New York Giants: Xavier McKinney is the next best thing after Isaiah Simmons

New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

Taking a look at New York Giants’ 2nd round pick Xavier McKinney and how he is the next best thing after Isaiah Simmons:

Before the 2020 NFL draft, Clemson stand-out defender Isaiah Simmons was mocked to the New York Giants consistently in the weeks following up.

Simmons is a fantastic athlete that played all over the Clemson defense, featuring at linebacker, safety, and even rushed the passer frequently. However, the Giants realized that the left tackle position was problematic after Nate Solder allowed 11 sacks in 2019. They made the executive decision to select Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick, passing on Simmons and eventually landing safety Xavier McKinney in the second round.

Here’s what Nick Saban, head coach for the Alabama Crimson Tide, had to say about McKinney and what he has to offer the New York Giants at the pro level:

“I think Xavier has a lot of diversity as a player,” Saban said. “He can play man-to-man, he’s got pretty good ball judgment, he’s a good tackler, he’s got a lot of toughness, he’s a very instinctive and effective blitzer. He’s got some burst and acceleration to come off the edge or blitz up the middle and he’s got enough power to take on a blocker if he needs to. So he can do just about all the critical factors in terms of what we look for in a safety here. As he got experience, he was smart enough to be able to play multiple positions.

“I think the guy’s got some dog in him. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a playmaker. We have a production point system here that we use, and he was always high on that board because he forces fumbles, shows up in the right place, does a good job of executing. He’s instinctive, he’s a quick reactor, he’s got a burst. He can be a knock-back tackler. So he’s always been a real playmaker for us and it comes in a lot of different ways, but that’s probably his greatest strength – his production.”

McKinney’s stats attest to his versatility on defense, logging 95 total tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, three interceptions, and four forced fumbles last season. He can play all over the defense, creeping up to the line of scrimmage to act as a pass rusher, and dropping back into the deeper portion of the secondary as a ball hawk. Defensive coordinator Patrick Graham will utilize him in all of these different facets, as he blitzed 41% of the time on third down in 2019 with the Miami Dolphins. Having a player like Xavier will open up his playbook and creativity, as his game speed is one of the best at the position coming out of the draft.

He is essentially what Simmons is at the safety position, with his ability to move around and feature in different looks. In other words, McKinney is the next best thing, and the Giants got him in the second round.

New York Giants: One Final 3-round Mock Draft to End Them All

New York Giants, Josh Jones, Houston

Here’s one final three-round, New York Giants 2020 NFL Mock Draft to end them all:

We have heard every scenario the New York Giants could possibly take in the upcoming draft on Thursday, and most of them benefit the team significantly, while others ignore essential positions. General manager Dave Gettleman has one final season to prove his rebuild is working, and the foundation he has laid can propel the Giants to success.

However, it starts with the first round and which player can add the most value.

Round 1 (4th overall):

When you invest two top-10 picks into a quarterback and running back, it would be malpractice to avoid bolstering the offensive line. Gettleman has done a decent job plugging free agents and draft picks into the offenses protection scheme, but they ultimately need more reinforcement.

Left tackle Nate Solder was a turnstile in 2019, and Gettleman admitted as much. Replacing him in the draft could very well be how the Giants instill their faith In Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.

Alternatively, they would have to pass on Isaiah Simmons, who would add an incredible playmaker to the defense. The ideal scenario would be to trade back, and that is exactly what the Giants do with the fourth overall pick, moving back with the Los Angeles Chargers at number six, who falls for the Justin Herbert trick.

Not only do the Giants acquire another second-round pick, but they are still in play for Isaiah Simmons or an offensive tackle. Either way, they get an incredible player who will benefit the team tremendously moving forward.

Since Simmons is still on the board and Gettleman is a master offensive line evaluator, the Giants take the best player available.

