Apr 172002
New York Giants 2002 NFL Draft Preview

INTRODUCTION: I don’t have the time or patience to prepare a guide on all the top prospects. The following is by no means a comprehensive list. These are players who have caught my eye and who I think might be a good fit for the Giants. So you will see some big names missing and others who you might wonder why I included. When the dust has settled from the draft and the rookie free agent signings, that is when I will create a comprehensive document on those new New York Giants.

I won’t cover cornerbacks, strong safeties, and running backs. The Giants aren’t likely to draft any high and may not draft any at all. If they do, I will cover it in my draft review.

QUARTERBACKS: The big question is do the Giants bring in another young arm or do they re-sign Jason Garrett. My guess is they will pursue the latter course, but General Ernie Accorsi may want to add another young talent.

  • Joey Harrington, Oregon, 6-4, 220lbs, 4.85
  • Patrick Ramsey, Tulane, 6-3, 220lbs, 5.15

Fresno State’s David Carr will go first to the Texans. Most people have Harrington rated as the clear-cut second best quarterback and he most likely will be long-gone by the time the Giants pick. He has a good, but not great arm. Fine intangibles – leader with fine worth ethic and very coachable. The guy who really intrigues me is Ramsey. He’s a pure pocket passer, but he stands in tough against the rush. Like Harrington, the intangibles are there (work ethic, leadership), but Ramsey is a tougher player and I like that in my quarterbacks. Strong arm.

FULLBACKS: My preference is for a Maurice Carthon or Charles Way-type blocking fullback, but there don’t seem to be any worth drafting this year who are that type of blocker. Perhaps the Giants can find another gem like Way who wasn’t supposed to be that good when they selected him out of Virginia. The problem with the various scouting reports is that one will tell you a guy is a good lead blocker while another says he’s not. This is one of those positions that I feel the “draft gurus” don’t really scout well. The Giants will probably draft or sign some little-known fullback who is a better blocker than the “name” prospects.

  • Charles Stackhouse, Mississippi, 6-2, 250lbs, 4.85
  • Will Bartholomew, Tennessee, 6-0, 245lbs, 4.70
  • Jamar Martin, Ohio State, 5-11, 245lbs, 4.85

People are all over the place with Stackhouse. Some feel he is the best fullback in the draft; others have him far down on their list. He’s a big back who can run, catch, and block though he needs to play with his pads lower. Flashes as a blocker, but doesn’t always adjust well against a moving target. Bartholomew is a team player who works hard and plays well on special teams. Has good speed for a fullback too. However, he isn’t as strong a receiver as Stackhouse and, while he works hard at his blocking, he is no blaster. Martin is strictly a blocking-type fullback. Tough and physical. He can blast people out of the hole, but he doesn’t always hit them square. Needs to adjust and sustain better. Not a threat as a receiver or runner.

TIGHT ENDS: There are a lot of interesting receiving-type tight ends in this draft. Most are wanting as blockers, but a few are serviceable as two-way prospects. The key question is how much of a role is there in the Giants’ offense for a tight end who is not a very good blocker? Fans always want the receiving threat at tight end, but they don’t always pay attention to the negative ramifications of having a sub-standard blocking tight end. The power running game will suffer. If the Giants draft a receiving tight end high, as many speculate, then they need to adjust their offense accordingly. Look for even more finesse.

  • Jeremy Shockey, Miami, 6-5, 255lbs, 4.65
  • Daniel Graham, Colorado, 6-3, 248lbs, 4.70
  • Matt Schobel, TCU, 6-5, 263lbs, 4.65
  • Doug Jolley, BYU, 6-4, 250lbs, 4.65
  • Justin Peelle, Oregon, 6-5, 255lbs, 4.75
  • Terry Jones, Alabama, 6-3, 263lbs, 4.85
  • Mike Banks, Iowa State, 6-4, 260lbs, 4.85

Shockey is the guy everyone has plugged in for the Giants so my guess is that someone will snag him before the Giants pick. He’s a big pass-receiving-type tight end who has the size potential to be more than an H-Back. Shockey is a good athlete who has good speed, runs good routes, adjusts well to the ball, and has good hands. The best part of his game is that he is a clutch player who wants the ball with the game on the line. Shockey is a better blocker than most give him credit for, but he is no blaster – more of a position-and-sustain-type blocker. Graham is smaller than Shockey and not quite as fast. Like Shockey, he’s more of a position blocker than move-them-out guy. As a receiver, he’s a good athlete who can get up the field and adjusts well to the ball. Has good hands and runs well after the catch.

Schobel has fine size and speed and is another prospect who is a better receiver than blocker, but he does work at his blocking. Not quite the athlete that Shockey and Graham are, nonetheless he runs good routes, adjusts well, and can yardage after the catch. Jolley is yet another receiving-type who probably is more of an H-Back than a true tight end. Good athlete who runs and catches the ball well. Position-type blocker who needs to sustain contact better. Peelle is an improving player known more for his receiving ability. Has good hands and a feel for the passing game. Works at his blocking, but he’s not a root-them-out-type of player.

Jones lacks ideal height, but he has a big frame and long arms and is one of the few tight ends in the draft who is known for his blocking. While he lacks the speed to get deep, he does have good hands and is a decent athlete. Banks is another prospect known more for his blocking ability. Really competitive and plays with a bit of a nasty streak. However, he’s not that athletic, fluid, or fast.

WIDE RECEIVERS: My sense is that the Giants are really only looking at the speed burners in this draft. Accorsi talks with open admiration about the ability of the Rams to hurt the opposition with their speed. There are a few players who I will mention who play faster than they time.

  • Donte Stallworth, Tennessee, 6-0, 197lbs, 4.35
  • Ashley Lelie, Hawaii, 6-3, 195lbs, 4.40
  • Jabar Gaffney, Florida, 6-1, 193lbs, 4.50
  • Josh Reed, LSU, 5-10, 210lbs, 4.50
  • Javon Walker, Florida State, 6-3, 210lbs, 4.40
  • Andre Davis, Virginia Tech, 6-2, 195lbs, 4.40
  • Tim Carter, Auburn, 6-0, 190lbs, 4.35
  • Reche Caldwell, Florida, 6-0, 195lbs, 4.50
  • Daryl Jones, Miami, 5-9, 180lbs, 4.47
  • Aaron Lockett, Kansas State, 5-8, 160lbs, 4.35

Stallworth looks the like cream of the crop. Very athletic with excellent quickness and speed. Runs good routes and gets deep. Runs well after the catch. Decent, but not great, hands. Lelie put up outstanding numbers in a conference not known for its defense. Like Stallworth, he is a very good athlete with excellent speed. Gets deep. Runs well after the catch. Needs route-running refinement and must play a more physical game. Has been nagged with a hamstring injury this off-season.

Gaffney and Reed are two players who play faster than their times. Gaffney is a very good athlete with excellent quickness. Very polished – reads coverages well and runs good routes. He probably will make the biggest impact as a receiver the soonest because of this. Has good hands, but he needs to be tougher going over the middle. Reed is a former running back who is improving at wide receiver with each game. He’s another excellent athlete with very good quickness. Tough and has excellent hands. Needs route-running refinement as he is still learning the position. Superb runner after the catch – runs more like a running back than receiver and breaks a lot of tackles.

Walker, Davis, and Carter are three prospects known for their great speed. Walker and Davis have excellent size/speed ratios. Both are more fast than quick. Walker needs work on his routes and is a bit inconsistent catching the ball. Davis lacks natural hands and needs route-running refinement, but he is a good runner after the catch. Gets deep. Carter has average size, but outstanding speed. Accelerates and gets deep. Needs work on running his routes and has so-so hands. The big plus with him is that he is an excellent special teams player – both as a kick returner and gunner.

Caldwell is a player similar to Ike Hilliard. Not a blazer, he is a good athlete with very good quickness. Very polished for a collegiate receiver – he should be able to make an impact right away as a third receiver. Has good hands and runs well after the catch. More of a complementary-type of receiver than feature guy.

Jones and Lockett lack size (especially Lockett), but both are interesting because of their speed. Jones is a guy who could really surprise. Was slowed by a knee injury last year and before that he was buried behind some top prospects. Has been compared to a “poor man’s Santana Moss”. Short, but well built. Good athlete with excellent speed and quickness. Runs good routes and runs well after the catch. Confident. Returns punts as well. I think Jones could be one of the steals of the draft. Lockett is so small than he will have to be a role player in the NFL. However, he is so fast and quick, that he could develop into an outstanding role player. Has so-so hands but he is an explosive returner.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES: Finding tackles who can both run and pass block at a high level is very difficult, especially for the all-important left tackle position. The Giants need to add a body to compete with Chris Bober. Bryant McKinnie of Miami and Mike Williams of Texas will be drafted before the Giants pick. Unfortunately, this doesn’t look like a very good draft for tackles.

