New York Giants: Reviewing the 2020 Draft and Where They Fit

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

After last season, the two most glaring deficiencies facing the New York Giants was the defense and the offensive line. Both rather crucial for any semblance of success in football. Dave Gettleman’s draft this past weekend – all 10 picks – consisted of only defensive players and offensive lineman. He came in with a focus to reinforce the most glaring deficiencies, and he did what he set out to do.

The offensive line sets the tone for the entire game. They allow the offense to establish the run, control time of possession, wear down defenses, keep the opposing offense out of rhythm, allow your own defense to rest, close out the game in the 4th quarter, protect the passer so he can facilitate the football to his playmakers, the list goes on.

The offensive line is the engine of the team; if you don’t have a functional offensive line, you don’t have a functional football team. On the flip side of that, if your defense can’t stop the opposing team from scoring points – that’s also a rather significant hurdle to overcome in winning football games. Especially when it comes to closing out games in the 4th quarter.

Before I go over the picks, I want to give a quick overview of how I approach the draft and the pick’s relative value in each round. The initial step is to analyze the team and understand where the holes are and what the needs are. This allows for the proper assessment of value; and trying to marry overall player grade with team need, which equals the team value. A team drafts based on the overall value the player has to the team. That can vary from team to team with the same player. That’s a big reason why many team’s draft boards are different. Every assessment I make is based on the perspective of the Giants and how the value of the player pertains to them. The Giants are the only team I care about.

In the 1st round, this player should come in and start right away and should be a cornerstone player that the team can build around — if a team misses on a 1st round pick, it’s hard to overcome that. The 2nd round should also be a starter, in my opinion. Perhaps not the cornerstone that the 1st round is – but the 2nd round should compete for a starting job and win it.

The 3rd round is where you start to see the tier separation of expected starters to position competition and quality depth. In the 3rd round, I expect the player value to consist of a role player that gives the team quality snaps every Sunday. Perhaps not a starter, but they should be a contributing player on a weekly basis.

The 4th and 5th rounds are when I start to see the value shift to position competition and quality depth. They should compete and push the starter in training camp and offer quality depth during the season. These guys make up the bulk of your special teams.

The 6th and 7th rounds are developmental prospects with upside. You can take someone with a little more risk. They may not have the ability to compete and be functional on game day, but with NFL coaching and proper strength conditioning, they can get there. Their upside can vary. These guys are fighting for the last few spots on the roster and would most likely get first dibs on the practice squad.

After watching a lot of drafts, and after following the Giants on virtually a day to day basis for the past decade, I feel these are good standards to try to adhere to. They can also act as good benchmarks to see how well a draft goes and how productive it was.

Let’s take a look at all 10 picks Gettleman and the rest of the Giants front office drafted:

Andrew Thomas – Georgia – LT/RT – 6’5”/315 (1st round – #4)
When was the last time the Giants had a franchise LT? I know the previous front office thought Will Beatty could fill that role, but that failed miserably. I’m going to go back to the mid-’90s with Jumbo Elliot – 25 years ago.

I’ve been pounding the table for the past decade that to be a contender in the playoffs, and to win a Super Bowl, you need to have a good offensive line. If you try to squeak by with patchwork and thin hopes of average play, that strategy will fail.

Andrew Thomas is a hard-working “all ball” football player that has proven to play at a high level against elite college competition consistently and is only going to get better. Giants fans should be thrilled that they finally have a franchise LT for the next decade.

PICK RESULT: Filled a need at starting OT. Expected Day 1 starter at LT or RT.

Xavier McKinney – Alabama – S/FS – 6’0”/201 (2nd round – #36)
I had McKinney as part of the group of players I would have been happy to get in the first round. Not at pick #4, but if the Giants traded down. I was thrilled he was still there at #36 and even more thrilled when Gettleman picked him. Gettleman and I were on the exact same page there.

McKinney is a versatile safety but is primarily a deep safety that has great instincts, sideline to sideline range, and great balls skills. Many thought he was the best safety in the draft. He’s the perfect complement to Jabrill Peppers. Julian Love played at FS last year, but I view him as more a nickel CB. The Giants had a need at FS. By plugging McKinney there at FS, it fills the starting FS position, as well as potentially the nickel CB position with Julian Love.

PICK RESULT: Filled a need at starting FS. Expected Day 1 starter at FS.

Matt Peart – UConn – RT/LT – 6’7”/318 – (3rd round – #99)
First, it’s awesome that Matt grew up a Giants fan, and Eli Manning is his favorite player. We’d be cool and have a lot to talk about.

