Round 1 (No. 6) — Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
The more I have watched Odunze the more I have been pining for a mock draft scenario where I was able to select him at No. 6 in what amounts to a pick that I’m sure will be divisive among readers of this post.
Truth is, the more I watch Odunze the more I like him. Honestly, I might like him more than Malik Nabers of LSU, who went No. 3 in this simulated mock draft to the New England Patriots. I see all the upside and the flash with Nabers. I get it. He would be a great selection for the Giants at No. 6, if he is there. I see a more polished player with a higher floor when I watch Odunze. If the draft were today, I wouldn’t be upset by the choice of either player.
I’m not the only one who has taken a liking to Odunze. In his first top 50 prospects list, Daniel Jeremiah had Odunze ranked No. 3 overall and Nabers No. 7. He writes:
Odunze is a big, athletic wideout with exceptional hands. He can play outside or in the slot. He is refined and polished in everything he does on the field. He uses a variety of releases at the line of scrimmage and is a clean route runner. He uses his strength to lean into defenders before separating out of the break point. He thrives in traffic, possessing the ability to pluck the football and absorb big shots over the middle of the field. He makes some incredible adjustments on poorly thrown balls. He tracks naturally over his shoulder. After the catch, he is very tough to bring down and has some nifty make-miss ability. He plays with a ton of passion and energy. Overall, Odunze is a complete player and reminds me of Larry Fitzgerald coming out of college.
NFL Network Analytics Expert Cynthia Frelund gave Odunze to the Giants in her first mock draft. Frelund uses a data-driven model that projects “which individuals increase teams’ projected win total the most.” Furthering what I said about Odunze’s floor, Frelund makes a strong case for Odunze — especially when you consider there will be pressure on Brian Daboll and Joe Schoen to put a better product on the field in 2024 than they did during a 6-11 2023 season.
Odunze is my WR2 by the slimmest of margins. In fact, his contested-catch ability, as well as his body control, ranks in the top 20 percentile in a 10-season sample. I also cannot believe my models didn’t choose an O-lineman here either, as it is an area of big need. That should tell you how much my evaluations love Odunze.
The other part of this that I know will be divisive is that I left LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels on the board to select Odunze. If I was strictly adhering to my ‘Big Blue View rules for draft succcess,’ they would tell me to take the quarterback. I have said many times that I think Daniels is a terrific prospect, and difficult to pass on if available at No. 6.
I still feel that way. Between now and the real 2024 NFL Draft, you will probably see me choose Daniels over Odunze or Nabers at some point. Maybe more than once. Remember, though, I am painting scenarios at this point and not trying to nail exactly what GM Joe Schoen will do. If you go by a ‘what’s best for 2024,’ theory, a player at No. 6 who would contribute immediately makes sense over a player who likely wouldn’t have a chance to be be a full-time contributor until 2025.
There is, though, I little voice in my head making me wonder if Drake Maye of North Carolina is the quarterback who would make Schoen’s heart flutter if he fell to No. 6.
Other players considered: Jayden Daniels, QB, LSU; Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia; Joe Alt, OT, Notre Dame; Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
Round 2 (No. 39) — J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan
Let’s start with this — the simulator gave me trade offers from six teams for this pick. With McCarthy, Bo Nix and Michael Penix Jr. on the board I should not have been surprised. I pre-determined, though, that in this scenario I was not going to make any trades.
I will be stunned if the complete second wave of quarterbacks is available at No. 39 in the real draft. They were here, though, so I will make the dive into the quarterback pool to find a potential successor to Daniel Jones.
McCarthy is probably the toughest evaluation among the quarterbacks. Jim Harbaugh’s old-school ground-and-pound offense gave McCarthy less heavy lifting to do for the Wolverines than the other quarterbacks in this class.
Draft Network writes:
J.J. McCarthy is a toolsy, young quarterback with a good ceiling and floor. McCarthy can win within and outside of the offensive structure. He is a good and fluid passer of the football. I appreciate his ability to throw with different speeds and with control. He can layer the football well with appropriate touch and air underneath the pass. McCarthy’s arm is more than NFL-caliber. He drives throws in the middle of the field with good velocity and zip. He is capable of fitting passes into tighter windows versus both man and zone coverages ...
McCarthy projects as a high-ceiling quarterback who has some development to undergo. His experience running and executing NFL/pro-style concepts will help his transition to the NFL.
With Daniel Jones back for one more year, the Giants can give McCarthy that development time. With another second-round pick to add talent to the roster, I’m OK with making a long-term rather than short-term investment here.
Other players considered: Bo Nix, QB, Oregon; Michael Penix, QB, Washington; Jackson Powers-Johnson, C-G, Oregon
Round 2 (No. 47) — Kris Jenkins, DT, Michigan
A week ago I used a second-round pick on massive Texas defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat. This week, I grab Jenkins. Sensing a trend? Yes, I do believe that the Giants need more talent up front alongside Dexter Lawrence.
Pro Football Network writes:
For NFL general managers, Jenkins will be an investment. He’s not the most consistent pass-rushing threat, but he’s a high-level run defender with the explosiveness, take-on strength, natural leverage, and anchoring ability to swallow blocks and limit displacement. And those same traits give him a pass-rushing upside.
As a 3-tech with stunting versatility as a pass rusher and 5-tech functionality on running downs, Jenkins has merit in the early rounds. He’s a stellar early-down defender on day one, and in time, he could grow to be an impact starter in both phases.
New defensive coordinator Shane Bowen was known for stellar run defense with the Tennessee Titans, an area where the Giants have not been great in recent years. Jenkins would help Bowen establish a quality run defense in East Rutherford.
Other players considered: Ja’Tavion Sanders, TE, Texas; Tyler Nubin, S, Minnesota; Cooper Beebe, G, Kansas State
Round 2 (No. 70) — Zak Zinter, G, Michigan
No, I did not forget about the offensive line. As I said last week, until I am told otherwise I am operating under the belief that the Giants will give Evan Neal one more shot at right tackle. They will see if new offensive line coach Carmen Bricillo can help him in ways Bobby Johnson could not. That means I was not taking an offensive tackle at No. 6 and that I would focus on adding talent at the guard spots.
This was where I felt good about doing so.
Zinter had a terrific career at Michigan, but broke his tibia and fibula in November against Ohio State.
Here is what Chris Pflum wrote in his Zinter scouting report:
Zinter projects as a starting guard with scheme versatility at the NFL level. He might be best on a team that primarily uses zone blocking schemes, but his play strength and mobility allow him to succeed in man-gap blocking schemes as well. Zinter’s height may always be an issue for him, and he can be prone to some ugly reps when his stance narrows, hips rise, or otherwise loses leverage. However, his experience and athleticism make losing leverage an uncommon occurrence and there’s far more good than bad on his tape.
Does he fit with the Giants? Yes, Zinter could be the team’s starting right guard in 2024.
Zinter probably would have gone earlier than this without his injury. Getting him here feels like good value.
NOTE: I know I will catch grief for picking three straight Michigan players. I didn’t even realize I had done that until long after I completed the mock.
How the simulator graded the picks: