New York Giants 2001 NFL Draft Needs
The Giants are coming off of a division title and conference championship, but they need to get better if they want to return to the Super Bowl and win it. The schedule will be tougher in 2001 with a number of prime time appearances and there is no guarantee that the Giants will remain as healthy as they did last year.
The Giants have a number of needs which will be addressed below. Keep in mind that the draft is not usually about filling IMMEDIATE needs but rather adding talent that will bring much needed depth and competition. Ultimately, it is hoped that players picked in the 2001 draft will become starters by 2003. If they become starters before then, great. But it’s not wise to count on rookies or second year men to make a big impact. Rookies are 22 and 23 year old boys in a game dominated by savvy veterans who are accustomed to the pro level strength training/conditioning, work ethic, systems/schemes, intensity, and competition. At camp, rookies usually are in a survival mode rather than a learning mode. Most of their growth will not come until their second off-season.
Also keep in mind that not only are draft picks important, but the undrafted rookie free agent class can also have an impact – especially when it comes to depth and special teams.
Let’s look at the Giants on a position-by-position basis and discuss their 2001 draft needs:
- Cornerback: His critics aside, CB Dave Thomas had a surprisingly strong year in 2000. That’s good because the Giants will most likely need to count on him again in 2001 as an early season starter at the very least. The Giants can win with Thomas at one corner, but their defense would become much more dynamic and flexible if New York could replace him with a faster and more agile coverman. The Giants could take more chances with blitzes (and blitzing defensive backs) if they had a better athlete opposite of CB Jason Sehorn. Moreover, General Manager Ernie Accorsi and Head Coach Jim Fassel have both stressed the need to continue to upgrade team speed and this is one spot where speed is a huge factor. I would be fairly shocked if the Giants didn’t draft a corner in round one or two (unless there is a big run on them before their picks). I would also expect them to take another corner before the draft is over. Sehorn just signed a big, 6-year contract, but he is getting older and has proven to be somewhat injury-prone in recent years. It is hoped that Emmanuel McDaniel, Reggie Stephens, and Ralph Brown will continue to improve – but there is no guarantee that they will be better than they are now. (Special teams ability could also play a factor here).
- Offensive Tackle: We know that Luke Petitgout can handle the right tackle spot and he may be able to handle the left side as well (at least the Giants think he can). He is a good athlete and will get better with additional experience. But there is a huge need at the other tackle spot. LT Lomas Brown played well in 2000, but it would be wise to have a contingency plan in place if his play deteriorates. The Giants like RT Chris Ziemann, but he is coming off of a late-season knee injury. Mike Rosenthal has played some at right tackle and could be a factor there – though his lack of foot quickness is a concern. Chris Bober is an unknown at this point. Ideally, the Giants need to bring in a high-quality prospect at tackle to groom behind the established starters. Could the Giants also draft a second tackle? That probably largely depends on what they really think of Rosenthal, Ziemann, and Bober.
- Defensive End: The Giants now have one of the best set of defensive end duos in the game with Michael Strahan and Kenny Holmes. But the big concern is the lack of quality depth. Right now, the only players behind Strahan and Holmes on the depth chart are last year’s 7th rounder Jeremiah Parker and NFL Europe allocation Lavell Ellis. If Strahan or Holmes get hurt, God help the Giants unless this depth situation improves before the season starts. That’s why the Giants are trying to sign unrestricted free agent DE Rich Owens of the Dolphins. In fact, if you were to go by the actual definition of the word “need”, this is probably the biggest need on the team. Even if Parker does surprise (and he could), he is strictly a weakside rusher (as is Holmes). The Giants need a back-up end who can also play on the strongside.
- Tight End: Howard Cross has maybe one more year left. Pete Mitchell isn’t really a tight end (he’s an H-back) and may not return to New York. Dan Campbell has the size and athleticism to be a decent two-way tight end, but he is still inconsistent and will be coming off of double shoulder surgery. Sean Bennett is capable of playing H-back and possibly halfback and fullback. Adam Young could surprise, but more competition is needed. In addition, Accorsi has said that adding a legitimate weapon at tight end is one of his goals. The problem is that it is not a deep draft at tight end and with possibly bigger concerns at cornerback and the offensive line, the Giants may have to risk drafting late or signing some rookie developmental prospects.
