Feb 282007
 

Many readers of this site are tired of my recent pessimism with respect to the New York Giants. They contend that I am attempting to orchestrate some sort of witch hunt against Tom Coughlin (not true) or that I am just a fan who is not privy to any inside information that would make my views any more informed than other fans (true).

But since this site’s inception in 1995, it has been one of my functions to provide my opinion on the state of the team. Almost all of my previous off-season articles since 1995 have been optimistic in tone, the last example being my 2005 off-season piece.

If you don’t respect my opinion, then don’t bother reading this article. No one is putting a gun to your head. If you think I’m being overly negative because of subjective personal biases clouding my judgment, then move along. I’m not a rah-rah guy. When I think the situation looks positive, I call it like I see it; when I think the situations looks negative, I do the same.

With all that said, I think you can already tell that I am worried about this team. I see question marks and/or instability in too many areas ranging from player personnel to the coaching staff to the front office to ownership. Increasingly, 2007 reeks of year of transition with a coaching staff that has been given a one-year ultimatum to win now or be toast.

Let’s look at the state of the 2007 New York Giants:

Player Personnel: The key question here is are the Giants better now than they were last season? On paper, the answer is clearly no. The Giants’ best player for the past few season – Tiki Barber – has retired. The team cut its starting left tackle, a player who was having one of his better seasons. And in what was probably the right decision, the Giants are prepared to part ways with their three top outside linebackers (LaVar Arrington and Carlos Emmons have already been cut and Brandon Short is likely not to be re-signed). The top back-up offensive tackle retired before he was cut and the starting center may be departing in free agency. It looks like the Giants won’t re-sign their top back-up tight end.

So let’s look at the offense. Mostly, things depend on Eli Manning. While Manning improved his completion percentage in 2006, he did not experience the type of growth that was expected of him. He remains far too inconsistent and his critics are growing daily – not just because of his performance but because of the price the Giants paid for him, his last name, and the manner in which it is perceived that he forced a trade on draft day. The offensive line was supposed to be the steady foundation of this team for the foreseeable future but now the Giants have to break in a new left tackle – the most important and most difficult position on the line. David Diehl, who struggled at right tackle in 2004, will likely be the new left tackle. With his shift to tackle, the Giants will also need a new starting left guard. That was to be Rich Seubert, but now Seubert may be needed at center if Shaun O’Hara leaves via free agency. Regardless of all of this, depth is now a big issue as Guy Whimper is now the #1 back-up at tackle and Matt Lentz at guard (unless Grey Ruegamer is re-signed).

At the skill positions, I personally have great confidence in Brandon Jacobs. I think he is the least of the Giants’ worries and will become the heart of the offensive team. But he is a question mark. And there is little depth behind him. The Giants have no depth behind the injury-prone Jeremy Shockey, who has never finished a season healthy. At wide receiver, if something were to happen to Plaxico Burress, the Giants would be in deep shit. Amani Toomer is nearing the end and doesn’t really frighten opposing defenses anymore. We have no idea yet what kind of player Sinorice Moss will be. Everyone else at wide receiver stinks.

Defensively, the strength remains the defensive line, especially at defensive end. The only worries at end are the ability of Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan to recover from serious foot injuries. Inside, let’s pray that 2006 was not just a one-year wonder for Fred Robbins. Barry Cofield should be better, but someone to push William Joseph out of the picture would be ideal.

The real problem – not just for the defense but the entire team – is that the back-seven on defense is sub par. Antonio Pierce, who had a down season in 2006, is the only proven commodity left at linebacker. If the season were to start today, Chase Blackburn and Gerris Wilkinson would probably be the starters outside. In the secondary, Corey Webster has not developed and Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters are a year older and probably slower. Will Demps was terrible at free safety and Gibril Wilson far too inconsistent at strong safety. It is my strong opinion that you can’t win without a strong defense and the Giants’ back-seven is a mess.

On special teams, Jay Feely may depart via free agency.

Possible Off-Season Player Personnel Upgrades: The counter argument to all of this is, “Hey Eric, the season doesn’t start on March 1st, it starts in September. Let’s see what the Giants do in free agency and the draft first!” I have a couple of problems with that argument.

First, this is one of the worst – and possibly the worst – free agency markets since the inception of unrestricted free agency. Why? Partly because most teams have learned how to handle the salary cap and re-sign their younger, up-and-coming players before they hit free agency. But mostly it is because more teams have more cap room than ever before. This is because of the dramatic increase in the salary cap (to $109 million) due to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams now have more money to re-sign players and/or not be forced to cut players due to salary cap restrictions. Thus, if you look at the quality of those who will soon hit the open market, it isn’t very good. Worse, for the few quality players out there, teams will have more money than ever to spend on them. Look at the Giants. This is a team that is always against the cap but this year they will have $20 million to spend. However, the Giants are still only above average in terms of available cap space this offseason. Almost everyone has millions to spend. Basic economics. Too much money chasing too few players – players will be dramatically overpaid.

Secondly, I don’t think the Giants are an overly attractive destination for free agents. “Yeah Eric, we’ve heard this same shit from you before only to be proven wrong.” That’s true. I expected Tom Coughlin’s reputation as a rule-driven hard-ass to scare off potential free agents. It didn’t because I failed to fully realize the old adage – it always comes down to money. The problem this year is that everyone has money. And worse, the perception out there (right or wrong) is that Coughlin is a lame duck coach on the verge of being fired and that the Giants have terrible team chemistry. If the money is near the same, a player may not see the Giants as the better situation.

Thirdly, just because a player is signed in free agency, it doesn’t mean that that position has been “fixed.” Quality matters. Last year, the Giants signed 10 free agents from other teams – CB R.W. McQuarters, CB Sam Madison, S Will Demps, S Jason Bell, S Quentin Harris, LB LaVar Arrington, LB Brandon Short, DT Junior Ioane, TE Boo Williams, and OC/OG Grey Ruegamer. Not exactly a stellar effort despite the numbers.

So the Giants will have to deal with a poor free agent market in which a lot of teams have money to spend. If the Giants are fortunate, they may get one or two quality starters out of free agency. And that’s if they are fortunate. The other area where the team can improve itself is the draft. But the Giants only have seven picks and will pick in the latter half of each round. The team has a lot of needs and seven picks don’t seem like enough. In addition, it is never, never wise to assume that a rookie can come in and start. It happens, but it is not wise to count on it.

So in summary, I see major needs at linebacker, cornerback, safety, wide receiver, tight end, possibly the offensive line, and possibly place kicker. I also see additional needs at defensive tackle and halfback. That is a lot of needs. And the Giants don’t have a lot of ammunition to fill those needs.

Coaching: I am not going to go off on an anti-Coughlin tilt, other than to say that Coughlin has been nothing more than a .500 coach in New York and 2006 was not one of his better coaching efforts. In addition, he obviously made major mistakes in selecting his assistant coaches as both coordinators were fired.

The big problem here is that Coughlin is in a win-or-be-fired situation. That’s a tough situation given: (1) the personnel issues I discussed above, (2) the savage nature of the NY area media when they smell blood in the water, (3) a fan base that has started to turn on the coach, and (4) a roster of players who has a history of criticizing their coaching staff publicly and privately. Plus, it’s a tough division.

There are also issues with the assistant coaches. New Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride was fired from his previous two offensive coordinator gigs after only two seasons. Plus, he didn’t exactly do a stellar job with Eli Manning as the quarterbacks coach. Now he’s in charge of the entire offense. New Defensive Coordinator John Spagnuolo has never served in that role at the pro level. We don’t know how he will handle the job. Even if he is good at it, his players will now have to learn a completely new system and terminology. There will be growing pains and growing pains equals losses. The new special teams coach, Tom Quinn, is young and very inexperienced. He’s never served as a special teams coordinator at the pro level. Finally, new quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer has an up-and-down record with working with young quarterbacks.

