New York Giants 2003 NFL Draft Review

Round Pick in Round Overall Selection Player Selected
1 25 25 DT William Joseph, Miami
2 24 56 DE Osi Umenyiora, Troy State
3 27 91 TE Visanthe Shiancoe, Morgan State
4 26 123 CB Roderick Babers, Texas
5 25 160 OT/OG Dave Diehl, Illinois
6 26 199 WR Willie Ponder, Southeast Missouri State
6 34 207 CB Frank Walker, Tuskegee
6 38 211 WR David Tyree, Syracuse
7 26 240 S Charles Drake, Michigan
7 35 249 OC Wayne Lucier, Colorado
7 41 255 WR Kevin Walter, Eastern Michigan

Draft Summary

Head Coach Jim Fassel said before the draft that defensive line, cornerback, and tight end were the priorities and the Giants came out of the first day of the draft with a defensive tackle, a defensive end, and a tight end.

The Giants, who picked 25th in the first round, did try to trade up in the first round with a number of teams, but apparently the teams the Giants talked with wanted too much in return for the Giants’ tastes. The speculation is that the Giants were trying to draft a defensive end such as Terrell Suggs (who went at #10), Michael Haynes (who went at #14), and Jerome McDougle (who went at #15).

So the Giants stood pat in the first round and managed to select DT William Joseph from the University of Miami, who was figured to go in the draft much higher than the #25 spot. With nine of the first eighteen picks in the first round being defensive linemen, it was fortunate that the Giants were able to select Joseph.

“Everyone saw what happened,” said General Manager Ernie Accorsi. “Nine defensive linemen got picked in the first eighteen picks, at that point we really did not like our chances, we had a couple left and thankfully no more got picked. We had given some thought to moving up earlier but the price was just too high and where we were the price always included the second round pick and that doesn’t mean top ten, I’m talking about eighteen and we weren’t giving up the second round pick. When that didn’t work out we decided to just hold.”

In the second round, the Giants picked DE Osi Umenyiora (pronounced “You-men-your-a”) from Troy State. In the third round, they selected TE Visanthe Shiancoe (nicknamed “Shank”) of Morgan State. Both are tremendous athletes who have a huge upside but carry some risk because of their small school background and the need for development. “These two guys have an enormous upside and I think they will be ready to play and when they get ready to play they will be better,” said Accorsi.

On the second day of the draft, the Giants selected three defensive backs: CB Roderick Babers (Texas) in the 4th round, CB Frank Walker (Tuskegee) in the 6th round, and S Charles Drake (Michigan) in the 7th round. They also added five players on offense on the second day. Two offensive linemen: OT/OG Dave Diehl (Illinois) in the 5th round and OC Wayne Lucier (Colorado) in the 7th round. Three wide receivers: WR Willie Ponder (Southeast Missouri State) in the 6th round, WR David Tyree (Syracuse) in the 6th round, and WR Kevin Walter (Eastern Michigan) in the 7th round.

“We didn’t give any picks away and these are the highest grades we’ve ever had for players late in the draft,” said Accorsi. “Why? I don’t know, unless we over-graded them. We did not strain at all…We had two situations where we were discussing between two corners and we ended up getting both and we had a discussion between two wide receivers and we ended up getting both.”

“What we did all through this draft, and there really are no exceptions, we just picked size and speed,” continued Accorsi. “We’ve picked some players in the past, late in the draft and you know who they are, who were probably pretty solid players who couldn’t get any better because they weren’t big and fast and we didn’t do that this time. We didn’t pick a player to fill a need, we picked a player and they’re not all going to make it but at least they have the size and speed to make it…Basically we targeted a bunch of guys and we got them, the only question now is were we right.”

“Right now we only need to sign three or four free agents and even when we do that we are going to need to release a few players.”

Here’s the scoop on each of the players selected:

1st Round – DT William Joseph (6-5, 308lbs, 5.02, University of Miami)

Scouting Report: William Joseph combines good size and athleticism. Quick, powerful, and instinctive. Has long arms. Can dominate, but needs to play with greater consistency and effort. Quality run defender and pass rusher from the inside spot. Before his senior season, many predicted he would be a top ten pick. Sacks fell from 10 to 5 his senior season, but his quarterback pressures increased from 16 to 29.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “He’s clean, he hasn’t been hurt, he’s got good speed, he’s fast, he is a size and speed athlete…This player has an upside, he is untapped. Hopefully we can get it out of him. He is going to come here with a strong personality and he’ll play well.”

