New York Giants Mock Draft: Fresh Predictions Post Week 1 of Free Agency
The NFL free agency period is just shy of being a week old as I write this, and yet the news of free agent comings and goings has had my TweetDeck program columns resembling an Atlantic City casino slot machine.
the New York Giants have been right there in the thick of things as far as trying to upgrade a vastly underpeforming roster from a year ago and have made several moves in an attempt to accomplish that objective.
According to various media reports as well as official team announcements, here’s what they’ve done as of Sunday evening, March 16:
- Signed six new players from other teams (offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz from Kansas City, running back Rashad Jennings of Oakland, former Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins center J.D. Walton, linebacker Jameel McClain of Baltimore, safety/kickoff returner Quintin Demps of Kansas City and former Seattle cornerback Walter Thurmond III.
- Re-signed nine of their own (linebackers Mark Herzlich and Jon Beason, offensive lineman Dallas Reynolds, cornerback Trumaine McBride, kicker Josh Brown, safety Stevie Brown, running back Peyton Hillis, fullback Henry Hynoski and quarterback Curtis Painter).
- Tendered one restricted free agent (linebacker Spencer Paysinger).
- Lost six players to other teams (tight end Brandon Myers to Tampa Bay, safety Ryan Mundy to Chicago, defensive end Justin Tuck to Oakland, defensive tackle Linval Joseph to Minnesota, receiver Hakeem Nicks to Indianapolis and linebacker Keith Rivers to Buffalo).
Given the action so far, we can now start to drill down to how their 2014 draft might be shaping up. Before I do that, though, a couple of quick notes.
NFL compensatory picks haven’t been announced. Per Philly.com, the Giants could be receiving an extra fifth round pick this year based on their 2013 free agency gains and losses, but until that’s officially confirmed, I’m not going to factor that into this latest mock draft.
Second, the Giants traded their seventh-round pick to Carolina for Beason, thus I’m not counting that pick in the mock.
Free agency continues to make the situation fluid, so my projections contained herein are subject to change if the Giants land any more significant free agents at positions represented in the first two draft picks.
With that said, here is my latest projected six-round Giants mock draft.
All draft prospect evaluations provided by NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com) unless otherwise noted.
Round 1: Cornerback Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
If you’ve been following me for a while now, you know I’ve been beating the drum for tight end Eric Ebron from North Carolina in the first round.
Don't worry. I still think they'll draft a tight end—just not in round one and probably not Ebron.
Based on what the Giants have done so far—and yes, I’m aware that they haven’t signed any tight ends, though I’m not surprised—I’m thinking they go in a different direction in the first round assuming they don't land a veteran at this position.
That position is cornerback.
Early on in the free agency period, the Giants reportedly showed interest in some of the NFL’s top free agent cornerbacks.
The New York Daily News reported that Alterraun Verner and Sam Shields, both of whom have since signed new contracts, drew the Giants interest.
Ian Rapaport of the NFL Network reported that the Giants were one of several teams to inquire about Darelle Revis before the Bucs released him.
In the meantime, the Giants signed former Seattle cornerback Walter Thurmond III to a one-year deal worth $3.5 million per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
While Thurmond will no doubt have a chance to compete for a starting job against Trumaine McBride, the incumbent who re-signed with the Giants on March 12, the team could be looking at Thurmond to fill the slot cornerback spot instead.
Such a move would certainly make sense. Per a tweet from Pro Football Focus, Thurmond has excelled in the slot:
Walter Thurmond has spent 70.8% of his career coverage snaps in the slot. He's allowed 0.93 yds/snap and 0 TDs on those plays.— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) March 16, 2014
Getting back to why I think the Giants will go with a cornerback in the first round, it's because I think they have to look ahead.
First, the top free agent cornerbacks obviously proved to be too expensive for the Giants, who by the way are currently flirting with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie of the Broncos, per Pro Football Talk.
If the Giants are looking for a quality cornerback at their price, it make sense to take one in the first round of the draft because, as Over the Cap estimates, the 12th overall pick of the 2014 draft would count for a very reasonable $1,892,036 against the 2014 cap.
Second, Prince Amukamara is entering the final year of his rookie deal this season. While there is no reason to believe that the Giants won’t soon be making him a priority on a long-term extension, by drafting a quality cornerback early, the Giants are protecting themselves just in case the unexpected happens.
Thus my pick for the first round is Oklahoma state's Justin Gilbert (6'0", 200 pounds), who has the size and speed to play press coverage.