Front Office: I still don’t get the sense that ownership was overly enamored with new General Manager Jerry Reese. If so, why was Reese not promoted before the season ended or as soon as the season ended? Why was loser GM Charley Casserly interviewed? Why did the Giants reach out to Scott Pioli? Why was the decision to retain Coughlin made before Reese was promoted?

It was also a red flag that Reese was far too open when discussing the team’s personnel situation recently at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. In fact, both The New York Times and FoxSports contend that by simply mentioning Bills’ HB Willis McGahee, Reese was violating League tampering rules. He should know better. The Giants also appear to have mismanaged the contract discussions with OC Shaun O’Hara. According to The Daily News, the Giants never intended to meet O’Hara’s original contract demands, but chose to do so once the Cowboys gave a big deal to their center. Now O’Hara has upped his demands and is rejecting his own original offer. The Giants could have re-signed O’Hara weeks ago and now may be forced to pay him more or let him walk.

Reese is also taking a big gamble by releasing Luke Petitgout. We’ll have to see how that one pans out.

Ownership: One wonders if the 50-50 split between the Mara and Tisch families is a bad thing. Every major decision probably has to be negotiated and compromises (instead of drastic changes) are probably the norm. There is a reason why you don’t see 50-50 splits in corporate America.

The jury is still very much out as to whether John Mara and Jonathan Tisch have what it takes to successfully run an NFL team. Their first major decision – to retain the services of Tom Coughlin – was a strange one. Not because they kept him, but because they took the half-assed approach of not providing a firm commitment or firing him. The one-year contract extension appears – on the surface – to be band-aid. It appears that ownership is either hoping that Coughlin has a 2000 season, Jim Fassel-like run in him or they are simply postponing the inevitable. It doesn’t sit well with me. I have a bad feeling about this. I wonder if 2007 is going to be a wasted season. If it is, then 2008 will really be a year of transition – no, make that a year of rebuilding. Michael Strahan, Amani Toomer, and others will be gone. The new coaching staff will be bringing in their own systems and players. It will be 2009 or 2010 before the team contends again.

Do the owners care? I think they do. But their profits lessen their discomfort.

Feb 282007
 

Shaun O’Hara Not Happy With New York Giants Latest Offer: According to The Daily News, soon-to-be unrestricted free agent OC Shaun O’Hara and his agents are not happy with the supposed final, “take-it-or-leave it” 6-year, $21.6 million contract offer presented by the Giants at the NFL Combine last Friday. That offer also reportedly includes $7-7.5 million in guaranteed money. Ironically, the contract on the table is the one O’Hara originally had sought from the Giants. But once the market was inflated by the 6-year, $30 million contract that OC Andre Gurode received from the Cowboys, O’Hara and his agents upped their contract demands.

The Daily News says that O’Hara’s agents told their client to take a step back and think about the offer. The paper reports that there is a small chance that talks between both sides will re-open today. But free agency starts on Friday and O’Hara is likely to receive a better offer from another team if he hits the open market.

Other Free Agent Rumblings: With long snapper Ryan Kuehl re-signed (see story below), those scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on Friday include TE Visanthe Shiancoe, OC Shaun O’Hara, OG/OC Grey Ruegamer, OG Steve Edwards, OG Lewis Kelly, LB Brandon Short, CB Frank Walker, and PK Jay Feely. According to The Daily News, of this group, the Giants are only interested in re-signing Feely, O’Hara, and Ruegamer. The paper says the offer on the table for Ruegamer is only a 1-year deal worth near the veteran minimum.

The Daily News also claims that the Giants are taking a wait-and-see approach with Feely in order to see what other kickers become available and what the market price for kickers turns out to be. According to The New York Post, the Giants and Feely have tried to iron out a new deal, but have been unsuccessful as Feely wants more money. “I’m definitely headed to free agency,” said Feely. “There’s no doubt in my mind. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be a Giant…This is the first time I’ve been able to go into free agency coming off the two best years of my career. I’ve got some power, or whatever you want to call it.” Feely said he would re-sign with the Giants if he was offered a 5-year, $10 million contract that included $3 million in guaranteed money – a similar contract to what the Rams’ Jeff Wilkins, Bills’ Rian Lindell, and Vkings’ Ryan Longwell received.

If tendered, those set to become restricted free agents will be HB Derrick Ward, WR Darius Watts, LB Reggie Torbor, and SS Gibril Wilson. If tendered, those set to become exclusive rights free agents include DT Titus Adams and DE Adrian Awasom. If any of these players from either group are not tendered, they also will become unrestricted free agents. General Manager Jerry Reese said at the NFL Combine that the Giants would tender Torbor and Wilson, and probably Ward.

New York Giants Re-Sign Long Snapper Ryan Kuehl: The Giants have officially announced that they have re-signed long snapper Ryan Kuehl, who was set to become an unrestricted free agent on Friday. Kuehl turned 35 years old in January. 2007 will be his 12th season in the NFL. Terms of the deal are not yet known.

“A bunch of teams have called, but I’ve been talking with (Giants’ Assistant General Manager) Kevin (Abrams) for the last month,” Kuehl said. “I wanted to come back and play a fifth year in New York and be with Jeff (Feagles) and the other guys on the team and do my little part in taking care of the ball in the kicking game and see if we can’t win a few more games this year and put ourselves in a better position in the playoffs.”

“I’m comfortable (here),” said Kuehl. “Being close to home (in Maryland) is important to me. I like playing in New York, I like going into the city. The contacts I’ve made outside of the Giants are important to me, and the guys I play with are important to me. The Giants are close to home, it’s a good organization, and I have a lot of friends up there on the team and outside the team. I’d like to keep it going.”

“I still get a kick from running out of the tunnel in Giants Stadium,” Kuehl said. “And I have such a good relationship with Jeff (Feagles), who is the holder as well as the punter. I rely on him and I think he relies on me. That’s a nice relationship to be in. We get along great and have a good time at camp. I consider myself an old pro, and hopefully I’ll be there in September to help the club.”

“It’s great news,” Feagles said. “(Ryan is) a true professional, he takes his job very seriously and it shows with his production on the field…It’s like a pitcher and a catcher working together for years. You know each other. If you have somebody new, you have to develop that relationship, you have to learn his tendencies. I just know when Ryan is going to snap the ball and we have that chemistry. It’s very, very important, not only to the players, but to the organization, to know that’s a constant and that they don’t have to worry about that.”

Feb 272007
 

New York Giants and Michael Strahan to Meet: The Daily News is reporting that DE Michael Strahan plans to meet with General Manager Jerry Reese within the next few days to discuss Strahan’s future with the Giants. The paper says that it is possible that the talks will include renegotiating or extending Strahan’s current contract. Apparently, Strahan is looking for more money.

Strahan has two years left on his current contract and is set to make $4 million in salary in both 2007 and 2008. Strahan will turn 36 in 2007 and sources have told The Daily News that Strahan wants to know how much longer the Giants want and expect him to play.

Given his age and the fact that he finished two of the past three seasons on Injured Reserve, The Daily News says the Giants are not interested in extending Strahan’s contract. The paper does say the team is open to “creative restructuring” and possibly adding more money to Strahan’s remaining contract. The Daily News reports that the Giants are approximately $20 million under the 2007 NFL salary cap.

The Daily News says that barring a major setback in his recovery from his serious foot injury, Strahan is not in danger of being cut or traded. Head Coach Tom Coughlin stated recently that Strahan’s rehab was progressing well and that he will not need surgery.

New York Giants Still Waiting on Shaun O’Hara: According to The Daily News, soon-to-be unrestricted free agent OC Shaun O’Hara is still considering the Giants’ final, “take-it-or-leave-it” 6-year, $21.6 million contract offer. Free agency begins on Friday and the paper says that it is possible that O’Hara’s agents will attempt to re-open contract talks before then.