- Offensive Guard: Pro Bowler Ron Stone is set at right guard. Glenn Parker is more than adequate for the time being at left guard. The concern, as with Lomas Brown, is having a quality replacement on hand when Father Time catches up with Parker. Back-up Jason Whittle did alright last year when called upon to fill in for Parker, but he’s probably best suited as a back-up. Mike Rosenthal is an option as well, but his lack of foot speed is a concern in an offense that likes to pull the left guard. The G-Men really need to bring in a young stud to groom behind Parker.
- Defensive Tackle: Much depends on whether Christian Peter can be re-signed. Keith Hamilton and Cornelius Griffin will be the starters and will form a very strong defensive tackle duo. But like the situation at end, depth is a concern. Behind Hamilton and Griffin are Ryan Hale and George Williams (Williams being an unrestricted free agent). Since this is a strong draft at defensive tackle, I would not be surprised to see the Giants draft one. And if Peter does leave, it could be a relatively high selection.
- Middle Linebacker: This is a depth issue as well. Michael Barrow is one of the better middle linebackers in the league and does not appear to be slowing down. The big question is whether or not reserve Pete Monty can be re-signed. If not, the Giants need to bring in a viable replacement. (Special teams ability could also play a factor here).
- Outside Linebacker: On the strongside, Ryan Phillips is unrestricted and Brandon Short is still learning. On the weakside, the wear-and-tear on Jessie Armstead is a concern, but he probably has 2-3 more years left and the Giants may want to see more of Dhani Jones and Jack Golden before taking a weakside backer high. That being said, I would not be shocked to see the Giants draft a linebacker early – especially if one of the highly regarded prospects slip. This is another area where team speed can be addressed. (Special teams ability could also play a factor here).
- Safety: SS Sam Garnes and FS Shaun Williams are the unquestioned starters. However, depth is a concern. Lyle West knows the system, but how good is he if Garnes or Williams are lost due to injury? Will Omar Stoutmire be re-signed? Bringing in some fast, hard-hitters who could help out on special teams would be great.
- Fullback: If Greg Comella departs, then this position moves much farther up on the list. Comella is a tough, team-oriented guy who can catch the ball and engage linebackers. But he is not a root-them-out lead blocker. Having a stronger blocking fullback for short-yardage situations would be ideal. (Special teams ability could also play a factor here).
- Wide Receiver: This isn’t really a “need” area, but this is one of those positions where a tremendous prospect could have a huge impact. Thus, don’t discount the possibility of a receiver being taken high if a true game-breaker was available. For example, if a wideout like Miami’s Santana Moss were to slip, I could even see the Giants taking a wide receiver in the first round. Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard are a very solid starting duo. The wild card is Ron Dixon who could add a great deal of explosiveness if he can improve in the receiving department. This is probably Joe Jurevicius’ last shot to make an impact in New York – another reason why taking a receiver would not be a shock. (Special teams ability could also play a factor here).
- Offensive Center: Dusty Zeigler is a quality starter and the Giants seem to think that Derek Engler is a decent reserve – but he is a free agent. If he re-signs, this is not a high priority area.
- Halfback: Ron Dayne will be given every chance to succeed and Tiki Barber is impact player. As long as Joe Montgomery remains a team player, depth is not an issue. It will be interesting to see what kind of runner Damon Washington is in camp. The Giants also have two players – Omar Bacon and Lloyd Clemons – playing in Europe.
- Quarterback: The existing triumvirate of Kerry Collins, Jason Garrett, and Mike Cherry are most likely to remain intact one more year – if Cherry is re-signed. If he is not, then this position also moves higher up on the draft needs list. However, this is a very poor year at quarterback in the draft.
- Punter/Placekicker: P Brad Maynard is gone. P Rodney Williams played well in NFL Europe last season, but the Giants have allocated him there again. PK Brad Daluiso is unrestricted and may not be invited back. The Giants seem to like Jaret Holmes. The Giants are a Super Bowl contender and the kicking game often will determine the outcome of a season. Competition for camp will be added. However, since Williams and Holmes are both very young, I would think it would be veteran competition that is added after the draft and not more youngsters.
Summary: I see the biggest needs being at cornerback, offensive tackle, defensive end, tight end, and offensive guard. Depth at defensive tackle, middle linebacker, and outside linebacker could be an issue depending on who re-signs or not.