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‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast: Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy on prospects to watch

Nagy tells us about players the Giants should pay attention to following the 2021 Senior Bowl

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 28 Minnesota at Purdue
Benjamin St-Juste
Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With no NFL Combine being held this year in advance of the 2021 NFL Draft, the recently-concluded Senior Bowl took on added importance for prospects aiming to impress NFL decision-makers.

Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy joined this edition of the Valentine’s Views podcast to discuss the event and many of the draft prospects New York Giants fans need to know about coming out of the game and the week of on-field workouts that preceded it.

“It’s [the Senior Bowl] certainly more important,” Nagy said. “We told our 136 guys when they got here they were in a unique position because they were probably the only 136 guys in this draft cycle that are going to be interviewed face to face, with plexiglass obviously this year, but interviewed face to face with all 32 teams and be evaluated on the field for an entire week.”

Nagy said NFL teams are learning to value competitive situations more than Combine workouts in assessing draft prospects.

“I think smart teams have moved away from Combine evaluations, to be honest. Really the value of the Combine is for the medicals and for the interviews, not as much on the workout stuff anymore,” Nagy said.

“I was a part of teams that got burned by that stuff, really evaluating guys in shorts and t-shirts. I really think that the smart teams are really focusing on our week and the other all-star games, because it’s actual real football.”

Listen to the full episode below.

Nagy and I discussed three need areas for the Giants — wide receiver, edge defender and cornerback. Following are some of the things Nagy had to say about players the Giants should pay attention to.

Wide receiver

Nico Collins

Nagy said the Michigan receiver, who opted out of the 2020 season, measured 6-foot-4¼, 215 pounds in Mobile, Ala. That’s down roughly 15 pounds from what he weighed during his 2019 season.

“Much quicker, much twitchier player now than he was,” Nagy said. “All the tape you’ve watched from 2019 this guy’s almost a different player now and you can see it in his releases and at the top of routes. Much, much quicker, had some unbelievable plays on the ball during the week. Some really acrobatic stuff, some great red zone stuff.

“To me he’s not just a possession guy anymore. He runs well now … he looked like a high 4.4 guy. When you’ve got those measurables, when you’re 6-4, 215, running high 4.4 there’s not many guys in the league that have that toolset.”

Most draft boards list Collins as a late Day 2 or early Day 3 selection. Nagy believes his showing in Mobile could push him into discussion at the end of Round 1.

Kadarius Toney

The No. 11 overall pick, where the Giants sit in Round 1, might be too early for Toney. Nagy, though, said there is “zero chance’ the Florida receiver will still be on the board for the Giants at No. 43 in Round 2.

“One of the most electric players in college football this year,” Nagy said.

“He’s one of those guys you kind of throw the measurables out because he’s not the biggest guy, but he plays really big with the ball in his hands. He’s really powerful through contact he’s tough, he’s aggressive. The football makeup is really off the charts when it come to passion for the game and competitiveness when he gets on the field. As a route runner he’s a really hard cover because he’s so quick changing direction and he knows how to set guys up.”

D’Wayne Eskridge

Until recently maybe only diehard draftniks knew a lot about Eskridge, who played at Western Michigan. Nagy, though, thinks the 5-9, 190-pounder is a potential late-Round 1 or Round 2 selection.

“No one could cover him [at the Senior Bowl],” said Nagy. “He’s probably going to be a low 4.3 guy, he’s tremendous with the ball in his hands. He’s not quite the change of direction guy Kadarius is, but equally dangerous when he gets the ball. His first step acceleration is off the chart.”

Tylan Wallace

The 6-foot, 190-pound receiver from Oklahoma State is another player who gets the Nagy stamp of approval.

“One of my favorite players in the draft,” Nagy said. “He’s really a pro’s pro receiver. A guy that’s only 5-11, 185 but plays like he’s 6-2, 215. Throw the measurables out with Tylan.”

Demetric Felton

Felton was primarily a running back at UCLA, though the 5-11, 200-pounder did catch 97 passes the last three seasons. Senior Bowl staff had Felton work as a wide receiver, and the results could catapult Felton up draft boards.

