Giant Decision

It's high time for the New York Football Giants to take a definite step in the right direction. <BR><BR>

The club obviously views the coaching change to Tom Coughlin and the recent signings as such, but it's imperative that New York's first-round draft pick on April 24 turn into not only an immediate contributor, but an impact player for the next decade.

Sounds like a lot of pressure for GM Ernie Accorsi, no?

Not exactly.

"If you can't deal with pressure you wouldn't be in this job," he said. "You can't be affected by it."

With the fourth selection, the Giants' task is to identify the four best collegiate players in the country and make sure they get one of them. One only has to look back to 1996, when the Giants selected fifth and only liked the top four players. Big Blue settled on DE Cedric Jones, who was a disappointment to say the least.

"If you're in this business long enough, you can convince yourself that there are always one fewer players than where you pick," Accorsi laughed. "Unless you pick first overall, there's always the chance that there will be only three guys you really like when you pick fourth."

So, the option to trade is also there for Accorsi and Co., something that's happened twice since Accorsi took the GM reins in 1998. In 2001, he swapped picks to move up to select CB Will Allen, then did the same thing the following year to nab TE Jeremy Shockey. Both moves appeared to have worked out very well for New York.

"My history's in moving," said Accorsi, who also moved up while with Cleveland to select Eric Metcalf in 1989. "I've traded up several times in my career. We're not cemented into one position – either up or down."

Surely by now, everyone has heard the name Robert Gallery linked to the Giants. He's the expected pick should he be there.

"He's very bright, very impressive," Accorsi said after speaking with Gallery at the February scouting combine in Indianapolis.

An interesting side note to Gallery's success is the fact that new Giants OL coach Pat Flaherty can take plenty of the credit. Flaherty was Iowa's tight ends coach when Gallery arrived on campus and it was Flaherty who suggested that Gallery be moved to offensive tackle, a decision that has paid big dividends to say the least.

While there's no doubt that Tom Coughlin favors the selection of Gallery, Accorsi is especially enamored with Miami (Ohio) QB Ben Roethlisberger. All this, of course, has to be taken with a grain of salt, since there's still close to a month until the draft. For instance, the week TGI went to print, Accorsi was scheduled to attend four workouts of top-flight prospects. Needless to say there's still quite a ways to go.

"We obviously going to get a terrific football player," he said.

The key is getting the right one; the best fit for the Giants.

And being higher than usual in the first round isn't going to make it all that much easier. That's because the Giants will still have to do their best to figure out the intentions of those clubs in front of them.

"No matter where you are, it's no easier to figure out what's going on ahead of you," Accorsi said.

It's even more difficult these days, what with the spread of Internet news and gossip.

"There'll be 40 million rumors between now and the draft," Accorsi said. "You just can't get caught up in a circus. You have to make sure you're right about these players."

Accorsi's hopeful that he's right about his current players as well.

"This isn't a 4-12 team we have here," he said. "We have a future Hall-of-Famer at end [Michael Strahan], Tiki (Barber), (Jeremy) Shockey, a revitalized Ron Dayne. We're really not your run-of-the-mill team with the fourth pick."

On top of that, New York signed six free agents, and at press time, Accorsi said, "I don't think we're finished yet."

Despite the moves, New York enters the 2004 NFL Draft with some question marks up and down its roster.

Starting right off the bat, QB Kerry Collins has not had his contract extended and he's yet to be assured that he'll be the Giants starter for the foreseeable future. A QB in the first round (Roethlisberger or Mississippi's Eli Manning) is more of a possibility than most think.

Behind Collins, Jesse Palmer is hardly a lock to be retained and Jason Garrett signed with Tampa Bay. That leaves New York in desperate need of not one, but two QBs.

After meeting with Ron Dayne, Coughlin feels comfortable that he can be the guy to share the load with Barber. However, an every-down back would not be out of New York's draft equation, possibly early in the second or third round.

Similarly, the club isn't as stocked at WR as it might like to think. Early indications are that Coughlin believes Amani Toomer is so much more capable than what he showed last season. Considering the health question marks that surround Ike Hilliard and Tim Carter, it would not be surprising at all if Big Blue were to use its number one pick on a game-breaking receiver.

The Giants would love to get their hands on Pitt's Larry Fitzgerald, but he's unlikely to make it past the Cardinals at number three. USC's Mike Williams and Texas' Roy Williams are other intriguing prospects that New York probably could land by trading down a few spots.

It might be safe to say that the tight end spot is the only one on Big Blue's roster that is not currently in need of some type of help. With Shockey backed up by promising Visanthe Shiancoe, this is one position the Giants can cross off their draft board.

Offensive line, however, certainly is not. The odds still say that Gallery will be the guy taken, although after his unbelievable workout at the combine, he might not even last until the fourth pick. Selecting Gallery would allow the Giants to move Luke Petitgout back to right tackle and slide newly-signed Barry Stokes in at guard while Rich Seubert recovers from his broken leg. If Gallery's not there, Petitgout will stay put at LT and Stokes will step in at right tackle.

Regardless of whether Gallery is taken or not, fully expect the Giants to take another lineman or two as the draft unfolds.

A year after selecting defensive linemen with its first two picks, New York is still looking for some help on the line, more so inside at tackle. They have newly-signed Fred Robbins and Martin Chase to go along with William Joseph and Lance Legree, but more early-draft help would definitely be welcomed.

The Giants are a little more settled outside where they have perennial Pro Bowler Michael Strahan to hold down the left DE spot. The new coaching staff really likes second-year RDE Osi Umenyiora, who is expected to start and be mentored by Keith Washington, whom the Giants re-signed this offseason. Adding D-line depth, however, is never out of the question.

At linebacker, New York signed two starters – Carlos Emmons (SLB) and Barrett Green (WLB) – but still needs to fill the middle spot, vacated when Micheal Barrow was released for salary cap purposes. Nick Greisen is expected to step into the lineup at MLB, unless, of course, the Giants see someone they like in the draft.

If healthy, the Wills have the Giants set at corner. Neither Peterson nor Allen has immediately dominated, but they've both sure shown signs of being an above-average tandem for years to come. While CB may be low on New York's wish list, the safety spot is not. SS Shaun Williams is coming off a poor year, partially attributed to Johnnie Lynn's misuse of the big hitter. Omar Stoutmire is steady, if not spectacular. Whatever the first-round pick, you can be assured that the Giants will think long and hard about adding probably the best defensive player in the draft, Miami's Sean Taylor.

After Brad Maynard's average four-year punting career following his third-round selection in 1997, and the John Markham place-kicking disaster in 2001, don't expect New York to even think for a second about selecting a specialist, although Iowa's Nate Kaeding appears to be the real deal.

Of course, this is the first draft that Accorsi and Coughlin have worked together. So far, the GM has been impressed.

"He drives himself," Accorsi said of Coughlin. "Outside of his family and faith, he cares about nothing but winning. He has a lot of energy and a sense of urgency."

Which is exactly what all the Giants need as they try to turn it around in 2004.

All things considered this draft carries more importance with it than usual. The rest of the NFC East has made splashes; now the Giants must. One advantage they have is how high their picks are in each round.

"They're each close to being in the round ahead of them," Accorsi said.

Now the onus falls on the Giants to make them count.

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