Apr 272015
 
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Eli Manning, New York Giants (December 8, 2013)

El Manning – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 2015 NFL Draft Needs

Teams that draft primarily for need usually are poor drafting teams. Just because you take a player at a certain position, that doesn’t mean you’ve “fixed” the position. Look at the 2011 NFL Draft. Did the Giants “fix” their needs at defensive tackle with Marvin Austin, wide receiver with Jerrel Jernigan, offensive tackle with James Brewer, or linebacker with Greg Jones? Force a pick and you’ll be drafting at that same position in a year or two again trying to replace the bum you over-drafted.

Also, one position that looks settled on paper at one moment can become a critical mess a year later. Look at the safety position for the Giants between now and this time last year. In April 2014, the Giants looked deep and talented at safety with Antrel Rolle coming of his best season, a rising star in Will Hill, the anticipated return of Stevie Brown, and the acquisition of Quintin Demps from the Chiefs. One-fourth to one-third of NFL rosters turn over each year now. How many Giants are left from the 2011 Championship team?

So keep in mind that this “needs” article does not suggest that the Giants should use their early picks at the most critical need positions. In fact, almost every position for every team is a “need” position. Teams can always get stronger and there is simply too much attrition in the NFL.

The Giants will only have eight picks in the NFL draft, with three of these picks coming in the top 100 players. At best, the Giants probably can get one or two immediate starters out of this draft unless they are extremely fortunate.

How do the Giants get better? By getting better football players across the board. One thing is clear: the New York Football Giants need to become a tougher, stronger, more physical, and more talented team in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The 2014 Giants couldn’t stop the run or run the football. They usually got their asses whooped up front.

Offensive Line

The Giants are expecting (and hoping) that four-fifths of the starting offensive line is set with Will Beatty at left tackle, Weston Richburg at center, Justin Pugh at right tackle or one of the guard spots, and Geoff Schwartz at the other guard spot. If the season were to start today, John Jerry would probably start at right guard and Schwartz at left guard. That’s not ideal. Moreover, is someone gets hurt, there isn’t a lot of depth with the journeyman Marshall Newhouse being the next best option on the roster. So the Giants could use at least two new offensive linemen, one talented enough to possibly start as a rookie and another developmental prospect who can provide better depth. God help the team if they are wrong about Pugh, Richburg, Schwartz, or Beatty.

Defensive Line

Johnathan Hankins is a stud. Jason Pierre-Paul is one of the best defensive ends in the game. JPP could be a free agent again next offseason, but the Giants could Franchise him again. The questions are at the other two starting spots. Much depends on how the Giants truly feel about Jay Bromley at defensive tackle and Damontre Moore at defensive end. If Bromley develops, I actually think the Giants are in good shape at tackle with Hankins, Cullen Jenkins, Kenrick Ellis, and Bromley. The bigger concern is at end. Today’s NFL defense is all about the pass rush.

Based on 2014, on paper, it looks like the Giants have one two-way player in JPP and then a bunch of situational guys in Moore (end pass rusher), Robert Ayers (end/tackle pass rusher), Kerry Wynn (run defender), and George Selvie (run defender). And linebacker Devon Kennard will likely be sent after the quarterback quite a bit by Steve Spagnuolo. At their best, the Giants had full-time players Michael Strahan, Osi Umenyiora, and Justin Tuck coming off of the edges. Unless Moore develops into a much better run defender and consistent pass rusher, the Giants need another top tier guy to complement JPP. However, if they Giants think they have that already in Moore, then the defensive line may be more settled than we realize. But given Moore’s slight frame, I think the team would have to move JPP to left end and start Moore at right end.

