NFL1000: New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview

NFL1000 ScoutsFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2017

NFL1000: New York Giants 2017 NFL Draft Preview

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    When the 2016 league year began, the New York Giants went all-in on their defense, giving major dollars to tackle Damon Harrison, end Olivier Vernon and cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Unlike most free-agency paint-overs, these moves made a drastic and positive difference in every case, as the team went from 30th in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics in 2015 to second overall in 2016. Re-signing veteran pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul to a four-year deal was a nice extra pull in the 2017 free-agency period.

    Now, it's time for general manager Jerry Reese to turn his attention to an offense that's starting to roll a bit off the rails. While the defense was improving drastically, that offense went from 19th in FO's metrics to 22nd

    Reese signed veteran possession receiver Brandon Marshall, which will help the passing game to a degree. Adding Marshall's toughness underneath to the explosiveness of Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard will provide more options for Eli Manning.

    That said, Manning isn't the same quarterback be once was—especially on deep throws. He's regressed in accuracy, and Reese has commented about the need to develop young talent at the position for the inevitable replacement process.

    "We always think about every position," Reese said in January, per's Jordan Raanan. "But Eli is 36, and we have started to think about who is the next quarterback and who is in line. So we will look into that as we move into the offseason."

    The Giants also need a lot of help along the offensive line. The 2015 move to select Miami tackle Ereck Flowers with the ninth overall pick in the draft has proved disastrous—only one offensive lineman gave up more pressures than Flowers did last season, and he's not showing progress. The addition of former San Diego Chargers guard D.J. Fluker is more a short-term balm than a long-term replacement strategy, and if Reese doesn't get this turned around quickly, Manning's last few seasons will not be pleasant ones, as he'll be running for his life.

    The team could also use depth at running back, linebacker and defensive tackle, but that offensive line is the one thing Reese must get right in the draft.


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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    The NFL1000 team of scouts graded a series of important attributes for every player in their positional review. Using a scale starting at 0 and going up to anywhere from five to 50 based on the position and the attribute, our scouts graded each player based on their own expertise and countless hours of tape review over the years. Our evaluators had specific positional assignments based on their proven fields of expertise.

    Each corresponding position slide was written by the assigned scout.


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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Scheme: West Coast/Zone

    Starter: Eli Manning

    NFL1000 Score: 71.4/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 18/38

    Manning had a downturn in most of his conventional stats from the 2015 to 2016 seasons, and when you put on the tape, the most disconcerting thing about his current skill set is how he's become more inaccurate on deep throws. Last season, he completed 23 of 78 passes of 20 yards or more in the air for 752 yards and six touchdowns with six interceptions. Having this kind of regression with Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard on your team is unsettling. The addition of Brandon Marshall as a high-volume possession receiver will help the Giants offense, and it may be time for head coach Ben McAdoo to refine his perception of Manning as a guy who can throw deep consistently since Manning may be entering the junkball phase of his career. McAdoo has called Manning out in recent days regarding his pre-snap reads, footwork and turnover ratio. The time for a new franchise quarterback may be sooner than later.

    Backup: Geno Smith

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Smith suffered a torn ACL in Week 7, ending his season and what was an unsatisfying four-year tenure with the New York Jets. He was benched twice in his second NFL season of 2014 and hasn't been a consistent starter since. Smith has a couple of good attributes (throwing on the run, overall arm strength), but he's always struggled to read the field and throw accurately under pressure. Unless he makes a major turnaround with the Giants (who signed him March 17), Smith has a future as a backup and nothing else.

    Backup: Josh Johnson

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Johnson hasn't completed an NFL pass since 2011 and hasn't even taken a snap since 2013, but the Giants believed enough in his potential to sign him to a two-year contract March 17. When he has played in the past, Johnson has shown little that's required of NFL quarterbacks in terms of accuracy and turnover prevention.

    Team Need: 8/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Mitchell Trubisky (North Carolina), DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame), Davis Webb (Cal)

Running Back

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Scheme: West Coast

    Starter: Paul Perkins

    NFL1000 Score: 68.3/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 62/82

    Perkins had an up-and-down rookie season. Though it's a major question whether he can be the lead guy, the Giants will head into the draft with Perkins atop their depth chart. He showed flashes of becoming a good player in 2016 but never put it all together. He is a good athlete, with good feet and vision, but he needs to get stronger to become a consistent inside runner. Perkins has the speed to get outside the tackles and the top-end speed to break off big runs, and he adds value in the passing game as a receiver, but he's a big liability as a pass protector. That is an area in which he'll need to improve to stay on the field for all three downs moving forward. He is probably best suited to be a change-of-pace back.

