Apr 222000
 
Q&A: Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton

by David Oliver

Outside the bubble, it was cold and rainy. Inside, the rookies, new veterans and some returning veterans had just concluded their third day of drills, working on nomenclature, formations, blocking assignments and position workouts. By now everyone was tired. The coaching staff had more work to do reviewing the three days’ activities. Coach Payton graciously agreed to an interview. We stood there in the dome, empty now of all players, coaches and media, with the background hum of the work crew putting things in their proper order. Coach Payton patiently answered every question I asked, never said, “I have to go,” or let on how busy he was. He is an intense, excited and informative young coach from whom we can expect some new and dynamic offensive sets. The interview follows in a straight question and answer format. He had a lot of good things to say, so here it is, in his words:

Q. How has your professional life changes since your appointment as coordinator?

A. (The Coach started off in the “we” talking about the entire staff)…challenge for us an offensive staff is really to best utilize the players we have. We’ve got some different guys, certainly at the running back position; we’ve got a lot of talented players with various skills; the same way at receiver. The most important thing we can do is put these guys in the best position to do the things that they do well – multiple formations, multiple personnel groups. As far as the coordinator, I just think from an organizational standpoint, your time is taxed a little bit more in terms of preparing the overall plan, both run and pass. We’ve got a tremendous staff, I think, a lot of experience, guys like (Jim) McNally, Mike Pope, Jim Skipper, these guys have about 15-20 years apiece; Jimmy Robinson has 10 years in the league and Mike Gilhamer, so overall, I think, we’ve worked real well together and there’s been a lot of cohesiveness, so far. It’s been pretty good.

Q. Who actually designs the plays?

A. Well, it comes from the group. When you talk about putting together your run plan or you’re putting together your pass plan, we meet. We spent the last 4 weeks, the last month and a half this off season researching various teams in the league…there are trends that take place during the course of a 2 or 3 year period; it’s important to stay on top of those trends, to see where the offenses are going. So I told our players when we met for the first time (this season) that we were going to have the best plan, the best script going in football, and I believe that. We’ll do a good job as coaches of putting them in the position; we’ll give them the right scheme, so collectively as a group, to answer your question, we sit down and we go through the run and the pass and guys have suggestions. We’re all guys who have seen a lot of tape and been in a lot of offenses. The key is putting it all together.

Q. The NFL is known as a “copycat” league. The Rams have been very successful with a particular type of offense, something the Giants have never utilized. Can we expect more Rams type offensive sets?

A. At the same time the biggest mistake you can make is try to be something that you aren’t, unless your personnel is such. The greatest thing they did is they utilized their personnel well, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Holt and those guys. They did a tremendous job of getting it to their skill guys. Hopefully, we can do the same thing with our guys, whether it’s Ike Hilliard, Amani Toomer, Tiki Barber, Ron Dayne, our tight ends, Pete Mitchell, Howard (Cross). We’ve got a unique set of players, so each team is a little different and I think there needs to be a personality about ourselves. I don’t promise we’re going to be like St. Louis, I don’t promise we’re going to be like a West Coast team, or Washington Redskins; we’re going to be like the NY Giants, but there’s going to be a personality about us that’s unique because of the chemistry of our guys. We have different players, it’s important to utilize their skills in the best possible way.

Q. The Giants have never had an offensive personality. Most critics use terms like boring or inconsistent to describe our game planning. This year are we actually going to see something a little different?

A. Hopefully a year from now they’ll feel good about where we’ve come. We’ve got a lot of steps to make, we’ve got a lot of improvement to make. The off-season has been great, we’ve been here the whole time. (The players) they’re hungry to do well and we’ll take it one step at a time. I’m excited about who we have. I like our players, I like our makeup. I think we really helped ourselves in the off season with the acquisition in the offensive line, with the acquisition of a number of players, including the draft. We’re fired up about the guys we drafted offensively, I like them a lot.

Q. Last year we had problems with the offensive line. Brown (Lomas) and Parker (Glenn) are men, not boys. But the Giants run a lot to the left side. If you run behind Brown and Parker, they’re not the youngest guys. Can they go?

A. You certainly design your running game around the strengths of your offensive line and at the same time, there will be an “attitude” that those guys have already shown, a commitment. Lomas Brown is an ex-Pro Bowl player, Parker is a veteran guy, ‘Zig’ Ziegler, I call him Zig, is coming in and he has shown leadership at center. So with these new additions, there is a learning that takes place, but we’re fired up about their experience. Those are guys we liked and targeted and we’re glad to have them here.

Q. Are you going to be upstairs or downstairs during games?

A. Probably downstairs again. The benefit of getting a play to the QB as quickly as we can, removing a guy from the loop, is a positive for me. As fast as he can get the play, where he can audible or check at the line of scrimmage, the better off we are. If I’m upstairs, the problem is we’ve got to go through somebody to the QB. So I prefer to be downstairs, and I plan to be downstairs.

Q. What is your assessment of Kerry’s (Collins) leadership?

A. I’ve been impressed. He’s done a nice job in the off-season. He’s been out here, these guys have been in the bubble every day, whether we’re with them or not. He’s done a tremendous job of taking the initiative to do the little things. There’s so many things, especially with free agency. You can make an argument that you have a new offense, you really do, every year. Say you’ve got your same 11 guys every year coming back, and we’re going to make subtle changes, but there is a new look to the locker room, there is a new look both on offense and defense, in regards to the number of new people we brought in. We’re excited about it, but with that there entails some off-season work that maybe 15 years ago didn’t exist because of the continuity that teams had.

Q. How about Mike Cherry?

A. I like Mike. He’s been here, he’s worked hard at it, he’s got a big arm, he’s talented, he’s strong. The repetitions are going to be positive for him. This is the first year where, going in, he is going to be in a position where he can get some preseason game reps, and have some games and get some quality reps. It will be important for him in the pre season.

Q. Do you think Garrett can carry the team if Kerry goes down?

A. Sure do. We wouldn’t have brought him here if I didn’t. I think all of us starting with Ernie Accorsi, Jim Fassel, we were evaluating the back up position. We wanted to find a guy that was certainly capable of going in and winning games, and he’s proven he can do that. He did it in Dallas when Aikman went down throughout his career there. He’s a guy that’s a very intelligent guy that knows the game well. I think he’s a tremendous influence just in our meetings and in the locker room. He is very experienced and he has a sharp football mind. I like him.

Q. How about the big two draft choices…?

A. (Animated, even before I finished the question) Both those two, Dayne and Dixon, both Rons, I like them both. Ron (Dayne) came in here and in 3 days absorbed everything, picked it up fast. He’s a quick learner, he’s got very athletic feet, he’s gifted in his vision and I really like what I saw just in the 3 day period with him. I’m extremely pleased with him, extremely pleased with Dixon. I think you guys came out here and watched him run around. He is talented and he can fly. I think our guys did a great job of targeting a guy like him, who maybe a lot of people didn’t have, but as you talk, and more and more, you visit with people, most people did have him on their board, and a lot of them had him in that same round we did. Regardless, he’s a guy we’re fired up we got. I came in here, and you never know, you want to see him run around, and after the first practice all of us were giddy in the locker room. We’re excited.

Q. Now for your test question. I want to know about a mystery candidate, #15, the kid from Montana?

A. (Coach repeated the number and “kid from Montana” and before I gave him the name he said) Jeremy Watkins. He’s a guy that came in and actually did a pretty good job this week. If you watch some of the stuff on tape, he ran by a corner yesterday for a TD. He runs real good routes, he’s a smart kid. Shoot, I was excited to see him out here. We needed the numbers to help us and as we went through he started improving and really showed us something. He’ll have his work cut out for him, but at the same time he’s very attentive, smart and he does the right things. There’s something to be said for that.

Q. What is your general, overall philosophy of offense?

A. My general, overall philosophy of offense revolves around what players you have offensively. The greatest mistake a coach can make is to try to mold a group of players into a certain system that they’re not suited for. So, I guess if you said what was my upbringing, I was brought up in the West Coast system with Jon Gruden and the Philadelphia Eagles. At the same time I will pick and choose some spots from that system and also build around the strength of a good running game. We’ll run the football well this year. We’re going to make an emphasis on that. I think it’s important to our defense and the overall team. But at the same time, I think we’ve got some speed outside where we can take advantage of teams that are loading up against the run.

Q. Have there been any rough spots between you and Coach Fassel during the transition?

A. No. It’s been wonderful. He’s been fantastic, I mean that. He’s been tremendously supportive of what we’re trying to do and helpful at the same time.

Q. Looking into the crystal ball, what kind of start to the season do you anticipate?

A. I think in this league any more, you look at the schedule and you begin to look at your games and where you are playing them. So much has to do with when you are playing a team. We open up with Arizona at home and they’re a team that beat us twice last year, and that will be a dogfight. They’ve improved themselves in the off season, they got a great running back in the draft. We go to Philadelphia and they’ve certainly improved a lot. We were barely able to get out of there last year. It will be their home opener and that game has always been a tough game. It’s a cliche I guess, but you’ve got to take it one game at a time. It’s so difficult to project how the start is going to be. Hell, I want to go 16 and 0, that’s what I want to do…but at the same time when you look at the schedule, we’re opening at home, then you look down at your traveling dates. If you have any where you are taking a long trip, coming back on a short week, those are the things that coaches look at. If you look at the schedule overall, we’re going to play Philadelphia’s home opener, the Bears’ home opener…early on that start is going to be difficult. I think it’s going to be tougher than people might think. I think the opener against Arizona will be a very competitive game, then when we go on the road to Philly and Chicago, those are 2 teams that people would all say and agree that they certainly have been on the rise and have improved and we’ve got to be able to match the same intensity that they will have playing at home.

Q. I would like some reassurance for BBI fans that we have improved, but at the same time it is good to hear you say that it might be a difficult start…

A. It’s going to be a challenge. I think in this league and every year is proof of it, week by week the difference is such a fine line and if you went back and charted how many games you played during the course of a 16 game season, how many of them didn’t finish in the final 2 minutes with a make or break field goal or TD, it’s really a small amount. So what it comes down to at the very end, the little things are going to be a big difference for us, for anybody. The kicking game, the special teams, turnovers, we’ve got to be a lot better offensively in the turnover ratio. We’ve really got to do a better job with that and protect the football. The turnover ratio for those teams that are in the plus category arrive in the playoffs every year. So there is an emphasis we’re going to place during our training camp, mini-camps, protecting the football and improve our take aways, that’s one area we really want to focus on. As the teams come, we’ll take them one at a time; it’s a long season and as you look at everyone’s schedule, as coach, from an unbiased opinion, look at as tough or challenging is when you have those 3 away games, 1 on Sunday night, the other back on the road, the logistical standpoint, everything seems pretty clear in regards to where we are traveling and it seems pretty fair. But it’s going to be a grind early on, and we’re going to have to be ready to play right from the get go.

Q. Coach, with the Damocles Sword hanging over the entire staff to “win now”, how do you think the pressure will be if you start, say 1-and-2?

A. I think, anymore, in this league, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure to begin with a win every year. Take any team you want to, there’s only a handful of teams that don’t have that pressure or the feeling that “our backs are against the wall” every season in this league. So that’s not going to change our approach at all as to how we coach. We’ve had tremendous support from the organization, from our fans, and we’ll continue to coach the same way we have, work hard at preparing our guys the best that we can. But honestly, the coaches in this have been around long enough to know that preparation is the most important thing. St. Louis last year they were getting ready to fire Dick Vermeil, they were getting ready to fire Jeff Fisher, both those guys went to the Super Bowl. That’s the business we are in and that’s what we’ve chosen to do. So there’s pressure on everyone. I don’t care if you are ahead in your Conference or you are coming up from behind, there’s pressure. There is pressure for every team to do well and the coaches feel that, at the same time that’s part of the business.

As you can see, I tool a lot of the Coach’s generous offer of time. I felt badly about asking any more so we agreed to follow up during training camp. If you aren’t impressed by his candor and straight-forward approach to football and to the questions, you are not reading him right. There is a new maturity around the giants this year. Everyone in the organization from General Manager Ernie Accorsi on down is accessible, and no one is pulling any punches. These guys want to win – they feel like we do and they know just how much we are hurting – because they are hurting the same way. I’m not going to editorialize here, and I didn’t edit Coach Payton’s answers. I wanted to try and convey his sense of excitement, his developing thought processes, I wanted to bring it to you IN HIS OWN WORDS.

Apr 192000
 
New York Giants 2000 NFL Draft Review

by David Oliver

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS…
Draft 2000, tax day, the Ides of April are all falling on the same weekend. For Giants fans this is Halloween, Midsummer’s Night, KristalNacht and Gotterdammerung all rolled into one 30 plus hours of pandemonium, expectation, frustration, anger, joy and any other emotion on the tilt-a-whirl of Giant fandom. We have waited three months for this day; preparations including stocking the refrig with a good supply of suds, provisioning assorted snacks, sending the old lady out shopping, hiding the pets in the basement for safe-keeping, purchasing additional clickers for the TV, and for some just biting off a wedge of VALIUM. As I head north, to partake of the festivities first hand at Giants Stadium, I decide that there will be no doo-wop or Springsteen CDs this week – it is all Wagner’s Siegfried’s Rhine Journey and the music from that Russian epic Alexander Nevsky. On draft weekend I always feel like Nevsky, the Russian Boyar who led an undermanned and doomed force onto the snowy plains to face the Mongol hordes. They were, of course, soundly beaten, Nevsky killed and Russia fell under the Mongol sway for decades. But the artistic renditions of the Knights, clad in chain mail armor and riding to their certain death, staring out across the snow-covered tundra, seeing Mongol forces across the horizon sets the mood for me as I drive on the Beltway, surrounded by whispers of Redskin fans, columnists and camp-followers, sighing Super-Bowl, Jeff George, Bruuuuuce, LaVar, Samuels. My senses are assailed by their laughter, the haunting, taunting arrogance of the whole thing. So North I ride to join Accorsi, Fassel and Sunderland. They, and we along with them, may not be the greatest fighting force on the snowy plains, but we can wage the battle with honor and glory – and screw the damn Redskin.