TE Visanthe Shiancoe Gone?: The Daily News is reporting that the Giants are not expected to re-sign soon-to-be unrestricted free agent TE Visanthe Shiancoe.

Feb 252007
 

February 24, 2007 Jerry Reese Press Conference: General Manager Jerry Reese addressed the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis yesterday. Some of the points he made included:

  • Reese on the Giants and Free Agency: “We will do as much as possible in free agency, wherever the money takes us, that’s what we will try to do,” said Reese. “We have players coming in, we have a game plan going into free agency. We’ve scheduled a couple of groups of players to come in. We will be as active as possible, as far as our money goes.”
  • Giants Seeking Another Running Back: While Reese expects Brandon Jacobs to be the starting halfback, the Giants are also seeking a complementary back.
    “You always want a change-of-pace back,” said Reese. “If we get a big chain-mover or a big running back, I don’t know if that changes the pace for you a little bit. We need a quicker guy who can make their defense change their mentality. You always want a guy who can give you a little different look when you have your second running back. We’re looking for Brandon to carry the ball 20 times and another running back to carry it 15 times. (Jacobs will) carry the max amount of the load for us, I’m assuming, if everything goes the way I expect it to…(The coaches) can play them however they want to play them. I don’t care how they play them. But you have to have two running backs. Brandon could be the 10-to-15 guy, and the new guy is the 20-carry guy. Who knows? I don’t care how they do it as long as we get two healthy, strong running backs to carry the load.”
  • Possible Interest in HB Willis McGahee: The Buffalo Bills called the Giants to see if they were interested in HB Will McGahee. Reese said the Giants would investigate the matter. “There is some talk about Willis out there,” said Reese. “We’ll investigate Willis. We’ll investigate everybody out there with the trade talks. We’re not going to leave no stone unturned as far as that goes…(McGahee is) really more of a full-time running back. But if we wanted to go that route, I think (Jacobs and McGahee) could make a good combo.” Reese, however, indicated that the Giants would prefer not to part ways with any of their top three picks of the 2007 NFL Draft. “We’re not going to give away too much. If the right guy comes along there are some people we could package up and trade. Teams haven’t been asking about our players but we’ll be willing to package up a deal, players for players. We’re not giving up our first-day picks. You always want to keep your draft picks, but the back end of it for the right player, we can do that.”
  • Wilson and Torbor to Be Tendered: Reese said that the Giants plan to tender soon-to-be restricted free agents SS Gibril Wilson and LB Reggie Torbor. Wilson might receive a higher tender in order to protect him from receiving an offer sheet from another team. Reese said the Giants will probably tender soon-to-be restricted free agent HB Derrick Ward.
  • Injury Update on Amani Toomer: Reese said that WR Amani Toomer was ahead of schedule on his rehab for his surgically repaired knee. “We expect him to make a full recovery and be back for us,” Reese said.
  • Door Not Closed on Luke Petitgout: Reese said that it was not inconceivable that LT Luke Petitgout, who was waived by the team earlier this month, could re-sign with the Giants.
  • No More Cuts on Immediate Horizon: Reese said that the Giants are through with cutting players for now, but may do so down the road if they need additional cap space.
  • Views on Eli Manning: Reese said the Giants still have complete confidence in QB Eli Manning. “Obviously, he’s not where he wants to be right now,” Reese said. “But the guy’s been a full-time starter for two years. I really expect him to make a big step…I think in his third year, things will slow down even more for him, and he’ll start to do the things we expect him to do.”

Shaun O’Hara Receives Final Offer from Giants?: The Daily News is reporting that soon-to-be unrestricted free agent OC Shaun O’Hara has received a final, “take-it-or-leave-it” contract offer from the Giants. The offer is said to be a 6-year, $21.6 million contract that includes roughly $7 million in guaranteed money.

New York Giants Leaning Towards a Linebacker or Cornerback in the 1st Round?: According to The Star-Ledger, speculation among coaches and front office types from other teams at the NFL Combine is that the Giants will take a linebacker or cornerback in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. But some think the Giants may be blowing smoke in order to hide their true intentions.

New York Giants and Agents for Strahan to Meet: According to The Star-Ledger, the agents for DE Michael Strahan and members of the Giants’ front office are expected to meet in the near future about Strahan’s recovery from his serious foot injury as well as his contract status. Strahan’s current contract is set to expire after the 2008 season. Strahan turns 36 in 2007.

Feb 242007
 

New York Giants and Chase Blackburn Agree to Terms: According to various press reports, the Giants and LB Chase Blackburn have agreed to a 4-year, $3.3 million contract (the fourth year of the contract is voidable so essentially it is a 3-year contract). Blackburn was set to become an Exclusive Rights free agent on March 2nd. The Star Ledger reports that Blackburn will sign the new contract next week.

Shaun O’Hara and New York Giants Still Close: Press reports continue to indicate that soon-to-be unrestricted free agent OC Shaun O’Hara and the Giants are close to a new deal.

The Star-Ledger reports that new contract will be a 5-year deal. The last roadblock appears to be that O’Hara is seeking a $7.5 million signing bonus while the Giants are offering a $6.5 million signing bonus. The Ledger speculates that the two sides will likely split the difference before O’Hara becomes a free agent on Friday. The Daily News says the new deal could be a 6-year, $24 million contract that includes $8 million in guaranteed money. Newsday reports that O’Hara is seeking $4-4.5 million per season with $8 million signing bonus.

New York Giants Seeking New Director of Player Personnel: At the present time, Jerry Reese continues to perform double-duty as the team’s new general manager as well as the director of player personnel, a position that he has held with the Giants since 2002. However, The Star-Ledger is reporting that the Giants are considering new candidates that will replace Reese as the director of player personnel after the 2007 NFL Draft. The paper says options include Buffalo Bills’ national scout Marc Ross and Baltimore Ravens’ scout Lional Vital.

Ross was the Philadelphia Eagles’ director of college scouting from 2001-2004 until he was fired. In addition to the Ravens, Vital has served as a scout with Browns and Jets. He also was the Patriots’ assistant director of scouting from 2000-2004.

New York Giants NFL Europe Team Allocations: It was announced by the Giants a couple of weeks ago that five Giants were assigned to NFL Europe. Yesterday, the specific European teams that these five players will play for were announced:

  • Amsterdam Admirals: HB Cedric Humes
  • Berlin Thunder: TE Charles Davis
  • Frankfurt Galaxy: HB DeCori Birmingham
  • Hamburg Sea Devils: DT Sir Henry Anderson, LB Barry Robertston

Robertson was actually drafted by the Sea Devils in the 5th round of the 2007 NFL Europe Draft. The other four players were assigned.

Feb 232007
 

New York Giants Close to Re-Signing LB Chase Blackburn: According to The Star-Ledger, the Giants are close to re-signing LB Chase Blackburn to a 4-year, $3 million contract that would possibly keep him under contract with the Giants through the 2010 season. The final year of the deal would apparently be voidable. The Ledger says the new contract would be an extension, but according to NFLPA.org, Blackburn is currently not under contract and will become a free agent (probably an exclusive rights free agent) on March 2nd when free agency starts.

New York Giants and OC Shaun O’Hara Continue to Negotiate: According to The Star-Ledger, the agents for soon-to-be unrestricted free agent OC Shaun O’Hara and the Giants met last night in anticipation of finalizing a new five- or six-year contract. General Manager Jerry Reese told The Bergen Record that he thought the Giants were close to re-signing O’Hara. Yesterday’s Bergen Record said that the new contract would be pay O’Hara an average of $4-4.5 million per season with a signing bonus in the $8 million range. The paper says that would make O’Hara’s cap number for 2007 in the $2.5 million range.

New York Giants Waive OT Henry Tellis: According to The Star-Ledger, the Giants have waived OT Henry Tellis because he failed a physical. Tellis was signed by the Giants as a street free agent in January 2006 and allocated to NFL Europe. The Giants must have placed him on some sort of injury list because he did not actually play in NFL Europe last year and he was not on the Giants’ active roster.