    Backup: Shane Vereen

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Vereen had a career year in 2015 but had a triceps injury that derailed his 2016 season. If he gets healthy over the offseason, he should be a monster addition to the Giants offense. Vereen is one of the best pass-catching running backs in the NFL. He had 59 catches in 2015 and is as tough a cover out of the backfield as there is in the league. He is limited between the tackles, but that is not his cup of tea. Offensive coordinators try to use him on sweeps and pitches to get him in space and let his speed play out. He has the wiggle and change of direction to make defenders miss and is a pure playmaker in the open field. It's fair to question Vereen's durability since he's now 28 years old. He's coming up on a make-or-break year in New York.

    Backup: Shaun Draughn

    NFL1000 Score: 66.2/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 77/82

    Draughn will have to compete to make the team because he wasn't very good in 2016. He averaged 2.6 yards per carry and had little impact on a bad San Francisco 49ers team. He lacks the quickness and burst needed to be an effective player. He runs hard but lacks the speed to be productive. Draughn has no value when it comes to running outside the tackles, but he has good hands and has been productive in the passing game. When the ball is in his hands, he doesn't dance around but rather looks to get upfield immediately. Draughn will have to impress in training camp, and even that might not be enough if the Giants draft a runner early.

    Team Need: 7/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Christian McCaffrey (Stanford), Dalvin Cook (Florida State)

Wide Receiver

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Scheme: West Coast

    Starter: Odell Beckham Jr.

    NFL1000 Scores: 73.4/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 3/155

    It was much of the same for Odell Beckham Jr. in 2016. He was his same dynamic, dominant force in almost every game. Despite shaky quarterback play from Eli Manning, Beckham caught 101 balls for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns. With help on the outside from Brandon Marshall in 2017, Beckham may see more single coverage. He's one of the top three receivers in the NFL and has no hole in his game. Every time he touches the ball he's a threat to score. He's a true game-breaker.

    Starter: Brandon Marshall

    NFL1000 Scores: 69.4/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 23/155

    For the first time in his career, Brandon Marshall will be playing second fiddle to a talented No. 1 receiver. Marshall doesn't have elite quickness or explosion at this point in his career, but he's a perfect fit in Ben McAdoo's West Coast offense. He will be tasked with the job of winning on slants, comebacks and posts—all routes he's thrived on in his career. Marshall should be a fantastic fit opposite of Beckham, and joining the Giants should help lengthen his career, as he will no longer have to face a team's best cornerback week in and out. He's not afraid of making tough catches across the middle and will quickly become a favorite of Manning.

    Starter: Sterling Shepard  

    NFL1000 Scores: 67/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 49/155

    After a record-setting career at Oklahoma, Sterling Shepard found himself in an ideal situation with the Giants during his rookie year. Shepard was the Giants' starting slot receiver for the entire year, hauling in 65 passes for 683 yards and eight touchdowns. He was also reliable, playing more snaps (1,005) than any other receiver on the roster. Shepard is ultra quick and a phenomenal route-runner. With Marshall on board, Shepard's overall usage may drop, especially in the red zone. But he was one of the better slot receivers in the league during his rookie year and should only improve with defenses focusing on Beckham and Marshall on every down. He enters the 2017 season as one of the best slot receivers in the NFL.

    Backup: Dwayne Harris

    NFL1000 Scores: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Dwayne Harris' primary role on the roster is as a special teams ace who can play inside and outside in the Giants offense. He's a tough, physical blocker and will take on much bigger players in the run game. He's not particularly dynamic as a receiver, but he provides quality depth as the team's fourth receiver.

    Backup: Roger Lewis

    NFL1000 Scores: 58.8/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 146/155

    In 2016, Lewis acted as the team's No. 4 wide receiver when Harris was out of the lineup. But when Lewis played, he was ineffective. His worst performance of the season came on a Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals, when he started for the injured Victor Cruz. He finished the game with one catch for 10 yards but was benched for running poor routes and lacking toughness in the middle of the field. He's still young at 23 years old, but he's just a role player.

