An impressive free-agent haul and the Friday NFL swap meet that saw the Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles make moves to change the 2021 NFL Draft selection order, have conspired to open a world of possibilities for the New York Giants with the 11th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
One of those possibilities is to trade down somewhere into the 15-20 range, perhaps with a team looking to Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, probably the last of the Big 5 of quarterbacks who will be available in this draft class. That should enable the Giants to collect additional draft assets in both this draft and the 2022 draft.
That scenario is why the four-round mock draft posted Friday by Chad Reuter of NFL.com caught my attention.
Reuter traded the Giants’ 11th overall pick to the Chicago Bears for the 20th overall pick, a third-round pick (83rd overall) and a 2022 first-round pick.
What did the Bears do with that pick at 11? Well, the perennially quarterback-challenged Bears took Jones, of course.
What you really want to know is what the Giants did with their pick at 20. Well, they selected Georgia edge rusher Azeez Ojulari. Considering what I wrote about Ojulari on Friday, you have to know that I love that pick at that spot. I’m not sure I would take him at 11. At 20? No doubt I believe he’s value at that spot.
The Giants get a couple of premium picks from this trade with the Bears and still select a much-needed pass rusher who best fits their scheme. Ojulari’s a good athlete and plays bigger than his 6-foot-3, 240-pound frame portends against the run. He could remind Giants coaches of Markus Golden, who had 10 sacks for the G-Men in 2019.
I’m not sure I like Reuter’s Golden comparison. I see Ojulari as a 20-year-old kid with a solid floor who can play going forward and backward, and with potential to unlock much more in the pass rush game as he broadens his arsenal.
Let’s see what else Reuter gave the Giants.
Round 2 (No. 42) — Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama
Predictable. And very Giant-like. An Alabama defensive tackle in Round 2 to replace Dalvin Tomlinson, the Alabama Round 2 defensive tackle the Giants lost in free agency. I can easily see the Giants going defensive tackle in this spot — they certainly have a history of doing so on Day 2 of the draft.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com writes:
Attack-oriented defensive tackle with a big body, violent hands and the talent to work his way around blocks and find the football. Barmore tends to be in the lead and take control of a majority of reps. His hands and feet sing in harmony and allow him to stay active and free from attempts to sustain blocks against him. His hands are heavy and powerful but also sudden and efficient, which creates early win opportunities for him in the run game and as a pass rusher. Barmore can be his own worst enemy when he freestyles his run fits and prematurely gives away positioning when posting up in read-and-react mode. He’s exceptional at finding a blocker’s edge and swiping past the outside hand to bring the ruckus inside the pocket. While he has similar size and skill set, it doesn’t feel like he’s as long at the point of attack as past Alabama defensive tackles now in the pros. Barmore’s explosive first step, violent hands and upper-body power are the ingredients of a three-down defender with the versatility to play a number of positions in an even or odd front as an impactful rookie starter.
Round 3 (No. 76) — Trey Smith, G, Tennessee
Predictable. Again. The Giants need depth and competition at guard. Smith can provide it.
When putting together a guard built for an NFL power-based scheme, the blueprint would probably look like Smith. He’s big, wide, strong, long and will flash an aggressive streak when he gets geared up. The lack of body control and technique he put on tape suggests it may be difficult for him to overcome his limited athleticism. An offseason of fundamentals work should help Smith become more efficient into first contact, which will really unlock his power at the point of attack. He’s been one of the more talked about guard prospects over the last few years but might be in for a bumpy beginning as he adjusts to the athletes and technicians he will face as a pro.
Trey Smith projects to be a starting guard for a team that uses man-gap principles and a power run game.
At least assuming his medicals check out.
Smith has all the size and strength required to play in a power-based offense, with enough athleticism to be useful for teams that like to use pulling guards or screens. He should be a reliable pass protector at the NFL level, as long as the team doesn’t look to expand the pocket too broadly and ask him to block too wide a range. ...
The bigger question comes down to health. The issue of long-term availability is a question the NFL needs to answer for every prospect, but the question of blood clots is significantly scarier than a torn muscle or ligament injury. Even if Smith is given a clean bill of health at the time of the draft, his future team’s medical staff will likely want to be careful to keep a close eye on him. Not only for his availability on the field, but also his long-term health beyond football.
Assuming Smith’s health checks out, he could be a player who out-performs his draft slot if he lands in the right situation.
Round 3 (No. 83) — Kenneth Gainwell, RB, Memphis
I don’t have an issue with selecting a running back at some point. Maybe not even here at No. 83. This, though, isn’t really the use of the extra pick received from the Bears that I was hoping for.
One-year starter with underwhelming size but overwhelming production. Gainwell is a challenging study as a slasher with average burst and speed but excellent change-of-direction talent. His propensity for taking on monster contact as an inside runner should be a concern based on his frame. He does an excellent job of reading blockers/defenders and makes buttery smooth cuts to change his rush track while keeping his feet ready if another quick cut is needed. His willingness in pass protection and talent out of the backfield should help him find a home as a backup running back with third-down value.
Wide receivers Nico Collins (No. 89, Cleveland Browns) or Tylan Wallace (No. 90, Minnesota Vikings) might have been more likely choices for me. There are, in fact, at least a half-dozen players who went after Gainwell in Round 3 I would have preferred. Edge rusher Elerson Smith, linebacker Chazz Surratt, cornerback Paulson Adebo, cornerback Benjamin St-Juste, defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin are all players I would taken ahead of Gainwell.
Round 4 (No. 116) — Rodarius Williams, CB, Oklahoma State
Yes, I would have preferred Adebo or St-Juste at 83. If I’m choosing a cornerback here, I might have preferred Keith Taylor of Washington (No. 124, Washington Football Team) or Robert Rochell of Central Arkanas (No. 127, Indianapolis Colts). Still, I can’t complain about the idea of adding cornerback depth in the middle rounds of the draft.
His size and expected straight-line speed will work in his favor. However, Williams might be lacking the natural athletic attributes to handle press duties and the instincts needed for zone. If coaching can tighten up his press technique, he might be in consideration as a Cover 2 cornerback with the ability to step up and support the run. He’s become better at staying in phase with the route and can be a handful to deal with on 50-50 throws due to his size and physical nature. Finding a good scheme fit will be key, but he has a decent chance of earning a spot as a backup.