Here at Big Blue View we put a tremendous amount of work into our preparation for the NFL Draft.
Each year we watch tape on, evaluate, grade, and produce reports on more than 100 prospects. Part of the reason for, and the end product of that whole process in the construction of our big board.
A few years ago we adopted the practice of getting as many of our analysts together as we could hashing out a board that is the consensus of all of our evaluations. This year I was able to sit down with Mark Schofield, Nick Falato, and Joe DeLeone for the 2021 iteration of the Big Blue View Big Board.
The idea being that by using as many different evaluations and points of view as possible, we could counter our own various biases and produce a board that is more accurate overall.
Likewise, we adopted the practice of putting together a “two-axis” big board. Not only is this format just more visually pleasing than a straight 1-100 (or more) list of names, it allows us to more easily map out the strength or weakness of various positions and how players compare to one another.
And then at the end of April, the test comes, and the 32 NFL teams make their selections. Sitting on the outside, there is a lot we don’t know that goes into teams’ boards. We don’t know the background information teams get from a variety of sources or the reports from the NFL’s medical professionals. Likewise, we don’t know how the various teams view their own rosters and needs, and all of that goes into the construction of boards around the league’s various front offices.
But even so, it’s fun to see how our exercise stacks up to the draft itself. And while we didn’t put this board together with the New York Giants specifically in mind, let’s see how the Giants top picks lined up with our evaluations.
The Big Board
Round 1 - 20th overall - Kadarius Toney (WR, Florida)
Big board neighborhood: Bottom “First-Second”
This was the second half of the first big surprise of the 2021 NFL Draft for us. The first part being that the Giants would trade down at all. But then the selection of Toney is a definite reach according to our consensus big board.
The “First-Second” designation is a recognition of the fact that there are seldom as many players who are given “first round” grades as are drafted in the first round. Generally speaking, the players who land in the “First-Second” range are prospects who could be drafted anywhere from the last 10 picks of the first round to the first 10 picks of the second round. The fact that Toney was listed at the bottom of this range means that he was viewed as more of a “top of the second” prospect.
And in fact, according to our board, the Giants passed on four players we liked more than Toney in making that selection. Those players were, Rashod Bateman (27th overall, Baltimore Ravens), Elijah Moore (34th overall, New York Jets), Rondale Moore (49th overall, Arizona Cardinals), and Terrace Marshall Jr. (59th overall, Carolina Panthers).
Round 2 - 50th overall - Azeez Ojulari (EDGE, Georgia)
Big board neighborhood: Middle “First Round”
At first blush, this would appear to be one of the major steals of the draft, and that may well turn out to be true. Ojulari has first round athletic traits and tape, and by that measure he had no right being available in the third round, let alone still being available in the third round following a trade down.
But, as we always note in our evaluations here, there’s a lot we just don’t know about these prospects. And in the case of Ojulari, it was how the NFL felt about the health and long-term prognosis of his knee. As far as we knew, Ojulari tore his ACL as a senior in high school, took a medical red-shirt year, and then played the next two. What we didn’t know was that, as Tony Pauline reported, NFL teams had “multiple red flags” on Ojulari’s knee following the re-check in early April. Some more thorough digging after that report dropped revealed that Ojulari had begun to practice with his Georgia teammates following the initial ACL reconstruction in preparation for his freshman season, but then needed an unspecified second surgery which caused the medical red shirt.
Sitting here, on the outside, without access to Ojulari’s medical reports or (speaking personally) the expertise to correctly interpret them. By extension, we can’t accurately asses the risk involved with Ojulari as a prospect.
So how did the Big Board do here? Well, either we were spot on and the whole NFL overreacted, giving the Giants a colossal steal, or our incomplete picture of Ojulari left out some significant context and we were about a round too high on him.
Maybe this one will have to be an “incomplete” for now.
Round 3 - 71st overall - Aaron Robinson (CB, Central Florida)
Big board neighborhood: Top “Third Round”
This is one we got right on with our valuation. Robinson landed in the third round due to a good blend of size and athleticism, and the ability to be disruptive at the catch point.
However, a lack of consistency, some concerns about penalty potential (his physicality has a tendency to cross the line into interference), and a belief that he is a “slot only” defender kept him from joining Caleb Farley, Greg Newsome II, and Asante Samuel Jr. in the second tier of cornerbacks.
Robinson will likely compete with Darnay Holmes for the slot corner role, and perhaps even have an advantage if the Giants want to use more aggressive coverage shells.
Round 4 - 116th overall - Elerson Smith (EDGE, Northern Iowa)
Big board neighborhood: Bottom “Fourth Round”
I have to give us a solid pat on the back here while also making a confession. Due to some simple logistics, we limited ourselves to listing four rounds on our board. Those logistics being the simple fact of making the big boards easily viewed in posts and the fact that teams start making deep cuts on prospects in the fifth round. So we used the fourth round, in part, as a place to put players who’s name we wanted out there, but draft stock we were unsure of.
None of us really believed that Smith was going to be drafted in the fourth round, not because of our grades on him, but rather because he is a relatively unknown small-school prospect who hadn’t played in a year. But, we took the chance to put Elerson Smith in that fourth round neighborhood, and it turns out we nailed it.