    Team Need: 2/10

    Potential Draft Fits: KD Cannon (Baylor), Dede Westbrook (Oklahoma), Shelton Gibson (West Virginia)

Tight End

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Scheme: West Coast

    Starter: Will Tye

    NFL1000 Score: 65.3/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 24/96

    Will Tye was retained by the Giants this offseason on a one-year, $615,000 contract. That doesn't mean he's a lock for a starting job in 2017, however. Tye is an excellent blocker and a decent receiver in the short to intermediate part of the field, but he isn't the dynamic receiving option the team is searching for. His best role is as a No. 2 tight end who can contribute in the run game. In a deep and talented free-agent market, the Giants will likely draft a player who will move Tye down the depth chart.

    Backup: Jerell Adams

    NFL1000 Score: 61.4/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 50/96

    As a sixth-round pick, Jerell Adams surprised some by not only making the active 53-man roster but also contributing throughout the season. He played 204 snaps on offense in 2016 and appeared in 13 games. He struggled as a blocker at times, but his athletic profile fits more with what the Giants want at tight end. Adams is a big, athletic receiver who has a massive wingspan that helps him make plays down the middle of the field. He needs more time to develop but may be a weapon down the road. He's still likely to be the team's third tight end heading into the 2017 season, however.

    Team Need: 10/10

    Potential Draft Fits: O.J. Howard (Alabama), David Njoku (Miami), Evan Engram (Ole Miss)

Left Tackle

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Scheme: Zone Flex

    Starter: Ereck Flowers

    NFL1000 Score: 71.1/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 30/40

    The Giants drafted Ereck Flowers ninth overall in 2015, and through two full seasons he has struggled mightily. Will he realize his potential at left tackle in his third year? Or is a position move to guard or right tackle in order? Either spot may be a better fit for him in the long run, but another question that needs to be answered is whether or not Flowers' technique and mechanics can even be fixed—or are the Giants better off moving on from Flowers all together? Hopefully, we'll find out the answers to all of these questions this season.

    What we do know is Flowers graded in the bottom quarter of left tackles in 2016, and despite how quickly Eli Manning gets rid of the ball, Flowers still surrendered 50 hurries, nine hits and five sacks.

    Many of Flowers' technical flaws appear as though they cannot be corrected, which likely means that development will be a slow process. This may leave him as a continued liability in pass protection. The Giants did not look to upgrade left tackle in free agency like many thought they would, but buzz is building that they may address the need by way of the draft.

    Backup: Michael Bowie

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Michael Bowie was a seventh-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2013. He had eight starts that year but none since and was signed to a reserve/futures contract.

    Team Need: 10/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin), Cam Robinson (Alabama), Garrett Bolles (Utah)

Right Tackle

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Scheme: Zone Flex

    Starter: Bobby Hart

    NFL1000 Score: 69.3/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 29/38

    Bobby Hart was a seventh-round draft pick in 2015. He started one game his rookie season and 13 in his second season. Hart struggles against powerful defenders, whether it be anchoring in pass protection or generating movement at the point of attack in the running game. What is most intriguing about Hart is his age. When the 2017 season kicks off, he will only be 23 years old. He has shown enough upside that the Giants should be encouraged to stick with him at right tackle.

    Backup: D.J. Fluker

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    D.J. Fluker gives the Giants position flexibility. He spent his first two seasons as a starting right tackle for the Chargers before making the switch to guard. He's a powerful run-blocker but has limitations in pass protection when needing to expand his set points. Fluker has had injuries throughout his career and struggles to keep his weight down, which has directly impacted his development and performance. If Fluker shows up in shape—and stays healthy—he may be compete for a starting position at right tackle or right guard. An in-shape and healthy Fluker could be an upgrade at either of those positions.

    Team Need: 2/10

    Potential Draft Fits: None

Offensive Guard

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Scheme: Zone Flex

    Starter: Justin Pugh

    NFL1000 Score: 73.0/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 11/78

    Justin Pugh has moved around the line through his years in New York, but he's a top-level guard when kicked inside. Injuries were an issue for him in 2016, and because the Giants lack depth inside, that really hurt the offense at times. But going forward, they should feel good about the level of upper-body strength and leverage Pugh displays at left guard.

