Will there be players with that kind of impact available when the Giants come to draft 15th overall in the 1st round? Definitely, because there is never a consensus amongst teams as to who the top prospects are and because each team has to address it's own needs, the likelihood is that the Giants will be able to select a player ranked far higher on their ‘value board' than 15th ranked player. However, if the highest ranked players when we come to select are at positions we don't need help at, the ‘bigger picture' may come into play and a trade down be looked into. If it is felt we can take advantage of other teams targeting different players without compromising on our own needs or minimising our options, it may pay to drop down the order, enabling the Giants to gain additional picks on the first day, thus upgrading the talent level at even more positions.
Current GM Ernie Accorsi has shown us that he is prepared to manoeuvre up or down on draft day so I wouldn't rule out his engineering a trade on the first day, maybe even in the 1st round. It must be noted though that it takes two teams to make a trade so even if willing, the Giants may not find a partner and may be forced to select a player at a time they are not willing to do so. In that situation, the ‘value board' should show it's worth by forcing the best player upon us regardless of position (don't worry, the way the ratings are put together it is hard for a non-impact position player to gain a high ranking overall unless they are exceptional in their role and quibbling about taking potential Pro Bowler's at any position would be foolhardy).
Starters are required for OLT, OLG, ORG, TE, FB, WLB and FS with depth required at, SLB, MLB, CB and S. An upgrade over the incumbents could also be searched for at WR where the potential trade of Ike Hilliard may mean that a starter is required and both specialist kicking spots where neither K Owen Pochman or P Rodney Williams has proved anything yet. The Giants have but 8 draft picks (barring trades) so are likely to be forced to give a chance to a handful of players already on the roster at a few of those positions with guys like Chris Bober, Dhani Jones and Omar Stoutmire mentioned as potential starters at OLT, WLB and FS respectively. That doesn't mean the Giants won't draft better prospects to step up in front of the trio though it is unlikely at OG…
First round Options
I've said all along that the Giants need a TE to open up the offense because as a big Mark Bavaro fan, I have etched in my brain the sort of impact an elite player at the position can have on an offense. It therefore hasn't come as a surprise that the Giants are rumoured to be looking at that position very closely as there are at least two players who will have a major impact in the NFL for many years to come with plenty of visits to Hawaii and the Pro Bowl in their near future. The question has been whether coordinator Sean Peyton knows how to make use of the position in his offensive play-calling and whether QB Kerry Collins could make use of the TE as a receiver. I don't believe it's the scheme or Collins that has stopped the position being fully utilised (Collins after all spent his early years playing pitch and catch with Pro bowl TE Wesley Walls), but the talent available on the Giants roster that has prevented them doing so.
CBS Sportsline is reporting today that not only is Jeremy Shockey the target, but that the Giants have him rated amongst their top 5 players in the entire draft. Top 5? If that report is accurate and Shockey is available, the pick is a ‘no brainer'. The team allegedly views him as a ‘once in a decade' talent at the position and I totally agree with that. The biggest roadblock to Shockey becoming a Giant may be that the formerly secretive front office have let the cat out of the bag too early as other teams are well aware of the interest the Giants have in him. There is one team – the Bengals – who pick in front of us who also have a great deal of interest in him though the local Cincinnati papers today indicated their belief that the Bengals will more likely choose either a DT or CB, two positions where they have major needs. There are also others like Cleveland picking 17th and for whom a trade up to beat the Giants to Shockey if they so desire and whose Head Coach Butch Davis – the former Hurricanes coach – has intimate knowledge of what Shockey can do and the type of player he can become. The Browns could well trade up on the day, though they too are believed to have other targets in mind should they do so. Let's just say that if the Browns move up there will be many anxious moments in the Giants ‘War Room' until the Browns selection is read out by the Commissioner and an alternative player is chosen. Another who may be willing to move up and for whom TE is a big need is Seattle.
I don't have Shockey rated quite as highly as the Giants allegedly have – I've got him 11th overall – but if I took the DE's, DT's, CB's, SS and QB's out of the equation – we don't need help there immediately after all – then Shockey would rank as the #4 player at a position of prime need. The players I rate in front of him are mammoth OT's Bryant McKinnie and Mike Williams and WR Donte Stallworth. McKinnie is the player I believe is the best prospect in the entire draft and the only one I'd be willing to trade up for but I don't expect the Giants to have the ammunition to do so unless they find a way to dump Michael Strahan's salary, ego and poor business sense (how else can you describe turning down a $17m signing-on fee?) on some other team for extra picks.
Of the trio I rank in front of Shockey as prospects only Stallworth – who I rank 8th overall – has any chance of slipping out of the top 10 and only then because of the needs of the teams picking in that area. However, I believe he will be a coveted player today and that a team like the Vikings, Chiefs or Jaguars will either decide he's too good to pass up or that an offer to trade down to a team that is targeting him will prove too good to resist. Even were they to hold firm and take help elsewhere a team like the Saints (13th) or Titans (14th) would find it impossible to let him slide by to the Giants in the 15th spot.
So what if the Giants find that ‘loose lips sink ships' and someone gets to Shockey before we do? Would we have a potential disaster on our hands? No, there are at least 20 players in the 1st round who are ‘blue chip' prospects and drafting 15th we're guaranteed one of them. The Giants are said to very much like OLT Levi Jones, an accomplished player now and one who has a big future ahead of him because of his impressive combination of size, quick feet, strong hands and a degree of meanness. He'd be an ideal fit for a team in need of an OLT and as I rank him 13th overall on my board – 5th at a position of need – I'd be more than happy to select him, but only if Stallworth and Shockey are gone.
Another top TE the Giants are believed to like is Daniel Graham but the rumour mill suggests that he rates after their three targeted players, Stallworth, Shockey and Jones, in that order. I don't see any way that all three will be gone so I don't see any way that Graham will be the pick – unless this is the best smokescreen the Giants have put up on draft day for many years! I like Graham, but he ranks 15th on my board but I don't believe he would be the pick unless all three of the Giants main targets are gone. Is that possible? Well, apparently the Browns are targeting Shockey, Jones and TJ Duckett so if Shockey were to go to Cincinnati and the Browns to trade up for Jones…
So what of the speedy WR Ashley Lelie? Wouldn't he make a good choice? I don't think so, he's very fast but very thin and he didn't give me the impression he was a ‘football player' as opposed to a great athlete playing football in my lone viewing of him. Speed is all well and good but if you can't separate from tight coverage after a bump at the line of scrimmage or get knocked out of bounds the way he did by BYU's sophomore CB Jernaro Gilford (you'll hear a lot about him in future years) then you aren't going to be able to get open in the NFL. Lelie should be a fantastic deep threat but he also could be a bust if his frail frame leads to injury problems and I don't see him as a go-to guy. Do you think a #2 receiver is worth the 15th overall pick? I don't.
2nd Round Options
Presuming the first pick is Shockey, then the Giants fans will be clamouring for OL help – particularly at OLT – despite the confidence the team's OL coaching Jim McNally has in his youthful and largely unknown back-up's who he says are strong enough and athletic enough to make the step up. I'm not buying that so believe the target for the 2nd round may well be one of the other top OT prospects in this draft, Mike Pearson and Marc Colombo. Both have the height and long arms the team likes but both have been mentioned frequently as late 1st round picks, maybe even early 2nd round and few mock drafts see them lasting all the way to the 46th pick. Would GM Accorsi consider trading up for one of them? Both would be attractive, Colombo perhaps more so because of his greater size, strength, more aggressive style of play and experience at both ends of the line. Remember how much we love versatility on the OL? Colombo could well return to his former starting position of ORT with Petitgout moving to OLT or he could fill that spot himself. I'm not a Pearson fan but in the 2nd round he would represent good value too.