Peart is a really good pick here at the end of the 3rd round. He has good feet to mirror pass rushers and has great arm length. He has the versatility to play both tackle positions. However, he’s lean, and it will take some time for him to get the requisite strength and anchor to develop into a viable NFL offensive tackle. I think this is going to be a redshirt year for Peart. After a year of work, a logical progression would be swing tackle next year, then in two years take over the right tackle spot after Solder moves on, with Thomas at the left tackle spot.

Although per my draft pick value benchmark, I don’t anticipate him being a role player providing quality snaps on a weekly basis, he’s good developmental value due to the position he plays.

In the NFL it’s difficult to find functional starting OTs fresh out of college. Usually, if a team wants to draft a starting OT that’s not going to be a liability, they need to draft him in the 1st round. Even then, it usually takes a year or two. The fact that Peart projects as a starting RT in 2022, that’s good value for the end of the 3rd round.

PICK RESULT: Filled need at OT depth. Developmental OT and projected RT starter in two years.

Darnay Holmes – UCLA – NCB – 5’10”/195 – (4th round – #110)
Darnay Holmes was regarded by many as one of the best pure nickel cornerbacks in the draft. There are a lot of good cornerbacks in college that lack the requisite size and top-end speed to be boundary cornerbacks in the NFL. Usually, they’re forced to be pushed inside to nickel. They have good short-area quickness, competitive, good ball skills, good tacklers. Holmes has all of these traits. He ran a 4.48 at the combine, so he has decent slot catch-up speed. Holmes also offers special teams value as a returner.

Pre-draft, nickel was a glaring need, and Gettleman drafted one of the best ones in the draft. He’ll compete with Julian Love for the starting nickel spot. Holmes falls in with the benchmark of position competition and quality depth.

PICK RESULT: Filled need at NCB. Provides competition for starting NCB.

Shane Lemieux – Oregon – G/C – 6’4”/310 – (5th round – #150)
Lemieux was a very productive offensive guard at Oregon. He was thought by some to be starting caliber. Lemieux has a reputation of being an aware, smart player that knows all his assignments. The Giants are well set at starting OG, but the center position is still a question mark. Lemieux will compete at the C position and potentially put that football I.Q. to good use. Lemieux has starting center potential. Shane falls in the benchmark of position competition and quality depth.

PICK RESULT: Filled need at OG depth. Provides competition for starting C.

Cam Brown – Penn State – LB – 6’5”/233 – (6th round – #183)
Brown is a sideline to sideline LB with good length. He’s played multiple LB positions. He’s not a pure pass rusher, but he has some pass-rushing traits that could be developed. He’s a little light and will need to add some weight and strength. I see him potentially playing rush outside linebacker or weak inside LB called a “Stack” ‘backer.

With Ryan Connelly (WILB) coming off an ACL and Oshane Ximines (ROLB) largely unproven, Cam provides depth at both of those LB spots. He also fits the benchmark of a player needing some development but has upside.

PICK RESULT: Filled need at WILB/ROLB depth. Needs some body development, offers special teams value.

Carter Coughlin – Minnesota – LB – 6’3”/236 – (7th round – #218)
Carter Coughlin was a favorite of mine when I was going through the draft prospects. He’s athletic, has a high motor, fast, and moves well. He looked really smooth at the combine. He has some pass-rushing qualities that could be developed. He’s good in coverage, and I see TE coverage duties potential.

He forced a lot of fumbles and has a knack for making plays. He strikes me as a guy that would be a special teams ace. I saw him a little bit as a poor man’s Zack Baun. He’ll play either WILB or SOLB. Although I think he needs to add more strength at the point of attack for the NFL. He’ll be a demon on special teams while he develops his functional strength.

PICK RESULT: Filled need at OLB/WILB and TE coverage. Needs some body development, offers special teams value.

T.J. Brunson – South Carolina – ILB – 6’1”/230 – (7th round – #238)
Brunson is a sideline to sideline WILB that is a sure, physical tackler. He provides further depth at WILB with Connelly coming off an ACL. There’s going to be plenty of competition at the WILB spot. With his size and speed, I see him predominately as an ace covering kicks on special teams.

PICK RESULT: Filled need at WILB depth. Provides competition at WILB, offers special teams value.

Chris Williamson – Minnesota – N/FS/CB – 6’0”/205 – (7th round – #247)
A versatile defensive back. Primarily a nickel, however, will play the “star” position – which is a combination of safety, nickel, and outside corner.

