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2024 NFL Draft watch: Players (and games) to watch for the Giants in Week 9

Who should you be watching today?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 23 Ohio State at Notre Dame Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good morning New York Giants fans!

Happy Saturday and welcome to Week 9 of the 2023 college football season.

The college season is entering the home stretch, with just five weeks remaining after today (including Championship Weekend). But, that also means we still have six more weeks of games to watch and enjoy until the start of Bowl Season.

I decided to change things up just a bit when sitting down to decide which players to focus on this week. Rather than look at players that might be relevant to the New York Giants based on last week, I decided to check the reporting regarding NFL scouting departments. And so I found out that Giants’ GM Joe Schoen has been a busy executive while the Giants were on the road to start October.

Three weeks ago he scouted the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas (10/7).

The next week he started his Saturday by traveling to Michigan to watch the Wolverines take on the Indiana Hoosiers. After that game, Schoen hopped a plane to California to watch USC play Notre Dame. I’m not going to beat around the bush: The fact that Schoen personally scouted three of the top quarterbacks in the upcoming draft in Caleb Williams (USC), J.J. McCarthy (Michigan), and Quinn Ewers (Texas) raises eyebrows.

But we also shouldn’t read too much into it, either. First off, it’s just good business for him to do his due diligence. Not only with accurate reports on those players be needed to set up the Giants’ big board, but the Giants should also plan on playing those quarterbacks at some point over the coming seasons.

Those teams (Texas, Michigan, USC, and Notre Dame) are also very teams beyond the quarterback position. So I’m going to take my lead from Schoen and look at some of the other players he watched on his travels.

Christian Mahagony, G, Boston College

Boston College vs. UConn (Noon, ACC Network)

I usually try to avoid recommending games that not everyone will have access to. We have good teams playing in the noon time slot, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for watching those games.

But I wanted to give a shout-out to an All Name Team player and one of the best guards in the country who isn’t getting enough talk.

Mahogany not only has an excellent name for an offensive lineman (that will be a gift to whichever beat writers wind up covering him in the NFL), he has a prototypical build for a guard at 6-foot-3, 330 pounds. His power is evident in his frame, but he also moves surprisingly well for a wide-bodied guard. Mahogany combines a stout anchor with fluid-enough movement skills to be an effective pulling guard. He’s a reliable pass protector who also flashes the ability to be dominant as a run blocker. The Giants hope to have their starting tackles and center set for the foreseeable future, and another high-upside guard could go a long way toward (finally) solidifying the offensive line.

Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame

(14) Notre Dame vs. Pittsburgh (NBC, 3:30 p.m.)

As mentioned above, the games Schoen attended have plenty of talent apart from the quarterbacks. I haven’t talked about Notre Dame’s Joe Alt yet, but it’s time for that to change. If the Giants are drafting highly and Evan Neal hasn’t progressed at right tackle, the Giants could be very interested in Alt.

Alt was recruited to South Bend to play tight end, but transitioned to left tackle on the fly when injury struck. He’s been their starting LT since 2021 and has matured into one of the best offensive tackles in the country. Alt is a tall, long, and lean tackle who’s listed at 6-foot-8, 320 pounds, but maintains his “tight end” movement skills.

I’ve learned to be wary of particularly tall offensive tackles, and issues with leverage and pad level seem to crop up more frequently once they get over 6-foot-6. Alt is an undeniably good athlete, but I’ll be watching him closely over the coming weeks and months to see how he maintains his leverage when stressed.

Xavier Worthy, WR, Texas

(7) Texas vs. BYU (ABC, 3:30 p.m.)

There’s a certain segment of Giants fans who are going to be adamantly opposed to Worthy.

As a 6-foot, 170-pound receiver, he’ll likely carry the “undersized” label. But as a long, lean receiver who is a former track star, has subtly nuanced route running, and very good ball skills down the field, Worthy will also garner comparisons to Jalin Hyatt. As the San Fransisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins have shown with Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, or Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill (respectively), doubling down on a good skillset tends to be a good idea.

Worthy not only has obvious long speed thanks his stride length, he also has great acceleration thanks to quick stride frequency. He also has good body control and knows how to sell his routes before exploding out of his breaks. Worthy was an immediate star at Texas, with 62 catches for 981 yards and 12 touchdowns as a true freshman. That dropped a bit in his sophomore year as he played half the season with a broken hand (though still got 60 receptions for 760 yards and 9 touchdowns). His production as ticked back up this year, and he’ll likely be a riser over the remainder of the season and over the course of the draft process should he declare.

Bucky Irving, RB, Oregon

(13) Utah vs. (8) Oregon (Fox, 3:30 p.m.)

Yeah, yeah, another undersized player. However, the Giants need to develop the ability to strike quickly as well as play methodically. And no player in college football has been better at generating big plays over the last two years than Oregon’s Bucky Irving.

Irving started his career at Minnesota as a freshman, but transferred to Oregon prior to the 2022 season. He’s carried the ball 243 times as a Duck, averaging 7.0 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns, and also has 58 catches, averaging 9.0 yards per catch, and 4 touchdowns over the last 20 games.

The 5-foot-9, 190-pound running back not only has break-away speed, but also has incredible short-area quickness as well as stop-start acceleration to go with great vision and body control. His size, low center of gravity, and shiftiness make him very difficult for defenders to bring down — not just in the open field, but in close quarters as well. He does a good job of setting up (and hiding behind) his blockers, before breaking ankles with a sudden jump cuts.

The Giants have said that they don’t plan on trading Saquon Barkley during the season, but that doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be a Giant in 2024. A player like Irving could be a (relatively) low-cost addition who pays high dividends as a runner and receiver.

Rome Odunze, WR, Washington

Stanford vs. (5) Washington (7 p.m., FS1)

One last skill position player to appeal to the fans who want to add size to the Giants’ offense.

This year’s draft class looks to have one of the strongest groups of wide receivers in recent memory, perhaps even better than the vaunted 2014 draft class. Obviously Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr. leads the way, while Malik Nabers (LSU), Keon Coleman (FSU), and Emeka Egbuka could all be Top 20 picks as well. Those of us on the East Coast might not have had much of a chance to check out Washington wideout Rome Odunze, but he projects to be right there with the rest of the top receivers in this draft class.

Odunze is a big-bodied receiver who has a prototypical size/speed combination at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, is rumored to have 4.3 speed (or at least run in the low 4.4’s). He’s a well-rounded and versatile receiver who can play on the perimeter or in the slot, though his athletic attributes will probably lead teams to want to play him as the “X” at the NFL level.

Odunze will almost certainly be a first round receiver in his own right, and very well could find himself being drafted in the Top 20.