“Should be gaining a lot of traction out of Senior Bowl week,’ Nagy said. “I don’t see him getting out of Day 2 now after the week he had down here.”

Nagy said Felton could line up as a running back, slot receiver or even split wide. he said Felton’s route-running savvy was “pretty unique’ considering that most of his collegiate snaps came at running back.

Edge defenders

The Giants, as we know, could (should?) be in the market for edge pass rushers. Here are three from the Senior Bowl Nagy likes.

Quincy Roche

Roche is one of my favorite edge defenders in this class. Nagy appears to agree.

“He’s one of those guys that’s better than I thought he was,” Nagy said.

“He’s not a wow you athlete, although I will say this — during our week seeing him live he is twitchier and a little more slippery and bendy than I thought he was.”

Roche had 4.5 sacks for Miami in 2020 after spending his first three seasons at Temple.

“The biggest compliment I can give the guy is that he’s just a really hard block. He makes people work when they block him … he knows how to set guys up, he knows how to rush. That’s why I think he’s got a chance to contribute immediately at the next level on third downs and in sub situations,” Nagy said.

“He’s probably going to be a better player and outperform wherever he gets picked … He’s just a producer.”

Carlos Basham

At 6-5, 285 pounds, Basham is more down lineman than standup edge defender. He might, though, be a consideration for the Giants on Day 2 if they lose Leonard Williams or Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency. Basham compiled 15 sacks over 19 games in his final two seasons at Wake Forest.

“I don’t see this guy dropping into coverage much but Carlos Basham, Boogie Basham from Wake Forest, is a really cool player because he can pressure from anywhere along the line and I do think he can stand up and and do it. We’ve seen him do it,” Nagy said. “He can also line up inside over guards and whup them as well. Boogie might be a first-round guy, there’s a really good chance Boogie goes in the first round.”

Elerson Smith

A somewhat unknown player from Northern Iowa, Smith is 6-7, 245. He had 14 sacks and 14 quarterback hits in 2019.

“A really high upside guy with all the physical traits you need. If there were a Combine this year Elerson would have been kind of the buzz guy coming out of Indy this year because he’s going to test off the charts,” Nagy said. “He’s another guy because of his length I think you can move him inside, move him all around. He’s athletic enough to play on his feet and get a lot done.”

Cornerback

We know the Giants are likely looking for a full-time answer at cornerback opposite James Bradberry. Either Patrick Surtain of Alabama or Caleb Farley of Virginia Tech could be answers if the Giants want to use the No. 11 pick on one of them. Nagy offered some options deeper into the draft.

Aaron Robinson

Coincidentally, BBV’s Chris Pflum did his prospect profile for Monday on Robinson.

“One of my favorite corners in this class because you can move him around,” Nagy said. “He reminds me a lot of Minkah Fitzpatrick when Minkah was at Alabama. He played mostly in the slot for UCF, but he’s just a baller. You could play him at safety, you could play him outside. Really good player.”

Ifeata Melifonwu

A huge cornerback out of Syracuse at 6-3, 215 pounds.

“One of the biggest rises coming out of our game,” Nagy said. “Big, 6-3, 215 pounds, really bends and moves easily for a guy his size. Got his hands on a lot of balls down here.”

Keith Taylor

Another tall cornerback at 6-3, 195 pounds out of Washington.

“Really played himself up last week,” Nagy said. “Long arms, good press-man player and again a guy that really stood out last week in coverage.”

Benjamin St-Juste

Nagy seemed to think this massive cornerback out of Minnesota will be selected much earlier in the draft than many outside NFL circles believes.

St-Juste is 6-3¾, 200 pounds with 32 inch arms and an 80¼-inch wing span.

“That’s rare size. There’s only seven corners in the league right now over 6-3 and most of them are stiff. Benjamin’s definitely not stiff, he can really bend, he did a great job getting his hands on people at the line of scrimmage down here,” Nagy said.

“The type of height and length and he was very competitive down here, very physical, competitive. The league right now is all over the kid, I don’t think draft Twitter and the Internet has caught up yet on Ben, but they will. They will when it starts leaking out how much the league likes him. That’s probably another guy the Giants should be looking at.”

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