NY Giants' Mock Draft: Instant Contributors the Giants Can Find in Every Round
Wouldn’t it be awesome if the New York Giants could put together a 2014 draft class in which almost every pick contributed something this coming season?
Hey, it could happen or come close to happening.
Just look at the 2007 Giants' draft class in which seven out of their eight draft picks—cornerback Aaron Ross, receiver Steve Smith, defensive tackle Jay Alford, long snapper Zak DeOssie, tight end Kevin Boss, safety Michael Johnson and running back Ahmad Bradshaw—contributed to that Super Bowl XLII championship season.
Since that class, the Giants' drafts haven’t exactly been as stellar. As I noted in this review of their last five classes (2009 to 2013), the Giants' draft classes have yielded just 18.4 percent of the roster’s starters, with 39.5 percent of the players being backups and a whopping 31.6 percent out of the league as of last season.
If those stats are making you a little nervous about this year’s draft, keep the faith.
The Giants' decision-makers know they have to come up big with this year's class, especially in the middle rounds where team CEO John Mara told reporters last December that the team's track record in those critical middle rounds hasn't been what they had hoped for.
We have missed on some guys. We’ve had some bad luck with second- and third-round picks being hurt; a first-round pick in the person of Kenny Phillips (knee), who we thought would be a Pro Bowl safety for us for years. We have missed on some, no question about it.
There are a few cases where we took a chance, knowing we were taking a chance, knowing if we hit on this guy, maybe we would knock it out of the park, and if we missed, we missed. And we missed entirely. That’s going to happen. There’s no question over the past few years we’ve missed on some of them for whatever reason.
Redemption is just a few weeks away, and it will be interesting to see if the Giants are more inclined to stay away from taking gambles.
While we patiently wait for the start of the draft on May 8, here, I give you my latest attempt at identifying seven prospects who could potentially contribute at some point in their rookie season.
Round 1: Defensive Tackle Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
Historically speaking, the New York Giants defense has lived and died by its pass rush.
So as the team's NASCAR pass-rushing package heads to the garage for repair, one of the first things that needs to be done is to replace the lost depth.
A player such as Pittsburgh’s defensive tackle Aaron Donald (6'1", 285 pounds), who has an explosive first step, would be an intriguing replacement for Tuck, who remember, usually moved inside to defensive tackle in that package.
More importantly, though, Donald would also provide depth at the defensive tackle position, where currently the only players under contract are projected starters Cullen Jenkins and Johnathan Hankins, and Markus Kuhn.
While it’s unlikely Donald would be a year-one starter if drafted and while there would also be questions regarding whether he could hold up against the run given his smallish size, if selected, he'd probably get a good number of snaps in the Giants’ defensive-line rotation.
Round 2: Receiver Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
Although the Giants added receivers Mario Manningham and Trindon Holliday, this unit is far from being settled.
We’ll start with Rueben Randle, who is entering his third pro season. Randle is largely viewed as the heir to Hakeem Nicks’ starting job.
The problem with Randle, though, has been inconsistency. Head coach Tom Coughlin, during the open media session at the recently concluded NFL owners meetings, alluded to Randle's on-going maturation process, as Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post reported:
Coughlin on Reuben Randle: “We have very high expectations for him. He’s got to continue to be a better pro and show consistency."— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) March 26, 2014
Hubbuch also reported that Coughlin praised Manningham for having matured “physically and mentally.”
The problem with Manningham is that there appear to be some concerns regarding his surgically repaired left knee.
While noting that Manningham passed the Giants' team physical, the receiver, who will compete for the No. 4 receiver role, “won't be guaranteed a roster spot.”
Lastly, there is Jerrel Jernigan, who opened a few eyes late last season playing in place of the injured Victor Cruz.
The problem with Jernigan is that he’s far from being assured of a roster spot for a couple of reasons. Because of his size—5'8", 189 pounds—he’s better-suited for the slot-receiver role, which is Cruz’s role.
Second, Jernigan, a return specialist, would likely have to earn his keep on special teams in order to stick. That means he’ll probably have to beat out Holliday and/or safety Quintin Demps for one of the returner roles.
Since Demps can provide insurance at safety, Jernigan’s likely competition would appear to be fellow receiver Holliday. Assuming only one of those two make the final 53-man roster, that would leave the Giants with one less receiver.
That brings us to the draft. Per NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com), Donte Moncrief (6’2”, 221 pounds) of Ole Miss clocked in with a 4.4 in the 40-yard dash at the combine and appears to have done little wrong in his postseason workouts.
The only concern that both the NFLDraftScout.com report and Matt Miller (per the above video) cite in Moncrief’s game is his straight-line speed.
