New York Giants 2000 NFL Draft Review

by David Oliver

Draft 2000, tax day, the Ides of April are all falling on the same weekend. For Giants fans this is Halloween, Midsummer’s Night, KristalNacht and Gotterdammerung all rolled into one 30 plus hours of pandemonium, expectation, frustration, anger, joy and any other emotion on the tilt-a-whirl of Giant fandom. We have waited three months for this day; preparations including stocking the refrig with a good supply of suds, provisioning assorted snacks, sending the old lady out shopping, hiding the pets in the basement for safe-keeping, purchasing additional clickers for the TV, and for some just biting off a wedge of VALIUM. As I head north, to partake of the festivities first hand at Giants Stadium, I decide that there will be no doo-wop or Springsteen CDs this week – it is all Wagner’s Siegfried’s Rhine Journey and the music from that Russian epic Alexander Nevsky. On draft weekend I always feel like Nevsky, the Russian Boyar who led an undermanned and doomed force onto the snowy plains to face the Mongol hordes. They were, of course, soundly beaten, Nevsky killed and Russia fell under the Mongol sway for decades. But the artistic renditions of the Knights, clad in chain mail armor and riding to their certain death, staring out across the snow-covered tundra, seeing Mongol forces across the horizon sets the mood for me as I drive on the Beltway, surrounded by whispers of Redskin fans, columnists and camp-followers, sighing Super-Bowl, Jeff George, Bruuuuuce, LaVar, Samuels. My senses are assailed by their laughter, the haunting, taunting arrogance of the whole thing. So North I ride to join Accorsi, Fassel and Sunderland. They, and we along with them, may not be the greatest fighting force on the snowy plains, but we can wage the battle with honor and glory – and screw the damn Redskin.

The finest of NY journalism is in the room. The atmosphere is casual, not really tense or even expectant for these stout beat writers – they have been here before. They have been surprised, shocked, dismayed, bamboozled and just plain puzzled so many times, so many ways that I am sure the first paragraphs of their stories are all canned anyway. There is a spread laid out – one thing the Giants do well is feed the troops- I guess the organization subscribes to the theory keep them fat and they will stay happy – at least quiet. In all seriousness, the Giants are a first-class outfit – how many times have you heard that? Well, it’s true. If the Media needs, the Giants provide. Pat Hanlon and his entire staff are helpful, courteous and a valuable resource. I pull up a chair next to Pat from Inside Football and her fotog and in general good guy, the lovable Doctor Joe Mancino from Maryland – another Giant loyalist stuck in Sodom on the Potomac.

The draft begins with its usual tedium. Cleveland already has a signed contract with Courtney Brown, but milks the clock, which allows for interminable babble, commercials and clips as per the Tagliabue Edict – (it used to be attributed to PT Barnum, but Tags has taken it to a new level). Then come the Skins and their Super Bowl circus. For awhile I think Joe Theisman may actually wet his pants on national TV. The War Room with Snyder and Turner and Vinny Cerrato sends me to the bathroom, the tunnel, outside for some fresh air. Just send them the Lombardi Trophy and let us get to some football.

When the Ravens select Jamal Lewis, some air goes out of the room. I don’t know what these guys are thinking in this room – there is only one name on the board for the Giants. We get closer and the anticipation builds. Peter Baptiste and Avis Roper start bustling around so we know this will be a quick selection as preparations are made for the appearance of the Triune leaders in the War Room. First will come the Father, Ernie Accorsi, then the son, Jim Fassel, and finally the Holy Spirit of this draft day, Marv Sunderland. The selection, the Great Dayne – and don’t say I didn’t tell you so – actually the BBI drafts were remarkably on point – and during the wrap-up I told Coach Fassel that we had hit three of the first four – anyone who tells you they hit Ron Dixon is certifiable or on a very powerful hallucinogen. But BBI HIT Dayne, Griffin and Short – not bad for a bunch of fans who don’t know a damn thing – Congratulations.

