New York Giants 2008 NFL Draft – Mid-Season Draft Options

by Colin Lindsay, Editor, Great Blue North Draft Report

With the NFL regular season at the mid-point and the college season down to its final month, the 2008 draft is starting to come into focus, both in terms of the primary needs the Giants will be looking to address at the upcoming draft, as well who the top prospects are at different positions. While much is going to change between now and April 26th, here’s a quick overview of how the positions the Giants are likely to be looking at are shaking out. We also note that it is still way too early to be trying to answer the question of which particular positions the Giants are likely to address with their top 2-3 picks at this year’s draft. Clearly, we are starting to get an idea which teams need to be upgraded in one way or another, but it is simply way too early to know which players are going to be available when the Giants make their picks. In fact, the goal at this point is still to be evaluating players.

Overall, the 2008 draft class still looks like it could be a very good one, particularly if many of this year’s really outstanding crop of juniors opt to turn to pro this January. And in an entirely shameless plug, we want to remind folks that in addition to our regular internet, which for the record is now in its 10th year of operation, we also publish a weekly GBN Giants Draft Report, with ongoing assessments of the Giants’ draft needs and potential options, as well as insightful and pithy comments on the state of the team. Indeed, much of the following draft report is based on a longer piece grading the Giants by position through the first half of the season. Here’s how to order a subscription for those who are interested. And for those not quite sure, just drop us a line at the GBN and the full grade report as a preview.

Meanwhile, in no particular order…

Safety: Finding a FS with some range will undoubtably be one of, if not the Giants’ prime off-season to-do project. And the position could be of even greater concern if the Giants aren’t able to resign S Gibril Wilson, the team’s lone major free-agent-to-be this coming winter. Finding a top safety at the 2008 draft may be easier said than done as the position is the weakest in the upcoming draft class. In fact, it’s very likely that other than Miami junior Kenny Phillips, who is expected to be long gone by the time the Giants make their opening round pick this coming April if he opts to enter this year’s draft, there won’t be any first round quality safeties, although Oklahoma junior Reggie Smith could be an option. Same for Tennessee FS Jonathan Hefney, who is very fast and instinctive, but is also very small at barely 5-9, 185. And there isn’t much in the way of depth at the position, although several players like Quentin Demps of UTEP, Rutgers’ junior Courtney Greene, Marcus Griffin of Texas, and Jamar Adams of Michigan will be worth a look in the second round.

Cornerback: Even with the improved play of the secondary so far this season, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Giants don’t look at CBs again early this coming April. Veterans Sam Madison and R.W. McQuarters, the incumbent nickel back, are both well into their 30s and not getting any younger. And while 2007 first rounder Aaron Ross has plenty of upside, he isn’t necessarily super fast and may never be a true shutdown corner. Whether the Giants area able to find a potential shutdown corner at the 2008 draft, though, is still to be determined. There are several decent senior CBs with some late first-round potential such as DeJuan Tribble of Boston College, Mike Jenkins of South Florida, and Terrell Thomas of USC although none is a real lock to ultimately be worth an opening round pick. What could make the CB situation really interesting, though, would be if juniors like Malcolm Jenkins of Ohio State, Aqib Talib of Kansas, and Justin King of Penn State enter this year’s draft, although PSU’s King has been picked on of late which will hurt his grade. What this year’s CB class has is plenty of depth so the Giants won’t have to force a pick at the position. Other CBs who could factor in the latter part of the opening day include Antoine Cason of Arizona, Tracy Porter of Indiana, Trae Williams of South Florida, Glenn Sharpe of Miami, Zack Bowman of Nebraska, Terrance Wheatley of Colorado, Marcus Walker of Oklahoma and small-school sleeper Dominique Rodgers of Tennessee State.

Linebacker: The real question isn’t if the Giants will take a LB early at the 2008 draft, but how early. In fact, the Giants haven’t taken a LB with their opening round pick since selecting Carl Banks 3rd overall in 1984; as well, Gerris Wilkinson, selected in the third round in 2006, was the first LB the Giants had taken on the first day of draft since 1993. And there won’t be many excuses for not taking a LB somewhere within the first three rounds this year as it should be a relatively strong year at the position. Both Keith Rivers of USC and Penn State ’s Dan Connor, for example, are solid first-round prospects at OLB, while Ohio State junior MLB James Laurinaitis, along with OLBs Ali Highsmith of LSU and Xavier Adibi of Virginia Tech are close. Laurinaitis is a rugged throw-back type mike backer, while both Highsmith and Adibi can really run, although neither is overly big. There is also an intriguing group of second-tier LB including MLBs Philip Wheeler of Georgia Tech and Beau Bell of UNLV, as well as USC junior Rey Maualuga, along with OLBs Shawn Crable of Michigan, Marcus Freeman of Ohio State, and Ezra Butler of Nevada.

