Mar 241997
 
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New York Giants 1997 NFL Draft Needs
  • Punter: With all due respect to Scott Player, a journeyman punter, the Giants for all intents and purposes do not have a NFL-caliber punter on their current roster. Mike Horan was waived after the season after another mediocre year.
  • Running Back: Ever since the Giants lost David Meggett via free agency, they have not been able to come up with an acceptable replacement for him as a 3rd-down back. Dave Brown needs better intermediate targets to help keep drives alive and pick up critical first downs. A good 3rd-down back should have excellent hands, be elusive, and do a good job in picking up the blitz — a tough combination to find. Rodney Hampton has the hands and is a good pass blocker, but he may no longer have the speed or quickness to scare linebackers. Keith Elias, an unrestricted free agent, was disappointing in the 3rd-down role last year. In terms of regular starters, the Giants are set with Tyrone Wheatley and Rodney Hampton at halfback and Charles Way at fullback. However, the Giants may want to bring aboard another halfback to push Hampton (or make him expendable in a year or two) and a backup fullback. If Charles Way goes down with an injury, the Giants would be in big trouble.
  • Kick/Punt Returner: The Giants are flirting with disaster by having Tyrone Wheatley and Thomas Lewis, both key starters, returning kicks and punts respectively. The Giants need to find a couple of reliable return men who can also serve as decent back-up wide receivers, running backs, or defensive backs. Conrad Hamilton has demonstrated some kick-off return ability and Kevin Alexander has the moves and quickness to become a dangerous punt returner, but the Giants need more competition for these roles.
  • Wide Receiver: The Giants and Jim Fassel hope that Amani Toomer and Thomas Lewis become the type of big-play deep threats the Giants have longed for for years. Both have the tools in terms of size, speed, and quickness. However, both are mediocre route runners and suffer from concentration lapses. The hope is that Fassel and new wide receiver coach Milt Jackson can get the most out of their ability. Regardless, can the Giants afford to count on Amani and Thomas given their inconsistent performance in the past? The Giants could use more depth and warm bodies to seriously push Toomer and Lewis and/or replace them as potential starters. Chris Calloway, a current starter, is a hardworking, reliable possession-type receiver who would probably make a better 3rd WR than starter. Kevin Alexander is a small player who flashed some big-time speed and quickness late last year. He may develop into an adequate role player. Omar Douglas is another smaller target who the Giants’ top brass is high on. However, in three years with the team, he has never impressed. Arthur Marshall, an unrestricted free agent, may not be invited to return.
  • Offensive Line: The line underwent a major transition last year and is still suffering from the growing pains. On the right side, new starters RT Scott Gragg (6-8, 325lbs) and RG Ron Stone (6-5, 300lbs) form an imposing duo, but they had their problems in both pass and run blocking last year. The belief (and hope) by many is that both Gragg and Stone just need more experience before they develop into fine players. Brian Williams is one of the better centers in the game. Adam Schreiber, an unrestricted free agent, is a very good back-up center and guard. If the Giants can re-sign him, they should be set at center. The left side of the line is more unsettled. Though he improved as the year progressed, LT Greg Bishop struggled against quick pass rushing linemen last year. Jim Fassel has openly talked about moving Bishop, who lacks quick feet, back to guard. If the Giants do so, then second-year man Roman Oben would most likely become the opening day starter. Oben has outstanding tools (size, long arms, quick feet), but is extremely raw. The Giants felt that he was the 22nd best player in the draft last year and should have gone in the first round, but as Oben showed in the collegiate All-Star games, he has a lot of work left to do. The big question is can the Giants rely so completely on Oben’s quick development? What if Oben turns out to be a bust? In an emergency, the Giants can move Bishop back to tackle or play back-up Jerry Reynolds there, but it is doubtful that Bishop or Reynolds are the long-term answers at the left tackle position. Then there is the left guard position. It was hoped last year that Rob Zatechka would become the full-time starter there, but he really struggled and was replaced by Lance Smith (an unrestricted free agent not likely to be invited back) during the middle of the season. Zatechka has great size (6-4, 315lbs), but he may not have the feet, feel, or tenacity for the position. He will get another chance in training camp this year and will likely compete with Greg Bishop (who was a so-so starter at left guard in 1995) and Scott Davis, an unrestricted free agent who was scheduled to start at left guard in 1995 before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 1995 preseason. Regardless, are Zatechka, Bishop, or Davis the long-term answer at left guard? Jerry Reynolds is a solid back-up with good size. He will compete with free agent pick-ups Deron Thorpe and Alan Kline for back-up spots. Jamie Sumner, another free agent pick-up, will compete at guard.
