them. They were first round and second round picks. It paid off and it made me better.

Q: You are being reunited with quote unquote your “dogs”, Lorenzo Carter and DeAndre Baker. What does that mean to be reunited with them on the same defense? What can you guys bring together with that Georgia Bulldog mentality?

A: It’s just a dream come true. We know how each other works. It will be fun catching up, going to work with them and being on the field with each other once again.

Q: Can you describe what kind of a player you are? Can you play Will, Sam, can you cover running backs? Can you give me a handle on that?

A: I’m an aggressive player, a disciplined player. A hard-working player and I like to make plays for the team. I can play Sam, I can play Will and Mike. I’m pretty good in coverage. I love to fit the run and I love to cover backs too.

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Rookie Free Agent Scouting Reports

QB Case Cookus, 6’3”, 221lbs, 4.83, Northern Arizona University (Video)
Cookus had a promising collegiate career derailed with season-ending injuries in 2016 and 2018. Gunslinger who has been super-productive when he plays.

RB Javon Leake, 6’0”, 215lbs, 4.71, University of Maryland (Video)
Leake was a junior entry and rotational starter at Maryland. He is much faster than he timed at the Combine. Slashing, cut-and-go running back with good size. He is a homerun threat every time he touches the ball. Leake is not a physical runner and he was rarely used in the passing game in college. Leake also returns kickoffs. He has had fumbling issues.

WR Binjimen Victor, 6’4”, 198lbs, 4.56, Ohio State University (Video)
Victor was a 4-year rotational player at Ohio State. Tall and slender, Victor can leap and has a huge catch radius. He is a natural athlete and pass catcher who can make big plays and highlight-reel catches. He needs to play with more consistency. He also has to prove he can defeat NFL press coverage.

WR Austin Mack, 6’1”, 208lbs, 4.59, Ohio State University (Video)
Mack was a rotational player at Ohio State. Muscular wideout with good size. He is more of a possession receiver, but he is a natural pass receiver who can make the tough grab.

WR Derrick Dillon, 5’11’, 185lbs, 4.47, LSU (Video)
Dillon is a smaller, speedy wide receiver with limited collegiate production. He has had some big plays in big games.

WR/TE Rysen John, 6’7”, 237lbs, 4.65, Simon Fraser University (Video)
John has an intriguing combination of size and athletic ability. He could be used at a number of different positions including wide receiver, tight end, and H-Back.

TE Kyle Markway, 6’4”, 252lbs, 4.79, University of South Carolina (Video)
Markway has a good frame and long arms. Better blocker than receiver. Markway won’t threaten a defense as a receiver due to his athletic limitations, but he can catch the football.

OC/OG Kyle Murphy, 6’3”, 316lbs, 5.34, University of Rhode Island (Video)
Murphy was a 3-year starter in college with experience all along the offensive line. Team leader. Murphy moves well with good agility.

OC/OG Tyler Haycraft, 6’3”, 295lbs, University of Louisville (Video)
Tough, gritty, smart player with decent athleticism.

DE/LB Niko Lalos, 6’5”, 268lbs, 4.82, Dartmouth College (Video)
Lalos played defensive end in college but could project to outside linebacker at the pro level.

LB Dominique Ross, 6’4”, 228lbs, University of North Carolina
Ross played a hybrid nickelback/linebacker role in college where he was used both in coverage and as a blitzer.

LB Dana Levine, 6’3”, 235lbs, 4.82, Temple University (Video)
Levine played defensive end in college but projects to outside linebacker at the pro level. Tough guy who flashes explosiveness, but he needs to play off of blocks better.

LB Oluwole Betiku, Jr., 6’3”, 249lbs, 4.69, University of Illinois (Video)
Levine played defensive end in college but projects to outside linebacker at the pro level. Tough guy who flashes explosiveness, but he needs to play off of blocks better.

CB Malcolm Elmore, 5’11”, 186lbs, 4.48, Central Methodist University

CB Christian Angulo, 6’2”, 190lbs, Hampton University (Video)

S Jaquarius Landrews, 5’11”, 196lbs, 4.43, Mississippi State University (Video)

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Eric’s Take on the 2020 Draft

Firmly ensconced in the franchise’s darkest period since the 1964-1980 nadir, the New York Giants entered the 2020 NFL draft with significant needs virtually at every position. That is not surprising for a team with a 12-36 record over the span of the last three seasons. This was Dave Gettleman’s third draft as New York’s head man and Chris Pettit’s second draft as the team’s Director of College Scouting. The new voice in the room was first-year Head Coach Joe Judge as Gettleman whiffed badly on his first coaching choice to turn the Giants around, Pat Shurmur.

Approaching the draft, media and fan focus was almost exclusively centered on whether the Giants should draft linebacker Isaiah Simmons or an offensive linemen with their first pick. Further debate ensued on whether the Giants should trade down and acquire additional selections and which offensive linemen was the best prospect. The choice would have been obvious had the Giants not defeated the Redskins in overtime in Week 16. The Giants would have walked away with Chase Young, but alas that was not to be.

The Giants entered the draft with 10 picks, though that was a bit misleading as only three of those selections were within the top 100 slots. The rest of the selections all came on day three, with four of those being in the final round. Somewhat surprisingly, the Giants did not trade once, either up or down, during the entire 3-day affair.

Overall, this was one of the team’s most fascinating drafts in recent memory. All 10 picks were focused on the offensive line, secondary, and linebacking corps. No offensive skill positions were selected. No defensive linemen were selected. Three of the first five selections were on offense, but seven players were taken on defense, including the last five picks. This was a bread-and-butter, no frills draft completely concentrated on only three areas.

The first three picks went pretty much as expected with the Bengals taking Joe Burrow, the Redskins taking Chase Young, and the Lions taking Jeff Okudah. Would the Giants take Simmons, one of the offensive tackles, or trade down? My personal preference was for the Giants to trade down a few spots and then select one of the tackles. I think Simmons will be a very good player, but I wondered if he would be a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none type who really didn’t have a true NFL position. Time will tell as Simmons was selected four picks later by the Cardinals.

Regarding trading down, Gettleman said afterwards, “We had conversations, but everyone was touchy-feely, maybe yes, maybe no. There were no firm offers anywhere. There is nothing that made me look at John Mara and Joe (Judge) and say let’s trade back and get some more picks. There really wasn’t much there… There wasn’t a lot of action.”

So somewhat predictably, the Giants stood pat and selected Andrew Thomas. When the pick was announced, I breathed a sigh of relief. Knock on wood, but Thomas was probably one of the safest selections in this draft. The word “safe” often has a negative meaning when discussing draft prospects, but not in this case. Despite what some have argued, Thomas’ upside is significant. Despite just turning 21 in January, Thomas is an enormous young man. He looks and plays bigger than his listed size (6’5”, 315lbs) with a huge base and tree trunk arms. He is a very good athlete and the only guy among the top four who everyone believed could handle left tackle at the pro level. A lot of people preferred Tristan Wirfs, but Wirfs’ best natural position may be guard. (Wirfs was selected nine picks later by Tampa Bay AFTER Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton).

In hindsight, if the Giants felt there was a significant gap between Thomas and the other three, it is fortunate they stayed pat. According to NJ.com, the Browns, Colts, Dolphins, Chargers, Cardinals, and Panthers had Thomas rated as the top tackle. Thomas also wowed everyone at the NFL Combine during the interview process. So the Giants are not only getting a top talent, but someone who everyone was impressed with personally in terms of his character and ability to learn the NFL game.

Entering the second round on day two, a number of still-available defensive prospects stood out like sore thumbs. This included DL Yetur Gross-Matos, DL A.J. Epenesa, S Xavier McKinney, S Grant Delpit, and a few others. Some thought the Giants may dive into the WR-rich draft at this point or maybe reach for a center. But need-value seemed to strongly suggest defense and it was no surprise that the Giants picked McKinney, who they even tried to trade up for as they considered him a 1st-round talent. (Charley Casserly claims that he knows at least 12 teams felt the same way). The other option here was to trade down and try to bridge the huge gap between the Giants’ picks at 36 and 99. But it is interesting to note that THREE safeties went in the next nine picks, including the Patriots selecting a safety right after the Giants took McKinney, who many regarded as the best safety in the draft.

I saw some Giants fans react negatively to this pick by claiming that safety wasn’t a big need. With all due respect to these individuals, you’re nuts. Safety has been a huge need on this team for years and safety play is one of the major reasons why this team has only won 12 games in three years. It was not only a need, it was a gigantic need. I also don’t agree with those who say McKinney is only a strong safety. In Nick Saban’s defense, McKinney split his time equally between three positions: 285 snaps in the box, 271 snaps at free safety, and 227 snaps in the slot. Saban is not having a subpar athlete playing in the slot and at free safety – not on that team and in that pro-style defense. When people look at McKinney, I think they see an aggressive, physical player who makes a lot big hits and plays around the line of scrimmage, assume that is the strength of his game (which it is), but then also assume he can’t do other things (which he can). Another phrase kept coming up when people described McKinney: “alpha dog.” Boy, do the Giants need that kind of guy on defense! Big picture, the Giants now have two interchangeable athletes at safety in Jabrill Peppers and Xavier McKinney. Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham can keep offenses guessing as to who will be playing where as both can move up or back as designed. The days of Curtis Riley and Antoine Bethea are over.

Because of Gettleman’s odd and still controversial decision to trade for pending free agent DL Leonard Williams during a losing season, the Giants were without their own #3 draft pick and had to wait 63 picks for their next selection at the end of the 3rd round (really 4th round when you consider how all of these compensatory picks have diluted rounds 3-7). Stating the obvious, round 3 has not been kind to the Giants, although to be fair, the team has done better under Gettleman in this round. On the surface, the selection of Matt Peart appears to be an excellent one. Peart was widely regarded as one of the best offensive tackle prospects in this draft. He’s another big, athletic tackle with incredibly long arms who just looks the part. Both Thomas and Peart move effortlessly for big men, they make it look easy at times. And despite being 310lbs, Peart actually looks like he can add another 20 pounds easy to his frame. Other than level of competition concerns (UConn), the biggest negative I’ve seen on him is that he needs to play with more nastiness. That can be an issue. This game is not for the faint of heart. Unless the Giants dump Nate Solder (unlikely given the fact they have already given him his $3 million roster bonus and the uncertainty of training camp with the COVID situation), Peart will likely sit for a year before contending for a starting tackle spot in 2021.

Despite my nagging concern for a center, I had no issues with Darnay Holmes in the 4th round. I think a lot of fans reacted by saying, “Why cornerback? Gettleman already acquired James Bradberry, Deandre Baker, Sam Beal, and Corey Ballentine!” Yes, but none those guys have proven they can handle slot corner, which is an entirely different skill set and a de facto starter in today’s NFL. Holmes was an outside corner at UCLA whose skill set screams slot corner. I will say this, Holmes was the one guy who people were all over the board about. Some people love him (Bucky Brooks felt he was the #1 slot corner in the draft). Others were less enthusiastic. Interestingly, Chris Pettit actually singled Holmes out as one of the guys he was most excited who the Giants drafted (see his comments at the 5-minute mark). If you believe slot corner is a start position in the NFL, the Holmes has a very good chance to be the third immediate starter coming out of this draft. Holmes can also return punts and kickoffs. He’s also supposed to be an incredibly smart guy.

In terms of value and need, Shane Lemieux may be my favorite selection in this draft. To get him in the 5th round was a major steal. It was not too long ago when Lemieux was considered one of the top OL prospects in the entire draft. While he may not have the ideal athleticism that teams crave, NFL rosters are historically filled with big, tough, strong, smart linemen like Lemieux who will knock the snot out of you. Lemieux is built like a prototypical NFL guard. Just as importantly, he plays the position like you want your interior linemen to play. I think he’s a future starter in this league (which would be incredible for a 5th-round pick) and he began cross-training as a center before the Giants even selected him. Don’t be shocked if he’s our starting center as a rookie. If he can’t make the transition to center, I think he’s an eventual starter at guard.