PICK RESULT: Filled need at NCB/FS depth. Provides versatility insurance in the secondary.

Tae Crowder – Georgia – ILB – 6’3”/235 – (7th round – #255)
Tae is another fast WILB that has shown the ability to make plays. He’ll compete for a roster spot but will most likely land on the practice squad. He primarily offers special teams value.

WILBs usually make good special teamers due to their profile as fast inside LBs. They’re typically good tacklers that can shed and navigate blocks with sideline to sideline speed; those skills translate well to covering kicks.

PICK RESULT: WILB depth. Offers special teams value.

All of these are just projections. When a team drafts, they’re drafting based on the assessment and the projection of the evaluation they have on the player. They’re assessing a value and projecting what that player will be able to do in the coming year and in the future. I think it’s a good idea to compartmentalize the individual projections and values. It allows for a more organized measurement of expectations, and whether those expectations were exceeded or fell short.

We’ll have to wait and see how everything unfolds. But so far, at least on paper, I think Dave Gettleman had an excellent strategy for this draft and nailed it.

New York Yankees News/Rumors: No season? Yankees may have only two pitchers, we explore that

New York Yankees, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka

If there is no New York Yankees baseball this season caused by the dread coronavirus, the Yankees may find themselves with only two pitchers.  Playing the devil’s advocate, this not only could happen but will happen.  At present, it looks like there will be some type of baseball season.  When it starts and how long it will last at this point is still a mystery.  But if there is another spike in the virus, it could cause the cancelation of the entire baseball season.

At the beginning of spring training, the Yankees appeared to be in a perfect situation to start the season with a strong pitching rotation of Cole, Severino, Tanaka, Montgomery, and Happ.  But that was turned on its head by injury and the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Whatever happens, the New York Yankees will have only two pitchers for sure to start the 2021 season.  Newly acquired Gerrit Cole, who the Yankees went after the big prize signing him to a 9 year $324 million contract. The other pitcher is the relatively untested Jordan Montgomery, who is projected to be the number 4 starter this season.

Here’s the situation.  Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has made a ruling that whether there is a season or not, all players that were due to reach free agency at the end of the 2020 season will be credited with a season played.  For New York Yankees, that means that Masahiro Tanaka, a dependable mainstay of the Yankee rotation, will become a free agent when the season ends.  Along with Tanaka, James Paxton, and J.A. Happ may find themselves on the open market as well.

The difference in the “may” and will in the last statement really depends on the Yankees.  If the managing partner Hal Steinbrenner’s trend to not offer extensions and letting players become free agents before dealing with them, the Yankees may be looking for new pitchers.  An example of that is that the Yankees lost Austin Romine, Didi Gregorius, Encarnacion, and Maybin. It is quite likely that ace Luis Severino that just had Tommy John surgery will be available closer to the All-Star break during 2021 than at the beginning of the season.

Here are the considerations that the New York Yankees will have to make.  Tanaka will be 32 years old this November.  Although he has been a dependable pitcher of the last six years, in the previous two he has had a less than desirable ERA.  He also has been prone to giving up the long ball. Also, a consideration is that for years he has been playing with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament.  Similar concerns will affect James Paxton, who has not had the best injury history.  He also will be 32 in November and just underwent back surgery.  J.A Happ is a wild card in the situation.  When acquired from the Blue Jays in 2018, he was lights out with a 7-0 record.  But 2019 was a very different story.  He was 12-8 with a 4.91 ERA.

The New York Yankees do have some depth in minor leagues that may be considered for a major league stint but are not quite ready.  Heading that group is Jonathan Loaisgia, Clarke Shmidt, Michael King, and Dievi Garcia. The Yankees may find themselves looking to the free-agent market to put together a formidable starting rotation.

The Yankees may take another look at Marcus Stroman, who signed a one year deal with the Mets.  Trevor Bauer of the Reds, Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks, Jose Quintana of the Cubs and the Ranger’s  Cory Kluber who has a club option, and Jake Arrieta who has his option with the Phillies.  This writer’s guess is that the New York Yankees will build a new pitching rotation around Gerrit Cole.  That rotation could look like Cole, Montgomery, Paxton, and either J.A. Happ, Jonathan Loaisiga, or Masahiro Tanaka.

