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5 late-round linebackers who might help the Giants

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Wyoming at San Diego State Photo by Alan Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The current state of the New York Giants’ linebackers (NOT EDGE) is a bare landscape of unproven NFL talent that is headlined by a player with three career starts, coming off of a torn ACL. This may be rectified through free agency, and possibly high in the draft with the defensive unicorn, who classifies as a linebacker, Isaiah Simmons being a possible selection for the Giants at four. The Giants do have a pressing need at offensive tackle and there just so happens to be four legitimate top-15 players at that position. One course of action would be to select the favorite tackle and worry about linebacker later in the draft. Due to this realistic scenario, I wanted to continue my series of “5-late round prospects.” Let’s dive into some attainable prospects that may be available for the Giants on Day 3.

Akeem Davis-Gaither, Appalachian State

Remember 15 seconds ago when I said attainable prospects on Day 3 ... well, this one may be a stretch. ADG, as draft twitter deemed him, has such a unique profile that he may wind up in day 2. Stands at 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, with 31 ⅛ inch arms, and possesses film that flash excellent overall movement skills for the position. Unfortunately, he didn’t test at the combine, but ADG shows exceptional closing burst, range, foot-speed, and lateral movement skills, along with fluid hips. In Senior Bowl drills, it was evident that he was a different kind of athlete at linebacker (Isaiah Simmons is a unicorn and doesn’t count). ADG had over 100 tackles, 14.5 for a loss, and 5.5 sacks in 2019, along with 8 passes defensed. Athletic ability allows him to excel in man coverage. You’ll see his unique ability to slither around blocks on the edge in the video below; all against an SEC opponent in South Carolina. My issue with ADG is his ability to handle second level blocks in the middle. He’s not all that strong at the point of attack and his hands do not possess the pop that is necessary to effectively stack and shed. When it comes to athletic ability though, he has it in droves.

See how ADG just avoids the pulling lineman and bends around them like he’s Gumby. Very impressive and evasive moves from the linebacker on the edge. The last clip, he shows ability to rush the passer, and adjusts mid rush to an inside move on an oversetting tackle. He’s able to get inside and earn the sack. Very productive player, with an excellent motor. If the Giants miss out on Simmons, ADG would act as an alternative in a later round...hopefully day 3.

Logan Wilson, Wyoming

I’m not entirely sure why Wilson isn’t garnering any buzz at all. Very good size at 6-2, 241 pounds, and long 32 3/8 “ arms is combined with solid overall athletic ability. Ran a 4.63 which is solid, but his mental processing and ability to stack/shed blocks is what I love about him. Has enough athletic ability to get by, was a former safety. Plays with excellent leverage, very strong hands; gets his hands inside and extends while looking through blockers and diagnosing the running backs destination. Tackle radius is evident on film, as his ability to finish tackles strong and in a dominating fashion. Key and diagnoses everything in front of him well and takes good angles outside, while being excellent moving through traffic - great spacial awareness. His football IQ allows him to do well in zone coverage too. May not have the desired foot-speed to match really athletic tight ends up the seam and on 7 routes, but Wilson is an excellent value on Day 3; someone that can step in and compete on early downs, while bringing a lot to special teams. Production at Wyoming is eye popping: 409 tackles, 34.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 10 interceptions, 14 passes defensed, and 5 forced fumbles in 4 years. Insane numbers, I feel like his stock will rise in the coming months because he’s just not getting the attention that he deserves.

First clip shows his lateral movement skills through contact. Initiates the contact at the second level and maintains distance between him in the offensive lineman. You can see the power in his hands and the jolt he gives the lineman, while he moves outside and makes a physical tackle. Next clip you can see the ability to read, react, and (you guessed it) attack downhill when he breaks the screen down, showing an ability to process the game and respond decisively. There were several clips of him shedding and moving well through trash, while also showing exceptional awareness in zone and baiting quarterbacks on underneath throws - see below.

Wilson is smart, a good tackler, can take on blocks, and is athletic enough to be an NFL linebacker. Would be an excellent SAM or SILB and would love to see him roving Patrick Graham’s defense. A name to pay attention to on day 3 of the 2020 draft.

