Jerry Reese – © USA TODAY Sports Images
New York Giants 2013 NFL Draft Needs
I think there are three ways to look at team “needs.” The first – and most obvious to fans – is to look at the depth chart and say, “we need a better player here” or “we have a big hole there.” The second – and less obvious – is to consider what positions a particular team places a premium on in order to remain a strong contender. The third – and something rarely considered by fans – is that a team like the New York Giants does not look at the next upcoming draft as only a way to address immediate needs. Indeed, General Manager Jerry Reese and company are considering 2014 and 2015 as much as 2013, when they select a player. What players are nearing the end of their prime? Who has injury issues? What players are making too much money or will be asking for too much money? Who is likely to not be on the team in two years?
We’ll consider all three factors in this draft preview article. Don’t let the wide range of positions startle you. Almost all NFL teams have a bunch of team needs when you consider the three aforementioned factors. At the same time, do not overrate the talent on the Giants. This is a team that has won two NFL Championships in the last six NFL seasons. But many of those key components are now gone or past their primes. In order for the Giants to seriously contend once again, they must restock the cupboards. Too often in recent drafts, the Giants have selected players – particularly in the 2-4 rounds – who have not developed. That needs to change in this draft.
When the Giants pick players in the upcoming draft, also do not overemphasize the position selected. For example, is it better to draft an average linebacker or an outstanding defensive tackle? The average linebacker you will have to soon replace. The outstanding defensive tackle becomes a core player. Pick good players in the draft; fill in the remaining holes with second-tier veteran free agents after the draft is over.
Linebacker (Both Middle and Outside): Defensively, because they play a 4-3, the Giants correctly place a premium on defensive linemen over linebackers. In a 4-3 defense, by the very nature of the scheme, the impact players are on the defensive line. But since players like Jessie Armstead and Antonio Pierce left years ago, the Giants have not only lacked a steady production at the position, they have also missed that leadership. A good linebacker – in the 4-3 or 3-4 – is often the leader of the defense. The Giants are severely lacking in that department.
At middle linebacker, Dan Connor gets a one-year audition. A once highly-regarded draft pick, Connor has flashed but his career has not progressed as expected. He could surprise. Mark Herzlich is a nice story, but he has not taken advantage of opportunities presented to him. Is he athletic enough to start at the NFL level? Time may be running out for him.
Outside, not only are there talent questions, but quantity seems to be a problem, especially if Mathias Kiwanuka is moved back to defensive end as many hope. Michael Boley is gone. Left is Jacquian Williams, Keith Rivers, and Spencer Paysinger. That’s it. Supposedly the Giants had big plans for Williams last year in their sub-defensive packages but he missed much of the year with injury. He’s a bit undersized and not the most physical guy in the world against the run. Keith Rivers – like Connor – has not lived up to his NFL Draft hype. He simply can’t stay healthy. He gets one more year in New York to turn his career around. Paysinger has made more of an impact on special teams than on defense to date.
Offensive Line (Both Tackle and Guard): The Giants need to invest more premium resources here to restock an area of the team that has been fraying at the edges. The Giants have a number of issues on the line. Assuming everyone stays healthy and/or recovers nicely from offseason medical procedures, the Giants should be OK in 2013 at left tackle (Will Beatty), left guard (Kevin Boothe), center (David Baas), and right guard (Chris Snee). But there is a big question mark at right tackle where David Diehl will battle James Brewer for the starting job. Diehl is obviously nearing the end of his NFL career. And while Brewer has a nice combination of size and athleticism, we really do not know if he has the skills and temperament to succeed at the NFL level as a starter.
But right tackle is not the only issue. Both starting guards may be gone in 2014. Chris Snee’s play has been declining for two years, he is very expensive, and he has talked about retirement. Kevin Boothe only re-signed for one season and will be an unrestricted free agent again. At center, for better or worse, re-structuring David Baas’ contract likely means the Giants are stuck with him for one, maybe two more seasons. He’s a good player when healthy, but Baas always seems to be hurt.
Also impacting this analysis is, aside from Brewer, we do not know how the Giants really feel about Brandon Mosley, Matt McCants, Selvish Capers, and Stephen Goodin. They have some talent, but do they have a future? Can the Giants risk relying solely on their development?
