Happy Monday, New York Giants fans!
Free agency is almost upon us, and we get an appetizer of "legal tampering" beginning today at noon. But until then, it's time for our usual sample platter of mock drafts.
10. Giants - Shaq Lawson (EDGE, Clemson)
With Jason Pierre-Paul's future in New York in question, the Giants could be in line to upgrade their pass rush in the draft. If they're hesitant to take someone like Noah Spence because of his off-field baggage, Lawson is the most logical choice at No. 10 overall. He's a true 4-3 end who can generate pressure with speed and a solid array of pass rush moves.
Raptor's Thoughts -- I don't know how well, or poorly, Spence did in his interviews. The reports that he "bombed" them have been walked back of late, and from what I've read, the general sense seems to be that he did "okay." He didn't knock them out of the park, nor did he completely turn teams off.
But as for Lawson himself ... BOOORRRIINNG!!! (I keed, I keed). But seriously, I'm not sure Lawson is a "True 43 End". Typically, the Giants prefer length in their defensive ends, something Lawson lacks at 6-foot-2, with 32 3/4-inch arms. On the field, he does not look like the athlete that performed at the scouting combine. Personally, I'm taking a second look at him to see why he appeared so slow off the line and not particularly agile when it comes to changing directions.
10. Giants -- Ezekiel Elliott (RB, Ohio State)
Complementing Eli Manning and Odell Beckham, Jr. with a bell cow running back might be the fastest way of getting the Giants back into playoff contention. Elliott isn't the second-coming of Todd Gurley but he's clearly the top running back in this class, showing the all-around game to play on all three downs immediately.
Raptor's Thoughts -- I like Elliott as a player, and he is probably the BPA the way the board fell. But, how I actually feel about the pick will depend entirely on how free agency plays out. The Giants will need to sign a lot of defensive "mortar" players who can fill in the cracks and who's best football is likely still ahead of them for me to be on board with this pick. Also, I disagree with Rang that Elliott is the fastest way to get back in playoff contention. (FINALLY) Completing the offensive line and building a defense that can impose its will and get off the field when they need to is what will do it.
10. Vernon Hargreaves (CB, Florida)
The Giants might be saying goodbye to Prince Amukamara this offseason. He's a free agent, and New York may deem him too injury-prone to re-sign. If so, the Giants could consider Vernon Hargreaves as a potential replacement. Hargreaves had an up-and-down showing at the Combine, but he should still be a top-10 selection.
40. Andrew Billings (DT, Baylor)
This draft class is packed with talented defensive linemen. As luck would have it, the Giants happen to need multiple upgrades up front. They have to find a solid starter next to Johnathan Hankins, and Andrew Billings would be a nice fit. I dropped Billings into the second round last week, based on what teams have told us, and it sounds like they were right on the money, based on Billings' poor Combine showing.
71. C.J. Prosise (RB, Notre Dame)
Tom Coughlin figured out that going with a rotation of Rashad Jennings and Shane Vereen worked best, but it was already too late. It's hard to count on Jennings for the long term, however, so here's a potential running back of the future.
106. Karl Joseph (S, West Virginia)
The Giants' pass defense has been atrocious this season. Their safety play has been horrific. This position could be addressed even earlier.
137. Aziz Shittu (DE, Stanford)
It wouldn't surprise me if the Giants spent the No. 10 overall pick on an edge rusher like Emmanuel Ogbah. They desperately need to improve their lackluster pass rush.
Raptor's Thoughts -- Hargreaves is probably worth the 10th overall pick, but I'm not sure he's right for the kind of defense Steve Spagnuolo wants to call. Spags wants big, long, physical corners to disrupt the timing of receivers routes (inspiring Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to add 15 pounds over the offseason and re-invent himself as an impressively physical and hard hitting corner). Hargreaves has the mentality for it, but at 5-10½ with 30⅝-inch arms, does he have the frame to bang with receivers that outweigh him by 15-20 pounds? On the flip side, I LOVE getting Andrew Billings in the second and Karl Joseph in the fourth. I have Billings as a "dark horse" for 10th overall, so for me, that is a John Hankins level steal. Joseph has injury issues, but when healthy he is probably the second-best safety in this draft. He's a heat-seeking missile going downhill and looked like the switch had flipped and was a ballhawk in coverage.
I'm less of a fan of Prosise in the third. He's a very good player, but the overlap with Shane Vereen is very strong. I haven't watched much of Shittu, but he seems more like a complementary rotation piece than anything like a "solution" for the Giants' pass rush.
10. Ronnie Stanley (OT, Notre Dame)
For years, the Giants have needed a play-making linebacker, but general manager Jerry Reese has favored drafting for offense. New York has taken an offensive player in the first round for the last four years with a preference toward the line. With Will Beatty having been cut, Stanley could form an excellent tackle tandem with Ereck Flowers.
