Prospects Encouraging for Reese Draft Repeat

Will this year's seven picks turn out to be as good as last year's draft class? That remains to be seen, but an early look at the 2008 group is encouraging.

No one knows how a rookie will assimilate to the NFL. The step up is a huge one. Scouts are able to ascertain all of a player's measureables, but the one thing they cannot do is look inside a player and determine if he has the necessary heart for the game. That's what makes it all so interesting. Let's look at this year's class:

Round One – Kenny Phillips, Safety, Miami. Phillips was widely regarded as the draft's number one safety and that is an assessment we agree with. He was the first safety to come off the board. There was some thought that Arkansas State's Tyrell Johnson was better, but we do not agree. Johnson does not have the techniques that Phillips has.

Phillips is one of many underclassmen who entered this year's draft. The reason Phillips lasted until the end of the first round is because his junior year was not as good as his sophomore year.

Combine: At the Combine, we had Phillips ranked fifth out of 23 safeties who participated. That shows he has very good athletic skills. He was slightly over 6-2 and he weighed 212 pounds. He ran a 4.51, which is good for a safety his size. Only four safeties ran faster, but none of them were as complete an athlete as Phillips. His agility drills were all well above average. He has long arms, which is always helpful. His team interviews at the Combine went well. He is smart and personable.

What we saw: Phillips was a three-year starter at Miami. He is an athletic big man who runs well in his pads. He is instinctive, physical and aggressive. He is a downhill player, but he exhibits very good body control. He takes good angles on plays run wide. He hits with force. He is experienced in both zone and man coverage. He has the necessary speed to overlap the corners on deep balls. He is a smart player and at Miami he keyed the defense. He also made all the secondary adjustments. His movement skills are very good. His backpedal, hip turns and range are all well above average. He is quick to read, diagnose and anticipate. He plays the ball in the air well. He is mentally and physically tough. He's an explosive hitter. He plays with confidence and attitude. His biggest negative is that he did not always find his way into throwing lanes and as a result he missed some plays on the ball. Clearly his game is all ahead of him.

What the future may hold: We fully expect Phillips to be a starting safety and we don't think he will take too long to step in. We envision him starting next to Sammy Knight. We expect Knight to be a mentor to Phillips. Phillips will replace Gibril Wilson and Knight will replace James Butler. Phillips is every bit as athletic as Wilson and he's much smarter. We liked this pick very much and believe his future is bright.

Round Two – Terrell Thomas, Cornerback, USC. The Giants had needs at safety, corner, wide receiver and linebacker. On the surface this appears to be more of a need pick than a value pick. We had him rated as a third- or fourth-round value, so taking Thomas at the end of round two is not a major reach.

There is something to be said for being a starter at a major program like USC. Thomas, a two-year starter, was an early entrant to the NFL. He played last year with a shoulder injury.

Combine: At the Combine we had Thomas rated slightly below average athletically. Of the 32 corners we had him ranked 19th. He has good corner size at 6-0 and he weighs 202 pounds. His forty time (4.51) was exactly the same as the average corner time. What is most disturbing is that his agility drills were well below average.

What we saw: Thomas has good size and experience. He is a physical corner. He is most effective underneath as a cover corner. Thomas is a classic press cover two corner with the physical strength to reroute the receiver. He shows good recognition to the run or pass. He can think on his feet and make quick adjustments. He is an intense player who is active and productive. He has good balance as well as plant and drive skills. He will compete and he shows good toughness. He has good hands and exhibits a wide catching radius. He has long arms and he showed the ability to be a good wrap-up tackler. His biggest negatives are his lack of top speed and his ability to play the ball deep down the field where he did not position himself or react well enough to the ball in flight. He is also a little inconsistent in his run support and tackling. He is willing to force the run, but he gets hung up on the blocker at times. He gets in trouble when he doesn't wrap up.

What the future may hold: We are not nearly as excited about this pick as we are about Kenny Phillips. We like that he is experienced and consistent, but he is not a thoroughbred. We see him taking on the other team's big receiver. He has the physical tools to eventually start at this level, but it is not necessary to rush him. He should be an immediate contributor on special teams.

Round Three – Mario Manningham, Wide Receiver, Michigan. The Giants filled another need be selecting WR Mario Manningham. This pick may define this draft. If he becomes the player we think he will this pick will be a major steal.

Yes, he did just about everything a player could possibly do wrong in the postseason. He tested positive for marijuana, lied to the teams about it, had a poor Combine workout and scored very low on his Wonderlic test (6). Yet, there is one thing to keep in mind here. This guy CAN PLAY. The Giants took a shot on Ahmad Bradshaw, who was also a troubled kid, and so far it has worked out well. Manningham is extremely immature. He had a lot of red flags waving and that is why a player with first-round talent lasted until late in the third round. The Giants will need some of their veteran leadership to help keep him on a straight path. We envision Amani Toomer becoming a mentor to Manningham. We can also see Plaxico Burress showing him how to study tape and prepare himself mentally.

Combine: At the Combine, Manningham was the 45th rated WR out of 52 who participated. One big problem was he did not hire an agent until after the Combine. This is significant because a good agent would have had him prepped for the Combine drills. After he hired an agent, his pro day workout at Michigan was much better. His forty time at the Combine was a very slow 4.63 and all of his other agility drills were well below average. At his pro day he improved his forty time to 4.51. He is nearly 6-0 and he weighs 181 pounds.

