The talent available
There are plenty of good players available but not quite as much ‘top end’ talent as at DE. I’m also not convinced that there are many players that match the Giants requirements for the position - having taken a ‘1 gap’ type last year to shore up the run defense if the team is to draft another this year they would likely return to their previous ‘prototype for the position by selecting one of the more athletic players with longer arms and pass rush skills and there aren’t many of those. I have one player rated in my top 5 overall, another in my top 10 and one in my top 15. After that I see a bit of a drop-off to the next level where two more rank in my top 32, one in my top 40 and jut one other in my top 64 but a further 5 rate in my top 100.
What do I think the Giants should do?
Barry Cofield will be a free agent once the CBA is signed and coming statistically off his best year should be able to command a far higher salary on the open market than the Giants are willing to offer. He’s already indicated that were he somehow to remain restricted in free agency that he would request a trade. Chris Canty bounced back from an injury plagued first season to perform admirably, doing the ‘dirty work’ expected of him in taking on the double teams and allowing others to make plays around him. Lots of people wrote off veteran Rocky Bernard after a poor first season but with a healthy shoulder he did a good job in the rotation and made some plays. However, he’s 32 and in the last year of his contract so it may be an opportune time to bring someone in to develop behind him as a future pass rush specialist. Linval Joseph didn’t get much playing time as a rookie as he got caught up in a ‘numbers game’ on game day but there has been no indication that the Giants have soured on him. If Cofield were to leave it would give him an opportunity to either step forward and start or at the very least play heavily in the rotation.
How will things play out on draft day?
With the DL as a whole the strength of this draft you can expect to see a lot of teams taking DT’s in the 1st round of the draft. There may be a couple of taller, more athletic ones will be drafted by 3-4 teams to play DE but most of the DT’s taken will be to play in 4-3 defense’s.
I’d expect to see a run at the position throughout the first 3 rounds so if the Giants want a future starter at the position they'd better take one early.
The top prospects
Marcel Dareus (Alabama) is 6’3 1/8”, 318lb’s with 33 3/8” arms and 4.92 speed. Reminds me greatly of the Patriots Ty Warren but with a bit more speed and flexibility. No real point writing an in-depth pen portrait on him as he’s a sure-fire top 5 pick and probably the safest pick of the entire draft with the skill-set to fit into a 3-4 defense at either DE or NT - he played both at Auburn - and in a 4-3 front at DT. I absolutely love him.
Nick Fairley (Auburn) is 6'3 7/8”, 291lb’s with 34 3/4” arms and 4.87 speed. Is considered a bit of a ‘boom or bust’ type due to his being only a one year starter, immature and with some character issues. He’s simply too good and makes too many impact plays - 24 tackles for loss with 11 sacks this year - not to take a chance on. Probably only fits into a 4-3 defense as a ‘3 technique’ as he doesn’t hold up well against double-teams and his talents would be wasted in a 3-4 but I can’t see him getting out of the top 10 and if he was selected in the top 5 I wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
Corey Liuget (Illinois) is 6'2 1/8”, 298lb’s with 33 1/4” arms and 4.99 speed. Jnuior entry. Was only a full-time starter for one year but started 6 games and played extensively in a rotation prior to that. Has great quickness off the ball and really stood out in the games I watched him in this year. Chases hard in the backfield and down is able to change direction and track down QB’s and RB’s alike - had 12 1/2 tackles for loss as a junior including 4 1/2 sacks (25 1/2 for loss with 8 1/2 sacks for his career). Has an element of nastiness to his game. Hustles down the line and makes a lot of tackles (63 this past season, 125 in his career). Lost 30lb’s between his sophomore and junior season when dedicating himself to be the best he could be. Needs to do a better job a against double teams in the run game. Was scouted by Giants DC Perry Fewell at his Pro Day and complimented on his explosive performance. Has a big upside. One of my personal favorites in this draft. I have him in my top 15 overall.
