New York Giants 1999 NFL Draft Review

FIRST ROUND — OT/OG Luke Petitgout, 6-6, 315lbs, 5.15, Notre Dame: When the Raiders took OT Matt Stinchcomb of Georgia right before the Giants’ pick, it looked for certain to most fans that the draft had broken the right way for the Jints and that they would obviously take RT/OG Aaron Gibson of Wisconsin or LT/OG L.J. Shelton of Eastern Michigan. But to everyone’s surprise, the team picked Petitgout. Only time will tell if Petitgout turns out to be the better player. Also at issue is whether the Giants could have traded down or not and still landed Petitgout. Supposedly, Petitgout was rated as the second best offensive lineman by the Giants in the draft and they did not want to risk losing him to another team.

If there was one theme to the Giants’ draft, it was they selected a bunch of tough, competitive, hard-working athletes who hate to lose. Petitgout fits right into that mode. He played left tackle at Notre Dame and while he has the feet to play that position in the pros, I look for him to start off at left guard in the spot vacated by the departure of Greg Bishop. Petitgout is a very, very steady and consistent lineman. He usually wins all his match-ups, even though he doesn’t normally do it in a dominating fashion. Petitgout has good size and he is a very good athlete. He is quick off the mark both in his run and pass blocks. He can pull and trap very well for his size. Luke is a strong player (benching 225lbs 33 times at the Combine). He can’t be bull-rushed. Combine that with his quick set up, feet, and ability to adjust, it makes Luke a tough customer against the pass rush. In fact, his man rarely gets near the quarterback. Petitgout plays with good technique — he has a feel for blocking angles and plays with leverage, though he needs to do the latter on a more consistent basis. Petitgout has some explosiveness and pop in his run blocks. He sustains and finishes his run blocks well too. He likes to punish defenders. Mentally, Luke is what every team is looking for in a lineman. He is tough, competitive, smart, and has a mean streak. Petitgout plays hard all the time, even when the game is lost. Luke has good leadership ability — he was voted a team captain by his teammates last season. He showed very well against the top talent in the nation at the Senior Bowl practices.

Luke may suffer through some typical rookie problems, but I look for him to become a very good lineman for the Giants for a long time. Just as important as his playing ability, he brings some much needed toughness and aggressiveness to the Giants’ offensive line.

SECOND ROUND — HB Joe Montgomery, 5-10, 225lbs, 4.50, Ohio State: There were pretty strong indications that the Giants would pick halfback in round two. When the Giants’ turn came up, I was expecting to here the name of Amos Zereoue or Sedrick Irvin if we went that route. With OT Solomon Page and OG Doug Brzezinski still there, that would have been very tempting too. However, the Giants once again surprised me by selecting Montgomery. After a closer look at the player, I like this pick.

Montgomery’s career at Ohio State was retarded when he suffered a very serious knee injury in 1996. After a long and painful rehab process, he came back to play in 1997. However, it was pretty clear at that time that the knee was affecting his play…especially his explosiveness. He once again started slowly in 1998 as a back-up behind Michael Wiley, but by the end of the year, he looked like his old self again and was playing a key role in almost every Ohio State game coming off the bench. Joe finished the year with 766 yards on 118 carries for a 6.5 yards-per-carry average and 7 touchdowns. Highlights last year included games against Northwestern (17 carries for 100 yards), Iowa (12 carries for 144 yards), and Texas A&M (9 carries for 96 yards). He finished that up by playing extremely well in the East-West Shrine Game where he was named game MVP.

Montgomery is a big, powerful tailback with good speed and quick feet for his size. He runs with good body lean and with his pad level down. Joe is very tough, competitive, and instinctive. He gets into the hole quickly and has a little burst once he is there. Patient — he sets up his blockers. Montgomery runs with an aggressive and physical style that wears defenders out. He regularly breaks tackles and picks up sizable yardage after initial contact…he finishes his runs very well. Montgomery isn’t a real elusive back, but he has some shiftiness in the hole and is good on the cutback. Joe has enough speed to get outside at times, but the strength of his game is between the tackles. He wasn’t used much in the passing game at Ohio State, but he has decent hands. He needs to improve his blocking technique however. Joe is smart and shows good leadership qualities. The knee injury is supposedly fine now. If that is true, then Montgomery will probably be the Giants’ feature runner in a year or two.

