New York Giants 1998 NFL Draft Review

FIRST ROUND — S/CB Shaun Williams, 6-2, 210lbs, 4.47, UCLA: Heading into the draft, Williams was widely regarded as the best safety and second best defensive back after CB Charles Woodson. Though safety did not represent a pressing need for the Giants, Williams was clearly an excellent value pick at #24. A free safety at UCLA, Williams is such a good athlete that he may be able to play cornerback in the NFL at a very high level — similar to Jason Sehorn. He also can play strong safety. Shaun is a great athlete with fine quickness and great speed for his size. More than that, he is tough, physical, and instinctive. Williams is a big-time hitter in the Kenny Easley/Eric Turner mold and a sure tackler. He is also a superb blitzer. In fact, if you want to nitpick, his only real negatives are that he is bit of a long strider (but that is more due to his size) and he didn’t prove to be a big interceptor in the college ranks. He was a standout at the Senior Bowl. According to General Manager Ernie Accorsi, the Giants did have discussions with the Oilers about moving up to the #16 spot to draft WR Kevin Dyson, but the Oilers apparently were asking too much in return and they ended up drafting Dyson themselves. The Giants also discussed trading down, but were afraid of losing those players they had rated behind Williams. When the Giants’ pick came up, the decision, according to The New York Times, reportedly came down to Williams and OG Alan Faneca, but Williams was clearly rated much higher by the Giants. “We never realized he’d be there,” said Accorsi. “We trust the system and our board. There just wasn’t any question at that point we had to pick this player. He was significantly higher rated than other players we liked…It was actually an easy choice.” “Maybe a lot of people on the surface say, ‘A safety? Why?'”, said Head Coach Jim Fassel. “That’s not our thought process. You pick the best player on the board at that time and you never worry about it. Initially, he can come in and be an extra defensive back and play special teams. He’s a player who plays the game the way I like it played. He’s a fierce competitor. He’s a bright guy, and he plays hard. We figure if we have a good defense against the run, we’ll have a nickel package on the field a lot. And with his size, speed, and hit-ability,’ we can work him in to cover the slot receiver or maybe incorporate a new, different look which is good for him. And he also can help us on special teams…I will never, ever, ever leave the defense short.” To be honest, I would have drafted Faneca, but Williams has All-Pro ability and could develop into a true “impact player”. Fassel says the team has no immediate plans to try Williams at cornerback, but if he can play corner, like I think he can, he also could push Phillippi Sparks.

SECOND ROUND — WR Joe Jurevicius, 6-5, 230lbs, 4.60, Penn State: I love this pick. Jurevicius was one of my “favorites” heading into the draft and his selection fills a critical need for a big, play-making wide receiver. Joe is simply huge. Not only is he 6-5 and weigh 230lbs, but he has very long arms which give him an even greater physical advantage over even average-sized cornerbacks. Though his 40-time does not look impressive, Jurevicius has proven consistently to have knack for getting deep as evidenced by his superb yards-per-catch average for the past two years (over 20 yards a catch), despite playing in a VERY competitive conference. He has deceptive speed and will often lull a defender with his big, loping strides. Jurevicius has great hands and his quarterback looked to him in key situations. He is a clutch play-maker and big play-maker — two things the Giants need more of. Joe is an athletic, well-coordinated, and fluid player. On the negative side, given the fact that Penn State did not run a sophisticated offense, he may need some time to develop and needs to learn to run more precise routes. Also, due to his size, he is a long strider and thus not particularly quick out of his breaks (big receivers rarely are). Jurevicius was a standout at the Hula Bowl. If you like trick plays, Jurevicius is a very good passer and can also punt the ball. “I like the way Jurevicius competes,” said Fassel. “There were a couple guys there and he offered us a big receiver. He’s a very physical route runner. There’s no slow gear on this guy. Of all the big receivers in the draft, this is the guy I wanted.” In 1997, Joe caught 39 passes for 817 yards (20.9 average) and 10 touchdowns. Other players who caught my eye at this point were WR E.G. Green, WR Az-Zahir Hakim, and OG Mike Goff. But the Giants must have been intrigued with Joe’s combination of great size, hands, and play-making ability. I am sure Jurevicius will quickly become a fan favorite in the Meadowlands. He won’t be with opposing cornerbacks.