Willie Gay Jr, Mississippi State

Excellent size and speed combination, standing at 6-1, 243 pounds, running a 4.46; has very good length too with 32 ⅝” arms and 10” hands, while showing exceptional explosiveness in his lower half at the combine by vertical jumping 39.5” and broad jumping 11 feet and 3 inches. Gay hasn’t been receiving as much pre-combine hype as some of the other athletic linebackers because he was suspended for 8 games in MSU’s academic tutor scandal. He also allegedly got into a fight with one of MSU’s quarterbacks at the end of the 2019 season, rendering the signal caller with a broken orbital bone. Unfortunate, because he had 5.5 sacks and 2 interceptions in 2018, along with 48 tackles. Nevertheless, what I noticed most on his tape was his ability to explode downhill with controlled aggression. Gay has a first and second gear that is noticeable when running downhill, and not laterally. His ability to click & close underneath on routes, the QB in the pocket, or the running back out of the back field is quick and very to the point. While I love his ability to burst and deliver soul crushing hits, I did not expect him to test this well in the 40. I had some questions about his sideline to sideline speed, and I also think his angles to the ball can be questioned. I saw him get blocked and turned away from too many holes as well, which was a concern, but, like most players on these lists, he has a lot of tools to work with and develop.

His exceptional short area quickness and burst allow for him to blow by blocks at the second level, when he recognizes and breaks down what he sees well. You can see that in the first clip, lineman is a bit late, and Gay makes Louisville pay. Second clip shows his speed and explosiveness coming downhill as a blitzer on stunts, something that he would absolutely thrive in at this level, and something that Graham incorporates into his defenses - fancy that. Third clip shows that hustle and ability to recover in zone. Out of nowhere, Gay just bursts through his target and forces the fumble. There are questions with this player on and off the field, but he plays with a high motor, can tackle well, and has very good athletic ability.

Davion Taylor, Colorado

A very raw player who used to run track and has a limited background in football. Track speed really shows up on film and his hustle is elite level. Will chase plays from the backside till the whistle, and possesses excellent athletic ability. Solid size at 6-feet, 228 pounds with 32 ⅛” arms, while running a 4.49 at the combine, along with 21 bench press reps, 35 inch vertical, 10 ft 7” broad, and a 6.96 3-cone. The tape shows these athletic traits as well. Colorado used Taylor as a nickel linebacker and he routinely played over the top of the slot wide receiver. Effective in man coverage and utilizes good balance to be a controlled, disciplined player when in man. Another very physical linebacker, who isn’t afraid of contact and will wrap and drive offensive players to the ground. Had 129 tackles and 18 tackles for a loss in the last 2 seasons.

From the backside, Taylor tracks the Oregon running back down...this is incredible hustle and speed from Taylor. You can see Taylor lined up over the slot receiver and he would do this with positive results because of his ability to cover and stay in the hips of athletic offensive players. Taylor still needs to learn the nuances of playing football; reading blocking schemes and decisively reacting, getting the proper depth in zone coverage assignments while seeing the “entire” field, things like that. In terms of ability to grow with coaching, and athletic capabilities, Taylor has a lot of appeal in the late stages of the draft.

Khaleke Hudson, Michigan

Played safety for the Wolverines, similar to the Jabrill Peppers role, but he’s making a switch to linebacker in the NFL. Had his best season in 2017 as a sophomore where he capitalized on Don Brown’s aggressive nature by recording 77 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, with 7.5 sacks, although he did have over 100 tackles in 2019. Hudson had a very good combine with a 4.56 40 yard dash, 30 reps on the bench, 33” vertical, and a 10 foot broad jump, which displays some lower body explosiveness. Short at 5-11, but is yoked up at 224 pounds, while possessing good overall athletic ability and movement skills. Good, physical, wrap up tackler that provides a big bite for a smaller player. Is solid in man coverage, but took some poor angles coming downhill on underneath routes. Hudson could earn a role as a back-up/practice squad player, or be a key cog on special teams.

In the first clip, when he strikes the H-Back in the backfield, you see the leverage he plays with; he’s low to the ground, establishes inside hand placement, and drives through the block to force the running back off his landmark. That all started from his ability to see the blocks open up and then attack aggressively. Hudson does the same thing in the second clip. 4th & 1, Hudson sees the quarterback roll towards his side, so he uses good pursuit angles and lateral agility to cut the angle off, avoid the block, and make the hard low hit to force a turnover on downs. Third clip just shows his ability to adjust to the running back, who’s originally going through the A-gap, but bounces outside. Keep in mind that Hudson’s unblocked, but he still adjusts well and flows over the top of the traffic in front of him to help make the stop. I didn’t see a ton of instances of him stacking and shedding lineman, which is concerning, but he still showed reasons why the Giants may be interested, if he’s available late on day 3.