The New York Giants look ahead to the NFL draft with a very evident need at the tight end position. Louisiana-Lafayette’s Ladarius Green is the perfect sleeper selection to fill—and improve—that need.
Having lost both Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum to torn ACL injuries during their Super Bowl XLVI victory over the New England Patriots, the Giants will likely have a big hole to fill at the start of the season. Combined, Ballard and Beckum racked up 43 receptions, 693 receiving yards and five touchdowns in the regular season.
With such uncertainty surrounding both players’ 2012 seasons, the Giants will need to find a way to make up for nearly 700 yards and five touchdowns on offense.
There might be no better player to do that than the All-Sun Belt standout tight end, Ladarius Green.
Green was a three-year starter for the Ragin’ Cajuns who boasts outstanding height and ability as a receiving tight end. In four seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette, he caught 149 passes for 2,201 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Green has shown phenomenal hands with the ability to catch just about everything thrown his way, whether high, low or extending for passes away from his body. He runs solid, precise routes with great release off the line.
That release comes as a result of Green’s blitzing speed, confirmed by his 4.53 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine—second behind Oklahoma’s James Hanna with 4.49.
Standing at 6’6” with such speed, Green is a difficult matchup for most opposing defenders. Any questions about his ability to compete against top defenses, having played in the non-BCS Sun Belt conference, were answered by stellar performances during his time at Louisiana-Lafayette against Georgia (four catches for 87 yards and one touchdown), LSU (six catches for 64 yards) and Nebraska (five catches for 68 yards).
Green does struggle when asked to block, as he's undersized when blocking defensive ends and larger linebackers. He has shown the effort to improve, however. Luckily, the Giants still have fellow tight end Bear Pascoe on the roster, who they used more often than Ballard or Beckum in blocking situations.
Giants quarterback Eli Manning would benefit from the addition of a player with Green’s capabilities, giving him another sure-handed deep threat alongside Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz. He will not churn out the production lost by Ballard and Beckum, nor the potential loss due to Mario Manningham’s impending departure in free agency, but he would be an easy upgrade over the options they currently have in the passing game from the tight end position.
Giants general manager Jerry Reese doesn’t appear to be planning on finding a superstar tight end heading into the NFL draft, but a player like Green enables New York to focus on bigger needs such as offensive tackle and the linebacker positions.
Currently projected to go in the later rounds of the draft, the Giants could swipe Green with their third- or fourth-round picks. Such an addition could prove to be a steal for the Giants, while allowing them to compete as one of the NFL’s most lethal offensive units once again in 2012.