  • Levi Jones, Arizona State, 6-5, 305lbs, 5.18
  • Mike Pearson, Florida, 6-7, 305lbs, 5.15
  • Marc Colombo, Boston College, 6-8, 315lbs, 5.25
  • Chester Pitts, San Diego State, 6-4, 320lbs, 5.15
  • Victor Rogers, Colorado, 6-6, 330lbs, 5.50
  • Kurt Vollers, Notre Dame, 6-7, 320lbs, 5.35

If the Giants draft an offensive lineman in the first round, it most likely will be Jones. Jones is an athletic left tackle with quick feet, long arms, and good bulk. When he is on his game, he is both a fine pass and run blocker. Can also pull. Needs to improve his consistency. Pearson, another left tackle, lacks ideal athleticism and power, but he is a smart, hardworking competitor who gets the job done. Has decent feet and long arms which aid him in the pass blocking department – an area where he excels. Not a blaster as a run blocker, but he engages his man pretty well in a consistent fashion.

After Jones and Pearson, the talent level begins to fall off. Colombo is a very tall right tackle with some experience on the left side. Lacks ideal athleticism and quick feet. Because of his height, Colombo has problems at times gaining leverage as a run blocker. However, he is a tough, fiesty, competitive player who really works to sustain his block. Plays with an attitude. Can muscle and maul once he locks on. His tremendous height and long arms aid him as pass blocker, but he can have problems with outside quickness. Colombo would be a fine pick for the Giants in the second round if he lasts that long.

After Colombo, there is another drop off. Pitts lacks ideal height and therefore could project to guard. But he has good bulk and quick feet and has experience playing on the weakside. Pitts is an interesting prospect because he has come such a long way in a short time. He’s a former walk on who did not even play in high school. Needs a lot of technique work, but flashes very good ability as both a pass and run blocker. If he can learn to play with better leverage in a more consistent fashion and be a bit more aggressive, he could surprise. Rogers is a huge right tackle with decent athleticism. Has the ability to muscle and maul defenders as a run blocker, but he needs to play with better leverage at the next level. Has some problems at times with quickness as a pass blocker, but his size and long arms help him there. Once he locks on, it’s generally over. Needs more consistency and needs to play the game more aggressively than he does. Vollers is a tall right tackle who lacks ideal athleticism. Can muscle and maul, but like Colombo and Rogers, he needs to play with better leverage. When he does, he is a fine run blocker. As a pass blocker, outside quickness can give him problems but he does have long arms. Getting out of his stance quicker would help him, but he simply may lack initial quickness in his play.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS: There are quite a few interesting guards in this draft, but guards tend to slide. Getting a quality prospect to compete with Jason Whittle, Rich Seubert, and Mike Rosenthal would be wise.

  • Andre Gurode, Colorado, 6-4, 315lbs, 5.30
  • Kendall Simmons, Auburn, 6-3, 310lbs, 5.30
  • Toniu Fonoti, Nebraska, 6-4, 345lbs, 5.50
  • Eric Heitmann, Stanford, 6-4, 305lbs, 5.20
  • Terrence Metcalf, Mississippi, 6-4, 315lbs, 5.30
  • Martin Bibla, Miami, 6-3, 305lbs, 5.20

Gurode has experience at both guard and center. Powerful player with long arms and fine athleticism. Outstanding run blocker who will punish a defender. Plays with an attitude. Can drive people off the line of scrimmage. Good feet and mobility – can pull and trap. Has the look of a future Pro Bowler. Simmons is shorter-than-ideal left tackle who projects to guard in the pros. Though he lacks height, Simmons combines good bulk and athleticism. Has very good feet which aid him as both a pass blocker. Can trap and pull. Tough, hardworking, and competitive. Can move defenders off the line of scrimmage and works to sustain his blocks.

The big question with Fonoti is his ability to pass block. Fonoti is a DOMINATING run blocker, but since Nebraska doesn’t pass much, he doesn’t have much experience with pro pass sets. Thus, this makes him a bit of a boom-or-bust-type of selection. Fonoti could end up being the best offensive lineman in this draft or he could really struggle in pass protection. Fonoti is a massive, powerful man who simply destroys defenders as a run blocker. Has the athleticism to be a good pass blocker, but needs a lot of technique work in this area. Not a top “move” guy who is real strong at pulling or engaging at the second level – thus I wonder if he fits the direction the Giants are going.

I actually could see Big Blue being more interested in guy like Heitmann. Heitmann lacks great size and strength, but he is a tough, savvy technician who has a feel for the game. A decent athlete with mobility who can pull and attack players at the second level, he is more suited to the more popular offensive schemes in the NFL today. Though Heitmann isn’t a power player, he is a good run blocker due to his fine initial quickness, leverage, and his ability to sustain. Solid pass blocker.

Metcalf played left tackle in college, but projects inside at the pro level. He is a big, powerful player with decent athleticism. Has fine initial quickness, but he needs to play with better leverage and overall technique. Plays too high at times. Flashes very good ability as both a run and pass blocker. Can generate movement at the line of scrimmage, but doesn’t sustain well. So-so puller. Has good feet to pass block. Inconsistent, but he has good tools to work with. Bibla lacks ideal power and athleticism, but he is the kind of guard that usually ends up making a team and being a decent player. Bibla is a smart, tough warrior who performs at an above average level in a consistent fashion. He has good initial quickness and plays with fine leverage as a run blocker, but he’s not a blaster. Physical. So-so puller. Lacks real quick feet and athleticism as a pass protector, but he generally keeps his man quiet.

CENTERS: If Jason Whittle indeed starts, the Giants don’t have a lot of depth behind Dusty Zeigler. Centers are tough to grade and you see a lot of guys who weren’t supposed to be good starting in the NFL; and a lot of guys who were supposed to be good out of the league.

  • LeCharles Bentley, Ohio State, 6-2, 300lbs, 5.20
  • Melvin Fowler, Maryland, 6-3, 300lbs, 5.40
  • Seth McKinney, Texas A&M, 6-3, 300lbs, 5.00
  • Scott Peters, Stanford, 6-3, 300lbs, 5.10

Bentley is a prospect at both guard and center. Lacks classic size, but he is a quality run and pass blocker. Plays with an attitude and looks to hurt people. Physical. Has some pop and sustains well as a run blocker. Not a strong puller, but he can engage at the second level – a must for a center against a 4-3 defense. Quickness sometimes gives him problems as a pass protector, but he is sound against the bullrush. Fowler is a natural center who has a feel for the position. Lacks power, but he is an athlete with decent quickness. Plays with leverage and sustains as a run blocker. Engages well at the second level. Solid in pass protection. Needs to get stronger.

McKinney lacks ideal size and power, but he is a smart, savvy player with decent athleticism. Has a feel for the position. Has good initial quickness and plays with leverage when run blocking, but he doesn’t generate a lot of movement. Needs to get stronger. Engages well at the second level and can pull. Decent pass protector, but McKinney can have problems with power over his head. Peters is not a powerful player, but he is a blue collar, tough guy who plays with fine technique and intensity. Has decent mobility and can engage at the second level. Doesn’t get much movement in his run blocks and is only a so-so pass blocker.

DEFENSIVE ENDS: Much depends on what the Giants have in store for Michael Strahan. Does he have a future in New York? If not, the Giants need a lot of help at end. Kenny Holmes should improve in 2002, but he was a disappointment. Cedric Scott is unproven. This position has evolved in recent years. In the old days, you only looked at guys who were good run defenders first. If they could rush the passer too, that was gravy. Now everyone is looking for athletes who can run like linebackers. The game has changed. It’s less strength and power and more quickness and speed. Julius Peppers of the University of North Carolina will be selected before the Giants pick.

  • Bryan Thomas, UAB, 6-5, 265lbs, 4.50
  • Ryan Denney, BYU, 6-7, 280lbs, 4.80
  • Dwight Freeney, Syracuse, 6-1, 266lbs, 4.50
  • Dennis Johnson, Kentucky, 6-5, 258lbs, 4.80
  • Charles Grant, Georgia, 6-3, 280lbs, 4.70

I think Bryan Thomas is one of the more interesting prospects in the draft and could go a lot higher than many believe. Thomas is a superb athlete who runs more like a linebacker than a defensive end, yet he has the frame to still add muscle and mass. Very fast and very quick. Good outside pass rusher with a burst. Needs to continue to get stronger and add bulk in order to play the run better. Also as a run defender, he needs to disengage quicker. Denney is a very tall, athletic end who can dominate an opponent when he plays with leverage. Competitive and instinctive. Sheds well in run defense. Good, but not great, pass rusher. Denney is one of those guys who I’m hoping the Giants draft.