Feb 222007
 

New York Giants and Shaun O’Hara Near New Deal; Offer Contract to Grey Ruegamer: According to The Star-Ledger, the Giants and soon-to-be unrestricted free agent OC Shaun O’Hara are close to reaching a new contract agreement. The paper says a person close to the situation says a new deal could be completed in the next two days. The contract is believed to a 5- or 6-year deal worth approximately $4 million per season with $7.5-8.5 million of it guaranteed.

“Both sides are really happy with the progress so far,” O’Hara told The Ledger.

If the Giants are unable to re-sign O’Hara, The Ledger says the Giants would be interested in Tampa Bay OC/OG Sean Mahan. Another source has told the paper that the Giants have offered soon-to-be unrestricted free agent OC/OG Grey Ruegamer a one-year contract. Ruegamer is expected to sign the deal unless he receives a better offer from another team.

Free agency begins on March 2nd.

Notes and Quotes: Don’t count on soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Hollis Thomas of the Saints signing with the Giants when free agency starts. “That situation (with the Giants) seems to be a mess,” said Thomas. “Everyone in that locker room seemingly has their own radio show. I couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t deal with a player saying this or that on radio or television and then not being man enough to say it in the locker room. That wouldn’t fly with me. They seem to have some interesting personalities on that team. And I want a multi-year deal. Is the coach going to be there for all the years? You cannot bank on that.”

Feb 212007
 
2007 NFL Draft Preview: Offensive Skill Players (Pre-Combine)

by KWALL for BigBlueInteractive.com

Here’s a pre-Combine list of many of the top skill position players in the 2007 NFL Draft. Combine and workouts carry a lot of weight on draft day. Some of these guys can move up/down several rounds based on a workout.

QUARTERBACKS: Giants shouldn’t have much interest at quarterback. They’ll probably stick with this Eli guy as the #1. Jared Lorenzen looks like a keeper as the backup and maybe more.

It looks like we’ll see two top 5-10 picks at quarterback and probably the #1 overall in JeMarcus Russell. If I was at the top of the draft, I’d pass on making the huge financial commitment to Russell or Brady Quinn and use the pick on another position (WR Johnson, OT Thomas). Both quarterbacks have some holes especially Quinn. Too many holes for the kind of cash you have to give a quarterback at the top of the draft. Quinn took a step back this year and when he has to throw on the move or gets some pressure, he has a little Joey Harrington in him. Russell played much better in 2006 but still looks inconsistent throwing the ball. And versus the top teams Russell was only average. Troy Smith’s draft stock took a beating since the National Championship game. I think he had a shot at round one before the meltdown versus Florida and average week at the Senior Bowl. If height wasn’t an issue, Smith would be my #1 quarterback. He measured in at exactly 6 feet. He’s going to drop because of the height and the Florida game but he probably represents the best value at QB in this draft.

1. JeMarcus Russell (6’6″, 260lbs, LSU): Built like a DE. Absolutely huge. A lot of Culpepper comparisons, but Russell, while athletic and strong for a QB, doesn’t have the same speed and quickness to make plays with his feet. The arm? Stronger than Culpepper. He can throw it through a building. One of the strongest arms in 10+ years. You can’t find a better arm in college football or the NFL. Makes all of the throws with extraordinary velocity. Makes the defense defend the entire field. Played on a loaded offense at LSU. They also lined up against several top teams. Versus the top competition? Not a lot of production from Russell. In the past two seasons, LSU played 11 ranked teams. Only 13Tds/11Ints in these 11 games. Versus the rest? 30-6. Negatives: Struggled versus top teams despite NFL-caliber wide receivers. He’s still somewhat raw. He’s going to need some time to develop. Won’t hit the NFL and win games with his feet like Young. The once in a lifetime arm may be enough for the #1 spot. It will be hard to pass for Oakland.

2. Brady Quinn (6’4″, 225lbs, Notre Dame): Loved him as a junior but saw some holes this past season. I thought the arm was bigger. Ball floats on him. Not always the velocity you need in tight spaces. And his accuracy was not as good in 2006. Still a very solid late first round quarterback. Good mobility. Great coaching from Weis. He’s going top 10. In my opinion, too high for Quinn.

3. Troy Smith (6′, 220lbs, Ohio State): True dual threat QB. Quick drop and set. Very quick feet and agility to avoid rush. Buys time and keeps plays alive. Can tuck and run versus NFL speed. Love the arm. 75+ yard arm (Ginn throw versus Notre Dame last year went 75 on a line). Plenty of power including his throws on the move. Short at exactly 6 feet but he offsets it a little with the over the top delivery. Keep in mind that he’s within a ¼ of an inch of Drew Brees. Is height a problem for Brees? And Smith has much better mobility and a stronger arm. Improved every year. Big time production (minus Florida game). It looks like he may be a late round 2/early round 3 pick. That’s a steal. He’s going to be a very good NFL starter.

4. Kevin Kolb (6’3″, 220lbs, Houston): Played in a shotgun offense going all the way back to high school. At Senior Bowl, had no problem under center and in his drop. Threw a lot of short stuff at Houston (Mike Mayock said he threw only three balls over nine yards in three games he charted). I saw him more in his freshman and sophomore years, when he threw it deep the NFL arm strength was there. He also answered any arm concerns at the Senior Bowl. Plus mobility. Can avoid the rush and throw on the run. Just a step below Drew Stanton and Smith athletically. Probably round 2 with a lot of upside.

5. Drew Stanton (6’3″, 225lbs, Michigan State): Good runner. Very tough. When he had to make plays with his feet he ran hard with the ball. Live arm. Threw it 71 yards in college skills competition. The delivery is a little funky. Kind of a Kyle Boller type push. However, unlike Boller, Stanton was very accurate in college. Despite unorthodox delivery still gets ball out fast. Has all of the tools but lacked consistency. Probably drafted before Smith because of his NFL size and quick feet. Round 2.

6. Trent Edwards (6’4″, 225lbs, Stanford): Highly touted out of high school (top five quarterback). A lot of action as a freshman and looked like a future stud. Talented pocket QB on a terrible team at Stanford. Outmanned each and every week. Took a beating. Injured and banged up a lot. Had some shoulder injuries. Durability is a concern. Needs a strong personal workout to move into day 1. Enough talent to move to #3 QB.

7. John Beck (6’2″, 215lbs, BYU): 3.5 year starter at BYU. Saw him twice in 2006. Both games he was very impressive. Lit up a very strong BC defense for 400+ yards. And did the same to Oregon in his last game. Doesn’t have ideal size. Needs some weight. Bob Rang compares him to Bulger. Physically, that’s a pretty accurate comparison. Similar arm strength (below average for NFL starter) and delivery. Not a rocket but consistent on the short and intermediate stuff. Very smart. Round 4-5.

8. Jordan Palmer (6’5″, 230lbs, UTEP): Above average athlete for the position. Played WR in high school until senior year. Played early at UTEP and looked like a gunslinger without a lot of QB experience. Made steady jump from freshman to junior year. Showed a lot of skill as a junior. Nice arm. Tight spiral. Played in a wide open offense. They threw it around a lot. He made a lot of big plays but he also needs to learn how to throw it away. As a junior, consistently threw into coverage. When pressured , will hang it up for grabs. Far too many avoidable turnovers. Going into 2006, I felt he would skyrocket up the charts by cutting the turnovers. It didn’t happen. Same problem as a senior. Did his growth hit a ceiling? I don’t think so. Still plenty of NFL upside if he learns to cut down the interceptions and fumbles.. Didn’t really help himself at Senior Bowl. Day 2. Round 5.

9. Isiah Stanback (6’2″, 215lbs, Washington): Limited QB experience but an excellent athlete and speed (4.4s and a good college sprinter). Strong arm. Intriguing developmental slash type on day 2.