What Jim Fassel Had to Say: “We got a guy that is a quality player. If you start for the University of Miami for four years, you have done some things. I like those Miami guys because they come in here with an attitude…He’s got great numbers as far as size and speed. He’s a big guy. He’s a big physical guy inside and initially he’ll be a guy that we can use on the run stopping downs and he’ll learn how to rush the passer. I think he can get better. I think this guy can continue to get better…A perfect case scenario is that he’s a guy that comes in and learns what we’re doing and he can contribute right away. He can be in there on a rotational basis. He has to beat the guys out that we have that are in those backup roles. But you would think he would have a good chance of doing that.”

What Jerry Reese Had to Say: “To be honest we thought (William Joseph) would be gone at (#25). He was projected to be a top 15 round pick. He’s a four-year starter at Miami, he’s a size, speed, defensive tackle and we are happy to have him.”

What William Joseph Had to Say: “I was kind of mad (at falling to the 25th spot) but now I need to go out there and prove a point. I need to show people what I am capable of doing.”

2nd Round – DE Osi Umenyiora (6-3, 280lbs, 4.7, Troy State)

Scouting Report: Outstanding athlete for his size, but raw. Has a big upside if he can master NFL technique. Has long arms and good size. Strong. Can play the run and the pass. Plays hard. Accrued 16 sacks, 20.5 tackles for a loss, and 43 quarterback hurries his senior season.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “We wanted this guy so bad that we kind of singled him out. Originally we didn’t think we would’ve been able to get him second round but once we got a tackle he became more important to us and its always been the same two, we just would have had to give up the third. Patience has helped us this year, it’s been the opposite of the last two years. In each case, the second and third round, we did not trade up and we got the players we wanted anyway.”

What Jerry Reese Had to Say: “Osi is a guy we had targeted. We are trying to bolster up our defensive line, we wanted to get a big guy, a guy with some speed on the outside and this guy really impressed us at his pro workout, this guy can run, this guy can fly off the edge and he’s not a little guy, this kids got some size, he’s not like an undersized situational pass rusher, this kid can be a full time player. He is a little bit raw, he has a limited background playing football but he has played all over the defensive line for Troy State. He has played nose guard, defensive tackle, the past couple years he has played a true defensive end position, and we felt like he has a big upside…He had sixteen sacks last year. Right now he is probably a better pass rusher than he plays the run at this point but he is going to get some specialized coaching here, (Defensive Line Coach Denny Marcin) is going to make a player out of this kid. Number one, this kid can run. He’ll probably be a situational pass rusher for us, I’m not coaching that’s Jim’s job but I would say that early on he will probably be a situational pass rusher and I think he can grow into a full time player.”

What the Osi Umenyiora Had to Say: “Excuse the cliché but that is a dream come true (playing with DE Michael Strahan), he is the best defensive end in the league right now. And just being over there being able to learn from him that is going to be ridiculously beautiful.”

3rd Round – TE Visanthe Shiancoe (6-4, 251lbs, 4.58, Morgan State)