THIRD ROUND — TE Dan Campbell, 6-5, 265lbs, 4.80, Texas A&M: Given what the Giants had done in the first two rounds, I thought they would go offensive line here again. Specifically, I was eyeing OG’s Anthony Cesario and David Loverne. I also thought this is a spot where the Giants may draft a tight end. Campbell wasn’t the kind of guy who I expected the Giants to look at. He’s more of a blocker than receiver at this point. But in hindsight, I should have remembered the old tight end tenet that says if you can’t block, you won’t play.

Campbell is a big, strong (22 reps of 225lbs at the Combine) player. He’s another tough, competitive guy. Dan is also surprisingly athletic. He has good quickness and speed for his size. Campbell wasn’t a factor in the Aggies’ passing game, but that was mainly due to the design of the offense. Dan finished the year with only 7 catches for 98 yards (a 9.7 yards-per-catch average) and one touchdown. Given his inexperience in the passing game, Campbell doesn’t look real fluid as a receiver at this point. Dan is a good, but not dominating, blocker. He gets into his blocks quickly and sustains well when he plays with good technique. He needs to play with better leverage however. Dan caught the ball well at the East-West Shrine Game practices, but most reports say he is a body-catcher. Because of his size and strength, he can break tackles after the catch. Campbell is a team leader and plays hard all the time. He was voted the Aggies’ “Most Inspirational Player” by teammates after the season. His college coaches loved him too.

FOURTH ROUND — HB Sean Bennett, 6-1, 222lbs, 4.50, Northwestern: When the selection of Bennett was announced, I was left scrambling for my draft books. Who is Sean Bennett? I was expecting another offensive lineman or a defensive player here. I wasn’t expecting another big back. Upon doing some more research, I found out that Bennett doesn’t play like your average big back. In the truest sense of the word, the Giants are hoping Bennett turns out to be a “sleeper.”

Bennett combines very good size and athletic ability. For two years, he was a star at Division III Evansville College. To say he was productive at Evansville would be a huge understatement. Highlights included a 313 yard effort against San Diego, 279 yards against Kentucky Wesleyan, 238 yards against Morehead State (Phil Simms’ old school), and 232 yards against Butler. After two seasons, he accumulated an incredible 2,856 yards rushing and 39 touchdowns. However, heading into his season, Evansville terminated its football program and Sean transferred to Northwestern in the Big 10. While there, the Northwestern coaching staff moved him to fullback. Then he was used as a receiver out of the backfield, coming off the bench. He didn’t see the ball much and only carried it 32 times all year for 160 yards (for a 5.0 yards-per-carry average). He also was credited with 17 pass receptions for 228 yards and 11 kickoff returns for 220 yards. ”He was like a man playing against boys at Evansville, and he was worth a shot for us,” said John Wristen, the running-backs coach at Northwestern who followed Gary Barnett to Colorado after the staff was fired following last season. ”I don’t know whether we used him properly. I felt bad the whole time. He probably got screwed in this whole deal but there wasn’t one word said.”

Sean is big back with fine speed (he has run a 4.45 forty-yard dash), balance, and good moves. His super-production at Evansville also indicates an explosiveness and big-play element to his game. He is a good cutback runner. Sean has good hands and the Giants have said he will compete initially as a 3rd down back against Tiki Barber. Bennett also can return punts and kicks.

FIFTH ROUND — OT/OG Mike Rosenthal, 6-7, 310lbs, 5.40, Notre Dame: Finally the Giants once again addressed the offensive line. Guys I was looking at at this point included Derrick Fletcher, Yusuf Scott, and Jamar Nesbit. But the Giants once again went with a big, physical, competitive tough guy in Mike Rosenthal.

Rosenthal played right tackle at Notre Dame, opposite of first rounder Luke Petitgout. He is a big and strong guy (22 reps of 225lbs at the Combine), but he is not terribly athletic and lacks quick feet. Thus, I see him be moved inside to guard where he will be protected more. His lack of lateral agility will expose him outside at the pro level.