Freeney is very short and that could cause him to slip. You don’t see many 6-1 starting defensive ends in the NFL. However, like Thomas, Freeney is a tremendous athlete who runs like a linebacker. Superb pass rusher with outstanding speed and quickness. Not as strong against the run – needs to disengage better.

Dennis Johnson an athletic end with good height who needs to add more strength and bulk. Has good initial quickness and uses his hands well. Plays with leverage against the run. Good pass rusher with a closing burst. Grant is an athletic end who lacks some height as well. Well built with good strength and long arms. Strong at the point-of-attack though he needs to disengage quicker. Has good speed as a pass rusher, but needs to play quicker at the snap.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES: The Giants don’t have a pressing need at defensive tackle though they would like greater depth. However, there are some really top notch tackles available in this draft. If one slips, I would be tempted to draft him and shift Cornelius Griffin out to end.

  • Ryan Sims, North Carolina, 6-4, 310lbs, 5.10
  • Wendell Bryant, Wisconsin, 6-4, 305lbs, 4.85
  • Albert Haynesworth, Tennessee, 6-6, 320lbs, 4.85
  • John Henderson, Tennessee, 6-7, 305lbs, 5.00
  • Anthony Weaver, Notre Dame, 6-4, 295lbs, 4.90
  • Eddie Freeman, UAB, 6-5, 310lbs, 4.90
  • Dorsett Davis, Mississippi State, 6-5, 305lbs, 5.00
  • Rocky Bernard, Texas A&M, 6-3, 295lbs, 4.90
  • Justin Bannan, Colorado, 6-3, 300lbs, 5.00

The big four are Sims, Bryant, Haynesworth, and Henderson. All four can stuff the run and rush the passer. None are expected to reach the Giants’ pick. But if one does, it would be VERY tempting to take that guy. Top defensive tackles are hard to find. Sims is a big, powerful, athletic player with fine intangibles. Works hard and is very competitive. Stout at the point of attack as a run defender and a good pass rusher. Bryant has the ability to play at either end or tackle. He’s got a great size/speed combination and is very athletic. Has good initial quickness and disengages from blocks well. Quick and disruptive – can rush the passer. Needs to be a bit more mentally tough. Haynesworth is a huge tackle with very good athleticism as well. Plays with fine quickness and leverage. Can dominate a game, but needs to work harder and play more consistently. Henderson is a very tall tackle who sometimes has problems playing with leverage because of his tremendous height. But when he does play with his pad level down, he can dominate an opponent. Hard worker. Has good quickness for someone so big and disengages well.

Weaver played end in college but projects to tackle for the pros. He lacks classic size but he is athletic for a tackle. Has decent quickness and plays with leverage. Physical. Great intangibles…works hard and fine leader. Can rush the passer, but he is not an explosive player. Freeman is a better athlete than player at this point, but has intriguing tools. Great size/speed combination. Has long arms and is athletic. Needs to play with better leverage. Needs to work harder.

Davis is another big tackle with good athletic ability. Has long arms and plays with power when he plays with good leverage. Needs to work harder, play quicker off of the snap, and play with leverage in a more consistent fashion. Has the ability to be a solid two-way tackle if he wants it badly enough. Bernard lacks ideal size, but he is very strong in the upper body and has decent quickness. Must disengage quicker against the run, but he has the ability to be disruptive. Above average pass rusher for a tackle. Bannan is a one-dimensional run stuffer who doesn’t get much of a pass rush. Plays hard and has fine instincts. Has some power and quickness to his game though he lacks some height. Physical.

LINEBACKERS: The Giants are solid with Mike Barrow and Brandon Short, but they need to find some bodies to compete with Dhani Jones on the weakside as well as improve overall depth. Jones has the athletic ability and temperament to succeed, but the Giants need some insurance. Unfortunately, this is not a very deep linebacker class. Don’t look for the Giants to draft Napoleon Harris – he’s a strongside linebacker who will be drafted in the first round. The Giants are looking for depth on the strongside – not a starter. The focus will be on continuing to improve overall athleticism and team speed on defense.

  • Saleem Rasheed, Alabama, 6-3, 230lbs, 4.62
  • Robert Thomas, UCLA, 6-0, 230lbs, 4.53
  • David Thorton, North Carolina, 6-2, 235lbs, 4.63
  • Levar Fisher, North Carolina State, 6-1, 233lbs, 4.60
  • Rocky Calmus, Oklahoma, 6-3, 240lbs, 4.75
  • Ben Leber, Kansas State, 6-3, 240lbs, 4.60

Rasheed has good height and is very athletic, but is a bit on the light side. Has played all three linebacker spots but projects to the weakside in the pros. Has good speed and quickness. Good intangibles – competitive, tough, and instinctive. Doesn’t take on big blockers that well but his athleticism makes him disruptive. Thomas is a middle linebacker who I project to the weakside. Lacks size, but he is very athletic with fine speed and quickness. Has fine intangibles – hardworking, competitive, and instinctive. Doesn’t take on big blockers well due to his lack of size, but he is disruptive. Has the tools to stand out in pass coverage, but needs more work there.

Thorton is a rapidly improving player. Lacks classic size, but he is an athlete with fine speed. Good intangibles – competitive and instinctive. Doesn’t take on big blockers all that well, but he is quick and disruptive. Good tackler and improving in coverage. Fisher is another weakside candidate. Lacks size, but he is athletic and instinctive. Good competitor. Has some explosiveness in his game. Doesn’t take on big blockers all that well, but he can play off blocks and make plays. Good hitter, but needs to become a more consistent tackler. Solid, but not great, in coverage.

Calmus lacks the speed that teams look for in linebackers in today’s game, but he is so darn productive that it is impossible to ignore him as a prospect. Has top intangibles – tough, instinctive, and competitive. A leader who works and plays 100 percent. However, he doesn’t take on blocks all that well on the strongside and isn’t as fast as you would like for the weakside. Is athletic – he just lacks good speed. Needs to improve in coverage. Leber is a strongside candidate. Has good size and is a decent athlete. Very good intangibles – hard working and smart. Can shed but isn’t real tough at the point of attack. Decent in coverage. Solid prospect, but not special.

FREE SAFETIES: With Shaun Williams moving to the strongside – his natural position – the Giants would like to add a young prospect to compete with Omar Stoutmire at free safety. Once again, look for the Giants to place a premium on speed.

  • Ed Reed, Miami, 5-11, 200lbs, 4.50
  • Lamont Thompson, Washington State, 6-1, 220lbs, 4.50
  • Jon McGraw, Kansas State, 6-3, 205lbs, 4.45
  • Tank Williams, Stanford, 6-2, 225lbs, 4.40
  • Chris Hope, Florida State, 6-0, 210lbs, 4.55
  • Kevin Curtis, Texas Tech, 6-2, 210lbs, 4.50

Reed would be a perfect fit for the Giants, but he won’t likely last to their pick in the second round. Reed lacks ideal size, but he is an excellent athlete and play-maker. Tough, competitive, and instinctive. A leader. Can cover wide receivers in man coverage and has excellent speed for a safety. Has a feel for the passing game. Makes interceptions.

Thompson is built more like a strong safety than free safety, but his is a very good athlete for his size. He has good speed and has a feel for pass coverage. Makes plays and intercepts passes. Needs to tackle in a more consistent fashion and has an old neck injury that must be checked out. McGraw is a tall safety with good athleticism. Has very good speed and quick feet. Good intangibles – a competitive player and a leader. Not the play-maker Reed is, nevertheless, McGraw is very solid.

Williams is another player built more like a strong safety, but has the athletic ability to play at free safety. Has great speed for his size. Not real fluid however. Needs to tackle better. Flashes very good ability, but must improve his consistency. Hope lacks ideal speed, but he is a smart, savvy player with good overall athleticism. Needs to improve his tackling. Solid – makes plays. Curtis has good size and decent speed, but lacks some fluidity in his movements. Has good athleticism however and has some quickness. Good intangibles…team leader and a competitor. Has a feel for the passing game and is improving. Tackles pretty well.

And the New York Giants Select…

1st Round – WR Donte Stallworth, Tennessee: I don’t think the Giants are blowing smoke. They are too loose-lipped to do so. I think the guy they want is TE Jeremy Shockey, but I have a gut feeling that someone will trade up to snag him before the Giants pick. That means LT Levi Jones is their fallback guy and a lot of BBIers who want the Giants to address the offensive line will be pleased if that is the pick. There really aren’t many good left tackles in this draft. However, for some reason, my instincts tell me that Stallworth is going to fall farther than he should. Stallworth could turn out to be the best wide receiver the Giants have had since Homer Jones. The surprise pick could be a defensive lineman – especially if one of the four top defensive tackles slips.

2nd Round – DE Ryan Denney, BYU: Denney is one of my favorite players in this draft as I would envision a future defensive line of Cedric Scott, Cornelius Griffin, Keith Hamilton, and Denney if Strahan departs and Kenny Holmes doesn’t come on. Defensive ends Bryan Thomas and Dwight Freeney could slip. Of course, much depends on who the Giants actually do pick in the first round. If they don’t take Levi Jones, then taking an offensive lineman here (Marc Colombo, Kendall Simmons) would make sense. If they don’t take a wide receiver, they could look at guys such as Andre Davis or Javon Walker. A linebacker like Saleem Rasheed or David Thorton would make sense too.

3rd Round – LB David Thorton, North Carolina: The Giants need to address the defense with an infusion of youth. The Redskins and Cowboys have gotten a lot better on that side of the ball this offseason and New York hasn’t spent enough premium picks in this area. I could see the Giants going tight end here (Matt Schobel, Justin Peele), offensive line (Eric Heitmann, Chester Pitts), or wide receiver if they didn’t take one in round one (Tim Carter, Reche Caldwell). This might be a spot where the Giants look at a safety such as Jon McGraw.

Apr 092002
New York Giants 2002 NFL Draft Needs

Listening to most pundits, you would think the Giants shouldn’t even bothering showing up to play in 2002. They have lost too many players. They can’t sign anyone because of the salary cap. Michael Strahan and Ike Hilliard want out of New York. There is a rift between Tiki Barber and the defense. Yadda, yadda.

The truth of the matter is that the Giants really haven’t lost anyone of consequence and they are not in as bad of salary cap shape as everyone makes them out to be. The Giants’ biggest off-season priority was to keep Shaun Williams and they locked him up for seven years. Jessie Armstead played well in one game last year and was invisible in 15 others. His whole game is based on his wheels and those wheels are breaking down. Sam Garnes was steady, but never did anything to get noticed. Who is crying that Lomas Brown, Glenn Parker, Dave Thomas, and Jack Golden are gone? Joe Jurevicius never developed as hoped. He wasn’t a deep threat and really never shined as a possession receiver. Greg Comella, Ron Stone, and Emmanuel McDaniel will leave soon too. Comella, while a nice player, wasn’t the blaster at the point-of-attack that the halfbacks need. Stone played like crap in 2001 and seems to be sliding. McDaniel is easily replaceable (probably by Ralph Brown).

The cap? The cap is a problem in the short-term because of the intransigence of Michael Strahan and Kerry Collins. These two account for 25% of the 2002 salary cap. If they lower their demands and re-sign, then the Giants will have a lot of room to sign free agent bargains in May and June. If they do not, then the pressure is squarely on these two to perform on the field. It is unlikely that Strahan will top his performance from last year. And being a year older and in an ever tightening fiscal market, the Giants may find the best thing they can do is wait. Strahan will be on the wrong side of 30 and has a history of back problems. As for Collins, his temerity to look for such a huge contract after the Giants original generosity in 1999 and his poor on-the-field performance in 2001 is appalling. Collins’ career history is an inconsistent one and 2002 will go a long way in determining whether the Giants should keep him or move on to Jesse Palmer or another veteran option. If Collins walks after 2002, there will be no salary cap hit and a lot of room to maneuver.

The short-term cap picture may be depressing, but the Giants have not mortgaged their future. There is no Ravens- or Jaguars-like purge on the horizon. Keep in mind that this team is only one year removed from its NFC Championship and, despite everything that went wrong last season, was two last minute Donovan McNabb drives from winning the NFC East again.

The 2002 draft will help. But more immediate help will come from the 2000 and 2001 drafts and rookie free agent acquisitions. Now is the time for guys such as Will Allen, Will Peterson, Ralph Brown, Brandon Short, Dhani Jones, Cornelius Griffin, Cedric Scott, Ron Dayne, Ron Dixon, Rich Seubert, and Chris Bober to shine. It is these classes – not the 2002 class – that will make the biggest immediate impact. Fans may be surprised to find out how much talent is actually still on the team aside from the obvious big-name players.

Let’s take a look at the roster and determine what the biggest needs are:

FRONT SEVEN DEFENSIVE PLAYERS: The heart of the Giants has been their defense and the front seven in particular. However, Jessie Armstead is gone. Their best players -Michael Strahan, Keith Hamilton, and Mike Barrow – are over 30 years old. Plus, we still do not know how the Strahan contract situation will play out. Strahan could be re-signed by next off-season, franchised, traded, or simply allowed to walk away. There is some promising youth with the likes of Cornelius Griffin, Cedric Scott, Brandon Short, and Dhani Jones, but much more is needed. There is a strong need at defensive end (where the futures of both Strahan and Kenny Holmes are in doubt). Competition at weakside linebacker is a must as is greater depth/special teams performance at linebacker. Don’t count out a defensive tackle either. Griffin has the tools to play at end if the Giants need a body out there and better depth would be ideal regardless. I could very easily see a front seven defensive player being the Giants’ first pick.

WIDE RECEIVER: The Giants still haven’t had an impact player at wide receiver since Homer Jones was traded in 1969. It looked like Amani Toomer was ready to reach the next level, but he was disappointing in 2001. Ike Hilliard may only be 26, but the hits have taken their toll and who knows if his toe condition is chronic? He also says he wants out of New York (he’ll probably sign with the Skins next offseason). Joe Jurevicius never developed as hoped and has signed with Tampa Bay. Ron Dixon has great speed and could still be a factor, but his time is running out. Jonathan Carter is speedy, but raw. What it comes down to is who scares opposing defenses? No one really. The potential is there in Toomer, Dixon, and Carter, but there are too many question marks. A speed receiver who isn’t so brain dead that he can’t learn to run NFL routes would do wonders for the offense. It would help out both Collins and the running game. I guarantee that the Giants will draft speed at wide receiver again this year in the hopes of striking gold finally.

OFFENSIVE LINE: All teams have to decide where to spend their salary cap dollars. Every position simply cannot be addressed adequately and hard choices have to be made. For better or worse, the Giants’ hierarchy has made the conscious decision to spend the big bucks elsewhere on the roster than the offensive line. One gets the sense that Ernie Accorsi looks at teams such as the Broncos and sees a well-coached, low draft pick line that outperforms almost everyone in the league. It’s not that the Giants don’t have some quality talent on the line. They do in Luke Petitgout (former first rounder) and Dusty Zeigler (one of the better centers in football). The big question is can guys like Rich Seubert, Jason Whittle, Chris Bober, and Mike Rosenthal be long-term solutions? Whittle has played quite a bit the last two years and doesn’t look bad. Seubert actually has a chance to develop into a quality player. Most fears surround the left tackle position. Does Bober have the feet to face such guys as Hugh Douglas and Bruce Smith? Or should the Giants flip-flop Bober and Petitgout? Or should they bit the bullet and draft a tackle high? Regardless, better depth and competition is needed all along the line.

FULLBACK: Greg Comella is an unrestricted free agent and, somewhat surprisingly, they apparently have absolutely no interest in re-signing him. One hears whispers that they want a more physical blocker. Perhaps that and the fact that the Giants don’t want to pay veteran-level money at a limited position are the reasons. There is also the possibility that the Giants think that Anthony Green and Adam Wright have some talent. Fullbacks aren’t usually drafted high and this isn’t a strong year in the draft for fullbacks.

FREE SAFETY: With Shaun Williams moving to strong safety, there is a big hole at free safety that needs to be filled. The good news is that Omar Stoutmire is a veteran with starting experience with both the Cowboys and Jets. The smallish DeWayne Patmon is a very smart and instinctive player who could surprise. But adding some quality competition would be wise. Ideally, what the Giants need is a ball-hawk with speed.

TIGHT END: Much depends on this key question: is the Giants lack of focus on the tight end position since 1998 due more to the lack of receiving talent or the predisposition of Offensive Coordinator Sean Payton? If it is the former, then taking a tight end high makes sense. If it is the latter, then it doesn’t. What we do know is this: in 1998, when Jim Fassel was calling the plays, Kent Graham was the quarterback, and Pete Mitchell was the tight end, the tight end was a big part of the offense. However, since Kerry Collins and Sean Payton took over, it has not. Pete Mitchell was hurt in 1999 and was allowed to leave. If the Giants draft a tight end high and actually use him, it will open up things for the receivers and provide Collins another option – especially on third down. There are a lot of fine receiving-type tight ends in this draft, but not many who can block well. Because of that, Dan Campbell still has an important roll on this team.

QUARTERBACK: This is the big wild card in the draft for the Giants. Much depends on just how strongly they feel about Kerry Collins. They obviously aren’t happy with his contract demands and one hears whispers that only his late-season performance saved him from possibly being waived. Publicly, the Giants stand behind him. My best guess is that the team wants to see how he performs in 2002 before making an ultimate decision. Collins has one good year and one bad year behind him – 2002 is the rubber season.