  • Linebacker: The was the Giants’ biggest question mark heading into the 1996 season, but the rapid development of WLB Jessie Armstead and MLB Corey Widmer really helped to improve the Giants’ defense. Armstead is smaller than ideal and has some problems with the running game, but he is a very fast player with good instincts. He’s a very good cover man and may begin to receive some Pro Bowl recognition around the league. Widmer isn’t particularly graceful or athletic, but he gets the job done. He’s a big body (6-3, 255lbs) who helps to shut down the inside running game. He still needs to become more instinctive and he is somewhat of a liability in pass defense, but it is virtually impossible to find a big run-stuffing MLB who can cover well. Regardless, Widmer has the potential to develop into one of the league’s better MLB’s. Behind Armstead and Widmer are two second-year men who the Giants are high on: Scott Galyon and Doug Colman. Galyon is a smaller, but quick and instinctive player, especially against the pass. Colman is a Widmer-clone with more experience playing linebacker. It’s on the strongside where the Giants want to see more improvement. Corey Miller has size and strength, but he’s not very quick or fast. Miller is usually tough against the run, but suffers from mental lapses and struggles at times in pass coverage. Miller may benefit more than anyone else on defense from the coaching change, but there is a general feeling that the Giants want to upgrade at this position. Back-up Marcus Buckley has never developed as hoped. He’s a journeyman who continues to survive roster cuts because of the lack of depth on the strongside. Ben Talley, a 1995 4th draft choice who the Giants had high hopes for, suffered a very severe knee injury in camp last year and it is not known at this time if he will ever fully recover.
  • Defensive Backs: The Giants are set at cornerback with Phillippi Sparks, Jason Sehorn (a restricted free agent), Thomas Randolph, and Conrad Hamilton. Randolph and Hamilton are so good they would start for many teams. Safety becomes more of a need with the waiving of starting SS Jesse Campbell. We assume FS Tito Wooten will move to strong safety and FS Percy Ellsworth will become the new starter at free safety (Ellsworth is a natural free safety, Wooten can play either position and is a more aggressive hitter). Depth becomes a concern. Rodney Young is talented player who hasn’t shown much since being drafted by the Giants 1995. With more playing time, he could develop into a good player. Maurice Douglass is an unrestricted free agent and it is not known whether the Giants want him back or not. The Giants did sign SS Picasso Nelson and FS Brandon Sanders. Both are big hitters who need to improve in coverage.
  • Defensive Line: The Giants look set outside with Michael Strahan, Jamal Duff, Cedric Jones, and Chad Bratzke. Inside, there are quite a few quality players, but no one who really dominates. Starters Robert Harris and Keith Hamilton are two very talented but inconsistent ball players. Christian Peter should add size and hustle, but he’s not a top pass rusher. Bernard Holsey “flashed” some quickness last year, but too often was neutralized at the line of scrimmage. The Giants are still hoping that Darnell Gilliard (who will play in the World League this year) or Ramon Okoli can develop into productive players. Ray Agnew, injured much of last year after a decent first year with the Giants, may become a salary cap casualty after June 1st. The Giants can get by with this young and fairly talented group at defensive tackle…there just are no impact guys here.
  • Tight Ends: With Jim Fassel onboard, Aaron Pierce may finally get his big chance to show everyone what he can do at tight end. Pierce had been hampered by Dan Reeves’ H-Back system and reluctance to throw to the H-Back and TE. Pierce has good size, speed, hands, and quickness. His run blocking is just fair; he needs to improve in this area, especially out of his stance (rather than in motion). Howard Cross remains one of the top blocking TE’s in the game. However, he has suffered through two very poor back-to-back seasons, especially in the receiving department. Whether he can turn his career around is a big question mark. Saxton may even have better hands and be a better blocker than Pierce. He’s very raw around the edges however. Speaking of raw, the Giants signed TE Brandon Jessie this off-season. Jessie is a former high school football star who was heavily recruited by a number of major universities but decided to play collegiate basketball instead. His has very good tools, but he hasn’t played football in five years.
  • Quarterbacks: The organization appears committed to Dave Brown for at least one more year. Brown has the size, intelligence, toughness, leadership ability, arm strength, and agility to succeed in the NFL; he also has arguably one of the best QB coaches in the game working with him now, Jim Fassel. However, Brown must improve his accuracy, ability to read defenses, and presence in the pocket. Hammered by the pass rush all last season, Brown also started to develop some nervous feet in the pocket. It is hoped that with improved coaching and faith, play-calling, and supporting caste that Dave will blossom. If he doesn’t, Danny Kanell stands ready in the wings. Kanell is a very intelligent player who quickly picked up the Giants’ offense last year. He seems to have a natural feel for the game as well as good leadership skills and intangibles. Stan White, who will play in the World League this spring, is a very good, cheap 3rd-string QB.

Summary: The Giants NEED a punter, 3rd down back, back-up fullback, and some good kick/punt returners. Added depth and/or ability would be nice at wide receiver, offensive tackle, offensive guard, defensive tackle, strongside linebacker, and safety. Thus, the Giants primary needs going into the 1996 NFL Draft are:

  • Punter
  • 3rd-Down Back
  • Fullback
  • Kick/Punt Returners
  • Wide Receiver
  • Offensive Tackle
  • Offensive Guard
  • Defensive Tackle
  • Strongside Linebacker
  • Safety
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Eric Kennedy

Eric Kennedy is Editor-in-Chief of BigBlueInteractive.com, a publication of Big Blue Interactive, LLC. Follow @BigBlueInteract on Twitter.

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