Phil Taylor (Baylor) is 6'3 1/4”, 334lb’s with 34” arms with 5.20 speed. Huge man who really only fits for a team either playing the ’1 technique’ in the 4-3 or more likely as the NT in a 3-4. Has the size and strength to excel in a ‘two-gap’ system. Makes a whole lot more tackles than the typical space eater due to his speed (62 this past season). Can push the pocket but isn’t a sack artist - made only 5 1/2 in his career. Kicked out of Penn State after a number of OTF issues but it is felt he may now have matured as a person. Sat out in ’08 after transferring to the Bears then started for two years there. Was very impressive at the Senior Bowl. Has has some issues with his feet that might cause him to slip on draft day. Top 32 pick
Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple) is 6'4 1/8”, 315lb’s with 35 1/4” arms and 4.96 speed. Two year starter and Team Captain. Great athlete for his size. Had a big impact for the Owls (131 tackles in two years including 23 1/2 for loss and 16 1/2 sacks. Very mobile. Has an array of pass rush moves. Plays high. Intensity may be an issue. Level of competition is a concern as he didn’t do much in games against better drilled programs. The Giants had him in for a visit but whether that was because he counted as a ‘local visit’ (he’s from Linden, NJ) or because of genuine interest is unknown. Could well be ‘over-drafted’ based because of his ‘tools’ as he is very ‘raw’ and gets by solely on his athletic ability at this stage of development. Top 32 pick.
Stephen Paea (Oregon St.) is 6'1 1/4", 303lb’s with 32 7/8” arms and 5.15 speed. 3 year starter built like a beer keg. Has immense strength - set the Combine record for the bench press with an astonishing 49 reps - and is very quick and powerful off the ball. Forced a lot of double and even triple teams as he couldn’t be handled one-on-one. Very strong bull rusher up the middle - has 14 career sacks. Forces a lot of fumbles (9 for his career). Still developing as a football player - has a Rugby background and doesn’t appear to know where the blocks are coming from as yet. Has no pass rush moves other than the bull rush. Tore the mensiscus in his right knee during the Senior Bowl practices but has subsequently proved himself healthy. Projects best to the 4-3 to take advantage of his quickness though some teams might view him as a NT in a 3-4 system. Top 40 pick
Marvin Austin (North Carolina ) is 6'1 5/8”, 309lb’s with 32 5/8” arms and 4.90 speed. Great physical specimen who was a career underachiever with the Tar Heels despite the hype surrounding him as a junior. Has pass rush skills (9 career sacks) and is able to get pressure from a number of different positions - has some moves as well as good strength (38 reps on the bench press) and mobility. Jumps offside too often and sometimes fails to find the ball when he beats his man. Plays too high and in spurts but showed dominant traits when he put his mind to it. Shady character who was kicked out of school for accepting gifts from an agent and missed his senior year. Got himself in shape and reportedly dominated in both the practices and game to lift his ‘stock’. Is very much a ‘boom or bust’ prospect but if he has matured and works hard he could be a very good pro. Top 64 pick who could go a lot higher than I have him rated.
Jurrell Casey (USC) is 6'0 5/8”, 300lb’s with 32” arms and 5.06 speed. 2 year starter (DT in ’09, NT in ’10) who entered the draft as a junior. Good run defender who does well gaining leverage and holding his ground at the point of attack. Makes a ton of tackles in the box or behind the line(126 tackles the past two years including 20 for loss). Makes some big hits - has 3 career forced fumbles. Good pass rusher with an array of moves - had 4 1/2 sacks each year he started and gets fairly consistent pressure. Occasionally hits a gap taking himself out of the hole and flies straight past the ball carrier. Doesn’t make tackles towards the sideline. Probably projects better as a ‘3 technique’ in a 4-3 front than as a ‘1 technique’. Has an ‘upside’. Probably a little underrated. Ranks just outside my top 64.
