Paul Schwartz: Each year it seems we dissect and pick apart the recently-completed Giants draft earlier and earlier. There's so much anticipation for the draft that, once it's over and done with, we can't wait to become judge and jury and determine if the Giants struck gold or struck out. After last year's bounty, it's probably unwise to be too skeptical of anything Jerry Reese touches and there's not really much evidence to suggest the 2008 draft class is anything other than a solid haul. There's plenty to be excited about and of the seven players selected by the Giants, I have to admit I'm most excited about the player right at the top, Miami safety Kenny Phillips. Now Kenny might say "Go figure" and berate me for going with the first-round pick but to be fair, the first player selected is not always the guy considered to be the most anticipated player. Phillips has piqued my interest for many reasons. He was widely considered the top safety in the entire draft but the Giants seem to have rated him higher than most teams. Was that based on need or pure talent evaluation? I always like it when a guy is taken in the first round and there's a direct pathway to the starting lineup. There sure is for Phillips, who looks the part, sounds the part and really has no glaring blemishes. He's played long and well at a big-time program and, according to Reese, is such a "clean" selection that there's no reason why he can't fight his way onto the field. That makes for an exciting summer ahead.
Ken Palmer: You're right, Paul, it sure is easy to select the top pick as the one most likely headed to stardom, but you just might be onto something here. Phillips has the capabilities of becoming a big-time star in New York's secondary. However, no one out of Reese's second straight draft bonanza will shine brighter than Mario Manningham. Much has already been made of his off-field issues, but this kid didn't exactly commit murder or rob a bank. He did what most college kids do at one point or another – he was just foolish enough to get caught and then lie about it. If a little marijuana use is the biggest problem the Giants encounter with Manningham, things will work out just fine for both parties involved. There's no doubt that Manningham boasts first-round talent and he might even end up becoming the best receiver out of this entire draft class. He has the home-run ability to break open games and the strong hands to keep possessions alive. He comes from a big program, where he played at the highest level. There's no reason to doubt that he can do it on the NFL level as well. When all's said and done, Kenny Phillips will likely turn out to be an above average safety. Mario Manningham? He's headed for multiple Pro Bowls. Just you wait and see.
PS: Rarely can one draft address every need, unless a team has very few needs. The Giants, as Reese said, did not "shop hungry" during the draft. Their roster was already well-fed. Still, it was somewhat of a surprise that not one of the seven picks was an offensive lineman. You can certainly make an argument that the position with the least depth on the roster is offensive tackle, where Guy Whimper and Adam Koets represent the sum total of the reserve strength. Translation: Starters David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie had better stay healthy. There's no doubt the Giants improved their secondary with Phillips and Terrell Thomas and also greatly enhanced their linebacker depth (in addition to their special teams) with mid-round picks of Bryan Kehl and Jonathan Goff. No doubt there was no offensive tackle the Giants liked enough to take, or maybe they have enough faith in Whimper to not force anything there. We'll have to see about that one. Come to think of it, they also could have used another defensive tackle and they didn't get one in the draft. These may be nitpicking complaints but hey, that's what we do here. Just listen to Kenny go on and on about Phillies manager Charlie Manuel if you want to hear some quality nitpicking.
KP: Even Charlie Manuel, whom the Phils still occasionally win in spite of, can see that there's not a whole lot more Jerry Reese could have done to improve the defending Super Bowl champs. The Giants were in the enviable position heading into this draft of being able to let the draft play out in front of them and then selecting the best player when they were on the clock. They didn't have to force the selection of any certain position. Yes there were so-called needs, but none so glaring that you'd have to consider trading up in order to secure a certain position. We all knew this draft crop would be defense-heavy and Reese did indeed spend five of his seven picks to improve that side of the ball. The top three defenders are all players that could start for the Giants in the very near future. Yes, there is a need for a little more depth along the offensive line, but in this day and age, there's no such thing as a team with depth all across the board. The roster limit and salary cap constraints just don't allow for it. Despite that, there's no other way to look at this latest draft other than that the Giants are considerably stronger after it than they were going in. Only a fool would nitpick otherwise.
PS: Even though we all saw it coming, it still surprised me that the Giants in the sixth round went for a quarterback, in this case Andre' Woodson out of Kentucky. The Giants were working out quarterbacks all through the offseason, so the trail was there. Still, whenever a team takes a player that not only has no chance to play at all as a rookie but also is not in any way in the team's plans as far as a starting job, it is a bit unusual. Developing a young quarterback is never a bad idea. As durable as Eli Manning is the last we checked he's not indestructible. Newly-signed David Carr certainly looks like a one-year member of the Giants – if he makes the team, that is – and it is evident the coaching staff and front office was not feeling secure with Anthony Wright and Jared Lorenzen as the backup options. Woodson, a prolific college passer, is a worthwhile gamble, but other than perhaps a few cameo appearances toward the end of preseason games, he's not going to be seen a whole lot.
KP: Of course he won't be seen right away. This was a very wise pick for down-the-line purposes. There's no way of knowing what the future holds for Manning. Injuries, contract squabbles, even ineffective play could all rear their ugly head at some point. Let's remember that Manning was flat-out awful in mid-December against the Redskins and during the first half of the playoff clincher in Buffalo. This is in no way, shape or form an indictment of Manning; just a reminder that no one has any way of knowing what the immediate future holds, let alone a few years from now. For all we know, Woodson could turn out to be the second coming and, if things are still all smooth on the Manning front, would fetch the Giants a first-round pick or two in trade. Or he could turn out to be the answer after any of a number of scenarios unfold that leave Manning looking more like the pre-Super Bowl winning QB he was – as opposed to the one everyone thinks we're going to see going forward for the next several years. Years from now, you can bet that a lot of teams are likely going to regret passing on Woodson; just like just about everybody is going to be ruing the day they let my boy Dan Connor fall into John Fox's lap in the third round.
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