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Mailbag: Finding impact players on defense

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Christian in NY: If both Jeff Okudah and Isiah Simmons are on the board at number 4, which player/position would have a bigger impact on defense?

John Schmeelk: Good question, Christian. There are three aspects you have to look at when deciding to draft a player. The first, and most important, is how good the player is. The second is need, which is something that can be used as a tiebreaker between similarly graded players. The third, and least talked about, is "impact", which I connect to team building.

Football is the ultimate team game, with each player on the field impacting every other, so it is difficult to determine impact using analytics or advanced statistics. People like Pro Football Focus have developed a WAR (wins above replacement) for NFL players, but it is a complicated formula.

The way you figure out how NFL teams value positions is by looking at how much they pay them in free agency. Transition tags are determined by averaging the top ten salaries for players at that position. The transition tag for linebackers this season is $13.77 million and it is $14.2 million for cornerbacks. The linebacker number is skewed higher because it includes some 3-4 outside linebackers who get paid like edge rushers.

Simmons is an off-ball linebacker, but not a typical one. His elite coverage ability and versatility increases his value and could theoretically close some or all of the gap between the perceived value between off-ball linebackers and cornerbacks. He would be on the field every down and cover running backs, tight ends and slot receivers. His athletic skillset would fit perfectly next to Blake Martinez.

Okudah, meanwhile, is an outside cornerback and could slide in across from newly acquired cornerback James Bradberry. It would also possibly force last year's first round pick DeAndre Baker, sixth round pick Corey Ballentine, and 2018 third round supplemental pick Sam Beal into reserve roles, since they have not played nickel cornerback before. Okudah would be an upgrade, but it would be at the cost of losing the potential improved play from previous high draft picks.

There is a good and legitimate argument for either player since both are considered to be elite prospects at the top of their position groups. Many would select Simmons, however, because he is versatile and would fill a needed role in the middle of the defense. The Giants defense has struggled in the middle of the field against tight ends, slot receivers and third down backs for many seasons, and Simmons could help solve their problems there. The Giants already have players on their roster who can fill Okudah's role.

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Bobby in NY: What are the chances that Dave Gettleman makes a deal with Cincinnati and/or Detroit, to move up and pick Edge Chase Young? Possibly a three team move, Detroit first, then with that pick and some creativity, a deal with the Bengals for their number 1 pick?

John Schmeelk: I appreciate the desire to go get Chase Young, who is widely considered to be one of the best edge rushers to come out in recent seasons, but a trade up would be very unlikely for a few reasons. First, the Giants desire to move up to get Young would have to be greater than other teams that are looking to move up for a quarterback. Given the value a top quarterback presents to other teams, they would likely be willing to offer more in any deal than the Giants would. The Bengals, who need a quarterback, would also probably refuse all overtures to move their first overall pick.

Second, the Giants are already missing their third round pick (68th overall) they sent to the Jets in the Leonard Williams trade last season. They have a huge 63 pick gap between their 2nd round pick (36th overall) and their supplemental pick in the third round (99th overall). The capital they would have to use in order to make a move like that would probably cost them one or both of those picks, plus picks in future drafts.

The Giants are still building their roster and still need a lot of picks to fill needs and build for the future on both sides of the ball. Second and third round picks can become future starters on reasonable contracts. While Chase Young is certainly a prize worth going after, the cost would be prohibitive.

Would you rather have Chase Young, or one of Jeffrey Okudah and Isaiah Simmons plus the players selected with whatever picks you have to give to move up in the draft? I, for one, would select the latter scenario and it would be an easy decision. In this case, quantity wins over the potential of landing one player of higher quality.

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