In the wake of the Giants’ recent splash in the 2009 Free Agency pool, signing big fish LB Michael Boley and Defensive Linemen Rocky Bernard and Chris Canty, the Giants have certainly “shored” up a Defensive unit that ranked fifth overall in the league and finished in the top ten against both the run and pass in 2008.
Aquatic metaphors aside, with a healthy Osi Umenyiora set to return in ’09, the D-Line that faltered against Philly in the playoffs is now teeming with talent. Jerry Reese, talent evaluator extraordinaire, has given new Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheriden the pieces to have a championship-caliber defense.
But is there enough room on that line with all those big bodies? For one thing, we know that neither Justin Tuck nor Osi will be going anywhere this off-season, but can the same be said for DT’s Jay Alford, Barry Cofield, and Fred Robbins? What about DE Mathias Kiwanuka?
Chances are they will all be a part of the rotation next year, ensuring the same relentless pass rush that fans saw under recently-departed Steve Spagnuolo. But both Cofield and Robbins have had arthroscopic surgery since season’s end and Robbins age (he’ll be 32 in March) could find him looking for a new home.
The fact remains that Reese, Coughlin, and co. have chosen to address the team’s defensive needs via free agency this year. This path lends to the “expert’s” speculation that Big Blue will look to add depth and talent to the offensive side of the ball in this year’s draft.
Boasting 3 picks in the first two rounds (29, 45, 60) the Giants have certainly poised themselves to add some top-tier talent and depth on the draft’s first day to make up for Derrick Ward’s defection to Tampa and Amani Toomer’s inevitable departure. Moreover, the on-going Plaxico saga, which thanks to A-Rod, is now only the second-most tired story in New York sports, forces the G-Men to look at the crop of WR’s available in April’s draft.
Unless Reese can somehow manufacture a trade for disgruntled Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin or, as it has been rumored, Cleveland’s stone-palmed and butter-fingered Braylon Edwards, look for a WR to come off the board when the Giants hand their card to Uncle Roger at Radio City.
Taking a closer look at the Giants’ draft plans ESPN’s draft experts has New York grabbing 6’3” Ohio State LB James Laurinitis at 29. While Laurinitis—a 3-time All-American and Nagurski and Butkus award winner—does have an impressive collegiate resume, I doubt the Giants will go the way of the Linebacker in the first round.
In recent years, Linebacker has been the sexy first round pick for the Giants according to TV analysts and novice mock drafters alike; instead, Reese has elected to build depth behind Antonio Pierce through the draft and add veteran free agents on the cheap (i.e. Kawika Mitchell and Danny Clark).
Now, with the addition of Boley—who will most likely play the Will—to a corps that already includes youngsters Bryan Kehl, Johnathan Goff, the oft-injured Gerris Wilkinson, reserve Chase Blackburn and Pro Bowl long-snapper Zak DeOssie, it appears the Giants will look to draft for the future at the LB position and will perhaps spend a late round pick on a backer on day two.
While it isn’t news to even the most casual Giants fan that there needs to be an upgrade at the receiver position, it is hard to tell just what direction the Giants will go when their turn on the clock comes in the first round.
Personally, I like UNC’s Hakeem Nicks. First off, if you haven’t seen it already, go check out his catch against West Virginia from December’s Meineke Car Care Bowl on YouTube immediately. Then, if that piques your interest do some more research on the young man. Standing 6’1” and weighing 215lbs, the 21-year-old Hicks is an excellent route-runner who isn’t shy about going over the middle; moreover, his size and strength make him a dangerous weapon after the catch.
Sound familiar? The measurables should, considering they could also be describing the aforementioned Anquan Boldin and Hicks will certainly come cheaper. But will Hicks still be around? I’m sure the Giants’ brass is hoping for a similar scenario as last year’s draft when Kenny Phillips fell into their laps at 32. If not there are some other enticing options at the WR position.
After Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Darius Heyward-Bey—all of whom will almost certainly be off the board—and Hicks, Ohio State’s Brian Robiskie, local product Kenny Britt out of Rutgers, and Florida’s Percy Harvin all could be available. Robiskie comes with an NFL pedigree, his father Terry played running back for five seasons and has been an Offensive Coordinator with the Raiders and is currently the Falcons Wide Receivers coach.