So how does this affect the quarterback position and the Giants in the upcoming draft? We know they like Jesse Palmer. Do they add another young arm and risk going with a lot of inexperience behind Collins or do they re-sign Jason Garrett? Accorsi is on record as saying you can’t pass up a great talent at quarterback. What if Joey Harrington slips or a guy like Patrick Ramsey (one of my favorites) rocks their boat?

CORNERBACK: If Jason Sehorn recovers well from off-season knee and ankle surgery, then the Giants are alright at this position with him, Allen, Peterson, and Brown. They could always find some late round/free agent player for insurance.

HALFBACK: Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne make this a position of strength. Damon Washington, Antonio Warren, Delvin Joyce, and Aaron Kernek will vie for the third down back spot.

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Giants are likely to go into camp with P Rodney Williams and PK Owen Pochman the leading contenders for the kicking jobs. If either falters, a vet can be added late in camp. But the Giants still need to add some head hunters to the special teams coverage units. These guys usually come from the linebacker and defensive back positions.

Apr 082002
The April Soliloquy: A Visit to NFL Europe Training Camp

by David Oliver

April is the cruelest month,
Lilacs out of the dead land,
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

(T.S. Eliot)

Truly a poem written for BBI. First we face the Tax Man, then the Draft. Only January approaches the agony of April, as we must watch other teams play. I’m sitting here now in a mellow mood. When I was a younger man, I enjoyed opening a bottle of Ouzo, slicing a good hunk of provolone, filling a dish with large, plump, black Kalamata Olives, toasting some fresh Italian bread and sharing an afternoon with a few good friends.

Those times are in the past. But lately I have once again begun my own tradition of Olives, cheese, bread and a good bottle of Merlot. Now my company is one or two of the cats, who although not particularly interested in provolone, love a good piece of sharp Vermont cheddar. So we share the afternoon, sometimes out on the swing where my fat cat, Bret, sits with me and rolls over so I can rub his snow-white belly. He kneads the air and gets a goofy look in his eyes, as would I if I could convince a buxom blonde to rub mine. Getting to the Merlot has been an interesting journey. There was also a time when I would only drink a fine wine, but now I’m not particular. One day in the store I came across and Arbor Mist varietal, Blackberry flavored Merlot. Once the cork was popped, the genie came out, grabbed me by the testicles, and laughingly asked “how do you like MY wine?” Now this Genie reminded me of Barbara Eden, so I told her “damn, this is a fine wine.” It’s less than $4 bucks a bottle, goes well with the cheddar and olives, and I can drink a bottle and still walk. I have branched out a little, and have on successive days, sampled a Beringer Merlot and a Beringer White Merlot. Not quite the Blackberry kick, but it washes the cheddar, as a liquid should. Life is pretty good.

I’m going to tell you of my recent trip to Florida, to cover the 12 Hours of Sebring, and to visit the NFL Euro Camp scene. But first, the draft, then some unfinished business. On my last visit, I said pencil in Shockey. Shockey it will be. Forget agonizing over speed of the wideouts, bulk of the offensive behemoths, even the need for the defense replacements. This year, it will be Shockey. The writing is on the tablets if you care to read them. The only possible wrench would be a move up by another needy team to steal the Giants’ choice. There are teams that wait for this moment. They know the Giants do their homework; even if we laugh, or cry, when the Giants decide, others look for the poach. I don’t think EA would pull the trigger to go top 10; others will. Should someone grab Shockey, the typical Giant panic could set in and the clickers will really be flying. The scouts are spending too much time at UAB for my money. My feeling is still Columbo in the second, unless the run starts early on O linemen. If that happens, and 3 or more are taken in Round 1, look for EA to trade up to the top 5 in Round 2 to get his man. After that, I have no clue, other than a linebacker, a defensive end and a safety in the mix.

On to pressing matters. All this fol de rol over MS and Tiki and Hammer and Jessie. Many of you must be young – no real young. As in the kind of guys who like to run down the hill and get ONE cow. No memory base, so everything has to be now – immediate gratification. Like my son tells me, if you stay more than 3 years in one job, it looks bad on your resume. Well, here’s my take. Jessie A came in as an 8th rounder with something to prove. He played for nine years, never missed a game once he started, was fiery, emotional and productive. So he had a lesser year. You don’t throw away a fighter like yesterday’s newspaper. You make an accommodation, as in” Jessie, next year Dhani is going to get a chance. We want you to help him out.” Now, I know Jessie would have signed the same contract with the Giants as he did with that other team. The fact that it wasn’t offered leads me to believe that this was personal.

Still We wonder Who the hell we are
So if you think your life is complete confusion
Because you’re never in the game
Just remember It’s a Grand Illusion
Deep inside we’re all the same.
So if you think your life is complete confusion
Cause your neighbor’s got it made
Just remember It’s the Grand Illusion
cause inside we’re all the same.

(ok, Rocky T, you fill in all the artists).

Following that, MS goes on the block (maybe EA has been here at BBI). Now here is the best defensive lineman in the game, a guy who hasn’t been accused of wife beating, drugging, or scum bagging, but gives generously of his time to charities. He is coming off an unbelievable year. All of a sudden, the fans want to trade him, the GM is trying to trade him, the team cuts the heart to his soul off the defense, then has the temerity to come to him and make him an offer that smacks of disdain in the light of all that. (I remember Sam Huff and Little Mo as if it were yesterday.)

He is called selfish, stupid, short-sighted, and even called out by a MILLIONAIRE teammate. You know, MS is not dumb, and I don’t think he is ill-advised. He knows his time is coming close, and it hurt him. I think the man turned down a whole lot of money on principle – and that takes guts. So his teammate goes after him publicly. Man, if one of my mates did that to me, well, you remember that ad with the kicker taped to the wall.(grin) Hammer jumps in to cover his buddy. Hammer is a stud – a dying breed – a guy who sticks up for a mate simply because he is a mate. These are my kind of guys. Remember them, for no one like them will pass our way in blue for quite some time, maybe not in the rest of my life.

Then there is all this talk of what the Giants need in the draft and why. As in, if they bring in the 7 Blocks of Granite, KC will have more time; if we bring in a stud tight end, he will have someone to throw at; if we bring in Bronco Nagurski, he can pick up the blitz. Seems to me if all of that is needed to make KC better, the problem is KC. Me – I wouldn’t worry about the tight end, I’d do everything possible to get Joey Harrington. KC threw for over 3000 yards and Tiki ran for a bunch behind a line that couldn’t block, an offense with no FB and an absent tight end. Well, EXCUSE me. Maybe these guys weren’t All Pros, but if KC could read a defense, see the field and move his ass forward instead of laterally, the Giants would have been in the playoffs. It wasn’t the defense collapsing, it wasn’t a porous line, and it wasn’t because there was no bulldozer FB that the Giants were home in January. Bret Favre gets Bret Favre money because he is Bret Favre. Now before you all start pissing in your pants, that doesn’t mean KC isn’t a good QB. He is. He’s better than Dilfer, Testaverde, Kitna, and about 15 others. That puts him just out of the top 10. The Giants were good enough to go back to the dance last year if they had Top 10. You are all entitled to your opinions – that’s mine. I’m feeling more and more like Kafka these days. No, not the love starved Kafka of LETTERS TO MILENA, but the introspective Kafka of A AND B, and THE METAMORPHOSIS. I can feel myself turning into the Cockroach because I am so , I mean sooo out of touch with the current thinking. Silly me, I still stand with labor, even millionaire labor; I still believe in loyalty, team, standing by your unit. The ring means nothing to me, hell, I won’t be getting one. But playing hard, giving the game it’s due. Bah, I don’t want a Championship team made up of players who come and go. I want my heroes. And if they want a lot of money, so what. The game is profitable and a lot of these guys won’t be hopping up stairs in a few years. Why should Jerry Jones, or Dan Snyder, or, well, you fill in the blanks, have all the money? If MS can get $30 million, no skin off my ass, if he produces.

On to Sebring.

We had joy
We had fun
We had seasons In the Sun

My dad used to sing that song to my son, when dad was alive and my son was an infant. He was that kind of guy. It’s hard to believe he’s gone now for over 9 years. Particularly at this time of the year when the cars start up again. We spent many an hour together going to car races – the Meadowlands, Nazareth, Pocono. Damn, I miss him.

The cars call me in March. This year is a little different. Although I arrive at the track with a fax from my publisher attesting that I am the photographer, as well as writer, I sense some trouble as the magazine has requested credentials for three, but has been given only one photographer pass. It is highly coveted because it allows access course wide, not just the media room and the pits. Similar to football, most hotshots are happy to sit in an air-conditioned glass booth. I am not. I have to be out in the air. One of the guys is a former king of auto photographers, out of the game for several years but coming back. My mag is doing him a favor. So the guy goes to the media director and purloins my credentials. Bono fortuna smiles on me, as the man handling the credential sign in looks at my letter, understands what is happening and conspiratorially winks at me and says, “Just between us, I’m giving you a 7”. (circuit pass) I thank him and tell him that works for me. He says, “I thought it would.” It’s going to be one of those trips.