The last five picks are a bit of a blur and merge together for Giants fans as four of them were linebackers. At this point of the draft, even though they technically were in the 6th and 7th round, due to the ridiculous number of compensatory picks, these really are what used to be 7th round/undrafted free agents. Just keep that in mind when evaluating these selections.

Linebacker was an obvious area of need, but fans who were crying for a center, wide receiver, running back, or tight end were not happy with four being picked. It’s a valid complaint. But if you pay millions of dollars to your scouts to pick the best players, you have to trust your board and take those guys who you think have the best chance to make an NFL roster. They Giants may be wrong, but they have to trust their process.

As one linebacker after another was picked, I kept reminding myself that Joe Judge is a special teams coach and the heart of any special teams unit is always the back-up linebackers and defensive backs. The Giants last five picks were four linebackers and safety. The best way for all five of these players to make the team will be to excel on special teams. Beyond that, two of the linebackers really stick out to me but for different reasons. I don’t know too many 6’5”, 230-pound coverage linebackers but that’s what Cam Brown is. And again, the phrase “Alpha dog” was tossed around when describing his character. I don’t get the sense that he was a throw-a-way pick at all for the Giants and that Graham has a plan for him as a role player. Carter Coughlin is also an interesting guy. While he’s not a dynamic athlete, he’s better than advertised and has the look of one of those players who hangs around the NFL for a long time. Carter has the intangibles that all teams look for. He’s also very tight with Ryan Connelly.

Regarding Chris Williamson, Petitt also mentioned that he was one of the late draft picks who he was particularly excited about. (See 5:30 mark).

A cursory look at the 15 undrafted free agents suggests the Giants may have found a few who may have a legitimate shot at a roster spot. Who knows if he can make it, but I love the way Kyle Murphy plays. Watch. You don’t think an undrafted guard can make a difference? Tell that to Rich Seubert, one of my all-time favorites. The two OSU receivers have a legitimate shot. Both were lost in the shuffle at a WR-rich school. Ben Victor reminds me a little bit of a poor man’s Plaxico Burress. Austin Mack will never wow you, but he’s a reliable guy who I could see the coaches liking. Kyle Markway was versatile blocker at South Carolina and those kind of guys can surprise (think Rhett Ellison in Minnesota). Javon Leake is a home-run threat every time he touches the ball and returns kickoffs. But he has to play with more toughness.

Overall, gun to my head, I honestly think the Giants got three starting offensive linemen in one draft. If so, that’s incredible. Andrew Thomas has the chance to be the best Giants’ left tackle of my lifetime, and that includes Jumbo Elliott. (Though don’t be shocked if he starts off at RT as a rookie, just like Elliott). Peart may need some time on the bench, but I’d be surprised if he is not starting by next year. You know what I think about Lemieux.

Gettleman has loaded up on defensive backs via trade, free agency, and the draft the past two years. The backfield had better be set! Again, it appears the Giants still added two starters in this draft with Xavier McKinney at free safety and Darnay Holmes at slot corner (also he may be the returner). If the Giants really got five eventual starters out of one draft, that’s a home run. Time will tell.

As for the last five picks, these were all late round/free agent types. If any of them have a career longer than a couple of seasons, that’s just icing on the cake.

Regrets? Always. The Giants didn’t draft a true center and have to count on Nick Gates, Lemieux, Kyle Murphy, or Tyler Haycraft being able to make the transition to the position. The Giants didn’t get a dynamic edge rusher and will have to wait until next year for that. Same with adding another top-flight wide receiver. But the Giants were a bad team with only three top 100 picks. There was only so much they could do.

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Apr 212020
 
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Joe Burrow, LSU Tigers (January 13, 2020)

Joe Burrow – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Quarterbacks

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 10, and my ranks 11-20 with grades only.

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

It has been a year since Dave Gettleman shocked the world with his Daniel Jones selection at #6 overall. The vast majority of the public chastised the pick for multiple reasons but here we are a year later and a case can be made that NYG has their guy for the next decade-plus. He started 12 games and scored 26 touchdowns on an offense that was broken because of what was going on up front. The issue, and it is a glaring one, are the turnovers. He fumbled the ball 18 times and threw 12 interceptions. We have seen it with young quarterbacks in the past; a good player who makes plays but the turnovers end up putting them back on the bench. Jones has so many of the tools and intangibles to be a winner, but that won’t matter if he can’t protect the ball.

Behind him, NYG signed veteran Colt McCoy and they still employ Alex Tanney. The one catch? Both are free agents in 2021. The long-term stability behind Jones isn’t there. As good as Jones looked at times in his rookie year, the objective fact is NYG is heading into the year with an unproven starter and two backups who won’t be under contract once this season is over.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 10 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Joe Burrow / LSU / 6’4 – 221

Grade: 87

Summary: Fifth year senior from Athens, Ohio. A two-year starter who took off in 2019, winning the Heisman Trophy and National Championship. A transfer from Ohio State, Burrow’s ascent began at the end of the 2018 season against UCF in the Fiesta Bowl. Fast forward to this past year and Burrow set the college football world on fire with elite performance after elite performance after elite performance. He set an NCAA record with 60 touchdowns and led the country with 5,671 yards. His tools as a thrower are just above average, there are several prospects with a stronger arm. However this goes to reinforce the fact that arm strength is such a small part of evaluating QB play. Burrow has unmatched pocket presence and downfield accuracy. He is exceptionally smart in the film room and on the field. He is a better athlete than anyone thinks. He is a franchise quarterback all the way who should end up in the Pro Bowl at some point early in his career if the supporting cast is there.

  1. Tua Tagovailoa / Alabama / 6’0 – 217

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry from Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Two-year starter who initially burst onto the scene when he replaced Jalen Hurts in the second half of the 2017 National Championship, where he led the Tide to a come from behind win. In 2018 he confirmed his ceiling, winning the Maxwell Award while earning 2nd Team All American honors. 2019 didn’t quite go as planned, however. Tagovailoa suffered an ankle injury and then a severe hip injury that caused some to ponder if he would ever play again. If the injuries are kept out of the equation that generates his grade, Tua would be approaching the elite 90-point mark. He has lethal accuracy, he is a true competitor who handles pressure situations well, and he knows how to read defenses. The medicals are huge though and he doesn’t show a feel for missing traffic in the pocket. A case can rightfully be made that these injuries are going to pop up in the NFL more and more and because of that, you see the debate at the top of the draft behind Burrow.

  1. Justin Herbert / Oregon / 6’6 – 236

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Eugene, Oregon. Four-year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors in 2018 and 2019. Also the winner of the Academic Heisman as a senior who scored a 39 on his wonderlic exam, an elite number. Herbert has every single tool. He is massive, he is fast, he has a quick release, and he is really strong. Herbert also has everything you want between the ears when it comes to intelligence, maturity, and leadership qualities. On paper, he may be the ideal quarterback for today’s NFL. The concern here is he never quite put together a consistent level of performance as a passer. His accuracy is a roller coaster and he seemed gun-shy at times. There is still a ways to go here but I think NFL coaches see exactly what they want to work with here.

  1. James Morgan / Florida International / 6’4 – 229

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Began his career at Bowling Green where he started for a year-plus. He traded the job back and forth and then opted to leave for Florida International where he was named Honorable Mention All Conference USA in both 2018 and 2019. He has a really snappy throwing motion that can put more than enough zip on the ball. He gets the ball downfield really well. But the most attractive trait to his game is what goes on between the ears. Morgan is a coach’s favorite who knows the game inside and out. He studies hard, applies it to the practice field, and makes those around him better. He may never develop into a top tier starter, but he will be in the league for a decade-plus.

  1. Jordan Love / Utah State / 6’4 – 224

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Bakersfield, California. Three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Mountain West honors in 2019, 2nd Team in 2018. After an eye opening season in 2018, Love took a step backwards as a redshirt junior. He threw 17 interceptions, most in the nation. Even though his 2018 tape looks first round worthy, a question can rightfully be asked whether or not he sees the field well enough. He was tricked into several turnovers after coaches had a full season to scout him on tape. He was playing with a lesser deck of cards at Utah State, but then again he wasn’t matched up against elite defenses either (besides a game against LSU). There are some issues he needs to answer in meetings with coaches but there is no denying the arm talent. The question is, can it overcome some mental shortcomings?

  1. Jalen Hurts / Alabama / 6’1 – 222

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Houston, Texas. Spent three years at Alabama, the first two of which he started and led Alabama to the National Championship. Tua Tagovailoa took over the job at the very end of 2017 and Hurts played a backup role for the entire 2018 season. He then transferred to Oklahoma in 2019, earning 3rd Team All American Honors and 1st Team All Big 12 honors. Hurts is a plus athlete with a strong arm and the composure to keep his heartbeat down in the highest pressure situations. Coaches and teammates alike love him. The issue with Hurts is centers around a lack of true feel in the pocket and inconsistent accuracy. He made a lot of easy throws in college and missed a lot of high difficulty ones. His best role is likely as a number two guy who can come in and spark an offense if an injury occurs, but his upside as a pure starter is risky.

  1. Jake Fromm / Georgia / 6’2 – 219

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Warner Robbins, Georgia. Three-year starter who took over the job in 2017 as a result of an injury to Jacob Eason. Fromm starred, winning the SEC Freshman of the Year Award and never gave up the job afterward. Justin Fields, the Ohio State quarterback who is likely going to be a top 10 pick in 2021, transferred from Georgia because he couldn’t beat Fromm out. Fromm won a ton of games and was a two-year team captain. While his tools won’t impress, he knows how to gain a coach’s trust. He plays within himself, he makes smart decisions, and he knows when to alter his aggression. The issue is a lack of true upside and he just doesn’t seem to have the physical potential to take over a game when necessary. He is likely heading toward backup duty but also likely to get a shot at some point.

  1. Anthony Gordon / Washington State / 6’2 – 205

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Pacifica, California. After being drafted out of high school to play baseball, Gordon opted for junior college football. He then transferred to Washington State and sat behind Gardner Minshew in 2018. After patiently waiting, he finally got the opportunity in 2019 and earned 2nd Team All Pac 12 honors finishing among the country’s leaders in several passing categories. Gordon has a slick and quick release with an accurate arm. This baseball-style passing, especially underneath, is becoming more and more popular these days and Gordon excels at it. An offense that favors a short and quick passing attack may have a much higher grade on Gordon, but one must admit the ceiling with him is an unknown. He started one year and his tools are average.

  1. Jacob Eason / Washington / 6’6 – 231

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Lake Stevens, Washington. After a three year career at Georgia (one as a starter, one on the injury list, one as a backup) Eason transferred back to his hometown and started 13 games for the Huskies. The tall and strong, plus athlete has an absolute cannon for an arm. When he winds up and chucks it downfield, it simply flies out of his hands different than others. There is no shortage of arm talent from a strength perspective, but he hasn’t shown enough consistency when it comes to balls that need touch. Eason has a competitive spirit but there are concerns around his role as a leader. There is a high ceiling to work with here, but he has a ton of work to do and will have to show consistency as a worker.

  1. Jake Luton / Oregon State / 6’6 – 224

Grade: 69

Summary: Fifth year senior from Marysville, Washington. Began his career at Idaho but transferred to junior college where he became a sought after recruit. Luton chose Oregon State but suffered a severe spine injury in 2017, playing in just 4 games. He returned to start 4 more games in 2018. In his final opportunity, Luton showed what many have been talking about for a few years now. He earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors as he threw 28 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. Luton is a big and tough leader who can make all the throws. He looks a little heavy in the pocket and doesn’t always show the knack for locating pressure but there is still some rawness to him that some teams may actually find attractive as a developmental prospect.

