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10 sleeper prospects Big Blue should consider

Quinn Meinerz makes block during Senior Bowl drill

Quinn Meinerz makes block during Senior Bowl drill

The NFL Draft is just two weeks away for the Giants, and every team around the league is hunkered down in their war rooms hammering out draft boards and gearing up for April 29.

But we all know the winners of the draft are determined by more than just Day 1 selections. Mid-rounders who turn into gems in the NFL set teams apart from the rest.

So, as GM Dave Gettleman and the rest of the Giants staff coordinate their plan for pick No. 11 in the first round, here’s who else they could be looking at on Days 2-3 — the sleepers, if you will:

Miami DE/OLB Quincy Roche

All the spotlight is on Jaelan Phillips and Gregory Rousseau coming out of Miami’s defense in this draft. But many forget that Roche is also making his way to the NFL this year.

After spending three seasons at Temple University, Roche spent his senior year in Miami totaling 14.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks over 10 games. Those are very solid numbers, as are his 13 sacks and 19 tackles for loss the previous year for the Owls.

As far as mid-round prospects go, Roche could be intriguing with the Giants needing some help off the edge.

North Texas WR Jaelon Darden

At 5-foot-9, Darden is someone who definitely won’t be taken high in this draft. That said, scouts have compared him to Dolphins wideout Jakeem Grant, who is super speedy, elusive and can help in more ways than just as a slot receiver.

His biggest season was 2020, totaling 1,190 yards in just nine games with 19 touchdowns.

The Mean Green don’t play the best teams around, but Darden was a lethal force for their offense. If the Giants want more weapons, he could be the guy.

Illinois G/C Kendrick Green

The Giants could use all the competition on the offensive line that they can get this season, and Gettleman surely has that in mind heading into this draft.

So take Green for example as someone who could play both at interior guard like he did for the Fighting Illini, or center — some scouts believe that will be his better position anyway.

Pro Football Focus gave him an overall 87.8 grade during the 2020 season, as he consistently improved year over year in the NCAA.

Wisconsin-Whitewater G/C Quinn Meinerz

He was once Division III college football’s best kept secret in the north. But since the Senior Bowl, Meinerz has become a social media sensation.

Whether it’s impressing scouts at college’s biggest scouting event other than the NFL Combine, or social media posts of wilderness training with trees, Meinerz is considered a solid center and potentially a guard for the team that drafts him.

Other than his technical skill, Meinerz struts around with a chip on his shoulder and has something to prove against guys coming from Division I schools — he was never made an offer out of high school. Don’t be surprised to see him go higher than the fourth round because he’s generating that much buzz.

Penn State DE Shaka Toney

Much like Roche earlier, Toney was shadowed by Micah Parson and Jayson Oweh on the Nittany Lions’ defensive front. But Toney is still effective.

He had 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in eight games last season rushing off the edge.

Tulane EDGE Cameron Sample

PFF had him with a 90.4 pass rushing grade as well as an 84.0 run defense grade. Sample also had a solid Senior Bowl, being named the week’s best defensive player because of his dominance in 1-on-1 drills and performance in the scrimmage.

Sample may go further in the draft, though, because he just blossomed this season and is viewed as a guy that still needs development. But if the Giants can do that, they could have a legit edge rusher in Sample.

USC WR Amon-Ra St. Brown

The younger brother of Green Bay Packers wideout Equanimeous St. Brown, Amon-Ra took over the top receiver slot for Michael Pittman once he was drafted by the Colts last season. And he made the best of it despite playing just six games for the Trojans.

He posted 478 yards and seven touchdowns as well as 1,042 yards in 2019 with six scores while Pittman was present. He’s a solid receiver who has a strong motor to play until the whistle blows. He also has a knack for making contested catches.

Scouts thought he’d return for his senior season to build a bigger rapport, but he’s believing in himself to come out and begin his pro career. Maybe the Giants believe he can be something, too.

Iowa LB Nick Niemann

Since David Mayo was let go, the Giants could use someone next to Blake Martinez in the middle. Ryan Anderson was added, but he’s a one-year flyer.

Niemann had 77 tackles to lead the Hawkeyes in 2020, and that was in just eight games.

The Giants did well with Ryan Connelly in the fifth round out of Wisconsin before he got cut following a torn ACL. Why not take a chance at another pure tackler?

Appalachian State CB Shemar Jean-Charles

The FBS leader in passes defended could be an interesting slot corner prospect who has the potential to also play on the outside depending on the scheme.

Jean-Charles had 17 passes defended in 2020 and 27 total in the past two seasons. He doesn’t make the interception most times, but he’s there to break passes up, which is the main goal.

Giants don’t necessarily need corner help after adding Adoree’ Jackson and Darnay Holmes showing good spurts in the slot, but depth is never a bad thing.

Marshall EDGE Darius Hodge

A 6-foot-1 edge rusher is normally not the height scouts want to see at the position. But when you have a 34 3/8 wingspan, it certainly makes up for the height difference.

Because of his arm length, Hodge uses it to his advantage, working as a player who tackles have issues keeping in check. He had 6.5 sacks and 63 tackles in 10 games for Marshall last season as well as nine tackles for loss.

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