Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tae Crowder might not be able to partake in the perks generally associated with being the final player selected in the NFL Draft, the one affectionately known as Mr. Irrelevant.
Crowder’s small home town in Harris County, Ga., is feting him the best it can.
“They had some banners. At the high school [Harris County], they had a program with my name on there saying, ‘Congrats Tae Crowder, NFL Draft 2020’. Stuff like that,” Crowder told reporters during a recent videoconference.
“It [being drafted] means a lot to me and my family and my community. I’m one of the first ones from my town to get drafted and that’s pretty big where I’m from. I’m from a small town, many people don’t make it from here. It brought the city out, they have my name hanging up in different places and stuff like that. It was a blessing and a dream come true for me.”
The machinations of NFL’s undrafted free agency are, of course, well underway prior to the announcement of the final selection. Potential priority free agents, the ones teams are most interested in should they go undrafted, often know who their suitors will be, well before the seventh round has concluded.
Crowder described getting the call from the Giants while in the midst of fielding free agent offers “a crazy moment.”
“It was crazy just because I was already planning on signing for free agency,” Crowder said. “That whole process, I can’t even explain how it felt but my family was happy, I was happy and that’s all that matters.”
He declined to say where he was intending to sign had he gone undrafted, but said the Giants were one of the teams he had heard from.
Why did the Giants select Crowder, making him the fourth linebacker they selected the sixth and seventh rounds?
“He’s a 245-pound kid that runs 4.6 and plays 4.6,” GM Dave Gettleman said. “He’s got some versatility and some value and definitely has some special teams value.”
“This is a guy that’s only played a couple years at linebacker,” coach Joe Judge said. “We see a lot of upside with him. Both in his physical skills as well as his emerging defensive understanding. He’ll come in and compete for positions at that WILL linebacker spot as well as give impact to the kicking game.”
Crowder was a high school running back and initially remained at that position when he began playing at Georgia. He was, however, buried on the depth chart and moved to inside linebacker after redshirting in 2015.
The Bulldogs’ defensive coaches noticed.
“I was just on scout team at practice, just working hard, and my coach ended up noticing it just going against the number one defense, making plays, he saw that I was an athlete and that I should be on the field,” Crowder said of the switch. “He reached out to me, we had a meeting, and he was like he sees me as a linebacker and stuff like that, as a defensive player. We just had a one-day tryout, and at that tryout I ended up doing pretty good and I stayed there from then.”
With all of the linebackers the Giants selected, plus players like Blake Martinez, Ryan Connelly and David Mayo likely guaranteed roster spots if they are healthy, Crowder is going to have to fight to make the 55-man roster.
What tools does he bring to the competition?
“I’m an aggressive player, a disciplined player. A hard-working player and I like to make plays for the team,” Crowder said. “I can play SAM, I can play WILL and MIKE. I’m pretty good in coverage. I love to fit the run and I love to cover backs, too.”
Only time will tell if Crowder can become more than an irrelevant draft pick for the Giants.