We’ve reached the penultimate week of the college football regular season. After today we have just one more week of regular season action before conference title games and the long layoff before Bowl Season and the College Football Playoffs get under way.
But, we still have Saturday, and there are good games on today’s slate. I’ll point out a couple to which I’ll be paying attention. As usual, I’m looking for potentially interesting games that have prospects in whom the New York Giants might just be interested.
Pittsburgh at Clemson (3:30 p.m., ABC)
The Giants have an opportunity to find out if their right tackle of the future is on the team. Second year player Bobby Hart has essentially been named the starter, and it seems to be his job to lose. However, if the Giants believe they can do better, Pitt left tackle Adam Bisnowaty could be in their sights. I’ve mentioned him quite a bit — it isn’t a great tackle class, but Bisnowaty is one of the best — so here’s the highlights: He’s an athletic, tough, hard-nosed blocker with good feet and technique, but he could stand to get stronger to deal with NFL competition. Also of note is outside linebacker Ejuan Price. The 5-foot-11, 250-pound pass rusher isn’t built like normal NFL edge rushers. That being said, he is productive and disruptive and has drawn comparisons to Elvis Dumervil. If the Giants want to get a pass rushing specialist, Price could be an intriguing option.
Clemson, on the other hand, is simply replete with talent. Mike Williams is the obvious highlight, and Dashaun Watson is an exciting playmaker, though he needs polish to be an NFL quarterback. Tight end Jordan Leggett has all the tools to be a complete tight end, but needs to show NFL evaluators that he isn’t “Lazy Leggett.” Running back Wayne Gallman is talented, but gets lost in the shuffle of this incredibly deep running back class. And finally, linebacker Ben Boulware might not be a tremendous athlete, but he is a good football player who is always around the ball.
USC at Washington (7 p.m., FOX)
USC boasts one of the best wide receivers in the NFL in JuJu Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster has the size the NFL loves in their wide receivers at 6-2, 220 pounds. He has good physical skills, but hasn’t taken the step forward this season that many predicted. Cornerback Adoree Jackson doesn’t get quite as much publicity as some other corners, such as the ones at LSU or Florida. However, he is a truly explosive athlete who, as a former receiver, has natural hands and is dangerous with the ball. He has the versatility to play in all three phases of the game, and that could interest NFL teams.
The Washington Huskies have one of the most talented young rosters in the country, with speed all over their team. Most of their draftable talent is on the defense, so pay attention to CB Sidney Jones, S Budda Baker, and DTs Vita Vea (red-shirt sophmore) and Elijah Quals.
Seeing these two PAC-12 teams at 7 p.m. is a treat for those of us on the east coast, where they usually don’t play until later at night.
As usual, this mock will be taken from the CBS Sports big board (which has been updated since last week). The Giants are drafting 23rd overall in the first round, and I’ll be limiting myself to picking prospects ranked within five spots of the Giants’ selection. In a slight change from previous weeks, I’ll mention where the prospect is ranked on the big board.
Round 1 - 23rd Overall
Carl Lawson (EDGE, Auburn, 25th) - I’ll admit, this is a pick I make with no small amount of trepidation. In fact, I think it’s one the Giants probably don’t make. Lawson has missed a season and a half since a terrific Freshman campaign that saw many count him as the Tigers’ best pass rusher, despite being on the same team as first-round rusher Dee Ford. Lawson’s sophomore season was lost to a torn ACL, and an injured hip flexor cost him six games from his junior season. His medical evaluation will play a critical role in his draft process and final grade.
That being said, when healthy (which he is now) Lawson is a dynamic pass rusher. A compact, yet explosive 6-2, 250 pounds, Lawson has the ability to rush from just about any position on the defensive front: outside linebacker, inside linebacker, defensive end, or even defensive tackle. The Giants currently lack a truly explosive speed rusher, and Lawson gives them that tool, and brings an assortment of pass rushing moves with him.
This pick would depend entirely upon how his health and durability are assessed, and how risk-averse the Giants are.
Round 2 - 55th Overall
Mason Cole (C/OT, Michigan, 68th) - Yeah, I ‘reached’ here, and for a player with no clear position on the Giants roster.
Maybe, but hear me out.
I’m using the same logic here as when the Giants ‘reached’ and drafted Justin Pugh. Cole spent two years as the Wolverines’ left tackle before making the move inside to center, and I think he could play any spot on the offensive line. If the Giants aren’t happy with Bobby Hart’s development by the end of the year, Cole could move back outside and play right tackle, while still giving them the versatility to cover another position with a talented player in case of injury. I also believe that Cole will rise through the draft process as evaluators take a closer look and appreciate the value of his versatility.
I want to finish off this offensive line once and for all, set the Giants up with a rock-solid foundation for life after Eli, and this could wind up being a steal.
Round 3 - 87th Overall
Charles Walker (DT, Oklahoma, 90th) - The Giants have a couple tendencies when it comes to drafting. The first is that they never scout just one player at a school, and they always seem to look a couple years down the line. Second, they usually draft a defensive tackle a year before they need one. Jay Bromley will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2017, so it might be time for the Giants to look at another defensive tackle. After drafting Sterling Shepard out of Oklahoma, the Giants may well have taken note of defensive tackle Charles Walker on the other side. Walker isn’t built the same as Johnathan Hankins (who I expect the Giants to re-sign), Damon Harrison, or even Robert Thomas. Walker is built more along the lines of Bromley; a lean, athletic tackle who can attack gaps rather than eat blocks.
I already added a threat off the edge with Lawson, but now I want to up the pressure right in the QB’s face. Walker is quick off the line of scrimmage and disruptive behind it, with a non-stop motor and enough strength to be a factor in almost any down and distance.
Round 4 - 119th Overall
Quin Blanding (S, Virginia, 117th) - Blanding has become something of a default pick for me. However, that doesn’t mean I’m sorry I made it.
Landon Collins is playing at an All-Pro level and Andrew Adams is playing better than anyone could have hoped. Nat Berhe is a definite defensive weapon, who should intimidate any receiver who dares to go over the middle, and finally Darian Thompson flashed impressive upside before a foot injury cut his season short. The back end of the Giants’ defense is in a fantastic place. However, we’ve also seen how injuries can have us biting our nails in a hurry. So I’m adding another mid-round safety to keep the talent pool deep. Blanding is a “do-it-all” safety who can defend the deep middle or play close to the line, defend the run, or rush the passer. He’s a tackling machine, dependable in coverage, and a threat to pick off the ball. If he comes out this year, he should have over 330 tackles,and at least 6 interceptions and 13 passes defensed in his three years at Virginia.
I would have liked to add a linebacker at some point in this draft, but the picks just didn’t shake out that way. However, adding Blanding to Thompson and Adams should give the Giants the flexibility to move Collins to a pseudo-linebacker position at will.
Well Giants fans, what do you think? Where did I go wrong, and what will you be watching today?