The New York Giants need multiple upgrades on their defense. They have long needed to improve their linebackers, and that need has only grown after releasing Alec Ogletree. The Giants also need to improve their speed on defense so they can match up with the athletic running backs and tight ends which have gashed them in the middle of the field for years.
While the Giants could select a linebacker in the first round, they have options if they look elsewhere.
Oregon linebacker Troy Dye is a bit below the radar after taking a slight step back his senior season and not being able to perform at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine as he recovers from injuries suffered over the course of the season.
Prospect: Troy Dye (LB, Oregon)
Games Watched: vs. Auburn (2019), vs. Colorado (2019), vs. Washington (2019), vs. Utah (2019)
Red Flags: Fractured thumb (2019), meniscus (2019)
Games Played: 48
Tackles For a loss: 41.5
Forced Fumbles: 4
Passes Defensed: 14
Games Played: 13
Tackles For a loss: 9.5
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 4
Best: Athleticism, range, first step, football IQ, pre-snap communication
Worst: Size, play strength
Projection: A starting off-ball linebacker in a nickel-heavy defense.
Oregon linebacker Troy Dye has an excellent combination of length and athleticism to play off-ball linebacker at the NFL level. He shows good athleticism with short area quickness and range to play in space against spread-influenced offenses. Dye is an active communicator before the snap, frequently lining his teammates up and making adjustments before the snap. He has very good range in zone coverage, with good discipline in picking up and passing off offensive players in his zone. Dye also shows very good eyes to read the quarterback and take an accurate first step toward the play. His length and athleticism give him upside in man coverage against tight ends or running backs. Dye is a sound tackler who prefers to wrap up and prevent yards after contact than to attempt a big hit with a shoulder check.
Dye plays fast in run defense, committing fully when attacking downhill. He shows good discipline in gap assignments and plays at full speed when attacking into the backfield. He generally takes an accurate first step in run defense, showing good football IQ when. He is able to stack and shed blocks when he gets his hands on defenders first, making use of his length and athleticism to keep linemen from locking in their blocks.
Dye was also frequently used as a blitzer, with his speed allowing him to attack gaps before linemen could adjust and applying pressure to the quarterback.
He also showed impressive competitive toughness his senior season by playing all season with a meniscus injury and a fractured thumb.
Dye will likely need to add play strength at the NFL level, where he won’t be able to get by on raw athleticism alone. He needs to be more consistent in getting his hands on blockers first, as well as do a better job of defeating cut blocks. Dye occasionally seems to need an extra beat to confirm what he sees before committing to a course of action.
Overall Grade: 6.3 - Has the traits to become a starter early in his career. Should be a dependable contributor for any team that drafts him and a good value on the second day of the draft.
Troy Dye has the floor of a good nickel linebacker at the NFL level with the ceiling of a starting off-ball linebacker in the mold of Danny Trevathan or a Darius Leonard. Dye is not a “traditional” thumper of a linebacker, instead using his length and athleticism to make plays in space as a coverage linebacker or blitzer. Dye has sideline-to-sideline range with the ability to drop into zone coverage or match up with backs and tight ends in man coverage. He is a good tackler who routinely wraps up to prevent yards after contact rather than selling out for a highlight-reel hit.
Dye is a good communicator, routinely making adjustments and getting his teammates lined up before the snap.
While Dye’s game is based on his athleticism, he will need to build more functional strength at the NFL level. He is able to beat blockers when he gets his hands on them first at the collegiate level, but that will be harder against NFL caliber linemen.
Dye was consistently productive throughout his college career but took a small step back over the course of his senior year. That was likely due to playing with a fractured thumb and a meniscus injury. While he shows great competitive toughness and claims he didn’t feel the injuries during games, there is a difference in his explosiveness and how he takes on blockers in his earlier tape as compared to his tape from the end of the year.
Whether Dye is a nickel linebacker or a true starter at the next level will likely depend on the exact scheme of the team which drafts him. However, he could provide good value as a coverage linebacker or blitzer as a second-day selection.