Mar 131998
 
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New York Giants 1998 NFL Draft Needs
  • Wide Receiver: Some things never change. It seems that year-in-and-year-out the wide receiver position is an area of need for the Giants. Last year, it was hoped that the change in coaching staff would bring out the best in Thomas Lewis and Amani Toomer. Wrong. All things look good for Ike Hilliard’s return, but if he or Chris Calloway suffer an injury, the Giants are really in trouble again. Plus, Chris will be 30 this year. David Patten is a nice story and is improving, but the Giants can’t count on him to make a difference. What is needed are a couple of big play, consistent wide receivers. Look for guys who can run sure routes, are sure handed, can do damage after the catch, and have a history of being play-makers. The Giants say they want to add size to their receiving corps, but it will be interesting to see if this desire overrides the above mentioned criteria. Also look for one of the picks at wide receiver to be a guy who can return punts and/or kicks.
  • Tight End: Numbers, age, health, and productivity are areas of concern here. The Giants only really have two NFL caliber tight ends on the roster right now: Howard Cross and Alfred Pupunu. Moreover Howard will be 31 this year and Pupunu 29. Pupunu also has a history of knee problems. Neither is a real dangerous threat in the receiving game. Fassel seems to like having blocking tight ends, like Cross and Pupunu, but it is likely that he would also like to add a young guy who can also threaten defenses in the passing game in certain situations.
  • Offensive Center: This position was fine until Brian Williams suffered his tragic eye injury in camp last year. Lance Scott did an admirable job last season and there is a chance he will get much better this year, but the Giants would like to add more quality competition. Derek Engler was a rookie free agent who benefited from the injury situation last season. He may develop, but don’t count on it.
  • Special Teams Players: These guys are not as glamorous as the other positions, but they are critically important and this area is just as much of a “need” area as are the wide receiver and tight end positions for the Giants. In particular, punt returners, kick returners, and punt and kick coverage terrors are sought after. Look for the Giants to be interested in wide receivers and defensive backs who can help out on special teams.
  • Cornerback: Depth concerns here with the loss of fourth stringer Thomas Randolph to the Bengals. Health problems ravaged the cornerback position at the beginning of last season and demonstrated how important quality depth is. A young, aggressive corner who can also help out on special teams would be great.
  • Defensive Tackle: With the loss of Ray Agnew to the Rams, depth becomes an issue here as well. The Giants have high hopes for Christian Peter, but he is still a project. In an emergency, Bernard Holsey could move inside, but the coaching staff clearly prefers him to compete outside. Don’t look for the Giants to take anybody high at defensive tackle, unless someone slips, but there is a need here.
  • Strong Safety: Sam Garnes looks like he has a very bright future, but depth is a concern behind him. The Giants could play Tito Wooten or Percy Ellsworth at strong safety in a pinch, but they are better suited for the weakside spot. Again, a young developmental guy who can help out on specials is the one to look for.
  • Offensive Tackle: The issue is mainly depth here. The Giants like the future of both LT Roman Oben and RT Scott Gragg. Jerry Reynolds is now the principle back-up depth and he just signed a new three-year contract, but the Giants may want him to compete inside instead. A versatile back-up with solid starting potential would be nice.
  • Fullback: Once again, depth. Charles Way is the best in the business, but if he goes down with an injury, is Eric Lane the guy you want starting? Maybe, but the Giants aren’t sure yet. A strong back-up who makes a difference on special teams would be perfect.
  • Offensive Guard: If the Giants did nothing here, they would be alright, so this really isn’t a “need” area, but it is one where they would like to upgrade. The Giants are very happy with right guard Ron Stone, a Pro Bowl-caliber player. It is on the left side and most likely the depth situation where they would like to add some competition. Greg Bishop will never be more than an average player. Back-up Rob Zatechka hasn’t developed as hoped. Both are much stronger run blockers than pass blockers. Look for the Giants to be interested in big, powerful guards who can pull and hit opposing players on the move.
  • Right Defensive End: This is not really a need area, but a position where the Giants may want to upgrade by adding more quality competition. The Giants would like Cedric Jones to take the bull by the horns and become the impact player they had hoped for, but so far he hasn’t done that. Chad Bratzke is an over-achiever type and Bernard Holsey looks more like a guy who you want backing up the starter, though he did a quality job late in the year. What is mainly needed here is a potential double-digit sacker who can make an already strong defense potentially great. Don’t be surprised to see the Giants take a pass rusher fairly high.
  • Halfback: Like the right defensive end spot, halfback is not a true need in the strictest definition of the word, but the Giants are clearly not overjoyed with Tyrone Wheatley and Rodney Hampton, as evidenced by their interest in LeShon Johnson and Gary Brown in free agency. Look for the Giants to use a running back by committee system with Tiki Barber, LeShon Johnson, and Charles Way each getting a decent number of carries. What this means for Tyrone Wheatley is unknown. But since the Giants are unhappy with Tyrone, and LeShon has not proven to be consistently productive either, it would not be a shock to see the Giants take another halfback, or for that matter, take one very high, in the draft.

Summary: The Giants NEED help at wide receiver, tight end, center, and on special teams. Added depth at cornerback, defensive tackle, strong safety, offensive tackle, and fullback is a concern. Moreover, don’t be surprised to see the Giants try to significantly upgrade the guard, defensive end, or halfback spots. The Giants do factor need into their draft equation, but only if players are closely ranked. Need is not the overriding prerequisite. Also, keep in mind that the Giants will be active in the rookie free agent market after the draft and the veteran free agent market after June 1st.

PRIMARY NEEDS:
(The top three are are areas where premium draft picks could be spent).

  • Wide Receiver — Probably two.
  • Tight End
  • Offensive Center
  • Special Teams Players

SECONDARY NEEDS:
(More likely to be addressed lower in the draft and through rookie/veteran free agency).

  • Cornerback
  • Defensive Tackle
  • Strong Safety
  • Offensive Tackle
  • Fullback

AREAS IN NEED OF POSSIBLE UPGRADE:
(All areas where premium draft picks could be spent).

  • Offensive Guard
  • Defensive End
  • Halfback
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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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