A year ago, the New York Giants selected Alabama safety Xavier McKinney on Round 2 of the NFL draft. This time around, there are a number of Crimson Tide players who are possible Giants selections over the first two days of the 2021 NFL Draft.
To give us some perspective on these players, Brent Taylor of SB Nation’s Alabama website, Roll Bama Roll, joined this edition of the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast. Most notably, Taylor had some cautionary words about Jaylen Waddle, a wide receiver often connected to the Giants with their first-round pick (No. 11) in the draft.
Let’s go through some of the main points Taylor made during our conversation.
Better NFL career — Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith?
“It’s the easy answer, but I think DeVonta Smith will,” Taylor said. “He’s the more pro-ready type receiver just with his feel for the game. He’s one of those guys that makes everything look so easy that you kind of watch him and you’re like, is he really doing anything all that impressive? He’s just catching wide open balls all the time. Then you realize that’s because he’s getting wide open all the time.”
Taylor added that Waddle is “flashier, for sure,” but that Smith, who won the Heisman Trophy, is a “more natural, downfield, pure receiver.”
Why both will be better than Henry Ruggs
The Las Vegas Raiders selected Ruggs, who was really the Crimson Tide’s fourth receiver behind Jerry Jeudy, Waddle and Smith, No. 12 overall in 2020. Ruggs ended up catching only 26 passes in a non-descript rookie season.
“I still do not understand how Ruggs was drafted higher than Jeudy [15th, Denver Broncos],” Taylor said. “Why Ruggs was drafted in the first round at all was solely because of a 40-yard dash.”
Ruggs ran a 4.27 at last year’s Combine.
“DeVonta Smith has got four years of really good production,” Taylor said. “Those stats back up his skills. A Heisman Trophy never hurts, either.”
Ruggs had 98 receptions and 1,716 receiving yards during his Alabama career. Smith had 117 receptions and 1,856 yards last season alone, For his Alabama career, he had 235 catches for 3,965 yards.
Taylor was less enthusiastic about using the No. 11 choice on Waddle.
“Waddle, I’d be careful. I don’t think he’s a slam dunk receiver. He’s going to need to be in a system that allows him to work with a lot of yards after catch and gets him the ball that way. He’s also coming off a pretty rough injury [fractured ankle]. That’s another risk you’ve gotta take,” Taylor said.
“At 11, you’ve gotta take DeVonta Smith if he makes it to 11. I don’t think he will. Waddle, I think you could do it. I also think if he drops to the 15 to 20 range that would be a good spot for him, as well.”
Taylor did add that Waddle is “special” as a return man. “It’s fun to watch,” he said.
What about Waddle vs. Patrick Surtain II?
While there is intense focus on wide receiver for the Giants at No. 11, the Giants have other holes and other ways they could go with that selection. One of those is cornerback, where it would be nice to end the revolving door opposite James Bradberry. Alabama prospect Patrick Surtain II is a cornerback some think is the best in this draft class, and who is often off the board before the Giants selection in mock drafts.
If both Waddle and Surtain were available to the Giants at No. 11, which would Taylor select?
“I’m probably going to take Surtain there. I’m a defensive guy as it is and, yeah, I’d go with the corner,” Taylor said. “He’s one of those guys. He’s got the NFL bloodlines, but he’s so naturally good at playing cornerback that 99 percent of the time there’s not a flaw you could pick out. That other one percent? I think he gets bored sometimes.
“As long as you keep him properly engaged he’s a slam dunk corner. You can’t go wrong with that.”
Taylor added a caveat that I believe correct — it’s easier to find good wide receivers later in the draft than it is to find top-tier cornerbacks.
“There’s a supply and demand kind of thing. There’s lot of good receivers,” Taylor said. “A good corner’s in short supply. If the option’s there I’m taking a cornerback.”
On offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood
“They gave the wrong Alabama lineman the Outland Trophy,” said Taylor, who thought center Landon Dickerson and guard Evan Neal were more deserving.
Taylor said Leatherwood was a “great” guard for the Crimson Tide early in his career and a “good” left tackle who is probably “still a left tackle” in the NFL.
On defensive tackle Christian Barmore
When I look at Barmore, a defensive tackle, I see a player who might be a logical Round 2 selection for the Giants if they lose Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency. Taylor called him a “hot or cold kind of guy.”
“I’m not as high on Barmore as most of the media seems to be. I wouldn’t take him in the first round,” Taylor said. “Kind of that early second range, you’ve got the 11th pick of the second, I’d consider that. That’s still a little higher I think than I’d probably be willing to go.”
On Landon Dickerson
Dickerson is a player I know Chris Pflum would love to see at center for the Giants next season. Taylor loves him, too.
“Landon Dickerson is going to be in the pros for a looong time as long as he can keep his injuries down,” Taylor said.
“He’s a great blocker. He can play guard, center, or tackle.”
How early is too early to draft Dickerson?
“I would take him top 10 without a second of hesitation if you need a center,” Taylor said.
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