Where would Moncrief fit in with the Giants? If Manningham’s knee gives him any trouble and if one from the Jernigan-Holliday duo don’t make it, Moncrief’s ability to separate from defenders might make him an attractive option in a four-wide set.
Round 3: Center Bryan Stork, Florida State
As expected, the Giants cut their oft-injured, high-priced center, David Baas.
Also as expected, they designated him as a post-June 1 transaction, a move that will boost their cap savings to just a hair under $5 million, money that will be used to sign the draft class as well as add a veteran or two on the back end of free agency.
Here’s where it becomes curious. First, the Giants decided not to tender Jim Cordle, a restricted free agent who appeared in 36 games for them over a three-year period, but who was coming off a season-ending knee injury.
Second, rather than pursue one of the top names on the free-agent market, such as Cleveland’s Alex Mack, New Orleans’ Brian De La Puente or Green Bay’s Evan Dietrich-Smith (now with Tampa bay), the Giants signed J.D. Walton, the former starting center for the Denver Broncos, to a two-year contract.
Walton has appeared in just four games over the last two seasons, this due to complications stemming from an ankle injury he suffered in 2012.
Besides Walton, who, per Rotoworld, has a roster bonus in the second and final year of his contract, the Giants don’t have a true backup center.
Entering the draft, they’re more than likely to come away with a young prospect who figures to spend his rookie season developing into a potential starter in 2015.
The prospect I think makes the most sense for the Giants is Florida State’s Bryan Stork (6’4”, 317 pounds).
Rated as NFLDraftScout.com's fourth-best center prospect in the draft, Stork, whom the scouting report compares to De La Puente, is said to need some additional work to improve his lower-body strength.
If he were to be drafted by the Giants, a possible role that Stork, a tight end in high school, could fill as a rookie is that of a blocking tight end in the jumbo package.
Round 4: Tight End Arthur Lynch, Georgia
Another position on the offense that doesn’t appear to be settled is tight end.
To recap, the Giants voided the remainder of Brandon Myers’ contract, a move that wasn’t unexpected.
They also appear to have passed on re-signing Bear Pascoe, an unrestricted free agent who was their most versatile player at that position, at least if the jersey-number assignments on the team's official web site are any indication.
So who does the team have?
There's Adrien Robinson, their fourth-round draft pick from 2012. Robinson, however, has yet to make any kind of contribution because as a rookie, he came into the offseason program late due to his college classes running into early June and last year because of injuries.
There's also Larry Donnell, an intriguing prospect who, in addition to working as an in-line blocker, has done a little work at H-back and fullback in certain sets. In 16 games last season, Donnell recorded three receptions for 31 yards.
The problem with Donnell last year was his consistency. Despite his size—he’s listed at 6’6” and 269 pounds—Donnell’s route running was extremely raw last year, as noted by former Giants' offensive lineman Roman Oben during his film review of Donnell for the team’s official web site.
The final candidate currently on the roster at tight end is Daniel Fells, who, after failing to make the Patriots' roster last summer, was out of football.
The 6’4”, 265-pound Fells is 30 years old and a six-year NFL veteran with 92 career receptions for 1,086 yards and eight touchdowns.
So where does this leave the tight end situation? If Donnell is being considered for that multifaceted role that Pascoe used to play and the team still believes that Robinson has something to offer, the Giants will more than likely bring a rookie in to compete with Fells for the third tight end spot.
A prospect who is a classic blocking tight end and who has also found some success in the passing game is Georgia’s Arthur Lynch (6’5”, 258 pounds).
Although not possessing exceptional speed like Eric Ebron of North Carolina, NFLDraftScout.com describes Lynch's strength and awareness as an in-line blocker to be among his most impressive attributes.
Last season, Lynch caught 30 receptions for 459 yards and tied for the Bulldogs' team lead in touchdowns (with two others) with five. His receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns were all career highs.
While the Giants seem to be interested in getting more production out of the tight end position in the passing game—Myers’ 552 yards (on 47 catches) and four touchdowns were the lowest totals by a Giants' starting tight end since 2010—run blocking appears to be just as important for the next starting tight end.
If the Giants are, as head coach Tom Coughlin told Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post, looking to return to “Giant football—big human beings moving guys,” they’re going to need a big tight end with the ability to hold his own at the point of attack in the running game.
That’s something that Lynch would appear ready to offer at the next level.
Round 5: Running Back James C. White, Wisconsin
At some point in 2014, running back David Wilson, the Giants' first-round pick in 2012 who is currently recovering from offseason neck surgery, is going to contribute.
What no one with the organization can pinpoint is when.
So the team signed Rashad Jennings in free agency to be their primary back, a move that, on paper, is a very promising one, given the skill set Jennings brings to the table.
