The 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl will likely be the highlight of the 2021 NFL Draft process.
With the NFL Scouting Combine canceled out of caution regarding COVID-19, this will be the NFL’s best opportunity to get a close look with a significant number of prospects on the same field. We’ve spent the week watching these young men practice against each other under the tutelage of NFL coaches Matt Rhule and Brian Flores. Saturday, we watched the two teams play against each other in what will be these players’ final game as amateurs and the first part of their interview for the NFL.
There were plenty of players who stood out in the Senior Bowl, but which players who stood out could also be fits for the New York Giants?
Baron Browning (LB, Ohio State) and Jabril Cox (LB, LSU) - I want to talk about these two players together, because they would both fill a similar role for the Giants. While Blake Martinez racked up scores of tackles, the Giants were still vulnerable over the middle and their speed in space was lacking. Both Browning and Cox showed the ability to play as outside linebackers as well as inside linebackers, the kind of versatility that would play well in Patrick Graham’s defense. Both linebackers were fluid in space and looked comfortable in coverage and made plays coming downhill in run support as well.
Osa Odighizuwa (iDL, UCLA) - This spot could easily have gone to Cameron Sample as well, but I decided to go with Odighizuwa for a couple reasons. Osa was active all week long and showed the ability to win with both explosive power as well as with speed and technique. He also has better length than Sample with 34-inch arms, which could appeal to Dave Gettleman. The Giants need to continue to add to their pass rush, and while the emphasis should be on adding pressure off the edge, an interior player with the ability to be as disruptive as Odighizuwa has been is attractive as well. Particularly as he has the traits to be able to play in a variety of fronts, packages, downs, and distances.
Elerson Smith (EDGE, Northern Iowa) - The unknown edge player from the small school who didn’t play this fall had himself a great day and should definitely be on the Giants’ radar. Elerson has great size at 6-foot-6 1⁄2 inches with good length and athleticism, which he put on display. He was making plays in the offensive backfield all game long — even though the first time his name was called was for hitting a quarterback too hard.
Desmond Fitzpatrick (WR, Louisville) - As Daniel Jeremiah noted during the game, the best receivers on these rosters are slot receivers. Unfortunately, the Giants have more pass catchers who are at their best in the slot than they know what to do with. Of the receivers who fit the Giants’ roster, Dez Fitzpatrick stood out the most. He had a good game in spite of some inconsistent quarterbacking, routinely getting open and making catches to keep drives moving. Fitzpatrick also has some solid size at 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, which could help the Giants on the outside.
Keith Taylor Jr. (CB, Washington) - The Giants need to find a reliable and versatile cornerback to start opposite James Bradberry, and Keith Taylor Jr. could be that player. Taylor had a very quiet week of practice, which isn’t a bad thing when you’re playing cornerback. Taylor has great length at 6-foot-2, but has surprising movement skills for a tall cornerback. He is able to use his length in press coverage and has the feet and hips to stay in phase throughout a receiver’s routes. He had multiple snaps in which he was in great position, including one where he stayed in a receiver’s hip pocket throughout a double move.
Richie Grant (DB, Central Florida) - While the Giants should be set at safety for 2021, we have seen how quickly a strength can become a weakness. We also know that the draft is for adding talent, not filling holes. Grant was one of the stars of the Senior Bowl practices and showed off his incredible versatility in the game. He played at deep safety, box safety, and at cornerback, looking comfortable everywhere he lined up. Grant’s versatility could be a great fit in Patrick Graham’s scheme.
Grant Stuard (LB, Houston) - I have to take a minute to talk about Grant Stuard. The undersized linebacker with the Polomaluesque mane caught my eye several times throughout practices, but there was always someone who flashed just a bit more. He’s a very high energy player with quick feet and good movement skills, and those are traits to work with, but his demeanor is going to earn him long looks. He will likely have to earn his roster spot on special teams before getting a chance to compete on defense. And in that case, coming very very close to blocking a pair of punts (granted, players aren’t supposed to even try, but it wasn’t called) is going to appeal to Joe Judge.