After visiting Penn State last week, Giants coach Joe Judge was spotted at Miami's pro day on Monday.
The 2021 NFL Draft begins exactly one month from today, and the Hurricanes boast two prospects in NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah's updated top 50 – edge defenders Gregory Rousseau (No. 13) and Jaelan Phillips (No. 22). The Giants currently own six picks, beginning with the No. 11 overall selection.
Rousseau had a breakout season in 2019, when he was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year (only second Hurricane to earn honor and first since 2008). He led the conference with 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss (second and ninth in FBS, respectively) before opting out of the 2020 season.
"Rousseau is a tall, long and rangy defender," Jeremiah wrote in his scouting report. "He aligned all over the front in Miami's scheme and was extremely productive in 2019 despite having limited experience on the defensive line (he played safety and wide receiver in high school). He lacks an elite get-off as a pass rusher, but his combination of quick hands, length and instincts leads to sacks and pressures in bunches. He has an effective swipe/rip move and he can close/finish. He didn't show much power early in the '19 season, but he got better every week. By the end of the season, he flashed the ability to convert speed to power (see: Duke game). He is very comfortable and effective rushing inside. In the run game, he uses his length to set the edge, but he does get too high at times. His effort is excellent. Overall, Rousseau is still developing, but he has found a way to post elite production while learning on the job. His best football is ahead of him."
Phillips, who transferred from UCLA, dominated his lone season at Miami. He started all 10 games of the regular season and led the team with 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He was selected to the All-America First Team by the American Football Coaches Association and All-America Second Team by the Football Writers Association of America and Associated Press. The California native was also a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award, which is given to the nation's top defensive player.
"Phillips is a tall, explosive and bendy edge rusher," Jeremiah wrote. "He splits his time between playing with his hand on the ground and standing up on the edge. As a pass rusher, he has an excellent get-off and possesses the ankle flexibility to bend and corner smoothly at the top of his rush. He has an explosive inside counter move and he also uses his length to pop/separate to generate sacks and pressures. He needs to be more consistent using his hands to control blockers against the run. He has speed/burst to quickly close from the back side. There is some concern about Phillips' durability based on his injury history during his UCLA career (he transferred to Miami in 2019), but he has as much talent as any pass rusher in this draft class."
With no NFL Scouting Combine in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, pro days have taken on an added significance. Judge spoke earlier this month about the need to "put scouts in the right positions to watch these pro days" due to the three-person limit for each NFL club.
"I'd say we have a lot of confidence in going through the draft last year without pro days at all, dealing solely with talking to players after the Combine on Zoom," said Judge, who was born in Philadelphia. "And I think we did a good job working as an organization to evaluate them through that process based on their game tape, to get together and make sure that we agreed in how we saw the player and what the best decision for the team going forward was.
"Now, ideally leading into the Draft, you want to get out there, you want to meet in person with these players, you want to look them in the eye, you want to get on the field with them, you want to put them through drills and you want to really get a feel for these guys on the field – how they respond to your coaching, what they can and can't do on the field and really get a feel for their skillset up close. You know, video tape is good, but there's really no replacing in-person workouts. That being said, because of the travel around the country right now and then also some of the restrictions at the campus, we're going to be selective about where we send coaches as far as being out to work guys out because, again, you're more going there as an observer than you are to actually work out the players. It's definitely different than in the past.
"I'd say it's not too dissimilar than the Combine itself where you'd sit in the stands in Indy or in a suite and watch the players work out, but to be honest with you, I'd say 90 percent of the coaches and personnel that are in the booths or in the suites are looking at the guy on the field and then they're looking at the replay on the screen on TV to get an up-close look at it. It's not the most ideal view as it is anyway, so, long-winded answer, will there be people out there? There will. Is it going to be as much traveling as in the past or as much interaction? No, it won't. However, I'd say we have a lot of confidence in going through the draft last year without pro days at all, dealing solely with talking to players after the Combine on Zoom and I think we did a good job working as an organization to evaluate them through that process based on their game tape, to get together and make sure that we agreed in how we saw the player and what the best decision for the team going forward was."
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.