NFL Draft 2002: DL Overview

When defensive tackle Keith Hamilton was injured last season, his absence showed just how weak the depth of that position is for Big Blue.

DL Draft Overview by Ceri Dovey the likelihood is that the Giants will ignore the cream of the DL talent available at both end and tackle until the second day of the Unless the Giants trade Michael Strahan – releasing him should be out of the question despite his cap-killing contract value – draft, especially if they find a way to re-sign former Giant Christian Peter to be the rotation man at DT that we so sorely missed. Lance Legree was a good acquisition for the 4th DT spot but that doesn't mean he should receive prolonged playing time or is capable of starting in a pinch. The Giants definitely missed Peter a lot more than they thought they would, particularly when Hamilton was hurt.

Bypassing the talent available in some ways is a pity because there are some excellent DT prospects this year and with Griffin able to shift outside, we could have added an immediate starter and got tremendous value for our pick. While the Giants may not be interested, depending on how the draft pans out in the top 10 picks, a run at the position may enable them to trade down a half dozen spots to a team trying to grab the last stud from the batch of John Henderson & Albert Haynesworth (both Tennessee), Ryan Sims (North Carolina) and Wendell Bryant (Wisconsin) rather than choosing from amongst the borderline 1st/2nd round types like Larry Tripplett (Washington), Anthony Weaver (Notre Dame) and Eddie Freeman (Alabama-Birmingham), all of whom would be reaches taken in the first round.

Just for the record, my favourite DL prospect in the entire draft is Bryant who has been tremendous for four years for the Badgers and who has been the scourge of some great Michigan OL prospects during that time span. Hopefully, he'll be drafted by a team outside of the Division!

If Peter doesn't return, the Giants need to find a DT for the rotation, preferably one better at stopping the run than rushing the passer and who can rotate on early downs without a massive drop-off in play. This would give Keith Hamilton and Cornelius Griffin a breather every now and then to re-charge their batteries before chasing QB's on 3rd and long.

BBWC fan columnist Boog Man gave you a few names to look out for amongst the DT's so rather than cut across his work I'll add to that unless I have a completely different view of a guy.

One player that I have used as a ‘control' in evaluating some of the top OL's this year is Rocky Bernard (Texas A&M) and he did a very creditable job in games against Texas & Colorado, giving renowned OL prospects like Williams, Gurode and Rogers some big problems at times. He missed the 2000 season with a torn ACL but he returned strongly, playing LDE in the 3-4 – a lot like playing DT – and I expect him to play inside as a pro. At just over 6'3" and 294lb's he already has the size for the position and proved himself a good athlete at the Combine (4.96 speed, 33" vertical jump and 30 reps on the bench press). He gets off the ball quickly, is strong enough to push OL's back in the run game let alone hold his ground and is a solid enough bull-rusher to push the pocket though he needs to add a few moves to separate from blocks and get to the QB more often (5 sacks). To be honest I'd be shocked if teams watching him on film don't consider him worthy of a 3rd round choice but if available in the 4th and Peter or another veteran hasn't been signed for the inside rotation if I were the Giants I'd be running to the podium to draft him. I think he could be a future starter!

Another player I like is Justin Bannan (Colorado). He gets a fairly consistent pass rush going (? sacks), able to beat his man one-on-one with quickness off the snap and doing a very good job hustling down the line to make tackles. However, he's not big enough to handle the double-team or explosive enough to dominate bigger blockers head on so has some clear limitations in his play. A better pass rusher than run stuffer he looks capable of being a starter for some teams but doesn't really suit our needs in a rotation system. It probably won't matter though as he is also likely to be taken in the 3rd round and that should be too early for us to consider him.

Nate Dwyer (Kansas) is widely reported to have helped himself with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl practices. He's got pretty good size at just under 6'3" and 313lb's and good enough speed (5.1 at the Combine) but is known mostly for plugging up the line of scrimmage, taking on blockers and using his strength to hold the point of attack. If he lasts into the 4th round, he might be a good fit for us in Peter's old role.

Dorsett Davis (Mississippi State) has tremendous size, speed and strength for the position (6'5", 304lb's with 5.0 speed and did 30 reps of the 225lb bar at the Combine) but his athletic ability doesn't translate to the field and his productivity isn't close to what he should achieve. The Giants don't draft players who underachieved in college, largely because if they can't motivate themselves then, how are the coaches supposed to do so when they've got money! I think we'll take a pass.

Some people suggest that Alan Harper (Fresno State) is a good prospect but while he made a few plays in the game against Colorado, they were all when allowed to run free to the ball and he did nothing when forced to take on and shed blocks, especially at the point of attack. It wasn't just Gurode that was beating up on him either! Every report from the Senior Bowl suggests that what I saw is how he plays rather than an aberration. I don't think he's strong enough to stand up physically against the run in the NFL and he isn't a good enough athlete to make it as a specialist pass rusher his first year while he adds strength. I'd pass on him altogether.

Charles Hill (Maryland) had a solid senior year and followed that up with good work at both the Senior Bowl and Combine, likely lifting himself into the 4th/5th round area. At 6'2" and 293lb's he has decent size and is known more for plugging holes than shooting through them so he might suit us. I will watch him play against NC State over Easter and let you know what I think.

