New York Giants: Jeff Okudah is the key to a heavenly NFL Draft for Big Blue

New York Giants, Jeff Okudah

The New York Giants have several directions they can go in the 2020 NFL Draft, but Jeff Okudah is a critical piece to the puzzle.

Predicting how the 2020 NFL draft will unfold is virtually impossible, considering how many directions the top four teams could go. The Cincinnati Bengals are all but locked into the number one spot to Draft LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. However, there have been rumors that the Miami Dolphins are speaking with Cincinnati about potentially trading up. I do not believe they want to move out of the No. 1  slot where they are no longer able to draft a sure-fire franchise quarterback.

That reality ultimately opens up a bidding war for Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. The Giants sit with the fourth overall selection in the draft, a perfect place for them to either sit pretty and wait for a player like Isaiah Simmons, a top offensive tackle prospect, or even Ohio State star pass rusher, Chase Young.

Ruling out the slim chance of landing Chase Young would be ignorant, considering how Jeff Okudah’s draft stock is rising. The Ohio State cornerback is regarded as a home run draft pick amongst most teams, as he can fill the number one corner role with ease.

“To me, he is what Stephon Gilmore was coming out, what Patrick Peterson was coming out,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “He is going to be expected to be one of the best cornerbacks in this league.”

In the scenario that the Washington Redskins draft a quarterback, the Detroit Lions are the only thing between Young and Big Blue. Okudah offers Detroit a lockdown corner in the secondary, and they recently traded away their top player in Darius Slay. Matt Patricia, the head coach of the Lions, has always enjoyed having a real shut down corner to work with. While he was the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots, he enjoyed the talents of Malcolm Butler.

With Detroit signing Desmond Trufant, who spent an injured year with the Atlanta Falcons in 2019, there’s evidence to suggest Okudah is their guaranteed selection. They do have weaknesses at pass-rush, but the Pats never featured top-notch, expensive pass rushers in New England, which could suggest they will go with the OSU corner.

Ultimately, Detroit, being locked on Jeff, gives the Giants immense leverage in a trade-back scenario as well. If Gettleman can execute a trade-back and gain more capital to locate towards solving voided positions, the Giants will be in prime position to upgrade spots of weakness.

Wilson’s Philosophy: Why the New York Giants should pursue Byron Jones over Jeff Okudah

New York Giants, Jeff Okudah, Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys

As one of the best cornerback prospects in recent memory, Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah represents a significant upgrade at the position for the New York Giants if they are willing to invest the fourth overall pick in the standout defender.

However, another option lands in free agency in the form of Byron Jones, who is said to hit the market after the Dallas Cowboys considered his value. With Dallas looking to shed cap space due to the future signings of Dak Prescott and potentially Amari Cooper, Jones represents a premium target for the Giants, who lack a true number one corner after the departure of Janoris Jenkins in 2019.

Landing Jones would be a massive win for Big Blue and general manager Dave Gettleman. His statistics don’t say much regarding the detail of his quality, but often for a star corner, the lower the numbers, the better the performance. Opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators are staying away from Jones and his side of the field, as he limited one of the best wide receivers in the game, Michael Thomas, to zero receptions last year in their matchup.

Why the New York Giants should invest in Jones over Okudah:

Passing on Okuda will be extremely difficult, considering how young and cheap he is on a rookie deal. As one of the best options in the draft, he offers the secondary a bright future. The one thing that he lacks is guaranteed performance, and the Giants know what they are getting in Byron, who made the switch to cornerback in 2018 after featuring as a free safety for the Dallas Cowboys.

Seeing how he has performed over the past two seasons, the Giants can be confident that they are getting their money’s worth. At just 27 years old, Jones is still in his prime and will earn a multi-year contract worth at least $17 million per season. While that is a ton of space for the Giants to be spending at the cornerback position, they need to solidify their secondary and ensure that the pass rush has time to get after quarterbacks. That was a struggle for the defense last season as the secondary was weak and didn’t allow for many coverage sucks.

Additionally, it’s important to note that the Giants have plenty of avenues they can exercise on draft day. Whether they trade back or not, options like Isaiah Simmons, a top tackle prospect, or even Chase Young could be on the board with the 4th pick.

 

New York Giants: Defensive Players to Watch at the Combine

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Jon Halapio, Mike Remmers

It is no secret to anyone reading this, but the New York Giants are in serious need of defensive talent.  At the time of this article, the Giants have just $23.2 million of their 2020 cap space allocated to the defensive side of the football.  For comparison, that is less than what both Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald will count towards the Bears and Rams respectively.  The next closest figure is that of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which is $42.9 million.

