New York Giants 2010 NFL Draft Needs

2009 was a disaster.  The Giants tumbled from one of the elite teams to a joke.  It is easy to blame former defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan for all the team’s evils, but probably not wise.  This is not the same team it was in 2007-08.  Key contributors such as Michael Strahan, Fred Robbins, Antonio Pierce, Kawika Mitchell, Sam Madison, Amani Toomer, and Derrick Ward are gone, among others.  There will be more turnover by the time camp ends.

The major concerns involve the defense.  Hopefully, Head Coach Tom Coughlin has hired the right defensive coordinator this time.  With the Giants, Coughlin is one-for-three in picking good defensive coordinators and one-for-two in picking offensive coordinators.  New defensive coordinator Perry Fewell seems to have the high-energy, in-your-face style that Steve Spagnuolo had with the Giants.  But if Fewell cannot turn around what became the worst defense in the NFL, the whole coaching staff may be shown the door.

Quarterback: Eli Manning is a Super Bowl MVP and Pro Bowler.  He has improved every single year and is coming off his best season, despite playing with a serious foot injury for most of last season.  He is the best player on the team.  Jim Sorgi and Rhett Bomar will battle it out for the #2 and #3 spots.  Unless the Giants do not like Bomar (and I think they do), I don’t see the Giants drafting a quarterback.

Draft Priority: Low

Running Back: I know many disagree, but I think the Giants are in pretty good shape at this position.  The only way I draft a running back is if someone truly special – a difference maker – is available.  I don’t see a “good” prospect getting much playing time behind Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, D.J. Ware, Andre Brown, and Gartrell Johnson.  But if the Giants think someone like C.J. Spiller can be an elite back, they may pull the trigger.  At fullback, Madison Hedgecock played 2010 with a torn labrum and it showed.  Expect him to bounce back.

Draft Priority: Low

Wide Receiver: This was supposed the only question mark on the team entering the 2009 season!  Just shows you how fast things can change.  Wide receiver – at the present moment (knock on wood) – is a team strength.  Steve Smith is the first Giants’ Pro Bowl receiver since the 1960’s.  Hakeem Nicks played very well as a rookie and is a much more explosive target than first advertised.  He flashes impact potential.  Mario Manningham had a breakout season and should continue to improve.  Domenik Hixon is fast and explosive.  Derek Hagan is one of the best special teams players on the team and even contributed as a receiver.  The Giants like Ramses Barden a lot – they just need to figure a way to get him on the field.

Draft/Trade Priority:  Low

Tight End: Kevin Boss is one of the better tight ends in the NFL.  He just doesn’t pound his chest and draw attention to himself.  If he wants to reach the next level, however, he must continue to improve his blocking.  Travis Beckum should contribute much more in 2010 as a dangerous receiving target/H-Back-type.  But there is a serious need for a blocking tight end.  Right now, Bear Pascoe is that man, but he is not overly athletic.  Ideally, the Giants need another Howard Cross or Dan Campbell.  Many of the botched running plays last year were due to poor tight end blocking.

Draft Priority:  Moderate

Offensive Line:

The starting five of Diehl, Seubert, O’Hara, Snee, and McKenzie had been intact since 2007, but in 2009, the injury bug finally caught up with this unit.  Seubert (shoulder/knee) played hurt all year and the old warhorse McKenzie (both knees, groin, concussion) suffered through a number of injuries.  Snee had leg/knee issues and O’Hara had offseason elbow surgery.  Personally, I expect these five to start again and rebound in a big way.  The Giants also have an up-and-coming player in Will Beatty who could play at either tackle spot.  He may push for playing time.  The needs here are for improved depth and grooming future starters.  How long do the Giants want to rely on O’Hara, Seubert, and McKenzie?  What if one of the interior three – especially O’Hara – gets hurt?  Do they see Diehl as their future right tackle and Beatty as their future left tackle?

The Giants could draft an offensive lineman as high as the first round.  Do they desperately need an offensive lineman?  No.  But if there is a stud available, they may pull the trigger.  Expect at least one lineman to be drafted at some stage of the draft.

Draft Priority: Moderate

Defensive Line: With all due respect to the linebacker-first crowd, defensive line is the #1 need area on this team.  The heart of a 4-3 defense is the defensive line.  And all of the Giants’ defensive linemen – starters and reserves – massively underperformed in 2009.  Some of that had to do with injuries, some coaching, some age.

There is a real need for another defensive tackle.  Chris Canty is penciled in as the 3-technique (penetrating) tackle; Barry Cofield the 1-technique (dirty work) tackle.  Jay Alford (coming off serious knee injury) and Rocky Bernard (played hurt and coming off horrible year) are two more 3-technique types.  Cofield is a good player, but the Giants could do better.  Plus, if he were to go down, the Giants probably would have to shift Canty to 1-technique.  A stud defensive tackle would make life easier for the high-priced ends and Canty.  It would also help whoever is at linebacker.  A great defensive tackle can make an average middle linebacker look good.  But the reverse is not true.  Defensive tackle could be the first pick.

The Giants are not set at defensive end.  Justin Tuck has been somewhat injury prone.  And Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka have both made it clear that they want to start.  Whoever is more disruptive on the field and less disruptive off the field will stay; the other will likely be traded next offseason.  Or if there is a new CBA, Kiwanuka might leave in free agency in 2011.  Given those scenarios, the Giants must give high consideration to drafting another defensive end with a premium pick now.  Do not be shocked if the first pick is a defensive end.  If you play a 4-3 defense, in today’s NFL, the pass rush depends on the defensive ends – both starters and reserves.

Draft Priority: Very high.

Linebackers: Michael Boley is being penciled in as the starting weakside linebacker; Clint Sintim is being penciled in as the starting strongside linebacker.  Boley flashed last year but Sintim did not.  There is a big question mark in the middle.  Antonio Pierce is gone.  Jonathan Goff did not impress in limited playing time in 2009.  Much depends on what the Giants truly think of Goff, but regardless the team probably needs to add at least two viable linebackers.

If the Giants want to get faster on defense – and that is the direction the league is going and the style of defense Fewell likes – look for athletic linebackers.  This means guys who can run to the football, but who may be smaller than ideal.  When critics say the Giants are slow on defense, they really are talking about the linebackers.

Draft Priority: Very high.

Defensive Backs: The Giants are pretty well stocked at cornerback as long as Aaron Ross’ hamstring woes are behind him – and he says they are.  With Ross, Corey Webster, and Terrell Thomas, the Giants have three quality corners.  In addition, Bruce Johnson was a pleasant surprise in 2009 and he should improve.  But teams like to carry at least five corners and the Giants could use another.

Everything depends on status of Kenny Phillips.  If Phillips can return and play like he did before he was hurt, the Giants are in fantastic shape at safety with him, Antrel Rolle, and Deon Grant.  Phillips and Rolle could be the most athletic safety combo in the NFL.  Grant is a steady veteran.  Michael Johnson played like excrement last season.  If he does not shape up, he’s gone.  Unless the Giants have strong feelings for Sha’reff Rashad and Vince Anderson, adding a fourth safety is a strong possibility.

Draft Priority: Moderate

Special Teams: I fully expect Jeff Feagles and Lawrence Tynes to be the kickers in 2010.  Tynes is coming off a very solid season and Feagles seems determined to rebound strongly.

With the development of Nicks and Manningham, Hixon should be able to focus more on the return game again in 2010.

Draft Priority: Low

Summary: I see the major needs as being in the front seven on defense.  Blockers on offense – linemen and a tight end – should be a focal point as well.  The wild card would be if an elite running back were available.