PICK 1: Isaiah Simmons

Round 2 (picks 36 & 38):

The Giants still need to find a tackle, and adding a second-round pick from the Chargers allows them to pair the number 36 and number 38 selections to move up into the first round. Luckily, they were able to land Houston tackle Josh Jones, who is a fringe tier 1 tackle. This means they will have to pass on Jedrick Wills, Andrew Thomas, Mekhi Becton, and Tristan Wirfs, but they still land a fantastic player who has developmental upside. The Giants walk away with Simmons and a new tackle for the future in the first round, the best possible scenario.

PICK 2: Josh Jones

Round 3 (no. 99):

Considering the Giants still have four seventh-round picks at this point, packaging them to move up a bit isn’t a terrible idea.

However, Alabama DE/OLB Terrell Lewis remains available at number 99. While he did have an injury-plagued 2018 campaign, he was expected to be a top selection in the 2020 draft. Lewis is a talented pass rusher that ultimately was dealt a bad hand, but he has plenty of locked potential and could be a developmental piece moving forward. The Giants are high on Oshane Ximines, but they desperately need pass rush help, and Lewis can offer something as a rotational player in 2020.

According to NFL.com:

“He was a second-team All-SEC selection in 2019 after racking up 31 tackles, 11.5 for loss, six sacks and two pass breakups in 11 games (three starts).”

PICK 3: Terrell Lewis

Two linebackers not named Isaiah Simmons the New York Giants could target in the 2020 NFL Draft

New York Giants, Patrick Queen, Kenneth Murray

Taking a look at two linebackers the New York Giants can target in the NFL Draft:

Predicting where the Giants will go with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft is impossible. General manager Dave Gettleman and head coach Joe Judge have made it incredibly difficult to break down there estimated selection.

Gettleman has mentioned the depth at tackle in this draft class but also addresses that Nate Solder has struggled to cover Daniel Jones’s blindside. Figuring out how to allocate a top-five selection isn’t only difficult for us, but it is problematic for the executives in charge.

The Giants could easily pass on Clemson stand out defender Isaiah Simmons, but for the sake of trading back, there are other linebackers to consider later on in the first round. Let’s look at two linebackers that could fit the bill for the Giants.

1. LSU – Patrick Queen

Having only spent one season as a bonafide starter with LSU, Patrick Queen emerged as one of the best linebackers in the country last season. He’s a bit undersized at 6’0″ and 229 pounds, but his elite speed and instincts give him the developmental upside teams are looking for. He has the ability to play all three downs, covering running backs and even slot receivers adequately. He can be a little slow in the run game diagnosing plays, but when he does, his quickness shows up significantly.

Queen has incredible sudden agility and athletic ability. His lack of experience has knocked him a bit, but those are all things that improve with live-action. I believe he has the highest upside of any linebacker not named Isaiah Simmons.

There is a chance Queen slips to the end of the first round where the Giants could have a shot by trading up to secure him.

2. Oklahoma – Kenneth Murray

Some argue that Murray is an even better prospect than Queen, as he stands a bit taller at 6’2″ and 241 pounds.

Murray also contains elite speed, despite being a bit slower than Queen. However, for his size and additional weight, it makes sense that he is only .2 seconds slower than the LSU product. Murray landed a 4.52 40-yard dash while Patrick logged a 4.50.

However, the former four-star recruit out of Missouri Coty, Texas, exploded onto the scene for the Sooners in 2017. Ever since it’s inception into collegiate football, he has climbed the ranks and establish himself as one of the most talented linebackers in the country.

His playmaking ability is impressive, and his speed shows up all over the field. Murray tallied at 102 total tackles and 17 for a loss in 2019, showing off his ability to diagnose the run and react quickly to screen passes. He is another extremely talented player with high upside, similar to Queen. If the Giants do trade back into the middle of the first round, Murray might be a player worth considering.

Another interesting traffic tidbit, NFL analyst Ian Rapoport stated that no negative words have been correlated to Murray from teams. He is building a nice draft stock for himself.

