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Giants Now: Mel Kiper's updated prospect rankings


Mel Kiper's updated 2021 prospect rankings

The calendar has officially flipped to April, meaning we are just a few short weeks away from the start of the 2021 NFL Draft.

ESPN's Mel Kiper is widely considered one of the top NFL draft analysts in the country. Earlier this week, Kiper updated his draft Big Board, changing the order of his top 25 prospects following the conclusion of most, but not all, of the college pro days.

As Kiper noted, this draft class is set up to be "one of the most interesting classes ever." The Giants hold the No. 11 pick in this year's draft.

Here are the top 11 prospects on Kiper's Big Board, along with commentary from the ESPN draft analyst:

1. QB Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

"Lawrence is going No. 1 to the Jaguars and will get a chance to lead the turnaround of that franchise alongside coach Urban Meyer. He has everything NFL teams want in a starting quarterback, from size to arm talent to the ability to process reads and make the right throw. He finished his Clemson career with 108 total touchdowns (18 rushing) and just 17 interceptions across three seasons. With no combine this year, Lawrence threw for scouts in February, then had surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder. He should still be ready for the 2021 season."

2. TE Kyle Pitts, Florida

"Pitts is going to be a matchup nightmare at the next level. Don't think of him as just a tight end, though. He'll line up out wide and in the slot, too, and he has the speed to run by defensive backs. He finished the season with 12 touchdown catches in eight games while averaging 17.9 yards per reception. Pitts has a huge frame, of course, but he high-points the football well and has soft hands. A smart offensive coordinator will feed him targets just like a No. 1 receiver. He has a chance to be a top-five pick."

3. WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama

"The Heisman Trophy winner capped an unbelievable season with three first-half touchdowns in Bama's national title win over Ohio State. He finished 2020 with 1,856 receiving yards and 25 total touchdowns (23 receiving, one rushing, one on a punt return). Smith was the Crimson Tide's best receiver in 2019, too, even over top-15 picks Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III. He's not going to wow with his size, but he just produces. He's a tremendous route runner, and he has great hands. He's going to be a star and a top-10 pick."

4. WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU

"We shouldn't forget how good Chase was in 2019, when he caught 84 passes and led the country with 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. And after opting out of the 2020 season, he still has a chance to be the top wide receiver picked in April. He's stellar after the catch, breaking tackles and running away from defenders, and he can separate on routes. As I mentioned last summer, Chase consistently beat first-round pick A.J. Terrell in the national title game, catching nine passes for 221 yards and two TDs. He's a legitimate No. 1 wideout."

5. WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

"Waddle's game is all about speed -- he's one of the fastest prospects in this class. He averaged 18.9 yards per catch over three seasons at Alabama, though he played only five games in 2020 because of an ankle injury. Waddle was overshadowed at times by Smith, Ruggs and Jeudy at Bama, but he's a great player. He's electric with the ball in his hands, as a receiver and as a returner. Teams will want to take a close look at his medical reports when they can, but I expect him to go in the top 10."

6. QB Justin Fields, Ohio State

"Fields had an up-and-down 2020 season, but I believe in his talent. He looked outstanding in some games and mediocre in others. He lit up a really good Clemson defense in the College Football Playoff semifinal, throwing for six touchdowns and completing 78.6% of his passes. He didn't have a great national title game, but the Alabama defense harassed him all game. Overall, he had 22 touchdown passes and six picks in eight games and ranked second overall in Total QBR (91.6). The Georgia transfer needs to get better at going through his progressions, but that can come in time. He's still young -- he started only 22 college games. Before the season, I said I wanted to see Fields improve as a decision-maker in the pocket and on off-platform throws, and though he has improved there, he needs to take a bigger step forward at the next level."

7. QB Zach Wilson, BYU

"How the quarterbacks are ordered after Lawrence will depend on the team. Some will like Fields over Wilson, others will reverse it, and others could like Trey Lance or Mac Jones more. It's a fascinating quarterback class. Wilson has a stellar arm and can climb the pocket to find the open receiver. He was too inconsistent in 2019, bordering on reckless, but he was the opposite last season. He threw 33 touchdown passes (up from 11 in 2019) and only three picks. He also had 10 rushing scores and showed off his athleticism to manipulate the pocket. Wilson shows anticipation on throws. He's the complete package."

