New York Giants land Oklahoma State CB Rodarius Williams with 201st pick

rodarius williams, new york giants

Surprisingly, the New York Giants completely passed on the offensive line crop in the 2021 NFL draft, but they did walk away with several fantastic players to work with. After drafting running back Gary Brightwell with the 196th overall pick, the Giants found themselves in a position to land Oklahoma State CB Rodarius Williams at 201.

Williams is the brother of Greedy Williams, a former high-round draft pick that went to the Cleveland Browns out of LSU. A long, aggressive tackler, his brother Rodarius spend his career with Oklahoma State and is a perfect special teams candidate in his rookie season under head coach Joe Judge.

As a rangy corner with solid athleticism, he has solid straight-away speed and tackling aggression, which makes him perfect for a gunner role on the punt unit to start his career.

He’s not much of a quick-twitch corner who can react at a high level, but he does have solid football IQ and gets himself in good positions to make plays. Thanks to poor quarterback play, he was able to undercut routes and contest underthrown 50/50 balls with his decent height at 6-feet.

I like Williams as a developmental pick who can contribute to special teams right away, but that’s about as far as I see his career taking him in the earlier years. However, he has some fantastic names ahead of him like James Bradberry and Adoree Jackson to show him the ropes.

New York Giants draft RB Gary Brightwell out of Arizona with 196th pick

gary brightwell, new york giants

With 196 the overall pick, the New York Giants selected Arizona running back Gary Brightwell, who offers a bit of downhill burst in the running game. Of course, most of these late-round selections are Joe Judge special teams players, who will take advantage of an opportunity to help in any way.

The Giants have had a successful 2021 NFL draft so far, and once you get into the later rounds, you’re going for immediate value on special teams and upside. Brightwell has some solid speed when running downhill and makes players miss at first contact. As Dave Gettleman stated, “speed kills,” and he has a nice burst to pair with solid one-cut quickness.

While I don’t think Brightwell will end up starting anytime soon, he can be a contributor on special teams in some way and be a developmental player behind Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker. Best case scenario, the Giants work with him and he can supplement any injuries or fatigue down the line.

Of course, some might’ve likened the Giants to an offensive lineman like Tre Smith, who has been plummeting down draft boards. However, they clearly feel confident with a group of players they have on the roster.

 

New York Jets select S Hamsah Nasirildeen with sixth-round pick

New York Jets

The latter stages of Nasirildeen’s Florida State career were marred by injury, but the New York Jets brought in the former All-ACC defender.

The New York Jets’ Saturday obsession with the secondary continued with their regularly scheduled sixth-round pick, as they chose Florida State safety Hamsah Nasirildeen with the 175th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Nasirildeen (pronounced Naz-ril-deen) was a second-team All-ACC member at the end of the 2019 season, finishing ninth in the ACC with 101 total tackles. Alas, a torn ACL at the end of the regular season kept him out of the Seminoles’ Sun Bowl appearance against Arizona State as well as all but two games last season. Nasirildeen took advantage of his limited time on the field, notably earning nine tackles and an interception in FSU’s December win over Duke.

“(He’s) just an incredible, incredible young man. He’s a competitor, and I love being around competitors and guys who are just willing to work, willing to invest in what they want to achieve and to make a positive impact,” Florida State head coach Mike Norvell said of Nasirildeen, per Brendan Sonnone of 247Sports.com, after he returned to the field in their penultimate game of the season against North Carolina State. “He is a special young man and definitely provides a spark for our team. I love being around him. He’s an inspiration to everybody in our program.”

Nasrildeen is a former basketball player and high school All-American, originally committing to South Carolina before reverting to Florida State. While he’s had some issues with coverage, his response to adversity and big tackling abilities should make him an attractive project to work with. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com compared Nasirildeen to Foyesade Oluokun, a fellow former sixth-rounder who previously worked with Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich in Atlanta.

The Jets will next pick in the 200th slot of the 2021 NFL Draft, their penultimate scheduled pick.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets snag Pittsburgh cornerback Jason Pinnock

The New York Jets continue to look to round out their defense and establish depth in the secondary. This time in the form of 6 foot, 200 plus pound corner Jason Pinnock. Pinnock was a part of a talented high school football squad where he excelled at corner but also had 1,000 plus receiving yards and 15 TDs. Pinnock committed to Boston College originally before rescinding his commitment and choosing between Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. After picking Pitt, Pinnock never looked back.

Despite battling injuries early in his career, Pinnock showed flashes in his first three seasons, Pinnock still played in 21 games racking up 34 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1.0 sack, 3 INTs, 14 deflections, a fumble recovery, and a touchdown. He played a bulk of his snaps as a rotational corner and on special teams for those years before taking over as a starter last season.

