Did Giants Miss Draft Boat by Passing on LBs?

Want the real inside scoop on all the Giants' draft picks? Of course you do. Then read on as draft expert Jim Sabo shares his thoughts.

One thing we've learned is that it is nearly impossible to give an immediate assessment of any team's draft. It truly takes about three years to determine a true "grade." Sometimes what looks good on paper doesn't turn out so good. Sometimes what looks like a bad draft turns out to be the opposite. That's why this Giants draft is a bit of a head-scratcher. We really like the players they drafted as players, but we aren't quite sure they were the best fit for the Giants. They appear to have gotten good value in each round, which is always important. We would have attacked the Giants' needs differently, but we will give Jerry Reese the benefit of the doubt. His track record to date deserves that. We are confident that he knows what he is doing.

Our strategy would have been to fix the LB unit first. We wanted Rolando McClain, but once he went off the board with the eighth pick to Oakland we still would have gone LB. Sean Weatherspoon was still on the board. Had McClain been available, we would have traded up to slots 10, 11, or 12. Both the 11th and 12th picks were traded, but that's water under the bridge. They had a chance to take MLB Sean Lee in round two and they passed on him. He wound up in Dallas. We would feel much better today about the LBs if they had Sean Lee at MLB and Sean Weatherspoon and Michael Boley at the outside posts.

We think that Reese's strategy comes from his infatuation with the LBs already on the roster. He expects players like Clint Sintim, Bryan Kehl, Jonathan Goff and Gerris Wilkinson to suddenly emerge as starting quality players. We do not share that opinion. We've all seen the warts that each of them have. Possibly one of them may break through, but right now they look like situational role players at best.

Now that we got that off our chest, let's look at each of the picks.

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida – This pick is very "Un-Reese-like." In Pierre-Paul he took the player with the single highest risk/reward rating. JPP has a reputation for being a wonderful athlete; after all he did an amazing 14 consecutive back-flips. But for someone with such a great reputation one would think he would have blown the Combine away. He was not a Combine King. There were 35 DEs who participated in the DE events. By our Combine scoring system, he placed 20th out of 35. That is very average. He ran a 4.76 forty, which is good, but not sensational. His 10- and 20-yard times were good as well. His 30.5 inch vertical was well below average. His 20-yard shuttle, which is a test of agility, was far below average. He did 19 bench press reps of 225 pounds and that was far below the DE average of 25.

His seven-game career as a starter at South Florida is the extent of his play at anything resembling major college ball. To say he is raw is an understatement. His football intelligence is questionable. Can he adjust to schemes quickly? Does he have awareness? Does he learn quickly? These questions should be answered rather quickly. New DL coach Robert Nunn has his work cut out for him on several fronts.

To his credit, Pierre-Paul has a good attitude and wants to learn, so that will help him. He has long arms and legs and on the field, even though his technique is poor, he will make plays. He was able to get away with that on the college level. Right now he is a one move player. If he sees it, he chases it. He can turn the corner and flatten down the line of scrimmage. He lacks the overall body strength to hold up against the run. He will get buried, bounced and bulldozed at times. He lacks the strength to control a blocker and he is slow to disengage. He does get his hands up as a rusher and he will go for the strip sack. He has questionable mental toughness. He appeared to take himself out of games for minor nicks only to return a few plays later. We like that he gives his top effort when rushing the passer. His upside is great, but he will require lots of strong coaching. Pierre-Paul is an absolute classic boom or bust pick.

Linval Joseph, DT, East Carolina – It's not like they couldn't use another DT. Jay Alford is coming off an ACL injury. Fred Robbins is gone. Chris Canty was a disappointment. Rocky Bernard may not be on the team and there are strong reports they nearly traded Barry Cofield during the draft. We spoke with a scout who attended the Combine and he said Linval Joseph was very impressive in his drills. At 6-4, 328, he qualifies as a much-needed wide body. He has an above-average ranking for all the DTs who participated. His best quality is that he is very strong. He did 39 reps, which is excellent. He was somewhat of a sleeper, but because he had such a strong Combine performance it put him on the map. He is big, strong, quick and he can run. He would have been a very good 3-4 nose tackle and he also projects well in the Giants 4-3. He has long arms and big hands. He has an explosive first step. He can beat a double team and work up field. His huge value is that he can press the pocket in pass rush. He has raw power and he plays low. He can two-gap and penetrate. In summary he has all the tools to be an outstanding DT. He will be disruptive and we see him as a starter sooner rather than later.

