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Ed’s 6-round Giants mock draft: Checking off items on the bucket list

Giants get an edge defender at 11, fill several other holes

Mississippi State v Georgia Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We are now less than two weeks away from the 2021 NFL Draft, which begins on April 29. That means only one more New York Giants mock draft from me after this one.

No scenarios, no trades from me today. This is pretty much a “what I would do” mock draft. As anyone who has read my work for a long time knows, I believe in drafting for value and the long term, not going ‘Position A in Round 1, Position B in Round 2,’ etc., or focusing specifically on what the perceived needs are. That said, I did enter this exercise with a bucket list of things I hoped to accomplish. I looked for spots where I thought the value matched those bucket list items.

Here is how things turned out.

Round 1 (No. 11) — Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia

I will be honest. Ojulari here was not Plan A. The way this board played out, though, I thought the Georgia edge rusher was the best choice.

Wide receivers DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle went sixth and ninth to the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos, respectively. Offensive lineman Rashawn Slater went No. 10 to the Dallas Cowboys. Kyle Pitts and Penei Sewell were also off the board.

For me, Ojulari is the No. 1 edge defender (defender, not just rusher) in this class. Because he has solid experience playing standing up and with his hand in the ground, and has the ability to rush, defend the run and drop into short area coverage. I see him as perfect for defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s multiple scheme.

This is also a player who, I think, has tremendous untapped potential. He doesn’t turn 21 until mid-June. He compiled 14.0 sacks and forced 5 fumbles the past two seasons against a high level of competition and had the second-highest Pro Football Focus pass-rushing grade in the country (91.7) with a limited pass rush arsenal that really includes only a speed rush/dip move to get around offensive tackles and an occasional bull rush. At 21, he has all kinds of time to develop a variety of moves.

I’m also attracted to the fact that Ojulari is a high-character player who is the only freshman captain at Georgia in Kirby Smart’s six seasons as Bulldogs head coach. I could certainly understand the selection of Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons here. I have espoused the belief that Parsons is the best overall defender in this draft class. The constant character questions about Parsons and the fact that he seems to be a big personality have me a little gun shy. The Giants haven’t had the best luck in recent years with those types of players.

In his draft guide, Dane Brugler of The Athletic writes:

Ojulari senses how blockers want to attack him and is very skilled at using his burst/bend to attack their outside shoulder, greasing the corner and detaching from blocks with his violent hands. While he lacks elite size for the position, that shouldn’t limit his NFL ceiling if he continues to diversify his approach and develop his counters. Overall, Ojulari is an instinctive and explosive athlete with the dip-and-rip cornering skills and scheme versatility to become an impact NFL pass rusher. He projects as a younger version of Yannick Ngakoue.

In the Pro Football Network draft guide, Tony Pauline lists the Giants as one of the three best landing spots for Ojulari. He writes:

Entering the season, I graded Ojulari as a potential Day 2 choice off of his freshman film. He displayed a great amount of progress last season and is rounding into a complete defender who can stand over tackle and come out of a three-point stance. His lack of bulk will result in bumps in the road early on, but Ojulari will be a terrific defensive front-seven player in time.

I could also understand the theory behind taking USC offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker in this spot. I just believe it’s more likely I can land a starting-caliber guard on Day 2 than it is I will be able to find a player with big-time pass rush potential.

Other players considered: Micah Parsons, Patrick Surtain, Alijah Vera-Tucker

Round 2 (No. 42) — Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State

In my eyes, it’s a must that the Giants come out of this draft with a starting-caliber interior offensive lineman. For me, this is the perfect marriage of value and need. Davis, 6-foot-3½, 315 pounds, is a plug-and-play NFL starting caliber right guard who is good value at this point in the draft.

Davis is Brugler’s 63rd-ranked prospect and Pauline’s 36th.

Brugler writes:

In pass protection and as a run blocker, Davis is quick to get the upper hand due to his striking power, body control and competitive nature. While his physical appetite is a strength, he can be too eager to initiate contact without getting his feet underneath him, leaving him off-balance and on the ground. Overall, Davis must play under control and improve his snap

In the PFN draft guide, Pauline lists Davis as a fit for the Giants and writes:

Davis was a dominant lineman for Ohio State the past two seasons and showed continued development in his game. He’s a zone-blocking lineman with outstanding size and needs only to improve his finishing strength to complete his game. The injury suffered during the national title game will push him down draft boards, but once he returns to health, Davis will be a productive starting guard in the NFL.

