Laredo's Corner: The State of the Giants

The 2002 N.F.L Draft has come and gone. Giants did a very solid job especially in the 6th and 7th rounds. It was an important draft for the Giants, a kind of draft that makes or breaks a teams future. As it looks now the Giants did manage to fill a few needs, as well as upgrade team speed in a big way. Especially the speed on the offensive side of the ball. Before we take a deeper look at the draft, lets do a quick review of the Giants off-season.

Due to the unwillingness of Strahan and Collins, to restructure their huge deals and help the team, the Giants were forced to restructure six other players' contracts. The Giants, in all probability, did not want to restructure so many contracts, but were forced to restructure due to having to be under the salary cap by the March 1 deadline.

It was not as if the Giants were unwilling to give Michael or Kerry new contracts. In my opinion, it was pure greed by Strahan, along with a ridiculous offer made by Collins' agent that forced the Giants to seek help from other players. Strahan, by his unwillingness to accept a split-signing bonus hurt the team more then he will ever know. As a direct result the Giants must be very frugal with this years cap, so much so that they could not resign a few of their own free agents--not to mention shopping after other teams free agents, with the hope of improving the team prior to the draft. The failure by Michael and Kerry to restructure forced the team to make more than a far share of cuts--including the heart and soul of the defense, Jesse Armstead.

That being said with the cap situation as it is, many fans are becoming a bit worried when they read about the divisional rivals signing this or that player. I'm not saying we, as fans shouldn't be concerned. We should just keep in mind that championships are not won or lost in the off-season. None-the less, it does not sit will for securing a 2002 division title, or even a playoff spot.

After Michael and K.C. refused to step to the plate and restructure their respective deals to help the team out, Ernie Accorsi, the Giants GM chose not to press the issue any more. As of now it seems the Giants are content to let both players play out their contracts, and risk losing both after the season.

The Strahan situation is a bit more interesting. Some analyst, including myself, speculated about a pre-draft trade that would send the All-Pro DE to Oakland, or some other DE starved team for a bonanza of draft picks. As it turned out that did not happen. Strahans' football future is in the hands of the Giants. The Giants can simply franchise tag him after the season, thus insuring that if he were to leave they would get two 1st round draft picks, and if he stayed his salary would be much less then what he makes now. It seems to me that's a win situation for the Giants, and a lose situation for Strahan. No wonder many people were left scratching their respective heads when Strahan turned down the Giants offer!

I have a feeling that Strahan will soon come to his senses, and will sign the original Giants offer, and all this would be just water under the bridge by opening kickoff of the 2002 season.

As to K.C., this may very well be the last season for Collins with the Giants. A player thought to be the answer at the QB position following the super bowl season. No one expected Collins poor performances last season, in fact Collins may have saved himself from being cut with some late season heroics, more importantly looked like the Collins of 2000. The question remains, which Kerry Collins will show up for the 2002 season. If Collins plays poorly, as some expect, leading the Giants to another losing record, the Giants let him walk. The positive is that K.C.'s departure will be without any cap implications which is the key to Accorsi. The negative is then the Giants will have to draft or acquire another new QB free agent. The question is does K.C.'s departure solve the Giant's problem or create a new one?

Then there are the comments made by WR Ike Hilliard, that yet again the Giants do not take care of their contributing players, and that he wants to move on, probably to the Gator reunion that is being held in D.C. by ex-Florida and new Redskin Head Coach, Steve Spurrier.

To tell the truth, from a player's standpoint, I can't disagree with the comments made by Hilliard. He is one of those rare players who produces on the field, yet the Giants are not rewarding him. However, at the same time, I can understand and agree completely with management's take. The Giants position is somewhat like this: Ike has a low salary cap figure (about 770K in base salary and another 770K in roster bonus, which comes to a total cap figure of something like $1.5mil against this years cap). For a team as cap strapped as the Giants, a new deal would not reduce the overall cap number by much, thus not creating any cap relief, therefore it is not a priority to restructure Ike's contract.

Ok, it is time to take a deeper look at the draft.

