by Colin Lindsay
Great Blue North Draft Report
January 14, 2007
First things first… Perhaps the most interesting comment to come out of the whole coaching/G.M. kerfuffle over the past week or so in Giantsland was the reference to the fact that Chris Mara, one of the candidates to replace Ernie Accorsi as the Giants’ G.M., was strongly in favor of overhauling the Giants’ scouting staff. And Mara would be in a position to know because, while there is the family connection, he is actually a well-respected football guy who has grown up working in the Giants’ personnel office. That brought to the forefront a couple of thoughts that have been percolating in the back of our mind of late. In particular, every scouting department in the NFL has its hits and misses, but the Giants seem to have more than their share of misses of late. Indeed, there have been several instances in recent years in which the Giants personnel folks have completely missed the boat. And we aren’t talking about John Markham here!
However it finally works out, the Eli Manning draft deal will always be remembered as Ernie Accorsi’s signature statement with the Giants. Accorsi, though, never worked in a vacuum in New York and there is no way that ownership would have signed onto the deal unless there was a strong consensus throughout the organization in support of the trade. And that means there had to be a pretty broad consensus within the Giants personnel department that not only was Manning a great prospect, but that he was also head and shoulders better than the other two QBs available that year. And that assessment would have run counter to the overall consensus around the NFL which seemed to be that yes Manning was a good prospect but that he wasn’t necessarily that much better than either Philip Rivers or Ben Rothlisberger. While the final history still has to be written, at least at this time, the Giants appear to have gotten it wrong as Rothlisberger has already won a Super Bowl, while Rivers is off to this year’s Pro Bowl.
Then there is the somewhat disturbing situation regarding the Giants second round selections of CB Corey Webster and WR Sinorice Moss the past couple of years. In both cases the Giants’ scouting department apparently went gaga over each of these two players in pre-draft workouts. In Webster’s case, for example, Giants’ scouts were so impressed with the overall athleticism he showed at his on-campus workout that they wrote him off as a Giants’ prospect figuring that he would never last until the Giants’ pick in the second round; that despite the fact that Webster really wasn’t all that fast and had had a terrible week of practice at the Senior Bowl. Meanwhile, the Giants reportedly had Moss rated as the #1 WR overall at last year’s draft despite the fact is he is something of a smurf. And, of course, the Giants ultimately traded up in the second round to get Moss who ultimately had 5 catches for 25 yards on the season, although he likely still wasn’t fully 100% after missing the better part of the year with a leg injury. It also doesn’t help of course that Santonio Holmes, the receiver the Giants passed on when they traded down with Pittsburgh emerged as a big-play WR and KR as the season progressed this fall. The only consolation is that DE Mathias Kiwanuka, whom the Giants did select when they finally did make their opening round pick this year, also looks like a keeper with a promising upside.
One has to be careful about extrapolating too much into these various moves; the draft is a crap shoot and this is a very small sample. However, this is clearly something that the team’s new G.M. will want to re-evaluate. One other word of caution we have for the incoming G.M. Be wary – very wary – of trading up on draft day even if there is a player the organization really likes. This is not as an indictment of Accorsi and his regime. In fact, draft analysts around the league have always been quick to compliment teams that go after a player they do like. However, our research indicates that players teams ‘really like’ and ultimately go after, surprisingly don’t appear to turn out to be any better pros than other players selected in the same spots.
The new G.M. will also want to be very cautious about trading up in order to fill a need as again the success rate across the league for such moves is somewhat spotty. And the Giants has been spottier than most. Indeed, the Giants traded what amounts to a full draft for the right to move up in the draft in order to get QB Eli Manning (1st, 3rd and 5th round picks); CB Will Allen (2nd and 6th) and TE Jeremy Shockey (4th) in the 2001 through 2004 drafts. We will leave it to others smarter than us to argue the merits of each move, however, it is tough to make the case that the Giants got much of anything on balance from the three deals when comparing what they ended up with and what they likely would have gotten had they simply stayed put with their original picks.
