The New York Giants have a pair of big holes to fill on the front end of their defense, so Saturday’s group of defensive linemen and linebackers are going to be a main attraction when watching the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine.
The Giants need to find a pass rush after fielding one of the worst four-man pass rushes in the NFL last year, and they also need to build their linebacker corps. The Giants are expected to pursue a pass rusher in free agency, but drafting a young pass rusher who can compliment the veteran and give the Giants long-term continuity would be a positive step. The team also released linebacker Alec Ogletree and Kareem Martin on Tuesday, creating cap room as well as roster spots.
So then, what stood out from the defensive line and linebacker weigh-ins?
Chase Young confirms “Prototype” status
It was somewhat surprising and definitely disappointing to learn that Ohio State EDGE Chase Young wouldn’t be working out at the Combine and instead he’ll be waiting for Ohio State’s Pro Day. There is a chance — a vanishingly small chance, as in “if Captain Jack Sparrow wants to know why all the rum is gone, it’s because Giants’ fans offered it to Jobu” — that Young manages to slip to fourth overall.
And on the snowball’s chance that Young does slip, he certainly looks like an NFL EDGE. He measured in at 6-foot 4 7/8 inches, 264 pounds, with 33 3⁄4 inch arms and 10-inch hands. That checks every height, weight, and length box teams could have. We’ll just have to wait until Ohio State’s Pro Day to check off the “speed” boxes.
Other EDGE’s checking boxes
Young might not work out, but the EDGEs down the depth chart will be competing this weekend. And so far many of the top prospects are checking those height and weight boxes too.
Julian Okwara (Notre Dame): 6-foot-4 1⁄4 , 252 pounds, 34 3/8 inch arms, 10 1⁄4 inch hands
Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State): 6-foot 5, 266 pounds, 34 7/8 inch arms, 9 3⁄4 inch hands
K’Lavon Chaisson (LB, LSU): 6-foot-3, 254 pounds, 32 1⁄4 inch arms, 9 7/8 inch hands
Terrell Lewis (LB, Alabama): 6-foot 5 1/4, 262 pounds, 33 7/8 inch arms, 9 7/8 inch hands
(note: Both Chaisson and Lewis are listed as linebackers, but were also asked by the NFL to perform defensive line drills.)
Isaiah Simmons looks more like a linebacker
There are scouts who are having trouble projecting Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons because he doesn’t fit conventional linebacker archetypes. Simmons is a former safety who played all over Clemson’s defense, traits that have obvious benefits for a defense that has to contend with modern offenses.
Simmons measured in at 6-foot 3 5/8 inches, 238 pounds, with 33 3/8 inch arms and 9 5/8 inch hands. While we fully expect him to put on a show this weekend, him showing up at nearly 240 pounds has to help ease the concerns of more traditional football minds.
Ironic story: Simmons’ first choice of college was Arkansas under Bret Bielema. Simmons reportedly ran a 4.37 second 40 yard dash when working out for the Arkansas staff and told them he would immediately commit if offered a scholarship. Bielema and his staff declined to offer a scholarship because they, reportedly, didn’t know where to play Simmons, and he ultimately went to Clemson.
We’ll just have to wait and see what happens the second time around.
Linebackers who fit the Indianapolis Colts model
If the Giants are looking for impact players for their linebacking corps, and they should be, the should probably follow the Indianapolis Colts lead.
In 2018 the Colts selected Darius Leonard out of South Carolina State and he went on to be the defensive rookie of the year, an All-Pro in each of his first two years and a Pro Bowl player this past year. In 2019 the Colts drafted Bobby Okereke out of Stanford in the third round. He was one of the best rookie defenders in the NFL, starting 8 games and producing in coverage, pass rush, and run defense.
The two linebackers are undersized compared to what we have seen from the position in the past, but they are both very athletic with impressive range and ability to play in space. Obviously Isaiah Simmons is the prototype for that style of linebacker. But if the Giants don’t draft him in the first round, there are other linebackers they could look at later in the draft.
The first is Oregon’s Troy Dye who is a long, athletic, and productive. He measured in very similarly to Leonard at 6-foot 3 1⁄4 inches tall and 231 pounds, with 32 1⁄4 inch hands and 9 3/8 inch hands, and has a similar game as an off-ball linebacker.
We should also keep an eye on Appalachian State linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither. Davis-Gaither came into the Combine bit heavier than expected, at 6-foot 1 1⁄2 inches, 224 pounds, with 31 1/8 inch arms and 9 1⁄2 inch hands. He was a potential “STAR” safety-linebacker hybrid, but if he can still move well at 224 pounds he could be a full time linebacker at the NFL level.