It is very early to look at the 2021 season when we don’t even know if there will be a 2020 baseball season.  But there is no question that the Yankees will have some big decisions to make over the 2020 postseason that will likely see the Yankees reach out to free agency to acquire at least one veteran pitcher. If there is a season this year, J.A. Happ and Masahiro Tanaka will surely be wanting to show the Yankees why they should be kept or increase their values for when they reach free agency at the end of the year.

 

New York Knicks have a star on and off the court in RJ Barrett

New York Knicks, RJ Barrett

New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett has helped out the first responders fighting COVID-19.  He’s donated over $250,000 to fight this deadly disease.  In New York, he’s donating medical equipment and in his native country of Canada donating sneakers.

“It’s inspiring to see how many people and organizations are working together to help make this time just a little bit easier,” Barrett said.  “If I can be of any help to reduce the burden for even just one person then I’m doing my job.”  He’s making Knicks fans all around the world saying that’s the face of our franchise.

It’s crazy to think about the maturity that this 19-year-old already has.  He’s been a constant professional through his first, half, season in the NBA.  In time where the Knicks have been making headlines for the wrong reasons, Barrett brings light to the franchise.

Barrett has been a star on the court as well.  He’s averaging 14.3 points on the season and has shown tremendous growth throughout.  Yes, he’s had some slumps but what rookie doesn’t.  It’s all about how he responds and he continues to show the Knicks fans that he’s capable of bouncing back.

The Knicks have a great face for their franchise moving forward.  A 19-year-old kid helping out communities all over the world is the bright spot in a very underwhelming season.  The New York Knicks, and their fans, should be proud of their rising star RJ Barrett.

Projecting the New York Giants’ starting defense for the 2020 season

New York Giants, Dexter Lawrence

Taking a look at the New York Giants‘ potential starting defense for 2020:

Big Blue added numerous pieces to the defense this offseason, including free agent signings James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, and Kyler Fackrell. However, the allocations didn’t stop there, as GM Dave Gettleman and HC Joe Judge injected draft capital into the unit as well — Xavier McKinney is the most notable of the crop.

The starting unit should be improved from last year as the team ranked 30th, per NFL.com. Their 28.2 points per game allowed was atrocious and demanded more talent, despite featuring an incredibly young starting core. DeAndre Baker, Corey Ballentine, Ryan Connelly, Julian Love, and Oshane Ximines all started the year with the anticipation of earning significant snaps.

Here’s a look at what the starting defense could look like in 2020:

DL: Leonard Williams 

Williams signed his franchise tender a few days ago, guaranteeing at least $16 million in compensation. There’s still time for him to sign a multi-year deal, but for now, he will feature on the Giants’ interior defense. He’s a big run stuffer who draws double-teams, opening up opportunities for birders to leave their mark.

DL: Dalvin Tomlinson

Tomlinson is one of the Giants’ more underrated players, stopping the run efficiently and even recording 3.5 sacks in 2019 (career-high). He’s a consistent starter on defense.

DL: Dexter Lawrence

Big Dexy is going into his second year as a starter for Big Blue, and he showed immense potential last season as a rookie. He started all 16 games, earning 2.5 sacks and 38 combined tackles. His numbers don’t stand out, but he’s a big body who soaks up blockers in the trenches.

OLB: Oshane Ximines

Ximines posted an impressive 4.5 sacks on 45% of defensive snaps last year as a rookie. The coaching staff sees him as a significant contributor, and his array of pass rush moves will boost him into a starting role. Expect him to have a productive year of the edge in 2020/

OLB: Kyler Fackrell

Fackrell posted 10.5 sacks in 2018 with Patrick Graham as his LB coach. If he can replicate that production again next season, the Giants’ pass rush might be a bit better than some expect.

ILB: Ryan Connelly

Considering the Giants didn’t draft an inside linebacker in the higher rounds leads me to believe that they have confidence in Connelly. The former Wisconsin Badger tore his ACL in 2019 after starting his rookie campaign with flying colors. His two interceptions proved his ability in coverage, and his instincts plugging running lanes were impressive. If he can build off of those performances, he can be an effective ILB for the foreseeable future.

MLD: Blake Martinez

Martinez was an interesting signing given his lack of ability in coverage — he did details how he was playing a zone-scheme in Green Bay, which made his mistakes look worse than they actually were. What looked like man coverage wasn’t, essentially, leading us to believe he was poor in coverage. However, he’s a patient MLB who can soak up blockers and limit big run gains.

