The strength of the New York Giants defense has been its defensive line. It is very possible that GM Jerry Reese will once again address this area in the 2012 NFL Draft. One late-round prospect that could be on the Giants radar is Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford.
Crawford is a raw prospect, having only started playing football in his junior year of high school in 2006. He is originally from England and immigrated to the United States in 2005. Crawford has a nice blend of size, 6-5, 275 pounds, and speed, 4.85 40-yard dash at the Combine. He brings an excellent motor and fairly good athleticism to the position.
Crawford is inexperienced and it sometimes shows. His footwork clearly shows how inexperienced he is. He often fails to set his feet properly and shows poor ability to adjust once his initial move doesn’t work on opposing linemen. He also sometimes has trouble recognizing plays as they unfold but that is due to his overall inexperience and not indicative of his football IQ.
Crawford has shown some ability to get to the quarterback, recording 6.5 sacks last season with the Nittany Lions. He was slowed by a knee injury last season but still managed to participate in all thirteen of Penn State’s games. His work ethic is among the best in the draft and he will play until the whistle blows, often getting production on his second effort. He possesses the upper body strength to knock offensive tackles off balance with his punch. He does not have the speed or athleticism to get around the edge, however. He will need to play with a more consistent pad level and keep his head up to follow the play but those can be corrected with proper coaching.
Crawford reminds me of Dave Tollefson who left the Giants as a free agent for the Oakland Raiders. Both have a drive that exceeds their natural ability and both get the job done based upon effort. Although it wouldn’t be an ideal situation for Crawford, he could line up inside at times when needed, much like Tollefson did for defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.
Crawford probably will never mature into a starting defensive end but he could become a very valuable member of the rotation, wearing out offensive linemen with his drive and motor. He will need to learn to play with his head up and his pads low to become a factor in the NFL. He is still learning the game and hasn’t had time to develop bad habits so he should be a nice lump of clay for the Giants to mold into the type of player they need. There is no reason to doubt that Crawford will be available when the Giants select in the sixth round.