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Draft experts discuss linebacker and tight end options


Draft experts Kyle Crabbs from NDT Scouting, Dane Brugler from NFL Draft Scout and Steve Palazzo from Pro Football Focus preview the combine:

It's been 33 years since the Giants took a linebacker (Carl Banks) in the first round of the NFL Draft. It's been 12 years since Big Blue went tight end (Jeremy Shockey) in round one.

Will one of those position droughts come to an end in the 2017 NFL Draft?

Several NFL Draft insiders believe so. On the Thursday edition of Big Blue Kickoff Live at the NFL Combine, a trio – Kyle Crabbs from NDT Scouting, Dane Brugler from NFL Draft Scout and Steve Palazzo from Pro Football Focus – joined the program to discuss the draft and who the Giants could select with the 23rd overall pick.

"I'm going with Haason Reddick, the linebacker out of Temple," Crabbs said. "Write it down. He and Reuben Foster from Alabama are first round locks at the position."

Palazzo is high on another player at the position that's been mocked to the Giants, Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham.

"The guy loves contact and he will attack blockers," Palazzo said. "He can play inside or out. The three down linebacker, the guy that doesn't come off the field, is more valuable than ever. It's a spread game – there's only six guys in the box, not seven or eight anymore. You need a guy that can play the run, can cover man, zone and do it all. I think Zach Cunningham is one of those guys."

Reddick recorded 10.5 sacks last season for the Owls, and his stock blew through the roof after an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl this year. Cunningham was the first unanimous All-American in Commodores' history, and earned First-Team All SEC for the second straight season.

"Reddick is a guy that intrigues me the most," Brugler said. "His best position is probably going to be at inside linebacker. You can get creative with him – blitz him and use his athletic gifts to your advantage. I do think he can stay on the field on all three downs and I do think he's going to be a first round pick in the back-half of round one. He was a winner at the Senior Bowl, and I think he's going to come out a winner at the Combine."

As for the tight end position, two names generate the most discussion – Alamaba's O.J. Howard and Miami's David Njoku. Howard was named the 2017 Practice Player of the Week at the Senior Bowl. Checking in at 6-foot-6 and 249 pounds, Howard earned third-team All-American and Second-Team All-SEC honors in his final season under Nick Saban.

Njoku is a local prospect. He attended Cedar Grove High School in Cedar Grove, New Jersey before going on to star at the University of Miami.  As a junior in 2016, he had 43 receptions for 698 yards and eight touchdowns.'s Lance Zierlein names his instant impact draft prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft.

"O.J. Howard is a much cleaner run blocker," Palazzo said. "Howard makes those outside zone blocks and really difficult blocks on the edge. Njoku moves and runs like a wide receiver. You'll be able to see that this week. He's not your classic in-line type of tight end, but we've compared him to Jordan Reed."

"With Howard, he was underutilized at Alabama, I think we all saw that," Brugler said. "He can put his hand in the ground and be an in-line guy. He can be on the wing and he can kick out in the slot. Watching him go up against linebackers and safeties at the Senior Bowl, it wasn't a competition. He's not an overwhelming blocker, but he can do enough to sustain. There's not a lot of holes in his game."

Added Brugler: "With Njoku, the upside is off the charts. I cannot wait to see him run out here at 6-foot-4, 240 pounds and a huge wingspan. He was a national champion high jumper in high school. So this guy is going to jump out of the gym. He's really impressive just his physical measurements. He doesn't turn 21 until the summer so he's a young guy. His blocking is very green. As a receiver, his routes need work but you see the natural athleticism and his upside is off the charts. I wouldn't be surprised if he jumps Howard for some teams."

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