New York Giants: Arguments For And Against Drafting Isaiah Simmons

The 2020 NFL Draft is days away. The New York Giants hold the fourth overall pick, their third straight season picking inside the top-ten. General Manager Dave Gettleman is heading into his third draft as GM of the Giants and needs to put together a strong class in order to keep his job.

Holding a top-pick again, the Giants are in the position to add a franchise player this year. There are plenty of top-tier prospects that will be available to fill big positions of need. But which position should they fill? Should they take the best player available (likely Isaiah Simmons) or address the offensive tackle position? Simmons has been the fan-favorite selection for most of the pre-draft process. However, it might be time for fans to consider jumping off of the Simmons hype train and look into this year’s offensive tackle class.

Arguments For:

When Will It Be Time To Invest In The Defense?

In the last eight NFL Drafts, seven of the Giants’ first picks have been spent on the offense. The Giants’ defense only accounts for 35.85% of the team’s salary cap, ranking 30th in the NFL (via Spotrac). New York has barely invested in their defense and it shows with the team’s recent on-field performances.

Meanwhile, the Giants’ offense accounts for 49.48% of the team’s salary cap. More specifically, 22.13% of the team’s salary is spent on the offensive line. Dave Gettleman and company have made it a point to upgrade the offensive line and they have invested into it plenty. But offensive tackle is still one of the weakest positions on the team- and one of the most crucial. Maybe they should continue investing.

A Defensive Playmaker or An Offensive Tackle?

Which position of need is more important? An offensive tackle or a defensive playmaker? If the question were “Chase Young or a tackle?”, everyone would be in agreement that Chase Young is the right choice. But that’s not the debate.

The debate is between uber-versatile linebacker Isaiah Simmons and any of the top offensive tackle prospects. Which of the two options should the New York Giants spend their first-round draft pick on? The Giants do not necessarily have a hole at linebacker (after signing Blake Martinez and re-signing David Mayo), but really on the defense as a whole.

Teams can win games with a bad offensive line (see Seattle Seahawks). But it is nearly impossible to have a winning season with the defense the Giants currently have constructed. The Giants’ best players on defense are recently free agents James Bradberry and Blake Martinez- and they were brought in to replace Alec Ogletree and Janoris Jenkins.

They are upgrades, but the defense did not improve drastically this offseason and likely won’t unless they select Isaiah Simmons at fourth overall. He is a linebacker with the ability to man up on tight ends and excel in coverage.

Isaiah Simmons played over 100 snaps at five different positions in the 2019 CFB season. According to Pro Football Focus, Simmons played 100 snaps at strong safety, 116 snaps at outside linebacker, 132 snaps at free safety, 262 snaps at slot cornerback, and 299 snaps at inside linebacker.

If the Giants are looking to instantly upgrade their defense, look no further than Isaiah Simmons. He will fill the coverage role while Blake Martinez and David Mayo stuff the run. The defense would function at a much higher-level as early as this season. But the draft is not always about instant-upgrades. Sometimes teams need to plan for the future and play the long game. Investing in an offensive tackle would be the long-term solution rather than the instant-upgrade.

Arguments Against:

Talent At The Top Of The OT Class Is Loaded.

The top offensive tackles in this draft class are immensely talented. Draft analysts and experts have struggled to rank the top four tackles. Some have Mekhi Becton as high as the first-ranked tackle, others have him as the sixth-ranked tackle. There are many who believe Jedrick Wills is the best in the class while many others believe Wirfs or Thomas is the best in the class.

Regardless of where each expert has them ranked, they are all consensus first-round talents. The Giants would be finding an instant-starter (and a long-term starter) on the offensive line if they took one of those prospects at fourth overall.

Significant Drop-Off In OT Talent After The First Tier.

Those top offensive tackle prospects are great. Wirfs, Wills, Thomas, and Becton all have legitimate All-Pro potential. But after that, this offensive tackle class has a significant drop off in talent.

