I have not been a fan of the New York Giants decision to fire head coach Tom Coughlin, who, uh, technically resigned from the job earlier this month. It’s not so much that I think Coughlin deserved to stay — though I think you can make that case — but that GM Jerry Reese should have gone right along with Coughlin. The fact that Reese will not only keep his job but may have had a hand in choosing Coughlin’s successor seems to me, preposterous.
[It really is quite amazing. Offensive Coordinator Ben McAdoo gets promoted to head coach. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who ran a defense that gave up more passing yards than any defense in NFL history gets to keep his job. And GM Jerry Reese gets to keep his job. So Tom Coughlin was the only problem for the Giants this season?! Remarkable. I don’t think Giants fans should be too confident about the direction of their favorite NFL team in the next few years.]
I look at that Giants roster and I don’t see a lot of talent. The G-Men finished 6-10 this season and that seems about right to me. I don’t see much talent on the defense, apart from two decent cornerbacks and a defensive lineman, Jason-Pierre Paul, who blew a good chunk of his hand off the last fourth of July. On offense, the Giants are QB Eli Manning throwing to WR Odell Beckham, Jr. The offensive line has a few promising players, but nobody dominant. That’s it.
The problem isn’t that the Giants draft poorly in the first two rounds. They do not. But they draft terribly thereafter, from rounds three through seven, where teams fill out their roster and must find the odd starter and big contributor.
For one thing, of the 46 players active for the 2015 season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, only 14 were drafted by GM Jerry Reese, who has been on the job for nine season. That’s bad enough. But consider this fact found by Giants beat writer Jordan Raanan: the team had only six “hit” players drafted in the third to seventh rounds from 2007 to 2013. [A “hit” taken in those rounds was considered to be a player who was a major contributor for his team for at least one season.] Six “hits” in those seven drafts was near the bottom of the league, with only our poor Redskins, a minuscule three, as worse. Right near the top, you will not be surprised to learn, was the Green Bay Packers.
On top of that, Mike Sando of ESPN.com uncovered this fact about the Giants:
“The players the Giants drafted since Jerry Reese became GM in 2007 combined to play a league-low 10,767 offensive and defensive snaps in the NFL this season. Other teams’ picks over the same span averaged 16,448 snaps per team, or about 53 percent more snaps than the Giants’ selections.”
In other words, the Giants are not getting much contribution from their draft picks, which is just about the worst sin an NFL front office can commit. It’s one the Skins have committed for years, as you can see above, when decision-making was made by the likes of Dan Snyder, Mike Shanahan and Vinny Cerrato.
But now Scot McCloughan, one of the most respected personnel experts in the NFL, is the team’s general manager. He’s only been here for one season, but let’s take a look at his 2015 draft in the later rounds.
ROUND 3: RB Matt Jones
Jones didn’t have a great year as a runner, with four fumbles and a measly 3.4 yards per carry average, but he was excellent in the passing game [19 receptions, 304 yards, 16.0, 1 TD], showing a real knack for picking up big yards on screen passes, something Washington has needed since, well, forever. I don’t know if Jones is the answer at running back in 2016 and beyond, but he might be. At least, he looks like a solid contributor if he can fix the fumbling issues.
ROUND 4: WR Jamison Crowder
With 59 catches Crowder finished second in team history for receptions by a rookie [or first if you don’t consider Gary Clark a rookie when he hauled in 72 passes in 1985]. Crowder was third on the team in receptions and receiving yards and averaged 10.2 yards per catch, which doesn’t seem like much until you realize he caught so many of those passes with a yard or two of the line of scrimmage. [And sometimes behind the line of scrimmage.] Crowder demonstrated a real ability to make defenders miss and turn very safe passes into solid gains and first downs. Small, quick and shifty, Crowder definitely looks like Washington’s slot receiver of the future. He wasn’t any good on punt returns, but his play from scrimmage more than made up for his lack of Special Teams production.
