New York Giants: 2019 NFL Draft Targets At The Linebacker Position

Should the New York Giants take Devin White with the 6th overall pick if he's available?

The NFL Draft is just around the corner. Luckily for the New York Giants, this year’s draft class is filled with defensive talent. The Giants’ defense was one of the worst in the league in 2018, so expect to see them draft multiple players on the defensive side of the ball.

One defensive area of weakness for the Giants is the linebacker position. Alec Ogletree was not who the Giants hoped he would be when trading for him. According to Pro Football Focus, Ogletree finished the 2018 season with a 50.7 overall grade, ranked 81st out of all linebackers in the league.

The Giants will need to find more talent at that position if they want to turn it around in 2019 and beyond. This could be done in free agency, but in an effort to get younger and more prepared for the long-term future, it is likely the Giants will rely heavily on the draft.

Devin White:

In 2019, the top linebacker in the draft class is Devin White out of LSU. Devin White is an impact player, and could very well be a top 10 pick. It would come as no surprise if the Giants have him towards the top of their draft board in 2019.

White totaled 123 tackles with 12 for a loss, six passes broken up, three sacks, and three forced fumbles in 2018. He is an excellent run defender and can even provide decent coverage. White is a plug and play player, meaning he can fit in just about any defensive system. 3-4 or 4-3, White will be a force over the middle of the field.

Possibly White’s most advanced trait is his ability to rush the passer from the linebacker position. On 86 pass-rush attempts in 2018, White totaled 30 pressure. That results in a 27.3 pass-rush efficiency, which is top of the class.

The junior will be at the Combine in March, so Giants fans should keep an eye on him. He is an athletic freak, so expect him to light it up in the workouts.

Devin Bush:

Another Devin that should be on the Giants’ big board is Devin Bush. Unlike White, Devin Bush is not a lock for the first round. He could potentially be a second or third round pick. If the Giants plan on drafting a quarterback in the first round, the second or third round could be a perfect place to draft a linebacker.

Devin Bush out of Michigan was very productive in his time at Michigan. In 12 games as a junior, Bush totaled 66 tackles with 8.5 tackles for loss. He has also been very effective on the blitz, according to Pro Football Focus. Bush has 33 pressures (nine sacks, three QB hits, 16 hurries) on 122 rushes over the last two seasons.

One knock with Bush is his is lack of size. He is expected to measure at about 5’11” and weigh in at 232 pounds at the combine. His size might scare some teams away, leading him to slip into the second or third round. This could make him a day two steal in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Cameron Smith:

Out of USC, Cameron Smith is a mid-round prospect that the Giants should consider. He could be a steal in this draft if he progresses at the next level. He is projected to be a round 3-5 draft pick.

Smith checks in at 6-foot-2, 253 pounds with 33.25-inches, 10-inch hands and a wingspan of 77.38 inches. He is said to run the 40 in 4.65 seconds.

In 2017, Smith’s junior year, he played all 14 games and totaled 112 tackles with 11 tackles for loss. He was not disruptive in pass coverage, as Walter Football reports, he is a bit stiff and slow to cover in the NFL. But he did wrack up 4 passes defended in 2017.

As a senior in 2018, Cameron only played 9 games but flashed his run defense skills that were on full display in 2017. He came away with 81 tackles in 9 games with 7.5 tackles for loss.

In 2018, the Giants’ run defense ranked 20th in the NFL against the run, allowing 118.6 rushing yards per game. The Giants could use an impact linebacker against the run, and Cameron Smith could be that guy. If he can gain some quickness and progress his coverage skills in the pros, Smith could be an excellent linebacker.

How The New York Giants should Handle Landon Collins In Free agency

One of the more interesting topics this offseason will be how the New York Giants approach star safety Landon Collins’ free agency bid.

The safety will hit the open market with a ton of attraction from other teams looking to add a true hustler to their defense. The Giants undoubtedly ‘need’ to keep him at all costs and he’s stated before that he wants to spend the entirety of his career in New York.

With young players like Saquon Barkley a potentially a new quarterback on the way, the Giants are in a position to complete a quick turnaround and find their way into the playoffs within the next few seasons. Collins certainly wants to be on a rising team rather than a bottoming one.

How should the New York Giants approach Collins this offseason?

