New York Giants 2004 NFL Draft – A Weekend at Ernie’s

By Contributor “Dog”

This weekend Madison Square Garden is Ernie Accorsi’s place. Giant’s fans are invited to spend the weekend at Ernie’s in hopes of witnessing the birth of a new era for the New York Football Giants. The Giants have landed the 4th pick in the 2004 NFL draft because of a dreadful 2003 season. Last season began with the Giants poised as a Superbowl contender. Those expectations rapidly deteriorated due to injuries, a lack of discipline and a coaching staff still reeling from the 2001 loss of then Defensive Coordinator John Fox. With the fourth overall pick, a recent regime change and Ernie Accorsi desperate to elevate his reputation, Giants fans are optimistic that recent draftees such as Brian Alford, Joe Montgomery, Sean Bennett, Jeff Hatch, John Markham, Rod Babers, and Cedric Scott are a thing of the past.

Fassel’s demise is not solely his responsibility. Ernie Accorsi must share in last year’s heart wrenching season. Ernie and Fassel have played Russian roulette with the Giants offensive line for several seasons until finally the gun went off essentially killing the Giants 2003 season. Combined with a weak drafting record, it is remarkable the Giants had any success under Fassel. The Meadowlands regime change was swift, but Mr. Accorsi managed to keep his position as Senior Vice President and General Manager. One may be suspicious as to why the man who helped contribute to the Giants fall still maintains such a high position within the organization. The reason is simple. Ernie Accorsi is one of the top General Managers in the NFL. He is highly regarded in all circles within the NFL and he has been an active influence in the league for thirty plus years.

Ernie fully understands the importance of the quarterback position. He started off with the Baltimore Colts in 1970 as their public relations director working with quarterback legend Johnny Unitas. In 1983 Ernie became the Colts general Manager. In his debut NFL draft he selected John Elway with the first overall pick in 1983. A few weeks later without consulting Ernie, the owners traded Elway. As a result of this transaction Ernie resigned from the Colts organization. Within a year the Colts would pack up their belongings and head to Indianapolis. Ernie’s next General Manager position would be with the Cleveland Browns in 1985. Ernie’s demand for quality quarterbacks continued as he selected Bernie Kosar in the first round of the supplemental draft of 1985. During his rookie season Bernie started 10 games and the Browns won their division. Bernie and Ernie had several more successful years with the Browns but never made it to the Superbowl. Accorsi left the Browns and worked for two years with the NFL front office. He was instrumental in securing the deal that would send the Cleveland Browns packing to Baltimore filling the void left by the Colts. Accorsi then joined the Giants as the Assistant General Manager under George Young in 1994. He took over the GM reigns in 1998. Again emphasizing quarterbacks he pulled former first rounder Kerry Collins from the NFL scrap heap in 1999.

Accorsi is near the end of his career. He desperately wants to leave his reputation in tact. He has been pursuing every possible angle for this draft. The Giants are in a great position to upgrade the team.

THE HAUNTINGS OF THE RECENT PAST: I must confess I keep having a reoccurring nightmare. It takes place draft weekend at Ernie’s. Arizona announces their pick. The commissioner steps up to the microphone and announces “The New York Giants are on the”, but before he is able to finish his statement Ernie Accorsi jumps up and grabs the mike. He excitedly shouts into the microphone, “the Giants use their first pick of the draft to select Iowa Place Kicker Nate Kaeding!” Madison Square Garden is silenced. The silence is gradually broken by sporadic boos. The volume of discontent rises as the fans emotions are voiced through loud exultation of expletives, boos and personal insults aimed at the Giants organization. Later in the day Ernie is interviewed and explains he is excited since they landed the player they targeted. He’ll justify that they did not pick him early because they heard from reliable sources that other teams also had Nate high on their list. Additionally on Monday’s press release the team rationalizes it is more important to walk away with the person you targeted then debate on when he should have been selected. Hold on to your remotes Giants fans. Provided the Giants don’t shoot themselves in the foot Ernie is practically guaranteed a successful first round.

The Giants have several first round options available.

GIANTS DRAFT OPTION 1: Giants stay where they are and grab the best player available. Option one is the safest and likely favored by Tom Coughlin and John Mara.

