By Michael Stewart
Introduction: The New York Giants only have B. J Goodson under contract in 2018 and thus far, he has showed the inability to stay healthy in his first two seasons. The Giants need to invest in play making linebackers if they want to bring back the glory days of New York Giants football; when linebackers were a lethal weapon. GM Dave Gettleman could address this need through free agency and also through the draft. Below are a few prospects that could be available for the Giants in each round courtesy of Walterfootball.com:
ILB-Roquan Smith-6’1/225 (Georgia): Scouting sources were raving about Smith in 2017, and he was tremendous for Georgia. Smith was all over the field for the Bulldogs with a big presence in defending the run while also being a reliable contributor in pass coverage. The fast and instinctive Smith flies around the field, making tackles while also showing the ability to play in pass coverage. He has drawn comparisons to the Buccaneers’ Lavonte David and the Falcons’ Deion Jones.
ILB-Rashaan Evans-6’3/231 (Alabama): In 2017, Evans totaled 66 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks, one forced fumble and three passes broken up. The senior possesses an impressive skill set with size, speed and physicality. He did well rushing off the edge for Alabama in 2017.
ILB-Darius Leonard-6’2/228 (South Carolina State): Scouting sources reported that Leonard really impressed them during the fall. He flew around the field, producing a lot for his defense. Leonard amassed 113 tackles with eight tackles for a loss, eight sacks, one pass batted, two interceptions and one forced fumble in 2017. He has a knack for making plays behind the line of scrimmage as he totaled 42 tackles for a loss with 13.5 sacks combined over his freshman, sophomore and junior years. Leonard has NFL size and dominated his level of competition. He was impressive at the Senior Bowl, showing pass-coverage ability while also running sideline-to-sideline in the ground game.
ILB-Malik Jefferson-6’3/238 (Texas): Jefferson totaled 110 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss and four sacks in 2017. He played hard for Texas and turned in his best season. Jefferson isn’t great in pass coverage or at taking on blocks in the run game. He is at his best being a pursuit linebacker when running free.
ILB-Josey Jewell-6’2/230 (Iowa): Jewell totaled 136 tackles with 4.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, two interceptions and 11 passes batted in 2017. He missed some time with injuries but still produced well for Iowa. ILB-Leighton Vander Esch-6’4/225 (Boise State): Vander Esch broke out in 2017 with massive production for Boise State. The junior totaled 141 tackles with 8.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, four passes broken up and three interceptions on the year. Vander Esch was limited to six games in 2016 because of injuries. He had 27 tackles and a sack that season after notching 20 tackles as a freshman. Vander Esch is expected to be selected in the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.
ILB-Shaun Dion Hamilton-6’0/232 (Alabama): Hamilton totaled 40 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in 2017. He went down with a knee injury in early November and didn’t play the rest of the season. Alabama missed Hamilton in some big games, including its loss to Auburn. ILB-Tre’ Williams-6’2/238 (Auburn): Williams was solid for the Tigers in 2017 with 50 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He impressed at the Senior Bowl, flying around the field and delivering a lot of hard hits. Very Athletic and has a nose for the ball. Has the ability to make plays from sideline to sideline.
ILB-Nick DeLuca-6’2/243 (North Dakota State): DeLuca had a strong enough year to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl. He recorded 74 tackles with 10.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, two passes batted, three forced fumbles and an interception in 2017. DeLuca put together a big 2015 season with 135 tackles, six passes broken up, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. He received a medical redshirt in the 2016 due to a shoulder injury in the first month of that season.
ILB: Airius Moore-6’0/237 North Carolina State): Moore had a good senior season, but went under the radar because so much attention was paid to Bradley Chubb and the Wolfpack defensive linemen. Moore totaled 67 tackles with three interceptions and four passes broken up in 2017. As a junior, he recorded 86 tackles with five passes broken up. Moore collected 78 tackles as a sophomore and 37 as a freshman. His pass-coverage skills could help him to rise in the months leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft.
ILB-Azeem Victor-6’4/232 (Washington): Victor totaled 30 tackles with three passes batted in 2017, plus was suspended one game of the season. Sources were disappointed in Victor’s play in 2017. They say he was too heavy, losing some of the special speed he had in the past. Victor has day 2 talent and could be steal on day 3 if he can regain that desire and productivity he showed in 2016.
ILB:Nyles Morgan-6’1/245 (Notre Dame): Morgan played well in 2017, recording 92 tackles with 1.5 sacks, seven tackles for a loss, one pass broken up, and a forced fumble. Sources have said they see Morgan as a possible late-round choice in the 2018 NFL Draft or a priority free agent, regardless; there is upside to Morgans game and a possible steal on day 3. Final Thoughts: The Giants could address the linebacker position during free agency as there will be several quality linebackers available such as Demario Davis (Jets), Avery Williamson (Titans), Kevin Minter (Bengals) and Anthony Hitchens (Cowboys). It’s unclear how much cap space GM Dave Gettleman is planning on investing this off season with future standouts Odell Beckham Jr. and Landon Collins rookie contracts expiring soon.