  1. Steven Montez / Colorado: 69
  2. Kevin Davidson / Princeton: 68
  3. Shea Patterson / Michigan: 67
  4. Cole McDonald / Hawaii: 67
  5. Nate Stanley / Iowa: 67
  6. Case Cookus / Northern Arizona: 67
  7. Brian Lewerke / Michigan State: 66
  8. Nathan Rourke / Ohio: 66
  9. Tyler Huntley / Utah: 66
  10. Kelly Bryant / Missouri: 65

NYG APPROACH

Whether you think Daniel Jones is the guy or not, one has to admit that even thinking about a QB early in the draft isn’t going to happen. This regime selected him, he flashed a lot of positive traits as a rookie, and assets need to be placed elsewhere for this team to reach the level where they used to be. The backups are locked in for the 2019 season but as I stated earlier, there is a blank slate there for 2021. One way to approach this is find a kid who you can stash on the practice squad for 2020. This needs to be a late round pick or an undrafted free agent who you know other teams aren’t going to come in and scoop up halfway through the year. Obviously the odds of hitting successfully from that point are slim to none, but it is always worth trying to add a guy to the position group every year. Two names I like, both as a mental capacity piece and someone with tools that can be developed over the years are Devin Davidson from Princeton a Nick Tiano from Chattanooga. At best, they are future backups who take up very little cap space.

Apr 192020
 
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J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State Buckeyes (February 26, 2020)

J.K. Dobbins – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITIONAL OVERVIEW

This is one of maybe 2 or 3 spots on the roster where a fresh pair of legs won’t be needed. Saquon Barkley is one of the most versatile backs in the league and still has three years left on his rookie contract, although negotiations for the long term deal will likely begin prior to that. The big play back is averaging just under 5 yards per carry despite running behind a porous offensive line in addition to averaging 5 receptions per game. The high ankle sprain he suffered in week 3 forced him out of the next 3 games but he ended the season really strong. The team has lacked a difference making backup to offset Barkley in his two years, as Wayne Gallman just hasn’t done anything to stand out. He has averaged 4 yards per carry in his 3 seasons but the main issue has been fumbles. He’s put the ball on the ground 6 times on just 250 carries (1 every 42 touches). For comparison, Barkley has fumbled 1 time on 621 touches. Let’s take a look at a couple other backup running backs from 2017 for reference. Kareem Hunt has fumbled once every 306 touches. Brian Hill has fumbled once on 122 touches. Jamaal Williams hasn’t fumbled yet on 472 touches.

The signing of Dion Lewis takes some pressure off NYG needing to add another running back. Even though he is coming off the two worst seasons of his career and he will turn 30 in September, it will be beneficial to have someone established back there. For comparison to Gallman, he has only fumbled once every 118 touches. He is also a plus-blocker and can catch the ball. The one thing NYG doesn’t have behind Barkley and perhaps give him a break from physical contact is a short yardage presence. Barkley is so effective in space, he is so effective in the passing game. I’ve always thought it would be nice to have a north/south physical runner who can take the ball on 3rd and 1 and near the goal line. If there is a situation where I don’t see Barkley as elite, that is it.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. JK Dobbins / Ohio State / 5’10 – 209

Grade: 81

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from La Grange, Texas. Dobbins led the Buckeyes in rushing all three years on campus including 2,000 yard, 2nd Team All American season in 2019. Dobbins has been a hit on campus from the start and left Ohio State as their second all time leading rusher after just three years of service. He has the ideal body type and running style of a every down back in the NFL with a diverse skill set and team-mentality. Dobbins will put forth top tier effort into every role he is asked to partake in whether it is touting the rock, catching passes, or blocking for his quarterback. Dobbins may not have ideal wiggle and vision, but in a scheme that gets him vertical, he can be a top tier back.

*As a freshman, Dobbins looked like the next big thing. As a sophomore, he took a slight step back as he fought nagging injuries and senior Mike Weber split carries with him. Then as a junior, I still don’t think people are giving him enough credit for what he did. 2,000 yards and 21 touchdowns. 174 yards on 18 carries (9.7 yards per) against Clemson in the playoff game. Dobbins may not have the top tier speed and size some are looking for, but this kid plays fast and he shoots out of a cannon. He has really good vision, he is pit bull with the ball in his hands. Some may look elsewhere because his hands aren’t natural as a receiver, but I want a gamer back there and he is exactly that.

  1. D’Andre Swift / Georgia / 5’8 – 212

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A two-year starter who has been a part of a committee approach since the start of his career. Swift played behind Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as a freshman, then took over the leading rusher role the rest of the way. He was 2nd Team All SEC in 2018, and 1st Team in 2019. Swift is an every down back who can contribute on every down, no matter the situation. His ability to make the first guy miss and make the spectacular catch will make the highlight reels, but Swift’s greatest value his how reliable he is down to down. He will make big plays, yes, but he will provide the value by picking up the tough yards inside and falling forward. The one red flag that must be addressed, however, stems from how he handles the ball. He let it loose way too often. Other than that, Swift is a near can’t-miss.

*Many have Swift as RB1, I won’t argue against it. He has the body that you want. Short and stocky, really thick and powerful legs. He is still very capable of pushing piles and picking up the tough inside yards. He is just a tad tight in my opinion. I don’t see elite, but I do see a solid starter. Underrated receiving ability too.

  1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire / LSU / 5’7 – 207

Grade: 80

Summary: Junior entry from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A one year starter who was the Tigers second leading rusher in 2018 before putting together one of the best seasons at the position in LSU history. The 1st Team All SEC back, team MVP, and Paul Hornung finalist led the SEC in touchdowns with 16 and was second in the conference in rushing. Edwards-Helaire is a versatile threat who carries his ability to make defenders miss into both the running and passing games respectively. He really turned it on when the lights shined brightest, showing his hunger and ability to create something out of nothing routinely. His lack of height is actually a weapon and don’t mistake him for an undersized back because of it. He is a rock on contact with thick legs and bruiser mentality. He is an ideal compliment to a backfield that already has a back who can contribute 10-15 carries per game.

*This is the kind of back who I love to have as a compliment, but do not mistake that for a backup. If I want to split touches in the backfield and I already have a bruiser or a big play space threat, Edwards-Helaire is the guy I want behind him. He is effective in so many situations. I have a feeling we are going to see Tampa Bay take him in round 2 and he is going to be the next Tom Brady back who catches 75+ passes and ends up scoring a ton of points. This kid is a gamer and a near-sure thing to at least be a solid player.

  1. Antonio Gibson / Memphis / 6’0 – 228

Grade: 77

Summary: Senior entry from Stockbridge, Georgia. One year starter a Memphis after a two year stint at East Central Community College in Mississippi. Gibson earned 2nd Team All American Athletic Conference honors as a wide receiver and also the conference Co-Special Teams Player of the Year Award. This is as interesting a player as there is in the entire draft class. He barely touched the ball in comparison to other draft prospects over the past two years, but you will have a hard time finding a guy who scored 14 touchdowns on 77 career offensive touches, 33 of which were carries. Gibson was finally put into the backfield halfway through 2019 as a hybrid WR/RB, and he excelled. He simply sat behind two future NFL picks (Tony Pollard and Darrel Henderson) and shared other duties with current prospect Patrick Taylor Jr. Gibson is a top tier athlete who looked like one of the best running backs during Senior Bowl week and one has to assume he is very early on the progressive scale. Give this kid some time, carve out a few package-plays for him in the meantime, and you have one of the top value picks in the draft.

*Gibson may be the highest-ceiling prospect in this group. The hybrid RB/WR is being viewed as a RB by every team that I know of, so even though he was primarily a WR at Memphis, that is why he is in the RB preview. I actually thought he was the top RB at the Senior Bowl all week, by a wide margin. Gibson has really good size, he plays physical, and he has legit runaway speed. He is also coming into the league with more tread on the tires. I think someone is going to take a gamble on him much earlier than people think.

  1. Anthony McFarland / Maryland / 5’8 – 208

Grade: 77

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Hyattsville, Maryland. A two-year starter who shared backfield duties both seasons. McFarland was wanted by Alabama but a broken leg his senior year of high school caused them to back off. McFarland settled on Maryland and after a redshirt year in 2017, he set a school record for rushing yards by a freshman with 1,034 yards including a stunning 298 against Ohio State. He finished 2nd Team All Big 10 that season. 2019 didn’t go as planned, as Maryland really struggled to get any sort of rhythm going on that side of the ball and McFarland couldn’t be used as he should. He isn’t an every down back, but McFarland can be one of the most dangerous threats in the league if used correctly. He has elite burst and agility with the ball in his hands and will run away from pursuers in space. There is more strength and balance to his game than people think and considering he touched the ball just under 275 times, he comes in with fresh wheels. Potential draft-altering pick for a team.

*I am having a hard time pegging where McFarland will go in the draft, but that aside I think he is a day 2 player who can immediately add big play presence to an offense. If a team has a grinder in the backfield but they don’t have big play potential, McFarland has to be in their crosshairs. He shoots out of a cannon and can run away from defenders like very few can.

  1. Jonathon Taylor / Wisconsin / 5’10 – 226

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Salem, New Jersey. A three-year starter with one of the most prolific running back careers in NCAA history. Two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award and was a finalist in the year he didn’t win. Two time unanimous 1st Team All American and 2nd Team All American in the other year. The number 6-all time leading rusher in NCAA history who rushed for over 1,900 yards all three seasons, the only player to ever do that. Taylor can open eyes with his production and straight-line athleticism. There simply aren’t many humans that can move like he does at 220 pounds with running back-ability. The two red flags, however, are enough to knock his grade down a bit. He has had major fumble issues (18) over his career that never quite got fixed, and his lateral adjustments show up against the more athletic defenses he faced. Questions revolving around his ability to even reach the open field to use that sprinter’s speed that earned him two state titles on the track in high school are legitimate. Taylor brings plenty of upside but a lot needs to be corrected and a team needs to know he isn’t a do-it-all player.

*I am lower on Taylor than the entire market, I know. And this is a grade that has the potential to come back and bite me where it hurts, I know. But I don’t like spending high picks on guys with major turnover problems and I don’t think Taylor plays to his timed athleticism. He is a tough kid and he works hard, I also think he is a better receiver than people think too. But I don’t see special in him, I see a day 2 pick who is closer to day 3 than day 1.

  1. Cam Akers / Florida State / 5’10 – 217

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Clinton, Mississippi. Three year starter who arrived at Florida State as one of the most sought after recruits in the country. Akers was a high school quarterback who was dominant on the ground but also produced through the air. Akers broke Dalvin Cook’s FSU freshman rushing record and ended his career as the 6th all time leading rusher in program history. He was 3rd Team All ACC in 2017, 2nd Team in 2019. Akers has every down capability in his running style. He sees the field exceptionally well, takes what the defense gives him, and gains plenty of yards after contact. He improved as a receiver all three years and plays with the team-first attitude that can inspire hope for his blocking potential, which was up and down at Florida State. Akers, however, has a ball security issue that absolutely must be fixed before he can be trusted in the NFL. He puts the ball in the wrong hand at an alarming rate and he fumbled once every 65 touches in college. The offense was broken at FSU over the last two years, so there is some unknown here if he gets put into a quality scheme with good blocking. He has all the traits but it won’t see the light of day if he doesn’t fix the ball security issues.

*The Florida State faithful will continue to tell anyone who listens that Akers had one of the worst situations to deal with in college football and that somebody is going to get the steal of the draft here. I take that with a grain of salt but I do know a longtime Southeast scout who told me he thinks Akers is going to be a better pro than Dalvin Cook. I do see the flashes on tape and yes, his line + passing game at FSU made life difficult for him. But once again, I hate it when guys can’t hold onto the ball in college. I am keeping him here.