With the first pick the Giants, as EXPECTED, drafted TE Jeremy Shockey 6'-5", 255lbs., 4.68-40, from the University of Miami (FL).

The Giants needed to trade up one spot to pick Shockey, as both Seattle and Cleveland were ready to make a trade with Tennessee that would have sent Shockey elsewhere. So Accorsi pulled the trigger swapped picks and gave up the Giant's 4th rounder to move up and landed the 2002 Giant Holy Grail.

If Shockey, is as good as advertised then the Giants have found what could be the new Mark Bavaro. By selecting Shockey, the Giants instantly upgrade the TE position and possibly the whole offense. Shockey is a receiver first a blocker second, but he does have the frame to add some weight and muscle and become a better blocker. As a receiver, Shockey is just like another WR out there, runs great routes and has real nice hands. Therefore, unlike the other TEs on the roster, he will be able to stay in during definite passing situations. Collins may have found a new best friend in the offense. Another point worth mentioning is the TEs are typically the QBs best friend, especially if that QB is a rookie or lack the experience. In fact, Shockey has a chance to get to the Pro Bowl as a rookie depending upon how much K.C. throws to him!

In the 2nd round, the Giants picked the speed demon WR Tim Carter 6'-0", 188lbs., 4.32-40, from Auburn University.

That was a bit of a surprise, I had a feeling Carter would be wearing Giant blue, however, I just did not expect him to go as high as the 2nd round. However, Carter's stock has been on a consistent rise ever since the Senior Bowl, and he does have rare skills to go along with his outstanding speed. Though Carter is still a bit raw and needs some work, he should push Dixon for the third WR job. Carter is an explosive athlete. Carter is very quick in and out of his cuts. In addition, Carter is a true deep threat--something that has been missing from the Giants offense for years. The big plus about this pick is that, until Carter adjusts to the professional level of the game, he will play special teams and he is an excellent special teams player, both as a return man and as gunner.

In the 3rd round Giants selected LT Jeff Hatch 6'-6", 315lbs., 5.1-40, out of the University of Pennsylvania.

This is an intriguing pick, after all not many Ivy League players are selected that high in the NFL Draft. However, Hatch is different, he turned down a dozen NCAA-Division I schools, so he could go to Penn and get a real education. After all, there is life after football and unfortunately many athletes don't understand that and consequently aren't ready for life beyond the glory. The Giants believed Hatch was the last true LT in the draft and they had to take him. So what did they get?

Hatch is a very athletic left tackle that has a tremendous amount of ability. Hatch has seen his stock rise since the Blue-Gray game, as it was very important for him to prove he can handle better competition and he more than held his own against that level of competition. On the down side, he does need a lot of work in the weight room, and McNally needs to refine his blocking techniques. All in all not a bad pick as Hatch offers potentially down the road.

With that said, I am still concerned about the state of the offensive line, as I am sure most fans are! Going into the season with two total unknowns on the left side of the line with LT Chris Bobar and LG Rich Seubert. While I am much more optimistic concerning Seubert then I am for Bobar, the Giants will have 3 new bodies on the OL next season. Yes, I realize that Coach Jim McNally is high on Bobar, but what can I say, I'm not. I've gone through some pre-season tapes, keeping a close eye on Bobar's play-mind you, playing against second and third team opponent defensive players. It is clear to me that Bobar does not have the feet quickness needed to handle the LT position. On a side note, I thought Bobar did far better at OG!

I, as most prognosticators, thought the Giants were going to address the LT position with the 2nd pick. In fact, once I saw LT Mike Pearson from Florida start to slip, I was sure that GM Accorsi would pull the trigger to trade up, and land a top rated LT to solidify the all important LT position. As it turned out, EA sat quietly and did not trade up, and consequently we drafted another need position--WR.

While I disagree to some extent with Coach McNally, and his opinion that you don't need to draft offensive lineman high, my research indicates that most, if not all LT in the N.F.L were drafted in the 1st round. So going with an undrafted LT like Bobar seems highly risky to me. It's for that reason I was surprised the Giants didn't go after Pearson and instead waited to draft an Ivy League player in LT Jeff Hatch. Don't get me wrong, I think that Hatch is a solid pick in the 3rd round, it is just that he is raw and needs a lot of weight room training and technique work to refine his natural skills-unlike a Pearson who can step-in and play immediately.

