The smoking gun has been revealed. The New York Giants have already made their decision on who to select with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Follow me along as we traverse the details outlined by Jordan Raanan of ESPN.
Giants general manger Jerry Reese does not often make visits to college pro days. That isn’t his weekly thing during draft season. So when he decides to make a specific visit to a school for a player, that player is high on the team’s radar. Essentially, Reese makes these visits to simply confirm his desires on who to select.
In 2014, Reese made a visit to LSU’s pro day. That year, the Giants selected Odell Beckham out of LSU with their first pick in the draft. In 2015, Reese ventured to the pro days at Miami and Alabama. New York took Miami tackle Ereck Flowers first and then traded back up to also select Alabama safety Landon Collins. The next year, Reese’s visit took him to Georgia. By all accounts, the franchise was ready and willing to take Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd with its pick. Instead, the Bears traded up one slot ahead of New York to swipe him away. Despite that, Reese had his sights on one player; the guy he scouted at a pro day earlier that spring.
That is three straight years of Reese visiting a pro day and either taking or wanting to take the specific player he watched. 2017 makes it four straight. This week, Reese went to the Vanderbilt pro day to watch first-round linebacker Zach Cunningham. From this point, the only thing keeping Cunningham out of a Giants uniform is if another team takes him in the first 22 picks.
Cunningham is a definitive play-maker. He doesn’t have an elite body or strength but does everything a team would want out of its three-down linebacker. The main knock against him in his proclivity for getting caught up if a blocker engages him. He doesn’t have enough size to battle off of full blocks, though he has the capacity to avoid an attack and run down plays from all angles. For a team with a weak linebacker corps, Cunningham would slide right into the rotation, perhaps starting in Week 1.
After Alabama’s Reuben Foster, Cunningham is probably the best non-rush linebacker in the 2017 draft. A team could fall in love with him early. Someone could pull a Bears move and nab him at 22. If not, Cunningham is going to be a Giant this coming NFL season. Reese has already decided as much.