The New York Giants took major steps to improve their defense this offseason with uncharacteristically big moves in free agency. They even bolstered their linebacking corps by re-signing surprising star Jon Beason and inking talented former Raven Jameel McClain.
Who says they’re finished?
The 2014 NFL Draft class features some unbelievably talented young athletes ready to make their mark in the pros, most notably at the outside linebacker position, and the G-Men could benefit from adding one at some point during the process.
Here is cover32’s list of the top 10 outside linebackers:
10. Christian Kirksey (Iowa)
9. Jordan Zumwalt (UCLA)
8. Telvin Smith (FSU)
7. Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech)
6. Trevor Reilly (Utah)
5. Kyle Van Noy (BYU)
4. Carl Bradford (ASU)
3. Ryan Shazier (Ohio State)
2. Anthony Barr (UCLA)
1. Khalil Mack (Buffalo)
For a long time, UCLA’s Anthony Barr seemed to be a popular first-round selection for the Giants among those in the mock draft community. However, that has changed since the Combine and, more specifically, since the McClain signing.
Khalil Mack would obviously be a pipe dream for the Giants—and just about every team in the draft—he should be off the board long before they’re slated to pick at No. 12. Utah’s Trevor Reilly and Florida State’s Telvin Smith are both very intriguing mid-round options, with the lateral likely to make a move to safety in the NFL.
But no outside linebacker prospect may be more enticing to see in a Giants uniform than Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier at this juncture.
While Mack and Barr have gotten most of the hype, Shazier may be the most polished and well-rounded outside linebacker in this year’s draft. The former Buckeye fits the Giants mold as an athletic, versatile talent capable of playing both inside and outside linebacker. He is a run-and-chase linebacker with solid pass-coverage skills—something the G-Men have desperately lacked at the linebacker position.
The addition of Shazier could be a valuable one, if the Giants choose that route, stabilizing the linebacking corps for years as a sure-tackling leader certain to make an impact in every game. With a long list of needs heading into the draft, however, it’s possible Shazier could be long gone by the time the G-Men even consider addressing the outside linebacker position—if they do at all.