Chad Jones, S, LSU – Once again, we like the player but disagree with the position. Another safety? Really? They did well signing both Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant. They say Kenny Phillips is progressing on schedule. Unless there is something we don't know about Phillips it sure seems like a fourth safety is a luxury rather than a necessity. Jones is big. He was 6-0, 212 at the Combine. According to our Combine measurement scale he ranked in the upper third of the 21 safeties that participated. His forty time of 4.6 was average, but he was outstanding in the agility drills. His 20 and 60 shuttles as well as his 3-cone drills were all well above average. Jones is more quick than fast. He did 9 bench presses, which is well below the average of 18 for safeties. We would describe him as a big, physical safety that can cause train-wreck collisions over the middle. He has the desire to be strong in run support. Along with his quickness he has good hip flexibility. He has a quick change of direction and he is smooth in his turns. He has the burst quickness that is needed to knock down passes. He drives hard on the ball in front of him. He stays on his feet and will play off blockers. He has tackling courage. He's a competitor with confidence. We consider him an ascending player who will make plays on Sundays, if he gets playing time. We have questioned his instincts at times especially when he doesn't get the overlap with the corner on deep routes. He is more of an old-school safety and that concerns us somewhat. The big, power safeties are becoming a dying breed. Since the league has become a passing league and has deemphasized running, everyone is looking for coverage safeties today.

Phillip Dillard, MLB, Nebraska – Finally a linebacker and strictly a MLB to boot. Was it too late? Time will tell. They appear to have gotten value in Dillard in the fourth round. Athletically he was not so hot at the Combine measuring slightly below average for inside LBs. He is 6-0, 245. He can overcome his lack of height. His 4.74 forty speed was much better than average. His 20- and 10-yard speeds were also very good. He lost points in our estimation in explosiveness as measured by the broad jump and vertical jump. His 3-cone drill was poor as well. So why do we like him? It's because he is a player. We believe eventually he can get the job done in the middle. Unfortunately for him we think they are counting on him to be ready soon if not for game one. He elevated his play in his senior season. He plays square to the line of scrimmage and rarely gets his shoulder turned. He plays best when he is covered and he can run to the ball. Do not forget he played behind Ndamukong Suh and a very good Nebraska DL and that means something. Hopefully Linval Joseph will give him the same type of protection. He is a powerful and physical hitter and a solid tackler. Although he has good pass drop technique and understands zone coverage, he does not play well in space. He does not always take good angles and he will under run in backside pursuit. Generally he plays with good technique and decent movement skills. He may be a marginal athlete, but he is a tough and physical player. He is active in his play with good lateral quickness and is consistent in his pursuit effort. He will work his way through traffic. He also flashes a burst on his blitzes. There is something here with which to work.

Mitch Petrus, G, Arkansas – Petrus is the one and only pick on the offensive side of the ball. He is known for tying the Combine bench press record at an amazing 45 reps. Athletically he finished 17th out of 40 offensive linemen at the Combine, due in large part to his phenomenal amount of reps. At the Combine he measured 6-3, 310. He is what he is. He is a blue-collar mauler. Because he has a quick initial move, he can pull and trap well. He can adjust on the run and spot a target. He has good body control to kick out block. He works hard to follow though and finish his blocks. He has the hand quickness to get into the opponent's breast plate. He improved his hands from the start of the year. His hands got quicker and he improved his punch. Petrus stays square and he can mirror in pass protection. At times he will lunge and lose his balance in pass protection. He will also slip off second-level blocks. We question his awareness on blitz pickups, but he shows enough to recover and cut the blitzer. He doesn't always play with good knee bend and when he does he can get bulled over. He lacks thickness in his lower body. There is plenty to work with for a fifth-round pick. They have time to get him ready.

Adrian Tracy, OLB, William & Mary – In Adrian Tracy the Giants are faced with a conversion project. Tracy played DE in college but he will attempt to make the transition to 4-3 OLB in the pro game. This is not always an easy transition; just ask Mathias Kiwanuka, who was a superior athlete. At the Combine, Tracy was 6-3, 248. Tracy worked out with the DEs and we had him ranked 23rd out of the 35 DEs who participated. His 4.81 forty time was only slightest better than average. He managed 20 reps, which was 5 below the DE average. When we put his numbers into a combined group of OLBs and DEs he ranked 39 out of 61. So it is safe to say they are not getting a great athlete. What they are getting is a player who is tough, durable and has some movement ability. He is more player than athlete. He showed enough to make us think he can make the transition to strongside LB. He certainly will succeed on special teams while he learns his new trade. While he has work to do in pass coverage, like taking drops, he is fundamentally sound as a run defender and tackler. He seems like a good pick for the 6th round and that he has ability to work with. It may take a while but he seems worth the effort.

Matt Dodge, P, East Carolina – This pick was caused by the sudden retirement of Jeff Feagles. Even though Feagles did not have a great year last year, he will be missed. He was one of the best directional punters the game has ever seen. Matt Dodge will battle Aussie Jy Bond for the spot. Dodge was 6-1, 224 at the Combine. Dodge can boom the ball. Most of his punts were at least 45 yards with excellent hang time. He is in the 4.3 to 4.8 hang-time range. The optimal hang time is 4.5 seconds. His average get off time was 1.23 seconds, so he gets the ball off quickly. He is a two-step punter. At the Combine, he did not stand out. His 10 punts were charted at an average of 43.5 yards with hang times in the 3.8 to 4.35 range. He is big and athletic enough to tackle a punt returner. He will have to learn the Giants' directional punting schemes. In college he used a rugby style punt to place the ball inside the 20.

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