Defensive Line (Both End and Tackle): This is the heart of the Giants defense. If this area is not strong, the Giants’ defense will not be strong. And this area was not strong in 2012. It lived more off of reputation than ability. The Giants may have enough talent here to get by in 2013, but much depends on aging veterans. There are also bigger concerns for 2014 and beyond.
At end, Jason Pierre-Paul had a very disappointing season. While his run defense was good, he did not accrue a sack in the last seven games of the season. He is still very young and has a big upside, but the Giants need him to play like he did in 2011. I expected Justin Tuck to rebound from a down regular-season in 2011, but he did not. He seems re-energized this offseason, but one wonders how much his body is beginning to betray him? He is entering a contract year and the Giants may choose to move on in 2014. If Mathias Kiwanuka moves back to defensive end, then the immediate talent/depth concerns decline. But keep in mind that Kiwanuka is 30 years old and has had serious neck issues. Adrian Tracy, Adewale Ojomo, Justin Trattou, and Matt Broha have all flashed but it remains to be seen what their true ability is against NFL starting competition.
At tackle, the Giants were not strong up the middle in 2012 and the whole defense suffered because of it. Heading into the draft, while the Giants have a lot of bodies, the only one without serious question marks is Linval Joseph, and he will be a free agent in 2014. Cullen Jenkins should help in the short term, but he is 32 and on the downside of his career. Fellow ex-Eagle Mike Patterson never lived up to his 1st-round hype, but he can be a steady Rocky Bernard-type if he makes the team. Shaun Rogers missed all of 2012 with a health issue, is clearly nearing the end, and will have to fight to make the team. Markus Kuhn is coming off of a serious ACL knee injury. And Marvin Austin has been a 2nd-round disappointment. Quantity does not equal quality. This position is too important.
Defensive Back (Both Cornerback and Safety): At cornerback, again the Giants have numbers and recognizable names, but how good are these players? The hope is that Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley continue to develop, or the Giants are in worse shape than it seems. Amukamara has a solid – not special – season. Hosley really struggled much of the time as the nickel slot corner, but the team seems high on him. Corey Webster was very inconsistent, had some horrible games, and saw his salary cut. He has a history of rebounding nicely but he is on the wrong side of 30 for an NFL corner and this could be his last year with the Giants. Terrell Thomas is coming off his third ACL tear and may never be the same player; he’s on a 1-year deal. Aaron Ross was brought back for veteran depth but turns 31 and also signed only a 1-year contract. So in many ways, a good, young cornerback makes a lot of sense for the Giants.
The Giants lost Kenny Phillips in free agency and hope that Will Hill or Stevie Brown can adequately replace him. Hill has a lot of ability but has to keep his nose clean. Brown was a major surprise last year with his nose for the football, but he has to prove that he is not a one-year wonder and improve the more mundane aspects of his play such as run defense and not making mistakes in coverage. Antrel Rolle is 30 and has a huge contract. He could become a cap casualty in 2014. Ryan Mundy did not impress in Pittsburgh other than on special teams. Tyler Sash appears to be just a special teams guy.
Summary/Other Positions: The Giants’ biggest needs are the offensive line and everywhere on defense. This is a defense that ranked 27th in 2011 and 31st in 2012. They are clearly living off of past reputation more than anything right now. To be blunt, the Giants’ defense stinks. The offense – aside from some depth issues – is in pretty good shape except for the short- and long-term questions on the offensive line.
Here are some other areas where the Giants could use some improved depth or could take a special player if someone becomes available:
Tight End: The top guys will be Brandon Myers, Adrien Robinson, and Bear Pascoe. But the Giants could use a solid, two-way tight end for depth and competition. Myers is basically on a 1-year contract and Pascoe is just a guy. Robinson should become the best blocker of the group, but another body would be nice.
Wide Receiver: If the value is too great to pass on, the Giants certainly could add another receiver. But I think Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz will both be here for a while. Rueben Randle is going to be a player if he works harder. And the Giants have Louis Murphy and Jerrel Jernigan competing for playing time as the fourth and fifth receivers. The Giants also seem to always find an interesting undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver. Not a pressing need, but if someone slips…
Running Back: The top two backs are clearly David Wilson and Andre Brown. But since Wilson isn’t the biggest guy in the world and Brown has been injury-prone, a third option would be nice. That could be a draft pick or a veteran such as Ryan Torain.
What about a developmental quarterback? No room on the roster and a good one would be snatched off of the Practice Squad.