Very Preliminary Overview of New York Giants 2005 NFL Draft Options

by Colin Lindsay, Great Blue North Draft Report (and big Giants’ fan!)

First things first… We frankly couldn’t give a rat’s ass about pre-season W-L projections – its why they play the games! – but what passes as analysis of the Giants’ prospects in 2005 by just about everyone from the national press to the local peanut gallery has gotten to be a tad annoying. The general consensus seems to be that the 4-12 Giants really didn’t make any significant additions they are destined to finish around that mark again. The problem, of course, is that in saying the Giants haven’t made any major upgrades they are comparing the Giants likely starting lineup this fall with their opening lineup last fall. Fair enough, so far, however, the team that went 0-8 through the second half of the 2003 season was a far cry from the squad that opened the season. The Giants’ projected 2004 offensive line of (from L to R) of Petitgout, Stokes, O’Hara, Snee, and Diehl, probably is a wash with last year’s starting group of Petitgout, Seubert, Bober, Diehl and Allen, however, only a fool would say that this year’s group isn’t a huge upgrade over the group that actually played most of the year including such the likes of Allen, rookies Jeff Roehl and Wayne Lucier, Scott Peters and Jeff Hatch! And there’s is a similar story at positions like CB as well as the receiver. To be honest, we have no idea how the Giants are going to fare this year; at least we’re going to try and compare apples with apples…

Second things first… Like most loyal Giants’ fans we’ve spent the past few months wrestling with the question whether the team paid to much to acquire Eli Manning with at the 2004 draft. Certainly, the early returns on Manning have been very promising, but taking that deal with Cleveland and grabbing Ben Roethlisbereger at #7, along with MLB Daryl Smith (with the extra second rounder); any of good young CBs Joey Thomas, Keith Smith, or Derrick Strait (with the #3 pick sent to San Diego in the Manning deal, not to mention a potential top 10 pick this coming April was still awfully tempting. In the end, though, we have to defer to the judgement of the team’s hiearchy if, indeed, they felt that Manning was simply that good.

What we never had a real problem with, though, was allowing Kerry Collins to move on. Collins did some yeoman service with the Giants; certainly far more than anyone had the right to expect after he was plucked off the football scrap heap. Ask any NFL coach, though, what he wants first and foremost from his QB and he’ll tell you without hesitation: “take care of the football!” And for all his 4,000 yard seasons, Collins still threw too many interceptions. Indeed, we expect that for the past several year, deposed head coach Jim Fassel and GM Ernie Accorsi kept waiting for Collins to get his INTs down close to single digits, but it just never happened. And while the difference between 10-12 picks a year versus 16-18 doesn’t look like all much, if one figures that every extra 1-2 INTs costs a game…well you do the math…

One of the most-asked questions around the NFL these days is why have so many teams with ‘average’ QBs have gone to the Super Bowl in recent years, while the star QBs have generally stayed home. One theory we have is that teams with star QBs have to invest such a large share of their cap in that star QB that they simply can’t afford the kind of depth a team needs to win a championship. And that will be the real challenge for the Giants front office over the next few years, assuming, of course, that Manning continues to evolve into one of the premier QBs in the game. The Giants, for example, already appear to have two big-ticket players on offense in Manning and Shockey and likely will not be able to afford a third. They should also be able to have 2-3 moderately priced stars on defense, but what we believe they are going to do, particularly at positions like WR and the offensive line, is develop a solid group of good, though, not necessarily great, players such that when a top player comes up on free agency he can be allowed to leave and there is another almost interchangeable player ready to step in. That’s one reason we really liked the Jamaar Taylor pick as he is exactly that kind of player, although of course, the Giants will need a few (and maybe many) more like him. To do that, we think the Giants will need to seriously consider stockpiling extra middle round picks in the 3rd to 6th round areas, which may mean getting out of the first round altogether in upcoming years, especially if there isn’t a player that really fits a specific need available at that moment. Certainly, with the kind of salary cap strictures they are likely to face down the road, we don’t think the Giants can afford to simply to sit back and play the old 7-rounds, 7-picks game.

Good news, bad news look to Giants’ 2005 draft hopes… Of course, the 2005 draft is still a ways off – 253 days to be exact – not to mention, a full season, however, assuming that the Giants pick somewhere between 40th and 50th next April, there is some good news and some bad for the Giants. If one assumes – and again we caution that so much can, and will, happen between now and next April 23rd – that Giants’ scouts’ will be paying special attention to OGs, RBs, LBs and safeties this fall, the good news is that there could very well be some very interesting options at both OG and RB in the mid second round this year; the bad is that the pickings at LB – especially in the middle – won’t be quite as good, while the safety position could be very weak. For now here’s a very preliminary overview of how the 2005 draft is starting to shape up, particularly in the context of the Giants’ likel off-season needs.

Offensive line… Everything else being equal, whether the Giants’ opt to use their second round pick at the 2005 draft on an offensive lineman will depend largely on the health of OG Rich Seubert. If Seubert can come all the way back from that gruesome injury then the Giants will likely be able to look elsewhere with their top pick; if not, OG will become a major priority. Fortunately, the 2005 draft could have as many as half a dozen OGs with at least late first-round potential including 335-pound Claude Terrell of New Mexico, a college OT who projects to OG in the pros because he’s only 6-3, along with roadgraders Elton Brown of Virginia, Michigan’s David Baas, C.J. Brooks of Maryland, Chris Kemoeatu of Utah and Wisconsin’s Dan Buenning. Several are likely to slip into the middle of the second round.

