5 2014 NFL Draft Prospects Guaranteed to Interest New York Giants
If that list whetted your appetite for incoming talent, hopefully this article comes closer to satiating your desire to know anything and everything there is to know about the Giants' impending rebuilding project. Remember, general manager Jerry Reese is tasked with cleaning up New York's 7-9 mess of a season in 2013.
While last week's list was more geared toward the fans' desires, this week's list consists of five 2014 NFL draft prospects that are guaranteed to be near the top of Reese's big board. Each of these players is a perfect fit in New York, considering the team's pressing needs heading into 2014.
Let's take a look at five new prospects in this week's slideshow.
LB Anthony Barr, UCLA
Weight: 248 lbs
Projected 40 time: 4.65
Projected Round: Top-10 pick
Why Barr is a perfect fit with the Giants: With the midseason infusion of Jon Beason at middle linebacker, the Giants learned in 2013 what a difference it makes to field athletes at the second level of the defense. Adding a young, athletic linebacker like Anthony Barr of UCLA with their first-round pick would only bolster an already rising defensive unit.
In last week's article, I profiled University at Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, who would also make for a solid first-round selection.
While Mack is an intriguing option, many see Barr as the cleaner prospect rising from the NCAA ranks in this year's draft. Barr was often a disruptive force with the Bruins, notching 10 sacks, 20 tackles for a loss, five forced fumbles and a pass deflection in his final collegiate season.
Barr's positional coach at UCLA, Jeff Ulbrich, who was a linebacker with the San Francisco 49ers from 2000 to 2009, believes Barr has the makings of a "perennial All-Pro in the NFL," according to Dan Greenspan of NFL.com.
The Giants have not fielded an All-Pro linebacker since Jessie Armstead had his 101-tackle season in 1997.
WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Weight: 200 lbs
Projected 40 time: 4.40
Projected Round: Top-20 pick
Why Watkins is a perfect fit with the Giants: The Giants did not get premier production from their big outside wide receivers this past season. The addition of a receiver like Clemson's Sammy Watkins in the '14 draft, however, could quickly erase the sore memories associated with Hakeem Nicks' touchdown-less 2013.
Watkins is ranked by most as the top receiver in the 2014 draft class. Considered the cream of last year's crop as well, Watkins' value has spiked even further after a successful junior campaign with the Tigers. Watkins' 227-yard, two-touchdown performance against Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl capped off a 101-reception season in which he scored 12 touchdowns and nearly eclipsed 1,500 receiving yards.
If Nicks walks in free agency—which looks likely at this point—Watkins would be a more than suitable replacement. Teamed with the likes of Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and the emerging Jerrel Jernigan, Watkins could stretch the field and score with more consistency than Nicks ever displayed with Big Blue.
DE Kony Ealy, Missouri
Weight: 275 lbs
Projected 40 time: 4.85
Projected Round: 1-2
Why Ealy is a perfect fit with the Giants: The Giants are always enamored with large, freakishly athletic defensive ends who can relentlessly rush opposing passers.
It's not likely that love affair ceases to exist in 2014, especially with Missouri's Kony Ealy expected to be available in range of the Giants' first-round pick.
While it was Ealy's teammate and fellow defensive end Michael Sam who earned the SEC Defensive Player of the Year award in 2013, Ealy is winning the hearts of more NFL scouts.
Ealy is stingy in run defense and can line up on the inside due to a thick frame. He did that sometimes with the Tigers, finishing the season with 43 tackles (12.5 for a loss), 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and six passes defended, including an interception.
With 2013 rookie Damontre Moore yet to break out, the Giants can keep the pipeline of promising pass-rushers perpetually flowing by selecting Ealy in this year's draft. Perhaps he, Moore and Jason Pierre-Paul can form a punishing trio for years to come.
G Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
Weight: 340 lbs
Projected 40 time: 5.33
Projected Round: 1-2
Why Jackson is a perfect fit with the Giants: The Giants' main objective this offseason should be to rebuild the offensive line. They can do that by reeling in a hog like Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson to bolster the interior line.
Jackson, who tips the scale at 340 pounds, will likely be a better run-blocker than pass-protector at the NFL level. A longtime starter with the Bulldogs, Jackson was the first offensive lineman to be awarded the C Spire Trophy—which goes to the state of Mississippi's most outstanding player—according to Al.com.
The Giants, who may need a replacement for aging veteran Chris Snee at right guard, could have Jackson fill in immediately. Behind a man of his stature, New York's running game could thrive in 2014 and beyond.
C Travis Swanson, Arkansas
Weight: 305 lbs
Projected 40 time: 5.05
Projected Round: 2-3
Why Swanson is a perfect fit with the Giants: The Giants' most pressing need of the offseason may be bringing in a new center. While centers aren't usually the most sought-after athletes in the draft, New York could score a gem in a player like Travis Swanson of Arkansas.
Swanson is recognized by WalterFootball.com as the 2014 draft class' best center, but he is still only projected as a second- or third-round selection. Rob Rang of CBS Sports describes the Razorback as an "athletic, powerful and versatile" lineman. He started all 50 games of his collegiate career with Arkansas.
The Giants' last venture into free agency for a center turned up poor results in former San Francisco 49er David Bass. It's time to draft a young athlete, like Swanson, at the position—one who can be trusted to snap the ball to quarterback Eli Manning for the foreseeable future.
Measurables and projections via WalterFootball.com