  1. Zack Moss / Utah / 5’9 – 223

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Hialeah Gardens, Florida. Three-year starter who re-wrote the running back record book at Utah. A 2019 All American and Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year Award winner. Also finished 2nd Team All Pac 12 in his injury shortened 2018 season. Cousin to former NFL receivers Santana and Sinorice Moss. A back who could have declared for the 2019 draft, Moss opted to return for his senior year and prove a meniscus injury was behind him, and that he did. The every down back is a force with the ball in his hands who, especially with downhill momentum, will pick up the tough yards by running through contact. He is more than a simple inside runner, however. He is very elusive and slippery in the open field and always seems to have his balance. He looks like a pass catcher as well, giving him an every down feel. He has suffered injuries to his knee, shoulder, and foot respectively, however. At the very least he can be a 1B option for a team that wants a dual attack out of the backfield, but has the potential to be the guy.

*If it weren’t for the multiple injuries, Moss could have been in the top 5 of this group. I think many still do, actually. Wouldn’t be surprised to see him taken early round 3 for a team that needs a between the tackles bruiser. He shouldn’t be the focal point of a backfield, but he can be an important piece.

  1. DeeJay Dallas / Miami / 5’10 – 217

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Brunswick, Georgia. One year starter who was a part of the running back rotation all three seasons. A dislocated elbow ended his junior campaign three games early. Dallas is one of the most physical backs in the class and it shows up within multiple phases. With the ball in his hands, he can take on big contact and stone the defender, maintaining his center of gravity, and continue to move north. As a pass blocker, he is often the aggressor who will stand the blitzer up and finish him off. Dallas has a lot of value to a team that wants a backup right away to handle third down duties without giving up too much in the running game. He has starter traits to develop but at the very least will be a solid backup.

*I’m not sure where Dallas is going to go in the draft, I don’t have a pulse on his situation. If he ends up being one of the backs who slips into mid to late day 3, he is someone who I think fits really well in NYG’s running back room. He is a really physical downhill runner who can pick up positive yards when just a couple are needed. He is the best blocker in the class in my opinion. And he showed the ability to make circus catches, he really is a complete player. Not sure why he doesn’t get more publicity. Also have good reports on him as a worker, team player, and coachable kid.

  1. Darius Anderson / TCU / 5’11 – 208

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Richmond, Texas. A key contributor all four years who started games for three seasons. A two-time Honorable Mention All Big 12 performer. Anderson has been a consistently productive back in the high-powered TCU offense since his freshman season. He has led the Horned Frogs in yards per carry every year and displayed a new talent as a receiver as a senior. Anderson is a threat with the ball in his hands because of his burst and acceleration, but also some sneaky power and balance. He contorts his body through traffic well to break tackles and gain yards after contact and proved he had enough breakaway speed to rattle off the big play when it is there. Anderson won’t be an every down back and needs to shore up ball security and blocking, but he can produce in the league.

*Anderson is a plus athlete who runs really hard and maintains excellent balance after contact. There is a really good combination of skills in his game that could end up making him a big play threat. Day three guy all the way but every year we see a few of them make a difference. Anderson will be one of those guys if he gets his number called.

11. JaMycal Hasty / Baylor / 5’8 – 205

Grade: 73

Summary: Senior entry from Longview, Texas. A four-year contributor who finished top three in the team’s carries all four years. Honorable Mention All Big 12 back in 2019, Hasty lacks the ideal triangle numbers but it is easy to see this kid runs bigger than his size. He is a violent, mighty-mouse type runner who consistently breaks through contact and will create afterward. He is an underrated pass catcher who, once he has a head of steam, will not be a welcomed sight for defensive backs in space. He has bad intentions when he plants his foot in the ground and moves north. While Hasty won’t create a ton on his own and his pass blocking needs work, he is the kind of back who outperforms several backs drafted ahead of him.

*I am a little biased toward Hasty, I will admit that. I was one of the first ones on him dating back to the fall of 2018. There is something about him that I like, similar to what I saw in Alex Collins out of Arkansas in the 2016 class. He was a 5th rounder who out-produced several backs in front of him but injuries and drug suspension derailed his career. Hasty has a similar pit bull running style and plays a lot faster than he times. He shoots out of a cannon and will run through guys. His lack of true size and inconsistent third down contributions could make him fall into late day three. I would keep a close eye on him.

  1. Ke’Shawn Vaughn / Vanderbilt / 5’10 – 214

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Nashville, Tennessee. One-year starter at Illinois, two year starter at Vanderbilt. Vaughn spent his first two seasons at Illinois before transferring. In 2018 he led the SEC in yards per carry and rushed for the second most yards in a season in school history. His production didn’t quite match that level in 2019, as he was nicked up throughout the year and he played behind a porous offensive line. Vaughn runs with attitude, sometimes may be a bit too much. But more often than not his emotion is an asset to his game, as he fights through arm tackles and gains plenty of yards after contact. He will be NFL ready right away as part of a committee, but he will need to bulk up if he wants to be an every down back.

*Vaughn was my top senior running back in my preseason stack. Sometimes that ends up landing you in the day 2 tier but things didn’t click in 2019 the way I was hoping. He simply doesn’t have the standout traits to his game besides high effort. He is a feisty guy and I think he can help a backfield, but you can get this kind of guy any year. Also comes into the NFL with some wear and tear.

  1. Joshua Kelley / UCLA / 5’11 – 212

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Lancaster, California. Spent two years at UC Davis before transferring to UCLA, sitting out 2017. A two year starter for the Bruins who was Honorable Mention all Pac 12 in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. Kelley has the look of an ideal third down back at the next level. He has wide receiver-caliber ball skills and routes, but also showed the ability to run the ball inside and out in addition to plus-pass blocking effort. He has a smoothness to his game that does not come around often. His overall upside may be limited, as he doesn’t break tackles and there are vision issues, but there is a lot he can do for an offense right away.

*Kelley has a real chance at being a late day 2 pick because of how well he runs routes and catches the ball. He isn’t a soft kid by any means, either. Teams that want to add a receiving threat to their offense will like him a lot.

  1. Lamical Perine / Florida / 5’11 – 216

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Mobile, Alabama. Two year starter but has been a steady contributor to the Gators backfield since he stepped on the field. He led the team in rushing three straight seasons and was the second leading rusher as a freshman. Perine won’t jump off the screen in any way but the consistency and 3-down capabilities here are attractive. He is the kind of player who will compete hard and help the team in a variety of ways. He isn’t a feature back, but instead a nice option to have on the depth chart who can provide depth across every role a running back group hosts.

*Some teams don’t want specialty backs. They don’t want a receiver, they don’t want a short yardage bruiser, they don’t want a blazing speed threat. They just want a stack of guys who can get all the jobs done. Jack of all trades, master of none. That is Perine. He won’t stand out anywhere, but he is a natural, tough runner with good vision. In the right situation, he is someone who can step right in and get the job done but don’t expect anything more than average play.

  1. Eno Benjamin / Arizona State / 5’9 – 207

Grade: 71

Summary: Junior entry. Two-year starter from Wylie, Texas. A two-time All Pac 12 running back and 2018 All American. Benjamin is an exciting talent with the ball in his hands who will consistently create on his own. He isn’t the ideal back for a cut and dry system, but instead someone a team will want on the field on third down to catch the ball in space and see what he can do. He doesn’t have the body to take an every down pounding and fumbles are an issue. Benjamin is a guy to put within a backfield group, but not at the top of it.

*There are some impressive highlight tapes of Benjamin and because of that, I think the public has a higher outlook on him than most. He can be a nice change up to an offense that needs a spark though, yes. He is slippery and hungry in the open field. He is destined for a backup or complimentary role, but just don’t expect too much from him.

  1. AJ Dillon / Boston College: 70
  2. Darrynton Evans / Appalachian State: 70
  3. Patrick Taylor / Memphis: 70
  4. Benny Lemay / Charlotte: 70
  5. Jason Huntley / New Mexico State: 69
  6. James Robinson / Illinois State: 69
  7. Salvon Ahmed / Washington: 69
  8. Raymond Calais / Louisiana Lafayette: 69
  9. Sewo Olinolua / TCU: 68
  10. Javon Leake / Maryland: 68

NYG APPROACH

The long-term depth at running back is essentially non-existent. Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman are both free agents after the 2020 season and nobody would be surprised to see not one, but both of them playing elsewhere in 2021. While that isn’t a reason to panic, you also don’t want to go into the 2021 draft in absolute need of a backup. It may be worth trying to find a late round talent who can be developed for a year at the back end of the depth chart, learn the offensive scheme and blocking responsibilities, and put him right behind Barkley in 2021. While I don’t think this is a must for NYG, I do think it would be wise. I tend to lean toward a back who is big and physical, both as a ball carrier and blocker.

Apr 172020
 
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CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma Sooners (December 7, 2019)

CeeDee Lamb – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Wide Receivers

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 25, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 26-45 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

Thankfully Darius Slayton burst on the scene over the course of the second half of the season. If it weren’t for him, there would be reason to consider this position group one of the top 3 weaknesses on the roster. It’s not that they lack able players at the position, as Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate are both solid options. The issue is they lack the one guy who is going to strike fear into the opposition. Nobody is losing sleep over defending Shepard, a quick and shifty slot who has averaged 4 touchdowns per year and just over 11 yards per catch. Nobody is undergoing extra game planning for Golden Tate, a soon-to-be 32 year old who averages 12 yards per catch over his career and caught 57% of his targets in 2019, the second worst of his career. Slayton, as impressive as he looks, is still considered unproven and a bit of an unknown. The drop off behind those three is significant. Corey Coleman, Da’Mari Scott, Cody Core, Reggie White, David Sills V, and Amba Etta-Tawo are all roster hopeful-caliber players and maybe you get lucky with on one or two of them, but the heavy odds are that won’t happen.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 25 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. CeeDee Lamb / Oklahoma / 6’2 – 198

Grade: 86

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from Richmond, Texas. A three time All Big 12 honoree, 2019 Consensus All American and Biletnikoff Award finalist. Lamb left Oklahoma near the top of the school’s all-time receiving lists. He is a big play threat, as seen with his 24 catches of 40+ yards (a school record), who creates with more than simple downfield speed. Despite being slightly undersized, Lamb is a weapon after the catch who will break tackles, see the field well, and run away in space. He is an electric playmaker with a fierce competitive mindset that will carry over well to the next level. He can play outside and in the slot depending on the situational and scheme. Lamb is a sure bet to be a productive player in the NFL.

*Lamb has been my WR1 since August. As you will see, there are a few guys who are close but I never really viewed this as much of a debate. Lamb is talented, but not uber talented. He makes his money with something I wish all receivers had, the dog mentality. This dude is a gamer, he is tough, and he makes things happen with the ball in his hands. There is no “Diva” here, he never plays soft, and he needs to win. There is some DeAndre Hopkins in him when looking at his body type and ability to win in traffic despite not having elite size or strength. He is a year 1 starter and will be one of the top 10 receivers in the game within a couple years if he can pick up on the mental side of things. He didn’t test well there.

  1. Henry Ruggs III / Alabama / 5’11 – 188

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Montgomery, Alabama. Former five star recruit. The speedy deep threat on a team full of fast deep threats stood out over his final two years as he displayed a level of burst and acceleration that the opposition could not handle. When he gets a clean release, there aren’t many who can even think about staying close to him on the vertical routes. There is some lack of variety to his game but don’t make the mistake of labeling him a deep-threat only kind of player. He is a competitor who will work hard at his craft. If and when he develops his underneath route running and ball skills, Ruggs could be an incredibly dangerous weapon in any NFL offense.

