The Reese’s Senior Bowl, which will be held on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala., is usually a great opportunity for NFL officials to get their first true up-close look at prospective draft picks.
Certainly, the New York Giants, who will soon begin revamping their entire roster, are paying extra close attention to the upcoming NFL draft class prospects.
Some of the aspects that the Giants brass are no doubt looking at include the prospects’ technique, how they respond to coaching and, of course, how they perform against other top college-level competition.
In reviewing the roster and researching some of the players listed on both rosters, I came up with five prospects that might be worth a look this weekend.
As a side note, there really wasn't anyone who jumped out at me at other positions such as tackle, defensive end, receiver and outside linebacker from the lists.
That's not to say the players won't raise their stocks if they have a strong showing. As I get more information in the weeks to come, I'll be better able to preview a wider array of candidates at different positions.
Read on for my list of five players that could be on the Giants' radar going into this weekend's game.
The Giants are most likely going to try to sign a free agent to be their bell cow in the event that David Wilson, who had neck surgery on Jan. 16, isn’t ready to play.
Assuming Wilson isn’t part of the picture, the only other running back currently under contract is Michael Cox, who will be entering his second season and who is coming off of limited experience.
Might the Giants look at the draft for another running back?
The more I think about it, the less I’m convinced they go down that road for the simple reason that, under Tom Coughlin, rookie running backs historically are usually not ready to step in and contribute from day one.
Whether that changes now that the team is going in a different direction under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo remains to be seen.
If the Giants do look toward the draft, a prospect that I like in the later rounds is Wisconsin’s James White (5’10”, 195 pounds), who will suit up for the North Team this Saturday.
A projected fifth-rounder by NFL Draft Scout, White doesn’t have ideal size, but Rob Rang notes that the college senior does have better power than his size suggests, as well as a nonstop motor.
ESPN’s Calvin Watkins tweeted some favorable impressions of White:
Really liking Wisconsin RB James White. Shows patience, speed, burst and vision.— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) January 22, 2014
The real question about any young running back is if can he pass block.
In the case of White, things certainly look promising in that regard. Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote (subscription required), “…blocking has become one of White’s most important assets, though one that too often goes unrecognized.”
Although there has been speculation that the Giants might keep Brandon Myers now that they’re going in a different direction with their offense, I would be surprised if that happens.
Yes, Myers is a better fit for a West Coast offense, but as I’ve said before, it’s unwise to assume that the Giants are heading strictly to a West Coast offense.
As for Myers, at 6’3” and 256 pounds, he lacks the bulk and long arms to be successful as a blocker. However, even if blocking were to be removed from his job description, he's still not very fast or agile as a receiver.
It remains to be seen what the Giants have in Larry Donnell and Adrien Robinson, both young players who were touched by the injury bug in 2013.
There is a possibility, however slight, that Bear Pascoe, an unrestricted free agent, will be re-signed to serve as an affordable transition player until the kids are ready.
If the Giants want to start getting younger, a potential draft pick who could make an impact right out of the gate is Georgia’s Arthur Lynch (6’5”, 254 pounds), who will play for the South.
Lynch is currently listed as NFL Draft Scout’s sixth-best tight end and is projected to be a fourth-round pick. He finished his senior season with 390 yards on 24 receptions, but his strength seems to be as a blocker, per Rob Rang:
He is particularly effective on combination blocks in which he initially helps an offensive tackle double-team a defensive lineman before switching off to chip a linebacker at the second level.
The reviews this week from those who have seen Lynch in the practices have been very complimentary. Here are just a few:
TE Arthur Lynch has had a solid week. Was great in blocking drills yesterday, lost very few 1v1's, and has caught the ball well.— Fran Duffy (@fduffy3) January 22, 2014
Arthur Lynch reminds me so much of Jason Witten.— Draft Cowboys™ (@DraftCowboys) January 22, 2014
Arthur Lynch looked really good in blocking drills. The south linebackers and safeties were pushed around.— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) January 21, 2014
Arthur Lynch killing it in pass pro. Kyle Van Noy continues to shine. Another good rep from Andrews— Pete Smith (@PeteSmithWTFP) January 21, 2014
Lynch might not have the best speed—he was clocked at 4.82 in the 40, which puts him in the middle of the pack at his position per NFL Draft Scout.
However, if the Giants are looking for a good-sized target for their new offense at that tight end position, Lynch would appear to fit the bill.
Currently ranked as the 12th-best cornerback in the draft, Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6'3", 220 pounds), a former wide receiver, has excellent height to match up with the bigger receivers that tend to be the norm in the NFL.
B/R’s Chris Trapasso reported that Jean-Baptiste has been mentioned as a cornerback who has stood out.
North practice done. Talked to some prospects. Mike Campanaro told me Stanley Jean-Baptiste has been toughest CB for him this week.
— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) January 22, 2014
Eric Galko of Optimum Scouting praised Jean-Baptiste for having “all the tools” to play cornerback:
Stanley Jean-Baptiste drove Josh Huff straight into the ground. Jean-Baptiste sinks, turns well in routes + physical w/ hands. All the tools
— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) January 22, 2014
Dane Brugler of NFL Draft Scout (via CBSSports.com) notes that Jean-Baptiste is still playing like a former receiver.
He noted that while Jean-Baptiste has shown a taste for playing press coverage, his technique sometimes borders on holding. Also, he described Jean-Baptiste’s tackling as “swiping at the legs of receivers,” which is not the way to stop NFL-level receivers.
The more I think about it, the more I’m not so sure that center David Baas is a guaranteed salary-cap casualty, unless of course he refuses to take a pay cut on his $4.75 million base salary for 2014.
While I still would like to see the Giants try to land a younger, healthier veteran center such as Alex Mack of Cleveland, Mack might prove to be too expensive for the Giants, especially since he's coming off his second Pro Bowl season.
If the Giants were to, hypothetically, cut Baas and sign a player of Mack’s caliber, they would be looking at quite a significant financial investment tied up at the center position for 2014.
That investment would consist of a player who would be on the roster and one who wouldn't, but whose $6.45 million dead-money total would choke the cap.
With the Giants needing a lot of help at various positions, I think they might give Baas another shot, despite his risky injury history.
In the meantime, if they could pick up a young center/guard prospect such as Arkansas’ Travis Swanson (6’5”, 318 pounds), who will suit up for the South, the Giants could potentially solve two issues along the offensive line over a two-year period.
Per Jordan Raanan of NJ.com, who’s been at the Senior Bowl practices this week, Swanson has taken snaps at guard.
If the Giants were to land Swanson, they could maybe start him at guard in his rookie season. Then, in 2015, when it makes more sense to release Baas if he ends up limping his way through another season, the Giants could move Swanson, who started all 46 games of his Razorback career, to center.
With David Diehl and Chris Snee unlikely to return in 2014, a big-bodied powerful guard prospect that might be of interest is Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson (6’4”, 335 pounds), who will play for the South.
Jackson possesses fine athleticism, per Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout, who also notes that for Jackson’s stock to rise, “He’ll need to play with greater overall physicality and aggression.”
Rams (@DraftRams) January 22, 2014
Gabe Jackson got his hands inside on McCullers. Noting McCullers could do— Shane P. Hallam (@ShanePHallam) January 22, 2014
Jackson, the NFL Network’s pick for “Player of the Day” after Wednesay’s practices, was also described as an “absolute road-grader” by the NFL Network’s Charles Davis (h/t Mike Huguenin of NFL.com).
The Giants could certainly use a road-grader along their offensive line, which, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required), was ranked 29th in the NFL last season.