ROUND 4: OG Arie Kouandjio
Kouandjio has excellent size for the position and his strength and power are not questioned. He’s had multiple knee surgeries so his health will always be an issue. He’s also stiff and gets over-extended at times and doesn’t move well laterally. He’s a mauler in the run game and can physically dominate some opposition with his size and strength. The Skins knew Kouandjio wasn’t ready so they red-shirted him in 2015. With Spencer Long clearly not a starting-caliber guard and Shawn Lauvao rehabbing a serious ankle/foot injury, Kouandjio will get a chance to win the starting left guard spot in 2016. If he can do it, this draft will become a very, very good one.
ROUND 5: LB Martrell Spaight
A concussion suffered in week one ended Spaight’s rookie campaign very early. He looked like he could develop into a decent backup linebacker and special teams performer in the preseason. Spaight isn’t big or fast and he basically only makes plays between the tackles due his lack of sideline-to-sideline speed. Never projected to be a starter, Spaight just needs to become a special teams standout and provide a bit of plausible depth.
ROUND 6: S Kyshoen Jarrett
Jarrett was a punt returner in college and while he’ll never fill that position in the NFL [barring disaster], he has the instincts of a good special teams tackler. More important than that, perhaps, is how well Jarrett played as a defender in 2015. Injuries to the rest of the secondary pushed Jarrett on to the field and he excelled, demonstrating rare knowledge of the defense for someone so new to the pro game. He played very physically, was normally a reliable tackler, is happy to mix it up in the run game, was rarely out of position and was better than advertised in coverage. Jarrett isn’t a big guy so it might be difficult for him to become the sort of guy who can play 65 snaps a game on a regular basis. Or maybe he’ll do just that, he’s definitely better than people thought when he was drafted.
ROUND 6: CB Tevin Mitchell
A college teammate of Martrell Spaight, Mitchell tore the labrum in his left shoulder and was waived/injured on August 5. The Colts eventually signed him. Consider this pick wasted.
ROUND 6: WR Evan Spencer
The son of a former NFL running back and the brother of an area scout for the Redskins, Spencer was Washington’s third and final pick in the sixth round. A big, physical guy out of Ohio State, he looked like a future special teams standout, but he was thrashed in the preseason by Rashad Ross, who was too good to cut. Spencer was eventually waived/injured in the last round of cuts on September 5. He’s now with the Buccaneers. Consider this another wasted pick.
ROUND 7: C Austin Reiter
The team’s last pick in 2015 made it to the last round of cuts before being set loose on September 4. However, he was signed to Washington’s practice squad on September 29 and signed a futures contract on January 11, 2016. He doesn’t look like a future NFL starter to me, but the Skins have issues and needs at center and Reiter will evidently get a chance.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS: CB Quinton Dunbar, CB DeShazor Everett, LB Houston Bates
Another way to get college talent outside the first two rounds is to hit on an undrafted free agent or two. Or maybe three. The Skins like Bates and Everett as future special teams stars and they brought some improvement in that area in their first NFL seasons. Bates was a pass rushing beast in the preseason, but in the regular season he’s more like a special teams player. And if you can get that from an undrafted free agent, that’s great. Dunbar, on the other hand, may have greater things in store for him. As you probably already know, he was a wide receiver at Florida who was turned into a cornerback in training camp. Injuries gave him an opportunity to play real snaps in important games, sometimes guarding the other team’s first or second wideout. He acquitted himself quite nicely, with an interception in the end zone against the Giants to secure a crucial NFC East win being the highlight of Dunbar’s season. He’s 6’2″ and runs a 4.4 in the 40 so he has the length and athleticism the Skins are looking for in a cornerback. If he even develops into a decent backup corner, Washington hit a home run with him. But maybe Dunbar can be even more than that. We’ll see.
Putting aside what Washington got in the first two rounds — a starting offensive lineman who improved all season [G Brandon Scherff] and an outside linebacker who led all NFL rookies in sacks [LB Preston Smith], the Skins have possible future starters or key reserves at running back, slot receiver, safety and maybe guard and cornerback, too. Hitting on those picks very late in the draft is tough, which is why McCloughan was smart to stockpile as many as he could. Even though two of his three picks in the sixth round were cut before a regular season game was played, the performance of Kyshoen Jarrett this season makes that round a huge win for Washington.
You need a few seasons to properly assess the value of a draft class, but the early returns from the 2015 Skins draft class are very good and give the team’s fans reason to finally believe that a steady, educated hand is at the tiller in the team’s front office.
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