The finest of NY journalism is in the room. The atmosphere is casual, not really tense or even expectant for these stout beat writers – they have been here before. They have been surprised, shocked, dismayed, bamboozled and just plain puzzled so many times, so many ways that I am sure the first paragraphs of their stories are all canned anyway. There is a spread laid out – one thing the Giants do well is feed the troops- I guess the organization subscribes to the theory keep them fat and they will stay happy – at least quiet. In all seriousness, the Giants are a first-class outfit – how many times have you heard that? Well, it’s true. If the Media needs, the Giants provide. Pat Hanlon and his entire staff are helpful, courteous and a valuable resource. I pull up a chair next to Pat from Inside Football and her fotog and in general good guy, the lovable Doctor Joe Mancino from Maryland – another Giant loyalist stuck in Sodom on the Potomac.

The draft begins with its usual tedium. Cleveland already has a signed contract with Courtney Brown, but milks the clock, which allows for interminable babble, commercials and clips as per the Tagliabue Edict – (it used to be attributed to PT Barnum, but Tags has taken it to a new level). Then come the Skins and their Super Bowl circus. For awhile I think Joe Theisman may actually wet his pants on national TV. The War Room with Snyder and Turner and Vinny Cerrato sends me to the bathroom, the tunnel, outside for some fresh air. Just send them the Lombardi Trophy and let us get to some football.

When the Ravens select Jamal Lewis, some air goes out of the room. I don’t know what these guys are thinking in this room – there is only one name on the board for the Giants. We get closer and the anticipation builds. Peter Baptiste and Avis Roper start bustling around so we know this will be a quick selection as preparations are made for the appearance of the Triune leaders in the War Room. First will come the Father, Ernie Accorsi, then the son, Jim Fassel, and finally the Holy Spirit of this draft day, Marv Sunderland. The selection, the Great Dayne – and don’t say I didn’t tell you so – actually the BBI drafts were remarkably on point – and during the wrap-up I told Coach Fassel that we had hit three of the first four – anyone who tells you they hit Ron Dixon is certifiable or on a very powerful hallucinogen. But BBI HIT Dayne, Griffin and Short – not bad for a bunch of fans who don’t know a damn thing – Congratulations.

The head shed is pleased. Dayne is their man. Mr. Accorsi tells us that the Giants act quickly because they are not really interested in trades at this spot, they knew who they wanted. He said they favored Dayne over Alexander even though they have a chance to be equally effective. Dayne “is the bigger man with a little more explosion and quickness. Shaun is a tremendous pass receiver who really knows how to get open…we just went with the bigger man. The difference in speed is really indistinguishable. Dayne had more long runs than anybody we really considered.” Ernie also said that the Giants talked about moving up but the price was always the second round pick and, “We really didn’t feel the second round was worth it, to go too high.” The real concern was someone trading up ahead of them. When asked about his comfort level, he said there is always some fear, but he added, “This is one of the few times in my career that I felt comfortable, because there were two guys that we would have been comfortable with, and only one team ahead of us, so I knew we were okay.” I asked if he anticipated a quick signing. After looking at me like I had two heads, he said, “I never anticipate a quick signing. I don’t even anticipate a quick signing if the guy is going to get the league minimum as a free-agent.”

Coach Fassel appeared genuinely excited. He said you look at Ron and you think power back but he is really “a big back that has power. But the one thing that I think he has probably better than all the other running backs is that he has the anticipation to make the right move and that is critical in a back. I think he sees things well in a peripheral state. I think that when he comes on a guy, you can see on tape him making people miss. He can also run over a guy.” Talking about times in the 40, Coach said it is important but he said there are a ton of guys in the Hall who didn’t blaze in the 40. And then there are guys like Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, “but you watch those guys and they play fast. This guy plays fast…You see him go through a hole, a guy comes after him and he makes a cut. When he makes a cut he sinks his hips and he accelerates. Two things: a guy has to have vision and the anticipation and then the next thing is to be a quick, aggressive kind of cutting runner because you have got to have an aggressive mind. This guy, when he gets to the point, he sees it, anticipates, puts his pads down and goes.” Coach also says that it will be an open competition for feature back. On not previously having a feature back, Coach said, “I would love to have that. We have not had a guy to get in there and stay in there and be the guy and carry the load and be productive and stay healthy. If that is what he can do and bring it to us, then this may be one of the better picks that we have made…there is no reason why I think that he could not do that and it would really help us to be able to solidify that role where we have the bell cow in there and we can alternate different people when we get in different packages.”

Marv Sunderland briefly talked about his size and prolific running. He said, “He’s been extremely durable…He’s been a guy that has taken a game over in the fourth quarter. He’s a guy who keeps coming at you, keeps coming at you, and pretty soon he wears you out.”

On a conference call, Ron sounded relaxed. He said a few other teams were interested but he just felt the Giants were the team. He had a dream and he told his brother Yas and they agreed he was going with the Giants. Ron said he felt he had something to prove, that the doubting “makes me want to go out and play because people are still doubting me and saying that I can’t do this and I can’t do that. That is what happened my first year in College and my senior year in College, you know people doubted me and doubted me and I just wanted to show people that I’m a great back and I can do anything that a small back can do, and even better.” He is ready to step right in and said, “I don’t know if I can at the beginning of the season, but if I can get some time, get some reps, show them what I got and get the plays down, I think I can get in and help this team win.” (This more by way of modesty – I don’t think he wanted to sound as if he was coming in expecting to be anointed – he was showing respect for the existing backs). When asked what he knew about the Giants he said, “The main thing I know about the Giants is that they have a great defense. And I know, with a great defense, your offense is gonna come. Once you have a great QB and a good RB and a good WR and a good FB, we can build. Charles can show me the ‘Way’.” When asked if he was a power or finesse back he said, “I use my move to get by people because if you keep getting hit every game trying to run people over, you aren’t going to play long in the NFL. You know you are not going to be able to run over everybody, so you got to be able to make people miss. You rarely see that many backs in the league trying to run players over. You may see someone get run over once or twice a game but that will be it. I try to make you miss just like the smaller backs. But I make you miss and I can run you over, so it is either or however you want to come at me, and I am going to come at you. You have to guess what I am doing.”

Grade on Round 1 – A: Analysis: For me, this pick is comparable for the offense as LT was for the defense. I have become a Ron Dayne fan. Although Shaun Alexander would not have disappointed me, I think Dayne signifies a return to Giants football, with the Fassel twist. Look at the numbers: NCAA rushing record (7000 career yards); 12 games in which he rushed for more than 200 yards; 1220 rushing attempts; 426 points; 71 touchdowns. Wisconsin had a 28-5 record when he rushed for over 100 yards; out rushed the opposing team 29 times in 43 starts; rushed for over 1000 yards in a season 4 times; first player to lead the Big10 in rushing 3 times; rushing average of 169.5 yards a game; in 99 carried the ball 337 times for 2034 yards, scored 120 points; more than 40% of his yardage came after first contact. Man, this is a player.

The talking heads were not overly excited. The Press seems to think that the offensive line is a shambles and that Dayne better have the ability to make people miss because he is going to meet a lot of defensive tackles. I believe that he will be used in ball control situations and red zone carries. Last year we couldn’t get it in the end zone. Dayne scores. He must carry over 20 times a game. To me, this is the jumbo size Joe Morris. At the same time, I see him as a one-back with Tiki Barber or Sean Bennett in the slot. If the opposing defenses come with the usual 8 or 9 in the box, the Giants will go over them. I asked about the grass and Fassel said it is a hard, fast grass, it is not soft, cushiony and he feels it will be an advantage to Dayne. Look for Dayne to open the game and close it, with some mixing and matching in the middle quarters. As Fassel says, “This guy holds on to the ball…he has great cut ability…he accelerates in the hole…” Interestingly, Fassel sees no comparison between Dayne and Czonka – Czonka ran from a closer position, “Dayne is running from 7 or 8 yards deep. Czonka, as a fullback, had more power, Dayne has more cut ability.”

Fassel said that having a lead back in front of him doesn’t affect Dayne, so he could run behind a fullback lead. (Incidentally, in his wrap-up, someone asked Fassel about the fullback position. He said CW says he is ok, the doctors say he is ok, and Fassel feels comfortable with that. But “others” are not as comfortable. Fassel feels that they will bring in a fullback, but the quandary is if CW is ok what do you do with the third fullback? Or if CW is not ok, it will be tough on Comella alone in the position).

Round Two:

In the second round, the Giants selected Cornelius Griffin. There wasn’t much reaction in the room as everyone ran to the books. I think BBI was alone in its high assessment of this pick. Coach Fassel said he was “really excited about this…We sat there for a while with three guys kinda paired, and he kept staying with us. I was really surprised with the needs of a couple of the teams right ahead of us that he stayed there. This guy is a football player…When you’re only there two years and you’re elected as a tri-captain – I think their captains were Samuels and Shaun Alexander and this guy – I think it speaks volumes about what they think of him. He can play tackle, he can play end, he has a good motor, he plays hard…I feel good about him.” (Later in the wrap up Fassel indicated that there was some sentiment coming out of Alabama that this kid would make the best pro – take that Skins).

JF also said there was no intention to take a LB here. He felt if the ‘backer they wanted was there, this was still the position to take the down lineman. JF said Griffin reminded him of Harris, a big guy who is a pretty good athlete (Surprise!!). He said “One of the things I like is that he is a complete player, he is not just a soft edge rusher. He stands in there and plays the run; that is why they had him inside quite a bit. He’s an athlete. I think if you put him on the edge, you’d get an effective pass rusher. He has that type of speed and quickness. Where I’ve seen him do some really nice things is inside. He’s stout. You can try to run at him, but he is a good enough athlete to get off if you try to angle and slant people. He can move and slant from there.”

In the conference call, he came across as very quiet, soft-spoken, all football type of guy. He told us that being a tri-captain was an honor and that “everywhere I go I just try to leave a positive impact.” He said, “I think I have a great initial quickness to the ball. My pass rush skills really developed at the end of the season and I think I am pretty good against the run.” Both he and JF feel he can come in and contribute right away. He did mention the Jets flew him in last week.

The Montgomery Advertiser described him as an enigma who had been ignored by the scouts because of his two position career – but as JF said, he is not a one position guy who plays the other adequately – the Giants feel he can be exceptional in both positions. Griffin was a tight end and LB in High School, but had low grades. He went to Community College where he worked hard. When he was about to enroll in Alabama, his father was killed by a drunk driver. Griffin told the paper, “Is’s been very tough but it’s to the point where I don’t worry about anything I can’t control. When my dad died, I grew up quick. I had to be strong for my family. . .Everything negative, I turn into a positive.” Cornelius indicated he will devote his career to his Dad and he is committed to getting his two younger siblings through school. His Mom, he says, “Whatever my mom wants, she’s got it. I’m going to get it no matter what it costs…To sum up, I’m going to take up where my father left off.” He also said he is going to finish school and hopes to become a coach. He has signed a contract with his mother to get his degree. There is more. He said about where he is, “It’s not really remarkable. When I didn’t sign out of high school, people wrote me off. When I didn’t sign out of junior college, people wrote me off. I didn’t. I set my own goals. You don’t have to be successful. As long as you’ve got love, peace of mind and a strong spiritual belief, you’ll be fine. I’ve never doubted myself.”

Grade on Round 2 – A to A-: Analysis: This kid looks and sounds like the real deal. Humility and Pride, a nice combination. Mature beyond his years, a leader by example. His College Coach said he is one of those rare individuals whose motor is always running. He made the Super Sleeper Team and All-Southeastern Conference First Teams this year. Had 53 tackles, 30 solo, 5.5 sacks and 8 stops for losses. Has 12 QB pressures, deflected 3 passes, sacked Tim Rattay twice, 6 tackles in the Tennessee game, 4 against LSU, 5 against Auburn and in the Orange Bowl had 3 solos and a sack.

Interestingly, I think this pick is more than replacing Harris. Along with the Giants search for an outside backer, it signifies that the team is not happy with the production of Cedric Jones or Phillips. This is great movement to get a solid player, value at the spot, and to address some real team needs. (In his wrap up Coach JF described Griffin as the most value of the draft for the Giants).

Round Three:

Now the fun starts. It’s late Saturday. Most of the print guys have their stories ready to go. A couple of paragraphs on a conventional pick and off to the presses. We gather around the television and ESPN breaks for a commercial. When they return the Giants selection winds across the screen, Ron Dixon. Pandemonium breaks out as everyone runs for the books; not one person in that room had ever heard of Ron Dixon. More complications when it is revealed that he played for Lambuth U and Boomer asks if they played at Lamboo Field. This was not joke time for the NY media – everyone had a deadline, they had stories to write, there was genuine anger at first. As it subsided, it was replaced by whimsy – they did it again, this almost fascination that the Giants have developed with the bizarre pick. (In the wrap-up, one wag seriously asked if the Giants had a need to make a surprise pick). The litany rings hollow, we need to improve speed, a wide receiver to stretch the field, yadda, yadda. The question is not whether the kid can play, or does he have speed. The question is why here and not in Round 6 or 7?

Marv Sunderland enters the room and even he can’t suppress a smile. The Giants knew what was coming. The skepticism would wash over them like flames from a napalm flame thrower. And they were right. Sunderland’s appearance probably meant this was a scouting department find and he was here to defend his recommendation. Dixon is described as an unheralded athlete who made an explosive return to the game of football last year. He has had academic problems and bounced around a little. The scouting report says he uses his hands well to prevent defenders from knocking him off his route, that he easily beats coverage in the open field, that he is a very polished route runner who is precise in breaking into the open, that he adjusts his body well and that he is a very dangerous returner.

His stats are impressive. He is a Little All-American selection, had 89 catches for 1735 yards (19.5 per), returned 19 kickoffs for 484 yards, one for a score and had nine punt returns for 251 yards and a pair of scores. He averaged 225.5 yards all-purpose yards per game. In the NAIA playoff game against McKendree he had 14 receptions for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns, returned 3 kick-offs for 60 yards and returned a punt for 13 yards. Against Northwestern Oklahoma State he had 6 catches for 108 yards and a pair of scores, including a 44 yarder, 2 kick-off returns for 32 yards and a 13 yard punt return.

Sunderland said they had four guys look at him and everybody came back with the same opinion. He said, “The kid was flown into a lot of places this year and not many people were saying a lot about it.” In discussing Dixon at the Gridiron Classic, Sunderland said, “He’s raw but he’s a quick study. He came to that game not probably as polished as the players he went against because most of those kids were major college kids but within a day or two those people were scrambling trying to catch him and cover him. He’s a kid that we feel has a tremendous amount of upside. He’s got speed and we think that he can get deep with that kind of speed and he’s made a lot of catches.”