THIRD ROUND — WR Brian Alford, 6-2, 190lbs, 4.45, Purdue: When draft day finally arrived on Saturday, I got a funny feeling that Alford was going to the Giants. In fact, I said to a group of BBI’er who I was watching the draft with that he could be our “surprise” selection in round one. My biggest concern with him, and the reason why I had him rated lower on my draft board, was his intelligence. He flunked out of Purdue, but worked so hard in the offseason on his academics that he was re-instated for his senior season. Since Jim Fassel seems to detest dumb ball players (see WR Amani Toomer and TE Aaron Pierce), my gut feeling tells me that the Giants must feel that Brian is much more “football smart” than “book smart”. They must because they were certainly hot after him. They traded up 15 spots in the third round with arch rival Philadelphia to draft Alford and gave up their fourth rounder in order to do so. Not only were the Giants very high on him, but they may have felt that the Colts, who picked right after Philly, might be tempted to keep the local boy in-state (the Colts drafted E.G. Green right after the Giants took Alford). “Well (Team Co-Owner Wellington Mara) leaned over to me and said we were going to get dog meat when we selected (with their own third round pick),” said Director of Personnel Tom Boisture. “I agreed with him and thought it would be important for us to try to move up.” According to several reports, the Giants had Jurevicius and Alford ranked 1-2 among the receivers remaining in the draft and there was a big debate in the second round whether to take Jurevicius or Alford. The Giants ended up with both. “We had a need, and it cost us a fourth round pick to get two players at a position that is very important in Jim’s offense,” said Boisture. “The two are different style receivers. Jurevicius can run slants, and you can just throw the ball out there to him and let him go up and get it against a smaller cornerback. Alford is more of a speed guy.” “We were very happy to get both,” said Accorsi. “It was such a tough decision deciding between Jurevicius and Alford. It was really close. There were strong opinions on both sides. Right after we took Jurevicius, I figured we’d try to them both…We struggled at (wide receiver). We needed to get better there.” Alford is another receiver with excellent size, but he is much faster and quicker than Jurevicius. Also, he comes from a much more sophisticated offense and thus may be better able to make an impact sooner. In fact, Purdue ran a complicated “West Coast Offense” last year and Alford had his best year — evidence that he may be “football smart.” He is fluid, athletic, productive, and a team leader. Brian is a good route runner and gets good separation from defenders out of his cuts. He will run over the middle and runs well after the catch. Alford was his quarterback’s go-to guy in clutch situations and regularly made big plays for Purdue. His hands are decent and he can make incredible catches, but he is not as sure-handed as Jurevicius. He also has been somewhat inconsistent in his play. Brian had a great combine where he ran much faster (4.45) than expected and showed great hands in receiving drills. “Alford has a tremendous upside,” said Fassel. “A raw talent who can really improve.” In 1997, Alford caught 59 passes for 1,167 yards (19.8 average) and 9 touchdowns. I like the pick and in hindsight I should have had Alford rated much higher on my draft board. Again, E.G. Green and Az-Zahir Hakim interested me here and OG Melvin Thomas, but Alford makes a lot of sense and gives QB Danny Kanell another play-maker to throw to. With Chris Calloway, Ike Hilliard, Jurevicius, and Alford sure to make the team, the Giants now have four wide receivers with four very distinctive styles of play. “That’s what I’d like to have,” said Fassel. “Guys who can do different things.” (Side Note: An interesting adjective often used to describe the Giants’ top three picks is the word “fluid”).

FIFTH ROUND — OT/OG Toby Myles, 6-5, 315lbs, 5.30, Jackson State: Even though Myles was not on my draft board, he was a highly regarded prospect by many and it is somewhat shocking that he lasted to the fifth round. In fact, many had him projected as a second round pick. Myles is very gifted athlete with excellent size. He played left tackle in college and has quick enough feet to play that position in the pros or even left guard. Well-coordinated, Toby also has the long arms that all NFL teams crave in their offensive lineman. He can pull and hit defenders on the move and he has the potential to develop into an outstanding pass blocker. However, Toby is raw and needs a lot of technique work. He also needs to get much stronger. But these are all things that can be improved upon. The big reason Myles wasn’t on my draft board is that some have questioned whether or not he is mean or tough enough to succeed at the next level. There are also questions about his work ethic. “He was an underachiever, said Boisture. “He did well, but at Jackson State he could have crushed people. There was a lot of inconsistency with him. But with good coaching and technique, we think there’s a big upside if we can find his button.” Offensive Line Coach John Matsko may have to get on him, but if Myles is willing to pay the price (a big if), then his selection represents one of the true steals of the draft. Boom-or-bust. Myles did play well at the Senior Bowl. At this point of the draft, players I was interested in included OC Aaron Taylor, OG Melvin Thomas, DE Eric Ogbogu, and DE/OLB Jason Chorak (as a situational pass rusher).

SIXTH ROUND — TE Todd Pollack, 6-3, 245lbs, 5.00, Boston College: Pollack is a smart player with average size and good hands, but he lacks speed and quickness. He has a good feel for getting open against zone coverage, but struggles against man-to-man. Not a very good blocker, though he usually keeps good position and does work at it. He can also make the deep snap on special teams. “Teams that worked Pollack out liked him better than teams that didn’t,” said Boisture. “He had a very good workout for us. He ran a good time (4.72) and caught the ball well. He could make our team as the long-snapper and then will have the chance to develop at tight end.” In 1997, he caught 28 passes for 296 yards (10.6 average) and one touchdown. Seems like a marginal prospect on the surface, though he is the kind of smart football player Fassel likes. Again, I would have taken Taylor, Thomas, or Chorak at this spot.