Offensive tackle: While the emergence of David Diehl as a decent LT takes the pressure off the Giants to take an OT with their opening round pick at the upcoming draft. However, while Diehl has been solid enough, he’s still not a prototype shutdown LT and with what could be a very good crop of young OTs at this year’s draft, the Giants could still be tempted to take a guy they could plug into the position for the next ten years and move Diehl back to his more natural OG position. What could make the option particularly attractive is if any of several very talented junior OTs such as massive Phil Loadholt of Oklahoma, Ryan Clady of Boise State, Alex Boone of Ohio State and Michael Oher of Ole Miss make the jump to the pros this winter. Even if those guys stay in school, there should be several interesting options at the position later in the first round this April including Sam Baker of Southern Cal and Boston College ’s Gosder Cherilus. Baker, though, isn’t all that physical, while Cherilus is a road grader who might be better suited to the right side. A sleeper at the position could be Heath Benedict of Newberry, an athletic 332-pounder who originally signed with Tennessee, while Chris Williams of Vanderbilt might make an interesting option in the late second round.

Wide receiver: Receiver is probably not quite an ‘A’ list need, but the Giants will most likely be taking a long look at WRs early at the 2008 draft. And WR looks like it will be one of the real strengths at the upcoming draft with some intriguing front-line talent as well as plenty of depth. WRs that likely will be in the mix in the latter part of this year’s opening round include 6-4, 225-pound Adarius Bowman of Oklahoma State and 6-5, 220-pound Limas Sweed of Texas, both of whom run the 40 in under 4.5 seconds. And the position could get downright crowded if talented juniors like Earl Bennett of Vanderbilt, already the SEC career receiving leader in just two and a half seasons, 6-4, 220-pound Malcolm Kelly of Oklahoma, 6-6, 220-pound James Hardy of Indiana and 6-5, 215-pound Greg Carr of Florida State opt to leave school early and enter this year’s draft. As noted, there is also plenty of depth in this year’s WR class so a team like the Giants need not force a pick at the position in the opening round. Indeed, given their recent run of success taking WRs in the second round the Giants might want to wait until their second pick figuring they will get looks at players like Andre Caldwell of Florida, D.J. Hill of Alabama, speedy Harry Douglas of Louisville, Keenan Burton of Kentucky and Marcus Monk of Arkansas. One sleeper who might also fit in that point might be Donnie Avery of Houston who reportedly runs the 40 in under 4.3 seconds and is also has some potential as a kick returner. In fact, there is enough depth in this year’s receiver class that teams could find a potentially useful player early in the second day of the draft.

Defensive tackle: The Giants don’t lack for big bodies at DT, but they haven’t had a real stud DT that commanded real respect from opposing teams since the days of Keith Hamilton. As such, while DT probably isn’t necessarily a prime need, the Giants could very well be tempted to go that way early at the 2008 draft. The problem for the Giants is that this year’s top prospects at the position like LSU’s Glenn Dorsey and Sedric Ellis of USC are likely to be gone by the time they make their initial pick and its not clear there will be many, if any, other DTs worth a late first round selection. At the same time, though, there could be some options in the second round including DeMario Pressley of North Carolina State, Andre Fluellen of Florida State, 330-pouid Red Bryant of Texas and 325-pound Frank Okam of Texas. Meanwhile, a sleeper to watch later on the opening day or early on the second day is 315-pound Maurice Murray of New Mexico State. There is a pretty big drop off, though, once past the top echelon of DTs.

Kickers: The betting here is that new G.M. Jerry Reese isn’t keen on using draft picks on kickers, but the Giants could very well be in the market for both a PK and a P next off-season. And they may be wise to look at veteran free agents as it’s not a great year for kickers. P Durant Brooks of Georgia Tech, for example, may be the only punter worth a pick this year, while PKs Art Carmody of Louisville and Brandon Coutu of Georgia are the top senior place kickers. In fact, the best kickers in the country are probably junior P Chris Miller of Ball State and junior PK Ryan Succop of South Carolina. On the other hand, there are some talented kick returners out there including the Houston duo of WRs Anthony Alridge and Donnie Avery, Chris Johnson of East Carolina, Eddie Royal of Virginia Tech, Darius Reynaud of West Virginia, Kevin Robinson of Utah State, and Leodis McKelvin of Troy.