Jerrell Powe (Ole Miss) is 6'1 3/4”, 335lb’s with 33 1/4” arms and 5.29 speed. Two year starter and Team Captain. Looked on his way to stardom as a sophomore but didn’t play quite as well as a junior before entering the draft. Similar to Taylor in that he’s a pocket crushing ‘pure’ NT - 6 career sacks - but nowhere near as athletic. Excellent against the run and can dominate the middle of the line of his 69 career tackles 24 were for loss. Has learning difficulties and dyslexia so may have trouble learning a difficult scheme. Has also had two operations on his right wrist ( fractured it in ’07, needed more surgery in ’09). Will be a 24 year old rookie. Needs to keep his weight in check or else he becomes top heavy but has a lot of talent. Top 100 pick.
Christian Ballard (Iowa) is 6'3 3/4”, 283lb’s with 33” arms and 4.80 speed. 3 year starter who never had a true position having been switched between LDE and DT in a 4-3 front (started at LDE in ’08, DT in ’09 and split starts between both in ’10). Was definitely more productive as a DT in ’09 than as a DE in ’10 (9 tackles for loss and 5 1/2 sacks v 5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks). Good bull rusher with the speed to chase down QB’s. Does well playing the run laterally but neutralized and pushed off the line or turned out too easily when its ran at him especially when double teamed. Plays too high - is easy to cut - and doesn’t use his hands well enough to free himself from blockers. Far better athlete than player at this point despite his considerable experience. Doesn’t always give full effort. ‘Boom or bust’ type. Ranks in my top 100 but could go a lot higher than I have him ranked.
Jarvis Jenkins (Clemson) 6'4”, 310lb’s with 33 1/4” arms and 5.08 speed. 3 year starter. Did a lot of the ‘grunt’ work allowing DE Da’Quan Bowers to star. Not a productive pass rusher statistically - just 5 career sacks - but generates a lot of pressure allowing others to get to the QB. Very athletic run defender for his size. Active tackler who frequently penetrates the backfield (156 tackles in the past 3 years including 30 for loss). Blocked a school record 4 career kicks. Had a good week at the Senior Bowl. Needs to dedicate himself to the weight room - managed a paltry 17 reps on the bench press at the Combine. Too easily blocked when he isn’t stunting. Probably projects best to a ’5 technique’ playing DE in a 3-4 system. Top 100 pick.
Drake Nevis (LSU) is 6'0 5/8”, 294lb’s with 31 1/2” arms and 5.06 speed. Only a full-time starter for one year but played well in a rotation. Team Captain. Has very good quickness firing off the ball into and through gaps (31 1/2 career tackles for loss). Uses a swim move to good effect as a pass rusher (6 sacks this past season). High effort player. Short-armed. Will either beat his man at the snap or not at all. Gets crushed by double teams. Overrated because he gave Mike Pouncey so many problems in one game this year. Flashes lots of ability but looks more like a player for the rotation than a future starter. Top 100 pick.
Notable mid-round prospects
Martin Parker (Richmond, VA) is 6’2 1/8”, 303lb’s with 33 3/4” arms and 5.03 speed. Reportedly had a tough week in practice at the East-West Shrine Bowl - particularly against the run - but bounced back in the game to record a pair of sacks and win Defensive MVP honors. The Giants have shown some interest in him.
David Carter (UCLA) is 6’ 4 3/8”, 293lb’s with 5.03 speed. Did not start until his senior year but made some contributions coming off the bench in games I saw him in as a junior whilst ‘scouting’ Brian Price (Bucs, 35th overall, 2010). Has added about 35lb’s in the past year or so so is no longer undersized for the position. Late bloomer
Were Liuget to be available with the 19th pick overall it would be easy to make a case for his being the ‘best player available’ as he would likely be the top rated player at that stage on my ‘value board’. Wilkerson fits the Giants ‘prototype’ at the position to a tee but looks too much of a project to be taken 19th overall. If they were to trade down he may come into the reckoning. Austin is a player I hated at North Carolina and I would imagine he’s been ‘red flagged’ on the Giants board due to character concerns. Paea would be interesting if available with the 52nd pick but I’m not sure he wouldn’t be too alike Joseph. Casey would be a bit of a ‘steal’ in the 3rd round whereas Ballard and Nevis would offer ‘value’ because of their pass rush skills. Parker in the 4th round and Carter in the 6th might appeal were the Giants not to take someone earlier in the draft.