As we see every year with the NFL Draft, a player’s draft stock rises and falls more and more frequently as the draft approaches and pinpointing a team’s true prospect interests in January is next to impossible. However, the New York Giants wrapped up the 2014 season with a losing record securing the number nine overall pick in next year’s draft. Every losing season reveals plenty of glaring needs. Here are some college prospects that New York could greatly benefit from taking a flier on come draft time. Prospects will be rated on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being a sure fire bust and 10 being an Andrew Luck caliber rookie season.
The Pick: OT Brandon Scherff, Iowa
NFL Comparison: Joe Staley, San Francisco 49ers
Selecting at the number nine slot, the Giants hold a nice asset that could become even more valuable to quarterback needy teams should Florida State’s Jameis Winston fall to the bottom of the top 10 of the draft if his off field issues catch up to him. If New York can get a considerable return to move back a little bit later in the draft this would be an excellent time to pull the trigger on that trade. That is if Iowa’s OT Brandon Scherff is already off the board.
Despite rebounding from allowing a horrific 39 sacks in 2013 to allowing the league’s 12th fewest quarterback pressures in 2014, the Giants offensive line is still very much in the midst of a rebuild.
As of now Will Beatty, Justin Pugh, Weston Richburg, and Geoff Schwartz figure to be the starting lineup for next year. Justin Pugh’s short arms have always been his downfall as a tackle. While he is shaping up to look like a steal of a mid 1st round pick, his skill set is much better suited for a guard position. That leaves the Giants with an opening at the right tackle slot. James Brewer never panned out to be the mammoth run blocker he was expected to become and with his contract up he’s not worth bringing back for another look.
Instead, New York would do well to invest their first round pick in Scherff. The 6’5″ 320 pound mauler was rated the number one overall prospect in the Big 10 Conference. He is the best offensive line prospect in the draft this year.
A Second Team All-American and winner of the Roy J. Carve most valuable offensive player award, he’s explosive, powerful, and a big load. He was also the only red-shirt freshman to be named to the Hawkeye’s Leadership Group. That shows you the good character this guy possesses, something an NFL locker room can never have enough off. He could very well be the final piece to the puzzle to complete the Giants offensive line.
The Pick: OLB Alvin Dupree, Kentucky
NFL Comparison: Kamerion Wimbley, Tennessee Titans
Kentucky OLB/DE Alvin Dupree would be a steal for the Giants in the second round of the draft. The Kentucky Wildcat product has been climbing up draft boards as of late due to excellent pass rushing ability. Dupree finished his last season with 7 sacks and a pass breakup as well as racking up a team second best 61 tackles.
While Dupree is a stellar edge rusher, it is clear that it’s his “go to” move and he may fall out of the late first round because he is often taking wide angles to ball carries which give up extra yards and he lacks the strength to physically rip himself away from blockers. Nevertheless, if he falls into New York’s lap in the second round he is a player they need to select. He has an outstanding work ethic as evident by his explanation of his choice to wear #2 as his jersey number stating that if he wants to be No. 1, he will always have to work like he is #2.
He is excellent at hustling and diving to make tackles. He has worked hard to solve his lack of strength problem by putting on 15 pounds of muscle since joining the Wildcats. The Kentucky captain measures in at 6’4″ and 267 pounds and can serve as a pass rushing linebacker something New York hasn’t had much of since the Antonio Pierce days. Adding a player who can rush the quarterback consistently and play linebacker, a position in dire need for New York, would be a valuable addition to the defense.
The Pick: WR Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma
NFL Comparison: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
If not for off the field issues that cost Dorial Green-Beckham his 2014 season, Beckham would be a top three receiver prospect and a sure fire top 20 pick. Beckham, who got himself kicked off the Missouri team, ran into more trouble in his second season with Oklahoma when he was suspended for the entire season. So, with red flags popping up everywhere, why take this guy? Well, in his first season with Missouri, Beckham grabbed 28 catches for 395 yards and 5 touchdowns.
