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Looking at linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties for the Giants to target in the draft.
We all know it by heart by now: The Giants have not taken a linebacker in the first round of the draft since 1984 — when they struck gold with Carl Banks. Thirty-three years is long enough, don’t you think? This could be the year the streak ends, especially if Zach Cunningham of Vanderbilt is on the board. And how about jumping on Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt (younger brother of J.J.) if he is there in the third round? The Giants believe they have a middle linebacker prospect in second-year B.J. Goodson and solid veterans in Jonathan Casillas, Devon Kennard and Keenan Robinson. They could use a top-end rookie to add to the mix.
Most teams only can dream of having three cornerbacks on the roster (Janoris Jenkins, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Eli Apple) with such skill and versatility, and it is unlikely the first-round pick will be spent on adding another. You never can have too many, though, and what if Apple’s former Ohio State teammate Gareon Conley is there at No. 23? More likely, a second-round stab could be made on Tre’Davious White (LSU) or Kevin King (Washington), or Cordrea Tankersley (Clemson) in the third round.
Some positions are more well-stocked than others, and the Giants feel good about what they have going on at safety — especially considering the spectacular showing Landon Collins had in his second NFL season. In reserve, Andrew Adams was surprisingly competitive, starting as an undrafted rookie free agent, and Nat Berhe always shows promise but never can stay on the field. It would be fascinating if do-everything Jabrill Peppers (Michigan) is available in the first round — could the Giants pass up on such an intriguing player? This is not a need position, but second- or third-round prospects Obi Melifonwu (UConn) or ball-hawk (and possible nickel corner) Desmond King (Iowa) are options.
1. Reuben Foster, Alabama, 6-1, 240
Hands down the best of the group. Has chance to be a game changer for an NFL team. Ran a 4.72 in 40, had 115 tackles, 13 for losses and five sacks in 2016.
2. Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt, 6-4, 230
Three-year star with incredible production (256 tackles in 156 games) against top competition. Ran 4.75 in 40, had 125 tackles, 16 ½ for losses and two forced fumbles in 2016.
3. Jarrad Davis, Florida, 6-2, 238
Played middle linebacker and was everywhere for Gators as a crunching hitter. Ran 4.68 in 40, had 60 tackles and two sacks in 2016.
4. Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State, 6-3, 243
One of most versatile in the draft. Can play all three LB positions, but likely will play inside.
5. Tyus Bowser, Houston, 6-3, 240
Very productive in 2016 with 12 tackles for losses and 8 ½ sacks. He’s a strong pass rusher who can drop in pass coversge.
Late riser: Alex Anzalone, Florida: Because of a litany of injuries, he played in just 18 games in four years, but he played very well at the Senior Bowl.
Dropping fast: Kendell Beckwith, LSU: He is the prototype middle linebacker at 6-foot-3, 247 pounds with jarring tackling ability. But his speed is a concern and he suffered a torn ACL, which ended his senior season in November and should prevent him from being 100 percent before the draft.
Small-school wonder: Haason Reddick, Temple: He is an intriguing prospect, as a high school safety and running back and a walk-on at Temple because of injuries in high school. He ranked third in the nation in tackles for loss in 2016 with 22.5 and recording 10.5 sacks.
1. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State, 6-0, 192
Physical specimen, ran 4.35 40 at the Combine with a 38.5-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot broad jump. Has great ball skills (four INTS, nine passes broken up in 2016). Has the skill set to be No. 1 cover corner.
2. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama, 6-0, 197
Well-developed and has potential to be quality starter quickly. In 2016, he had 33 tackles, two INTs and five pass breakups. Some scouts rate him as top CB coming out.
3. Tre’Davious White, LSU, 5-11, 191
A four-year starter who is strong cover corner and an explosive punt returner with three TDs.
4. Gareon Conley, Ohio State, 6-0, 195
Had 26 tackles with eight passes broken up and four INTs in 2016.
5. Adoree’ Jackson, USC, 5-10, 186
Had a huge 2016 season with 55 tackles, 11 passes broken up and five INTs. He also returned two kickoffs and two punts for TDs along with a TD reception on offense. An explosive talent.
Late riser: William Likely, Maryland: His size is a downfall — 5-foot-7, 180 pounds — but has terrific ball skills. Someone will take a chance on him.
Dropping fast: Sidney Jones, Washington: Was considered a lock as a first-round draft pick before he ruptured his left Achilles tendon during the Huskies’ pro day.
Small-school wonder: DeAndre Houston-Carson, William & Mary: Was a shutdown corner for three years, then moved to free safety as a senior as his coaches needed their smartest and most physical player in the back half.
1. Jamal Adams, LSU, 6-0, 214
Most versatile safety coming out, with coverage skills and aggressive tackling ability. A natural-born leader.
2. Malik Hooker, Ohio State, 6-1, 206
Great run-support safety who also had seven interceptions in 2016.
3. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan, 5-11, 213
Has played slot, outside corner, safety, linebacker, running back and returner effectively. Incredible athletes who should be a fit on any team.
4. Budda Baker, Washington, 5-10, 195
Looks great on tape, according to scouts, but size could be an issue in run support in the box.
5. Josh Jones, N.C. State, 6-1, 220
Great speed as evidenced by his 4.41 he ran in the 40 at the NFL Combine.
Late riser: Obi Melifonwu, Connecticut: Has great size and also is a fast defender. Was superb at the Senior Bowl, where he showed real coverage skills in the passing game and looked good being the deep free safety. Could go off the board late in the first round.
Dropping fast: Marcus Maye, Florida: After recording 50 tackles with one INT and six passes broken up in 2016, he suffered a broken left arm. Flashes in some games and gives up big plans in others.
Small-school wonder: Lorenzo Jerome, Saint Francis (Pa.): The last Saint Francis player to be drafted came in 1944. Jerome, who has 18 career INTs and averaged 27.2 yards per kickoff return with three TDs, is going to end that drought.
— additional reporting by Mark Cannizzaro