The top seven picks selected will be number one QB Eli Manning. No shock if the Chargers trade out of this spot and another team snatches up Gallery; number two OT Robert Gallery; number three WR Larry Fitzgerald; number four WR Roy Williams. Do not be surprised if Al Davis passes on Gallery to take Fitzgerald or Williams. Arizona may follow suit and take the remaining wide receiver. This scenario could drop Eli Manning or Robert Gallery in the Giants lap. Number five and number six could go either way and is a toss up between QB Ben Roethlisberger and FS Sean Taylor. At last glance Taylor’s value was on the rise while Ben’s was dropping. Number seven TE Kellen Winslow.

GIANTS DRAFT OPTION 2: If it were just Ernie involved in the decision I believe Manning would be the selection with no regard to the cost. But John Mara and Tom Coughlin might not be willing to sacrifice the picks the Chargers are demanding. Drafting Eli Manning, or any other top ten QB, will likely conclude the Giants relationship with current QB Kerry Collins. The Giants must renegotiate his current contract before June 1 and will only offer a short term deal if they draft a top 10 quarterback. Kerry is only willing to sign a long-term deal. If Kerry is not on the roster the Giants chance of making the playoffs in 2004 greatly diminishes. Eli Manning or any other rookie QB will take several seasons of grooming before taking this team on a playoff run. A short-term solution may present itself after June 1. The Giants could find a proven veteran who is willing to sign a short term, cap friendly contract. A QB like Kurt Warner could effectively replace Kerry Collins and keep the Giants moving towards a return to the playoffs as early as this season. A quality veteran could also provide a positive environment for a rookie QB to develop. If Bernie Kosar can take the Browns to the playoffs his rookie year certainly someone with the last name of Manning could possibly do the same for the Giants.

GIANTS DRAFT OPTION 3: Giants trade up to take Robert Gallery. The Giants will have to sacrifice at least one pick to move up to the number 2 spot. This option will allow them to sign Kerry Collins to his long-term deal. A new contract for Collins will free up salary cap space for this season. Cap space is still needed to sign the rookie class as well as provide an opportunity to address further needs with bargain contracts in the free agency market after June 1. The Giants will likely be able to trade up for Gallery and still keep their number 2 pick which is the 34th overall pick in the draft. Gallery and Petitgout will give the Giants formidable book ends for their offensive line for many years barring injury and dependent on Luke’s back injury. Ernie’s days of offensive line Russian Roulette will finally come to an end.

GIANTS DRAFT OPTION 4: Become savvy draft day traders. Dropping down to possibly the seventh spot will allow the Giants to still select a quality pick and also provide extra draft picks. Parlay those extra picks to trade into the bottom third of the first round. It would require negotiating skills that would make Donald Trump proud. If the Giants ended up with two first round picks and a high second round pick they would be vastly improved. This of course is the least likely option as Ernie Accorsi and the Giants organization are just too straightforward and open to pull something like this off.

THE NEEDS: The Giants have several glaring needs that must be addressed in this draft.

The highest priority must be the offensive line. Landing Robert Gallery in round one will instantly legitimize this offensive line. There is a large drop off in talent between Gallery and the rest of the offensive linemen in this draft. Expect to see the Giants grab at least two linemen from this draft and a couple more from the undrafted ranks. Names like Drew Strojny at 6’7” and 327 pounds could be a late round target for the Giants.

The next priority should be a linebacker. The Giants released all three of last seasons starting linebackers. They signed free agents to fill the strong side and weak side positions. Carlos Emmons will fill the strong side. Hopefully he is able to overcome a broken fibula that ended his season last year. If he recovers he will be a vast improvement over Brandon Short. Barrett Green will play the weak side and should effectively upgrade the void left by Dhani Jones. Unfortunately the Giants still have a hole in the middle of the field. Nick Greisen is penciled in. He has the potential and desire, but more then that is required to succeed. The Giants must bring in someone else. The draft doesn’t offer much in terms of a middle linebacker. The Giants need a big man who can stop the run and be fast enough to drop into coverage. A player must be smart enough to learn a defense and confidant enough to communicate to the rest of the team. On Sunday morning the Giants might be able to find LB Courtney Watson 6’ 1 3/8”, 237 and 4.54 40, who would be a bargain in the fourth round and has the potential to fill that void.