They also re-signed Peyton Hillis to a two-year deal, another move that made sense, considering Hillis played well for them last year.
They have Michael Cox, a seventh-round pick in last year’s draft who, thanks to injuries that ravaged the running backs unit, was pressed into action in Weeks 7 and 8. Over that period, he ran 20 times for 42 yards and no touchdowns.
By the time the 2013 season ended, Cox would only get two more carries in which he’d gain one yard, as he was mostly limited to special teams duty as a kickoff returner, this despite continued injuries at the running back spot.
With the Giants having upgraded their return-game personnel, Cox can probably expect to see some competition for his roster spot this year.
That brings us to the draft, which is where that competition will likely come from. A prospect whom I think would be a good fit is James C. White (5’9”, 204 pounds) of Wisconsin.
NFLDraftScout.com’s Rob Rang notes that while White isn’t very big, his “vision, agility, burst and surprising power” are all assets. Because White is so quick, he can get to the second level in a flash.
Rang also notes that as a receiver, White has the ability to make defenders miss once he gets into the open field.
If all of those traits aren’t enough to stoke the Giants’ interest in the senior, perhaps the fact that he’s attentive as a pass-blocker—something that new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, in a conference call with reporters, emphasized as being a key characteristic in any running back he puts on the field—will do the trick.
Round 5b: Offensive Tackle Seantrel Henderson, Miami (Fla.)
Another position on the offensive line where the depth is paper-thin is at tackle.
Right now, the only proven depth behind projected starters Will Beatty and Justin Pugh is John Jerry, the veteran guard/tackle.
Jerry, named in the Wells Report investigating workplace-harassment allegations within the Miami Dolphins organization, could be facing disciplinary action by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, per Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News.
If Jerry is suspended, the Giants could be in trouble at tackle if they need to go to the bench during his absence.
Granted, both James Brewer and Brandon Mosley were college tackles who could, in a pinch, step in, However, it’s not known just how much time, if any, they were able to work at the tackle spot last season.
That’s why an offensive tackle is almost a sure thing for the Giants in this draft, even if it means taking a candidate on Day 3 for developmental purposes.
Seantrel Henderson (6’7”, 331 pounds) from the “U” (Miami, Fla.) is an interesting developmental project.
The problem with Henderson is that he doesn’t always play with good leverage, plus he’s had some off-field issues, including three suspensions for violations of the Hurricanes’ team rules.
The cause behind some of the suspensions? Marijuana use.
"I'm just being honest with every team and letting them know exactly what the situations were, and that I'm putting all the negative things behind me moving on to the next level," Henderson told Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel during Senior Bowl week.
"I want to be a starter and play in the NFL. I'm showing my character. Showing them that I'm responsible, reliable, dependable. I want to keep letting them know all the negative things are behind me."
While the issues Henderson has had in the past are certainly a red flag, the Giants have taken chances on players who have had off-field issues.
If Henderson has truly learned from his mistakes and is committed to being a professional who's willing to put the time into taking his craft up a notch, he could very well be one of those high-reward gambles that would make the risk well worth it.
Round 6: Defensive End Ben Gardner, Stanford
As noted earlier, the Giants lost defensive end Justin Tuck via free agency.
While the departure of Tuck doesn’t put their depth at this position in quite the dire-straits situation that Linval Joseph’s departure left the defensive-tackle group, Tuck's departure leaves the Giants with projected starters Jason Pierre-Paul and Mathias Kiwanuka and second-year man Damontre Moore.
On paper, that's not a bad group, but there are concerns.
Pierre-Paul and Moore are both coming off of shoulder injuries, with the former choosing rehab to treat his issue and the later having undergone offseason surgery, per Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger.
Kiwanuka, who in his first year back at defensive end on a full-time basis after previously spending time at outside linebacker, finished as the lowest-graded 4-3 defensive end among those who took at least 60 percent of their team’s snaps, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
It would not be surprising if the Giants add a veteran to this group later in the spring, as teams sometimes cut loose veterans after the draft.
Meanwhile, the Giants might be willing to take a flier on a young prospect who has some upside and untapped potential, even if he's not a lock to make the 53-man roster coming out of camp.
A candidate who could benefit in such a role is Stanford’s Ben Gardner (6’4”, 277 pounds). Gardner’s senior season was cut short, thanks to a left pectoral injury that was announced on Oct. 29.
Before his injury, he recorded 19 tackles, one forced fumble, one blocked punt, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks, per Sports-Reference.com.
Gardner, who was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, finished his four-year career with 106 tackles, 34 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks in 58 games played. He also broke up eight passes in coverage and recorded three forced fumbles.
As Matt Miller notes in the above video, Gardner will probably need to add some strength and bulk if he’s to develop into a NFL-caliber edge defender.