Pinnock put up good numbers last season with 20 tackles, 3 INTs, and 1.0 TFL. Pinnock then put on a show at his pro day with a sub 4.50 forty and impressive vertical numbers. The physical makeup is there to be a good corner, but Pinnock needs to develop his football IQ rather than rely on physical skill. If he can developmentally, he can be potential outside corner option.

Although some have wondered why the Jets waited to invest in the secondary, the reports have stated Robert Saleh wants to go after late round guys and develop them to his liking, a la K’Wuan Williams and Akello Witherspoon. If he can get half that production out of Pinnock or Carter Jr., that would be a success.

Randle reveals how Thibodeau change Knicks culture: Every game is like playoffs for us

New York Knicks, Tom Thibodeau

When Tom Thibodeau was hired, there was no doubt he has the coaching acumen to change the New York Knicks‘ identity. The bigger question was will a young Knicks team embrace him?

Sixty-three games later, the proof is in the pudding.

Thibodeau is on the cusp of driving a rugged Knicks team to the playoffs with a 26-year old, first-time NBA All-Star as its engine.

With nine games left, the conversation has shifted from “Can the Knicks make it to the playoffs?” to “Can the Knicks earn a homecourt advantage in the playoffs?”

How did Thibodeau make it work after his unceremonious exit in Minnesota raised questions about whether he could still coach in the modern NBA?

Right time. Right situation.

Thibodeau was precisely what the doctor has ordered for a franchise that has long been searching for identity, for young players looking for accountability, and for veterans yearning for an opportunity.

He came in and molded this team into his likeness — tough, workaholic, and puts winning above everything.

“I give a lot of credit to Thibs. He’s our leader, man,” Julius Randle said in an interview with Knicks die-hard fan and legendary hip hop artist Fat Joe on Instagram. “He came in from the very first day and said, yo, this is who we’re gonna be as a team. He established who we are. Every night, this is what we’re gonna do.”

Shortly after Thibodeau’s hiring was announced, he said he would build the team’s foundation around defense, rebounding, low turnovers, and sharing the ball.

The Knicks currently have a top-four defense. They are sixth (45.4) in rebounding despite losing starting center Mitchell Robinson twice to serious injuries and seventh-best in the league in terms of taking care of the ball with just 13.2 turnovers per game. It’s only on the assist department that they are not hitting the mark as their 21.4 ranks 29th in the league. But that can also be argued when you look through the lens of the Knicks playing at such a slow pace that they are battling teams possession-for-possession in a playoff-type of basketball every single night.

With the NBA evolving into a three-point shooting league, Thibodeau also laid out the ideas of what goes into winning in the modern era of basketball.

“If you’re getting layups and you’re getting to the free-throw line, and obviously you’re trying to create as many corner 3-point attempts as you can — that’s how you win,” Thibodeau said on the Michael Kay Show back in August. “And then defensively, obviously, you try to take those things away and get your opponent to take long twos.

“So you have to figure out what gives your (team) the best chance to win and try to approach it that way. You just don’t want to shoot high-volume threes that are not good threes. When you look at Milwaukee, they take very good threes. If you look at Golden State, they’re similar.

“Sometimes, if you’re taking high-volume bad threes, you’re going to get beat. It’s going to compromise your defense. I think the type of threes, the type of shots, understanding the value of shots, that’s an important part of winning.”

Thibodeau took it one step at a time, focusing on establishing the Knicks identity on defense during the training camp and at the beginning of the season.

What struck opposing coaches when they play the Knicks? They have answered in unison: “They are a physical team.”

The Knicks have become one of the best defensive teams in the league by leveraging their physicality, forcing their opponents to take tough long twos, and closing out on the three-point line with playoff effort.

Their opponents are attempting half of their shot attempts from 15 feet away (50.2 percent frequency) and holding them down to just 37.3 percent in that zone, which ranks no.2 behind four teams — the Bucks, Utah Jazz, Charlotte Hornets, and the Los Angeles Clippers — tied on top with 37.2-percent clip.

Match that with their league’s top three-point defense (33.8%), and the Knicks have hovered around the top three defensive net ratings for most of the season before regressing to the top four in the last month. But despite a slight dip in their defense, their offense has started to catch up thanks to the Knicks’ Thibs-like workaholic mindset that often leads to late shooting nights even on the road.

Thibodeau made an emphasis on the corner threes, the shortest distance (22 feet) in the three-point line. The Knicks responded by jumping from 25th (36.5%) last season to 9th (40.9%) this season in corner three-point accuracy, per NBA.com stats through April 30 games.

They are above the Warriors and just two spots behind the Bucks — the two teams Thibodeau looked up to in the offseason. The Knicks’ 8.8 attempts from corner three rank seventh in the league.