    Starter: John Jerry

    NFL1000 Score: 67.8/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 63/78

    I was surprised to see the Giants bring back John Jerry. With his age and flaws, I wasn't sure we would see him start again. Jerry's technique isn't great, but he does keep decent half-man relationship in pass protection despite that a good chunk of the time. That said, he is still prone to overextending in the pass game, something that will catch up with him as he moves on in his 30s and loses some of his physical gifts.

    Backup: Brett Jones

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    The one-week wonder who we didn't get to see enough of, Brett Jones filled in well last year in limited reps after a number of injuries. But the Giants decided to use older options after Jones' debut, so clearly they weren't as impressed as I was. Hopefully, we will get more tape of Jones this year. His tape suggests he could be a dark horse to steal Jerry's job.

    Backup: Adam Gettis

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Adam Gettis also started just one game last season, and though he had a decent performance in terms of grade, we didn't get enough tape to build anything substantive on him. Jones played ahead of Gettis in various series outside their single graded games, so we had even fewer reps to look at with Gettis.

    Team Need: 7/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Danny Isidora (Miami), Jordan Morgan (Kutztown)


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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Scheme: Zone Flex

    Starter: Weston Richburg

    NFL1000 Score: 71.1/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 15/38

    After some high peaks and low valleys from Weston Richburg over his first two years, we saw a performance somewhere in the middle last year. While Richburg's grade for NFL1000 was the epitome of average, the Giants asked Richburg to do a lot of important pre-snap work in terms of setting their protections and diagnosing fronts. He's the starter going forward, and the Giants likely won't need to address the center position unless it's purely a depth move.

    Backup: Khaled Holmes

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Khaled Holmes signed with New York in January and will likely end up being a camp body more than anything. The Giants need depth and youth up front, so grabbing a versatile guard/center on Day 3 would not be a bad idea.

    Team Need: 3/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Lucas Crowley (North Carolina)

Defensive End

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Scheme: 4-3

    Starter: Jason Pierre-Paul

    NFL1000 Score: 69.8/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 10/68

    Everyone knows the story of Jason Pierre-Paul at this point. He was a 2010 first-round pick who had an amazing start to his career before a back injury and then a fireworks incident. JPP is still one of the more complete ends in football, but he's no longer an elite pass-rusher. After playing on a one-year contract, Pierre-Paul was slapped with a franchise tag and eventually a four-year deal that will give him about $35 million in cash over the first two years. The Giants are committed to him as a starter until at least 2019, when he'll be 30 years old.

    Starter: Olivier Vernon

    NFL1000 Score: 69.1/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 14/68

    Like they have Pierre-Paul, the Giants also committed to Olivier Vernon, who was brought over from the Miami Dolphins in free agency last offseason. Vernon signed a five-year, $85 million contract, which still makes him the highest-paid 4-3 defensive end in football, based on average salary. Vernon has averaged 7.5 sacks a season over the last three years, with totals of 6.5, 7.5 and 8.5 sacks. He's consistent, but he's not elite. Either way, the Giants rotated Pierre-Paul and Vernon sparingly last season, which makes sense considering how much they're paying them. Neither are great, but they are average to above average for starters. New York can get out of Vernon's contract as soon as next season, but it's doubtful it will.

    Backup: Romeo Okwara

    NFL1000 Score: 63.5/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 55/68

    No team used its starting pass-rushing pair more than the Giants last season. With that being said, when one of those ends went down, it was Romeo Okwara who picked up playing time. Okwara is still just a 21-year-old, and he went undrafted out of Notre Dame last year. He's clearly a second-stringer in terms of talent, but it's amazing someone that young is holding his own in the NFL. The second line of pass-rushers is where the Giants can improve their end unit in the 2017 draft, but Okwara shouldn't be pushed to less than a fourth end.

    Backup: Kerry Wynn

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    After going undrafted in 2014, Kerry Wynn signed on with the Giants. In three years, he's played in 34 games with seven starts, 82 tackles and two sacks. Wynn's numbers dropped significantly in 2016, though, with the additions of Vernon, Okwara and more than half of a Pierre-Paul season. He's recorded just a half sack in his last 30 games, but Wynn was tendered by the team. Don't expect him to be more than a reserve player, though—a special teamer and a long-yardage and late-down pressure tackle.

