With the New York Giants’ bye week now in the rear-view mirror, they are likely staring a top-10 draft selection right in the face. And since they have shown little ability to play above their current 1-6 record, that selection very well could be in the top five.
It might be too early for some to think about the draft, but for all intents and purposes, it is now Draft Season in New York. Considering that we don’t yet know which players will even be in the draft come April, It’s still far too early for me to put together Big Board.
However, I can speculate about the top players likely to be there when the Giants pick, and the top of the list should surprise precisely nobody.
1 - Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
Barkley is the best player in college football, and one of the cleanest, most complete prospects to come out in recent memory. He has everything you could possibly want from a running back and should be a 30-touch (run and reception) per game player. Scouts and NFL executives are already saying that he projects as a better Ezekiel Elliott, but when I watch him, I can’t help but see old clips of Bo Jackson running at Auburn. As I said before, this list will be fluid and updated weekly, but it’s going to take a lot to knock Barkley off the top.
2 - Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
The argument could be made that Rosen could, even should, go back to school — in fact, that’s why I am not even including USC QB Sam Darnold on the list. However, should he declare for the 2018 draft, Rosen is probably the QB I’d want for the Giants. He has a solid frame, listed at 6-foot-4, and 215 pounds. A bit, light, but at just 20 years old, he has a long way to go to grow into his “man body.”
Mechanically, he is just about there, and uses solid footwork and plenty of leg drive to throw with both zip and accuracy. He also has the kind of mobility needed to extend plays and stress defenses.
My concerns about him are his age and durability. I generally prefer QBs to enter the NFL with as much college experience as they can possibly have. As I mentioned, Rosen is only 20, and if he declares, it will be after just two and a half seasons of game experience. Russell Wilson came into the league with literally twice that.
On the durability front, his 2016 season was ended by a shoulder injury, and he exited this past week’s game against the Washington Huskies with a hand injury. It might not be a huge red flag, but a player’s ability to stay healthy (especially a quarterback’s) has to weigh on the evaluation.
3 - Minkah Fitzpatrick (CB, Alabama)
Fitzpatrick could turn in to this year’s Jalen Ramsey, or close enough. Fitzpatrick is a talented athlete with the fluidity to play corner at the next level, but the size to play safety — and the ability (and football IQ) to do either well.
That versatility would give a crafty defensive coordinator a great weapon to attack and confuse opposing offenses, and a playmaker to exploit mistakes. Through two and a half years, the junior has 20 passes defensed, 13.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, 6 interceptions, 4 touchdowns and a pair of forced fumbles.
4 - Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
Mayfield doesn’t have “prototypical” measurables, but as Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have shown, you don’t have to be a 6-4 pocket passer to succeed in the NFL. Mayfield is a hyper-competitive player, who throws with timing and accuracy, able to fit the ball into tight windows. It isn’t hard to see why Scot McCloughan called him a “shorter Brett Favre.”
He is also a case study for the merits of quarterbacks staying in school. Mayfield could have declared for the 2017 draft and, and might have been selected highly. But instead he returned to school and showed an increased maturity in his decision making, understanding of the game, and defenses.
5 - Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
I’ve been waiting for Wilkins to be draft eligible since watching him wreck offensive game plans from the interior as a freshman while studying Vic Beasley back in 2015. He isn’t quite Aaron Donald, but Wilkins has everything you want in a 1-gap penetrating defensive tackle. He has solid size and power, with a surprising amount of flexibility and agility for a stoutly built DT.
He is a handful for guards or centers, able to over-power them one-on-one or split double teams. A former basketball player, he has tremendous feet and can play almost anywhere on any defensive line.
6 - Derwin James (S, Florida State)
James lost his sophomore year to a knee injury (torn cartilage), and doesn’t yet appear all the way back from the injury. However, he has the size, athleticism, and versatility that will surely intrigue the NFL.
He was a fearsome playmaker as a freshman, and scouts will remember that tape as he gets further away from the injury. His versatility might be a bit of a curse when it comes to draft evaluation, as his coaches move him around the defense in a manner similar to how Jabrill Peppers was used by Michigan in his final season there.
However, there is a ton of raw talent there, and in a versatile package that could be well suited to a league where offenses are being built to pick on defensive specialization.
7 - Quenton Nelson (OG, Notre Dame)
Okay, enough with the pretty boy QBs and skill position players. How about an old-school, blue collar, football player?
Nelson is a big (6-5, 331-pound) dancing bear of a guard — as in, he moves really gracefully, but he will also maul a defense’s front off given half a chance. He has fantastic feet to mirror in pass protection, and makes dealing with stunts, twists, and blitzes look almost effortless. He is also a powerful people-mover who always finishes his blocks.
Nelson is the best offensive lineman in the draft (and probably country), and is the only one I would really consider taking in the top-10. Buzz coming out of NFL scouts and executives is that Nelson has the potential to be an All-Pro his rookie season.
8 - Harold Landry (EDGE, Boston College)
How you rate Landry and Chubb probably comes down to what your team needs and what kind of defensive system they run. I’m listing Landry slightly higher because I believe that the Giants desperately need a speed rushing option on their defense, and Landry is that.
I define Landry as an “EDGE” prospect because I think he has the ability to play both outside linebacker or defensive end. Landry tends to win with his speed, bend, and hand usage, but he has the frame to add a power component to his arsenal. He exploded onto the ACC scene with 16.5 sacks, 22 tackles for a loss, 7 forced fumbles, and 4 passes defensed last year. He isn’t producing at that incredible clip this year, but he remains a dangerous pass rusher.
9 - Bradley Chubb (DE, North Carolina State)
While Landry could be an OLB or a DE, Chubb is certainly a defensive end, and built like a “Giants’” DE at 6-4, 275 pounds. Chubb wasn’t getting much publicity in 2016, but he was another terror in the ACC, with the ability to simply take games over (if Florida State ever sees him again, it would be too soon).
Chubb has power, quickness, agility, bend, and a non-stop motor. While he doesn’t have the freakish physical abilities of Myles Garrett or Jadeveon Clowney, he has the makeup to be a really good defensive end in the NFL.
10 - Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)
Barkley might be the top prospect in the draft, but he definitely isn’t the only really good running back.
Love doesn’t have Barkley’s absurd physical ability and athletic talent — to be fair, few do — but he is having an absolutely absurd season. In just 8 games he has already put up 1,387 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns ... With just 135 carries, which translates to 10.3 yards per carry. Love’s running style reminds of Dalvin Cook, with patience, excellent vision, and feel for the game. He sets up his blocks well then uses his quickness to get through the hole and into open space.