Now that free agency is winding down, the 2021 NFL Draft is five weeks away.
It runs from April 29 through May 1.
So let’s break down five prospects the Giants should consider with the 11th overall pick.
• WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama (5-10, 182 pounds): We are operating under the assumption that LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase will be gone by the time the 11th pick comes up. Even though the Giants signed Kenny Golladay, they still need more help at receiver. There’s no telling if Darius Slayton will take the next step in Year 3. And the Giants can easily move on from Sterling Shepard after 2021.
Scouting report, via NFL.com: “Thrilling, game-breaking talent who will come into the league as one of the fastest receivers to ever play the game. His whereabouts pre-snap and post-snap must be accounted for at all times. Despite his size, he’s a legitimate outside option, thanks to his ability to not only take the top off the defense, but also go up and win 50-50 throws. Waddle’s adept at working all three levels, so it will be tough for defenses to predict how offenses will utilize him, as he has the potential to post a higher catch volume in the right offense. Waddle can instantly upgrade a team’s scoring potential, whether it’s with the deep ball, the catch-and-run or as a return man.”
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• WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama (6-0, 170 pounds): He won the Heisman Trophy last year, so he’s a dynamic player. But size is going to be a concern, no matter how you slice it. If Waddle and Smith are both available at No. 11, the Giants need to decide if they’re comfortable with Smith’s ability to remain durable in the NFL. Because it’s not a given, at his size and build. Not that Waddle is huge. But Smith is particularly thin.
Scouting report, via NFL.com: “While Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley is my NFL comparison for Smith, I feel like a better comp might be Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry. Like Curry, Smith is thinner than you’d like and isn’t the strongest player, but he has rare quickness, speed, and change-of-direction fluidity, and he creates separation from defenders seemingly at will. He possesses an elite skill level for the position and can hit the defense from short, mid-range or deep. Smith has quietly been the most complete of the receivers at Alabama over the last two seasons and will give an NFL team the ability to mismatch him against the weak links either inside or outside in coverage. He’s a detailed route runner with the athletic ability to really make them count, from a separation standpoint, and his ball skills are unquestioned. Smith has the football character, athletic gifts and upper-echelon skill level to become a long-time starter and Pro Bowl regular.”
• Edge rusher Gregory Rousseau, Miami (6-7, 265 pounds): Some question marks here, because he opted out of the 2020 season. But the bottom line remains: Edge rusher is a massive need for the Giants, one they didn’t address in free agency. Can they really depend on Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter to generate pass rush production from the outside linebacker spots, even with defensive lineman Leonard Williams back?
Scouting report, via NFL.com: “Long-limbed, even-front end with a projectable frame but a concerning lack of functional edge experience. Much of his sack production came via athletic mismatches against interior blockers when reduced inside. He lacks prototypical get-off and needs more violence and pop in his hands, but his length, pursuit agility and wide-open throttle really stand out on tape. He doesn’t come off as unwilling at the point of attack. Expect noticeable improvement as a run defender once he adds play strength and learns to bend and anchor more effectively. The checked boxes are a bit uneven, but that appears to be more a reflection of a lack of film rather than projectable talent. He carries a bit of a boom/bust profile, but also has the makings of a player who can become a quality 4-3 end within his first three seasons.”
• OT/OG Rashawn Slater, Northwestern (6-4, 304 pounds): The Giants have Andrew Thomas back at left tackle, of course. Nate Solder and Matt Peart are their best options at right tackle. And neither is a great option. The bigger concern — on this shaky Giants offensive line — is offensive guard. There’s a massive hole at right guard, with Kevin Zeitler gone. And do you really trust the Shane Lemieux/Will Hernandez combination at left guard? Slater gives the Giants versatility at a major area of need.
Scouting report, via NFL.com: “Three-year starter with experience at both left and right tackle positions. His compact frame carries play strength that can be filed in the “grown man” category, as evidenced by his heads-up battles against 2020 No. 2 overall pick Chase Young in 2019. Slater operates with confidence and efficient movement that sees him in position to get his job done on most snaps. His lack of length will lead some teams to view him as a guard, but the footwork and talent outside might be worth allowing him to prove it at tackle first. His combination of strength, athletic ability and quick processing should make him one of the safer offensive line picks in this draft and an early starter.”
• LB Micah Parsons, Penn State (6-3, 245 pounds): One of the better defensive players in this draft. The Giants have a very good middle linebacker, Blake Martinez. But the inside linebacker spot next to Martinez remains a question mark. (Yes, even after Devante Downs re-signed.) Free agent pickup Reggie Ragland and last year’s Mr. Irrelevant, Tae Crowder, are currently the Giants’ best options at the spot next to Martinez. They’d get a huge boost there by drafting Parsons.
Scouting report, via NFL.com: “Performance-grade inside/outside linebacker prospect possessing an NFL-ready frame and explosive speed that could make him a highly productive talent at the next level. He’s most impactful when he’s kept clean and allowed to run and chase the action, but carries no physical limitations into the pros. His instincts and play recognition need to catch up with his physical gifts in order to play downhill and find the most efficient routes to the football. His rush talent is a potential wild card in how teams decide to use him, but he’s likely to show rapid improvement and should be a Day 1 starter.”
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