Bowl Season continues to ramp up as New Years approaches, and that means that not only are we getting bigger games, we are getting to see more draft prospects in action.
For one reason or another, some of the best prospects won’t be in action in today’s games, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t players for fans of the New York Giants to pay attention to. While potential first rounders might be injured or skipping the games, there are other players that could be intriguing options for a rebuilding Giants team.
So with that in mind, let’s get to the games!
Independence Bowl - Florida State vs. Southern Mississippi
ESPN - 1:30 p.m.
With all due respect to the young men playing for Southern Mississippi, from a draft perspective, this game is all about Florida State — and the FSU defense in particular.
Starting up front, Derrick Nnadi is a talented but inconsistent defensive lineman. Listed at 6’1,” 300 pounds, Nnadi has tremendous natural leverage and knows how to put it to good use, along with his quickness, to disrupt behind the line of scrimmage. Despite questions about his motor, Nnadi has tallied 48 tackles, 9 tackles for a loss, and 3.5 sacks this season and should be a natural fit in an attacking 4-3 defense.
Behind Nnadi will be CB Tavarus McFadden, another potential first round pick. McFadden has terrific size at 6’1,” 201 pounds, but doesn’t show the athleticism that the NFL likes to see from potential press-man corners. However, he has excellent ball skills (8 interceptions in 2016) and plays a physical brand of football, showing little hesitation to shed blocks and make tackles in the run game. He might be best used as a zone corner or even free safety in the NFL.
On the offensive side of the ball, wide receiver Auden Tate might interest the Giants as a mid-round reinforcement for their battered receiving corps. Tate is big, physical receiver who is adept at using his 6’4,” 225-pound frame to bully defensive backs, and could be an interesting option as a possession receiver in contrast to Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. Tate also shows tremendously strong hands and body control to make spectacular catches and expand his already big catch radius.
Unfortunately, two talented underclassmen have elected to skip the bowl game and concentrate on preparing for the draft. Dewrin James would have been the best prospect in the game, and his blend of size, athleticism, and production make him a top-five prospect in the eyes of some. James’ size (6’3,” 215) as well as his ability to play sideline-to-sideline as well as come down-hill to defend the run makes him an intriguing prospect who could play strong safety or even be a safety-linebacker hybrid in the right system.
Also skipping the bowl game is DE/OLB Josh Sweat. Sweat is likely an outside linebacker at the next level, measuring 6’4,” 235 pounds, with the athleticism to play in space while also having plenty of pass rush ability. Sweat has some major injury concerns after dislocating his knee in high school, and while he was able to stay healthy this past season, his decision to skip the bowl game might raise some eyebrows in NFL circles. At the very least his pre-draft medicals will be studied closely.
Pinstripe Bowl - Boston College vs. Iowa
ESPN - 5:15 p.m.
The Pinstripe Bowl could have been a match-up between two of the best “under the radar” defenders in the draft. But, unfortunately, Boston College edge rusher Harold Landry will miss the game as he recovers from the ankle injury that caused him to miss the final four games of BC’s season. Landry was regarded as one of the top two pass rushers in the nation when the season started (along with NC State’s Bradley Chubb), but injury made this season something of a disappointment. When healthy, he is a force off the edge, playing with speed, burst, and bend that few can match. He was spectacularly productive in 2016, and has the size (6’3,” 250) to play in a variety of schemes. Landry is (reportedly) being looked at as a late first, early second round pick, and could present intriguing value for a team in desperate need for a speed rusher on the second day.
In the absence of Landry, keep an eye on BC defensive end Zach Allen. Allen is a more classically built defensive end at 6’5,” 285. There are some who believe that Allen is the better pro prospect and could be selected before Landry.
The other top defender in the game, Iowa’s Joshua Jackson, will be playing — at least as of this writing. Jackson came from nowhere this season to help power Iowa to a stunning win over Ohio State. He made several appearances in our weekly Top - 10 list thanks to his impressive ball skills, finishing the season with 7 interceptions and 18 passes defensed. Should he declare for the draft, Jackson will likely be selected before the end of the second round.
Given the Giants’... issues at linebacker, it would also be wise to keep an eye on Iowa linebacker Josey Jewel. Jewel isn’t a hyper-athletic linebacker, but he is a fiery competitor and extremely instinctive, which helps him to play far faster than he will time at the NFL scouting combine.
It could also be a good idea to pay attention to Iowa linemen James Daniels (OC) and Sean Welsh (OG). Welsh has played both guard and center, and has accepted his invitation the Senior Bowl, so this won’t be the last time we see him. Athletically built at 6’3,” 295, he might be light, but given that he is also able to play center, he should have good feet for a guard. He could be something of a riser throughout the process with a good
Texas Bowl - Missouri vs. Texas
ESPN - 9 p.m.
As far as the Giants are concerned, the top prospects in this game play for Texas — or at least they would if they
The top prospect on either team is Texas left tackle Connor Williams.
Williams had a slow start to the season before missing time with a knee injury. When he returned at the end of the season, he played at the high level at which he played in 2016. Williams is a prototypical NFL offensive tackle, with agile feet, solid technique, surprising lower-body strength, and a definite nasty streak. At his best he is a good pass protector and run blocker — though he struggles a bit when asked to block in space. His injury and inconsistent play to start the season could cost him in the eyes of the NFL, but his upside might also make him the first tackle off the board come April.
Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson reportedly wants to play in the game, saying that he is “hoping for a miracle”, but turf toe looks likely to keep him off the field. Jefferson isn’t the most instinctive linebacker, but he is an explosive athlete who can play downhill in the run game, hold up in coverage, and is a dangerous blitzer. He is the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, with 110 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, and four sacks last year.
In the absence of Williams and Jefferson, it might be best to just watch the game and see which players jump off the screen. Safety DeShone Elliott could be that guy on the Texas defense. Meanwhile, we should also probably be paying attention to defensive end Marcell Frazier given Missouri’s history of putting pass rushers in the NFL.