Mike is a solid player who does a decent job both run blocking and pass blocking. As I mentioned, he’s a tough guy who enjoys the physical aspect of the game. Once he locks onto a defender, he usually will win the match-up. But quick defenders can give him problems at times. He also probably won’t be a strong puller. Rosenthal can maul an opponent in the running game and gets movement. He has good initial quickness in his run blocks and gets some pop when he plays with more leverage. Against the pass, players with strong counter moves can give Mike trouble. He is on the stiff side and doesn’t have a terribly quick setup in pass protection. However, he can’t be bullrushed. Rosenthal is a smart player and experienced (he started as a freshman). He plays hard all the time and is very competitive.

SIXTH ROUND — S Lyle West, 6-0, 200lbs, 4.55, San Jose State: I have little information on this prospect. He started at free safety and was credited with an amazingly high 122 tackles last season for the San Jose State Spartans. He also had five interceptions and 11 pass breakups.

SIXTH ROUND — CB Andre Weathers, 6-0, 190lbs, 4.55, Michigan: Weathers was slowed as senior due to a knee injury. Andre has good size for a cornerback. He is an instinctive, aggressive, physical corner who likes to challenge receivers. However, he lacks great speed and a closing burst. Weathers can be exposed somewhat in man-to-man situations because of that. He is a good tackler. Weathers totaled 42 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 4 pass breakups last year.

SEVENTH ROUND — DT Ryan Hale, 6-5, 295lbs, 5.10, Arkansas: Hale is a big, tough defensive tackle who goes full bore all the time. He is not terribly athletic however, though he does have decent quickness for his size. Ryan is much better against the run than the pass. He needs to play with more coordination. Hale played nose tackle his senior season and totaled 30 tackles and two sacks.

SEVENTH ROUND — LB O.J. Childress, 6-1, 245lbs, 4.65, Clemson: This guy looks like a very interesting prospect. Childress didn’t start until his senior season as he was stuck behind some very good players at Clemson. Much of his senior year was spent playing hurt (with a sprained knee and a broken wrist) — which shows you how tough he is. Although he lacks great height, he has good bulk and he is a good athlete with fine speed and quickness. O.J. is aggressive and instinctive against the run and tackles well. However, he needs to shed blocks better. At times, he has trouble with big linemen. He does fairly well in pass coverage given his athleticism. Childress was also one of Clemson’s top special teams players. It will be interesting to see where the Giants play him — on the strongside or the weakside.

Rookie Free Agent Signings

QB Steve Buck, 6-4, 215lbs, 4.90, Weber State: Buck began his college career at UCLA but transferred to Weber State when he realized that he wouldn’t get much playing time behind Cade McNown. However, two games into his senior season, he suffered a knee injury and was done for the year. As a junior he threw for 2,393 yards and 15 touchdowns with just 9 interceptions. Buck has good size and a decent arm. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, but he needs to improve his accuracy. He is also fairly mobile. Buck has better tools than your average rookie free agent quarterback and could surprise.

KR/PR/WR/CB Bashir Levingston, 5-10, 181lbs, 4.35, Eastern Washington: Bashir was mainly brought on board due to his superb return skills. During his senior season, he returned three kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns — averaging 29.5 yard per kickoff return and 20.8 yards per punt return. Bashir certainly has the speed for cornerback, but I don’t have much information on his cover skills. Levingston also played some wide receiver where he caught 11 passes for 357 yards (an amazing 32.5 yards-per-catch average). Plus six of his eleven catches went for touchdowns!

WR Kenny Cheatham, 6-2, 210lbs, 4.55, Nebraska: Kenny is a tall receiver with fine athletic ability. A good leaper. Cheatham lacks quickness — mainly due to his size. Kenny adjusts well to poorly thrown pass and has good hands. He makes some highlight reel-type catches. However, Cheatham hasn’t proven to be very durable and thus is still very raw. He only caught 13 passes for 155 yards and one touchdown his senior year. He is tough — he tries to play hurt — but he just seems very injury-prone.

