Big Blue Hangover: 2017 Draft and UDFA roundup

We’re bringing back the hangover early this year. Let’s review how the Giants got better at the NFL Draft.

(Dan Brink)

It’s Monday morning and the hysteria of the draft has left us broken, battered, and with a nasty football hangover. If I hear or read the words: high upside, great motor, football IQ, or raw player one more time (outside the confines of this blog, of course) I might throw up. On the surface, it seems like this might be the first draft in a while that Giants fans don’t seem either overwhelmingly positive or overwhelmingly negative about — it’s simply OK. And that’s perfectly fine — it shows that the team doesn’t have too many weaknesses that need to be filled.

Let’s take a run at all of the draft picks and UDFA signings to see what’s in store for 2017.

Round 1 (23rd overall): Evan Engram, TE Ole Miss

While I like the Engram pick a lot, I still think there were better players on the board. Two examples would have been Rueben Foster and Forrest Lamp — neither of whom are perfect prospects, but also may have filled a need position. Still, the Engram pick is great and solves more issues than I think people are aware of.

Yes, he can block too (watch #17)

Firstly, it gives the Giants a weapon up the middle of the field, something they desperately lacked in 2016. Without a tight end who can be a mismatch nightmare for both linebackers and defensive backs, teams could play a two-high safety look to limit the potency of an Odell Beckham/Sterling Shepard duo. Now? Defenses also have to take care of Brandon Marshall and a tight end who is not only bigger than them, but ran a faster 40-yard dash than Odell Beckham Jr. Oh, you want us to stop scoring on you? Sorry about that.

Outside of giving them a threat in the middle of the field, it allows them to diversify their personnel sets. The Giants ran the 11-personnel set over 90 percent of the time in 2016. So not only did teams know which players were going to be out there, they were also limiting the route tree. 2017 should see a lot more 12-personnel (one back, two tight ends, and two receivers) with the additions of Rhett Ellison and Evan Engram. Throw Jerell Adams and Matt LaCosse in the mix and that’s a pretty decent tight end room.

The biggest surprise regarding the Engram pick was skipping over Miami TE David Njoku — however according to reports, the Giants weren’t the only team who favored Engram over Njoku, as the Falcons tried to trade up in front of the Giants to snag him.

Engram is a solid pick who automatically helps transform the Giants defense on day one. The off-season additions of Ellison, Engram, and Marshall can really turn this Giants offense into a top-10 unit.

Round 2 (55th overall): Dalvin Tomlinson, DT Alabama

If you were nervous that the Giants were going to miss the presence of Jonathan Hankins next to Damon Harrison this season, worry no longer and say hello to Dalvin Tomlinson. There’s so much to like about this pick, I’m not sure where to begin.

First, let’s start with how this is such a “Jerry Reese” pick. In 11 drafts, Reese has chosen a DT in the second or third round five times. So, nobody should be surprised by this pick.

Second, he has the DT frame that the Giants look for in their 3-tech tackles — long arms, heavy hands, big frame.

His stats at ‘Bama? 122 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, nine pass deflections, and one forced fumble. Pretty nice.

OK, so far we have: great production at Alabama, a pick that fills a need, and that he’s a prototypical Reese DT. What we haven’t gone over is that people raaaaaavvvvveeeeee about this kids character. Here’s what Jerry Reese had to say about Tomlinson:

He was one of the best interviews we thought out of the entire Combine. He was one of the best guys we interviewed. He’s a New York Giant kind of player. I can’t remember everything because we interview so many guys. I just remember that he was impressive. When he left the room, everyone was like, ‘wow, that was pretty impressive.’

He’s a player who had to go through losing both of his parents before going to college (his dad at age five and mother during high school) and came away as a stronger and more mature individual.

He also adds more of a pass rush aspect than Jonathan Hankins. Tomlinson has the ability to push the pocket using pure strength, or get by blockers using his quickness. He’s versatile, and excelled on stunts and twists. I think fans will grow to like him more than Hankins.

I’ll also throw in this little tidbit: he was a three time high school state wrestling champion. He was so good that many thought he could go on to be an Olympic gold medalist in heavyweight wrestling. He won this championship in nine seconds. Enjoy.

