New York Giants 1996 NFL Draft Needs
- Linebackers: The Giants need a lot of help at this position. Inside, Michael Brooks, an unrestricted free agent, signed with Detroit. Brooks wasn’t a big loss because he did not have the bulk or instincts to play middle linebacker. Regardless, his departure creates even more uncertainty at the position. If the season were to start today, the starter at MLB would be Corey Widmer. Widmer is the type of player (big and physical) that the Giants need at the position. However, he is relatively inexperienced and some question whether or not he has the instincts necessary to play MLB. One of Dan Reeves’ biggest mistakes was not to play Corey Widmer more inside. Now the Giants must go into the 1996 season not knowing whether or not Widmer can handle his new responsibilities. There is also speculation that the Giants will shift DE/DT Coleman Rudolph to MLB — such transitions rarely are successful in the NFL. Jeff Rodgers, a first-year free agent, was cut by both the Bucs and Skins — ’nuff said. Outside, on the strongside, Corey Miller is solid and does most things well, but he does not get along well with the coaching staff. Miller is a good leader, but makes too many mental mistakes. His backup, Marcus Buckley, has shown nothing since he has been in the NFL and may also be better suited to the weakside. Buckley doesn’t have the strength or instincts to be truly effective. On the weakside, ex-Bronco import Michael Croel has proven to be a bust. Weak against the run, his pass rush skills were also lacking in 1995. Croel is also an unrestricted free agent and likely won’t be invited back. Reeves should have played his back-up, Jessie Armstead, more. Armstead has great speed and makes more plays, but is also susceptible to the run. Reserve Ben Talley did not play at all in 1995 and is a total unknown.
- Wide Receivers: The wide receiving position must vie with the linebackers for the Giants’ leading disaster area in 1995. It is fairly obvious that Mike Sherrard, an unrestricted free agent, can no longer be counted on to be the number one wide receiver. While Sherrard could still be effective in the right offense, he is over 30, has slipped too much, and makes too much money. Chris Calloway is a solid receiver, but rarely makes big plays and can disappear for too much of a game. He may be best suited as the 3rd WR. Thomas Lewis has the most ability of all the receivers on the roster, but hardly played in 1995 due to injury and Reeves’ refusal to play him more. Throughout his short career, Lewis has showed flashes of becoming a big-time receiver, but needs to prove that he can stay healthy. He also needs to run better routes. Arthur Marshall is a journeyman who shouldn’t even be playing in the NFL. He is also an unrestricted free agent and may not be invited back. Omar Douglas is speedy, but he is small and has trouble separating from defenders. Gary Harrell is also small and speedy, but he looks like a playmaker in the Stephen Baker mode. However, Harrell also seems to be in Reeves’ doghouse.
- Offensive Line: This position is on the verge of a major transition. Jumbo Elliott was signed by the Jets. Greg Bishop, who played last year at left guard, will now move back to left tackle, where he was Elliott’s back-up in 1994. Ideally, the Giants need somebody to compete with and backup Bishop at left tackle since it is not known whether or not he will be a capable starter at that position. At guard, Scott Davis, who suffered a severe knee injury in the preseason last year, Rob Zateckha, and new-comer Ron Stone should battle for two starting spots. Davis is on the small-side, but he is a solid player and a good puller. Zatechka showed very good promise last year and should eventually start either on the left or right side. Stone, a huge power player signed away from the Cowboys, is virtually guaranteed of starting at left or right guard, and possibly even right tackle. RT Doug Riesenberg and RG Lance Smith are the current incumbents on the right side, but both are over 30, declining, and make too much money. One or both may be cut before camp starts. The Giants would like huge RT Scott Gragg to win the job outright, but if he’s not ready to handle the position, Stone may have to start at right tackle. The center position is set with Brian Williams, but the Giants must decide whether or not they want to replace backup center Adam Schreiber. OG Derek Allen and OT Jerry Reynolds provide quality depth, but neither is starting material. OG Ken Dammann is camp fodder.
- Defensive Line: The Giants look solid outside, but still lack a true force in the middle. At defensive end, Michael Strahan had a breakout year against both the run and the pass and was the Giants most consistent player in the front seven. Ex-Viking import Rob Harris didn’t make the impact that was hoped, but he has a lot of tools and is still young. Rookie Jamal Duff was a huge surprise and looks like he may develop into a solid pass rusher. He does need to improve his play against the run, however, if he ever hopes to start. Chad Bratzke rarely played, but when he did, he showed some promise. Inside, ex-Patriot Ray Agnew played fairly well against the run, but only had one sack on the year. Keith Hamilton had another off year, but was double-teamed on most plays. Keith needs to play hard on every play. Backup DT Stacey Dillard is a journeyman run-stuffer who rarely gets near the passer. DT/DE Coleman Rudolph had four sacks, but three of them were garbage sacks — he rarely gets off of the line of scrimmage. Moreover, there is some speculation that he will be shifted to MLB. Rookie free agent Todd Yeaman, was injured in training camp, and is a total unknown.
- Defensive Backs: The Giants are set at safety with Jesse Campbell, Vencie Glenn, Maurice Douglas, Tito Wooten, and Rodney Young. At CB, Sparks and Randolph are very solid. However, depth is an area of primary concern. Willie Beamon and Jason Sehorn are only adequate as back-ups.
- Running Backs: Rodney Hampton remains one of the best running backs in the league. Rookie Ty Wheatley has tons of potential, but he had a disappointing season and some question his attitude and work ethic. To be fair to Wheatley, Reeves never allowed him to get into the flow of any game and Ty never developed a rapport with his blockers. Rookie fullback Charles Way was a huge surprise and looks like he may develop into an outstanding blocking back and potential pass receiver out of the backfield. Herschel Walker was a huge bust. The Giants employed Keith Elias as their 3rd down back down the final stretch, but he doesn’t have the quickness or ability to pick up the blitz that Dave Meggett had. We think the Giants would like to draft a Meggett-type back later in the draft. FB/H-Back Jeremy Burkett, a fine pass receiver, will provide good competition in camp.
- Tight Ends: The Giants ask their TE’s to block first and catch passes second and as long as the Giants maintain this philosophy, they will start TE’s who are not great receiving threats. Howard Cross was injured for most of the season and had a terrible year. H-Back Aaron Pierce is not the blocker that Cross is, but flashes very good ability as a pass receiver. He must become more consistent, however. Brian Kozlowski and Brian Saxton both block well, but are not big receiving threats.
- Quarterbacks: Dave Brown is an unrestricted free agent, but the organization appears committed to him and, for better or worse, he will be the quarterback for the franchise for the next few years. It’s tough to evaluate Tommy Maddox without him having been with the team in the preseason. We do like Stan White as a backup QB.
- Special Teams: Unless the Giants resign Bryne Diehl this offseason, they must come up with a punter to challenge Mike Horan who will be 37. Brad Daluiso is solid, but missed too many big kicks down the stretch.
Summary: The Giants need at least two linebackers and two wide receivers. They could also use a top-notch left tackle and defensive tackle. Depth at cornerback is also a concern. Thus, the Giants primary needs going into the 1996 NFL Draft are:
- Middle Linebacker
- Outside Linebacker
- Wide Receiver (2)
- Left Tackle
- Defensive Tackle