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Updating New York Giants' First-Round Big Board Post-Combine

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Updating New York Giants' First-Round Big Board Post-Combine
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On the evening of May 8, when the first round of the NFL draft takes place, the New York Giants will probably be keyed in on three-to-five players that they want to draft.

They will know if they need to trade up to get a particular player, or have the luxury to garner assets by sliding back in the first round and still snatch up their guy.

However, with that magical night still over two months away, Big Blue’s list of players they may select in the first round is a lot larger. They need to keep their options open since upcoming pro days will change the stock of many first-round prospects, while free-agency acquisitions will alter New York’s needs entering the draft.

Below should be an accurate indication of the 16 players currently on the Giants' big board.

Admittedly, this is a tight list. Only players at need positions are mentioned, so don’t expect to see any quarterbacks, or even defensive tackles. Also, anyone the Giants can’t realistically get either at the 12th pick or by trading up or down 10-12 spots is left off as well.

The players are ordered strictly based on a combination of need and talent. Sometimes the latter trumps the former, but in most cases need wins out.

 

1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (6'5", 266 lbs)

Defensive end is not even one of the Giants' top five needs this offseason, but Clowney is a once-in-a-generation talent that can’t be passed up. He is lightening quick—a trait that was on display at the combine, courtesy of his 4.53-second 40-yard dash, while also possessing the strength to overpower most left tackles.

Clowney is a bit immature, and his 2013 on-field performance pales in comparison to the stats he put up the previous season. Even these concerns, though, are easy to overlook, given his talent. Unfortunately for New York, they will probably have to trade up into the top three picks to have any chance at drafting him.

 

2. Greg Robinson, T, Auburn (6'5", 332 lbs)

The Giants already have a left tackle in Will Beatty, but he would be worth moving to the right side to get Robinson. The 21-year-old is still a bit raw but has the talent to be a perennial All-Pro. A big reason for his upside is his athleticism, which he showed off in spades at the combine.

Robinson has the tools to be a Week 1 starter, but, like Clowney, it will probably take a significant trade up in the first round to get him. Most mock drafts have him going anywhere from second to sixth, though Bleacher Report’s resident draft expert, Matt Miller, slots him at the ninth pick in his latest mock.

 

3. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (6'4", 250 lbs)

Ebron is a great blend of talent and need for Big Blue. The former UNC standout is the best tight end in the draft and, outside of rebuilding the offensive line, it is the most critical position for the Giants to address this offseason.

Ebron would immediately provide Eli Manning with a reliable red-zone and third-down target, considering his size and athletic ability gives him a tremendous catch radius. Ebron’s combine wasn’t flashy, but he put up a well-rounded performance that should only serve to improve his draft stock.

New York clearly has interest in drafting the 20-year-old, since they met with him in Indianapolis. They will likely get an opportunity to draft a guy who grew up a Giants fan, as Ebron is falling anywhere from nine to 22 in mocks.

 

4. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (6'1", 211 lbs)

Wide receiver is close behind tight end as a position in need of fixing for the Giants. Watkins would give them a player whose speed and quickness figures to make him a bonafide number one wideout. Despite his size, though, Watkins is not particularly physical, so while his run-after-the-catch ability will make him formidable on third down, he doesn’t project to be a top red-zone target.

He also won’t fall to New York at the 12th pick. Watkins appears to be a guaranteed top-10 selection on May 8.

 

5. Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M (6'5", 310 lbs)

Matthews doesn’t have the upside of Robinson, but he is more polished and also a plug-and-play starter at left tackle. Actually, his versatility makes him a fit at any of the five offensive line positions, which is something that probably intrigues Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin and new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.

Matthews, like Robinson, appears to be a top-five choice, but there may not be a safer pick in the draft.

 

6. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M (6'5", 231 lbs)

Evans is not the big-play threat that Watkins figures to be, but he puts his massive frame to good use. The former Aggies star wins jump-ball situations and is safe to throw to when covered-something Manning loves to have in a wide receiver.

The 20-year-old eased concerns over his speed in Indianapolis with a 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds. He won’t blow past cornerbacks, but he has enough to get separation.

The Giants met with him at the combine, so they are predictably interested in his services. They should get the opportunity to snatch him up if they stay put, since mock drafts have him going between the 10th and 17th pick.

 

7. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo (6'3", 248 lbs)

The Giants do need a playmaker at outside linebacker. However, they have a clear aversion to drafting this position in the first round. The last linebacker they took with their first pick was Carl Banks in 1984. That was two years before New York won their first Super Bowl!

Mack would be a great choice to break this surprising trend. The 23 sacks, 11 forced fumbles and four interceptions he racked up in four seasons at Buffalo, proves how disruptive he can be.

Like several players on this board so far, though, he won’t fall to the Giants. If they want him, they’ll have to trade into the top 10.