10. Chris Leak (5’11”, 200lbs, Florida): Big time high school player. Had Division 1 offers in 8th grade. Started 30+ games at Florida. Only 5’11” with thin lower body. Above average mobility but not a big threat to run. Throws a beautiful ball on the shorter stuff. If he has to go 20+ yards, his accuracy nosedives. Lack of size and downfield accuracy are major drawbacks. Late day 2 pick.

Missing:

Tyler Palko, Pittsburgh: A gamer and play maker on the college level. In the NFL? At best, backup material with questionable arm strength. Simply can’t make all of the NFL throws. Despite college production and experience, not worthy of a draft pick.

Jared Zabransky, Boise State: Runs a mean Statue of Liberty play. Rallied team to a great comeback win versus Oklahoma in bowl but game also exposed his weaknesses. Inconsistent with marginal arm strength. Good athlete. Probably a 4.6-4.7 guy but not much of an NFL QB prospect.

RUNNING BACKS: Unlike 2006, not a lot of surefire #1 draft picks at this position. Adrian Peterson is a can’t-miss homerun at running back. Marshawn Lynch from Cal is pretty close to one. Because of the talent and age of Brandon Jacobs, as well as the Giants’ draft position, I think we can eliminate the top two backs (Peterson and Lynch) as targets for the Giants.

Giants have a very unique #1 running back with Jacobs. I believe he’ll be ready to take over full time for Tiki Barber. I’m convinced he’ll be one of the huge breakout stars in the NFL in 2007. He’s going to be a premier starter for the Giants. He could be the MVP on the NYG offense next season. One thing I don’t want to see is a Larry Johnson type 400+ carry season. We need to keep him rolling into the playoffs and ride him like Coughlin and Jacksonville rode a fresh Natrone Means to within a few play of the Super Bowl back in 1996. He’s also young. Very little wear on the body and legs. Plenty of ball ahead for Jacobs with the Giants. However, Giants could probably use another RB option to keep Jacobs ready for the playoffs.

I see some talent with Derrick Ward. He has the skills to be an effective backup and could spell Jacobs. He has a good burst and power for a 230lb running back. He can handle 5-10 carries/game. Giants could probably use some speed at the position. They could use a pass-catching running back – a guy to present some match-up problems and give Eli an outlet option.

After the top two guys there are no first round options for the Giants at #20 and very few in round two. I like the talent level in the mid rounds at running back in this draft. This draft has plenty of mid-round options to push/replace Ward and some speed guys to help in pass situations. The Giants should have no problem getting a productive running back in rounds 3-5. Also, plenty of quality NFL running backs on the free agent market offer the Giants the opportunity to save a draft pick at this position. Abundance of free agent running backs will probably push some of the draft eligible guys lower.

1. Adrian Peterson (6’2″, 220lbs, Oklahoma): Possibly the #2 player in the draft behind WR Johnson. A natural runner. Size, speed, power, vision, and tough. When healthy, there are no holes in his game. Unquestionably a top 5 talent. Durability concerns may drop him into the 5-10 range. Out of the picture for the Giants.

2. Marshawn Lynch (5’11”, 220lbs, Cal): A lot of mocks have Lynch going to the Giants. I like his game but I’d rather pass on running back in the first round. If the Giants believe in Jacobs, no need to take this guy with our #1. Much stronger than his predecessor at running back at Cal (J.J. Arrington). Not a lot of wiggle but he runs with power and he can accelerate through a hole. Makes plays in pass game and open field with his speed. Reminds me of Fred Taylor. Similar size. Similar skill set. And he’ll have a strong workout just like Taylor did before the draft. Currently working out at a speed school in Arizona. Recently said he’ll run in the 4.3s. If he does, he’s gone before Giants pick at #20.

3. Brian Leonard (6’1″, 225lbs, Rutgers): Yup, #3 RB! Is that my RU bias? Maybe a little but respected draft expert Mike Mayock has him ranked #4 at RB. For at least two years I’ve said he is NOT an NFL fullback prospect. He’s a running back. A big guy with speed (you’ll see it at the Combine) and explosion (38+” vertical). Versatility unmatched by any player in the entire draft. Perfect running back for a one-back/two-tight end set. Quick for his size. Thick base. Outstanding balance allows him to absorb a hit and continue forward. Can give you power and also a weapon in pass game. Some of the best hands in football. 200+ catches and only one drop. Immediately turns north after the catch. Good blocker. Doesn’t blow up guys but uses excellent technique. Consistently turns linebacker away from ball carrier. It’s been reported he lost 14 pounds since end of year. Don’t believe it. May have cut a little weight but he played below the reported 239lbs. Weakness: Initial burst out of stance is only average. And I’d like to see more pop on his blocks. NFL comparison? Forget the long list of white fullbacks. The draft guys making that comparison are way off. Nothing like Alstott or the others. He’s high cut and a much better athlete than any of those fullbacks. Think a young Dorsey Levens. Like Levens in Green Bay, he can be your #1 running back and a force in the pass game. That’s what you get with Leonard.

4. Kenny Irons (5’11”, 200lbs, Auburn): Similar to former Auburn RB Cadillac Williams in many ways. Not as physical as Cadillac but plenty of speed and short area quicks to make guys miss. Immediate acceleration. Can plant and explode through a hole. Dangerous on cutbacks. Has good hands. Will be very effective in NFL in pass game. Open field skills make him an outstanding outlet receiver. Durability is a concern. Banged up in 2006. Needs to add some bulk up for full time NFL work. Add some strength and another 10 pounds and could be a premier NFL back. Combine will move him up into a solid top 50 pick. If Giants are looking for RB help, Irons should get some round 2 consideration. Jacobs and Irons would be a dangerous 1-2 punch at RB.

5. Lorenzo Booker (5’10”, 190lbs, Florida State): Top ranked running back out of high school disappointed at Florida State. He comes with plenty of negatives. Lack of production in college. Couldn’t win a full time job. Thin legs. No power. Can’t be a 25 carry back. Most of that is true but there are plenty of positives and upside for him in the NFL. Booker won’t do much for you inside between the tackles. He has very thin legs and he goes down easy on contact. So why the high ranking? Most of it is based on the bowl game. Only one game? For me, that was plenty. He was that impressive. I jumped on the Willie Parker bandwagon just as fast. Booker lacks Parker’s inside running ability and strength but he’s got better moves and quickness. He’s got the elite burst, suddenness, and change-of-direction to make plays in the NFL. And he can catch. He really helped his draft value at the Senior Bowl displaying outstanding hands. He’ll embarrass NFL defenders in the open field with his sharp cuts and acceleration. Is that enough for a top 5 RB ranking? I think it is. He may be a part timer at RB and a kick returner but he’ll come in and give you mismatches. He’ll make big plays for you. No question in my mind he has the skills to move up to the next level and have an immediate impact. Combine and workout will move him up. Love him in round 3 for the Giants. Only problem is it will probably take the #2 pick to get him.

6. Kolby Smith (5’11”, 215lbs, Louisville): A Roger Craig-type runner with one caveat – he isn’t Craig-like in the receiving department. Struggles a bit to catch away from body. He can handle the swing passes and screens but he has some trouble adjusting to balls away from his body. He seems a bit stiff up top while reaching for balls above his head or behind him. However, in the run game he gets his knees up and really explodes into tacklers. Knows how to finish a run. Plenty of burst and strength. Can get outside on sweeps. Explosive leaper (40″ vertical). I love this kids skill set. He’s a better NFL RB prospect than the over-hyped Michael Bush. Eventually, I feel Smith will be one of the top 2-3 steals in this draft. Future NFL starter. Future 1200-yard back. Right now, he’s projected as a fifth round guy. Look for him to jump up after a good Combine.