The head shed is pleased. Dayne is their man. Mr. Accorsi tells us that the Giants act quickly because they are not really interested in trades at this spot, they knew who they wanted. He said they favored Dayne over Alexander even though they have a chance to be equally effective. Dayne “is the bigger man with a little more explosion and quickness. Shaun is a tremendous pass receiver who really knows how to get open…we just went with the bigger man. The difference in speed is really indistinguishable. Dayne had more long runs than anybody we really considered.” Ernie also said that the Giants talked about moving up but the price was always the second round pick and, “We really didn’t feel the second round was worth it, to go too high.” The real concern was someone trading up ahead of them. When asked about his comfort level, he said there is always some fear, but he added, “This is one of the few times in my career that I felt comfortable, because there were two guys that we would have been comfortable with, and only one team ahead of us, so I knew we were okay.” I asked if he anticipated a quick signing. After looking at me like I had two heads, he said, “I never anticipate a quick signing. I don’t even anticipate a quick signing if the guy is going to get the league minimum as a free-agent.”

Coach Fassel appeared genuinely excited. He said you look at Ron and you think power back but he is really “a big back that has power. But the one thing that I think he has probably better than all the other running backs is that he has the anticipation to make the right move and that is critical in a back. I think he sees things well in a peripheral state. I think that when he comes on a guy, you can see on tape him making people miss. He can also run over a guy.” Talking about times in the 40, Coach said it is important but he said there are a ton of guys in the Hall who didn’t blaze in the 40. And then there are guys like Emmitt Smith, Jerry Rice, “but you watch those guys and they play fast. This guy plays fast…You see him go through a hole, a guy comes after him and he makes a cut. When he makes a cut he sinks his hips and he accelerates. Two things: a guy has to have vision and the anticipation and then the next thing is to be a quick, aggressive kind of cutting runner because you have got to have an aggressive mind. This guy, when he gets to the point, he sees it, anticipates, puts his pads down and goes.” Coach also says that it will be an open competition for feature back. On not previously having a feature back, Coach said, “I would love to have that. We have not had a guy to get in there and stay in there and be the guy and carry the load and be productive and stay healthy. If that is what he can do and bring it to us, then this may be one of the better picks that we have made…there is no reason why I think that he could not do that and it would really help us to be able to solidify that role where we have the bell cow in there and we can alternate different people when we get in different packages.”

Marv Sunderland briefly talked about his size and prolific running. He said, “He’s been extremely durable…He’s been a guy that has taken a game over in the fourth quarter. He’s a guy who keeps coming at you, keeps coming at you, and pretty soon he wears you out.”

On a conference call, Ron sounded relaxed. He said a few other teams were interested but he just felt the Giants were the team. He had a dream and he told his brother Yas and they agreed he was going with the Giants. Ron said he felt he had something to prove, that the doubting “makes me want to go out and play because people are still doubting me and saying that I can’t do this and I can’t do that. That is what happened my first year in College and my senior year in College, you know people doubted me and doubted me and I just wanted to show people that I’m a great back and I can do anything that a small back can do, and even better.” He is ready to step right in and said, “I don’t know if I can at the beginning of the season, but if I can get some time, get some reps, show them what I got and get the plays down, I think I can get in and help this team win.” (This more by way of modesty – I don’t think he wanted to sound as if he was coming in expecting to be anointed – he was showing respect for the existing backs). When asked what he knew about the Giants he said, “The main thing I know about the Giants is that they have a great defense. And I know, with a great defense, your offense is gonna come. Once you have a great QB and a good RB and a good WR and a good FB, we can build. Charles can show me the ‘Way’.” When asked if he was a power or finesse back he said, “I use my move to get by people because if you keep getting hit every game trying to run people over, you aren’t going to play long in the NFL. You know you are not going to be able to run over everybody, so you got to be able to make people miss. You rarely see that many backs in the league trying to run players over. You may see someone get run over once or twice a game but that will be it. I try to make you miss just like the smaller backs. But I make you miss and I can run you over, so it is either or however you want to come at me, and I am going to come at you. You have to guess what I am doing.”