The Giants secondary is also a concern. The two Wills, Allen and Peterson, have the ability to be Pro Bowlers but they have yet to stay healthy. The safeties on this team are less then spectacular, average at best. Ernie’s first year as the Giants General Manager he informed the press that a team should avoid taking a safety in the first round. With that statement still in the headlines Ernie decided to pass on OG Alan Faneca, which would have filled a Giants need and decided to select safety Shaun Williams with the 24th pick of the 1998 draft. Ernie’s first draft with the Giants effectively carried on the age-old Giants GM traditional draft day jaw dropper. NY was assured their best athlete available philosophy would yield a perennial Pro Bowler with Shaun Williams. Unfortunately the Giants have been lucky to get an occasional highlight from Williams let alone an entire Pro Bowl season. Sean Taylor would be a huge boost to the Giants secondary and he could also take some pressure off the linebackers. He would be a nice fit and someone the Giants must consider. On the downside selecting Taylor would force the Giants to over pay for a position whose market value has steadily declined the past few seasons. Green Bay signed Mark Roman for $700,000 and he will improve the Packers secondary. A number four pick expects to receive several million dollars a season. This money could be allocated to other positions. Taylor on the field might permit the Giants to sign less experienced and less expensive linebackers.

At first glance the tight end position led by Jeremy Shockey looks great. However there is no true blocking TE. The Giants have not replaced Dan Campbell. TE Kellen Winslow could actually be selected before Roethlisberger. Winslow is just shy of 6’4” and weighs in at 251 pounds. Additionally he runs an incredible 4.52 forty. Winslow is a warrior who knows the game of football. Coughlin wants players like Winslow. He will beat you with his pass catching or he will hammer you with his blocking either way he’ll fight you with everything he possesses. The Giants offense would receive a massive boost if Winslow and Shockey were on the field together.

The Giants wide receivers can stand for some improvement. Amani Toomer is the number one wide receiver who still can’t manage to win a game. He puts up good seasonal numbers but is rarely the deciding factor in important games. Ike Hilliard is a workhorse who has become injury prone. The Giants younger receivers just haven’t been able to consistently step up. The Giants will pick up a wide receiver this weekend, when remains to be the question. If they use their first round pick to get Larry Fitzgerald or Roy Williams their offense will immediately be impacted. Fitzgerald is the number one college wide receiver in the nation. He has great size at nearly six foot three and weighs in at two hundred and twenty five pounds. In simple terms this kid has the potential to win games for any NFL team that selects him.

The Giants are also lacking a backup to Tiki Barber. Ron Dayne will either step up or step out. The Giants can’t rely on him to step up they must select a player that has the potential to carry the workload or sign a free agent.
If the Giants select Manning or Roethlisberger they will still need a backup. A top five QB pick sends Collins packing. Free agency might be the best way to fill this need if Collins is gone.

The defensive line has received the most attention between last years draft picks of DT William Joseph, DE Osi Umenyiora, free agent pick up DE Keith Washington and this years free agent pick ups of DT Fred Robbins, DT Martin Chase, DE Lorenzo Bromell and DT Norman Hand. The Giants have added the necessary depth. This unit could actually turn into a formidable strength.

An average team with superb special teams will have a better chance of making the playoffs then an above average team with below average special teams. The Giants special teams are consistently below average. The Giants must be monitoring the late round picks for special teamers. CB Nathan Vasher may be overlooked the first few rounds because of his 5-10, 177 pound frame. But he is a good athlete with good hands and excellent work habits. Combined with his 4.45 timed 40 and his punt returning experience he has potential to be a special teams gem.

This weekend at Ernie’s should be a positive momentum builder for the Giants. Sometime during the weekend they will inevitably make a pick that many fans will protest. But Ernie is very motivated to get this one right. He is more prepared then he has been in the past. He has spoken with several teams and ferociously studied all the scenarios. Every team Accorsi has served as General Manager he attempted to build his team around a star quarterback. He will do that again with the Giants either by drafting a quarterback in the first round on Saturday or by giving Collins his long-term contract on Monday morning. As a Giants fan facing the possibility of another comedic movie adventure with Ernie, I have to admit I am optimistically frightened. For up to the minute news, draft coverage and Giants information log onto