Round 3 (87th overall): Davis Webb, QB Cal

Here’s where we get interesting, folks. With the 87th overall pick, Jerry Reese took someone capable of being Eli Manning’s successor. NOTICE: I said, ‘capable.’ Davis Webb is capable. It is far from a guarantee that Davis Webb caddies Eli Manning for two seasons and is ready to step into the starting QB role. It’s certainly a possibility, and one I think has a decent probability of occurring. Let’s get into the decision to draft him first, why it makes sense, why I believe in Davis Webb, and then we’ll get into Webb as a player.

First, let me say this: I think that no matter who Eli Manning’s successor is, that player is being put in an optimal position to succeed. The oldest member of the defense is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at 31. Most of the defensive players on this roster are younger than 28. Last year, they were a top unit, in part due to the quality of great young players they have on the defensive side of the ball. Whoever takes over for Eli Manning in (maybe) three seasons (could be Davis Webb), is going to have a great unit there to constantly keep them in the game, even when the offense falters.

They’ll also have an insane receiving trio: Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, and Evan Engram. You couldn’t possibly ask for better targets for your first season as a starting NFL quarterback, especially when you have a guy with as big of an arm as Davis Webb. So like I mentioned, Davis Webb could be stepping into an amazing situation.

Now, for those complaining about taking Davis Webb in the third round instead of a player who could come in and make an immediate impact: uhhhh, you realize Jerry Reese has been bad at drafting in rounds three and onward, yes? Like, with the exception of 2016, his mid and late round drafting has been pretty horrid. So the fact that he’s taking the chance on a developmental QB instead of a random linebacker or offensive lineman is perfectly fine with me. His track record late in drafts is bad enough to the point where you should feel fine with him drafting a project who isn’t expected to make an impact right away.

The last thing I’ll bring up before getting into Webb as a player, is that it is incredibly difficult to draft an impact quarterback these days. Just look across the stadium to our ugly and less successful cousins, the New York Jets. The Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg lead New York Jetropolitans. It’s not easy to find a franchise guy. There’s nothing prohibiting the Giants from taking a quarterback next year, or the year after that, just because they spent an 87th overall pick on Webb in 2017. Drafting a quarterback is hit or miss, and the more chances they take, the better the odds are of them landing one. You can even look at the Redskins, who drafted RGIII and Kirk Cousins in the same draft — I’m not saying Cousins is a franchise guy, but sometimes having options pays off.

FINALLY, DAVIS WEBB. Big arm, incredible leader, film rat. Oh dang, there goes Ethan using draft cliches again! Sorry, but they’re all true.

Webb throws his deep ball with incredible touch and decent accuracy. He’s got the (overrated) size metrics that people love to see in their quarterbacks: 6'5", 230 pounds. He was the starter in Texas Tech’s air raid offense before being sidelined with an injury — it was then that Pat Mahomes II took his starting position. Webb transferred to Cal for his final year, a school with a similar air raid offense, and set multiple passing records despite the team losing their top six receivers from the year before.

The fact that he was in an air raid offense is going to prove to be a problem — it’s an offense that simplifies reads and just doesn’t produce NFL ready quarterbacks. This is fine, considering we’ve already established Webb has the physical tools to be a quarterback and is going to be learning behind Manning for at least two years. If there’s one thing that should give you confidence in Webb, it’s that he’s a film rat and seems way more knowledgeable than your average air raid QB — watch for yourself.

That’s an impressive young man. He also possesses the intangibles that the Giants look for, and that you love to see in a quarterback. Consider this: he transferred to Cal for his final season of NCAA eligibility and was voted team captain within eight weeks. That’s awesome.

He’s a hard worker, and I like his chances of being coached up by Eli and McAdoo. Ben McAdoo helped coach up another quarterback from Cal. Some schlub by the name of Aaron Rodgers, ever heard of him?

Round 4 (140th overall): Wayne Gallman, RB Clemson

Well, if you were looking for a complimentary back to Paul Perkins, say hello to Wayne Gallman. Gallman was an incredibly productive back from Clemson, who totaled 1,000 yards in each of his last two seasons, and a combined 30 touchdowns in those two seasons, including 17 last year. Gallman is a bigger back, at 6' and 215 pounds.