Help is on the way… All that said, the draft is like the Cubbies: there’s always next year and, indeed, the draft process is already well under way with the draft now just over 100 days away. And while it almost always used to seem that the draft-day stars were always out of line, the early line on the 2007 draft is that it is shaping up fairly well for the Giants such that they should be able to fill some needs with the 20th pick overall and beyond. Here’s a quick rundown on how the positions that the Giants are likely to be focused on over the course of the next 3-4 months. In no particular order…
Why the Giants will draft a CB… The Giants, of course, rebuilt their secondary last winter with the signing of veteran free agents Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters and the promotion of 2005 second rounder Corey Webster to the starting unit. Needless to say the results were mixed. The Giants didn’t give up many big completions, but did get nickled and dimed to death virtually all season as they habitually gave up plenty of cushion. Individually Madison and McQuarters actually weren’t all that bad, but both are well into their 30s, while Madison has clearly lost a step or two. Meanwhile, Webster turned out to be slow, not very physical and not particularly instinctive, but otherwise showed plenty of potential. In the end, Webster was outplayed most of the season by undrafted rookie free agent Kevin Dockery who did show some game, although he is still an undrafted free agent. Still, the Giants desperately need is an infusion of speed and athleticism on the corner.
2007 draft options: The good news is that it is pretty good year at the position and the Giants should get a look at a decent prospect or two with the 20th pick from a group of top-tier CBs that includes Michigan’s Leon Hall, Pitt junior Darrelle Revis, and Marcus McCauley of Fresno State, who may have the best overall athletic skills of this year’s top corners. There is also a solid second-tier group of corners including Fred Bennett of South Carolina, Daymeion Hughes of California, and Aaron Ross and Terrell Brown of Texas while there should be some potentially useful late first/early second day prospects including players like Jonathan Wade of Tennessee, Tony Franklin of Virginia, David Irons of Auburn, Josh Wilson of Maryland, Clemson junior C.J. Gaddis, Reggie Lewis and Ryan Smith of national champion Florida, and Tavarous Bain of Hampton, a former Miami recruit with 4.45 speed who is the top small-school prospect in the 2007 draft class. However, while there is some early talent in this year’s CB class, it really isn’t all that deep so the Giants will not want to wait too long to upgrade at the position through the draft if that is indeed their goal.
Why the Giants will draft a safety… Other than inconsistent QB Eli Manning, no individual took more personal abuse from fans and the media for the Giants woes this fall than FS Will Demps, whose high-profile whiffs on open-field tackles may have cost the Giants a win or two, although Demps and SS Gibril Wilson actually had reasonably productive seasons, combining for over 200 tackles, four interceptions, four forced fumbles and 17 pass breakups. The problem, though, is that both Wilson and Demps are natural strong safeties who are most comfortable closing on the line of scrimmage and what the Giants really need is a centerfielder type of FS with range in coverage.
2007 draft options: Unfortunately, the Giants win over Washington to get into the playoffs may have cost the Giants a shot at either Florida junior Reggie Nelson or Laron Landry of LSU, this year’s top safeties, and the only two players at the position worth a first round pick, although the Giants will hope that at least one drops as safety hasn’t necessarily been a prime draft day position in years. Like CB, there is some depth at the position, though, and players like Brandon Meriweather, Eric Weddle of Utah , Michael Griffin of Texas , Tanard Jackson of Syracuse and John Wendling of Wyoming. In fact, Weddle could be a very intriguing option for the Giants in the second round, while the hard-hitting Jackson, who played CB in college, would be a nice fit in the third, meaning the Giants won’t necessarily have to force a first-round pick on the position. In fact, there is some depth at safety this year, however, most of the better second day prospects are more SS types than FSs.
Why the Giants will draft a LB… It must have been painful for former great Giants’ LBs like Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson and Carl Banks to watch this bunch this year. Even MLB Antonio Pierce, who led the Giants with 140 tackles, really didn’t have that great as too many of his tackles were downfield as he didn’t shed blocks as easily as he did in the past. Pierce was also victimized in coverage in a number of key instances, although a case can be made that he never should have been asked to be in those coverages in the first place. Meanwhile, veterans Carlos Emmons, LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short all struggled mightily with injuries in one form or another and weren’t all that productive when they were healthy. At the same time, 2006 3rd rounder Gerris Wilkinson showed some decent range at times, but missed too many tackles; it also wasn’t a good sign when he was a healthy scratch for the playoff game with the Eagles.