7. Tony Hunt (6’1″, 239lbs, Penn State): Very good showing at Senior Bowl practices. Close to 240lbs with a good short area burst. Plenty of power. Stays low and falls forward on contact. Can be a workhorse for you. Solid receiving skills. Some cutback ability but lack of speed really limits his upside for me. If you want something special at RB he isn’t the guy. But he should be a solid NFL starter for a few yrs. Would really work well with Jacobs and give us a powerful RB unit. Probably late round 3/ early round 4.

8. Gary Russell (5’11”, 200lbs, Minnesota): Two years ago, I considered Russell a better prospect than his Minnesota teammate and future first round pick Laurence Maroney. In my opinion, Russell had the eye-popping burst and a better NFL game. Flies through the hole and around the corner. Can catch and make plays in space. Looked like a future first round pick (1100+ yards, 6+ yards per catch, 19 TDs in 2005) but ran into academic problems and couldn’t stay in school for the 2006 season. Didn’t play Division 1 last season. Workouts will be huge for him. Needs to show off the speed and acceleration again. Has some kick return experience and the skill set (i.e., acceleration) to be effective in the NFL on returns. Before workouts, probably a 5th round pick. Could possibly move up to day one but I doubt it. On day two, a lot of value for the Giants with Russell. He makes a lot of sense as a backup to Jacobs, kick returner, and third-down back.

9. Brandon Jackson (6′, 210lbs, Nebraska): Nebraska surprised me this year with the level of athletic ability on that team. A lot of speed on the field for Nebraska in 2006 and Jackson was a big part of it. Split time at RB so numbers aren’t great but talent is there. Jackson offers an NFL package. Good size, plenty of speed and acceleration. Shifty RB with reliable hands (33 receptions in 2006). Combine will move him up. Possibly as high as late second round for a team looking for more explosion at RB. Wouldn’t surprise me to see him as the #3 or 4 RB off the board.

10. David Wright (5’11”, 230lbs, Fresno State): Punishing inside runner. Strong lower body. Very tough to bring down. Good hands. And a solid blocker. Below average speed (ran 4.65 in spring of 2006). Some injury issues. Lost 2005 season to serious knee injury. Came back in 2006 with 1400+ yards in 12 games. Could go round 7. Could go round 3. His speed will be the determining factor on draft day.

Late Day Two Options:

Ronnie McGill (5’11”, 225lbs, North Carolina: This kid’s competitiveness impressed me. Strong and powerful runner. Really battles for every yard. Thick legs with low center of gravity. Runs hard. Will get yards after contact. Lacks speed but can get it done inside. Not enough burst to be a #1 NFL back. But will be a useful situational back. Would be a reliable thumper for NYG to spell Jacobs.

Justice Hairston (6′, 215lbs, Central Connecticut): Started several games for RU as a true freshman (two big games versus Navy and West Virginia -100+TD). Costly fumbles cost him playing time. Leonard took over as fulltime RB. Strong kid with a burst. Jacked up especially in the arms. Solid showing at Hula Bowl and Texas-Nation All Star Game. Hard nosed/straight ahead/Michael Pittman-type runner. Round 7.

DeShawn Wynn (5’11”, 235lbs, Florida): Not much wiggle or speed. Strictly inside work for this 4.6+ power back. Can’t run outside in NFL. Can catch out of backfield. Several injuries as a senior. Probably a better FB prospect. I’ve seen some round 3 projections. My guess is round 6.

Danny Ware (6’1″, 225lbs, Georgia): Never a full time starter. NFL size/speed. Left early because of crowded backfield at Georgia. Needs a good workout to get drafted. Late day 2.

Germaine Race (5’10”, 230lbs, Pittsburg State): Strictly a between-the-tackles power runner and short yardage sledge hammer. If he runs in the 4.5s, this Division 2 RB has a shot on draft day. Could be a backup option for Jacobs at the end of day 2.

Tyrone Moss (5’9″, 235lbs, Miami): Short. Thick. Difficult to tackle. Started off big as a frosh at UM. He really looked good before a knee injury set him back in 2005. Only one year removed from ACL. Bowling ball-type with power and short area quickness. Weight can be an issue. A solid backup option for Jacobs at the end of day 2. If the knee checks out and he impresses at workout could jump ahead of several backs into round 4-5 area.

Garrett Wolfe (5’8″, 185lbs, Northern Illinois): Rollercoaster ride for this kid in 2006. Went from relative unknown to early season Heisman candidate to late day two pick. I first saw him a couple of years ago. His burst and toughness really jumps out at you. Runs hard for a little guy. Fights for yards. Can catch as well. Simply not big enough to be an NFL starter. Are the Giants are looking for a pass catching change of pace type and a return guy? I think they are and Wolfe is an excellent day 2 prospect to meet those needs.

Thomas Clayton (5’10”, 220lbs, Kansas State): Highly touted high school player. Started college career at Florida State as their #1 RB recruit. Transferred to Kansas St. Suspended multiple times from the team as a senior. Didn’t even dress for bowl game versus RU. Surprise injury replacement for Wolfe at Senior Bowl. Good showing in practices. Very quick. Plenty of speed to get outside and turn the corner. Athletic RB but big time attitude concerns make him only a late day 2 option or priority free agent.

Alonzo Coleman (5’10”, 200lbs, Hampton): Small school kid with excellent speed, quickness, and change of direction. 4K+ yards in college but very few receptions. Built for 3rd down duty but hands are questionable. Only three receptions as a senior. Failed to impress with hands at All Star practices. Will be one of the faster RBs at the Combine but what good is the speed if he can’t catch a swing pass?

Eldra Buckley (5’9″, 205lbs, Chattanooga): Invited to the Combine and reportedly will run in the 4.4s. Very small. Only a situational 3rd down back. Round 7.

Missing:

Michael Bush (6’2″, 250lbs, Louisville): In 2005, he didn’t look like much of an elite NFL prospect for me. A lot of hype but I didn’t feel his game translated to NFL. Going into the 2006 season I called him the most overrated player in college football. Kiper, Rang, and all of the draft gurus had him as a top 10-15 pick entering the 2006 season. They were wrong. Even before injury, he wasn’t a top 15 player. Soft, 4.6+ backs are not in high demand in the NFL.

Bush is this draft’s version of USC WR Mike Williams. What does that mean? How about a top college player but too soft and not enough burst for the NFL? Below average speed. Produced big numbers in college but lack of NFL type power, speed, and quickness is a major red flag. Coming off broken leg should drop him out of day one. Truly a great football player but not the athlete you need to succeed in the NFL. Top ranked S, QB, WR, and RB out of high school. He did it all. Could have played several positions at Louisville and that includes defense. The problem? Just like Mike Williams, moving up to the NFL with a lack of the necessary movement skills to succeed. He just doesn’t have it. Not a big weight room guy and it shows. He carries plenty of weight but not much power. May have worked in college but NFL defenders will blow him up. And he doesn’t have the speed or elusiveness to avoid them. In my opinion, one of the biggest busts in the draft. A guy who may not make an opening day roster. If he does, he’ll be out of the league within three seasons.

Antonio Pittman (5’11”, 195lbs, Ohio State): Undersized inside runner with limited speed. Not much of a receiving threat. His game worked as a full time RB at Ohio St. It won’t work in the NFL. Strictly backup material in the NFL. A poor man’s Travis Henry. Overrated with plenty of gurus projecting him in the first 2 rounds. Big time pass on Pittman on day one of the draft for the Giants. If he drops could make sense for the Giants on day 2.

Darius Walker (5’10”, 210lbs, Notre Dame): Short and slow. A very good college football player from a big program. Simply lacks the athletic ability to have much of an impact in the NFL. I’ve seen some round 2-3 projections. That’s a reach. He’s a day 2 backup pass catching RB.

