BYU DE Ezekiel Ansah stole the show at the 2013 Senior Bowl.
Last week, I wrote an updated New York Giants mock draft after the East-West Shrine Game, a college all-star game that features lesser-known and, in some cases, “small school” prospects. On Saturday, the big dogs came out to compete in the Senior Bowl, and many NFL hopefuls strengthened their draft values.
The Senior Bowl features a North and a South team, each coached by a current NFL team's staff—Oakland Raiders head coach Dennis Allen and his staff led the North squad while Jim Schwartz and his Detroit Lions staff coached the South on Saturday.
A Giants coaching staff hasn’t led a Senior Bowl squad since 1995 when Dan Reeves wore New York’s headset, but according to the Senior Bowl website, over 800 NFL executives and scouts attend the game and week of practices every year.
In the 2013 matchup, the South claimed its 30th victory over the North, 21-16. Click through the slideshow to see which players could have impressed the Giants' scouts in this year’s Senior Bowl.
The Giants have not spent an early-round draft pick on a pass-rusher since they took Jason Pierre-Paul 15th overall in the 2010 draft. Knowing the way GM Jerry Reese likes to operate, the Giants are long overdue.
Brigham Young defensive end/linebacker Ezekiel Ansah fits the Giants’ mold for game-changing pass-rushers. He is a massive prospect (6'6", 270 lbs) with tremendous raw power and athleticism. According to NFLDraftScout.com, Ansah’s average 40-yard dash time is 4.74 seconds.
Ansah only came on as of late for the Cougars. He recorded just 10 tackles in his sophomore and junior seasons combined, but the Ghana native blew up during his senior campaign. In his final season at BYU, Ansah recorded 57 tackles (30 solo, 13 for a loss), 4.5 sacks, six QB hits and eight passes defended.
After a quiet week of practice, Ansah ended up as the star of the Senior Bowl. Given the rate Ansah’s hype is rising, he might not be available at pick No. 19 on draft day, but he should be at the top of the Giants’ big board.
Left tackle Will Beatty had a surprisingly solid season in 2012, but the same cannot be said for his counterpart. Between veterans Sean Locklear and David Diehl, the Giants struggled to seal off the right side of the line all season.
New York needs to revamp its offensive line, starting with its second-round pick. If the Giants choose to bolster the right tackle position, Virginia’s Oday Aboushi is the perfect candidate for the job.
Aboushi, a 6’6” gargantuan, earned first-team All-ACC honors for his performance in 2012. He is a very physical lineman that averaged 10-plus knockdown blocks per game, according to NFLDraftScout.com.
As the starting right tackle for the South, Aboushi showcased his ability early on, protecting Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel as he built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Aboushi stacked up well against the Senior Bowl talent; he would be a formidable option to line up opposite Beatty.
Although the Giants pass defense was shaky in 2012, New York is only a couple steps away from fielding a premier defensive backfield. Cornerback Corey Webster stood out as the clear weak link last season, but the Giants can attempt to replace him with a solid cover corner in the 2013 draft.
New York can still nab a quality corner even if it holds off until the third round, much like the franchise did a year ago with Jayron Hosley. In 2013, the Giants should consider San Diego State’s Leon McFadden.
McFadden was a first-team member of the All-Mountain West Team in 2012 for the third consecutive season. As a four-year contributor with the Aztecs, McFadden should be very well prepared for his transition into professional ball. He recorded three interceptions and 10 pass breakups in 2012.
OL Winters (No. 66) hoists his teammate after a score.
Last week, I had the Giants taking Oklahoma center/guard Gabe Ikard with this pick, but now I’m leaning more toward Kent State’s Brian Winters.
Winters played primarily left tackle in college, so he definitely has outstanding athleticism. However, at the Senior Bowl he starting making the shift to left guard.
The 6'4", 310-pounder is probably a more natural fit at that position, and the switch should increase his draft value. The Giants love offensive linemen with a degree of versatility, though, so one can assume Reese is salivating over Winters’ experience at tackle.
Allen, the North team coach, liked what he saw out of Winters during the transition period, according to Matt Florjancic of ClevelandBrowns.com.
The Giants defense finished the season ranked 31st in the NFL after surrendering over 6,000 yards through 16 games. In many of those games, New York’s inability to stop the run is what hurt the team the most.
To combat that deficiency, the Giants need to bring in an impact linebacker. Alabama’s Nico Johnson, an aggressive run-stuffer, could be the one to fill that role.
In Alabama’s 3-4 base defense, Johnson displayed great dependability from the inside linebacker position with 54 tackles last season. However, he could slip through the cracks to the Giants in the fifth round.
In the past week’s Senior Bowl practices, Johnson was able to show off some versatility that went untapped while in college, according to Mike Inabinett of Alabama.com.
LB Pough (13) lines up a tackle.
Howard linebacker Keith Pough did not receive an invite to play in the Senior Bowl, but after his impressive week at the East-West Shrine Game, I still think he’d provide a lot of value for a sixth-round pick.
Pough has admirable size (6’3”, 240 lbs), which could make the fact that he’s from a small school (Howard) a bit of an afterthought. The reports (h/t SB Nation) from the week of practice leading up to the game were that Pough never stops talking while on the field.
NFLDraftScout.com’s Dane Brugler notes that Pough is still a very raw talent, but considering his suddenly rising stock, it “wouldn’t be a shock” if he were the first to be drafted from the Shrine Game.
I know a wide receiver out of Army isn’t the sexiest seventh-round pick possible, but Trent Steelman is a realistic option. He is one of only two players from either college all-star game—East-West Shrine Game or Senior Bowl—to have met with the Giants. The other is Brian Winters.
Steelman was a quarterback in college, but some NFL scouts think he may have a future on the receiving end of passes as a professional. Dane Bruglar of NFLDraftScout.com describes him as a “do-it-all weapon,” noting that he took some direct snaps as a running back during practice for the Shrine Game.
Oh, and he played a little long snapper on special teams, too.
My interest is certainly piqued, but a seventh-round selection may still be a bit rich for someone as unproven as Steelman—he might have a better chance making it into the league as an undrafted free agent. Regardless, we’ll keep him here for now and wait for some further developments as the draft approaches.