The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, one of the most highly-regarded NfL Draft analysts in the business, has released his annual 7-round mock draft. Let’s discuss what Brugler has done for the New York Giants.
Round 1 (No. 11) — Alijah Vera-Tucker, OG, USC
Brugler leaves wide receivers Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith, linebacker Micah Parsons, and edge rushers Azeez Ojulari, Kwity Paye and Jaelan Phillips, among several others, on the board here to select Vera-Tucker. He writes:
If the Giants want Daniel Jones to succeed, continuing to upgrade the offensive line with this pick will be attractive. There is no such thing as a “safe” prospect in the NFL Draft, but Vera-Tucker is viewed by many around the league as having low bust potential and a high floor. Personally, I would go Jaylen Waddle here, which is another realistic possibility.
Brugler has Vera-Tucker as OG1 and the 13th-ranked prospect overall in his 2021 draft guide. He says:
Although his anchor can improve, Vera-Tucker is coordinated in pass protection and his punch connects with flat feet and natural force to win early and reset throughout the rep. He creates a surge in the run game and competes with the play personality required for the pro level. Overall, Vera-Tucker does an outstanding job centering his blocks and sustaining due to his balanced feet, strong hands and quick processing. He projects as an NFL starting guard with a Pro Bowl ceiling and tackle versatility.
Valentine’s View: I am always supportive of bolstering the offensive line. I’m just not sure I could take Vera-Tucker this early in the draft. Rashawn Slater, yes. Most analysts, though, think Vera-Tucker is just a cut below Slater. With Jaylen Waddle, Kwity Paye, DeVonta Smith, Micah Parsons and Azeez Ojulari among the players still on the board here (Slater went No. 8 to the Carolina Panthers) it would be difficult for me to select Vera-Tucker. He is the best offensive lineman on the board and he would help the Giants. I just don’t know if I could pass on one of those offensive playmakers or defensive disruptors.
Vera-Tucker’s average draft position, per the NFL Mock Draft Database, is No. 18. Brugler, understandably, did not do trades. If Vera-Tucker, though, is really a player the Giants want I would think they could probably drop down a few spots (maybe to 15, currently owned by the New England Patriots) and have a reasonable shot at him. If not, I think there are going to be several players capable of pushing for a starting guard spot available on Day 2.
Round 2 — Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami
Rousseau’s mediocre pro day combined with his lack of experience and questions about how “real” his 2019 production (15.5 sacks) was have Rousseau dropping behind several of the other top edge rushers in the minds of many.
I couldn’t feel good about selecting Rousseau at No. 11. In his draft guide, Brugler calls Rousseau “a faith-based projection with clear bust potential.” There are simply too many other good options for me to take this kind of a swing at No. 11. At 42? No problem. Rousseau has all the physical traits at 6-foot-6⅝ and 266 pounds with an 83¼-inch wingspan (92nd percentile). His 10-yard split (1.57) is 95th percentile and his 20-yard split 92.71) is 65th percentile.
The Ringer says Rousseau has “limitless upside.” There are massive questions about whether or not Rousseau will be able to tap into that upside. At this point in the draft, though, I’m happy to take that chance.
Round 3 (No. 76) — Daviyon Nixon, DT, Iowa
This is a pick by Brugler that I’m not sure about at all. I haven’t studied Nixon in a great deal of depth, but what I have seen makes me wonder if he is truly a fit for the Giants. The 6-foot-3, 313-pounder played defensive tackle in a 4-3 at Iowa. He does have the ability to penetrate and cause disruption as a one-gap player. I’m just not sure he could line up anywhere for the Giants other than as a 4- or 5-tech. I don’t see the ability to handle double teams playing inside.
Nick Falato didn’t consider Nixon in his list of 5 potential draft class replacements for Dalvin Tomlinson. My favorites here would be Tyler Shelvin, the massive nose tackle from lSU, or N.C. State Alim McNeill. Marvin Wilson of Florida State is also still on the board.
The other problem I have with this pick is it illustrates why the Giants might want to go with a play-maker (Waddle/Smith) or defensive difference-maker (Parsons/Ojulari) at No. 11 rather than a player like Vera-Tucker who would likely be a guard for them.