Marv talked about speed and how the Giants felt they had to upgrade and that Dixon “gives you an answer in an area that we really haven’t been that great at. We upgraded our special teams a little bit this year in our kickoff returns with Bashir Levingston and this kid with Levingston back there, I think people will not be able to zero in on one guy. This guy is the real deal.” On picking him early, we were told “Probably in the eyes of a lot of people he is a (late round pick). But when you start to look at the board and what is up there and you start looking at play-makers, you can take a guy from a major school that everybody has heard about and then you go through training camp and the year you may not hear much about the guy because he’s not on the field…because you draft a guy that is unknown but has speed, the proof and the burden is on us…when you take a small school guy everybody is going to be critical…we feel confident enough in the people that evaluated him that a year from now it’s going to be a non-issue.”

The Giants showed us a tape and it just didn’t show Superman. Everyone in the organization raved about the moves, and no one in the press contingent would acknowledge it, confirming our total ignorance in their minds. Coach Fassel in the wrap-up offered to put the tape on the big screen and let us look at it, but the media wasn’t interested. Coach said he saw one play where a defender was about 8-10 yards away with an angle and Dixon accelerated and left him flat-footed.

In a telephone conversation, Dixon appeared to be very smooth and not in awe of the media or the game. He said he was real surprised to be taken by the Giants; that he was on a cloud. He was asked where he expected to be taken and he said people were telling him late rounds, but he figured 4 or 5. He had no inclination that the Giants would take him even though they called him earlier in the week, three times in one day, requesting his medical history and other records. He also said that “the Jets were really on me kind of high. I really thought they were going to select me.”

He wasn’t worried about being overlooked because he had great coaches and people knew about him. His only concern was playing at that level and dominating as was expected of him. He said that coming out of High School he went to Junior College but he wasn’t “into his books like he should have been.” He doesn’t feel that the third round was a reach because “I know my talent level and the only reason…was the bad judgement calls I made in my life. If I had gone to Florida or somewhere like that I would have gone in the…second round…I’m not cocky, I’m very confident…I hadn’t grown up yet…I left school for two years because of my grades…(he was in two community colleges picking up his grades). He was asked to tell us who is this guy? He said, “Tell them I apologize for you know, they want a big pick that they know about. But tell them give me a little time and I’ll show them.” Asked if he’s ever been to NY, he said that the Jets flew him up for a physical and “his eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw NY, when we flew over (the City).” He was teasingly asked if it was like Lambuth and he gave a genuine, hearty laugh and said, “Man, comparing Lambuth to NYC is like comparing a mountain to a grain of salt.”

He was asked if he was raw and would need a lot of time and he said, “Well, I wouldn’t say that, I would say once I get myself adjusted to that speed and get the play book down…it won’t be a problem. It’s just like playing in the back yard. The only difference is there is a little more strategy.” He told us there wasn’t a great deal of competition at the NAIA level and that he “was above them.”

Grade on Round 3 – Impossible to Grade: Analysis: The kid is confident. He has been schooled to believe in himself and told he would play at this level. It seems someone has been watching over him and force feeding him through the education system. He did not seem dumb, had a great wit and if anything impressed me as a little bit of ‘con’ or jokester. He has football sense but maybe is a little overconfident because he has been playing a lesser level of competition. He hasn’t been hit as hard as he is about to be, he hasn’t had people run with him stride for stride, and he will up here. I believe he may make an impact on specials because there is more free lancing opportunity, but by the same token, Bashir was frustrated because of the set plays and the restraints on what he felt was his natural ability. Ron may feel the same way. As a receiver, I saw a lot of speed in David Patten and I saw a lot of discipline. The key at this level is escapability from the line – Ron Dixon will have to develop that.

The Giants make a big thing about level of competition. Ernie Accorsi talked about how everyone in this draft came from a big program with a high level of competition except Dixon. Marv Sunderland said they could have picked someone from a major program who could have disappeared. We are all too familiar with kids from major programs and small ones, finds, discoveries who are a blip on the screen by the end of camp. Okay, so they want it both ways, why not? Every team claims that they have the new LT – why can’t the Giants claim they have the new Jerry Rice? I liked the kid’s personality, which came through loud and clear. I wish him luck and hopes he makes it, what the hell, we’ve had so many who didn’t that it wouldn’t shock us.

Day Two of the Draft:

Day 2 moves much quicker, thank God, but that means we don’t get to hear from the Triune War Room Leadership until the shooting match is over. We finally pick Brandon Short and I am relieved. I thought he might go as high as Round 2 and I was surprised he was still on the board. Na’il Diggs went a few picks earlier. I know Dave Klein, and probably others in the Press room were in the Diggs’ corner . I checked with the guru of all things Penn State, Ken Palmer, who was still on cloud 9 after Brown and Arrington. He told me that Short also plays well over the tight end, so he could project to the strongside as well as middle. There were some quiet murmurings that this signals the end for Corey Widmer. June 1 will be interesting.

Brandon Short at 6-3, 252 pounds has good size. He is a Graduate with Senior Eligibility for the ’99 season. He came back as a leader of the Nittany Lions defense and hoped for the National Championship. He was right behind Courtney Brown in tackles, all time at PSU and is categorized as an “attacking, ferocious pursuer.” Interestingly enough he has also been a standout special teams player and will get his first opportunity as a Giant in that role. It’s interesting that he came back for a fifth year.

In keeping with the Giants draft of “character” and not characters, one PSU source said he stayed in College because he wanted to. He grew up without money and felt another year without it wouldn’t hurt. Short grew up in a housing project, without his mother (deceased) and without his father (away). His grandmother raised him and he became independent quickly. Talking about playing in the NFL, Short once said, “I’ll go to anybody who’ll give me a dollar and a helmet.” He has been taking graduate classes and wants to invest his money, saying, “I don’t want to be one of those guys who, when they’re done playing, are left with nothing.”

His defensive coach, Jerry Sandusky said of him, “Brandon’s our leader. He’s the captain. He’s the person people look to.” Short had 103 tackles on the year, a career total of 273. 62 tackles were solo this year, along with 4 sacks a number of behind-the-line stops. He had 13 tackles against Michigan and at least 10 in 4 other contests. CNN Sports Illustrated describes him as “a muscular 4-3 middle linebacker with extremely long arms and big hands…Somewhat slow in his initial reactions, but he’s a rugged player who takes on blocks aggressively and is a solid wrap tackler.”

Ralph Brown, Dhani Jones and Jeremiah Parker all figure for special teams play. Brown would appear to have the best chance to get playing time this year as he was a rare four year starter at Nebraska, where he was a leader in pass breakups. He was the first position player to start the first game of his frosh year since WWII. He also returns punts. His position coach describes him as a total effort guy and in the locker after his last game, limping and with a wrap on a dislocated thumb, he said, “You are supposed to feel like you don’t have any energy left. I left it all on the field because I was playing my heart out for four quarters.” P.S. He has missed one game in his life, in High School with an injured shoulder. Also his dad played with the Denver Broncos for three seasons as a running back and receiver. Brown is primarily a man to man cover guy, didn’t play much zone, considered Kwame Cavil (TX) the hardest guy he covered.

Dhani Jones is the intellectual of the group. He writes poetry and hopes to become a doctor. He is another pick who made the Super Sleeper Team. Played outside, registered 81 tackles, 56 solo, 3 sacks and 13 stops for losses. Had 9 tackles in the Orange Bowl, 2 on Shaun Alexander for losses of 6 yards. He also played inside. His name Dhani means “thinking man”. His middle name is Makalani which in Hawaiian means “skilled in writing”. This is an interesting pick for the Giants as he is described as a non-conformist, the epitome of a free spirit. He does get chipped – herniated disc in the past, nagging knee injury this past year.

Jeremiah Parker is described as a solid defensive end. He played between 250 and 300 in his career, with 275 seemingly his best combination of power and speed. He was heavily recruited by west coast schools coming out of High School but chose Cal to be near an older brother who is in a wheel chair. He works with youth programs a lot. He is an athlete, having been both a standout basketball player and track and field athlete. Appears to be a Jamal Duff-type of project who could develop into an outside speed rusher. In the wrap-up Ernie Accorsi said he had not talked to Jeremiah about his situation, but someone on the staff had, and Jeremiah is comfortable with being a Giant.

During the wrap-up Ernie Accorsi told us that the priority for this draft was “a speed receiver”, and that he told Marv Sunderland, “We’ve got to get a receiver that can run.” Other than that the goal was to concentrate on linebackers and defensive linemen. In the end, the Giants are happy that they got two linebackers, a defensive end, a solid lineman, and the receiver. He said there might have been some other needs for reserve positions, but they picked the best available talent. He said, “We hope we’re right…we came out of it for the most part with the players we had listed going down the stretch to our pick…” The Giants missed out on only one player they had targeted. He discussed the need for receivers and said that 10 draft choices were spent on wide receivers in the first two rounds. Interestingly, he referenced the Rams and said they had about eight and “you’ve got to compete with them. You need more than one receiver who can run…People are playing multi wide-receiver sets now and we need corners…to cover the receivers…”

On the speed question, he said, “For the positions that they play, for the most part we got guys who can run…” There was a lot of discussion on Dixon. Mr. Accorsi chose his words carefully and said, “It does you no good to say I’ll wait around…if you want him, go get him…we were running out of speed receivers, they were going…they kind of went in a run. There were some pretty good receivers left, but not guys with blazing speed.” He described Dixon as an “electrifying player”. He said the Giants were on him early and that “people probably had him targeted later, but we wanted him so we took him.” There was an interesting discussion on Short and his availability so late. Ernie felt that middle backers may have been downgraded in this draft because of all the wide receiver sets and people figuring that “mikes” would be two-down players. He said the Giants know that Short can play the middle, but feel that he has a legitimate shot at moving outside.

He also said, “For the most part, there was more solid production (out of this year’s draftees-less risk), bigger schools…guys that are a little more proven.” He used Brown as an example here and mentioned his four-year starter role. On the bigger schools he answered a question by saying that type of drafting was “not a strategy, it’s more a philosophy…level of competition, winning programs…sometimes you worry about a player that’s the best player on a real bad team that gets beat all the time…” Ernie looks to solid programs, good coaching and like factors in his evaluations.

I got in the last question and threw him a softball by asking if he thought he had “measurably” improved the team. His response, “I sure hope so, after all the effort we expended that we improved the football team…that’s what we’re here for.” Sometimes I just like to hear them say it.

Coach Fassel came in very relaxed and appeared to be genuinely pleased. He said, “I like the guys we got…We tried to upgrade the speed, we got that done, I believe…” He again said the draft fell to them the way they hoped. “We were able to fill some needs, we didn’t do them all…” but he said he felt good, particularly on the speed question. On Dixon, he said, “Everything about the guy signals that this guy could be special…He’s a circumstance guy, he played last year and he can do some special things…” JF doesn’t feel the step up will affect him, he likes his personality and confidence. He thought hard about the best value question and said Cornelius Griffin. He told us he’s heard comments from “reliable” people that he might be the best pro. He talked about teams drafting and he said, “Some team in this group is sitting there and they hit a jackpot, and they don’t know it right now…but there’s going to be some busts in that group, so you don’t know.” JF thinks he’s a better inside player, but he thinks he can go outside. He said, “Short, Brown, Jones, even Parker – all those guys – and Dixon better be, a contributor on special teams as they grow into their positions…” Philosophically, he said his later round picks had to make special teams better, because in order to get better as a football team, “We have to play better on special teams…the area we’ve got to get better in is on coverage units…that hurt us last year…the only way you are going to do that is with high speed guys who can cover and run and tackle.” He referenced Jessie Armstead and said that’s how he started with the Giants and he grew into his position.

He reiterated that theme – come in now and make an impact and grow into a starting position. He said, “I’m not going to give anybody’s job away.” Right now Tiki is the number one running back, but there is theoretically open competition and for the running back slot there will be competition. He said, “There’s nobody that has established himself, in my definition, with the term that says that’s my job and I’ve proven myself over a certain length of time.” He talked about the rookies coming in on May 16 and that will be a full mini-camp.

On linebackers, he said, “We needed help at the SAM and the WILL, so somebody’s going to have to move out…” Then he was asked position of most need and answered, “Offensive tackles – we need four of them.” When the questioner gaped, JF laughed heartily. He said, “We have two, Brown and Pettigout. Nobody lines up behind them.” He said, “Parker will be at left guard, Lomas is left tackle, Ziegler is at center.” When asked if Parker was ahead of Rosenthal, he said, “Right now, yes.” The questioner said you need tackles – JF laughed again and said, “You need a hearing aid.” Tackles are the biggest need and there’s nothing in second place. I asked if they were on the horn right now and he said yes, “But to be honest with you, there’s not a lot left.” And he said, “There’s somebody out there right now who doesn’t know he is going to be playing tackle for the Giants next year.” Glenn Parker will also work at tackle and in case of need will move out. Rosenthal will work at guard. He also said he’d like another defensive end. On FB, he said, “We’re shopping around right now, looking for that…it’s a hard call…with all the things that have been written and said about Charlie…we’ll cover our bases…Are you able to put a lot of money into that position? No. Are you able to spend a draft choice in that position? No.” The discussion vocally broke out again on Dixon. He said, “He cuts and goes, he cuts and goes, he reminds me a lot of Ike…” JF said he watched a lot of the tape and he saw enough to convince him. He was looking at stride, gait, knee lift, sprinter speed. He also said the hardest thing to evaluate is level of competition, then the hands, and other things discussed. The main concern is level of competition and will he play up to it. JF said the “guy looked awfully good…body mechanics…” He talked about the changes to the game made by free agency and how age is now irrelevant. You have four years to work with a guy and he makes it or you cut him.

On the whole, Coach was loose, relaxed, he laughed and joked with the media and teased them. He seems ready for the challenge and I left with a feeling of confidence. The GM was taciturn, as usual, but forthright. Nothing is held back. You might agree with them or not, but they don’t pull any punches. They explain what they were thinking, and without putting the board out for us, you can’t fault their effort. The success will be measured on the field. Last year, the Giants were picked to win the Division, the Redskins were an “interesting” team. Injuries decimated the Giants, family discord finished the job. This year some solid citizens have been brought in. The Giants have moved from the “youngest” team in the league and some people find that unsettling. But they have moved, they have brought in free agents with experience and they have drafted for need.

