New York Giants 2007 NFL Draft: Colin’s Final Pre-Draft Wrap

by Colin Lindsay, Great Blue North Draft Report

The following report is adapted from the latest edition of the GBN‘s Giants Newsletter. The GBN is also holding our first annual “Giants’ Draft Contest” to help while away the week until the draft starts. E-mail us your picks for Giants’ 8 selections this year. The winner will get a copy of the GBN Pre-Season College Football Draft Report plus a subscription to the GBN Giants’ Newletter.

Let’s get pickin’… There comes a point in every draft process when one says enough is enough – let’s just make the picks. We’ve just about reached that point!!! Indeed, we have probably passed the point of information overload with each new tidbit seemingly canceling out the last. Fortunately we have less than a week or so to go so hang in there guys!!!

Sifting through the tea leaves… Thought the presser with Giants’ G.M. Jerry Reese last week was absolutely fascinating, particularly given that he didn’t really say anything. First, if there was any doubt that Reese is all business they were erased this week. Indeed, kudos to the Reese and the Giants for running a very tight ship this time around. Predecessor Ernie Accorsi, a former journalist, by contrast never met a microphone he didn’t have at least a few words for and over the years way too much information used to leak out from the Giants war room. It makes it a little frustrating for the fans – and for draft guru wannabes trying to figure out what’s going on – but it’s the way the business should be conducted.

More to the point, while Reese didn’t say much directly, if one carefully reads between the lines there was actually plenty to chew over. First off, while he didn’t let anything at all slip about actual prospects the Giants are interested in, Reese did have plenty to say about the process. Sounding very much like George Young, one of his early mentors, Reese stressed that he and company are going to be very focused in on talent on draft day and, for the most part, are likely to let the chips fall where they may when it comes to filling immediate positional needs.

In that context Reese really stressed the point of the fact that the Giants use the rows, or pyramid system to grade players. And what they will do is take a player from the highest row where there are still players.

As a result we have spent the past few day trying to piece together just what the Giants’ rows might look because that’s where the clues to the team’s draft will be, not whether they need a LB or a CB or a WT or a LT. Of course, in an inexact science analyzing an inexact science but the rows probably look something like the following, at least for a generic NFL team.

ROW 1: WR Calvin Johnson, QB Jamarcus Russell

ROW 2: QB Brady Quinn, OT Joe Thomas, RB Adrian Peterson

ROW 3: FS Laron Landry, DE Gaines Adams, DT Amobi Okoye, LB Patrick Willis

ROW 3a: DE Jamaal Anderson, DT Alan Branch, WR Ted Ginn, OT Joe Staley, CB Darrelle Revis

ROW 4: OT Levi Brown, CB Leon Hall, DE Adam Carriker, RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Greg Olsen, FS Reggie Nelson, WR Robert Meacham

Of course, this is largely speculation – we prefer to call it an educated guessing – as we have no real idea how the Giants have players rated as there is always considerable variation in how individual teams grade players. Lynch (back problem) and Branch (leg stress fractures), for example, may be off the board for health reasons, while we think that Olsen and Nelson are portentially iffy in that Olsen is a good receiver but lousy blocker, while Nelson has great potential as a ball-hawking centerfield-type FS – and lord knows the Giants can use one of those – however, there are also real questions about his size and durability as well as his football smarts. As such he is all over boards around the league and could be anywhere from a near top-10 guy to a late first rounder on the Giants’ chart.

There are also several guys who could be included at least on ROW 4 who aren’t quite that high on most media or fans’ draft radars. Included in that group might be players like Auburn OG Ben Grubbs, Purdue DE Anthony Spencer, Miami LB Jon Beason and Miami FS Brandon Meriweather. The final piece of the puzzle will be how many, if any, guys from the next row are actually on ROW 4. Again we are only speculating here but ROW 5 could look like the following (along with Grubbs, Spencer, Beason and Meriweather if they aren’t on ROW 4):

ROW 5: WRs Dwayne Bowe and Dwayne Jarrett; LBs Lawrence Timmons and Paul Polsuzny; CBs Chris Houston, Aaron Ross (and very possibly Eric Wright); SS Michael Griffin; C Ryan Kalil; DE Jarvis Moss; and DT Justin Harrell.