Last month, when the Knicks went 11-4, including a nine-game winning streak that catapulted them into the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, they led the league in three-point accuracy with 42.4 percent. They shot 42.3 percent of their corner threes, tied for seventh with the Hornets. They were hitting 4.4 out of 10.4 attempts, a three-point bump from their season average of 3.6 out of 8.8 shots. The volume of corner threes the Knicks took during that stretch was just behind the Jazz (11.2) and the Miami Heat (10.9).

The Knicks have jumped out in ESPN analyst Kirk Goldsberry’s efficiency landscape, ascending into no.2 in net rating, no.3 on both offense and defense in the last 15 games.

Just when almost everybody thought the Knicks would regress, they found a second wind, banking on the winning habits Thibodeau has instilled in them.

“Every day, we go in like we’re super prepared. Every team we play against is like a playoff game for us. That’s how prepared we are,” Randle added. “That’s how detailed, and he’s (Thibodeau) on top of everything from shootaround to practice, whatever it is, we are super prepared. It’s something about being prepared that breeds that confidence. Every time we go in, we feel like we’re going to win.”

That’s exactly how Thibodeau has transformed the Knicks from the league’s favorite whipping team into a playoff-contending team in such a short time. He came with a precise idea of how they are going to play every night.

But it takes two to tango.

As much as Randle credits Thibodeau for establishing the Knicks’ identity, the whole team should also take credit for matching that with playoff intensity. Every single game.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Jets land durable Duke safety Michael Carter

No, you’re not seeing double, the New York Jets selected Michael Carter Jr, but this one plays on the other side of the football. The Duke corner is 5 foot 9 1/2 and 186 pounds. The 4 year player at Duke did everything the right way. Carter waited in the wings, but quickly earned starting reps. His growth in his Sophomore season earned him the Willis Aldridge Award for best defensive back in the Blue Devils program. He then repeated as the winner in his junior year as well. Carter played the most snaps on the team in that season while taking reps at kick returner as well.

Carter has versatility and athleticism that will allow him to take reps at safety if needed, but more than likely slot in nicely as a corner for a team with minimal depth at the position. Carter runs a 4.30 40 yard dash and can keep up with some of the best burners at the next level. He also adds a dimension to Brant Boyer’s special teams unit given he could compete for the returner role.

Carter has had production at the defensive back position posting 41 tackles, 3.0 TFLs, 2 INTs and 8 passes defended last season. He also ranked in the top 10 in the ACC in passes defended and was a third-team All-Acc recipient.

Off the gridiron Carter is exceptional as well. Continuing the trend of high character additions, Carter was team captain his senior season and well regarded by the entire Blue Devil team. He’s got maturity and leadership traits that you long for in a developmental player. Carter may earn reps early due to a lack of depth, but his potential at slot corner (a position the Jets don’t have an answer at right now) is very tantalizing.

New York Jets select Jamien Sherwood with 146th pick of 2021 NFL Draft

The early entrant Sherwood, a safety out of Auburn, became the New York Jets’ first Saturday selection at No. 146.

With the 146th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the New York Jets chose Auburn safety Jamien Sherwood. The pick was the Jets’ regularly scheduled fifth-round selection

Sherwood was an early entrant to the draft and partook in 34 games with the Tigers, earning 140 tackles (8.5 for a loss) and 10 pass breakups. He ranked ninth in the SEC in solo tackles (44) this past season.

Some have seen Sherwood as versatile, with some believing he could move to outside linebacker. He developed a strong reputation as a hard-hitter, with ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. calling one of the “best tacklers” in the draft after the Jets made the selection. Sherwood’s speed and hard-hitting should also allow him to contribute on special teams.

“He can intimidate receivers working into the middle of the field and has the size to cover tight ends,” NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote about Sherwood, comparing him to Clayton Geathers and Nate Gerry. “He must play down safety or in a robber role as his speed and athletic ability will get him into too many binds and get him beat in the pros. It wouldn’t be shocking to see a team eventually look to move him from safety to linebacker, where his athletic ability would go from hindrance to help.”

The safety is the Jets’ first defensive selection of the 2021 draft, the longest they’ve waited before taking a defender since 1969 (DE Jimmie Jones, 156th). He’ll join a young secondary working its way back from the post-Jamal Adams era, one set to be headlined by franchise-tagged veteran Marcus Maye. Other safeties on the current roster include free agent newcomer Lamarcus Joyner and returning Saquan Hampton.