Scouting Report: A sleeper pick who was rapidly rising up the charts immediately before the draft. Has good size and size potential. Very athletic with excellent speed for a tight end. Can stretch the field. Has excellent hands and will make tough catches in traffic. Good runner after the catch. Works hard at his blocking and is a decent blocker, but needs to work on his strength, bulk, and technique in order to improve his power as an in-line blocker. Good blocker on the move as an H-Back. Small school background so he is raw and needs a lot of route running refinement. However, his college team used him at tight end, H-Back, and in the slot as a receiver – something the Giants will most likely do as well. As a senior, he caught 25 catches for 510 yards (20.4 avg.) and 5 touchdowns.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “This was a target for us, this is a very talented player. He is an A medical but he only played eight games and he has a twenty-yard average, one was a seventy-five yarder and we picked him off of that. He just absolutely knocked the lights out of Indianapolis (the Combine), he was the star of Indianapolis, he was at the top level on all the drills and he caught the ball, it wasn’t just the gymnastics. The thing our coaches have made very clear was that our best, most productive formation was two tight-ends, two wide-outs and one back. We lost (TE Dan) Campbell, this guy will have to learn to be as good a blocker as Campbell but he’s faster and he’s got great hands so we were very excited. We didn’t think we’d get him, we thought he would go earlier and we weren’t going to pick a tight-end in the first round. We were thinking about trading up to get him in the second round…He’s not Campbell, he is kind of the opposite, he’s not this big, powerful blocker, I think he has the kind of body and athletic body that he could become an excellent blocker but he just has more receiver skills. He’ll become an outstanding blocker, they just haven’t had the program there that they had years and years ago but if we didn’t think he was going to be an outstanding blocker we wouldn’t have drafted him…I mean he obviously won’t beat out (TE Jeremy) Shockey but in the formation he is going to have to play.”

What Shiancoe’s College Coach Had to Say: “He’s like a wide receiver who can block. We changed our offense because of the things he could do.”

4th Round – CB Roderick Babers (5-9, 191lbs, 4.46, University of Texas)

Scouting Report: Lacks ideal height, but is built solidly with good speed. Agile, quick, and can leap. Has long arms for his size and good strength. Good man-to-man cover corner; needs work in zone coverage. Sometimes a bit too aggressive in coverage and will bite on double moves occasionally. Tough for his size. Aggressive against the run, but he needs to tackle more consistently. Experienced – started for three years at Texas. Excellent work habits and plays with an attitude.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “I told you yesterday that I felt we really needed to get a corner that can compete for the third corner, we’re not giving him the job but the only thing that kept Babers from being a higher pick was his height. He has a thirty-seven inch vertical jump and if you’re short you have to jump. He has everything else, speed, he plays for a big time program against a lot of big time receivers. There were a couple there and he was the shortest one but that was the only draw back.”

5th Round – OT/OG Dave Diehl (6-6, 310lbs, 5.29, Illinois)

Scouting Report: Has experience at both guard and tackle. Combines good size with fine athleticism. Has long arms. Quick for his size with good agility. Quick hands. Better pass blocker than run blocker. Needs to become a more physical and aggressive run blocker, as well as play with better leverage. Intelligent.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “We felt a lot better about the tackle situation than the guard situation on the right side. He has the potential to come in here and start. He can play tackle but versatility is a bonus because we already have two or three people that (Offensive Line Coach Jim) McNally feels comfortable with but guard was the position that we were most concerned about. We were almost awarding it to (OG Tam) Hopkins and now he has competition.”

6th Round – WR Willie Ponder (6-0, 205lbs, 4.55, Southeast Missouri State)

Scouting Report: Combines good size and athleticism. Hard worker. Has good hands and makes clutch catches. Adjusts well to poorly thrown passes. Some scouting reports say he runs good routes, other say he needs a lot of route running development. Creates separation and gets open. Gets open deep. Runs well after the catch. Caught 87 passes for 1,453 yards and 15 touchdowns his senior year. One newspaper report said Ponder ran a sub-4.4 for the Titans and Packers in a pre-draft workout.

6th Round – CB Frank Walker (5-11, 200lbs, 4.51, Tuskegee)

Scouting Report: Smooth and fluid athlete with good size. Does well in bump-and-run coverage. Can run with receivers deep and has burst. Raw – needs development. Big hitter. Aggressive against the run, but needs to wrap up better when tackling. One draft report said he has been timed in the 4.35-range and did not give up a reception in six games his senior season.

6th Round – WR David Tyree (6-1, 197lbs, 4.56, Syracuse)

Scouting Report: Combines good size and athleticism. Excellent special teams player. Does a great job of covering kicks and blocking punts. Team leader. Needs a lot of work as a wide receiver and running routes. Has good hands, but only average speed and explosion. Caught 36 passes for 559 yards and 3 touchdowns his senior season. Recorded 50 special teams tackles (36 solos) with a forced fumble and 5 blocked kicks during his career.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “We picked him as a special teams player, he can be listed as a wide receiver and he is certainly a decent wide receiver but that is not why we drafted him. If there was a category for special teams he was a high draft choice…Everyone that saw him said he was one of the best special teams players they’d seen all season. If he plays as well for us in training camp as he did at Syracuse, he’ll force his way onto the roster.”

