Why the Giants Would Be Foolish to Draft a Tight End in the First Round
But don't they need one?
Yes, the Giants could surely use a tight end, but it would not be a wise move to draft one in the first round.
Most analysts do not agree, as it seems to be a popular trend to project the Giants to select one in mock drafts with the 32nd pick in April.
The following are six reasons why they would be making the wrong decision in doing so.
There Are No Top-Notch Tight Ends in the Draft
In most years, if a team needs a tight end as seemingly obviously as the Giants currently do, there's an obvious match in the first round of the draft.
However, this year's tight end class does not include any clear-cut, first-round value. Rather, there is a plethora of second to third-round talent which includes Stanford's Coby Fleener, Clemson's Dwayne Allen and Georgia's Orson Charles.
The Giants, under GM Jerry Reese, rarely give in and draft apparent needs in the first round of the draft. During Reese's, tenure the Giants have often delayed filling holes early while opting for the greatest value remaining on the board.
During the past two drafts, the Giants have bypassed positional needs such as linebacker and offensive lineman, while selecting major talent for the future in positions they were already deep at.
In 2010, they selected Jason Pierre-Paul out of South Florida. It's fair to say that was a wise selection, as he already has made the NFL All-Pro team. Last year, the team drafted Prince Amukamara out of Nebraska. He had an injury-plagued rookie campaign but showed immense signs of hope and is looking to have a breakout year during his first full season in 2012.
With a lack of talent at the position in this year's draft, it would come as a great surprise to see Reese give in to the temptation and take a tight end as early as the first round.
Most Good Tight Ends Aren't First or Second-Round Picks
The tight end position is a tricky one for NFL scouts.
Many of the top players at the position are middle or low-round picks, and a handful are even undrafted.
For example, Antonio Gates, one of the greatest tight ends the league has seen, was an undrafted free agent. Top tight ends Jimmy Graham, Jermichael Finley and Jason Witten were all third-round picks, which is where many of the best in this year's class should land.
The position has proved over the years to be the hardest to scout. This is because many tight end prospects bloom late, as it is a difficult position, so it's hard to differentiate between first and second-day picks.
With a draft full of mid-round tight end prospects, it would make sense for the Giants to wait and grab one or maybe two tight ends in the middle rounds. They would still have a chance at perhaps the top tight end, while not mortgaging their primary pick to select one of three who seem to be at even ground.
Additionally, the Giants have been very successful in developing undrafted free agents (Victor Cruz, Ryan Grant, Jake Ballard), so perhaps, that will be a route they will take to find their man.
It surely doesn't appear to be necessary to burn a first-round pick on a tight end.
The Giants Have Many Other Needs
Although tight end is a glaring need for the Giants, it is important to note that they also have holes that need to be filled at other, arguably more important, positions.
The offensive line is aging and injury-prone, and with a very high possibility that Kareem McKenzie will not return, the team will be losing a cornerstone at right tackle. If the Giants do not retain McKenzie, it will not be a surprise if the Giants address the problem early in the draft. After all, it should be a priority to protect the Super Bowl MVP.
Another position the Giants will look to improve upon is the running back position.
Despite winning the Super Bowl, the Giants were the worst team in the NFL this past season in regard to running the football. More so, the Giants released the franchise leader in rushing touchdowns last week—Brandon Jacobs.
Jacobs was due a large bonus, and Jerry Reese and Co. did not believe he did enough to deserve it. It is a relatively strong running back draft, so the Giants drafting a tailback in the first round is very conceivable.
The Giants also lost free-agents Mario Manningham and Aaron Ross last week. Although the team has major strengths at both positions, acquiring depth through the draft makes sense, especially if there is value on the board by the time pick 32 rolls around.
There's also a chance the Giants opt to take a linebacker in Round 1, but with that said, the team is likely to stick with a combination of Jonathan Goff, Clint Sintim, Chase Blackburn, Mark Herzlich and Jacquian Williams to play along side the constants of Mathais Kiwanuka and Michael Boley.
It would make little sense for the Giants to reach for a tight end this early, especially with so many needs to address.
Bear Pascoe is a virtual no-name to all non-Giants fans.
He's a traditional blocking tight end who has one career touchdown reception.
But that catch was a difference-making play in the NFC Championship Game—an overtime thriller. Pascoe may not have the potential of a Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, but perhaps, Eli Manning could make him a serviceable starter (see next slide).
But more importantly, Pascoe is a good blocking tight end.
It would be beneficial for the Giants to play through a blocking tight need like him because of their struggles in the running game. They could also afford to use their tight end more as a blocker because they have two young superstar wide receivers, and two intriguing weapons in Jerrel Jernigan (lethal speed) and Ramses Barden (unparalleled height).
Both wide receivers are projects, but if they develop into third-down options for Manning, Pascoe would be a good enough complement through the air.
Pascoe showed flashes of reliability during the postseason, as his performances down the stretch emit optimism that he has the ability to become a good enough tight end as a pass-catcher over time.
If not, he will be a valuable blocking tight end at the very least.
Eli Manning has finally reached the level of his older brother Peyton.
He has exhibited this by developing receivers with insignificant previous success into viable options, and in some cases, stars. Many would be quick to look at Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard as examples of the "Eli Effect," but first, let's look at Steve Smith and Kevin Boss:
Steve Smith's 2009 stats (Giants):
107 receptions 1,220 yards seven touchdowns
Steve Smith's 2011 stats (Eagles):
11 receptions 124 yards one touchdown
That's a significant difference. Note that Smith was injured during most of the 2010 season and had lingering effects during this past season. But with such a significant difference in numbers, there has got to be credit given to Eli.
Kevin Boss's 2010 stats (Giants):
35 receptions 531 yards five touchdowns
Kevin Boss's 2011 stats (Raiders):
28 receptions 368 yards three touchdowns
Similar to Smith, Boss's numbers went way down upon bolting from the Giants and Eli for Oakland. He had such a disappointing season in his first year without Eli that the Raiders released him after only one season after outbidding the Giants to sign him last offseason.
As rookies in 2007, both made big plays in the Super Bowl. They became favorite targets of Eli Manning, and many fans were worried when the Giants didn't shell out the cash to re-sign both of them last offseason.
They were very successful on the Giants, which earned them big contracts from the Eagles and Raiders respectively. But without Eli, both had disastrous years, and neither was retained by those clubs.
This can easily be credited to Eli, who in recent years has finally been attributed to getting the most out of the skills of his receivers.
It's fair to say that Eli was the reason for the success of those receivers, given the fact that they significantly regressed greatly in their first year without Manning tossing them the football.
Manning continued to perfect the art of "creating receivers" this season, as he turned undrafted no-names Victor Cruz and Jake Ballard into a superstar and a legitimate starting tight end.
Based on his recent success with these lowly regarded receivers, it makes perfect sense to allow Manning to work with Pascoe, Martellus Bennett (see next slide) and perhaps a draft pick from the third to sixth round.
If Eli is unable to work with these weapons, which at this point would come as a surprise, Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum should be able to return by the second half of the season.
The bottom line: Eli Manning can be trusted to create himself a strong arsenal of receivers at this point in his career.
This is where it gets interesting.
Martellus Bennett is still unknown to many NFL fans, including Giants fans, but he may very well be their long-term solution.
Bennett, a fifth-year tight end, has the ability to terrorize the adversary with his 6'6", 270-lb frame and extreme athleticism, but he's still raw.
Bennett played for the Cowboys his first four years. He did not get much of an opportunity as he backed up (and learned from) the very successful Jason Witten. He did not get many opportunities in the passing game, but given a chance, his signing could be a tremendous haul for New York.
If given a chance to start, which he likely will in the near future, Bennett would provide another athletic option for Manning, and perhaps, a new favorite target on third-down or goal-line situations.
With a combination of Bennett's potential and Manning's skill in developing young receivers, Bennett could be the Giant's tight end of the future. If not, they could use Bear Pascoe or a mid-round pick as their tight end. They may very well use a combination of each.
The New York Giants may draft a tight end this year, but they certainly should not take one in the first round.