Who are some of the players that might be of interest to the New York Giants?
Where might those players be drafted, and how much is the position those players fill an actual need?
Here is a list of 10 potential prospects who might end up getting some extra attention from the Giants during the combine.
TE David Njuko, Miami1 of 10
The Giants haven’t drafted a tight end in the first round since 2002, when they picked Jeremy Shockey out of Miami with the 14th overall pick.
Might this be the year they break that 15-year streak by taking another young tight end out of the U such as David Njuko (6’4”, 230 pounds)?
Head coach and play-caller Ben McAdoo’s offense might depend on it, considering the lack of production the Giants have gotten from the position since McAdoo joined the team, initially as its offensive coordinator in 2014.
In those three seasons, the best collective yardage total that Giants tight ends have produced is 860 yards in 2014. Since then, the group’s production in the passing game has dropped to 828 yards in 2015 and 609 yards last year.
Putting those numbers into perspective, Njuko by himself had 698 receiving yards—89 more yards than all the 2016 Giants tight ends combined.
Njuko also recorded 483 yards after the catch (YAC), another statistic in which the recent production of the Giants tight ends has lacked.
Giants fans might be dreaming of Alabama’s O.J. Howard wearing blue, but early projections from various draft sites don’t have him falling to 23, where the Giants pick in the first round. If Njuko is there at No. 23, his value might be too good to pass up.
DE Derek Barnett, Tennessee2 of 10
If the Giants and Jason Pierre-Paul can’t work out a new deal, his departure will create a hole in the defensive end depth, leaving third-year man Owa Odighizuwa, fourth-year man Kerry Wynn and second-year man Romeo Okwara to compete for the starting job.
Okwara showed some promise last year in relief of Pierre-Paul during his absence for core muscle surgery, but thus far, Odighizuwa’s production has been stunted due to injuries, while Wynn seems to be more of a one-dimensional type of player who is better at defending the run.
An intriguing replacement for Pierre-Paul if he leaves is Tennessee’s edge-rusher Derek Barnett (6’3”, 265 pounds), whom NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein notes “is one of the most productive defensive linemen to come out of the SEC in quite some time despite lacking the length and twitch that teams usually look for off the edge.”
A three-year starter, mostly at right defensive end, Barnett also has lined up at defensive tackle and has stood up like a linebacker in some of the Vols’ defensive packages.
The Giants love versatile players. Barnett, a junior-eligible, would certainly appear to fit that description which, per Sports-Reference.com, includes solid production: 198 career tackles (52 for a loss) and 32 sacks over his three-year career.
TE Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech3 of 10
If the Giants prefer to wait until Day 2 of the draft to get a tight end and want a guy who is more of a traditional size and weight for the position, Virginia Tech’s Bucky Hodges (6’7”, 245 pounds) could be there in the second round.
Hodges, Zierlein notes, “is not your typical tight end;” he is more of a “big wide receiver,” which just so happens to be another need the Giants are believed to desire.
Where Hodges might come up short though is as an in-line blocker, though the Giants would appear to have talent to fill this role if Jerell Adams continues to develop and Will Johnson stays healthy.
Again, with the production of the Giants tight ends over the last three years in the passing game being rather pedestrian, a big receiving target who can line up in the slot, split wide and from the backfield would give this offense a new dimension it has yet to find.
Hodges in the second round could turn out to be a huge steal in terms of overall value if he’s still there when the Giants pick.
OL Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin4 of 10
The Giants need offensive line help, specifically at offensive tackle.
Veteran offensive line help is going to be costly, which is not good news for a team that is believed to be looking to keep its defensive front seven together and who doesn’t have the salary cap windfall it had a year ago to accomplish that objective.
So what about the draft? Well, per former NFL scout Greg Gabriel, now a contributor to Pro Football Weekly, the offensive tackle class in this year’s draft is a weakness.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some guys who could potentially step in and contribute from Day 1. One such guy, should he fall down to the Giants at No. 23, who would be hard to pass up is Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk (6’6”, 314 pounds), currently ranked as NFL Draft Scout’s top offensive tackle prospect.
The asterisk, though, is that Ramczyk underwent hip surgery on January 5, which will limit what he will be able to do at the combine.
Assuming Ramczyk’s rehab continues on schedule, he looks like he’ll make some NFL team a very good offensive tackle. Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout praises Ramczyk for his footwork, noting that the junior-eligible “shows terrific initial quickness when asked to block at the second level, firing out and making tough cut blocks at the second level appear routine.”
QB Jerod Evans, Virginia Tech5 of 10
If, as noted on the previous slide, the offensive tackle is the weakest of the position groups in this year’s draft class, the quarterback class is probably a close second.
Fortunately for the Giants, they are not yet at a point where they must draft the successor to Eli Manning right now.
Still, the Giants aren’t oblivious to the fact that Father Time is not on Manning’s side, despite his iron-man streak.
Of the Giants’ two backups last year (Ryan Nassib and Josh Johnson, both unrestricted free agents), Johnson probably has the better chance of returning on a short-term deal.
However, Johnson will be 30 this year, which while not exactly ancient for a quarterback would probably make him more of a transition piece of the puzzle if he progresses far enough along in his development than the long-term answer.
