The 2019 NFL season, and with it the return of actual New York Giants football, is almost upon us. But before the NFL regular season gets here the 2019 college football season will begin.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has released his initial Top 32 big board in anticipation of the return of college football (exclusive content).
Rather than go through a big board or position rankings, I thought I’d whet your draft appetite with a quick list of (likely) 2020 prospects who could fit the Giants’ needs as they stand now.
1) Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR, Colorado)
McShay says: This guy is a real weapon for any offense. Shenault can play any receiver position and is terrific with the ball in his hands. Don’t expect him to run a normal route tree, instead snagging a lot of short catches underneath, but he is good on contested balls, and his ability to create after the catch stands out as a plus trait. Shenault will need some time to develop and learn effective deep routes, but his short-area quickness is something else. In 2018, he hauled in 86 passes for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns -- and had five more on the ground. (16th on McShay’s board)
Raptor’s Thoughts: This is not a name many will know right now — after all, Colorado isn’t exactly a powerhouse. And many will point to Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy as the player to watch this year. Jeudy probably will be the top player on everyone’s big board (or at least top non-QB), but if all goes well, the Giants won’t even be able to think about drafting him. Shenault Jr. brings similar size at 6-feet-2, 220 pounds, good athleticism, the ability to turn short catches into big gains, and win contested balls. If the Giants’ offense can’t find a consistent threat at the receiver position, expect them to look for one in the draft.
2) Tristan Wirfs (RT, Iowa)
McShay says: Wirfs has the ability to shoot his hands and lock on in pass protection, and he’s athletic enough to mirror when he wins with his hands. But he loses inside-outside leverage at times, and explosive speed rushers give him some issues. Wirfs can move defenders off the ball, but he’s not a fundamentally sound run-blocker at this point. His initial footwork and angles are inconsistent, and he plays on his toes and leans, so he occasionally ends up on the ground. Wirfs grades out as an intriguing right tackle with good upside yet lacks polish. (30th on McShay’s board)
Raptor’s Thoughts: Mike Remmers is not a long term answer for the Giants at right tackle. At this point we can’t even be sure that he’s an answer at right tackle for 2019. Dave Gettleman has never invested a high draft pick in an offensive tackle (Taylor Moton was listed as a guard by the NFL), but he might need to in order to solidify the offensive line. Wirfs will come in with a short learning curve thanks to pro-style coaching at Iowa, the functional athleticism to remain on the edge, and all the power necessary to appeal to Gettleman. Oh, and he’s just 20.
3) A.J. Epenesa (DL, Iowa)
McShay says: The production was incredible last season, as Epenesa posted 10.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. He is an active hand fighter and displays good effort when rushing the passer, getting his arms in passing lanes. And he has the strength -- and size -- to set the edge against the run when he needs to. But Epenesa lacks lower-body flexibility and closing speed, and still needs a little improvement getting off blocks. (9th on McShay’s board)
Raptor’s Thoughts: If the Giants decide they want to play more out of a 3-man front, or upgrade R.J. McIntosh as a 3 technique/5 technique hybrid, they could do much, much worse than Epenesa. The second Hawkeye on the list is just about custom built to play the defensive end in an odd front at 6-6, 280 pounds, great hands, and oodles of power. I’m going to disagree with McShay on Epenesa’s athleticism and agility — Despite his size he has enough of both to be a speed rusher while playing heads-up on an offensive tackle. He isn’t a true “EDGE” in my book, but more like a suped-up version of Zach Allen from last year’s draft.
4) Darrell Taylor (EDGE, Tennessee)
McShay says: Nothing, Taylor isn’t in his Top 32
Raptor’s Thoughts: Again, a bit of a deep cut here. If we’re looking for a true EDGE for the Giants’ defense (and why wouldn’t we be, since you can never have enough pass rushers?), the first thought is Chase Young from Ohio State. But, as with Jerry Jeudy, the hope is that the Giants won’t have the chance to think about drafting young. Taylor is a bit smaller, but he brings an explosive first step with great flexibility and ability to flatten around the edge around offensive tackles.
5) Grant Delpit (S, LSU)
McShay says: A smooth safety, Delpit piled on 74 tackles, 5 interceptions, 9 passes broken up, 5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss in 2018. He has good speed and ball skills, and he shows great instincts on the back end, although he’s inconsistent as a tackler. Delpit is really effective in an overhang position where he can play closer to the line of scrimmage and affect the game against the run and pass. (3rd on McShay’s board)
Raptor’s Thoughts: Antoine Bethea isn’t a long term solution at free safety. And while the hope is that Julian Love will be able to transition to the safety position (while also still being able to play some corner), having a truly elite free safety is a huge boon for a defense. Delpit’s range in the center field is almost Ed Reed-like and he shows terrific instincts and playmaking ability. While we should hope that the Giants aren’t in position to draft him, Delpit is in the Eric Berry/Earl Thomas caliber of prospect at safety. This is one time where I’m going to allow myself to hope that rest of the NFL allows him to slip.