Grade – Round 4-6 – A solid B based on performance in college. Round 7, very tough to grade and unfair.: Analysis: On the whole the midterm grade will be delivered in September when the season starts. By December, everyone will know if the Giants deserve the C that Peter King has given them, or the B that Kiper did. I go with the solid B. I’ll let you know more next week after I actually see these picks on the field at the rookie mini-camp.

Apr 122000
 
New York Giants 2000 NFL Draft Preview

INTRODUCTION: The following is a list of collegiate prospects available in the 2000 who caught my attention for one reason or another. This list is by no means all-inclusive. There are many lesser-known prospects who intrigue me who will be taken near the end of the draft or signed in rookie free agency. This is a quick-and-dirty overview of the better players coming out. If you notice a number of high profile names missing from my listing, it is because I have removed many players from consideration because of off-the-field problems, concerns over their work ethic, compatibility with the Giants’ offensive or defensive systems, or I think their ability is overvalued. A full review of who the Giants select and sign will be provided in my post-draft review.


HALFBACKS

The Giants have one only one halfback on the roster who looks like he can shoulder the full load – Joe Montgomery – and he has yet to prove that he can stay healthy. Tiki Barber is a 3rd down back. Sean Bennett could come on, but he looks like a situational player at this point as well. A truly special running back would not only help Kerry Collins a great deal, but make the Giants’ offense much more dynamic. Most draft “experts” seem to think that Thomas Jones is the cream of the crop. Depending on the source, Ron Dayne, Jamal Lewis, or Shaun Alexander is the next best runner.

Thomas Jones, 5-10, 215lbs, 4.45, Virginia: Short, but stocky and muscular – has a low center of gravity. Fast and quick. Gets to the hole quickly and hits it hard. Shows good elusiveness, balance, and toughness. Has a burst and the speed to break big runs. Not powerful, but he can break tackles. Has fine instincts and vision. Very productive. Smart and works hard. So-so hands.
Shaun Alexander, 6-0, 218lbs, 4.55, Alabama: Reminds me of Rodney Hampton when he came out of Georgia. Big, instinctive running back who runs with fine balance. A decisive and very efficient runner…picks his spot and then goes for it. Runs with his pad level down. Hits the hole quickly and shows some elusiveness. Fine vision and a good cutback runner. Very productive. Good receiver and makes big plays in the passing game. Not very fast. Quality person.
Ron Dayne, 5-11, 255lbs, 4.60, Wisconsin: Similar to Jerome Bettis. Huge, powerful man with surprising athletic-ability. Once he gets underway, he is very tough to bring down – punishes defenders. Runs with his pad level down and has quick feet for his size. Follows blocks well. Has good vision. Patient and instinctive. Very productive. However, he’s not a quick starter and will need solid blocking up front to be truly effective. More of a grinder than a big play guy – though he broke a lot of big runs in college. Primarily an I-Back runner in college, he’ll need to get adjusted to the different pro sets and the receiving game. Needs to watch his weight.
Jamal Lewis, 6-0, 235lbs, 4.45, Tennessee: Junior entry. Lewis suffered a serious knee injury his sophomore season and shoulder and ankle problems his junior season – these need to be checked out. Didn’t look like the same player last year…the question is was this a temporary setback from the ankle woes or a permanent problem from the knee? If completely healthy, he probably is the best back in the draft. Combines very good size and athletic-ability for his size. Has fine balance and toughness. Before the knee injury, he was an instinctive and explosive runner who could beat you with power or speed. Last season, he ran into a lot of tackles and didn’t break as many of them as he did in the past. Mostly, it depends on the knee. He probably has the biggest boom/bust ratio in the draft.
J.R. Redmond, 6-0, 210lbs, 4.50, Arizona State: Decent-sized runner who makes a lot of big plays in both the rushing and receiving games. J.R. has good speed and is very elusive. Quick and instinctive. He’s not a power runner, but he cut backs well and he can break tackles. Runs with his pad level down. Has a burst. Also dangerous on punt and kick returns. Team player. Durability is a question mark.
Shyrone Stith, 5-8, 210lbs, 4.60, Virginia Tech: Junior entry. Lacks ideal height and speed, but he is powerful and has a burst. Built low to the ground and this helps him to maintain his balance and power past some people (like Joe Morris). Primarily a north-south runner, but he has a few moves. Quick-footed. Decisive and keeps his pads down. Plays hard. Not a real good receiver.
Travis Prentice, 6-0, 225lbs, 4.50, Miami (Ohio): Big, strong, north-south runner who does most of his damage between the tackles. Has decent speed. Lacks elusiveness and quickness. Instinctive and has good vision. Needs work as a blocker and receiver. Works hard.
Frank Moreau, 6-1, 225lbs, 4.60, Louisville: Big, strong back with decent athleticism and speed. Instinctive and he follows his blockers well. Lacks elusiveness and he needs to play with his pads lower. Powerful – finishes runs strong. Has good hands. Improving.
Sammy Morris, 6-0, 220lbs, 4.60, Texas Tech: Big, strong back who has experience at both halfback and fullback. Athletic for his size. Lacks great speed and quickness, but he runs with fine power and quickness. Good receiver. Competitive.
Reuben Droughns, 5-11, 215lbs, 4.65, Oregon: Big back who lacks great speed. A slasher with quick feet. Has a burst. Has good vision and will cutback. Has good hands in the receiving department. Needs to do a better job of holding onto the ball. Suffered a broken leg and some ligament damage in 1998 and this needs to be checked out.
Curtis Keaton, 5-10, 210lbs, 4.45, James Madison: Good size and a superb athlete. Tests better than he plays. Has very good speed and quick feet. Runs with fine balance and can make big plays. Somewhat slow out of the gate. Somewhat indecisive at times and he isn’t real elusive. Needs to play tougher and break more tackles.


FULLBACKS

If Charles Way comes back 100 percent healthy, as expected, then the Giants look set with him and FB Greg Comella at fullback. This looks like a poor year for fullbacks in the draft.

Terrelle Smith, 6-0, 250lbs, 4.80, Arizona State: Big fullback who lacks speed and run skills. The strength of his game is his blocking. Will stick his nose in there and blow people out of the hole. Tough and physical. Decent receiver. Somewhat inexperienced – will need some work. Improving player with underrated athleticism.
Aaron Shea, 6-4, 253lbs, 4.80, Michigan: May be a prospect at tight end or H-Back. Very good size for a fullback. Tough and he can break tackles. Lacks elusiveness and run instincts. Better receiver than runner. Catches the ball well – adjusts and has soft hands. Good runner after the catch. Needs to improve his blocking technique, but shows promise in that department. Somewhat stiff when blocking in space.
Matt Keller, 5-11, 235lbs, 4.65, Ohio State: Lacks ideal size, but he is an overachiever who does a decent job blocking and receiving. Doesn’t blow people away, but he isn’t afraid to mix it up and generally keeps his man out of the play. Competitor who works hard. Better ball carrier than most fullbacks.


OFFENSIVE TACKLES

With Roman Oben, Scott Gragg, and Toby Myles gone, the Giants would be well-advised to add another body or two here. Lomas Brown and Glenn Parker will probably be able to hold down the fort for one more year – perhaps two. The good news is that Luke Petitgout, who will most likely start at right tackle this year, should be able to handle the left tackle job when Brown departs. This gives the Giants some flexibility in determining on whether to draft a right tackle or a left tackle. There are a number of interesting tackles in this draft, but their ranks thin out quickly after the first few rounds.

Chris Samuels, 6-6, 320lbs, 5.00, Alabama: Left tackle. Maybe the best left tackle to come along since Jonathan Ogden in 1996. Superb athlete. Top pass protector with excellent feet. Quick off the ball. Not a blaster, but he does a good job run blocking. Very good pulling and engaging linebackers in space. Aggressive. Will go very high in the first round. Has some injury concerns.
Stockar McDougal, 6-5, 355lbs, 5.50, Oklahoma: Right tackle. Strong, massive player who reminds some scouts of Erik Williams. Can overpower as a run blocker – gets movement when he plays with leverage and proper technique. Good athlete for his size. Sometimes gets beat by quickness on the pass rush, but generally stymies his opponent. Plays with an attitude. Needs to play with greater urgency and focus and he must watch his weight. Somewhat raw, but he has a huge upside. Though right tackles generally are not drafted high in the first round, he has to be a tempting guy for the Giants.
Chris McIntosh, 6-7, 315lbs, 5.43, Wisconsin: Played left tackle in college, but may be better suited for the right tackle spot or guard. Reminds me a bit of Jumbo Elliott. Huge player with good athletic-ability for his size. Has long arms which help him in pass protection. Plays with balance and uses his hands well. Not as strong as a run blocker as his reputation indicates (needs to play with better leverage – his height may be a factor there), but he can get some movement and works to sustain. Needs to play with better leverage. More of a technician than a mauler. Plays with an attitude – very aggressive. Smart.
Marvel Smith, 6-5, 320lbs, 5.35, Arizona State: Junior entry. Left tackle. Combines excellent size with fine athletic-ability. Better pass blocker than run blocker. Has long arms and quick feet. Needs to add strength and become more physical blocking for the run. Smith has a big upside.
Travis Claridge, 6-5, 310lbs, 5.20, USC: Right tackle – is also a prospect at guard. Good size and he plays hard. Tough and mean. Strong. Has long arms. Gets a push on his run blocks and works to sustain. Solid pass protector, but he is a tad stiff – lacks ideal athleticism.
Todd Wade, 6-8, 325lbs, 5.20, Mississippi: Right tackle. Very tall player who needs to still fill out. Because he is so tall, he doesn’t always play with good leverage. Athletic and strong. Can get movement on his run blocks. Has long arms which helps him in pass protection, though he can look a tad stiff there. Plays hard – competitive.
Adrian Klemm, 6-4, 305lbs, 5.05, Hawaii: Left tackle. Lacks ideal size, but he is an athletic talent with quick feet and long arms who can pass block. Tough and works hard. Not as strong a run blocker, but he’s not bad. Works to sustain and he is good at hitting moving targets when pulling. Needs to play with better leverage. Needs to add strength.
Joey Chustz, 6-7, 305lbs, 5.10, Louisiana Tech: Left tackle; could be prospect at right tackle or guard. Tall with long arms. Needs to add weight and bulk. Has some pop in his run blocks, but he needs to play with better leverage and sustain more often. Seems to have the athletic-ability to be a solid pass blocker, but he needs a lot of technique work in that department.


OFFENSIVE GUARDS

The Giants seem to like Ron Stone at right guard, but Mike Rosenthal is still relatively untested on the left side. He shows promise, but he also had his rough moments last year. Glenn Parker could be a factor here if he isn’t needed at tackle. Jason Whittle is still on the roster. Depth and competition is needed.

Cosey Coleman, 6-4, 322lbs, 5.40, Tennessee: Junior entry. Big mauler who lacks top athleticism – he’s a tad on the stiff side. Has the potential to be very good, but he didn’t have a great junior year. Powerful player who can get movement on his run blocks. Needs to sustain better. Not real agile on the pull, but does his job. Anchors well in pass, but he can sometimes be exposed by quickness. Aggressive and tough. Plays hard.
Kaulana Noa, 6-4, 320lbs, 5.30, Hawaii: Could be a factor at tackle, where he played in college. A big player with good athleticism. Has long arms. Better run blocker than pass blocker. Gets movement in his run blocks and works to sustain. Physical, strong, and tough. Needs to play with better leverage more consistently. Decent pass protector, but quickness sometimes gives him problems – he’s a tad on the stiff side.
Richard Mercier, 6-3, 295lbs, 5.35, Miami: Lacks ideal size and athleticism, but he’s a hardworking, competitor who gives it everything he has. Tough and aggressive – looks to hurt people. Has a good feel for the game. Not a blaster in the ground game, but he is strong and generally keeps his man out of the play. Engages linebackers at the second level well and can pull. Good pass protector.
Michael Moore, 6-3, 320lbs, 5.35, Troy State: Played tackle, but has experience at guard and projects there. Big, strong, physical, and aggressive. Plays with an attitude. Plays with leverage and gets movement on his run blocks. Needs a lot of technique work in pass protection, but shows promise in that department – he is a good athlete. Raw – will take some time, but he has a big upside. Has some medical concerns.
Damion McIntosh, 6-4, 310lbs, 5.30, Kansas State: Played left tackle in college after being moved over from the defense his senior year; I project him to guard, but he could be a factor at tackle. Inexperienced, but he has good tools. Big and athletic. Has good quickness. Needs to play with better leverage and technique in his run blocks. Has some pop in his run blocks and can generate movement. Needs better footwork when pass blocking, but he has the feet to improve. Plays with an attitude – likes to punish defenders. Has a big upside.
Leander Jordan, 6-4, 330lbs, 5.40, Indiana (PA): Could be a factor at right tackle. Huge, strong player with decent athletic-ability. Has long arms. Plays with an attitude. Can generate movement on his run blocks – but he needs to play lower, sustain, and finish better. Has the tools to be a standout pass blocking, but he is inconsistent. Raw due to his small school background. Has an upside.
Mark Baniewicz, 6-6, 305lbs, 5.35, Syracuse: Played left tackle in college, but projects to guard. Very competitive and hardworking. Tall player who lacks athleticism for tackle. Has decent quickness. Needs to add bulk and strength. Can play with leverage, but he needs to do so more consistently.
Jon Carmen, 6-8, 335lbs, 5.50, Georgia Tech: Played right tackle in college, but projects to guard. Huge, strong player, but lacks the athleticism to play tackle in the pros. Has quick feet. Plays with good leverage despite his size. Anchors very well in pass protection and won’t be exposed by quickness inside the tackles. Needs to lose weight – at his current weight, he has problems pulling.
Bobby Williams, 6-4, 330lbs, 5.30, Arkansas: Could be a prospect at tackle, where he played in college. Big man with good athleticism and long arms. Very good run blocker who gets movement. Sustains. Has quick feet, but he’s inconsistent as a pass blocker. Underachieved in college and has had some weight problems. Needs to work harder and improve his concentration. Could be special, but has to want it.
Mark Tauscher, 6-4, 320lbs, 5.40, Wisconsin: Played tackle in college, but projects to guard. Has good size, but lacks athleticism. Physical and aggressive. Gets movement on his run blocks. Decent in pass protection – can anchor, but quickness can give him problems. Smart and hard working.


OFFENSIVE CENTERS

Dusty Zeigler will be the starting center, but the depth situation is very questionable. There aren’t many centers in the draft.

