by Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com
The 2003 NFL Draft is not, I repeat not, about finding 2003 starters. What it is about is finding future starters who can contribute as role players in 2003. It is not normal for a player to come into the league and have the type of impact that Jeremy Shockey did last year. If a player can have that kind of impact, obviously that is an excellent development. But teams can ill afford to count on rookies like that. Rookies are usually 23-24 year olds who know little about the NFL environment. Their level of focus, level of preparation, body development, work ethic, confidence, technique, knowledge of the playbook, knowledge of fellow teammates, etc. are all usually lacking. Their rookie season (and sometimes their first two years) is a time for learning and growing. Some rookies make an impact. Most don’t.
This is a pretty easy draft to figure out for the Giants. With their off-season free agent moves, the special teams areas have been addressed. On offense, they are mostly set although they will most likely look to add some depth on the offensive line and add a blocking tight end. They may also look to draft a young halfback if they are looking to rid themselves of Ron Dayne.
The big needs on this team are defensive, and on the defensive line in particular. With 11 picks (one pick in each of the first five rounds, plus three picks in rounds 6 and 7), look for the Giants to move up in the 1st round and possibly in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. Personally, my gut tells me that General Manager Ernie Accorsi feels like this team doesn’t have a lot of big needs and because of that he will look to acquire quality over quantity.
Defensive Line: This is not only a big need for 2003, but it could be a big need area in the 2004 NFL Draft. Why? We pretty much know that the starters in 2003 are going to be DE Michael Strahan, DT Cornelius Griffin, DT Keith Hamilton, and DE Kenny Holmes. We also know that newcomer Keith Washington can provide steady but unspectacular depth at both end spots. However, it is also clear that Hamilton (who turns an “old” 32 in May and who is coming off a serious Achilles injury) and Holmes (inconsistent, disappointing free agent acquisition) are not in the Giants’ long-term plans. Neither is Washington who signed only a 1-year deal. In other words, the Giants are probably looking for new future starters at right defensive tackle and right defensive end in this draft as well as future depth. In the short-term in 2003, these new draft picks would serve as valuable members of the defensive line rotation – keeping everyone fresh into the 4th quarter.
What kind of defensive linemen should be drafted by the Giants? Pass rushers who have enough size and ability to at least do a decent job against the run. Two points to consider: (1) the NFL is more of passing league now than ever and fewer teams run with power, and (2) in the Giants’ 4-3 system under Defensive Coordinator Johnnie Lynn, most of the pass rush must come from the defensive line as the Giants do not blitz a lot. If a defensive lineman isn’t a good pass rusher, don’t look at him as a serious prospect for the Giants.
Depth is also a bit of an issue. The Giants will keep eight or nine defensive linemen. Assuming they keep eight, five spots are locked up in 2003 (Strahan, Griffin, Hamilton, Holmes, and Washington). I would predict that two more spots will be locked up by high draft picks. That leaves one open spot among existing journeymen on the roster (DE Sean Guthrie, DE Frank Ferrara, possibly DE Byron Frisch, DT Dwight Johnson, DT Lance Legree, DT Ahmad Miller, DT Matt Mitrione, and DT Brad Harris) or another draft pick. This is a deep draft for defensive linemen so I wouldn’t discount a latter round pick factoring into the equation here.
But I do believe this: two of the Giants’ first three draft picks will be defensive linemen.
Offensive Line: Assuming restricted free agent OC Chris Bober re-signs shortly, the Giants are set at left tackle, left guard, and center. But the right side of the offensive line is a bit up in the air with the departure of Mike Rosenthal and Jason Whittle in free agency. No one the Giants draft on the offensive line will start this season unless the guy is truly special. Offensive Line Coach Jim McNally doesn’t like starting rookies and he seems relatively comfortable with the existing group of candidates (Ian Allen, Barrett Brooks, Tam Hopkins, Char-Ron Dorsey, and Jeff Hatch). But it would probably serve the Giants well to draft at least one prospect who could eventually compete for playing time or provide better depth. Keep in mind that McNally prefers linemen with intelligence and athleticism. Don’t look for the Giants to draft dummies who can’t move their feet. He’s more finesse than power.
