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2024 NFL Draft watch: Players (and games) to watch in Week 8

Your open thread for Saturday’s college games

Penn State v Northwestern Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Good Morning New York Giants fans!

Happy Saturday and welcome to Week 8 of the college football season. We’re really into the meat of a chaotic 2023 season, and have several excellent match-ups today.

The defense has lead the way for the Giants in recent weeks, playing better than expected against the Miami Dolphins and nearly stymieing the Buffalo Bills, two of the best defenses in the NFL. Today’s list of players aren’t exclusively on the defensive side of the ball, but we have some good options if the Giants want to continue to build their defense in 2024.

Chop Robinson, edge, Penn State

(3) Ohio State vs. (7) Penn State - FOX, noon

This game promises to be absolutely chock full of NFL talent and will be must-watch scouting tape. There are probably a pair of Top-5 talents in Penn State OL Olu Fashanu and OSU WR Marvin Harrison Jr. We’ll be talking about those guys in due time, for for now I want to look at another top prospect who’ll be on the field.

The 2024 looks to have a very strong and diverse crop of pass rushers, with players to fit every scheme. Penn State’s Chop Robinson has a good build for a modern edge defender at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and dynamic athleticism. Robinson might have the most explosive first step in this draft class and has the flexibility bend the edge and carry his speed into the backfield. He also has enough athleticism to drop into coverage on occasion, which should appeal to Wink Martindale.

The Giants just spent a high draft pick on Kayvon Thibodeaux, but they could use another starting caliber pass rusher — and not just because of Azeez Ojulari’s injury history.

Robinson is still a bit of a raw prospect and needs to learn how to use his hands to fully unlock his potential. That could keep him from being the first pass rusher selected in April, but his ceiling is high enough to richly reward the team that drafts him.

Jack Sawyer, edge, Ohio State

(3) Ohio State vs. (7) Penn State - FOX, noon

Like I said above, this game has a ton of talent, and I wanted to mention a player from each team.

I wanted to shine a light on OSU wide receiver Emeka Egbuka, however he might not play due to a leg injury. So instead we’ll stay at the edge position and talk about Jack Sawyer.

Sawyer isn’t the most highly regarded edge defender on the Ohio State front (that’d be J.T. Tuimoloau), but Sawyer was a Top 10 recruit when he committed to the Buckeyes. Sawyer is a tough, strong, versatile, and well-rounded edge defender who could wear a lot of hats in a modern NFL defense. His build (6-foot-4, 270 pounds) lends itself to being a classic defensive end in a four-man front. However, he also has the power and heavy hands to slide inside on passing downs, as well as enough athleticism to line up as a pseudo-linebacker and play from a two point stance.

Sawyer has some stiffness through his frame, and might never be able to win with bend and burst at the NFL level. However, play strength and competitive toughness should make him a valuable contributor for a lot of defenses.

Tyler Nubin, S, Minnesota

(24) Iowa vs. Minnesota - NBC, 3:30 p.m.

We haven’t talked about Minnesota yet, but Nubin could be an intriguing option for the Giants if they need to add a safety after the 2023 season.

Nubin doesn’t appear to be an elite athlete at the safety position, which could make him a Day 2 pick considering the decline in value at the position. However, he has good size at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, as well as experience playing close to the line of scrimmage as well as in deep coverage shells. That could appeal to the Giants, who like to rotate their safeties to disguise blitz packages. Nubin is also a very smart player who understands offensive concepts and how to anticipate where the ball is going. That allows him to disrupt at the catch point, either breaking up the pass or picking it off.

Graham Barton, OT, Duke

(4) Florida State vs. (16) Duke, ABC - 7:30 p.m.

Justin Pugh is once again a Giant and fans have welcomed him back with open arms. The Giants could well need to draft another offensive lineman relatively highly in 2024, and they might want to look at a player similar to Pugh.

Barton is Duke’s left tackle and has been a good left tackle at the collegiate level. However, concerns about his length could move him inside in the NFL. Similarly to Pugh and Zack Martin, Barton is a crisp, efficient mover who should excel in a zone blocking scheme at the next level. While he’s listed at 6-foot-5, he has a somewhat stocky build reminiscent of Pugh or Zack Martin. Barton isn’t a massive lineman at 315 pounds, but he should be able to win inside with his athleticism, positioning, technique, and leverage. His experience at left tackle should also give him considerable versatility to back up multiple roles, even if he doesn’t have the traits to be a starting tackle.

Laiatu Latu, edge, UCLA

Stanford vs. (25) UCLA, ESPN - 10:30 p.m.

We started by talking about a top edge in Chop Robinson, and we’re going to finish up by talking about a top edge defender in Laiatu Latu. Latu is considered one of the top edge defenders in the nation, with good length, technique, and the requisite athleticism.

He’s an experienced defender who understands how to set up blockers and has a well-developed arsenal of pass rush moves. He also has the versatility to win inside or out and is moved around UCLA’s multiple front.

Complicating matters is Latu’s injury history. He made an immediate impact as a freshman, but was forced to medically retire after a neck injury. He’s healthy now, but teams will want to pay close attention to his pre-draft medical reports. Latu’s potential should get him drafted highly, but it’s also possible that risk aversion among teams could force him to slip some within the first round.