John St. Clair, 6-5, 305lbs, 5.25, Virginia: Combines good size with fine strength and athletic-ability. Taller than most centers, but he plays with leverage. Good run blocker. Gets some movement and is quick enough to get out on linebackers. Has long arms and quick feet – good pass blocker. Needs to play with better focus and consistency. Has been compared to Tony Mayberry.
Brad Meester, 6-3, 300lbs, 5.15, Northern Iowa: Combines decent size with very good athleticism. Needs to get stronger. Not a powerful player, but he does play with fine technique. Has good quickness and works to sustain his run blocks. Mobile enough to engage linebackers. Has short arms, but is a decent pass blocker. Intelligent.
Tuten Reyes, 6-4, 295lbs, 5.35, Mississippi: Played tackle in college – could even project to guard. Decent size and good athleticism. Needs to bulk up and add strength. Lacks power as a run blocker, but he works at it. Mobile enough to engage linebackers. Athletic pass protector – more finesse than strength. Intelligent, but he needs to play with greater focus and consistency.
Blane Saipaia, 6-3, 315lbs, 5.30, Colorado State: Played tackle in college, but projects to center. Coming off of knee surgery in January and this needs to be checked out. Good size. Decent run blocker, but he needs to play with better leverage. Works to sustain. Good pass blocker – he’s a decent athlete with quick feet. Needs to play with more focus.


TIGHT ENDS

Pete Mitchell was a big addition as a receiving-type tight. He lacks the bulk/natural power to ever be considered a good two-way tight end however. Dan Campbell may pan out in that roll, but 1999 was a learning experience for him. Howard Cross is nearing the end. Adding a prospect who could compete for his roster spot would be ideal.

Daniel Franks, 6-6, 260lbs, 4.90, Miami: Junior entry. A very well-regarded prospect who combines excellent size and athleticism. Good blocker and receiver. Has the ability to make difficult receptions look easy, but also drops some easy ones. Very fluid and agile. Runs well after the catch. Can be a great one if he increases his focus and concentration.
Anthony Becht, 6-5, 265lbs, 4.82, West Virginia: A complete tight end who can catch and block. Becht combines excellent size with good strength and speed. Athletic with fine hands. A clutch player. Intelligent. Competitive and tough.
Erron Kinney, 6-6, 275lbs, 4.85, Florida: Has excellent size and decent athletic-ability. Decent blocker, but he needs to play with better leverage and more aggression. Fluid receiver. Good hands and tough to tackle after the catch. Has not seen the ball a lot in college due to the nature of his team’s offense – will take some time (i.e., Dan Campbell). Could be tougher.
Terrence McCaskey, 6-5, 275lbs, 5.00, Mississippi State: Big tight end who missed much of his senior season with a broken wrist. Has fine tools. Athletic for his size with fine quickness and agility. Has the frame to put on even more weight. Flashes as a blocker and receiver, but he is raw at this point. Needs to stay in shape. Could be a diamond in the rough.
Jay Tant, 6-3, 255lbs, 4.75, Northwestern: Lacks ideal size, but he is a good athlete who does a credible job in both the blocking and receiving departments. Competitive – plays hard. Needs to play with better leverage on his run blocks. Though a tad on the stiff side, he combines fine quickness with decent hands. Good route-runner and adjusts to the ball well. Has a great attitude.


WIDE RECEIVERS

The Giants still could use some true deep speed that will stretch the field. This looks like a fairly strong group of receivers in the draft, but because I’m looking for speedsters, I won’t list many “slower,” but excellent, prospect targets here. Burress, Morris, Taylor, Porter, and White are all grouped together in the same value-range – don’t read too much into my pecking order there.

Peter Warrick, 5-11, 196lbs, 4.48, Florida State: Has decent size and superb athletic ability. Fast, quick, and explosive. Has good hands and makes big plays both as a receiver, runner, and even thrower. Very quick in his routes and accelerates nicely. Decent, but not great, hands. Great field vision – does a lot of damage after the catch and on reverses. Dangerous return man. Some character questions – was arrested for shoplifting. Very high selection.
Plaxico Burress, 6-6, 230lbs, 4.55, Michigan State: Junior entry. Combines outstanding size and strength with fine athleticism and speed. Can simply dominate games – creates big match-up problems for opposing defenses. However, he is very immature and isn’t a hard worker. Very competitive on the field and very confident in his ability. Physical. Needs to run crisper routes. Can make incredible catches, but also drops some that he shouldn’t. Could be special if he works hard enough. Resembles Herman Moore in his play.
Sylvester Morris, 6-3, 215lbs, 4.55, Jackson State: Combines excellent size and athletic-ability. Plays faster than he times. Fast and smooth – but more of a long-strider than quick. Can get deep and he has good hands. Tough – he catches over the middle and runs well after the catch. Needs to run crisper routes. Has impact potential, but will need some seasoning.
Jerry Porter, 6-2, 220lbs, 4.52, West Virginia: Combines tremendous athleticism with very good size and speed. Plays faster and bigger than his numbers indicate. Very raw – was switched to wide receiver from defensive back – but he demonstrates tremendous potential. Makes big plays. Can beat the bump-and-run and has a burst out of his cuts. Physical – he’s not afraid to run over the middle. Has good hands and runs well after the catch. Needs work on his routes – will need some seasoning. Has some character questions. An exciting player.
Travis Taylor, 6-1, 200lbs, 4.50, Florida: Junior entry. Hampered somewhat last year with a bum ankle. Good size and speed. Very athletic and makes a lot of big plays. Runs good routes and can get deep. Has good quickness and is agile. Generally shows good hands. Tough running across the middle. Will need some seasoning and needs to play more consistently.
Dez White, 6-2, 218lbs, 4.50, Georgia Tech: Junior entry. Has an excellent combination of size and athleticism. Built like a halfback. Very explosive receiver – fast and quick. Makes big plays – accelerates and gets deep. Needs to improve his routes and he has so-so hands. Runs well after the catch.
Ron Dugans, 6-2, 205lbs, 4.52, Florida State: Combines good size with good speed. Has very good hands and makes tough catches. Polished – runs routes well and accelerates out of his cuts. Not really a big play guy despite his speed, but he makes a lot of clutch plays and can get deep on occasion. Runs well after the catch.
Todd Pinkston, 6-2, 175lbs, 4.45, Southern Mississippi: Has excellent height, speed and quickness; but lacks bulk – very, very thin. Might have problems with the jam. Can get deep and make big plays. Tough and has good hands. Decent route runner.
Dennis Northcutt, 5-10, 175lbs, 4.42, Arizona: Smallish receiver who makes big plays. Has explosive initial quickness and can get deep. Wants it – tough, competitive, and confident. Fast, quick, and elusive. Lack of size gives him problems with the jam – would be better in the slot. Runs well after the catch and is dangerous returning the ball. Has decent hands and runs decent routes.
Danny Farmer, 6-3, 215lbs, 4.60, UCLA: A big target who doesn’t run fast, but has a knack for getting deep and making big plays. Smooth and agile for his size. Tough with very good hands. Runs good routes. Very competitive. Not a deep threat – he’s a possession-receiver, but a good one.
Darrell Jackson, 6-0, 195lbs, 4.55, Florida: Has decent size and good athleticism. Avoids the jam and runs good routes. Agile and quick – adjusts to the ball well. Tough – will go over the middle. Clutch player with good hands. Gets separation, but lacks big time speed to get deep consistently. Not a strong runner after the catch.
Laveranues Coles, 6-0, 190lbs, 4.40, ex-Florida State: Very talented, explosive receiver who has faced quite a bit of off-the-field problems in college. He would go much higher in the draft if it wasn’t for these problems. Was kicked off of the team for shoplifting; has had other run-ins with the law. Very fast, but also very raw. Superb athlete who can get deep and make big plays. Has a burst. Tough guy who will run over the middle. Needs to improve his routes. So-so hands. Dangerous runner and returner. Good on special teams coverage units too. His personality will probably scare the Giants.
R. Jay Soward, 5-10, 175lbs, 4.37, USC: Lacks ideal size, but he is a burner. Makes big plays receiving, running, and returning. Deep threat who can break a game wide open. Quick and elusive. Lacks good hands, toughness, and needs to improve his route-running. Will have problems with the jam and is probably best suited for the slot. May not be very coach-able and is probably not the kind of guy in terms of personality the Giants are looking at right now (he has a Tyrone Wheatley-like personality).


QUARTERBACKS

While it is very unlikely, it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Giants select a quarterback high – even in the first round. General Manager Ernie Accorsi has often said that he likes to collect quarterbacks because a team is not likely to win a championship without a great one. Still, Accorsi is a fan of both Collins and Mike Cherry – plus the Giants are set with their immediate back-up with Jason Garrett. This is not a strong year for quarterbacks.

Chad Pennington, 6-4, 230lbs, 4.85, Marshall: I think Pennington will be a very good quarterback in a West Coast system. However, since he lacks a strong arm, I question a bit if he is particularly well-suited for the windy Meadowlands. Good size. Poised – he makes big plays in key situations. Spreads the ball around well. Very accurate on short- and medium-distanced passes. Quick release. Not a strong deep passer. Decent mobility. Smart. Fine leader and he works hard.
Chris Redmond, 6-3, 225lbs, 5.30, Louisville: Combines decent size with a good arm. Fairly accurate passer who stands strong in the pocket. Can be a bit streaky. Tough and reacts well to pressure. Throws the deep ball well. Has a quick release. Bird-dogs a bit too much and sometimes holds onto the ball too long. Pocket passer – not very mobile. Confident, tough, and competitive. Needs to be more of a leader. Has some injury problems that need to be checked out.
Marc Bulger, 6-2, 206lbs, 4.90, West Virginia: Lacks ideal size. Has a good arm and reads coverages well. Has a quick release. Demonstrates good accuracy. Better intermediate passer than deep one. Can move around a bit. Best attributes are his intangibles. Competitive and smart. Poised. A leader.
Tee Martin, 6-2, 225lbs, 4.60, Tennessee: Lacks ideal height, but he has good bulk. Has a good arm and is very mobile. Tough and smart. Hard worker and a leader. Competitive. Good athlete, but not a good passer at this point. Not very accurate and can be indecisive. Bird-dogs too much. Could come on with the right quarterback coach. Will take time.
Giovanni Carmazzi, 6-3, 222lbs, 4.72, Hofstra: Good sized and athletic. Has good arm strength. Throws the short- and medium-range passes well. Lacks a quick delivery and is not overly accurate at this point. Not a strong deep passer. Can scramble. Raw – has trouble reading coverages. Tough and smart. Has an upside, but he will take time.
Todd Husak, 6-3, 215lbs, 5.10, Stanford: Has good size, but limited mobility – a pocket passer. Smart and hard working. A leader. Reads defenses well and has experience in a pro-style offense. Needs work on his mechanics. Has better arm strength than given credit for when he uses the proper technique.
Tom Brady, 6-5, 215lbs, 5.25, Michigan: Has good height, but needs to add more strength and bulk. Smart, poised, and tough. A leader. Doesn’t have a real strong arm, but he is relatively accurate. Not mobile – a pocket passer.
Phil Stambaugh, 6-3, 220lbs, 5.05, Lehigh: Pocket passer who lacks mobility. Decent size, but he needs to get stronger. Tough. Has a good arm. Raw – he will need a lot of work, but he has an intriguing upside.
Spergon Wynn, 6-4, 230lbs, 4.85, Southwest Texas: Has excellent size and arm strength. Smart, tough, and competitive. A leader. An improving player who is very raw. Needs to improve his technique, ability to read defenses, and accuracy. Has an upside, but he is no sure thing and at the very least he will take a lot of time.


DEFENSIVE TACKLES

The Giants have a big need for another two-way defensive tackle who can play the run and rush the passer. They have one in Keith Hamilton, but Christian Peter looked strictly one-dimensional as a run stuffer last year. Back-ups George Williams and Ryan Hale don’t inspire a lot of confidence at this point.

Corey Simon, 6-2, 295lbs, 4.85, Florida State: Lacks ideal height, but his a super-athletic tackle who moves like a linebacker. A disruptive player who needs to be accounted for. Quick, fast, and agile for his size. Plays with strength and leverage. Instinctive. Equally adept at playing the run or rushing the passer. Works hard. Has some medical concerns with his shoulders that need to be checked out.
Chris Hovan, 6-3, 305lbs 5.00, Boston College: Has experience at both tackle and end could project to the latter. More of a self-made player than great natural athlete; lacks a big frame and growth potential. Plays with an attitude physical, competitive, tough, and relentless. Strong, stout, and instinctive. Plays with fine quickness and can be disruptive. Needs to disengage quicker.
Darwin Walker, 6-3, 295lbs, 4.90, Tennessee: Lacks ideal size, but he’s a hard-working player with good athleticism and strength. Quick and agile, but like Hovan, he’s more of a self-made athlete than a natural one. Quick off the ball, shows good power, and can be disruptive.
Cornelius Griffin, 6-3, 295lbs, 4.85, Alabama: Could project to defensive end. Combines good size and athleticism. Improving player and instinctive. Shows good short-area quickness for his size. Agile. Needs to get stronger and play with better leverage not stout at the point of attack; but he is active. Demonstrates fine ability to rush the passer. Inconsistent motor.
Steve Warren, 6-1, 305lbs, 5.10, Nebraska: Lacks height, but he’s an athletic talent who plays stout at the point of attack. Plays with decent quickness and agility. Strong and can play with leverage, but he needs to do so on a more consistent basis. Can play the run and rush the passer. Lack of height and short arms limit him somewhat.
Mao Tosi, 6-6, 310lbs, 5.20, Idaho: Raw player from a small school, but he has a great combination of size and athleticism. Improving as he gains experience. Plays and works hard. Doesn’t have a great feel for the game at this point if he develops one, he has a huge upside. Needs to get stronger and play with better technique and leverage.
Leonardo Carson, 6-2, 280lbs, 5.00, Auburn: Undersized, but quick lineman who has experience at tackle and end could project outside. Very active and disruptive in the John Randle-mold. Lack of height and short arms limit him, but he plays with leverage. Not a stout player. Good pass rusher is instinctive and has a burst. Fine competitor who plays hard. Has some character question marks.
Kendrick Clancy, 6-1, 280lbs, 5.25, Mississippi: Undersized tackle who makes plays with quickness and effort. Disruptive. Not stout at the point of attack. Again, he’s in the John Randle-mold of defensive tackles. Good pass rusher.
Junior Ioane, 6-4, 325lbs, 5.10, Arizona State: Big tackle who suffered a serious knee injury last October which needs to be checked out. The knee may limit him in 2000, but a patient team could be rewarded in 2001 if he bounces back to his old form. Power player with fine quickness for his size. Better run defender than pass rusher. Plays with leverage and he is agile. Can be disruptive. Needs better moves on the pass rush.
Jerry Johnson, 6-0, 295lbs, 5.05, Florida State: Short, quick tackle who was overshadowed by Corey Simon. Athletic and agile. Can penetrate and cause problems due to his quickness. Plays with leverage against the run. Not a stout player more of a finesse guy. OK pass rusher.


