NFL Draft expert Mike Mayock previewed the prospects and storylines heading into Thursday's Draft:
NFL Network's Mike Mayock names the best draft prospect at each position.
From the time analysts released their first mock drafts of 2017, many have projected the Giants to take a tight end at No. 23. And some still do. The question is just who will still be available when the team is on the clock.
NFL Media draft expert Mike Mayock ranks O.J. Howard of Alabama, David Njoku of Miami and Evan Engram of Mississippi as the top prospects at the position. The Crimson Tide's All-American is regarded as the best of the group and could be taken in the top 10. But is there any chance he falls to the Giants?
"O.J. Howard's a great conversation because I think he's a future Greg Olsen (a three-time Pro Bowler for the Panthers). That's who I see," Mayock said in his annual pre-draft conference call. "He ran 4.51 at 251 pounds, which is outstanding. He can get down the field, intermediate and deep. He's tough enough to catch the ball in the crowd. He can catch the ball in-line, and he can catch the ball from a displaced position. There aren't many of those guys around anymore. There aren't many of the Olsens, [Jason] Wittens, etc., and that's who he can develop into.
"The problem is sometimes people don't place enough value on that. I don't think he'll be there at 23. As a matter of fact, if I had to name my top 10 … he'll be in the top 10 or 12. That's how good a football player I think he is."
That leaves Njoku as the best available tight end.
"David Njoku is an intriguing conversation, also at 23, and, you know, maybe you're also taking a look at some of those running backs at 23," Mayock continued. "Because I think, more than anything, you need a playmaker. I don't care whether you call them tight ends, running backs, whatever, you need a playmaker."
Here are other highlights from Mayock's call:
"THINK OF NEW YORK WITH AN ELI MANNING"
Asked about Cal quarterback Davis Webb, Mayock said, "I think Webb has picked up a lot of steam since the Senior Bowl. He came in that week, and he's got a big arm, big body, athletic kid, and he just gripped it. I think that took him from the fringes where people go. … I was not at his Pro Day because I had to be somewhere else that day, but I had four or five quarterback coaches text me or call me and say, 'Wow, in the rain out here, the kid ripped it, really impressive.' So I think he's going in the second round. I think he's an intriguing quarterback for a team that already has a starter toward the end of his career. Think of Arizona with a 38-year-old Carson Palmer. Think of New Orleans with Drew Brees. Think of New York with an Eli Manning, Pittsburgh, etc. I love him as a second round pick developing behind a starter."
"AS FAR AS TACO CHARLTON IS CONCERNED, HE'S INTRIGUING"
On defensive ends Charles Harris (Missouri) and Taco Charlton (Michigan), who both appear on various mock drafts for the Giants: "I think Charles Harris can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3. It's interesting, because the edge rush group this year between [Tennessee's Derek] Barnett, [UCLA's Takkarist] McKinley, Harris, [Wisconsin's T.J.] Watt, all four of those guys could kind of fit the 3-4 thing very well. But I think they've played enough 4-3 end where they've got enough size and length to at least play in sub-package downs. I think Charles Harris is one of those guys.
"As far as Taco Charlton is concerned, he's intriguing. I wonder why he didn't play more football prior to this year. He's got length, he's got power, he's got athletic ability. He doesn't have the twitch. Like I wanted him to be Carlos Dunlap because they're very similar size. Dunlap ran 4.72, and Charlton ran 4.92. So what you see on tape is what I saw at the combine where he doesn't quite have the twitch of an elite edge rusher, so I think he's more of a base 3-4 end. And there is nothing wrong with that. You can be a good football player that plays eight to ten years in the league, and I've got a second round grade on him."
OBJ'S WR CLASS WAS AN "ABERRATION"
On wide receivers making an immediate impact: "The receiver thing is an interesting question. So back in 2014, that was the Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin. They were the five first round picks in 2014. At that point, when they played so well as rookies, I was like: I think we're seeing a change here. I think what's happening is because of the back shoulder fade, and we're seeing guys with the bigger body guys have immediate success, I think wide receivers have come out running way more routes than they used to. So I thought we were seeing change with the ability to come in and play Day 1.
"So since that class in '14, the last two classes as far as immediate impact have been minor at best. So it looks like '14 was more of an aberration than a trend. If you look at the guys this year, I've made the point to everybody that those three top wideouts are all different styles, which I like. If you take the medical away from John Ross, he's going to make plays for you immediately, both in the kick game and the pass game. I don't think there is any doubt about that. Mike Williams I liked because he's clean, and I know what I'm getting. I'm getting a big bodied guy outside the numbers on back shoulder, inside the numbers on slant, red zone weapon, put the ball in the end zone. And Corey Davis is a little more of a question mark, mid-major school, coming off an ankle, all that. But as you look down the list beyond that, I think [JuJu] Smith-Schuster from USC can be a fairly good receiver year one as he develops, because he's got strength and power. Zay Jones, nothing has been too big for him. Then you get into guys like Dede Westbrook and Curtis Daniel and what kind of impact they can make as far as big plays. So I like John Ross and Mike Williams a lot. Just followed by Corey Davis with some question marks."
"I'M GOING TO LABEL HIM A RUNNING BACK"
On Stanford running back and 2015 Heisman Trophy finalist Christian McCaffrey potentially being better at wide receiver in the NFL: "I think all it does is add to his versatility. I think it's great that people make those comments because I'll tell you at the combine what was interesting, when the running backs got done their work, their position work, they sent everybody to the showers except three or four guys that they asked to run some slot routes. And he ran the slot routes maybe better than any slot wide receiver had run them at the combine this year. It blew people away. Then they sent the other guys in, and he stood out and returned punts. He looked like a natural punt returner.
"So his label is running back, but the fact that he could line up in the slot or out wide or run routes from the running back position, all that does is help him. I don't think he's going to be a slot in the NFL. I believe he's got the talent to be a top 10 or top 15 pick in the NFL Draft. I'm going to label him a running back, and I think he can get 12 to 15 touches a game in the run game. I think he can catch the ball four or five, six times a game, and if you want, he can return punts. I think what people forget is in his last two years at Stanford, he averaged 30 touches a game. That's a heavy load. He's 202 pounds and he only missed one game. So from my perspective, all that stuff about him as a slot receiver, all that does is enhance him."
"HE'S ANOTHER LIGHTNING ROD CONVERSATION"
On Michigan's Jabrill Peppers: "He's another lightning rod conversation. … The coaches in the drafting department all have to be on the same page all the time, but especially with players like Peppers. I think he's a first round talent, but you better figure out in advance how you're going to use him. I know Day 1 he can be the best return specialist on your team, and don't underrate that. That's point No. 1. Point No. 2, you better have a plan for him on defense. And from my perspective, he's better closer to the line of scrimmage. There are certain players that just are. And I think he's a starting strong safety that's better in the box. I think he can play nickel, especially teams that have big nickel and little nickel. I think he'll be your big nickel all day long. The concern is whether or not he can match up and cover tight ends. Obviously he can from a speed perspective, but just from a size perspective, if you line him up on a tight end. I know he can handle running back. When you take him in the first round or any round, but I think he's a first round player, you have to have a plan. Are you playing him on offense at all, trying to get the ball in his hands? Just have a plan and develop this kid."