Grade on Round 1 – A: Analysis: For me, this pick is comparable for the offense as LT was for the defense. I have become a Ron Dayne fan. Although Shaun Alexander would not have disappointed me, I think Dayne signifies a return to Giants football, with the Fassel twist. Look at the numbers: NCAA rushing record (7000 career yards); 12 games in which he rushed for more than 200 yards; 1220 rushing attempts; 426 points; 71 touchdowns. Wisconsin had a 28-5 record when he rushed for over 100 yards; out rushed the opposing team 29 times in 43 starts; rushed for over 1000 yards in a season 4 times; first player to lead the Big10 in rushing 3 times; rushing average of 169.5 yards a game; in 99 carried the ball 337 times for 2034 yards, scored 120 points; more than 40% of his yardage came after first contact. Man, this is a player.

The talking heads were not overly excited. The Press seems to think that the offensive line is a shambles and that Dayne better have the ability to make people miss because he is going to meet a lot of defensive tackles. I believe that he will be used in ball control situations and red zone carries. Last year we couldn’t get it in the end zone. Dayne scores. He must carry over 20 times a game. To me, this is the jumbo size Joe Morris. At the same time, I see him as a one-back with Tiki Barber or Sean Bennett in the slot. If the opposing defenses come with the usual 8 or 9 in the box, the Giants will go over them. I asked about the grass and Fassel said it is a hard, fast grass, it is not soft, cushiony and he feels it will be an advantage to Dayne. Look for Dayne to open the game and close it, with some mixing and matching in the middle quarters. As Fassel says, “This guy holds on to the ball…he has great cut ability…he accelerates in the hole…” Interestingly, Fassel sees no comparison between Dayne and Czonka – Czonka ran from a closer position, “Dayne is running from 7 or 8 yards deep. Czonka, as a fullback, had more power, Dayne has more cut ability.”

Fassel said that having a lead back in front of him doesn’t affect Dayne, so he could run behind a fullback lead. (Incidentally, in his wrap-up, someone asked Fassel about the fullback position. He said CW says he is ok, the doctors say he is ok, and Fassel feels comfortable with that. But “others” are not as comfortable. Fassel feels that they will bring in a fullback, but the quandary is if CW is ok what do you do with the third fullback? Or if CW is not ok, it will be tough on Comella alone in the position).

Round Two:

In the second round, the Giants selected Cornelius Griffin. There wasn’t much reaction in the room as everyone ran to the books. I think BBI was alone in its high assessment of this pick. Coach Fassel said he was “really excited about this…We sat there for a while with three guys kinda paired, and he kept staying with us. I was really surprised with the needs of a couple of the teams right ahead of us that he stayed there. This guy is a football player…When you’re only there two years and you’re elected as a tri-captain – I think their captains were Samuels and Shaun Alexander and this guy – I think it speaks volumes about what they think of him. He can play tackle, he can play end, he has a good motor, he plays hard…I feel good about him.” (Later in the wrap up Fassel indicated that there was some sentiment coming out of Alabama that this kid would make the best pro – take that Skins).

JF also said there was no intention to take a LB here. He felt if the ‘backer they wanted was there, this was still the position to take the down lineman. JF said Griffin reminded him of Harris, a big guy who is a pretty good athlete (Surprise!!). He said “One of the things I like is that he is a complete player, he is not just a soft edge rusher. He stands in there and plays the run; that is why they had him inside quite a bit. He’s an athlete. I think if you put him on the edge, you’d get an effective pass rusher. He has that type of speed and quickness. Where I’ve seen him do some really nice things is inside. He’s stout. You can try to run at him, but he is a good enough athlete to get off if you try to angle and slant people. He can move and slant from there.”

In the conference call, he came across as very quiet, soft-spoken, all football type of guy. He told us that being a tri-captain was an honor and that “everywhere I go I just try to leave a positive impact.” He said, “I think I have a great initial quickness to the ball. My pass rush skills really developed at the end of the season and I think I am pretty good against the run.” Both he and JF feel he can come in and contribute right away. He did mention the Jets flew him in last week.