Line up another aggressive cornerback opposite Amukamara, and the giants secondary could potentially be downright scary.
Round 2: Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
After focusing on boosting their depth at defensive tackle last year, the Giants are looking at having to restock the fridge.
Linval Joseph has departed for greener (pun intended) pastures, having signed a multiyear deal with Minnesota. Shaun Rogers and Mike Patterson are currently unsigned unrestricted free agents.
The 35-year-old Rogers has been on injured reserve in each of the last two seasons and appears unlikely to be re-signed. The 30-year-old Patterson, meanwhile, could be one of those second or third-wave free agency signings, a player who signs a one-year minimum qualifying offer.
The Lombardi Award winner has a non-stop motor and plays through to the whistle. He also displays a terrific burst off the ball, which allows him to split double-teams, and great closing speed in chasing down ball-carriers and quarterbacks.
With Joseph gone, the projected starting defensive tackles are Cullen Jenkins and second-year man Johnathan Hankins.
If the Giants are able to land Donald—a big “if” given how his stock has been rising—he’ll probably take the same path in his development as Hankins, Joseph and Barry Cofield, which is to be limited in year one as he develops.
Round 3: Tight End Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
If the Giants can’t get a tight end in the first round—and I truly believe based on their free-agency activity so far that they might have ranked a cornerback higher than a tight end as of this writing—they could look to Day 2 to fill this need.
One such player who could be there for them in the third round is Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas (6’6”, 270 pounds).
Niklas has exceptional size for the position and had experience playing multiple roles in the Irish’s offense.
While not possessing Ebron's speed, Niklas does offer enough versatility to allow new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo several options on how to deploy the tight end in his offense, including as an in-line blocker and as an H-back.
Round 4: Receiver Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
Another position that the Giants haven’t yet addressed in free agency (though there comes late word from Adam Schefter of ESPN that former Giants receiver Mario Manningham will visit the team on Monday) is receiver.
There’s a good reason for that—the NFL draft class is so loaded at receiver that the Giants could potentially pick up a prospect on Day 3, even if they were to re-sign Manningham.
One potential receiver prospect is Brandon Coleman of Rutgers, who stands 6’6” and weighs 225 pounds.
Coleman, who has 92 career receptions for 1,743 yards and 20 touchdowns, owns three of Rutgers’ longest receptions in school history (92, 86 and 85 yards) and appears to have the tools to become a solid possession receiver in an NFL offense.
The downside to Coleman, according to NFL Draft Scout, is that he struggles to separate against press coverage.
He could early in his, however, carve out a role as a red-zone specialist, a role that the Giants have been trying to fill for quite some time now.
Round 5: Guard Chris Watt, Notre Dame
According to the New York Daily News, the Giants signed center J.D. Walton to a two-year, $5 million deal, presumably to be their starting center.
Pro Football Talk speculated that the Giants could also be looking to re-sign veteran Kevin Boothe, currently an unrestricted free agent who finished last season at center after former starting center David Baas went on injured reserve.
What does this all mean for the position's future?
Walton, who was out of football last year presumably to recover from an ankle injury suffered late in the 2012 season, doesn't sound like he's a long-term answer.
New York could potentially be planning to groom their long-term solution, perhaps by plucking a college guard and converting him into a center, such as Notre Dame’s Chris Watt (6’3”, 310 pounds).
A “wide-bodied” athlete with a solid trunk, Watt brings a nasty streak to the game and a relentlessness that the Giants tend to like in their offensive linemen.
Although NFL Draft Scout doesn’t describe him as being agile in space and notes that he had some recent knee issues, Watt could potentially provide depth in the interior of offensive line in 2014 while he adjusts to the game at the pro level.
Round 6: Defensive End James Gayle, Virginia Tech
If the Giants are looking to take a flier on a prospect at a position of need, a good place to start would be defensive end, where despite reports of having interest in Robert Ayers (per the New York Daily News) and Anthony Spencer (per the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport), the Giants are still currently thin.
Virginia Tech’s James Gayle (6’4”, 255 pounds) possesses raw talent and has good quickness, but his lack of strength in getting off blocks would appear to indicate that he’s in need of at least a year in an NFL strength training program before he's ready to make a contribution.
Still, with Mathias Kiwanuka likely coming to the end of his career—the Giants are probably going to try to get one more year out of him—and Damontre Moore recovering from shoulder surgery (per The Star-Ledger), it certainly can’t hurt to begin grooming some young depth at this position.