What Jim Fassel Had to Say: “He jumped out at me. He’s special. Where is he as a receiver? He’s a guy that’s got to grow. Is he ready right now? No, he’s not. If he had no special teams play, I’m not sure where we are with him right now. But I’ll let him grow as a receiver because he can be an absolute terror on special teams. Whoever is going to grab that fifth wide receiver spot is going to have to be a contributor on special teams.”

7th Round – S Charles Drake (6-1, 205lbs, 4.55, Michigan)

Scouting Report: Former running back who moved to defense. Played at strong safety his senior season, but can play free safety. Very good athlete with good speed and agility. Raw – needs overall development. Flashes in coverage. Will hit and tackle, but needs greater consistency there. Has an upside if he can put it all together, but is no sure thing.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “We don’t really need a safety but he had a really high grade. He’s a big guy who can run from a big time program.”

7th Round – OC Wayne Lucier (6-4, 300lbs, 5.17, Colorado)

Scouting Report: Has experience at guard as well where he started as a sophomore, played center as a junior and senior. Has good size potential with long arms. Needs to add bulk and get stronger. Is a decent athlete who can pull and get out on the second level. Led Colorado in downfield blocks. Not powerful straight ahead run blocker at this point. Good pass blocker, but sometimes has problems with bull-rush. Did not allow a sack as a senior. Intelligent and hard working.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “(He) had missed some time because of injury and we just wanted to make sure that he was cleared medically. Pretty much we just added to depth.”

7th Round – WR Kevin Walter (6-3, 222lbs, 4.59, Eastern Michigan)

Scouting Report: Has excellent size and strength. Deceptive speed, but more of a possession receiver. Adjusts well to the poorly thrown pass and has good hands. Athletic. Good in jump ball situations because of his height and he is a good leaper with big hands. Raw – will need time to develop. Caught 93 passes for 1,168 yards and 9 touchdowns his senior season.

What Ernie Accorsi Had to Say: “I’m not comparing him to Jurevicius and McCaffrey but that is the type of receiver he is, he’s big, he runs at a good speed for that size. He caught a million passes.”

Rookie Free Agent Signings

DT David Thompson (6-4, 290lbs, 5.00, Ohio State):

Scouting Report: Was a key reserve for the National Champion Buckeyes. Good size and has the frame to get even bigger. Needs to get stronger. Still developing and improving. Decent athlete. Plays with leverage. Works hard. Accrued 42 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, and 4.5 sacks his senior season.

What David Thompson Had to Say: “I couldn’t ask for anything better. I’m very excited. I’ve always watched the Giants, since they had Lawrence Taylor, Dave Meggett and all those guys. A lot of my friends are Giants fans, and I’m a Giants fan, too, so to actually get to play for the team I watched since I was a little boy will be great. Hopefully, everything will work out like it should and in September I’ll be wearing a Giants uniform…(The Giants) told me, ‘This is a good program for you. We run the same type of defense that Ohio State runs. We really think you can come in and help out a lot, help us win.'”

DE Cliff Washburn (6-5, 275lbs, 4.95, The Citadel):

Scouting Report: Combines excellent size with athleticism (27” vertical jump and 9’01” broad jump at the Combine). Can and should get bigger. Extremely raw – played only one season of college football after playing four seasons of basketball for the Citadel. Obviously, he needs a lot of technique work, but he flashed in a big way his lone football season, accumulating 56 tackles, 20 tackles for a loss, and 12 sacks. Needs to play with greater leverage and power against the run. Needs to get stronger in his lower body (strong in the upper body – 22 reps at the Combine). Shows promise as a pass rusher, but needs to learn how to disengage from blockers quicker. Has good initial quickness and a burst. Still learning how to play the game which sometimes makes him look slow on the playing field (as he is thinking too much), but he is a quick athlete.

What Cliff Washburn Had to Say: “(The Giants) say my chances are pretty good. They said they really want to develop me as a defensive end and tackle. They saw me at the combine and watched a lot of my game film, and they were one of the teams talking to me even before the draft.”

