5 Late-Round NFL Draft Prospects Perfectly Suited for New York Giants
Football fans love to remind each other that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was a sixth-round selection in the 2000 NFL Draft. Brady's tale is that of the consummate underdog, as he went from a virtual unknown to Super Bowl MVP to possible greatest of all time.
The New York Giants may not land the next Brady of the 2014 draft, but at least a few under-the-radar prospects have probably caught the team's eye. The Giants could select a significant contributor—if not a starter—with one of their later picks in the draft.
This article will highlight five late-round draft prospects that are perfectly suited for the 2014 Giants.
RB Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
Things are already shaking up at running back for New York with the signing of former Oakland Raider Rashad Jennings and David Wilson's role apparently in a state of flux as he attempts to return from neck surgery. Why not add a late-round pick into the mix?
The Giants have a track record of selecting running backs with high upside late in the draft; they have done so with mixed results.
Ahmad Bradshaw, a seventh-round selection in 2007, was an essential cog in New York's two most recent Super Bowl victories—he provided the game-winning score in Super Bowl XLVI. Da'Rel Scott, a seventh-rounder in 2011, never fit with the Giants and recorded less than 100 yards before he was cut midway through last season.
The jury is still out on the future of fellow seventh-round running back Michael Cox, who was selected in the final round of last year's draft.
And if Cox isn't the man, Isaiah Crowell of Alabama State might be.
Crowell was once the SEC Freshman of the Year (2011), but the former Georgia Bulldog was dismissed from the team following his breakout campaign due to an arrest on weapons charges. Crowell played each of the past two seasons at Alabama State, and he was listed among Saturday Down South's top 10 SEC recruiting busts of the past decade (via Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).
While Crowell's collegiate career may not have gone as expected (he came to Georgia as the top-rated running back recruit in the nation), he could resurrect his all-star career at the next level if the Giants choose to draft him in one of the later rounds. Bleacher Report's Curt Popejoy ranked Crowell 11th out of 15 draft-eligible running backs back in October.
Last season, as a junior, Crowell rushed for 1,121 yards and 15 touchdowns. Now, to get ready for his jump to the pros, Crowell prepped for the NFL Scouting Combine with the most talked about prospect in this year's draft, South Carolina's Jadaveon Clowney (per Mike Huguenin of NFL.com).
OT Billy Turner, North Dakota State
It was no secret that the Giants were in dire need of help along the offensive line by the end of 2013, leading New York to sign ex-Chief Geoff Schwartz, ex-Bronco/Redskin J.D. Walton and ex-Dolphin John Jerry. Reeling in a stud tackle in one of the later rounds would only boost the unit further.
Late-round O-line projects have failed New York in the past. James Brewer, a fourth-round selection in 2011, has largely been a disappointment in his three seasons with the team. Fellow fourth-rounder Brandon Mosley (2012) earned just one start last season, as the Giants floundered to keep an aching offensive line afloat.
Selected after Mosley in the sixth round of the 2012 draft, Matt McCants was cut and subsequently signed by the Oakland Raiders before he ever made an impact in New York. And there's also Eric Herman, a seventh-rounder in last year's draft who was too raw to ever be promoted from the practice squad in 2013.
If the Giants decide, once again, to experiment with a late-round O-lineman, they can do so with confidence if the selection is Billy Turner of North Dakota State.
Turner has turned many heads early this offseason. After anchoring the Bison through three consecutive FCS championships, Turner (6'6", 314 lbs) is ready to take his talent to the next level. The burly, bull-dozing blocker has the athletic tools to make the leap to the professional ranks.
Turner put forth a dominating performance in the 2013 FCS Championship, which earned him a trip to the Senior Bowl. Some scouts in attendance believe he has many Pro Bowls in his future, according to WDAY Fargo. Like many other small school prospects, however, Turner must improve his technique to thrive in the NFL.
With the assistance of the Giants' coaching staff, this sleeper could fine-tune the inadequacies in his game and eventually become a driving force in New York's offensive turnaround.
TE A.C. Leonard, Tennessee St.
The Giants may acquire their tight end of the future this year. The position should be targeted in the 2014 draft after featuring a different starting tight end in each of the past four seasons (Kevin Boss '10, Jake Ballard '11, Martellus Bennett '12, Brandon Myers '13).