DEFENSIVE ENDS

The Giants could use more depth and competition at defensive end, especially by players who can rush the passer.

Courtney Brown, 6-4, 270lbs, 4.60, Penn State: An extremely athletic lineman with decent size and an outstanding work ethic. Has the frame to get bigger. Quick, agile, and fast – moves like a linebacker. Has long arms. Better pass rusher than run defender. Needs to play stronger and tougher at the point of attack. Makes big plays. Competitive and intelligent.
Shaun Ellis, 6-5, 280lbs, 4.85, Tennessee: Combines good size and athleticism. Has the size and strength to play on the strongside. Good all-around player who does well playing the run and rushing the passer. Physical. Needs to play with more consistency. Reminds me of Michael Strahan.
Darren Howard, 6-4, 280lbs, 5.05, Kansas State: Combines good size and athleticism. Quick and agile for his size. Plays with leverage. Good all-around player who does well playing the run and rushing the passer. Needs to be more physical at the point of attack. Inconsistent motor needs to play hard all the time.
Adalius Thomas, 6-3, 270lbs, 4.55, Southern Mississippi: Lacks ideal size, but he is an incredible athlete. Has the ability to dominate with his quickness and speed, but he is a very inconsistent player. Lacks a top motor takes plays off. Quick, agile, and fast looks like a linebacker out there. Strong and plays with leverage. Has long arms. Not real stout at the point of attack. Could be special if he wants it.
John Engelberger, 6-5 260lbs, 4.70, Virginia Tech: A tall, relatively thin lineman who has experience at end and tackle. Similar to Chad Bratzke in that he makes plays on hustle, instincts, and quickness. Decent athlete with good speed, but a tad on the stiff side. Not stout at the point of attack lacks a strong base. Needs to get stronger. Plays with an attitude. Good special teams player.
Byron Frisch, 6-5, 280lbs, 4.75, BYU: Combines good size and athleticism. Improving player with good quickness, agility, and speed. Strong, but he lacks a strong base and can have problems at the point of attack. Needs to play with better leverage. Competes and plays hard.
Erik Flowers, 6-4, 270lbs, 4.75, Arizona State: Lacks a big frame (which limits his growth potential), but he is an improving player who plays hard. Competitive with a fine motor. Athletic with good speed and quickness moves like a linebacker (could project there). Strong for his size. Better pass rusher than run defender not stout at the point of attack.
John Frank, 6-4, 280lbs, 4.75, Utah: Older will turn 26 as a rookie. Combines good size with decent athleticism. Decent quickness and speed for his size. Tough, competitive, and a hard worker. A decent player both in terms of defending the run and rushing the passer. Improving but he needs to disengage better from blocks. Not a flashy player, but a guy who looks like a solid strongside end.
Brian Young, 6-3, 275lbs, 4.90, Texas-El Paso: Lacks ideal size and growth potential. The strength of his game is his all-out hustle and competitiveness. Works and plays very hard. Has good athletic-ability with good quickness and agility. Plays with leverage and strength, but he lacks a strong base and probably will have problems at the point of attack in the NFL. Smart and tough.


OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Much depends on where the Giants really want Michael Barrow to play. If they don’t want him inside, the Giants may not draft an outside guy high. However, they do need to add some quality bodies for depth at the very least – especially with Marcus Buckley and Scott Galyon gone.

LaVar Arrington, 6-4, 250lbs, 4.55, Penn State: Junior entry. Combines superb size and athletic-ability. Fast, quick, and agile. Runs like a defensive back. Top play-maker instinctive and disruptive. Intense and mean. Can play the run, blitz, and cover though he is relatively inexperienced in the latter. Can have some problems with big blockers at the point of attack. Lacks discipline and can lose his temper. Has impact potential.
Brian Urlacher, 6-4, 258lbs, 4.60, New Mexico: Played safety his senior year, but has experience at linebacker and projects there (weakside, middle, or even strongside). Awesome combination of size and athleticism. Such a great athlete that he has played safety, linebacker, tight end, fullback, slot receiver, punt returner, and kick returner. Inexperience at linebacker and level of competition are primary concerns projection picks are always inherently risky. Will have to adjust to playing closer to the line of scrimmage and he needs to shed better as a linebacker. But he makes a lot of plays tough, physical, and instinctive. Very competitive and he is a hard hitter. If he can master a pro linebacking position, he has a huge upside as a 3-down linebacker. Has been compared to Brad Van Pelt. Very good special teams player.
Julian Peterson, 6-3, 235lbs, 4.70, Michigan State: Strongside linebacker. Lacks classic strongside size, but he has the frame to add more bulk and muscle. Athletic player with very good quickness and fine speed. Instinctive play-maker. Takes on and sheds blocks relatively well, but could improve a bit in that area. Very good pass rusher even has experience playing as a rush end on passing downs. Somewhat inexperienced in coverage, but shows well in that department with fine agility. Not the brightest guy in the world.
Keith Bulluck, 6-3, 245lbs, 4.55, Syracuse: Combines very good size and athleticism has even played defensive back. Has experience in the middle and on the weakside. Has long arms. Fast and quick for a linebacker. Fills holes aggressively and shows decent strength at the point of attack, but he doesn’t shed quickly enough. Needs to become a more consistent player. Very good in coverage. Has a big upside if he wants it badly enough.
John Abraham, 6-4, 250lbs, 4.50, South Carolina: Strongside linebacker has experience at defensive end and some project him there. Excellent size and athletic-ability for a linebacker. Has long arms. Fast and quick. Hard worker with a good attitude. Needs to fill more aggressively and employ better technique to shed quicker. Good pass rusher, but needs to employ more moves. Relatively inexperienced in coverage, but he shows well in that area with fine agility. Still developing a feel for the linebacking spot, but he has a big upside if he can master the position.
Barrett Green, 6-0, 235lbs, 4.55, West Virginia: Weakside-type, but I wouldn’t discount him at the other linebacking spots. Lacks ideal size, but he is an athletic warrior who makes plays. Fast and quick moves like a defensive back and has experience there. Must beat bigger blockers with his speed and quickness; size limits him in his ability to fill and shed. However, he plays low is very aggressive and physical in attacking his opponent. Active and disruptive. Good in coverage. Intense, competitive, and relentless. Plays hard all the time and plays with an attitude likes to punish his opponent. Should be a special teams demon.
Corey Moore, 5-11, 225lbs, 4.60, Virginia Tech: Played strongside defensive end in college, but projects to linebacker (ideally suited for a 3-4 defense). Best defensive player in college who I saw last year. A superb athlete with incredible initial quickness sometimes runs by blockers like they are standing in cement. The strength of his game is rushing the passer despite his size, I would use him as a down end in pass-rush situations. Plays stronger than his size and plays with good leverage, but he needs to shed blockers better against the run. Has the agility to do well in coverage, but is very raw in that area. Tough, super-intense, competitor who hates to lose. Should excel on special teams.
Marcus Washington, 6-4, 250lbs,. 4.65, Auburn: Played defensive end in college, but projects to strongside linebacker. Saw some action there in the post-season and looked pretty good. Good size for a linebacker. Athletic with good agility, quickness, and speed. Plays off of blocks well. Needs work in coverage. Competitive. Improving player, but projection picks are always inherently risky.
Raynoch Thompson, 6-3, 235lbs, 4.60, Tennessee: Recently weighed in at 220lbs, but he lost weight after a hernia operation – normally weighs in the 235lbs-range. Weakside-type, but I wouldn’t discount him at other linebacking spots. Very good athlete quick, fast, and agile. Has a burst. Active, disruptive, and instinctive. Needs to play lower, take on blocks stronger, and shed quicker. Needs to add bulk and get stronger. Aggressive, physical, and instinctive. Good pass rusher. Has the agility to do well in coverage, but needs to improve in that department. Durability and consistency are a bit of a concern.


MIDDLE LINEBACKERS

Again, much depends on where Barrow plays. But depth, at the very least, is a primary concern.

Rob Morris, 6-2, 250lbs, 4.80, BYU: Over-aged will turn 25 as a rookie. Throwback plays the game with an attitude. Smart, tough, intense, competitive, aggressive, and physical. Instinctive and makes plays. Has good size and athleticism. Quick and has a burst. Very strong run defender. A tad on the stiff side lacks top end agility. This hurts him a little bit when tackling in the open field and in coverage. Has had some shoulder problems which need to be checked out. A leader.
Brandon Short, 6-3, 255lbs, 4.80, Penn State: Big, physical linebacker who lacks top athleticism and instincts. Has decent speed and movement skills. Good run defender and tackler. He can fill the hole, but he needs to shed better. Has long arms which should enable him to play off of blocks better. Needs to improve in coverage. A leader. Intelligent.
Nate Webster, 5-11, 225lbs, 4.65, Miami: Junior entry. An undersized, but extremely athletic and active middle backer who makes a lot of plays when big blockers are kept off of him. Tough, physical, and aggressive for his size. Instinctive. Plays with an attitude. Needs to play with greater leverage and learn to play off of blocks in a better fashion. Shows well in coverage. A leader. Would give the Giants an all-University of Miami linebacking corps.
Matt Beck, 6-3, 235lbs, 4.65, California: Could project outside. Missed most of 1999 with a foot injury and has had shoulder problems both need to be checked out. When healthy, he is an instinctive, athletic linebacker who plays and works hard. Plays the game with an attitude likes to punish his opponent. Good run defender, but he needs to shed blocks more consistently. Agile – shows well in coverage. Has not proven to be very durable. Smart.
Marcus Bell, 6-2, 238lbs, 4.80, Arizona: Undersized, but he is tough, athletic, and active. Plays hard and he is instinctive. Not a stout player better if big blockers are kept off of him. A tad on the stiff side and he needs to break down better when tackling but he’s generally a good tackler. Good special teams player.
Mark Simoneau, 6-0, 237lbs, 4.60, Kansas State: Undersized, but instinctive and athletic player. Could project outside. Aggressive and intense. Quick and fast. Plays with an attitude. Strong and plays with leverage, but he can have problems with shedding big blockers. He’s a tad on the stiff side and he needs to break down better when tackling, but generally tackles well. Smart.
Jeff Ulbrich, 6-0, 250lbs, 4.65, Hawaii: Lacks height and athleticism, but he has good bulk and speed. Tough, instinctive, physical, and aggressive. Has a feel for the game. Smart. Plays the run well takes on blocks well but occasionally has problems shedding. A tad on the stiff side and he isn’t real agile in coverage. Has an old knee injury that needs to be checked out. Good on special teams.
T.J. Slaughter, 6-0, 247lbs, 4.85, Southern Mississippi: Could project outside. Lacks height and athleticism, but he has good bulk and strength. Has good quickness, but he lacks high-end speed. Physical player who hits hard. Tough. Fills well at the point of attack, but he needs to shed better and improve his coverage skills.


CORNERBACKS

Very good defenses need very good corners – and they need three of them. There are some question marks surrounding Jason Sehorn and Conrad Hamilton as well as their back-ups.

Ahmed Plummer, 5-11, 190lbs, 4.50, Ohio State: Decent size and a good athleticism. Has quick feet and can accelerate. Employs fine technique and he is a smart, heady, instinctive player. Jams well at the line of scrimmage. Hard worker. Decent run defender who tackles well.
Ike Charlton, 5-11, 205lbs, 4.50, Virginia Tech: Junior entry. Good combination of size and athleticism. Has quick feet. Plays a physical game. Likes to challenge receivers and knock them off their routes. Instinctive. A tad on the stiff side lacks ideal agility. Good run defender who tackles well.
Rashard Anderson, 6-3, 205lbs, 4.55, Jackson State: Tall corner with very good athleticism for his size. Plays faster than he times and has a burst. Best suited to play a physical game where he jams the receiver at the line. Smooth with good foot quickness for his size, but like most big corners, he a tad on the stiff side. Solid tackler. Competitive. Benefited from playing against Sylvester Morris in practice.
Deltha O’Neal, 5-11, 185lbs, 4.40, California: Converted running back. Lacks great size, but he is a very good athlete. Confident, improving player. Fast, quick, and agile. He’s a cover corner with fine instincts. Makes plays on the ball. Needs to be more physical in coverage and he needs to play tougher against the run and tackle better. Somewhat raw, but he has a big upside. Very good kick returner.
Lewis Sanders, 6-0, 200lbs, 4.55, Maryland: Combines good size and athleticism. Instinctive player who has a feel for the game. Physical likes to challenge receivers best suited to bump-and-run coverage. Hard working. Good tackler. Good kick returner.
Mario Edwards, 6-0, 190lbs, 4.48, Florida State: Has decent size and very good athleticism. Has good quickness and speed. Best suited to play a physical game where he jams receivers at the line. Strong, confident, and aggressive. Solid tackler. Had a disappointing senior season needs to play with more discipline; took too many risks. Has some character question marks.
Dwayne Goodrich, 5-11, 195lbs, 4.55, Tennessee: Combines good size and athleticism. Did not play as well as expected his senior year. Very inconsistent has the talent to excel, but looks ordinary too often. Needs to make more plays on the ball and not bite on fakes as much as he does. Has good speed and quickness. Jams well at the line of scrimmage. Aggressive, but he needs to me a more physical tackler.
Hank Poteat, 5-10, 190lbs, 4.55, Pittsburgh: Lacks ideal height, but he has decent bulk. Fluid athlete with quick feet. Agile, but lacks top end speed. Can play the bump-and-run or play off. Aggressive in run support, but he needs to tackle better. Needs to improve his toughness, focus, and consistency.
Mark Roman, 5-11, 185lbs, 4.50, Louisiana State: Has some experience at safety. Lacks classic size, but he is a good athlete with fine speed and quickness. Fluid and agile. Competitive and instinctive. Needs better technique and polish. Somewhat raw as a corner, but has an upside.
Jason Webster, 5-9, 180lbs, 4.50, Texas A&M: Lacks size, but he is a good athlete who plays with fine instincts, competitiveness, and toughness. Hard worker great team attitude. Solid in coverage. Quick, agile, and speedy. Plays the run fairly well despite his size.
David Macklin, 5-9, 195lbs, 4.55,Penn State: Lacks height and great speed, but he has good bulk and athleticism. Fluid and agile. Tough, physical guy who competes. Has a great attitude. Only OK against the run.
Ben Kelly, 5-9, 185lbs, 4.45, Colorado: Junior entry. Lacks ideal size, but he’s an athlete with good speed and quickness. Solid cover guy who plays an aggressive, physical game despite his size. Makes plays, but gambles a bit too much. Needs greater consistency and focus. Not a good run defender. Good special teams player dangerous return man. Has some off-the-field concerns.