Next up is one of those strange mysteries of life. I wander into the season opening meeting of Motorsports Ministries, Chapel Service. These guys do a great job in caring for the racing community. At a NASCAR event, service draws a huge crowd, praying and singing on race day. For the sportscar events, it is lesser, but very serious. Usually, I am elsewhere. Today’s message is JOSEPH, EXODUS 37:18-28. I think of Hope J and I stay a little to hear the tale of Joseph again, of his obedience, and the theme of biblical obedience to God’s word. And I feel a little as Saul of Tarsus must have felt. (Herman, you’ll get a chuckle out of this). With religion in such disarray, Muslims going berserk, Jews retaliating, Catholics hearing so much of molestation and less of ministration, I am reminded of Thomas Merton , the Trappist Buddhist, and I think of Hesse and Siddartha. But mostly I think of Hope J, and the many women like her, so many of them women of color, whose faith in a risen Jesus is unshakeable, while mine is nonexistent, even when I am clunked in the head, time and again, by the signpost. I am a dumb person. I speak neither the language of the porpoise, nor of the religious zealot and I am adrift on the Tower of Babel.

There is nothing like the bizz, roar and pop, the staccato of finely tuned engines. (Jason in Ore – this Bud’s for you – and hey, did you catch Pele running his mouth as the brothers Schumacher crossed the finish line at the Brazilian Grand Prix – moral of that story – never let a soccer player near a real athletic event – GRIN – sorry EA). Almost 70 super machines, nameplates such as Ferrari, Porsche, Mazda, Audi (the current King of the Mountain), and now Cadillac, VW, MG, and the Corvettes, the Ascaris, the racing Peugots. I love to walk pit row in the morning and breathe in the gas, the perfume, the excitement. The ladies in their high heels, with their jacked up asses set the tone. I stand with some drivers, then some crewmen, as we ogle, without shame, and feel good because it makes some young lady’s day. They are taller now, some approaching 6 feet with heels, voluptuous, but prettier. You don’t find skanks on the pit row walk. Of course, that ‘s easy for me to say, now that I am balding, frumpy and probably looking hornier than bob in tx’s goat. The activity is frenetic. Two laps and tune the engine; 5 laps and change drivers. I watch the Cadillac team change drivers over and over. There are 3 to drive over the 12 hours. Each has a different seat and steering wheel. The fit must be perfect, and the timing down to the second. I talk to the GM major domo and we look over the Vettes and the Cadillac and talk about how wonderful it is for this marque to be back racing. The Cadillacs are prototypes, the Vettes race in GT and they compete against the Saleen, a graceful stud of a car.

This is a good shooting time for me. The drivers aren’t like football or baseball players. These guys jump out of the car, maybe roasting in a nomex suit, see you with a camera, and actually pose. Then they talk to you while changing outfits. Actually talk to you like a buddy, talk about the weather, the car, the track, the babes. I get over the wall and walk among the machines as they come roaring into and out of the pits, often within inches. The tires are squealing, the engines are pounding, the gas men are coming and going over the wall. Football is a 1,000 miles away. The crew guys – well, some are not well paid. Although this is not seat of the pants racing, I still see drivers hustling the paddock, looking for a ride. And I still share a spot on the paddock after dark, sleeping in my car, as they do in theirs. It’s glamorous if you make it; it’s hell if you don’t, but once it’s in your blood, you can’t walk away.

Race day is hot. It goes up to 95 and they are pulling guys out of the cars and pumping them full of fluids. I hear of a couple with body temperatures in excess of 100. They don’t do that for photographers, but Audi takes care of us. They give us breakfast, lunch and dinner and there is always cold water, soda and fruit juices available. Every two hours, I come back to the tent, chill a little – well, it’s not air conditioned, so by chill I mean drink a couple of bottles of water, stuff a bottle in my pack and head back to the track. It’s almost four miles walking around the circuit. I take the shuttle when I can, which is infrequent, so I log some miles during the day. Each hour presents different lighting, and I try to be certain places at certain times. I like the grid for pre-start. The cars are covered with their national flags, the teams line up with the cars, there is joking, kibitzing, posing, good photo ops. I always refer to photographing as shooting with the camera. This year, one of my Canadian acquaintances says ‘shush’ – you yanks are kind of sensitive these days, so we don’t use that term when we’re down here. Yep, even this game has changed.

For the start, I run down to turn 1 so I can catch the cars rolling under the Mobil Bridge. It is spectacular and colorful. Then I walk between Turns 1 and 3 for a couple of hours – there is a lot of passing, good lighting and some braking. I talk to the fans that line the fences. They are good-natured and usually offer food and drink. I notice one fellow hanging over the fence trying to get some photos. He has good equipment, but the concrete barrier is going to be in his shots, so I ask him if he wants me take some shots for him. He hands me his camera and I go over to the track and shoot about 10 for him. He can spend a lifetime telling his buddies how close he was to the action. How close? Well, Sebring is still a course where you can crawl on top of the cars in certain places. There are spots where I can within 10 feet without any barriers. The dirt and marbles ping your face and arms, and when you see a car bobble you wet your pants, but close is where the action comes and goes. After lunch I go out to the hairpin, a turn where the cars come screaming down a straight stretch and hit the brakes. The engines scream, the cars slide and the Porsches lock the wheels and lift on the right side. Very dramatic. I’ll come back after dark, when it really gets good.

I walk around to turn 10. Just after this turn, there is a huge old oak tree, which gives shade and cooling and a nice spot to shoot. There is a hole cut in the fence , where I can get down on my knees, put a 600mm lens on the camera and get the cars coming around the turn. It is a head on shot and if you time it right you can see the fillings in the drivers’ teeth. I do my work and decide to wait for the shuttle. There are some VIPs out there; there are always VIPs. Two couples, 50ish, one a very nicely kept blonde. There was a time when I couldn’t think someone 50 could be attractive, but I’m there, and my wife is still beautiful, so I’m looking from a different vantage point these days I do not that these women, who know what they want in life and are very purposeful, mine included, do wear a lot of jewelry. Kind of like those fishing lures that big bass go for. Well, darlings, I hate to tell you this, but when you are living the (Miller) Hi Life, a cold beer in hand will do more than any bauble. Well, there’s a bench with a cover here so I mosey over and sit on the bench. Next thing I know, the 2 ladies are on the bench. The men have these pocket digital cameras, and they are having a ball taking photos. One comes over and lines up the women. Well, ole Dave is kind of grubby in my black pants, black shirt and black photo vest, with my cameras slung around my neck. So I slide away, to get out of the picture. Out of nowhere, the blonde’s arm wraps around my neck and pulls me into the scene. I joke about being wanted in 6 states and we laugh; suddenly I’m everyone’s best friend. It’s a double date. They are not married, and we’re getting too chummy. The shuttle arrives and I leap fast. I wave good-bye and make a note not to come back to this spot for a while.

Around dusk I hit Turn 5. The strangest thing happened while I’m here. Cars are sliding off the road, giving me some great spins, with dust and dirt in the air. There is a yellow flag and a team of suits comes out of nowhere and starts walking the track. Seems it’s so hot the pavement has rutted and the cars can’t make the turn. I mean rutted, as in 6 inches deep, like an edge drop off. Out comes some machinery and they repave that section of the track, with the cars running by under yellow. Damndest thing I’ve ever seen. I talk to some old motor heads and enjoy the bizarre activities inside the fence. It’s getting dark, so I head for the hairpin. The strange ones are out now. There is a full sailboat – 30 footer (and not a drop of water in sight) with its owner serenely watching the race from the bow. He offers a beer. Tempting, but I pass. Then come the cows – a group of about 25 guys all dressed in cow outfits. There are bonfires everywhere and plenty of drunks. These people come year after year and stake out the same place. They bring plywood and build homes, like Ft. Dodge. Some are several stories. There are places where women shouldn’t go, unless, of course, they like showing their t—, or other things. It’s a bacchanalian revelry, mostly good-natured. As darkness drops, it reminds me of a scene from a Hieronymous Bosch painting.

