Based solely on the position he plays and where he is projected to be drafted, Kelcy Quarles looks like a great fit for the New York Giants.
Tight end was arguably Big Blue’s most glaring need coming into the offseason. With free agency all but over, there is no question that it is the biggest hole to fill in the draft. Therefore, using a first-round pick on a tight end—which would be my choice, if I were the team's General Manager—makes a lot of sense.
If New York does go this route with the 12th pick, it would be wise for them to continue bolstering the interior offensive line in the second round. Even with the free-agent signing of Geoff Schwartz—who is likely to play left guard for Big Blue in 2014, according to Ebenezer Samuel of the New York Daily News—New York still has major questions at center and right guard.
New center J.D. Walton hasn’t played in a game since early in the 2012 season because of a severe ankle injury he suffered in October of that year. Right guard Chris Snee is 32 and coming off a 2013 campaign that saw him only suit up for three games, mainly due to a hip injury. Finally, fellow right guard John Jerry—another new addition to the team—may be suspended as a consequence of his involvement in the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal.
With all of these questions, taking either a center or a guard in the second round would potentially solve a few problems. First, assuming the drafted player isn’t a major project, they could start at some point next season. In addition, Big Blue would potentially have one of those positions filled for the next five years with a home run selection.
This brings us to the third round, where drafting a defensive tackle—which happens to be Quarles' position—makes a ton of sense.
The same can’t be said for the interior of Big Blue’s front four. With the departure in free agency of Linval Joseph, the Giants' only defensive tackles are Johnathan Hankins, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Markus Kuhn.
Hankins, who will likely start in the 1-technique slot, only registered 195 snaps as a rookie in 2013. While he showed promised in his limited chances, his lack of NFL experience has to be a concern. Jenkins played well last season as the 3-technique defensive tackle, posting a 6.6 Pro Football Focus rating (subscription required). However, the 10-year veteran is 33 years old, making him somewhat of a question mark simply based on his age.
Patterson and Kuhn are both useful players, but, at this point appear to be nothing more than rotational pieces.
With less than a month left before the draft, Quarles is currently projected to go in the middle of the third round as the 73rd overall pick. New York picks 74th, making the former South Carolina Gamecock a realistic option.
If the Giants can secure the 22-year-old, they’ll be getting a player that appears to have all the tools to excel in the NFL as a 3-technique defensive tackle.
Quarles has a lightening quick first step that allows him to frequently get immediate pressure on the quarterback. In addition, he is strong and maintains good leverage when bull-rushing the center or guard.
Simply put, Quarles uses both speed and power to get to the quarterback and drag ball-carriers down behind the line of scrimmage.
These strengths were on full display in 2013, as Quarles led the Gamecocks with 9.5 sacks while also racking up 13.5 tackles for loss. Both of these stats placed third and fourth, respectively, among defensive players in the ultra-competitive SEC conference.
Quarles has carried his strong junior season into draft season, and top NFL experts are taking notice. Two such experts were on hand for Quarles' performance at South Carolina’s pro day on April 2 and were not shy in their praise for him, as told by Brian King of GwdToday.com.
...Quarles’ performance did not go unnoticed by scouts and top draft analysts such as ESPN’s Todd McShay.
“(Quarles) moves good,” McShay said. “He’s a good player. I think he’s probably a day two pick when all is said and done. He’s quick enough. He’s got enough explosiveness. I thought he had his best year this year.”
Former NFL All-Pro linebacker Tedy Bruschi was also impressed with Quarles. Bruschi said Quarles’ effort at pro day solidified his draft stock.
“What (Quarles) showed out here today confirmed what we already knew about him,” Bruschi said. “He’s big and fast and can be very good defensive tackle in the NFL.”
All of the buzz around Quarles, though, isn’t necessarily positive. During the 2013 season, many people cited the constant double-team attention Jadeveon Clowney attracted as a big reason for Quarles' success.
While Quarles was not shy about his displeasure with this theory, it does have some validity. An opposing offense is going to focus a lot of attention toward blocking an all-world talent like Clowney, who could be the first overall pick in this draft, and take its chances with other players beating them. More often than not, Quarles did.
However, Quarles could find himself in a similar situation in New York. Like Clowney, Jason Pierre-Paul is the type of talent that will keep an offensive coordinator up at night. If he returns to form in 2014 after two down seasons, the rest of the defensive line could benefit from his presence.
Getting a talented player in the third round of the NFL draft that was productive in his final college season—in a top conference, no less—is rare. Quarles is exactly that player. If defensive tackle is still a need when the Giants are on the clock with the 74th pick, they better hope he is available.
If he is, Big Blue shouldn’t need more than 30 seconds of the allotted five minutes they have to make their third-round pick—Quarles is a no-brainer selection in this scenario.