I have a hunch that Coach McNally is trying to build a line similar to the one in SF, where the OL as a whole is better than the sum of the individuals. I guess time will tell if it worked out or not. I guess the Giants are truly happy with the offensive lineman they have. Then again, it's been reported that management is just blowing smoke.

The 4th round pick was traded to Tennessee Titans so to move up one slot and select the number 1 pick TE Jeremy Shockey.

The 5th rounder was a bit of a shocker, the Giants took MLB Nick Greisen 6'-1", 233lbs., 4.88-40 out of University of Wisconsin.

Greisen has a great character and work ethic, and is a very competitive player. Nick has fine instincts and is a fluid athlete. He has nice short area quickness, is very aggressive and takes good angles to the ball. While rather slow in comparison to others athletes at his position, but he was a tackling machine in college. Nick is on the small side and does not have good straight-line speed and because of that, he has trouble in coverage. He also lacks the size, bulk and lower body strength at point of attack.

In my opinion, the Giants should have done a lot better with this pick but Greisen should help on special teams since he is an accomplished long-snapper and should Jason Whittle start next season, having another long snapper for special teams is paramount. Players available after the Giants selected were Michigan OG Goodwin, Illinois QB Kurt Kittner, and Tennessee CB Andre Lott (Ronnie's son!).

In the 6th round the Giants made a solid pick by grabbing SS/WLB Wesly Mallard 6'-2", 220lbs. 4.48-40 out of the University of Oregon.

Wesly was a backup most of his career, but started as a senior. He played LB in college but projects to strong safety in the NFL. He possesses the type of speed one looks for, having the toughness and aggressiveness that is required at the line of scrimmage. He's a good blitzer and tackler. He's very athletic. While he will need work in coverage, he was a standout special teams player, and will make an impact on ST for the Giants, or at least I hope so!

With the first pick on the 7th round the Giants again went WR selecting WR Daryl Jones 5'-9", 180lbs., 4.48-40 from the University of Miami.

This, in my opinion was a great pick not only in value but in the potential it presents. Daryl is a somewhat small as WR go in the NFL, but he possesses great speed and explosive quickness. While solid, Jones is not known for great hands. Reminded many in south Florida of Santana Moss. Good vision. Flashed big play ability as a punt returner and a deep threat. Jones is a great leaper and runs good routes showing good quickness in and out of his cuts. Daryl was a career backup in Miami. His longevity and durability is a big concern, but he's well worth the risk. Daryl should compete in taking over the punt return duties.

With their final pick, a supplemental pick from losing FA last year, the Giants again went linebacker, selecting MLB Quincy Monk 6'-3", 250lbs. 4.76-40 out of the University of North Carolina.

Monk is a tough and durable player. Good open field tackler. Slow for the position but plays faster then what the stopwatch indicates. Tentative in coverage, Monk has the ability to be better in coverage but is late to react...Probably will not make the final cut but who knows. Monk appears to be another player drafted to help upgrade the special teams, but I am not sure about this one, as I think the Giants could have done better, but that is just me.

Players available and selected after Monk included the injury plagued but talented Colorado OT Victor Rogers or Arizone State OG Kyle Koiser.

All in all the Giants did what they intended to do, and that was improve team speed and athletic ability. They appeared to have definitely improved the WR corps by drafting two wide receivers. This should be seen as a loud wake up call to Ron Dixon and Jonathan Carter to either get your collective acts together or turn in your playbook. With all the new depth at WR and TE, I cannot see Thabiti Davis or Taman Bryant having a final spot on the roster.

Traditionally, teams having weak special teams and get an upgrade during the off-season, provide a real boost when the regular season starts. Let's hope it will show on the field. This 2002 Draft as it looks is all about potential, which is the State of the Giants. While the Giants sure did get alot of potential with their picks, hopefully it results in more than having a group that can apply for the Olympics 4x100 with speedsters Daryl Jones-Jonathan Carter-Tim Carter and Ron Dixon!

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