Other players considered: Landon Dickerson, Kelvin Joseph, Kadarius Toney, Jabril Cox, Alim McNeill, Milton Williams, Dyami Brown

Round 3 (No. 76) — Nico Collins, WR, Michigan

If you have been following my weekly mock drafts, you know by now that Collins is one of my favorite mid-round wide receivers in this draft class. It quite honestly would not be wrong to take any of the players on the “other players considered” list below, but I’m taking “my” guy.

At 6-foot-4½, 215 pounds with the ability to beat cornerbacks deep and win contested throws Collins’ skillset screams ‘Kenny Golladay’ to me. If he ends up being as good, or nearly as good, as Golladay I will take that. Collins is now 15 pounds lighter than when he last played for Michigan in 2019.

Brugler writes:

Collins is a plus athlete for his size with the foot quickness and body control to win above the rim. Though he shows flashes of a playmaker, he must consistently play up to his size and improve on tight-window throws. Overall, Collins isn’t a sudden or energetic player who will consistently separate underneath, but he is an impressive height, weight, speed prospect with the smooth routes and dependability to push for an NFL starting role (N’Keal Harry style player).

Other players considered: Dyami Brown, Amari Rodgers, Tyson Campbell, Walker Little D’Wayne Eskridge, Kenneth Gainwell

Round 4 (No. 116) — Tyler Shelvin, DT, LSU

The Giants added journeyman run-stuffer Danny Shelton and re-signed Austin Johnson. One of my bucket list items, though, was to do more to replace Dalvin Tomlinson. Selecting the 6-foot-2, 350-pound Shelvin does that. He is a mammoth, double-team eating early- and short-yardage down run stuffer.

Pauline writes:

Shelvin is a traditional two-gap nose tackle whose size, power, and ability to consistently get leverage on opponents gives him the upper hand. He may be a little bit too large at this point and must adhere to year-round conditioning, but if he’s focused on football, Shelvin will have a long and productive career in the NFL.

Other players considered: Chazz Surratt, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Khalil Herbert, Keith Taylor, Jaelon Darden

Round 6 (No. 196) — Thomas Graham, CB, Oregon

The Giants have James Bradberry and Adoree’ Jackson starting on the outside. They have Darnay Holmes and a number of other options at slot cornerback. What they don’t have are appetizing options as depth behind Bradberry and Jackson.

There is speculation that Patrick Surtain II of Alabama could still be in play for the Giants at No. 11 despite the presence of Bradberry and Jackson. I have often said you can never have enough good cornerbacks, but with other areas that needed immediate attention I couldn’t use the 11th pick on cornerback.

I did, though, want to add a developmental player to the cornerback room. Graham is a player I really only became familiar with recently via a chat with draft analyst Rob Rang on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast. Based in Seattle, Rang is more familiar with and has a higher grade on Graham than many draft analysts. He gave Graham to the Giants in Round 3 of his recent mock draft.

Brugler has a Round 4 grade on Graham, so between the opinions of those two I feel really good about the value here. Brugler writes:

A coachable and confident competitor, Graham is quick to sort and react to what he sees, showing a knack for disrupting passing windows. While he plays urgent, he isn’t a sudden athlete and needs to protect vs. missteps. Overall, Graham doesn’t have high-end physical traits, but he works hard to stay on top of routes and makes plays on the football. He projects as an immediate depth piece for an NFL team.

Round 6 (No. 201) — Larry Rountree, RB, Missouri

I have often said I think the Giants should look for a running back on Day 3. I grab one here. Brugler has a Round 5 grade on the 5-foot-10½, 211-pound Rountree. He writes:

Rountree stays controlled with his lower body and runs with dependable vision and tempo to chip away at the defense. While he is a workhorse who takes a beating and keeps grinding, he doesn’t make a ton of plays after initial contact, lacking the balance or explosive gear to be a consistent tackle-breaker. Overall, Rountree might not have any special traits, but he is reliable, and the strengths of his game (vision, footwork, toughness) translate well to any scheme. He projects as a potential backup if he proves to be reliable in third-down situations.

In the Pro Football Network draft guide, Tony Pauline writes:

Rountree was a consistent ball carrier who played really well during Senior Bowl practices and displays a complete game. He has the size and ability to be a third running back at the next level as well as a situational starter.

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