SAFETIES

Depth is a big concern at safety with Lyle West and Tre Thomas the principal back-ups. This looks like a very weak area in the draft. My guess is that the Giants will look at some lesser-known prospects later in the draft or rookie free agency who have good size and athleticism – guys like Myron Guyton, Sam Garnes, and Lamar McGriggs.

Deon Grant, 6-2, 210lbs, 4.55, Tennessee: Junior entry. Free safety could even project to corner. Has an excellent combination of size and athleticism. Very good cover safety makes plays on the ball. Instinctive. Quick, fast, and agile. Needs to break down and tackle better.
A’Jani Sanders, 5-10, 195lbs, 4.50, Notre Dame: Lacks ideal size, but he is a player. Plays with an attitude likes to punish opponents. Tough and physical. Has good athleticism for a safety with fine speed. Instinctive. Improving.
Mike Brown, 5-10, 205lbs, 4.55, Nebraska: Strong safety. Lacks height, but he is a smart, tough, instinctive player. Always seems to be around the ball. Lacks athleticism he’s not real fluid, fast, or quick. Aggressive and physical in run support hits and tackles well.
Aric Morris, 5-10, 210lbs, 4.52, Michigan State: Strong safety. Lacks ideal height, but he has good bulk. Strong run support safety physical, aggressive hitter and tackler. Not as strong against the pass lacks agility. Instinctive. Very competitive player.
Rogers Beckett, 6-2, 208lbs, 4.60, Marshall: Free safety. Has good size and decent athleticism. Has long arms. Lacks top speed and agility. Can help out on the deep pass and seems to have a feel for coverage. At times he plays a physical and aggressive game and hits and tackles very well needs to do so on a more consistent basis. Has an upside.
Gary Berry, 5-11, 200lbs, 4.50, Ohio State: Free safety. Lacks ideal size, but he is a good athlete. Fast and quick for a safety. Very inconsistent against the pass and run, but flashes very good ability. Boom-or-bust-type.
Tyrone Carter, 5-8, 190lbs, 4.48, Minnesota: Could project to cornerback. Very short; if he were taller, he’d be a higher pick. Very athletic for a safety fast, quick, and agile. Flashes ability defending the run and the pass. Needs to tackle better and his lack of height hurts him in pass defense. Tough, competitive, aggressive, and physical. Has a great attitude.


And the New York Giants Select…

1st Round – HB Shaun Alexander, Alabama: The feeling here is that Jim Fassel and Ernie Accorsi need an immediate impact from their first rounder or their jobs are in jeopardy. A running back not only fills a need, but is most likely to make a visible impact on the playing field. Ron Dayne certainly could be the choice here as he brings an intriguing size/speed package, but Alexander is the more complete back right now and the most ready to play given his greater experience as a pass blocker and receiver, not to mentioned the more diversified offense that he played in at Alabama. It is not out of the realm of possibility that WR Plaxico Burress or HB Thomas Jones slip and either one would be an enticing selection. Of course the whole Alexander/Dayne scenario could be smoke. In that case, watch out for HB Jamal Lewis (if he gets by the Ravens), LB Julian Peterson, LB Brian Urlacher, TE Daniel Franks, RT Stockar McDougal, LT Chris McIntosh, WR Sylvester Morris, WR Travis Taylor, WR Dez White, DT Chris Hovan, and DE Shaun Ellis.

2nd Round – DT Darwin Walker, Tennessee: If the Giants go running back in round one, it will be a defensive lineman, linebacker, or defensive back in round two. Ideally, we’d like to see a guy like LB Keith Bulluck slip, but it most likely will not happen. Others to watch include linebackers Brandon Short, Raynoch Thompson, Barrett Green, Corey Moore, and Nate Webster; cornerbacks Ike Charlton, Rashard Anderson, and Lewis Sanders; and defensive linemen Cornelius Griffin and Mao Tosi.

3rd Round – LB Nate Webster, Miami: Webster will give the Giants an all-University of Miami linebacking corps. Others to watch out for here include linebackers Matt Beck, Marcus Bell, Mark Simoneau, Marcus Washington; cornerbacks Mario Edwards, Dwayne Goodrich, Hank Poteat, and Mark Roman; and defensive linemen Leonardo Carson, Kendrick Clancy, Jerry Johnson, Erik Flowers, John Frank, and Brian Young.

4th Round – CB David Macklin, Penn State: Just a guess.(grin)

Apr 102000
 
Q&A: Jim Sabo of Ourlads’ Scouting Services

Eric from BBI: Mr. Sabo, thank you very much for taking the time and effort to answer some of our readers’ questions; it is very much appreciated by many of us who have followed your excellent work for years. How would you evaluate the Giants’ off-season roster upheaval? Are there moves you like and those you don’t? Why?
Please call me Jim, my Father was Mr. Sabo. It’s always good to be with Giants fans, the most knowledgeable anywhere and you came through with some really great questions. In general I’m not crazy about most of the off-season moves they made. Losing Oben was not good. Coming off a down year, but he is very talented. Lomas Brown is a joke. If he is starting we are in trouble. Dusty Zeigler is OK, but nothing special in my opinion. Glenn Parker gives them good versatility but he’s what 34 years old now. Garrett will be a non-threatening backup to Collins and that should be fine. Signing Barrow was a good move, though the Panthers unloaded on him after he left. They said he didn’t make enough plays, but I like the signing. Getting Dave Thomas as the third CB is also good. He can play and he’s big. I hated them losing Ellsworth. He was better than most people thought he was. Some good things, and they certainly needed to clean out some dead wood, but not overly impressive. More than anything this team needed a heart transplant – they had none except for Armstead and a few others and they tried to cut him off at the feet. Too many couldn’t care less about winning. Which reminds me – I’m picking up vibes that Petitgout is a disliked played among his peers. No guts and he doesn’t care. Watch to see how long he lasts.

Jim, could you give us your evaluation of Ernie Accorsi with regard to his acumen in talent evaluation and his skill in the “art of the deal”. Most of his track record, of course, comes from his tenure in Cleveland…do you notice any change or evolution in his philosophy or judgment since then?

Larry in SD: Who is the best drafter in the NFL today, and why?
Good question Larry. I call Ernie “The Stainmaster” that rug of his could hold up under any heavy-duty traffic. So we went from “The Egghead” to the “The Stainmaster”. Ernie had a poor rep coming out of Cleveland when he did not draft well. The thing about Ernie is that he is not really a football man in the truest sense. But what I believe he can do is listen and manage the process. He listens to his scouts and he relies on his personnel men. He will only be as good as the people around him, but that’s true in most management cases. He learned a lot under George Young and I know they remain close today. I’ve seen him adapt some but not all of Young’s principles. He is still mired in cap problems and they don’t seem to know how to get out from under them. That is the biggest complaint of some players. They see other teams making big splashes in free agency, but they seem to lose more than they gain. In short, Ernie is no Ron Wolf or Tom Donohoe, but with the right people in place he could be successful. As an aside, I talk to George regularly and he is still his same old loveable self. Full of piss and vinegar. Every year in Mobile at the Senior Bowl, one night we go our to dinner, just the two of us. It’s one of my best nights of the year. I love the guy. He’s a real character. And he’s loosed up a little too. I can get him laughing.

Greg C: Jim, does Ourlads give more weight to a prospect’s workout times or his college performance? When there’s an obvious difference between the two, how do you try to reconcile it in making your evaluations?
Both are important Greg. I call it having all the “eggs”. If a player is going to be a high pick in our system he has to have all the eggs in his basket. He has to be strong, fast, athletic, healthy, smart, coachable, good character, good skills, agility, so many things, but most of all he had to have played well. This time of the year is very frustrating to me when I hear about players supposedly jumping up and down in the first round then the third round then the sixth round etc. That just doesn’t happen. The farther we get away from the college season the more of that crap we get. Some of it is started by agents, they don’t always tell the truth (laugh). For example, I read somewhere that peter Warrick was free falling because he ran a 4.57 forty. That is ridiculous. Have you ever seen Warrick caught from behind? I haven’t. If a team bases a high Draft pick based on a combine or a personal workout they are making a huge mistake (see Thomas Lewis – I’d rather forget that one, but that’s what happened). Then in the later rounds you take chances on the more one-dimensional guys or the pure athletes. So how he played is always the most important factor, but it’s not the only one.

Tony in Ninerland: (1) Fans are by nature impatient, but some fans seem to have a lack of respect or understanding the difficulty of evaluating players. They underestimate the failure rates of other team’s drafts and are to quick to assume stupidity on behalf of their team’s draft makers. What do you think fans need to understand about the difficulty of this process? What are success rates (and failure rates) across the league? What is the real criteria for a successful draft? (2) And a related question: what do you think shaped the Giants poor drafting record in the 90s-bad luck or some sort of systematic misunderstanding or flaw in evaluations? In other words, was it random chance that had so many first rounders flop, or is there some problem in their method?
Long question Tony. Lets start with your first question. Scouting is so subjective. It’s like this: I can look at a woman and I can say to you, “Wow that woman is drop dead gorgeous”. And you could look at the same woman and say, what are you talking about, she’s a Bowzer!” But that’s what makes the world go round. It’s a matter of taste. Beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that. And the big thing is that we can poke and prod and measure and test these guys until we are blue in the face and the one thing you can’t do is look inside them. If we could do you think the Giants would have drafted Petitgout in the first round? But, they weren’t alone. Other teams liked him too. We can’t tell if a player really has the heart to play this game. If we could come up with a way to measure that we can be very rich people. I’m going to combine the rest of your first question with your second question. We did a study of all teams drafts in the 90s, and believe it or not, the Giants were at the top under our criteria. We determined that the Steelers were the best drafting team of the 90s followed by Buffalo and the Giants. That may sound strange with the poor luck they’ve had with first round players, but they have been solid in the lower rounds. Unfortunately the first round picks are most visible. And there is one other huge factor to consider. Coaching. You can draft a great player and he doesn’t get the proper coaching he may be a failure. I hate to bring up old wounds but look at Tyronne Wheatley. They ran that kid off then team because one coach didn’t like him. Yes he marched to a different drummer, but he was not a bad kid and his teammates really liked him. Coaching. Who was right there? Bad pick or bad coaching?

Dan in DC: Mr. Sabo, Thank you for taking the time to answer questions from Giant fans! If the rumors are true that the Giants are in love with the big backs in this draft, like Dayne and Alexander, do you think that they are otherwise building an offense where these players fit? It seems to me, that these backs would be more successful running behind large road-grading OLs, while the Giants seem more interested in having lighter, more athletic linemen. Is there a plan, here? Thanks.
My pleasure Dan. If you can believe the smoke they are gradually letting out of the Giants camp, the pick will be Ron Dayne. That may be a smoke screen to generate trade talks, but knowing them it’s not likely. Given the choice I would mush prefer Alexander over Dayne, assuming Thomas Jones and Jamal Lewis are gone. I’m not sure what they are trying to do on the offensive line. It was a mess last year and it looks like they tried to make it better, but I’m not sure they did. There is something to be said for smaller but athletic OLs. The Broncos had a great line last year and they are very small. The Niners for years were known for small OLs who were athletic. That may be a coming trend so I can see that approach. Let’s face it the NFL is a monkey see – monkey do league. What works somewhere is bound to be copied. Watch how everyone tried to copy the rams with lightning fast receivers. Anyway getting back to Dayne and Alexander. To me Alexander is more of a pure back. Great vision and balance. He knows how to run. Dayne is good to and he’s a move the chains kind of back. I am worried about Dayne’s durability. He has a lot of miles on him already. I wonder if he will hold up.

Old Timer: 40 times vary greatly depending on the surface and sometimes the location where they are run. How does a scout know which 40 time is most reflective of a player’s speed? Also, do you find that a 40 time is a true indicator of a player’s actual “football” speed?
Howdy Old Timer. We use the Combine 40 speed as a measuring stick and adjust from there. Let’s say a back runs a 4.50 at the combine, which is a notoriously slow surface. If another back runs a 4.47 on an outdoor track surface we will adjust then downward and make them about equal. Usually about 3 or 4 100ths of a second depending on the type of surface. We talked about 40 speed before in the case of Peter Warrick. I don’t care what the stopwatch says, I know he can run. He has field or game speed. A classic example is Jerry Rice who had poor forty times coming out of college. I never saw Rice be caught from behind. Did you? Then there were other players like Steve Largent, do you remember him? You could you’re an hourglass to time him, but he was one helluva a player. Its not often any player has to run 40 yards unimpeded on a footfall field. Knowing how to avoid and quickness is more important than pure speed. Unless you are drafting for the Olympics.

Aceman: Each year there are a few players who have terrific workout numbers but whose on field performance is under whelming. In this year’s draft, I would put Jerry Porter, Leif Larsen, and Curtis Keaton in that category. How have these under achieving workout warriors historically performed in the NFL? What rounds are these players projected to be drafted, and how does that differ from your own value board?
Hi Ace. These guys you mentioned are not totally workout warriors. Well Larsen is. Larsen is strictly all athletic ability. 44 reps at the combine, but he can’t play. He is a guy you take late and hope to develop. You may get lucky, but more times than not you don’t. Porter and Keaton are different, because not only are they athletic but they can play. I don’t like that Keaton ran away from West Virginia because Zereoue was ahead of him. But still he has ability and I see him in Round Three – perhaps even round two. Now Porter I like very much. He could he taken late in round one. He converted to WR from safety and he looks like a natural. Big, physical receiver with speed. A lot of upside there. He showed me at the Senior Bowl practices that he can play. The Eagles took Mike Mamula high based on a great Combine and that was a mistake. This year Brian Urlacher was a combine freak – but he looks like the real deal. It all comes back to can they play and that’s how we rate them on our value board.

jt: Young players usually take time to develop into productive players – but first and second rounders take up a lot of cap room while they learn. Does the cap encourage teams to players at positions that develop quickly (HB, DE) in the first two rounds rather than ones at positions that take more time to learn (OT, QB)? Thanks.
JT, I don’t think so because you still have to have an influx of new talent at all positions. There is a school of thought out there that says don’t Draft OLs high. I don’t agree with that. If you don’t then you never get the Tony Bosselli’s or Jon Ogden’s of the world. One rule of thumb I like is to Draft a quarterback every year, no matter how low. You never know when you might get lucky, The Redskins did this for years and it was smart. They always seemed to have some young rising prospect QB that another team would over pay for. I like that idea.

