Tuesday, April 28, 2009

GSTV Giants Draft Recap 2009

Yesterday I shared my thoughts on the 2009 Draft as a whole. Today, I'm checking in with a review of the Giants' latest crop of picks, via another episode of good ol' Giants' Steps TV.

In a word, I thought Big Blue's draft was solid. We got value while addressing need. We picked up some promising receivers in Nicks and Barden, addressed the O-Line and Line backing corps on Day 1, and added depth and competition all around - competition that is going to make this team better right away.

Some may be disappointed that Jerry Reese did not pull off a trade for a veteran wide out like Braylon Edwards, but, looking back at this weekend's haul, I think we will be better off in the near and long term. I elaborate more in the video...

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Winners, Losers and Thoughts on the 2009 Draft

The NFL Draft has come and gone, signaling for me the real beginning to the 2009 campaign. I know there’s free agency, but this is the weekend most teams make the biggest adjustments to their rosters; mini-camps are just around the corner, and training camp not all that far behind.

I will check in tomorrow with a GSTV episode discussing how I think the Giants fared this weekend, but for now, I want touch on a few general things from the draft.

The #1 Pick

The Lions locked up QB Matt Stafford on the eve of the draft with the richest rookie contract in NFL history. The Lions desperately needed to give their franchise a fresh start. While they may have contemplated going with an OT or with LB Aaron Curry, it’s is a QB-driven game in the end. Stafford gives them a future leader on the field and the face of the franchise off it. The key for Detroit will be to allow him to develop before they throw him to the…Lions’ opponents.

Give Culpepper the reigns next season, let Stafford learn and before you put him in, make sure he has a front line to protect him and weapons he can work with. TE Brandon Pettigrew is a good start…

Jets Land Sanchez

With Stafford projected to go first overall, USC’s Mark Sanchez was the most widely-coveted QB heading into the weekend. There were a number of teams that were said to have their eyes on Sanchez, and when Seattle didn’t take him at #4, the Jets pulled the trigger to get their man. The “other New York team” had one of the worst QB situations in the league following the second retirement of Brett Favre. Kellen Clemens is no better than a back-up and I don’t think the other players at the position have taken a snap in the NFL.

I think Sanchez has the tools and personality to succeed in the NFL and in New York. He’s also going into a great situation with a solid O-line, solid running game, and great defense. He should be the starter in Week 1, and I think, looking back in a few years, he will be the best QB taken in this draft.

Wide Receiver Shake-ups

When Oakland selected Darrius Heyward-Bey as the first WR taken in the draft, I think the consensus was unanimous: “WHAT?!?!” (and if you were a Giants fan like me, “Yes, we’re not going to trade up for that guy!”) The speedster has impressive natural talent, but taking him over Maclin, Harvin, and certainly Crabtree, is mind-boggling. He was a boom or bust type of prospect heading into this weekend, and I think heading out to the black hole of the NFL will ensure his status as the latter.

As for the other top talent at wide out, the 49ers drafted a star in Michael Crabtree. I know some people weren’t impressed with him in interviews (more on this later), but I think he will be an impact player out there in the NFC West. The Eagles got a great compliment to DeSean Jackson and weapon for Donovan McNabb in Jeremy Maclin; the Vikings took a chance on the explosive yet troubled Percy Harvin. For those guys to fall to the limited extent they did could have a huge impact for the teams that landed them.

Another Year for OT's

Three tackles were chosen in the first eight picks. Jason Smith becomes the heir apparent to Hall of Famer Orlando Pace in St. Louis. Andre Smith, who many claim was the most talented tackle in this draft, gives Carson Palmer somebody to cover his blindside for many years to come, and the Jaguars picked up Eugene Monroe. (They then added Eben Britton in the 2nd round to solidify an offensive line that was decimated by injuries last year.)

Baltimore Ravens' 1st round selection OT Michael Oher.

The best story at this position however, and arguably this draft, is Michael Oher. Oher’s story is incredible, so much so that they are writing a book and making a movie about it. I can’t do it justice, but essentially the kid was homeless, adopted off the street by this family who took him in as their own and provided him with a great education. Now, he’s the first round draft choice of the Baltimore Ravens. From his story to his draft day interview, this kid is a class act and I think he will be a tremendous player in this league.

