This edition of my weekly New York Giants 2023 NFL mock draft goes in a different direction. I wanted to get some different names into the discussion and construct this mock with a somewhat different scenario. I think I have managed to do those things.
Let’s get to it.
Round 1 (No. 25) — Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
Yes, an inside or “off-ball” linebacker for the Giants at No. 25 in this version of the weekly mock draft. And not the one some of you have been banging the table for.
I am not an NFL scout and can’t evaluate technique or project what a player might or might not become the way many others can, or think they can. I have watched Sanders and Trenton Simpson of Clemson extensively, though, and I can’t figure out how most evaluators see Simpson as a better NFL prospect than Sanders.
I don’t see a complete linebacker when I watch Simpson. He has electric athleticism, range and coverage ability. I see a safety playing linebacker, though, and in the games I watched I consistently saw Simpson engulfed by offensive linemen. If you are primarily concerned about speed and coverage ability, I get why he’s your guy. If I am drafting a linebacker at No. 25, though, I want a bona fide three-down player. To date, I am not convinced Simpson is that.
It is possible I could eventually be swayed. I just need to be convinced Simpson won’t be a liability between the tackles against the power run game if I am going to consider him at No. 25. Right now, that hasn’t happened.
When I look at Sanders I see something different. I see a 6-foot-5, 233-pound player who looks like a linebacker and plays like one. He is long, can run, has range, instincts, attacks the line of scrimmage against the run, is a quality blitzer and shows some ability to stay clean in traffic and shed blocks at times. He is excellent in zone drops and shows the ability to make plays on the ball.
There are times when Sanders’ lack of play strength gets him stalemated by offensive linemen, but there are plenty of other times he wins at the line of scrimmage. I also think there is room for him to add some needed bulk and strength, which will help in that area.
The one thing I didn’t see is Sanders in man-to-man coverage, something that he would have to do playing for Wink Martindale. Arkansas was exclusively a zone team in 2022. I absolutely believe, though, that Sanders has the athleticism and change of direction ability to be solid in man coverage.
So, Simpson fans, tell me why I’m wrong. Or, if you like the pick tell me why I’m right.
Players passed on: O’Cyrus Torrence, G, Florida; Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson; Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee; Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College; John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota; Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
Round 2 (No. 57) — Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
I could have gone in a couple of directions here. I chose to get Martindale the kind of cornerback he likes — big, long and athletic. Banks is 6-foot-2, 205 pounds with 31¾-inch arms (63rd percentile) and a 77-inch wingspan (61st percentile). His 40-time is said to be a middling 4.50. These are all unofficial.
Daniel Jeremiah has Banks ranked No. 42 on his list of the top 50 2023 draft prospects. Jeremiah said:
Banks has excellent height, bulk and length for the position. He is very physical in press coverage, routinely staggering and re-routing wide receivers. He has average change-of-direction skills when he has to flip and open up. He does a nice job of staying on top versus go balls and he can locate the ball in the air. In off coverage, he is a little high in his pedal and wastes steps in his plant-and-drive. To see his competitiveness, watch his blocked PAT against Ohio State that was returned for a two-point conversion. He doesn’t take plays off. He is a physical and reliable tackler in space. Overall, Banks doesn’t have ideal fluidity, but he’s tough and possesses ball skills.
Not sure if I'm crazy or not, but not seeing Maryland CB Deonte Banks name in the tier I think it deserves to be in, in this CB class.— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) February 3, 2023
Interested to see how he tests, because I think he's more fluid than he is fast and explosive, but I love his game.
6'2" 200-205lbs pic.twitter.com/EcyjR5plP4
Players passed on: Matthew Bergeron, OL, Syracuse; Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State; Rashee Rice, WR, SMU; Steve Avila, G-C, TCU
Round 3 (No. 89) — Steve Avila, C-G, TCU
I passed on Avila at No. 57 because I thought that was too early. At No. 89, though, he absolutely feels like value to me.
It would be excellent if the Giants came out of the real 2023 NFL Draft with a player who could become a long-term answer for them at center. I passed on John Michael Schmitz in Round 1, mostly because I stayed true to the NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board that had Schmitz ranked at No. 53.
Avila is a 6-foot-4, 334-pound who has extensive experience at both center and guard. When he plays center, he looks like a monster and plays like a bully in run blocking. If the Giants don’t necessarily trust him at center, they could put him into the left guard competition.
Looking at the players I passed on here, I couldn’t take Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell after taking Sanders in Round 1. The wide receivers in range here did not excite me, either. When in doubt draft a lineman. So, that’s what I did.
Players passed on: Rashee Rice, WR, SMU; Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa; Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee
Wake Forest WR A.T. Perry has looked every bit as advertised at the Shrine Bowl.— Derrick (@Steelers_DB) January 30, 2023
The speed is real but love the hand usage throughout the route, positions his body to shield off the CB. His tape is littered with examples of him tracking the ball + winning at the catch point. pic.twitter.com/iVoQtNLys3
Round 3 (No. 100) — A.T. Perry, WR, Wake Forest
A wide receiver! Finally!
Perry lit up the Shrine Bowl. At 6-foot-3¾ and 195 pounds with 33⅜ and a massive wing span of 82⅝ inches, Perry is a big target. Albeit a tad shorter and lighter than the 6-5, 212 pounds Draft Network lists him at in their scouting report.
Pro Football Network says:
As a boundary X receiver, Perry should have a role at the next level. On the boundary, he can beat press with physicality and quickness. He can stack defensive backs with speed, cut his stems, and convert downfield with his size, coordination, and steady hands. He may have an acclimation period while he expands his route tree, but he’ll be a valuable part of the rotation on Day 1, and he has definite starting upside.
It would have been nice to address wide receiver earlier than this, but it didn’t happen and I’m happy to land this player.
A.T. Perry is hoping he can inspire the next generation!— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) January 31, 2023
He wants kids to be HUNGRY to become the next A.T. pic.twitter.com/uopuKbma7E
Players passed on: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa; Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane; Tank Bigsby, RB, Auburn