LB Eddie Strong (6-2, 242lbs, 4.90, Mississippi):

Scouting Report: Has experience at all three linebacker positions. Has a nice combination of size and athleticism. Strong. Good hitter, tackler, and blitzer. Lacks ideal speed, balance, and agility, but has decent range and a burst. Struggles to change direction (though that may be partly due to a severe ankle sprain he suffered – see below). Better against the run than playing the pass. Not that instinctive – needs to read-and-react quicker on a more consistent basis. Didn’t have the year expected of him in 2002. Slowed by an ankle sprain his senior season (missed two games) in which he accrued 53 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, and broke up 4 passes.

OG Jeff Roehl (6-4, 300lbs, 5.17, Northwestern):

Scouting Report: Has experience at both tackle and guard – projects to guard at the pro level. OK size and athleticism. Very smart, tough, hard-working, aggressive, and competitive. Plays with an attitude. Not an overly-powerful player. More of a position blocker than a mauler in the run blocking department. Can block at the second level and pull, but he needs greater consistency in doing both. Sets up quickly in pass protection and is aware. A bit on the stiff side and lacks ideal agility. Solid and steady, but not special. Very good intangibles.

Eric’s Take on the 2003 Draft

Eleven draft picks! I was surprised, but somewhat pleased, the Giants didn’t trade any of them away. It reminded me of the not too distant days of the 12 round NFL drafts that I used to enjoy so much. Then they went to 8, then 7. For those of us who love the draft, watching the number of draft choices dwindle was depressing. But on Saturday and Sunday, it felt like the good old days.

Getting DT William Joseph in the first round without having to trade up was a major coup. It appears that the Giants preferred to have drafted DE Michael Haynes or DE Jerome McDougle by trading up, but both were gone before pick #16 (Kansas City – the team most likely to be the Giants’ trading partner). I’m not so sure why the Giants felt so much strongly about McDougle as I consider Joseph not only the safer pick, but the also the one that fits a greater need at a position that is extremely tough to find an exceptional player. My only thought is that the Giants preferred McDougle’s outgoing, gregarious attitude to the quieter Joseph. Perhaps they were looking for a Shockey-like personality for the defense. Makes sense. However, I would NOT have traded the #2 for a chance to draft McDougle. He has a chance to be an exceptional outside pass rusher, but he is no sure thing.

So what do the Giants have in Joseph? They have a big, strong, quick, and sometimes explosive defensive tackle who can stuff the run and rush the passer. He has no major negative and a big upside. The biggest knock on him was that he wasn’t as productive his senior season. His sacks dropped from 10 to 5 (but note that his quarterback pressures increased from 16 to 29). Why the drop-off? Well, for one, super-impressive then-sophomore DT Vince Wilfork was sharing time with Joseph on the field. Secondly, scuttlebutt says that Joseph (who would have been a top 10 pick in 2001) was persuaded to stay in school by his parents in order to graduate. He apparently coasted much of the season, feeling less than challenged on a team that had not lost a game in two seasons and not being able to improve his draft stock. There are no “sure things” in any draft. Giants’ fans know this first hand (Derek Brown, Tyrone Wheatley, Ron Dayne, etc.), but Joseph was a slam-dunk, no-brainer pick. He was the last of the exceptional defensive linemen at maybe the biggest need position on the team. In fact, it would not have shocked anyone to have seen the Giants trade up into the middle of the first round to pick Joseph. He needs to develop a better variety of pass rush moves/technique, but so does every rookie coming into the NFL at the position. Long-term, Joseph is a perfect complement to Cornelius Griffin inside. Short-term, he provides superb depth and a top notch guy to rotate with both Griffin and Hamilton, keeping everyone fresh.