The Montgomery Advertiser described him as an enigma who had been ignored by the scouts because of his two position career – but as JF said, he is not a one position guy who plays the other adequately – the Giants feel he can be exceptional in both positions. Griffin was a tight end and LB in High School, but had low grades. He went to Community College where he worked hard. When he was about to enroll in Alabama, his father was killed by a drunk driver. Griffin told the paper, “Is’s been very tough but it’s to the point where I don’t worry about anything I can’t control. When my dad died, I grew up quick. I had to be strong for my family. . .Everything negative, I turn into a positive.” Cornelius indicated he will devote his career to his Dad and he is committed to getting his two younger siblings through school. His Mom, he says, “Whatever my mom wants, she’s got it. I’m going to get it no matter what it costs…To sum up, I’m going to take up where my father left off.” He also said he is going to finish school and hopes to become a coach. He has signed a contract with his mother to get his degree. There is more. He said about where he is, “It’s not really remarkable. When I didn’t sign out of high school, people wrote me off. When I didn’t sign out of junior college, people wrote me off. I didn’t. I set my own goals. You don’t have to be successful. As long as you’ve got love, peace of mind and a strong spiritual belief, you’ll be fine. I’ve never doubted myself.”

Grade on Round 2 – A to A-: Analysis: This kid looks and sounds like the real deal. Humility and Pride, a nice combination. Mature beyond his years, a leader by example. His College Coach said he is one of those rare individuals whose motor is always running. He made the Super Sleeper Team and All-Southeastern Conference First Teams this year. Had 53 tackles, 30 solo, 5.5 sacks and 8 stops for losses. Has 12 QB pressures, deflected 3 passes, sacked Tim Rattay twice, 6 tackles in the Tennessee game, 4 against LSU, 5 against Auburn and in the Orange Bowl had 3 solos and a sack.

Interestingly, I think this pick is more than replacing Harris. Along with the Giants search for an outside backer, it signifies that the team is not happy with the production of Cedric Jones or Phillips. This is great movement to get a solid player, value at the spot, and to address some real team needs. (In his wrap up Coach JF described Griffin as the most value of the draft for the Giants).

Round Three:

Now the fun starts. It’s late Saturday. Most of the print guys have their stories ready to go. A couple of paragraphs on a conventional pick and off to the presses. We gather around the television and ESPN breaks for a commercial. When they return the Giants selection winds across the screen, Ron Dixon. Pandemonium breaks out as everyone runs for the books; not one person in that room had ever heard of Ron Dixon. More complications when it is revealed that he played for Lambuth U and Boomer asks if they played at Lamboo Field. This was not joke time for the NY media – everyone had a deadline, they had stories to write, there was genuine anger at first. As it subsided, it was replaced by whimsy – they did it again, this almost fascination that the Giants have developed with the bizarre pick. (In the wrap-up, one wag seriously asked if the Giants had a need to make a surprise pick). The litany rings hollow, we need to improve speed, a wide receiver to stretch the field, yadda, yadda. The question is not whether the kid can play, or does he have speed. The question is why here and not in Round 6 or 7?

Marv Sunderland enters the room and even he can’t suppress a smile. The Giants knew what was coming. The skepticism would wash over them like flames from a napalm flame thrower. And they were right. Sunderland’s appearance probably meant this was a scouting department find and he was here to defend his recommendation. Dixon is described as an unheralded athlete who made an explosive return to the game of football last year. He has had academic problems and bounced around a little. The scouting report says he uses his hands well to prevent defenders from knocking him off his route, that he easily beats coverage in the open field, that he is a very polished route runner who is precise in breaking into the open, that he adjusts his body well and that he is a very dangerous returner.