SEVENTH ROUND — OC Ben Fricke, 6-1, 285lbs, 5.10, Houston: Fricke lacks size, but he is a very smart, strong, and quick center who often wins battles by getting into his opponent before he can react. He is not only quick off the snap, but he has very quick hands — which is often critically important for a center. A good technician — Ben understands positional play and leverage. Can run and pass block. He is a hard worker and has the tenacious attitude on the playing field that coaches love. However, Fricke is not a naturally big man and may struggle when facing big lineman. Seems like a solid selection if he can overcome his lack of size (a big if) at the next level. “He’s Jim Fassel’s kind of player,” said Boisture. “Very fiercely competitive…He is tough as a boot. He’ll grab you by the throat and choke you to death.”

Rookie Free Agent Signings

QB Ben Anderson, 6-4, 210lbs, 4.90, Liberty: Smart, athletic quarterback who has received a lot of pro style coaching. Tall, but not muscular. Lacks arm strength and a quick release. Unless someone gets injured, Ben really doesn’t have a chance to make the team, but he will be useful in camp as a fourth arm.

FB Greg Comella, 6-0, 235lbs, 4.65, Stanford: Smaller fullback who runs well for his size. Good receiver out of the backfield. OK blocker, but needs to improve in this area. Athletic with quick feet and decent speed. Tough and competitive. Has had some knee problems. Split time with FB Jon Ritchie who was taken in the 3rd round by the Raiders. Has a good chance to beat out Eric Lane for the back-up fullback job.

TE Andy Haase, 6-4, 255lbs, 4.95, Northern Colorado: Pass receiving TE with good hands, but below-average speed. Smart, tough, and competitive. Tries hard when blocking, but doesn’t stand out in this phase. Has some developmental potential. Needs a lot of strength and technique work.

OC Cory Bailey, Fordham University: We have no information on this player.

OT/OG Darryl Gilliam, 6-5, 325lbs, 5.45, Maryland: Left tackle who may also be able to play guard. Huge player who has problems watching his weight. Athletic and has good feet. Has fine pass protection potential. Flashes tremendous ability, but is an underachiever. Needs much better technique and needs to work harder in the weight room. At times, has problems re-directing. Needs more fire in his belly and to play tougher. A diamond in the rough. If he wants it and learns quickly, he could make the roster and have a solid future in the NFL.

OT/OG Greg Studdard, 6-5, 305lbs, 5.33, Sam Houston State: Big lineman who is relatively inexperienced, but generally grades out well. Comes from a small school and needs a ton of technique work. Improving, but lacks agility and quick feet. Must work harder and play with more intensity. Long-shot to make the team.

OT/OG Jason Whittle, 6-5, 295lbs, 5.30, Southwestern Missouri State: Smart player who knows how to position himself. Decent quickness, but lacks strength and explosion. Needs a lot of strength and technique work. Long-shot to make the team.

DT Nate Hobgood-Chittick, 6-4, 285lbs, 5.10, North Carolina: Did not start at North Carolina, but rotated often with two highly regarded DT’s. Smaller-than-ideal, but Nate is a smart, tough, hard working, aggressive, competitive player with decent quickness. Improving. Has a very good chance to make the roster as a back-up DT.

DT Jimmie Bell, 6-5, 270lbs, 5.15, Ohio State: Tall, but narrow DT. Bell was a very highly recruited DT who was limited in college because of a knee injury. Might be a sleeper, but he is a long-shot to make the team.

DT Hunter Adams, 6-5, 275lbs, 5.25, Bucknell: We have very little information on this player.

DE Chris Snyder, 6-2, 270lbs, 5.00, Penn State: Smaller-than-ideal player who makes a lot of plays. Overachiever. Strong and mobile, he has decent pass rush skills. Decent run defender, though he can get smothered by big offensive linemen at times. Solid player and potential, but will always be limited due to his size and lack of great agility. May get caught up in a number’s game at defensive end. Might be worthy of the practice squad.

DE George Williams, 6-3, 285lbs, 5.00, North Carolina State: Average-sized lineman with decent quickness. Needs to work and play harder. Needs to improve his strength and technique. Long-shot.

SLB Jason Nevadomsky, 6-1, 240lbs, 4.90, UCLA: Somewhat of a DE/LB tweener. Moves well and is aggressive. Lacks experience. Long-shot.

WLB Marcel Willis, 6-2, 230lbs, 4.55, Ohio State: Very athletic linebacker with fine quickness and speed. However, he lacks instincts and a feel for the game. Has trouble playing off blocks. Long-shot.

CB Rashee Johnson, 5-10, 178lbs, 4.55, Arizona: Quick corner with good feet and change of direction. Lacks speed, but usually played against the opposition’s best receiver. Solid tackler. Tough, physical, and competitive. His survival in the NFL depends on his speed. He might not have enough of it to succeed at the next level, but he’s the kind of guy you root for.

CB Raphaol Ball, 5-10, 180lbs, 4.40, Ball State: If you could combine Ball’s speed with Johnson’s feel for the game, then you would have a player. Ball is a fast player who doesn’t show the instincts or cover skills to succeed in the NFL. He is an improving player and has played on special teams, but that is about it. Ball was beat by Randy Moss for four touchdowns.