Jerry Reese talks the same talk every NFL drafter talks at this time of year. As questioners seek answers, he obfuscates. As they try to read the tea leaves, he gives the kettle and all its contents a good shake.
So was it any surprise that the media the general manager addressed Thursday at his pre-draft press conference offered little in the way of pinpointing any prospect, or even position, he'll try to bolster next Thursday when the Giants are on the clock at No. 19?
"There are good players at every position," Reese said. "If a good linebacker is available at that time, we need to pick him. If a defensive lineman is there at 19 and he's the best player, we'll be deeper on the defensive line.
"We want to create competition at every position."
But with free agency and the draft being flipped this year because of the league's labor situation, the uncertainty of the draft process becomes even more magnified this year. Filling needs must be tempered with the idea that a veteran may or may not be available in free agency, whenever that is and whatever form that takes. And the natural uncertainty surrounding any draft pick -- boom, bust, or just "meh!" -- means Reese can't count on any rookie coming through for him. Especially in a year where the learning time has already been shortened, and may be nonexistent if the lockout lasts into the summer.
Still, there is always the need for good players. And the Giants have the spots for them. With the retirement of Keith Bulluck, there is a definite opening at strongside linebacker. So North Carolina's Bruce Carter, making great progress from major knee surgery, could be a potential first-round pick. Or Boston College's Mark Herzlich could interest the Giants in the fifth or sixth round.
But there are also needs at defensive end, a potential starting hole at defensive tackle if Barry Cofield heads off as a free agent, and issues on the offensive line due to age and injury.
To those, Reese remained equally vague, except to say those issues, including linebacker, will have to find immediate remedies not with rookies, but with the team's younger veterans such as LB Clint Sintim, T Will Beatty, and G Mitch Petrus, among others.
He seemed to put extra pressure on 2009 second-rounder Clint Sintim to step up at strongside linebacker, perhaps indicating that LB will not be the pick at No. 19.
"We expect him to be an impact player," Reese said. "He flashed a little as a rookie, but didn't play much last year because he was injured.
"It's about growing up for him. He needs to grow up and play like the second-round player we think he is. Show us he can be a starter for us."
Whatever the case, in this particular year he must have lower expectations of whoever comes in the draft, regardless of position. Rookie learning was hard when there was a rookie minicamp and constant contact with the team after their drafting. This year, with all contact prohibited until a new CBA comes around, the learning curve will be as steep as a Six Flags coaster.
"You wish you could get guys who can play right away," said Reese. "But most of the guys you draft are developmental. Your first three picks you want to come in and contribute right away, but after that, most of them have strength issues.
"The learning curve will be really quick for them because it looks like they're going to miss some time with the (lack of) rookie minicamps. When they come in, there won't be time for them to learn."
So whether they land Florida G/C Mike Pouncey, or Colorado T Nate Solder, or Wisconsin T Gabe Carimi, or a linebacker, or a defensive end, the Giants won't be relying on him for any substantive contributions in 2011.
And though Reese said he's open to moving up or down, don't bank on it. Trading this year will be tougher because of the inability to move veteran contracts, as per conditions of the lockout. That means teams will be asking for more draft pick compensation, thus making for steeper mortgages on the future for the sake of a few draft slots.
Reese basically said he's going after the best player available to him in each round.
Might as well go BPA. No matter who he takes, he'll need the better part of the year to adapt to his new system, anyway. If the lockout lasts much longer, there just won't be enough time to break in a new guy.