His stats are impressive. He is a Little All-American selection, had 89 catches for 1735 yards (19.5 per), returned 19 kickoffs for 484 yards, one for a score and had nine punt returns for 251 yards and a pair of scores. He averaged 225.5 yards all-purpose yards per game. In the NAIA playoff game against McKendree he had 14 receptions for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns, returned 3 kick-offs for 60 yards and returned a punt for 13 yards. Against Northwestern Oklahoma State he had 6 catches for 108 yards and a pair of scores, including a 44 yarder, 2 kick-off returns for 32 yards and a 13 yard punt return.

Sunderland said they had four guys look at him and everybody came back with the same opinion. He said, “The kid was flown into a lot of places this year and not many people were saying a lot about it.” In discussing Dixon at the Gridiron Classic, Sunderland said, “He’s raw but he’s a quick study. He came to that game not probably as polished as the players he went against because most of those kids were major college kids but within a day or two those people were scrambling trying to catch him and cover him. He’s a kid that we feel has a tremendous amount of upside. He’s got speed and we think that he can get deep with that kind of speed and he’s made a lot of catches.”

Marv talked about speed and how the Giants felt they had to upgrade and that Dixon “gives you an answer in an area that we really haven’t been that great at. We upgraded our special teams a little bit this year in our kickoff returns with Bashir Levingston and this kid with Levingston back there, I think people will not be able to zero in on one guy. This guy is the real deal.” On picking him early, we were told “Probably in the eyes of a lot of people he is a (late round pick). But when you start to look at the board and what is up there and you start looking at play-makers, you can take a guy from a major school that everybody has heard about and then you go through training camp and the year you may not hear much about the guy because he’s not on the field…because you draft a guy that is unknown but has speed, the proof and the burden is on us…when you take a small school guy everybody is going to be critical…we feel confident enough in the people that evaluated him that a year from now it’s going to be a non-issue.”

The Giants showed us a tape and it just didn’t show Superman. Everyone in the organization raved about the moves, and no one in the press contingent would acknowledge it, confirming our total ignorance in their minds. Coach Fassel in the wrap-up offered to put the tape on the big screen and let us look at it, but the media wasn’t interested. Coach said he saw one play where a defender was about 8-10 yards away with an angle and Dixon accelerated and left him flat-footed.

In a telephone conversation, Dixon appeared to be very smooth and not in awe of the media or the game. He said he was real surprised to be taken by the Giants; that he was on a cloud. He was asked where he expected to be taken and he said people were telling him late rounds, but he figured 4 or 5. He had no inclination that the Giants would take him even though they called him earlier in the week, three times in one day, requesting his medical history and other records. He also said that “the Jets were really on me kind of high. I really thought they were going to select me.”

He wasn’t worried about being overlooked because he had great coaches and people knew about him. His only concern was playing at that level and dominating as was expected of him. He said that coming out of High School he went to Junior College but he wasn’t “into his books like he should have been.” He doesn’t feel that the third round was a reach because “I know my talent level and the only reason…was the bad judgement calls I made in my life. If I had gone to Florida or somewhere like that I would have gone in the…second round…I’m not cocky, I’m very confident…I hadn’t grown up yet…I left school for two years because of my grades…(he was in two community colleges picking up his grades). He was asked to tell us who is this guy? He said, “Tell them I apologize for you know, they want a big pick that they know about. But tell them give me a little time and I’ll show them.” Asked if he’s ever been to NY, he said that the Jets flew him up for a physical and “his eyes almost popped out of his head when he saw NY, when we flew over (the City).” He was teasingly asked if it was like Lambuth and he gave a genuine, hearty laugh and said, “Man, comparing Lambuth to NYC is like comparing a mountain to a grain of salt.”

He was asked if he was raw and would need a lot of time and he said, “Well, I wouldn’t say that, I would say once I get myself adjusted to that speed and get the play book down…it won’t be a problem. It’s just like playing in the back yard. The only difference is there is a little more strategy.” He told us there wasn’t a great deal of competition at the NAIA level and that he “was above them.”