D in Lakeville: (1) Every year some big-name prospects (or prospects highly rated by the draftnik publications) fall precipitously in the draft for one reason or another. I’m thinking last year, for example, of TE Rufus French (who turned out to have some medical issue, as I recall, that pushed him way down) and OT Floyd Wedderburn. Who do you think might fall into that category this year and why? Conversely, who are your three favorite sleepers who might figure in the Giants plans given their variety of needs? (2) Do you have access to the psychological testing that many teams do on prospects? To what degree do you weigh this information in your evaluations? Do you think some teams weigh the psychological stuff too much? Are there incidents that you can talk about of players who were pushed down in the draft due to poor wonderlic scores (or other psychological profiling tests) who have performed in the NFL quite Successfully? Thanks.
OK D. I’m not sure how to answer you first question without being boastful because that is not my intent, but we are different from the other Draft Publications. Do we make mistakes, yes of course we do, but so do the teams themselves with a lot more resources then we have. Most if not all of the other publications “scout” and I used the term loosely with their ears and not their eyes. In short they work the phones and fill their guides with media hype right from the colleges and agents. Sometimes injuries are the cause of a player falling. We try to do our best to gather than information, but that is one of the most difficult aspects of this job. If we thought a guy was going to fall right now, then we would not have him high to begin with. Recently, after we published our Guide, we learned of a few big name players who have failed drug tests and that certainly could cause a slide. I have a lot of sleepers in this Draft. Some of my favorites are: Spergon Wynn, QB, Southwest Texas; Tim Watson, DT, Rowan; Josh Gentry, LB, Indianapolis; Earl Riley, S, Washignton State and Elijah Thurman, WR, Howard. Check our Guide. We have a whole page devoted to our “Awards” at all the positions and Sleeper or Free Agent Find is one of the awards. We have access to the wonderlic scores, but not the psychological test. And to tell the truth we probably wouldn’t know what to do with them anyway. The wonderlic scores however are important. We have acceptable grades by position and we use it to determine ratings. Of course we want our QB to score within a certain range. It goes back to our eggs theory and intelligence is one of the eggs. But, you can get too carried away with it too and that would be a mistake.

Jay in Toronto: I don’t mean to put you on the spot [well not a lot :)] but I wonder if draft experts keep tabs on the ratings, mock drafts etc of their colleagues/competitors? Sometimes I wonder if a “herd mentality” isn’t created, for example, a consensus emerging that Dayne probably will go as low as 21. Thanks. Jay in Toronto
Jay some fun eh! To be honest I very rarely if ever look at someone else’s mock draft. The reason is I don’t want to be influenced by stuff that is unfounded or that I don’t see myself. A lot of those guys work the phones for info. We certainly listen to what’s out there but we believe very little of it. Do you know that there are personnel guys who will actually give out wrong info on purpose? And then there our “our friends” the agents. Never believe anything an agent tells you. All I know is that we are well respected around the league because we are out there watching players and making our own independent decisions. They see us out there. You would be surprised at how many teams pay for what we publish. We try to treat our service as the 32nd team. We give our subscribers an honest evaluation of players based on what we have seen. And we have a staff that includes a former pro player with 3 Super Bowl rings who wants to break into scouting so he hooked on with us. We have two retired NFL scouts who got tired of sitting around the house and got the itch for the road again. We have three college coaches who also help us scout and one of our guys is a coach and the uncle of a GM in the league right now. In the last couple of years we have lost two of our scouts to NFL teams. They thought enough of our guys to hire them full time. One more thing. Some of the other draft publications are an arm of certain agents. They will pump up the players that the agent has and I don’t call that being objective. Sorry. Didn’t mean to get on a soapbox there.

Bill: Hi, Jim. Does Ourlads consider Plaxico Burress a potential great receiver like Randy Moss? Because of his attitude and failure to show up at the Eagles interview sessions he has slipped considerably. Are the Giants even considering taking this great athlete at no. 11 choice in the first round? Should they?
Hey Bill. Burress should not be there for the Giants at 11 but if he were I doubt they would take him because he is not squeaky-clean. He is very different than Moss. I had to laugh. The other day I read that Burress was free falling because he ran a 4.58 at his workout. Can you believe that? He’s 6-5 and ½ and 230 pounds!. A 4.58 is great time for him! If he slips it will be because people don’t like his work ethic or attitude. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why he is behaving the way he is. I think he’s a tremendous talent, but he may one of those Wheatley guys. For his sake, I hope he goes to the right team. Coaching!

Jim, How much weight is put on the conference and program to determine a players grade. Is a track record kept of position by team/conference success? For example, OL at Michigan seems like it has a good track record, or DL from the Florida schools.
Playing at a major school is important. If you play at a lower level, the first rule of thumb is did you dominate? If he did then that qualifies him to be looked at with the big boys. Level of competition is important, because it is such a huge step up from even a major program from Ohio State, Florida or wherever.

Bill K: Please rank Alexander, Bullock, Dayne and Peterson from one to four based on how successful you expect them to be in the NFL. Please indicate if you believe any of these players will be one of the ten best in the league at his position.
In my opinion and not that of Ourlads in general I would go 1. Alexander, 2. Peterson, 3. Dayne, 4. Bulluck. I really love Alexander. He’s not a speed merchant, but he knows how to run. Peterson is a marvelous athlete. He’s a guy who really helpful himself in the post season, but he’s dumb as a fence post. Scored in single digits in the wonderlic, and you get 5 points for knowing your name. Dayne we talked about. I can see him with the Giants but I would prefer Alexander. Bulluck is an enigma. Great body. Really put together. He looks the role, right out of central casting. But I don’t’ see the on field production with him. Might be all athlete and not a player. He was not much of a playmaker and the Giants have enough of those guys. Remember Marcus Buckley, he was the classic nonplaymaker.

Paul D: Ever since the Giants selected Derek Brown several years ago, I’ve been turned off the idea of tight ends as 1st round draft picks. It seems many 1st rounders have been disappointments while many later picks(B. Coates – 5th rd, Shannon Sharpe – 7th rd, Mark Bavaro – 4th rd to name a few) have become standouts. Other than QB, at what position(s) do you find it most difficult to predict success at the pro level?
What’s up Paul? I really don’t think QB is all that hard personally. Believe it or not I’ve always thought RB was a tough position to scout. There is so much involved in being a successful running back and speed is really not the only answer. Very tough in my opinion. The other thing that is difficult to scout at many positions is when you aren’t sure of the scheme. Particularly on defense. You could watch a defensive lineman and see he’s not getting off the line and it may be in that scheme he can the contain assignment. So that is always tough.

Ron in New Mexico: How high, in a percentage basis, do you rate the intangibles affecting a players capability to live up to his potential, such as desire, demeanor, attitude, history of off field escapades, etc. in your evaluations? 2nd question: How does he feel Dayne would fit in with the Giants West Coast-leaning offense, if he was picked.
Hello Ron. All that stuff is important. Desire is hard to measure, but off field and character can be and it is taken into consideration. This year we have Laveranues Coles the WR from Florida State. A great talent but he’s trouble and it will cost him. A first round guy who most likely won’t go there because of baggage. Dayne does not seem to be a fit in the west coast offense whatever that is. First of all he’s a poor receiver and that’s a prerequisite. So I don’t see them in a strict west coast offense. They seem to have the ability to go down the field with Toomer and Hilliard etc.

Jim B: Hi Jim. Virtually all of the draft guides, including Ourlads, have rated Brian Urlacher very highly. I realize his physical “numbers” are outstanding, but doesn’t the fact that he played in a relatively soft conference make people wary? Assuming that he does have what it takes, do you think that he has the ability to shed blockers required of a strong side linebacker, or is he better suited for the weakside where he can be more of a run-and-hit type of player? Also – don’t forget to tell Ken Palmer I said hello! Regards.
How are you Jim? How’s that new baby? Urlacher is the real deal. As I mentioned before, he dominated at a lower level so that qualifies him. I see him as being able to handle either side weak or strong. He is fantastic. Some teams are talking about playing him at safety at 255! I would start him at linebacker. He’s definitely a guy who has all the “eggs”. Don’t forget. In college he played safety. Returned kicks and punts. Played in the slot and as a TE. Quite an athlete.

From hg: Does the switch to grass have any effect on the team’s seemingly sudden decision to Go for speed, speed, speed?
Now HG. I would have thought they would have liked to have speed when they were on Astro turf don’t you? Where have then been! They are about 5 years to late going for speed. Some times these teams do the strangest things. But I agree. The game is getting faster and the Giants need to improve their speed game.

Wow! That’s it. Great questions guys. I enjoyed it very much. If you haven’t gotten our Guide there is still time but you have to hurry. Give it a try I’m sure you will like it. Good luck on Saturday too. I’ll be doing commentary on One-on-One Sports Radio, a nationally syndicated show. Unfortunately I’ll be working with a former Redskins Hog Mark May. Hate those Skins! Seriously he’s a good guy and we should have some fun. Thanks for the questions. Jim Sabo

Apr 032000
 
New York Giants 2000 NFL Draft Needs
  • Offensive Tackle: Hopefully, Luke Petitgout will nail down one tackle spot. However, Scott Gragg and Roman Oben are gone. Lomas Brown and Glenn Parker are viable short-term reserves, but they are clearly not long-term answers. The Giants need a good, young tackle to play opposite of Petitgout in 2001 and beyond. Depth is also a concern unless the Giants add another veteran free agent.
  • Defensive Tackle: Much depends on whether Robert Harris is re-signed. Keith Hamilton is a fine player, but Christian Peter is a bit limited as the other starter. He will never be a top pass rusher and he wears down with overuse because he plays so hard all the time. It would be great if the Giants could draft a player who is a better pass rusher and who could rotate with Peter, depending on the game situation. George Williams and Ryan Hale have not impressed thus far.
  • Linebacker: Jessie Armstead and Michael Barrow will form two-thirds of the starting linebacking corps. Who starts at the remaining spot and overall depth are the remaining issues. The Giants are looking to increase team speed on defense and they helped themselves with the addition of Barrow. But MLB Corey Widmer and SLB Ryan Phillips are slower pluggers. Widmer may become a salary cap casualty soon. Marcus Buckley and Scott Galyon have already departed. Adding a young, fast linebacker who could eventually start in the middle or on the strongside is the goal. The Giants also need to add another 1-2 linebackers who can serve as capable back-ups and excel on special teams.
  • Halfback: The main issue here is that few teams make a run at the championship without a top running back. Joe Montgomery could be that man, but it is far too risky for the Giants to place all their eggs in the Montgomery basket – especially when that basket has proven to be fragile. A top runner would make life much easier for Kerry Collins, the receivers, and the offensive line.
  • Offensive Guard: It looks as if the Giants will head into 2000 with Ron Stone and Mike Rosenthal as their starting guards. Added competition for the starting jobs would be a big plus. Depth is an issue with Jason Whittle being the primary back-up if Parker is forced to start at tackle.
  • Offensive Center: Dusty Zeigler will start, but the back-up situation is not ideal with unrestricted free agent Derek Engler as his back-up. Bringing aboard a youngster to groom behind Zeigler is recommended.
  • Defensive End: Michael Strahan and Cedric Jones will start. Depth and competition is a concern. Strahan did not play particularly well in 1999, but should rebound. Jones finally stayed healthy, played the run better than his predecessor, and flashed some pass rush skills. More pass rush is needed from both or the Giants need to bring in some players who can get the job done. Also, depth is an issue as Bernard Holsey has left. Frank Ferrara and Jomo Cousins are the main back-ups right now.
  • Cornerback: The future is as much of an issue here as the present. Jason Sehorn will be an unrestricted free agent next off-season. If he does not return to his 1997 form, the Giants most likely will not meet his contract demands. Of course, they could put a transition or franchise tag on him too – but it remains to see how much of an impact he can still make on the playing field. The other corner, Conrad Hamilton, needs to re-prove himself after missing most of 1999 with a knee injury. The back-ups show promise, but are still relative unprovens. They include Emmanuel McDaniel, Andre Weathers, and Bashir Levingston.
  • Safety: SS Sam Garnes and FS Shaun Williams are the unquestioned starters. However, depth is a big concern. Lyle West looks like a decent player, but more help is needed. Tre Thomas is more of a special teams-type.
  • Tight End: Pete Mitchell was an excellent addition, but he’s not a full-time, two-way tight end – he’s more of an H-Back. Dan Campbell may be that kind of guy. The Giants need to bring someone onboard who can compete with Campbell and take Howard Cross’ roster spot.
  • Wide Receiver: Amani Toomer had a breakout year and Ike Hilliard complements him very well. Joe Jurevicius and Brian Alford have not progressed as hoped. Both are very talented and bring size (Joe) and speed (Brian) to the table. David Patten was lost as the fifth receiver. Adding a speedster who would compete with Joe and Brian would be ideal.
  • Special Teams Players: The Giants need more headhunters for special teams. These kind of players usually come from the ranks of linebackers, defensive backs, receivers, and running backs. The Giants don’t have nearly enough killers on specials. Losing Scott Galyon and David Patten won’t help matters.

Summary: The Giants NEED help at offensive tackle, at defensive tackle, linebacker, and special teams. Adding a difference-maker at halfback would help the entire offense. Depth/competition is needed at offensive guard, offensive center, defensive end, cornerback, safety, tight end, and wide receiver.

PRIMARY NEEDS:
(The top three are areas where premium draft picks – rounds 1-4 – could be spent).

  • Offensive Tackle
  • Defensive Tackle
  • Linebacker

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

  • Offensive Center
  • Defensive End
  • Safety

AREAS IN NEED OF POSSIBLE UPGRADE:
(All areas where premium draft picks – rounds 1-4 – could be spent).

  • Halfback
  • Cornerback
  • Offensive Guard
  • Wide Receiver
  • Tight End