WR Ray Curry, 5-9, 175lbs, 4.36, Toledo: Lacks size, but Curry is very fast. Better athlete than player at this point. Curry led the University of Toledo Rockets in receptions and receiving yards last season, with 45 catches for 513 yards. Curry also led the team in kickoff returns with a 22.3-yard average, returning 13 kicks for 290 yards with a long of 60 yards.

OC Greg Davis, 6-4, 320lbs, TCU: I have little information on this prospect.

OG Scott Kiernan, 6-3, 320lbs, 5.50, Syracuse: Kiernan lacks height, but has good bulk. He is not terribly athletic, but he is strong. Scott is more of a short-area mauler, yet he can get out and pull despite his poor 40-time. He is a tough, aggressive, competitive guy. He gets good movement in his run blocks. His lack of overall athleticism, however, hurts him in pass protection against quick defenders. While Scott is on the stiff side, he can’t be bullrushed. Kiernan is not the type of guy you want starting, but he could make a very solid back-up.

OL Dan Lauta, 6-5, 300lbs, Buffalo: I have very little information on this prospect. Was a 3-year starter and team captain in 1998.

DE Frank Ferrara, 6-3, 265lbs, 5.00, University of Rhode Island: Competitive and hard-working. Was credited with 81 tackles and 27 tackles for a loss in 1998.

DE Greg Derrick, 6-4, 265lbs, 4.90, NC State: Good height and can still add bulk. Athletic with fine quickness and decent speed. Not real productive or instinctive at this point. Needs to shed better. Raw — will take some time if he makes it.

DE Rasheed Simmons, 6-5, 255lbs, 4.85, Maryland: Transfer from Michigan. Athletic and has good tools. Must shed quicker and get stronger. Was credited with 39 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 1998.

DT Steve Konopka, 6-4, 290lbs, 5.10, Central Connecticut: Was named his conference’s “Defensive Player of the Year” in 1998 when he totaled 63 tackles, 19 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, 12 sacks, and an interception. Steve is a tough, aggressive lineman. Strong. He has a touch of nastiness in his play and plays hard all the time. Not a top athlete. Steve will be a much better run defender than pass rusher at the pro level. He can hold his ground against the run — plays with fine leverage. On the pass rush, he lacks quickness and a closing burst. The type of guy coaches love on their team.

LB Jesse Tarplin, 6-2, 250lbs, 4.75, Georgia Tech: Played defensive end in college, but projects to linebacker in the pros. Athletic…Jesse has good quickness for his size. Decent run defender, though he needs to shed better. Tough and competitive…he plays hard. Faces an uphill fight to convert to linebacker — will take time. It will be interesting to see if the Giants play him inside or outside. Was credited with 72 tackles and 9.5 sacks his senior year. Could help out of special teams if he sticks.

LB Kenny Sanders, 6-1, 245lbs, 4.90, Tennessee-Chattanooga: Credited with 63 tackles, 7 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles his senior year. Good pass rusher with fine quickness.

CB Kelvin Suggs, 6-1, 190lbs, 4.55, East Carolina: Was credited with 93 tackles and 4 interceptions in 1998. Good size. Instinctive. Could project to safety.

CB Cedric Stephens, 5-9, 185lbs, 4.42, Oklahoma: Lacks great size, but he is very fast.

CB Reggie Stephens, 5-10, 195lbs, 4.50, Rutgers: Another year, another free agent signed from Rutgers. Stephens is tough, competitive player. Strong in run support…a good tackler. Athletic…has some speed and quickness. Some questions about his burst. Better in zone than man-to-man. Good special teams player — in coverage and has returned kicks and punts. Stephens was named the team’s 1998 MVP after finishing the season with 58 total tackles, a team-high 3 interceptions for 77 yards in returns and a touchdown, 8 passes defensed, and a 53-yard return of a recovered fumble for a touchdown.

S Ty Adroin, 6-0, 200lbs, Texas Tech: Played linebacker in college but projects to safety in the pros. Athletic with fine speed. Aggressive, competitive player who likes to hit. Makes big plays. Should excel on special teams. Credited with 72 tackles, 8 quarterback pressures, and 4 pass deflections in 1998.