Before I begin, let me say a heartfelt thanks to BBWC reader Some Fan, who sent me the Hula Bowl and Senior Bowl tapes. Much appreciated though I now won't get to watch the Senior Bowl until after the first day of the draft having not been able to take the time off from work I had planned. Where I hadn't seen the player before, I've put my thoughts down here along with some other ramblings!
QB I didn't have time to write a piece on this position and I don't believe the Giants will take a QB in this draft because they feel secure with Jesse Palmer as back-up and heir apparent to Kerry Collins. I don't, but then I'm not a big believer in ‘pure' pocket passers like Palmer. If I had a choice, I'd have been looking hard at Rohan Davey (LSU) in the mid-rounds. He has a lot better tools than Palmer (more mobility, stronger arm) but needs a lot of patient coaching and if it pays off in the long run, some lucky team may find themselves with a stud for a minor investment.
As with QB, I don't believe the Giants will draft a player here and feel they are satisfied with the group of Tiki Barber, Ron Dayne, Damon Washington and the oft-injured, yet to produce anywhere outside of garbage time Sean Bennett. Personally, I think we're missing a big-back who can move the chains of 3rd or 4th & short but I'd concur with anyone who says we have many more there needs and better FB/OL play may make our backs more efficient in that phase anyway. Other than Jonathon Wells (Ohio State) – a likely 2nd round pick – there isn't anyone who jumped out at me in that area all year and I'd much prefer to find a FB who can make tough yards than draft someone specifically to do it from the RB spot.
Charles Stackhouse (Mississippi) isn't one I really got a chance to study but on game tape I watched had some of the (many) overtimes his team played against Arkansas. I saw enough then to convince me that he has ironed out some of his inconsistencies in lead blocking (though not all of them as he still falls off blocks some straight ahead) and that not only could he do a creditable job in that regard as a pro but he could also add to an offense with his inside running ability. The problem for him to overcome – and it's a big one – is that teams draft athletes over ‘players' and when he ran his 40 yard dash at the Combine in 4.9 seconds he may have become ‘undraftable' in some of the teams eyes because they question whether he has the speed to get to the player he will be expected to block and whether if given the ball he'd be able to do anything with it. He may be slow but he shows some ability to cutback, has the power to break tackles and catches smoothly enough. I wouldn't mind the Giants grabbing him but I don't think he'd be worthy of the investment until the 7th round and he may even go undrafted though I still would expect him to make a team when invited to summer camp.
Ed Ieremia-Stansbury (UCLA) did not look like a future NFL draft pick in the games against Washington State or Arizona State. He proved a good athlete in his workouts but he just isn't that good a lead blocker, much better straight ahead than blocking on the corner and without the power you'd expect from someone listed over 260lb's. He's also not very consistent at making blocks even then! I think he'll go undrafted.
eremy Allen (Iowa) is one I unfortunately didn't get to see this year at all. He was down to attend the Hula Bowl when I pulled off the roster listing in January but it tends to be very fluid at that stage and he was one of a number of players who never appeared in the game. If the Giants grab him, I'll borrow a tape and give you my view of him but for now let me just say that Ourlad's Guides rate him as the 3rd best FB in the draft and as a 5th round pick. I subscribe to Ourlad's because they are so accurate and don't get involved in hype so this should be a pretty solid idea of where he rates ability wise. Heck, he's from the Big Ten, the Giants probably love him too!
Another I never got to see is Jarrod Baxter (New Mexico). If the Giants are serious about upgrading FB and also taking someone capable of getting the tough yards in short yardage situations he may be a good choice. Ourlad's rate him as the best prospect at the position and an early 4th round pick. Those who have watched the senior Bowl feel free to share views of him on the message board.
One of the few prospects I never saw was Matt Schobel (Texas Christian). By all accounts he's a receiving type with excellent size and a big upside but for whom injuries have been a problem. Nevertheless, the Giants brought him on for a visit (along with Shockey, Graham and Jolley) and were they to change their minds on going with Shockey in the 1st round (if what the papers say is true), then he may be a consideration in the 3rd round.
One last viewing of Levi Jones (Arizona State) against UCLA convinced me that he will have a very solid career at OLT, perhaps even more so than the behemoth Mike Williams (Texas) who I am not convinced has the work habits to make the switch to protecting the blindside (he is someone who appear comfortable to be overweight at 375lb's despite a few scouts questioning his girth early in the process). Jones gave up an early hit on the QB and had some trouble at times with a bull rush but he moves his feet so quickly and showed the strength and necessary mean streak to punish his man without letting him near the passer again the rest of the night. I still am not convinced about his ability to block the wide run to the left that Lomas Brown used to do so well but I like his overall ability to add pop to the inside run game. If the Giants were to select him in the 1st round, I'd consider it an excellent choice and I'm sure he'll be an immediate starter for an NFL team this fall.