Defensive Backs

On paper, the most critical need is clearly at safety. The reason I have OL and DL listed first is I don’t think you can scheme around bad players up front. You can scheme a bit in the secondary. If the season were to start today, the starters at safety would be unproven Nat Berhe and Cooper Taylor. The good news is both have talent. But it remains to be seen if Berhe has the athletic ability/range to excel in coverage at the NFL level and if Taylor can stay healthy. The Giants will most likely add a journeyman veteran at some point, but they really need to add another safety or safety/corner ‘tweener from the draft. The bad news is this isn’t a very good year to draft safeties. Keep in mind that the Giants could also move Bennett Jackson, Chykie Brown, and/or Josh Gordy to safety.

Corner is more unsettled than many realize. If Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara stay healthy (an issue for both last year), then the Giants have one of the stronger set of starting corners in the NFL. But Amukamara has been injury prone and he will be be an unrestricted free agent in 2016. In addition, with Walter Thurmond leaving for Philadelphia in free agency, depth is an issue. Trumaine McBride is now the leading nickel back (a de facto starter) and top reserve corner. After him, you are looking at castoffs Mike Harris, Chykie Brown, and Chandler Fenner. I’d be pretty shocked if the Giants didn’t draft one corner and I won’t be surprised if they take one with one of their first three picks.

Wide Receiver

Yes, wide receiver. Call me a pessimist but I think it is extremely unlikely that Victor Cruz will be anywhere near 100 percent in 2015. Call me an alarmist, but it is also possible that he never really regains his old quickness/explosiveness. Given Cruz’s huge cap number, the team could be forced to consider parting ways with Cruz in a year or two. Right now, the only sure thing the Giants have is Odell Beckham. We’ve seen what Eli Manning can do if you give him three serious pass receiving threads (Plaxico Burress-Amani Toomer-Steve Smith in 2007 and Victor Cruz-Hakeem Nicks-Mario Manningham in 2011). Cruz is a major question mark. So is the wildly inconsistent (and twice benched for violating team policies) Rueben Randle. This is a very deep draft at wide receiver. And personally, I don’t pass on Amari Cooper or Kevin White if one of them manage to fall to #9.

Tight End

I think Larry Donnell has a very bright future in the NFL. He’s well on his way to becoming a serious pass-receiving threat, jumping from a nobody to ninth in the NFL in tight end catches in one year. If he can improve as a blocker, the Giants have a good starter. Daniel Fells is an average player but the Giants can win with him as a back-up. The enigma is Adrien Robinson. The team has a lot of time invested in him, but time is running out and he looks replaceable. Keep an eye on practice squader Jerome Cunningham – he has a lot of physical talent.

Linebacker

The Giants could be in decent shape here if three things happen: (1) Devon Kennard continues his ascent, (2) Jon Beason stays healthy, and (3) either J.T. Thomas or Jonathan Casillas can adequately man the other outside spot. The riskiest assumption is that the fragile Beason will stay healthy, but if he does, the Giants could be in business finally at linebacker. Jameel McClain is still in the picture too. It will be interesting to see who starts and where. But regardless the Giants could use some homegrown talent for insurance and eventual replacements for some of these guys in a year or two.

Summary

So in a nutshell, I see the team’s top needs being offensive line (either a starting tackle or guard), defensive end (unless the team is sold on Moore), safety, cornerback, and wide receiver. I think there are lesser needs at tight end and linebacker. And unless the quality is there (best player available), I don’t see the team drafting a running back, fullback, or quarterback high or at all. Defensive tackle is a wild card. Much depends on how the team views Ellis and Bromley, but I’m more optimistic there.

I will say this, if some things break the Giants way (Moore and Bromley on the defensive line; Pugh, Beatty, Richburg, and Schwartz on the offensive line; Beason at linebacker; and Cruz at wide receiver), the Giants are not bad shape. If 4/5ths of the line is truly set and Cruz is back, then the offense is mostly set minus one more stud on the OL. If Beason stays healthy, the linebackers are fine. And if Moore and Kennard can terrorize QBs off the edge opposite JPP, then the pass rush will be improved. In such an optimistic scenario, the draft would could focus on getting that tackle or guard in round one and finding help for a shallow secondary.

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Eric Kennedy

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

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