Kenneth Darby (5’10”, 200lbs, Alabama) Very productive SEC back. Had a down senior season. Norv Turner had some positive things to say about him at Senior Bowl practices. Lacks size, speed and power to do much in NFL. No upside. Projected mid round prospect but more of a round 6-7 guy in my opinion.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Along with safety, the strongest unit in this draft class. Top heavy position with several future stars in the first round including a guy I feel is the #1 player in the draft (Calvin Johnson). Can’t miss players: Johnson, Ginn, Bowe, and Jarrett. Big drop after the top four with several guys in the rounds 2-4 range.

1. Calvin Johnson (6’4″, 225lbs, Georgia Tech): All of the tools are here and the production to match the rare tools. Open all day and everyday. Even with a guy in his hip pocket he’s open. Just put it up for him. Over 6’4″ with long arms (33.5″) and a 45″ vertical. Needless to say, he’s very explosive going up high for the football. He catches everything especially the throws away from his body. Truly a can’t miss WR. Will be one of the best in the league within 2 years. Top 3 pick. NFL comparison? How about a bigger, more athletic, and consistent Roy Williams. Chris Fowler of ESPN College GameDay said, “Calvin Johnson’s the most impressive wide receiver, from field level, I’ve ever seen in college football.”

2. Ted Ginn (6′, 180lbs, Ohio State): One of my favorite players in the entire draft. Very rare athletic ability. Speed and acceleration are off the charts. Just blows by people. Punt returner/kick returner who could give Hester a run for the #1 return man in the NFL. Size and lack of polish at WR could drop him. May have trouble beating press early in career. If Bowe and/or Jarrett run well, Ginn could drop to Giants. Would you want him? I would at #20.

3. Dwayne Bowe (6’2″, 220lbs, LSU): Big strong kid. Tough to jam. Looks ready to start in the NFL right now. Excellent red zone target. Physical blocker. Widely considered the best WR at Senior Bowl. Really improved his draft value by consistently beating every CB at the Senior Bowl. I watched all of the practices. Most impressive thing about Bowe is how fast he gets in and out of his cuts for such a big guy. It’s one plant and he’s gone. They had him running some outs during the Senior Bowl coverage. Much sharper than some of the little burners like Higgins from UTEP. However, he dropped some easy ones. Draft guys like Mayock said that is the one issue with Bowe. Concentration and an occasional drop. Round 1 lock. Combine could move Bowe past Ginn as the #2 WR.

4. Dwayne Jarrett (6’5″, 210lbs, USC): As a true frosh he was better than Mike Williams. Much better athlete than Keyshawn. He’ll go over the middle to make tough catches. He’ll be a weapon on the slants. And own the red zone. Kid can really get up with little effort. Good match for Eli too. Huge catching radius. He would take that high pass up the sidelines to Plax to another level. If the ball is in the air he’s going to get it for you. Outstanding hands. I’d give him the edge over Bowe in the hands department. Jarrett’s ability to get balls high will make him special. He’ll be a TD machine in the NFL. Lack of top speed is a red flag. But I think he’ll overcome it with those long arms, 40+” vertical, and strong hands. Attitude may be a concern too.

5. Robert Meachem (6’3″, 215lbs, Tennessee): He didn’t produce before 2006. Really blew up this season. NFL tools across the board. Working out at Athletes Performance and reportedly will run 4.3s. Excellent size and strength. Long arms. Big hands. Combine may move him into round 1. NFL comparisons include Donte Stallworth. Drew Bolyhart at The Huddle Report has Meachem in his top 10 overall and #2 WR behind Bowe.

6. Paul Williams (6’2″, 200lbs, Fresno State): The kid could develop into a top #1 NFL WR. Long. Lean. Runs like a deer. Deceptive speed because he such a smooth runner. Obvious burst out of his cuts. Looks the part of a big play WR. Reminds me of Chad Johnson and Bernard Berrian. Big question is how much does he like football? He has all of the tools to succeed. Does he want it? From a physical standpoint, nothing is missing. He could be an elite player in the NFL. Down senior season but he wasn’t 100%. Bad ankle was a factor. He played through it. Tremendous showing at Shrine practices and game. It got him the Senior Bowl invite. Impressive again at Senior Bowl. Combine will add to his post season rise. Plenty of risk because of work ethic but the talent in there to be a bonafide #1. I like him a lot more than most. Physical skills will get him drafted in rounds 2/3.

7. Sidney Rice (6’3″, 200lbs, South Carolina): Former high school basketball star has top-shelf ball skills. Weekly highlight reel catches. Nice job catching poorly thrown passes. Has the body control to adjust to any ball. Excellent size. Good leaping ability. Lacks elite explosion. Not considered a polished route runner. Only two seasons of college ball. Should have stayed in school for another yr. Doesn’t have the elite burst. I’ve seen him listed as a 4.55 guy. If that’s the case he may have trouble separating from NFL CBs. Round 2. Could move into round 1 with strong Combine.

8. Anthony Gonzalez (6′, 195lbs, Ohio State): Don’t believe the 4.3 speed. The pre-draft numbers on the Ohio State guys come from a very fast track. He sure doesn’t play like a 4.3 guy. And I’ll be very surprised if he runs under 4.4 at Combine. Rarely got deep. More of a possession guy despite timed speed. Very smart. Dedicated. Tough guy will go over the middle and block. Won’t be a #1 NFL WR. Will get drafted too high because of measurables. Late round 2.

9. Johnnie Lee Higgins (5’11”, 180lbs, UTEP): Very fast and athletic (4.3 and 40″vertical). Doesn’t play to timed speed or explode out of cuts. Very thin. Had trouble separating in Senior Bowl practices versus press. Routes needs work. Not a smooth catcher. Uses body too much. Kick returner and punt returner. Very productive with a lot of catches but lower level of competition and system are factors to keep in mind. UTEP threw it 40+ times a game and ran plenty of quick hitters to Higgins. Big play threat after the catch especially on screens. At best a fast #2-3 WR. Round 3.

10. Chansi Stuckey (5’10”, 195lbs, Clemson): One of the best athletes in the entire draft. Big time QB/WR recruit out of high school. Played a little QB early at Clemson. Very fast. Expect low 4.4s at the Combine. A weapon after the catch. Also handled some returns. Somewhat disappointing senior year. Slowed by injuries in 2006. A lot of upside. Return skills increase value. Round 3.

Day Two Options:

Jacoby Lane (6’4″, 205lbs, Lane): This year’s Colston? Could be. Or he could be this year’s Tyrone Calico. He looks a little faster and more explosive than Colston. Only 5’7″ coming out of high school. No offers. Walked on at small school Lane. Best NFL prospect at Shrine practices. Really helped himself and showed he belonged athletically. Ideal size/speed. A guy to watch during Combine. Could move into day one after workout.

Aundrae Allison (6’1″, 200lbs, East Carolina): Two very productive years at East Carolina. Reliable hands. Good speed (4.50 range). Rounds 3-4.

Jason Hill (6′, 205lbs, Washington State): Down senior year. Only 600 yards after two consecutive 1K seasons. Average size. Strong. Very good hands. Average explosiveness. Below average speed. Not a big threat in open field. But a guy who can work the middle of the field and make tough catches in traffic. Round 4. Probably a 4.55+ guy. Could move into day one if he runs faster than expected.

Courtney Taylor (6’1″, 205lbs, Auburn): Looked good at Senior Bowl practices. Reportedly a 4.6 guy but looks much faster on field. Quick out of cuts. Good leaper. Long legs. Strong. Built like Chris Chambers but comes without the 44″ vertical. Round 5.

Craig Davis (6′, 200lbs, LSU): Small hands but he can catch everything. According to NFL Draft Scout “many experts consider him to have the best hands of any receiver in the SEC”. A+ speed. Only OK production. Did some punt returning. Early round 3.

Ryan Moore (6’3″, 220lbs, Miami): Out of high school ranked in the top 10 overall in the country and #1 WR. Best season was 2003. Had some injuries and suspensions. Like many UM players the past 2-3 years, never reached potential. NFL starter skills but long list of problems drop him into mid-second day.

