Draft season is in full swing with the Super Bowl's wretched conclusion. We're just a couple of weeks away from the NFL scouting combine and everybody is getting nice and comfy with their favorite prospects. I figured it's about that time that I introduce you to my favorite prospects now that I've had some time to watch a few of them.
This may or may not change, but (like Ed), I'm taking a page out of Peter King's notebook and producing my "Fine 15." That is to say, my top 15 picks for the Giants' first-round pick, number 23 overall. Yes, this is in order for what I'd like right now.
I'm trying my best to keep out players that I know probably won't be around when the Giants pick. I don't think Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook will be available (though I'd love either), nor do I think they go for a QB (and contrary to a lot of folks, I'd LOVE to see Deshaun Watson in Giants blue). Here we go:
1) O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
One can probably make an argument that I shouldn't include Howard on this list because it will take some luck for him to drop. I think he may be available just because there aren't a lot of teams that are as desperate for a tight end like the Giants are.
Howard narrowly, and I mean narrowly, beats out David Njoku for my top TE thus far. Why? Polish. He is an above average blocker with receiving ability to stretch safeties, let alone linebackers right out of the box. He would provide the Giants with plus run blocking ability, especially down the field, allow them to run more plays out of 12 personnel, and generally upgrade the offense in a myriad of ways other players simply couldn't. He should be at the, or near the, top target of this team come late April.
2) David Njoku, TE, Miami
Another tight end? You bet. Njoku and Howard are VERY close in my book and I wouldn't fault the Giants if both were available and they went for the Hurricane. Njoku isn't nearly as polished as a blocker and has some work to do, but his ability to stretch the field, his aggressiveness in blocking down the field, and his ability to create yards after the catch make me salivate. I think he's as good a pure pass-catcher coming out of college as Eric Ebron (who I loved), with a much higher ceiliing as a blocker.
The Giants offense failed because there was too much pressure on Odell Beckham. Shepard played inside and Victor Cruz wasn't good. There was nobody to draw a safety away from Beckham at all. Njoku changes that in an instant.
3) Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Wait, what? Isn't Harris projected to go early in the second round? What happened to Taco Charlton or some of the other pass rushers? Well, let me tell you ...if you haven't gone to watch Harris, stop reading and go watch him. He's got what the Giants have lacked for a long time. Speed. He's got bend and a first step like you wouldn't imagine.
The Giants are a great run defending team but they certainly could use an upgrade in the pass rushing department. Harris isn't the strongest run defender, but every prospect has their flaws. He's got the frame at 6-foot-3, 255 pounds to get stronger. His biggest flaw is that he gets too upright at times pass rushing. That can be fixed. His strengths aren't teachable and he could be a tremendous asset in the passing game by creating havoc alongside Olivier Vernon if Jason Pierre-Paul isn't re-signed.
4) Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB, UCLA
If the Giants want a bit more bulk than Harris, they can't go wrong with Takkarist McKinley. At 6-2, 265 pounds, he's built almost exactly like Olivier Vernon with a lot of similarities in their game. He's got a motor that doesn't quit and combines that with long arms and a speed-to-power ratio that smacks offensive tackles in the face.
The Giants proved that they like explosive guys off the edge with raw power to push through offensive tackles and that's what they'll get with McKinley, who's shown enough mobility and fluid hips to play standing up as well. That's versatility that the Giants will appreciate. He's as good a fit as any player for Steve Spagnuolo's scheme.
5) Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
Let me preface this by saying Ramczyk makes it into the top 5 mostly because the Giants are desperate for tackle help. I think of the entire class, Ramczyk might be the only offensive tackle I would trust to start on Day 1. That's ironic given that he's got the least amount of experience against big competition, after playing at Wisconsin only for a year.
There's also the question of his injury history, he did suffer a torn labrum in his hip that will cause him to miss some workouts. That's not a huge deal and not a serious injury, but something to keep in mind. He has the potential to be a solid left tackle, which is more than can be said about Ereck Flowers at this point. I do think Flowers can succeed on the right side and while people will count off the great pass rushers that come on the right side, I think Flowers has a better chance of succeeding when Manning can see the rush coming.
6) Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Wide receiver comes more to prominence with the recent departure of Victor Cruz. The Giants badly need to upgrade across from Odell Beckham Jr. Corey Davis is an alpha receiver in every sense. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he has the ability to run routes that would make some slot receivers jealous. He's got decent enough long speed and rarely drops balls.
He has a ton of production being a four-year starter and is a touchdown machine. Wide receiver, again, is a very real concern for the Giants, especially given how much '11' personnel their offense is based out of. If Ben McAdoo wants to keep the same scheme as this past year, wide receiver shoots way up higher in terms of draft needs. A big-bodied route runner like Davis would be Eli Manning's dream.
7) Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Mike Williams is most everybody's WR1 but there's still a chance that he is available at No. 23. He's actually my WR3 behind Corey Davis and John Ross. He's got a massive catch radius and is an easy hands catcher with prototype H-W-S that you look for. He's not exactly Julio Jones but A.J. Green could be a nice comparison.
