Draft Grade: B
I like the Giants’ draft. Okay, I’m late to the party. But better to jump on the bandwagon before the season than after these guys start performing.
Oddly, one of the few picks I would quarrel with was the Giants’ first: David Wilson. Wilson looks solid, if unspectacular, on film: he demonstrates considerable doses of burst, elusiveness, toughness, and pass-catching ability. I think he’ll be a good complement to Bradshaw, but won’t push for the starting job for awhile. When the Giants do move on from Bradshaw, I don’t think they’ll stand pat with Wilson as some kind of “feature” back – but then the team has always employed a deep compliment of runners.
All that said, I just don’t think Wilson is the star in the making that Doug Martin is – and Martin was drafted one pick earlier! It was a mistake not to trade up there. Martin has been compared favorably to Ray Rice lately: a downhill runner with patience, built low to the ground, tough enough to take hits, and elusive enough to extend runs, and a bit of homerun speed if he gets in the open field. I think Martin has all of those attributes in him, although he may hit the hole even harder than Rice, with a bit less shake-and-bake. Martin also catches the ball well and converts catches into positive yards quickly. It may be that the Giants saw too much of Ahmad Bradshaw in Martin, looking instead to add a “change-of-pace” type. Unfortunately, that decision probably cost the overall talent of their roster. The expense of the late-round draft pick would have been worth moving up a few spots, once Martin dropped as far as he did.
Randle, on the other hand, is real value. I often have trouble evaluating receivers, but Randle’s skills stand out, even in the limited tape available online. I think the Giants see something of their current receiving corps in Randle – deliberate breaks on the ball to take it away from defenders, and deliberate runs after the catch. He can run by guys a bit, although he doesn’t seem to have elite top end speed. Most importantly, Randle produced consistently on all kinds of routes.
As far as value, think of the pick this way: the Jets spent a mid-second round pick on Stephen Hill. Both players have size and speed (Hill a bit more of the latter); but Randle has a track record of employing those physical skills to actually outperform competitors at his chosen craft, catching the football. Plenty of athletes like Hill (Anquan Boldin comes to mind) have excelled in the NFL after college careers contributing to run-heavy offenses; it’s just hard to predict which ones. Randle predicts to succeed much more assuredly and much sooner. He might even outperform much higher Class of ’12 prospects…
Jayron Hosley was probably also a good pick. He breaks very quickly on the ball and has much, much better cover skills than guys taken much higher in the draft (Dre Kirkpatrick comes to mind). He excelled so much at making timely picks in zone sets, I’m almost tempted to compare him to Asante Samuel — but that might be an insult to his man cover skills! He also plays aggressively against the run and doesn’t give up on plays when trailing or coming from the opposite side, although he’s not much of a tackler or hitter. He does lack top gear speed, however. He seems confident of where he should be on the field, however. He’s a smart player. That might mean as much as anything as he transfers to a faster, more complex game.
Brandon Mosley seems about halfway up a very steep ascent to being a very good tackle. In 2010, he seemed tentative, sometimes to the point of losing his balance or missing key blocks. Fast forward to 2011 and he is light years ahead in both phases. He consistently blocks rushers off the edge, even passing guys off inside to take delayed blitzes. He hammers opponents in the run game, including at the second level. Nevertheless, he still seems off balance at times, and may need to drop his pads a level to contend with NFL linemen. He got away with a lot in college by taking advantage of his size and athleticism.
The pick of Robinson in the fourth makes sense, too. Robinson is a good blocker – and what’s more, he loves doing it. You can tell from the tape. He locks onto guys and gets them out of the play, and then moves onto the next level, blocking until the whistle. I even saw one play that was eerily reminiscent of the scene from “Waterboy” (at 4:08) when Adam Sandler rambles down the sideline in front of his ballcarrier, throwing block after vicious block until the back is sprung for the end zone. Robinson doesn’t provide a ton of tape by which to judge his pass-catching skills, but he earned a well-deserved reputation for soft hands, and he’s athletic enough and runs hard enough after the catch that NFL opponents will leave him open at their own peril. While I think his main value is in the offensive phase, he, like other rookies I’ve graded, represents a tangible addition to the special teams game. The addition of a huge, athletic, talented blocker to the special teams units cannot be underestimated. He just upgrades the bottom of the Giants roster immensely, and he might develop into a starter sooner rather than later. While there was a talented group of players available at the end of the fourth (e.g. Mosley, Miles Burris, Jared Crick), Robinson still represents good value.
(Incidentally, earlier in the fourth round, the Chargers chose Robinson’s polar opposite: Ladarius Green. I like Green a lot, too, but for different reasons. He is an extremely athletic, natural receiver. Blocking will not be his forte as a young player, but he has room to add weight to his frame.)
I don’t make much of Matt McCants. He doesn’t impress on film.
Markus Kuhn is a good pick in the seventh, though. He is big, athletic, and enough talent that he might stick despite heavy competition along that Giants’ defensive line. He plays hard against the run, and he tries to read the play and stay at the level of the ball when the play goes away from him. He does seem to have trouble anchoring against the run when he’s double teamed or is slow off the ball, though. He has a fairly quick get-off, his bull rush is occasionally fearsome, and he uses his hands pretty well.
All in all, drafting at the back end of every round, the Giants took home a good group of prospects. To the extent it matters, the team also filled needs (although I think their eagerness to draft the next running back probably led to their most questionable early pick, Wilson). The rich got richer in 2012.
UPDATE: Sure enough, Matt McCants was cut. Also, completely independent of the McCants move, I downgraded my grade to a “B.” I didn’t realize the extent of Wilson’s fumbling issues. He didn’t put the ball on the ground in the preseason, but given 250 touches, it doesn’t project well to have a guy turning the ball over five or ten times.