A wild-card for the OLT spot may be Kendall Simmons. Many people believe that because he is shorter than most pro OT's that he will move inside in the NFL and have a fine career at Guard. However, a lot of people – myself included – thought the same thing about Matt Light in last year's draft and he turned out to be a better than functional OLT for the Patriots. Terrible rookie year though, he only ended up with a Super Bowl winners ring! Simmons could well stay put at OLT in some schemes and he is a very accomplished player (though his ankle problems may need medical clearance) who is well worth the 46th pick overall. He certainly doesn't fit our mould of OT's and I think he'll be gone early in the 2nd round though if we traded up for him I wouldn't be shocked or dismayed with the choice.
Will we take an OG instead of an OT? No way. The Giants believe they can get by with the players they have and I agree with them to an extent. If you have a solid player in the middle at OC you can help the Guards with double teams as needed and we have that player in Dusty Ziegler. I also think that Jason Whittle will prove more than capable at ORG and feel that we should be able to find a youngster to plug in at OLG from amongst the current group of back-up's and that includes potentially Chris Bober.
If Jones is the 1st pick then TE remains a need but I don't believe that Jerremy Stevens is a risk the Giants will be willing to take and I don't rate Doug Jolley quite high enough to make him the selection at #46. Trading down 10 places I'd happily nab him but not at #46. I'd be looking at other positions instead in the 2nd round where better value is offered.
The depth at WR is pretty good and there will likely be some attractive players still available midway through the 2nd round. Antonio Bryant is the shining star on the field whose problems off of it may cause him to slip this far. He'd be incredibly hard to pass up if the team was satisfied he wouldn't be a problem in the locker room. I consider him the 2nd best of all the receivers in this draft so would obviously love to have him. The rumour mill says that Josh Reed may have a problem with arthritis in his hips in his late 30's and that may cause his stock to drop enough to last into the mid 2nd round. He would be the perfect replacement for Ike Hilliard but he isn't a deep threat. I'd love to have him regardless. Javon Walker has the size of Amani Toomer at flanker but the speed to be the deep threat the team has been missing for decades. I think he could be taken off the board earlier in the round than we choose but his immediate impact is questionable due to his inexperience of route running. Reche Caldwell could last until the mid 2nd round if the latest rumours are to be believed but he doesn't really stand out either as a deep threat or after the catch and I'd sooner pass on him regardless.
Andre Davis is a player many fans like but I worry that he isn't a ‘cultured' receiver and that his injury problems of the past may resurface during a long season. Most expect him to be drafted either in the late 1st round or very early 2nd though so it's not thought likely that we'd get a shot at him without trading up and OLT is the only position I would consider doing that for. Worryingly, the Giants are rumoured to be in love with Marquise Walker. He lacks the speed we desire but is 100% football player and he should be a fine possession-type receiver. I prefer drafting ‘players' to ‘athletes' but there is a danger that the overall team speed would be hurt if following that line of drafting. However, there is a player – though somewhat a risk due to a lack of inexperience as a WR – that fits the bill of being both a ‘player' and also a stud athlete. That player would of course be Antwaan Randle-El who I have rated as a late 2nd rounder because of the inexperience factor but who can clearly play the game and who is excitement personified with the ball in his hands. Would the Giants dare take that chance? He's not particularly big but he's strong, will take a hit and his incredible quickness in the open field would be a nice match for our passing game.
At WLB, if he's available Saleem Rasheed may be very attractive and I'm pretty sure he could beat out Dhani Jones in a fair fight in camp to start immediately. There are lots of things in his game he can improve on but he shows flashes of tremendous ability and if we think we can help him put it all together, he could very well be the selection. While I rate LeVar Fisher as a mid 2nd round selection, I'm hoping to get a guy with a 1st round grade or at least an early 2nd so don't think he would be the choice.
