It's great to be back. After a hiatus from the end of the season until now, I'm hoping to be getting back into the writing routine, and I'm starting with the dark-horse draft candidates profile series I do every year. Ever year I like to take a closer look at players who could fit the bill of what the New York Giants are looking for with their pick. Dark-horse candidate to me means not any of the top favorites.
The Giants are picking 10th this year and the consensus top nine players to me are Laremy Tunsil, Jalen Ramsey, DeForest Buckner, Joey Bosa, Myles Jack, Carson Wentz, Vernon Hargreaves, Ezekiel Elliott, and Ronnie Stanley. I believe the Giants pick any of the players not named Wentz, Stanley, and Elliot that are available here. Hargreaves makes a ton of sense and if I were to pick an odds-on favorite for the Giants at 10 in the 2016 draft as of today it would be him. DRC has been a good player for the Giants, but he's getting older and has a high price tag moving forward.
Historically, and under Reese specifically, the Giants have invested heavily in the cornerback position (high draft picks on Aaron Ross, Prince Amukamara, Terrell Thomas, and large contracts to DRC, Janoris Jenkins). The Giants have very little depth after DRC and Jenkins, which makes Hargreaves a front-runner for the Giants at 10. Elliott and Stanley are definite possibilities because the top 10 of this class is not spectacular. It has good, polished players, but lacks explosive playmakers and H/W/S phenoms that generally pollute the top half of an NFL draft.
I would say other favorites for the Giants on online mock drafts other than the nine players listed would also include Shaq Lawson and Laquon Treadwell, but Lawson does not possess the length the Giants covet at the position. The Giants have a clear prototype at defensive end and at nearly every position, but WR is difficult to figure out because they have been drawn to large targets like Plaxico Burress and Hakeem Nicks. They have also chosen quick, shorter guys like Steve Smith and Mario Manningham as well. Who is the top WR on the Giants board? it's anyone's guess.
When the Giants are picking top 10 it's harder to come up with "dark-horse candidates," so the first one in the series is going to be a player that will not come out of nowhere, but it's not a player that is widely considered a Giants favorite, which I think is an oversight.
As of today if I'm putting money on the Giants pick at 10 on Hargreaves, followed by Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd. Now, the Giants haven't picked a linebacker in the first round since 1984 with Carl Banks, but that does not mean it's not a possibility. That same argument could have been made about safety before Kenny Phillips, about OL before Justin Pugh, and about David Wilson. The Giants will be drawn to the player in the first round, not the position. Now, ideally, if there were a prospect who fit what they look for at wide receiver, defensive end, or cornerback that is the direction the Giants would lean to, but those guys don't really exist in this draft outside of Jalen Ramsey. The top players lack the athleticism that is generally associated with a top 10 pick, which is why Floyd will be very appealing.
The Giants notoriously dipped into the edge rusher pool with Clint Sintim back in 2009 but have been through other measures including moving Mathias Kiwanuka to the position, trying Adrian Tracy, the O'Brien Schofield contract that never materialized because of an injury and other players.
There is also a reputation that the Giants don't care about the position, which again I think is a misguided view. The Giants have resorted to finding stop-gap types to fill the position since Jerry Reese took over as GM, but there is not a lack of trying. Again I think it is more of an issue of supply and demand. A good pass rushing outside linebacker who can also handle run responsibilities and cover ground is a rarity in the NFL. The Giants haven't found a permanent solution to the problem, but again I think that's because of a lack of supply (breeze through the link briefly) as much as it is an organizational philosophy. I think the Giants know that the need there is great.
When reading the tea leaves of the Giants, Floyd makes perfect sense on a number of levels. The Giants under Reese have unsuccessfully been searching for a linebacker who specializes in pass rushing since he took over the job prior to the 2007 draft. The issue is the types of players who can do this are few and far between. I don't believe the Giants have ever been out of the market for a player like this, I just don't think the supply has been available to them. Also, Reese has made two trips to pro days this year Ole Miss (Treadwell and Nkemdiche) and Georgia. The past two years Reese appeared at LSU and Miami. These are not coincidences. Floyd is 24 and he didn't fully participate in either the combine or his pro day, which could have soured the Giants on him. But let's talk about what might appeal to the Giants.
As mentioned above, this draft class is very short on athletes. Ramsey, Buckner, and Tunsil are the three only really "clean" prospects in this draft. I also like Lawson personally (great production, enough size, high SPARQ number), but he doesn't seem to get the same buzz. Where are the safe picks in this draft?
The spider chart shows you that Floyd's measurables are undoubtedly elite for the linebacker position.
Floyd's listed weight throughout the season was 231 pounds and he showed up at the combine at 244 pounds and put on a show with a 39.5-inch vertical, (Beckham's was 38.5 inches) 4.60 40-yard dash, and a 127-inch broad jump (Beckham's was 122 inches). Those are insane numbers for a player that size and on the field, at times, he showed those traits. The Bulldogs used him as a down lineman, in the slot, OLB, ILB and everywhere in between. And while he lacked tremendous production he did lead the team in sacks three consecutive years and piled up 10.5 tackles for loss this year, without defining a true position.
And that's the question for Floyd. He plays hard, he has the ability, he has production, was named a captain, but does he have a position ? Can he be a swiss army knife and use his versatility to his advantage? Is he a player defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can release after the quarterback on third down and get home? That is something the Giants desperately needed last year. When was the last time the Giants released a linebacker who beat a blocker and then hit the QB? As opposed to blitz and kind of maybe hurried the QBs throw while he completes a pass for an 18-yard gain on third-and-14? Can he be a guy who drops back into coverage and plays the tight end in the 1-10 yard range, or handles a running back and keeps the swing pass to a gain of 5 yards as opposed to a 25-yard scamper down the field, or worse a touchdown?
These have been major issues for the Giants really since Tom Coughlin took over as head coach. Routinely the Giants could not cover running backs, could not cover tight ends, and did not generate pressure from the second and third levels with any consistency (with the exception of maybe Antrel Rolle). Floyd has that ability. For every Dion Jordan there is a Jamie Collins. A JPP or a Ziggy Ansah. People hate the term "boom or bust" and hate the "athletic freak" types and they are scary, but 50 percent of first round picks in every draft will be a bust. That includes supposedly safe prospects like Aaron Curry or Trent Richardson.
Floyd is going to scare some people, but picking at 10, honestly what other player available will have played and produced for multiple years at a major program, have leadership skills, and instantly be one of the best athletes in the NFL the moment he steps on the field? Oh, and also fill a position the Giants haven't been able to fill long term in more than 10 years.