2014 NFL Draft: 'Dark horse' candidate for Giants ... Ra'shede Hageman

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft often does not go the way fans, or mock drafters, think. With that in mind, Jesse Bartolis today begins a look at five 'dark horse' candidates for the Giants at No. 12 in the first round.

By now even the hardest core NFL Draft fans are feeling mock draft fatigue. The process this year being pushed back into late April may have been good for the NFL in terms of dominating sports draft coverage, but people who cover the event are trying to find ways to keep the draft interesting because in the case of a team like the Giants the options seem to be limited and all blurred into one. Nearly every mock draft you read about the New York Giants seems to have the options narrowed down to four players: offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, wide receiver Mike Evans, tight end Eric Ebron, and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. But everyone knows the draft doesn't always work that way sometimes the players you think a team will target turn out to be guys they were never interested in (for instance Sharrif Floyd last year) With this in mind I thought I'd take a look at some players I think are high on the Giants board and for whatever reason they aren't being discussed anywhere. Today we'll start with a defensive tackle out of Minnesota.

Ra'shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

There's a lot, a lot of New York Giants fans who want to see the Giants draft Aaron Donald the dominant defensive tackle out of Pittsburgh, but if my hunch is right the Giants won't pick him even if he's available. Even though it's not an absolute: the New York Giants, under Jerry Reese, have consistently been drawn to players who (especially on defense) are long. They like tall players with long arms. This describes Hageman a player who measured in at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, had 34.25-inch arms, and 10.25-inch hands, yet still managed to put up 32 bench press reps and run a 5.02 40-yard dash (.01 faster than Ndamukong Suh). Hageman has potential.

But what about the ultra-productive Donald? Despite Donald's dominance he is not the prototype at defensive tackle, he is shorter than ideal, his arm length is adequate, and he is about 20 pounds lighter than teams would prefer. Like one scout told Bob Mcginn about Donald (emphasis is mine):

He's a good player if you can get by with his size. He reminds me of the guy from Iowa who plays for the Falcons (DT Jonathan Babineaux)." Also regarded as a better prospect than Green Bay DT Mike Daniels, another ex-Hawkeye. "He's productive as hell," one scout said. "He'll get his (expletive) kicked for 10 straight plays and then he'll make a sack. It's the damnedest thing. But down in and down out, playing the run, it's going to be hard."

Enter Hageman, he's not a guy who is talked about a lot as a first-round prospect, but as 'Invictus' wrote about Hageman in his prospect profile:

The associated word when looking at Hageman is "monster." Monster. Monster. Monster. Monstrous length. Monstrous explosion. Monstrous upside. Monstrous bust potential. His inconsistency is maddening. However, if he can be coached up, he could end up being the best defensive tackle in this class. Do I know that he will? No, but there's a reason why he's being pegged in the first round into the early second.

There's a possibility he falls into the second round, and if the Giants don't take Aaron Donald in the first, he'd be one of my top choices at 43 were he to get there.

Hageman fits the prototypes of a pro-bowl defensive tackle, and though Invictus writes about him being a top option for the Giants if he gets to the second round, I think he's seriously in play in the first round.

Going again back to the scouts from Bob Mcginn:

"He's unique," one scout said. "He's big and long, and when he wants to play he can play. He has an unusual ability of batting balls down. He does play (high). He does a lot of things you don't like. But when he doesn't want to be shoved, around they can't shove him."

Big, fast, explosive, unique, monster, "boom or bust", These are the type of terms that are reserved for players of Hageman's ilk. He's a player that is extremely gifted, he's a player that has the potential to be a guy who dominates vs the run AND the pass, he's a player who could become the defensive tackle the Giants have been looking for, and he's a player I think despite the low publicity is in play at 12 (he is also 20th on the BBV Big Board) and a player that if selected at 12th overall shouldn't be considered a reach. He's a player I think on the Giants big board will be higher than Aaron Donald.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so. Sportingsnews.com's Eric Galko (also of OptimumScouting.com) writes this about Hageman:

Ra’Shede Hageman seem(s) like (a) strong top-20 possibility. Hageman could go to the Titans and Giants, and I doubt he slips past the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 15.

I talked all about Hageman's potential, but what about what he has actually accomplished? This year he had 13 tackles for loss and two sacks, but he also had eight passes broken up. I'm sure many you have watched the Super Bowl recaps where Tom Brady talks about how throwing against the Giants front four is like throwing a ball through a forest. Hageman is exceptional at batting passes down at the line he did have a good number of tackles for loss and six sacks the last year (not as good as Donald's 28.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks, but Hageman has made big splash plays, just not with the great consistency. Hageman also has a tragic upbringing which is detailed well here by John Rosengren of SB Nation.

I know it hurts to think about, Giants' fans, but the defensive tackle you covet might not be the defensive tackle the Giants draft at 12 this year. His name might be Ra'shede Hageman.

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