Second-round prospects, like Isaiah Wilson and Austin Jackson, are- simply-put- projects. They are not pro-ready. They lack technique but do possess ideal, large, strong bodies. NFL coaching might be able to turn them into capable starters but there is no guarantee. Fortunately, they are young and have room to grow, however, the Giants need an answer at offensive tackle sooner than later.

Wilson’s Perspective: Reasons the New York Giants could pass on Isaiah Simmons

New York Giants, Giants, NYG, Ryan Connelly

Taking a look at the reasons the New York Giants could pass on Clemson defender, Isaiah Simmons:

When the Giants hired head coach Joe Judge to be the leader of the franchise moving forward, one of the positive traits he brought from New England was the ability to maximize players on both sides of the ball. His goal is to extract the most value from each positional player, and that fits right in line with Clemson stand out defender Isaiah Simmons in the 2020 NFL draft.

Last season, Simmons posted impressive numbers across the board, suggesting he played multiple spots and succeeded at each one. Over 15 games as a junior, Simmons log 104 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, three interceptions, eight passes defended, and two forced fumbles.

Looking at his sack numbers and ability in coverage, you can conclude that Simmons played all over the defense. That is precisely the type of player that Judge likes, but there are also reasons he could pass on the defender for an offensive tackle. That would be the number one reason the Giants forgo the opportunity to draft a player of his quality, simply because Daniel Jones needs more protection on the offensive line.

Investing a significant draft pick on a passer should force management to build around him, and Jones being sacked 38 times in 2019 suggests that his protection scheme might need reinforcement. His 18 fumbles lead the NFL and is a statistic that needs to decrease significantly next season. That means the New York Giants and general manager Dave Gettleman need to draft a potential left tackle to replace Nate Solder for the future — whether it be in the first or second round.

Another justification to pass on Simmons would be the presence of Ryan Connelly. The Giants drafted Connelly in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL draft, and he posted impressive numbers over four games before suffering a torn ACL against the Washington Redskins in the dying moments.

He recorded 20 combine tackles, two tackles for loss, two passes defended, one sack, and two interceptions. Those are some quality numbers for a rookie mid-round pick and could be enough to convince the Giants brass to give him another opportunity, deciding to pass on Simmons a little more justifiable. However, Isaiah’s attributes eclipse Connelly’s by a fair margin, but again, drafting a tackle to protect Jones could ultimately benefit the team more efficiently in the long run.

New York Giants: What positions did Isaiah Simmons play in college?

New York Giants, Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

Taking a look at what positions Isaiah Simmons players in college and what the New York Giants would be getting in the defender:

Clemson standout defender Isaiah Simmons is one player that has been heavily linked to the Giants this NFL draft season. His versatile attributes make him one of the most exciting prospects in this draft class, and adding him to a lackluster defense would immediately reinforce the unit and provide them with a playmaker.

However, harnessing Simmons’s potential could be problematic if they don’t have the right coaches in place. I believe that defensive coordinator Patrick Graham is the perfect guy for the job, considering his Yale education and incredibly unique and diverse scheme.

He plans to implement a 3-4 defense with a 4-3 base mixed in, utilizing heavy blitz rates from the linebacker and safety positions. This would fit perfectly with Simmons, who is reportedly telling teams he prefers to rush the passer on passing downs. While I can’t imagine a player of his size being a specific pass rusher, which would theoretically increase his price-tag down the road, a team like the Giants could use a blend of his skill-set.

In 2019, Simmons played 299 snaps at inside linebacker. As a traditional linebacker, he played sideline to sideline and also dropped back into coverage to cover tight ends. He was also stout against the run, earning 16.5 tackles for loss and 104 total tackles. His pass-rush aspirations came with eight sacks for Clemson last year, but he was also incredible in coverage, lining up to 162 times as a slot corner. He also played 132 Snaps at free safety, logging eight passes defended, and three interceptions.