2007 draft options: The Giants clearly have some more work to do this off-season to get faster and more athletic at LB. However, if they are going to impact the position with their first-round pick it will almost have to be Patrick Willis of Ole Miss as there really aren’t any other LBs, either inside or outside guys, with opening round grades this year. For the record, Willis is a 6-2, 230-pounder with 4.6 speed who plays with an attitude. There should be more options in the second round, although this is not a strong year for LBs. Players who could be options with the 51st pick include H.B. Blades of Pitt, Earl Everett of Florida, Rufus Alexander of Oklahoma, Prescott Burgess of Michigan and Florida State junior Lawrence Timmons. Meanwhile, a couple of sleepers to watch in the 3rd round might be Anthony Waters of Clemson, who can really run but is coming off a torn ACL, and small college star Justin Durant of Hampton who has sub-4.55 speed.
Why the Giants will draft a WR… While Plaxico Burress still drives everybody crazy, he a solid #1 receiver, however, the Giants have issues with the rest of their WR corps. Amani Toomer is coming off a torn ACL and even if he’s 100% this coming season, the Giants will need to find another option at the #2 WR slot sooner rather later. Assuming that Toomer is healthy next fall, the Giants prime need is for some depth at the 3-4 receiver spots. The Giants certainly hope that Sinorice Moss would figure in that role, however, his audition this fall can hardly have filled them with confidence.
2007 draft options: While the Giants probably will miss out on the very best receivers in the 2007 draft class such as Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech or Southern Cal ‘s Dwayne Jarrett, this should be a very good year at the position. The Giants, for example, could get a shot at a couple of other top underclassmen in Ohio State ‘s Ted Ginn or Sidney Rice of South Carolina. However, while both are super athletes, neither is a very polished receiver. Indeed, a dark horse for that 20th pick may be Tennessee junior Robert Meacham who has both intriguing size (6-2, 210) and speed (sub-4.35) and reminds one of a young Javon Walker, although Meacham was inconsistent earlier in his Vols’ career. The Giants, though, should also have good options at WR in the second round in players like Dwayne Bowe of LSU, Paul Williams of Fresno State, Ohio State junior Anthony Gonzalez among others. Indeed, there will be good players at the position right through the draft. Also, for future reference, as good as the 2007 WR class is going to be the 2008 draft may even be stronger at the position so the Giants need not force something early this year.
Why the Giants will draft a RB… Tiki Barber brought new meaning to the concept of going out on top as he posted yet another 2,000 plus yards from scrimmage season including over 1,600 yards rushing, although the running game never really dominated many games this fall. However, while Barber, who leaves as both the Giants all-time leading rusher and pass receiver, the running game would appear to be in good hands with Brandon Jacobs. The 2005 4th rounder lacks Barber’s patience and natural instincts, but is bigger, faster and more explosive. And like Barber, Jacobs is both a good receiver – he actually played some TE in college – and very good blocker. Indeed, the Giants have to be quietly hoping that they can reprise the situation in Kansas City where the Chiefs running game made a seamless transition from Priest Holmes to Larry Johnson. The Giants, though, will need a complimentary back as Jacobs takes a lot of punishment.
2007 draft options: The Giants aren’t likely to use an early pick on a RB although they’d be very happy if California junior Marshawn Lynch somehow slipped down to the 20th pick in this year’s draft. For the most part, though, this is not a real strong year at the position, although the addition of several juniors such as Darius Walker of Notre Dame, who wasn’t really expected to leave school early, might provide some late first-day options. More likely, though, the Giants will look to add a back with an early second day pick this coming April on a player such as Northern Illinois scatback Garrett Wolfe, Lorenzo Booker of Florida State, Kolby Smith of Louisville, or Alonzo Coleman of Hampton.
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