Even though they are the reigning champs, there is work to be done. Their defense took a hit in free agency. They lost Gibril Wilson, Kawika Mitchell, Reggie Torbor and William Joseph.
It was no big deal losing Joseph, as they didn't want him back anyway. They added Sammy Knight and Danny Clark, but both are somewhat limited. Knight has a lot of positives, but one major negative is that he is slow. He covers for it by being a big hitter and being in the right place at the right time. He is a true student of the game and he will help the young players in the secondary.
If all goes as expected and Strahan returns, that means Kiwi stays at LB and hopefully continues to improve on the strong side, Wilkinson takes over the weak side and we see Clark in a backup role. Clark will be a capable replacement for Torbor; he has versatility at all LB spots. If Wilkinson is not ready to start, then Clark will be the weak side starter.
The first thing we should do heading into this draft prediction bonanza is set the team needs. They could use another linebacker, a corner, a safety, a wide receiver, and a punt returner. They also need an offensive lineman or two. We would also like to add another defensive lineman. The formula worked this year so why not add another one, most likely a wide body DT to help stop the inside run. If Shockey is back and healthy – and we assume he will be – they have little need for a TE. They don't need a quarterback or a running back. To summarize, we believe the Giants' needs from the draft are LB, CB, S, WR, PR, OL and DT.
With that being said, they are in a great position to sit back and see who falls to them without total regard for needs. The only positions we would not take early in the draft are QB, RB and TE. The Colts have made a living doing exactly this. They are usually picking at the end of round one and they usually come up with a player they didn't expect to be there. The Giants have this luxury. Every year players fall in the draft. We also believe trading down in the early rounds should be a strong option for them. They were not very active in free agency so they may want to add extra players and one way to do that is by trading down and accumulating picks. Now, let's look at some possible draft scenarios.
At the end of round one the draft should have several good corners and wide receivers still available, a few linebackers and even fewer offensive linemen and safeties. When faced with a situation like this where all players are rated nearly equally, usually the thing to do is take care of the positions with the fewest players available; in this case linebacker, offensive line or safety, with the thought that corners and wide receivers will be available later.
Here are the specific players who could be there for this pick: Corners Antwaun Molden, Eastern Kentucky; Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech; Justin King, Penn State; Tracy Porter, Indiana; Antoine Cason, Arizona; Reggie Smith, Oklahoma. Wide receivers Jerome Simpson, Coastal Carolina; James Hardy, Indiana; Devin Thomas, Michigan State; Early Doucet, LSU. Linebackers Dan Connor, Penn State; Jerod Mayo, Tennessee. Safety Kenny Phillips, Miami. Offensive linemen Gosder Cherilus, Boston College; Sam Baker, USC.
At corner, the player we like most is Antwaun Molden. He is very intriguing. He doesn't come from a big program, but he is a very skilled athlete. He runs a 4.43 and we had him as the second best rated athlete at the combine. He's a little raw, but his long term upside is very good. Tracy Porter is also very fast and he is a terrific return man, but he doesn't have the good corner size like Molden and he isn't quite as good a prospect.
The wide receiver we like best is Devin Thomas. He has good size and very good speed. He can run in the low 4.4s. Our biggest concern is that he had only one big year at Michigan State. We are a little bit concerned he could be a one-year wonder. He also needs a little work on his catching consistency. Jerome Simpson is extremely intriguing. He also has good size, excellent speed and we love his upside, but he may be a little too raw to draft in the first round.
At linebacker we prefer Jerod Mayo over Penn State's Dan Connor. We know this won't make our editor KP happy, but that's just too bad, isn't it? Both are versatile, and we believe they both can play all three linebacker spots. Connor has a size advantage, but we believe Mayo will be the better player in the long term. He's slightly more athletic and he shows a little more consistency in his play.
On the O-line, a player who was been recently linked to the Giants is Gosder Cherilus. Don't discount the strong connection to Boston College with Tom Coughlin and the Mara family. Cherilus played right tackle at BC. He's a big guy with a good frame and strong movements. Our concern is whether he can comfortably become a versatile lineman. There was talk about moving David Diehl back to guard, but when they signed Rich Seubert to an extension, that killed the idea of moving Diehl to guard. Diehl did a good job this past year at left tackle; he more than held his own. We think more highly of Sam Baker than most do. We think he can be a viable NFL tackle, but given the Giants' BC connection, we believe he would have to be substantially better than Cherilus and he isn't.
Our first-round pick is between Antwaun Molden, Devin Thomas, Jerod Mayo, Kenny Phillips and Gosder Cherilus.
THE PICK: Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee
There are good players to choose from and most of these guys could be available at the end of round two. Since we selected LB Jerod Mayo in the first round we will take LB off our list and look at corners, safeties, wide receivers, and offensive and defensive linemen.
