The next step in the 2014 NFL Draft process -- the 2014 Senior Bowl -- takes place this Saturday. Scouts, coaches, and GM's from around the league are watching the players practice, conducting interviews, and continuing the work on their draft boards.
The New York Giants are no different.
Going into the 2014 offseason, Giants' owner John Mara stated that they need to have a strong draft. So, with that in mind let's take a look at players the Giants could be looking at.
Cyril Richardson (OG, Baylor)
Simply put, the Giants need youth and talent in the interior of their offensive line. Richardson is a massive guard who manages to be light on his feet despite his size. He probably let his weight get too high this season, but he is capable in pass protection as well as a mauling run blocker.
Jordan Matthews (WR, Vanderbilt)
If or when Hakeem Nicks leaves by free agency, that would leave the Giants with three receivers under contract for 2014. Matthews probably won't be a first-round pick. He was, however, one of the best wide receivers in the SEC during his time at Vanderbilt. He has the size (6-3, 209), long arms, and big hands that scouts look for in a number one or two receiver.
Gabe Ikard (OC, Oklahoma)
This will be Ikard's second All-Star game in two weeks. He played well in the Shrine game, showcasing the agility and flexibility to be solid pass protector at the next level. Ikard struggles with powerful tackles, but his athleticism could make him a good fit in a zone blocking system, if the Giants do indeed move in that direction.
Gabe Jackson (OG, Miss. St.)
Another massive guard prospect, people expect Jackson to be a road grader of a run blocker. What they might not expect his agility in pass blocking. Jackson looks to have the power to start on a mauling line, but also the athleticism to play in a zone system. Jackson's battles against the North Squad's talented defensive tackles should be fun to watch.
Other Players To Watch
Quarterbacks: Though the Giants probably have no interest in a quarterback, they could use strong performances from the QBs in attendance. Those most likely to push elite talent down to the Giants would be:
Derek Carr. (David Carr's younger brother). His arm talent could work him in to the top 10 of the draft, which would certainly help push more elite talent down to the No. 12 pick.
Jimmy Garoppolo looked the part of an NFL quarterback in the Shrine Game, which helped earn him his spot in the Senior Bowl. He has a quick release, a strong arm, good touch, and makes quick reads. He comes into this game with 5,050 yards passing and 53 touchdowns. In 2013 alone.
Wide Receivers: An intriguing couple of middle-round players would be the huge BYU target Cody Hoffman, who stands at 6-4, 220 pounds and has had an inconsistent season. He's still a fan favorite over at Brigham Young because of his penchant for making big plays. The other is Oregon star Josh Huff, who is a compact speed demon with great hands. He could find himself making some big money this week if he can put himself on the radar. Would be a nice addition as a flanker type player for the Giants.
Tight Ends: Admittedly, we don't know what Ben McAdoo, a former tight ends coach himself, wants from his tight ends. Do they need to be big receivers? Is it mandatory that they block? Do they play mostly in-line? How about out wide? We don't know, so why not go with the player that's the best all around? In this game that's Georgia's Arthur Lynch. He's not quite around the trio of Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Jace Amaro, or Eric Ebron. Heck, he's not on par with Notre Dame's Troy Niklas, either. But he's right after that. Watch him. He could be in blue.
The winner of the Jake Ballard play-alike sweepstakes has got to be C.J. Fiedorowicz of Iowa. He's a lumberer and a "try hard" player but he's big at 6-6, 265 pounds and is willing to do anything and everything to help you succeed. He'll be the guy throwing pancake blocks 50 yards downfield, he'll be the one to run full speed on every route (which admittedly isn't that fast), and he'll be the one to do all the dirty work. You could always use more of those guys on your team.
Offensive Line: Another player to look out for is Zack Martin from Notre Dame. Capable of playing both guard and tackle, Martin seems like a more aggressive clone of Justin Pugh. They are identical in terms of measurements, both right around 6-foot-4, 305 pounds and 32 inch arms. Like Pugh, Martin's footwork is exceptional. Also like Pugh, Martin sometimes struggles with the bull rush. If Pugh went top 20, no reason why Martin can't.