Mike Collins (Ohio State) is a solid workmanlike prospect but not an exciting one. Nevertheless, he has played well at a high level of competition for a few years and being from the Big Ten you just know the Giants scouts will have seen a lot of him! I can see him lasting into the 5th round – maybe even a round beyond – and he would represent good value in the latter should we choose him. He could certainly play in a rotation as a run stuffer where his size (6'3", 300lb's) and ability to hold up at the point of attack would be appreciated.

Later still, a better player than athlete like Brandon Moore (Illinois) would make a solid pick and possibly contribute as a rookie. Like Hill, he made a big move as a senior and gained some recognition but he doesn't test well athletically and that means teams will let him slide down the pecking order. He'd be a great pick late in the draft.

At the DE spot, presuming Strahan stays on board for the year and Cedric Scott earns some playing time, the Giants have too much invested to add another in the early going. That's if Strahan stays. If he doesn't, I'd advocate either shifting Griffin over to LDE and taking the best DT available to replace him or giving Scott – a natural LDE – the chance to prove himself as a starter. That's right, I wouldn't take a DE if Strahan left! Why? The best available prospects in this draft are ALL better suited to the right side, lacking either the size or strength to take on the mammoth ORT's in the NFC East. We have Kenny Holmes at RDE for at least another year – though he has to produce as expected or be released next off-season – but he isn't big enough to flip-flop end's to allow a rookie to take his spot. Hopefully the front office and coaching staff agree that playing our top picks out of position i.e. Williams at nickel corner and Petitgout at OLG proved a less than successful venture and repeating the error would be to compound it.

Realistically, if any player is added at DE it will likely be as a role player, the team having no expectations of them ever becoming a starter. Scott doesn't have RDE ‘turn the corner' speed but may be given the opportunity to challenge Holmes for the starting spot. If he won, the Giants would have no option but to cut Holmes so as insurance I'd like to bring on board a speed rush specialist to play on 3rd & long (though Scott is a solid pass rusher in his own right). Frank Ferrara tries hard but he doesn't cut it despite giving his best effort on every down.

An great athlete like DE Julius Peppers (North Carolina) won't last very long and I'd find it hard to believe that former Giants Defensive coordinator and new Carolina Head Coach John Fox will pass up the opportunity to grab him with the 2nd overall pick even though he has Chris Weinke at QB!! No-one seems certain what position Kalimba Edwards (South Carolina) will play but as he's already 260lb's, it's a fair bet that it will be RDE rather than WLB and he should be the next player off the board at DE. While his body may be a strange shape, Dwight Freeney (Syracuse) is far too good an athlete and productive a pass rusher not to be taken in the first round, though it will likely be at the back end. Bryan Thomas (Alabama-Birmingham) is a dominant athlete from a lower level of play who reportedly impressed at the Senior Bowl and especially the Combine but he too should expect a first round call, possibly even before Freeney.

Ranked in the next tier are Charles Grant (Georgia), Dennis Johnson (Kentucky), Alex Brown (Florida), Will Overstreet (Tennessee), Ryan Denney (BYU) and Anton Palepoi (UNLV) all of whom will likely be taken before the end of the first day. Kenyon Coleman (UCLA) may go too but at times he looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane. However, he's one of the few LDE types and he also might be better suited to a 3-4 defense. With a few teams converting back to it this season, may be in greater demand than I'd expect and he could go off the board as high as the 2nd round if someone were willing to reach for him.

On the second day or in some cases the end of the first, there are some other DE's who either have caught my eye on the field or whose workout numbers stand out enough that, combined with reviews I've led elsewhere lead me to believe could fill a role for us as back-up pass rushers.

BBWC fan columnist afan40 covered some of the lower-round DE prospects so again I'll add to them and express a difference in opinion as necessary.

Greg White (Minnesota) caught my eye in 2000 when watching former Gopher Karon Riley (4th round choice of Chicago) as he was the more consistent pass rusher, though not with quite the same explosive closing speed once he beat his block. Against the run he couldn't hold up against one-on-one blocking in college (he's 6'3", 268lb's) so will likely have to be a pass rush specialist to make it at the next level. I haven't seen him this year but he notched up another 4 ½ sacks and forced 5 fumbles so remained productive without his former team-mate drawing the attention away from him and that stands him in good stead. Reports from both the Blue-Gray and East-West games say he was one of the better outside pass rushers on display so his stock may take him into the 4th round and I see that being too early for the Giants to consider him.

Jarvis Green (LSU) has long been a player I liked but his form dipped dramatically as a junior (1 sack) when he had back problems and seemed to gain weight. This year, he appeared back to his best when I saw him against Alabama notching up a couple of sacks and forcing a fumble and a friend tells me he gave the hugely overrated OL prospect Terrance Metcalf more than he could handle against Mississippi. His 4 sacks this season aren't impressive but 25 QB hits are and that tells you he is consistent, though lacking the great closing burst to get to the QB before he releases the ball. At 6'3" and 272lb's with 4.87 speed, he doesn't have the ideal size/speed ratio and that will mean he lasts longer on the second day than his ability to play the game suggests he should. Available in the 5th round, he'd be worth a long look from the Giants ‘war room' and I'd love to have him.

As afan40 pointed out, Derrius Monroe (Virginia Tech) has astounding speed. Can he play? I don't remember him from 2000 and I saw a few Hokies games. I have their game against Miami (Fla) still to watch from 2001 though so I'll review him later on.

I'll look at a few other late round types when I get around to watching the Hula Bowl but for now that's it!

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