*I want to say this about Ruggs. He was the only one I considered putting on the same level as Lamb grade wise. The only reason why he is down here is something most aren’t talking about but I can almost guarantee some teams are worried about it. He has had multiple soft tissue injuries over his career. Calf and hip mainly. He also got nicked up with separate hand, rib, and concussion issues. While he didn’t miss a lot of action, I get worried about this track-type body types who run at his elite-level rate. However his speed is elite and rare, and he isn’t a soft guy at all. He plays hard.

  1. Jerry Jeudy / Alabama / 6’1 – 193

Grade: 84

Summary: Junior entry. Two year starter from Deerfield Beach, Florida. A former five star recruit. Winner of the 2018 Biletnikoff Award and two time 1st Team All SEC and All American. Jeudy already has many of the refined skill sets of a pro receiver. He runs sharp, precise routes with cat-like quickness and agility. When it comes to short spaces, he can be a blur to defenders trying to jab him and/or stick to his hip pocket. He has produced at a high level against the toughest competition in college football despite some long speed and size concerns. Jeudy is a football player, not a workout-winner. He will simply get open, make things happen after the catch, and be a team player. Everyone can work with a kid like this and even though his overall ceiling may no be through the roof, he is as safe a pick as any in this class.

*Jeudy was widely considered the top WR in the class at the start of the year. I never put him in that elite tier or anywhere close to it, but there is no denying how ready he is for NFL offense right now. When it comes to playing receiver at a high level, you need to be really good at getting open, catching the ball, and making things happen after the catch. If you miss out on one of them, make sure you are elite at the other two. Jeudy is an elite route runner and he has elite stop and go ability with the ball. The one red flag I’ve noticed are the hands downfield. He body catches a bit too much for me to consider him elite and he missed a few deep balls in 2019. No, his hands are not a major issue but I can’t say they are on par with his other traits. Still a starter week 1 and a very good compliment to a passing game, just not sure he can be a team’s top guy week to week.

  1. Tee Higgins / Clemson / 6’4 – 216

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry. Two-year starter from Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Two time All –ACC, including a 1st Team honor in 2019. Higgins was a top shelf high school recruit who left the school tied with former Tigers’ DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins as the all time leader in touchdown receptions (27). He is the only player in program history to record 10+ touchdown catches in consecutive years. Higgins lacks some of the burst and quickness that a receiver needs to get open along all levels of the route tree, but the elite ball skills and ability to snag the ball from any and every angle with a sense of ease will make up a dangerous threat in the league. He plays fast enough and there are other traits in his game that make him a future number one receiver for a team that likes to throw the ball downfield.

*I’ve been on Higgins all year. Plain and simple I love how this kid attacks the ball with aggression but at the same time makes it look smooth and easy. He is such a natural receiver who will always have the advantage in one on one situations. There is also some sneaky-good route running traits he has when it comes to planting his foot and getting in/out of breaks. The Giants may have a shot at him in round 2 and while plenty of discussion can rightfully be placed elsewhere on the roster, this team needs to score points. If they want a receiver to offset what they have in the current WR group, Higgins would be a nice get.

  1. Justin Jefferson / LSU / 6’1 – 202

Grade: 83

Summary: Junior entry from St. Rose, Louisiana. A two year starter who earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2019. The number one pass catcher for LSU each of the past two years who’s 18 touchdowns in 2019 were second in the nation only to teammate Ja’Marr Chase. Jefferson played primarily out of the slot in 2019 and because of his crisp route running and smooth ball skills, it will likely be his ideal spot in the NFL. He has great twitch and transition for a player with his length and he will create unique opportunities in that role at the next level. While his long speed and playing strength can be questioned, he proved his ability to impact a game but short and deep and will be a NFL-ready receiver right away.

*Jefferson was one of the surprises of the combine for me. I thought he would run in the 4.55+ area but he ended with a 4.42. He is such a smooth and easy athlete who he actually appears to be playing slower than he is. That is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen often. Jefferson will be pro ready right away and while I think he best projects to the slot, he could play outside as well. He tracks the deep ball as well as anyone. Also a top-tier kid who everyone knows will come in and work his butt off.

  1. Chase Claypool / Notre Dame / 6’4 – 238

Grade: 82

Summary: Senior entry from Abbotsford, British Columbia. Three year starter. From little known high school recruit in Canada, to Notre Dame’s leader in special team tackles in 2016, all the way to Notre Dame’s leading receiver in 2019, Claypool has shown the kind of progression and hard work that will impress every coach in the league. Combine that with a set of tools that no other receiver in the class can match, and a credible argument can be made for him being one of the top players in the draft at receiver. Claypool may be projected to a hybrid receiver/tight end role in the NFL but no matter what, he has the potential to be a dominant force. The ball skills and physical brand will make him a weapon who can be used on both offense and special teams right away and he has number one pass catcher potential.

*I have had Claypool in the first round discussion since mid-October, way before he went to the combine and tore it up. The way he moves plus his size had me thinking Evan Engram back during the season. Now there is talk some teams view him as a tight end, which I don’t entirely agree with but it just strengthens the Engram comparison. Claypool moves like a guy who weights 215 and I’m not only talking about long speed. He gets in and out of breaks really well, he adjusts to the ball really well, and he is a true competitor. I would take this kind of gamble any day.

  1. Denzel Mims / Baylor / 6’3 – 207

Grade: 81

Summary: Senior entry from Daingerfield, Texas. Three year starter who earned All Big 12 honors in both 2017 and 2019. The former high school basketball and track star had a bit of a back and forth career at Baylor because of the quality around him, but his 2019 cemented him as one of the top receivers in the class. Mims has a classic wide receiver build with wiry strong length and a defender’s mentality. He is incredibly physical and tough but also shows a blend of finesse and pure speed that can make him a threat within all areas of the route tree. There are some elements to his game that need to be fixed, most notably his release and route running, but the tools are there. His issues are fixable and if he fine tunes the skill set, he can be a number one receiver in the league.

*You want a receiver who is going to actually make a difference as a blocker? Here you go. Mims is physical and strong with an aggressive, borderline reckless approach on the field. He really evolved as a pass catcher in 2019 and the tools are near top shelf. He is long and fast with good ball tracking and he really competes for the ball and after the catch. He almost seems like the perfect prospect who should be graded higher, but he still has some rawness to his game. He didn’t run a lot of routes and he can still get sloppy as a route runner. I think he ends up being a really solid player but may just need extra time compared to others up here.

  1. Brandon Aiyuk / Arizona State / 6’0 – 205

Grade: 81

Summary: Senior entry. Two year starter from Reno, Nevada. Spent two seasons at Sierra Junior College. After being the number two guy behind N’Keal Harry in 2018, Aiyuk took over as a senior, finishing second in the conference in receiving. The 1st Team All Pac 12 standout brings a rare level of hand size and arm length, making him play bigger than the listed size. Aiyuk’s greatest trait, however, is the ability to burst and get himself open via movement. He has enough speed to make a corner bail on his technique and enough quickness to plant his foot and dart away from them underneath. In the right scheme and role, he is a year-one contributor. He still needs to clean up some release issues and continue to learn the game at a higher level, but he can be a dynamic weapon at the next level.

*Aiyuk just recently underwent a core muscle surgery and while it doesn’t appear that serious, I wonder if these medical red flags will bump him down because of the situation we are under. He is a legit first round talent who still has a way to go on the progression scale. If he reaches his upside, he has some Odell Beckham in his arsenal. Like Mims, he is a bit raw still and there are credible questions. Some have him in their top 20 overall though.

  1. Van Jefferson / Florida / 6’2 – 200

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Brentwood, Tennessee. Began his career at Ole Miss where he started and finished second on the team in catches among a group of pass catchers that included Evan Engram, AJ Brown, and DK Metcalf. Jefferson transferred to Florida after graduating in just three years, giving him two more seasons of eligibility. He started both years and led the Gators in receiving both times. Jefferson’s father is a former NFL wide receiver and also the current Jets receiver coach. It is obvious he is coming into the league with a deep understanding of the game on multiple levels. He runs impeccable routes, catches everything he gets his hands on, and will make things happen with the ball in his hands. He may not have the top tier physical traits when it comes to size and speed, but he is almost a sure-bet to be a productive player at the next level. The only question is overall upside.

*This kid is being overlooked by the public, but I am confident he is going to be a 2nd or early 3rd rounder. I think he lacks some of the elite tools and highlights that many are looking for, but this kid has gotten the job done multiple times across multiple offenses. He stood out on teams with other pro-receivers. His father is a wide receiver coach and you can tell he knows what he is doing when running routes and attacking the ball. His learning curve will not be as steep as some others which again, I think will be valued more this year than others.

  1. Michael Pittman Jr./ USC / 6’4 – 223

Grade: 80

Summary: Senior entry. Three year starter from Woodland Hills, California. Son of former NFL running back Michael Pittman. Pittman made the 1st Team All Pac 12 as a special teams player in 2017 and Honorable Mention as a receiver in 2018 and 1st Team in 2019. He has been a versatile, multi faceted contributor since the start of his career. That all ties together how much this kid knows the game and can adjust to whatever role he is thrown into. For a receiver who doesn’t possess top tier athletic traits, Pittman can still get the job done because of superior route running, ball skills, and toughness. While he won’t be a number one threat, he is the kind of player who will be in the league a long time and will remain consistent and steady.

*Another kid with NFL lineage here and it shows when I watched his tape. Pittman knows exactly what to do when the ball is in the air when it comes to body positioning and timing. He can high point the ball exceptionally well and he rarely lets one hit the turf if it is within his reach. He doesn’t have the juice to be a big time threat athletically, but he is going to be dependable for a long time. I bet he has a 10+ year career and scores a lot of touchdowns.

  1. Bryan Edwards / South Carolina / 6’3 – 212

Grade: 80

Summary: Senior entry from Conway, South Carolina. Four-year starter who re-wrote the school record book. Caught a pass in all 48 games he played in. A two time winner of the school’s Steve Spurrier Award, given to the teams top offensive player. A permanent team captain. Edwards is the kind of player every coach wants to welcome in with open arms based on his intangibles alone. He is a complete, balanced player who brings toughness, competitiveness, and production to the table. Athletically he won’t scare anyone, but he gets the most out of himself and will be a guy who sticks around in the league for a long time.

*There isn’t enough talk about Edwards but I can understand why, there are simply so many good receivers in this class. Edwards may be this year’s version of Darius Slayton, a guy I have graded in the second round who could be available early day three. His speed is sneaky, he runs good routes, and he will catch everything within his radius. Edwards has good size, something NYG needs at the position. I can see these two pairing up.

  1. KJ Hamler / Penn State / 5’9 – 178

Grade: 79

Summary: Third year sophomore entry from Pontiac, Michigan. A two year starter who exploded onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in 2018, a year that saw him break Saquon Barkley’s school all purpose yards record for freshmen while ending up Honorable Mention All Big 10 as a receiver and kick returner respectively. He was also a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award, given to the nation’s most versatile player. Hamler didn’t quite produce the same way in 2019 but there is no denying how electric he is with the ball in his hands. The 2nd Team All Big 10 receiver can line up in the slot and outside because of his ability to get vertical on one play and open underneath the next. He is as agile and quick as he is fast. The lack of size will hurt him and there needs to be an improvement as a pass catcher, but Hamler’s is the kind of player who a defense will need to adjust to. He is a playmaker who can make things happen at any given moment in a variety of ways.

*High risk, high reward player who won’t be a fit for every team. Some offenses don’t want anything to do with someone who stands just under 5’9 and weights under 180 pounds. He is electric, though. For an offense with a creative mind running the show, packages and plays can be created for what this kid can do on the field. He also showed some impressive route running which doesn’t get enough attention from the public, he can really get himself open.