Grade on Round 3 – Impossible to Grade: Analysis: The kid is confident. He has been schooled to believe in himself and told he would play at this level. It seems someone has been watching over him and force feeding him through the education system. He did not seem dumb, had a great wit and if anything impressed me as a little bit of ‘con’ or jokester. He has football sense but maybe is a little overconfident because he has been playing a lesser level of competition. He hasn’t been hit as hard as he is about to be, he hasn’t had people run with him stride for stride, and he will up here. I believe he may make an impact on specials because there is more free lancing opportunity, but by the same token, Bashir was frustrated because of the set plays and the restraints on what he felt was his natural ability. Ron may feel the same way. As a receiver, I saw a lot of speed in David Patten and I saw a lot of discipline. The key at this level is escapability from the line – Ron Dixon will have to develop that.

The Giants make a big thing about level of competition. Ernie Accorsi talked about how everyone in this draft came from a big program with a high level of competition except Dixon. Marv Sunderland said they could have picked someone from a major program who could have disappeared. We are all too familiar with kids from major programs and small ones, finds, discoveries who are a blip on the screen by the end of camp. Okay, so they want it both ways, why not? Every team claims that they have the new LT – why can’t the Giants claim they have the new Jerry Rice? I liked the kid’s personality, which came through loud and clear. I wish him luck and hopes he makes it, what the hell, we’ve had so many who didn’t that it wouldn’t shock us.

Day Two of the Draft:

Day 2 moves much quicker, thank God, but that means we don’t get to hear from the Triune War Room Leadership until the shooting match is over. We finally pick Brandon Short and I am relieved. I thought he might go as high as Round 2 and I was surprised he was still on the board. Na’il Diggs went a few picks earlier. I know Dave Klein, and probably others in the Press room were in the Diggs’ corner . I checked with the guru of all things Penn State, Ken Palmer, who was still on cloud 9 after Brown and Arrington. He told me that Short also plays well over the tight end, so he could project to the strongside as well as middle. There were some quiet murmurings that this signals the end for Corey Widmer. June 1 will be interesting.

Brandon Short at 6-3, 252 pounds has good size. He is a Graduate with Senior Eligibility for the ’99 season. He came back as a leader of the Nittany Lions defense and hoped for the National Championship. He was right behind Courtney Brown in tackles, all time at PSU and is categorized as an “attacking, ferocious pursuer.” Interestingly enough he has also been a standout special teams player and will get his first opportunity as a Giant in that role. It’s interesting that he came back for a fifth year.

In keeping with the Giants draft of “character” and not characters, one PSU source said he stayed in College because he wanted to. He grew up without money and felt another year without it wouldn’t hurt. Short grew up in a housing project, without his mother (deceased) and without his father (away). His grandmother raised him and he became independent quickly. Talking about playing in the NFL, Short once said, “I’ll go to anybody who’ll give me a dollar and a helmet.” He has been taking graduate classes and wants to invest his money, saying, “I don’t want to be one of those guys who, when they’re done playing, are left with nothing.”

His defensive coach, Jerry Sandusky said of him, “Brandon’s our leader. He’s the captain. He’s the person people look to.” Short had 103 tackles on the year, a career total of 273. 62 tackles were solo this year, along with 4 sacks a number of behind-the-line stops. He had 13 tackles against Michigan and at least 10 in 4 other contests. CNN Sports Illustrated describes him as “a muscular 4-3 middle linebacker with extremely long arms and big hands…Somewhat slow in his initial reactions, but he’s a rugged player who takes on blocks aggressively and is a solid wrap tackler.”

Ralph Brown, Dhani Jones and Jeremiah Parker all figure for special teams play. Brown would appear to have the best chance to get playing time this year as he was a rare four year starter at Nebraska, where he was a leader in pass breakups. He was the first position player to start the first game of his frosh year since WWII. He also returns punts. His position coach describes him as a total effort guy and in the locker after his last game, limping and with a wrap on a dislocated thumb, he said, “You are supposed to feel like you don’t have any energy left. I left it all on the field because I was playing my heart out for four quarters.” P.S. He has missed one game in his life, in High School with an injured shoulder. Also his dad played with the Denver Broncos for three seasons as a running back and receiver. Brown is primarily a man to man cover guy, didn’t play much zone, considered Kwame Cavil (TX) the hardest guy he covered.

