New York Giants 2009 NFL Draft Needs

The Giants are a good football team.  And with the possible exception of wide receiver, there is no desperate need to come out of the 2009 NFL Draft with a prospect who will push for immediate playing time.  That’s a good thing because it is never wise to count on a rookie to start or make an immediate contribution.

As of the date this article was written (April 20th), the Giants have 10 NFL Draft picks, including five in the first three rounds.  The Giants’ original seven draft picks are near the end of each round as is their 3rd round compensatory pick.  The Giants also have the Saints’ 2nd and 5th round selections from the Jeremy Shockey trade.

The Giants’ biggest need is undoubtedly at wide receiver.  Gone are the two starters.  Plaxico Burress, the Giants’ only impact player at that position for decades, was recently cut.  Amani Toomer, the Giants’ all-time leading receiver, is a free agent who will not be re-signed. The big question is will the Giants take a receiver in the first or second round, or attempt to improve the position by trading for Cleveland Browns’ wideout Braylon Edwards?  Each course comes with its own pros and cons.  The answering of this question, in itself, will make for an interesting week.

Quarterback: Eli Manning is entrenched as the starter and will likely sign a new long-term deal within the next few months.  In somewhat of a surprise move, the Giants were easily able to retain David Carr, thus providing the team with a very good back-up quarterback.  Andre’ Woodson spent last season on the Practice Squad.  He has talent, but the Giants are attempting to alter his throwing motion to make it more efficient and compact.  The Giants could spend a mid to low draft pick on a quarterback if they are negative on Woodson.  That remains to be seen.

Draft Priority: Low

Running Back: Many will disagree, and the Giants themselves may disagree, but I think the team is set at this position, even with the loss of Derrick Ward (free agency) and Reuben Droughns (cut).  Brandon Jacobs was re-signed to a four-year contract and will start.  Vying for playing time behind him are Ahmad Bradshaw and Danny Ware.  Bradshaw, the Giants’ most explosive running back, was underutilized in 2008.  The departure of Ward should lead to far more touches for Bradshaw, and big plays for the Giants’ offense.  But don’t discount Ware.  I’m really high on him.  He’s a big, athletic back who really impressed last preseason.  And the Giants’ brass has quietly been touting him since the season ended.  With Jacobs, Bradshaw, and Ware, I don’t see a lot of touches for a new back in 2009 or 2010.  The fullback position is in fine hands with Madison Hedgecock.

Draft Priority: Low

Wide Receiver: The big debate among fans is how big a need is wide receiver.  Jerry Reese, at least publicly, says it is not as big a need as many fans think it is.  He’s probably correct in the sense that the Giants can win with the group that they have now, with any potential slack being picked up by the defense and the ground attack.  But my fear is reaching the playoffs again and matching up with another good defense that can take away the running game and leave Eli with few options in the passing game.  To be frank, the Giants were vulnerable late last year to a team like the Eagles with very good corners.  The Eagles did not fear leaving the Giants’ wideouts in single coverage and could focus on putting extra men in the box to stop the run.

So, ideally, the Giants want to obtain a receiver who scares opposing defenses to the point where they double-team that receiver (what team doesn’t?).  The problem is that the Giants are not likely to obtain that type of player in this draft, and certainly not someone who is likely to immediately serve that role as a rookie.  Should the Giants stand pat, not give away valuable picks for a veteran, and hope the receivers on hand can do the job?  Or should they trade for Braylon Edwards, a veteran speedster with Pro Bowl ability, but also reportedly somewhat of a diva?  It probably depends on the cost, both in terms of draft picks required and Edwards’ own contract demands (he’s entering the last year of his contract).  Edwards would undoubtedly help the passing and rushing game.  He’s a vertical threat who can score from anywhere on the field.  He would help to keep those safeties out of the box.  But, how clutch a player is he?  How consistent a player can he become?  Questions…questions.