  1. Jalen Reagor / TCU / 5’11 / 206

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Waxahachie, Texas. Two year starter but was a key contributor all three seasons. Named 2017 Big 12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year and earned 2nd Team All Big 12 honors in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Son of former NFL defensive tackle Monte Reagor. Jalen is a gadget player at this point who can line up all over the field including the backfield. He is the kind of player who no opposing defensive coach wants to see with the ball in his hands because of his legit ability to score every time he touches it. Reagor is coming into the league with a raw feel, however. He is sloppy as a route runner who doesn’t maximize his physical gifts. He doesn’t catch the ball consistently. And his effort can be questioned on some plays where is isn’t directly involved. His upside is exciting and he will be an occasional playmaker at the very least, but he has a lot of work to do.

*Reagor is a tough guy to scout for a few reasons. TCU put him all over the offense and they were really inconsistent week to week when it came to getting him the ball, especially in 2019. Another thing, he suffered from really poor QB play as a junior. Third, Reagor lacks staying power. What I mean by that is he looks to be an all or nothing type asset. There are some weeks where he looks like what Percy Harvin was supposed to be, other weeks where he looks like what Percy Harvin actually was. His hands are shaky at best, his routes don’t match his movement skills, and he doesn’t play big. He has first round burst and big play potential, but there is so much more to it than that.

  1. Laviska Shenault / Colorado / 6’1 – 227

Grade: 78

Summary: Junior entry from DeSoto, Texas. Two-year starter who was 1st Team All Pac 12 in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. The do-it-all weapon for Colorado lined up all over the offense and produced from multiple spots. At his size, he can certainly pose as a backfield threat in certain packages. Getting him the ball via the handoff and/or screen game will put pressure on the defense because of his ability to break tackles and gain yards after contact. As an outside receiver, Shenault will have a hard time getting open. He is very raw as a route runner and his speed won’t put anyone on their heels. He is a physical gimmick player with some additional upside if he can refine his skill set quite a bit.

*Shenault underwent core muscle surgery and was a little banged up throughout the 2019 season. That factored into his grade a bit, but nothing drastic. I like him as an oversized gimmick player who looks comfortable and natural in multiple roles. I think there are some effort issues though and this is kid who has a lot of work to do from a skill set perspective.

  1. James Proche / SMU / 5’11 – 201

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior from Dallas, Texas. Four year starter who re-wrote the program’s all time receiver record book, leaving atop the career catches, yards, and touchdowns lists respectively. Two time All AAC honoree. Proche is the gamer of all gamers who will always find a way to make an impact. He lined up both outside and in the slot in addition to being the team’s primary punt returner. No receiver in the country caught as many balls as Proche over the past two years. His question will be long speed and that may determine if he will be full time slot or not at the next level. If so, he will need to clean up the consistency of his route running but he shows the tools to do so. According to SMU coaches, he has the best pair of hands they have ever been around and that’s the way it shows on tape. Proche won countless contested situations despite lacking a size advantage. The skill set is dangerous and if he finds the right situation in the NFL, he will be among league leaders in catches.

*When I made my master list last June/July/August, I tried to watch a little bit of tape on each prospect (over 1,000 players) even if it was just a few minutes. I like to get a very-initial view on guys. When I watched Proche, I immediately said this kid catches the ball different than everyone else. Fast forward to now, I’ve read the SMU coaches say he has the best hands they’ve ever seen and Daniel Jeremiah recently stated he has the best ball skills in the draft. Proche didn’t run well and he isn’t big, so there is a chance he falls into late day three. If I need a slot, I am all over him though. Maybe not a fit for NYG but if he gets to the right situation, he is the guy who catches 100 balls per year.

  1. Donovan People-Jones / Michigan / 6’2 – 212

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Detroit, Michigan. Three-year starter who earned 3rd Team All Big 10 honors in 2018 as both a receiver and punt returner. The former 5-star recruit who was also an accomplished high school sprinter with a near-4.0 grade point average never quite lived up to the hype after a promising Freshman All American season in 2017. The inconsistent quarterback play combined with a lingering lower body injury that hampered him in the first half of 2019 left a lot of unknowns for him. However his athletic ability combined with top shelf length and hand size in addition to a woefully impressive combine leaves him on the positive side of that wonder. This is a receiver with number one receiver potential who needs to clean up some of his route running, but already has other traits that will help a team right away.

*One of the most overlooked talents in the draft. People-Jones has the goods but he struggled to fully put it together at Michigan. There was a lot of poor and inconsistent QB play that hurt him specifically. This is a really smart kid with plus juice and explosion. He’s made some catches in traffic that were really high-difficulty but he made them look simple and easy. He already shows some plus route running and quick decision making when reacting to the defense. Most years he is a top 10 talent at the position.

  1. Lynn Bowden / Kentucky / 5’11 – 204

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Youngstown, Ohio. Two year starter who stole the show as an all purpose performer in 2019, winning the Paul Hornung Award and earning 1st Team All American honors. The two time 1st Team All SEC honoree made the move to quarterback for the final 8 games of 2019 which led to him leading the Wildcats in both rushing and receiving. The versatility grade Bowden brings to the table will give the more creative offensive play-callers wide eyes. This kid is a gamer who knows the game exceptionally well and has the feel and movement ability to support it. He projects as a slot receiver who will need to clean up his route running but in the mean time, he can be a specific package player who will put a defense on their heels when he steps on the field.

*In this copycat league, you may see some teams view Bowden as the next Taysom Hill. A wide receiver who can actually line up at quarterback and pose as a threat in multiple ways. If you are grading him strictly as a receiver, he may be a tad lower but not much. He is really smooth and easy with the ball in his hands but he plays to a 4.45 speed. He made a lot of SEC defenders look silly. If you can create a specific role for him, he can make things happen. Not sure if NYG has it in the cards to get creative like that, but if they want to think outside the box I bet he is there in round 4.

  1. Antonio Gandy-Golden / Liberty / 6’4 – 223

Grade: 76

Summary: Senior entry from Dallas, Georgia. Three year starter who was 1st Team All Big South in 2017 before Liberty bumped up to FBS, going independent. The team’s leading receiver three straight seasons has a lot of dominant tape to look back on over his career. He has the size, strength, and leaping ability to take over a 50/50 situation and come down with the ball, making him a credible red zone threat right away. He has some sloppiness and lethargic movement as a route runner, but the steady improvement he showed over the last four seasons should give reason for optimism in regard to overcoming some athletic shortcomings.

*Maybe the most physical receiver in the group, Gandy-Golden will be a credible red zone threat right away. He has plus body control and coordination to help maximize his tools. He won’t be an every down threat when it comes to deep speed or underneath separation, but his size and competitiveness will overshadow some movement shortcomings. A good fit for what NYG needs but I could see him falling a bit because of a lack of speed.

  1. Kalija Lipscomb / Vanderbilt / 6’0 – 207

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from New Orleans, Louisiana. Two year starter who was the team’s leading receiver in 2019 and 2018 respectively. If it weren’t for such poor quarterback play, Lipscomb’s production could have been much more attractive. He did the most he could from a bad offensive situation and could a top value for an offense looking for a slot option. He moves exceptionally fast off the line and will get open underneath consistently. He also shows toughness and grit in traffic with elusiveness after the catch. A lack of long speed will limit his impact on the outside, but if he can stay in a traditional slot role, he can be effective early on.

*I like how competitive Lipscomb plays week in, week out. A really feisty player who gets the most out of himself and rarely lets one hit the turf. His tools are average to below average, but he had a petty productive career in the SEC despite playing with poor QBs. He caught my eye at the Senior Bowl as a slot prospect but he may not be ideal for an outside role.

  1. Devin Duveray / Texas / 5’11 – 200

Grade: 75

Summary: Senior entry from Sachse, Texas. Two-year starter who was involved in the offense all four seasons. Has some kick return experience. Finished number one in the nation among FBS receivers in catches with 103 (regular season) en route to a 1st Team All Big 12 honor. Duvernay was state champion sprinter in high school who broke out as a senior. His ability to take the top off a defense while also tracking the ball well and finishing plays with the ball is an attractive asset that every offense is looking for. What is unique about him is the running back build and mentality. He can make things happen after the catch with a blend of toughness and speed that a creative offensive mind can sometimes only dream about. His feel for the game as a route runner and somewhat below average agility may limit his impact underneath and intermediate, but there are traits here that can certainly make an impact.

*In this overly crowded receiver class, it is very possible some teams have Duvernay in the top 15. He has top shelf speed, he had a really productive year, and he is effective after the catch. Someone is going to take a chance on him day 2 I think. I just don’t love the tightness he shows as a route runner and he doesn’t get to a lot of balls away from his body, which is already playing with a small radius. He is a big play threat though, no denying it.

  1. KJ Hill / Ohio State / 6’0 – 196

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior. Technically just a one year starter but has been heavily involved in the Buckeyes passing attack all four seasons. Honorable Mention All Big 10 in both 2019 and 2018. Set the all time receptions record at Ohio State toward the tail end of his career. Hill was also a punt returner in his time in Columbus. He projects as a slot receiver at the next level because of his sharp route running ability, quickness out of his breaks, and lack of true size and speed that would be reserved for the outside. Hill’s production may have been somewhat of a result of right place, right time type factors, but he still deserves a shot at taking on a slot role in the NFL. He will need to get more physical in a crowd and increase his production after the catch if he is going to stick.

*Hill projects to the slot at the next level. He plays smaller than he is listed. With that said, to set the all time catch record at a program like Ohio State is noteworthy. Combine that with how coordinated he looks when it comes to route running and ball skills and he looks like a safe day three pick who you know will give you something but lacks the big time upside.

  1. Isaiah Hodgins / Oregon State / 6’4 – 210

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Oakley, California. A three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors in 2018, 2nd Team in 2019. The son of former Rams Super Bowl winning fullback James Hodgins. Isaiah was Oregon State’s number one receiver two straight seasons. He doesn’t jump off the screen as an athlete, but his superb and advanced route running, plus-ball skills, and tough mentality make him an ideal fit for the possession receiver spot. He is a sure thing to bring the ball in if he can get his hands on it. Separation against tight man coverage will be tough, but there will be a spot for him somewhere. Players with this kind of production, size, and NFL lineage are safe bets.

*The question here will be speed and burst. He isn’t a guy who will get open easily but if a scheme that creates separation for receivers can get their hands on him, he has plus-talent pretty much everywhere else. He can make the difficult catches look easy and he does the little things right. Really good size too, someone I bet NYG is looking at day 3.

  1. Isaiah Coulter / Rhode Island / 6’2 – 198

Grade: 74

Summary: Junior entry from Brandywine, Rhode Island. A two-year starter who earned 2nd Team All Colonial Athletic Association honors in 2019. The cousin to fellow receiver prospect Aaron Parker, also from Rhode Island. Coulter was a surprise early entry who could have been a day two prospect next year. Currently, he displays a high ceiling that stems from his plus-straight line athleticism and potential as a route runner. He has really good footwork and hands, but struggles to play strong and lacks explosive traits downfield. The potential is there, he is simply rough around the edges and needs time. He could be an eventual number three or four.

*There is quietly a good amount of interest on this kid around the league. Teams see a lot of untapped upside and while I still think the early declaration was a quick trigger by him, I think someone is going to take a chance on him earlier than we think. He made a lot of flash plays, plays that a lot of receivers down in this area can’t make. You want a 2-3 year project with huge upside, here he is.