If the Giants, who also have quarterback Keith Wenning signed to a reserve/futures contract, want to add a draft pick, Virginia Tech’s Jerod Evans (6’4”, 230 pounds) is a two-way threat offering intrigue as a developmental prospect.
A JUCO transfer, Evans’ only season for the Hokies saw him set eight single-season school records including touchdown passes (29), passing yards (3,546), total offense (4,392), completions (268) and rushing yards by a quarterback (846).
That Evans has shown good mobility when breaking the pocket could be extra appealing to a Giants offense looking to add another dimension to its game plans.
WR Zay Jones, East Carolina6 of 10
With the Giants having released receiver Victor Cruz earlier this month, it looks as though they are going to focus on developing taller receivers such as Roger Lewis Jr. and Tavarres King, both of whom showed promise in 2016.
That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t add to the receiving corps. While it would be surprising to see them devote any salary-cap space to a veteran, an interesting draft prospect is East Carolina’s Zay Jones (6’2”, 202 pounds).
Jones led the nation in receiving yards (1,744). He also caught 73.1 percent of his pass targets, the best among draft-eligible receivers who played at least 75 percent of their team’s snaps last year.
Per Zierlein, Jones is not afraid to go over the middle for the touch catch, and can “win all day when it comes to finishing catches at the high point.” Zierlein also lauds Jones, who can play outside or in the slot and return kickoffs, as a high-character guy whose production was mostly a result of short throws and wide receiver screens.
On the negative side, Zierlein notes that Jones isn’t much of a run-blocker. Regardless, the Giants might be in a position where if they take a tight end high and devote an early third-day pick to a big receiver, they can bring the receiver along.
DT Dalvin Tomlinson, Alabama7 of 10
If the Giants cannot reach a new deal with defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, Alabama’s Dalvin Tomlinson (6’3”, 312 pounds) might be a name to keep an eye on.
Tomlinson, who tore an ACL in one leg in 2012 as a high school senior and then his other ACL in this first college game of 2013, brings versatility as both a defensive end and as a defensive tackle.
Per College Football Focus, he’s recorded three sacks, eight hits and 59 hurries as a pass-rusher and 51 stops (out of 95 total tackles) in his three-year college career.
Zierlein is very bullish on Tomlinson, of whom he writes has a “powerful frame and ability to stack the run between the tackles could make him a scheme-flexible target in the draft.”
OG Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky8 of 10
If the Giants can somehow get an offensive tackle in free agency, it would probably make sense to look to the draft to add additional youth at guard, especially if they plan to move on from soon-to-be UFA John Jerry.
Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp (6’4”, 308 pounds), a college left tackle who projects inside to guard, might be a prospect who’s hard to pass up in terms of his overall value, with NFL Draft Scout projecting him to be selected late first/early second round.
Per College Football Focus, Lamp allowed just 31 combined sacks, hits and hurries over his three-year career (2,778 snaps), figures that include zero sacks, three hits and two hurries last season at left tackle.
Zierlein writes that Lamp is versatile enough to “potentially line up at tackle, guard or center.” Lest anyone think Lamp is one of those “jack of all trades, master of none” types that are a dime a dozen, his skill set would be perfect for a Giants offensive line that is in a major state of flux regarding left tackle, right tackle and right guard.
RB Marlon Mack, South Florida9 of 10
The Giants are in the process of making over the league’s 29th-ranked rushing offense (88.2 yards/game)
The release earlier this month of Rashad Jennings leaves the Giants with Paul Perkins and Shane Vereen, who figure to be two pieces of the running back rotation. The team will also presumably tender restricted free agent Orleans Darkwa to be part of a competition that will also include George Winn.
If the Giants decide not to pursue a younger veteran such as Eddie Lacy of the Packers (assuming he hits the open market) in free agency, a potential third-day draft prospect is South Florida’s Marlon Mack (6’0”, 210 pounds).
Zierlein opines that Mack is a complementary runner, a “scat back with decent size and blazing getaway speed” with the ability to “make tacklers miss.” Over his three-year college career, Mack has averaged 6.2 yards per carry (3,617 yards on 584 rushes) and an average of 3.4 yards after contact while also forcing 115 missed tackles.
Mack, whom NFL Draft Scout projects to be a third- to fourth-round draft pick, has also been solid as a receiver out of the backfield, catching 73.9 percent of his pass targets for an average of 7.7 yards per reception.
LB Anthony Walker Jr., Northwestern10 of 10
With three veteran UFA linebackers likely to hit the market—Keenan Robinson, Mark Herzlich and Kelvin Sheppard—the Giants will almost certainly look to add depth at that position.
Their projected starting linebackers should be Devon Kennard on the strong-side, B.J. Goodson in the middle and Jonathan Casillas on the weak side, with Robinson playing in the sub-package.
Northwestern’s Anthony Walker (6-1, 245 pounds) played most of his snaps in between the tackles but could project as depth on the strong side.
Zierlein notes that Walker is “too muscle-bound and tight at times during career” and might be better off shedding some of the bulk he added to hold up in the middle.
NFL Draft Scout lists Walker among its inside linebackers, projecting him as a third- or fourth-round pick.