There is little question that the New York Giants need to score another home run with their upcoming draft class.
While there are any number of prospects for whom one can make an argument regarding being a must-have pick, let’s think outside the box and look at a prospective Day 2 pick.
The choice? Inside linebacker Denzel Perryman (5’11”, 244 lbs) out of the University of Miami.
Why Not Offensive Line? (aka Brandon Scherff)
Before discussing why Perryman is a must-have, let’s first address why my choice is not an offensive lineman, such as tackle Brandon Scherff out of Iowa, who, according to this outstanding analysis posted on SB Nation’s Big Blue View, projects to guard rather than tackle.
The Giants are in a “win-or-else” mode this season. While theoretically a top-10 draft pick should be able to step right in and be a Day 1 starter, there is usually a learning curve involved that extends beyond training camp and the preseason for all rookies, regardless of where they are picked.
Would head coach Tom Coughlin be patient enough to let a first-round draft pick go through his growing pains, knowing the team's in win-or-else mode? Perhaps.
Though based on history, it probably wouldn’t be a stretch to assume Coughlin might prefer a battle-tested veteran ahead of a rookie.
Assuming that line of thinking continues, it probably wouldn’t be a stretch to reason that the Giants are going to pursue a veteran offensive lineman in free agency with the intention of having him start on Day 1, such as what they did last year when they signed Geoff Schwartz to a multiyear deal.
The Inside Linebacker Situation
Let’s look at the middle linebacker spot. Veteran and three-time Pro Bowler Jon Beason, who signed a three-year deal to play that spot last offseason, continued to have issues with staying on the field.
In the last four seasons, Beason has been able to play in just 24 games because of various injuries that have included an Achilles tendon and a knee.
However, this time around Beason’s injury was to his big toe, which, while severe enough to knock him out of action last season, shouldn’t be an issue moving forward.
Although Beason has a rather steep cap figure for 2015—per Over the Cap, he is due to count for $7.366 million, a figure that includes $900,000 of his base salary being guaranteed and a $2.2 million roster bonus—a healthy Beason still has value to the Giants defense (though probably not at his current 2015 cap figure).
Regardless of whether Beason makes it through a 16-game schedule, the Giants would be wise to start grooming a younger player as a backup/heir to that middle linebacker spot, affording said youngster an opportunity to learn the ropes of being a professional from veterans like Beason and Jameel McClain.
If the Giants are intent on beefing up their run defense, Perryman is an athlete who can help in that regard.
According to data pulled from cfbstats.com, Perryman, a Hurricanes team captain, finished his collegiate career with 350 total tackles and 27 tackles for a loss.
Derek Stephens and Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout observed that Perryman looks like a prototypical inside linebacker as far as his stout build is concerned. They also note the following:
He is an instinctive and tough in-the-box defender who showed improved closing speed and explosiveness as a hitter in 2014. He's difficult to latch onto at the second level due to strong, active hands, agile feet and good use of leverage when taking on bigger blockers, and he exhibits good burst and solid angles to either sideline when asked to pursue plays on the edges.
For all the promise Perryman seems to offer, there are two major concerns about him.
The first is his lack of ideal size. Depending on which report you believe, he has been listed as anywhere from 5’11”, his height on the Senior Bowl roster, to 6’0”, his height on his designated NFL.com draft profile page.
"I get knocked for my height, but I play big. That's one of my chips on my shoulder," he told Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times. "I've been getting knocked for my height since I was in high school. Every day, I play with a chip on my shoulder."
If anything, former players such as the Miami Dolphins' Zach Thomas (5’11”), London Fletcher, formerly of Washington (5’10”), and Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6’0”), are just a few examples of NFL linebackers who lacked ideal size but who were productive during their careers at their respective positions.
The other knock against Perryman—and perhaps a more legitimate one than his size—is his inconsistency in coverage.
Chris Burke of SI.com wrote, “[Perryman’s] coverage can be a little spotty—the Jaguars' coaches, in charge of the South team this week, chatted him up after a couple of plays where he was late getting to his man.”
His limitations in coverage could very well be a reason why NFL Draft Scout projects Perryman to fall to either the second or the third round and why teams might not yet consider him as an every-down linebacker.
However, with a strong showing in Saturday’s Senior Bowl game and at the NFL combine—Perryman didn't practice on Wednesday due to an abdominal strain, according to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun Sentinel—Perryman has a good chance to raise his draft stock and convince teams he has what it takes to be an every-down linebacker at the NFL level.
Patricia Traina covers the Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced. Follow me on Twitter @Patricia_Traina.