His statistical output in each category is impressive, and that doesn’t even consider the 116 snaps he played at outside linebacker and 100 snaps at strong safety. He is the quintessential Swiss Army knife for any given defense, and Graham would have a field day utilizing his talents.

Now, this doesn’t belittle the concept that the Giants need to protect their investments and Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones, drafting an offense of tackle. Still, Simmons’ talents stretch far beyond that of a regular linebacker. He is a self-proclaimed “defender” and rightfully so, considering the number of snaps he played at five different positions as a 20-year-old player in 2019.

New York Giants’ Joe Judge comments on team and the value of players like Isaiah Simmons

New York Giants, Joe Judge

Here’s what Joe Judge had to say about the New York Giants during the quarantine and much more:

With a virtual reality becoming the new norm for the Giants and head coach Joe Judge, challenges are being presented regarding the evaluation of players and prospects. The NFL Draft is only a week away, and the team isn’t able to study the body movements and personalities correctly for incoming players, making this situation a bit more problematic.

However, Judge is not wasting any time hopping on video calls with players and organizing his calenders for the next few months.

Judge has created four calendars to ensure the team is prepared moving forward and have the appropriate dates lined up for the start of the NFL season and specific dates for the draft.

Despite being holed up in his basement, Judge is bringing that tenacity to his work-load and pushing on with motivation. Being a new head coach and dealing with a world-wide quarantine due to a pandemic is not the start he imagined would propel him to success. With a setback already in place, the Giants are in a position of disadvantage.

The Giants’ head coach went on to state that the Giants must take the best player available in the draft, which can be perceived in two ways. Either Isaiah Simmons is the guaranteed pick if he’s available or Judge just tossed a smoke-screen into the mix to confuse other teams’ general managers ahead of the draft next week.

However, a positional talent being drafted must fit into the team’s system and schemes, which is where Patrick Graham comes into play regarding Simmons, who’s a unique talent that needs a creative coordinator to maximize his abilities. Graham coming from Yale and acting as Miami’s DC in 2019; he’s prepared to activate an innovative and unpredictable defense with different blitzing schemes. Simmons would likely fit well in his system, using a blend of 3-4 and 4-3 looks.

 

Should the New York Giants target LSU LB Patrick Queen in the 2020 NFL Draft?

New York Giants, Patrick Queen

Taking a look at LSU defender Patrick Queen and if the New York Giants should consider him in the 2020 NFL Draft.

There is always the chance that New York Giants’ general manager Dave Gettleman selects an offensive tackle with the fourth overall pick. However, making that move would guarantee missing out on Clemson stand-out defender Isaiah Simmons. As one of the highest graded players in this draft class, Simmons would immediately upgrade the defense and give coordinator Patrick Graham a weapon to use all over the field.

Being a self-proclaimed “defender” over “linebacker,” Simmons has the speed and diversity to play slot corner, safety, and linebacker. Passing on him would be extremely difficult, but there are ways the Giants could supplement the loss of Simmons if they elect to take a tackle.

In a more creative mock scenario, the Giants could trade back and gain an additional second-round pick to use in the 2020 NFL draft. If they can manage to add that type of draft capital, they could package both second-round picks and move up to grab a defender like LSU’s Patrick Queen. Queen is projected to go in the mid/late first round, which could be a good spot for Big Blue to make a move. It’s possible he could be out of reach, but crazier things have happen in the draft.

What does Patrick Queen offer the defense?

Queen is one of the highest-ranked linebackers in the draft and is coming out of a program that has produced high-end linebackers in recent years. NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein projects him as a quality year one starter. With eye-opening tape and impressive physical and mental attributes, the one-your starter for LSU has plenty of room left to develop. The Giants would be getting a semi-raw but extremely talented prospect with elite speed at the inside linebacker position. He’s like a Ryan Connelly on steroids, essentially.

With the ability to drop back in coverage and stop the run, Queen is a sideline-to-sideline defender who can make plays. Landing him would be a nice consolation prize if the Giants pass on Isaiah Simmons. Queen and the Giants virtually met last week.