He improved on those stats his next season with Oklahoma by racking up 59 catches for 883 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also had an incredibly strong showing in the SEC Championship game against Auburn with 6 catches for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns. Like his NFL comparison, Bengals wideout AJ Green, Beckham doesn’t wait for the ball but instead goes up and attacks it at its highest point.
He doesn’t have elite speed, clocking in just a 4.55 40 yard dash time, but that is not what New York is looking for in this pick. That other guy New York has at receiver also named Beckham (Maybe you’ve heard of him? Odell Beckham Jr.?) combined with a hopefully rehabilitated Victor Cruz is all the speed the Giants need to take the top off defenses at will. What New York lacks is a big guy who can run those comeback and curl routes while using his body to muscle off defenders. Then take the ball up the field with space due to corners having to respect the speed of Beckham Jr. and Cruz. Ruben Randle was projected to be that guy after New York drafted him in the second round in 2012.
Yet Randle has been an incredibly inconsistent player, unable to ever really fill those voids left by the departures of Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks. He was also the target for 9 of quarterback Eli Manning’s interceptions in 2013. While Randle showed promise late last season after Tom Coughlin’s benching him seemed to be a wake up call for the guy, New York needs a big and consistent weapon for Manning to look to on every down. At 6’6″ (6’3″ is deemed great size for receivers in the NFL making 6’6″ just flat out scary!) and 220 pounds Green-Beckham is just that.
A colossal receiver with great hands, he could be even better than projected if he keeps his nose clean in the pros. The leadership and culture Tom Coughlin has instilled in the Giants program is one that could turn this young man’s life and career around.
The Pick: RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
NFL Comparison: Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
Ever since Trent Richardson shook the faith of every general manager in the NFL on drafting running backs early in the draft, we have seen many talented college running backs (Eddie Lacy 2nd Round, Tre Mason 3rd Round, Andre Williams 4th Round) creep down draft boards. In a pass-first driven league, the value of running backs have diminished and it’s affecting where teams are picking backs in the draft.
Now, that being said, the running game in the NFL is not completely extinct. It is always a good thing for a team to have a bullpen of three to four talented rushers to mix it up with during the season. The Giants currently have Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, and Orleans Darkwa at the position with Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox on injured reserve last year. Hillis is a free agent next year and, while I respect how willingly and well he performed his special teams role, should be let go this offseason.
Cox has failed to prove much of anything to coaches, fumbling kickoff returns and pretty much being a non factor in New York’s run game, and should be cut as well. That leaves the Giants with guaranteed spots for Jennings and Williams while Darkwa, an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, raised the eyebrows of coaches with some solid play after being brought on late in the season. New York is expected to carry four running backs into next season. At 5’9″ 195 pounds, Ameer Abdullah is an example of a very talented running back who will fall down draft boards due to the growing undervalue of the position. He could fill the role of a fourth back nicely for New York and almost certainly challenge Darkwa in camp for the third string spot.
Abdullah, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry with 19 touchdowns and 1611 yards his senior season, was the primary offensive weapon for his Nebraska team. The Huskers fell short to the USC Trojans in the Holiday Bowl because USC keyed in on Abdullah and limited him to just 3.3 yards per rush. It says a lot about a player when the opposing team puts all its efforts into stopping one player in the biggest game of the year. His two glaring weaknesses are his lean uper body and ball security. He will need to put those past him if he ever wants to see playing time under the notoriously unforgiving to fumbling rookie backs, head coach, Tom Coughlin. Yet, in the fourth round, Abdullah is a diamond in the rough who’s versatility in the pass game (22 catches for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2014) can allow New York to deploy him on passing downs.
This will give starter Rashad Jennings a breather while keeping the shaky handed Williams on the sidelines. Abdullah is a well respected man for Nebraska on and off the field and an instant contributor who could be an even more valuable pick up a few years down the road as Jennings ages. But for now, picking him would add a well rounded back who would fit nicely into New York’s running back core at a moderate investment of only a fourth round pick.
The Pick: DB Josh Shaw, USC
NFL Comparison: Antonio Allen, New York Jets
Last year the Giants spent big money in the offseason to fix an atrocious defensive backfield. The unit came out looking like it would be one of the best in the NFL coming into 2014. Those hopes were marred when injuries to Walter Thurmond III, Prince Amukamara, and Trumaine McBride sidelined three of the units key components for the season. While Zack Bowman and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were serviceable, the Giants secondary needs more young options it can turn to.