What we saw: On the playing field Manningham was a whole different story. We saw a talented receiver who appears to have field speed. He runs well in his pads. We saw a proven commodity with athletic ability that makes game-changing plays on the field. He showed a good takeoff rate on open releases and he broke off his routes effectively at a point. He has excellent ball tracking skills, especially on the deep ball. Except for the Ohio State game, he showed nice soft hands. He changes speed well and he will contribute as a blocker in the run game. He shows suddenness in and out of cuts. He has quick feet with a good up-field burst. He is also elusive after the catch. He is productive with the ball in his hands. His somewhat slender build and inconsistent concentration are concerns.

What the future may hold: Manning to Manningham. Get used to it. It will take a while for him to adapt mentally to the pro game, but once he does, watch out. He has the ability to be a lead receiver down the road. It is all in front of him. The question is will he take control of his life and make it happen. We love this pick.

Round Four – Bryan Kehl, Linebacker, Brigham Young. Again they filled a need. Linebacker was a need, but this is also a value pick. They thought enough of Kehl to trade up to get him. This is another pick we are excited about. Kehl is a playmaker.

We see Kehl initially as a weakside LB. He is a high character player with excellent football intelligence. He is the type of player who always seems to be around the ball. He shows excellent instincts.

Combine: At the Combine, Kehl showed excellent athletic ability. We had him ranked 5th out of 42 outside linebackers who participated. He is 6-2 and 242 pounds. He ran a 4.69, which is well above average, especially for his size. He scored a 34 on his Wonderlic, which is excellent. He also showed very good strength, bench-pressing 26 reps at 225 pounds. His movement skills are very good.

What we saw: When we saw him we really liked his playing demeanor. We also liked his athletic ability, range, playing instincts and most importantly his ability in pass coverage. He has long arms and good lateral quickness. He showed very good blitz speed off the edge. He has the ability to alter his course to the ball. He is quick to read and react; he doesn't stay blocked. He uses his hands well. He is a strong leverage player, but he needs to improve his point strength and explosiveness. He has good ball skills and he should factor quickly as a nickel LB.

What the future may hold: We see a three-down linebacker who will not have to come out on passing downs. We believe eventually he will become the starting weakside linebacker. This was another excellent pick. Jerry Reese may have scored big time by selecting Kehl.

Round Five – Jonathan Goff, Linebacker, Vanderbilt. In round five they added another linebacker. This time it was a middle linebacker. This was also a strong value pick in round five.

Combine: In Goff they got another excellent athlete. We had him ranked first among the inside linebackers group. He is 6-2 and 245 pounds. He ran a 4.69, which is very good for an inside linebacker. The average for ILBs was 4.76. He scored better athletically than Jerod Mayo, who was the 10th overall selection by the Patriots. He did 28 reps at 225 pounds and he scored a 27 on his Wonderlic. His 10-yard speed was very good. This shows good quickness.

What we saw: Although he appeared to be somewhat top heavy in his build, he showed good hand usage. He is physical and active and he can play sideline to sideline. He is a durable player. He has good lateral quickness. He plays with intelligence and he has more than adequate range. We were concerned with his take on playing inside. He may be more athlete than player. Too many times he got walked off by blockers. He has a tendency to hang on to blocks. He was inconsistent wrapping up tackles. He does not always tackle well in space. He is actually far more effective in pass coverage than he is against the run. He got good depth in his zone coverage and he is able to sort things out quickly.

What the future may hold: Although he is considered by many a middle linebacker we see him as more of a strongside LB. He has his work cut out for him just to make the team. Hopefully he adapts well to special teams or he may be headed to the practice squad.

Round Six – Andre Woodson, Quarterback, Kentucky. Not many would have believed Woodson would be available in Round Six. It wasn't that long ago he was considered to be a late-first to second-round pick.

Combine: Woodson, 6-4, 229, did not work out at the Combine.

What we saw: He has a long, deliberate throwing delivery. He has the classic "buggy whip" style of throwing. He also drops his elbow, which prevents him from consistently hitting receivers in stride. QBs coach Chris Palmer will have his work cut out working with him. He will not be successful as a pro unless he changes his delivery, which is not always an easy thing to do. He is not an effective running QB. He doesn't sense the pass rush and because he is not much of an athlete he takes way too many sacks. He appears awkward as a touch passer and while throwing on the move. He is a marginal deep passer. He looks good physically, strong and well-proportioned. He was a system passer at Kentucky. He presents more questions than answers. We wonder if he can read the entire field. Can he process what he sees? Can he put the ball into a tight space?

What the future may hold: Goodbye Jared Lorenzen and Anthony Wright. We see Woodson and David Carr as the two backups to Manning this season. The reason he lasted so long is his funky throwing motion. He may be nothing more than a good college QB, but they must see what they have after working with him.

Round Six – Robert Henderson, Defensive End, Southern Mississippi. They obviously took a flyer on a player with pass-rush ability. It all goes back to the "you can never have enough pass-rushers" theory. Who knows, maybe they scored with Henderson.

Combine: Was not invited to the Combine.

What we saw: Henderson is 6-3 and 280 pounds. He runs a 4.87 forty. At 280 he is considered a two-way DE, but his strong suit is rushing the passer. He has a thick build and he runs fast for his size. He is a developmental-type player. He plays with strength.

What the future may hold: Henderson is a long-shot to make the team. They will try to keep him on the practice squad. He would be ideal for that since he is a developmental player. He appears to be the type of player like Justin Tuck, whom they can move inside to DT on passing downs.

Draft Summary: We are really excited about Kenny Phillips, Mario Manningham, Bryan Kehl and, to a lesser extent, Terrell Thomas. If these four players make it the way we expect them to this will turn out to be another very good draft for Jerry Reese.

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