Placing the franchise tag on Collins is a good option, regardless of the fact he doesn’t want to be hit with a one-year deal. Tagging him might not be in the best interest of Collins, as injuries have been a problem throughout his career, but the Giants would have an advantage. It would give the team a chance to analyze his recovery from a broken forearm and if he’s worth investing money into them for the long-run.

The 25-year-old will be going into his fifth season in the NFL and has never recorded less than 96 combined tackles. He’s a force in the run game and makes plays sideline to sideline.

The Giants would be wise to retain him, and hitting him with the franchise tag is the right move. This would give them the ability to retain him for one-season and offer him a long-term deal if they feel he can be a cornerstone piece moving forward. There’s no question that he’s loved in the locker room and a positive contribution to the team, it will be a matter of staying on the field that decides his fate in New York.

New York Yankees Need Center Field To Be A Strength In The Outfield

New York Yankees, Aaron Hicks

With the New York Yankees making several offseason moves to bolster their roster, some of their current talents are primed for big years in 2019. One such talent is centerfielder Aaron Hicks, who is coming off a career year in 2018. If he can stay healthy and continue improving in the Bronx, he could help the Yankees make it back to the World Series.

2018 Stats (New York Yankees):

137 Games, .248/.366/.467/.833, 27 HR, 79 RBI, 90 BB, 11 SB, 90 Runs Scored, 4.7 WAR

Despite starting 2018 on the Disabled List with a strained right intercostal muscle, Hicks had a career year. Not only did he play in a career-high 137 games, he saw career bests in hits (119), home runs (27), RBI (79), Walks (90), Runs Scored (90), and OPS+ (123). He also continued his stellar defense in center field, committing only two errors all year.

Because of the Yankees heavy arsenal of right-handed hitters, Hicks’ switch-hitting bat brings much-needed balance. This means that keeping Hicks healthy is key, but it will not be easy. Hicks’ injury history includes the pectoral issue in 2018, as well as two trips to the DL in 2017 with injuries in his left oblique.

Hicks is a free agent in 2019, along with Didi Gregorius and Dellin Betances. Should his health improve along with his numbers, he may be worth giving a contract extension.

2018 was the consecutive year in which Hicks saw his offensive numbers reach career-highs. If his progression continues trending in this direction and he stays healthy, the Yankees will have a very dangerous bat as in the leadoff spot in 2019.

2019 Stat Predictions:

150 Games, .277/.393/.483/.876, 31 HR, 85 RBI, 91 BB, 16 SB, 97 Runs Scored

Awards Predictions:

All-Star, Gold Glove

New York Yankees: Can Aroldis Chapman Stay Healthy And Remain Dominant?

New York Yankees, Aroldis Chapman

With the New York Yankees making several offseason moves to bolster their roster, some of their current talents are primed for big years in 2019. One such name is Aroldis Chapman, who, despite troubles in his knee in 2018, will again be looked upon to anchor another dominant Yankees bullpen.

2018 Stats (New York Yankees):

55 Games, 3-0, 2.45 ERA, 32 Saves, 93 SO, 51.1 IP, 1.052 WHIP, 1.7 WAR

Despite slightly diminished velocity in 2018, Chapman had an excellent season, blowing only two of his 34 save opportunities all year. He also struck out a career-high 16.3 SO/9 and was named to his fifth all-star team. All of this occurred while battling tendonitis in his left knee, fighting through the pain for much of the season before finally being put on the Disabled List in late August.

Part of his decreased velocity could possibly be blamed on the knee issue. In his final appearance before landing on the DL against Miami, he threw just six pitches, with an average velocity of 96 MPH, his lowest since 2013.

With an entire offseason to rest the injured knee, Chapman should see himself get closer to returning to the velocity that made him elite. If he can, then along with a bullpen that includes Dellin Betances, Zach Britton, and Adam Ottovino among others, it will be extremely difficult for teams to beat the Yankees late in games.

It’s important to note that after 2019, Chapman could opt out of his five-year, 86 million dollar contract, signed in December 2016. But with another slow trend in free agency, plus his supposed love of pitching in the Bronx, he may shut down the ninth inning until after the 2021 season.