    Backup: Owamagbe Odighizuwa

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Owamagbe Odighizuwa was a blue-chip recruit out of Portland, Oregon, as a prep player. But hip issues derailed his career at UCLA, and Odighizuwa entered his senior year with just 13 career tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. In his last year with the Bruins, though, he nearly doubled those numbers with 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. Many had him pegged as a first-round talent, but he fell to the third round. In the NFL, he's been active for 18 of 32 possible games and has recorded just six tackles and zero sacks. He'll enter the 2017 season as a 25-year-old who may be on the roster bubble.

    Team Need: 3/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Ejuan Price (Pittsburgh), Joe Mathis (Washington), Fadol Brown (Ole Miss)

Defensive Tackle

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    Scheme: 4-3

    Starter: Damon Harrison

    NFL1000 Score: 71.4/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 13/99

    Harrison is one of the more dynamic defensive tackles in the league. His transition from a 3-4 front to a 4-3 front was a bit of a question mark heading into the season, but he crushed those concerns with a dominant 2016 campaign. He has rare athletic ability for a 350-pounder that allows him to push the pocket and attack outside zone runs. Harrison is a strong No. 1 option for the Giants, but New York should look to find a decent running mate if Johnathan Hankins doesn't re-sign with them.

    Backup: Jay Bromley

    NFL1000 Score: 62.1/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 58/99

    Bromley is a good rotational defensive lineman. As things currently stand, he'd be the starting defensive tackle next to Harrison. That's a bit of a stretch for Bromley. He's not someone that can carry a starting load, but he can thrive as a depth piece. He should be effective once again as the No. 3 defensive tackle for the Giants next season.

    Backup: Robert Thomas

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Thomas, a former undrafted rookie, was able to latch on with the Giants in 2016. He shouldn't be anything more than a stopgap, though. As a decent run defender, he's an ideal fourth defensive tackle.

    Team Need: 5/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Caleb Brantley (Florida), Dalvin Tomlinson (Alabama), Tanzel Smart (Tulane) 

Outside Linebacker

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Scheme: 4-3

    Starter: Jonathan Casillas

    NFL1000 Score: 63.4/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 21/46

    Casillas tiptoes the line between being a high-quality depth player or a serviceable starter. He is a decent athlete whose mental processing is seldom wrong, but he rarely arrives to plays early. In run defense, Casillas' slow trigger can get him initially caught behind the play, but he has an aggressive mentality and the athletic ability to recover and minimize the damage. The Wisconsin product can play all three downs, too, so the Giants don't have to replace him on obvious passing downs. Blitzing and pass rushing is not his forte, but Casillas can hold his own in coverage, primarily as a 'hook' zone defender. The Giants would benefit from upgrading at this position, but Casillas is an asset for them regardless.

    Starter: Keenan Robinson

    NFL1000 Scores: 64.6/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 16/46

    Keenan Robinson was quietly impressive in 2016. He does a little bit of everything for the Giants. He is the linebacker they would trust most in coverage, in addition to being a viable blitzer and an above-average run defender. Robinson is a tall, lanky linebacker who wins by consistently being in the right place at the right time. He's not an overly athletic player, but he trusts his instincts, both in run defense and in coverage, and flows to his spots. He's not afraid to get dirty near the line of scrimmage, nor does he show hesitancy in reading route combinations in coverage. Robinson is no star, and the Giants could look into upgrading, but he is a fine starter.

    Backup: Devon Kennard

    NFL1000 Score: 64.9/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 15/46

    Devon Kennard is in a weird spot with the Giants. He's the best linebacker on the team in terms of how well each of them play their role, but his role is more limited than others. While Casillas and Keenan Robinson were the team's primary linebackers in 2016, Kennard was the third linebacker who played a strong-side role. He would often move down near the line of scrimmage, more like a 3-4 OLB, and be a battering ram in run defense. Kennard can crash the line of scrimmage to create push, as well as set the edge and force plays inside. He can even pass-rush a bit. However, Kennard struggles in space, both as a run-and-chase linebacker and as a coverage piece. He is good at what he does, but the Giants cannot ask him to do too much.

    Backup: Mark Herzlich

    NFL1000 ScoresInsufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Mark Herzlich played a mere 14 defensive snaps last season. Granted, he did play a vast majority of the special teams snaps for the Giants and proved to be valuable there, but his job as a linebacker is in jeopardy. Herzlich has ample athleticism and aggression, which makes him the special teamer that he is. That said, he lacks the read-and-react skills and technique to thrive as a linebacker. Herzlich is playing on a one-year, "prove it" contract in 2017. The Giants could stand to add better depth at linebacker.

