New York Giants top-5 second round draft targets

Xavier McKinney, Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Xavier McKinney, Alabama Crimson Tide. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /
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New York Giants
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa Hawkeyes. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images) /

A.J. Epenesa, defensive end, Iowa Hawkeyes

At the end of the 2019 college season, most mock drafts had A.J. Epenesa as a mid-to-late first-round pick. He was regarded as the second-best edge rusher available after Chase Young. Epenesa made USC left tackle Austin Jackson (18th overall to Miami) look like a chump in the Holiday Bowl on December 27. His collegiate career ended with a bang, Epenesa finished the game with 4.0 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Big Ten offensive players had plenty of good things to say about him at the combine in February, according to Mike Tanner of Bleacher Report.

"“A.J. exploits the weakness of what I play. I’m a vertical setter, and the weakness of a vertical set is what A.J. loves to do: bull rush with a one-armed stab. He’s able to catch me leaning a lot, catch me off guard.” – Michigan Tackle John Runyan Jr."

"“I thought he was a great player. He was physical… He came off the ball with an explosive power.” – Purdue Tight End, Bryce Hopkins"

"“We had some battles… It goes back and forth, me and him. He was one of my best friends on the team. We will try to help each other get better. If he sees something that he beat me on, he’ll tell me what he saw. And when I beat him, I tell him what I saw.” – Iowa Tackle, and teammate, Tristan Wirfs"

Then Epenesa stepped on the field in Indianapolis for the combine. He laid an egg. Two years of hard work, which included 96 tackles, 30.5 for loss, including 22 sacks and eight forced fumbles, went down the drain in 5.04 seconds. Scouts who thought the 6-5, 275-pounder was too slow to be an elite pass rusher found their justification.

So this one is on the New York Giants scouting department. Do they accept what they saw at the combine? Or do they go with what they saw when they watched his game film?

4. Antoine Winfield Jr., safety, Minnesota Golden Gophers

EWB’s Even Desai wrote a nice pre-draft article about Winfield and his fit with the New York Giants last week. I have him as the third-best safety available in this draft. The son of former Pro-Bowl cornerback Antoine Winfield is a big hitter from the safety spot, as evidenced by his 82 tackles last season.

The University of Minnesota product breaks hard on passes with the intent of separating the receiver from the ball. In 2019, his outstanding ball skills led to seven picks. Most importantly, for a safety, he is adept at covering-man. The biggest red flags on Winfield are about his durability. In both 2017 and 2018, he was limited to four games each due to injuries.