CB1: James Bradberry

Bradberry is Janoris Jenkins’ replacement, and he should lock down top receivers for the duration of his contract. His ability to mirror wideouts and move into the slot promotes his diversity and effectiveness. He allowed just one touchdown last season, a significant decrease from the six he gave up in 2018. The Giants got a solid corner with more potential.

CB2: DeAndre Baker

Baker struggled in 2019, but he has the tools to develop into a quality corner. His improvement later on in the season showed us the talent is there, he just needs to piece things together and play more press coverage. James Bettcher, her forced him into zone far too often when man coverage is his strength. I expect to see an improvement from the second-year corner.

SS: Jabrill Peppers

Peppers was on pace for his best season in 2019 before suffering a hip injury on a kick return. He missed the remainder of the season after that and kept his stats to a minimum. However, he emerged as a real playmaker for the Giants, and his speed showed up all over the field. Paired with Xavier McKinney, the Giants could have a very talented safety duo to work with.

FS: Xavier McKinney

As one of the best tacklers in the draft, McKinney brings adaptability and toughness to the Giants’ defense. He can drop into deep coverage as a ball-hawk and also blitz as a safety. Patrick Graham is going to have a field day with Xavier, especially since he loves his safety blitzes.

Will the New York Yankees look to extend James Paxton in the coming months?

New York Yankees, James Paxton

Taking a look at why the New York Yankees should invest in a James Paxton extension.

When it comes to starting pitching, health is predominantly a significant factor, and lefty pitcher James Paxton has faced his fair share of issues in the category. This offseason he underwent surgery to remove a cyst from his lower back and was projected to return in early-May. He made great progress this offseason and would have returned within his allotted recovery timetable.

However, Paxton’s injuries have made extending him a question worth considering. Letting him walk in free agency and bringing in a player with better health-history could be the efficient move, but Paxton proved his worth in 2019, overcoming his anxiety in the playoffs and dominating in the final half of the regular season.

He finished last year with a 3.82 ERA, his highest in 2018 (also his first season with the Yankees, which played a part). After a troublesome first half of 2019, Paxton bounced back and showed why he was a coveted signing, to begin with. The Yankees can trust him moving forward on the mound, and extending him wouldn’t cost too much at the end of the day.

SNY’s Andy Martino believes Hal Steinbrenner could find a way to keep him in Pintsrpires:

We’ll have to see how he fares during a shortened walk year. If he’s really good, here’s betting that Scott Boras can find a team willing to pay more than the Yankees. But the Yanks do like Paxton and wouldn’t mind finding a way to bring him back. It will all depend on the demand for him and the price.

Boras is a highly respected agent and is at the pinnacle of major deals in baseball, indicating that Paxton could earn himself a nice deal with a different team if he puts on a show in a shorted 2020 campaign. After his surgery, though, I would imagine working his way back into full-form will take a few weeks of live-action, which could easily set him back and give the Yankees an opportunity to sign him on a friendly extension.

New York Giants Found One Of The Draft’s Best Steals

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

With the NFL Draft over, there’s a lot of focus now on which teams are coming out of it in a good state and which ones didn’t do so well. So far, it looks like the Giants may have outperformed expectations by adding a solid first round pick and following it up by acquiring a player or two later that could be considered steals. The most notable of these steals is the second round pick Xavier McKinney, who looks like an immediate starter at safety.

It’s also not just Giants fans that rate the choice highly, but the wider media. Pro Football Focus is often critical, but the site has praised the pick of McKinney and listed him with some of the other top steals in the draft, which peculiarly includes the first overall pick also.

PICK 36 — S XAVIER MCKINNEY, NEW YORK GIANTS

PFF Big Board rank: 19

When you heard the word “versatile” all throughout this draft process, Isaiah Simmons was the first name to come to mind. But another should have, too: Xavier McKinney. There have been only five safeties to play over 450 snaps in the box, slot and at free safety over the past two years, and only one of those five produced 70.0-plus grades at all three of those alignments — Xavier McKinney. Whether he was playing in coverage, rushing the passer or trying to stop the run, McKinney performed at a high level and produced grades above 79.0 in all facets in each of the last two years.

The Giants are getting a player that was on the first All-SEC team in 2019, and picked up his achievements while playing against the best competition in the country. McKinney also fits an immediate need on the team after the departure of Antoine Bethea left a hole in the other safety spot next to Jabrill Peppers.

The team has made decisions worth criticizing in recent years, but it doesn’t look like their draft in 2020 is one of those – especially after getting an immediate starter at safety from the second round.