8. OT Penei Sewell, Oregon

"I wrote in September that Sewell could be a top-five pick even if he never played another snap at Oregon. And I still think that's going to happen. He announced just days after my preseason Big Board was released that he was opting out of the season and entering the 2021 draft. He's the clear top offensive tackle in this class and dominated as Justin Herbert's blindside protector in 2019, winning the Outland Trophy as college football's best lineman. In a class with outstanding quarterback and wide receiver talent, Sewell won't be the sexiest pick, but he'll be an instant starter and upgrade for the team that picks him."

9. OL Rashawn Slater, Northwestern

"Slater is a veteran who started 37 games at left and right tackle for the Wildcats, though there are a few teams that think he could be an All-Pro guard. He has good feet and is an excellent pass-blocker; he didn't allow a sack in 2019 while playing on the left side. He moves really well for his size. Slater opted out of the 2020 season, but he didn't need to prove much in the Big Ten. His father, Reggie, had a long career in the NBA."

10. OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC

"Vera-Tucker is a guy I studied more in December, and I love his tape. I put him at No. 14 to the Vikings in my first mock draft and at No. 20 to the Bears in my latest mock. The former guard moved to left tackle in 2020, and he was tremendous. He has the versatility to play either spot in the NFL. He's a stellar run-blocker who has the feet to keep improving as a pass-blocker. This is one of the best top-tier offensive line classes over the past decade."

11. LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

"Parsons opted out too and has been training for the 2021 draft. He was all over the field in 2018-19, racking up 191 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and 6 forced fumbles. He has rare talent, though he has room to grow into the defense that picks him. He played linebacker for the Nittany Lions, but he was a defensive end in high school and could end up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense at the next level. It's the versatility that makes him valuable, as he could also play inside linebacker in a 4-3. Parsons had five sacks in 2019, but he has a higher ceiling as a pass-rusher in the NFL. He had a great pro day workout."

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah updated his ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft for the final time before the start of the draft.

John Mara believes Giants can take big step forward in 2021

After a busy two weeks of player arrivals and departures, John Mara today made his first public comments of the offseason in a Zoom news conference. And all the hopes, expectations and confidence he expressed for the 2021 season can be distilled to the quote above. After four consecutive double-digit loss seasons, the Giants' president and chief executive officer believes his team can take a big step forward in Joe Judge's second season as head coach.

"We're committed to doing whatever we have to do to put a winning team on the field," Mara said. "There were opportunities that presented themselves to add quality young players that were highly regarded, that we think can make an impact and also were positions of need, so we took advantage of them. I think you can't do that every year, but when the opportunity presents itself, I think you have to seize it and I think that's what we did this year. We think it will pay off, but time will tell. We're certainly not a finished product by any stretch of imagination. We need to add some more pieces in the draft, but I do like the direction that we're going in."

Mara, of course, has been associated with the Giants for all his 66 years. Each defeat to him is both a heartbreaker and a gut punch. A losing season is a four-month exercise in torture. The Giants have not enjoyed a winning season nor made a postseason appearance since 2016. That is a lifetime to Mara, and to Steve Tisch, the team's chairman and executive vice president.

From their perches atop the organization, Mara and Tisch are doing everything possible to end the team's four-season slide. For each of them, a return to greatness would be both a professional and personal triumph.

"Obviously, it would mean the world to me," Mara said. "It's been a very difficult four or five-year period for us and I'm tired of the losing and of having the postseason press conference trying to explain what went wrong and why I think we're making progress. It's time for us to start winning some more and that's one of the reasons we spent the money we did. I do think we're making progress here.

"We've added more players, it's definitely a better locker room than we've had in a while and I think Joe has done a terrific job instilling a certain culture here. The players believe in him and the fans seem to believe in him, too, so I think we're moving in the right direction. But obviously, it's been brutal the last few years and we're looking forward to turning it around and not having to make excuses for why we haven't done it."

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