Cornerback: The starters are obviously set with Will Allen and Will Peterson. But it remains to be seen what the depth situation will turn out to look like. Believe it or not, the Giants may be in better shape here than most think. Kato Serwanga is a corner who has a nice combination of size and athleticism; Defensive Backs Coach DeWayne Walker likes him quite a bit. Ralph Brown was way too inconsistent in the preseason last year, but did a lot of nice things in the game against the Redskins late in the year. And newcomer Ray Green is a very tall and athletic corner who was stuck behind a very strong secondary in Miami. That being said, it probably makes sense to draft at least one quality corner just in case the ideal scenario doesn’t work out. Keep in mind that more teams are employing 3- and 4-wide receiver sets and the Giants do play in the same division as the “Fun-and-Gun” in Washington.
Safety: Shaun Williams is set at strong safety. Omar Stoutmire was re-signed to a 3-year deal. He gets a lot more grief than he deserves. Good free safeties are hard to find. Every year in reviewing draft prospects, it seems virtually impossible to find one that has good speed, can cover, and can tackle. Stoutmire can do all of this. Where he is lacking is that he obviously doesn’t make a lot of plays on the ball in the air. In an ideal draft scenario, the Giants find a young free safety they can groom behind Stoutmire who has good speed and athleticism, who can tackle well, and who makes plays on the ball. But as I said, those guys are hard to find. Still, it would be nice to find a future ballhawk in the latter rounds.
Tight End: Jeremy Shockey is the best tight end in football. Marcellus Rivers is a fine receiving-type tight end who needs to continue to improve his blocking. What the Giants need to find is a blocking-type tight end to replace Dan Campbell. Fortunately, this looks like a pretty good year for tight ends in the draft.
Halfback: It all depends on Ron Dayne. In the short-term, the Giants are fine with Tiki Barber, Dorsey Levens, and Brian Mitchell. Levens and Mitchell were underused by the Eagles in the base offense. It would appear that will not be the case in New York. If Dayne stays, his sole purpose may be to serve as insurance in case Barber gets hurt. But one wonders if Dayne, with ever declining carries, will loose even more interest and therefore effectiveness (if that is possible). I’d love to see the Giants give Antonio Warren a fair shake, but if they do dump Dayne, don’t be shocked to see a halfback drafted. That said, it isn’t a real good year for running backs.
Linebackers: The Giants will keep at most seven linebackers on the roster and I honestly think they feel they are OK with Brandon Short, Mike Barrow, Dhani Jones, Nick Greisen, Wes Mallard, Kevin Lewis, and Quincy Monk. Accorsi said in a recent interview that they see Greisen, Mallard, and Monk as future starters. Short is a good strongside linebacker and Jones received some interest in free agency from some good teams. There appear to be some good middle linebackers in this draft, but not a lot of quality outside linebackers. If the Giants do look to draft one, look for athletic players who can run.
Wide Receiver: On the surface, it would seem as if the Giants are pretty well set here. Locks are Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Ron Dixon, and Tim Carter. That leaves only one or two roster spots up for grabs between a possible draft pick and Daryl Jones, Derek Dorris, Chris Taylor, and possibly Tony Simmons. But Accorsi does appear to like drafting at least one speed receiver a year. There are not a lot of them in this draft, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Giants nab one in the middle rounds.
Fullback: The Giants signed Jim Finn from the Colts and he appears to be the favorite to win the starting spot. Charles Stackhouse needs to improve his focus and his blocking in order to remain on the roster. There are some interesting fullbacks in this draft and the Giants may look to select one in the latter rounds.
Quarterback: I can’t really see the Giants drafting a quarterback if they intend to keep Jason Garrett on the roster (which they do). Kerry Collins is emerging as one of the better quarterbacks in the league and Jesse Palmer improved a great deal last preseason.
Summary: Defensive line, defensive line, defensive line. Get two quality defensive linemen who can rush the passer and I will be happy. After that, look for the Giants to add some depth to the offensive line, secondary, and tight end positions. The wild card? Do the Giants draft Dayne’s replacement or wait one more year?