    Backup: Deontae Skinner

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Skinner did not take a single defensive snap for the Giants in 2016. He was a special teamer in 2016, and he racked up six tackles in that role during the regular season. Prior to last season, Skinner spent one year in Philadelphia, though not on the active roster, and played for the Patriots a year before that. He does not have much value for New York outside of special teams. The Giants ought to find a way to find a better player to fill out their linebacker depth chart.

    Team Need: 8/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Zack Cunningham (Vanderbilt), Jarrad Davis (Florida), Marquel Lee (Wake Forest) 

Inside Linebacker

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    Brad Penner/Associated Press

    Scheme: 4-3

    Starter: B.J. Goodson

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    As of now, the Giants' starter at inside linebacker is second-year player B.J. Goodson. Kelvin Sheppard started inside in 2016, but he was often removed as the Giants played a large amount of snaps in nickel defense. Sheppard is a liability in coverage, lacking the fluidity to run downfield with current NFL talent. He's primarily a run-stopping linebacker and is inconsistent in that regard as well. The LSU product is currently a free agent, and the team doesn't seem too interested in bringing him back.

    Goodson may be good enough to convince the Giants to hold off on drafting an inside linebacker this year. He played outside linebacker at Clemson before New York selected him in the fourth round of last year's draft. Goodson is physical and aggressive, but he'll have to show the change-of-direction skills to routinely compete against NFL tight ends in coverage.

    Backup: Curtis Grant

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    If you've never heard of Curtis Grant, you're not alone. He signed a reserve/future contract with the Giants in early January, essentially guaranteeing him a spot to compete throughout training camp with the team. Grant may end up landing a role as a backup and special teams player, but it's highly unlikely that he'd start. He's on his sixth team in two years, having thus far failed to stick even on a practice squad.

    Team Need: 6/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Kendell Beckwith (LSU), Ben Gedeon (Michigan), Riley Bullough (Michigan State) 


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    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Scheme: Press Man

    Starter: Janoris Jenkins

    NFL1000 Score: 74.5/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 5/192

    Spending big dollars in free agency is always a gamble, but the Giants' acquisition of Janoris Jenkins was perhaps the best they made in the 2016 offseason. He was a solid starter for the Rams prior to arriving in New York, but he established himself as an elite playmaker in 2016. Jenkins has every skill and trait required to be a weekly shutdown player, and the Giants shouldn't have to worry about their No. 1 corner for years to come.

    Starter: Eli Apple

    NFL1000 Score: 64.1/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 58/192

    There were concerns as to whether the Giants had reached for Eli Apple in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft, but in hindsight, he was the perfect pick. His late-season surge suggests he'll be a terrific long-term starter for the Giants. From Week 10 on, Apple graded no lower than a 60, which is an average starting corner grade, with peaks in the 70s three times. Like Jenkins, there's no long-term concern with Apple.

    Slot: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

    NFL1000 Score: 72/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 14/192

    The biggest benefactor in the Giants secondary with the additions of Jenkins and Apple last year was Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He has long been a solid player, but his versatility to play inside and out was on full display last season. Rodgers-Cromartie was a dominant slot corner, grading as our second-best slot behind just Chris Harris Jr. Adding some depth behind him is a must, but there's no pressure to find an immediate contributor for this unit.

    Team Need: 1/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Damontae Kazee (San Diego State), Jalen Myrick (Minnesota), Sojourn Shelton (Wisconsin) 

Free Safety

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    Scheme: Cover 1

    Starter: Darian Thompson

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Thompson had a frustrating rookie season that ended after just two games, as he suffered a foot injury that eventually landed him on IR. He started the year backing up Nat Berhe at free safety, but he looked much more effective than Berhe during his spot snaps and took over the starting role in Week 2. He has good range and coverage instincts that mesh well with Landon Collins, so the two should combine to make a strong safety tandem assuming Thompson can stay healthy. If he's fully recovered from his injury, he should be the starter going forward.