Winners and Losers

Some might say this draft lacked the “star power” of other years - no Reggie Bushes, Adrian Petersons, Matt Ryans – but I think this batch of draftees was very talented and a number of teams finished the weekend in good shape. Of course, it’s hard to truly measure the quality of a team’s draft class right after the fact, but here are my initial impressions of some teams that did really well for themselves this year.


I will start at the top of the board with the Detroit Lions. This team is a perennial high draft picker. Coming off of last season, things could get no worse for them and with a new front office and new coaching staff this team is looking to turn the corner. They made some nice picks on both sides of the ball in an attempt to lay the foundation for a more prosperous future, with Stafford as the cornerstone. They picked up the best TE in the draft in Brandon Pettigrew, giving him another target to go along with Calvin Johnson. They added Louis Delmas, the best safety in the draft, and added WR/KR Derrick Willams on day 2. Another year or two and this team might not be completely horrendous.

Another regular in the draft’s Top 10 Club, the Cincinnati Bengals, also made big strides in New York. As I mentioned, they added a promising left tackle in Smith, and they grabbed Rey Maualuga in the second round. He will line alongside former USC teammate Keith Rivers in what could be a tough, young LB unit. They get another steal on defense in the third round with pass-rusher DE Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech, and add a target from Carson Palmer with TE Chase Coffman with their compensatory pick that same round.

Cincinnati’s division-mate the Cleveland Browns also had a nice draft. Despite the Braylon Edwards seemingly staying put for the time-being, the Browns added two promising young receivers in OSU’s Brian Robiskie and Georgia’s Mohamed Massaquaoi. They bolstered their O-line signing C Alex Mack with their first pick, and added a talented LB in the early 4th round with Kaluka Maiavia.

While these teams may still have another few seasons to go before they’re no longer picking in the single digits each round, a few “on the brink” teams made some big moves that could push them to the next level. The Houston Texans - a team I’ve viewed as “almost there” for two seasons now- added help where they needed it with USC LB Brian Cushing and Cincinnati’s Connor Barwin.

The Green Bay Packers, coming off a 6-10 season plagued by injuries on defense, added two top-shelf talents in the first round to play in their new 3-4 scheme. DT B.J. Raji in Boston College is a great player, as is USC LB Clay Matthews. Both should contribute right away to a defense that already boasts some talented young players. I also thought they got a steal in the 5th round with OT Jamon Meredith from South Carolina. I think he has a lot of potential and many were projecting him to go as early as the 2nd round.

Of those “almost there” teams though, the Buffalo Bills had perhaps the best draft of the bunch. They added a pass-rusher in DE Aaron Maybin to compliment Aaron Schobel. Jairus Byrd should contribute right away at CB, and C Eric Wood and OG Andy Levitre are the two best players at their positions. Buffalo still has some holes to fill, but initial impressions are that they will make the AFC East a very competitive division next season.

Of course, they had help from the Jets and Patriots. The Jets may have made the pick of the draft with Sanchez. We’ll have to wait and see of course, but now that New York has a QB, they could do some things under new coach Rex Ryan. New England traded down to get 4 2nd round draft picks, where I thought the 2nd round a majority of the talent this year would fall. At first glance, I think their first 6 picks could develop into major players.

Different conference, same division: I’d say the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins both had great drafts with few picks. The Eagles brought in weapons for Donovan McNabb and a compliment to Brian Westbrook in Maclin and RB LeSean McCoy. Washington got a pass-rushing phenom in Brian “freak, beast, monsta” Orakpo, who could wreak havoc lining up next to DT Albert Haynesworth. (Washington also added LB Cody Glenn in the 5th round, someone I thought was a real sleeper at the position.)


It’s hard to paint any one team a “loser” in this year’s draft prior to any player even seeing an NFL field, but many would agree that the Oakland Raiders made some very bizarre choices this year. I talked about DHB earlier, but their 2nd Round pick Mike Mitchell was perhaps even more of a head-scratcher. Most scouts saw him as a 5th round talent at best, and the networks didn’t even film or a bio of him to play when they made the pick. There’s a reason the Raiders are what they are…and I’m not sure they’ll break that mold any time soon…

One theory on the DHB pick though…Crabtree failed to impress a lot of teams when they met with him. I heard from one of the commentators that when Oakland skipped Crabtree, Crabtree’s father wiped his head and said “phew.” Perhaps the player expressed some disinterest in playing for the team when he met with them, prompting them to pass him over for the speed demon DHB? One can only wonder…

How Does the Giants’ Draft Match Up?