The second pick, Osi Umenyiora, is more of a boom-or-bust, gamble-on-greatness pick. When the Giants’ turn came up, you still had guys like DE Dewayne White, DE Kenny Peterson, DT Rien Long, and DT Nick Eason on the board. I thought the pick would be White or Peterson as I was sure the Giants would go defensive end after going defensive tackle in the first round. Well, they did go defensive end, but the pick was surprising to most “draftniks” except BBI’er Matt in Syracuse, who had been touting Osi for weeks. Umenyiora has the tools. He’s big (6-3, 280lbs), fast, and quick. He was a big-time pass rusher (16 sacks and 43 QB hurries his senior year) at a small school that played against some big schools (Arkansas, Marshall, Mississippi State, Iowa State, and Nebraska were all on the 2002 schedule). But he’s raw and will need a lot of technique work (and perhaps patience). How tough, instinctive, and hard-working the kid is will determine a lot. The safer pick would have been White or Peterson. It will be interesting to compare these three players in three years. To me, this is the pick that will make or break this draft. If Osi develops into an excellent pass rusher and Joseph is what he should be, then the Giants did a great job. If Osi is a bust, then the Giants will have to wait yet another year to find a quality outside pass rusher opposite of the aging Michael Strahan.

I didn’t have TE Visanthe Shiancoe on my draft board because I thought the Giants would go with a more traditional, big, blocking tight end in the Howard Cross/Dan Campbell mold later in the draft. However, this pick makes sense in a lot of ways. First of all, Visanthe is not a bad blocker. In fact, he is quite good, especially when he is playing in the H-Back (or “move” tight end) position, which the Giants use a ton. He is very strong for his size (the strongest of all the tight ends in the draft). He simply needs to add more bulk and learn pro blocking techniques in order to become a better blocker in the down (“true”) tight end position. But it is as a pass receiver where Visanthe provides the most potential excitement. Like Jeremy Shockey, he has superb hands, agility, and speed (the best athlete at the tight end position in the draft). Like Shockey, he plays more like a wide receiver than a clumsy tight end out there in the passing game. He also appears to have Shockey’s bravado, telling Giants’ scout Rosie Brown that he is “better than Shockey”. The negatives? Aside from improving his down blocking, Visanthe comes from a small school program and has a lot to learn. It’s a big jump from Morgan State to the NFL. But if Visanthe is what the Giants’ think he is, then NFL defensives are going to face a double tight end nightmare. This was a ballsy pick by the Giants, but one that could have a huge impact on an offense already loaded at the skill positions.

I have no problem at all with the selection of Roderick Babers in the 4th round, other than the fact that it is going to be tough not getting tongue-tied saying Babers, Barber, and Bober. Good grief! Babers was an excellent performer for three years on a very strong University of Texas defense. He is a good athlete with the speed, quickness, and agility to stick with receivers at the pro level. What he lacks is ideal height (just under 5’9”). However, he makes up with that a bit by having relatively long arms (for his size) and good leaping ability (37” vertical jump). Babers could contend for the nickel job immediately as he is very experienced and talented.

I always consider the first four rounds the heart of the draft. After those rounds, it is virtually impossible to find a prospect who somebody hasn’t criticized for this or that. Most of these guys end up being quite ordinary and don’t have exceptionally long careers in the NFL. Some don’t make it at all. Others go down in NFL sports history as late round steals. Not all the guys the Giants drafted will make the team this year. Why? Simply because there is not enough room on the roster. What the Giants also did (because they had so many picks) is take pot shots at a couple of positions and hope they strike gold with two of the four picks at cornerback and wide receiver. The Giants not only drafted Babers, but they also drafted CB Frank Walker. As long as one delivers, they will be happy. Walker appears to be a very good athlete (one report said he has run under 4.4) with decent size (5’10”, 193lbs). He must have caught the Giants’ attention when they were scouting his teammate, the highly regarded CB Florence Drayton. The Giants also took two wide receivers, Willie Ponder and Kevin Walter. Both were incredibly productive at smaller schools. Ponder caught 87 passes for 1,453 yards and 15 touchdowns last year and Walter caught 93 passes for 1,168 yards and 9 touchdowns. Ponder appears to be the fluid speedster and Walter the big receiver in the Joe Jurevicius mold. The Giants’ fifth receiving spot is open and the Giants may want to stash someone away for next year if Ron Dixon leaves in free agency in 2004. I won’t criticize 6th or 7th round picks…the Giants have too good of a track record in finding gems late.

