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Ed’s mock draft 1.0: A big-play wide receiver in Round 1 for the Giants

Boston College v NC State
Zay Flowers
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

For the past few years I have done weekly simulated New York Giants mock drafts leading up to the real NFL Draft. It is time once again to start those, so today I give you version 1.0.

To be completely transparent, I have studied very few players at this point. I am going to guess — no, assume — that many Big Blue View readers know more about many of these draft prospects than I do. Some of what I am doing at this point is picking players based not on my own study, but on scouting reports and perceived Giants needs.

I am using the NFL Mock Draft Database simulator. Why? Well, I like it. One big reason I like it is because each time a pick rolls around the simulator offers suggestions, which helps me learn about players I should be studying and offers me a glimpse into how the computer models see team needs for New York. It also grades each pick.

Point is, over the next several weeks my selections will likely change drastically as I learn more about players.

Round 1 (No. 25) — Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

I really would love to find a big, physical wide receiver right here, but TCU’s 6-foot-4, 215-pound Quentin Johnston is long gone. Zay Flowers is only 5-foot-10, 172 pounds. He is, though, a player I have watched a fair amount and I absolutely think ‘Big Play Zay’ is good value at this point in Round 1.

I know that Flowers seems to duplicate Wan’Dale Robinson, but the way the Giants used stack and bunch formations in 2022 I’m not all that concerned about it. I’m concerned about adding playmakers, and that’s what I think this pick accomplishes.

Pro Football Network says:

Explosive. Dynamic. Dangerous. Three words that are the hallmark of Flowers’ 2023 NFL Draft scouting report. However, there’s more to the 22-year-old wideout than a simple speed and after-the-catch threat.

He’s showcased versatility throughout his college football career, tasked with multiple alignments and responsibilities in the Eagles’ offense. There’s a misconception that he operates purely out of the slot, but Flowers has taken snaps outside and from the backfield while also being used in motion to devastating effect.

From a pure catching perspective, Flowers has elevated his game this season. The Boston College receiver has impressive ball skills, based on a foundation of excellent ball tracking and completed with the ability to utilize strong hands at the catch point. His diminutive frame hasn’t been a barrier to reeling in contested catches against some of the best DBs in the nation.

Players passed on: Trenton Simpson (LB, Clemson); O’Cyrus Torrence (G, Florida); Josh Down (WR, North Carolina); Jalin Hyatt (WR, Tennessee)

I am very curious to hear what people think of Simpson, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker. This is another player I have done enough work on at this point to have an opinion, and until someone who knows more than I do convinces me otherwise he is not a player I can select at No. 25. I see the speed. I see the coverage ability. I see the instincts. I see the ability as a blitzer. I see the versatility. You know what I don’t see? I don’t see the ability to shed blocks and play the run when it’s coming up the middle. I watched three of his games and did not see him do that one time. If you can’t do that, you can’t be a three-down linebacker in the NFL. If you can’t be a three-down linebacker, I can’t pick you in the first round of the draft.

So, someone is going to have to convince me that Simpson wouldn’t be a liability on run downs.

Round 2 (No. 57) — Garrett Williams (CB, Syracuse)

This is really me looking at the board, not knowing these players as well as I will in a couple of months, and feeling like I have to take a shot at getting a cornerback who could develop into a starter.

Pro Football Network says:

The 2023 NFL Draft CB class is set to be a strong one. Williams’ presence only reinforces that fact. Currently, Williams grades out as a mid-Day 2 prospect. It’s very possible that he’ll come off the board within the top 75 picks next April. An average size profile may prevent him from cracking Round 1, but Williams has the athletic and operational tools to be viewed as a potential starter on the boundary.

Williams brings plenty of appealing tools to the CB position. He’s explosive, agile, twitchy, fluid, and physical. He actively uses feet first with his technique, can mirror WRs off the line, and jam to disrupt at stems. Downfield, he’s proven himself to have very natural playmaking ability, and he’s a major force in run support.

Players passed on: Luke Musgrave (TE, Oregon State); Andrew Voorhees (IOL, USC); Jack Campbell (LB, Iowa); Eli Ricks (CB, Alabama)

Round 3 (No. 89) — Jack Campbell (LB, Iowa)

I question if the 6-foot-5,-246-pound Campbell can succeed in man coverage vs. the better tight ends and shiftier running backs. By this point in the draft, though, there are no players without warts of some kind, and there are a lot of things to like about Campbell.

Bleacher Report says:

The combine will be key for Jack Campbell, as questions remain about his athleticism when it comes to his transition to the NFL. He was athletic enough to be the most decorated linebacker in college football this season, but his change of direction and hip fluidity are questionable for a modern-day NFL linebacker.

With that being said, Campbell isn’t devoid of traits that will translate to the NFL. He has impressive speed when coming downhill, which helps him plug gaps against the run and close on pass-catchers in zone coverage. He’s also arguably the best linebacker at stack-and-shedding in this draft class, and he has good instincts in zone coverage.

Schematically, the Hawkeye would be best as a middle linebacker in a system that uses a lot of one-high looks and Cover 3. That would give him some help over the top and keep him from having to carry wide receivers in Tampa 2, while still taking advantage of his ability to tighten throwing windows as an underneath defender in zone coverage.

Campbell is not a one-size-fits-all type of player. He could slide in the draft if teams are looking for a linebacker with more man-coverage skills. However, he could be a great Day 2 pick for a team seeking an impact run defender on the second level of its defense.

Players passed on: Cedric Tillman (WR, Tennessee); Calijay Kancey (DL, Pittsburgh); Sam LaPorta (TE, Iowa); Eli Ricks (CB, Alabama)

Round 3 (No. 100) — Steve Avila (C, TCU)

The simulator really wanted me to pick a running back here. I thought it was better to add some depth in the trenches, especially at center where there is no long-term answer on the Giants’ roster. Maybe the 6-foot-4, 330-pound Avila can be that guy.

Pro Football Network says:

There will be lots of vying for positioning in the 2023 NFL Draft center class. It’s a stacked position group, and that’s something that may work against Avila. Nevertheless, Avila grades out as a fringe Day 2, priority Day 3 prospect. Provided that he keeps performing at a high level, he should be looked at in the middle rounds as quality center depth or a potential starting talent in more confined schemes.

Avila’s lack of elite athleticism is the main concern when projecting his ceiling. Although he has a respectable athletic baseline, he’s not the most natural in space. The TCU C doesn’t have elite range, struggles to change directions, and doesn’t sustain moving blocks consistently. There’s reason to believe he can improve in that phase. But right now, his most proven utility comes inside a phone booth.

In close quarters, Avila’s combination of length, power, and hand quickness can be dangerous for opposing linemen. As a pass protector, his wide frame can be tough to get around, and his combative hands and grip strength can effectively nullify 1-on-1 blocks. And in the running game, he has the power and leverage to generate initial displacement and open lanes inside.

Avila might not have the brand of mobility desired for outside-zone schemes, but his displacement potential can be an asset in power and gap looks. Though he may be a bit scheme-specific, Avila has the potential to be a solid starter in the right system, and he’s great depth, regardless, with his experience at multiple positions.

Players passed on: Calijay Kancey (DL, Pittsburgh); Zach Evans (RB, Mississippi); Jaquelin Roy (DL, LSU); Tank Bigsby (RB, Auburn); Kenny McIntosh (RB, Georgia); Eli Ricks (CB, Alabama)