2012 NFL Draft Prospects: New York Giants Must Take Coby Fleener in 1st Round
After winning the Super Bowl, the Giants are now faced with the sobering situation of a gaping hole at the tight end position.
New York lost two tight ends to injuries during the Super Bowl and the players affected (Jake Ballard and Travis Beckum) may not be ready at the start of next season. Even if they are, they will be coming off serious injuries—and their performances weren't all that stellar when they were still healthy.
This year, the Giants benefit from a draft class that isn't really bursting at the seams with tight end talent. Possibly the best tight end in the draft, Coby Fleener, is a Stanford product who had the benefit of playing with top QB Andrew Luck.
While considered the top tight end in his class, Fleener is still not viewed to be a lock for a first round pick. The Giants will be picking 32nd and he will likely be available while they are on the board. Basically, New York will have the ball in their court and shouldn't have to worry about trading up to get Fleener.
Even though they might not have to trade up to get him, the Giants should draft Fleener with their last pick of the first round. Tight end is one of the biggest holes that they are dealing with right now and they don't necessarily have any long-term plans.
Martellus Bennett, who they recently signed away from the Cowboys, is on a one-year deal along with Jake Ballard who started most of last season for the Giants. Beckum is signed long-term but hasn't performed well enough to warrant a starting job.
Therefore, by drafting Fleener the Giants are investing in the future in a position that is crucial to their offense. New York quarterback Eli Manning has always heavily relied on the tight ends as a security blanket and checkdown option when nothing opened up downfield.
Before departing for the Raiders, Kevin Boss was one of Manning's most targeted players and a productive pass-catcher who made good contributions on offense. This is what Fleener could be for the G-Men. He has a great build for a pro tight end (6'5, 247 lbs), and often displayed his ability to be a pass-catching tight end during his tenure at Stanford.
What position should the Giants address with their 1st round pick?
Fleener's large frame is paired with his solid agility and quickness that he displayed while running short routes and exploding up the field. He will also be a good fit for the Giants because of his football I.Q.
Fleener was involved in a pro-style offense that entailed frequent pre-play adjustments on offense. This style is very similar to what the Giants run and Manning is known for calling audibles before the snap.
Perhaps the reason most teams aren't too sold on Fleener is his one-dimensional style of play. His blocking isn't quite up to par for tight ends and he seems to be more of a wide receiver than tight end because of this. However, this shouldn't be a problem for New York as their past tight ends have usually been similar to this.
Boss, for example, was a decent blocker but he was always known as being primarily a pass-catching tight end. Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride also heavily incorporates tight ends into the offensive scheme to open up other options down the field. Because of this, Fleener would fit in perfectly with the New York offense.
Additionally, his lack of blocking ability is something that can always be worked on when he reaches the pro level. Being able to run routes and catch passes is something that generally takes more time to develop rather than blocking, which can be taught with more ease.
The Giants do have other needs to fill (offensive line and linebacker) but they could find talent to fill those roles in the later rounds of the draft. Their deficiency at tight end is too important for their offense to gamble in the later rounds on a project player that will probably take more time to develop.
If Coby Fleener is still sitting on the board and the Giants are on the clock, it would definitely be in their best interest to take him. If not, they risk putting a key component of their passing game in jeopardy.
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