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Linebackers? We’re talking too, and about linebackers? Yes, we are

Chase Young, Isaiah Simmons not the only edge or LB options for Giants

NFL: Combine
Zack Baun
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young told a media horde at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday that “I definitely think I’m the best player in the draft.”

Well, most draft analysts have already told us that, so it certainly wasn’t breaking news that Young feels that way. Still when it comes to Young and the New York Giants, who have the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, that potential marriage is pretty much just a pipe dream.

Isaiah Simmons of Clemson is a much-talked about possibility for the Giants at No. 4, and we will have a complete look at him a bit later today.

So, let’s spend some time focused on some of the other EDGE/linebacker prospects who could end up interesting the Giants.

Here is a little bit from such players I had the opportunity to speak with on Thursday morning.

K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU

Chaisson, 6-3, 254 pounds, is a linebacker who probably isn’t in the conversation in the top 10, and probably will be long gone by the time the Giants pick at 36. Should GM Dave Gettleman engineer a move back or a deal that lands the Giants with a second first-round pick, perhaps his is a name to know.

The young man certainly believes in his ability.

“There’s nothing to hide from. Anything that you want to ask is on the tape. I just feel like everything that you want to know is on there. I’m not going to try to persuade you to think anything different. Honestly, there’s many areas that I can get better in, I’m not going to ever say that I’m the best at something right now ... The tape will tell you everything you need to know.”

Zack Baun, Wisconsin

In multi-round mock drafts where Simmons is not selected at No. 4 for the Giants, Baun is quite often the second-round pick. Landing with the Giants would reunite him with linebacker Ryan Connelly, a fifth-round pick last season.

“Yeah, that would be awesome. Shoutout to Ryan for just getting engaged,” Baun said. “But anytime I get to link with a former teammate, a former Badger, would be a true honor for me and I think it would really give me a step up because there’s a true brotherhood and mentorship at Wisconsin that are unlike any other places. So to reunite with them would be great.”

The 6-foot-2 3/8, 238-pound Baun said he has spoken “several times” with the Giants during the draft process.

Baun worked mostly as an EDGE player at Wisconsin, but spent time at the Senior Bowl showing NFL teams he can be an off-the-ball linebacker as well, a chess piece that can be used in more than one way.

“Yeah, I think that’s a part of my game that teams are really impressed with my ability to be so versatile and kind of do a lot of different things very well. With that being said, I played off the ball at the Senior Bowl and got to showcase my ability to do that. I feel completely comfortable and just willing to do whatever it takes,” Baun said.

“One of the teams identified me as like ‘the toy’ – a can do it all linebacker, give me the opportunity to rush the edge, play off the ball, drop into coverage, use all my skillsets to the fullest.”

Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

If Gross-Matos lasts until the Giants selection at No. 36, the talented Nittany Lions edge rusher could reunite with Giants defensive line coach Sean Spencer, who earned the moniker “Coach Chaos” while at Penn State.

“The man (Spencer) has been instrumental in my life,” Gross-Matos said. “I consider him to be part of my family. I have so much love for Coach Spencer and I thank him for my three years at Penn State.

“I wouldn’t mind playing for him again (with the Giants).”

Oh, and about that Coach Chaos stuff.

“It’s exactly what it sounds like. The dude is everywhere. He just brings the intensity and he’s a great motivator. He motivates guys, you want to give your all, you want to do your best for that guy.

“He’s someone who really brings the best out of people.”

Gross-Matos has been through a considerable amount of tragedy in his life. He said it makes him appreciate his opportunity.

“Life’s not guaranteed,” Gross-Matos said. “You’ve got to take the most out of every moment, be positive with everything that comes.”

What makes him an attractive player to NFL teams?

“I think athletically, I’m different from most defensive ends here,” Gross-Matos said. “I think it’s my speed and my strength combination. And just using my God-given length. Things like that. I’m someone who can go inside, outside, I feel like I could do whatever teams ask me to do. I’ll be effective, too.”

A.J. Epenesa, Iowa

The biggest questions about Epenesa, ranked No. 18 on The Draft Network’s Big Board, seem to be athleticism and whether or not he is versatile enough to be used in multiple ways.

Epenesa is looking forward to Saturday’s on-field drills

“I think there’s some things out there trying to say that I might be slow or not explosive and I just want to show that I’m not slow and not not explosive, I guess,” Epenesa said. “I want to show people while maybe they have doubts about me, I want to prove people who doubt me wrong. I want to run fast, jump high, and show what I can do.”

Jabari Zuniga, Florida

Zuniga, 6-3 3/8, 264 pounds, is coming off a disappointing senior season in which he played in only five games and had just three sacks. He missed eight games with a high ankle sprain.

“I have a lot to prove,” Zuniga said. “It’s (the draft process) been extremely important, rehabbing my ankle, getting my body right, a lot of my small injuries right.

“I’m just trying to show that I’m a very explosive player and a very strong player, somebody who is going to get after it.”

Zuniga is also trying to show versatility to teams like the Giants who might be looking for mid- to late-round EDGE help.

“I feel like I’m very physical. I’m very versatile. I can play the 3-technique in the passing game situations, I can play the traditional end in 5-technique or 9-technique spot and I can play outside linebacker as well.