Darkness wraps around me. Darkness can be comforting, it can be eerie, it can be frightening. I love this spot, with one light and the cars screaming out of the dark. There are only about 10 of us here, strung out so as not to block the view of the corner workers. Flashes go off in sequence. I drift off. I’m in a hassock in a place that’s very warm. I call over to a buddy, “Miguel, toss me uno cerveza, por favor, Pacifica Claro.” As he grabs my beer, he asks, “Senor Dafey (how he pronounced it), can I ask you a question?” “Sure, Miguel,” I say. “Have you ever felt fear?” Before I can answer, another associate sitting nearby, Tomas, says, “him, Miguel, no not him, he’s never afraid, including of some things he ought to be afraid of.” It’s good for people to think you have no fear, but truth is, every man has fear. Fear is like darkness. It curls around your neck and back, it drips as cold sweat into the crevices of your body and mind. I think of a week in Cabo San Lucas, a place many of you might know as a honeymoon paradise or vacation escape. For me, it is American drugs, Canadian whores and Mexican workers, and a frightening hell hole. We are in a place run by a thug from Brooklyn. He has flaming red hair and is called Rojo. One night, as he saunters into the lobby, I was standing against a wall and thought I’d have a little fun with him. As he reached the center of the room, I called out “Rojo.” He froze in his tracks and didn’t turn for a couple of seconds. It seemed as an eternity. He slowly turned and looked at me, saying “who calls?” As in a performance of Slow Death on a Killing Ground, I answer, “I do.” He says, “Where do you know me from?” I answer, “Avenue U.” He walks over. My buddy Antonio is standing with me. Rojo shrugs in his direction and asked me, “Who’s this?” I answered “my man.” Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a fellow standing against a wall about 50 feet from us. He wasn’t there before. Rojo waves and he walks over. “This is my man,” he says. I reach out to shake hands and as I have his in mine, Rojo asks, “notice anything funny?” Then he holds out an arm and shows me a scar from his elbow to his wrist. He says “I f***** up, he f***** up worse.” I am holding a hand with no fingers. We talk a little more, then go our separate ways. Before I get back to my room, it is broken into and thoroughly searched. Entry and exit via a window, which I detect by noticing the broken tiles. My camera equipment and other things are untouched. Only one $100 bill has been taken, from my wallet, which was left in my pocket folded tent style, to let me know.

Antonio and I were followed everywhere for two days. Guys with walkie talkies that we eluded by ducking into alleyways and around corners. Have I ever known fear? Antonio and I were the last to leave. As we are getting into our cab, a beautiful girl, blonde, dressed in a white dress, comes running out and grabs the door. She asked if we are going to the airport and can she come. She claims to be a Stew for Alaska Airlines. Yeah, right. I pull my straw hat down low and keep looking back. Nothing. We get to the airport without incident. As we are called for our flight, to Mexico City, via Guadalajara, Rojo appears in line just ahead of us. He just appeared. We board without acknowledging each other. Antonio and I always sit in the back, plane, train or bus, keep the field ahead of you. When the plane lands in Guadalajara, Rojo leaves. We breathe easier. He is satisfied we are going on. Fear. I say to Miguel, “make that dos cervezas, por favor, Miguel, frio, mucho frio.” I am reminded of these events in reading KNOW THINE ENEMY, by Edward Shirley, where he said “I’d stopped thinking about the fourteenth century and Mongol rule. You don’t think about history and beauty when you’re scared; you think in small increments, a hundred feet away. And you keep looking behind you.”

BANG, pap pap pap, ping, ping. I jump, pull my hands straight up. Bright lights coming right at me, noise, shadows. I’m shaking now. Slowly, I realize I am at Sebring. The cars have shattered my reverie, awakened me. I had pulled my camera up and fired the flash 5 or 6 times. I look around sheepishly to see if anyone has noticed. No one seems to care. I ‘m tired. There is no more beautiful experience than standing at this apex, listening to these cars, the ping, ping of the brakes and rotors, the rotors glowing red, on fire from the extreme pressure, flames shooting out the back pipes, or side pipes under braking. There was a time when I could stand here all night. Now, I’m tired. Age, I guess. It’s about one and three quarter miles back to the paddock. I’ve done all I can do here and it’s a long walk when you are tired, hot, worn out. I sling my camera over my shoulder and walk through the blackness. I still have my earplugs in, so everything is muffled. I talk to some of the happy drunks on the way. It’s after 9 o’clock when I reach the car, still an hour or more till the end of the race. I have a 2 hour drive back in the night, through the fog in the orange groves. I put my equipment away, get in the car, turn on the air conditioner, laugh and curse Bill Clinton and Al Gore. It is a ritual now, something only men of a certain age who worked for the Government of the United States at a certain time , would understand. I laugh to myself, and I sing

See the world through your cynical eyes
You’re a troubled young man, I can tell
You’ve got it all in the palm of your hand
But your hand’s wet with sweat and you need a rest

Why must you be such an angry young man
When your future looks quite bright to me
And how can there be such a sinister plan –
Get out, get back on your feet
You’re the one they can’t beat, and you know it.

The story of my life.

Sunday I took some film to be developed and went out photographing birds. Ft. DeSoto is great for egrets, ibis and herons and I got some nice shots. Monday, the real work started. I thought I would go over to visit the Berlin Thunder camp. They have one of the kickers allocated by the Giants. I also bumped into Josh Warner. He is listed with the Bears. He looks fit and big. We talked for a few minutes and I snapped some shots. Now, this is the real field of dreams. Sometimes I have to laugh at the attitudes on BBI, sometimes I want to cry. These kids are out here busting their tails, playing for peanuts- so they are camp fodder, without talent, yadda, yadda, yadda. Of course, MS wanting several more million or Jessie or Ike Hilliard – well, they want too much money, so they are worthless, ungrateful, yadda, yadda, yadda. Best I can figure is that the BBI salary structure ranges from about 300,000 to 5 million per year. On the low end, you are a position holder, on the high end, you are almost too rich. I’m glad none of you guys are my agent.

I like to visit the camps of the Euro League, or the XFL or even the semi-pro sandlots because here is the love of the game, and the dream. And I admire dreamers who give it their all.

I’ve been chasing dreams for so long
Just one step at a time
And then they’re gone.
I guess you have to hurt before you grow

Never let go of
never let go of the dream.

I always seem to lose what I thought was mine
and many times I’ve tried to leave it behind
Its been so very hard through the years
been looking through a rainbow full of tears
and still I never let go of the dream.

Deep inside hope was still alive
deep inside dreams never die.

I show up, and usually I’m the only photographer or writer who is there. At Thunder camp, there are a couple of scouts, from the Ravens and the Eagles. The PR man comes over and we introduce ourselves. I mention Giants and he talks about Pat Hanlon. Tremendous respect throughout the game. Every one knows Pat and every one speaks highly of him. My access is carte blanche. I roam the sidelines, the end zones, stand with the linemen during their warm-ups, go over to the bench and talk to the players. All these kids are good kids. I call them the 1%. They are better than 99% of the guys who have played this game, yet they have only about 1% chance of making it to the NFL. But they have the dream.

The national players are a scream. You can find them by the smiles. The rookies are nervous, tentative. The veterans are all business. They know what they have to do, and they know if they are going to attract attention, it’s because they work hard. And if they never get the call to the bigs, this is a good living. I listen in as the offensive line coach counsels his troops in an off moment. “You don’t need a fancy car,” he’s saying. “Invest your money, save it. One million dollars and you are a rich man.” Damn right, I say to myself. Then he goes on to tell them about a player last year, “(So-and-so) made a salary of x; then he picked up y for the playoffs and z for the championship. It was a pretty good nut. And he invested most of it.” This is good advice for these kids. Then one of the veterans is working with an up-and-comer. It’s hot out here and these are big guys. But they get in position and make moves on each other, doing reps, practicing hard. Work, hard work, that’s what it’s all about.

I talk to Matt Bryant, the kicker, and I ask him about the work and the heat. He tells me a story of the players doing one on one drills, d-backs and receivers. On one play, the receiver comes down with the ball and passes out. He rolls over and he is breathing hard. When he came up, Matt tells me, he jumped to his feet and yells, “I caught the ball, I caught the ball.” Here he had fallen on his face, passed out, and all he could think about was that he caught the ball. This is serious business for these kids. We talk about bonding and Matt tells me, “The main thing is position. The receivers come together, the linemen will usually be close. And if you were in camp with another player here, say with the Giants, you have that kind of camaraderie. Right now, we’re all Berlin Thunder, but you want to do well so you can be on the Giants or whoever put you here.”

I asked about kickers and he told me that it was a matter of that first kick, “Until you make that first kick, it’s like, well, who are you. But once we get into regular practice, it all comes together.” Matt is a confident kid. He tells me he is ready for a little of anything and everything. “One thing I learned in college, working with a pro kicker, is the mindset – whenever I would go in to kick, my deal was, I hope I make this. First thing he told me is that anytime I step on to that field, I’m going to make it. I’m pretty confident; I’m ready to go.”

