NFL Draft Preview: Needs, Dreams, and Schemes
The NFL draft will be a little different than previous years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t change the fact that NFL teams will still need big-time players and college kids need big-time contracts.
In other words, the show must go on. The NFL Draft is currently scheduled to be the first sports-related event since mid-March, which might grab the attention of a casual sports fans who normally wouldn’t bat an eye to a draft airing. When you do watch the NFL Draft, it makes a lot more sense if you know what position your team needs and what players can fill those gaps on the roster. Let’s take a look at the three team in our viewing area heading into Thursday night’s Draft…
The New York Giants have the 4th pick in the NFL draft this year following the previous 4-12 season. The season showed that the defensive side of the ball needs drastic improvement; Big Blue’s defense allowed 28.2 points per game ranking 30th in the NFL for least points scored against. The season also demonstrated that quarterback Daniel Jones needs to be protected as he and now-retired Eli Manning were sacked for a total of 43 times in the 2019 season. Nate Solder had a disappointing season with production and staying healthy, so in this draft, the Giants might look to fill the gaps within the offensive line with their first-round pick instead of helping out the defense.
If the Giants were to go defensive with the 4th pick, one player stands out in particular: Isaiah Simmons. The versatile and extremely athletic linebacker from Clemson might be the steal of the draft standing at 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds. The star captain for the Tigers played five different positions last year and is projected to be even more than an all-purpose pro. Simmons, designated as a linebacker in the NFL combine, had himself a field day with a 4.39-second 40-yard dash, 39.0 vertical jump, and 11-foot broad jump. He was given a 7.08 overall grade which resembles a Pro Bowl talented player heading into the draft (8.0 is considered “the perfect prospect”). Simmons would be a great addition to the Giants defense with his versatility as an edge rusher that can attack the quarterback and as a linebacker that can cover opposing players all over the field.
If the Giants were to draft an offensive lineman, it would be ideal to trade down to a lower pick and snag one later in the draft. The Giants could look to trade with the LA Chargers or Miami Dolphins, who both need a high caliber QB in this year’s draft. The top offensive linemen this year proved to be a force to be reckoned with as a result of strong combine performances. The top two offensive linemen this year, Jedrick Wills and Tristan Wirfs, are likely candidates to go to the Giants this year if the organization decides to follow the offensive route in the draft. Offensive tackle Jedrick Wills led the offensive line at Alabama in the 2018 and 2019 seasons and demonstrated his significant improvement from his sophomore to junior season. Wills has quick hands and feet and transitions well in the pocket; the 6-foot-4 and 312-pound offensive tackle dominates as a run blocker. Tristan Wirfs showed off his skills in the NFL combine as he shocked NFL scouts with a 4.85-second 40-yard dash, 36.5 verticle jump, and 10’1″ broad jump. Wirfs also demonstrated impressive mobility during on-field drills at the combine. Both these o-linemen will make a significant impact wherever they land. Offensive tackles Meki Becton from Louisville and Andrew Thomas from Georgia are also dominant run blockers who could see some action in the first round of the draft.
The New York Jets‘ o-line struggled significantly in the 2019 season allowing 52 sacks on the year, in addition to running back Le’veon Bell producing a career-low 789 rushing yards in his first year with the Jets. Some will say that Bell was rusty and not himself as a result of his year off from football, but an improved offensive line will only help Bell’s production next season. Dominant run blockers such as Wills or Wirfs, if not taken already, would be a huge help for the Jets.
The Jets currently hold the 11th pick in this year’s draft after a 7-9 season. The team showed significant improvement as the season developed with quarterback Sam Darnold’s return from mono. After the team started 1-7, Darnold and company managed to turn things around with only losing two more games for the rest of the season. The season displayed that Darnold needed to be protected, but he also needs weapons.
With receiver Robby Anderson leaving this offseason, the Jets need a star wideout who can dominate immediately. Luckily for the Jets, this draft is filled with young receivers who balled out in college. The Jets are in the position to possibly get the first wide receiver off the board with their pick. If the Jets want to bolster their receiving core, three big names stick out in particular: CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs III. CeeDee Lamb had an outstanding junior year at Oklahoma with 62 receptions, 1,327 yards, and 14 touchdowns. The young star resembles a young DeAndre Hopkins with enough strength to break tackles and great ability to fight for the ball in the air due to his impressive agility. Lamb finished top five in the country with his 14 touchdowns and was named first-team Associated Press All-American. Jerry Jeudy from Alabama had a similar season than Lamb with 77 receptions, 1,163 yards, and 10 TDs. Jeudy is an excellent and NFL-ready route runner with quick game speed, as the stud wideout averaged 19 yards per catch over three seasons at Alabama. Jeudy would fit perfectly in the slot for any team he gets drafted to. Henry Ruggs III is one of the fastest players to enter into the draft since Tyreek Hill and John Ross. Even though he did not have as much as an impressive season statistically as fellow teammate Jeudy, Ruggs still showed off in his 2019 season and had a stellar 40-yard dash of 4.27 seconds during his combine performance. If not taken by the Jets at the 11th pick, it wouldn’t be surprising if another team snagged the speedy receiver in the first round.
The Philadelphia Eagles are another team in desperate need of a wide receiver after an injury-plagued 2019 season. All three of the Eagles wide receivers couldn’t stay healthy last season leaving quarterback Carson Wentz to throw to backups all season. Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor rarely played at the same time due to consistent injuries and produced low numbers as a result. The Eagles currently hold the 21st pick in the draft after a short playoff run and are looking to fill holes in their defensive secondary or receiver core. The Eagles could land cornerback C.J. Henderson from Florida, Trevon Diggs from Alabama, or Kristian Fulton from LSU who all had solid 2019 seasons. Henderson is a versatile corner who can match physical receivers and keep up with speedsters going deep while Diggs likes to disrupt the passing game with 8 pass deflections, 3 INTs, and 2 fumble recoveries last season.
The Eagles added star cornerback Darius Slay from the Lions in the offseason, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they added a wide receiver with their first-round pick. Penn State speedster KJ Hamler or breakout wide receiver Justin Jefferson from LSU would be viable options for the Eagles. Jefferson had a crazy season at LSU last year with 111 receptions, 1,540 yards, and 18 TDs.
The NFL draft starts April 23rd with the Cincinnati Bengals on the clock with the first pick. Look for excitement, surprises, and cheers from fans around the country as the future of their favorite teams rests on some big decisions.