It’s Week 11 in the college football season. Sadly, that means that while we’re only just entering the second half of the NFL season, the college football regular season is almost over.
But, there’s still football today, so we should be glad for that. So while we’re settling in to watch some college action, the NFL’s college scouts are working to find the next generation of professional players. As has been our custom, let’s let the New York Giants scouts be our guides and see which games they have credentialed scouts in attendance.
UCLA at Colorado (Thursday)
For the second week in a row the Giants got an early jump on things and were scouting the college ranks while the NFL was airing another wonderful prime-time game. The Giants have drafted from UCLA in each of the last two years and this year they have several prospects that could interest the Giants. First and foremost is their formidable pass rusher, outside linebacker Takkarist McKinley. McKinley is a highly athletic former track star who has been compared by one scout to former Cowboy and current Bronco DeMarcus Ware. He is probably best suited to playing rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but could survive just fine in any “Under” front for a team that could use his speed off the edge. In a weak offensive tackle class, Connor McDermott could find himself ascending. The 310-pound left tackle is an athletic pass protector, but his length (6 feet, 8 inches) could make it difficult for him to get leverage in the run game, and might make him prone to lunging at the next level. Finally, red-shirt senior cornerback Fabian Moreau is an interesting case. He caught my eye prior to the 2016 draft, but an injury cost him most of his senior season. He has solid footwork, fluid hips, and experience playing man or zone coverage. He looks like a great candidate to be a slot corner at the next level. He is a strong and sound tackler with good instincts for knocking the ball away, but not for interceptions, which might keep him under the radar nationally.
Washington at Cal (10:30 p.m., ESPN)
This game might not start until after some people’s bed times, but if you can watch, watch.
And if not, DVR it.
The Washington Huskies have come a long way since Jake Locker was their top prospect. There are jokes going around about PAC-12 scouts getting apartments in Seattle because the young talent on the Huskies’ roster will make them spend all their time there. This is a team we’ll be talking about for a while to come. For this year’s purposes, keep your eyes on the Washington defense. The secondary tandem of CB Sidney Jones and FS Budda Baker is right there with Florida and LSU in the conversation of top CB/S pairing in college football, and both players might be first round picks come draft day. Up front, Washington boasts a pair of mammoth defensive tackles in red-shirt sophomore Vita Vea (6-foot-4, 332 pounds) and Elijah Quals (6-1, 321). The Giants might want to add another DT next year, and Quals has a similar kind of size, power, quickness, and agility that has attracted them to players like Linval Joesph, Marvin Austin, Johnathan Hankins, and Damon Harrison.
Facing that stout defense is California quarterback Davis Webb. With Ryan Nassib’s impending free agency, the Giants are, at the very least, going to be looking for a new back-up quarterback, possibly with the upside to develop into their next franchise QB. Webb has the physical tools, but the “Bear Raid” offense won’t do much to prepare him for the NFL, making him an interesting mid-round developmental prospect. Also worth watching is running back Khalfani Muhammad. Muhammed is an interesting running back. His size (5-8, 180) will get him overlooked at the NFL level, but he leaps off the screen running between the tackles. He shows good patience and vision behind the line of scrimmage and uses his size well to make defenders lose him while accelerating through the trash.
Alabama at LSU (8 p.m., CBS)
Inexplicably, only two teams will have credentialed scouts in attendance: the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I don’t know why the Giants are not officially in attendance, but I’m mentioning this game anyway. If you want to see two teams loaded with NFL talent throw down, look no further.
The headliners are going to be LSU running back Leonard Fournette and Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, but these two teams are just littered with future NFL players.
My scouting advice: Pull up some couch, turn on the game, and enjoy. If you want to get technical, pick a position to follow, but there are going to be talented players wherever your eyes happen to land.
After the Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Dallas Cowboys last week, the Giants fell to the 21st pick in the draft (should the season end today). As usual I’ll be using the CBS Sports big board to make my picks. To keep things semi-realistic, I will only be picking players ranked within five spots of the Giants’ draft slot. I might reach for a player if I don’t like any of my “natural” choices, which I’ll acknowledge and explain.
Round 1 - 21st Overall
Ryan Ramczyck (OT, Wisconsin) - Yep, I’m reaching right off the bat. However, my other three main options weren’t palatable. I’m a big fan of Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt), but I don’t think he will be there for the Giants. My second choice was Auburn’s pass rusher Carl Lawson, but with a torn ACL and a hip injury on his medical report, I’m staying away. Finally, as much as the Giants need a quality tight end, I’m just not enamored by Alabama’s O.J. Howard. Ramczyck only has one year at the FBS level after transferring from a Division II school. That being said, he has all the traits to be an NFL offensive tackle. He has great size at 6-5, 320, is a natural knee bender with light feet in pass protection and is a mauler in the run game. Offensive line coach Mike Solari believes that Bobby Hart has the versatility to move inside to guard, and drafting Ramczyck would let the Giants solidify a young, athletic line for years to come.
Come draft day, this pick might even wind up being a steal. Offensive tackles have a tendency to be drafted earlier than outside observers anticipate, and a player like Ramczyck could wind up being a big riser as the draft approaches.
Round 2 - 53rd Overall
Evan Engram (H-Back, Ole Miss) - My other TE option here was Clemson’s Jordan Leggett, but I like Engram better. He isn’t a traditional tight end, but he simply leaps off the screen, even when I sat down to watch 1st round receiver LaQuan Treadwell. The Giants’ offense asks a lot of its tight ends, playing them all over the offensive formation, and Engram’s athleticism would let him excel in that role. He gets off the line well and has the physical tools to create mismatches with the defense. He could be what former Giant Travis Beckum could have been had he not suffered a career-ending injury and been in a better offensive situation.
Round 3 - 85th Overall
Daeshon Hall (DE, Texas A&M) - The Giants need more juice in their pass rush. And while I couldn’t get Myles Garrett (I still don’t think I’d be upset about trading up for him), I did land his running mate. The Giants like their defensive ends to be long and athletic, and the 6-6, 265-pound former linebacker certainly is that. He hasn’t had as much success as expected playing across from Garrett, but he has definite speed off the edge, which is something the Giants need more of.
Round 4 - 117th Overall
Caleb Brantley (DT, Florida) - I added to the edge rush with my last pick, so on this one I want to create more push up the middle. Brantley is a prototypical 3-technique in the NFL and has been very disruptive for Florida’s formidable defense.
Honestly, I would be shocked if he were to fall this far (and I think this just means that CBS needs to update their big board), but he’s here and players do inexplicably fall in the draft. So I’m taking him. Not only is he a disruptive pass rusher, the 6-2, 310 pound Brantley is stout enough in the run game that the Giants could feel comfortable rotating him in on base downs to give either Hankins or Harrison a rest.
So Giants fans, how did I do? Which players, and games, are you watching today?