New York Giants 2004 NFL Draft Needs

Introduction: As I warn every year, it is highly and risky to rely on rookie draft picks to come in and start. If you look at the history of rookie draft picks, a very low percentage of these players have the mental and physical make-up to succeed so soon when being thrust into the line-up. Does it happen? Sure, but it not wise to count on it. Obviously, the Giants would be looking to have their very high first round draft pick make an immediate impact his rookie season if this player isn’t a quarterback (and perhaps even a quarterback if that quarterback is Eli Manning). But the rest of the draft picks are likely to serve as primary back-ups in 2004 as they develop mentally and physically. That’s why the Giants have been pursuing cheaper veterans as depth this offseason. They are protecting themselves better for various contingencies, something they have not done very well in recent years.

All of the needs listed below will not be addressed through this draft. For one, the Giants only have 8 draft picks. Secondly, once QB Kerry Collins’ contract situation gets resolved (either by re-structuring or parting ways with him), the Giants will have additional cap room to sign more veteran free agents both before and after June 1st. So don’t get overly depressed at my analysis below and think that all these holes need to be filled through the draft.

Linebacker: The Giants added two quality veterans outside in Barrett Green and Carlos Emmons, but they need another body to compete with Nick Greisen at middle linebacker. In addition, depth is severely lacking. There is a chance that Quincy Monk will actually fit nicely into Tim Lewis’ new defensive scheme as Monk has flashed pass rushing ability in previous preseasons. Kevin Lewis remains the forgotten man…it will be interesting to see what the coaching staff thinks of him. Wes Mallard really hasn’t shown anything and is coming off of a serious and late-season knee injury. In what may be a telling sign, the Giants have not yet handed out a jersey number to Carlos Emmons. Emmons wore #51 in Philly. Mallard wears #51. I smell an injury settlement brewing. Regardless, the Giants need to add at least one and maybe two quality linebacker prospects in the draft. Another free agent veteran wouldn’t hurt either. This position needs a lot of work.

Halfback: The Giants have Tiki Barber and not much else, unless you think Ron Dayne is going to miraculously acquire better initial quickness and start running tougher between the tackles. I am not counting on it and neither should the Giants. The only other halfbacks on the roster are Delvin Joyce and Antoine Womack. If Barber gets hurt, the Giants would be in real trouble here. The bad news is that there is not a lot of quality running backs in this draft.

Quarterback: Much depends on what transpires with the first round pick. If the Giants draft a quarterback in round one, it is likely the Giants will waive or attempt to trade Collins. Why? Because the Giants can’t afford to keep his almost $9 million cap hit on the books when they have to sign the rookie draft class and add additional veterans. Re-structuring in such a scenario is not possible as the Giants and Collins would not be able to agree upon a short-term deal. Now if the Giants don’t draft a quarterback in round one, I see Collins and the Giants coming to an agreement and him staying. But regardless, Jesse Palmer is not the answer and the only other quarterback currently in the mix is NFL Europe allocation Ryan Van Dyke. Personally, I would like to see the Giants dump Palmer, sign a veteran, and draft another developmental prospect.

Wide Receiver: Amani Toomer should thrive in Tom Coughlin’s offense, but there are only question marks behind him. Ike Hilliard has played a full 16-game season just twice in his first seven seasons, in 1998 and 1999. His body is beat up and one has to wonder if he will start slipping sooner rather than later. Tim Carter has tremendous tools, but he has not gotten the job done yet and has also proven to be somewhat injury-prone. Willie Ponder, David Tyree, Ataveus Cash, and Ryan Hoag are hopefuls. The Giants would be in real trouble if Toomer was lost with an injury. This is a very deep draft at wide receiver and I would be somewhat shocked if the Giants did not draft one.

Cornerback: You can never have too many quality corners. The Giants SHOULD have two strong building blocks in Will Allen and Will Peterson, but both are coming off serious injuries. And Peterson is injury-prone. Terry Cousin will help in the nickel, but he is not a guy who you want starting. Frank Walker flashes, but made a lot of mental mistakes last year and is no sure thing. The Giants need to add another corner. You can’t scheme around poor corners.

Offensive Line: A lot of people will be angry that I didn’t put this position higher on the list, but the Giants can get by with the group they currently have. Does that mean that the offensive line won’t be addressed in the draft, even perhaps in the first round? Hell no. But it is not an overriding need. People seem to forget that Luke Petitgout was an outstanding left tackle in 2002. Last year he played with a bad back that is now healthy. Shaun O’Hara is an upgrade over Chris Bober at center. David Diehl and Wayne Lucier are a year older and wiser. Both have big upsides. Barry Stokes can play at guard or right tackle. Rich Seubert is ahead of schedule. Ed Ellis provides depth. One quality draft pick or veteran free agent would make the world of difference here.

Safety: People will be upset that this position isn’t higher on my list either. We’ve been waiting for that breakout year from Shaun Williams ever since he was drafted in 1998. He had a strong season in 2000, but hasn’t played as well since then. Will the new defensive schemes and coaches help? We’ll see. He will start again at strong safety in 2004, but this may be his last chance with the Giants. He makes too much money to be such an ordinary player. Omar Stoutmire gets a lot of unfair grief. Why? Because he doesn’t make any plays on the football. It’s a valid criticism and the Giants would certainly like to find someone who makes more plays on the football. However, Stoutmire is a relatively athletic free safety who rarely is out of position or burned. Plus, he gets in on a lot of tackles. He’s not bad, he’s just average. Depth is a little bit of a concern although it is hoped that Ryan Clark, Clarence LeBlanc, and Jack Brewer will compete.

Fullback: It would be ideal if the Giants found a more physical, powerful lead-blocking fullback to compete with Jim Finn in camp.

Place Kicker: Matt Bryant still makes me nervous.