Thursday, April 28, 2011

NFL Draft Preview: New York Giants

From: National Review Online

The eventual Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers nudged the New York Giants out of the playoffs last year, despite Big Blue’s 10-6 record. (Life is tough in the NFC East — just ask the Redskins.) Their 2010 performance was just good enough to give the Giants the worst draft position of all the non-playoff teams. So, how will the Giants use their eight draft picks? (They have no fifth rounder, but pick up two compensatory picks in the sixth.) What do they need?

Picking at No. 19, the Giants could very well have their pick of Anthony Castonzo, Gabe Carimi, Nate Solder, and Derrick Sherrod. Of the 2011 draft’s OTs, only Tyron Smith should definitely be gone at this point (though the Cowboys, Lions, Rams and — dare I say it — the Patriots all have QBs that need protecting). If he’s still there, the pick will likely be Castonzo, who went to Boston College — where Tom Coughlin coached for three years and where his son-in-law, guard Chris Snee, went to school. (Notre Dame fans will recall BC’s 41-39 upset win over the top-ranked Golden Domers in 1993, under Coughlin.)

But if the Dolphins opt for RB Mark Ingram over the oft-mentioned (and, accordingly, overvalued) Mike Pouncey, then Big Blue may look to Pouncey. (Pace David Guenthner, I don’t think Miami’s possible signing of DeAngelo Williams rules out the Fins’ picking Ingram at 15.) Mike Pouncey is not as good as his brother Maurkice (a Pro bowler for the Steelers as a rookie last year), but he’s versatile enough to get action at a few positions along the offensive line while being groomed to take over for center Shaun O’Hara, the eldest of the Giants aging front five. I wouldn’t absolutely love the pick, but I can see it happening.

Expect the Giants to draft at least two offensive lineman.

I really wanted Rolando McClain to fall to the Giants in last year’s first round, and the Giants still need a lot more speed at middle linebacker — and at outside linebacker — to firm up their run defense up the middle, which got noticeably softer as last season progressed. Alas, there is no Rolando McClain in this year’s draft. Given the Giants’ fondness for Tarheels, their reaching for Quan Sturdivant in the second round is not out of the question, but it’s just as likely that this need will be filled later. We might see the Giants take one of the quicker DE prospects and stand him up at OLB.

My colleague and fellow Giant fan Russ Jenkins thinks a run-stuffing defensive lineman would suffice to take some pressure off the LB corps, and I can see the merit in that argument. They needed a MLB last year, and settled for pass-rushing DL Jason Pierre-Paul. Perhaps that would have worked out if Pierre-Paul were a run-stuffer. I’d rather have speed at LB.

The Giants always need defensive backfield help. Nowadays, they need a guy fast enough to cover Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, who they’ll face at least twice. If, by some miracle, Miami CB Brandon Harris should fall to them in the second round, they should jump. At 5′ 10″, he lacks ideal size for a CB, but DeSean Jackson is . . . 5′ 10″.

The Giants used a lot of three-safety sets last season because of their lack of quality depth at CB. Alas, I don’t think this is a draft in which they can make up that deficit.

I saw a mock drafter the other day listing WR as the Giants’ top need, which made me wonder if the guy has ever seen a Giants game. Sure, possession specialist Steve Smith is returning from injury; top-ten stud Hakeem Nicks has been repeatedly dinged up in his two years in blue; and former Michigan standout Mario Manningham is likewise injury prone. But when healthy, that trio compares favorably to most teams’ in the league.

When healthy. So yes, Big Blue will probably add a late-round WR to ensure that they have enough warm bodies in camp.

Here, too, the Giants are solid if injury-prone, with scatback Ahmad Bradshaw (1,500 total yards last year) and linebacker-sized bruiser Brandon Jacobs (800 yards, 9 TDs) leading the way. Both still have tread on the tire, but neither is the ideal size. Expect the Giants to add a 5′ 11″, 210-pound back in the later rounds.

If Mark Ingram falls to them at No. 19, forget everything I just said.

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