The offensive line as a whole was a problem area for the Giants in 2014, especially when it came to ineffectiveness in opening up running lanes. Prized free agent signing Geoff Schwartz barely played due to injury, the team’s two brightest talents Justin Pugh and Weston Richburg failed to shine, and free agent “value” signings J.D. Walton and John Jerry were never all that likely to make a difference. Training camp saw the Giants in a race against time to integrate a number of fresh faces including an entirely new group of interior linemen. This time around, it will be more about finding the one missing piece that allows everything else to fall into place. Flirting with the idea of moving Justin Pugh inside to guard, finding the right player to either plug in at guard or play right tackle while Pugh kicks inside will be one of the Giants’ biggest priorities. This draft class has been criticized at the top for lacking the coveted franchise left tackle, but it makes up for that with a number of legitimate first round talents that offer versatility - a perfect fit for the Giants.
The next in a long line of quality offensive line prospects from Iowa, Scherff is generally seen as the best of the bunch and could be in play for the Giants at the 9th pick, though some mock drafts have him higher. Whether it is at guard or right tackle, Scherff would be an instant upgrade and be a real boost in the run game, even drawing comparisons to Dallas rookie sensation Zach Martin.
The player of choice in Scout.com Jamie Newberg’s latest mock draft for the Giants, Peat athletically is in the mold of a prototypical top left tackle prospect but rawness and some questions over his toughness will keep him from coming off the board at the very top. Peat would likely slide in at right tackle from day one for the Giants, and could even be considered a long-term replacement for Will Beatty on the left side.
La’el Collins, G/T, LSU
For any team looking to boost its ability on the ground and add more nastiness up front, Collins is going to get a serious look. Could lightning strike twice for the Giants in LSU 1st round talents?
Whether it is at end or tackle, the Giants need a return to focusing on a dominant defensive line. Some may be willing to ignore defensive end as a prime need assuming Jason Pierre-Paul’s return with Damontre Moore showing something towards the end of the season and Robert Ayers not playing nearly enough before his injury, but the strength position at the top of the draft this year is pass rushers and taking one may be in the Giants’ best interest. Additionally, a long term pairing for Jonathan Hankins will be on the agenda and this draft boasts two top ten prospects: the arguable number one player in the class in USC's Leonard Williams and Washington mammoth Danny Shelton.
Ray is a popular pick to the Giants in a number of mock drafts and for good reason. Missouri is starting to become a “Pass Rusher U” of sorts, and Ray is arguably the best prospect yet from a school that produced Aldon Smith. If the Giants want to add juice to their pass rush, Ray would be an excellent pick if available.
Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
Fowler is a hot name at the moment, but its not just combine hype. His high character, strong motor and explosiveness as a pass rusher are an attractive package for any team looking for a franchise edge defender. He’s a versatile player and perhaps has the most value to a 3-4 team, but the Giants are no strangers to putting pass rushers in positions with advantageous matchups.
Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Shelton is an absolute mammoth at 6’2’’ and over 340 pounds and compares favorably to the man he would be playing next to should the Giants select Shelton 9th overall. Like Hankins, Shelton moves gracefully for a big man and showed a surprising efficiency in getting to the quarterback in college with 9.5 sacks as a senior, though its naturally something scouts are wondering can translate to the NFL level. The Giants were a horrid run defending team, and this selection would go a long way in fixing that issue.
The Giants seem to have found a gem in 2014 fifth round pick Devon Kennard, but the rest of the linebacker core is in flux. Jacquian Williams is hitting the open market, Jameel McClain was unimpressive and the Giants simply cannot rely on the health status of Jon Beason. Linebacker as of late has not been a priority area for Jerry Reese, and with bigger priorities elsewhere and limiting resources it would not be a shock to see that continue.
Shaq Thompson, LB/S, Washington
Every draft has at least one unique athlete that looks destined to be a special player for a creative schemer that knows how to extract the very best out of him. Thompson, whose instincts and playmaking say “linebacker” but whose coverage skills and athleticism say “safety,” could be a sleeper pick in round one for a Giants defense crying out for more playmakers.
With great size, athleticism and experience in multiple linebacker spots, McKinney is going to be an attractive option for a coach to mold and potentially a schemer’s dream for a creative mind like Steve Spagnuolo. McKinney has been projected at this point anywhere from late round one to anywhere in round two.
Like his brother Mychal of the Eagles, Eric Kendricks had a good combine showing and could be an option for the Giants in round two. Projecting as a weak side linebacker in a 4-3, Kendricks’ senior statistics jump off the page and teams will be content to overlook his undersized stature in favor of his athleticism, instincts and football character.
Safety is going to be an area Jerry Reese has to pay particular attention to this offseason as the team’s top three options all are free agents. Antrel Rolle is a possibility to return and start, but even if he does both safety spots will be needs in the near future.
Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
Considered by most the best safety in this class, Collins has gotten “best in a few years” hype and looks a natural replacement for a player as influential as Antrel Rolle has been for the Giants. Collins is a competent cover safety, but his real impact comes in cleaning up in the run game - a trait the Giants can use, especially if the linebacker core sees minimal investment.
Derron Smith, FS, Fresno State
Smith is a quality cover safety, proficient in both man and zone and can make plays on the ball. He’s a little undersized at 5’10” 200 pounds however, and while he does put in good effort as a tackler it raises questions on how he will be able to handle the NFL’s bigger receivers and tight ends. He projects as a round 2-to-3 player.
Holliman is one of the draft’s boom or bust prospects. He’s a one-year starter and struggled quite a bit as a tackler, but picked off 14 passes this past season which led the nation by some distance. That aspect will no doubt entice teams, but it remains to be seen whether he’ll go as high as the 2nd round as some mock drafts suggest.
Larry Donnell’s hot start proved to be nothing more than a flash in the pan, while Adrien Robinson failed to take the opportunity he had to become a major factor in the passing game during training camp. Nonetheless the tight end was featured heavily in the Giants offense, particularly in the red zone, and for that reason a tight end in the first few rounds is definitely within the realm of possibility for the Giants.
It is not a strong tight end class but Maxx Williams is seen as the head-and-shoulders above number one player at the position. Williams is projected as a late-1st-to-early-2nd round prospect, and would be a steal for the Giants with their second pick. He’s not the freak athlete the NFL salivates over now at the tight end position, but he’s a natural receiver that is a favorable matchup against linebackers and safeties and would be a welcome addition for Eli Manning.
Clive Walford, Miami
Coming from a school once synonymous with NFL-quality tight ends, Warford is a decent prospect that has the basketball background scouts love at the position but not the premier athleticism usually associated with it. He brings superior blocking to the table than Maxx Williams however, and could be a player that finds a well-rounded game to be his calling card to NFL success. He is viewed as a 2nd-to-3rd round prospect.
Nick O’Leary, Florida State
The word often used to describe O’Leary as a tight end is “throwback.” He isn’t going to stretch the seam or make highlight reel runs after the catch, but he is a willing and able blocker that catches everything thrown his way. He’s the kind of player that will move the chains and do the dirty work without much fanfare, and could have an immediate impact with whoever takes him in the mid-rounds of the draft.