Two receivers – didn’t the Giants draft three? David Tyree will practice with the other receivers, but he will live or die in the NFL with his special teams play. I am overjoyed that the Giants actually drafted a special teams coverage stud. I miss the old days of Larry Flowers and Reyna Thompson making special teams tackles that change the tempo of a game. Long-time readers know I’ve been bitching about this for years – the Giants finally did something about it.

The two offensive line the Giants drafted (OG/OT David Diehl and OC Wayne Lucier) and the rookie free agent they signed (OG Jeff Roehl) are typical Jim McNally picks. They are all SMART. McNally doesn’t want guys who can’t grasp his more involved blocking techniques and schemes. He wants guys who can think on their feet and pick off the right guy when the defense adjusts. They are all hard-working and competitive. They are all good pass blockers because they have good feet and agility. They can all pull and block on the second level. None of them are smash-mouth maulers in the running game. Typical McNally – love him or hate him. But in McNally we trust because he’s turned no-names such as Jason Whittle, Chris Bober, and Rich Seubert into NFL players.

The Giants actually feel pretty good about their safety position. Shaun Williams and Omar Stoutmire are the starters. Johnnie Harris provides veteran depth. Clarence LeBlanc lacks ideal speed, but he’s a big guy who has a knack for intercepting passes and returning them for touchdowns (NFL Europe, NFL preseason). And don’t discount Ryan Clark who was a pleasant surprise as a rookie free agent last year – he can cover and hit. However, the Giants said they couldn’t pass up Charles Drake as he was clearly the highest rated guy on their draft board at that spot in the 7th round. Drake is an athlete with an upside, but he has to become a tougher football player to make it.

The Giants only signed four rookie free agents, but all of them are such quality prospects that no one would have complained had they been late round draft picks. Roehl is solid. LB Eddie Strong was highly regarded before his senior season (some people thought he might be a 2nd or 3rd rounder in the 2003 draft before the season started) but was hampered by a high ankle sprain in 2003. DT David Thompson was a key reserve on an impressive National Championship defense that stymied vaunted Hurricanes and has an upside. He was usually the first defensive lineman off the bench for Ohio State and is improving. Incredibly, DE Cliff Washburn only played football his senior year in college (staring in basketball for four years at the Citadel). But he looked like he was born to rush the passer, accumulating 12 sacks in 2003. He also didn’t look out of place at the East-West Shrine Game (where Umenyiora, Roehl, and Strong also played).

In summary, the only pick of the top four I’m unsure about is Umenyiora. I pray the Giants are right on that one because we need an outside pass rusher. I’m still giddy over getting Joseph; Shiancoe is an athletic freak; Babers is a quality coverman. They also got three McNally offensive linemen, a fast corner with an upside, two super-productive receivers with upsides, a special teams stud, and an athletic safety who is still developing. In addition, they signed another pass rushing defensive end, a developing defensive tackle, and a linebacker looking to redeem himself. On the surface, not a bad effort. But check back in three years!

Eric’s Early Roster Projection

Trying to predict what the Giants’ 53-man roster will look like four months away from the start of the season may be an exercise in futility. Players will get hurt. The Giants will still be looking at veteran free agents on the open market. Some current players will disappoint, others will surprise. But we thought it might be fun to take a stab at it. Please note that we are making an educated guess at how many bodies the Giants may keep at each position.

Special Teams (5):

Have the Inside Track: P Jeff Feagles, PK Mike Hollis, LS Ryan Kuehl, and KR/PR Brian Mitchell. These four are sure bets.

Big Roster Battle: 6th rounder WR David Tyree versus TE Darnell Dinkins. I’ve never heard a head coach or general manager rave about a 6th round draft pick as much as Fassel or Accorsi did after the draft about Tyree who is supposedly a special teams stud covering punts and kickoffs, as well as blocking punts and field goals. Darnell Dinkins demonstrated similar special teams prowess in NFL Europe and in camp last season. It would be great if the Giants could keep both, but it is unlikely unless Dinkins somehow can beat out Marcellus Rivers for the third tight end spot. However, keep in mind that Rivers was the Giants’ best special teams player last season.

Outside Looking In: PK Matt Bryant, PK Owen Pochman, P Steve Cheek, LS Dan O’Leary, and LS Mike Malczyk.