Even if the Giants did trade for Edwards, the team could very easily use another high pick on a receiver.  Steve Smith is a fine #2 or #3, but nothing more.  The final upside on Domenik Hixon remains to be seen.  Mario Manningham’s rookie season was a virtual washout and questions remain about his mental makeup.  Sinorice Moss hasn’t done much since he was drafted and the Giants reportedly tried to trade him last year.

Draft/Trade Priority:  Very High

Tight End: Kevin Boss is an up-and-coming tight end who can catch the football.  His blocking is also improving.  Behind him are Michael Matthews, a non-factor in the passing game and an overrated blocker, and Darcy Johnson, an athletic player who has flashed in the passing game.  If Boss were to get hurt, the Giants could be in bad shape at this position.  Don’t be surprised if the Giants select a tight end higher than some think.

Draft Priority:  High

Offensive Line: The Giants have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and are strong across the board with Diehl, Seubert, O’Hara, Snee, and McKenzie.  All are still in their prime and under contract through 2011.  The more these five play together, the better they will get.  It’s a luxury most NFL teams do not have.  But depth and future competition is an issue.  The Giants currently don’t have a true second center on the team (though the guards could play the position in a pinch).  Also, the quality of the back-ups at tackle remains debatable.  Look for the Giants to possibly draft a tackle and center/guard-type to duke it out with Guy Whimper, Adam Koets, and Kevin Boothe in training camp.

Draft Priority: Moderate

Defensive Line: With the return of Osi Umenyiora and the additions of Chris Canty and Rocky Bernard, the Giants have arguably the most-talented and deepest defensive line in the NFL.  The Giants are set at defensive tackle with Fred Robbins, Barry Cofield, Jay Alford, Canty, and Bernard.  At end, there may be no finer tandem than Umenyiora and Justin Tuck.  Mathias Kiwanuka provides very good depth and Canty can play end if need be.  The Giants could add another outside pass rusher to compete with Dave Tollefson, but it is not a huge need.

Draft Priority: Low

Linebackers: The addition of Michael Boley at weakside linebacker really helps to diminish this area as a team need.  Boley is a three-down player who can run, cover, and blitz.  The Giants desperately needed a fast linebacker and Boley gives them that.  Now the team doesn’t have to rush Bryan Kehl, who could be a factor for playing time on the strongside.  But the Giants could stand to add even more athleticism and speed to this position, as well as a future starters at middle linebacker and strongside linebacker.  Antonio Pierce will man the middle for at least one more season, possibly more.  He’s the leader of the defense, but like most middle linebackers, he can struggle at times against athletes in coverage.  The Giants like Jonathan Goff, whose rookie season was a wash, but more competition is needed.  The strongside spot is wide open, but keep in mind that strongside linebackers play less than 50 percent of the defensive snaps.

Draft Priority: Moderate

Defensive Backs: The Giants are four-deep at corner with Corey Webster, Aaron Ross, Terrell Thomas, and Kevin Dockery.  But the Giants could add a fifth corner, especially given the fact that Dockery will be an unrestricted free agent in 2010.  At safety, the starters will be Michael Johnson and Kenny Phillips, with C.C. Brown serving as a veteran reserve.  But adding another safety for completion/depth would be ideal.

Draft Priority: Moderate

Special Teams: Jeff Feagles will return as the punter for yet another season.  Lawrence Tynes missed virtually all of 2008.  The Giants will likely bring in another kicker to compete with him but the question is will they draft one to do so?  This is a Super Bowl-caliber team.  Do the Giants want to risk it all on a rookie kicker?

The Giants have two good kick returners in Hixon and Bradshaw, but would like to find a dangerous punt returner.

Draft Priority: Low

Summary: Almost everyone agrees – the biggest need is at wide receiver.  Beyond that, I would like to see the Giants address tight end and the line on offense.  Defensively, adding more athleticism at linebacker and depth in the secondary would be ideal.