  1. Quintez Cephus / Wisconsin / 6’1 – 202

Grade: 73

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Macon, Georgia. Three-year starter. Honorable Mention all Big 10 in 2019 after missing all of 2018 while he was undergoing a rape trial. He was found not guilty and soon after re-admitted to the program. Cephus, a top end high school basketball player who also had several Division I offers, broke out in his true-senior season while leading the Badgers in catches, yards, and touchdowns. In a predominantly rushing offense, it Cephus stood out and flashed top-end ability on the outside. Wisconsin isn’t exactly known for producing NFL talent at receiver, but this kid moves different and has a lot of tools to work with. If the off-field screening passes tests, he is just as talented as many others at the position in this class with attainable upside.

*Good story here if you have the time to read up on it. Cephus, on the field, showed big play ability in 2019 and one can rightfully wonder what he could have been in a more passing-focused scheme. He had a poor workout at the combine though and it is going to further push him down. I’m not sure the off field story is going to impact his grade with teams but the more “red notes” someone has, the less likely teams will gamble especially in this kind of WR class. Cephus brings a high ceiling to the table and while I do think he plays faster than his listed 4.73 forty, questions can be asked regarding his potential to be a downfield threat.

  1. JaMarcus Bradley / Louisiana-Lafaytte / 6’0 – 198

Grade: 72

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Ackerman, Mississippi. Three-year starter who was named 2nd Team All Sun Belt in both 2019 and 2018, Honorable Mention in 2017. Left the program as the 4th all time leading receiver in school history and 2nd all time in receiving touchdowns. Bradley isn’t going to jump off the sheet when it comes tools and physical upside. He is pedestrian across the board. However where he does stand out is the ability to catch the ball and run routes underneath. The former high school quarterback who was a record setter as a runner and passer has a knack for finding creases and coming away from traffic with the ball. His huge hands and long arms are assets that can at least somewhat make up for his lack of long speed and playing strength. He has a good chance at being one of the best values of draft weekend.

*I left Shrine week with one kid in mind when it came to who stood out the most and who improved their stock via consistency. It was Bradley. He wasn’t invited to the combine, which I wasn’t happy about, as it makes it less and less likely he will be drafted with that being the case. I am keeping my grade on him here, however. Bradley has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen and he is a pro-caliber route runner. He doesn’t have ideal size and speed, but he can make up for it. I don’t see a day three pick who will end up being a number one receiver, but I do see a guy who is going to contribute if he gets his shot.

  1. Quartney Davis / Texas A&M: 72
  2. Quez Watkins / Southern Mississippi: 72
  3. Tyler Johnson / Minnesota: 72
  4. Collin Johnson / Texas: 71
  5. John Hightower / Boise State: 71
  6. Juwan Johnson / Oregon: 71
  7. Aaron Fuller / Washington: 71
  8. Mason Kinsey / Berry: 71
  9. Joe Reed / Virginia: 71
  10. Jauan Jennings / Tennessee: 70
  11. Maurice Ffrench / Pittsburgh: 70
  12. Kendrick Rogers / Texas A&M: 70
  13. Freddie Swain / Florida: 69
  14. Omar Bayless / Arkansas State: 69
  15. Austin Mack / Ohio State: 69
  16. Gabriel Davis / Central Florida: 69
  17. Juwan Green / Albany: 69
  18. Darnell Mooney / Tulane: 68
  19. Nick Westbrook / Indiana: 68
  20. Isaiah Wright / Temple: 68

NYG APPROACH

The three-year average for amount of wide receivers drafted is 31. I have 50 draftable grades in this group alone. I think the growing trend among scouting circles I’m in is that the wide receiver classes are going to continue to strengthen year by year. In the WR preview at this time last year, I said the 2019 class was the deepest I have scouted. This group is better. And as of right now, early indications are the 2021 group is going to be just as strong if not even better. I talk about this because I think NYG can and should take one of these guys, but they shouldn’t be rushed into anything. I think the odds are in their favor that a really good value will be there in round 5.

Do I think a good value will be there at the top of round 2? Sure. But if you want to gamble on the economics game (supply/demand), I think your better value will be present day three (similar to what NYG got in Slayton in 2019) while filling in the other empty boxes on the NYG roster earlier on. The Giants passing game has room for improvement and I think they need a bigger, more physical threat for red zone situations specifically. They have guys who can make things happen after the catch, they have a speed threat, but they don’t have the big guy. Now with that said, I don’t want a sizeable receiver who can’t move. He needs to have good hands and I still think this team needs more true speed and you want the new kid to be competitive. So if you’re looking early, I see Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins, and Chase Claypool being realistic options. If you’re looking middle rounds, someone like Bryan Edwards, Donovan People-Jones, Isaiah Coulter could be the guy. If you want to wait for the late rounds, I’m sure a few surprises will fall but you may get a John Hightower, Kendrick Rogers, or Quartney Davis back there.

Apr 142020
 
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Cole Kmet, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (October 12, 2019)

Cole Kmet – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2020 NFL Draft Preview: Tight Ends

Format includes a quick position overview, my grading scale and what the number means, the summary and final grade from my final report on my top 15, a quick additional note on the player, and my ranks 16-25 with grades only.

*I AM NOT DOING NFL COMPARISONS

QUICK POSITION OVERVIEW

If there is one position on offense that I think NYG can look past, it is tight end. With that said, there are long term question marks here. Evan Engram, when he’s on the field, has been a productive and dangerous asset to the offense. With his 4.44 speed on his 240 pound frame, he presents matchup problems for the defense and offers a weapon no other receiver on the current NYG roster can. The glaring issue, however, revolves around his durability. He missed 5 games in 2018 and 8 games in 2019 while battling through injuries in several others. Engram had surgery on his foot this past December, now making knee / hamstring / foot issues on a guy who is overly reliant on burst and quickness.

Because Engram really can’t hang in the trenches as a blocker, NYG signed Levine Toilolo from SF in free agency. He is known for his blocking and even deeper than that, known for being able to help rookie offensive tackles. Something to consider there. Kaden Smith was signed off the SF practice squad last season and provided really solid, albeit limited play. And lastly, CJ Conrad (who impressed throughout 2019) will be competing for a job with journeymen veterans Eric Tomlinson and Garrett Dickerson.

GRADING SCALE

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

TOP 15 GRADES AND ANALYSIS

  1. Cole Kmet / Notre Dame / 6’6 – 262

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Lake Barrington, Illinois. A one year starter who was the team’s number two receiver despite missing the first two games with a broken collar bone. Kmet is one of the more NFL-ready tight ends in the class. His size, strength at the point of attack, and soft hands will make him an every down player. He won’t be able to get open against NFL safeties and cover linebackers, but his length and ability to box out defenders like a power forward can make him at last pose as an underneath and red zone threat. His upside is limited, but will come in with a high floor and ability to play right away.

*In a weak tight end class, Kmet stands out as the most NFL-ready and capable. The potential issue is, however, some teams aren’t valuing the Y-tight end as much as they used to. The “Y” is what most of us grew up on, the guy with his hand in the dirt most snaps. With the amount of offenses that are using their tight end in motion and split out wide, a guy like Kmet could see a draft day fall whereas 10 years ago I think he is a first round lock. He is a safe player, one who will get the job done but not one who is going to make a huge, notable difference.

  1. Harrison Bryant / Florida Atlantic / 6’5 – 243

Grade: 79

Summary: Senior entry from Gray, Georgia. Three year starter who made the move from offensive tackle to tight end as a senior in high school. Went onto earn 2nd Team All Conference USA in 2017 and 1st Team in both 2018 and 2019. Was also an All American and the Winner of the John Mackey Award as a senior. Bryant was the only tight end in the country to finish with over 1,000 yards receiving. The volume of the Florida Atlantic passing game helped a bit, but his production was no fluke. He has a lot of tools that translate well to the next level. He is tougher than nails, has an outstanding lower body when it comes to quickness and agility, and will look to take a defenders head off when he can. This overly physical pass catcher may have some size and strength limitations, but he has the tools to really make a difference in the passing game right away.

*Bryant is an interesting player. He was on my short list of guys to watch early in 2019 and I didn’t like him against Ohio State. I kept on seeing his numbers throughout the year increase and I gave him another look midseason, didn’t like him against Western Kentucky. However as the postseason scouting process when deeper and deeper, I got my hands on my tape and he impressed me. Coming from a low place in regard to my view of him, Bryant really shined. He is tough and feisty. He is really quick and subtle. He is a top notch second level blocker. I think a team can use him the way SF and BAL uses their tight ends, meaning a lot of motion and favorable matchups. He can’t be an in-line tight end every down, but I do think he can make an impact if used correctly.

  1. Jacob Breeland / Oregon / 6’5 – 252

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior entry. Three year starter from Mission Viejo, California. Breeland was well on his way toward a top tier season not only for his career, but among the 2019 Pac 12 tight ends. However a torn ACL suffered in October ended his season early and he is currently rehabbing with the hope to be ready for training camp. Breeland has the size and strength to play in line, but also proved he can be a factor in space in Oregon’s wide open attack. He can be viewed as a but of an unknown but a look at his tape over the past two years will create the solid notion he is a starting caliber pro tight end. He does everything a team would want from the position. He is tough, hard nosed, and will catch everything within his reach.

*I am taking a bit of a chance here on Breeland. First, he is coming off a torn ACL and is questionable to be ready for training camp. Second, he wasn’t a feature guy in the Oregon offense. However with the way they run the ball, he got so much experience as an inline blocker and it was a role he impressed. However he is not just a blocking tight end, he can be a credible threat to the passing game as well. I like his style and I think he ends up being a better pro than he was a college player.

  1. Hunter Bryant / Washington / 6’2 – 248

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry. Three year starter from Issaquah, Washington. Bryant’s career got off to a hot start in 2017 but he suffered a knee injury that he re-aggravated months later, forcing him into surgery that kept him out of all but 5 games in 2018. Bryant was still fighting through lingering issues from that injury in early 2019 but he played every game (other than the decision to sit out his bowl game) and earned 1st Team All Pac 12 honors, falling just short of re-writing the program’s all time tight end record book. Bryant is a plus athlete, route runner, and ball catcher who lacks ideal size and strength. He has the look of a tweener but this role is becoming more and more popular in the NFL. If his knee checks out and stays healthy, Bryant can be a chess piece-receiving option for a team looking to create mismatches.

*Bryant is going to need to pass a few medicals to be drafted day two, but this grade is assuming he will. He is a cheap version of Evan Engram. Not the same caliber athlete but he plays a similar style. He gets open on all three levels of the route tree, he can make the spectacular play, and he can be a mismatch for both linebackers and defensive backs. High risk, high reward guy.

  1. Adam Trautman / Dayton / 6’5 – 255

Grade: 77

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Williamsburg, Michigan. Four year starter who made the transition from quarterback to tight end in 2016. From there he was named All PFL three straight years and was a FCS All American in 2019 in addition to being named the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year. Trautman is one of the top small school prospects in the draft and rightfully so. His potential impact on the passing game stems from his ability to create mismatches and capitalize on the ball being in the same zip code as him. He has soft hands and a basketball player’s type ability to coordinate himself with balance and precision in traffic. There is a lot of weight room in his future, where he will need to be given a key and sleeping bag because his power presence in the NFL trenches won’t be existent in year one. He has the frame, however, to improve there and be a quality starter.

*If you are scouting Trautman’s upside as a receiver, it is very likely you could end up with a 2nd round grade on him. He has size, decent speed, and excellent ball skills. He was really impressive down on Mobile at Senior Bowl week. When I really broke him down, though, I saw a guy who is a year or two away from consistent impact. Maybe a team can use him specific packages early on, but he won’t handle the physical side of the game early. Add in the fact he will be getting a late start to the strength program because of what is going on, 3rd round is the best I can give him.