In fact, the offensive round is one of the strengths of the 2005 draft, such that even if the Giants pass on an OL in the second round they should still be able to add some depth at the position in later rounds. There is particular depth at OT where Daniel Loper of Texas Tech, Rob Petitti of Pitt, 6-8 Mike Kracilik of San Diego State, Adam Snyder of Oregon and Adam Terry of Syracuse are all very good second-tier prospects who should be available in the 3rd-4th round areas. Indeed, a team looking to add some quality young legs to its offensive line at the 2005 draft may very well be able to pick up something to their liking deep into the second day.

Running back… With Tiki Barber aging, at least in football years, and Ron Dayne still a huge question mark, RB could be another be another priority for the Giants at the 2005 draft, although if we had are druthers, the Giants would use their second round pick to upgrade the offensive line or team speed on defense, and wait until the later rounds to select a back. Whatever they ultimately decide to do, the Giants aren’t likely to get a shot at any of this year’s elite backs like Carnell Williams of Auburn or Syracuse speedster Walter Reyes with that #2 pick, however, if a number of quality juniors come out this year, some quality RBs could be available in the mid-second round. Players to watch include juniors DeAngelo Williams of Memphis, T.A. McLendon of North Carolina State, and Dontrell Moore of New Mexico along with veteran scatbacks Anthony Davis of Wisconsin, Darren Sproles of Kansas State, and Patrick Cobbs of North Texas. There should also be some quality backs available in later rounds including Earl Charles of Marshall, a solid 215-pounder with a burst, as well as Lionel Gates of Louisville and Kay-Jay Harris of West Virginia, both of whom have the kind of size/speed combinations pro scouts love. Same for Cedric Houston of Tennessee, who also has the physical tools to be a great one, but has never been able to stay fully healthy throughout his career.

Linebacker… The Giants may have a caught a break when Oklahoma MLB Lance Mitchell tore an ACL early last season. Mitchell, a 245-pounder with speed who was one of the top 2-3 ranked MLBs in the country heading into the 2003 season, appears fully recovered, but could slip into the middle of the second round if teams are scared off by concerns about the knee. San Diego State tackling machine Kirk Morrison could also slip into the same range because of a lack of prototype speed. Overall, though, the talent at MLB for the 2005 is likely only to be average unless a number of juniors such as Abdul Hodge of Iowa, Fred Roach Will Derting of Washington State, Kevin Simon of Tennessee, and Odell Thurman of Georgia opt to leave school early, (although Derting has a wrist injury that could sideline him for the year, while Thurman has been suspended from UGAs first three games of the year. Meanwhile, other MLBs who will get a look in later rounds include athletic Barrett Ruud of Nebraska, along with underrated Robert Rodriquez of UTEP, Robert McCune of Louisville, Adam Seward of UNLV, Marcus Lawrence of South Carolina, Lionel Turner of LSU and Wendell Hunter of California.

While the MLB crop looks to be evry ordinary for 2005, the OLBs could evolve into something very special if any of a number of outstanding junior OLBs including 6-5 Pierre Woods of Michigan, A.J. Hawk of Ohio State, speedy DeMeco Ryans of Alabama, Chad Greenway of Iowa, Darryl Blackstock of Virginia, and Temple’s Rian Wallace opt to enter next year’s draft. There they’d join seniors Derrick Johnson of Texas and Michael Boley of Southern Miss, a pair of play-makers with near top 10 potential. As well, there appears to be plenty of depth at the position, headed by Zac Woodfin of Alabama-Birmingham, James Kinney of Missouri, Ryan Claridge of UNLV, Pat Thomas of NC State and Derek Wake of Penn State, each of whom is an athletic playmaker.

Safety… Here’s the really bad news for Giants’ draft watchers. If the 2004 WR class was one of the best position groups ever – period – then this year’s safety could very well be one of the worst! Even worse, what strength there is at safety is almost exclusively at SS. Still, there are several FS prospects including James Butler of Georgia Tech and Mitch Meeusen of Oregon State, who would be good value in the mid-second round next year, while Aaron Francisco of BYU, Oshomohgo Atogwe of Stanford and Jason Harmon of Michigan State will provide some decent late first-day depth.

The rest of the field… The 2005 draft should also feature strengths at both DE and CB, positions the Giants could also very well be looking at next spring. DEs who could still be available in the mid-second round include explosive speed rushers Ardell Duckett of Texas Tech and Oregon State’s Bill Swancutt, along with two-way guy Dan Cody of Oklahoma, while juniors such as Eric Henderson of Georgia Tech, Jovan Haye of Vanderbilt and Loren Howard could also factor in at that point. There is also a very deep second-tier group of senior DEs such that teams should be able to find some help at the position pretty much throughout the second day of the draft. In contrast, it appears that after dominating recent drafts, 2005 could be a real down year at DT.

CB should be another solid position at the 2005 draft, however, its a top-heavy group so teams looking for an upgrade at the position won’t want to wait too long. A couple of names that could figure prominently in the middle of the second round, though, are Darrent Williams of Oklahoma State and Mark Walker of TCU, while Karl Paymah of Washington State has the kind of size and speed combination that the NFL teams are always looking for in a shut down corner and could be a bit of a sleeper at that spot. There is a similar story at WR where there is some upfront talent, although certainly nothing like last year even with Southern Cal’s Mike Williams back in the 2005 draft pack, but not much in the way of depth at the position.

And for those wanting more detail, we invite everyone to check out are full Great Blue North Pre-season College Football Draft Report featuring full school-by-school and position-by-position previews for the 2004 season now just 10 days away. And, we’ll be back this season with our weekly previews of who to watch in college football’s big games.