By Michael Stewart
The 2018 NFL draft may not be as deep in Offensive guards and especially at center as in years past, however; there are still some quality linemen that the Giants should consider on draft day. The Giants will not have a 7th round pick this year (compensation for last season’s trade for CB Ross Cockrell from Pittsburgh). However; they will get a compensation pick in the 4th round for losing DT Jonathan Hankins to the Colts. Below are my candidates in each round that could be available when the Giants select courtesy of Walterfootball.
OG-Quenton Nelson-6’5/325 (Notre Dame): Nelson was dominate for Notre Dame in 2017, showing the ability to overwhelm defensive linemen as a run blocker and pass protector. After surveying sources from around the league, including multiple general managers, Nelson is a consensus elite prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft. However, he might go behind lesser prospects in the draft just because he is a guard and many teams don’t value guards that high.
OG/C-Billy Price-6’4/315 (Ohio State): Price impressed NFL evaluators, both with his work in fall training camp and in the games of the 2017 season. They say that Price plays within himself. They like his awareness and call him an above-average athlete. He isn’t overly fast or twitchy like the Pouncey brothers, but Price has movement skills and is better than average in space. The sources also like that Price handles big nose tackles well, which can be difficult for centers and is a hard-to-find talent
OG-Will Hernandez-6’3/330 (UTEP): Hernandez has created some buzz, as SI’s Bruce Feldman wrote that he’s heard that Hernandez is the top guard prospect. In reaching out to some team sources, they had Hernandez behind Quenton Nelson. Hernandez is shorter and lacks length compared to a lot of starting guards in the NFL, but he makes up for it with strength. He is strong at the point of attack with a heavy base to help him get movement at the point of attack. Impressing at an all-star game will be important for Hernandez. OG/C-Isaiah Wynn-6’2/302 (Georgia): Wynn impressed scouts in 2017 as an excellent run blocker for the Bulldogs. He blocks with aggression and has a temperament that is hard to find in college blockers. In pass protection, Wynn was very dependable as well. Because he is shorter and doesn’t have ideal length, some sources think that Wynn could move to guard or center in the NFL. Wynn started at left guard in 2016, but scouts think he is athletic enough to also play center. Wynn’s size and skill set has drawn comparisons to Kelvin Beachum, who is undersized but has managed to carve out a career at left tackle in the NFL. Wynn is just a natural football player who finds a way to get the job done, thus he might end up sticking at left tackle.
OG-Branden Smith-6’6/303 (Auburn): Smith is a solid player who is well-balanced as a run blocker and pass protector. In Week 2, he was beaten for a sack by Clemson’s Christian Wilkins, a future first-round pick, but Smith also had a lot of nice plays against Wilkins and Clemson nose tackle Dexter Lawrence. After that Smith was rock solid for the Tigers. He has a pro skill set with size, strength and athleticism. Sources say that Smith is receiving second-day grades for the 2018 NFL Draft.
C-Frank Ragnow-6’5/317 (Arkansas): Ragnow could be in the running to be one of the top center prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. Over the past two seasons, he hasn’t allowed a single sack while taking on excellent competition. As one can expect coming from Arkansas, Ragnow is also a tough run blocker. He is a technician who enters his senior year having made 26 straight starts. As a sophomore, Ragnow was the Razorbacks starter at right guard. He has the size to be a guard or center in the NFL.
OG/C-Sean Welsh-6’3/295 (Iowa): Iowa has consistently produced NFL talent, and Welsh is the latest Hawkeye who has impressed evaluators enough to receive professional consideration. Welsh made some starts at right tackle during his collegiate career and logged time at center, but mostly he started at guard. For the NFL, he is a guard, although he almost certainly will be cross-trained at center to make him more versatile and valuable on game days. Welsh played well enough over 2017 to earn a Senior Bowl invitation, which he accepted. This is not a strong class for offensive line talent, so Welsh could rise with a strong week in Mobile.
OG-Skyler Phillips-6’2/322 (Idaho State): Phillips has good weight to his frame while being a bit shorter and lacking ideal length for the NFL. However, he impressed evaluators enough to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Holding up in the one-on-ones and showing the ability to handle speed rushers will be important for Phillips. He played in just four games in 2016 because of injury.
OG/C-Will Clapp-6’5/309 (LSU): Clapp was solid for LSU in 2017. His run blocking is ahead of his pass blocking at this point. Clapp has a NFL frame, but could use more development. He should’ve returned to LSU, but he declared for the 2018 NFL Draft. One could argue that Clapp was LSU’s best interior lineman over Ethan Pocic in 2016. Clapp has dealt with a shoulder injury, but the plan is for him to be the starting center for the Tigers in 2017. He is a tough run blocker at the point of attack and reliable in pass protection.
OG/C-Scott Quessenbeerry-6’4/314 (UCLA): Quessenberry was decent for UCLA in 2017. He was very good in the second half of the opener to help the Bruins pull off their legendary comeback over Texas A&M. Quessenberry is a an okay athlete, but could stand to improve his run blocking for the NFL. Generally, he was a reliable pass protector for Josh Rosen.
OG-Wyatt Teller-6’5/315 (Virginia Tech): Teller put together a strong senior season to earn all-conference awards while also getting an invitation to the Senior Bowl. He has good size for an interior offensive lineman in the NFL. Showing the ability to create movement in the ground game and handle interior speed rushers in the pass-rushing one-on-ones will be critical for Teller.
OG-Sam Jones-6’5/290 (Arizona State): Jones is an athletic and quick interior lineman who had a quality 2017 season for Arizona State. As a sophomore, he saw some action at left tackle, and for the NFL, he might be better off moving to center. Jones will need to get bigger and stronger for taking on NFL defensive linemen. He probably should have returned to Arizona State to develop, but Jones decided to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
OG-Taylor Hearn-6’5/330 (Clemson): Hearn was Clemson’s best offensive lineman over the past two seasons at left guard, but in speaking to some team sources, they weren’t high on Hearn. They felt he should have returned for his senior year. One area scout told WalterFootball.com that they graded Hearn as an undrafted free agent. Hearn broke into the starting lineup in 2015 and stayed in the lineup for Clemson after that.
OG-Tyrone Crowder-6’2/340 (Clemson): Crowder had some highlights and lowlights during the 2016 season. Overall, he blocked well, although there were times where he allowed some heavy pressure on Deshaun Watson, especially in the early going of the National Championship victory over Alabama. Crowder is a thick blocker who will have to monitor his weight issues in the NFL. He could be ranked higher, but is shorter and lacks some length that NFL teams desire in starting offensive linemen.
OG-Brendan Mahon-06’4/315 (Penn State): At tackle, Mahon blocked well and opened holes for Saquon Barkley in 2017. Mahon looks like more of a guard for the NFL. Mahon started at left tackle for Penn State in 2016, but he struggled in pass protection, including an ugly game against Pittsburgh. However, Mahon and the Nittany Lions’ offensive line performed much better as run blockers for Saquon Barkley. Mahon improved as the season progressed.
Cody O’Connell-6’9/354 (Washington State): O’Connell is a massive guard who received a lot of accolades for his performance this season at Washington State. While starting at left guard, O’Connell was very effective in protecting the quarterback and also opening holes in the running game. O’Connell could likely go undrafted and be an UDFA and if so; would be worth a risk to sign him and have him develop on a practice squad.
Final Thoughts: It remains to be seen if the GM Dave Gettleman plans on staying at #2 in the 1st round or trading back for additional picks. Either way, the need to draft an offensive lineman or possibly two should be a top priority.