I watched Matt kick a few. He has a nice strong leg and tells me his forte is hang time. On field goals he needs to get the ball up a little quicker. They were running center surges and leaps and the coach was telling him to start his motion on the snap. Matt knows his chances aren’t great. He’s aware of Owen Pochman and knows he is the coaching staff’s “boy.” But he will come into camp and give it his all, knowing if not the Giants, he may catch on somewhere. He’s worth watching.

Some of the other drills were interesting. The Head Coach was working botched punt drills, telling his punter if it goes inside the 10 yard line, run it, kick it or throw it out of the end zone, take the safety. Outside the 10, try to do something with it. The interesting part was watching them try to get someone to snap the ball over the punter’s head. The only one who could was the starting center. The Coach started screaming at the assistants to “get him out of there. I don’t want him picking up bad habits.” I snapped some shots and left as practice ended.

Next stop was the inter-squad scrimmages. All 6 teams were in action, starting at 9AM and going through the day. Two hours, two hours and two hours. I got a chance to catch up with a few Player Personnel Directors from other teams, talk to some scouts and chat with Sam Rutigliano. Houston had a lot of guys here. The Giants are going to be represented by Jerry Reese and Dave Gettleman, but neither is here today so I can speak freely to some of my contacts.. One exec from another team asks me if I have my sticks along. Sadly, I confess that I don’t golf anymore, it’s too time consuming and enervating. Cell phones are ringing everywhere. The Eagles and Ravens scouts are roaming once again as a tandem; lots of activity. My friend and I talk about the philosophy of the Euro experience and I note that teams don’t seem to be sending a lot of developmental players anymore. He confirms that with the change in off-season rules, you can pull a guy out now and work with him, so most teams are not willing to risk an injury, or lose individual workout time with their prospects, unless they are guys who otherwise are not going to get game time. This is mostly QBs and RBs, so you see a few quality prospects here. Mostly, these players are here for a lookover, a ready reserve in case some one goes down, or you have a need during the season.

We talk about Jessie and the nature of the business. It is interesting as I give him my take on the whole affair and tell him it’s not right to abuse a warrior, a guy who has given you everything. Now, he’s not going to break ranks. He tells me his team had one such player last year, and it was tough. Then he got quiet. Finally he broke his silence and said to me “but you are correct, it’s not right.” There’s a lot going on in the front office part of the business these days and the pressures are immense. We talk about the Super Bowl and he tells me that even the 3 year window is out. “Now,” he says, “SB teams come out of the blue.” I add, ” Yeah, and they go back into the blue.” He laughs in agreement, but it is clear that teams going to the Super Bowl are doing it the NE way, by putting together a very short term cast of players, then folding it to meet the cap. So to me it looks like EA’s 3 year window has run out and he is now dismantling the team that got there accidentally. When he clears all the names we are used to cheering for, he will have some money to go get some hired guns and make a run for the ring. Rich boys want their rings and they figure the fans could care less anymore, just give them a chance to buy that championship jersey and they’ll be happy. Pretty lousy, if you ask me.

The Claymores are here so I wander over and bump into old friend Pita Elisara, now the property of the Eagles. His big hair is gone. His head is closely shaven and he’s wearing a sweat cap. “I did it for Mom, last Mother’s day; got to take care of Mom, you know.” We laugh and talk about his XFL experience and Jim Skipper. He tells me, “Coach McNally didn’t like me, I guess. He’s got his guys, and that’s OK.” He shows me Andy Stensrud and I start talking to him. He’s a big kid, 6’7″ he says, weighing about 315. He asks me about the coaches and camp. He seems to have jitters and tells me he’s been away for a while, but he’s working on his technique. I ask how he is getting ready and he tells me, “Watching film hard. Working on technique. Knocking the rust off.” He feels like he’s holding his own and after watching him, I’d say he is. He’s very tall and one of the things he’s having some problems with is getting low on the bull rushers. He grabs the face mask a couple of times, but when he settled down, he showed some quickness, some strength. The gentle giant is a project, but with his size, he’s worth a look.

One of the things I really like about these scrimmages is that I’m right out on the field for the individual drills. Watching the offensive/defensive linemen go at it is fun. Speed against strength. Leg drive, hands. Fights break out, but not too many as the coaches get all over these kids. There is a lot of screaming. The tackles are the largest guys on the field, the guards slightly smaller, the centers comparatively small. The defensive ends are chiseled and quick, the defensive tackles use force. Advantage is always to the defense on the first drill. Then it’s interesting to watch the linemen adjust and neutralize the rush. Mostly for the tackles, its lock on and ride outside, for the guards, it’s get upper leverage and push the defensive linemen down.

I never caught up to Matt Layow and I watched Jody Littleton practice his snapping. Other former Giants here are Ray Redziniak, and Cedric Pittman . I talk to Gabe Lindstom who is ready to come back and give Rodney a battle for the job. He asks me not to take his photo because he’s wearing a Bucs cap. We laugh and I oblige him. Josh Stamer is here with the Admirals. He’s an interesting guy. A linebacker out of University of South Dakota, who arrived there as a basketball player, then switched to football in his second year. He surprises me with two statements: first, that he watched the Giants every game on TV; second, that he is on BBI a lot. He roomed with Ross Kolodziej in camp, checks in with him every now and then, and he now bleeds Giants’ blue. He told me, “You go through camp with guys like that and establish relationships. I recognized the defenses the Giants were running, and I stayed up with the team.” He told me he wished he was there playing with them and hopes he gets another chance this year. Josh just looks tough. He told me his biggest attribute “is my speed, which helps me to get into position to make plays and to drop back into coverage.” He is a SAM, but is now working as a Mike. He looked confused out there as I watched and was having trouble making a decision on which way to go in coverage. He also took a pretty good whack and I overheard him telling one of the coaches that he couldn’t hear a thing in his left ear. So his balance might have been affected also. He told me Euro was full of different challenges “physically and mentally and that’s the kind of guy I am in life in general, I’m a competitor.” He’s a gamer and he’s a BBI man, so let’s wish him the best of luck.

Finally, the biggest surprise, D.J. Dinkins, a guy I liked from the start. This kid is so talented, so humble, that he deserves a look somewhere. He wasn’t working as a QB and the Giants apparently aren’t insisting on it. He’s got an arm, he’s big, 6’4″, 245 pounds, and he needs some work. But he was at the end position. He held his position on a number of running plays, he ran over the middle on patterns. He’s tall and graceful and tough. I asked him about the experience so far and he told me, “It’s been a major experience for me coming from University of Pittsburgh and semi-pro ball. I’m here with good guys and I’m learning a lot every day and staying humble out here because if I take one day off, that’s one day that somebody else is going to get better than me. I’m probing the coaches’ minds trying to get everything I can off them so when the Giants’ camp comes around, I’m going to make that team, hopefully, and be a good player for them.”

I asked him about the road he’s been on and he gushed, “It’s a true blessing from God. I can’t say enough about my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who just really helped me out and blessed me. The rest is going to be on me and how hard I work. He’s opened the door for me, now it’s time to walk through that thing and produce on the field. I can’t wait. Coach Payton is really cool. I think I’m going to like him as an offensive coordinator and I can learn a lot from him and the quarterbacks already there. When the opportunity comes, I’m going to make the most of it.” I teased him about being so talented he was playing all over the field, and he laughed and told me, “Hey, basically, you put me in there. I’d love to play QB, but if somebody goes down and they put me in there someplace, it makes no difference. I love to go out there and play. I love the game. If I have to hold the ball for the kicker, kick punts, whatever, I just love the game, I’m ready to go.”

D.J. is, as I said, a big guy. I asked him his “true” speed and he told me “4.58 or 4.59, and I’m not afraid to block, not afraid to throw, not afraid to catch. I just love the game. It’s not about the $ signs. It’s about going against some of the best players, like MS, Tiki Barber; this is going to be the best opportunity I have to excel.” We were sitting on the bench and he leaned over conspiratorially and whispered to me, “I’m better than this guy, but the coaches have to play him – that’s why his team allocated him.” This guy happened to be Tee Martin. You know what, I believe D.J.is right. Earlier my exec friend and I had discussed the QBs and we laughed about the “statue” quarterbacks in the ranks. I told him how I longed for a QB who could move and gun on the run. This young man, D.J. Dinkins could be a # 2 or a #3. Let’s hope he gets the chance.

I wrapped the day with an old buddy, Kory Blackwell. KB is a veteran now. He looks and sounds like Philippi Sparks, who he admires. He is truly dumbfounded that I am here and remember him. He tells me, “Three more years, somebody has got to pick me up and give me three more years.” The dream – it doesn’t die. I wish him well and as he walks away he tells me thank you and he strikes his heart three times.

Most of these guys will disappear in a few years, but all will have been better and richer for this experience. A few will make it. I like it here. No whiners, no rich guys, no media, nobody calling them camp fodder. Just a bunch of good kids, living a dream.