It is without question that the New York Giants will target the defense in both Free Agency and April’s draft.  Everyone knows the big name prospects that the Giants may or may not be able to get in the first round.  Chase Young, Isaiah Simmons, Derrick Brown and Jeffrey Okudah are all well known and potential targets for Big Blue in the early stages.  Yet, with currently 10 picks throughout the entire draft, including compensatory picks, the Giants need to be able to target defenders at every stage.

Who are some other prospects the Giants could target in days 2 and 3?

EDGE Zack Baun – Wisconsin

Zack Baun has been a named mocked to the Giants in the 2nd round by numerous sources.  However, he doesn’t have a flashy name like Young, K’Lavon Chaisson or A.J. Epenesa.  For Giants fans well in tune with Joe Judge’s plan of versatility, maybe you should get accustomed to it.  Baun is a defensive playmaker that will be best suited in a versatile role.  His quickness and burst are what will make him stand out in pressure generation.  He can quickly fill gaps in the run game, as well.  If Zack Baun is indeed a selection for the Giants, look for him to play all over the field for the defense.

CB Damon Arnette – Ohio State

I will not be surprised to see Ohio State’s Damon Arnette sneak into the first round after a good showing in Indianapolis.  His skills in press coverage would be well suited for every team in the NFL.  Arnette does not have the elite speed most teams may covet in a corner, so safety help is a must.  Where he does excel, are his ball skills and short-area abilities.

EDGE Joshua Uche – Michigan

No, this isn’t an article of Big Ten athletes.  Joshua Uche is just good.  In his interview this week, Jedrick Wills picked Uche when asked who his toughest matchup was in college.  That is saying a lot coming from an Alabama prospect.  Uche is not the most filled out athlete, but his quickness and bend is top-notch.  He has the frame to add more mass, which could really propel him into the top echelon of NFL pass rushers.

S Kyle Dugger – Lenoir-Rhyne

The South Atlantic Conference in NCAA’s Division II is about as far away from the Big Ten as one could get.  Kyle Dugger, however, will be competing with top tier talent on Sunday’s.  Dugger is another versatile defensive weapon.  One could call him a poor man’s Isaiah Simmons.  However, if he gets called to play for the New York Giants, they’d very likely hit it rich.  Dugger may find the best success transitioning to LB.  In fact, he was asked to take part in LB drills at the NFL Combine.  He may not have the same skill set as Simmons, but he comes with similar versatility.

LB Akeem Davis-Gaithers – Appalachian State

Another prospect from a “smaller” program, Akeem Davis-Gaithers has the talent that the Giants are looking for.  He’s a linebacker that comes with a very good range.  In college, he occasionally was asked to cover wide receivers, but absolutely has the athleticism to cover running backs and tight ends in pass defense.  Similar to Uche, he could afford to put on some extra pounds.  With his hard-hitting mindset, it would be extremely beneficial for him to do so at the next level.

S Shyheim Carter – Alabama

The Giants have had success with Alabama safeties and Shyheim Carter could be the next.  Like Landon Collins, Carter does his best work near the line of scrimmage.  Another versatile, hybrid player, the New York Giants could very well benefit from his services.  Also like Collins, however, he is not someone you’d trust covering a running back or tight end in coverage.

LB Cameron Brown – Penn State

A late-round prospect, Cam Brown is the type of linebacker the Giants have needed.  He has incredible range and athleticism.  Often being bumped out to cover wide receivers in the slot and tight ends.  The Nittany Lions used him quite often in pass defense of the flat zones.  He’s got the range to play WILL but will need to bulk up and clean up his tackle finishing for the NFL.

 

New York Giants land top cornerback in Mel Kiper’s latest Mock Draft

New York Giants, Jeff Okudah

In Mel Kiper’s first mock draft of the offseason, the New York Giants landed star linebacker Isaiah Simmons out of Clemons. Kiper should have stopped there as he proceeded to mock Jeff Okudah to Big Blue in his second attempt.

The Giants desperately need a No. 1 corner, but it’s known that corners require ample time to adapt to the speed and physicality of the NFL. I understand the need for different scenarios, and that Okudah does fit the bill alongside dusty DeAndre Baker. Still, after spending a first-rounder on the position in 2019, they cannot follow their own footsteps.

However, this time, they decide on taking Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah at No. 4 overall.

So if Tagovailoa jumps into the top three, that means the Giants could choose between Okudah and Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, whom I mocked to New York in my first projection of picks 1-32. And after the Giants cut Janoris Jenkins in December, cornerback surged to the top of the team’s needs. First-round pick DeAndre Baker had a rough rookie season, racking up nine penalties and getting burned badly at times. Let’s get Okudah to New York in this scenario, locking down one side of the field with the clear top corner in this class. Edge rusher and offensive tackle are also positions this team must address in the offseason.