While many may be perplexed or upset that the Braylon Edwards trade didn’t go down, I think there are a lot of positives to take away from Jerry Reese’s latest effort. I will return tomorrow with an episode of GSTV to break it all down. ‘Til then, you stay classy Giants’ Nation...

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

GSTV 2009 Draft Predictions

Two days away from the NFL offseason's main event...and no one has a clue what will happen.

The Giants' hopes of landing WR Braylon Edwards in a trade with Cleveland appear to be dead...though you can never take that stuff at face value this time of year...and Big Blue has ten picks they need to figure out how to use productively. Will they trade away? Trade up? Trade down?

The G-Men have a range of needs from finding WR talent, to landing a strong-side LB, to shoring up depth on the offensive line and secondary. Who will be wearing the big blue at weekend's end? GSTV weighs in...with some swank new graphics...

Let me know what you guys think...post your favorite prospects or likely scenarios for the weeked. Enjoy the weekend!
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Draft Previews: O-Line, DBs, WRs, LBs...

Kick Return prospects discussion thread: Giants Message Boards

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Strong-side is the Weak Side: Draft Preview 4, LB

(This is Part 4 of 5 in a series of articles on Giants’ Steps that will examine some positions of interest for the Giants as they approach this year's draft. Part 4 looks at the Giants’ needs at linebacker.)

Packing on the LBs

With a deep LB class in this year’s draft, the Giants will probably look to continue to develop what is arguably the defense’s weakest link. Last year, the Giants selected two linebackers in the middle rounds: ILB Jonathon Goff from Vanderbilt and OLB Bryan Kehl from BYU. Both struggled with injuries their rookie seasons and saw limited playing time. When they did find the field, they showed flashes of play-making ability, particularly Kehl, but their long-term value to the team remains a mystery.

To address their inconsistency at the OLB position, the Giants signed free agent LB Michael Boley to a five-year deal in February. Boley will be inserted into the starting weak-side spot and will inject some speed and pass rushing ability into the unit, qualities it has been lacking as of late.

Boley will be starting alongside team captain Antonio Pierce and veteran Danny Clark. Pierce is a fixture in the middle and the glue that holds the defense together, but he is not getting younger. With Goff’s development uncertain, the Giants may look to pick up another ILB-of-the-future this weekend.

Clark joined the Giants last season, and following Kiwanuka’s move back to DE, moved from the weak-side to the strong-side. While he did make some impressive plays early last year, and is a great addition in the locker room, upgrading the strong-side LB position with youth and speed could elevate this defense to an elite level.

There is no shortage of talent in this year’s draft to help Big Blue meet both of those needs.

OLB: Top of the Heap

At the top of this year’s outside linebacker class, and arguably the entire draft class, is Wake Forest’s Aaron Curry. The latest draft boards project this manimal to go anywhere from first overall to tenth. This man is such an impressive player that when he won the Butkus Award for best college linebacker in 2008, it was personally awarded to him by Dick Butkus. Curry should be a beast in the NFL…sadly it will not be with the Giants.

The next guys on the board are a pair of players from USC: Brian Cushing and Clay Matthews. Both will probably go somewhere in the mid-to-late first round. Cushing fits the mold of a strong-side LB as he can shed blocks and get through a crowd. He is a strong tackler and has good range, and also plays well on Special Teams. One issue with him is that he looks a lot more impressive in workouts than he does on film.

Matthews seems to be more of a coverage and pass rush LB. His stock shot up after his senior season, but throughout his college career he was a fixture on Special Teams. One NFL analyst described him as “the best Special Teams player in the country.” If his family tree grew a fruit, it would be footballs. His father played in the NFL for 18 years and his uncle is in the Hall of Fame after a 19 year NFL career. Both of his brothers also play/played college ball.

The Boley signing makes it doubtful the Giants would consider Matthews, but in the unlikely event that one of these guys falls to 29, I think the Big Blue would be hard-pressed to pass them over.

OLB: Middle Rounds

With WR a more pressing need, and the first pick potentially part of a trade, it is far more likely that the Giants would pick up an LB beyond round 1. In rounds 2, 3 and 4, I think Jerry Reese’s “value equation” will yield a few appealing candidates for the Giants to consider with their 5 picks.

One candidate for day 1 might be Virginia’s Clint Sintim. He combines the requisite block-shedding ability and physicality of a strong-side LB with great pass rushing ability. He is a solid athlete and possesses all of the intangibles to be a successful player in the NFL. He could be a great pick-up for Big Blue in the second round.

Virginia LB Clint Sintim

Another prospect projected for the second round is converted Tight End from Cinciniatti Connor Barwin. Barwin is in many ways the Clay Matthews of the second/third round. He’s an outstanding Special Teams player who plays very well in space and can track down targets. Again though, the Boley signing for me makes him an unlikely target for Jerry Reese’s team.

If the Giants want to find a linebacker on Day 2, in the third round OSU’s Marcus Freeman is an appealing prospect. Although probably better suited to play on the weak-side, he is versatile enough to play all three spots in a 4-3 defense. He’s a tremendous athlete who was very productive in college and has the speed, range and tackling ability to be successful in the pros.

Finally, a few sleepers to keep your eyes on late on Sunday are Kevin Atkins from BC and Cody Glen from Nebraska. Both are suited to play strong-side and can contribute on Special Teams.

ILB: Top of the Heap

If the Giants do decide to pick up another inside linebacker, chances are they would do so in the later rounds. There is some marquis talent projected to come off the board on day one, including USC’s Ray Maualuga and OSU’s John Lauranaitis, however it is unlikely either wear the Big Blue at the conclusion of the weekend. Maualuga is slated to go in the middle of the first round, and as I alluded to before, Lauranaitis would not fill the team’s most pressing needs if available at 29, unless the Giants land a WR in a trade. Should he be on the table though, he possesses the physical tools and intangibles to be very productive in the league and very productive with the Giants.

OSU LB James Lauranaitis

ILB: Middle Rounds

The remainder of the ILB class probably won’t start coming off the board until the third round, however beyond the big two at the top, I don’t know that there are any prospects with more to offer than Jon Goff. If I’m wrong, some names to watch out for are Darry Beckwith (LSU), Dannell Ellerbe (Georgia) and Jason Phillips (TCU).

Beckwith is an intelligent, hard-working player with toughness, tackling ability and good range from sideline to sideline. He plays the run very well and brings many intangible qualities to the table, including work ethic and leadership. He lacks size and struggles to shed blockers. He is also not known for delivering the big hit. He is coming off a somewhat disappointing senior season at LSU…

Ellerbe has the physical tools to be successful in the NFL. He’s a solid athlete with good speed and range. He performs well in coverage and against the pass, and also plays well against the run. He has struggled however with injuries and some off-the-field issues.

Phillips is a tough, smart player with great instincts and reaction time. He moves well in traffic and does a sound job in coverage. He possesses some great intangibles and is an excellent Special Teams player. He was very productive in college. Phillips is not the most athletic guy however, and he struggles to change direction and lacks range. He can also have difficulty shedding blockers. ..

Finally, if the Giants are looking for a developmental ILB in the late rounds, Wake Forest’s Stanley Arnoux could be an option. He is quick and physical and has a lot of experience. He could contribute on Special Teams right away.

Drafting an LB: Who and When?

Big Blue’s LB corps is pretty crowded following the signing of Michael Boley. Upgrading the starting strong-side spot is the most pressing need in the unit. Virignia’s Clint Sintim at the 45th pick stands out as the best and most plausible option for addressing that need sooner rather than later. OSU’s Marcus Freeman could develop into a sound strong-side LB but seems to be better suited for the WIL. If the Giants choose to pursue a slower approach, picking up Kevin Atkins or Cody Glenn in the later rounds is another promising alternative.

As for the inside, I think Jonathon Goff will retain his spot as ILB-of-the-future for at least one more season. If Lauranaitis is still available at the 29th pick, and circumstances evolve such that he presents the best value for the Giants at that position, I think Big Blue will take him and try to use him – or Goff – at strong-side, building a young next generation of LBs to take the reigns when AP’s motor runs out of gas.

I look for the Giants to pick up an LB prospect to play the SAM spot on Day one. I don’t think they will spend more than one pick this year on a backer though…

Click here to read draft previews 1 (OL), 2 (DB) & 3 (WR)

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

2009 NFL Schedules Released!

The NFL released its schedule for the 2009 regular season tonight. This year the Giants will play the NFC South and AFC West, and NFC division winners Minnesota and Arizona.

The schedule is somewhat reminiscent of last year's. Of note: the Giants play four of their first six games on the road; former Giant TE Jeremy Shockey will face his old teammates in Week 6 and free agent departure Derrick Ward does the same in Week 3; their bye week comes at reasonable time in Week 10...

The Giants will play in 5 prime-time games in 2009, including Thanksgiving night against the Broncos. Nine of their opponents had winning records in 2008.

The Giants full schedule for 2009 is posted below:


8/17, 8:15 pm, vs. CAR
8/22, 8:00 pm, @ CHI
8/29, 8:00 pm, vs. NYJ
9/3, 7:30 pm, @ NE

Regular Season

9/13, 4:15 pm, vs. WAS
9/20, 8:20 pm, @ DAL
9/27, 1:00 pm, @ TB
10/4, 1:00 pm, @ KC
10/11, 1:00 pm, vs. OAK
10/18, 1:00pm, @ NO
10/25, 8:20 pm, vs. AZ
11/1, 4:15 pm, @ PHI
11/8, 4:15, vs. SD
11/15, BYE
11/22, 1:00 pm, vs. ATL
11/26, 8:20 pm, @ DEN
12/6, 4:15 pm, vs. DAL
12/13, 8:20 pm, vs. PHI
12/21, 8:30 pm, @ WAS
12/27, 1:00 pm, vs. CAR
1/3, 1:00 pm, @ MIN

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

No. 29 is not No. 1: Giants Draft Preview 3, WR

(This is Part 3 of 5 in a series of articles on Giants’ Steps that will examine some positions of interest for the Giants as they approach this year's draft. Part 3 looks at the Giants’ needs at wide receiver.)

Since the offseason began, speculation has been rampant about how the Giants will replace their two starting wide receivers – 13 year veteran Amani Toomer and legally-embattled quick-draw Plaxico Burress. Replacing the uniquely talented Burress has generated particular concern after the team’s collapse in his absence at the end of last season.

Undoubtedly, the Giants will rely in part on a talented stable of young wide outs already on the roster to pick up some of the slack. Steve Smith, Domenik Hixon, Mario Manningham and Sinorice Moss are all poised to have bigger roles in the offense next year, and all are seemingly capable of doing so. Barring a trade for a veteran wideout, or a free agent signing, Hixon would most likely assume one starting role. I suspect the other spot would be a competition between Manningham and Smith. Smith would line up in the slot in 3+ receiver packages…

With only 5 receivers currently on the roster however (Super Bowl hero David Tyree being the fifth), the Giants will almost certainly turn to April’s draft to fortify the WR position. There is a deep, talented crop of wide outs to choose from this year. When, and who the Giants select, will depend on what they are hoping to accomplish.

If they want to find a potential number 1 receiver in the draft to replace Burress next season, their best bet is to trade away for a veteran or trade up for an elite prospect. The Giants have an excess of picks at their disposal (ten), giving them plenty of ammunition to do just that. Should they choose to move up, there is some outstanding talent expected to go off the board in the early-to-mid first round.

The Cream of the Crop

Three names stand out to me among this loaded wide receiver class: Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree, Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin, and Florida’s Percy Harvin. Crabtree and Maclin are projected to go in the top ten, with Harvin following shortly thereafter.

Crabtree dominated college football the past few seasons and many envision him as an immediate impact player a la Detroit’s Calvin Johnson from a few seasons ago. He has great athleticism and hands, and brings big play-making ability to the table. He has been recovering from foot surgery recently, which has led some to question his speed, but it’s very possible Crabtree could be the next Larry Fitzgerald.

Maclin is another explosive playmaker who scouts say “has the ability to score from anywhere on the field.” He averaged nearly eleven yards per touch during his college career and scored 28 TD’s over the past two seasons. What makes him particularly compelling to NFL teams is that he is also an outstanding kick returner – a phase of the Giants’ game that has lacked in recent years.

Harvin also brings great speed, quickness and play-making ability to the table. Many see him excelling as a slot receiver though, and that makes him an unlikely fit for Big Blue with Steve Smith on the roster.
4/19/09 UPDATE: Harvin's stock has fallen sharply in the past few weeks over concerns about character, off-the-field issues and coachability. Harvin could be the second coming of Pacman Jones, with talent...

Level 1A

If the Giants stay put at No. 29, and decide to select a wide-out, there will be no shortage of talent when their number is called. Maryland’s Darius Heyward-Bey bridges the gap between “Tier 1” and “Tier 1A.” This kid is fast – fast like a bullet discharged from an illegally concealed handgun tucked into your sweatpants. He ran a 4.30 40-yard dash at the combine and had a series of impressive workouts for pro scouts. DHB could go as early as the top ten, according to some, but could also remain on the board until the late first round.

If he’s not there at the end of the round, the Giants have a slew of other names to choose from, and Giants fans will certainly be familiar with them by now: North Carolina’s Hakeem Nicks, Rutgers’ Kenny Britt and Ohio State’s Brian Robiskie.

Nicks is an impressive combination of size, talent and physicality. The ACC’s leading receiver has great pass-catching ability, and knows how to create separation from a defender. He’s not lightning fast, but has an outstanding overall skill set, and all the tools necessary to be a big-time receiver in the NFL.

UNC's Hakeem Nicks: the next Michael Irvin?

Britt, a local favorite, who at 6-3 has a “Plaxiconian” mix of size and athleticism, could quickly provide the red zone threat the Giants lacked in the final games of last season. He knows how to read the field and has the ball skills to develop into a…Plaxiconian…playmaker.

Robiskie is not projected to go as high as the other two, however his pedigree and athleticism make him as appealing to some scouts as Nicks and Britt. He is the son of esteemed NFL receivers coach Terry Robiskie, and fittingly, possesses a high football IQ. He is a solid athlete and performed well at the Combine and Senior bowl. Robiskie strikes some scouts as the most “pro-ready” receiver in the draft.

OSU WR Brian Robiskie

Round Two

If the Giants do not use their first pick to select a wide receiver, they still have two second round picks on day one that they could use to address the position. If Britt or Robiskie aren’t available when the Giants pick 45th, there are some other players Jerry Reese and company might have their eyes on.

Mike Wallace (Mississippi) is tremendous speedster who could blossom into an NFL big-play threat. Juaquin Iglesias (Oklahoma) has great hands and route-running ability, and was selected to the All-Big 12 Conference team. He has an impressive skill-set, but one that is probably best-suited for a West Coast offense (i.e. not for Big Blue). Hakeem Nicks’ teammate at UNC, Brandon Tate, was once projected as a first round pick, prior to injuring his knee midway through last season. In addition to his receiving skills, Tate was also a force in the return game. Again, this dexterity could make him an appealing option for the Giants at the end of the second round.

Day Two

The Giants’ draft moves at wide receiver should not be limited to Day One. They do need to find a #1 receiver one way or another, but they also need to improve the depth and competition in the receiving corps going into training camp. (As I mentioned, they currently only have five proven receivers on their roster.)

Louis Murphy (Florida) is a projected third round pick with size, speed and athleticism. He has a lot of impressive physical tools for a WR, as well as some special teams ability, however he was not overly productive in college. He could be a developmental project for the Giants if they think he’s the right fit.

Derrick Williams (Penn State) is another fast athlete at the position. He has sound ball skills, blocks well, and makes plays after the catch. He has been inconsistent throughout his career though and does have a tendency to drop catchable passes. His return abilities could endear him to the Giants’ front office.

Ramses Barden (Cal Poly) is one of the tallest receivers in the draft at 6’6. His height could make him an appealing target for Eli Manning, who, to put it one way, likes to throw it up there. Barden is an excellent athlete with a terrific skill set and a knack for finding the end zone. He’s also a sound blocker. Although he was extremely productive at in college, he never played against top-notch talent and could struggle against press coverage at the pro level. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Giants gave him a look in the third round, as Reese has an eye for small school talent (Ahmad Bradshaw, Kevin Boss, etc.).

Other Day Two Prospects

In the middle and later rounds, the Giants will most likely look for good character, developmental talent with special teams and kick return promise. Some names to keep an eye on later in the day Sunday include Brandon Gibson (Washington State), Demetrius Byrd (LSU), Brooks Foster (UNC), Mohamed Massaquoi (Georgia), Kenny McKinley (South Carolina) and Sammie Stroughter (Oregon State).

Byrd and Foster have a lot of raw talent and upside, but will need to develop. Massquoi has a sound skill set and experience against elite competition. Most of these guys have questions about their durability…

"A Receiver in Jail is Worth Two in the Draft" (Wha?)

Wide Receiver is arguably the position of greatest interest for the Giants, though not necessarily the greatest need. There are a number of questions Jerry Reese and company need to answer before the draft puzzle can be solved. Where will the Giants’ next No. 1 receiver come from? Is he already on the team? Is he already in the league?

If the answer to the second question is “no,” I believe the Giants will trade away their first round pick in a package for a veteran wide out or an elite rookie prospect. Among the top receiving prospects, Maclin might get the edge because his kick return prowess would allow him to make an immediate impact in at least one phase of the game.

If the Giants do hold on to their top pick, I don’t know that a WR would be the most prudent choice. While Nicks, Britt and Robiskie all offer a lot, I don’t know that it would be the best value at that position or the safest investment. Wide receivers take time to develop and first round draft choices should be able to start at some point their first year.

The Giants could get great value and great talent at WR with their first second round pick. I suspect they will look for a receiver with the same criteria on the second day as well.

Click the following links to read the first two installments of the Draft Preview series - Part 1: O-Line & Part 2: Secondary.

Click here to read Part 4: Linebackers.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Giants Release Burress: "The Next 17" Revisited

(A few weeks ago I posted an article on the Giants’ wide receiver situation called “The Next 17.” Click here to read it…)

Following the release of Plaxico Burress last Friday, one thing is certain: the Giants will have a new number one receiver next year. Who that will be is open to speculation. Will the Giants draft a wide out with their first pick in the draft? Will they trade up or trade away for an Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards? Will they pursue a free agent like Tory Holt? While these are certainly worthy questions for any Giants fan, I’m going to refer back to my first Burress article for the time being…

What I want to do instead is talk a bit about the release of Burress itself. For months, the Giants had been saying they would welcome Burress back if he resolved his legal and personal issues. His legal issues remained up in the air as of his release. His hearing was postponed from its original date on March 31st until mid-June because both sides failed to negotiate a plea. This did add an element of uncertainty to the Giants draft priorities, but I doubt it was the primary reason for his release. The Giants stand by their guys.

Instead, I believe that Burress’s release was the direct result of his inability or unwillingness to address his personal issues, and issues with the team, and his desire to no longer be a New York Giant. That’s right. From the bizarre Drew Rosenhaus e-mail declaring Burress on the trade market, to the stalls in contract negotiations for 2009 and the grievance over Burress’ one million dollar bonus, it’s clear Plaxico did not want to be a Giant anymore. If you need further proof, his actions and demeanor at the Michigan State Final Four game speak volumes.

The team decided enough was enough, and it was. Plax’s selfish, stupid behavior was a major reason the Giants ran out of gas at the end of last season (along with D-line injuries). Nobody’s bigger than the team, and Plax could not and can not accept that. While there may be a need for his production on the field, there’s no room for his nonsense in the locker room. The first can be replaced; the second can be removed.

My support for Big Blue and all who wear the jersey kept me hoping Burress could turn the corner and return to the Giants in some capacity next season. In the process, I think I overlooked the man’s obvious character flaws and long history of disciplinary problems. You can’t help someone who won’t help himself. The Giants will be ready to move on next year without number 17; the next number Burress wears will probably have a few more digits.

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The Secondary: A Primary Focus on Draft Day

(This is Part 2 of 5 in a series of articles that will examine some positions of interest for the Giants as they approach this year's draft. Part 2 looks at the Giants’ needs at defensive back.)

Much like the offensive line, the Giants secondary is more or less set at the starting positions. The unit is stacked with young talent as the Giants have spent 3 of their last 4 top picks at those positions. 2005’s top pick CB Corey Webster has developed into one of the better corners in the NFL, while his counterpart – 2007’s top pick CB Aaron Ross – though struggling at times last season, has proven himself as an effective starter. Last year’s number one pick, S Kenny Phillips, is set to assume a starting role this year after the departure of free agent James Butler, and third-year player Michael Johnson returns at the other safety position.

Again, much like the offensive line, depth has become an issue for the Giants’ secondary. In addition to Butler’s move to St. Louis, the Giants cut two veterans in CB Sam Madison and S Sammy Knight this offseason, and the awesomely-named DB R.W. McQuarters remains a free agent. Losing four contributors from a unit will undoubtedly leave holes to fill…

Last year’s second round pick CB Terrell Thomas provides a solid third man in the CB rotation behind Webster and Ross, and may even challenge Ross for a starting spot in camp this summer. The athletic Kevin Dockery is a restricted free agent and has yet to sign his tender with the Giants. It is more than likely though that he will return, giving the Giants a solid four-man rotation at corner. But injuries can evaporate depth at a position in an instant. For the Giants, whose defensive scheme relies heavily on the CBs ability to cover one-on-one, you need roughly a half dozen quality guys who can handle their business to safeguard against injuries.

S Kenny Phillips and CB Terrell Thomas should have much larger roles in 2009.

Behind Phillips and Johnson, the only real depth the Giants currently have at Safety is recently acquired free agent C.C. Brown. The former Houston Texan only played a handful of games last season before suffering an injury. Jerry Reese and Tom Coughlin have an eye for bringing in under-the-radar talent and maximizing their contributions though, so Brown could prove to be a solid addition. Still, much like Cornerback, the Giants need one or two more stallions in the stable to solidify the position. Depth in the secondary is thus an essential area for the Giants to address in the draft, with Safety getting priority.

Safety in Numbers

Ignoring the possibility that the Giants will trade their first pick, it is unlikely they would spend it on a defensive back to begin with, with more pressing needs to fill (like Wide Receiver) and more talented players likely available at other positions (like Linebacker). Safeties are unlikely to start coming off the board until the early second round anyway, but when they do, the first name called will likely be either Louis Delmas from Western Michigan or William Moore from Missouri. One of them could be available when the Giants get on the board with the 45th overall pick.

Western Michigan S Louis Delmas

Delmas is perhaps the best safety in the draft. He’s tough and physical and plays with good awareness. He’s stout against the run and in coverage, and can drop the boom with a big hit. Moore’s stock has fallen a bit recently, but at one point he was regarded as first round talent. He’s big and athletic with great play-making ability on the ball. He’s another solid run-player and can cover a lot of ground and deliver the big hit. He lacks fluid hips and can struggle in man coverage though.

Other Safeties that could come off the board in the second round include Rashad Johnson from Alabama, Sean Smith from Utah and Patrick Chung from Oregon. Johnson has great ball skills and solid instincts on the field. He matches up well in coverage and is a sound tackler. He also has that “Hit stick” ability to lay the lumber. Smith is a ‘tweener DB who played Corner in college but could move to Safety in the pros. He’s another solid athlete with speed, agility, and good hands. He plays the run well and is a good tackler, but struggles in the open field and lacks the fluid hips and closing speed to really excel. Chung could slip to the third round, but brings a solid skill set to the table that couples instinct with ability. His Special Teams potential could attract the Giants to him, but he lacks the speed to be that deep middle Safety the G-men need.

If the Giants are looking for more help at Safety on day two of the draft, some early mid-round prospects to keep an ear out for include Chip Vaughn from Wake Forest, Michael Hamlin from Clemson, and David Bruton from Notre Dame. Bruton could be a solid pick-up in the 3rd round.

On the Corner

Already four deep at the position, I don’t think the Giants will look to draft a Corner until the 3rd round at the earliest. Names like OSU’s Malcolm Jenkins, Illinois’ Vontae Davis, Vanderbilt’s D.J. Moore and Wake Forest’s Alphonso Smith should all come off the board in the first round. If available at the 29th pick, the Giants might be tempted to go for Moore or Smith because of their return prowess, but again, more pressing needs to fill…

I think it’s unlikely the Giants go for a Cornerback in the second round either, but given their recent history of drafting secondary in the early rounds, it shouldn’t be ruled out completely. One name to look for is UConn’s Darius Butler. He’s an excellent athlete with great physical tools: fluid hips, leaping ability, great hands and quick feet. He’s an intelligent player with good instincts and a lot of upside under the right coaches. He also has kick return potential. Oregon’s Jairus Byrd is a slower version of Butler. Byrd could come off the board as early as the late second round (though more likely early third). His lack of speed prevents him from being a good fit in some schemes (like the Giants’), but he could do well in the right system.

UConn CB Darius Butler

A few names who might be on the Giants’ radar for day two are Sherrod Martin from Troy (Osi Umenyiora’s alma mater), Victor Harris from Virginia Tech, and Kevin Barnes from Maryland. Martin may end up playing Safety in the pros. That might make him an appealing option for Big Blue in the third round if he’s still available.

Impact Players

I anticipate the Giants will draft at least two players for the secondary at this year’s draft. Safety depth is a more pressing need, and given the Giants’ recent penchant for taking defensive backs early, I think we could see a Safety drafted as early as our first second round pick. I suspect we will pick up another corner or two on the second day. Special teams and kick return ability could play big parts in the Giants’ decisions at these positions. Regardless, given their successes with DB draft picks over the past few years, I suspect whoever Big Blue drafts for the unit will make an impact.

Tune in next weekend for Part 3 in the series: Wide Receivers.
Click here to read Part 1: Offensive Line.

And be sure to cast your vote in the Giants’ Steps survey on the left-hand column!

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