Apparently, the stock of Tonio Fonoti (Nebraska) is plummeting as teams are concerned with his footwork but I'd be much more concerned with his weight if the Giants were thinking about drafting him (which they aren't). At 330lb's he's a truck leading plays to either side but he weighed in very close to 350lb's at the Combine and ran like his feet were covered with cement! Every workout since then I've been looking for him to drop his weight and improve his 40 yard time from the pedestrian 5.49 he ran at Indianapolis but it just hasn't happened. Big and powerful he is, but if he isn't quick enough to get to his blocks because he can't stay in shape I certainly wouldn't want to draft him. He may end up in the 2nd round near where the Giants pick and I'd be crossing my fingers they don't then change their mind about drafting a ‘pure' OG as he may eat his way out of football if he doesn't get serious.
One of a similar playing style to Fonoti is Ed Ta'amu (Utah) and for all intents and purposes he looked like the best OL on display at the Hula Bowl. He's also very powerful in the run game and looks like a much better athlete than you'd expect from a short, wide-bodies type of guy but he made all his blocks in-line, got to the LB's in space and created some huge holes for his backs. On the downside, he looked in need of a lot of seasoning as a pass protector as he looks to outmuscle his opponents at all times rather than slide and mirror their moves. I think he'll be nabbed in the 3rd round and if a team can teach him to pass block they may have themselves a ‘steal'.
Melvin Fowler (Maryland) did very poorly in his timings at the Combine but luckily for him teams pay more attention to what he does on the field than off of it. Watching him against North Carolina State it was obvious that he plays with good leverage, is smart and tenacious in his blocks and can create a few running lanes but also that his athletic shortcomings hurt him in his ability to reach LB's on the second level. I'm not sure where he'll go in the draft (my guess is the 4th round) but he's a solid enough player and one I think that, in the right scheme, could step straight in and start for a long time.
Upon further review i.e. after I watched him against UCLA, Scott Peters (Arizona State) doesn't look to be as good as I first thought. He spends an awful lot of time on the ground and he was frankly very dirty in his attempts to block people from there with many attempted leg whips. He's OK when someone is directly over him and can use his strength to take them on but he can't handle one-on-one pass protection against a quicker player. I still think he'll go in the 5th round, but I wouldn't be near as enthusiastic about him becoming a Giant after seeing that game.
I wanted to see whether the athletic ability of Derrius Monroe (Virginia Tech) showed through against top competition like Miami, Fla but I don't think he played that day. If he did, he was invisible. His off the field problems may mean he doesn't get drafted.
Kenyon Coleman (UCLA) earned his ‘inconsistent' tag over the course of his career but while I don't think he's a great prospect, I do like what he brought to the table against both Washington State and Arizona State. He provided a very solid and consistent bull-rush and was in both QB's faces all day long, even beating the odd double team in order to get there from his LDE spot. I think he's a solid 3rd round pick and were the Giants to trade Strahan he may be one of the players they consider as a viable replacement (though obviously a big step down).
As promised I took a look at Charles Hill (Maryland) in action against NC State and he didn't surprise me too much. He's a solid workmanlike player who can get a pocket moving bacvk on occasion but isn't exciting and is unlikely to be a starter at any time on the next level. He's not big enough to fit the ideal of a rotation DT though so I'd pass though he may be a late round pick for an NFL team.
Another name to add to the list of potential day two picks that would fill a back-up need is Ken Kocher (UCLA). For a big wide-bodied man, he not only did a fine job of stopping the run against both Washington State and Arizona State but he showed he could crush a pocket and rush the passer in both games, getting sacks in both. He looks like a solid 6th round pick who may even go earlier.
David Thornton (North Carolina) was one of the few players I hadn't seen previously that impressed me at the Hula Bowl and one of the better LB prospects in the draft despite only starting during his Senior year (at SLB). An impressive athlete, he was named by team-mates as the Tar Heels Defensive MVP and that speaks volumes about his efforts when considering that there are two players from his old DL likely to be drafted in the top 10 of the entire draft! The thing I like most about All-Star games is the ‘no blitz' rule as this means you get to see them almost exclusively in coverage and is often the first time LB's are asked to fan out and cover an RB in the slot. By the look of it Thornton can flat-out cover! His stats say he can get to the passer (7 sacks) and his Combine performance – ran a 4.62 with a 35 ½" vertical and 26 reps of the 225lb bar – at a hair under 6'2" and 236lb's show that he had the size and speed needed to continue to do so in the pro ranks. Most impressive about his Hula Bowl though was the burst he showed to get to the ball, making one play in the backfield when left unblocked as the RB tried to sweep to the other side of the field and stuffing another in the backfield coming thourhg the middle of the line having simply crushed an attempted block by Verron Haynes (Georgia) who in my view is a pretty decent FB prospect! He needs work on taking on and shedding blocks in the open field as he was blocked too easily away from the play and his inexperience means he may need time at the next level but he's one of only 3 WLB's in this entire draft I like as future starters and I think he's a solid early 3rd round pick and one I wouldn't mind seeing in a Giants uniform.