Myers' contract situation ran cold in the winter, when the Giants allowed his remaining years to be automatically voided. He is now a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
Veteran blocking tight Bear Pascoe remains an unrestricted free agent; with the recently re-acquired Mario Manningham being awarded jersey No. 86, Pascoe appears unlikely to return. While Bennett and Myers were each brought in off the open market to start for a year, a tight end has not landed in New York during the Giants' free agency frenzy of 2014.
That leaves young and inexperienced tight ends Adrien Robinson and Larry Donnell as the Giants' only options guaranteed to be under contract in 2014. Neither Robinson nor Donnell has shown much to suggest that a breakout season is on the horizon.
Many want the Giants to snag North Carolina's Eric Ebron at No. 12 overall, but the Giants can find value later on in the draft if they miss on Ebron. Tennessee State's A.C. Leonard is a tight end who is likely to be available in the later rounds, but could prove to possess serious upside. Dane Brugler of CBS praised Leonard's wide receiver-type speed and ball skills on Twitter in early March.
Leonard was the fastest tight end at the combine with a 40-yard dash time of 4.50 seconds. In addition to racking up 20 reps on the bench press, Leonard excelled at the vertical jump (34") and broad jump (128").
At 6'2" and 252 pounds, his receiving skills and general athleticism will have to make up for his lack of elite size. Leonard's draft suitors must consider a misdemeanor for simple domestic battery and citation for driving with a suspended license—both of which occurred in 2012—that led to his departure from his former school, Florida, and subsequent landing at Tennessee State.
LB Christian Kirksey (Iowa)
The Giants are never the most stable squad at linebacker. Jon Beason resurrected New York's defense after they traded for him last October. Big Blue's Wrecking Crew retained a key piece of machinery when it re-signed Beason; it also acquired a new piece when it signed former Baltimore Raven Jameel McClain.
Spencer Paysinger and Mark Herzlich—both of whom joined the team as undrafted free agents in 2011—were both retained, as well. The former will presumably compete with Jacquian Williams for starting weak-side duties in 2014, as they have for some time now.
After re-shaping the linebacker unit a bit in free agency, the Giants can bolster the second level of their 4-3 base defense with a crafty draft pick. Perhaps New York lands an unexpected starter, as a prospect like Iowa's Christian Kirksey may have presented himself as viable option at the Combine.
Kirksey most notably missed out on the 40-yard dash. His 16 reps on the bench press were not impressive, but Kirksey put up solid marks of 32 inches and 122 inches in the vertical jump and broad jump, respectively. At 6'2" and only 233 pounds, the rangy Kirksey's best fit may be as a situational 'backer who specializes in pass coverage.
The St. Louis native had a knack for making the big play during his run with the Hawkeyes; Kirksey is one of only three players to record three defensive touchdowns in Iowa history, per his bio on the school's athletics website.
The Giants could afford to take a late-round risk on a unique defensive talent like Kirksey.
G Jon Halapio (Florida)
The Giants can also afford to land a quality interior offensive lineman in one of the later rounds.
Right guard Chris Snee is aging and returning for 2014 at a severely reduced rate. Center David Baas was only on the field for three games last season, making him an easy selection to be New York's single cap casualty of 2014. Starting left guard and utility O-lineman Kevin Boothe has followed fellow two-time Super Bowl champion Justin Tuck to Oakland.
Left tackle Will Beatty is only one season into a five-year deal, and right tackle Justin Pugh was a first-round pick in 2013 who started all 16 games as a rookie. Beatty and Pugh may have the edges of New York's offensive line locked down, but the interior personnel is yet to be determined—this is where the Giants target a hidden gem.
Offensive linemen don't usually post breathtaking figures at the combine, and Florida's Jon Halapio was no exception. Halapio recorded a pedestrian 40-yard dash time of 5.34 seconds. He also competed in the vertical jump (21.5"), the broad jump (100"), three-cone drill (8.26 sec.) and 20-yard shuttle (4.83 sec.). He did not participate in perhaps the most telling indicator of strength, the bench press, a combine activity most cited when it comes to evaluating offensive linemen.
Halapio's other measurements were more intriguing. He stood 6'3" tall and tipped the scales at 323 pounds. The guard also has 10.25-inch hands that extend from 33.5-inch arms. Halapio was a consistent starter with the Florida Gators who reportedly uses his size well when blocking.
If drafted by the Giants, Halapio could stumble into a starting role along a remolded offensive line.