There’s been lakes worth of (digital) ink spilled about the first round, with months of speculation regarding the big-name players in the draft. But what about the other 300-some young men hoping to hear their name called at some point over the next few days and have their dreams come true?
One of the conclusions that I’ve come to over the past four months of studying this draft class is that this isn’t a weak draft class. There’s definitely talent to be had throughout the draft, this is also a very unconventional draft class. That presents challenges for teams to navigate, and could trip some teams up.
On the flip side, I fully expect a couple teams to absolutely crush this draft and change the fortunes of their franchise.
Let’s take a look at a few players who have flown under the radar and could be gems for the Giants.
Byron Young (EDGE, Tennessee)
Don’t ask me how, but nobody is talking about Tennessee’s Byron Young in the national media. Maybe it’s just how talented this defensive class is as a whole, but I would expect a player with Young’s athletic profile to be rocketing up draft boards. He compares very favorably to some of the best pass rushers and dangerous defenders in recent memory.
- 6-foot-2, 250 pounds
- 40 time: 4.40 (1.56 10-yard split)
- Vertical: 38 inches
- Broad jump: 11 feet
- 6-foot-2, 251 pounds
- 40 time: 4.65 (1.64 10-yard split)
- Vertical: 40 inches
- Broad: 10-foot-8
- 6-foot-3, 246
- 40 time: 4.36 (1.59 10-yard split)
- Vertical: 34 inches
- Broad: 10-foot-6
The catch is, of course, Young’s age — 25. He wasn’t recruited out of high school, walked on to a JuCo team after managing a Dollar General, and didn’t get a scholarship offer until his he sent his practice highlights to Tennessee during COVID lockdown. Young is still capable of producing thanks to his incredible athleticism and scouts have reportedly raved about his desire to play. His best football is still ahead of him.
Ivan Pace Jr. (LB, Cincinnati)
Linebackers of Ivan Pace’s stature just aren’t supposed to produce. After all, he’s built like a fire hydrant at 5-foot-10, with 30 3⁄4 inch arms, but also weighs 231 pounds. Conventional wisdom would say that Pace is just too undersized to be an impact player, but he definitely made an impact at Cincinnati.
Pace was all over the field for the Bearcats and racked up an incredible 136 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, 9.0 sacks, and 4 passes defensed. He is, frankly a spark plug for his defense and flies to the football like a man possessed. His fiery competitiveness, natural leverage, and play strength let him take on much bigger players and still come out on top.
Giants fans might not be thrilled with the team waiting until the third day to draft a linebacker, and such a compact one at that. But Ivan Pace Jr. is going to make fans on whichever team he lands — it might as well be the linebacker-needy Giants.
Sean Tucker (RB, Syracuse)
Tucker is another player where I can’t quite figure out why he isn’t getting more national buzz. Tucker is a compact runner at 5-foot-9, 209 pounds, but he’s also a good athlete and incredibly versatile.
He’s capable of running inside and outside, out of any formation and blocking scheme. He has good vision and contact balance, and he’s a good receiving back who can catch out of the backfield or split out wide. He can pass protect and was even a lead blocker on occasion.
Put simply, Tucker was the engine that powered the Syracuse offense and he broke Joe Morris’ single-season record at Syracuse with 1,496 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2021.
Tucker has the potential and skill set to be a true three-down running back in the NFL, and the Giants have apparently taken notice.
Deuce Vaughn (RB, Kansas state)
The 2023 NFL Draft is chock full of outliers, and Deuce Vaughn is one of the biggest. Or rather, smallest. He holds the distinction of being the shortest player ever at the NFL Scouting Combine at 5-foot-5.
However, Vaughn is an incredibly exciting and fun player to watch on tape. Size isn’t a skill, and he’s perfected using his height to disappear behind offensive linemen. He has great quickness and agility, as well as vision and contact balance. He’s a maddening runner for defenders to deal with, and was very productive for K-State.
Vaughn is also one of the best receiving backs I’ve seen since Christian McCaffrey. He has an innate feel for route running and finding voids in coverage, and the ball just seems drawn to his hands.
Josh Downs (WR, North Carolina)
Josh Downs has the potential to really catch the Giants eye as they look to build out their offense.
Joe Schoen said earlier this year that they don’t particularly care about a receivers’ build and their ability to separate is much more important to their offense. Downs is certainly undersized at 5-foot-8, 171 pounds, but he’s a dynamic athlete and one of the very best route runners in this entire draft class.
Downs’ 4.48 second 40-yard dash isn’t particularly impressive, but his 38.5-inch vertical and 6.75 second 3-cone drill definitely are. More impressive is how detailed and intelligently Downs runs his routes. He uses every aspect of his route as a weapon against the defense, from the release, to the tempo with which he runs, to his breaks. And Downs isn’t just a chess player at wide receiver, he’s a psychologist who even uses his body language against opponents. There were instances where he was able to lull defenders into believing he’s dogging a route in which he isn’t in the progression, only to dart into a void in coverage, make a catch and turn upfield. And despite his size, Downs is also one of the very best contested catch receivers in this draft class, hauling in 13 of 18 contested passes in 2022.