Gallman isn’t the prototypical bruising back for a few reasons. One, he seems to run a bit upright, but that can be fixed. Second, I think he’s way shiftier than people are giving him credit for. Yes, he’s absolutely someone who can move piles, pick up short yardage, and make you pay with a big hit, but he has good feet and can change direction well.

He’s a back that you can’t arm tackle, and should provide the Giants with a great compliment to Paul Perkins. He isn’t someone I’m going to rave about, but I believe he has a place in this offense and will succeed in his limited role.

Round 5 (167th overall): Avery Moss, DE Youngstown

OK, let’s get this out of the way first. Yes, Moss was suspended from Nebraska for a year for exposing himself to a female student off campus. He learned from it, transferred to Youngstown St. with coach Bo Pelini (who recruited him), and went on to have success at an FCS school.

Scouts have varying opinions of Moss, but Jon Ledyard of NDT Scouting has a great write up on him here:

Moss isn’t the bendy edge rusher most fans wanted, but he’s a great early down 4–3 DE who can contain the run and help collapse a pocket. He’s got 34.5 inch arms which help him land a heavy first punch on the blocker and disengage to make his second move. He doesn’t have a fancy pass rush arsenal, but he’s a useful player — Ledyard actually compares him to a poor man’s Justin Tuck or Robert Ayers, both former Giants.

Moss will join a pretty big unit of backup defensive line players behind JPP and Olivier Vernon and will have to earn his snaps in this defense.

Round 6 (200th overall): Adam Bisnowaty, OT Pittsburgh

I like this pick a lot, because from what I’ve seen, getting him in the 6th round was incredible value. Scouts such as Matt Miller had him grouped with the second tier offensive tackles such as Dawkins, Moton, and Garcia.

He lacks elite athleticism but has that nasty play style that the Giants seem to love. He can usher rushers past the pocket, but athletic opponents will cause him trouble. I don’t expect him to beat out Ereck Flowers or DJ Fluker for a tackle job, but could prove to be good competition and a competent back up, even in his first season.

UDAF Signings:

Chad Wheeler (OT, USC), Jessamen Dunker (OL, Tennessee State), Armando Bonheur (OL, Samford), Sam Ekwonike (OL, Coastal Carolina), Shane Smith (FB, San Jose State), Colin Thompson (TE, Temple), Romand Deloatch (TE/OLB, Temple), Travis Rudolph (WR, FSU), Keeon Johnson (WR, Virginia), Jalen Williams (WR, UMass), Evan Schwan (DE, Penn State), Jarron Jones (DT, Notre Dame), Josh Banks (DT, Wake Forest), Calvin Munson (LB, San Diego State), Jadar Johnson (S, Clemson).

In review:

I think I’m higher on this draft class than most people. You have to consider the fact that the Giants were already a playoff team, and Jerry Reese took the necessary steps to address a few glaring needs. I’ve long maintained that a versatile tight end was even more necessary than addressing the offensive line. In 2015, Eli Manning threw for 4,400 yards and 35 touchdowns behind a worse offensive line than he had in 2016. The two-safety look opposing defenses showed the Giants severely limited their offense, but the threat of Evan Engram can fix that.

Lose Jonathan Hankins to the Colts for $10 million a year? No problem, draft Dalvin Tomlinson.

Looking to find Eli Manning’s successor? Get one of the best developmental options in round three.

Paul Perkins compliment? Wayne Gallman. Defensive end depth? Avery Moss.

A lot of people will bitch and moan about how the Giants didn’t really address the offensive line, but outside of Forrest Lamp, I can’t really fault Jerry Reese for passing on this year’s offensive tackle class. Only two tackles went in the first round, and neither were in the top-15. This was also the fewest offensive linemen taken in a long time. Bisnowaty was a concession for poor signings/drafting at the tackle position.

Overall, the draft addressed multiple needs, and fans shouldn’t rush to be so negative about those selected. Look at me, defending Jerry Reese. Who would’ve thunk?

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