It’s time to have a little fun with Fanspeak’s mock draft simulator. Today, I’ve done my first full New York Giants mock draft with Fanspeak for 2018. I’m sure you will pick it apart. I’ve never gotten one of these right — or so I’m told.
Anyway, this uses the Big Board of Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller and the Fanspeak team needs assessment. There are only six rounds because the Giants traded their seventh-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers for cornerback Ross Cockrell.
Round 1 (No. 2) — Sam Darnold, QB, USC
In this draft, the Cleveland Browns took UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen No. 1 overall. That made this absolutely easy for me. I have gone on record as saying that Darnold is the quarterback I would like to have in this draft class. The Browns gifted him to me here. I didn’t hesitate. Sorry, Saquon Barkley fans. A franchise quarterback has more value than a running back, even a great one. When you need one you never pass on a guy you think is that franchise quarterback, and in this draft class I believe Darnold has the best chance to be that guy.
At the end of the day, Darnold has NFL size, arm strength, accuracy, pocket mobility, poise and field reading capability. His windup is an eyesore for sure, but he has the velocity to mitigate the additional release time. While Darnold has the mental toughness and talent to start tomorrow, early sideline seasoning could help him better process coverages in an attempt to eliminate future interceptions. Darnold has the tools to thrive in any system and doesn’t have to have perfect protection to succeed. His floor is solid starter, but he has the ceiling to be one of the top tier quarterbacks in the game as he gains more experience.
NFL Draft Scout says:
There is no denying that Darnold struggled early in the 2017 season, throwing two interceptions in each of USC’s first three games as the Trojans dealt with massive turnover on offense. Darnold threw for a very respectable 17 touchdowns to just three interceptions since September, however, and was the obvious difference in USC’s 31-28 win over Stanford and its Heisman Trophy finalist Bryce Love in the Pac-12 championship game.
To be clear, Darnold has his warts -- an elongated throwing motion is the biggest concern -- but he is accurate (including on the move), athletic and tough. He also comes with a pro-caliber build, offense and media market, making the projection to the next level simpler than most of his competition. Simply put, he possesses the best mix of talent and intangibles of any draft-eligible quarterback in the country.
Other considerations: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State; Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming; Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma; Tremaine Edwards, LB, Virginia Tech; Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. I also declined several trade proposals for the simple reason that I wanted to do this particular mock without trades. There will be subsequent ‘Fanspeak’ mocks with wheeling and dealing.
Round 2 (34) — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
This was a player who shouldn’t have been available with the 34th pick, and who won’t be available at this point in the real draft. Considering that this is a position of big-time need for the Giants, no way I was letting Smith slip by.
Smith is No. 10 on Matt Miller’s most recent big board.
Smith is an ascending linebacker prospect with elite athletic ability, plus intelligence and an ability to be an effective cover linebacker on passing downs. While he’s a little undersized, he does have the quickness and speed to keep himself from being mauled. He was good in 2016, but great in 2017 and projects as a player who hasn’t tapped his full potential. Smith has Pro Bowl traits and talent and will come off the board in the first round.
Other considerations: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama; Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia; Will Hernandez, G, UTEP; Billy Price, C, Ohio State
Round 3 (66) — Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
I really wanted to come out of this draft with some help for the offensive line, especially at the tackle spot. I felt like this was my last opportunity to land a player who could compete for playing time in 2018. I really like Vander Esch and Corbett, as well. I already selected a linebacker, though, and the expectation is that Corbett will likely move inside. So, I went for the positional value at tackle.
O’Neill is in an interesting place right now. He isn’t getting as much national attention as other prospects, but at the same time he is highly regarded. His athleticism is obvious upon watching him, and he could probably start in the NFL right now. However, it’s also easy to see how much upside he still has.
His ability to retain that athleticism while adding weight is absolutely impressive, but what we can’t know is how much more he can add without sacrificing the mobility that could make him special.
Dave Gettleman has shown a preference for big linemen in the past, but O’Neill looks to have the potential to fill out his frame more. If he manages to last to the top of the second round, he could be a steal as the Giants move to improve their offensive line.