New York Giants: Why Isaiah Simmons does make a lot of sense for Big Blue

New York Giants, Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

The New York Giants could draft Isaiah Simmons, but they need a coach who can match up with his diversity and extract the most value from him.

Some suggest that the Giants selecting Clemson standout defender, Isaiah Simmons, is a bad idea, based on the fact that an offensive tackle more essential. They might be right, but drafting Simmons plugs one of the best prospects into the defense instantaneously, and his ability to play multiple positions increases his value exponentially.

Now, the big reservation I have with Simmons is that his abilities must be unlocked by an equality creative defensive coordinator. The question is: Can Patrick Graham be that guy?

Considering what he did as a linebacker coach for Kyler Fackrell in 2018 with Green Bay (10.5 sacks), utilizing Simmons as a de-facto pass rusher on third downs and dropping back into coverage is how Graham should look to utilize the stud defender.

What can we take away From Graham’s time with the Miami Dolphins?

Last season, Graham coached a feisty yet self-destructive Dolphins defensive unit, and that was mainly due to their lack of roster construction and trading away Minkah Fitzpatrick mid-season. The defense was compromised by youth and inexperience, similar to the Giants in 2019.

However, some tendencies that we saw with Miami is that Graham utilized a diverse system reliant on blitzing and man-coverage. Per PFF, Miami blitzed on 35% of their snaps, which was the 7th highest rate in the NFL. On third-down, they blitzed 41% of the time, which is where Simmons can fill an irregular role — dropping back into coverage or using his elite speed to get after the quarterback.

Graham was extremely creative when employing blitz packages, utilizing linebacker and defensive backs to create mismatches and unpredictability. Delayed blitzes from a linebacker standpoint would match up well with Simmons and what he brings to the table.

It’s also important to note that Graham is a former Yale graduate, attesting to his intelligence and ability to adapt. This is a primary reason drafting Simmons fits the bill for Big Blue and why the probability remains high he will be their choice at 4th overall.

New York Giants: A crazy two round mock draft to fix two positions of need

New York Giants looking at Isaiah Simmons in 2020 NFL Draft?

The New York Giants have ample holes to fill in the upcoming NFL Draft, but one thing is for sure, it will be challenging to crucify the 4th overall pick. With the exception of Dave Gettleman drafting Derrick Brown, the Giants are in line to gain a defensive playmaker or a top offensive tackle.

Here’s a crazy two-round mock draft:

Round One: 4th overall

The Giants can’t pass on Isaiah Simmons, can they? A player who racked up 8.0 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss in addition to quality coverage stats and run-stopping abilities. Gettleman can’t pass on his highest-graded player on the board and elects to inject him into the Giants’ defense.

With defensive coordinator Patrick Graham preparing to institute a creative scheme, Simmons fits right in and can play multiple positions — slot, linebacker, outside linebacker, safety, you name it, and he can do it. Simmons is a self-proclaimed “defender” and not linebacker, opening up his versatility. At just 20-years-old, the Giants are getting a staple on defense who will overhaul their playmaking abilities. Paired with Jabrill Peppers, Big Blue might have one of the best young duos in football.

Round Two: 36th overall

The Giants take a huge risk here, trading away their 2021 first-round pick and a 2020 mid-rounder to move up into the first round substantially where they can land a young tackle to reinforce Daniel Jones. This sounds crazy, but the reality is, the Giants can kill two birds with one stone in the first round. Solidifying the offensive front with a player like Mekhi Becton (latter portion of tier-one OLs) and landing Simmons is a dream come true, and it just fast forwards the Giants’ overall plan at the end of the day.

With Nate Solder likely on the move in 2021, the Giants were going to have to supplement him regardless, moving the process up one year allows them to be competitive when most are convinced they will be a mediocre team.

While I wouldn’t necessarily advocate for this idea, it makes sense if they want to lock down two positions of need in one draft with top-tier talent.