We mentioned in our Senior Bowl preview last week that while the overall strength of the 2021 draft is focused on the QBs, WRs and corners, the strength of the class in Mobile this year were the defensive ends/edge rushers. And in our review of the game that’s who we kind of focused on because that also appears to be an area the Giants will be looking at this off-season. Of course, one never wants to put too much stock in the results of just one game, but on the whole there were a number of DE/ERs who did stand out in the actual Senior Bowl game on Saturday. None are going to be candidates to be selected in the opening round, at least at #11, but it appears that the Giants could have some legit options in an area that is often hard to address in a meaningful way after the first round.
Again, our observations are totally ‘unofficial’ but we felt that the most impressive guy coming off the edge in the Senior Bowl game was Penn State DE Shaka Toney who the White team still hasn’t blocked. Toney has a long, quick first step, along with excellent lateral agility and change of direction skills; he’s also got relatively long arms (33”) and was very effective keeping opposing blockers off his pads. Toney also did a decent job defending the run, although he is somewhat undersized at around 6-2, 240 and may struggle holding the point of attack if asked to move into a 4-2 DE slot at the next level.
Miami OLB/ER Quincy Roche also had a solid game. Like PSU’s Toney he’s undersized at 6-3, 245, but plays with excellent pad level and did a nice job playing the run, especially plays away from him. Roche also showed a quick first step and next level closing speed. Roche did get hung up on a couple of plays when his original charge was stopped, but for the most part did a good job using his arms to keep blockers off his pads.
Ohio State DE Jonathan Cooper was another Senior Bowl edge rusher who looked like he was shot out of a cannon on just about every play; indeed, he kind of reminded us a little of former star Giants’ DE Osi Umenyiori who gave new meaning to the concept of talking the ‘great circle route to the QB.’ Cooper was just blowing past people off the snap, but did have a tendency to run himself out of plays; he also tended to get hung up when he was engaged and didn’t show the ability to really cut the corner off.
We also some interesting potential in UAB DE Jordan Smith. He’s got exceptional length at 6-6 with 33-inch arms; he also has a quick first step and something of a second gear in space along with the ability to spin out of blocks. Smith, though, needs to do a better job using his length in creating separation from guy blocking him.
Same story for small-school star Ellerson Smith of Northern Iowa. He’s another DE with impressive length and some initial quickness. Smith also showed some impressive lateral agility and was particularly effective stuffing the run, but we didn’t necessarily much in the way of quick-twitch explosion off the snap. Same for Notre Dame DE Ade Ogundeji who also did a nice job in run defence, but didn’t do much more than bull-rush on passing downs.
In many ways, the one DE we really wanted to see in Mobile was Pitt’s Patrick Jones, arguably the highest rated at the Senior Bowl last week. By all accounts, Jones didn’t have the best week of practice and we’re not sure he made up much of that ground in the game. Jones has prototype length and a nice get-off. He also clearly has some athletic skills and is technically proficient in his hand placement and arm extension, but way too often got stood up after his initial charge was stalled and just never got going again. One other thing we noted about Jones was that he tended to take some very wide splits leaving him a long way from the pocket even before the ball was snapped.
At the same time, DEs Wyatt Hubert of Kansas State, Florida State’s Janarious Robinson and Baylor’s Will Bradley-King worked hard and had their moments, but just didn’t get the same kind of consistent penetration that some of the other edge rushers did. We also would have liked to see more of Notre Dame DE Daelin Hayes who had an early sack, but didn’t play enough to get a complete grade.
One of the things that complicated the evaluation of the DEs at the Senior Bowl was that a number of them including Osa Odighizuwa of UCLA, Tulane’s Cam Sample, Iowa’s Chauncey Golston and Pitt’s Rashad Weaver played almost all their snaps inside at DT. In fact, the Green Wave’s Sample was actually named the game’s top defensive player, while we felt that Odighizuwa and Golston actually had the better games. Indeed, the latter two may have been the best defensive linemen in the actual game. Odighizuwa – and if Giant fans think that sounds familiar he is the brother of Owa, the team’s 3rd round pick in 2015 – was in the backfield all afternoon as he consistently showed a quick first step, a solid punch and good lateral agility. Same for Golston, who is a little taller and used his long arms to quickly get off blocks.
Of course, edge rusher isn’t the only position the Giants will be looking to upgrade with later round picks at this year’s draft. In no particular order, other players who jumped out from the game tape from Saturday’s game include North Carolina RB Michael Carter, WRs Amari Rodgers of Clemson, Demteric Felton of UCLA and Tennessee’s Josh Palmer, Notre Dame OF Aaron Banks, Texas DT Da’Quon Graham, LBs baron Browning of Ohio State and Auburn’s K.J. Britt and CBs Keith Taylor of Washington and Syracuse’s Ifeatu Melinfonwu.