He doesn't have Green's smooth acceleration nor does he have his ball security but Williams can certainly have the potential to stand out in this league. I've got him over John Ross in THIS ranking because this is what would fit the Giants better. They could use someone large opposite Beckham as a safety blanket for Eli Manning. Should Mike Williams fall to them, it would be difficult to say no. That being said, he's got some work to do to unleash his potential.
8) Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
Very similar to Shariff Floyd, another Florida alum, Brantley is a stocky, powerful, and explosive three technique that could work wonders on the New York Giants front. He's a tremendous pass rusher that can stress the pocket greatly (especially with Damon Harrison "snacking" on double teams) and would take a lot of pressure off the defensive ends to come up with pressure.
This becomes especially important if the Giants do not re-sign Johnathan Hankins. I think Brantley's athleticism will make him attractive to the Giants, especially given that he's a sturdy 6-foot-2, 314 pounds. The Giants like both of their defensive tackles with extra beef, and Brantley has got that and the quickness of a three technique. Won't be disappointed if he's the pick.
9) Malik McDowell, DE, MSU
A monstrosity of a player, McDowell most closely resembles Jason Pierre-Paul with his flexibility, power, brutality, and first step. At 6-foot-6, 276 pounds, he is scheme versatile and would be an ideal LDE for the Giants. He's got massive upside against the run and can crush the pocket as a pass rusher.
The reason why he's this low and not near the top of this list is a question about his work ethic. He takes a few plays off, but he flashes dominance more often than not. That's obviously concerning for the Giants and why I'd take Takk and Harris over him.
10) Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
I'm actually lower on Charlton than most, and have him as a late-first round pick. I think he'd appeal to the Giants moreso than myself because let's be honest, he LOOKS like a Giants DE. At 6-foot-6, 272 pounds he squares off with Malik McDowell for most freakish base end prospect in this draft. He, like McDowell, has nasty flexibility. He does not, however, have the same first step.
He's a bit more inconsistent than McDowell as well, though he certainly has better production. He's got technique flaws that need to be cleaned up but he's starting quality player through and through. What bothers me the most is that there's nothing "special" about Charlton, if that makes sense. He's good at a lot, not great at a lot. I think the Giants need more speed but I can easily seem them getting infatuated with his size/strength/length.
11) Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
It only makes sense than an off-ball linebacker makes it at the bottom of the list. Cunningham is the kind of linebacker that has always intrigued me. He's athletic and instinctual. May not be the best tackler, but he's always around the ball and that's how plays are made. He's aggressive, maybe to a fault. That's okay, because you need to be as a blitzer.
I'm convinced that Cunningham won't be successful in a 3-4 or on a team with a weaker DL. He needs to be uncovered. Thankfully, the Giants defensive line is a sheer monstrosity, and Cunningham could wreak havoc in blue.
12) Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
Early on in the draft process, I really liked Cam Robinson. I've cooled on him significantly for two reasons. For one, he's got some off the field troubles which obviously are a red flag. The second is while his potential is infinite, he's raw and he's got some technique issues that are difficult to overlook.
He's been a starter for three years at Alabama and hasn't fixed issues that have plagued him since his freshman year despite having ridiculous physical tools and being a pro ready program like Alabama. That sounds very "Ereck Flowers" to me and will probably make me a little gun shy in terms of picking him. There's no denying his natural talent and his awe-inspiring frame which is why I think the Giants will still be interested come late April.
13) Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple
Nobody has helped themselves more in the pre-draft process so far than Reddick, who has FORCED himself into the spotlight with an insane Senior Bowl week. He's explosive and athletic, showing prowess at both rushing the passer and in coverage.
The Giants were reportedly in love with Leonard Floyd, and while Reddick is no Floyd (he doesn't have the length or pass rush arsenal that Floyd did), he can function in the same way, as a jack-of-all-trades SAM linebacker that can blitz effectively. Steve Spagnuolo ran a defense that ranked 1st in the NFL in percentage of LB blitzes, so you know that Reddick will be a name to watch in this process.
14) Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Barnett is an insanely productive defensive end with 32 sacks in three years and should find his way into the first round. He's got a better chance of landing on a 4-3 team, hence, why he's on this list for the top 15 prospects I think the Giants should be looking at.
The reason why he's bringing up the bottom of the list is because he's not a quick twitch player. He's got heavy hands and good power, and while that's translatable to on the field play, I'm a little scared of his short area quickness and twitch. I compare him to Shaq Lawson from a year ago, and I was down on him as well. Don't get me wrong, if Barnett is a Giant, I'm not going to mind it because I think he's a good player. He's just not as high on this last as the other pass rushers are for me right now.
15) Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
Lamp is the one guard I think the Giants could be intrigued by in the first round (Feeney comes close). To put it bluntly, Lamp will kick your ass. He's got T-rex arms at 31 inches but it didn't stop him this season from stone walling most of the opponents in his way. You can find his game against Alabama and it's something awesome to watch.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com compares him to Zack Martin. While I won't go that far, it's not hard to see similarities. They've both got a box-like frame with above average athleticism and are walls in pass protection with nifty feet. If the Giants don't go OG in free agency, he could be a very real option for them at 23. Certainly worth the pick.