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Could Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris help solidify the middle of the Giants’ defense?

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The Giants still need to find a long-term answer at linebacker. Could Duke’s Joe Giles-Harris be the guy?

NCAA Football: Duke at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants will likely make the defense the focus of their draft. And considering the strength of the upcoming draft class at several positions of need on the Giants’ defense, that makes a lot of sense.

They need help and depth at all levels of their defense, and have need help at their linebacking corps for years now. The Giants are locked in to Alec Ogletree as a starting linebacker, and B.J. Goodson has shown himself capable, but he is in the final year of his rookie contract. The team might look for a replacement for Goodson, but they might also be unable to spend a high draft pick on an off-ball linebacker.

Duke’s Joe Giles-Harris is flying below the radar at the moment, could he be in the Giants’ future?

Measurables

Pros

  • Prototypical frame for an inside linebacker.
  • Shows solid instincts and generally has an accurate first move.
  • Processes information and reads offenses quickly.
  • Active communicator before the snap.
  • Shows a solid closing burst coming downhill.
  • Capable in coverage underneath.
  • Strong motor. Will run sideline to sideline and pursue the play.
  • Reliable tackler. Generally tries to wrap up, rather than going for shoulder checks.
  • Uses hands well to deal with cut blocks.

Cons

  • Not an elite athlete. Not particularly fast over a distance and shows some stiffness.
  • Tends to get grabby in man coverage, could draw flags in the NFL.
  • Struggles to shed blocks from offensive linemen as a blitzer or at the second level in run defense.
  • Not rangy in coverage. Might belimited to short/shallow zones. *Note: He played through an injury suffered in week one which might have hampered his mobility throughout the season.

Prospect Video

What They’re Saying

Joe Giles-Harris presents himself as a true MIKE at the NFL level. Giles-Harris has strong mental processing, shows effective habits in working over the top of plays and effective range to reach outside the numbers. Giles-Harris may not be the most fluid athlete in pass coverage but he’s effectively dropped into man coverage against RBs and has a good head for underneath zone. Giles-Harris can be an immediate starter in an even front, particularly on a defense with stout DTs in front.

- Kyle Crabbs (The Draft Network - Scouting Report)

Does He Fit The Giants?

Joe Giles-Harris would fit the Giants’ defense in theory. He profiles most accurately as a “classic” 4-3 MIKE linebacker, but considering how similar a one-gap 3-4 and a 4-3 Under defense are, there really isn’t a significant difference between a 4-3 middle linebacker and 3-4 strong inside linebacker. So, there isn’t a schematic reason why the Giants shouldn’t draft him.

He has enough coverage ability to hold up against most running backs and tight ends on the first two downs, though he might struggle with more athletic pass catchers at the next level (particularly in man coverage). Giles-Harris is effective in the run game and as a pass rusher, though he can sometimes get hung up on blockers. Most interestingly, he is shows both good instincts, generally taking an accurate first step and positioning himself where the play will go with little wasted motion, and a solid football IQ. Likewise, Giles-Harris is an active communicator, constantly relaying information to his teammates and making adjustments before the snap.

Like several other players, whether the Giants seriously consider Giles-Harris might depend on how they feel about a player already on the roster. He would likely fill a similar role as both Alec Ogletree -- though he plays the weak inside linebacker role in the base defense -- and B.J. Goodson. Because of Ogletree’s contract, the decision would likely come down to whether or not the Giants anticipate re-signing Goodson after the season. If the team decides to let Goodson leave in free agency, the Giants could consider Giles-Harris if he falls to the third day of the draft.

However, the team could also look to draft a more athletic “nickel” linebacker who can improve the coverage behind their pass rush.