The New York Giants continue to explore the prospects of the 2023 NFL Draft. Earlier this week, we at Big Blue View posted a list of offensive prospects who purportedly met with the Giants at some point through the predraft process.
The players were mostly compiled from a list found at walterfootball.com. There aren’t as many defensive players on the list, but more news on top-30 visits will emerge as the process continues forward. Here are the defensive players New York has interviewed.
Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina
South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith, a potential first-round pick, will be taking a Top 30 visit with the #Giants, per sources.— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) March 29, 2023
One of the Giants’ top-30 visits will be South Carolina CB Cam Smith, according to Art Stapleton. Smith ran a solid mixture of zone and man concepts in 2022. He had six interceptions and sixteen passes defended through 664 total coverage snaps in college. He played 1,356 total defensive snaps across four seasons, never eclipsing 600 snaps in a given season.
I didn’t find him particularly fast from the tape I saw studying his teammate CB Darius Rush, but I will be diving deeper into his film soon. However, I did like how he attacked the receiver’s hands at the catch point with authority, and he seemed smooth, exploding out of his backpedal. He is only 180 pounds, and he was very grabby last season - he was flagged ten times in 2022.
Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
Brents has insane length and tested phenomenally at the combine, where the Giants held a visit with him. He only allowed a 46.2% catch rate in 2022. His coverage and press ability were some reasons why he earned First-Team All-Big-12. His 4.53 forty-yard-dash was modest - and that speed checks out on tape - but his agility and lower body explosive testing were elite:
He’s a physical cornerback with rare 99th-percentile length and height for the position. His aggressive mentality and ability to switch zone-coverage responsibilities in a prompt manner helped Kansas State create turnovers in 2022. He’s smart, tough, and dependable as a player, who also has press upside.
Unfortunately, concerns about Brents’ vertical speed to carry faster wide receivers are valid. He’s not a complete stiff, but some of his transitions could use WD-40 - it’s not always smooth. He won’t be lost playing man coverage, but his ideal fit is likely as a zone defender. Love his tackling mentality, but can get wild and doesn’t consistently drive his feet into contact - has to wrap up more.
There could be a discussion about moving him to safety because of his aggressive nature to fill in run support and his unique size. His instincts in zone coverage suggest he could handle that from a processing standpoint, but that still remains to be seen. I like Brents’ skill set and his athletic upside, but his recovery speed when beat could lead to frustrating plays at the next level.
Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
If the Giants maintain a similar draft philosophy from last season - bet on traits and young players - then Ringo would certainly entice them. Ringo is a big physical cornerback that started for both Georgia championship teams over the last two seasons. He’s a redshirt sophomore - he’ll only be 20 years old when selected in the draft. Ringo also possesses elite linear speed which was displayed at the combine:
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I wish I liked his tape more. His vertical speed and size profile are excellent foundational pieces to possess. He’s played in several coverage schemes, and he’s a tough physical player. He’s also still raw and has parts of his game that need to be ironed out. Yes, he’s got press-man upside, which the Giants covet, but I wouldn’t say his press-man technique is very refined. He can be a bit impatient with his hips and feet, and he has some false steps in his tape.
I appreciate his physical nature, but he has to clean it up - nine penalties in 2022 is a lot. He’s not a complete stiff, but his ability to swivel his hips and change direction is only modest. His arms also measured shorter than I believed (sub-32 inches). I also think he misjudged/mistimed several deep one-on-one shots, resulting in long gains for the offense; I wasn’t too shocked that he only jumped 33 1/2” in the vertical due to plays like those mentioned. He needs to maintain body presence on the wide receiver better while also concentrating on the football in the air.
Overall, Ringo has scheme diversity but may be best fit in a Cover-3 match scheme. He has a lot of press experience and is not afraid of contact or a challenge. He should be a solid player at the next level, albeit there could be some rocky moments early on.
Ji’Ayir Brown, SAF, Penn State
I have not evaluated Brown as a player, but here are his mockdraftable.com measurements and testing from the combine:
The Giants should be in the safety market somewhere in the draft after losing Julian Love. I like the addition of Bobby McCain, but New York could still add players to their safety group. Brown is a New Jersey native who had ten interceptions the last two seasons with four passes defended.
Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
Sanders would fit well in Wink Martindale’s positionless defense. The former Alabama EDGE rusher transferred to Arkansas and was a finalist for the Dick Butkus Award in his first season playing linebacker. Arkansas still leveraged his natural gifts and experience as an EDGE rusher on passing situations; Sanders was used as a pass-rusher on 148 snaps with 39 pressures, 13.5 tackles for a loss, and 9.5 sacks.
Sanders did not test at the combine, but he was 96th percentile in height at 6’4 1/8” with 32 1/8” arm length. He’s still raw as a linebacker; he struggles to stack & shed, play through contact, and read his run keys precisely, but he’s certainly fun coming forward. It’s plausible that he’ll develop and become a more consistent true linebacker who can rush the passer on passing downs. I don’t see the Giants going linebacker at 25, but I do believe Martindale would be very interested in a player and athlete like Sanders.
Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
Combine meeting (a large contingent of Giants went to Clemson’s Pro Day as well)
The Giants ran a lot of sub-package defense in 2022, and Simpson’s fluidity and movement skills fit well into lighter defensive packages. Similar to Sanders, Simpson isn’t the more refined or best at stacking & shedding blocks in the box. He’s a player who can pin his ears back and rush the passer while operating very well in space in coverage. He also is an exceptional athlete with range:
Simpson would make an excellent quarterback spy and his versatility allows a creative defensive coordinator to employ his skill-set as he seems fit. A team with a more positionless, multiple-front, defense that likes to blitz would benefit from Simpson around the program. He’s not quite refined at LB, nor is he technically sound as a pass-rusher, but there is potential, traits, and a work ethic that suggests he’ll scratch the surface of his possibilities. He would be a good fit with the Giants, but 25 is too rich, in my opinion.
BJ Ojulari, EDGE, LSU
Would the Giants add a second Ojulari to their roster - I wouldn’t complain! The younger Ojulari has an array of pass-rushing moves with long arms, big hands, and an explosive first step:
Ojulari had 54 pressures and 7 sacks in 2021 and 49 pressures and 5.5 sacks last season. He’s a high-side rusher who is improving is deployment of moves and countermoves. He’s not a power rusher - more of a finesse guy - but one who can leverage his athletic traits and stress the angles of offensive tackles on the edge.
He was honored with wearing No. 18 for the LSU Tigers, a distinction bestowed on crucial leaders of the team. You rarely hear a bad word about BJ Ojulari, and he has translatable traits that would suggest he’ll be a good player at the next level.
Keeanu Benton, IDL, Wisconsin
Pro day/On campus meeting
Benton was a dominant force during the 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl. He consistently won one-on-one matchups and wreaked havoc during team periods which turned many evaluators back to his tape as a Badger.
Benton had 28 pressures, 10 tackles for a loss, and 4.5 sacks in 2022. He’s a powerful defensive lineman with good length and experience. His hands are violent and heavy, and he has enough anchor to withstand double-team blocks. He offers some as a pass-rusher and can play early downs. Benton will likely be a solid starter at the next level.