Dhani Jones is the intellectual of the group. He writes poetry and hopes to become a doctor. He is another pick who made the Super Sleeper Team. Played outside, registered 81 tackles, 56 solo, 3 sacks and 13 stops for losses. Had 9 tackles in the Orange Bowl, 2 on Shaun Alexander for losses of 6 yards. He also played inside. His name Dhani means “thinking man”. His middle name is Makalani which in Hawaiian means “skilled in writing”. This is an interesting pick for the Giants as he is described as a non-conformist, the epitome of a free spirit. He does get chipped – herniated disc in the past, nagging knee injury this past year.

Jeremiah Parker is described as a solid defensive end. He played between 250 and 300 in his career, with 275 seemingly his best combination of power and speed. He was heavily recruited by west coast schools coming out of High School but chose Cal to be near an older brother who is in a wheel chair. He works with youth programs a lot. He is an athlete, having been both a standout basketball player and track and field athlete. Appears to be a Jamal Duff-type of project who could develop into an outside speed rusher. In the wrap-up Ernie Accorsi said he had not talked to Jeremiah about his situation, but someone on the staff had, and Jeremiah is comfortable with being a Giant.

During the wrap-up Ernie Accorsi told us that the priority for this draft was “a speed receiver”, and that he told Marv Sunderland, “We’ve got to get a receiver that can run.” Other than that the goal was to concentrate on linebackers and defensive linemen. In the end, the Giants are happy that they got two linebackers, a defensive end, a solid lineman, and the receiver. He said there might have been some other needs for reserve positions, but they picked the best available talent. He said, “We hope we’re right…we came out of it for the most part with the players we had listed going down the stretch to our pick…” The Giants missed out on only one player they had targeted. He discussed the need for receivers and said that 10 draft choices were spent on wide receivers in the first two rounds. Interestingly, he referenced the Rams and said they had about eight and “you’ve got to compete with them. You need more than one receiver who can run…People are playing multi wide-receiver sets now and we need corners…to cover the receivers…”

On the speed question, he said, “For the positions that they play, for the most part we got guys who can run…” There was a lot of discussion on Dixon. Mr. Accorsi chose his words carefully and said, “It does you no good to say I’ll wait around…if you want him, go get him…we were running out of speed receivers, they were going…they kind of went in a run. There were some pretty good receivers left, but not guys with blazing speed.” He described Dixon as an “electrifying player”. He said the Giants were on him early and that “people probably had him targeted later, but we wanted him so we took him.” There was an interesting discussion on Short and his availability so late. Ernie felt that middle backers may have been downgraded in this draft because of all the wide receiver sets and people figuring that “mikes” would be two-down players. He said the Giants know that Short can play the middle, but feel that he has a legitimate shot at moving outside.

He also said, “For the most part, there was more solid production (out of this year’s draftees-less risk), bigger schools…guys that are a little more proven.” He used Brown as an example here and mentioned his four-year starter role. On the bigger schools he answered a question by saying that type of drafting was “not a strategy, it’s more a philosophy…level of competition, winning programs…sometimes you worry about a player that’s the best player on a real bad team that gets beat all the time…” Ernie looks to solid programs, good coaching and like factors in his evaluations.

I got in the last question and threw him a softball by asking if he thought he had “measurably” improved the team. His response, “I sure hope so, after all the effort we expended that we improved the football team…that’s what we’re here for.” Sometimes I just like to hear them say it.

