As the lead draft guru on ESPN, it’s usually a big deal when Mel Kiper Jr. releases a mock draft.
Wednesday morning saw the release of the second iteration of his 2017 draft prognostication, and the New York Giants make a somewhat surprising, but not at all unlikely, pick.
23. New York Giants, 11-5
Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee*
If you're shocked this isn't an offensive tackle, I don't think you'll be surprised by the end of April when you've heard plenty about the blocking talent in this class. Barnett has been tremendously productive as a pass-rusher, and even if Jason Pierre-Paul is back, the Giants could use the help. If he's not, then a pass-rusher is a must.
Raptor’s Take: I can’t say I’d be upset with this pick. Derek Barnett is the most consistent pass rusher in this draft class, posting three straight seasons with double-digit sacks. Going by my own board, Barnett is a steal at 23rd overall — I have him ranked 16th — and would be a value that is hard to pass up. As Kiper (correctly) observes, the Giants need a third pass rusher regardless of what happens with Jason Pierre-Paul.
Barnett is powerful, has excellent hand usage, aggressive, and is much more athletic than his frame and build would suggest (though his combine workout and measurements will be interesting to follow). And as for his production? He closed out his career as a Tennessee Volunteer by breaking Reggie White’s school sack record, with 33.0, as well as 52.0 tackles for a loss.
Two things would make this a bit surprising.
First, Barnett just doesn’t fit the Giants’ archetype for defensive end. Listed at 6-foot-3, 265 pounds, he is a bit short and stocky, where the Giants have always favored drafting longer players on defense in general. The Giants have often “reached” to draft players who fit their criteria rather than take the outsiders view of a “safer” pick who might not measure up.
Second is that Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk is still on the board. While Barnett might be a better value, the Giants do need to upgrade their offensive line as well, and Ramczyk is the top run-blocking OT in the draft — important for a team looking to run the ball better. He is also a competent pass protector who will sustain his block all day if the ref’s whistle breaks. Despite his inexperience, Ramczyk has many traits in common with Jack Conklin, on whom the Giants were reportedly very high a year ago.
Either would be a solid pick here, though I (personally) would lean toward the offensive tackle given the depth of talent among the edge rushers.
*Note: for those wondering about a tight end, both Alabama’s O.J. Howard (18th overall) and Miami’s David Njoku (22nd overall) were off the board.