With an aging Antrel Rolle and a Stevie Brown unable to match his 2012 form after an ACL tear, a young defensive back, like USC’s Josh Shaw, seems like a perfect fit on paper as Shaw excelled at both cornerback and safety for the Trojans.
However, I am sure many casual fans know Shaw’s name, not from his excellent six interceptions he picked during his collegiate career, but for his fabrication as to how he truly broke both his ankles last August. Shaw originally said that he sustained the injury jumping off a second floor balcony to save his nephew from drowning in a pool.
However, the national sympathy for Shaw soon turned to scorn when it was discovered that he lied about the incident and actually incurred the injury while running away from police after a distress call. Shaw will have a difficult time gaining any trust from scouts or general managers if he doesn’t shoot straight with them about the incident during draft interviews. Either way, just like Green-Beckham mentioned earlier, a guy who was once a projected early round pick will almost certainly plummet down to the tail end of the draft.
Yet this should not stop the Giants from scooping up Shaw in the fifth if he is still available. Keeping Antrel Rolle on the roster is a big piece of this pick as well, though. Arizona had a similar situation when veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson took troubled rookie Tyrann Mathieu under his wing and mentored him to become one of the league’s brightest up and comers. If the Giants re-sign Rolle whose leadership qualities will keep the rookie in check, then drafting Shaw is a no brainier. At 6’1″ and 200 pounds, Shaw was an All PAC-12 Honorable Mention and Phil Steele All PAC-12 Third Team.
Shaw’s versatility extends beyond his ability to play corner and safety. He also saw duty on special teams where he returned a 14 yard blocked punt for a touchdown in 2013. A reliable tackler, he’s another guy who’s talent makes him a great pickup at this stage in the draft if his off field issues are past him.
The Pick: LB Tony Washington, Oregon
NFL Comparison: Pernell McPhee, Baltimore Ravens
Even if the Giants do land Kentucky’s Alvin Dupree in the second round, they can’t be done adding depth to their linebacking core. Linebackers Mark Herzlich and Jacquian Williams will be free agents and only Herzlich should be brought because of his outstanding special teams ability. Meanwhile Williams never panned out to be the athletic weapon the Giants hoped he would turn into.
Williams was always a liability in coverage, never stuck to his assignments, was always an unreliable tackler, and had only two sacks in four seasons. Compare that to rookie Devon Kennard’s 4.5 sacks in just 338 snaps this season.
Enter the 6’3″ 250 pounds Tony Washington out of Oregon. He’s not the risky athletic project Williams was. Instead, Washington is a polished tackler and pass rusher racking up 7.5 sacks and 60 total tackles his senior season at Oregon.
Washington also has the ability to drop back into coverage and be a reliable defender in that respect, although he does need to improve on his ball skills. While he can occasionally get tied up with blockers when blitzing he was still by far Orgeon’s best pass rusher since 2013, his first year as a starter.
The Pick: OT Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin
NFL Comparison: Bryan Bulaga, Green Bay Packers
At 6’8″ and 333 pounds, Wisconsin’s Rob Havenstein is a load to be reckoned with. While he needs work on his sometimes poor pass protection, he’s a forceful run blocker who helped the Badgers offensive line clear paths for running back Ameer Abdullah rack up a 1,000 plus yard season last year.
The Giants need help on the offensive line. Current Giants linemen John Jerry had an up and down year, Eric Herman was suspended for several games, and James Brewer is a definite bust at this point. New York has quality building blocks on the line, but they need depth and a massive guy like Havenstein can bolster that unit right away. While 7th round picks usually are never immediate contributors to a team, Havenstein has the talent to push in camp for a rotational spot and maybe some permanent duty on power run packages.
He played mostly tackle in college and has showed an ability to kick over and play the guard spot as well. The last round of the draft is always incredibly unpredictable, but with New York searching for offensive line depth the Wisconsin product seems to be the player with the most intriguing talent level and physical tools left at this point in the draft