Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron won't be available to the New York Giants in the 2014 NFL Draft because both will be off the board long before the Giants select at No. 12. That is the opinion of Greg Gabriel, who spent 29 years as a college scout for NFL teams, including the Giants from 1985-2001 and nine seasons as Director of College Scouting for the Chicago Bears after that.
Gabriel recently shared opinions on Lewan, Ebron and several other topics concerning the upcoming draft with me. Highlights of our discussion are below.
On Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan ...
"He won't get to the Giants," Gabriel said. "The guy is a top 10 tackle. He's better than the guy who went first in the draft last year [Eric Fisher], so why is he gonna go below 10 in the draft this year? It's not gonna happen."
What about those charges Lewan faces from a December fight? Gabriel seemed unconcerned:
"If there was something really to it he would have been charged in December. It was a thing that teams knew about. Many teams already addressed it in interviews at the Combine and I'm sure they have decided one way or the other."
On North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron ...
"Realistic [that the Giants would select him] if he gets there. I don't think he gets there."
In the past two decades only four tight ends have been selected higher than 12th overall, and the average for the first tight end off the board is pick No. 25.
"The game has changed, so you've gotta almost throw that stat out. People are looking for the big, athletic tight end that's a difference-maker as far as being able to play in space," Gabriel said.
"They're big wide receivers and they create mismatch problems. That's what Ebron does, but on top of that he can block at the ‘enough' level. He's not a great blocker, but he's not a push. He's gonna give you something. He's not a conventional ‘Y' tight end blocker, but he's good enough to get the job done."
So, what will the Giants do at No. 12? ...
"I've known Jerry [Reese] since the day he came into the league. I worked with him for a long time. Jerry's philosophy is best guy available. The Giants have needs. They can go wide receiver. They can go offensive line. They can go defensive line. They can go a lot of places," Gabriel said.
"It's gonna be the best player."
In a mock draft published Thursday morning, Gabriel selected Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans for the Giants. "Who knows if I'm right about that," Gabriel told me.
On the job Jerry Reese has done ...
"He's done a good job. They've gone to two Super Bowls since he's been the GM."
"It's not like they're picking in the top 10. They're picking in the bottom 10. There's a little bit of luck involved there."
"Yeah there's picks they haven't hit on. The Marvin Austin pick they didn't hit on, a couple others, but you go to every team in the league and you're going to find that.
"It's what have you done for me lately? They didn't win last year or the year before, so now everybody's a bum. But everybody who's a bum now was a superstar two years ago.
"Guess what? They don't change. They're the same people."
On the Giants and drafting linebackers ...
Gabriel pointed out that Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was in Chicago when Gabriel was there and Lovie Smith was head coach, and that he runs a very similar defensive scheme to what Smith employed. Gabriel said the key linebacker for Fewell's defense is the WILL, followed by the MIKE and that the SAM is "almost an afterthought."
"Guys like [Anthony] Barr and [Khalil] Mack ... those are 3-4 outside linebackers who are going to be used to rush the passer. You're wasting max talent if you're going to make them a SAM linebacker in a 4-3.
"Based on the scheme they're playing now I don't see him [Barr] as a fit."
On Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald ...
"I think Aaron Donald is a fit, but I'm gonna just have a little pause on that. Perry uses bigger guys inside than Lovie ever used.
"A guy who is an excellent 3 technique type player that fits a one-gap scheme is Aaron Donald. He could be a possibility there, but you look at him and he's not 6-1, so does he fit your profile?"
On Draft philosophy ...
"When I started with the Giants in 1985 it was about taking the best player available, but you didn't lose players in free agency because there was no such thing. Now you take the best player, but you take the best player that more or less fits a need. You're always going to have three or four needs. Your best player can fit one of those needs.
"You could find ways to stash players when I started out.
"You've gotta draft according to fit. You've still got to have players that fit the profile that you've got written out for each position."