The New York Giants love to find talent in the draft. Both of their Super Bowl-winning casts have been plastered with talent discovered through the draft process, much of it being found during the middle rounds.
This year’s draft class is rich in potential steals in the middle rounds of the draft, and that is where Giants general manager makes his money. With many holes to be filled for the defending Super Bowl champions, especially on defense, they will be searching for players who can evolve into key contributors for them.
Let’s take a look at some mid-round prospects that could improve the Giants defense in the 2012 NFL draft.
Audie Cole has seen his draft stock bounce all over the place, but at the end of the day, he would be a great addition to the Giants linebacking corps.
After consistently being exposed against the pass, adding Cole would give the Giants a major boost in coverage from the linebacker position. He has shown he reads plays well and has good speed and agility to succeed in the NFL.
Cole’s versatility, having played both inside and outside linebacker for the Wolfpack, is something the Giants must love.
The redshirt senior had a fantastic campaign for the Wolfpack in 2011 with a school-record 108 tackles, 5.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and four pass deflections.
Adding Cole would give the Giants some more depth at linebacker, while potentially finding a suitor for the starting middle linebacker spot currently vacated by free agent Jonathan Goff.
Never count the Giants out when it comes to adding pass rushers.
Jonathan Massaquoi has the potential to be the next Osi Umenyiora or Justin Tuck in New York; he also has the capabilities to be the defensive equivalent of Ron Dayne.
Massaquoi is an athletic pass rusher with long arms, which allow him to keep blockers at bay. He has great initial quickness and utilizes his strength to bull-rush opposing tackles into the backfield to get after the quarterback.
His stock has been up and down throughout the year and his combine performance did little to help it. Luckily, an improved 4.6 40-yard dash time and a successful pro day overall have boosted him some. It is anyone's guess when Massaquoi will be selected come April's draft.
Cincinnati’s Derek Wolfe is a prospect that fits the mold of defensive linemen Jerry Reese and the New York Giants love to employ.
Wolfe is a strong run stopper who can get after the quarterback when needed. He compares well with Giants defensive tackle Chris Canty, a hybrid-type player who can excel at defensive tackle or defensive end for Big Blue.
Knowing how much the Giants love to cycle their defensive lineman, Wolfe would be a vital piece in that cycle, likely playing at the defensive tackle position most often.
In 2011 with the Bearcats, Wolfe had 70 tackles, 21.5 of which were for loss, and 9.5 sacks.
As a three-year starter at Vanderbilt in the tough SEC conference, Sean Richardson has all the tools to be a mid-round prospect that could quickly take the reins from veteran safety Deon Grant on the Giants defense.
The Giants run a lot of three-safety sets in defensive coordinator Perry Fewell’s system and will need someone to fill the role Grant was used in. Richardson is a superb player against the run and could see some playing time to utilize those skills.
He will need to improve his pass defense if he wishes to be a greater presence in the NFL, however. Playing against stiff competition during his collegiate career should give him an edge over other safety prospects in the draft, having three years of experience against top-notch talent.
Emmanuel Acho is a natural leader with the talent to back it up. Primarily an inside linebacker during his collegiate career at Texas, Acho is projected to be an outside linebacker in the NFL.
He is not fantastic in coverage, but Acho performs well in zone coverage systems similar to what the New York Giants employ. Acho shows an impressive ability to read the quarterback and react to the play, making him a valuable asset for a Giants team so lacking in linebackers capable of playing the pass.
Acho is better against the run, though, taking good angles to get to the ball carrier and has great form when tackling.
Coming from a Texas Longhorns program that churns out elite NFL talent, Acho is a promising prospect with respectable character and determination to be productive at the next level.