O’Neill has good length and is a terrific athlete, but his inconsistencies at the Senior Bowl practices will be hard for teams to get out of their minds. What might be even more troubling is the way he seemed to panic and lose technique in certain matchups. O’Neill is a classic zone scheme blocker, but teams may take a look at him as a move guard with tackle potential rather than locking in with him as a blind-side tackle. O’Neill needs to get thicker and stronger or swing tackle could be his ceiling.
Other considerations: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State; Austin Corbett, OL, Nevada; Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State; Alex Cappa, OT, Humboldt State; Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
Round 4 (104) — Austin Corbett, OG, Nevada
I was stunned to find him still here. ESPN’s Mel Kiper told me several weeks ago that teams who wanted Corbett would have to pop on him on Day 2. I get a guy who can play several positions on Day 3. With O’Neill, that’s two young guys who could be offensive line building blocks.
While there will be several “adequates” on the checklist, teams may be looking for a more definitive strength to his game. Corbett is definitely sharp enough to move inside to guard or center and has good technique, but his average play strength and lack of length may be a concern. He has the size and talent to compete for a guard/center spot.
Other considerations: Mason Cole, OC, Michigan; Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia; WR Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State; Dante Pettis, WR, Washington; Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon; Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State
Round 4 (137) — Dante Pettis, WR, Washington
The Giants could use receiving depth, and they also need someone who can make some plays for them in the return game. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Pettis caught 63 passes last season. More impressively, he averaged 20.4 yards with four touchdowns on 21 punt returns. He has an NCAA record nine career punt return touchdowns over four seasons. I’m rolling the dice here to see if that dynamic play-making ability will translate to the NFL level.
Dante Pettis probably isn’t going to be sitting atop any list of potential “best receiver in the draft”, but he has intriguing potential at the next level.
As a receiver he is quick, runs good routes, is a reliable “hands” catcher, and a willing blocker on running or screen plays. That alone is enough to get him on the field and a producing, but as a physical specimen, he doesn’t leap off the screen, and that is a knock in the eyes of the NFL.
However, his incredible upside as a returner, however, is going to boost his draft stock. Being able to shrink the field before the offense even steps on it is a valuable talent. Being able to score on special teams is gold in the NFL, and Pettis is the best in NCAA history at it.
Solid secondary receiving option who has spent time on his craft and has the ability to attack and uncover on all three levels. Pettis lacks physicality and could struggle to handle in-your-face press corners, so he may see snaps from the slot. While his punt return talent solidifies his draft standing, his ability as route-runner combined with his smooth pass-catching should give him a long, solid career.
Other considerations: Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State; Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon; Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford
NOTE: This second fourth-round pick is based on Fanspeak’s assumption that the Giants will get a comensatory pick for losing Johnathan Hankins to the Indianapolis Colts in free agency.
Round 5 (141) — Quenton Meeks, CB, Stanford
Time to come clean. As of now, my knowledge of players this deep in the draft is really only cursory. I took Meeks as a need pick, which I really don’t like to do, simply because he was the best corner or safety on the board and I felt like the secondary needed supplementing.
NFL Draft Scout says:
Meeks’ strengths (reaction skills, intelligence, toughness) and weaknesses (lack of explosive traits or top-end speed) fit best in zone-heavy scheme or a position switch to safety.
Other considerations: Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State; Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon; Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
Round 6 (179) — Shaquem Griffin, LB, Central Florida
Yes, the guy who has only one hand. At this point I’m just looking for guys who can help on special teams, who have some upside, and who figure to be good in a locker room that wasn’t a happy place last season.
Griffin’s physical limitation should be discussed as it pertains to areas like tackle disengagement and consistency of finishing, but his instincts, play speed and technique have all been major factors in helping him thrive at his position. His upfield burst as an edge blitzer and his range as a tackler are two strengths that NFL teams could capitalize on. Griffin could hear his name on day three of the draft, but if not, his competitive spirit and playmaking talent give him a shot to make a roster at some point in his career.
NFL Draft Scout says:
Griffin might not be an every-down linebacker in the NFL, but he is absolutely a Sunday player due to his play speed and determined effort, projecting best as a special teams demon and dynamic subpackage linebacker.
Other considerations: George Senat, OT, Wagner; Scott Quessenberry, C, UCLA; Chris Worley, Ohio State; Michael Dickson, P, Texas