 

8. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (5'11", 195 lbs)

Lee doesn’t have a standout trait, but he is a refined receiver that does everything well. He did have several nagging injuries in 2013, which limited his production after he put up an outstanding sophomore season that saw him lead the NCAA in receptions and place second in receiving yards.

Like with Evans, the Giants are interested enough in Lee that they visited with him at the combine. He is consistently going after Evans in mock drafts, so the Giants, as of now, could probably trade down into the mid-to-late teens and still get him.

 

9. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State (6'0", 195 lbs)

The Giants need a legitimate starter opposite Prince Amukamara at cornerback, but given their other needs, the first round may be too early to fill this spot. New York did meet with Gilbert in Indianapolis, so they are at least entertaining the notion of drafting him.

The 22-year-old projects to be an excellent cover corner, due to great instincts and outstanding speed. The latter was very apparent at the combine, as Gilbert ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.37 seconds—best among his position.

His only weakness on the field is tackling, which is not consistent or physical at this stage. He also stands to be more mature, something that could easily come with age.

Gilbert is going all over the first round in mock drafts, making him a realistic target at the 12th pick.

 

10. C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama (6'2", 228 lbs)

Mosley is not the playmaker or talent of Mack, but his instincts and sound fundamentals should make him a player that is consistently around the ball in the NFL. Health is a concern, though, for the 21-year-old, as he battled a variety of injuries in college.

There is a good chance he’ll be available at 12, but given their other needs—and Mosley’s clear drop off in value from Mack—New York is probably better off going elsewhere.

 

11. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA (6'5", 244 lbs)

Our final linebacker is clearly the biggest project of the three.

Barr moved over to defense in 2012 after starting his career at UCLA as a running back and wide receiver. While he is a tremendous athlete, the fact that he may take a few years to start realizing his potential is not ideal for a team like the Giants, who are still in win-now mode.

He also projects to be a better fit as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme (New York runs a 4-3 scheme).

Ironically, despite the clear question marks on how Barr would fit with Big Blue, both Pete Prisco and Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com have the Giants taking him in their latest mock drafts.

 

12. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State (5'11", 195 lbs)

Dennard is clearly not the athlete that Gilbert is, with his 4.51-second performance in the 40-yard dash at the combine the latest reminder. However, he is more mature and a natural leader—two traits that Gilbert certainly does not possess.

The former Spartan also has health concerns, which is obviously never desirable in a first-round pick that lacks elite talent.

Despite his clear contrasts to Gilbert, they share one thing in common—they are both currently all over the place in mock drafts.

 

13. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri (6'4", 275 lbs)

The only other defensive end, besides Clowney, on this list who is an excellent raw athlete, though he certainly didn’t display it at the combine. Ealy posted a pedestrian 4.92-second 40-yard dash time and only put up 22 reps in the bench press.

Ealy needs to lean heavily on the athleticism card because he has plenty of technique issues to concern scouts. In addition, he is not stout against the run.

Miller has Ealy going to the Giants in his latest mock draft, but other mocks suggest that New York can safely trade down into the first round and still select the former Missouri standout.

 

14. Zack Martin, OL, Notre Dame (6'4", 308 lbs)

Martin should be available at 12, but despite playing left tackle at Notre Dame, his best position in the NFL could be guard.

While this position is currently a mess for Big Blue, do they really want to use their top pick on a guard prospect, when quality players like UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo, Mississippi State’s Gabe Jackson and Stanford’s David Yankey can potentially fall to the Giants in the second round?

It is an interesting question that the Giants will probably need to answer, because Martin will almost definitely be on the board when the 12th pick rolls around.

 

15. Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan (6'7", 310 lbs)

Lewan is another interesting offensive line prospect. Unlike Martin, he projects to be a left tackle, but does not appear to be Week 1 starter material like Matthews or Robinson.

His combine performance, though, was tremendous, with four of his six workouts registering top performer status on NFL.com. Based on these results, it certainly doesn’t appear that a lack of athleticism will hold him back from being a quality left tackle.

Also, for what it’s worth, all four mock draft analysts at NFL.com tabbed Lewan as a future Giant earlier this month.

 

16. Cyrus Kouandjio, T, Alabama (6'7", 322 lbs)

While Kouandjio's size is intriguing, he is simply too heavy afoot to play left tackle. As proof, he ran the 40-yard dash in a sun-dial slow 5.59 seconds at the combine.

The 20-year-old is a better fit as a right tackle, where pass-protection is not as vital. This will allow Kouandjio’s strength and power run-blocking to stand out.

The Giants did meet with him in Indianapolis, so he appears to be a consideration for them at this point. Hopefully, for the sake of Manning’s blind side and well-being, he is not looked at as a left tackle in the eyes of Jerry Reese, Tom Coughlin and company.

 

*All combine results courtesy of NFL.com's combine tracker. Mock draft information pulled from Bleacher Report, CBSSports.com, NFL.com and ESPN.com (Insider subscription required). Stats courtesy of sports-reference.com.

*If you want more, follow Tamer's tweets, become a fan or like his Facebook page.

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