Coach Fassel came in very relaxed and appeared to be genuinely pleased. He said, “I like the guys we got…We tried to upgrade the speed, we got that done, I believe…” He again said the draft fell to them the way they hoped. “We were able to fill some needs, we didn’t do them all…” but he said he felt good, particularly on the speed question. On Dixon, he said, “Everything about the guy signals that this guy could be special…He’s a circumstance guy, he played last year and he can do some special things…” JF doesn’t feel the step up will affect him, he likes his personality and confidence. He thought hard about the best value question and said Cornelius Griffin. He told us he’s heard comments from “reliable” people that he might be the best pro. He talked about teams drafting and he said, “Some team in this group is sitting there and they hit a jackpot, and they don’t know it right now…but there’s going to be some busts in that group, so you don’t know.” JF thinks he’s a better inside player, but he thinks he can go outside. He said, “Short, Brown, Jones, even Parker – all those guys – and Dixon better be, a contributor on special teams as they grow into their positions…” Philosophically, he said his later round picks had to make special teams better, because in order to get better as a football team, “We have to play better on special teams…the area we’ve got to get better in is on coverage units…that hurt us last year…the only way you are going to do that is with high speed guys who can cover and run and tackle.” He referenced Jessie Armstead and said that’s how he started with the Giants and he grew into his position.

He reiterated that theme – come in now and make an impact and grow into a starting position. He said, “I’m not going to give anybody’s job away.” Right now Tiki is the number one running back, but there is theoretically open competition and for the running back slot there will be competition. He said, “There’s nobody that has established himself, in my definition, with the term that says that’s my job and I’ve proven myself over a certain length of time.” He talked about the rookies coming in on May 16 and that will be a full mini-camp.

On linebackers, he said, “We needed help at the SAM and the WILL, so somebody’s going to have to move out…” Then he was asked position of most need and answered, “Offensive tackles – we need four of them.” When the questioner gaped, JF laughed heartily. He said, “We have two, Brown and Pettigout. Nobody lines up behind them.” He said, “Parker will be at left guard, Lomas is left tackle, Ziegler is at center.” When asked if Parker was ahead of Rosenthal, he said, “Right now, yes.” The questioner said you need tackles – JF laughed again and said, “You need a hearing aid.” Tackles are the biggest need and there’s nothing in second place. I asked if they were on the horn right now and he said yes, “But to be honest with you, there’s not a lot left.” And he said, “There’s somebody out there right now who doesn’t know he is going to be playing tackle for the Giants next year.” Glenn Parker will also work at tackle and in case of need will move out. Rosenthal will work at guard. He also said he’d like another defensive end. On FB, he said, “We’re shopping around right now, looking for that…it’s a hard call…with all the things that have been written and said about Charlie…we’ll cover our bases…Are you able to put a lot of money into that position? No. Are you able to spend a draft choice in that position? No.” The discussion vocally broke out again on Dixon. He said, “He cuts and goes, he cuts and goes, he reminds me a lot of Ike…” JF said he watched a lot of the tape and he saw enough to convince him. He was looking at stride, gait, knee lift, sprinter speed. He also said the hardest thing to evaluate is level of competition, then the hands, and other things discussed. The main concern is level of competition and will he play up to it. JF said the “guy looked awfully good…body mechanics…” He talked about the changes to the game made by free agency and how age is now irrelevant. You have four years to work with a guy and he makes it or you cut him.

On the whole, Coach was loose, relaxed, he laughed and joked with the media and teased them. He seems ready for the challenge and I left with a feeling of confidence. The GM was taciturn, as usual, but forthright. Nothing is held back. You might agree with them or not, but they don’t pull any punches. They explain what they were thinking, and without putting the board out for us, you can’t fault their effort. The success will be measured on the field. Last year, the Giants were picked to win the Division, the Redskins were an “interesting” team. Injuries decimated the Giants, family discord finished the job. This year some solid citizens have been brought in. The Giants have moved from the “youngest” team in the league and some people find that unsettling. But they have moved, they have brought in free agents with experience and they have drafted for need.

Grade – Round 4-6 – A solid B based on performance in college. Round 7, very tough to grade and unfair.: Analysis: On the whole the midterm grade will be delivered in September when the season starts. By December, everyone will know if the Giants deserve the C that Peter King has given them, or the B that Kiper did. I go with the solid B. I’ll let you know more next week after I actually see these picks on the field at the rookie mini-camp.