Steve Smith (6′, 195lbs, USC): Doesn’t have the athletic ability to make plays versus NFL CBs. Will really struggle to separate. Tough player. Makes all of the catches. Will go over the middle. Not much upside. May be a possession WR in NFL but don’t expect much. Backup material. Some have him in round 2. Sorry USC fans, no chance at round 2 for Smith. Speed is an issue and it will cost him on draft day. I’d rank him in the rounds 4-5 range.

David Ball (6’1″, 195lbs, New Hampshire): Similar to Steve Smith from USC in many ways. Possibly the best hands in the draft. Broke Jerry Rice career TD record in college. Some quickness but lack of long speed is a big concern. Explosive leaper. High jumper on track team. Will high point the ball in traffic and bring it down. A fast 40 time would really push him up. I don’t expect it. Probably 4.55-4.60 range. Rounds 6-7.

Yamon Figurs (6′, 180lbs, Kansas State): Giants could use some return help. Figurs is one of the best in the draft. An explosive punt returner/kick returner. One of the fastest players in college football. Returned a punt 80 yards for a TD versus Rutgers. Returned a KO for a TD in Hula game. Up and down as a WR at Kansas St. Midseason QB change to frosh QB didn’t help his WR numbers. Big game at WR versus Texas (6-120-2TD). Ideal speed, quickness, and elusiveness to be a return force in NFL. Return skills and speed will get him drafted late. Rounds 5-6.

Terry Richardson (6’1″, 195lbs, Arizona State): Injured knee at midseason of senior season. Faster and more elusive then former Arizona State WR and current Miami Dolphin Derek Hagan. One of college footballs best kick returner/punt returner. If knee checks out, I like him for WR depth and return duty for Giants. Round 7.

TIGHT ENDS: Weak class overall. Greg Olsen and Zach Miller are the only players with #1 TE skills for the NFL. After the top two, there is a pretty big drop to the rest of the pack.

Don’t be shocked if Giants go TE early (round one for Olsen or Miller?). Shockey lost some explosiveness. He’s always banged up. Visanthe Shiancoe is a free agent. With Jacobs, a two-tight end set makes a lot of sense. One of the problems with the Giants’ offense is the lack of match-up advantages. Giants were an easy team to defend in 2006. Draft Olsen or Miller and that changes in one move. The Giants would have two athletic seam-stretching tight ends giving us match-ups to exploit and some versatility on offense.

1. Greg Olsen (6’5″, 255lbs, Miami): New Jersey kid. The most upside of any TE in draft. Some have Miller as #1 TE right now. Workout will move Olsen past Miller as the clear cut #1 TE in draft. A lot of talk he would be the best TE out of Miami. It never happened. Disappeared for stretches. I didn’t see a guy on the level of Shockey and Winslow but there were other problems at Miami (QB, OL, coach) that hurt his production. He’ll be one of the stars of Combine. He’s going to move into that 15-25 range. Interesting target at #20 for Giants.

2. Zach Miller (6’5″, 260lbs, Arizona State): #1 TE in country out of high school. Immediate impact in PAC 10 as frosh. Ideal size. Hard worker. Very good blocker for a “receiving TE”. Athletic with quickness out of his cuts but doesn’t have the top speed of the best TEs in the NFL. No problem getting off line of scrimmage. Fluid with good body control to make all of the catches. A step below former Arizona State TE Todd Heap.

3. Scott Chandler (6’7″, 255lbs, Iowa): Former WR for Iowa. Switched to TE after frosh year. Athletically below the level of Olson and Miller but an outstanding receiving option at TE. Separates out of his cuts. Makes every catch. 40-time won’t impress but look for him to shine in quickness drills at Combine. Late round 2/early round 3.

4. Ben Patrick (6’4″, 270lbs, Delaware): Transfer from Duke. Doesn’t look or run like a 270lb TE. Good speed and quickness. Displayed strong hands throughout Shrine and Senior Bowl practices. Workout could push him into day 1.

5. Clark Harris (6’5″, 255lbs, Rutgers): Productive pass catching TE at RU. Long arms. Shows good hands. Makes tough catches in traffic but needs more consistency. Several drops the past 2 years. Runs hard after the catch. Will drag defenders when hit up high. Easy to cut. Needs to do a better job with his arms to keep tacklers off his legs. Effective red zone target. Some say he lacks speed to make plays downfield. Quick out of his cuts. Will get open on short stuff. Made enormous strides as a blocker. Round 4.

6. Matt Spaeth (6’7″, 265lbs, Minnesota): Best blocking TE in draft. Very physical in all aspects of game. Below average speed and overall athletic ability for a #1 NFL TE. Won’t be a big receiving threat in NFL. Size makes him a handful in the red zone.

7. Michael Allan (6’6″, 265lbs, Whitworth): One of the better players at Shrine Game. 17 yards per catch average in college. Also played WR for Whitworth. Very athletic for such a big man. Small school TE could skyrocket (like Tony Sheffler last year) to #3 TE after Combine. Could be a real steal in this draft. Reportedly will run in the 4.6s. That kind of size/speed would really work as a #2 TE with Shockey. Keep an eye out for Allan during Combine week.

8. Joe Newton (6’7″, 265lbs, Oregon State): One of the best TEs in college football in 2004. Serious leg injury cost him 2005. Came back but lacked the quickness and burst of 2004. Still an imposing target in pass game. Excellent hands. Excels making catches up high and away from body. May lack measurables but a major red zone force. Blocking isn’t a plus. Can handle pass protection. Versus the run? Not much of a push. A “heavy legged waist bender” as Mike Mayock says.

9. Brent Celek (6’4″, 255lbs, Cincinnati): Athletic pass catching TE. Quick with a burst that will work in the NFL. Probably a low 4.7 TE prospect. Comes with good hands. Had one of the plays of the year on an 80+ yard TD versus Rutgers. Ran over several tacklers and out-ran the safety over 40 yards to end zone. An unbelievable play that ended RU’s undefeated season. Had a good showing catching the ball at All Star practices.

10. Martez Milner (6’4″, 255lbs, Georgia): A+ athletic ability but inconsistent hands. Really struggles to hold onto the ball. Drops catchable balls. Not much of a blocker. Didn’t improve value at All Star practices. Athletic ability will get him drafted higher than he deserves.

Injury sleeper: Matt Herian (6’4″, 245lbs, Nebraska): Undersized H-Back-type. Made a lot of big plays early at Nebraska. Seemed to be on his way to stellar college career. Injuries ended it. Hasn’t bounced back yet. Not the same speed after injury. Late day 2.

Feb 212007
 

Contract Talks with Shaun O’Hara at an Impasse?: The Journal News is reporting that contract negotiations between the Giants and soon-to-be unrestricted free agent OC Shaun O’Hara may have reached an impasse. The paper says O’Hara is believed to be seeking a 6-year, $30 million contract, but the Giants do not want to spend that kind of money on him.

The Giants still have two days to decide whether or not they want to uses its franchise tag on O’Hara, but that would cost them $9 million against the 2007 salary cap.

Free agency begins on March 2.

New York Giants Officially Name Sean Ryan as Offensive Quality Control Coach: Following up on our “News and Notes” update from Saturday, the Giants have officially confirmed that Sean Ryan is their new offensive quality control coach, replacing John DeFilippo.

Feb 172007
 

New York Giants Change Offensive Quality Control Coaches: According to The Star-Ledger, the Giants have replaced Offensive Quality Control Coach John DeFilippo with Sean Ryan. Ryan was the running backs coach at Harvard University last year.

DeFilippo is no longer part of the Giants’ organization. It is not clear if he has been fired. DeFilippo’s father is the athletics director at Boston College, where Head Coach Tom Coughlin coached from 1991 to 1993. Ryan and DeFilippo were on the same staff together at Columbia University in 2003 and 2004. Ryan also was a graduate assistant at Boston College (2001-2002).