Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Who are some players we should keep an eye on at this year’s Scouting Combine?
The 2020 NFL Scouting Combine is almost here. This is one of the biggest weeks on the NFL’s calendar and is an important step in the New York Giants process of building their 2020 roster. This will see all 32 teams gather at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN. to study the best prospects in this year’s draft. Teams will also gather to talk, trade rumors, and potentially hammer out the structure for trades in the draft.
Prospects will be poked, prodded, tested, and measured. They will go through exhaustive medical tests and interviews with teams. And then after the important stuff is done, they’ll be on the field for the portion we get to see: the field workouts. Players will go through a number of measurable events such as the 40-yard dash and broad jump to test and quantify their athleticism. Then they’ll be going through positional drills so scouts, coaches, and GMs can see how all the members of a single position group stack up against each other in something that looks vaguely like football.
The quarterback, tight end, and wide receiver position groups will be first up on Thursday evening. They will be followed Friday evening by the offensive line, running back, and specialist groups.
Here are some players at each offensive position to watch on the first two nights of the Combine.
The New York Giants got the player they hope to be their franchise quarterback last year in Daniel Jones but that doesn’t mean they won’t be drafting a quarterback this year. With Eli Manning retired and Alex Tanney a free agent, the Giants have no depth at the position. They will likely bring in a veteran to back up Jones, but it also makes sense to find a low-cost option to develop into a long-term backup.
Nate Stanley (Iowa)
Stanley is a big, strong-armed quarterback with good leadership traits and a detailed approach to the position. He might not have the traits to be a long-term starter for an NFL team, but he is the type of player teams love to have holding the clipboard. He could be a player the Giants target with a late-round pick rather than leave to undrafted free agency.
Anthony Gordon (Washington State)
Gordon is going to be a fascinating player to watch over the draft process. He lacks ideal measurables, but is very accurate and has a terrific release. There is also the lingering stigma of playing in an Air Raid offense at the college level. While those concepts are gaining increased popularity at the NFL level, players viewed as “Air Raid” or “system” quarterbacks in college can be looked down upon by NFL decision makers. On the other hand, Gordon’s predecessor, Gardner Minshew, took the NFL by storm this year and Kyler Murray had one of the best rookie seasons in recent memory. Whether or not he interests the Giants, Gordon will be one of the players to watch this week.
The Giants will likely pursue a right tackle in free agency to give them more freedom to pick the best player available without feeling constrained by need. But even if that happens, they absolutely should draft a developmental tackle prospect to take over for Nate Solder when they decide to move on from him — or if they are only able to sign a right tackle to a one- or two-year deal.
Josh Jones (Houston)
Houston’s Josh Jones has been something of a divisive prospect in the draft community this year. He has the athletic traits to be a starter at the NFL level, but he is unpolished and inconsistent in his technique. How well will he test? And can he show improvement in his technique in the positional drills?
Matt Peart (UConn)
When long-time NFL scout and Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy compared Peart to Pro Bowl tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson it definitely raised some eyebrows. Peart has all the athletic traits to be an eventual starter in the NFL, but he will need to improve his play strength. How hard he hits the bags — and how many bench reps he puts up — will be interesting to see. [Prospect Profile]
Interior offensive line
Matt Hennessy (C, Temple)
Any time a player earns a single-digit jersey at Temple, they’re worth paying attention to. Those jerseys are reserved for the toughest players on the team, and toughness is a great quality to have in the player manning the middle of your offensive line. Hennessy is slowly creating more buzz as the draft process wears on, likely due to scouts watching his tape and noting his technique. A good day at the Combine could vault him to the top of the center rankings.
Michael Onwenu (G, Michigan)
It is possible that the Giants move on from Kevin Zeitler after the 2020 season and make him a cap casualty in 2021. If that’s the case, it makes sense to have a successor in place. Eventually the Giants would like to be “done” with rebuilding their offensive line and having a pipeline in place to reload talent as necessary. Onewnu is a massive and massively powerful guard prospect with surprisingly light feet for a big player. He could fit well if the Giants focus on a power-based scheme. [Prospect Profile]
It is expected that the Giants will move on from Rhett Ellison to free up money under the salary cap. If so, that would leave the Giants with Evan Engram and Kaden Smith as the meat of their tight end depth chart. If the new coaching staff isn’t sold on C.J. Conrad or Garrett Dickerson, they could look to the draft for another tight end.
Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)
If the Giants are looking for a tight end to round out their depth chart after releasing Rhett Ellison, Pinkney is certainly worth considering. He is not an athletic mismatch but has good size, toughness, and play strength to be a solid second or third tight end. He could fill the role of a primary blocker and safety blanket receiver well. [Prospect Profile]
Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)
Okwuegbunam would be an intriguing addition for a team that wants to run 12-personnel packages. While he doesn’t excel in any one area, he is versatile and capable in a variety of areas. He has the frame and play strength to be a good blocker if he can be coached to better technique. And while he isn’t an explosive athlete, his ball skills and route running make him a threat at every level — particularly on vertical concepts and attacking seams. [Prospect Profile]
The Giants don’t have to draft a running back in 2020. Wayne Gallman Jr. and Javorius Allen should be fine behind Saquon Barkley. However, the new coaching staff might have other ideas of what they want from the position, and they might select a running back if value presents itself.
AJ Dillon (Boston College)
Dillon is a massive and stout interior runner. If there is a weakness in Barkley’s game, it is running between the tackles in power concepts — he is much better when actively using his athleticism and picking holes in zone concept. Dillon could be pegged as a fullback based on his frame, but he has very good feet and a feel for running inside. The Combine will be his chance to show teams that he really is a running back, not a lead blocker who can occasionally run.
Lamical Perine (Florida)
Perine’s athletic testing will be important to his stock, but his vision, physicality, and contact balance mean that he will be a productive player regardless of how fast (or slow) his 40 time is. Perine is at his best running between the tackles and has the potential to be a starter in a downhill running scheme. [Prospect Profile]
We don’t know what kind of offense the Giants will be running in 2020, but it seems likely that they will be using Air Coryell concepts. A big, athletic receiver is one of the cornerstone of that style of offense and it would make sense to keep an eye on the receivers who fit that mold.
Denzel Mims (Baylor)
Mims was at his best on vertical concepts in Baylor’s offense, which is the hole that needs filling for the Giants. He is a long receiver (listed at 6-foot-3) with a great body control and catch radius to go with good athletic traits. He could use some development as a route runner and the Combine should be a good showcase for his hands and how his routes stack up to the rest of the draft class.
Michael Pittman Jr. (USC)
The combine could be key to Pittman Jr’s draft stock. He has prototypical size and shows a willingness to use it as a receiver and blocker on the field. Pittman Jr. is a savvy route runner coming out of college and that should ease his transition into the NFL, but there are questions as to how fast and explosive he is. He could be a name to watch if he tests well. [Prospect Profile]