Why the New York Giants shouldn’t consider this course of action:

The Giants didn’t only add Baker in the 2019 NFL Draft; they also landed Julian Love and Corey Ballentine. Spending three picks on one position should void any possibility of selecting another in 2020. However, curring Janoris Jenkins and lacking a No. 1 CB is problematic, so I see where Kiper is going with this mock draft, but free agency offers plenty of value. It opens up the prospective trade back option and/or grabbing Simmons.

The Giants haven’t drafted a linebacker in the first round in years, and with Simmons’ diversity and dynamic style of play, they would be foolish to overlook him.

Could the New York Giants draft Jeff Okudah with the 4th overall pick?

New York Giants, Jeff Okudah

The departure of Janoris Jenkins in the latter portion of the 2020 season poses a challenge for the New York Giants this offseason. Do they stick with DeAndre Baker and a slew of younger options in the secondary, or do they allocate some of their available caps-pace towards a player like Logan Ryan or Byron Jones to feature as the team’s No. 1 corner?

There is an alternative, and while some might stray away from this train of thought, Ohio State standout corner, Jeff Okudah, could be a fantastic option for the Giants with the 4th overall selection.

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Okudah is a 6-1, 200-pound corner that has exception man-coverage abilities and contains some of the quickest feet in college. With a severe void in the secondary, Okudah represents a long-term solution at cornerback alongside Baker, who isn’t ready to hold down the top spot yet.

The New York Giants can land a top-tier defender in Okudah:

The Ohio State CB is a tenacious player, crowding early routes and forcing opposing pass-catchers to adapt to his style of play and not the other way around. He makes route-running problematic and can stick on to the hip of receivers like white on rice. One of his most significant developments has been his ball-skills, as he racked up three interceptions last season, along with nine passes defended.

While Baker was primarily an on-ball cover-corner in college, he struggled massively in 2019 with off-ball coverage. Okudah is versed in both and can quickly develop into an NFL cornerback, which is often the negative side to selecting corners early in the draft. The adaptation period is usually the longest when it comes to CBs.

One of the most exciting aspects of Okudah is that he can play on an island. His fantastic vertical speed and transition abilities allow him to match up one V one in coverage, essentially taking the opposing team’s top receiver out of the game. He has an NFL comparison of Jalen Ramsey.

The New York Giants could explore two top level cornerbacks this offseason

New York Giants, Jeff Okudah

With Janoris Jenkins featuring on the New Orleans Saints after being waived by the New York Giants several weeks ago, GM Dave Gettleman will be in the market for a No. 1 cornerback. Jenkins was the de-facto top dog for the Giants before his insensitive tweets sent him to the waiver wire, and his departure left DeAndre Baker fending for himself against opposing teams’ top wide receivers.

Baker allowed a 62.1% completion percentage last season against opposing quarterbacks, which is lackluster considering Jenkins, who lacked effort on numerous occasions, logged a 53.8% completion percentage. Having a top corner is a necessity for a Giants team with a weak secondary and robust interior defensive line.

Gettleman will surely be looking to inject more talent into the cornerback, linebacker, and pass-rusher positions. Luckily, he has $80+ million in cap space and plenty of draft capital to utilize in his quest to correct the wrongdoings he implemented on the defense.

Here are two cornerbacks the New York Giants should consider:

1.) Logan Ryan

Aside from Ryan’s impeccable healthy history, he’s also one of the best corners in the NFL. His contract is set to expire with the Tennessee Titans, which opens the door for the Giants to steal him away, and after his 2019 production, they should be bidding high for his services.

Ryan logged 113 combined tackles, four tackles for a loss, eight QB hits, 4.5 sacks, 18 passes defended, four interceptions, and four forced fumbles this season. The Titans view him as more than just an elite cover-corner. He can rush the passer from the outside, thanks to a unique defensive scheme. If the Giants bring him in, using him as a utility player that can produce in multiple categories seems like the right move. Factor in his pick-six against Tom Brady to slam the door closed on the Evil Empire, and Gettleman should be preparing his checkbook for the 28-year-old.

Expect him to earn somewhere in the $11-13 million range.

2.) Jeff Okudah

The Giants have the 4th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and Jeff Okudah, cornerback for Ohio State, could fit the bill for a secondary begging for a No. 1 corner. Okudah, who’s the best corner in all of college football, racked up 34 total tackles, and nine passes defended over 13 games.

His statistical production doesn’t scream efficiency, but that can be a good thing for corners. Opposing quarterback seldom picked on the OSU star, and drafting him would make him the top corner for the Giants immediately. However, the CB positions present the biggest challenge for players making the jump to the NFL, and that’s a factor the Giants must consider. I believe they will sign a free-agent corner to fill the spot instead of drafting Okudah, but sometimes youth is too appealing.