Some folks have been asking me lately where my normal signature NFL Mock Draft is. Well, I've been waiting for free agency to sort itself out. Now that it has, and information is starting to trickle in from pro days, I decided to bring it back and Ed asked if I would make an article out of it.
Before I get started, I have a couple notes:
First: These are my thoughts. This mock draft is based on what I think of the Giants' roster and what I have seen from various prospects.
Second: I'm using CT17's calculations that say that the Giants will -- or should -- be getting a fifth-round compensatory selection.
Third: A trade (either up or down) somewhere in the draft is certainly possible, however I'm not using one. It's tough to see which teams will see enough value to want to move, and the price of moves is changing under the new CBA. So, I'm just going to avoid that can o' worms.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA -- In this scenario Eric Ebron, Aaron Donald and Barr are all available. And while each offers a fairly unique skill-set, I ultimately went with Barr because of the attempted signing of O'Brien Schofield. The long, highly-athletic linebacker was one of the first free agents called by the Giants. To me, that says that the Giants prioritized not only fixing their pass rush, but doing so from a two-point stance (linebacker blitz).
Barr's biggest faults come when he is lined up on or within a yard of the line of scrimmage, and is essentially asked to play defensive end from a two-point stance. In the defense UCLA played, Barr was usually matched up on an offensive tackle, and often had to deal with double-teams or chip blocks in addition to the OT.
As a 4-3 OLB, he wouldn't be lined up quite so close to the line of scrimmage, and would be able to use his athleticism and movement skills to attack the offense in a variety of ways; as an edge rusher [HERE], stunting inside [HERE], cleaning up after the defensive line has absorbed the blockers, or dropping back in coverage.
I have called Barr the 2014 draft's JPP, and I think that holds true in almost every sense except position.
Since Barr is JPP-like and new to his position, he would likely be a sub-package and special teams player to start with. However, as a guy with no character red flags that I've been able to see (quite the contrary, he was considered a leader on the UCLA defense despite only two years as a linebacker, and UCLA's coaches rave about his work ethic), I expect him to put in the work necessary to excel.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR/TE/H-Back, FSU -- The Giants still need to provide quarterback Eli Manning with some weapons. Kelvin Benjamin is a BIG receiver. In fact, he's bigger than some tight ends who have entered the league in recent years. Which is why (as well as the fact that few receivers with his bulk succeed in the NFL) I'm considering him an "Offensive Weapon" rather than any one position. His rare blend of size and speed would make him a dangerous weapon for any offensive coordinator willing to move him around and create matchups. As well, his massive hands, wingspan and ability to high-point the ball make him dangerous in the red zone, an area of weakness for the Giants.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss -- For me, Moncrief might represent the best value in the draft. He exceeds Dez Bryant athletically, and is a close comparison to Demaryious Thomas. He was held down because of spotty at best quarterback play, and losing receptions to a talented freshman. However, if he can learn to use his physical gifts to their full potential, he could be a good starting "X" receiver in the NFL.
Will Clarke, DE, WVU -- Back to defense to start Day 3. The Giants lost defensive Justin Tuck to free agency, and Mathias Kiwanuka is locked in a battle with time. Will Clarke isn't getting much press, but he would be solid value here. He could (eventually) challenge for a starting job, but he should be a solid rotational player to start with. He also has the versatility to play inside as a defensive tackle on passing downs.
Justin Ellis, DT, La. Tech -- Doubling down on the defensive line, Justin Ellis is a very underrated pass-rushing 3-technique. The reason why he falls to the fifth round, is that he LOOKS like a run-stuffing 1-technique. You don't find many 330-pound pass-rushing defensive tackles. What's more surprising is that he played at 350 pounds. Ellis moves exceptionally well for a man his size, and has the long arms and good first step you want to see. Surprisingly, he actually needs to improve his ability to two-gap and stuff the run.
Round 5 (Compensatory Pick)
Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina -- I almost didn't draft an offensive lineman in this mock. I'm pretty okay with a battle between Walton, Stephen Goodin and Dallas Reynolds for the starting center job. However, the Giants should keep young players in their pipeline, and they are rather light on natural interior linemen. Bodine can play center or guard, and is light on his feet while being very strong.
What separates Bodine from other mid/late round interior offensive line prospects is that he led the combine in the bench press. I don't put much stock in it, but the Giants seem to, having selected Mitch Petrus and Eric Herman, who both led all offensive linemen in the event.
Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU -- In the late rounds, you take a look at guys who do something very well. Cody Hoffman catches the ball very well. He is a big bodied receiver (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) who shows solid body control, fights for the ball, and catches it at its highest point. He's also very aware of the sideline, making a number of toe-tapping catches to move the chains. He isn't as fast or as agile as guys like Moncrief or Matthews, but he could become a very dependable possession receiver.
(Traded to the Carolina Panthers for Jon Beason)