Stanley has the potential to be a franchise left tackle. He is very athletic and quick for his size. He possesses good length to him and sustains his blocks pretty well. Stanley also has the speed and agility to mirror speed rushers, and therefore is a skilled blind-side protector. His significant athleticism allows him to hit blocks downfield as well.
However, Stanley needs to add more power and play with more of a mean streak, and he has to improve his ability to avoid mental mistakes with penalties. Stanley can struggle with physical defensive linemen (see Clemson and Shaq Lawson). He could stand to add some strength for the NFL as well.
Stanley (6-5, 312) generated a ton of late-season buzz in 2014, and he put an exclamation point on it by getting the better of the top 2015 NFL Draft-eligible defensive lineman in USC's Leonard Williams in limited plays against each other. In 2013, Stanley started at right tackle and was part of a line that allowed only eight sacks on the season.
40. Carl Nassib (DE, Penn State)
Even if Jason Pierre-Paul comes back, the Giants need to improve their edge rush. Nassib would be a good scheme fit as left end for New York.
Nassib put together a torrid 2015 season with a bunch of multi-sack games and a huge presence in the opponents' backfields. He led the nation with 15.5 sacks in 2015 while also racking 46 tackles, 19.5 tackles for a loss and six forced fumbles. The 6-foot-6, 277-pounder also has drawn raves for his work ethic and practice habits from head coach James Franklin and former head coach Bill O'Brien.
Nassib could fit at end in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. He really put his draft stock on the map with a massive senior season. Nassib is a 1-year wonder as he had only two sacks combined over 2014 and 2013.
71. Scooby Wright III (LB, Arizona)
The Giants have needed better linebacker play for years, and this pick could be a draft-day steal.
Wright missed most of 2015, finishing the year with 23 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. In the season opener, he suffered a knee injury - a lateral meniscus tear - that he underwent surgery for. Wright came back after missing only two games, but he clearly rushed back and wasn't the same. Wright sprained his foot in his first game back - a loss to UCLA - and didn't played the rest of the regular season. In the bowl game against New Mexico, Wright collected 15 tackles, 3.5 for a loss and two sacks.
Wright took college football by storm in 2014. The 6-foot, 239-pounder was a pass-rushing force for the Wildcats and one of the top defenders in the Pac-12. He had 14 sacks with 163 tackles, 29 tackles for a loss and six forced fumbles for the year. Wright is an instinctive linebacker and was all over the field for Arizona. In 2013, he notched 83 tackles with 9.5 for a loss and an interception.
106. Tajae Sharpe (WR, UMass)
The Giants need a wide receiver to pair with Odell Beckham, Jr. Here's a big possession receiver for New York.
Sources from multiple teams were raving about Sharpe at the East-West Shrine. The 6-foot-2, 189-pounder has quickness to go with good size and length. Sharpe had a superb week and caught the heck out of ball. As one scout said, "He's been dominating these DBs all week." Sharpe gets separation and is a smooth receiver. He really helped his draft stock at the East-West Shrine.
The senior had 111 receptions for 1,319 yards with five touchdowns in 2015, so he has good production as well. One team said Sharpe is probably an early third-day pick and shouldn't go any lower than the fifth round.
Raptor's Thoughts -- If the Giants can't land a long-term solution for right tackle in free agency, I am all over the Stanley pick. It might irk some to spend yet another high draft pick on an offensive lineman, but it will finish the line (assuming Bobby Hart steps up to seize the right guard job) and it would then be loaded with young, athletic, powerful players. Stanley is a prototypical NFL lineman and can bookend at RT with Flowers for years to come.
Carl Nassib is another "dark horse" for 10th overall, so getting him in the second is a coup for me. He checks every height/weight/speed box the Giants have, and has a ferocious work ethic.
-- Fun story: As a 200-pound walk-on, Bill O'Brien told Nassib to give up football because it wasn't for him. Four years later he transformed his body by adding 70 pounds of muscle and lead the nation in sacks (15.5) despite missing the last two games of the season. Nassib's height limits him when it comes to bending the edge, but he also has a great first step and good instincts.
Wright is an interesting fit for the Giants' defense. He has the football IQ to pick up and call Spags' defense and is an absolute savant when it comes to blitzing. He could be a very good pick up, but J.T. Thomas will need to regain the form in coverage he showed in Jacksonville when he had the lowest passer rating against of any LB in the league.
And finally, Sharpe's route running, football IQ, and coachability (as well as UMass pedigree) will likely attract the Giants, however, the one common theme among Giants receivers is ginormous hands, and that's the one thing Sharpe lacks with 8⅜-inch mitts. It might not matter in the fourth round, but they like receivers who can swallow the ball with 10+ inch hands (such as Hakeem Nicks, Ramses Barden, Odell Beckham, Dwayne Harris, and Will Tye).