New York Giants 2017 Draft: Day 1 Preview

A look at those prospects who might be in the Giants’ cross-hairs.

Earlier today, I posted a recap of what the Giants have done up until now and how free agency might have potentially shaped the Giants needs in this draft.

Toward the end of that piece, I ranked the Giants top eight needs in reverse order. In this analysis, I’m going to try to drill that list down to three position groups and will give you a few names in each to watch.

Offensive Tackle

I read the mock drafts and the rumblings just like everyone else, and I respect the opinions of others.

But what I find interesting is how a year ago he very same people who were dead set against the Giants drafting an offensive lineman (which is what they might have done had Jack Conklin been there last year) because that would have devoted too many high draft resources to the offensive line now are singing a different tune.

I don’t buy it. Unless Garrett Bolles, Cam Robinson and Ryan Ramczyk are a significant upgrade over what they have now, I just don’t see them spending a first-round pick on an offensive tackle. (Now if we’re talking Forrest Lamp, who’s a Swiss Army knife that projects to guard, I’d be all in favor of that move.)

If the Giants are in a win-now mode, which I believe them to be given how Eli Manning’s window is closing, you do not put a rookie into the lineup unless you are forced to do so.

Prospects

Garrett Bolles, Utah
Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
Cam Robinson, Alabama

I have said—and I’m sticking with this—that because the Giants need to decide about Ereck Flowers’ option year after this season, that they’re best off leaving him at left tackle rather than starting him all over at right tackle, even if that might be his better position.

I also wouldn’t’ be surprised if they work D.J. Fluker into the mix, probably at right tackle, and then have John Jerry and Bobby Hart be among the two headliners to slug it out for right guard.

Don’t get me wrong: the Giants need depth at offensive tackle. I just don’t think it will be coming in the first round

Tight End

The Giants need a pass receiving tight end who can stay on his feet and bust up the seam, something none of the current rostered players have successfully managed to do.

As noted in this breakdown, the tights ends’ yards per reception has been below average. Since 2014, the first year of Ben McAdoo’s offense, only Will Tye, in 2015, averaged more than 10 yards per reception.

Prospects

O.J. Howard Bolles, Alabama
David Njoku, Miami
Evan Engram, Mississippi

Last year, neither Tye or Adams averaged more than 4.5 yards after the catch while 26 tight ends with a minimum of 10 receptions had a better YAC average, with the range being from 7.7 (Travis Kelce, Kansas City) to 4.6 (Seth DeVale, Cleveland).

With all that said, would the Giants prioritize the tight end spot, a position that probably isn’t going to get as many pass targets as receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Brandon Marshall?

To me, the answer is no. And if you also consider that this year is a deep tight ends class, it makes even more sense to wait until Day 2 unless O.J. Howard falls into their lap.

Linebackers

The last time the Giants took a linebacker within the first two days of the draft was in 2009 when they drafted 3-4 defensive end Clint Sintim with the plan to convert him to a strong-side linebacker.

That didn’t work out, and ever since then, Jerry Reese has addressed the linebacker spot with either Day 3 picks or free agents, some of whom have worked out but many of whom have never reached their full potential.

It’s time this practice stop for several reasons. First, the Giants really don’t have a glaring need to where one position needs to come to the forefront over all the others.

Second, outside speed-rushing linebackers are becoming more and more popular, especially after former Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips turned the Broncos Super Bowl winning defense into a constant nightmare for opposing quarterbacks by rushing his outside linebackers.

Ask any defensive coordinator and he’ll tell you the more pass rushers he can put on the field, the happier he’ll be.

Prospects

Haason Reddick, Temple
Jarrad Davis, Florida
Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt

Last year the Giants pass rush wasn’t horrible, certainly not when compared to the lack of a pass rush in 2015.

But 2016 could have been better, and the Giants, in likely realizing this even before the start of the 2016 season, were said to be targeting Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd in the draft before, of course, the Bears jumped ahead of them to grab Floyd.

Will the Giants try again to grab a pass rushing linebacker who can also play downhill against the run and float back into coverage?

The Magic 8 ball seems to like those odds.

With  23rd pick in the NFL Draft the Giants Select…

Linebacker Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt

6-3.5, 234 lbs. 34.38-inch arms, 81.63-inch wingspan, 4.67 speed (1.58 over first 10), 35-inch vertical jump, 4.29 short shuttle, 7.03 3-cone. 22-year-old red shirt junior entry. Two-year starter. Team Captain.

Subscribers to Inside Football’s 1-year, 2-year, offseason, and spring football packages, please log in to view our scouting report on Cunningham. This scouting report is also in our Draft Preview issue.