    Backup: Andrew Adams

    NFL1000 Score: 69/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 37/50

    After Thompson and Berhe both fell victim to injuries, the Giants turned to undrafted free agent Andrew Adams to fill the free safety spot. They kept things as simple as possible for him, trotting him out as the deep safety and leaving Collins to play in the box and take up run responsibilities. Adams was solid as a deep middle player, especially one that had gone undrafted just a few months earlier. As the season progressed, however, opponents began targeting him more frequently. That caused the Giants to split up his snaps with corner Leon Hall, who began a his conversion to safety. With more time to sit and develop behind a recognized starter, Adams could become a solid backup free safety for the Giants.

    Backup: Rahim Moore

    NFL1000 Score: Insufficient snaps to qualify for NFL1000 scoring

    Moore is somewhat of an NFL journeyman. At just 27, he finds himself on his fourth NFL team after signing a futures contract with the Giants back in January. Moore has always possessed good range as a single high safety, but he struggles reading route combinations and doesn't offer a great deal in the run game. The veteran Moore could push Adams for a backup spot, but don't expect much more than that.

    Team Need: 3/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Undrafted free agent for depth

Strong Safety

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Scheme: Cover 1 

    Starter: Landon Collins

    NFL1000 Score: 74.3/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 9/53

    After an inconsistent rookie campaign, Collins took a huge leap forward in his second season in the NFL. The Giants redefined his role, using him more in the box as an extra run defender and limiting his coverage responsibilities to mostly underneath zones and man coverage matchups against tight ends and running backs. He excelled in this role and was one of the better run defenders in the league at strong safety. Collins was excellent in zone coverages as well, keeping everything in front of him and breaking quickly on any checkdown to make the tackle.

    Collins became one of the Giants' best players on defense and emerged as someone who the team can look to build around. He enters next season with much higher expectations than last year, but he appears to be capable of taking another step forward. If he does, the Giants will have one of the better strong safeties in the league.

    Backup: Nat Berhe

    NFL1000 Score: 66.4/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 50/50 (Graded at FS)

    Berhe spent most of his time at free safety last year after Darian Thompson was injured. He didn't grade out well in coverage and struggled mightily as the season went on. He suffered a few injuries of his own, which could explain some of his poor play, but he looked uncomfortable as the main coverage safety. With Thompson back healthy and the emergence of Andrew Adams, Berhe should be able to shift to his natural strong safety position, where he can play more in the box and impact the run game with his big-hitting style of play.

    Team Need: 2/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Undrafted free agent for depth


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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Starter: None; Robbie Gould in 2016

    NFL1000 Score: 65.6/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 29/38

    The Giants had a tumultuous 2016 campaign at kicker, as they ran through three different players at the position. With Josh Brown suspended for Week 1 due to a violation of the league's domestic abuse policy, Randy Bullock filled in as a spot starter. After Week 6, the G-Men cut bait on Brown and turned to Robbie Gould, who the Bears unexpectedly cut just prior to the season. Gould proceeded to miss three of his 23 extra-point attempts throughout the regular season, including one during a windy Week 11 in which kickers all over the league missed extra points left and right.

    Gould has since signed with the San Francisco 49ers, meaning the Giants are in the market for a kicker. With the addition of Brandon Marshall on offense, New York is tight on cap space, so expect them to look to the draft. This could be an ideal landing place for a top kicker like Zane Gonzalez or Andy Phillips. With it being a deep class for kickers, they could wait until the post-draft period to pick up undrafted options, but circling back to the Marshall acquisition, the Giants appear to be trying to build a consistent offense rather quickly, and Gonzalez or Phillips make the most sense if that is the case.

    Team Need: 10/10

    Potential Draft Fits: Zane Gonzalez (Arizona State), Andy Phillips (Utah)


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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Starter: Brad Wing

    NFL1000 Score: 67/100
    NFL1000 Position Rank: 13/38

    Brad Wing is part of the Australian invasion that is taking place in NFL punting circles, and 2016 was his strongest year as a professional. Wing's overall portfolio of work prior to 2016 was below-average, suggesting the tools he used at LSU had not yet translated to the professional game. Wing's 2016 campaign showed a much improved directional game and strong hang time, though he still lacks the distance that most NFL punters demonstrate. Overall, Wing is on a cheap deal for the next three years, and he should finish out that time in New York if he continues to punt like he did last season.

    Team Need: 3/10

    Potential Draft Fits: None

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