SLB & MLB
I didn't get time to cover these positions and frankly I'm not enthused about the players available anyway. We don't need starters at either spot this year (keep an eye on MLB next year though as Barrow's performance needs to stay at its present level if he is not to be a potential cap victim in 2003) and with the exception of Napoleon Harris (Northwestern) there probably isn't a potential star amongst the group, most of the better players projecting to WLB because of a lack of size. For the record, I don't like the supposed star MLB prospect of the group in Robert Thomas (UCLA).
The Giants do need depth at both spots though and Special Teams are a necessity so look for them to pick up players on the 2nd day. A couple of SLB's I liked the look of who definitely have the style of play to excel on coverage teams are Christian Rodriguez (Texas A&M) and Maurice Rodriguez (Fresno State) in addition to MLB Tyreo Harrison (Notre Dame). None will be picked before the 6th round and all three may ultimately go undrafted but at various times this season each showed the intensity to hit anything that moves and that is the sort of attitude I'd be looking to add to the ST's cover units. If the Giants were looking for depth via the draft, I'd be looking at one of these three.
Earlier on, say in the 5th round, one of those ‘tweener type DE/LB's that I like to an extent is Akin Ayodele (Purdue). He has ability as a pass rusher, can drop off in coverage fairly well in a zone (played SLB as a junior before returning to the DL for his senior season) and has a history of blocking kicks. I suggested using a ‘tag team' in the pass rush at RDE before we decided to drop Cedric Jones and replace him with the supposedly better pass rush of Kenny Holmes but the latter hasn't gotten that job done any better and I wonder if Ayodele's ST ability may mean he gets brought on board and given that chance.
There are some very good CB's in this draft but having chosen two last year, the Giants are unlikely to draft another this year on the opening day (rounds 1-3). That said, my belief is that Ralph Brown didn't get a chance to be the Giants 4th corner, not because he can't cover, but because most teams don't have a decent 4th receiver so the game-day jersey is handed to the best ST player. A small man who doesn't play like he's got one of those ‘little guy' chip's on his shoulder, he was beaten out for the jersey repeatedly by Emanuel McDaniel. E-Mac may be gone (veterans salary too rich for a guy who sees the field a half-dozen downs per game) but I still aren't sure that Brown will be able to step up because ST play remains as important, if not more so.
4th corner prospects are a dime-a-dozen but a couple of players whose ST play has stood out for me are Markese Fitzgerald (Miami, Fla) and Jay Brooks (Texas A&M). A late round pick may be in order for Brooks but Fitzgerald may find himself going as high as the 5th round because he is also a playmaker in coverage who hasn't really had the opportunity to shine considering the two guys he's played behind the last couple of years are likely 1st round picks.
My sole concern about LaMont Thompson (Washington State) was whether or not he'd be a physical enough tackler after injuring his neck in 2000 and being forced to sit out the season because of it. In the game against UCLA where he grabbed 4 INT's (no, that's not a typo!), he made a few tackles but none of them were big hits and in truth he appears to be a ‘drag-down' tackler as opposed to the hard-hitting ‘enforcer' type that I prefer and that the Giants have made a habit of drafting over the years. Nonetheless, I think he's capable enough as a tackler if playing a sort of center-field position and I would very much like to see him in a Giants uniform though I'm doubtful he will be because he's sure to be a 2nd round pick and that may be too early for the Giants to look at safeties despite my nervousness that mar Stoutmire will provide the match that opposing QB's use to light up the defense!
Message board fan Kartanoman has rightly pointed out the fact that few NFL kickers reach the end zone consistently because of the different type of ball used, longer distance, etc but if you can't do it in college you haven't a hope in the pro ranks. I saw Owen Pochman kick in the Blue-Gray game before the 2001 draft and his kick-off's weren't long enough then so his inability to do so at Giants Stadium didn't surprise me. I still think we'll take a kicker.
Kicking seven bells out of the ball on kick-off's at the Hula Bowl were Travis Dorsch (Purdue) and Jeff Chandler (Florida). Everything went deep into the end-zone and Dorsch showed us his Brad Daluiso trick by putting it in the crowd without a bounce! Chandler though didn't kick off this year at Florida (he seemed to be used only when the youngster they were blooding on kick-off's was having real problems with his distance) and he's more a line drive type of kick-off guy. I still think if we take a kicker they will have been playing in the bad weather of the Big Ten and don't believe Chandler will be the guy.