  1. Devin Asiasi / UCLA / 6’3 – 257

Grade: 76

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Shoreville, California. One year starter who began his career at Michigan in 2016 and was forced to sit out all of 2017 because of the transfer. Asiasi didn’t really pop onto the radar until 2019, where he earned Honorable Mention All Pac 12 honors. He finished second on the Bruins in receiving and averaged a hefty 14.6 yards per catch. Asiasi is a really gifted athlete who moves with easy fluidity as a route runner all over the route tree. He can get onto the defense in a hurry and when the ball is near him in traffic, he almost always comes away with it. He doesn’t look ready for NFL blocking duties just yet, but he shows the necessary effort that coaches can work with and will impact the passing game in the mean time. The risk here revolves around a lack of experience, giving him a bit of a boom or bust label.

*This kid has as high a ceiling as any TE in the class. If he went back to school and put up a big year, we would likely be talking about a top 40 pick in 2021. Asiasi will have some questions to answer in regard to some work ethic concerns, but I’ve been told it is nothing serious. He can really get in and out of his breaks, he has excellent ball skills, he tries hard as a blocker. I think we are going to hear about this kid in a few years if he stays clean.

  1. Jared Pinkney / Vanderbilt / 6’4 – 257

Grade: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior from Norcross, Georgia. Four year starter who peaked in 2018, earning 2nd Team All SEC honors. Pinkney spent the majority of his snaps lined up in the slot. He is not a traditional Y-tight end, as he struggles to maintain quality contact as a blocker in the trenches. However when it comes to making an impact as a receiver, he can beat man coverage against linebackers and defensive backs alike. He is the kind of tight end who can be moved around the formation pre-snap and make things happen in space. He is a reliable pass catcher in traffic on all levels of the route tree and could be one of those guys who becomes a much better pro than what he was in college because of the talent deficit he was dealing with being a part of the Vandy offense in the SEC.

*Pinkney may go higher than where I have him, I would even say it is likely. He was given a 1st round projection by the NFS before the 2019 season. I watched him plenty and just don’t see the upside but he may be able to get on the field right away as a slot tight end. Like I have spoken about a few times, teams that want to move the TE around a bit will like him. Reliable route runner and hands, just a limited guy. Doesn’t stand out to me and I don’t see a ton of upside.

  1. Colby Parkinson / Stanford – 6’7 – 252

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Simi Valley, California. Two year starter who earned 2nd Team All Pac 12 honors in 2019. Parkinson comes from a pro-style offense that utilized the tight end in multiple ways. They have produced several solid pros from the position and Parkinson should be next in line. His main contributions will come in the passing game, as the power forward has shown the knack for boxing defenders out and attacking the ball with a wide radius. While his power presence in the trenches won’t ever make a big difference, he can hold his own. He can be a part of a solid 1-2 package at the position right away.

*It sounds like Parkinson is heading toward a day 2 selection. I have him slightly below that but I can see why some teams see the matchup nightmares he can present for a defense. He is an athletic, fluid, agile receiver who stands over 6’7 tall. Those guys don’t come around often. His pad level is an issue in the trenches and beyond his size, I don’t see a special athlete. He will catch some touchdowns for you but I’m not sure I see a guy who will be on the field for even half the plays.

  1. Albert Okwuegbunam / Missouri / 6’6 – 258

Grade: 74

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Springfield, Illinois. A three-year starter who earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in both 2017 and 2019 while finishing as a Mackey Award finalist in his injury-shortened 2018. Okwuegbunam has the size and ball skills that are going to be a problem for defenders in the NFL, most notably in the secondary. His length and thickness alone are tough to handle, but he proved to be an efficient and savvy receiver of the ball, bringing in 23 touchdowns over 33 games. However he isn’t an every down threat right away, as his blocking and down-to-down contributions are a ways away. He never played a traditional tight end role and his effectiveness in the trenches needs a lot of work.

*Another one who has a good chance at being drafted higher than where I have him. Okwuegbunam is massive but shows soft hands and plus body control. He can be an asset to the passing game, for sure. However don’t be fooled by his size, he isn’t a physical guy and will get eaten alive in the trenches.

  1. Stephen Sullivan / LSU / 6’5 – 248

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Donaldsonville, Louisiana. Two year starter who has been a part of the consistent offensive rotation since 2017. The former top 10 wide receiver recruit evolved into an athletic, tools rich tight end prospect who is going to be a bit of a project in the NFL. He is gifted with what few others can match when it comes to size and speed, but he never quite put a lot of consistent production together at LSU. He has a ways to go as a blocker but the effort seems to be there and he flashed during Senior Bowl week as a matchup nightmare in the passing game.

*For a team that has a spot on the depth chart to develop at tight end, Sullivan on day three makes a ton of sense. Still relatively new to the tight end position, he has ridiculous size. 35+ inch arms and a 85+ inch wingspan is huge for a tackle. Then he jumps put of the building and runs a 4.66. Sullivan is a little too straight-line for me but he can get you excited when all things are considered. Just need to be patient.

  1. Brycen Hopkins / Purdue / 6’4 – 245

Grade: 73

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Nashville, Tennessee. Two year starter who really blossomed in his final year on campus. Earned 1st Team All Big 10 and All American honors in addition to being named the conference’s Tight End of the Year in 2019 after being named Honorable Mention in 2018. Hopkins is a flex tight end who can be moved around pre-snap. He can pass the initial eyeball test when lining up in-line and in the backfield, but his ideal fit is split out where he can out-quick a linebacker and out-muscle a defensive back. He has production on all levels of the route tree but his hands aren’t consistent enough to be considered a big time threat in the passing game and he won’t ever be an impact-blocker. He has the look of a second or third tight end who can be effective in specific portions of the playbook.

*I see Hopkins as a guy who will get on the field early. He is really smart and does a lot of things right. I don’t think he ever gets past the backup/number 2 spot, but he can make things happen underneath. Solid 3rd down option for teams that may be thin at WR.

  1. Thaddeus Moss / LSU / 6’2 – 250

Grade: 71

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Charlotte, North Carolina. A one-year starter for LSU after playing one season at NC State. Missed all of 2018 while rehabbing a foot injury . Son of former NFL receiver Randy Moss. Moss was a key part of the elite passing attack LSU put on display en route to their National Championship. He really started to emerge over the course of the second half of the year where he put on plus-ball skills and grit on tape. While he lacks ideal experience and physical tools, there will be a place for him on a depth chart. He won’t ever be a feature tight end but there is reason to believe he can add something to a passing attack as an accessory piece.

*Moss had a really solid season in 2019, but I do think a decent portion of his production was the result of the offense he was in and defensive attention being elsewhere. At the end of the day he isn’t that big and he isn’t that fast. He does have lineage, which teams like, and he has a good feel to find the vacant holes in the coverage, something teams also like. I don’t see a starter, but instead a rotational asset to the short passing game.

  1. Dominick Wood-Anderson / Tennessee – 6’4 – 261

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from San Diego California. Two-year starter for Tennessee after spending two seasons in junior college. Wood-Anderson is an intriguing athlete when considering the tools he brings to the table in addition to the upside he shows as a blocker. When his head is in the game, he can be depended upon to man a defender up whether it is a defensive end or linebacker, and take him out of the play. There is some natural pop and explosion that comes from his hips paired with heavy hands. In addition, he flashed both at Tennessee and during Shrine week as a receiver who can overmatch linebackers with quickness and safeties with strength. He projects as a backup until he can prove he is maturing and will apply himself but if he does, there is a lot of potential in him.

*Wood-Anderson comes with a buyer-beware label. He is talented and tough, but there weren’t exactly glowing reports on him coming out of school. If not for the character issues, I would have likely had him 3-4 points higher into round 3/4 territory. He didn’t run well at the combine, though. I could see him going undrafted but if someone wants to take a chance, he may be worth it.

  1. Gio Ricci / Western Michigan – 6’3 – 234

Grade: 70

Summary: Fifth year senior from Loveland, Ohio. Three-year starter who made the transition from wide receiver to tight end in 2018. A 3rd team All MAC selection in 2018, 1st Team in 2019. Ricci is still developing his frame into pro tight end-caliber and he may never be ideal size. With that said, there is enough toughness and grit in his game to work with if a team can find a way to move him around pre-snap. He is a versatile athlete and quality pass catcher who can line up in the backfield, split out wide, or into a H-Back type spot. At the end of the day, he can be a weapon in the passing game for a creative mind.

*There are a handful of these undersized slot tight ends who I have a draftable grade on. The best route runner is Ricci, who was playing wide receiver less than 2 years ago. He gets out of his breaks exceptionally well and locates the ball with hands up and ready. He rarely lets one hit the turf if it is within his reach. Ricci is small though, and will struggle to impact the game as a blocker. However he can get open, a trait coaches are looking for.

  1. Dalton Keene / Virginia Tech / 6’4 – 253

Grade: 69

Summary: Junior entry from Littleton, Colorado. Three year starter who earned Honorable Mention All ACC honors in 2018. A former running back who primarily played tight end / H-back for the Hokies, Keene was used as a Swiss army knife gadget. He lined up all over the offense, saw a lot of pre-snap motion, and got the ball in his hands a variety of ways. The instability of the Virginia Tech offense over the past tree seasons may have hurt his production, but he showed enough to prove he can make a roster via versatility and athletic upside. Keene is quicker than he is fast, which plays to his position well. He isn’t strong enough to handle pro linebackers and linemen yet, but he should be a multiple-use player who can also help on special teams within a year.

*Keene was a bit of a surprise early entrant. I thought he had some potential to be a 2021 day two pick if he went back to school and got featured more. He simply never got to display his potential as a threat in the passing game enough but there are glimpses where you can see his ability to play a versatile role. He does a lot of little things well and should be around late day three.

  1. Charlie Taumoepeau / Portland State: 69
  2. Josiah Deguara / Cincinnati: 68
  3. Cheyenne O’Grady / Arkansas: 68
  4. Mitchell Wilcox / South Florida: 67
  5. Sean McKeon / Michigan: 66
  6. Ben Ellefson / North Dakota State: 64
  7. Charlie Woerner / Georgia: 64
  8. Jared Rice / Fresno State: 64
  9. Eli Wolf / Georgia: 63
  10. Parker Houston / San Diego State: 62

NYG APPROACH

I think this is the time to share some thoughts on Evan Engram. He is going to be on his rookie contract another two seasons (assuming NYG picks up the 5th year option in May). Ever since I first saw him at training camp in 2017, I’ve thought this kid could be the wildcard of the offense. His gifts are among the best in the position across the entire league. At 240 pounds he has proven to have wide receiver caliber speed and leaping ability. He is agile, explosive, and adjusts well. Now that he has played three years, we can probably make a highlight reel of plays he’s made and there would be every reason to hope this kid has a career in blue because plain and simple, he is a threat. However, I think it is time to consider a trade.

Engram doesn’t fit into a power offense. I think we can agree he won’t ever be an effective enough blocker in the trenches to really pave a dependable outside path for Barkley. So knowing that you need someone in-line to make a difference, that means NYG will need to split Engram out wide. Do you really want him on the field over a wide receiver in that regard? You also have to consider he has multiple lower body injuries on his record, he’s missed 13 games in 2 years in addition to being banged up in others, and he has struggled with drops.

If there were ever a time to trade Engram, it is before the 2020 season. His economic value will remain somewhat high because of his rookie contract and proven production. The issue will be his health, as teams may not be confident in trading a prime asset for a guy coming off a foot surgery. With that said, if a team is willing to offer a top 75 pick for him, I think it would be worth going for and then NYG could view this tight end group with more focus on the future and what NYG has to build around in Barkley and Jones. I don’t bang the table for trades often, but this is one I would strongly consider. Teams that I think would be interested based on scheme and need, BAL (#55 or #60), HOU (#57), GB (#62), CIN (#65), ARI (#72), IND (#75).