After his stellar combine showing, Robiskie could sneak into the first round and I’m sure the Giants were represented at Friday’s pro day at The Ohio State. Kenny Britt had a prolific college career in New Brunswick where his blend of size (6’3” 220) and speed proved almost indefensible for Big East secondaries; however, Britt has the reputation of being a primadonna during his college days, but everyone should peep the Bayonne High alum laying a crack back block against Ball State on YouTube.
With hits like that and all the intangibles of a top-flight NFL receiver, Britt would be an instant favorite of the Big Blue faithful. Harvin is a bit undersized, listed at 5’11” but probably smaller, but he makes up for it with versatility, blazing speed, and—as he showed in January’s BCS Championship Game—lots of heart. But I really don’t see him being anything more than a “Reggie Bush Type” which means a very different thing in the NFL than it did in college.
He could be effective in the right system, but I don’t think he will add any wrinkles to the Giants’ already smallish receiving corp. One thing is for sure, whether or not the Giants go after some established NFL talent (Boldin, Edwards, or the freshly released Torry Holt) the Giants will have some new faces at wideout come training camp.
Yet, as some of these WR’s may still be on the board at 45, there is an intriguing direction the Giants could go at 29. If you recall, in Ernie Accorsi’s final draft as GM, he took Boston College DE Mathias Kiwaniuka at the end of Round 1. As the Giants were seemingly loaded at the defensive end position having drafted Justin Tuck the year before and already having Osi and living legend Michael Strahan on the roster, this pick seemed a bit of a head-scratcher.
But when asked, Ernie simply replied, “You can never have too many pass-rushers.” Now, I know the Mara’s and Tisch’s just shelled a lot of cash for Boley, Bernard, and Canty, and I don’t mean to be greedy, but one player, if he’s still available, may be too tantalizing for the brain trust to pass up is Georgia Tech DE Michael Johnson.
Johnson is a physical beast. No two ways around it. He goes 6’7” 266 and at his pro day he was clocked as low as 4.49 in the 40. But the knock on this guy is that when you roll game tape on him he takes plays off. With questions of motivation surrounding this once-in-a-lifetime-type talents, my only question to the Giants community is “Where better than East Rutherford?” for Johnson to cultivate his talents and skills learning from some of the best pass rushers in the game today.
I don’t think Jerry and Coughlin will ultimately pull the trigger on Johnson at 29, but hey it’s a nice gamble and gives the front office some leeway in the long-term. If he’s around at 45, which I doubt, I say it’s a no-brainer.
Another angle for the Giants on the first day could be a replacement for D. Ward. With a small RB class this year, Knoshown Moreno and Beanie Wells look like round 1 locks. Other prospects include former Fiesta Bowl hero, Boise State’s Ian Johnson, Michigan State’s Javon Ringer, and UConn’s Donald Brown.
Moreno and Ringer seem to be great fits for the Giants, as they both have good strong leg drive and are great receivers out of the backfield. Moreno, especially, is an exceptional open field talent. Also, I think the Giants are a little leery of Big 10 RB’s (see: Butch Woolfolk, Tyrone Wheatley, Ron Dayne), so Ringer could be a pass. Also, the Giants could stay pat with Bradshaw and the promising Danny Ware. I will say that there were more than a few times that Derrick Ward didn’t finish off a run last year.
John Carney had a Pro Bowl year but let’s hope the offense can punch it in for six with a little more consistency, specifically in Coughlin’s “Green Zone.” An upgrade over Ward could be a nice value pick for the G-men in the early going, as we can expect Brandon Jacobs to be injured at least at some point over the next few seasons.
With all this speculation aside, there certainly is room for the Giants to go in other directions. They’ll obviously look to add depth on the O-Line over the course of the weekend, but it’s also not out of the question for the Giants to trade off most of their picks to move up.
It would be nice to see the Big Blue in the top ten after giving away most of their picks to a team with a new regime, say Kansas City or Cleveland, where Paoli or Mangini can bring in more long-term talent on the cheap. With a top 10 pick the Giants could pick up Aaron Curry, or Brian Cushing, or Michael Crabtree, or a big LT.
The fact remains, the front office has spent their money wisely this offseason and the Giants are in the driver’s seat as we near closer to April’s draft.