Quarterbacks (3):

Have the Inside Track: Kerry Collins, Jesse Palmer, and Jason Garrett. No debate.

Outside Looking In: Ryan Van Dyke

Halfbacks (3):

Have the Inside Track: Tiki Barber, Dorsey Levens, and Ron Dayne. Dayne is apparently working out like a fiend and since the Giants didn’t draft a halfback, it is pretty safe to assume he will be the insurance policy in case Barber gets hurt. However, Levens will cut into his playing time, especially in short-yardage and the red zone. Keep in mind that Brian Mitchell could be a factor here in spot duty.

Outside Looking In: Delvin Joyce and Antonio Warren.

Fullbacks (1):

Have the Inside Track: No one.

Big Roster Battle: Jim Finn versus Charles Stackhouse. My money is on Finn to win the job, but Stackhouse has the ability to keep this job if he improves his work ethic and blocking.

Tight Ends (3):

Have the Inside Track: Jeremy Shockey, 3rd rounder Visanthe Shiancoe, and Marcellus Rivers. Rivers has to be careful that Dinkins doesn’t steal his job due to special teams play, but Rivers was a stud on special teams last season.

Outside Looking In: Mark Inkrott and Taman Bryant.

Wide Receivers (5):

Have the Inside Track: Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard, Ron Dixon, and Tim Carter.

Big Roster Battle: Battle royale here between Daryl Jones, Derek Dorris, Chris Taylor, 6th rounder Willie Ponder, and 7th rounder Kevin Walter for one spot. Keep in mind that if Tyree makes the roster, he will be the sixth receiver.

Offensive Line (9):

Have the Inside Track: LT Luke Petitgout, LG Rich Seubert, and OC Chris Bober are sure bets. RT Ian Allen, LT/RT Jeff Hatch, RT/OG Barrett Brooks, RG Tam Hopkins, 5th rounder OG Dave Diehl, and 7th rounder OC Wayne Lucier have the inside track in my opinion, but are not sure things. Hopkins’ position could be in jeopardy if the Giants sign another veteran guard, which is a possibility. The Giants really like Allen, Hatch, and Diehl. Brooks is a veteran swingman who provides good insurance. Lucier should provide the Giants with a quality reserve center; he can also play guard.

Outside Looking In: OC/OG Dusty Zeigler, OC Omar Smith, OT Char-Ron Dorsey, OG Jeff Roehl, OG Pat Crummey, OG Vincent Sandoval, and OG Sean O’Connor. I’m 90 percent sure Zeigler will be released after June 1st in order to help pay for the rookie draft picks. I just don’t see him coming back from two serious surgeries on the same knee. Roehl is an interesting guy who may simply get caught up in a number’s game as the Giants don’t have the room to keep too many rookies here – especially on a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

Defensive Line (8):

Have the Inside Track: DE Michael Strahan, DE Kenny Holmes, DE Keith Washington, 2nd rounder DE Osi Umenyiora, DT Cornelius Griffin, DT Keith Hamilton, and 1st rounder DT William Joseph.

Big Roster Battle: Battle royale for the last defensive tackle spot between Lance Legree, Dwight Johnson, Matt Mitrione, Ahmad Miller, David Thompson, and Brad Harris.

Outside Looking In: Frank Ferrara, Sean Guthrie, and Cliff Washburn. Guthrie or Washburn would have to beat out Washington.

Linebackers (7):

Have the Inside Track: MLB Mike Barrow, MLB Nick Greisen, LB Kevin Lewis, WLB Dhani Jones, WLB Wes Mallard, SLB Brandon Short, and SLB Quincy Monk.

Outside Looking In: Josh Hotchkiss, Brad Rice, and Eddie Strong.

Cornerbacks (5):

Have the Inside Track: Will Allen and Will Peterson.

Big Roster Battle: Huge battle for three spots between Kato Serwanga, Ralph Brown, Ray Green, 4th rounder Roderick Babers, and 6th rounder Frank Walker.

Safeties (4):

Have the Inside Track: SS Shaun Williams and FS Omar Stoutmire.

Big Roster Battle: Really good competition here for two spots between Johnnie Harris, Clarence LeBlanc, Ryan Clark, and 7th rounder Charles Drake.