An intriguing player is Seantrel Henderson from Miami. He essentially won the weigh in at 6-foot-7, 331 pounds with monstrous 34.25 inch arms. On the first day of practices he played as dominant as he looked. He held his weight well and looked to be in fantastic shape. The story on him was that he was never short on talent, just on brains, as he had multiple run ins with the coaching staff. If he can prove that he can stay out of trouble, he could be the next Bryant McKinnie.
A trio of centers in Colorado State Weston Richburg, Florida State's Bryan Stork, and Oklahoma's Gabe Ikard are all potential day 2 or 3 picks for the Giants and really need good weeks to separate from each other. This year's center class is as confusing as it has been for some time, with no real standouts.
Ra'Shede Hageman (DT, Minnesota)
Hageman might be the best defensive tackle in the draft. His length and explosive first step has drawn comparisons to Sheldon Richardson. Hageman has an elite combination of size (6-6, 318 pounds), wingspan, power, and athleticism that will let him play almost anywhere in an NFL front.
Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
Donald is something of Hageman's opposite. While Hageman possesses the measureables that NFL scouts covet, Donald is undersized at 6-1, 288. However, that hasn't stopped Donald from being the top defensive player in the country. Donald combines a dynamite first step with excellent leverage, and a non-stop motor to cause havoc in opponents' backfields
Chris Borland (ILB, Wisconsin)
Borland is a player who's name Giants fans should recognize. The inside linebacker from Wisconsin is a linebacker in a fullback's body, but he also managed to land on CBS's preseason Freak list. Borland isn't especially rangy, but he does posses exceptional lower body explosion and excellent instincts and leadership abilities.
Stanley Jean-Baptiste (CB, Nebraska)
Jean-Baptiste is an interesting case. Unlike some of the other guys, he doesn't stand out as one of the best at what he does. In fact, he is a raw prospect despite being a senior. That's because Jean-Baptiste switched from wide receiver to cornerback his sophomore offseason. Jean-Baptiste has intriguing size and the ball skills that go with being a receiver.
Christian Jones (LB, FSU)
Christian Jones is one of the most versatile players in this draft. Over the course of his career at Florida State he lined up at outside linebacker, inside linebacker, and defensive end. He's stuffed the run, rushed the passer, and even covered Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins in the slot. Jones has superb athleticism, and has shown an ability to drop in coverage as well as be a pass rusher.
Kyle Van Noy (LB, BYU)
Van Noy is another well-rounded linebacker who can play in any front. While Ziggy Ansah was drawing rave reviews for his outstanding athleticism, Van Noy was making a name for himself as BYU's best defender. He is smooth in coverage while also being an effective pass rusher. Van Noy could easily find a home as a strong side (SAM) linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
Other Players To Watch
Defensive Line: We all got a chance to watch Dee Ford of Auburn in the BCS National Championship game wreak havoc on Florida State and he's looked dominant early on. He's got a tremendous burst and great upper body strength. He's the type of speed rusher the Giants have been missing since Osi Umenyiora. He's one such target that could fill the gap immediately.
Defensive Back: Cornerback Aaron Colvin from Oklahoma is trying to solidify Day 2 status as a rangy zone corner that can make plays on the ball. The safeties are very strong. A sleeper to watch is Kenny Ladler of Vanderbilt. He had a down year, but he's a muscular fellow who's smart and aggressive.
Deone Bucannon of Washington State absolutely stole the show during weigh ins. Our long-time friend and current Philly.com writer Jimmy Kempski is down in Mobile at the Senior Bowl and tweeted out that Bucannon has "muscles on top of his muscles." Baylor S Ahmad Dixon and LSU S Craig Loston are probable Day 2/early Day 3 guys who have a good amount of range. Look for them to be making plays as well.
-- 'Invictus XI' contributed to this report.
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