The only other spot I'd consider spending a 2nd round pick on is FS but I'm not sure that the Giants would be willing to do so as the coaches that have been telling us that Stoutmire impressed them at FS in relief last year. I think they are talking with ‘forked tongues' about a player released by both Dallas and the cross-town Jets in-season having been bombed out of the starting line-up, a target branded with an ‘X' by opposing QB's and ‘schooled' with alarming regularity!! He can't read the QB, doesn't help his corners deep and misses open-field tackles. There are a number of players in this draft who suit the Giants penchant for bigger Safeties but who also have the speed and ball-play skills missing from our secondary currently. LaMont Thompson needs to check out medically but is a tremendous weapon against the pass. I don't think he'll be available 46th overall though I'd run to the podium to select him if he were because of the number of passes he would intercept. Jon MacGraw might draw some consideration too, a tremendous athlete and one who saved his most productive games for the biggest of opponents but who is not as experienced in deep coverage. Clevan ‘Tank' Williams I see as an early 3rd round pick but he has an amazing size/speed ratio and has shown himself to be a difference maker in big games this year too so maybe the Giants will like him more than I do (he's a bit stiff and can get suckered by a good QB reading him in the middle of the field).
3rd Round Options Again, the Giants will be hoping that some of the players they have ranked in the 2nd round are still available when we are ‘on the clock' as it will mean tremendous value for our choice. If any of the players listed above are available then it would be hard to turn them down and the depth at receiver means that position would be the most likely to have a highly rated player slip through.
In the next tier of WR's are Tim Carter, Kelly Campbell and Ron Johnson. I prefer Carter of the trio but he may be taken off those board at some point in the 2nd round because of his explosive speed. Besides, the Giants prefer their players to be more productive than he was in college and that would point us more in the direction of Johnson despite his being too much like Toomer in my book.
If the Giants haven't got an OT by now they are in trouble and it is unlikely that they will find one here capable of starting this year. Chester Pitts would be a reach (I think he's a 4th rounder now), Langston Walker and Jermese Jones likewise. It's pointless taking a player at a position just to fill a hole when they aren't worth the salary cap number they will be paid and better players are available.
On the interior OL, the only guy I like enough to draft and who may slip into the 3rd round is Fred Weary and he is attractive because he could play OC, allowing Ziegler to shift to OLG and let his experience rub off on whoever plays OLT. Center's Seth McKinney and Melvin Fowler also may be available but I don't think McKinney has much upside and there will be better prospects available than Fowler at other positions.
If a TE were still needed I'd be crossing my fingers that Doug Jolley slipped through into th 3rd round but doubt it will happen. There was another TE in the Giants brought in for a visit though – Matt Schobel – and though I haven't seen him Christopher Allen was in the chat room yesterday and says that he has seen lots of him and likes him and that is a solid recommendation. He's a receiving type with good size and speed so fits the bill of what a TE should look like and be a good fit for our offense.
A real long-shot would be taking a FB as they simply don't play a big enough role in the Giants offense to warrant selecting on the first day. You never know though, maybe the Giants will see Jarrod Baxter as the answer to their short-yardage problems and take him with the intention of using him in that role thus increasing his value to the team. I very much doubt it though.
DE is considered a need by some due to the Michael Strahan situation and Kenny Holmes not producing as hoped. Holmes played hurt all year but only the coaching and medical staff knows if he will continue to have injury problems or return to the form he showed at Tennessee. If it's the former, the 3rd round would be the earliest I'd consider looking for help as I believe that 2nd year man Cedric Scott will produce if given the opportunity to do so. That said, he was a collegiate LDE – Strahan's replacement? – and we could do with maybe grabbing more of a speed rusher for RDE. Could one of Will Overstreet, Dennis Johnson or Alex Brown drop this far and be the Giants selection?
WLB David Thornton is one of the few LB prospects I like and think he has a bright future ahead of him. He'd make a fine selection in the 3rd round and may be one we target if the belief is that he can step in immediately.
Filling the FS spot should also be tempting in this round as there are some solid prospects available who fit our size requirements and are good tacklers. Amongst them are Kevin Curtis, Ramon Walker, Pig Prather and Jermaine Phillips. I see Phillips as more an SS because of his speed so wouldn't want him but the other 3 are a good fit. A wild-card here would be Melvin Mitchell but the Giants may steer clear of small-school players as they are less likely to contribute immediately.
Well, that's it as far as today goes. I'll look at the 4th through 7th rounds tomorrow once I've had a good look through the list of players still available.
Happy draft day!