2019 Stat Predictions:

60 Games, 3-1, 2.21 ERA, 36 Saves, 105 SO, 59.2 IP, 1.029 WHIP

Awards Predictions:

All-Star, Top-25 Cy Young Finish, Top-5 Reliever of the Year Finish

Could New York Yankees Grab Bryce Harper On Short Term Deal?

With both superstar free agents Manny Machado and Bryce Harper sitting on the open market, the New York Yankees are in a good position to swoop in and make a deal with one of the two. It’s highly unlikely either will be coming to the Bronx, but it’s a fair question to ask — Would they be interested in a short-term deal?

If Harper was willing to pass on a long-term, big-money contract for one season to legitimately compete for a World Series, should the Yankees pursue him further? Absolutely.

Harper adds an element to the team that would make them instantly better. He bleeds confidence and quality, and the Yanks lack a true high-end lefty in the lineup, at least until Didi Gregorius returns from Tommy John surgery, and even then, who knows if he will return to form.

What Harper would bring to the New York Yankees:

The National’s star outfielder struggled at the plate in 2018, finishing the season with a .249 batting average over 550 at-bats (the most in his seven-year career).

Last season was one of his worst at the plate, as he hit .319 in 2017. Harper would fit into the Yankees’ hitting lineup seamlessly…why? Because he’s a known slugger, which blends well with an order consisting of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez. Bryce has averaged 32.25 homers in the last four seasons.

What would a potential contract look like?

If GM Brian Cashman was able to work another act of magic and convince Harper to take a one-year deal with the Bombers, it likely won’t come on the cheap. The slugger is asking for over $300 million in free agency, so allocating a crisp $30 million to him for one-year isn’t out of the question.

He would make a nice chunk of change, but he’d be guaranteeing himself a chance at a ring, and that might be enough to convince a true winner to forego a long-term deal in favor of achieving every baseball player’s dream.

Yankees Owner Hal Steinbrenner Lashes Back Over “Cheap” Remarks

New York Yankees, Hal Steinbrenner

At the beginning of the winter meetings New York Yankees general manager, Brian Cashman commented on a potential Manny Machado deal, stating that he would not be willing to surpass the $200 million mark for the superstar free agent’s services.

Fast forward several weeks and Cashman had spent about $150 million retaining Zac(k) Britton and J.A. Happ, while adding Troy Tulowitzki, DJ LeMahieu, James Paxton, and Adam Ottavino to the team. That’s six influential players that will make an impact on the 2019 season for the Bombers. But, my question is – did Cashman choose quantity over quality?

There’s no doubt that Machado would have instantly improved the infield defensively and the batting order offensively, but his price-tag was far above the room Cashman had in his checkbook.

New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner lashes back:

Some fans feel that the Yankees were ‘cheap’ this offseason, as they didn’t go out and secure Machado or Bryce Harper. Steinbrenner surely didn’t take that well, stating:

“If there’s a narrative that we’re not spending money and being cheap, it’s just false,” he said. “I mean, we’re well above $200 million [in payroll] — we’re at $220 [million] right now — and we’re well above where we were last year. We did everything we wanted to do to really improve, again, the pitching, because that’s where I wanted improvement, because as far as I’m concerned pitching was a big problem in the division series, more so than anything else.”

He further commented:

“Fans should keep an open mind that I’m never done until I’m done, and that’s usually not until Opening Day,” he said. “Proposals come to me every day with these guys, between the analytics guys and the pro scouting guys, and I’m going to consider every single one of them.”

Now, my immediate thought is – who cares how much the team spent this offseason…did they improve enough to potentially reach the World Series?

Have the Yankees truly improved the team?

Right of the bat, I would say, yes. They added a great bullpen piece in Ottavino and two solid defenders that can move around the infield in Tulo and LeMahieu. They didn’t go out and sign a big-name free agent, but it didn’t seem like they needed to, especially with the 10-year, $300 million contract that Machado was demanding.

We spoke briefly in a previous article about a potential one-year deal for Harper or Machado, just to see them earn an opportunity to secure a ring before landing a long-term deal. This is a possibility, albeit an unlikely one.

The bottom line, the Yankees seem to have spent enough to improve the team as a whole, but there still remains several question marks that sit atop players like Gary Sanchez, CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner, etc. The poor performance of some in 2018 need to be corrected if the Yankees wish to chase No.28.