Obviously, given the need at the position, one key factor for the Giants at this year’s draft is where they have the LBs (after Ole Miss’ Patrick Willis) graded. Certainly what has been posted by the guru community has not been much help as Timmons, Beason and Posluszny tend to be all over the charts. In fact, our sense is that none of the three looks the part of a legitimate first-round pick. All three have their strengths, but none of the trio is particularly big and none is overly fast, although Timmons at least is very quick. Indeed, not sure it’s been noted all that much, but while Timmons didn’t time anywhere near as fast as expected in the full 40, he was one of the fastest players at any position at the combine over the first 10 yards, which is of course what football players really run. Meanwhile, Beason is just a good all-around player, while Posluszny is a great character guy. Still it would seem somehow rather Accorsian if the first ever pick of a new management team with the goal of making the team faster was a slow LB. Time will tell!

As such one could argue until the cows come home which players belong on which list, however, assuming for a moment that our rows above are reasonably accurate, although that’s still a huge assumption because we’re just speculating here, then those first four rows include around 20 players (21 to be exact). And the sense that this is indeed the ’round’ number is supported by the fact that there have been reports that a number of teams consider that this is not a real strong draft class and that there are only 18-20 or so true first-round prospects this year.

Given the wonders of modern mathematics, unless they trade down, the Giants, who have the 20th pick, are going to take a player from those first four rows. Further assuming that all the players in ROWs 1 through 3a are going to be long gone by the time the Giants pick, then the Giants’ selection, again assuming they keep the pick, is likely going to come from ROW 4. The challenge, of course, is to actually figure out who is actually in ROW 4, but thinking this way is going to tell one a whole lot more about who the Giants are actually going to ultimately take than endlessly debating whether LB or CB or WR or LT is the bigger need! The fact is that if a guy isn’t on the Giants first four rows, its almost assured he’s not going to be taken with the 20th pick at least no matter how big the perceived need.

In addition to the overall ranking of prospects, the Giants will have a list of 3-5 players they really like, either because of the players unique skills, or because of need, or in fact, as in most cases some combination of the two. Again, who is actually on the Giants’ initial short list is anybody’s guess; indeed, it’s an even bigger state secret than who ranks 1-20 etc. However, we can speculate, and the best guess here is that the names at the top of the Giants’ short list heading into next weeks draft just might include Ohio State WR Ted Ginn and Pitt CB Darrelle Revis. We also think that Penn State OT Levi Brown could be on the short list; Brown certainly fits the physical attributes of a big, mauling offensive lineman, although there are real questions about his lack of overall athleticism that might keep him off the Giants’ short list. On the other hand, note we aren’t convinced that Central Michigan OT Joe Staley will be on the short list. Staley is one of the fastest rising players in this draft and may even have moved ahead of Brown as the #2 OT. Staley, though, is a converted TE who isn’t all that physical a drive blocker and all indications are that the Giants want to be more physical running the ball this season.

Of course, we aren’t saying here that either Staley or Brown won’t be taken, just that they might not be on the short list. And that would be an interesting denouement to what has been an odd journey at the position this off-season as a result of the surprising outright release of Luke Petitgout earlier this season. On the surface, the move doesn’t appear to have made much sense and certainly the Giants haven’t offered any rationale for public consumption. Most likely the Giants medical staff simply could no longer say there was a reasonable expectation that Petitgout was going to make it through the season and with his cap hit was just too big a gamble to keep around.

The guessing here is that the Giants felt that Diehl and Whimper were a decent fallback option, but had also hoped to find a veteran LT in free agency. Indeed, Reese was quoted, for example, as saying “we went after some guys in free agency and some things just didn’t work out. The market was out of control to a degree…” What Reese didn’t say was which players he was referring to but figure one was probably former Arizona LT Leonard Davis who the Giants had some interest in before he signed a ridiculous deal with Dallas.

And one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that the Giants still have some real concerns about LT, although the claim that the Giants are now ‘forced’ to take a LT in this year’s draft is something of an overstatement. They may very well take a LT this year, but it won’t be because Petitgout was released. Indeed, because of health concerns Petitgout was going to have to be replaced sooner rather than later anyway, so LT was going to be a priority at this draft whether or not #77 was on the roster this fall. In fact, about the only thing the release of Petitgout ‘forced’ the Giants to consider was having to go with Diehl at the position this season. Given Petitgout’s health status, though, its something they almost assuredly would have had to consider at some point this fall anyway without having had to pay $5M against the cap for the opportunity. In fact, the guessing here is that the Giants probably figure there if having to go with Diehl at LT this season is the worst thing to befall the team in 2007, then they’ll actually be in pretty good shape. And if Diehl struggles, and the Giants didn’t get their LT of the future at the 2007 draft, and Whimper doesn’t develop, there is a great crop of LT prospects coming down the line in 2008. Indeed, because the 2008 draft should be loaded at LT, we would not be ‘forcing’ an OT pick early at the 2007 draft simply for the sake of it!