New York’s next selection to set to be the 154th overall, obtained from the New York Giants in exchange for Leonard Williams.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Mets’ star pitcher expects to be fine after injury scare

New York Yankees, New York Mets, Marcus Stroman

New York Mets’ starter Marcus Stroman, who is off to a fantastic start of the season, had to leave early on his outing against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night. He had conceded only a couple of unearned runs in five innings, but hamstring tightness appeared to ruin his night.

The tightness in his right hamstring prompted the Mets to take it easy with their prized right-hander. However, the issue should not force him to miss any additional starts, according to the Mets’ official site.

Describing the injury, Stroman stated that his hammy initially “kind of grabbed on me” in the third frame Friday, but he attributed it to running on the basepaths.

The discomfort didn’t go away and started getting problematic in the bottom of the third inning.

“I just felt it get really tight, and then it kind of progressed in the fourth and the fifth,” the Mets’ starter said. “It’s just one of those things, just leaning on the side of caution, honestly. It’s such a long year. I don’t think it made sense to go out there and press it and force it in the sixth and seventh, and risk potentially making it worse.”

The Mets are being cautious

While the Mets preferred to err on the side of caution, the hamstring tightness wasn’t really affecting Stroman’s performance, as he struck out three batters in the third and two in the fifth, hi last frame.

His night was done after just 64 pitches. “He’s pretty optimistic about making his next start,” Mets’ manager Luis Rojas said. “We’ll keep checking him, day to day, and see how he’s doing, see how he’s responding.”

After the game, the press asked Stroman if the hamstring was going to be a problem in the future, to which he replied: “It won’t be.”

“I know what I have to do in these next four or five days,” he said. “The staff here is unbelievable. So it’s just a matter of getting in there and doing everything that we need to do to get it better, strengthen it. I have 100 percent confidence in my mind that I’ll be back out there in five days.”

New York Giants select Northern Iowa EDGE rusher Elerson Smith with 116th pick

elerson smith, new york giants

While everybody expected the New York Giants to draft an interior offensive lineman with 116th overall pick, they took an interesting approach, landing Northern Iowa pass rusher Elerson Smith. The 6’6″ and 252-pound defender is a bit skinny and could use some more weight in the trenches, but he has incredible athleticism and a tall, bendy frame.

While he continues to fill out his frame with muscle mass, Smith should see an increase in power. He already has quality speed, but transitioning speed to power will be the next step in his development.

I see Smith as a situational pass rusher who can offer value in sub-packages; he can contribute in similar situations, like when the Giants faced off against the Seattle Seahawks and utilized Carter Coughlin as a spy on the edge. While he’s not refined in the running game, adding more size and strength will help him seal the edge more efficiently. However, his elongated span and long strides are an exciting aspect but paired with skinny legs and a weak lower body, there’s no question he needs to add a bit more muscle.

This might’ve been a reach for the Giants, who desperately need help in the interior of their offensive line, but Smith has some upside and is another Senior Bowl standout, an event that general manager Dave Gettleman seems to rely on. They’ve taken a bit of an interesting approach this year, relying on their draft board and picking the best player available instead of allocating draft capital for needs.

The Giants have changed their philosophy when it comes to drafting, trading back twice this year, the first time Gettleman has ever done so in is eight years operating the draft as a GM. They’ve walked away with some stellar assets for next off-season, but they still have a few weaknesses on the roster that need to be addressed.

New York Jets select shifty UNC running back Michael Carter, what to know

jets, michael carter

The New York Jets have selected RB Michael Carter from the University of North Carolina with the 107th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. After drafting QB Zach Wilson from Bringham Young University, IOL Alijah Vera Tucker, and certified weapon from Ole Miss Elijah Moore. Now, the plan to put Zach Wilson in the best position possible continues. The Jets drafted a talented back in Carter.

In High School, Carter ran for over 2,500 yards in his senior season. The explosiveness carried over to Chapel Hill as he had 3,404 yards in his time with the Tarheels. That number puts him in the record books with the fourth best total in the school’s history. His burst and athleticism is evident in all facets of his game.

Last season on the ground, he rushed for a whopping 8.0 yards per carry, which was fifth in the NCAA last season. He also had 684 yards before contact, which was fourth best in the college ranks last year. On top of that, he had 267 yards receiving and 11 total scores last season. Oh yeah, and he did this alongside fellow draft pick and now Bronco running back Javonte Williams.

His talent is apparent, and he’s an even better guy off the field. He was voted team captain, and despite the fact he and Williams could’ve been at odds competing for reps, he was happy taking whatever role possible to benefit the team. Carter projects as a top-tier change of pace back at the next level, and he will slot in with Tevin Coleman, La’Mical Perine, and Ty Johnson as the backfield committee looks set heading into the 2021-22 season. This should allow the pressure on Zach Wilson to continue to ease while providing Mike LaFleur even more weapons in his first season as Offensive Coordinator.