We are in the midst of March Madness, and it’s easy to understand how things rarely go according to plan. Need proof? Just look at the thousands of well-researched and reasoned NCAA tournament brackets that have been busted over the last week or so.
But somehow when we come to the NFL Draft, the idea of being at the mercy of chaos is just a bit more foreign. However, the draft rarely shakes out as general managers, and certainly nobody out here, predict it will.
So what happens if everything goes sideways and the Giants’ (likely) top targets are off the board when the 23rd pick rolls around?
In this case, let’s say Ryan Ramczyk, Garett Bolles, Cam Robinson, O.J. Howard, David Njoku, Haason Reddick, Derek Barnett, and Christian McCaffrey have all already been selected. In that case, who could the Giants consider drafting with the 23rd overall pick?
- A Quarterback - I’m getting this one out of the way first, and separating it a bit from the other nine options for a reason. That reason being, I have no clue which of the quarterbacks could be in consideration. Each of the top three quarterbacks — DeShaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, and Mitchell Trubisky -- have enough strengths that a truly QB-needy team could select them highly. They all also have enough warts to for one of them to fall. In this scenario, with eight prospects who could (should) be in the vicinity of the Giants’ pick rising out of consideration, eight other prospects must fall.
We know that the Giants are preparing for life after Eli Manning, while at the same time gearing up for a run to get Eli’s Thanksgiving table swag back. For a while its seemed that the odds are good that the Giants would take a developmental quarterback later in the draft, while using their higher picks on player who should be able to help this year. However, there have also been some rumblings that they could take a quarterback highly if the right one fell. After all, GM Jerry Reese was on hand to watch Mitchell Trubisky at North Carolina’s pro day, and OC Mike Sullivan went to Notre Dame’s pro day to watch DeShone Kizer.
Of course, that could all be a smokescreen designed to puff up the QB class and entice a team into trading up for one, in exchange for more picks in this deeply talented class. Either way, there’s a non-zero chance that a quarterback could be taken 23rd overall.
- Forrest Lamp (OL, Western Kentucky) - I cut myself a little bit of a break on this one. The original nightmare had Lamp rising with the rest of the top offensive linemen. However, if the NFL truly views him as a transitional guard, this should be about where he would go. Lamp is the cleanest offensive line prospect in the draft, with a versatile frame, the athleticism, and mentality to play anywhere along the line of scrimmage. That versatility would allow the Giants to try him and D.J. Fluker at both right guard and right tackle and be use whichever combination worked best.
- Bucky Hodges (TE, Virginia Tech) - What? The tight ends that the Giants just HAD to take in the first round are off the board? Time for Jerry Reese to “reach” on a young, high-upside athletic freak. Hodges technique — both as a blocker and route runner — is a work in progress, but he shows willingness as a blocker and reportedly has a strong work ethic and football IQ.
What isn’t lacking is his potential as an absolute nightmare for defenders. His 6-foot-6, 260 pound frame, with 4.5 second speed, 39-inch vertical, and experience playing everywhere from H-back to wide receiver make him an instant threat in the middle of the field and in the Red Zone. He and Rhett Ellison would make for a versatile and dangerous “12” personnel package — one back, two tight ends.
- Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss) - This has a similar reasoning to Hodges. But where Hodges can dominate based on sheer size while having the upside to become a “complete” tight end as a blocker, Engram gives the Giants more a hyper-athletic “move” mismatch. He is already a competent blocker, but he is best employed blocking smaller linebackers and defensive backs. Engram is compared to Jordan Reed, but athletically blows past him and into Vernon Davis territory. His 4.42 speed, receiving acumen, positional flexibility would make him a player defenses would have to find on every down. He would also make for some interesting “faux 11” packages along with a bigger tight end, such as Ellison, or a big “11” or even “10” package with Brandon Marshall.
- Jonathan Allen (DL, Alabama) - This isn’t me cheating and throwing a penny into the wishing well. As I said in the first bullet, if a prospect rises, another must fall. While it is more than a bit ludicrous to think that Jonathan Allen could fall, it also isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Of the top prospects, he might even be the most likely. He has had multiple shoulder surgeries and it came out after the Combine that he has arthritis in his shoulders.
That is a pretty big red flag and could scare teams off, especially in such a talented defensive class.
The Giants shied away from taking taking talented players with injury concerns last year (a la Myles Jack), but Allen is talented, athletic, and technically sound enough that nobody would bat an eye if he was taken first overall. Could they roll the dice that his issues can be managed for a dominant 10-year career, rather than something like Kenny Phillips?
It’s a possible scenario, so it’s one that bears consideration.
- Jordan Willis (DE, Kansas) - On tape Willis was a solid player who flashed an intriguing athleticism, particularly with his first step. With other freak edge rushers, such as Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett, the whole world knew what to expect from them at the Combine. Nobody saw Jordan Willis’ workout coming, so it was all the more impressive that he managed to out-perform the 2014 first overall pick in every event they both performed. The Giants — who have never let their own depth at the edge rusher position deter them from adding another — could use more speed in their rush. Willis needs to work on keeping himself clean and turning those flashes of raw athleticism into consistency.
- Tyus Bowser (EDGE, Houston) - Another player who put himself on the map at the Senior Bowl, Bowser is a great fit as a “Joker” or a similar role as Devin Kenard (who is a free agent after this year). He is an athletic specimen with considerable pass rush upside, the ability to play on the line of scrimmage, while also having the fluidity to play in space.
Not well known before the draft process started, he quietly had a dominant week at the Senior Bowl and a great Combine. Bowser has been getting some consideration as a potential first rounder, and could be a surprise pick in the bottom third.
- Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt) - When Jerry Reese shows up at a Pro Day, people take notice. Cunningham is a talented linebacker who fits perfectly into the Giants’ archetype for the position. He has played both inside and outside for Vanderbilt, and carried his team to victories. Cunningham gets knocked for being more of a “drag down” tackler than a “blow ‘em up” tackler, but he is rangy, fluid, and fast to diagnose plays and close on the ball. The argument could be made that he doesn’t have the raw athleticism or pass rush upside to be a first round linebacker, he could be very dynamic laying behind the Giants’ defensive line.
- Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan) - Jabrill Peppers re-sparked the conversation around him at the NFL scouting combine after potentially slipping from the first round following a season out of position. He showed off his athleticism in his workout with the linebackers, then his intangibles (and incredible conditioning) by doing a second full workout with the defensive backs the next day. The Giants might have an embarrassment of riches at defensive back, but Peppers’ versatility and willingness to compete (on offense, defense, and special teams) should make it easy to find snaps for him.
With the attrition to be expected at the position, adding another versatile and talented athlete to the defensive backfield might not be a terrible idea.
- Obi Melifonwu (S, UConn) - Similar to Peppers, Melifonwu is even more ridiculous of an athlete. Despite having nearly linebacker size, he moves like a free safety. On the field it looks as if he has finally put it together mentally to unlock his prodigious physical abilities. While Andrew Adams was a remarkable surprise and Darian Thompson has the Giants excited, adding an athlete like Melifonwu to the Giants’ already stacked secondary could make this defense truly terrifying for offenses.