Here are the potential starting-caliber guards who remain available at No. 76, and many of these even at No. 116 in Round 4 of Brugler’s mock;
Aaron Banks, Watt Davis, Deonte Brown, Jackson Carman, Trey Smith, Ben Cleveland.
Now, none of those players is as highly-regarded as Vera-Tucker. Still, I think all of them could challenge Will Hernandez, Shane Lemieux and Zach Fulton for a starting role with the Giants.
Round 4 (No. 116) — Cornell Powell, WR, Clemson
I like Powell as a Day 3 wide receiver prospect. I just have always considered him more of a Round 6 possibility for the Giants and think this might be a touch early.
In his draft guide, Brugler writes:
Powell is a physical presence downfield and very skilled on back-shoulder throws, displaying smooth body control and strong hands. While coordinated as an athlete, NFL cornerbacks won’t be threatened by his deep speed and should be able to squat on his breaks. Overall, Powell isn’t an explosive route runner, but he is a top-flight competitor with balanced athleticism and plus ball skills to make in-air adjustments look routine. He projects as a potential Mohamed Sanu-like weapon.
Valentine’s View: There are any number of receivers to choose from here, and if Brugler favors Powell over Seth Williams, Simi Feheko, Jaelon Darden, Josh Palmer and some others that’s fine. The other consideration here for me might have been cornerback with Keith Taylor of Washington and Benjamin St-Juste of Minnesota available.
Round 6 (No. 196) — Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech
I have been a consistent proponent of the Giants taking a running back on Day 3. Brugler does that here, and I like it.
Herbert is 5-foot-8¾, 210 pounds and gained 1,182 yards while averaging 7.7 yards per carry in 2020.
Khalil Herbert's vision is on a whole other level pic.twitter.com/2URODOv11L— Stadium (@Stadium) October 10, 2020
In his draft guide, Brugler writes:
Herbert is a balanced athlete and does a terrific job reading his blocks, maximizing angles and punching the gas to attack the second and third levels (his nickname is “Juice”). He tends to be over-reliant on outside runs with most of his plays ending up at the numbers whether that was the design or not. Overall, Herbert is unproven as a pass catcher and blocker, but he creates yards for himself with his ability to quickly connect his feet, eyes and decision-making. He projects best in a zone-oriented scheme.
Herbert offers kick return value with a 26.9 yard average on 16 returns last season, and had just one fumble in 527 career collegiate touches.
In his draft guide, Matt Waldman writes:
One of the most intriguing sleepers in this draft class, Herbert has a lot of stylistic and athletic similarities to Dalvin Cook. When examine the measurements of both players during their respective pre-draft processes, Cook was an inch taller, their long speed was nearly identical, and Herbert has better acceleration and change-of-direction quickness.
Both display excellent curvilinear movement, which is the ability to bend around obstacles at a high speed—think of a racing motorcycle taking a hairpin turn—which is an efficient way of making dynamic changes of direction without slowing down to make a hard cut. The only difference as collegians is that Cook was a top high school prospect who went to marquee program and Herbert began his career at Kansas.
Herbert is an adept runner between the tackles whose skills in this area should only grow to match the demands of the NFL game. He won’t begin his career as a starter, but he should contribute as part of a committee and earn an opportunity to be the lead back, if not the every-down starter before his rookie contract expires.
At pick No. 196 in Round I will take that.
Round 6 (No. 201) — Monty Rice, LB, Georgia
It wouldn’t be a Giants draft if they didn’t take a player from Georgia. Here, Brugler adds Rice to the collection of late-round linebackers (Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin, Tae Crowder, T.J. Brunson) the Giants selected in the sixth and seventh rounds last season.
To be honest, this is not a player I have studied. Brugler has a Round 4 grade on him, and writes in his draft guide:
A gritty, tenacious competitor, Rice diagnoses aggressively and plays with NFL-level strength to battle through blocks and punish ball carriers. While his motor always runs hot, he needs  to play with better patience, technique and durability for his production to translate to the NFL. Overall, Rice has limitations in coverage and must become more measured in his attack, but he is a downhill banger with the killer mentality desired by NFL coaches. He projects as a borderline starter in the right situation similar to the Rams’ Micah Kiser.
Here is Brugler’s full draft for the Giants: