Christopher Slayton Jersey

After a second consecutive season with one player selected (Chris Slayton this time around) in the NFL Draft, the Syracuse Orange football program is making some progress in the way of producing pro talent again. However, the lack of it lately also goes to show how great of a job Dino Babers has done as head coach over three years and change.

But progress may start to speed up come next year. Or at least we’re hopeful it could. Because for as much as it’s great to exceed expectations without as many future NFL players, the more of them you have on your roster makes you more likely to win. And the more NFL players your program produces, the more likely that others will sign with you in future seasons.

So who could lead the way with that uptick come this time in 2020? There are several names that come to mind — some with more certainty than others. Obviously all of these guys won’t get selected. But they’re names that will come up as potential free agent adds next spring, at least.Evan Adams, offensive guard

You can’t teach size, and Adams is an enormous dude on the inside at 6-foot-6 and 341 pounds. He’s started for the last three years and frequently overpowers defenders (95 knockdown blocks). You’ll see the inside of SU’s line get blown up here and there on gamefilm, but I actually think that’s more due to uncertainty at the center spot than Adams. There’s late round potential here if a few things improve this year.

Ryan Alexander, offensive tackle

We haven’t seen what Alexander can do against top-level competition really yet, and won’t until the season gets started this fall. But in his time in the the Sun Belt (South Alabama), he rounded into form as one of the conference’s top tackles while gaining 30 pounds to transition from a tight end prospect. That makes him more athletic than most, which could pay dividends. He’s not a draft pick… yet.

Kendall Coleman, defensive end

Coleman was a force last year, adding size while not losing anything with regard to speed, and became one of the ACC’s better pass-rushers. With injuries behind him and a propensity for getting into the backfield (12.5 TFLs last year, 10 sacks), he’s absolutely getting looks so long as production doesn’t dip with more eyes on him this year. He has day three potential right now.

Christopher Fredrick, cornerback

Fredrick has quietly assembled a really nice career for the Orange, and has rounded into one of the better cover men in the ACC. With some impressive receivers around the conference (especially on the Clemson sideline), he has plenty of chances to show himself capable of playing on Sundays. I’d be surprised if he didn’t at least get a combine invite.Sterling Hofrichter, punter/kicker

Versatility’s key for a lot of players catching on in the league, and Hof has it by way of being able to handle both kicking and punting duties. Drafting punters isn’t super common, so perhaps he’s not picked like Riley Dixon was (largely for his trick play prowess). But he has as good a shot as most of these names here to grab a roster spot in 2020.

Moe Neal, running back

Neal’s size probably prevents him from getting picked unless he really impresses between the tackles and catching passes in the flat this fall. There’s a role for small, lightning-fast backs in the league. But given how much his game’s potentially analogous to that of Ervin Philips (except smaller), it’s hard to see him picked. He’s a definite free agent pick-up, however.

Sean Riley, wide receiver

Riley’s assessment as a prospect probably aligns pretty well with Neal’s, albeit with a little more special teams acumen. Riley’s not big, has showed some trouble hauling in passes in the past, and occupies a very specific slot receiver role on offense. There’s a place for that on teams. Just going to be tough to compete with more well-rounded, bigger wideouts on the draft board. Still a free agent signing, however.

Alton Robinson, defensive end

Robinson terrified opposing offensive lines last year, collecting 10 sacks and 17 TFLs. He and Coleman play similarly, though I do think Robinson’s game brings a slightly more obvious combination of speed and strength on the outside. He’s in line for a big year and shows himself fully capable of blowing past double-teams. Robinson may end up SU’s highest draft pick since Jay Bromley (third round in 2014).

McKinley Williams, defensive tackle

With Slayton gone to the NFL himself, it’s Williams’s show in the middle of SU’s defensive line for 2019. His athleticism and run-stopping abilities speak for themselves, but we’ll see what he does without Slayton taking up as much attention from the line this season. Should results stay the same (or improve), he has a shot to play himself into the conversation.

At first glance, this may seem like a lot of names, and it is. But the fact that we have an increasing number of players worth even a passing glance in this conversation is a step in the right direction?

Anyone else you’d toss in there? Share your own thoughts below.

George Asafo-Adjei Jersey

The New York Giants did not select an offensive lineman in the 2019 NFL Draft until the seventh round, when they snared Bronx-born George Asafo-Adjei, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound tackle out of the University of Kentucky.The Giants are searching for a starting right tackle at the moment and “GAA” could be the answer. The talk however, is that team may be seeking to move him to guard at the pro level.

Head coach Pat Shurmur said on Saturday that was not the plan.Asafo-Adjei told reporters on Saturday that he played guard in college and wasn’t averse to moving around the line.

“It’s going be a good thing for me. It’s going to get my football IQ up and be good for me, help me overall and in the long run,” he said. “It helps getting reps at different positions because you learn all the assignments for all the lineman and why yo have to do certain things.”

At Kentucky, “Big George,” as he’s being called around the Giants’ facility, practiced against all-world edge rusher Josh Allen, the player many Giants fans are miffed the tam didn’t select with the 6th overall selection in last week’s NFL Draft.

The scouting of Allen likely turned the Giants onto Asafo-Adjei, who himself twice earned SEC Lineman of the Week during his career at UK.

“I think so. Going against someone like him definitely helps you,” said Asafo-Adjei. “It was good for me and we helped prepare each other for the next level.”

Shurmur was asked what the team saw in Asafo-Adjei. He said they liked him for all the reasons they saw on his college tape.

“We liked him,” he said. “He’s got really good length. You can tell he’s a very physical-style player and I think that’s important at the position.”

When asked if it was possible that Big George could be moved inside to guard, Shurmur didn’t discount the notion.

“For sure,” he said. “But first we’re going play him at right tackle.”

Asafo-Adjei will have plenty of competition for the right tackle position. First, there is the incumbent, Chad Wheeler and undrafted free agent Paul Adams out of Missouri. Veteran Mike Remmers, who played for Shurmur in Minnesota, could also join the fray soon.

Daniel Jones Jersey

It was really not much of a debate at all. There were those heading into the NFL draft that liked Daniel Jones as a quarterback prospect, liked him a great deal. Some were lukewarm. Others saw him as too mechanical, with limited upside potential.

Almost everyone was in agreement in this: He does not have a superior arm.

“Overall, Jones lacks elite arm strength, but he has a nice blend of size, toughness and football smarts,’’ noted Daniel Jeremiah, draft analyst for NFL Network.

“I like the guy but I’m not sure how dynamic his arm is,’’ said an NFL talent observer specializing in quarterbacks. “I’m not sure what type of arm talent he has. He doesn’t have a great arm, doesn’t have an elite arm.’’

During last week’s rookie mini-camp, Jones showed plenty of zip on his throws during practice sessions on spring afternoons with little or no wind. The ball comes out of his hand crisply – clearly, he is well-schooled in the fundamentals of throwing from a solid lower-body platform – and he puts plenty of air under his deeper throws.

Early in the camp, Jones perfectly lofted a deep ball to speed receiver Darius Slayton, running a post, but Slayton dropped it. This must have given Jones flashbacks to all those drops he endured at Duke. Jones failed to connect with Montay Crockett but the pass hit inside the sideline about 40 yards down the field – a pass an NFL-caliber target would have inhaled.

Does it look like Jones possesses an arm that widens the eyes of coaches, teammates and opponents? No, not really. But it is not an arm lacking in strength. The Giants fell in love with Jones based on the total package – they seem him as expertly handling the demands and pressures inherent in the life of a quarterback in the New York area. They also are in disagreement with those who rate Jones’ arm as a minus.

“I don’t know, I was not involved in those debates,’’ Giants coach Pat Shurmur said. “We obviously felt differently, so I could not tell you.’’

Seeing a quarterback throw on film provides only so much information and in the weeks prior to the draft the Giants tracked Jones with several in-person get-togethers to watch him get the ball out of his hands to determine if his supposed lack of arm strength was myth or reality.

“We had many exposures, starting with the Senior Bowl,’’ Shurmur said. “We were able to see him throw in person and did not see anything. Watching him on tape, I thought he had a strong enough arm. You are obviously looking to confirm it when you see him in person and we felt like he did.’’

Eli Manning came into the league in 2004 with an arm that elicited raves from talent evaluators. Jones is more of a technician, and a better athlete overall than Manning. Jones’ movement in the pocket belies his size (6-foot-5, 221 pounds) and he knows all about navigating in and around a shaky pocket from his days running for his life at Duke, where his offensive line was often overmatched against formidable defensive fronts.

In the rookie camp, Shurmur had Jones throw from the pocket, throw while sprinting out to his right and throw after a reverse-pivot to his left. He appeared to be comfortable with the footwork involved in these designed rollouts and he covers a great deal of ground with his large strides.

“You have to have all the traits and be able to do all the things a quarterback needs to,’’ Shurmur said. “When you find a guy that is mobile, that is really special, in my mind. He is a really good decision-maker. That is critical for quarterbacks. You have to be a really good decision-maker and have a sense of timing.

“Whatever that sense of timing is, whether you have to get the ball out or decide to run. You have to be an accurate passer. I really believe you have to be able to move. There has to be mobility. Whether you are moving around in the pocket, scrambling, you have to be able to move. He can do that. Then, arm strength. If you don’t have the first few, arm strength means nothing, in my mind. He has arm strength as well. I think you saw that as well.’’

Deandre Baker Jersey

With the 30th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected cornerback Deandre Baker of Georgia. Here are five things to know about the new Giant:

Baker was the 2018 winner of the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive back. He was also a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defender.

He started all 13 games last season and recorded 40 total stops, two interceptions (team high) and 10 pass breakups (team high), two tackles for lost yardage, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. scouting report: Consistency and competitiveness are his hallmarks. No touchdowns allowed with five interceptions since 2017. Confident in press coverage. Crowds release-acceleration to slow route-timing. Has quick trigger to turn and sprint when needed. Foot quickness to stay tied to early phase of routes. Dials into opponents’ route speed and stays in-phase. Good feel for timing of route breaks for effective matching. Excellent field awareness and in constant state of communication with teammates. Loves to squat and lurk on underneath route from off-man. Impressive burst to close. Plays the edges to challenge throws. Good timing on jump balls. Aggressive and accurate swipes at the catch point. Willing and able as open-field tackler.

Measurables: Height – 5-11; Weight – 193 lbs.; Arms – 32”; Hands – 9”; 40-yard dash – 4.52 sec.; Bench press – 14 reps; Broad jump – 118”

He was a Second-Team All-SEC selection as a junior in 2017, finishing the season with 44 total stops. He led the Bulldogs in pass breakups with nine, including three vs. South Carolina, and was also second on team with three interceptions. His final pick of the year came vs. Alabama in CFP Championship Game.

The most impressive player at rookie camp for the New York Giants has been first-round draft pick, Deandre Baker, out of Georgia.

The cornerback was physical and instinctual as he flashed serious potential in his first action with the Giants. The idea for Baker is to start alongside veteran Janoris Jenkins as the No. 2 option, but bigger plans are undoubtedly in his future.

The Giants also managed to grab star corner from Notre Dame, Julian Love, in the fourth round of the draft. This was a great value pick and a potential steal as general manager Dave Gettleman looks to change the narrative on a thin secondary.

Baker will need the experience at the professional level to take on a top-role, something he might find himself in after the 2020 season. Jenkins’ contract ends after 2020, and it’s unlikely the Giants elect to bring him back considering his age and inconsistency. In 2016, Jenkins was graded as a top-5 corner in the league, but the negative atmosphere in the locker room during the 2017 campaign saw his effectiveness plummet – he’s not much of a leader.
The New York Giants did a great job addressing the secondary in the draft:

Baker has the skill-set to emerge as the top corner for Big Blue, a team in need of significant help at the position.

“I just come in and play my game and just show them they haven’t made a mistake by coming to get me,’’ Baker said Friday at Giants rookie minicamp. “Just want to come in and help the team.’’

The Giants brass valued Baker as a first-round talent, and they were right to move up from 37th to 30th to pluck him off the board. Multiple corners were snatched up following the pick including Byron Murphy and Greedy Williams. Gettleman sent his second-rounder, fourth and fifth-round picks to move up for the top-rated corner.

There’s a great expectation for the Georgia product in New York, as he enters the countrey’s biggest football market in hopes of upgrading the unit. Pairing him with Jenkins, though, should give him the leverage and necessary experience required to take his game to the next level.

Corey Ballentine Jersey

LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — Corey Ballentine stands in front of his second-row seat in the arena-shaped church, shuffles two steps to his left and begins limping toward a heartbroken mother.

More than 1,000 mourners fill the Abundant Life auditorium to remember Dwane Simmons, the fireball Washburn University football player gunned down after an off-campus party days earlier.
Nine gospel singers harmonize on stage, an interpretive dancer receives an ovation and sobbing gives way to laughter when Simmons’ dance moves come to life in a video tribute.

But now there is quiet, and all eyes are on the teammate who could have been at the front of that church in a casket, too. Dressed in a dark gray suit, powder blue shirt and gold tie, Ballentine drags one leg behind the other, the gunshot wound in his buttocks still affecting the 23-year-old star athlete’s gait.Ballentine hands a navy-blue-and-white No. 17 jersey and Washburn football helmet to Simmons’ mom.

His courage is greeted with applause. Over the next three hours, he sits stoically in his chair and wears the look of someone burdened by his thoughts.

“Cooorey!” someone had shouted at the first sighting of the survivor in an unsolved murder case that nobody in two devastated cities — in two neighboring states — can make sense of.Ballentine is supposed to be 1,250 miles away in East Rutherford, beginning his NFL cornerback career with nine other 2019 NFL Draft picks. Instead, days after he received a phone call from the Giants that would change his life, he still is close to home facing an unimaginable task.

He has to bury his best friend.

Opposites attract

If Ballentine said he was on his way to meet up, you saved two seats. He and Simmons came as a package deal. Everyone on the football team — heck, everyone in the athletic department — knew it.

“We didn’t ask them, ‘What are you doing?’” teammate Heath Tucker said. “We asked, ‘What are y’all doing?’”This five-year friendship was built a scientific theory: Opposites attract.

Ballentine is reserved, disciplined, a late-blooming explosive talent built for athletic success. Simmons countered with spontaneity, wisecracks, an underdog’s fearlessness and perseverance.Ballentine made more friends because of Simmons. Simmons kept his grades up because of Ballentine pestering him to put down the video-game controller and get back to the books.

“He was like another son to us,” Ballentine’s father, Karl Vaughn, told NJ Advance Media at his home in street-winding suburban Topeka, Kansas.

A campus candlelight vigil spilled into a 50-yard line memorial Tuesday night, and it ended with Ballentine’s father and Simmons’ father alone in the south end zone. “He pushed Corey to be here,” Vaughn told the grieving father, just before the stadium lights were turned off.

“Dwane was mighty in his heart and his fight,” Washburn coach Craig Schurig said. “It helped Corey grow. You put Dwane in Corey’s body, and you’ve got what Corey is doing now, basically.”Born in Jamaica, Ballentine grew up in Topeka, home to Washburn and its 6,600 students.

Simmons grew up 90 minutes away, in Lee’s Summit, as the oldest of six siblings — though he treated friends as additional brothers.

Days before the NFL Draft, Ballentine drilled his footwork and change of direction for the millionth time this spring. Simmons filled the role of coach or scout, holding out the football and barking instructions.“The most poignant vision I have of them is recently. I remember them doing those …”

Schurig’s voice catches in his throat. Eleven seconds pass before he can finish recounting the memory. A tear rolls out of his right eye and catches above his cheek. He never wipes it.

It will dry on its own time.

“Once the Giants came through,” Schuring said, “I’m sure Dwane felt like he was drafted.”

So, it was only natural, hours after the biggest moment of his young life last Saturday, Ballentine had Simmons at his side.

Dream to nightmare

The Giants called before 4 p.m., just after Ballentine made a Chipotle run. Some thought he might be picked late Friday night in the third round, but the wait finally ended Saturday in the sixth round.

“I’ve been waiting on this opportunity for a lifetime,” Ballentine told Giants coach Pat Shurmur, when his phone finally rang.

Washburn’s “Showtime” secondary — that’s what they said to break down huddles and what it meant when someone pointed to his wrist — beat the odds and would be represented in the NFL.Time to celebrate. Ballentine and Simmons went to the home of friends on the women’s soccer team.

The half-mile trip from the apartment they shared as roommates to the party goes past Jerry’s Bike Shop but ends before the Conoco gas station up ahead. Topeka also hosted a sorority event and a former Washburn football player’s wedding that night.Some details of the incident are unclear, but Simmons’ father told local news outlets the two football stars were approached by unidentified men and asked if they had “smoke for sale.” When they didn’t, he said, the car drove off, circled back and opened fire, killing Simmons in the street and injuring Ballentine.

A police report obtained by NJ Advance Media states the shooting happened at 12:46 a.m., on a side street to the right of the house. Students live in three apartment complexes right there.

Ballentine was on the phone again. This time, he was calling Simmons’ father to tell him they’d been shot.

Five days after the shooting, there is no sign of crime-scene tape. An old-fashioned black lamppost with a yellow “for lease” sign planted underneath marks one poorly lit corner. Three security patrol cars are parked not far away.

A neighbor walking two dogs recalls the civilian car diagonally parked to block off the street the morning after the tragedy. A blissfully unaware girl pushes off with one leg on her pink scooter, her dad trailing a few steps behind until she reaches the block with no sidewalk.
It’s been reasoned Ballentine and Simmons just were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But …

“For a 23-year-old to be at a party, ain’t the wrong place at the wrong time,” Simmons’ family member Clifton Williams said during his tribute at the funeral.

Friends gathered at the hospital, waiting in a large room on news of the football stars. Schurig informed the worried faces of Simmons’ death, then privately told the same to an unaware Ballentine, surrounded by his parents.

The moment Ballentine “always dreamed of” was gone way too soon. Replaced by a reality he shouldn’t have to imagine.

How to heal

The news broke overnight and became one of the biggest stories on one of the biggest weekends in the NFL.

The TODAY Show aired a report Monday morning. WFAN radio host Mike Francesa, feuding with the Giants over other issues, cheap-shotted the organization for the optics of a shooting in light of their emphasis on high-character players.Only hours earlier, Ballentine, without prompting, told reporters, “I have no character issues.” To learn he said it like someone might humblebrag about a high GPA or a game-winning interception is not a surprise to those who know him best. He takes great pride in his clean image.

“I’m not upset. I’m not mad,” Vaughn told NJ Advance Media, responding to ill-informed opinions of his son. “I’m extremely blessed my son is alive, and we’ll move on with God, who is a big part of our lives. He forgives. How could we not?”

At nearly the same moment, one time zone away, Shurmur fought the same narrative, stressing Ballentine is “the victim of a crime.” Hours earlier, the Giants’ three first-round draft picks posed for a photo with Shurmur and general manager Dave Gettleman before their first NFL practice.

Ballentine, meanwhile, is resting inside the house, his parents hosting “church friends.” The U-shaped driveway outside their ranch-style home is filled with cars, and the front door is open to welcome guests.The Giants encouraged Ballentine to stay in Kansas and grieve. He will meet his new teammates May 20, when the Giants veterans and rookies gather for practice.

“He needed that,” Vaughn said, not then knowing one day later the Giants will have two staff members (Ronnie Barnes and Jessie Armstead) at the funeral. “It shows how classy an organization they are. I’m glad my son will be playing there.”

Washburn hopes to endow a scholarship in Simmons’ name and honor No. 17 next season. Three enterprising students had T-shirts made at no cost with Simmons’ photo, name and number, and they were available Friday for a donation to a verified GoFundMe page to benefit the family.

All in the name of healing a community.

“Corey’s grieving is different than the rest of the team,” Schurig said. “Dwane’s fire and the love of the game, that’s every bit as much as what those guys are going to be in his (NFL) practice. That can spark Corey.”Many of Simmons’ friends wear the T-shirts as they stop at his open casket, but Ballentine appears just as the two hours of visitation end and the funeral begins. He is a casket bearer.

What will he say about his friend? Or will he let a Tweet — “God gives his toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. I love you forever.” — stand alone?

‘Play for your brother’

Washburn football pastor T.D. Hicks pleads with young athletes in the room to make good on this part of his eulogy. Is it possible he really is speaking to an audience of one?

“Get out there on that field and beast, and every play ought to be for your brother,” Hicks says.

Graveside at a XII Gates Memorial Gardens in Kansas City, a pastor who also serves as a local police chaplain promises this unsolved case will not slip through the cracks.Mourners say “see you later” — it’s not “goodbye” is a recurring theme of the service — to Simmons, and the Washburn football pack shifts collective attention to Ballentine.

How are you feeling? When do you report to the Giants? He says few words but accepts hug after hug after hug.
A photo of football teammates is taken.

One is going to the NFL. One is missing, about to be laid to rest only a few feet away.

Teammates marvel at the strength it took for Ballentine be here. In fact, theirs is a friendship that always inspired teammates, Tucker said.

“I don’t think I’d be able to do that for my best friend,” he added. “I wouldn’t want to deal with that closure the way he has to. I just hope he doesn’t ask why. Because there is no answer.”

Ballentine walks with his unofficial bodyguard toward the car. Soon, he will leave home and sign a contract with a six-figure signing bonus and the chance to earn millions. All that is ahead of him.

But, here, he is a boy protected by his mom from the fine line between life and death.

Darius Slayton Jersey

New York Giants general manager Dave Gettlemen and coach Pat Shurmur made it clear why the NFL team chose Auburn wide receiver Darius Slayton in the fifth round of the 2019 draft: He’s fast.Gettleman said: “Darius Slayton is a take-the-top-off-the-coverage guy. He’s a 4.3 guy who plays 4.3, so he’s got big-time speed.”

Shurmur said: “Darius Slayton is an outside receiver that has some inside characteristics, but the 4.3 speed shows up on tape. He’s extremely fast. He can get behind the defense, and we all know the effect that can have for an offense.”

Slayton’s 4.39-second clocking in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and his average gain of 20.3 yards per reception during his Auburn career provide evidence for the assessment by the Giants’ brain trust.

Slayton agrees with Gettleman and Shurmur, too.

“I think my biggest strength is my speed,” Slayton said. “I’m able to push the field vertically, as well as catch the ball intermediately, and I have ability to go and score. That’s probably some of the biggest things I’ve heard from teams that I hope to be able to bring the Giants. Just help take the top off the defense and help us win games.”But Slayton wants to show New York’s coaching staff that he can do more than go deep.

“I think through this process I was fighting people putting me in a box as just a deep guy, or just a this guy, just a whatever guy,” Slayton said after being drafted. “Just to have a complete game — that I can run the full route tree, I can get in and out of breaks, as well as beat you deep with my speed. I think that’s the biggest thing I have to show as soon as I get there.”

Slayton had his first chance to do that over the weekend at the Giants’ three-day rookie minicamp. A couple of things stood out to Shurmur about Slayton on the opening day of minicamp: He had trouble hanging onto passes but got his legs under him as his first pro workout progressed.

“He was running good routes,” Shurmur said. “He had a few drops early, but by the end of it, he made a couple of nice contested catches. That’s why you practice. There’s a lot to get used to — new routes, new plays, new places to line up. That’s why you practice.”Slayton joins New York after it traded Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cleveland Browns on March 13. The three-time Pro Bowler caught 77 passes for 1,052 yards and six touchdowns in 2018. Running back Saquon Barkley caught 91 passes for the Giants last season. New York’s leading returning wide receiver, Sterling Shepard, caught 66 passes for 872 yards and four touchdowns in 2018.

The Giants added wide receiver Golden Tate in free agency in March after the veteran wide receiver caught 74 passes for 795 yards and four touchdowns in 2018 while splitting the season between the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles.

No other wide receiver on New York’s roster caught more than 16 NFL passes in 2018.

Slayton caught 35 passes for 670 yards and five touchdowns at Auburn in 2018. In his three seasons as a starter for the Tigers, Slayton caught 79 passes for 1,605 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“It was just one of those things where sometimes you just don’t always execute on all cylinders as a team,” Slayton said about Auburn’s offense in the 2018 season. “But at the end of the day, I had opportunities to make plays while I was there this year and last year. I did what I could with my opportunities.”

While Slayton is “grateful for the opportunity” the NFL Draft has given him in New York, he said former Auburn teammate Jarrett Stidham probably thinks he got “drafted by God” after the New England Patriots picked the quarterback in the fourth round.“I’m happy for Jarrett,” Slayton said. “I think he’s really going to excel, especially in that offense where he’ll be able to — I think he can be Tom Brady-esque because Jarrett is really smart, he throws very well from the pocket, he’s good at making quick decisions.

“So I think that’s a great fit for him, and he loves Tom Brady to death. I’m sure that’s like getting drafted by God for him.”

Ryan Connelly Jersey

Inside linebacker Ryan Connelly became the second Wisconsin Badgers standout to be selected in the 2019 NFL Draft last weekend, going to the New York Giants in the fifth round with the 143rd overall pick.

Now, the former walk-on turned significant contributor to the UW defense the past three seasons will work and train to make the active roster of one of the NFL’s oldest and most famous franchises.

Based on the Giants’ tweet below from Thursday, it appears Connelly will wear No. 57 for now.

Helping us break down what could lie ahead for Connelly in East Rutherford, N.J., is editor-in-chief of Big Blue View—our SB Nation cousins who cover the Giants—Ed Valentine.Overall, what were fans’ impressions of the selection of Connelly in the fifth round?

Well, I think fans automatically think of Chase Blackburn and Mark Herzlich, limited guys who contributed mostly on special teams, when they think of Connelly. Is that fair or true? I’m not sure, but I think that’s where it is.
How is the depth and talent at linebacker with the Giants?

The Giants play a base 3-4 with Alec Ogletree and B.J. Goodson as the primary inside linebackers. Tae Davis, a 2nd year player, is a backup and a nickel type guy with coverage skills. There’s room for more depth.
Which leads me to my next question—where do you see him contributing in the position group and at what linebacker spot?

Connelly will be an inside guy. I’m not sure initially how much he will play, but if he does I’m assuming it will be on early downs.
How critical will the ability to play special teams at the next level be for Connelly to make the Giants’ roster?

Essential. He will likely be a backup and see most of his time on the field in that role.
Former Wisconsin standout Jonathan Casillas played for the New York football Giants for several years. What are some fond memories of the former Badger in his time in New York?

Loved Casillas. He was a stand-up guy, well spoken, always gave you real answers to your questions.

A great Casillas story. His first year with the Giants I interviewed him along with beat writer Pat Traina, who co-hosted a podcast with me at the time. As a new Giant I asked him for one player he really knew nothing about when he came to the Giants who had really impressed him. Instead of giving me a big name, he gave me Nikita Whitlock, a fullback who had spent the previous year on the Dallas practice squad. Whitlock made the team, and also played some defensive tackle.

This question became an annual thing with Casillas, Traina and myself that he actually looked forward to and put a lot of thought into every year. Really cool.

Julian Love Jersey

DeAndre Baker and Julian Love got to know each other a little bit before the draft. They spent time together at the All-America weekend banquet, and again when they were both up for the Thorpe Award presented to the top defensive back in the country.

Now, they’re two of the key pieces in a Giants secondary that is transitioning from one generation to the next. The two draft picks — Baker in the first round, Love in the fourth — could become significant players in their rookie seasons and start to build a foundation for the future.

The two are roommates at this weekend’s rookie minicamp, and that’s no coincidence. The Giants would like to see them paired up for the foreseeable future, making plays and complementing each other on the field as part of a 1-2 punch that can grow and learn together.“Hopefully,” Baker said about such aspirations. “That’s our goal. We want to come in and get a chance to help the team win games. If that’s what we can do, hopefully we’ll work to it.”

“I really think so,” Love said of the possibility. “We both want to win and when you have that mindset and you do what it takes in order to win I think you can be very successful.”

The last time the Giants used two picks in the first four rounds of a draft on a pair of players listed as cornerbacks was 2001, when they took Will Allen in the first round and Will Peterson in the third. They hadn’t drafted any cornerbacks in the top four rounds since Eli Apple in 2016 (although they did use a supplemental third to acquire Sam Beal last year).

Baker and Love already have started to feed off one another. Love said he enjoys Baker’s confidence and energy on the field.“He kind of has that dog mindset,” Love said. “I need that next to me. It inspires people. It helps people grow and helps them go fast as well.”

Baker said he appreciates Love’s knowledge of the game and his willingness to be part of a group at a position where many prefer to be left on their own island.

“Even though you’re isolated, you come together as one unit on the back end and you have to have that good chemistry with one another,” he said. “Everybody wants to see everyone do good. Having that relationship with everybody will take you a long way.”

How exactly the pair will fit together has yet to be determined. Baker is seen as a starting cornerback on the outside, but Love has the ability to play outside, in the slot, or even as free safety. He was at the latter spot for parts of this minicamp, a position he played only sparingly in college and mostly when his Notre Dame team played against the triple-option offenses of Army and Navy.

“They’re both very, very good players but they both do things just a little bit different,” Pat Shurmur said. “That’s a good thing.”

The two are among the younger players in the defensive backfield, which is a very young group to begin with. The Giants shed a good deal of veteran experience the past few months. Among their cornerbacks, Janoris Jenkins is the only established NFL starter. At safety, Michael Thomas and Antoine Bethea are two of the rare veterans.

That means there will be a lot of reliance on players such as Baker and Love to make immediate impacts. Individually and together.

“Football, it’s a special sport because you get that chemistry and that feeling between each other,” Love said. “It all works into each other. You need to have a cohesive secondary to be successful.”

That cohesion is starting now.

Notes & quotes: S Jacob Thineman and LB Nate Harvey, both signed as undrafted free agents, suffered non-contact knee injuries during the rookie minicamp. Shurmur said there will be further evaluation but they could require surgery . . . The minicamp wraps up on Sunday with “compressed” meetings and an early practice, a last chance for the tryouts to impress. “There have been some guys who have caught our attention,” Shurmur said. The Giants came into the camp with two spots open on their roster.

Oshane Ximines Jersey

For the past four seasons, Oshane Ximines has been a disruptor of opposing offenses at the college level for the Old Dominion University football team.

The defensive end also left his mark at the high school level at nearby Hertford County High School.

Ximines is projected to continue his football career as his name is expected to be called during the 2019 NFL draft in Nashville, Tennessee.

The first round of the draft was Thursday.

The second through third rounds are today and rounds 4-7 will be held Saturday.

According to, Ximines is projected to be drafted either in the third or fourth round.

Other media outlets estimate that Ximines could be drafted in the second round.

Area high school football coaches remember facing the 6-foot-3 over 200-pound defensive lineman when he played at Hertford County.Ximines was a member of the Hertford County varsity football team during the 2012 and 2013 seasons as a defensive end.

Northeastern head coach Antonio Moore acknowledged that it is huge for a player like Ximines that played in the area to get the chance to be drafted.

Moore added that the area always had players that could play, not only at the college level, but in the NFL.

While at Hertford County, Ximines was a two-time all-Northeastern Coastal Conference performer.

“He represented the conference very well,” Moore said.

Moore, whose tenure as the head coach at Northeastern High School began in the mid-2000s, noted that Ximines was an athletic player that was quick on the outside.

Moore noted that Ximines was difficult to block and NHS ran plays away from the side of the line where Ximines lined up.

When the Eagles did run a play to Ximines’ side, Moore recalled that it would be a screen pass play.

John A. Holmes High School athletic director Wes Mattera served as the Aces head football coach during the time Ximines played at Hertford County.

Mattera, who is also currently the defensive coordinator for the Aces, remembered that Ximines carried himself like a Division I athlete.

On the field, Edenton’s strategy was to make Ximines read and make a decision.

Mattera credited former Hertford County head football coach Scott Privott and the Hertford County community for helping Ximines to have the grades and character to earn a chance to play at Old Dominion.

“Hats off to the people at Hertford County,” Mattera said.

Mattera also added that it’s great that another athlete from the 252 area code, which covers most of the northeastern part of the state, will get a chance in the NFL.

Tarboro has sent multiple players to the league with the most notable being Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (first round, No. 10 overall in 2015 by the St. Louis Rams), Southern Nash’s Julius Peppers was a first round, No. 2 overall selection by the Carolina Panthers in the 2002 NFL draft, while Northampton County’s Keion Crossen was drafted in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL draft by the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.

If and when Ximines is drafted, he would join the group of high school athletes from the region drafted by a NFL team in John A. Holmes’ Zack Valentine (second round, No. 59 overall in 1979 by the Pittsburgh Steelers) and Wes Chesson (seventh round, No. 163 overall in 1971 by the Atlanta Falcons), Northeastern’s Anthony Smith (first round, No. 11 overall in 1990 by the Los Angeles Raiders) and Bertie County’s Jethro Pugh (11th round, 145th overall in 1965 by the Dallas Cowboys) and Travis Bond (seventh round, No. 214 overall in 2013 by the Minnesota Vikings).

If selected this weekend, Ximines could become the first player from ODU to be drafted.

Fellow ODU teammate in wide receiver Travis Fulgham is projected to be drafted either in the third or fourth round of the draft.

Ximines completed his career at Old Dominion as a two-time all-Conference USA first-team performer on defense.

Dexter Lawrence Jersey

The freshman-year apprenticeship for Jaden McKenzie set a foundation that eventually outshined that of the mentor.

At Wake Forest High School in a tiny North Carolina town just outside of Raleigh, McKenzie spent his ninth-grade football season for the Cougars watching a dominant force named Dexter Lawrence own the defensive trenches.

Yes, that Dexter Lawrence — Clemson All-American, College Football Playoff national champion and now NFL first-round draft pick.

Lawrence set the standard, but he never won a state football championship.

McKenzie? The Ohio State signee helped Wake Forest win an unprecedented three-straight North Carolina Class 4A State Championships.

“I hate to use another player when talking about Jaden, but Dexter Lawrence, who played at Clemson, when he graduated, Jaden stepped into his role as the guy to dominate on the defensive line,” Wake Forest coach Reggie Lucas told Lettermen Row. “Dexter didn’t win a championship, and the next three years, Jaden was able to capture three titles and anchor our defensive line.”

Nearly 6-feet-4 and still growing into his frame, McKenzie signed with Ryan Day’s Buckeyes after the trio of title runs that included McKenzie’s more than 60 career tackles for losses.

Rather than pout as a freshman behind Lawrence or fail to utilize his chance as understudy to future New York Giants first-rounder, McKenzie gleaned everything he could from his time behind Lawrence.

“I think that’s what made it special, he was kind of in the shadows, Jaden played with Dexter for one year on that line, and he stood back and learned from Dexter,” Lucas said. “Our defensive line coach loved his quickness, you know we kind of had to slow him down sometimes the way we wanted him to play in our defense.

“But he was very coachable, and I think some of those things helped him step into his role and be a captain. Because when he was younger, he wasn’t worried about the spotlight and waited his time.”

As McKenzie has shifted his focus onto his upcoming arrival in Columbus, Lucas has helped define target areas for improvement for the massive interior lineman, whom Lucas said had been told he could be a 1- or 3-technique player for the Buckeyes.

“My first words to him when he made the decision to go to Ohio State is to get in shape,” said Lucas, who praised the steady approach and work ethic of McKenzie throughout his prep career. “You’ve got to be in shape at that level; the conditioning from high school to the collegiate level is night and day.

“And he’s been working on conditioning and is running and sprinting, and has been in the weight room working on that with size and strength. I told him, ‘You’re not playing Division II football or some small FBS school, you’re in the big leagues at Ohio State. He’s doing his part now, but you don’t know what the guys at Ohio State are going to be like. He’s mentally trying to prepare for the worst — and by the worst, I mean he knows he is going to be challenged like never before. All the guys there are top recruits in the country. You’re not coming in there as the guy, you’re coming in there to compete.”

Which might just be what Jaden McKenzie does best. Just check the trophy case.