10 Players New York Giants Should Avoid in 2017 NFL Draft
With so many players to choose from in this year’s draft class, let’s reverse course and put together a list of players who probably won’t be getting a phone call from the New York Giants during draft weekend.
This list was based on various criteria to include injury history, character concerns, scheme fits and whether the player might be an upgrade to the depth at the position.
It needs to be noted that these players do have quite a bit of value and might be a better fit for another team, but in terms of the Giants, the fit doesn't appear to be there.
RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma
There’s little doubt that Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is one of, if not the top running back prospect in this draft. There is also little doubt that he’s going to find a home in the NFL as an every-down back given his talent.
However, that home probably won’t be with the Giants. Mixon’s off-field issues, which included punching a female student during an altercation in July 2014—a video later surfaced—led to his being suspended by the team for the season.
Mixon also was suspended one game this past season due to an argument with a parking-lot attendant who ticketed him.
The Giants, remember, just went through a rather ugly PR nightmare with former kicker Josh Brown, who was alleged to have physically and emotionally abused his now ex-wife.
Since then, the Giants have been trying to repair their image when it comes to domestic violence, making it highly unlikely they’d take a player, albeit a talented one, who has that red character flag next to his name.
CB Sidney Jones, Washington
Still, there are some who believe that the Giants' depth at cornerback—starters Eli Apple and Janoris Jenkins, slot cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and veteran journeyman Valentino Blake—would be the perfect scenario to provide a buffer of sorts for Jones while he rehabs from his injury.
Maybe so, but for that to happen, the Giants would need to have durability in the guys ahead of Jones, if he were selected, on the depth chart.
Unfortunately, Rodgers-Cromartie has dealt with nicks and bruises throughout his time with the Giants, most recently a lower-body injury in the Wild Card loss to the Green Bay Packers, which had a huge effect on the game.
With no guarantees regarding when Jones might be ready to go and with there being a push to get rookies into the pipeline sooner than later, it’s highly unlikely Jones will be hearing from the Giants, even if, as ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. believes, Jones falls to the second or third round.
LB Alex Anzalone, Florida
Florida OLB Alex Anzalone is intriguing due to his versatility that makes him a fit for either a 3-4 or a 4-3, for his football IQ and for his production.
However, he’s been snake-bit during his career, which would probably give the Giants pause.
One of the subtle yet big changes the Giants made last year in their draft strategy was to stay away from guys who didn’t have relatively clean injury histories.
Anzalone, unfortunately, does not meet that criteria. Per Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Anzalone’s injury history include a shoulder issue as a freshman and as a junior, and a broken left arm suffered toward the end of the 2016 season.
Whether Anzalone gets a passing grade from the Giants all depends on their doctor’s evaluation of that shoulder issue and whether it might continue to be something that might rear its ugly head again down the line.
Then again, the Giants could and probably will look in another direction if a linebacker is on their wish list.
LB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
Michigan LB Jabrill Peppers is a guaranteed first-round pick who, as NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein notes, has been an “ultimate Swiss Army Knife on the collegiate level” capable of blitzing, covering and chasing down ball carriers.
When evaluating Peppers for the Giants, the question needs to be asked if he would be an upgrade over what they have.
Peppers is listed at 5’11”, 213 pounds. Per Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Peppers is a tweener who lacks the size to be a full-time linebacker at the NFL level and instead projects as a safety.
Thus, in comparing his skill set and production to what the Giants have, the question is whether he would be an upgrade over Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins.
The answer is no. As a box defender, Collins has shown greater production against the run, as evidenced by his team-leading 125 tackles last year in 421 run game snaps.
The same holds true in coverage. Peppers’ 80.2 coverage rating is slightly better than Collins’ 80.7, but he only recorded one interception last season whereas Collins recorded five interceptions and six passes defensed.
Zierlein summarizes Peppers as someone who “doesn't have the production teams expect from first-round defenders,” but adds that “he should benefit from a role that is more clearly defined on the next level.”
Peppers is a potential starter at the next level, likely projecting to the strong safety role. The Giants have themselves their strong safety of the future, thus making a guy like Peppers a luxury they probably can’t afford to carry.
OT Cam Robinson, Alabama
Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson graded out as the second-best player at his position, per NFL.com, but there is still enough about him to potentially give the offensive-tackle-needy Giants pause before submitting his name at No. 23.
Per Zierlein, a lot of Robinson’s weaknesses lie in sloppy technique that the veteran scout compares to current Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers.
Among the concerns Zierlein has about Robinson include balance, “struggles with active, high-motor defenders” and the occasional tendency to duck his head into his run blocks.
While all those are issues that are correctable, the Giants likely want their first-round pick to step in right away to contribute.
If Robinson’s technique is that flawed—Zierlein also notes that Robinson is “on the ground substantially more than a tackle should be”—he would hardly appear to represent an upgrade at this point over Flowers, the latter of whom has been working in the team’s weight room this past offseason to presumably address some strength and flexibility issues that might have contributed to his own technique problems.
DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State
Michigan State DT Malik McDowell appears to be one of those players who is either going to be a boom or a bust for the team that selects him.
While the same can be said of any player in the draft, the problem with McDowell appears to be his commitment to the game.
An unnamed NFC North area scout shared his mixed feelings about McDowell with Zierlein, saying, "He has a chance to be a dominant player in our league. I mean dominant. It hasn't turned on for him all the way yet, but if it does, he could be like Mario Williams. He's just a little lazy and I worry about whether he is going to be a self-starter."
That’s not a ringing endorsement of the young man, nor is Zierlein’s description of McDowell’s weaknesses which are summarized as follows: “Production doesn't match up with the traits and the talent. Scouts concerned about work ethic and leadership.”
Indeed, based on production alone, McDowell has played in 1,298 defensive snaps over the last three years, recording just 75 total tackles (63 solo) and 57 stops for zero or negative yardage. That’s not eye-popping production for a potential first-round draft pick whom, Zierlein notes, has “freaky size and athleticism” for the position.
TE Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech
Early in the draft process, Virginia Tech TE Bucky Hodges was one of the names that some thought might draw the Giants’ attention.
Upon closer review, Hodges might not be an ideal fit for what the Giants need right away, which is a vertical threat who can bust open the seam and, if need be, engage in a little blocking.
A converted receiver, his tape shows that he still rounds out his routes a bit too much. As a receiver, he has 12 dropped passes over the last three years, including six from last season, which equaled his total drops in 2014 and 2015.
The other concern with Hodges, per Zierlein and per Pro Football Focus is in the blocking aspect of the game.
Zierlein notes, “The competitive nature of the NFL could bring out more consistent toughness in him as a blocker,” while Pro Football Focus has not been kind to Hodges when it comes to run-blocking grades the last two years.
Hodges, like any other prospect, has room to grow into his craft at the next level, but it would be hard to imagine that he is among the top-three graded tight ends that will appear on the Giants’ board.
RB Dalvin Cook
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook is ranked as the second-best running back on NFL.com’s position board, just behind Leonard Fournette.
With good reason. Out of 18 draft-eligible running backs who played in 75 percent or more of their team’s snaps, Cook led the group in yards gained after initial contact (4.2 avg.), and he finished fourth in that same group with 1,764 rushing yards on 281 carries (6.1 avg.).
As a receiver out of the backfield, Cook’s 12.8 yards-per-catch average leads a group of nine running backs who have been in 75 percent or more of their team’s passing downs.
Unfortunately, Cook is another prospect whose off-field decisions have raised some concerns about his character. Per ESPN’s Matt Schlabach, Cook’s poor decisions have included a BB gun incident and a battery arrest. Andy Staples of SI.com reported that Cook was cited for mistreatment of animals.
While the Giants, like most teams, seem willing to overlook misdemeanors, the more serious stuff might give them pause in spending a premium draft pick on a player with an alleged history of poor judgement.
LB Tim Williams, Alabama
Alabama LB rusher Tim Williams is another player whose off-field decisions might make him too much of a risk to draft in the first round.
According to Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports’ Shutdown Corner, Williams admitted to having failed multiple drug tests while in school.
Further adding to any questions regarding Williams is that he was arrested on a gun charge in September 2016, per the Tuscaloosa News.
The Giants, remember, took a flier on safety Will Hill a few years back. Unfortunately, Hill, who also had a bit of a checkered past, couldn’t keep from running afoul of the league’s substance abuse program, ultimately forcing the Giants to cut him after Hill was handed his second substance-abuse-program-related suspension in as many years.
Still, every case is unique. If Williams interviewed well, and if he’s shown a commitment to making better decisions moving forward to where he could, per Zierlein, be the next Leonard Floyd, the outside linebacker the Bears snatched away from the Giants last year, he might be worth considering.
Then again, the Giants, who have improved their drafting by minimizing their gambling on players with off-field issues, might just stick with that plan and pass on Williams if he is on the board when they pick.
OLB TJ Watt
The team that ultimately drafts Wisconsin LB T.J. Watt, younger brother of Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt, most likely is going to keep everything crossed that the younger Watt can be one-half as effective as his big brother.
The Giants, however, might want to think carefully about Watt for a couple of reasons. The first reason is his injury history. Watt, who began his college career as a tight end, suffered a right knee injury in 2014 and a left knee injury in 2015, injuries that stunted his development at the collegiate level.
Last year, he finally made it through an entire season, recording 63 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks, stats that no doubt have some teams dreaming of what his production might be like at the next level.
The other reason, at least as far as the Giants might be concerned, has to do with Watt’s compatibility for their scheme. Watt, 6’4”, 252 pounds, projects to defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, per Dane Brugler’s 2017 NFL Draft Guide.
Given his weight, Watt, a projected first-round pick, might not fit the Giants’ prototype for a defensive end (players who weigh at least 265 pounds, the added bulk giving them a better base against the run.)
Patricia Traina covers the New York Giants for Inside Football, the Journal Inquirer and Sports Xchange. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise sourced.