Movin’ on up… Back to the short list, as the draft unfolds and it turns out that say a Ginn was still on the board in the area of the 14-15-16 picks then the Giants may very well start to make some very discrete calls about what it might cost to move up. In fact, they have probably already made some preliminary calls in that regard. I doubt they value Revis quite as highly, but might think about a move up if he were still there around the 17-18 picks. Meanwhile, whether there are any other players the Giants might move up for would depend largely on what value they place on the two OTs.

At this point we figure more than one Giants’ fan is asking, “Why Ginn?” Again we are just speculating, but while Giants’ fans have spent the off-season arguing whether LB or CB was the team’s biggest weakness, the guess here is that inside the team’s war room, the biggest concern is the lack of overall team speed. In fact, at positions like WR, CB, LB and on special teams the Giants are probably among the slowest teams in the league. And Ginn is fast. Indeed, even if all Ginn was was half as good returning kicks as Devin Hester was with the Bears’ last year, the Giants would be laughing all the way to the bank. Meanwhile, simply putting someone on the field with Ginn’s speed can force defenses to back off even if that player doesn’t make that many plays themselves. Plus don’t count out the possibility that Ginn, who was recruited to Ohio State as the nation’s #1 prep defensive back, ultimately plays CB in the NFL, the position he actually prefers to play. In the end, though, the debate may be moot as Ginn very likely will be long gone before he comes into range of the Giants. And just in passing, note that Revis is also a dynamic return guy, although he lacks Ginn’s pure speed.

Tradin’ on down… On the other hand, if the Giants find themselves on the clock with the 20th pick, but aren’t necessarily enamored with any of the players left in the top row, then they very likely will explore some trade down options. In fact, one of the dangers of the row system is that in effect the rest of the league can dictate a team’s pick. If, for example, the Giants’ top 4 rows did include 20-21 players and the teams picking ahead of them took 19 of those players then by definition the Giants would take one of the two guys left over. And there are certainly several players in ROW 4 who really would not be great fits for the Giants’ schemes.

In fact, it appears that the Giants, like several other teams selecting in the early 20s, may be giving serious consideration to trading down. It struck us as odd initially that what seemed like an inordinate share of the players that the Giants brought in for visits – FS Brandon Meriweather, CB Eric Wright, OT Tony Ugoh and maybe even WR Dewayne Jarrett – were more late first, early second round types when the last time we looked the Giants didn’t have a pick in that area. Indeed, at least of those whose names have been published, the Giants had more late-first, early second-round types in for visits than they did top 20 prospects. And, in fact, a number of the players in that ROW 4 who the Giants may not be all that intrigued with may interest teams with lower picks. TE Olsen, for example, may draw interest from teams ranging from the Jets (#25), New Orleans (#27), Chicago (#31), Oakland (#33) and Detroit (#34). Oakland may also have some interest in Staley as might Kansas City (#23) and even Atlanta all the way down at #38. Meanwhile, the Giants probably like just about all the ROW 5 players such that they could afford to drop down 10-15 spots and still get a guy they like, plus an extra pick or two.

Let’s make a deal… Reese, though, may have given us a bit of a clue as to who is the most likely trading partner. The guessing here is that Baltimore would love to get its hands on Purdue DE Anthony Spencer to replace Adalius Thomas at the pass rush OLB spot, but he’s not going to make it to the 29th pick. In fact, Spencer likely won’t make it past Denver which picks right after the Giants. Again, this is the kind of thing that tends to be set up in advance in “if we’re still picking 20th and so-and-so and so-and-so, the guys we like, are gone, but so-and-so, your guy, is still on the board” then let’s make a deal! And guess whose brains Reese has been picking since he took over the Giants’ job: none other than Ravens’ G.M. Ozzie Newsome.

Just remember you heard it here first!! And see you can hear things just by listening!!

Enjoy the draft and let’s hope the Giants get the impact player they are looking for. But remember the sun is going to come up on Monday the 30th no matter who the Giants take this coming weekend!