Here are some players who could be available: Corners Pat Lee, Auburn; Terrell Thomas, USC; Terrence Wheatley, Colorado. Safeties Tom Zbikowski, Notre Dame; Dajuan Morgan, North Carolina State. Wide receivers Pierre Garcon, Mount Union; Paul Hubbard, Wisconsin; Harry Douglas, Louisville; Keenan Burton, Kentucky; Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt. Offensive linemen Mike Pollack, Arizona State; Jeremy Zuttah, Rutgers. Defensive linemen DE Lawrence Jackson, USC; DT Frank Okam, Texas.
There are still some corners left at the end of round two. The one we like best is Terrence Wheatley from Colorado. Although he is short at 5-10, he can run in the low 4.4s. He has shown good coverage and the skills to make a play on the ball. He will play the run tough. We really like his speed and quickness.
At safety we like Notre Dame's Tom Zbikowski. He's very tough and will play the run well. We really like his instincts. He appears better in zone, but he is not lost in man coverage. He also returns punts. He can run a 4.5 forty.
The wide receiver we would consider is Paul Hubbard from Wisconsin. He's a big receiver at 6-3, 220, and can run a 4.5 forty. He has solid hands and he has good agility. He's a good route runner and he will make the tough catch.
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Our second-round pick comes down to CB Terrence Wheatley, S Tom Zbikowski, WR Paul Hubbard, OT Jeremy Zuttah and DT Frank Okam.
THE PICK: Terrence Wheatley, CB, Colorado
In round three we are still looking to fill needs, but we can also look for athletes. So far we have selected an LB and a CB. In this round we are looking at wide receivers, safeties, defensive linemen and offensive linemen.
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THE PICK: Jordy Nelson, WR, Kansas State
In round four we are looking for offensive linemen, defensive linemen and safeties.
Guard Andrew Radovich from USC is interesting. He's 6-5, 301, and is more of a mauler than a finesse player. DT Marcus Harrison from Arkansas is 6-3, 317. He is another wide body type that they are looking for. He's a good athlete for his size. Chris Ellis is a speed rushing DE from Virginia Tech. He's 6-4, 263 and he runs a 4.7 forty. Safety Corey Lynch from Appalachian State is 6-1, 205 and can run a 4.5 forty. He is a big hitter and he has good coverage ability.
THE PICK: Corey Lynch, S, Appalachian State
In this round we are not going to get a complete player. He will be a decent player, but not a good athlete – or he will be a good athlete but his play was not as productive as it should be. Some others may have been slowed by minor injuries.
Mackenzy Bernadeau is 6-4, 300. He played at tiny Bentley College in Massachusetts. He played left tackle, but he projects to guard in the NFL. He dominated at this low level. Maurice Murray is a DT from New Mexico State. He is 6-5, 314. He can play the run. He doesn't get a lot of pass rush, but he has a good anchor. Jaymar Johnson is a WR/KR from Jackson State. He is 5-11, 180 and has great speed. We view him as a return man who we would hope to develop as a wide receiver. DE Tommy Blake from TCU is 6-3, 280. He was projected much higher than this, but off-field problems and injuries have caused him to drop.
THE PICK: Mackenzy Bernadeau, OT/OG, Bentley College
The Giants have three picks in round six. They have their own plus a pick acquired from the Packers in the trade for Ryan Grant and a compensatory selection. In this round we are just hoping to get lucky.
Drew Atchison is a TE from William & Mary. He's 6-6, 245, and can run a 4.7. He's a sleeper with good athletic ability. Brian Johnston is a DE from Gardner-Webb. He is 6-4, 278, and runs a 4.68. Again he is intriguing because he is a very good athlete. James McClinton is a DT from Kansas. He's 6-0, 293, and while he's not much athletically, he did have a productive career. Luke Swan, a WR from Wisconsin, should have been higher, but a pesky hamstring problem has caused him to fall. Darius Reynaud, WR/KR from West Virginia, is 5-10, 200. He is very fast and quick and has an upside as a kick returner.
THE PICKS: Darius Reynaud, WR/KR, West Virginia; James McClinton, DT, Kansas; Drew Atchinson, TE, William & Mary
The Giants' seventh-round pick was traded to the Chiefs for Lawrence Tynes.
1) Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee
2) Terrence Wheatley, CB, Colorado
3) Jordy Nelson, WR, Kansas State
4) Corey Lynch, S, Appalachian State
5) Mackenzy Bernadeau, OT/OG, Bentley College
6A) Darius Reynaud, WR/KR, West Virginia
6B) James McClinton, DT, Kansas
6C) Drew Atchinson, TE, William & Mary