The New York Giants are less than one week away from the 2023 NFL Draft. For the first time since 2017, the Giants’ original selection is outside the top 11. Prognosticating pick No. 25 is much more difficult than previous seasons, for there’s a profusion of variables before the Giants selection.
The amount of top-end anomalies in this draft is fascinating, especially due to the draft’s weaker nature at the top. Malcolm Gladwell will write a sequel to his 2008 book Outliers because of this draft class. New York could trade up or down and get creative, but some of their best options at pick No. 25 might be outliers.
An outlier is a player on either extreme end of a measurement or athletic test. We will only be looking at perceived negative outliers for measurements in this article; players like Kansas State cornerback Julius Brents, Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr., Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones, and Georgia tight end Darnell Washington are positive types of outliers for different reasons.
Giants GM Joe Schoen did not shy away from outliers in last year’s draft. After trading down twice in the second-round, Schoen selected wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson at pick No. 43.
Let’s constitute an outlier as a player that falls under the 5th percentile for a given trait. Robinson had the smallest wingspan and smallest arm length of any wide receiver who was ever at an NFL Scouting Combine since 1999. Even listed as an athlete (running backs included), Robinson has the smallest measurements. He was also only 5-foot-8, which put him in the 2nd percentile for wide receivers, and he was in the 6th percentile with weight at 178-pounds.
At the time of the draft, I called the pick peculiar. However, the Giants value receivers who can create separation and who are quick processors; Robinson easily falls into both buckets, and former Giants’ WR Kadarius Toney was not long for the new regime. The Giants selected LSU CB Cor’Dale Flott 38 picks later:
His small hands are an outlier, but I’m not focusing on that. Flott’s 175-pound frame ranked in the 2nd percentile, which constituted as rare. In Schoen’s first five picks as the Giants general manager, he selected two physical outliers on the small side. However, players like Evan Neal (pick No. 7) and Marcus McKethan (pick No. 173) subscribe to George Young’s Planet Theory - there are few humans that size who can move that well.
The Buffalo Bills selected a few outliers while Schoen was general manager Brandon Beane’s right hand man from 2018-2021. Ed Oliver was the Bills’ 2019 first-round pick at No. 9 with 7th percentile arm length for a defensive lineman. He was close to the outlier threshold, but Cody Ford was an outlier with his 3rd percentile height in that same draft (pick No. 38). Ford was eventually moved inside to guard.
The Bills also selected running back Devin Singletary in the 2019 draft:
Schoen and Beane weren’t shy to select outliers. A player’s measurements is one piece to the puzzle. Some talent evaluators and decision makers weigh the importance of physical thresholds higher than others. If the player has the correct mindset, determination, work ethic, and fits the scheme, then Schoen won’t be shy to pull the trigger - if they’re smart, tough, and dependable.
Outliers at pick No. 25
There are several names linked to the Giants pick in the first round. Three of the four players had Top-30 visits with the Giants, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re still interested in these players. The players are Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes, defensive lineman out of Pitt Calijah Kancey, and wide receivers Zay Flowers out of Boston College, and Jordan Addison from USC.
The 166-pound frame of Forbes is certainly a concern. The average weight of an NFL cornerback in combine history is 193.5 pounds. For what it’s worth, Forbes weight 170-pounds at his pro day, which still puts him 23.5 pounds below the historical average. Is it feasible for the Giants to select two undersized cornerbacks in back-to-back drafts? I understand why some would have trepidation.
However, Forbes’ skill-set, testing, and tape suggest he would be selected much higher than pick No. 25 if it weren’t for his weight. He’s a pick magnet with 14 career interceptions through three seasons - six of them returned for a touchdown, which is tied an FBS record. He also had 35 passes defended.
The Giants could be getting a skill-set value at pick No. 25 if they select Forbes, who won’t be available for the Giants in the second round. His weight did not hinder him much in the SEC. He has the mindset of a bigger cornerback and the correct sense of entitlement for the football that I desire in my cornerbacks. If he’s the pick for the Giants, you’ll hear no complaints from me.
Kancey is the player who did not take a Top-30 visit with the Giants; in fact, he has not taken one Top-30 visit this off-season.
He is an outlier for height, weight, and length, but his calling-card is too good to ignore. Kancey has a floor that is invaluable at the NFL level - he wins one-on-one matchups on passing downs. Plus, his quickness can create immediate penetration on running downs. However, asking him to anchor in place and read is problematic. His skill-set is somewhat scheme specific depending on the snaps he’s allotted.
I worry about Kancey’s ability to be a three down player in Wink Martindale’s scheme when they employ base personnel. The 4i-shade and 4-technique (depending on the employment/opponent) might be a difficult ask for Kancey, who projects better as an upfield penetrating technique in an even front.
Even so, Kancey’s value on money downs in Martindale’s defense is immense. Martindale loves to crowd the line of scrimmage to manipulate the offense’s protection package. He schemes free rushers and one-on-one matchups when he does blitz. There are few players more dangerous in a phone both rushing the passer than Calijah Kancey. He would also join Dexter Lawrence, Leonard Williams, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Azeez Ojulari on the pass rush, which would maximize his chances to disrupt offenses.
This passing down role would be Kancey’s floor, and the value could be justified at pick No. 25, if Kancey generates enough pressure and/or sacks in high leverage passing situations throughout the season. His immediate quickness, use of hands, and pass rushing knowledge would certainly help the Giants defense.
Flowers is technically only an outlier with his sub-30-inch arm length. Similar to the Flott-Forbes discussion, would Schoen look to add two receivers with limited catch radii? Schoen could; I don’t particularity feel Flowers or Wan’Dale Robinson are similar players. Flowers ability to create deep separation is an impressive quality he possesses, and Robinson was recruited as a running back to Nebraska before transferring to Kentucky.
The Giants only have two receivers under contract beyond the 2023 season: Robinson and Darius Slayton, who is signed through the 2024 campaign. Big Blue has reportedly expressed interest in Flowers, Addison, Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee), Quentin Johnston (TCU), Marvin Mims (Oklahoma), and Tyler Scott (Cincinnati).
New York will look to add a receiver at some point in the draft. I won’t be upset if it’s at pick No. 25 because of the need, but receiver likely wouldn’t be my first choice.
The 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner with Pitt took his talents to Los Angeles and played with the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams. The USC Trojan was only 173 pounds at the combine and he did not test well. He then showed up at his pro day three pounds lighter.
Addison’s attention to detail when setting cornerbacks up and releasing off the line of scrimmage are palpable on tape. He recorded 3,134 yards on 219 catches with 29 touchdowns through 25 college games with Pitt and USC. I believe Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka would love him as a player, and I feel the same way about Flowers.
A part of me would be okay with any of these four selections, but that’s not the exercise here; the Giants do need to add wide receivers to their arsenal. They also need to find reliable starting cornerbacks with Adoree’ Jackson on the final active year of his deal. The Giants also need to find ways to generate takeaways - they tied for last with six interceptions in 2022.
Both Kancey and Forbes assist the Giants in creating interception opportunities, and both pressure and coverage is important in Martindale’s defense. With that typed, I’m going with Mississippi State CB Emmanuel Forbes. Please, let us know below in the comments and poll which outlier you would prefer in the first round.
Which outlier would you prefer at pick No. 25?
This poll is closed
Emmanuel Forbes, CB, MISS ST.
Calijah Kancey, DT, PITT
Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
Jordan Addison, WR, USC
Other, who, why?