Good evening New York Giants fans, and welcome to Championship Weekend.
We’ve finally reached the end of the 2023 college football regular season. We still have six more weeks of NFL football, but this week we’ll crown the NCAA conference champions before Bowl Season gets under way.
With all due respect to (24) Liberty and New Mexico State, today is really all about the rematch between the 3rd ranked Washington Huskies and 5th ranked Oregon Ducks. Not only will this game determine who wins the Pac-12, it will also (probably) punch the ticket of one of these teams to the College Football Playoffs.
This game is also chock full of future NFL players, and you can bet that representatives from all 32 teams will be in attendance. And while I don’t know for certain (right now, as I write this) whether Giants’ GM Joe Schoen will be credentialed for the game, there’s a good chance that he’ll be there. Schoen has tended to make scouting trips when the Giants play road games, and he could be busy with the team on a bye this week. We also know that Schoen has seen both of these teams recently, scouting Washington at USC on 11/4, and Oregon vs. Oregon State last week (11/24).
Let’s take a look at both teams, and the players who could interest the Giants. We’ll start with the Oregon Ducks, because they’re the visiting team, “O” comes before “W”, and someone has to go first.
Bo Nix (QB) - Any conversation of the Ducks has to start with their quarterback, who has completed a remarkable turnaround since transferring from Auburn. Nix always flashed the live arm and athleticism that made him a coveted recruit, but he finally seems to have put it all together this year at Oregon. He’s getting the ball out fast (2.44 seconds, per PFF), and has the highest adjusted completion percentage in college football. Evaluators will need to determine whether an NFL team can depend on him in big moments. Likewise, they need to figure out if his rise is a result of Oregon’s scheme and supporting cast, or if his traits can transcend scheme.
Troy Franklin (WR) - Franklin is flying below the radar a bit, but he’s had an excellent season after a strong 2022. Franklin is a lean 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, but he’s been one of the top deep threats in the country. He has solid speed, body control, and football IQ, all of which could appeal to the Giants — however, he’s also struggled with drops (9 so far this year).
Bucky Irving (RB) - The third head of the Duck’s offensive monster, Irving is a compact, quick, and explosive runner who also offers upside in the receiving game. Irving is able to hide behind offensive lineman and is one of the most elusive runners in college football. His 5-foot-10, 195-pound frame is tough to tackle and he’s great at using his quickness and vision to force missed tackles while finding creases.
Jackson Powers-Johnson (OC) - The Giants should be set at center with John Michael Schmitz, their 2023 second round pick. That said, he was Oregon’s right guard in 2022 and has played left guard as well. That versatility could appeal to the Giants, particularly after a an injury-plagued 2023 season. Powers-Johnson is a (no pun intended) powerfully-built offensive lineman who’s a people-mover in the run game and is capable of anchoring against defensive tackles. His workout could determine where he plays at the NFL level, but a guard with the experience and versatility to back up center is certainly valuable.
Brandon Dorlus (iDL) - Dorlus is a compact, powerful lineman who could appeal as a replacement for Leonard Williams. He primarily lines up as a 3, 4i, and 5-technique in Oregon’s defense and can be very disruptive when attacking the B-gaps.
Dorlus should be able to find a home as three-down lineman in a multiple and attacking scheme. He may be undersized (6-foot-3, 290-pound, but he’s also an explosive interior rusher could complement Dexter Lawrence well. Likewise, the Giants could certainly use another pass rusher to supplement their blitz schemes.
Michael Penix Jr. (QB) - As with Nix and Oregon, the discussion pretty much has to start here with Washington’s quarterback. Michael Penix Jr. has had a fantastic year that’s seen him garner Heisman buzz. Penix has good size, is a good athlete, and has a live arm. He has a compact but unorthodox throwing motion that resembles a left-handed Philip Rivers, but he’s also been one of the top deep passers in college football. Penix has one of the deepest average depths of target in the country, while also having a microscopic sack rate (1.8 percent) and just 8 interceptions in 428 pass attempts.
Penix has faltered a bit in recent weeks, but a strong showing against Oregon and a trip to the College Football Playoffs would reassure evaluators regarding his draft stack. Of greater concern is his injury history. Penix has had four season-ending injuries since 2018 — two torn ACLs and a pair of shoulder injuries. His medical reports could have a huge impact on where he’s ultimately drafted.
Rome Odunze (WR) - Penix’s top receiver is going to be in the running to be the first receiver not named “Marvin Harrison Jr.” selected in the upcoming draft. He’s a big-bodied X receiver at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, but moves like a much smaller player. Odunze made Bruce Feldman’s “Freaks List” thanks to his explosiveness and track speed (he won state titles as a high school sprinter), and he has solid ball skills to put that speed to work down the field.
Ja’Lynn Polk (WR) - Polk is overshadowed a bit by Odunze, but that could make him something of a “hidden” gem on the second day of the draft. Ja’Lynn Polk profiles as a bit more of a possession receiver at the NFL level, with fantastic ball skills, hands, body control, and physicality at the catch point. He isn’t the same kind of athlete that Odunze is, but players like Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp have shown the value of top shelf receiving skills, even if the player is only a “good” athlete.
Troy Fautanu (OT) - Fautanu has had an interesting path to the NFL, and is technically a fifth-year junior. That isn’t a typo, as he redshirted as a true freshman, had his red-shirt freshman year reduced to 4 games in 2020, and was technically a 3rd-year freshman in 2021. He became a full-time starter in 2022 and has been an asset at left tackle ever since.
Fautanu looks like a guard at 6-foot-4, 317 pounds, and his measurements could fall below some teams’ thresholds to stay on the edge at the NFL level. But if he’s forced inside, it won’t be due to his athleticism (he was even a high school volleyball player). Fautanu is a strong pass protector and has the ability to be a plus blocker in space on running schemes that depend on athleticism.
Bralin Trice (EDGE) - Trice probably won’t be a fit for every defense in the NFL. He’s something of a throwback to the 4-3 defenses run by the Giants under Steve Spagnuolo and Perry Fewell, and could be a prototypical defensive end for that style of defense. Trice stands 6-foot-4, 270 pounds with the requisite length and power to play off the edge in a four-man front. He might struggle a bit in a modern “multiple” defenses that ask edge defenders to be an outside linebacker or defensive end on any given down.
However, Trice could be a very good player if he lands in the right system. He’s going to be one of those players who’s draft stock could vary widely depending on the team looking at him.
A team with a more traditional defense could view him as a solid first round pick, while other teams may view him as a Day 2 prospect.